Brecht on von Papen and Schleicher (1967)


Arnold Brecht was a democratic politician who served in the Reichstag during the Weimar period. He wrote extensive on the failure of Weimar Germany after emigrating to the US. Here, Brecht comments on the actions of von Papen and Schleicher:

“Criticism of Hindenburg, Papen, and Schleicher cannot be justly based on the accusation that they intentionally brought Hitler to total power, but must be limited to the charge that their amateurish methods brought about precisely what they had wanted to avoid. It is not evil intent but political folly that they may be reproached for – the imprudence of political dilettantes let loose on Germany at Germany’s expense, combined with breach of the Constitution, weakness of character in critical situations, and (in Papen’s case) with a more than average self-confidence, based on a strange mixture of piety and personal vanity.

The idea of taking the wind out of the National Socialist sails by a swing to the Right was in itself neither stupid nor rash. That was what to some extent Brüning had wanted. But Papen and Schleicher thought—in a manner common enough among military politicians (Papen was still the elegant cavalry officer…) that the right thing to do was to attack the whole problem with a strategically simple plan. That, of course, pleased the old general. Toleration of the National Socialists up to a conceded agreement with them; suspension of frontal attacks on them… bold neglect of constitutional misgivings whenever they stood in the way of these plans—Papen and Schleicher thought these the best methods of overcoming Hitler.”