Papen left the army after the war and entered politics, becoming a leader of the ultraconservative wing of the Catholic Center Party and part owner of its principal organ, Germania. From 1921 to 1932, Papen was a member of the Prussian Landtag. He was opposed to political ties with the socialists and liberals and urged restoration of the monarchy. Nationalist politician General Kurt von Schleicher, who did not yet seek the chancellorship himself, saw in Papen a useful puppet. Schleicher used his influence with President Paul von Hindenburg to secure the appointment of Papen as chancellor on 31 May 1932, succeeding Heinrich Brüning.
Papen formed a cabinet of prominent aristocrats and right-wing nationalists. Believing that the Nazis could be controlled and exploited, Papen secured an end to the ban on the Sturmabteilung (SA, storm battalions), providing the National Socialists with increased power. Although Papen toed the Nazi line in foreign-policy pronouncements, Adolf Hitler had no intention of sharing power and rebuffed his overtures. In late June, Papen deposed the Social Democratic government of Prussia and assumed direct control of Prussia as federal commissioner.
New elections for the Reichstag occurred in November 1932, and Papen remained chancellor only until the next month. In December, Schleicher and his allies forced Papen's resignation, Schleicher becoming chancellor himself. Papen then allied himself with Hitler and played a key role in bringing Hitler to power. Papen helped to convince a reluctant Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as chancellor on 30 January 1933 with himself as vice chancellor, claiming he could "control" the Nazi leader.
As vice chancellor, Papen intrigued for a return of the monarchy, something he called for publicly in a sensational speech at Marburg University on 17 June 1934. Saved from death in the 30 June Blood Purge ("night of the long knives") only by the intervention of Hermann Göring (two of his closest associates in the vice chancellory were murdered, and he himself was held under arrest for four days), Papen managed to restore himself to Hitler's good graces and served as German ambassador to Austria from 1934, where he played a key role in the German takeover of that country (the Anschluss) in 1938. He was then German ambassador to Turkey.
After the war, Papen retired to Westphalia. He was arrested by Allied authorities and tried by the International War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946 but found not guilty. Rearrested and tried by a German denazification court, he was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison, after which his property and wealth were returned to him. Papen published his memoirs in 1952 and died in Obersasbach on 2 May 1969.
Annette Richardson and Spencer C. Tucker
Koeves, Tibor. Satan in Top Hat: The Biography of Franz von Papen. New York: Alliance Book Corporation, 1941.; Papen, Franz von. Memoirs. London: Andre Deutsch, 1952.; Rolfs, Richard W. The Sorcerer's Apprentice: The Life of Franz von Papen. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1996.