Franz von Papen, Hitler, and Two Popes
September 1, 2009
by William P. Meyers

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I was at Four-Eyed Frog Books in Gualala, California hoping that, despite the small size of the store, I would find something worth buying to read. I walked away with a copy of The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk in my hands. It is a 1112 page paperback, and was a bit shopworn, but the cover price was only $20.00. The cover says it is an international bestseller, and it deserves to be. Sales in the United States have not been exactly brisk, however. It is more reading than the average American would undertake in a year; it is more serious reading than most Americans get through in a lifetime.

And who should pop up on page 329? Why Franz von Papen. He gets only two sentences:

Franz von Papen, for example, was chief of staff of the Fourth Turkish Army during the 1914-1918 war and served as Hitler's vice Chancellor in 1933. During the Second World War, he was the Third Reich's ambassador to Turkey.

The context for this passage is an entire chapter on the Armenian genocide carried out by the Turkish governments (and aided by Germans, Kurds and others). The historical connections turned out to be more interesting than I had anticipated, but since this essay is on von Papen, I'll urge you to read the chapter in the course of reading this enlightening book.

Of course I cannot be sure when my eyes first saw the name "Franz von Papen," but my guess it was while reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shrirer. Unfortunately my folk singer friend Texas John borrowed my copy, so I can't quote you chapter and verse at the moment. My impressions of von Papen were that he was a powerful man from the German aristocracy. There were many right-wing German parties before Hitler came to power; most were way to the right of the Nazis, in the sense of being traditional rather than modernizing parties. Franz, like so many other of these powerful men, did not really like Adolf Hitler. But their own parties were not all that popular, and they needed the National Socialist voters block in parliament to set up their grand-right wing coalition. After Hitler made himself dictator most of them became Nazis, but many could not stomach being ruled by someone who started as a nobody, and an Austrian nobody at that, so they went back to their wealthy estates and grumbled while Germany was destroyed.

As detailed as Rise and Fall is, it leaves out a major theme. Franz von Papen was not just a right-wing leader. He worked closely with two Popes, Pius XI and Pius XII. And they were the ones who decided that Hitler was the man for the job. The real job was destroying socialism and communism, including the ultimately failed attack on the Soviet Union. The Roman Catholic Church thrilled as their guy, Hitler, liquidated over twenty million atheists. When the Catholics/Fascists lost World War II, however, suddenly the Popes pretended like they had never liked Hitler. They used to the political muscle of Catholics in the United States, who were almost all Democratic Party supporters, to make a deal to hush up their involvement with the Nazis. With the Cold War settling in shortly after the Nazis were defeated, suddenly Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Churchill and all wanted the Catholic Church to help stiffen up resistance against the global communist movement.

Rather than repeat myself, I refer you to Pius XI and the Rise of Adolf Hitler. Note that Pius XII was Pius XI's henchman in Germany during most of the period when the Nazis were rising to power.

And why is the Armenian Genocide issue so important in this context? Because the Catholic Church historians have gone to great lengths to pretend that they had nothing to do with the Jewish Holocaust. But Robert Fisk deduces, with good reason, that Hitler started planning to liquidate Jews (and Poles, and atheists, etc.) early on and discussed the methodology of such large-scale murder with von Papen, Max von Scheubner-Richter and others. So the Pope's guy was part of a gang that helped plan the Holocaust long before Hitler was anywhere near being in power.

Fisk's chapter on Armenia made me think about just how common genocide has been historically. It has been all too common, not the exception. The Jews record using genocidal methods against the Canaanite at the dawn of recorded history. The American Indians were the victims of genocide. Even the Angle-Saxons, after launching genocide against the Celtic inhabitants of the isles, found themselves victimized in much the same ways by first the Danes and then the Normans.

It really is way past time to put a stop to genocide, and war of all kinds. I hope you will join me and millions of others around the globe in demonstrating against the Barack Obama's war in Afghanistan, and war in general, this October. Check with your favorite peace group for details.

Franz von Papen Wikipedia page

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