The memoirs of Franz von Papen offer a fascinating view of the German Hierarchy from the reign of the last Kaiser to the reign of terror of Adolf Hitler. Although there is an element of self-justification, Conservative von Papen lays bare the machinations of the German politicians that led to Hitler to supreme power in Germany.
Born into a wealthy, but not aristocratic, family in 1879 von Papen he started his career in the Imperial German Army rising to the General Staff and a diplomatic posting in America by 1914. He was involved in some very murky dealings as an intriguer behind the scenes in America, Canada before he was sent back to Germany, setting a precedent for later backroom dealings.
After the close of the First World War he entered politics, as a Conservative Monarchist member of the Centre party, in the political chaos of the period he advanced swiftly owing to shrewd interparty dealings. He was eventually appointed Chancellor in 1932 mainly due to political friendships rather than his own political acumen; beset by huge political problems he sought to appease the vocal right wing parties. Without serious support in the Reichstag, von Papen governed by decree undermining Democracy, starting a process mastered later by Hitler himself. Outmaneuvered by Hitler and the Nazis he was forced from power, and by his foolish machinations set Hitler set up as Chancellor. Cast out of power von Papen was a broken reed, but as a still high-ranking observer to the Second World his memoirs are of vital importance in understanding Hitler’s war-mongering advances into Austria, Poland and France. He was captured by U.S. forces in 1945, he was put on trial for war crimes but was acquitted.