Von Papen’s memoirs are at once a document of first-rate historical importance and a skillful apologia pro vita sua and pro Germany as distinct from its Nazi leaders. The author was Military Attaché in Washington in the First World War; Chancellor of the Reich after Bruening and later Vice-Chancellor under Hitler; Ambassador to Austria until the Anschluss, and finally Ambassador to Turkey. His argument, in a nutshell, is as follows: The policy of the victorious Allies was responsible for the rise of Hitlerism. He (Von Papen) invited the Nazis into his government in the belief that responsibility would “tame” them. Though revolted by Hitler’s excesses, he continued to work with him because he hoped to oppose “radical tendencies by “the application of Christian principles.”
It is clear that Von Papen was genuinely at odds with many features of the Nazi regime, but his defense implies that he was guilty of the crassest misjudgment and it sounds shaky coming from a man with his reputation for exceptional shrewdness. However tendentious their reasoning, these memoirs make infinitely absorbing reading.