Papen’s Marburg Speech

The infamous June 1934 ‘Marburg speech’ of Franz von Papen and Edgar Jung: a national-conservative critique of the excesses  of National Socialism


Early 1934 was an extremely difficult time for the conservatives and bourgeois-nationalists in Germany who, only a year before, had been convinced that the ‘National Revolution’ and the emerging Third Reich were as much theirs as they were the National Socialists’. Under the process of Gleichschaltung the new government had been gradually dissolving or absorbing independent nationalist groups into the NSDAP. At the same time there appeared to be an escalating breakdown in order, with Party radicals growing increasingly disruptive and violent, often turning their frustration at the slow pace of reform upon the perceived forces of ‘Reaktion‘. In the midst of the chaos and the rumors of an impending ‘Second Revolution’ a group of Catholic conservative intellectuals, working within the offices of Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen, began plotting ways for bourgeois-nationalists to take back the state, hoping to steer it away from ideological radicalism and towards a more traditionalist authoritarianism centered on Christian spiritual renewal. The result of their handiwork was what became known as the ‘Marburg speech’, translated in full below. Written chiefly by conservative-revolutionary intellectual Edgar Jung, one of Papen’s consultants and speechwriters, the speech was anti-democratic while still being carefully disparaging of the NS regime, critiquing its violence, its militarization of public life, its monopoly on political power, its ‘coordination’ of the independent judiciary and the press, and in particular its hostile policies towards Christianity. The conspirators cleverly pushed this speech on Vice-Chancellor Papen at the last minute, while he was still on the train to deliver an address before the University League at Marburg. When an alarmed Papen read the speech and protested that it might “cost him his head” he was informed that he had no choice but to give it, since hundreds of copies had already been provided to the domestic and foreign press. Papen conceded, and rather bravely read the speech verbatim despite his misgivings. The conspirators’ hope was that this action would galvanize the nationalist, Catholic, and conservative forces within Germany into opposition behind Papen. The result instead was the final consolidation of the Hitler regime. Goebbels used every effort possible to suppress dissemination of the speech domestically, while Papen was forced to apologize and to resign from the cabinet. Hitler and Göring, now utterly convinced of the need to sweep away their remaining enemies, began setting the course for the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ not two weeks later. Papen survived the resulting ‘Blood Purge’ by the skin of his teeth with a brief period of arrest. Others would not be so lucky, with most of the conspirators ending up incarcerated or, like Edgar Jung, shot.  

Speech by Vice-Chancellor von Papen
before the University League
Marburg, 17 June, 1934


On 21 February 1933, in the turbulent days when National Socialism first stepped forward to govern the German Reich, I spoke to the Berlin student body in an attempt to explain the significance of this new epoch [Zeitenwende]. I spoke, as I pointed out at the time, in a location dedicated to the exploration of truth and intellectual freedom. I do not want to confess myself an adherent to the liberal conceptions of truth and freedom. Ultimate truth lies with God alone, and the quest for it derives its ultimate meaning only from this starting-point. Today, where I am privileged once again – in this medieval jewel, this city of Saint Elisabeth – to stand on academic soil, I add to the remarks I made at that time that even though the ideal of objective truth may be undisputed, we do not want to renounce the most elementary foundation of human civilization, the duty to subjective truth, to honesty, that is demanded of us Germans. This place of scholarship, therefore, appears to me particularly suited to giving a truthful account before the German people. Because the voices that demand that I adopt a principled position on German current affairs and on German conditions are becoming ever more numerous and more urgent. It is said that by removing the Weimar Prussian regime1 and by amalgamating the National Movement I have taken on such a pivotal role in German affairs that it is my duty to monitor these developments more keenly than most other Germans. I have no intention of evading this duty. On the contrary – my inner commitment to Adolf Hitler and his work is so great, and so attached am I with my very lifeblood to the German renewal currently being carried out, that from the point-of-view of both man and statesman it would be a mortal sin not to say what must be said during this crucial stage of the German Revolution.

The events of the last year and a half have gripped the entire German Volk and stirred them deeply. That we have found our way back from the vale of sorrow, hopelessness, hatred, and division and returned to the community of the German Nation once more seems almost like a dream. The tremendous tensions which we have experienced since those August days of 1914 have been broken; from them the German soul has emerged once again, before which the glorious and yet so painful history of our Volk passes in review, from the sagas of the German heroes to the trenches of Verdun and, yes, even to the street-fights of our day.

The unknown soldier of the World War, who conquered the hearts of his countrymen [Volksgenossen, lit. ‘folk-comrades’] with contagious energy and unshakeable faith, has set this soul free. With his Field Marshal he has set himself at the head of the nation in order to turn a new page in the book of German fate and to restore spiritual unity. We have experienced this unity of spirit in the exhilaration of a thousand rallies, in the flags and festivities of a nation which has rediscovered itself. But now, as enthusiasm is leveling out and as the hard work in this process comes to the fore, it becomes apparent that a reform process of such historical proportions also produces slag [Schlacken] from which the nation must cleanse itself. Slag of this kind exists in all areas of our life, in the material and the spiritual. Foreign countries, who view us with resentment, point their fingers at this slag and construe it as evidence of a serious process of dissolution. One should not be ready to celebrate too early, because only once we have mustered the energy to free ourselves from this slag will we immediately be best able to prove how internally strong we are and how resolute we are in not letting the path of the German Revolution be tarnished. We know that the rumors and the whispering must be drawn back out of the darkness into which they have fled.

An open and spirited debate is of more benefit to the German Volk than, for example, the limp condition of a press which the Herr Reichsminister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment has observed has “no more vision”.2 This deficiency certainly exists. The function of the press should be to inform the government where deficiencies have crept in, where corruption has taken root, where serious mistakes are being made, where unsuitable men are in the wrong positions, where the spirit of the German Revolution is being sinned against. An anonymous or secret news agency, no matter how splendidly organized, is never able to supplant this function of the press. For an editor is subject to a legal and conscientious responsibility, while anonymous suppliers of news are uncontrollable and vulnerable to the danger of Byzantism. If the appointed organs of public opinion do not adequately illuminate the mysterious darkness which at present appears to be spreading over the German public mood [Volkstimmung], then the statesman himself must intervene and call things as they really are [Dinge beim Namen nennen]. Such a course of action is intended to demonstrate that the government is strong enough to abide fair critique, that it remembers the old precept that only weaklings do not tolerate criticism.

If other countries claim that freedom has died in German lands, then the openness of my remarks should inform them that the German government can afford to allow debate on the nation’s burning issues. The only ones who have earned this right, however, are those who have placed themselves at the disposal of National Socialism and its work without reservation and who have demonstrated their loyalty to it.

These prefatory words have been necessary in order to show the spirit in which I approach my task of giving an unrestrained account of Germany’s conditions and of Germany’s objectives. Now let me briefly outline the situation as I found it when fate made me jointly responsible for the direction of German affairs.

Civic authorities were in decline and were unable to control the dissolution of all natural and God-given ties. The lack of leadership and initiative had reached such a level that it only intensified the German Volk’s desire for a firm hand. The veteran [Frontgeneration] and youth opposition movement had become irresistible. The general fragmentation among parties corresponded with the spread of a fatal despondency. Unemployment grew and with it grew social radicalism. It was not only the right-wing groups among the German Volk, first and foremost among them the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, who saw that these evils could not be countered by any small means but required instead a spiritual and political reversal; rather this was the general consensus among the best of our Volk who were not bound by partisan behavior. The revaluation of all values, as Nietzsche termed it,3 was in the process of being spiritually effected, and it is therefore an injustice if today’s justifiable struggle against a certain “intellectualism” is turned into one against the “spirit” in general. The historical truth is that the need for a fundamental change in course was also recognized and pursued by those men who shied away from the path of achieving it through a mass party. The claim by certain groups to a revolutionary or national monopoly appears to me therefore to be exaggerated, quite apart from the fact that it disrupts the Volksgemeinschaft.

I already pointed out on 17 March, 1933 in Breslau that a kind of conservative-revolutionary movement had developed in the post-war years whose essential differences from National Socialism were only in terms of tactics. As the German Revolution fought against democratization and its disastrous consequences, the new conservatism consistently rejected any further democratization and believed in the possibility of neutralizing pluralistic forces from above. National Socialism, by contrast, at first followed the path of democracy to its end, but was then faced with the admittedly difficult question of how to realize the ideas of unconditional leadership, total authority, the aristocratic selection principle, and the organic peoples’ order [organischen Volksordnung]. History has borne out the National Socialist tactics, a realization which induced the conservative statesmen into an alliance with the National Socialist movement in those hours at the beginning of the year 1933.

This statement of facts must be highlighted if all too eager – sometimes even all too youthful – revolutionaries are going to dismiss with the slogan “reactionary” those who in full awareness took up the task which the times set for them. Because for the authentic politician only the following basic approaches are possible. He can misjudge the time’s necessities and founder due to this shortcoming; he can pit himself against the course of the age and therefore be governed by it; or he can relentlessly make himself the spearhead of what must be done and so fulfill history’s dictates. Anyone who has adopted this attitude is elevated above hollow slogans, particularly above that of “reaction”, which, incidentally, is suspiciously reminiscent of the Marxist period that has been vanquished, thank God.


SA mobile propaganda tour, 1935. One of the slogans is anti-bourgeois: “The stuffed-shirts: ‘The economy is everything.'”

Furthermore, the statesman must also be clear about a second condition, namely that the transition to a new era is a total one; that is to say that all life’s manifestations and all life’s circumstances are grasped and changed, but that against this vast backdrop the political processes of the foreground take place, to which alone the concept of policy may be applied. The statesman and politician can reform the state, but not life itself. The tasks of the life-reformer and the politician are fundamentally different. Based on this realization, the Führer in his work Mein Kampf declared that the purpose of the movement was not that of a religious reformation, but that of a political reorganization of our Volk. The turn of a new era as a total concept is therefore beyond molding by the state up to a certain point. Not all life can be organised, because otherwise you mechanize it. The state is an organization, life is growth. Relationships and interactions certainly exist between life and the organization, but they have limits that cannot be exceeded without endangering life. Therein lies the very essence of a revolution, that the living spirit runs up against the mechanism.

Bolshevism is therefore not the real revolution of the 20th century, but a slave revolt that wishes to bring about the ultimate mechanization of life. The true revolution of the 20th century – as I demonstrated already in my Berlin University speech – is that of the heroic and God-bound personality against lifeless bondage, against suppression of the divine spark, against mechanization and collectivization, which are nothing more than the ultimate degeneration of bourgeois liberalism. Collectivism is the individualism of the masses, who no longer desire for the whole, but only for themselves.

He who stands at a turning-point [Wende] for the most part knows very little how a new concept of time arises and develops in a Volk. Grasping its meaning is not easy. But we know as much from history that a revolution is, in a sense, only the political seal on a deed presented by history. The New Man develops as a consequence of the transition to a new era; the state, on the other hand, must be shaped by human reason. Certainly, the state also shapes men, but it would be an illusion if one were to assume that a fundamental adjustment in human values could be accomplished by the state. The state can arguably favor a particular conception of history and be concerned about its standardization. But the state cannot control it. It springs from a worldview [Weltanschauung] that has its roots beyond the state. It is also based upon precise research, the violation of which is always avenged. When I think of the problem of the present interpretation of history, I am pleasantly reminded of the question my history professor used to ask me: “How would German history have developed if Frederick the Great had married Maria Theresa?”

The meaning of the new era is clear: it is about the decision between believers and unbelievers; it is about whether all eternal values are to be secularized or not; whether the process of secularization, desacralization, is to lead to the de-divinization [Entgöttlichung] of the human spirit and thereby to the breakdown of all culture, as it has for several centuries – or whether belief in transcendence and the eternal world order will fundamentally determine men’s feelings, thoughts, and actions. The political events of the German Revolution also take place against this historical backdrop. The statesman has the task of writing off unsound models and decayed ethics, of promoting the development of eternal values that push forward to new life and that shall be taken as the basis for the design of the creative state.

If the liberal revolution of 1789 was the revolution of nationalism against religio,4 against obligation, then the counter-revolution that is now being carried out in the 20th century can only be conservative, in the sense that it does not have a rationalizing and disintegrating effect, but once again places all life under the natural law of Creation. This is presumably the reason why the cultural leader [Kulturleiter] of the NSDAP, Alfred Rosenberg, spoke in Königsberg of a conservative revolution.

From this there emerges in the field of politics the following clear conclusions: The time for the emancipation of the lowest social orders [Standes] against the higher orders is over. This is not a case of holding down a class – that would be reactionary – but of preventing a class from rising up, from seizing control of the state and levying a claim to totality. Every natural and divine order would thereby be lost, threatening revolution in perpetuity. Rather, the state is the center of rule for the entire Volk, in which each class is biologically distinct and in which every individual is in his position through natural selection. True rule, however, encompasses the whole of the Volk, and rejects any special claim made by an estate or class. The goal of the German Revolution, if it wishes to be a valid model for Europe, must therefore be the foundation of a natural social order that will put an end to the unceasing struggle for dominance.

True rulership cannot be derived from a single estate or a single class. The principle of popular sovereignty, however, has always culminated in class rule. Therefore, an anti-democratic revolution can only be followed through to its end if it breaks with the principle of popular sovereignty and turns back to natural and divine rule.

This should not be confused with the disenfranchisement of the Volk. Democracy can become an anonymous tyranny, while the destruction of the peoples’ freedom [Volksfreiheit] can never be an outcome of genuine, responsible rule. I know how much the Führer desires that the feeling for a genuine, responsible, just rule remain alive within the Volk. This is why I believe that the German state will one day find its culmination in a state leadership that is once and for all cloistered away from political struggles, demagogy, and the wrangling of economic and status [ständischen] interests.

Alongside the requirement for a ruling principle based upon greater responsibility and a more suprapersonal duration, there is – mutually dependent – a necessity for the foundation of a new social order. This feeling of necessity moves all European peoples who have experienced the enormous changes of industrialization, urbanization, mechanization, and capitalization. It does not need to be particularly emphasized that this yearning for social reorganization exists especially within Fascism and National Socialism. On the other hand, however, we recognize how immensely difficult it is to reconvert a mass who have lost their connection with blood and soil back into a Volk, since healthy ties and hierarchies of estate5 have been lost in the liberal era.

National Socialism therefore places crucial importance on beginning by reclaiming the soul of these masses for Volk and state. This is done in the main through education, cultivation, and propaganda. The National Socialist system has thus initially fulfilled the task for which parliamentarism had become too weak: to restore direct contact with the masses. A kind of direct democracy has arisen which has succeeded in winning back the masses who are slipping away from the state. Behind this prevailing necessity, however, there lies a much larger revolutionary goal: the establishment of a social order founded upon universally valid organic forms and not only on a skillful mastery of the masses. While the French Revolution created basic forms in parliament and in universal suffrage, the goal of conservative revolutions must be to advance to such universal principles through organic, corporatist [ständischen] construction.

The domination of a single party in place of the rightly vanishing multi-party system appears to me historically to be a transitional state, one that is justified only so long as it is necessary to secure the revolution and up until new selections in personnel come into operation. For the logic of anti-liberal development demands the principle of organic, political decision-making, based upon the voluntary participation of all segments of the Volk [Volksteile]. Only organic ties transcend the Party and can create the liberated Volksgemeinschaft which must exist at this revolution’s end.

Another decisive feature of this revolution of the 20th century is the end of cosmopolitanism, which is nothing more than the fruit of the liberal ideal of the all-dominant power of world economy. It stands in contrast to völkisch awakening, that almost metaphysical return to one’s own wellsprings of blood, spiritual roots, common history, and living-space [Lebensraum]. Only today are we once more developing that healthy feeling for the historical unity of body and soul, of language and culture, which by its nature is essential both extra-governmentally and as a counterbalance to the state. While folkdom [Volkstum] and state may flow together within national democracy, we now grasp once more the fruitful tension between Volk and state from which the state is supplied with those forces without which it becomes an empty mechanism. That is why völkisch consciousness is something different from the nationalism of the nation-state. While this latter leads to the isolation of nations [Völker] from one another, to mutual dismemberment, and thus to the balkanization of Europe, an invigorated völkisch consciousness has the tendency to acknowledge the sacredness of all folkdoms. Völkisch awakening thus clears the way for supranational [übervölkische] cooperation.

I have already pointed out in Dortmund that modern technology requires the creation of economic Großräume;6 that Europe, which is held under the most intense competition from the overseas continents, will only be able to sustain its living standards in a makeshift fashion if total European expenses effectively decline. The way to the establishment of these economic Großräume, essential in the age of the aeroplane and the automobile, is through this sanctification of folkdoms and through a conception of great-power consolidation such that it leaves folkdoms untouched and unharmed. This requires voluntarily abandoning, however, a state totalism7 which does not recognize an expanded private existence. Above all it requires a discernment of the nature of the ruling state which, although it does not allow anything against the state, also does not demand that everything be done by the state.

In the development of this target vision of the German Revolution I became caught up in the middle of the present situation’s difficulties, which, true to my introductory remarks, I do not wish to avoid. The issue which I have raised as being the fundamental problem of the new epoch, the division of men into believers and unbelievers, touches on the dispute over the conception of the state. A state has to make the decision whether it wishes to be religious or secular. Historical logic dictates that the liberal, secular state of 1789 be succeeded by the religiously-founded state of the German counter-revolution. But one should not confuse the religious state, which is sustained by a living faith in God, with a secular state in which worldly values are substituted for belief in the hereafter and dressed up with religious teachings. Also of relevance here are the words of the Führer in his work Mein Kampf, where he writes: “I do not hesitate to declare that I regard the men who today drag the völkisch movement into the crisis of religious quarrels as worse enemies of my Volk than any international communist.”8 Certainly, outward respect for religious beliefs represents a step forwards compared to that irreverent attitude which degenerate rationalism brought about. But we must not forget that true religion is a devotion to God and not to those substitutes which have been directly introduced into the consciousness of nations [Völker] through Karl Marx’s materialist interpretation of history. If wide circles, acting directly under the perspective of the total state and the complete assimilation of the Volk, now call for a uniform foundation of faith, they should not forget that we should be happy we already possess such a foundation in Christianity.9 They should also consider whether the purported crisis of Christianity is not – as is frequently claimed – the result of hubris or a lack of vitality in the Christian belief in the truth of salvation [Heilswahrheit], but whether instead a rationalized and liberalized people have substantially lost their inner capacity to grasp the mystery of Christ.


Inauguration of German Christian leader Ludwig Müller as Reichsbishop of the German Evangelical Church, Berlin Cathedral, 23 September 1934.

I am convinced that Christian doctrine constitutes the religious form par excellence of all Western thinking, and that with the revival of religious forces a fresh permeation of the German Volk with Christian virtue also occurs, the ultimate depths of which can scarcely be imagined by a humanity which has passed through the 19th century. There will be a struggle in the decision over whether the new German Reich will be Christian or will lose itself in sectarianism and semi-religious materialism. It will be straightforwards if all attempts by the state authority to influence things in the direction of a violent reformation are dropped. Admittedly there is a political momentum behind the resistance by Christian groups against state and Party interventions within the Church. But only because political intervention in religious spheres compels those affected to oppose, on religious grounds, the claim to totality, which in this area is unnatural. As a Catholic, too, I understand that a religious conviction built upon freedom of conscience is innately opposed to allowing itself to be politically dictated to. One should not, therefore, obscure the fact that enforced religious conflict would trigger forces against which violence must also fail. Those in the circles hoping for a new, ethnically-oriented [arteigene] religious consensus should ask themselves how they imagine the German mission in Europe will be fulfilled if we voluntarily cut ourselves off from the ranks of the Christian nations. Under such conditions any work within the European area seems to me impossible. The existence of a common European culture and civilization, for which we have contributed so much ourselves, is our obligation despite the völkisch idiosyncrasies of our individual cultural achievements. We cannot permit ourselves to be spiritually sealed off at our borders and to voluntarily abandon ourselves to a ghetto. Here is the real Reaction, the self-isolation against historical necessity and the mission of a Volk who, when it truly was a great people, still cultivated notions of the Reich. The old conflict between Welf and Waibling,10 which runs through the whole of German history, has returned to life and demands a decision.

Anyone who is aware of what is taking place among the greatest minds and noblest souls in Europe today can positively sense how a new Ghibelline party is beginning to sprout in Europe, which bears within itself the ideal of that aristocratic, fundamental principle of Nature of which the Führer speaks, and which is driven by the yearning for a happy continent. To be an innovator means looking beyond temporal advantages and prejudices, to pursue those eternal orders that have longed for the best life at all times and in all nations.

It serves no purpose to conceal from oneself that a certain gap has opened up between the spiritual will and the daily praxis of the German Revolution. That is not surprising, either! In order to stave off this danger one should question the causes behind this state of affairs. They can be discovered in the fact that within the German Revolution – as is often the case in history – spiritual conversion coincides with social upheaval. Spiritual conversion strives for the aforementioned aristocratic, fundamental principle of Nature; social upheaval, on the other hand, runs the risk of being influenced to a certain degree by those dynamics which had already sustained Marxism politically. In such a situation the leadership is faced with a tremendous task, the resolution of which requires the true statesman’s greatest and most serious resolve. Konrad Ferdinand Meyer11 exhaustively described this duty in the context of a similar historical situation in his masterful novella The Tempting of Pescara, where he outlines Martin Luther’s position on the Peasants’ Wars as follows: “A man who would move the world has two functions: he must fulfill what his times require, but also – and this is his harder task – he must stand like a Titan against the drenching froth of the century, casting behind him the excited masses and villainous knaves who would try to render assistance, and who in doing so overdo and defile his just work.”

There is no mistaking the fact that these formidable functions, which have always been the domain of the revolutionary, are yet to be fulfilled. The leadership will therefore have to be on guard that a new class struggle is not revived under a different standard. It needs the Volk as a whole and thus rejects, in full recognition of their national achievements, dividing them for all time into a privileged class and one with fewer rights. Such an attitude would be in accordance with the almost 100 per cent commitment shown by the German Volk to the new state leadership on 12 November, 1933.12

It goes without saying, of course, that the bearers of the revolutionary principle are to also initially occupy the positions of power. But once a revolution has been carried out the government represents only the Volk as a whole, and is never the champion of individual groups; otherwise it is bound to fail in establishing the Volksgemeinschaft. One must also break with false, romantic notions that do not suit the 20th century. We cannot consider reviving the division of the Volk into Spartans and Helots in accordance with the example set by the ancient Greeks, for example. At the end of such development the Spartans had nothing to occupy them other than to hold down the Helots, thereby weakening Sparta’s power in foreign affairs. In the state of the true Volksgemeinschaft the domestic battlecry must at last, one day, fall silent. Certainly there must be selection. But the natural principles of exclusion and selection cannot be replaced by the commitment to a specific group, particularly so long as this commitment remains indefinable. That is why National Socialism has always fought in favor of replacing party-membership [das Parteibuch] with human performance and achievement.

On the other hand, nobility is not only a principle of the blood, but also an intellectual principle. It is inappropriate, therefore, to dismiss the mind [Geist] with the catchword “intellectualism”. Insufficient or primitive intellects are in themselves no justification for a war against intellectualism. And if today we occasionally complain about ‘150 percent National Socialists’, then we mean those intellectuals without substance, those who would like to deny world-renowned scientists their right of existence because they do not possess a Party membership-book. A mind rooted in being and in blood, however, is full of character, incorruptible, bound by insight and by conscience. It holds the nation in high regard under all circumstances, because the nation commits a sin against Creation and denies itself if it denies the mind. We must guard against the danger of excluding intellectual people from the nation and remain mindful of the fact that everything great comes from the mind, including in politics. One should also not think that intellectual people are lacking in that vitality without which a Volk cannot not be led. True intellect is so full of vitality that it is willing to sacrifice itself for its convictions. Confusing vitality with brutality would betray a worship of violence that would prove dangerous for a Volk.

The worst intellectualism is certainly the rule of the slogan. There are people who cannot utter a sentence without abusing the word ‘liberalistic’. They believe that genuine humanitarianism is liberalistic, when in reality it is a blossom of ancient Christian culture. They identify freedom as a liberal concept, when it is actually proto-Germanic [urgermanisch]. They work against equality before the law, which is denounced by some as a liberal degeneracy when it is in fact a prerequisite for any just verdict. These people stifle that foundation of the state which has always been called ‘justice’, not just in liberal times. Their attacks are directed against the security and freedom of the private sphere of life which German men have won for themselves through centuries of the most severe struggle.

The expression “men make history” has frequently been misunderstood as well. The Reich government is in consequence right to array itself against a false personality cult which is the least Prussian thing that one can imagine. Great men are not made by propaganda, but rather grow through their deeds and are recognized by history. Even Byzantism cannot belie this law. Whoever speaks of Prussianism [Preußentum], therefore, should first of all think of calm and impersonal service, and lastly or not at all of reward and recognition.

The education of a Volk in service to the state is a matter of course and must be instituted more rigorously than the casual fashion in which it was nurtured under the Weimar regime. But one should not delude oneself about the biological and psychological limits of this education. Coercion can lead to the real personality simply asserting itself once again. The reactions to coercion are dangerous. As an old soldier I know that the strictest discipline must be complemented by certain freedoms. Even the best soldier, he who happily submits himself to unconditional obedience, will count the days left in his term of service because the need for freedom is deep-seated within human nature. The application of military discipline to the entire life of a Volk must therefore be kept within limits which do not run contrary to human nature. Every individual requires hours which they can devote to their family, to relaxation, or entirely to themselves. In recognition of this fact, the Reich Minister of Education has decreed that Sunday is again to be made a day which belongs to Church and family.13 But the belief that one could possibly unify a Volk with terror is repugnant. Out of that belief the government will be faced with ongoing trials; it is aware that any terror is simply the emanation of an evil conscience, which is about the worst counsel that a leadership may permit itself. True education, which is always discipline, can only be derived from moral principles. Truly moral principles are only capable of imparting the belief in a higher world order. Love of Fatherland, readiness for sacrifice, and dedication, these only endure so long as they are rooted as divine commandments within the individual.

We should not allow ourselves to be held under the spell of the polemical slogan of the individual, which means nothing. The Führer requests of his movement, “that it must never forget that in personal worth lies the value of everything human, that every idea and every achievement is the result of one man’s creative force, and that the admiration of greatness constitutes not only a tribute of thanks to the latter, but casts a unifying bond around the grateful.”14

I have so pointedly outlined the problems of the German Revolution and my attitude towards it because the talk of a second wave that will complete the revolution shows no sign of abating. Whoever toys so irresponsibly with such ideas should not conceal the fact that a second wave can easily be followed by a third, that those who threaten with the guillotine are most likely to end up underneath its blade.15 It is also unclear to where this second wave might lead. Have we gone through an anti-Marxist revolution in order to carry out a Marxist program? For Marxism is every attempt to solve the social question through the collectivization of property. Does it make the German Volk wealthier, their national income [Volkseinkommen] larger, does it make anybody better than, at best, those scenting out plunder during a raid? There is certainly a social problem which is caused by economic and demographic processes. But this can only be overcome when responsibility for property is accepted again, not by extolling collective irresponsibility as the ruling principle. This principle must therefore not be that of the planned economy, which is ever more removed from individual initiative and responsibility. Those who have not yet noticed that every form of collectivism leads to ineradicable corruption have hitherto been walking around with their eyes closed.

No Volk can afford a constant revolt from below if it wants to stand the test of history. Someday the movement must come to an end, someday a solid social structure must emerge, held together by an impartial judiciary and by an undisputed state authority. It cannot be formed with eternal dynamism. Germany must not become a train speeding off into the blue, with nobody knowing when it will stop. History flows by itself, it is not necessary to drive it on incessantly. If, therefore, the German Revolution should experience a second wave of new life, it will be not as a social revolution but as the creative culmination of work already begun. The statesman is there to create standards; his only concerns are the state and the Volk. The state is the sole power and the final guarantor of that which every citizen is entitled to: iron-clad justice. Therefore, the state cannot endure any dualism in the long run, and the success of the German Revolution and the future of our Volk depends upon whether it is possible to bring the dualism between Party and state to a satisfactory resolution.

The government is well-informed about everything, about all the self-interest, lack of character, dishonesty, unchivalrous conduct, and hubris which seeks to spread itself under the guise of the German Revolution. Nor does it hide the fact that the wealth of trust bestowed upon it by the German Volk is under threat. If one desires an intimate and friendly relationship with the Volk, one must not underestimate the wisdom of the Volk, one must return their confidence and not incessantly browbeat them. The German Volk know that their situation is serious; they feel the economic misery; they recognize precisely the shortcomings of the many laws born from the hardship; they have a keen sense for violence and injustice; they smile over clumsy attempts to deceive them with sham window-dressing.

No organization and no propaganda, however good, is capable of maintaining trust in the long run. I have therefore interpreted the wave of propaganda against the so-called “fault-finders”16 differently from many others. Confidence and commitment cannot be elevated by incitement, particularly of the youth, nor by threats against helpless segments of the people, but only by a discussion with the Volk in an atmosphere based on mutual trust. The Volk know that heavy sacrifices are expected of them. They will endure them and will follow the Führer with steadfast loyalty if they are allowed to have a share in the making and carrying out of decisions, if every word of criticism is not construed as maliciousness, and provided that despairing patriots are not branded as enemies of the state.

When Germany’s submarine warfare struck at England’s lifeblood, the English press drew the attention of the English people to the grave severity of the danger. The result was that the English stood together as one to defend themselves. This example demonstrates, particularly in light of the intellectual and material boycott to which we have been subjected across the world, how strongly based in trust the relationship between leadership and Volk must be when it comes to the Last Things.17 A disenfranchised people has no trust to give away.


A March 15, 1937 rally at Madison Square Garden by groups involved in the ‘Anti-Nazi Boycott’ movement, extant since 1933.

It is time to come together in fraternal love and respect for our folk-comrades, to leave off disturbing the work of serious men, and to silence the doctrinaire fanatics. To all those who do not want to see that the Germans are a nation among nations in the midst of Europe, the government warns that the meager assets handed down to us which we have salvaged need to be kept together, that we cannot afford to carelessly destroy our traditional values. If we deny that great cultural heritage, neglect or mistreat the thousand-year history of our Volk, the three-thousand-year history of our continent, we will forfeit the great opportunities which the 20th century is once again offering to the core people of Europe. If Europe wants to maintain its claim to leadership in the world, then there is not an hour left to waste in dedicating all its powers towards spiritual renewal and towards burying the petty quarrels.

The world is undergoing tremendous transformations; only a responsible, disciplined Volk will lead. We Germans can work our way up from impotence to our rightful position once we pair spirit with energy, wisdom with strength, experience with the will to act. History awaits us, but only if we prove ourselves worthy of it.


Translator’s Notes

1. A reference to the 1932 ‘Preußenschlag‘, aka the ‘Prussian strike’ or ‘Prussian coup’. On 24 April, 1932, regional elections to the Prussian Landtag had resulted in a hung parliament after the NSDAP and Communist Party (KPD) took the majority of seats between them, leaving no other party capable of forming a government. Under the provisions of the constitution this meant that the previous government, a coalition between the Social-Democrats, Center Party, and center-left German Democratic Party, continued as a caretaker regime. This was not amenable to the plans of Papen after his appointment to Reichschancellor on 1 June, who had hoped for an NSDAP-DNVP coalition which would aid in his goal of transforming the ailing Republic into an authoritarian ‘New State’. The violent ‘Altona Bloody Sunday’ riot on July 17 – where a propaganda march devolved into a pitched battle between members of the SA, SS, Reichsbanner, and Red Front Fighters’ League,  and which resulted in multiple deaths – provided the Reichschancellor a new excuse to intervene. Papen convinced President Hindenburg to employ his emergency powers and dismiss Prussia’s caretaker government under the pretext that it could no longer keep order; the Reichschancellor was subsequently declared Reichskommisar of the state, giving him full control. The Prussian government capitulated with little resistance, although it did later effect a legal protest and on October 25 succeeded in getting the Constitutional Court to declare the Preußenschlag partially unconstitutional, a ruling which in reality amounted to little.

2. The quote “no more vision” is a reference to a speech which Reichsminister Goebbels had made to a leadership meeting of the Reich Association of the German Press (Reichsverband der Deutschen Presse) on 19 April, 1934. Goebbels’s speech discussed the complaint that journalism in the Third Reich was growing stale and monotonous, an outcome of heavy regulation over the press by his Ministry and the Reich Press Chamber, which set strict limits on who could be licensed as a journalist and what they could write about. Goebbels acknowledged that there was some veracity to such complaints but countered that the deficiency was mainly the fault of older journalists, who were being overzealous in acclimatizing themselves to the regime’s new standard. His solution was that “young blood should gradually be introduced into the press, people who are educated in the spirit of National Socialism”, which would bring in people who were less timid and more ready to offer positive, constructive criticism in their reporting.

3. A reference to Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Antichrist, where the author criticized Christian morality and argued for its revaluation or ‘transvaluation’ to a more noble and life-affirming value system. Papen and Jung are alleging that there was a breakdown in Christian morality under the Weimar system.

4. ‘Religio’ – Latin for ‘religion’.

5. “Healthy ties and hierarchies of estate” – In German, “gesunden ständischen Bindungen und Rangordnungen“. The word ‘Stande‘ in German, ‘estate’, was frequently used by National Socialist and conservative-revolutionary writers as a more nationalist alternative to the word ‘class’. I have occasionally translated it as ‘class’ or ‘social order’ where appropriate for the sake of clarity, but have tried to make the distinction clear by including the original German in italics. The term directly alludes to the old ‘Estates of the Realm’ from the feudal era; these three estates (nobility, clergy, peasants) formed the major sectors of socio-economic life within European feudal society and were the basis for pre-Enlightenment political and economic organization. The word ‘ständisch‘, or ‘estate-ist’, was also used as the German equivalent for the word ‘corporatist’ – hence the corporate state of the Dolfuß regime in Austria being in German ‘der Ständestaat’ or ‘estates-state’.

6. ‘Großraum‘, plural ‘Großräume – ‘Expanded territory’ or ‘greater space’. A concept in German political history which was expanded upon in particular in the writings of legal theorist Carl Schmitt. A Großraum constituted a geographic area united by or under the influence of a specific Volk and their own unifying political ideology. The government of this Volk was by dint of its influence legally and morally justified in exploiting its Großräume economically and in using them as a defensive barrier against other great powers. The concept was intended to provide legal or philosophical rationalization to Germany’s domination (whether directly or indirectly) over neighboring territories, and thus was long associated with the Mitteleuropa concept of Germany as the natural dominant power in central Europe. The Großraum idea was popular not just with nationalists and National Socialists, but across the political spectrum – even liberal politicians like Stresemann had dreamed at times of a German Großraum in the East.

7. ‘State totalism‘ – in German, ‘Staatstotalismus‘, i.e. totalitarianism.

8. From Mein Kampf, vol. II, chapter 10: ‘Federalism as a Mask’.

9. This is primarily a criticism against the regime’s backing for the German Christians, a National Socialist faction organized within the Protestant Church in 1932. From 1933-34 the government attempted to unify the various Protestant churches within Germany under the leadership of the German Christians, a move that was met with resistance by some Christians and resulted in a general split within German Protestantism. The German Christians represented an ethnic, völkisch interpretation of Christianity, rejecting elements of the Old Testament and advocating a merger of National Socialist worldview with the Christian ethical system. The comments by Papen and Jung should also be considered in the context of the broader Kirchenkampf going on at the time: anti-Christian attitudes were being encouraged by influential NS leaders like Alfred Rosenberg, and the regime had additionally been clamping down on Catholic newspapers and organizations since July 1933. Despite the NSDAP’s Bavarian roots and Hitler’s own Catholic upbringing, there had long been a mixture of strong anti-Christian and especially anti-Catholic sentiments within National Socialist theory, dating back to the ideology’s origins in the pre-WWI workshops of Austria-Hungary. Combined with other radical viewpoints which were prominent within different segments of the Party (paganism, völkisch nature-worship, scientific atheism), the regime’s actions against the Protestant and Catholic Churches engendered controversy and trepidation among conservative elites and Germany’s religious leaders during the early years of the regime.

10. ‘Welf and Waibling‘ – the Welfs and Waiblings (aka Guelphs and Ghibellines) were competing factions within the medieval Kingdom of Italy during the 12th and 13th centuries; Italy at the time was one of the constituent kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire. The factional conflict between them arose out of competition between secular and political forces for political dominance: the Welfs were supporters of the policies of the Papacy and were loyal to the political power of the Pope, while the Waiblings professed loyalty to the more ‘temporal’ Holy Roman Emperor and his secular authority.

11. Conrad Ferdinand Meyer was a Swiss writer whose historical novels chiefly dealt with the periods of the Renaissance and Counter-Reformation. His novella The Tempting of Pescara constituted a fictionalized retelling of the life of Fernando d’Ávalos, a Condottiero (mercenary leader) who fought in the Italian Wars between 1512 and 1525.

12. A reference to the Reichstag elections of 12 November, 1933. These were the first elections held after the passage of the Enabling Act in March, after the banning of the Communist Party and Social-Democratic Party, and after the voluntary dissolution of the various bourgeois parties. A single list consisting almost entirely of National Socialist candidates, along with 22 non-party ‘guests’ (mostly from the now-defunct DNVP, although a few others were former representatives of groups like the liberal-conservative German Peoples’ Party, the Catholic Centre Party, and the Pan-German League), was presented to the voting public. Of the 95.2% of eligible voters who participated in the election, 92.1% voted in support of the government’s electoral list, while 95.1% voted in favor of a referendum (also presented on the ballot) approving the government’s decision to withdraw from the League of Nations.

13. On 7 June, 1934, Reich Minister for Science, Schooling, and Popular Education Bernhard Rust issued a decree, in conjunction wth Baldur von Schirach in his role as Reichsjugendführer of the Hitler Youth, reforming the national school week. A six-day school week had long been the custom in Germany; Rust’s edict cancelled Saturday classes across the Reich in order to replace them with a weekly ‘Staatsjugendtag‘ or State Youth Day. Hitler Youth members would attend official activities on the State Youth Day, while those students not enrolled in the organization (membership was not declared universally compulsory until 1936) were still obligated to attend school but would now engage in political instruction and physical exercise rather than regular academic classes. Sundays were declared officially reserved for families, for their personal time and for their religious observances. The Staatsjugendtag edict had been inspired in part by parents’ growing concern with the way Hitler Youth activities had been increasingly encroaching upon the hours of the weekly schoolday – putting aside every Saturday for Hitler Youth activities rather than forcing families to give up their Sundays was seen as a healthy compromise (and forcing non-enrolled students to still go to school encouraged many to join up with the Hitler Youth, whose scouting activities were seen as preferable to sitting in a classroom receiving political lessons). Fitting the national curriculum into a five-day school week proved difficult, however, and Germany returned to a six-day curriculum in 1937.

14. From Mein Kampf, vol. I, chapter 12: ‘The First Period of Development of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party’.

15. ‘Underneath its blade’ – The expression actually used here is “unter das Fallbeilgerät“, which translates to “under the Fallbeil-machine”. The ‘Fallbeil‘ (literally, ‘falling-axe’ or ‘drop-axe’) was a form of guillotine which evolved in Germany after the method of execution was introduced to the country by French occupiers during the Napoleonic period. My slight amendment of the sentence is intended so that repeated use of the word ‘guillotine’ is avoided; repeating the same word in close proximity does not read well, and Fallbeil is not a well-known word to English-speakers. In contrast to the French guillotine, the Fallbeil was made entirely of metal, its blade was raised using a winch rather than with a rope, and there were various other design changes intended to enhance efficiency. Execution by Fallbeil (along with hanging and other methods) continued in Germany through the Wilhelmine and Weimar eras, becoming more common during the Third Reich as the death penalty was extended to a wider range of offenses. Its use was eventually phased out in both Germanies after the War, although the Stasi continued to use it until sometime in the 1960s. The invocation of the guillotine here by Papen and Jung is likely intended to invoke memories of the French Revolution, where those revolutionaries who had participated so enthusiastically in the Great Terror often ended up under the guillotine themselves.

16. A reference to the ‘Campaign Against Alarmists and Fault-finders’ (‘Aktion gegen Miesmacher und Kritikaster‘) initiated by Goebbels with a speech at the Berlin Sportspalast on May 11, 1934. The campaign lasted until 30 June; it was a massive propaganda effort consisting of over two thousand speeches and countless articles, all directed against “alarmists”, “fault-finders”, “rumour-mongers”, and “troublemakers”. Initial euphoria over the ‘National Revolution’ in 1933 had given way by early 1934 to rising dissatisfaction. The SA, NSBO, Hitler Youth, and other Party radicals were growing increasingly discontented that there was no concrete sign of certain core elements of National Socialism’s program – nationalization of the banks, stock market, and heavy industry; the breaking-up and redistribution of the department stores; a purging of the bureaucracy to remove ‘reactionary’ elements. This led to heated calls among the Party grass-roots for a “Second Revolution” and precipitated a rising wave of general violence and looting by SA members, which in turn attracted vocal complaints and criticism from the bourgeoisie. Goebbels’s campaign was directed at both silencing these grumbling members of the ‘Reaktion’ (including members of the conservative elite like Papen) by branding them as “fault-finders”, and at trying to divert the anger of the SA away from the Party hierarchy and towards the only real force who still posed a threat to the NSDAP, the conservatives.

17. “The Last Things” – in the German, “um letzte Dinge“. Probably a reference to the Christian eschatological concept of ‘the Last Four Things’ or ‘the Last Things’ – death, judgement, Heaven, and Hell.


Translated from ‘Document Papen-11: Rede des Vizekanzlers von Papen vor dem Universitätsbund, Marburg, am 17. Juni 1934’, Trial of the Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal, Nuremberg, 14 November 1945 – 1 October 1946, vol. XL (1949), International Military Tribunal Nuremberg.

One thought on “Papen’s Marburg Speech

  1. Unfortunately history seems to be repeating, so much of Jung speech echo’s again now in Europe

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