The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germ

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:51 pm

Part 2 of 2


But aside from history, where did Hitler get his ideas? Though his opponents inside and outside Germany were too busy, or too stupid, to take much notice of it until it was too late, he had somehow absorbed, as had so many Germans, a weird mixture of the irresponsible, megalomaniacal ideas which erupted from German thinkers during the nineteenth century. Hitler, who often got them at second hand through such a muddled pseudo philosopher as Alfred Rosenberg or through his drunken poet friend Dietrich Eckart, embraced them with all the feverish enthusiasm of a neophyte. What was worse, he resolved to put them into practice if the opportunity should ever arise.

We have seen what they were as they thrashed about in Hitler's mind: the glorification of war and conquest and the absolute power of the authoritarian state; the belief in the Aryans, or Germans, as the master race, and the hatred of Jews and Slavs; the contempt for democracy and humanism. They are not original with Hitler -- though the means of applying them later proved to be. They emanate from that odd assortment of erudite but unbalanced philosophers, historians and teachers who captured the German mind during the century before Hitler with consequences so disastrous, as it turned out, not only for the Germans but for a large portion of mankind.

There had been among the Germans, to be sure, some of the most elevated minds and spirits of the Western world -- Leibnitz, Kant, Herder, Humboldt, Lessing, Goethe, Schiller, Bach and Beethoven -- and they had made unique contributions to the civilization of the West. But the German culture which became dominant in the nineteenth century and which coincided with the rise of Prussian Germany, continuing from Bismarck through Hitler, rests primarily on Fichte and Hegel, to begin with, and then on Treitschke, Nietzsche, Richard Wagner, and a host of lesser lights not the least of whom, strangely enough, were a bizarre Frenchman and an eccentric Englishman. They succeeded in establishing a spiritual break with the West; the breach has not been healed to this day.

In 1807, following Prussia's humiliating defeat by Napoleon at Jena, Johann Gottlieb Fichte began his famous "Addresses to the German Nation" from the podium of the University of Berlin, where he held the chair of philosophy. They stirred and rallied a divided, defeated people and their resounding echoes could still be heard in the Third Reich. Fichte's teaching was heady wine for a frustrated folk. To him the Latins, especially the French, and the Jews are the decadent races. Only the Germans possess the possibility of regeneration. Their language is the purest, the most original. Under them a new era in history would blossom. It would reflect the order of the cosmos. It would be led by a small elite which would be free of any moral restraints of a "private" nature. These are some of the ideas we have seen Hitler putting down in Mein Kampf.

On Fichte's death in 1814, he was succeeded by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel at the University of Berlin. This is the subtle and penetrating mind whose dialectics inspired Marx and Lenin and thus contributed to the founding of Communism and whose ringing glorification of the State as supreme in human life paved the way for the Second and Third Reichs of Bismarck and Hitler. To Hegel the State is all, or almost all. Among other things, he says, it is the highest revelation of the "world spirit"; it is the "moral universe"; it is "the actuality of the ethical idea ... ethical mind ... knowing and thinking itself"; the State "has the supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State . .. for the right of the world spirit is above all special privileges ... "

And the happiness of the individual on earth? Hegel replies that "world history is no empire of happiness. The periods of happiness," he declares, "are the empty pages of history because they are the periods of agreement, without conflict." War is the great purifier. In Hegel's view, it makes for "the ethical health of peoples corrupted by a long peace, as the blowing of the winds preserves the sea from the foulness which would be the result of a prolonged calm."

No traditional conception of morals and ethics must disturb either the supreme State or the "heroes" who lead it. "World history occupies a higher ground ... Moral claims which are irrelevant must not be brought into collision with world-historical deeds and their accomplishments. The litany of private virtues -- modesty, humility, philanthropy and forbearance -- must not be raised against them ... So mighty a form [the State] must trample down many an innocent flower -- crush to pieces many an object in its path."

Hegel foresees such a State for Germany when she has recovered her God-given genius. He predicts that "Germany's hour" will come and that its mission will be to regenerate the world. As one reads Hegel one realizes how much inspiration Hitler, like Marx, drew from him, even if it was at second hand. Above all else, Hegel in his theory of "heroes," those great agents who are fated by a mysterious Providence to carry out "the will of the world spirit," seems to have inspired Hitler, as we shall see at the end of this chapter, with his own overpowering sense of mission.

Heinrich von Treitschke came later to the University of Berlin. From 1874 until his death in 1896 he was a professor of history there and a popular one, his lectures being attended by large and enthusiastic gatherings which included not only students but General Staff officers and officials of the Junker bureaucracy. His influence on German thought in the last quarter of the century was enormous and it continued through Wilhelm II's day and indeed Hitler's. Though he was a Saxon, he became the great Prussianizer; he was more Prussian than the Prussians. Like Hegel he glorifies the State and conceives of it as supreme, but his attitude is more brutish: the people, the subjects, are to be little more than slaves in the nation. "It does not matter what you think," he exclaims, "so long as you obey."

And Treitschke outdoes Hegel in proclaiming war as the highest expression of man. To him "martial glory is the basis of all the political virtues; in the rich treasure of Germany's glories the Prussian military glory is a jewel as precious as the masterpieces of our poets and thinkers." He holds that "to play blindly with peace ... has become the shame of the thought and morality of our age."

War is not only a practical necessity, it is also a theoretical necessity, an exigency of logic. The concept of the State implies the concept of war, for the essence of the State is power ... That war should ever be banished from the world is a hope not only absurd, but profoundly immoral. It would involve the atrophy of many of the essential and sublime forces of the human soul ... A people which become attached to the chimerical hope of perpetual peace finishes irremediably by decaying in its proud isolation ..."

Nietzsche, like Goethe, held no high opinion of the German people, [ix] and in other ways, too, the outpourings of this megalomaniacal genius differ from those of the chauvinistic German thinkers of the nineteenth century. Indeed, he regarded most German philosophers, including Fichte and Hegel, as "unconscious swindlers." He poked fun at the "Tartuffery of old Kant." The Germans, he wrote in Ecce Homo, "have no conception how vile they are," and he came to the conclusion that "wheresoever Germany penetrated, she ruins culture." He thought that Christians, as much as Jews, were responsible for the "slave morality" prevalent in the world; he was never an anti-Semite. He was sometimes fearful of Prussia's future, and in his last years, before insanity closed down his mind, he even toyed with the idea of European union and world government.

Yet I think no one who lived in the Third Reich could have failed to be impressed by Nietzsche's influence on it. His books might be full, as Santayana said, of "genial imbecility" and "boyish blasphemies." Yet Nazi scribblers never tired of extolling him. Hitler often visited the Nietzsche museum in Weimar and publicized his veneration for the philosopher by posing for photographs of himself staring in rapture at the bust of the great man.

There was some ground for this appropriation of Nietzsche as one of the originators of the Nazi Weltanschauung. Had not the philosopher thundered against democracy and parliaments, preached the will to power, praised war and proclaimed the coming of the master race and the superman -- and in the most telling aphorisms? A Nazi could proudly quote him on almost every conceivable subject, and did. On Christianity: "the one great curse, the one enormous and innermost perversion ... I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind ... This Christianity is no more than the typical teaching of the Socialists." On the State, power and the jungle world of man: "Society has never regarded virtue as anything else than as a means to strength, power and order. The State [is] unmorality organized ... the will to war, to conquest and revenge ... Society is not entitled to exist for its own sake but only as a substructure and scaffolding, by means of which a select race of beings may elevate themselves to their higher duties ... There is no such thing as the right to live, the right to work, or the right to be happy: in this respect man is no different from the meanest worm." [x] And he exalted the superman as the beast of prey, "the magnificent blond brute, avidly rampant for spoil and victory."

And war? Here Nietzsche took the view of most of the other nineteenth-century German thinkers. In the thundering Old Testament language in which Thus Spake Zarathustra is written, the philosopher cries out: "Ye shall love peace as a means to new war, and the short peace more than the long. You I advise not to work, but to fight. You I advise not to peace but to victory ... Ye say it is the good cause which halloweth even war? I say unto you: it is the good war which halloweth every cause. War and courage have done more great things than charity."

Finally there was Nietzsche's prophecy of the coming elite who would rule the world and from whom the superman would spring. In The Will to Power he exclaims: "A daring and ruler race is building itself up ... The aim should be to prepare a transvaluation of values for a particularly strong kind of man, most highly gifted in intellect and will. This man and the elite around him will become the "lords of the earth."

Such rantings from one of Germany's most original minds must have struck a responsive chord in Hitler's littered mind. At any rate he appropriated them for his own -- not only the thoughts but the philosopher's penchant for grotesque exaggeration, and often his very words. "Lords of the Earth" is a familiar expression in Mein Kampf. That in the end Hitler considered himself the superman of Nietzsche's prophecy can not be doubted.


"Whoever wants to understand National Socialist Germany must know Wagner," Hitler used to say. [xi] This may have been based on a partial misconception of the great composer, for though Richard Wagner harbored a fanatical hatred, as Hitler did, for the Jews, who he was convinced were out to dominate the world with their money, and though he scorned parliaments and democracy and the materialism and mediocrity of the bourgeoisie, he also fervently hoped that the Germans, "with their special gifts," would "become not rulers, but ennoblers of the world."

It was not his political writings, however, but his towering operas, recalling so vividly the world of German antiquity with its heroic myths, its fighting pagan gods and heroes, its demons and dragons, its blood feuds and primitive tribal codes, its sense of destiny, of the splendor of love and life and the nobility of death, which inspired the myths of modern Germany and gave it a Germanic Weltanschauung which Hitler and the Nazis, with some justification, took over as their own.

From his earliest days Hitler worshiped Wagner, and even as his life neared a close, in the damp and dreary bunker at Army headquarters on the Russian front, with his world and his dreams beginning to crack and crumble, he loved to reminisce about all the times he had heard the great Wagnerian works, of what they had meant to him and of the inspiration he had derived from the Bayreuth Festival and from his countless visits to Haus Wahnfried, the composer's home, where Siegfried Wagner, the composer's son, still lived with his English-born wife, Winifred, who for a while was one of his revered friends.

"What joy each of Wagner's works has given me!" Hitler exclaims on the evening of January 24-25, 1942, soon after the first disastrous German defeats in Russia, as he discourses to his generals and party cronies, Himmler among them, in the depths of the underground shelter of Wolfsschanze at Rastenburg in East Prussia. Outside there is snow and an arctic cold, the elements which he so hated and feared and which had contributed to the first German military setback of the war. But in the warmth of the bunker his thoughts on this night, at least, are on one of the great inspirations of his life. "I remember," he says, "my emotion the first time I entered Wahnfried. To say I was moved is an understatement! At my worst moments, they never ceased to sustain me, even Siegfried Wagner. I was on Christian-name terms with them. I loved them all, and I also love Wahnfried ... The ten days of the Bayreuth season were always one of the blessed seasons of my existence. And I rejoice at the idea that one day I shall be able to resume the pilgrimage! ... On the day following the end of the Bayreuth Festival ... I'm gripped by a great sadness -- as when one strips the Christmas tree of its ornaments." [25]

Though Hitler reiterated in his monologue that winter evening that to him Tristan und Isolde was "Wagner's masterpiece," it is the stupendous Nibelungen Ring, a series of four operas which was inspired by the great German epic myth, Nibelungenlied, and on which the composer worked for the better part of twenty-five years, that gave Germany and especially the Third Reich so much of its primitive Germanic mythos. Often a people's myths are the highest and truest expression of its spirit and culture, and nowhere is this more true than in Germany. Schelling even argued that "a nation comes into existence with its mythology ... The unity of its thinking, which means a collective philosophy, [is] presented in its mythology; therefore its mythology contains the fate of the nation." And Max Mell, a contemporary poet, who wrote a modem version of the Song of the Nibelungs, declared, "Today only little has remained of the Greek gods that humanism wanted to implant so deeply into our culture . ... But Siegfried and Kriemhild were always in the people's soul!"

Siegfried and Kriemhild, Brunhild and Hagen -- these are the ancient heroes and heroines with whom so many modem Germans liked to identify themselves. With them, and with the world of the barbaric, pagan Nibelungs -- an irrational, heroic, mystic world, beset by treachery, overwhelmed by violence, drowned in blood, and culminating in the Goetterdaemmerung, the twilight of the gods, as Valhalla, set on fire by Wotan after all his vicissitudes, goes up in flames in an orgy of self-willed annihilation which has always fascinated the German mind and answered some terrible longing in the German soul. These heroes, this primitive, demonic world, were always, in Mell's words, "in the people's soul." In that German soul could be felt the struggle between the spirit of civilization and the spirit of the Nibelungs, and in the time with which this history is concerned the latter seemed to gain the upper hand. It is not at all surprising that Hitler tried to emulate Wotan when in 1945 he willed the destruction of Germany so that it might go down in flames with him.

Wagner, a man of staggering genius, an artist of incredible magnitude, stood for much more than has been set down here. The conflict in the Ring operas often revolves around the theme of greed for gold, which the composer equated with the "tragedy of modern capitalism," and which he saw, with horror, wiping out the old virtues which had come down from an earlier day. Despite all his pagan heroes he did not entirely despair of Christianity, as Nietzsche did. And he had great compassion for the erring, warring human race. But Hitler was not entirely wrong in saying that to understand Nazism one must first know Wagner.

Wagner had known, and been influenced by, first Schopenhauer and then Nietzsche, though the latter quarreled with him because he thought his operas, especially Parsifal, showed too much Christian renunciation. In the course of his long and stormy life, Wagner came into contact with two other men, one a Frenchman, the other an Englishman, who are important to this history not so much for the impression they made on him, though in one case it was considerable, as for their effect on the German mind, which they helped to direct toward the coming of the Third Reich.

These individuals were Count Joseph Arthur de Gobineau, a French diplomat and man of letters, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, one of the strangest Englishmen who ever lived.

Neither man, be it said at once, was a mountebank. Both were men of immense erudition, deep culture and wide experience of travel. Yet both concocted racial doctrines so spurious that no people, not even their own, took them seriously with the single exception of the Germans. To the Nazis their questionable theories became gospel. It is probably no exaggeration to say, as I have heard more than one follower of Hitler say, that Chamberlain was the spiritual founder of the Third Reich. This singular Englishman, who came to see in the Germans the master race, the hope of the future, worshiped Richard Wagner, one of whose daughters he eventually married; he venerated first Wilhelm II and finally Hitler and was the mentor of both. At the end of a fantastic life he could hail the Austrian corporal -- and this long before Hitler came to power or had any prospect of it -- as a being sent by God to lead the German people out of the wilderness. Hitler, not unnaturally, regarded Chamberlain as a prophet, as indeed he turned out to be.

What was it in the teaching of these two men that inoculated the Germans with a madness on the question of race and German destiny?

Gobineau's chief contribution was a four-volume work which was published in Paris between 1853 and 1855, entitled Essai sur l'Inegalite des Races Humaines (Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races). Ironically enough, this French aristocrat, after serving as an officer in the Royal Guard, had started his public career as chef de cabinet to Alexis de Tocqueville when the distinguished author of Democracy in America served a brief term of office in 1848. He had then gone to Hanover and Frankfurt as a diplomat and it was from his contact with the Germans, rather than with De Tocqueville, that he derived his theories on racial inequalities, though he once confessed that he wrote the volumes partly to prove the superiority of his own aristocratic ancestry.

To Gobineau, as he stated in his dedication of the work to the King of Hanover, the key to history and civilization was race. "The racial question dominates all the other problems of history ... the inequality of races suffices to explain the whole unfolding of the destiny of peoples." There were three principal races, white, yellow and black, and the white was the superior. "History," he contended, "shows that all civilization flows from the white race, that no civilization can exist without the co-operation of this race." The jewel of the white race was the Aryan, "this illustrious human family, the noblest among the white race," whose origins he traced back to Central Asia. Unfortunately, Gobineau says, the contemporary Aryan suffered from intermixture with inferior races, as one could see in the southern Europe of his time. However, in the northwest, above a line running roughly along the Seine and east to Switzerland, the Aryans, though far from simon-pure, still survived as a superior race. This took in some of the French, all of the English and the Irish, the people of the Low Countries and the Rhine and Hanover, and the Scandinavians. Gobineau seemingly excluded the bulk of the Germans, who lived to the east and southeast of his line -- a fact which the Nazis glossed over when they embraced his teachings.

Still, to Gobineau's mind the Germans, or at least the West Germans, were probably the best of all the Aryans, and this discovery the Nazis did not gloss over. Wherever they went, the Germans, he found, brought improvement. This was true even in the Roman Empire. The so-called barbaric German tribes who conquered the Romans and broke up their empire did a distinct service to civilization, for the Romans, by the time of the fourth century, were little better than degenerate mongrels, while the Germans were relatively pure Aryans. "The Aryan German," he declared, "is a powerful creature ... Everything he thinks, says and does is thus of major importance."

Gobineau's ideas were quickly taken up in Germany. Wagner, whom the Frenchman met in 1876 toward the close of his life (he died in 1882) espoused them with enthusiasm, and soon Gobineau societies sprang up allover Germany. [xii]


Among the zealous members of the Gobineau Society in Germany was Houston Stewart Chamberlain, whose life and works constitute one of the most fascinating ironies in the inexorable course of history which led to the rise and fall of the Third Reich.

This son of an English admiral, nephew of a British field marshal, Sir Neville Chamberlain, and of two British generals, and eventually son-in-law of Richard Wagner, was born at Portsmouth in 1855. He was destined for the British Army or Navy, but his delicate health made such a calling out of the question and he was educated in France and Geneva, where French became his first language. Between the ages of fifteen and nineteen fate brought him into touch with two Germans and thereafter he was drawn irresistibly toward Germany, of which he ultimately became a citizen and one of the foremost thinkers and in whose language he wrote all of his many books, several of which had an almost blinding influence on Wilhelm II, Adolf Hitler and countless lesser Germans.

In 1870, when he was fifteen, Chamberlain landed in the hands of a remarkable tutor, Otto Kuntze, a Prussian of the Prussians, who for four years imprinted on his receptive mind and sensitive soul the glories of militant, conquering Prussia and also -- apparently unmindful of the contrasts -- of such artists and poets as Beethoven, Goethe, Schiller and Wagner. At nineteen Chamberlain fell madly in love with Anna Horst, also a Prussian, ten years his senior and, like him, highly neurotic. In 1882, at the age of twenty-seven, he journeyed from Geneva, where he had beer. immersed for three years in studies of philosophy, natural history, physics, chemistry and medicine, to Bayreuth. There he met Wagner who, as he says, became the sun of his life, and Cosima, the composer's wife, to whom he would remain passionately and slavishly devoted all the rest of his days. From 1885, when he went with Anna Horst, who had become his wife, to live for four years in Dresden, he became a German in thought and in language, moving on to Vienna in 1889 for a decade and finally in 1909 to Bayreuth, where he dwelt until his death in 1927. He divorced his idolized Prussian wife in 1905, when she was sixty and even more mentally and physically ill than he (the separation was so painful that he said it almost drove him mad) and three years later he married Eva Wagner and settled down near Wahnfried, where he could be near his wife's mother, the revered, strong-willed Cosima.

Hypersensitive and neurotic and subject to frequent nervous breakdowns, Chamberlain was given to seeing demons who, by his own account, drove him on relentlessly to seek new fields of study and get on with his prodigious writings. One vision after another forced him to change from biology to botany to the fine arts, to music, to philosophy, to biography to history. Once, in 1896, when he was returning from Italy, the presence of a demon became so forceful that he got off the train at Gardone, shut himself up in a hotel room for eight days and, abandoning some work on music that he had contemplated, wrote feverishly on a biological thesis until he had the germ of the theme that would dominate all of his later works: race and history.

Whatever its blemishes, his mind had a vast sweep ranging over the fields of literature, music, biology, botany, religion, history and politics. There was, as Jean Real [26] has pointed out, a profound unity of inspiration in all his published works and they had a remarkable coherence. Since he felt himself goaded on by demons, his books (on Wagner, Goethe, Kant, Christianity and race) were written in the grip of a terrible fever, a veritable trance, a state of self-induced intoxication, so that, as he says in his autobiography, Lebenswege, he was often unable to recognize them as his own work, because they surpassed his expectations. Minds more balanced than his have subsequently demolished his theories of race and much of his history, and to such a French scholar of Germanism as Edmond Vermeil Chamberlain's ideas were essentially "shoddy." Yet to the anti-Nazi German biographer of Hitler, Konrad Heiden, who deplored the influence of his racial teachings, Chamberlain "was one of the most astonishing talents in the history of the German mind, a mine of knowledge and profound ideas."

The book which most profoundly influenced that mind, which sent Wilhelm II into ecstasies and provided the Nazis with their racial aberrations, was Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (Grundlagen des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts) a work of some twelve hundred pages which Chamberlain, again possessed of one of his "demons," wrote in nineteen months between April 1, 1897, and October 31, 1898, in Vienna, and which was published in 1899.

As with Gobineau, whom he admired, Chamberlain found the key to history, indeed the basis of civilization, to be race. To explain the nineteenth century, that is, the contemporary world, one had to consider first what it had been bequeathed from ancient times. Three things, said Chamberlain: Greek philosophy and art, Roman law and the personality of Christ. There were also three legatees: the Jews and the Germans, the "two pure races," and the half-breed Latins of the Mediterranean -- "a chaos of peoples," he called them. The Germans alone deserved such a splendid heritage. They had, it is true, come into history late, not until the thirteenth century. But even before that, in destroying the Roman Empire, they had proved their worth. "It is not true," he says, "that the Teutonic barbarian conjured up the so-called 'Night of the Middle Ages'; this night followed rather upon the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the raceless chaos of humanity which the dying Roman Empire had nurtured; but for the Teuton, everlasting night would have settled upon the world." At the time he was writing he saw in the Teuton the only hope of the world.

Chamberlain included among the "Teutons" the Celts and the Slavs, though the Teutons were the most important element. However, he is quite woolly in his definitions and at one point declares that "whoever behaves as a Teuton is a Teuton whatever his racial origin." Perhaps here he was thinking of his own non-German origin. Whatever he was, the Teuton, according to Chamberlain, was "the soul of our culture. The importance of each nation as a living power today is dependent upon the proportion of genuinely Teutonic blood in its population ... True history begins at the moment when the Teuton, with his masterful hand, lays his grip upon the legacy of antiquity."

And the Jews? The longest chapter in Foundations is devoted to them. As we have seen, Chamberlain claimed that the Jews and the Teutons were the only pure races left in the West. And in this chapter he condemns "stupid and revolting anti-Semitism." The Jews, he says, are not "inferior" to the Teuton, merely "different." They have their own grandeur; they realize the "sacred duty" of man to guard the purity of race. And yet as he proceeds to analyze the Jews, Chamberlain slips into the very vulgar anti-Semitism which he condemns in others and which leads, in the end, to the obscenities of Julius Streicher's caricatures of the Jews in Der Stuermer in Hitler's time. Indeed a good deal of the "philosophical" basis of Nazi anti-Semitism stems from this chapter.

The preposterousness of Chamberlain's views is quickly evident. He has declared that the personality of Christ is one of the three great bequests of antiquity to modern civilization. He then sets out to "prove" that Jesus was not a Jew. His Galilean origins, his inability to utter correctly the Aramaic gutturals, are to Chamberlain "clear signs" that Jesus had "a large proportion of non-Semitic blood." He then makes a typically flat statement: "Whoever claimed that Jesus was a Jew was either being stupid or telling a lie .... Jesus was not a Jew."

What was he then? Chamberlain answers: Probably an Aryan! If not entirely by blood, then unmistakably by reason of his moral and religious teaching, so opposed to the "materialism and abstract formalism" of the Jewish religion. It was natural then -- or at least it was to Chamberlain -- that Christ should become "the God of the young Indo-European peoples overflowing with life," and above all the God of the Teuton, because "no other people was so well equipped as the Teutonic to hear this divine voice."

There follows what purports to be a detailed history of the Jewish race from the time of the mixture of the Semite or Bedouin of the desert with the roundheaded Hittite, who had a "Jewish nose," and finally with the Amorites, who were Aryans. Unfortunately the Aryan mixture -- the Amorites, he says, were tall, blond, magnificent -- came too late to really improve the "corrupt" Hebrew strain. From then on the Englishman, contradicting his whole theory of the purity of the Jewish race, finds the Jews becoming a "negative" race, "a bastardy," so that the Aryans were justified in "denying" Israel. In fact, he condemns the Aryans for giving the Jews "a halo of false glory." He then finds the Jews "lamentably lacking in true religion."

Finally, for Chamberlain the way of salvation lies in the Teutons and their culture, and of the Teutons the Germans are the highest-endowed, for they have inherited the best qualities of the Greeks and the Indo- Aryans. This gives them the right to be masters of the world. "God builds today upon the Germans alone," he wrote in another place. "This is the knowledge, the certain truth, that has filled my soul for years."


Publication of Foundations of the Nineteenth Century created something of a sensation and brought this strange Englishman sudden fame in Germany. Despite its frequent eloquence and its distinguished style -- for Chamberlain was a dedicated artist -- the book was not easy reading. But it was soon taken up by the upper classes, who seem to have found in it just what they wanted to believe. Within ten years it had gone through eight editions and sold 60,000 copies and by the time of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 it had reached a sale of 100,000. It flourished again in the Nazi time and I remember an announcement of its twentyfourth edition in 1938, by which time it had sold more than a quarter of a million copies.

Among its first and most enthusiastic readers was Kaiser Wilhelm II. He invited Chamberlain to his palace at Potsdam and on their very first meeting a friendship was formed that lasted to the end of the author's life in 1927. An extensive correspondence between the two followed. Some of the forty-three letters which Chamberlain addressed to the Emperor (Wilhelm answered twenty-three of them) were lengthy essays which the ruler used in several of his bombastic speeches and statements. "It was God who sent your book to the German people, and you personally to me," the Kaiser wrote in one of his first letters. Chamberlain's obsequiousness, his exaggerated flattery, in these letters can be nauseating. "Your Majesty and your subjects," he wrote, "have been born in a holy shrine," and he informed Wilhelm that he had placed his portrait in his study opposite one of Christ by Leonardo so that while he worked he often paced up and down between the countenance of his Savior and his sovereign.

His servility did not prevent Chamberlain from continually proffering advice to the headstrong, flamboyant monarch. In 1908 the popular opposition to Wilhelm had reached such a climax that the Reichstag censored him for his disastrous intervention in foreign affairs. But Chamberlain advised the Emperor that public opinion was made by idiots and traitors and not to mind it, whereupon Wilhelm replied that the two of them would stand together -- "You wield your pen; I my tongue (and) my broad sword."

And always the Englishman reminded the Emperor of Germany's mission and its destiny. "Once Germany has achieved the power," he wrote after the outbreak of the First World War," -- and we may confidently expect her to achieve it -- she must immediately begin to carry out a scientific policy of genius. Augustus undertook a systematic transformation of the world, and Germany must do the same ... Equipped with offensive and defensive weapons, organized as firmly and flawlessly as the Army, superior to all in art, science, technology, industry, commerce, finance, in every field, in short; teacher, helmsman, and pioneer of the world, every man at his post, every man giving his utmost for the holy cause -- thus Germany ... will conquer the world by inner superiority."

For preaching such a glorious mission for his adopted country (he became a naturalized German citizen in 1916, halfway through the war) Chamberlain received from the Kaiser the Iron Cross.


But it was on the Third Reich, which did not arrive until six years after his death but whose coming he foresaw, that this Englishman's influence was the greatest. His racial theories and his burning sense of the destiny of the Germans and Germany were taken over by the Nazis, who acclaimed him as one of their prophets. During the Hitler regime books, pamphlets and articles poured from the presses extolling the "spiritual founder" of National Socialist Germany. Rosenberg, as one of Hitler's mentors, often tried to impart his enthusiasm for the English philosopher to the Fuehrer. It is likely that Hitler first learned of Chamberlain's writings before he left Vienna, for they were popular among the Pan-German and anti-Semitic groups whose literature he devoured so avidly in those early days. Probably too he read some of Chamberlain's chauvinistic articles during the war. In Mein Kampf he expresses the regret that Chamberlain's observations were not more heeded during the Second Reich.

Chamberlain was one of the first intellectuals in Germany to see a great future for Hitler -- and new opportunities for the Germans if they followed him. Hitler had met him in Bayreuth in 1923, and though ill, half paralyzed, and disillusioned by Germany's defeat and the fall of the Hohenzollern Empire -- the collapse of all his hopes and prophecies! -- Chamberlain was swept off his feet by the eloquent young Austrian. "You have mighty things to do," he wrote Hitler on the following day, " ... My faith in Germanism had not wavered an instant, though my hope-I confess -- was at a low ebb. With one stroke you have transformed the state of my soul. That in the hour of her deepest need Germany gives birth to a Hitler proves her vitality; as do the influences that emanate from him; for these two things -- personality and influence -- belong together ... May God protect you!"

This was at a time when Adolf Hitler, with his Charlie Chaplin mustache, his rowdy manners and his violent, outlandish extremism, was still considered a joke by most Germans. He had few followers then. But the hypnotic magnetism of his personality worked like a charm on the aging, ill philosopher and renewed his faith in the people he had chosen to join and exalt. Chamberlain became a member of the budding Nazi Party and so far as his health would permit began to write for its obscure publications. One of his articles, published in 1924, hailed Hitler, who was then in jail, as destined by God to lead the German people. Destiny had beckoned Wilhelm 11, but he had failed; now there was Adolf Hitler. This remarkable Englishman's seventieth birthday, on September 5, 1925, was celebrated with five columns of encomiums in the Nazi Voelkischer Beobachter, which hailed his Foundations as the "gospel of the Nazi movement," and he went to his grave sixteen months later -- on January 11, 1927 -- with high hope that all he had preached and prophesied would yet come true under the divine guidance of this new German Messiah.

Aside from a prince representing Wilhelm II, who could not return to German soil, Hitler was the only public figure at Chamberlain's funeral. In reporting the death of the Englishman the Voelkischer Beobachter said that the German people had lost "one of the great armorers whose weapons have not yet found in our day their fullest use." Not the half-paralyzed old man, dying, not even Hitler, nor anyone else in Germany, could have foreseen in that bleak January month of 1927, when the fortunes of the Nazi Party were at their lowest ebb, how soon, how very soon, those weapons which the transplanted Englishman had forged would be put to their fullest use, and with what fearful consequences. [27]


Yet Adolf Hitler had a mystical sense of his personal mission on earth in those days, and even before. "From millions of men ... one man must step forward," he wrote in Mein Kampf (the italics are his), "who with apodictic force will form granite principles from the wavering idea-world of the broad masses and take up the struggle for their sole correctness, until from the shifting waves of a free thought-world there will arise a brazen cliff of solid unity in faith and will." [28]

He left no doubt in the minds of readers that he already considered himself that one man. Mein Kampf is sprinkled with little essays on the role of the genius who is picked by Providence to lead a great people, even though they may not at first understand him or recognize his worth, out of their troubles to further greatness. The reader is aware that Hitler is referring to himself and his present situation. He is not yet recognized by the world for what he is sure he is, but that has always been the fate of geniuses -- in the beginning. "It nearly always takes some stimulus to bring the genius on the scene," he remarks. "The world then resists and does not want to believe that the type, which apparently is identical with it, is suddenly a very different being; a process which is repeated with every eminent son of man ... The spark of a genius," he declares, "exists in the brain of the truly creative man from the hour of his birth. True genius is always inborn and never cultivated, let alone learned." [29]

Specifically, he thought, the great men who shaped history were a blend of the practical politician and the thinker. "At long intervals in human history it may occasionally happen that the politician is wedded to the theoretician. The more profound this fusion, the greater are the obstacles opposing the work of the politician. He no longer works for necessities which will be understood by the first good shopkeeper, but for aims which only the fewest comprehend. Therefore his life is torn between love and hate. The protest of the present, which does not understand him, struggles with the recognition of posterity -- for which he also works. For the greater a man's works are for the future, the less the present can comprehend them; the harder his fight ... " [30]

These lines were written in 1924, when few understood what this man, then in prison and discredited by the failure of his comic-opera putsch, had in mind to do. But Hitler had no doubts himself. Whether he actually read Hegel or not is a matter of dispute. But it is clear from his writings and speeches that he had some acquaintance with the philosopher's ideas, if only through discussions with his early mentors Rosenberg, Eckart and Hess. One way or another Hegel's famous lectures at the University of Berlin must have caught his attention, as did numerous dictums of Nietzsche. We have seen briefly [xiii] that Hegel developed a theory of "heroes" which had great appeal to the German mind. In one of the Berlin lectures he discussed how the "will of the world spirit" is carried out by "world-historical individuals."

They may be called Heroes, inasmuch as they have derived their purposes and their vocation, not from the calm regular course of things, sanctioned by the existing order; but from a concealed fount, from that inner Spirit, still hidden beneath the surface, which impinges on the outer world as on a shell and bursts It into pieces. Such were Alexander, Caesar, Napoleon. They were practical, political men. But at the same time they were thinking men, who had an insight into the requirements of the time -- what was ripe for development. This was the very Truth for their age, for their world ... It was theirs to know this nascent principle, the necessary, directly sequent step in progress, which their world was to take; to make this their aim, and to expend their energy in promoting it. World-historical men-the Heroes of an epoch -- must therefore be recognized as its clear-sighted ones; their deeds, their words are the best of their time. [31]

Note the similarities between this and the above quotation from Mein Kampf. The fusion of the politician and the thinker -- that is what produces a hero, a "world-historical figure," an Alexander, a Caesar, a Napoleon. If there was in him, as Hitler had now come to believe, the same fusion, might he not aspire to their ranks?

In Hitler's utterances there runs the theme that the supreme leader is above the morals of ordinary man. Hegel and Nietzsche thought so too. We have seen Hegel's argument that "the private virtues" and "irrelevant moral claims" must not stand in the way of the great rulers, nor must one be squeamish if the heroes, in fulfilling their destiny, trample or "crush to pieces" many an innocent flower. Nietzsche, with his grotesque exaggeration, goes much further.

The strong men, the masters, regain the pure conscience of a beast of prey; monsters filled with joy, they can return from a fearful succession of murder, arson, rape and torture with the same joy in their hearts, the same contentment in their souls as if they had indulged in some student's rag ... When a man is capable of commanding, when he is by nature a "Master," when he is violent in act and gesture, of what importance are treaties to him? ... To judge morality properly, it must be replaced by two concepts borrowed from zoology: the taming of a beast and the breeding of a specific species. [32]

Such teachings, carried to their extremity by Nietzsche and applauded by a host of lesser Germans, seem to have exerted a strong appeal on Hitler. [xiv] A genius with a mission was above the law; he could not be bound by "bourgeois" morals. Thus, when his time for action came, Hitler could justify the most ruthless and cold-blooded deeds, the suppression of personal freedom, the brutal practice of slave labor, the depravities of the concentration camp, the massacre of his own followers in June 1934, the killing of war prisoners and the mass slaughter of the Jews.


When Hitler emerged from Landsberg prison five days before Christmas, 1924, he found a situation which would have led almost any other man to retire from public life. The Nazi Party and its press were banned; the former leaders were feuding and falling away. He himself was forbidden to speak in public. What was worse, he faced deportation to his native Austria; the Bavarian state police had strongly recommended it in a report to the Ministry of the Interior. Even many of his old comrades agreed with the general opinion that Hitler was finished, that now he would fade away into oblivion as had so many other provincial politicians who had enjoyed a brief moment of notoriety during the strife-ridden years when it seemed that the Republic would totter. [xv]

But the Republic had weathered the storms. It was beginning to thrive. While Hitler was in prison a financial wizard by the name of Dr. Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht had been called in to stabilize the currency, and he had succeeded. The ruinous inflation was over. The burden of reparations was eased by the Dawes Plan. Capital began to flow in from America. The economy was rapidly recovering. Stresemann was succeeding in his policy of reconciliation with the Allies. The French were getting out of the Ruhr. A security pact was being discussed which would pave the way for a general European settlement (Locarno) and bring Germany into the League of Nations. For the first time since the defeat, after six years of tension, turmoil and depression, the German people were beginning to have a normal life. Two weeks before Hitler was released from Landsberg, the Social Democrats -- the "November criminals," as he called them -- had increased their vote by 30 per cent (to nearly eight million) in a general election in which they had championed the Republic. The Nazis, in league with northern racial groups under the name of the National Socialist German Freedom movement, had seen their vote fall from nearly two million in May 1924 to less than a million in December. Nazism appeared to be a dying cause. It had mushroomed on the country's misfortunes; now that the nation's outlook was suddenly bright it was rapidly withering away. Or so most Germans and foreign observers believed.

But not Adolf Hitler. He was not easily discouraged. And he knew how to wait. As he picked up the threads of his life in the little two-room apartment on the top floor of 41 Thierschstrasse in Munich during the winter months of 1925 and then, when summer came, in various inns on the Obersalzberg above Berchtesgaden, the contemplation of the misfortunes of the immediate past and the eclipse of the present, served only to strengthen his resolve. Behind the prison gates he had had time to range over in his mind not only his own past and its triumphs and mistakes, but the tumultuous past of his German people and its triumphs and errors. He saw both more clearly now. And there was born in him anew a burning sense of mission -- for himself and for Germany -- from which all doubts were excluded. In this exalted spirit he finished dictating the torrent of words that would go into Volume One of Mein Kampf and went on immediately to Volume Two. The blueprint of what the Almighty had called upon him to do in this cataclysmic world and the philosophy, the Weltanschauung, that would sustain it were set down in cold print for all to ponder. That philosophy, however demented, had roots, as we have seen, deep in German life. The blueprint may have seemed preposterous to most twentieth-century minds, even in Germany. But it too possessed a certain logic. It held forth a vision. It offered, though few saw this at the time, a continuation of German history. It pointed the way toward a glorious German destiny.



i. "It is useless," he wrote at the end of the second volume, "to reopen wounds that seem scarcely healed; ... useless to speak of guilt regarding men who in the bottom of their hearts, perhaps, were all devoted to their nation with equal love, and who only missed or failed to understand the common road." For a man so vindictive as Hitler, this showed unexpected tolerance of those who had crushed his rebellion and jailed him; or, in view of what happened later to Kahr and others who crossed him, it was perhaps more a display of will power -- an ability to restrain himself momentarily for tactical reasons. At any rate, he refrained from recrimination.

ii. Like most writers, Hitler had his difficulties with the income tax collector -- at least, as we shall see, until he became the dictator of Germany.

iii. See above, p. 21.

iv. The italics are mine.

v. The italics are Hitler's.

vi. The italics are Hitler's.

vii. "Without my imprisonment," Hitler remarked long afterward, "Mein Kampf would never have been written. That period gave me the chance of deepening various notions for which I then had only an instinctive feeling ... It's from this time, too, that my conviction dates -- a thing that many of my supporters never understood -- that we could no longer win power by force. The state had had time to consolidate itself, and it had the weapons." (Hitler's Secret Conversations, p. 235.) The remark was made to some of his cronies at headquarters on the Russian front on the night of February 3-4, 1942.

viii. In a sense the German working class made a similar trade. To combat socialism Bismarck put through between 1883 and 1889 a program for social security far beyond anything known in other countries. It included compulsory insurance for workers against old age, sickness, accident and incapacity, and though organized by the State it was financed by employers and employees. It cannot be said that it stopped the rise of the Social Democrats or the trade unions, but it did have a profound influence on the working class in that it gradually made them value security over political freedom and caused them to see in the State, however conservative, a benefactor and a protector. Hitler. as we shall see, took full advantage of this state of mind. In this, as in other matters. he learned much from Bismarck. "I studied Bismarck's socialist legislation," Hitler remarks in Mein Kampf (p. 155), "in its intention, struggle and success."

ix. "I have often felt," Goethe once said, "a bitter sorrow at the thought of the German people, which is so estimable in the individual and so wretched in the generality. A comparison of the German people with other peoples arouses a painful feeling, which 1 try to overcome in every possible way." (Conversation with H. Luden on December 13, 1813, in Goethes Gespraeche, Auswahl Biedermann; quoted by Wilhelm Roepkein The Solution of the German Problem, p. 131.)

x. Women, whom Nietzsche never had, he consigned to a distinctly inferior status, as did the Nazis, who decreed that their place was in the kitchen and their chief role in life to beget children for German warriors. Nietzsche put the idea this way: "Man shall be trained for war and woman for the procreation of the warrior. All else is folly." He went further. In Thus Spake Zarathustra he exclaims: "Thou goest to woman? Do not forget thy whip!" -- which prompted Bertrand Russell to quip, "Nine women out of ten would have got the whip away from him, and he knew it, so he kept away from women ... "

xi. My own recollection is confirmed by Otto Tolischus in his They Wanted War, p. 11.

xii. Though not in France.

xiii. See above, p. 98.

xiv. See above, pp. 86-87, for quotations from Mein Kampf.

xv. As late as 1929, Professor M. A. Gerothwohl, the editor of Lord D'Abernon's diaries, wrote a footnote to the ambassador's account of the Beer Hall Putsch in which, after mention of Hitler's being sentenced to prison, he added: "He was finally released after six months and bound over for the rest of his sentence, thereafter fading into oblivion." Lord D'Abernon was the British ambassador in Berlin from 1920 to 1926 and worked with great skill to strengthen the Weimar Republic.
Site Admin
Posts: 28774
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:54 pm

Part 1 of 2


5: THE ROAD TO POWER: 1925-31

THE YEARS FROM 1925 until the coming of the depression in 1929 were lean years for Adolf Hitler and the Nazi movement, but it is a measure of the man that he persevered and never lost hope or confidence. Despite the excitability of his nature, which often led to outbursts of hysteria, he had the patience to wait and the shrewdness to realize that the climate of material prosperity and of a feeling of relaxation which settled over Germany in those years was not propitious for his purposes.

He was confident that the good times would not last. So far as Germany was concerned, he said, they depended not on her own strength but on that of others -- of America above all, from whose swollen coffers loans were pouring in to make and keep Germany prosperous. Between 1924 and 1930 German borrowing amounted to some seven billion dollars and most of it came from American investors, who gave little thought to how the Germans might make eventual repayment. The Germans gave even less thought to it.

The Republic borrowed to pay its reparations and to increase its vast social services, which were the model of the world. The states, cities and municipalities borrowed to finance not only needed improvements but building of airfields, theaters, sport stadiums and fancy swimming pools. Industry. which had wiped out its debts in the inflation, borrowed billions to retool and to rationalize its productive processes. Its output, which in 1923 had dropped to 55 per cent of that in 1913, rose to 122 per cent by 1927. For the first time since the war unemployment fell below a million -- to 650,000 -- in 1928. That year retail sales were up 20 per cent over 1925 and the next year real wages reached a figure 10 per cent higher than four years before. The lower middle classes, all the millions of shopkeepers and small-salaried folk on whom Hitler had to draw for his mass support, shared in the general prosperity.

My own acquaintance with Germany began in those days. I was stationed in Paris and occasionally in London at that time, and fascinating though those capitals were to a young American happy to have escaped from the incredible smugness and emptiness of the Calvin Coolidge era, they paled a little when one came to Berlin and Munich. A wonderful ferment was working in Germany. Life seemed more free, more modern, more exciting than in any place I had ever seen. Nowhere else did the arts or the intellectual life seem so lively. In contemporary writing, painting, architecture, in music and drama, there were new currents and fine talents. And everywhere there was an accent on youth. One sat up with the young people all night in the sidewalk cafes, the plush bars, the summer camps, on a Rhineland steamer or in a smoke-filled artist's studio and talked endlessly about life. They were a healthy, carefree, sun-worshiping lot, and they were filled with an enormous zest for living to the full and in complete freedom. The old oppressive Prussian spirit seemed to be dead and buried. Most Germans one met -- politicians, writers, editors, artists, professors, students, businessmen, labor leaders -- struck you as being democratic, liberal, even pacifist.

One scarcely heard of Hitler or the Nazis except as butts of jokes -- usually in connection with the Beer Hall Putsch, as it came to be known. In the elections of May 20, 1928, the Nazi Party polled only 810,000 votes out of a total of thirty-one million cast and had but a dozen of the Reichstag's 491 members. The conservative Nationalists also lost heavily, their vote falling from six million in 1924 to four million, and their seats in Parliament diminished from 103 to 73. In contrast, the Social Democrats gained a million and a quarter votes in the 1928 elections, and their total poll of more than nine million, with 153 seats in the Reichstag, made them easily the largest political party in Germany. Ten years after the end of the war the German Republic seemed at last to have found its feet.

The membership of the National Socialist Party in that anniversary year -- 1928 -- was 108,000. Small as the figure was, it was slowly growing. A fortnight after leaving prison at the end of 1924, Hitler had hurried to see Dr. Heinrich Held, the Prime Minister of Bavaria and the head of the Catholic Bavarian People's Party. On the strength of his promise of good behavior (Hitler was still on parole) Held had lifted the ban on the Nazi Party and its newspaper. "The wild beast is checked," Held told his Minister of Justice, Guertner. "We can afford to loosen the chain." The Bavarian Premier was one of the first, but by no means the last, of Germany's politicians to fall into this fatal error of judgment.

The Voelkischer Beobachter reappeared on February 26, 1925, with a long editorial written by Hitler, entitled "A New Beginning." The next day he spoke at the first mass meeting of the resurrected Nazi Party in the Buergerbraukeller, which he and his faithful followers had last seen on the morning of November 9, a year and a half before, when they set out on their ill-fated march. Many of the faithful were absent. Eckart and Scheubner-Richter were dead. Goering was in exile. Ludendorff and Roehm had broken with the leader. Rosenberg, feuding with Streicher and Esser, was sulking and stayed away. So did Gregor Strasser, who with Ludendorff had led the National Socialist German Freedom movement while Hitler was behind bars and the Nazi Party itself banned. When Hitler asked Anton Drexler to preside at the meeting the old locksmith and founder of the party told him to go to the devil. Nevertheless some four thousand followers gathered in the beer hall to hear Hitler once again and he did not disappoint them. His eloquence was as moving as ever. At the end of a two-hour harangue, the crowd roared with applause. Despite the many desertions and the bleak prospects, Hitler made it clear that he still considered himself the dictatorial leader of the party. "I alone lead the movement, and no one can impose conditions on me so long as I personally bear the responsibility," he declared, and added, "Once more I bear the whole responsibility for everything that occurs in the movement."

Hitler had gone to the meeting with his mind made up on two objectives which he intended henceforth to pursue. One was to concentrate all power in his own hands. The other was to re-establish the Nazi Party as a political organization which would seek power exclusively through constitutional means. He had explained the new tactics to one of his henchmen, Karl Ludecke, while still in prison: "When I resume active work it will be necessary to pursue a new policy. Instead of working to achieve power by armed coup, we shall have to hold our noses and enter the Reichstag against the Catholic and Marxist deputies. If outvoting them takes longer than outshooting them, at least the result will be guaranteed by their own constitution. Any lawful process is slow ... Sooner or later we shall have a majority -- and after that, Germany." [1] On his release from Landsberg, he had assured the Bavarian Premier that the Nazi Party would henceforth act within the framework of the constitution.

But he allowed himself to be carried away by the enthusiasm of the crowd in his reappearance at the Buergerbraukeller on February 27. His threats against the State were scarcely veiled. The republican regime, as well as the Marxists and the Jews, was "the enemy." And in his peroration he had shouted, "To this struggle of ours there are only two possible issues: either the enemy passes over our bodies or we pass over theirs!"

The "wild beast," in this, his first public appearance after his imprisonment, did not seem "checked" at all. He was again threatening the State with violence, despite his promise of good behavior. The government of Bavaria promptly forbade him to speak again in public -- a ban that was to last two years. The other states followed suit. This was a heavy blow to a man whose oratory had brought him so far. A silenced Hitler was a defeated Hitler, as ineffective as a handcuffed pugilist in a ring. Or so most people thought.

But again they were wrong. They forgot that Hitler was an organizer as well as a spellbinder. Curbing his ire at being forbidden to speak in public, he set to work with furious intent to rebuild the National Socialist German Workers' Party and to make of it an organization such as Germany had never seen before. He meant to make it like the Army -- a state within a state. The first job was to attract dues-paying members. By the end of 1925 they numbered just 27,000. The going was slow, but each year some progress was made: 49,000 members in 1926; 72,000 in 1927; 108,000 in 1928; 178,000 in 1929.

More important was the building up of an intricate party structure which corresponded to the organization of the German government and indeed of German society. The country was divided into districts, or Gaue, which corresponded roughly with the thirty-four Reichstag electoral districts and at the head of which was a gauleiter appointed by Hitler. There were an additional seven Gaue for Austria, Danzig, the Saar and the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia. A Gau was divided into Kreise -- circles -- and presided over by a Kreisleiter. The next smallest party unit was an Ortsgruppe -- a local group -- and in the cities these were further subdivided into street cells and blocks.

The political organization. of the Nazi Party was divided into two groups: P.O. I, as it was known, designed to attack and undermine the government, and P.O. II to establish a state within a state. Thus the second group had departments of agriculture, justice, national economy, interior and labor -- and, with an eye to the future, of race and culture, and of engineering. P.O. I had departments of foreign affairs and of labor unions and a Reich Press Office. The Propaganda Division was a separate and elaborate office.

Though some of the party roughnecks, veterans of street fighting and beerhouse brawls, opposed bringing women and children into the Nazi Party, Hitler soon provided organizations for them too. The Hitler Youth took in youngsters from fifteen to eighteen who had their own departments of culture, schools, press, propaganda, "defense sports," etc., and those from ten to fifteen were enrolled in the Deutsches Jungvolk. For the girls there was the Bund Deutscher Maedel and for the women the N. S. Frauenschaften. Students, teachers, civil servants, doctors, lawyers, jurists -- all had their separate organizations, and there was a Nazi Kulturbund to attract the intellectuals and artists.

After considerable difficulties the S.A. was reorganized into an armed band of several hundred thousand men to protect Nazi meetings, to break up the meetings of others and to generally terrorize those who opposed Hitler. Some of its leaders also hoped to see the S.A. supplant the Regular Army when Hitler came to power. To prepare for this a special office under General Franz Ritter von Epp was set up, called the Wehrpolitische Amt. Its five divisions concerned themselves with such problems as external and internal defense policy, defense forces, popular defense potential, and so on. But the brown-shirted S.A. never became much more than a motley mob of brawlers. Many of its top leaders, beginning with its chief, Roehm, were notorious homosexual perverts. Lieutenant Edmund Heines, who led the Munich S.A., was not only a homosexual but a convicted murderer. These two and dozens of others quarreled and feuded as only men of unnatural sexual inclinations, with their peculiar jealousies, can.

To have at hand a more dependable band Hitler created the S.S. -- Schutzstaffel -- put their members in black uniforms similar to those worn by the Italian Fascisti and made them swear a special oath of loyalty to him personally. At first the S.S. was little more than a bodyguard for the Fuehrer. Its first leader was a newspaperman named Berchtold. As he preferred the relative quiet of the newsroom of the Voelkischer Beobachter to playing at cop and soldier, he was replaced by one Erhard Heiden, a former police stool pigeon of unsavory reputation. It was not until 1929 that Hitler found the man he was looking for as the ideal leader of the S.S., in the person of a chicken farmer in the village of Waldtrudering, near Munich, a mild-mannered fellow whom people mistook (as did this author when he first met him) for a small-town schoolmaster and whose name was Heinrich Himmler. When Himmler took over the S.S. it numbered some two hundred men. By the time he finished his job with it, the S.S. dominated Germany and was a name that struck terror throughout occupied Europe.

At the top of the pyramid of the intricate party organization stood Adolf Hitler with the highfalutin title of Partei-und-Oberster-S.A.- Fuehrer, Vorsitzender der N.S.D.A.V. -- which may be translated as "Supreme Leader of the Party and the S.A., Chairman of the National Socialist German Labor Organization." Directly attached to his office was the Reich Directorate (Reichsleitung) which was made up of the top bosses of the party and such useful officials as the "Reich Treasurer" and the "Reich Business Manager." Visiting the palatial Brown House in Munich, the national headquarters of the party, during the last years of the Republic, one got the impression that here indeed were the offices of a state within a state. That, no doubt, was the impression Hitler wished to convey, for it helped to undermine confidence, both domestic and foreign, in the actual German State, which he was trying to overthrow.

But Hitler was intent on something more important than making an impression. Three years after he came to power, in a speech to the "old fighters" at the Buergerbrati on the anniversary evening of November 9, 1936, he explained one of the objectives he had had in building the party up into such a formidable and all-embracing organization. "We recognized," he said, in recalling the days when the party was being reformed after the putsch, "that it is not enough to overthrow the old State, but that the new State must previously have been built up and be practically ready to one's hand... . In 1933 it was no longer a question of overthrowing a state by an act of violence; meanwhile the new State had been built up and all that there remained to do was to destroy the last remnants of the old State-'-and that took but a few hours." [2]


An organization, however streamlined and efficient, is made up of erring human beings, and in those years when Hitler was shaping his party to take over Germany's destiny he had his fill of troubles with his chief lieutenants, who constantly quarreled not only among themselves but with him. He, who was so monumentally intolerant by his very nature, was strangely tolerant of one human condition -- a man's morals. No other party in Germany came near to attracting so many shady characters. As we have seen, a conglomeration of pimps, murderers, homosexuals, alcoholics and blackmailers flocked to the party as if to a natural haven. Hitler did not care, as long as they were useful to him. When he emerged from prison he found not only that they were at each other's throats but that there was a demand from the more prim and respectable leaders such as Rosenberg and Ludendorff that the criminals and especially the perverts be expelled from the movement. This Hitler frankly refused to do. "I do not consider it to be the task of a political leader," he wrote in his editorial, "A New Beginning," in the Voelkischer Beobachter of February 26, 1925, "to attempt to improve upon, or even to fuse together, the human material lying ready to his hand."

By 1926, however, the charges and countercharges hurled by the Nazi chieftains at one another became so embarrassing that Hitler set up a party court to settle them and to prevent his comrades from washing their dirty linen in public. This was known as the USCHLA, from Untersuchungund- Schlichtungs-Ausschuss -- Committee for Investigation and Settlement. Its first head was a former general, Heinemann, but he was unable to grasp the real purpose of the court, which was not to pronounce judgment on those accused of common crimes but to hush them up and see that they did not disturb party discipline or the authority of the Leader. So the General was replaced by a more understanding ex-officer, Major Walther Buch, who was given two assistants. One was Ulrich Graf, the former butcher who had been Hitler's bodyguard; the other was Hans Frank, a young Nazi lawyer, of whom more will be heard later when it comes time to recount his bloodthirstiness as Governor General of occupied Poland, for which he paid on the gallows at Nuremberg. This fine judicial triumvirate performed to the complete satisfaction of the Fuehrer. A party leader might be accused of the most nefarious crime. Buch's answer invariably was, "Well, what of it?" What he wanted to know was whether it hurt party discipline or offended the Fuehrer.

It took more than this party court, effective though it was in thousands of instances, to keep the ambitious, throat-cutting, big Nazi fry in line. Often Hitler had to intervene personally not only to keep a semblance of harmony but to prevent his own throat from being cut.

While he had languished at Landsberg, a young man by the name of Gregor Strasser had suddenly risen in the Nazi movement. A druggist by profession and a Bavarian by birth, he was three years younger than Hitler; like him, he had won the Iron Cross, First Class, and during the war he had risen from the ranks to be a lieutenant. He had become a Nazi in 1920 and soon became the district leader in Lower Bavaria. A big, stocky man, somewhat of a bon vivant, bursting with energy, he developed into an effective public speaker more by the force of his personality than by the oratorical gifts with which Hitler was endowed. Moreover, he was a born organizer. Fiercely independent in spirit and mind, Strasser refused to kowtow to Hitler or to take very seriously the Austrian's claims to be absolute dictator of the Nazi movement. This was to prove, in the long run, a fatal handicap, as was his sincere enthusiasm for the "socialism" in National Socialism.

Over the opposition of the imprisoned Hitler, Strasser joined Ludendorff and Rosenberg in organizing a Nazi Voelkisch movement to contest the state and national elections in the spring of 1924. In Bavaria the bloc polled enough votes to make it the second largest party; in Germany, as we have seen, under the name of the National Socialist German Freedom movement it won two million votes and obtained thirty-two seats in the Reichstag, one of which went to Strasser. Hitler took a dark view of the young man's activities and an even darker one of his successes. Strasser, for his part, was not disposed to accept Hitler as the Lord, and he pointedly stayed away from the big rally in Munich on February 27,1925, which relaunched the Nazi Party.

If the movement was to become truly national, Hitler realized, it must get a footing in the north, in Prussia, and above all in the citadel of the enemy, Berlin. In the election of 1924 Strasser had campaigned in the north and made alliances with ultranational groups there led by Albrecht von Graefe and Count Ernst zu Reventlow. He thus had personal contacts and a certain following in this area and he was the only Nazi leader who had. Two weeks after the February 27 meeting, Hitler swallowed his personal pique, sent for Strasser, induced him to come back to the fold and proposed that he organize the Nazi Party in the north. Strasser accepted. Here was an opportunity to exercise his talents without the jealous, arrogant Leader being in a position to breathe down his neck.

Within a few months he had founded a newspaper in the capital, the Berliner Arbeiterzeitung, edited by his brother, Otto Strasser, and a fortnightly newsletter, the N. S. Briefe, which kept the party officials informed of the party line. And he had laid the foundations for a political organization that stretched through Prussia, Saxony, Hanover and the industrial Rhineland. A veritable dynamo, Strasser traveled allover the north, addressing meetings, appointing district leaders and setting up a party apparatus. Being a Reichstag deputy gave him two immediate advantages over Hitler: he had a free pass on the railroads, so travel was no expense to him or the party; and he enjoyed parliamentary immunity. No authority could ban him from public speaking; no court could try him for slandering anyone or anything he wanted to. As Heiden wrote sardonically, "Free travel and free slander -- Strasser had a big head start over his Fuehrer."

As his secretary and editor of the N. S. Briefe Gregor Strasser took on a twenty-eight-year-old Rhinelander named Paul Joseph Goebbels.


This swarthy, dwarfish young man, with a crippled foot, a nimble mind and a complicated and neurotic personality, was not a stranger to the Nazi movement. He had discovered it in 1922 when he first heard Hitler speak in Munich, was converted, and became a member of the party. But the movement did not really discover him until three years later, when Gregor Strasser, hearing him speak, decided that he could use a young man of such obvious talents. Goebbels at twenty-eight was already an impassioned orator, a fanatical nationalist and, as Strasser knew, possessed of a vituperative pen and, rare for Nazi leaders, a sound university education. Heinrich Himmler had just resigned as Strasser's secretary to devote more of his time to raising chickens. Strasser appointed Goebbels in his place. It was to prove a fateful choice.

Paul Joseph Goebbels was born on October 29, 1897, in Rheydt, a textile center of some thirty thousand people in the Rhineland. His father, Fritz Goebbels, was a foreman in a local textile plant. His mother, Maria Katharina Odenhausen, was the daughter of a blacksmith. Both parents were pious Catholics.

Through the Catholics, Joseph Goebbels received most of his education. He attended a Catholic parochial grade school and then the Gymnasium in Rheydt. A scholarship from the Catholic Albert Magnus Society enabled him to go on to the university -- in fact, to eight universities. Before he received his Ph.D. from Heidelberg in 1921 at the age of twenty-four, he had studied at the universities of Bonn, Freiburg, Wuerzburg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin. In these illustrious institutions -- the flower of German higher learning -- Goebbels had concentrated on the study of philosophy, history, literature and art and had continued his work in Latin and Greek.

He intended to become a writer. The year he received his doctorate he wrote an autobiographical novel, Michael, which no publisher would take at the time, and in the next couple of years he finished two plays, The Wanderer (about Jesus Christ) and The Lonesome Guest, both in verse, which no producer would stage. [i] He had no better luck in journalism. The great liberal daily, Berliner Tageblatt, turned down the dozens of articles he submitted and his application for a reporter's job.

His personal life also was full of frustrations in the early days. Because he was a cripple he could not serve in the war and thus was cheated of the experience which seemed, at least in the beginning, so glorious for the young men of his generation and which was a requisite for leadership in the Nazi Party. Goebbels was not, as most people believed, born with a club foot. At the age of seven he had suffered an attack of osteomyelitis, an inflammation of the bone marrow. An operation on his left thigh was not successful and the left leg remained shorter than the right and somewhat withered. This handicap, which forced him to walk with a noticeable limp, riled him all the days of his life and was one of the causes of his early embitterment. In desperation, during his university days and during the brief period when he was an agitator against the French in the Ruhr, he often passed himself off as a wounded war veteran.

Nor was he lucky in love, though all his life he mistook his philanderings, which became notorious in his years of power, for great amours. His diaries for 1925-26, when he was twenty-eight and twenty-nine and just being launched into Nazi politics by Strasser, are full of moonings over loved ones--of whom he had several at a time. [ii] Thus:

August 14, 1925: Alma wrote me a postcard from Bad Harzburg. The first sign of her since that night. This teasing, charming Alma!

Received first letter from Else in Switzerland. Only Else dear can write like that ... Soon I am going to the Rhine for a week to be quite alone. Then Else will come ... How happy I am in anticipation!


August 15: In these days I must think so often of Anke ... How wonderful it was to travel with her. This wonderful wench!

I am yearning for Else. When shall I have her in my arms again?

Else dear, when shall I see you again?

Alma, you dear featherweight!

Anke, never can I forget you!


August 27: Three days on the Rhine ... Not a word from Else ... Is she angry with me? How I pine for her! I am living in the same room as I did with her last Whitsuntide. What thoughts! What feeling! Why doesn't she come?


September 3: Else is here! On Tuesday she returned from Switzerland -- fat, buxom, healthy, gay, only slightly tanned. She is very happy and in the best of spirits. She is good to me, and gives me much joy.


October 14: Why did Anke have to leave me? ... I just mustn't think of these things.


December 21: There is a curse on me and the women. Woe to those who love me!


December 29: To Krefeld last night with Hess. Christmas celebration. A delightful, beautiful girl from Franconia. She's my type. Home with her through rain and storm. Au revoir!

Else arrived.

February 6, 1926: I yearn for a sweet woman! Oh, torturing pain!

Goebbels never forgot "Anke" -- Anke Helhorn, his first love, whom he had met during his second semester at Freiburg. His diary is full of ravings about her dark-blond beauty and his subsequent disillusionment when she left him. Later, when he became Propaganda Minister, he revealed to friends, with typical vanity and cynicism, why she had left him. "She betrayed me because the other guy had more money and could afford to take her out to dinner and to shows. How foolish of her! ... Today she might be the wife of the Minister of Propaganda! How frustrated she must feel!" Anke married and divorced "the other guy" and in 1934 came to Berlin, where Goebbels got her a job on a magazine. [3]

It was Strasser's radicalism, his belief in the "socialism" of National Socialism, which attracted the young Goebbels. Both wanted to build the party on the proletariat. The diary of Goebbels is full of expressions of sympathy for Communism at this time. "In the final analysis," he wrote on October 23, 1925, "it would be better for us to end our existence under Bolshevism than to endure slavery under capitalism." On January 31, 1926, he told himself in his diary: "I think it is terrible that we [the Nazis] and the Communists are bashing in each other's heads ... Where can we get together sometime with the leading Communists?" It was at this time that he published an open letter to a Communist leader assuring him that Nazism and Communism were really the same thing. "You and I," he declared, "are fighting one another, but we are not really enemies."

To Adolf Hitler this was rank heresy, and he watched with increasing uneasiness the success of the Strasser brothers and Goebbels in building up a vigorous, radical, proletarian wing of the party in the north. If left to themselves these men might capture the party, and for objectives which Hitler violently opposed. The inevitable showdown came in the fall of 1925 and in February of the following year.

It was forced by Gregor Strasser and Goebbels over an issue which aroused a good deal of feeling in Germany at that time. This was the proposal of the Social Democrats and the Communists that the extensive estates and fortunes of the deposed royal and princely families be expropriated and taken over by the Republic. The question was to be settled by a plebiscite of the people, in accordance with the Weimar Constitution. Strasser and Goebbels proposed that the Nazi Party jump into the fray with the Communists and the Socialists and support the campaign to expropriate the nobles.

Hitler was furious. Several of these former rulers had kicked in with contributions to the party. Moreover, a number of big industrialists were beginning to become financially interested in Hitler's reborn movement precisely because it promised to be effective in combating the Communists, the Socialists and the trade unions. If Strasser and Goebbels got away with their plans, Hitler's sources of income would immediately dry up.

Before the Fuehrer could act, however, Strasser called a meeting of the northern district party leaders in Hanover on November 22, 1925. Its purpose was not only to put the northern branch of the Nazi Party behind the expropriation drive but to launch a new economic program which would do away with the "reactionary" twenty-five points that had been adopted back in 1920. The Strassers and Goebbels wanted to nationalize the big industries and the big estates and substitute a chamber of corporations on fascist lines for the Reichstag. Hitler declined to attend the meeting, but sent his faithful Gottfried Feder to represent him and to squelch the rebels. Goebbels demanded that Feder be thrown out -- "We don't want any stool pigeons!" he cried. Several leaders who would later make their mark in the Third Reich were present -- Bernhard Rust, Erich Koch, Hans Kerrl and Robert Ley -- but only Ley, the alcoholic chemist who was leader of the Cologne district, supported Hitler. When Dr. Ley and Feder argued that the meeting was out of order, that nothing could be done without Hitler, the Supreme Leader, Goebbels shouted (according to Otto Strasser, who was present), "I demand that the petty bourgeois Adolf Hitler be expelled from the Nazi Party!"


he vituperative young Goebbels had come a long way since he had first fallen under Hitler's spell three years before -- or so it must have seemed to Gregor Strasser.

"At that moment I was reborn!" Goebbels exclaimed in recording his impressions of the first time he heard Hitler speak, in the Circus Krone in Munich in June 1922. "Now I knew which road to take ... This was a command!" He was even more ecstatic over Hitler's behavior during the trial of the Munich putschists. After the verdicts were in, Goebbels wrote the Fuehrer:

Like a rising star you appeared before our wondering eyes, you performed miracles to clear our minds and, in a world of skepticism and desperation, gave us faith. You towered above the masses, full of faith and certain of the future, and possessed by the will to free those masses with your unlimited love for all those who believe in the new Reich. For the first time we saw with shining eyes a man who tore off the mask from the faces distorted by greed, the faces of mediocre parliamentary busybodies ...

In the Munich court you grew before us to the greatness of the Fuehrer. What you said are the greatest words spoken in Germany since Bismarck. You expressed more than your own pain ... You named the need of a whole generation, searching in confused longing for men and task. What you said is the catechism of the new political belief, born out of the despair of a collapsing, Godless world ... We thank you. One day, Germany will thank you ...

But now, a year and a half later, Goebbels' idol had fallen. He had become a "petty bourgeois" who deserved being booted out of the party. With only Ley and Feder dissenting, the Hanover meeting adopted Strasser's new party program and approved the decision to join the Marxists in the plebiscite campaign to deprive the former kings and princes of their possessions.

Hitler bided his time and then on February 14, 1926, struck back. He called a meeting at Bamberg, in southern Germany, shrewdly picking a weekday, when it was difficult for the northern leaders to get away from their jobs. In fact, only Gregor Strasser and Goebbels were able to attend. They were greatly outnumbered by Hitler's hand-picked leaders in the south. And at the Fuehrer's insistence they were forced to capitulate and abandon their program. Such German historians of Nazism as Heiden and Olden, and the non-German writers who have been guided by them, have recounted that at the Bamberg meeting Goebbels openly deserted Strasser and went over to Hitler. But the Goebbels diaries, discovered after Heiden and Olden wrote their books, reveal that he did not betray Strasser quite so abruptly. They show that Goebbels, though he joined Strasser in surrendering to Hitler, thought the Fuehrer was utterly wrong, and that, for the moment at least, he had no intention whatever of going over to him. On February 15, the day after the Bamberg meeting, he confided to his diary:

Hitler talks for two hours. I feel as though someone had beaten me. What sort of Hitler is this? A reactionary? Extremely awkward and unsteady. Completely wrong on the Russian question. Italy and England are our natural allies! Horrible! ... We must annihilate Russia! ... The question of the private property of the nobility must not even be touched upon. Terrible! ... I cannot utter a word. I feel as though I've been hit over the head ...

Certainly one of the great disappointments of my life. I no longer have complete faith in Hitler. That is the terrible thing: my props have been taken from under me.

To show where his loyalties stood, Goebbels went to the station with Strasser and tried to console him. A week later, on February 23, he records: "Long conference with Strasser. Result: we must not begrudge the Munich crowd their Pyrrhic victory. We must begin again our fight for socialism."

But Hitler had sized up the flamboyant young Rhinelander better than Strasser. On March 29 Goebbels noted: "This morning a letter from Hitler. I shall make a speech on April 8 at Munich." He arrived there on April 7. "Hitler's car is waiting," he recorded. "What a royal reception! I will speak at the historic Buergerbrau." The next day he did, from the same platform as the Leader. He wrote it all down in his diary entry of April 8:

Hitler phones ... His kindness in spite of Bamberg makes us feel ashamed ... At 2 o'clock we drive to the Buergerbrau. Hitler is already there. My heart is beating so wildly it is about to burst. I enter the hall. Roaring welcome ... And then I speak for two and a half hours ... People roar and shout. At the end Hitler embraces me. I feel happy ... Hitler is always at my side.

A few days later Goebbels surrendered completely. "April 13: Hitler spoke for three hours. Brilliantly. He can make you doubt your own views. Italy and England our allies. Russia wants to devour us ... I love him ... He has thought everything through. His ideal: a just collectivism and individualism. As to soil -- everything belongs to the people. Production to be creative and individualistic. Trusts, transport, etc., to be socialized ... I am now at ease about him ... I bow to the greater man, to the political genius."

When Goebbels left Munich on April 17 he was Hitler's man and was to remain his most loyal follower to his dying breath. On April 20 he wrote the Fuehrer a birthday note: "Dear and revered Adolf Hitler! I have learned so much from you ... You have finally made me see the light ... " And that night in his diary: "He is thirty-seven years old. Adolf Hitler, I love you because you are both great and simple. These are the characteristics of the genius."

Goebbels spent a good part of the summer with Hitler at Berchtesgaden, and his diary is full of further encomiums to the Leader. In August he publicly broke with Strasser in an article in the Voelkischer Beobachter.

Only now do I recognize you for what you are: revolutionaries in speech but not in deed [he told the Strassers and their followers] ... Don't talk so much about ideals and don't fool yourselves into believing that you are the inventors and protectors of these ideals ... We are not doing penance by standing solidly behind the Fuehrer. We ... bow to him ... with the manly, unbroken pride of the ancient Norsemen who stand upright before their Germanic feudal lord. We feel that he is greater than all of us, greater than you and I. He is the instrument of the Divine Will that shapes history with fresh, creative passion.

Late in October 1926 Hitler made Goebbels Gauleiter of Berlin. He instructed him to clean out the quarreling Brownshirt rowdies who had been hampering the growth of the movement there and conquer the capital of Germany for National Socialism. Berlin was "red." The majority of its voters were Socialists and Communists. Undaunted, Goebbels, who had just turned twenty-nine, and who in a little more than a year's time had risen from nothing to be one of the leading lights of the Nazi Party, set out to fulfill his assignment in the great Babylonian city.


The politically lean years for Adolf Hitler were, as he later said, the best years of his personal life. Forbidden to speak in public until 1927, intent on finishing Mein Kampf and plotting in his mind the future of the Nazi Party and of himself, he spent most of his time on the Obersalzberg above the market village of Berchtesgaden in the Bavarian Alps. It was a haven for rest and relaxation.

Hitler's monologues at his headquarters at the front during the war, when late at night he would relax with the old party comrades and his faithful women secretaries and reminisce about past times, are full of nostalgic talk about what this mountain retreat, where he established the only home he ever owned, meant to him. "Yes," he exclaimed during one of these sessions on the night of January 16-17, 1942, "there are so many links between Obersalzberg and me. So many things were born there ... I spent there the finest hours of my life ... It is there that all my great projects were conceived and ripened. I had hours of leisure in those days, and how many charming friends!"

During the first three years after his release from prison Hitler lived in various inns on the Obersalzberg and in that winter reminiscence in 1942 he talked for an hour about them. He finally settled down in the Deutsche Haus, where he spent the best part of two years and in which he finished dictating Mein Kampf. He and his party cronies, he says, were "very fond of visiting the Dreimaederlhaus, where there were always pretty girls. This," he adds, "was a great treat for me. There was one of them, especially, who was a real beauty."

That evening in the headquarters bunker on the Russian front, Hitler made a remark to his listeners that recalls two preoccupations he had during the pleasant years at Berchtesgaden.

At this period [on the Obersalzberg] I knew a lot of women. Several of them became attached to me. Why, then, didn't I marry? To leave a wife behind me? At the slightest imprudence, I ran the risk of going back to prison for six years. So there could be no question of marriage for me. I therefore had to renounce certain opportunities that offered themselves. [4]

Hitler's fear in the mid-Twenties of being sent back to prison or of being deported was not without some foundation. He was still on parole. Had he openly evaded the ban against his speaking in public the Bavarian government might well have clapped him behind the bars again or sent him back over the border to his native Austria. One reason that he had chosen the Obersalzberg as a refuge was its proximity to the Austrian frontier; on a moment's notice he could have slipped over the line and evaded arrest by the German police. But to have returned to Austria, voluntarily or by force, would have ruined his prospects. To lessen the risk of deportation, Hitler formally renounced his Austrian citizenship on April 7, 1925 -- a step that was promptly accepted by the Austrian government. This, however, left him staatenlos, a man without a country. He gave up his Austrian citizenship but he did not become a citizen of Germany. This was a considerable handicap for a politician in the Reich. For one thing, he could not be elected to office. He had publicly declared that he would never beg the republican government for a citizenship which he felt should have been his because of his services to Imperial Germany in the war. But all through the last half of the 1920s, he secretly sought to have the Bavarian government make him a German national. His efforts failed.

As to women and marriage, there was also some truth in what Hitler related that evening of 1942. Contrary to the general opinion, he liked the company of women, especially if they were beautiful. He returns to the subject time and again in his table talk at Supreme Headquarters during the war. "What lovely women there are in the world!" he exclaims to his cronies on the night of January 25-26, 1942, and he gives several examples in his personal experience, adding the boast, "In my youth in Vienna, I knew a lot of lovely women!" Heiden has recounted some of his romantic yearnings of the early days: for a Jenny Haug, whose brother was Hitler's chauffeur and who passed as his sweetheart in 1923; for the tall and stately Erna Hanfstaengl, sister of Putzi; for Winifred Wagner, daughter-in-law of Richard Wagner. But it was with his niece that Adolf Hitler had, so far as is known, the only deep love affair of his life.

In the summer of 1928 Hitler rented the villa Wachenfeld on the Obersalzberg above Berchtesgaden for a hundred marks a month ($25) from the widow of a Hamburg industrialist and induced his widowed halfsister, Angela Raubal, to come from Vienna to keep house for him in the first home which he could call his own. [iv] Frau Raubal brought along her two daughters, Geli and Friedl. Geli was twenty, with flowing blond hair, handsome features, a pleasant voice and a sunny disposition which made her attractive to men. [5]

Hitler soon fell in love with her. He took her everywhere, to meetings and conferences, on long walks in the mountains and to the cafes and theaters in Munich. When in 1929 he rented a luxurious nine-room apartment in the Prinzregentenstrasse, one of the most fashionable thoroughfares in Munich, Geli was given her own room in it. Gossip about the party leader and his beautiful blond niece was inevitable in Munich and throughout Nazi circles in southern Germany. Some of the more prim -- or envious -- leaders suggested that Hitler cease showing off his youthful sweetheart in public, or that he marry her. Hitler was furious at such talk and in one quarrel over the matter he fired the Gauleiter of Wuerttemberg.

It is probable that Hitler intended to marry his niece. Early party comrades who were close to him at that time subsequently told this author that a marriage seemed inevitable. That Hitler was deeply in love with her they had no doubt. Her own feelings are a matter of conjecture. That she was flattered by the attentions of a man now becoming famous, and indeed enjoyed them, is obvious. Whether she reciprocated her uncle's love is not known; probably not, and in the end certainly not. Some deep rift whose origins and nature have never been fully ascertained grew between them. There has been much speculation but little evidence. Each was apparently jealous of the other. She resented his attentions to other women -- to Winifred Wagner, among others. He suspected that she had had a clandestine affair with Emil Maurice, the ex-convict who had been his bodyguard. She objected too to her uncle's tyranny over her. He did not want her to be seen in the company of any man but himself. He forbade her to go to Vienna to continue her singing lessons, squelching her ambition for a career on the operatic stage. He wanted her for himself alone.
Site Admin
Posts: 28774
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:55 pm

Part 2 of 2

There are dark hints too that she was repelled by the masochistic inclinations of her lover, that this brutal tyrant in politics yearned to be enslaved by the woman he loved -- a not uncommon urge in such men, according to the sexologists. Heiden tells of a letter which Hitler wrote to his niece in 1929 confessing his deepest feelings in this regard. It fell into the hands of his landlady's son -- with consequences which were tragic to more than one life. [6]

Whatever it was that darkened the love between the uncle and his niece, their quarrels became more violent and at the end of the summer of 1931 Geli announced that she was returning to Vienna to resume her voice studies. Hitler forbade her to go. There was a scene between the two, witnessed by neighbors, when Hitler left his Munich apartment to go to Hamburg on September 17, 1931. The young girl was heard to cry to him from the window as her uncle was getting into his car, "Then you won't let me go to Vienna?" and he was heard to respond, "No!"

The next morning Geli Raubal was found shot dead in her room. The state's attorney, after a thorough investigation, found that it was a suicide. The coroner reported that a bullet had gone through her chest below the left shoulder and penetrated the heart; it seemed beyond doubt that the shot was self-inflicted.

Yet for years afterward in Munich there was murky gossip that Geli Raubal had been murdered -- by Hitler in a rage, by Himmler to eliminate a situation that had become embarrassing to the party. But no credible evidence ever turned up to substantiate such rumors.

Hitler himself was struck down by grief. Gregor Strasser later recounted that he had had to remain for the following two days and nights at Hitler's side to prevent him from taking his own life. A week after Geli's burial in Vienna, Hitler obtained special permission from the Austrian government to go there; he spent an evening weeping at the grave. For months he was inconsolable.

Three weeks after the death of Geli, Hitler had his first interview with Hindenburg. It was his first bid for the big stakes, for the chancellorship of the Reich. His distraction on this momentous occasion -- some of his friends said he did not seem to be in full possession of his faculties during the conversation, which went badly for the Nazi leader-was put down by those who knew him as due to the shock of the loss of his beloved niece.

From this personal blow stemmed, I believe, an act of renunciation, his decision to abstain from meat; at least, some of his closest henchmen seemed to think so. To them he declared forever afterward that Geli Raubal was the only woman he ever loved, and he always spoke of her with the deepest reverence -- and often in tears. Servants said that her room in the villa at Obersalzberg, even after it was rebuilt and enlarged in the days of Hitler's chancellorship, remained as she had left it. In his own room there, and in the Chancellery in Berlin, portraits [iv] of the young woman always hung and when the anniversaries of her birth and death came around each year flowers were placed around them.

For a brutal, cynical man who always seemed to be incapable of love of any other human being, this passion of Hitler's for the youthful Geli Raubal stands out as one of the mysteries of his strange life. As with all mysteries, it cannot be rationally explained, merely recounted. Thereafter, it is almost certain, Adolf Hitler never seriously contemplated marriage until the day before he took his own life fourteen years later.


The compromising letter from Hitler to his niece was retrieved from the landlord's son through the efforts of Father Bernhard Stempfle, the Hieronymite Catholic priest and anti-Semitic journalist who had helped the Nazi leader in tidying up Mein Kampf for publication. The money for its purchase, according to Heiden, was supplied by Franz Xavier Schwarz, the party treasurer. Thus Father Stempfle was one of the few persons who knew something of the secrets of Hitler's love for Geli Raubal. Apparently he did not keep his knowledge of the affair entirely to himself. He was to pay for this lapse with his life when the author of Mein Kampf became dictator of Germany and one day settled accounts with some of his old friends.


The source of Hitler's income during those personally comfortable years when he acquired a villa at Obersalzberg and a luxurious apartment in Munich and drove about in a flashy, chauffeured automobile, for which he paid 20,000 marks ($5,000), has never been established. But his income tax files, which turned up after the war, shed some light on the subject. 7 Until he became Chancellor and had himself declared exempt from taxation, he was in continual conflict with the tax authorities, and a considerable file accumulated in the Munich Finance Office between 1925 and 1933.

That office notified him on May 1, 1925, that he had failed to file a return for 1924 or for the first quarter of 1925. Hitler replied, "I had no income in 1924 [when he was in prison], or in the first quarter of 1925. I have covered my living expenses by raising a bank loan." What about that $5,000 automobile? the tax collector shot back. Hitler answered that he had raised a bank loan for that too. In all his tax returns, Hitler listed his profession as "writer" and, as such, attempted to justify a high proportion of his income as deductible expenses -- he doubtless was aware of the practice of writers everywhere. His first income tax declaration, for the third quarter of 1925, listed a gross income of 11,231 R.M., deductible professional expenses of 6,540 R.M. and interest payments on loans of 2,245 R.M., which left a net taxable income of 2,446 R.M.

In a three-page typewritten explanation Hitler defended his large deductions for professional expenses, arguing that though a large part of them appeared to be due to his political activities, such work provided him with the material he needed as a political writer and also helped increase the sales of his book.

Without my political activity my name would be unknown, and I would be lacking materials for the publication of a political work ... Accordingly in my case as a political writer, the expenses of my political activity, which is the necessary condition of my professional writing as well as its assurance of financial success, cannot be regarded as subject to taxation....

The Finance Office can see that out of the income from my book, for this period, only a very small fraction was expended for myself; nowhere do I possess property or other capital assets that I can call my own. [v] I restrict of necessity my personal wants so far that I am a complete abstainer from alcohol and tobacco, take my meals in most modest restaurants, and aside from my minimal apartment rent make no expenditures that are not chargeable to my expenses as a political writer ... Also the automobile is for me but a means to an end. It alone makes it possible for me to accomplish my daily work. [8]

The Finance Office allowed but one half of the deductions, and when Hitler appealed to the Review Board it upheld the original assessment. Thereafter only one half of his expense deductions were allowed by the tax authorities. He protested but paid.

The Nazi leader's reported gross income in his tax returns correspond pretty accurately to his royalties from Mein Kampf: 19,843 R.M. in 1925, 15,903 R.M. in 1926, 11,494 R.M. in 1927, 11,818 R.M. in 1928 and 15,448 R.M. in ] 929. Since publishers' books were subject to inspection by the tax office, Hitler could not safely report an income less than his royalties. But what about other sources of income? These were never reported. It was known that he demanded, and received, a high fee for the many articles which he wrote in those days for the impoverished Nazi press. There was much grumbling in party circles over the high cost of Hitler. These items are absent from his tax declarations. As the Twenties neared their end, money started to flow into the Nazi Party from a few of the big Bavarian and Rhineland industrialists who were attracted by Hitler's opposition to the Marxists and the trade unions. Fritz Thyssen, head of the German steel trust, the Vereinigte Stahlwerke (United Steel Works), and Emil Kirdorf, the Ruhr coal king, contributed sizable sums. Often the money was handed over directly to Hitler. How much he kept for himself will probably never be known. But his scale of living in the last few years before he became Chancellor indicates that not all of the money he received from his backers was turned over to the party treasury.

To be sure, from 1925 to 1928 he complained of difficulty in meeting his income tax payments; he was constantly in arrears and invariably asking for further postponements. In September of 1926 he wrote the Finance Office: "At the moment I am not in a position to pay the taxes; to cover my living expenses I have had to raise a loan." Later he claimed of that period that "for years I lived on Tyrolean apples. It's unbelievable what economies we had to make. Every mark saved was for the party." And between 1925 and 1928 he contended, to the tax collector, that he was going ever deeper in debt. In 1926 he reported expenditures of 31,- 209 R.M. against an income of 15,903 R.M. and stated the deficit had been made up by further "bank loans."

Then, miraculously, in 1929, though his declared income was considerably less than in 1925, the item of interest on or repayment of loans disappears from his tax declaration -- and never reappears. As Professor Hale, on whose studies the foregoing is based, remarked, "a financial miracle had been wrought and he had liquidated his indebtedness." [9]

Hitler, it must be said in fairness, never seemed to care much about money -- if he had enough to live on comfortably and if he did not have to toil for it in wages or a salary. At any rate, beginning with 1930, when his book royalties suddenly tripled from the previous year to some $12,- 000 and money started pouring in from big business, any personal financial worries he may have had were over for good. He could now devote his fierce energies and all his talents to the task of fulfilling his destiny. The time for his final drive for power, for the dictatorship of a great nation, had arrived.


The depression which spread over the world like a great conflagration toward the end of 1929 gave Adolf Hitler his opportunity, and he made the most of it. Like most great revolutionaries he could thrive only in evil times, at first when the masses were unemployed, hungry and desperate, and later when they were intoxicated by war. Yet in one respect he was unique among history's revolutionaries: He intended to make his revolution after achieving political power. There was to be no revolution to gain control of the State. That goal was to be reached by mandate of the voters or by the consent of the rulers of the nation -- in short, by constitutional means. To get the votes Hitler had only to take advantage of the times, which once more, as the Thirties began, saw the German people plunged into despair; to obtain the support of those in power he had to convince them that only he could rescue Germany from its disastrous predicament. In the turbulent years from 1930 to 1933 the shrewd and daring Nazi leader set out with renewed energy to obtain these twin objectives. In retrospect it can be seen that events themselves and the weakness and confusion of the handful of men who were bound by their oath to loyally defend the democratic Republic which they governed played into Hitler's hands. But this was by no means foreseeable at the beginning of 1930.

Gustav Stresemann died on October 3, 1929. He had exhausted himself by his strenuous labors, as Foreign Minister over the preceding six years, to restore defeated Germany to the ranks of the big powers and to guide the German people toward political and economic stability. His successes had been prodigious. He had brought Germany into the League of Nations, negotiated the Dawes Plan and the Young Plan which reduced reparations to a level which Germany could easily pay, and in 1925 had been one of the chief architects of the Pact of Locarno which brought Western Europe the first tranquillity its war-weary, strife-ridden people had known in a generation.

Three weeks after Stresemann's death, on October 24, the stock market in Wall Street crashed. The results in Germany were soon felt -- and disastrously. The cornerstone of German prosperity had been loans from abroad, principally from America, and world trade. When the flow of loans dried up and repayment on the old ones became due the German financial structure was unable to stand the strain. When world trade sagged following the general slump Germany was unable to export enough to pay for essential imports of the raw materials and food which she needed. Without exports, German industry could not keep its plants going, and its production fell by almost half from 1929 to 1932. Millions were thrown out of work. Thousands of small business enterprises went under. In May of 1931 Austria's biggest bank, the Kreditanstalt, collapsed, and this was followed on July 13 by the failure of one of Germany's principal banks, the Darmstaedter und Nationalbank, which forced the government in Berlin to close down all banks temporarily. Not even President Hoover's initiative in establishing a moratorium on all war debts, including German reparations, which became effective on July 6, could stem the tide. The whole Western world was stricken by forces which its leaders did not understand and which they felt were beyond man's control. How was it possible that suddenly there could be so much poverty, so much human suffering, in the midst of so much plenty?

Hitler had predicted the catastrophe, but no more than any other politician did he understand what had brought it about; perhaps he had less understanding than most, since he was both ignorant of and uninterested in economics. But he was not uninterested in or ignorant of the opportunities which the depression suddenly gave him. The misery of the German people, their lives still scarred by disastrous experience of the collapse of the mark less than ten years before, did not arouse his compassion. On the contrary, in the darkest days of that period, when the factories were silent, when the registered unemployed numbered over six million and bread lines stretched for blocks in every city in the land, he could write in the Nazi press: "Never in my life have I been so well disposed and inwardly contented as in these days. For hard reality has opened the eyes of millions of Germans to the unprecedented swindles, lies and betrayals of the Marxist deceivers of the people." [10] The suffering of his fellow Germans was not something to waste time sympathizing with, but rather to transform, cold-bloodedly and immediately, into political support for his own ambitions. This he proceeded to do in the late summer of 1930.


Hermann Mueller, the last Social Democrat Chancellor of Germany and the head of the last government based on a coalition of the democratic parties which had sustained the Weimar Republic, had resigned in March 1930 because of a dispute among the parties over the unemployment insurance fund. He had been replaced by Heinrich Bruening, the parliamentary leader of the Catholic Center Party, who had won the Iron Cross as a captain of a machine gun company during the war and whose sober, conservative views in the Reichstag had attracted the favorable attention of the Army and in particular of a general by the name of Kurt von Schleicher, who was then quite unknown to the German public. Schleicher, a vain, able, ambitious "desk officer," already acknowledged in military circles as a talented and unscrupulous intriguer, had suggested Bruening's name to President von Hindenburg. The new Chancellor, though he may not have realized it fully, was the Army's candidate. A man of sterling personal character, unselfish, modest, honest, dedicated, somewhat austere in nature, Bruening hoped to restore stable parliamentary government in Germany and rescue the country from the growing slump and political chaos. It was the tragedy of this well-meaning and democratically minded patriot that, in trying to do so, he unwittingly dug the grave for German democracy and thus, unintentionally, paved the way for the coming of Adolf Hitler.

Bruening was unable to induce a majority of the Reichstag to approve certain measures in his financial program. He thereupon asked Hindenburg to invoke Article 48 of the constitution and under its emergency powers approve his financial bill by presidential decree. The chamber responded by voting a demand for the withdrawal of the decree. Parliamentary government was breaking down at a moment when the economic crisis made strong government imperative. In an effort to find a way out of the impasse, Bruening requested the President in July 1930 to dissolve the Reichstag. New elections were called for September 14. How Bruening expected to get a stable parliamentary majority in a new election is a question that was never answered. But Hitler realized that his own opportunity had come sooner than he expected.

The hard-pressed people were demanding a way out of their sorry predicament. The millions of unemployed wanted jobs. The shopkeepers wanted help. Some four million youths who had come of voting age since the last election wanted some prospect of a future that would at least give them a living. To all the millions of discontented Hitler in a whirlwind campaign offered what seemed to them, in their misery, some measure of hope. He would make Germany strong again, refuse to pay reparations, repudiate the Versailles Treaty, stamp out corruption, bring the money barons to heel (especially if they were Jews) and see to it that every German had a job and bread. To hopeless, hungry men seeking not only relief but new faith and new gods, the appeal was not without effect.

Though his hopes were high, Hitler was surprised on the night of September 14, 1930, when the election returns came in. Two years before, his party had polled 810,000 votes and elected 12 members to the Reichstag. This time he had counted on quadrupling the Nazi vote and securing perhaps 50 seats in Parliament. But on this day the vote of the N.S.D.A.P. rose to 6,409,600, entitling the party to 107 seats in the Reichstag and propelling it from the ninth and smallest party in Parliament to the second largest.

At the other extreme, the Communists had also gained, from 3,265,000 votes in 1928 to 4,592,000, with their representation in the Reichstag increased from 54 to 77. The moderate middle-class parties, with the exception of the Catholic Center, lost over a million votes, as did the Social Democrats, despite the addition of four million new voters at the polls. The vote of the right-wing Nationalists of Hugenberg dropped from four to two million. It was clear that the Nazis had captured millions of adherents from the other middle-class parties. It was also clear that henceforth it would be more difficult than ever for Bruening -- or for anyone else -- to command a stable majority in the Reichstag. Without such a majority how could the Republic survive?

This was a question which on the morrow of the 1930 elections became of increased interest to two pillars of the nation whose leaders had never really accepted the Republic except as a passing misfortune in German history: the Army and the world of the big industrialists and financiers. Flushed by his success at the polls, Hitler now turned his attention toward winning over these two powerful groups. Long ago in Vienna, as we have seen, he had learned from the tactics of Mayor Karl Lueger the importance of bringing "powerful existing institutions" over to one's side.


A year before, on March 15, 1929, Hitler had made a speech in Munich in which he appealed to the Army to reconsider its enmity toward National Socialism and its support of the Republic.

The future does not lie with the parties of destruction, but rather with the parties who carry in themselves the strength of the people, who are prepared and who wish to bind themselves to this Army in order to aid the Army someday in defending the interests of the people. In contrast we still see the officers of our Army belatedly tormenting themselves with the question as to how far one can go along with Social Democracy. But, my dear sirs, do you really believe that you have anything in common with an ideology which stipulates the dissolution of all that which is the basis of the existence of an army?

This was a skillful bid for the support of the officers of the Army which, as most of them believed and as Hitler now repeated for the hundredth time, had been stabbed in the back and betrayed by the very Republic which they were now supporting and which, moreover, had no love for the military caste and all that it stood for. And then in words which were prophetic of what he himself one day would do, he warned the officers of what would happen to them if the Marxists triumphed over the Nazis. Should that happen, he said,

You may write over the German Army: "The end of the German Army." For then, gentlemen, you must definitely become political.... You may then become hangmen of the regime and political commissars, and if you do not behave your wife and child will be put behind locked doors. And if you still do not behave, you will be thrown out and perhaps stood up against a wall ... [11]

Relatively few persons heard the speech, but in order to propagate it in Army circles the Voelkischer Beobachter published it verbatim in a special Army edition and it was discussed at length in the columns of a Nazi monthly magazine, Deutscher Wehrgeist, a periodical devoted to military affairs which had recently appeared.

In 1927 the Army had forbidden the recruitment of Nazis in the 100,000-man Reichswehr and even banned their employment as civilians in the arsenals and supply depots. But by the beginning of 1930 it became obvious that Nazi propaganda was making headway in the Army, especially among the younger officers, many of whom were attracted not only by Hitler's fanatical nationalism but by the prospects he held out for an Army restored to its old glory and size in which there would be opportunities, now denied them in such a small military force, to advance to higher rank.

The Nazi infiltration into the armed services became serious enough to compel General Groener, now the Minister of Defense, to issue an order of the day on January 22, 1930, which recalled a similar warning to the Army by General von Seeckt on the eve of the Beer Hall Putsch seven years before. The Nazis, he declared, were greedy for power. "They therefore woo the Wehrmacht. In order to use it for the political aims of their party, they attempt to dazzle us [into believing] that the National Socialists alone represent the truly national power." He requested the soldiers to refrain from politics and to "serve the state" aloof from all party strife.

That some of the young Reichswehr officers were not refraining from politics, or at least not from Nazi politics, came to light shortly afterward and aroused a furor in Germany, dissension in the highest echelons of the officer corps, and delight in the Nazi camp. In the spring of 1930 three young lieutenants, Ludin, Scheringer and Wendt, of the garrison at Dim were arrested for spreading Nazi doctrines in the Army and for trying to induce their fellow officers to agree that in the case of an armed Nazi revolt they would not fire on the rebels. This last was high treason, but General Groener, not wishing to publicize the fact that treason existed in the Army, attempted to hush up the affair by arranging for the accused to be tried before a court-martial for a simple breach of discipline. The defiance of Lieutenant Scheringer, who smuggled out an inflammatory article for the Voelkischer Beobachter, made this impossible. A week after the Nazi successes in the September ejections of 1930, the three subalterns were arraigned before the Supreme Court at Leipzig on charges of high treason. Among their defenders were two rising Nazi lawyers, Hans Frank and Dr. Carl Sack. [vi]

But it was neither the lawyers nor the accu5ed who occupied the limelight at the trial, but Adolf Hitler. He was called by Frank as a witness. His appearance represented a calculated risk. It would be embarrassing to disown the three lieutenants, whose activities were proof of the growth of Nazi sentiment in the Army, which he did not want to discourage. It was embarrassing that Nazi efforts to subvert the Army had been uncovered. And it was not helpful to his present tactics that the prosecution had charged the Nazi Party with being a revolutionary organization intent on overthrowing the government by force. To deny that last charge, Hitler arranged with Frank to testify for the defense. But in reality the Fuehrer had a much more important objective. That was, as leader of a movement which had just scored a stunning popular triumph at the polls, to assure the Army and especially its leading officers that National Socialism, far from posing a threat to the Reichswehr, as the case of the Nazi subalterns implied, was really its salvation and the salvation of Germany.

From this national forum which the witness box afforded, Hitler made good use of all his forensic talents and his subtle sense of political strategy, and if his masterly display was full of deceit, as it was, few in Germany, even among the generals, seemed to be aware of it. Blandly Hitler assured the court (and the Army officers) that neither the S.A. nor the party was fighting the Army. "I have always held the view," he declared, "that any attempt to replace the Army was madness. None of us have any interest in replacing the Army ... We will see to it, when we have come to power, that out of the present Reichswehr a great Army of the German people shall arise."

And he reiterated to the court (and the generals) that the Nazi Party was seeking to capture power only by constitutional means and that the young officers were mistaken if they anticipated an armed revolt.

Our movement has no need of force. The time will come when the German nation will get to know of our ideas; then thirty-five million Germans will stand behind me ... When we do possess constitutional rights, then we will form the State in the manner which we consider to be the right one.

THE PRESIDENT OF THE COURT: This, too, by constitutional means?


But Hitler, though he was addressing mainly the Army and the other conservative elements in Germany, had to consider the revolutionary fervor of his own party followers. He could not let them down, as he had the three accused. He therefore seized on the opportunity presented when the president of the court recalled a statement of his in 1923, a month before his unsuccessful putsch, that "heads will roll in the sand." Did the Nazi leader repudiate that utterance today?

I can assure you [Hitler replied] that when the National Socialist movement is victorious in this struggle, then there will be a National Socialist Court of Justice too. Then the November 1918 revolution will be avenged and heads will roll! [12]

No one can say that Hitler did not give warning of what he would do if he came to power, but the audience in the courtroom apparently welcomed it, for they applauded the threat loudly and long, and though the presiding judge took exception to the interruption neither he nor the public prosecutor made objection to the remark. It made a sensational headline in newspapers throughout Germany and in many outside. Lost in the excitement of Hitler's utterances was the actual case in hand. The three young officers, their zeal for National -Socialism disavowed by the Supreme Leader of National Socialism himself, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit high treason and given the mild sentence of eighteen months of fortress detention -- in republican Germany the severe sentences on this charge were reserved for those who supported the Republic. [vii]

The month of September 1930 marked a turning point in the road that was leading the Germans inexorably toward the Third Reich. The surprising success of the Nazi Party in the national elections convinced not only millions of ordinary people but many leaders in business and in the Army that perhaps here was an upsurge that could not be stopped. They might not like the party's demagoguery and its vulgarity, but on the other hand it was arousing the old feelings of German patriotism and nationalism which had been so muted during the first ten years of the Republic. It promised to lead the German people away from communism, socialism, trade-unionism and the futilities of democracy. Above all, it had caught fire throughout the Reich. It was a success.

Because of this and of Hitler's public assurances to the Army at the Leipzig trial, some of the generals began to ponder whether National Socialism might not be just what was needed to unify the people, restore the old Germany, make the Army big and great once more and enable the nation to shake off the shackles of the humiliating Treaty of Versailles. They had been pleased with Hitler's retort to the presiding judge of the Supreme Court, who had asked him what he meant when he kept talking about the "German National Revolution."

"This means," Hitler had said, "exclusively the rescue of the enslaved German nation we have today. Germany is bound hand and foot by the peace treaties ... The National Socialists do not regard these treaties as law, but as something imposed upon Germany by constraint. We do not admit that future generations, who are completely innocent, should be burdened by them. If we protest against them with every means in our power, then we find ourselves on the path of revolution."

That was the view of the officer corps too. Some of its leading members had bitterly criticized General Groener, the Minister of Defense, for allowing the three subalterns to be tried by the Supreme Court. General Hans von Seeckt, the recently deposed Commander in Chief and generally acknowledged as the postwar genius of the German Army, the worthy successor of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, complained to Groener that it had weakened the spirit of solidarity within the officer corps. Colonel Ludwig Beck, who was soon to become Chief of Staff and later an even more important figure in this history but who in 1930 was the commander of the 5th Artillery Regiment at Ulm from which the three lieutenants had come, not only protested vehemently to his superiors against their arrest but testified in their defense at Leipzig.

Now that the trial was over and Hitler had spoken, the generals felt better disposed toward a movement which they had previously regarded as a threat to the Army. General Alfred Jodi, Chief of Operations of the Armed Forces High Command during World War n, told the military tribunal at Nuremberg just what the Nazi leader's statement at Leipzig had meant to the officer corps. Until that time, he said, the senior officers had believed Hitler was trying to undermine the Army; now they were reassured. General von Seeckt himself, after his election to the Reichstag in 1930, openly allied himself with Hitler for a while and in 1932 urged his sister to vote for Hitler -- instead of for his old chief, Hindenburg -- in the presidential elections.

The political blindness of the German Army officers, which was to prove so fatal to them in the end, had begun to grow and to show.


The political ineptitude of the magnates of industry and finance was no less than that of the generals and led to the mistaken belief that if they coughed up large enough sums for Hitler he would be beholden to them and, if he ever came to power, do their bidding. That the Austrian upstart, as many of them had regarded him in the Twenties, might well take over the control of Germany began to dawn on the business leaders after the sensational Nazi gains in the September elections of 1930.

By 1931, Walther Funk testified at Nuremberg, "my industrial friends and I were convinced that the Nazi Party would come to power in the not too distant future."

In the summer of that year Funk, a greasy, shifty-eyed, paunchy little man whose face always reminded this writer of a frog, gave up a lucrative job as editor of a leading German financial newspaper, the Berliner Boersenzeitung, joined the Nazi Party and became a contact man between the party and a number of important business leaders. He explained at Nuremberg that several of his industrialist friends, especially those prominent in the big Rhineland mining concerns, had urged him to join the Nazi movement "in order to persuade the party to follow the course of private enterprise."


At that time the leadership of the party held completely contradictory and confused views on economic policy. I tried to accomplish my mission by personally impressing on the Fuehrer and the party that private initiative, self-reliance of the businessman, the creative powers of free enterprise, et cetera, be recognized as the basic economic policy of the party. The Fuehrer personally stressed time and again during talks with me and industrial leaders to whom I had introduced him, that he was an enemy of state economy and of so-called "planned economy" and that he considered free enterprise and competition as absolutely necessary in order to gain the highest possible production. [13]

Hitler, then, as his future Reichsbank president and Minister of Economics says, was beginning to see the men in Germany who had the money, and he was telIing them more or less what they wanted to hear. The party needed large sums to finance election campaigns, pay the bilI for its widespread and intensified propaganda, meet the payroll of hundreds of full-time officials and maintain the private armies of the S.A. and the S.S., which by the end of 1930 numbered more than 100,000 men -- a larger force than the Reichswehr. The businessmen and the bankers were not the only financial sources -- the party raised sizable sums from dues, assessments, collections and the sale of party newspapers, books and periodicals-but they were the largest. And the more money they gave the Nazis, the less they would have for the other conservative parties which they had been supporting hitherto.

"In the summer of 1931," Otto Dietrich, Hitler's press chief first for the party and later for the Reich, relates, "the Fuehrer suddenly decided to concentrate systematically on cultivating the influential industrial magnates." [14]

What magnates were they?

Their identity was a secret which was kept from all but the inner circle around the Leader. The party had to play both sides of the tracks. It had to allow Strasser, Goebbels and the crank Feder to beguile the masses with the cry that the National Socialists were truly "socialists" and against the money barons. On the other hand, money to keep the party going had to be wheedled out of those who had an ample supply of it. Throughout the latter half of 1931, says Dietrich, Hitler "traversed Germany from end to end, holding private interviews with prominent [business] person alities." So hush-hush were some of these meetings that they had to be held "in some lonely forest glade. Privacy," explains Dietrich, "was absolutely imperative; the press must have no chance of doing mischief. Success was the consequence."

So was an almost comical zigzag in Nazi politics. Once in the fall of 1930 Strasser, Feder and Frick introduced a bill in the Reichstag on behalf of the Nazi Party calling for a ceiling of 4 per cent on all interest rates, the expropriation of the holdings of "the bank and stock exchange magnates" and of all "Eastern Jews" without compensation, and the nationalization of the big banks. Hitler was horrified; this was not only Bolshevism, it was financial suicide for the party. He peremptorily ordered the party to withdraw the measure. Thereupon the Communists reintroduced it, word for word. Hitler bade his party vote against it.

We know from the interrogations of Funk in the Nuremberg jail after the war who some, at least, of the "influential industrial magnates" whom Hitler sought out were. Emil Kirdorf, the union-hating coal baron who presided over a political slush fund known as the "Ruhr Treasury" which was raised by the West German mining interests, had been seduced by Hitler at the party congress in 1929. Fritz Thyssen, the head of the steel trust, who lived to regret his folly and to write about it in a book called I Paid Hitler, was an even earlier contributor. He had met the Nazi leader in Munich in 1923, been carried away by his eloquence and forthwith made, through Ludendorff, an initial gift of 100,000 gold marks ($25,- 000) to the then obscure Nazi Party. Joining Thyssen was Albert Voegler, also a power in the United Steel Works. In fact the coal and steel interests were the principal sources of the funds that came from the industrialists to help Hitler over his last hurdles to power in the period between 1930 and 1933.

But Funk named other industries and concerns whose directors did not want to be left out in the cold should Hitler make it in the end. The list is a long one, though far from complete, for Funk had a wretched memory by the time he arrived for trial at Nuremberg. It included Georg von Schnitzler, a leading director of I. G. Farben, the giant chemical cartel; August Rosterg and August Diehn of the potash industry (Funk speaks of this industry's "positive attitude toward the Fuehrer"); Cuno of the Hamburg-Amerika line; the brown-coal industry of central Germany; the Conti rubber interests; Otto Wolf, the powerful Cologne industrialist; Baron Kurt von Schroeder, the Cologne banker, who was to playa pivotal role in the final maneuver which hoisted Hitler to power; several leading banks, among which were the Deutsche Bank, the Commerz und Privat Bank, the Dresdener Bank, the Deutsche Kredit Gesellschaft; and Germany's largest insurance concern, the Allianz.

Wilhelm Keppler, one of Hitler's economic advisers, brought in a number of South German industrialists and also formed a peculiar society of businessmen devoted to the S.S. chief, Himmler, called the Circle of Friends of the Economy (Freundeskreis der Wirtschaft), which later became known as the Circle of Friends of the Reichsfuehrer S.S., who was Himmler, and which raised millions of marks for this particular gangster to pursue his "researches" into Aryan origins. From the very beginning of his political career Hitler had been helped financially -- and socially -- by Hugo Bruckman, the wealthy Munich publisher, and by Carl Bechstein, the piano manufacturer, both of whose wives developed a touching fondness for the rising young Nazi leader. It was in the Bechstein mansion in Berlin that Hitler first met many of the business and Army leaders and it was there that some of the decisive secret meetings took place which led him finally to the chancellorship.

Not all German businessmen jumped on the Hitler bandwagon after the Nazi election showing in 1930. Funk mentions that the big electric corporations Siemens and A.E.G. stood aloof, as did the king of the munition makers, Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach. Fritz Thyssen in his confessions declares that Krupp was a "violent opponent" of Hitler and that as late as the day before Hindenburg appointed him Chancellor Krupp urgently warned the old Field Marshal against such a folly. However, Krupp soon saw the light and quickly became, in the words of the repentant Thyssen, "a super Nazi." [15]

It is obvious, then, that in his final drive for power Hitler had considerable financial backing from a fairly large chunk of the German business world. How much the bankers and businessmen actually contributed to the Nazi Party in those last three years before January 1933 has never been established. Funk says it probably amounted to no more than "a couple of million marks." Thyssen estimates it at two millions a year; he says he himself personally gave one million marks. But judged by the large sums which the party had at its disposal in those days, though Goebbels complained it was never enough, the total gifts from business were certainly larger than these estimates by many times. What good they eventually did these politically childish men of the business world will be seen later in this narrative. One of the most enthusiastic of them at this time -- as he was one of the most bitterly disillusioned of them afterward -- was Dr. Schacht, who resigned his presidency of the Reichsbank in 1930 because of his opposition to the Young Plan, met Goering in that year and Hitler in 1931 and for the next two years devoted all of his considerable abilities to bringing the Fuehrer closer to his banker and industrialist friends and ever closer to the great goal of the Chancellor's seat. By 1932 this economic wizard, whose responsibility for the coming of the Third Reich and for its early successes proved to be so immeasurably great, was writing Hitler: "I have no doubt that the present development of things can only lead to your becoming Chancellor ... Your movement is carried internally by so strong a truth and necessity that victory cannot elude you long ... No matter where my work may take me in the near future, even if someday you should see me imprisoned in a fortress, you can always count on me as your loyal supporter." One of the two letters from which these words are taken was signed: "With a vigorous 'Heil.'" [16]

One "so strong a truth" of the Nazi movement, which Hitler had never made any secret of, was that if the party ever took over Germany it would stamp out a German's personal freedom, including that of Dr. Schacht and his business friends. It would be some time before the genial Reichsbank president, as he would again become under Hitler, and his associates in industry and finance would wake up to this. And since this history, like all history, is full of sublime irony, it would not be too long a time before Dr. Schacht proved himself to be a good prophet not only about Hitler's chancellorship but about the Fuehrer's seeing him imprisoned, if not in a fortress then in a concentration camp, which was worse, and not as Hitler's "loyal supporter" -- here he was wrong -- but in an opposite capacity.


Hitler had now, by the start of 1931, gathered around him in the party the little band of fanatical, ruthless men who would help him in his final drive to power and who, with one exception, would be at his side to help him sustain that power during the years of the Third Reich, though another of them, who was closest of all to him and perhaps the ablest and most brutish of the lot, would not survive, even with his life, the second year of Nazi government. There were five who stood above the other followers at this time. These were Gregor Strasser, Roehm, Goering, Goebbels and Frick.

Goering had returned to Germany at the end of 1927, following a general political amnesty which the Communists had helped the parties of the Right put through the Reichstag. In Sweden, where he had spent most of his exile since the 1923 putsch, he had been cured of addiction to narcotics at the Langbro Asylum and when he was well had earned his living with a Swedish aircraft company. The dashing, handsome World War ace had now grown corpulent but had lost none of his energy or his zest for life. .He settled down in a small but luxurious bachelor's flat in the Badischestrasse in Berlin (his epileptic wife, whom he deeply loved, had contracted tuberculosis and remained, an invalid, in Sweden), earned his living as adviser to aircraft companies and the German airline, Lufthansa, and cultivated his social contacts. These contacts were considerable and ranged from the former Crown Prince and Prince Philip of Hesse, who had married Princess Mafalda, the daughter of the King of Italy, to Fritz Thyssen and other barons of the business world, as well as to a number of prominent officers of the Army.

These were the very connections which Hitler lacked but needed, and Goering soon became active in introducing the Nazi leader to his friends and in counteracting in upper-class circles the bad odor which some of the Brownshirt ruffians exuded. In 1928 Hitler chose Goering as one of the twelve Nazi deputies to represent the party in the Reichstag, of which he became President when the Nazis became the largest party in 1932. It was in the official residence of the Reichstag President that many of the meetings were held and intrigues hatched which led to the party's ultimate triumph, and it was here-to jump ahead in time a little -- that a plan was connived that helped Hitler to stay in power after he became Chancellor: to set the Reichstag on fire.

Ernst Roehm had broken with Hitler in 1925 and not long afterward gone off to join the Bolivian Army as a lieutenant colonel. Toward the end of 1930 Hitler appealed to him to return and take over again the leadership of the S.A., which was getting out of hand. Its members, even its leaders, apparently believed in a coming Nazi revolution by violence, and with increasing frequency they were taking to the streets to molest and murder their political opponents. No election, national, provincial or municipal, took place without savage battles in the gutters.

Passing notice must here be taken of one of these encounters, for it provided National Socialism with its greatest martyr. One of the neighborhood leaders of the S.A. in Berlin was Horst Wessel, son of a Protestant chaplain, who had forsaken his family and his studies and gone to live in a slum with a former prostitute and devote his life to fighting for Nazism. Many anti-Nazis always held that the youth earned his living as a pimp, though this charge may have been exaggerated. Certainly he consorted with pimps and prostitutes. He was murdered by some Communists in February 1930 and would have passed into oblivion along with hundreds of other victims of both sides in the street wars had it not been for the fact that he left behind a song whose words and tune he had composed. This was the Horst Wessel song, which soon became the official song of the Nazi party and later the second official anthem-after "Deutschland ueber Alles" -- of the Third Reich. Horst Wessel himself, thanks to Dr. Goebbels' skillful propaganda, became one of the great hero legends of the movement, hailed as a pure idealist who had given his life for the cause.

At the time Roehm took over the S.A., Gregor Strasser was undoubtedly the Number Two man in the Nazi Party. A forceful speaker and a brilliant organizer, he was the head of the party's most important office, the Political Organization, a post which gave him great influence among the provincial and local leaders whose labors he supervised. With his genial Bavarian nature, he was the most popular leader in the party next to Hitler, and, unlike the Fuehrer he enjoyed the personal trust and even liking of most of his political opponents. There were a good many at that time, within and without the party, who believed that Strasser might well supplant the moody, incalculable Austrian leader. This view was especially strong in the Reichswehr and in the President's Palace.

Otto, Gregor Strasser's brother, had fallen by the wayside. Unfortunately for him, he had taken seriously not only the word "socialist" but the word "workers" in the party's official name of National Socialist German Workers' Party. He had supported certain strikes of the socialist trade unions and demanded that the party come out for nationalization of industry. This of course was heresy to Hitler, who accused Otto Strasser of professing the cardinal sins of "democracy and liberalism." On May 21 and 22, 1930, the Fuehrer had a showdown with his rebellious subordinate and demanded complete submission. When Otto refused, he was booted out of the party. He tried to form a truly national "socialist" movement, the Union of Revolutionary National Socialists, which became known only as the Black Front, but in the September elections it failed completely to win any sizable number of Nazi votes away from Hitler.

Goebbels, the fourth member of the Big Five around Hitler, had remained an enemy and rival of Gregor Strasser ever since their break in 1926. Two years after that he had succeeded Strasser as propaganda chief of the party when the latter was moved up to head the Political Organization. He had remained as Gauleiter of Berlin, and his achievements in reorganizing the party there as well as his talents for propaganda had favorably impressed the Fuehrer. His glib but biting tongue and his nimble mind had not endeared him to Hitler's other chief lieutenants, who distrusted him. But the Nazi leader was quite content to see strife among his principal subordinates, if only because it was a safeguard against their conspiring together against his leadership. He never fully trusted Strasser, but in the loyalty of Goebbels he had complete confidence; moreover, the lame little fanatic was bubbling with ideas which were useful to him. Finally, Goebbels' talents as a rowdy journalist -- he now had a Berlin newspaper of his own, Der Angriff, to spout off in -- and as a rabblerousing orator were invaluable to the party.

Wilhelm Frick, the fifth and last member of the group, was the only colorless personality in it. He was a typical German civil servant. As a young police officer in Munich before 1923 he had served as one of Hitler's spies at police headquarters, and the Fuehrer always felt grateful to him. Often he had taken on the thankless tasks. On Hitler's instigation he had become the first Nazi to hold provincial office -- in Thuringia -- and later he became the leader of the Nazi Party in the Reichstag. He was doggedly loyal, efficient and, because of the facade of his retiring nature and suave manners, useful in contacts with wavering officials in the republican government.

Some of the lesser men in the party in the early Thirties would subsequently gain notoriety and frightening personal power in the Third Reich. Heinrich Himmler, the poultry farmer, who, with his pince-nez, might be mistaken for a mild, mediocre schoolmaster -- he had a degree in agronomy from the Munich Technische Hochschule -- was gradually building up Hitler's praetorian guard, the black-coated S.S. But he worked under the shadow of Roehm, who was commander of both the S.A. and the S.S., and he was little known, even in party circles, outside his native Bavaria. There was Dr. Robert Ley, a chemist by profession and a habitual drunkard, who was the Gauleiter of Cologne, and Hans Frank, the bright young lawyer and leader of the party's legal division. There was Walther Darre, born in 1895 in the Argentine, an able agronomist who was won over to National Socialism by Hess and whose book The Peasantry as the Life Source of the Nordic Race brought him to Hitler's attention and to a job as head of the Agricultural Department of the party. Rudolf Hess himself, personally unambitious and doggedly loyal to the Leader, held only the title of private secretary to the Fuehrer. The second private secretary was one Martin Bormann, a molelike man who preferred to burrow in the dark recesses of party life to further his intrigues and who once had served a year in prison for complicity in a political murder. The Reich Youth Leader was Baldur von Schirach, a romantically minded young man and an energetic organizer, whose mother was an American and whose great-grandfather, a Union officer, had lost a leg at Bull Run; he told his American jailers at Nuremberg that he had become an anti- Semite at the age of seventeen after reading a book called Eternal Jew, by Henry Ford.

There was also Alfred Rosenberg, the ponderous, dim-witted Baltic pseudo philosopher who, as we have seen, was one of Hitler's earliest mentors and who since the putsch of 1923 had poured out a stream of books and pamphlets of the most muddled content and style, culminating in a 700-page work entitled The Myth of the Twentieth Century. This was a ludicrous concoction of his half-baked ideas on Nordic supremity palmed off as the fruit of what passed for erudition in Nazi circles -- a book which Hitler often said jokingly he had tried unsuccessfully to read and which prompted Schirach, who fancied himself as a writer, to remark once that Rosenberg was "a man who sold more copies of a book no one ever read than any other author," for in the first ten years after its publication in 1930 it sold more than half a million copies. From the beginning to the end Hitler always had a warm spot in his heart for this dull, stupid, fumbling man, rewarding him with various party jobs such as editor of the Voelkischer Beobachter and other Nazi publications and naming him as one of the party's deputies in the Reichstag in 1930, where he represented the movement in the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Such was the conglomeration of men around the leader of the National Socialists. In a normal society they surely would have stood out as a grotesque assortment of misfits. But in the last chaotic days of the Republic they began to appear to millions of befuddled Germans as saviors. And they had two advantages over their opponents: They were led by a man who knew exactly what he wanted and they were ruthless enough, and opportunist enough, to go to any lengths to help him get it.

As the year of 1931 ran its uneasy course, with five million wage earners out of work, the middle classes facing ruin, the farmers unable to meet their mortgage payments, the Parliament paralyzed, the government floundering, the eighty-four-year-old President fast sinking into the befuddlement of senility, a confidence mounted in the breasts of the Nazi chieftains that they would not have long to wait. As Gregor Strasser publicly boasted, "All that serves to precipitate the catastrophe ... is good, very good for us and our German revolution."



i. Michael was finally published in 1929, after Goebbels had become nationally known as a Nazi leader. The Wanderer reached the stage after Goebbels became Propaganda Minister and the boss of the German theater. It had a short run.

ii. These early diaries, unearthed by Allied intelligence agents after the war, are a rich source of information for this period of Goebbel's life.

iii. Later he bought it and, after becoming Chancellor, rebuilt it on a vast and lavish scale, changing the name from Haus Wachenfeld to Berghof.

iv. Painted after her death by Adolf Ziegler, Hitler's favorite painter.

v. The italics in this declaration are Hitler's.

vi. Both of whom would end their lives on the gallows, Sack for his part in the conspiracy against Hitler on July 20, 1944, and Frank for what he did on behalf of Hitler in Poland.

vii. Lieutenant Scheringer, embittered by what he considered Hitler's betrayal, renounced the Nazi Party while in prison and became a fanatical Communist. He was marked -- as were so many who crossed Hitler -- for liquidation in the June 3D, 1934. purge, but somehow escaped and lived to see the end of Hitler. Lieutenant Ludin remained an enthusiastic Nazi, was elected to the Reichstag in 1932, became a high officer in the S.A. and the S.S., and served as German minister to the puppet state of Slovakia, where he was arrested at the time of the liberation and executed by the Czechoslovaks.
Site Admin
Posts: 28774
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:00 pm

Part 1 of 2


OUT OF THE TURMOIL and chaos of German life there now emerged a curious and devious figure who, more than any other single individual, was destined to dig the grave of the Republic -- one who would serve briefly as its last Chancellor and, ironically, in one of the final twists of his astonishing career desperately try to save it, when it was too late. This was Kurt von Schleicher, whose name in German means "intriguer" or "sneak."

In 1931 he was a lieutenant general in the Army. [i] Born in 1882, he had entered military service at eighteen as a subaltern in Hindenburg's old regiment, the 3rd Foot Guards, where he became a close friend of Oskar von Hindenburg, the son of the Field Marshal and President. His second friendship proved almost as valuable. This was with General Groener, who was impressed by his brilliance as a student at the War Academy, and who, when he replaced Ludendorff at Supreme Headquarters in 1918, brought along the young officer as his adjutant. Primarily a "desk officer" -- he had seen but a short period of service on the Russian front -- Schleicher remained thereafter close to the sources of power in the Army and in the Weimar Republic, where his nimble mind, affable manners and flair for politics impressed both the generals and the politicians. Under General von Seeckt he played an increasingly important role in helping to organize the illegal free corps and the equally illegal and highly secret "Black Reichswehr," and he was a key figure in the confidential negotiations with Moscow which led to the camouflaged training of German tank and air officers in Soviet Russia and in the establishment of German-run arms factories there. A gifted manipulator, with a passion for intrigue, Schleicher worked best under cover in the dark. Until the beginning of the Thirties his name was unknown to the general public, but for some time previously it had been attracting increasing notice in the Bendlerstrasse, where the War Ministry was, and in the Wilhelmstrasse, where the government ministries were situated.

In January 1928 he had used his growing influence with President Hindenburg, with whom he had become close through his friendship with Oskar, to have his old chief, General Groener, appointed as Minister of Defense, the first military man to hold that post during the Republic. Groener made Schleicher his right-hand man in the ministry, putting him in charge of a new office, the Ministry Bureau (Ministeramt), where he handled the political and press affairs of the Army and Navy. "My cardinal in politics," Groener called his assistant and entrusted him with the Army's relations with the other ministries and the political leaders. In this position Schleicher not only was a power in the officer corps but began to be a power in politics. In the Army he could make and break the higher officers and began to do so, getting rid of General von Blomberg, the second-in-command of the Army, in 1930 by a piece of trickery and replacing him with an old friend from the 3rd Foot Guards, General von Hammerstein. In the spring of the same year, as we have seen, he made his first effort to select the Chancellor himself and, with the backing of the Army, talked Hindenburg into appointing Heinrich Bruening to that post.

In achieving this political triumph Schleicher carried out what he thought would be the first step in a grandiose scheme to make over the Republic, an idea which had been forming for some time in his agile mind. He saw clearly enough -- as who didn't? -- the causes of the weakness of the Weimar regime. There were too many political parties (in 1930 ten of them each polled over a million votes) and they were too much at cross-purposes, too absorbed in looking after the special economic and social interests they represented to be able to bury their differences and form an enduring majority in the Reichstag that could back a stable government capable of coping with the major crisis which confronted the country at the beginning of the Thirties. Parliamentary government had become a matter of what the Germans called Kuhhandel -- cattle trading -- with the parties bargaining for special advantages for the groups which elected them, and the national interests be damned. No wonder that when Bruening took over as Chancellor on March 28, 1930, it had become impossible to achieve a majority in the Reichstag for any policy -- of the Left, the Center or the Right -- and that merely to carry on the business of government and do something about the economic paralysis he had to resort to Article 48 of the constitution, which permitted him in an emergency, if the President approved, to govern by decree.

This was exactly the way Schleicher wished the Chancellor to govern. It made for strong government under the forceful hand of the President, who, after all (Schleicher argued), through his popular election represented the will of the people and was backed by the Army. If the democratically elected Reichstag couldn't provide stable government, then the democratically elected President must. What the majority of Germans wanted, Schleicher was sure, was a government that would take a firm stand and lead them out of their hopeless plight. Actually, as the elections which Bruening called in September showed, that was not what the majority of Germans wanted. Or at least they did not want to be led out of the wilderness by the kind of government which Schleicher and his friends in the Army and in the Presidential Palace had chosen.

In truth, Schleicher had committed two disastrous mistakes. By putting up Bruening as Chancellor and encouraging him to rule by presidential decree, he had cracked the foundation of the Army's strength in the nation -- its position above politics, the abandonment of which would lead to its own and Germany's ruin. And he had made a bad miscalculation about the voters. When six and a half million of them, against 810,000 two years before, voted for the Nazi Party on September 14, 1930, the political General realized that he must take a new tack. By the end of the year he was in touch with Roehm, who had just returned from Bolivia, and with Gregor Strasser. This was the first serious contact between the Nazis and those who held the political power in the Republic. In just two years its development was to lead Adolf Hitler to his goal and General von Schleicher to his fall and ultimate murder.


On October 10, 1931, three weeks after the suicide of his niece and sweetheart, Geli Raubal, Hitler was received by President Hindenburg for the first time. Schleicher, busy weaving a new web of intrigue, had made the appointment. Earlier that autumn he had conferred with Hitler and arranged for him to see both the Chancellor and the President. In the back of his mind, as well as that of Bruening, was the question of what to do when Hindenburg's seven-year term of office came to an end in the spring of 1932. The Field Marshal would be eighty-five then, and the periods when his mind was lucid were diminishing. Still, as everyone realized, if he were not a candidate to succeed himself, Hitler, though he was not legally a German citizen, might contrive to become one, run for the office, win the election and become President.

During the summer the scholarly Chancellor had pondered long hours over the desperate plight of Germany. He quite realized that his government had become the most unpopular one the Republic had ever had. To cope with the depression he had decreed lower wages and salaries as well as lower prices and had clamped down severe restrictions on business, finance and the social services. The "Hunger Chancellor" he had been called by both the Nazis and the Communists. Yet he thought he saw a way out that in the end would re-establish a stable, free, prosperous Germany. He would try to negotiate with the Allies a cancellation of reparations, whose payment had been temporarily stopped by the Hoover moratorium. In the disarmament conference scheduled to begin the following year he would try either to get the Allies to honor their pledge in the Versailles Treaty to disarm to the level of Germany or to allow Germany to embark openly on a modest program of rearmament, which in fact, with his connivance, and in secret, it had already started to do. Thus the last shackle of the peace treaty would be thrown off and Germany would emerge as an equal among the big powers. This would be not on Iv a boon to the Republic but might launch, Bruening thought, a new era of confidence in the Western world that would put an end to the economic depression which had brought the German people such misery. And it would take the wind out of the Nazi sails.

Bruening planned to move boldly on the home front too and to bring about by agreement of all the major parties save the Communists a fundamental change in the German constitution. He meant to restore the Hohenzollern monarchy. Even if Hindenburg could be persuaded to run again, he could not be expected at his age to live out another full term of seven years. Should he die in another year or two, the way would still be open to Hitler to be elected President. To forestall that, to assure permanency and stability in the office of head of state, Bruening broached the following plan: The 1932 presidential elections would be called off and Hindenburg's term of office simply extended, as it could be, by a two-thirds vote in the two houses of Parliament, the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. As soon as that was achieved, he would propose that Parliament proclaim a monarchy with the President as regent. On his death one of the sons of the Crown Prince would be put on the Hohenzollern throne. This act too would take the wind out of the Nazis; in fact Bruening was confident that it would mean their end as a political force.

But the aged President was not interested. He, whose duty it had been as Commander of the Imperial Army to tell the Kaiser on that dark fall day of November 1918 at Spa that he must go, that the monarchy was at an end, would not consider any Hohenzollern's resuming the throne except the Emperor himself, who still lived in exile at Doom, in Holland. When Bruening explained to him that the Social Democrats and the trade unions, which with the greatest reluctance had given some encouragement to his plan if only because it might afford the last desperate chance of stopping Hitler, would not stand for the return of either Wilhelm II or his eldest son and that moreover if the monarchy were restored it must be a constitutional and democratic one on the lines of the British model, the grizzly old Field Marshal was so outraged he summarily dismissed his Chancellor from his presence. A week later he recalled him to inform him that he would not stand for re-election.

In the meantime first Bruening and then Hindenburg had had their first meeting with Adolf Hitler. Both talks went badly for the Nazi leader. He had not yet recovered from the blow of Geli Raubal's suicide; his mind wandered and he was unsure of himself. To Bruening's request for Nazi support for: the continuance in office of Hindenburg Hitler answered with a long tirade against the Republic which left little doubt that he would not go along with the Chancellor's plans. With Hindenburg, Hitler was ill at ease. He tried to impress the old gentleman with a long harangue but it fell flat. The President, at this first meeting, was not impressed by the "Bohemian corporal," as he called him, and told Schleicher that such a man might become Minister of Posts but never Chancellor -- words which the Field Marshal would later have to eat.

Hitler, in a huff, hastened off to Bad Harzburg, where on the next day, October 11, he joined a massive demonstration of the "National Opposition" against the governments of Germany and Prussia. This was an assembly not so much of the radical Right, represented by the National Socialists, as of the older, conservative forces of reaction: Hugenberg's German National Party, the right-wing veterans' private army, the Stahlhelm, the so-called Bismarck Youth, the Junkers' Agrarian League, and an odd assortment of old generals. But the Nazi leader did not have his heart in the meeting. He despised the frock-coated, top-hatted, bemedaled relics of the old regime, with whom, he saw, it might be dangerous to associate a "revolutionary" movement like his own too closely. He raced through his speech in a perfunctory manner and left the field before the parade of the Stahl helm, which, to his annoyance, had shown up in larger numbers than the S.A. The Harzburg Front which was formed that day and which represented an effort of the old-line conservatives to bring the Nazis into a united front to begin a final assault on the Republic (it demanded the immediate resignation of Bruening) was thus stillborn. Hitler had no intention of playing second fiddle to these gentlemen whose minds, he thought, were buried in the past to which he knew there was no return. He might use them for the moment if they helped to undermine the Weimar regime and made available to him, as they did, new financial sources. But he would not, in turn, be used by them. Within a few days the Harzburg Front was facing collapse; the various elements of it were once more at each other's throats.

Except on one issue. Both Hugenberg and Hitler refused to agree to Bruening's proposal that Hindenburg's term of office be prolonged. At the beginning of 1932 the Chancellor renewed his effort to get them to change their minds. With great difficulty he had prevailed on the President to agree to serving further if Parliament prolonged his term and thus made it unnecessary for him to have to shoulder the burden of a bitter election campaign. Now Bruening invited Hitler to come to Berlin for fresh discussions. The telegram arrived while the Fuehrer was conferring with Hess and Rosenberg in the editorial offices of the Voelkischer Beobachter in Munich. Thrusting the paper into their faces, Hitler cried, "Now I have them in my pocket! They have recognized me as a partner in their negotiations." [1]

On January 7 Hitler conferred with Bruening and Schleicher, and there was a further meeting on January 10. Bruening repeated his proposal that the Nazi Party agree to prolonging Hindenburg's term. If this were done, and as soon as he had settled the problem of cancellation of reparations and equality of armaments, he himself would retire. According to some sources -- it is a disputed point -- Bruening held out a further bait: he offered to suggest Hitler's name to the President as his successor. [2]

Hitler did not immediately give a definite reply. He adjourned to the Kaiserhof hotel and took counsel with his advisers. Gregor Strasser was in favor of accepting Bruening's plan, arguing that if the Nazis forced an election Hindenburg would win it. Goebbels and Roehm were for an outright rejection. In his diary for January 7, Goebbels wrote: "The Presidency is not the issue. Bruening merely wants to strengthen his own position indefinitely ... The chess game for power begins... . The chief thing is that we remain strong and make no compromises." The night before, he had written: "There is a man in the organization that no one trusts ... This is Gregor Strasser." [3]

Hitler himself saw no reason to strengthen Bruening's hand and thus give the Republic a further lease on life. But unlike the thickheaded Hugenberg, who rejected the plan outright on January 12, Hitler was more subtle. He replied not to the Chancellor but over his head to the President, declaring that he regarded Bruening's proposal as unconstitutional but that he would support Hindenburg's re-election if the Field Marshal would reject Bruening's plan. To Otto von Meissner, the nimble Secretary of State at the Presidential Chancellery, who had zealously served in that capacity first the Socialist Ebert and then the conservative Hindenburg and who was beginning to think of a third term in office for himself with whoever the President might be -- perhaps even Hitler? -- the Nazi leader, in a secret conversation at the Kaiserhof, offered to support Hindenburg in the elections if he would first get rid of Bruening, name a "National" government and decree new elections for the Reichstag and the Prussian Diet.

To this Hindenburg would not agree. Nettled by the refusal of the Nazis and the Nationalists, the latter his friends and supposed supporters, to agree to spare him the strain of an election battle, Hindenburg agreed to run again. But to his resentment against the nationalist parties was added a curious spleen against Bruening, who he felt had handled the whole matter badly and who was now forcing him into bitter conflict with the very nationalist forces which had elected him President in 1925 against the liberal-Marxist candidates. Now he could win only with the support of the Socialists and the trade unions, for whom he had always had an undisguised contempt. A marked coolness sprang up in his dealings with his Chancellor -- "the best," he had said not so long ago, "since Bismarck."

A coolness toward Bruening also came over the General who had propelled him into the chancellorship. To Schleicher the austere Catholic leader had been a disappointment after all. He had become the most unpopular Chancellor the Republic had ever had. He had been unable to obtain a majority in the country; he had failed to curb the Nazis or to win them over; he had bungled the problem of keeping Hindenburg on. Therefore he must go -- and perhaps with him General Groener, Schleicher's revered chief, who did not seem to grasp the ideas for the future which he, Schleicher, had in mind. The scheming General was not exactly in a hurry. Bruening and Groener, the two strong men of the government, must remain in power until Hindenburg was re-elected; without their support the old Field Marshal might not make it. After the elections their usefulness would be over.


There were a number of occasions in the career of Adolf Hitler when, faced with a difficult decision, he seemed unable to make up his mind, and this was one of them. The question he faced in January 1932 was: to run or not to run for President? Hindenburg seemed unbeatable. The legendary hero would be supported not only by many elements of the Right but by the democratic parties which had been against him in the election of 1925 but which now saw him as the savior of the Republic. To run against the Field Marshal and be beaten, as he almost certainly would be -- was that not to risk the reputation for invincibility which the Nazis had been building up in one provincial election after another since their spectacular triumph in the national poll in 1930? And yet, not to run -- was that not a confession of weakness, a demonstration of a lack of confidence that National Socialism was on the threshold of power? There was another consideration. Hitler was at the moment not even eligible to run. He was not a German citizen.

Joseph Goebbels urged him to announce his candidacy. On January 19 they journeyed to Munich together and that evening Goebbels recorded in his diary: "Discussed the question of the presidency with the Fuehrer. No decision has yet been reached. I pleaded strongly for his own candidacy." For the next month the diary of Goebbels reflected the ups and downs in Hitler's mind. On January 31: "The Fuehrer's decision will be made on Wednesday. It can no longer be in doubt." On February 2 it seemed that he had made it. Goebbels noted: "He decides to be a candidate himself." But Goebbels adds that the decision will not be made public until it is seen what the Social Democrats do. Next day the party leaders assemble in Munich to hear Hitler's decision. "They wait in vain," Goebbels grumbles. "Everyone," he adds, "is nervous and strained." That evening the little propaganda chief seeks relief; he steals away to see Greta Garbo in a movie and is "moved and shaken" by this "greatest living actress." Later that night "a number of old party comrades come to me. They are depressed at the lack of a decision. They fear that the Fuehrer is waiting too long."

He may be waiting too long, but Hitler's confidence in his ultimate triumph does not weaken. One night in Munich, the diary records, the Fuehrer has a long discussion with Goebbels on which post the latter will have in the Third Reich. The Leader has in mind for him, Goebbels says, a "Ministry of Popular Education which will deal with films, radio, art, culture and propaganda." On another evening Hitler has a long discussion with his architect, Professor Troost, over plans for a "grandiose alteration of the national capital." And Goebbels adds: "The Fuehrer has his plans all finished. He speaks, acts and feels as if we were already in power."

But he does not speak yet as if he were anxious to run against Hindenburg. On February 9, Goebbels records, "the Fuehrer is back in Berlin. More debates at the Kaiserhof over the presidential election. Everything is left in suspense." Three days later Goebbels goes over his calculations of votes with the Fuehrer. "It's a risk," he says, "but it must be taken." Hitler goes off to Munich to think it over still further.

In the end his mind is made up for him by Hindenburg. On February 15 the aged President formally announces his candidacy. Goebbels is happy. "Now we have a free hand. Now we need no longer hide our decision." But Hitler does hide it until February 22. At a meeting that day in the Kaiserhof "the Fuehrer gives me permission," Goebbels rejoices, "to announce his candidacy at the Sport Palace tonight."

It was a bitter and confusing campaign. In the Reichstag Goebbels branded Hindenburg as "the candidate of the party of the deserters" and was expelled from the chamber for insulting the President. In Berlin the nationalist Deutsche Zeitung, which had backed Hindenburg's election in 1925, now turned on him vehemently. "The present issue," it declared, "is whether the internationalist traitors and pacifist swine, with the approval of Hindenburg, are to bring about the final ruin of Germany."

All the traditional loyalties of classes and parties were upset in the confusion and heat of the electoral battle. To Hindenburg, a Protestant, a Prussian, a conservative and a monarchist, went the support of the Socialists, the trade unions, the Catholics of Bruening's Center Party and the remnants of the liberal, democratic middle-class parties. To Hitler, a Catholic, an Austrian, a former tramp, a "national socialist," a leader of the lower-middle-class masses, was rallied, in addition to his own followers, the support of the upper-class Protestants of the north, the conservative Junker agrarians and a number of monarchists, including, at the last minute, the former Crown Prince himself. The confusion was further compounded by the entrance of two other candidates, neither of whom could hope to win but both of whom might poll enough votes to prevent either of the leading contestants from obtaining the absolute majority needed for election. The Nationalists put up Theodor Duesterberg, second-in-command of the Stahlhelm (of which Hindenburg was the honorary commander), a colorless former lieutenant colonel whom the Nazis, to their glee. soon discovered to be the great-grandson of a Jew. The Communists, shouting that the Social Democrats were "betraying the workers" by supporting Hindenburg, ran their own candidate, Ernst Thaelmann, the party's leader. It was not the first time, nor the last, that the Communists, on orders from Moscow, risked playing into Nazi hands.

Before the campaign was scarcely under way Hitler solved the problem of his citizenship. On February 25 it was announced that the Nazi Minister of the Interior of the state of Brunswick had named Herr Hitler an attache of the legation of Brunswick in Berlin. Through this comic-opera maneuver the Nazi leader became automatically a citizen of Brunswick and hence of Germany and was therefore eligible to run for President of the German Reich. Having leaped over this little hurdle with ease, Hitler threw himself into the campaign with furious energy, crisscrossing the country, addressing large crowds at scores of mass meetings and whipping them up into a state of frenzy. Goebbels and Strasser, the other two spellbinders of the party, followed a similar schedule. But this was not all. They directed a propaganda campaign such as Germany had never seen. They plastered the walls of the cities and towns with a million screeching colored posters, distributed eight million pamphlets and twelve million extra copies of their party newspapers, staged three thousand meetings a day and, for the first time in a German election, made good use of films and gramophone records, the latter spouting forth from loudspeakers on trucks.

Bruening also worked tirelessly to win the election for the aged President. For once this fair-minded man was ruthless enough to reserve all radio time on the government-controlled networks for his own side -- a tactic which infuriated Hitler. Hindenburg spoke only once, in a recorded broadcast on March 10, on the eve of the polling. It was a dignified utterance, one of the few made during the campaign, and it was effective.

Election of a party man, representing one-sided extremist views, who would consequently have the majority of the people against him, would expose the Fatherland to serious disturbances whose outcome would be incalculable. Duty commanded me to prevent this ... If I am defeated, I shall at least not have incurred the reproach that of my own accord I deserted my post in an hour of crisis ... I ask for no votes from those who do not wish to vote for me.

Those who voted for him fell .4 per cent short of the needed absolute majority. When the polls closed on March 13, 1932, the results were:

Hindenburg / 18,651,497 / 49.6%
Hitler / 11,339,446 / 30.1%
Thaelmann / 4,983,341 / 13.2%
Duesterberg / 2,557,729 / 6.8%

The figures were a disappointment to both sides. The old President had led the Nazi demagogue by over seven million votes but had just failed to win the required absolute majority; this necessitated a second election, in which the candidate receiving the most votes would be elected. Hitler had increased the Nazi vote over 1930 by nearly five million -- some 86 per cent -- but he had been left far behind Hindenburg. Late on the evening of the polling there was deep despair at the Goebbels home in Berlin, where many of the party leaders had gathered to listen to the results over the radio. "We're beaten; terrible outlook," Goebbels wrote in his diary that night. "Party circles badly depressed and dejected ... We can save ourselves only by a clever stroke."

But in the Voelkischer Beobachter the next morning Hitler announced: "The first election campaign is over. The second has begun today. I shall lead it." Indeed, he campaigned as vigorously as before. Chartering a Junkers passenger plane, he flew from one end of Germany to the other -- a novelty in electioneering at that time -- addressing three or four big rallies a day in as many cities. Shrewdly, he altered his tactics to attract more votes. In the first campaign he had harped on the misery of the people, the impotence of the Republic. Now he depicted a happy future for all Germans if he were elected: jobs for the workers, higher prices for the farmers, more business for the businessmen, a big Army for the militarists, and once in a speech at the Lustgarten in Berlin he promised, "In the Third Reich every German girl will find a husband!"

The Nationalists withdrew Duesterberg from the race and appealed to their followers to vote for Hitler. Again even the dissolute former Crown Prince, Friedrich Wilhelm, fell into line. "I shall vote for Hitler," he announced.

April 10, 1932, the day of the second election, was dark and rainy, and a million fewer citizens cast their votes. The results announced late that night were:

Hindenburg / 19,359,983 / 53%
Hitler / 13,418,547 / 36.8%
Thaelmann / 3,706,759 / 10.2%

Though Hitler had increased his total vote by two million and Hindenburg had gained only one million, the President was in by a clear, absolute majority. More than half the German people had thus given expression to their belief in the democratic Republic; they had decisively rejected the extremists of both Right and Left. Or so they thought.

Hitler himself had much to ponder. He had made an impressive showing. He had doubled the Nazi vote in two years. And yet a majority still eluded him -- and with it the political power he sought. Had he reached the end of this particular road? In the party discussions that followed the April 10 poll, Strasser frankly argued that this was indeed Hitler's position. Strasser urged a deal with those in power: with the President, with the government of Bruening and General Groener, with the Army. Hitler distrusted his chief lieutenant but he did not dismiss his idea. He had not forgotten one of the lessons of his Vienna days, that to attain power one must win the support of some of the existing "powerful institutions."

Before he could make up his mind as to the next step, one of these "powerful institutions," the government of the Republic, struck him a blow.

*** For more than a year the Reich government and various state governments had been coming into possession of documents which showed that a number of high Nazi leaders, especially in the S.A., were preparing to take over Germany by force and institute a reign of terror. On the eve of the first presidential elections the S.A., now 400,000 strong, had been fully mobilized and had thrown a cordon around Berlin. Though Captain Roehm, the S.A. chief, assured General von Schleicher that the measure was merely "precautionary," the Prussian police had seized documents at Nazi headquarters in Berlin which made it pretty clear that the S.A. meant to carry out a coup d'etat on the following evening should Hitler be elected President-such was Roehm's hurry. Goebbels in a diary notation on the night of March 11 had confirmed that something was afoot. "Talked over instructions with the S.A. and S.S. commanders. Deep uneasiness is rife everywhere. The word Putsch haunts the air."

Both the national and the state governments were alarmed. On April 5 representatives of several of the states, led by Prussia and Bavaria, the two largest, had demanded that the central government suppress the S.A. or else they would do it themselves in their respective territories. Chancellor Bruening was away from Berlin electioneering, but Groener, who received the delegates in his capacity of Minister of the Interior and of Defense, promised action as soon as Bruening returned, which was on April 10, the day of the second election. Bruening and Groener thought they had good reasons for stamping out the S.A. It would end the threat of civil war and might be a prelude to the end of Hitler as a major factor in German politics. Certain of Hindenburg's re-election by an absolute majority, they felt that the voters were giving them a mandate to protect the Republic against the threats of the Nazis to forcibly overthrow it. The time had come to use force against force. Also, unless they acted vigorously, the government would lose the support of the Social Democrats and the trade unions, which were providing most of the votes for Hindenburg and the chief backing for the continuance of Bruening's government.

The cabinet met on April 10, in the midst of the polling, and decided to immediately suppress Hitler's private armies. There was some difficulty in getting Hindenburg to sign the decree -- Schleicher, who had first approved it, began to whisper objections in the President's ear -- but he finally did so on April 13 and it was promulgated on April 14.

This was a stunning blow to the Nazis. Roehm and some of the hotheads in the party urged resistance to the order. But Hitler, shrewder than his lieutenants, ruled that it must be obeyed. This was no moment for armed rebellion. Besides, there was interesting news about Schleicher. Goebbels noted it in his diary on that very day, April 14: "We are informed that Schleicher does not approve Groener's action ... " And later that day: " ... a telephone call from a well-known lady who is a close friend of General Schleicher. She says the General wants to resign." [4]

Goebbels was interested but skeptical. "Perhaps," he added, "it is only a maneuver." Neither he nor Hitler nor anyone else, certainly not Bruening and most certainly not Groener, to whom Schleicher owed his rapid rise in the Army and in the councils of government, had as yet surmised the infinite capacity for treachery of the scheming political General. But they were soon to learn.

Even before the ban on the S.A. was promulgated, Schleicher, who had won over the weak-minded commander of the Reichswehr, General von Hammerstein, confidentially informed the commanders of the seven military districts that the Army opposed the move. Next he' persuaded Hindenburg to write a cantankerous letter to Groener, on April 16, asking why the Reichsbanner, the paramilitary organization of the Social Democrats, had not been suppressed along with the S.A. Schleicher took a further step to undermine his chiers position. He inspired a malicious smear campaign against General Groener, spreading tales that he was too ill to remain in office, that he had become a convert to Marxism and even to pacifism and proclaiming that the Defense Minister had disgraced the Army by having a child born five months after his recent marriage -- the baby, he told Hindenburg, had been nicknamed "Nurmi" in Army circles, after the fleet Finnish runner of Olympic fame.

In the meantime, Schleicher renewed his contacts with the S.A. He held talks with both Roehm, the S.A. chief, and Count von Helldorf, the S.A. leader of Berlin. On April 26, Goebbels noted that Schleicher had informed Helldorff he "wanted to change his course." Two days later Schleicher saw Hitler, and Goebbels reported that "the talk went off well."

Even at this stage of· the game it is evident that with regard to one question Roehm and Schleicher were conspiring behind Hitler's back. Both men wanted the S.A. incorporated into the Army as a militia, a step to which the Fuehrer was unalterably opposed. This was a matter over which Hitler had often quarreled with his S.A. chief of staff, who saw the storm troopers as a potential military force to strengthen the country, whereas Hitler regarded them as purely a political force, a band to strike terror in the streets against his political opponents and to keep up political enthusiasm in the Nazi ranks. But in his conversations with the Nazi leaders, Schleicher had another objective in mind. He wanted the S.A. attached to the Army, where he could control it; but he also wanted Hitler, the only conservative nationalist with any mass following, in the government -- where he could control him. The Verbot of the S.A. hindered progress toward both objectives.

By the end of the first week of May 1932, Schleicher's intrigues reached one of their climaxes. Goebbels notes on May 4 that "Hitler's mines are beginning to go off. First Groener and then Bruening must go." On May 8, Goebbels reported in his diary, Hitler had a "decisive conference with General Schleicher and with some gentlemen close to the President. Everything goes well. Bruening will fall in a few days. The President will withdraw his confidence in him." He then outlines the plan which Schleicher and the President's camarilla had hatched with Hitler: The Reichstag will be dissolved, a presidential cabinet will be installed and all prohibitions against the S.A. and the Nazi Party lifted. To avoid arousing Bruening's suspicion of what is up, Goebbels adds, Hitler will keep away from Berlin. Late that evening he spirits his chief away to Mecklenburg and into virtual hiding.

For the Nazis, the presidential cabinet is regarded, Goebbels notes the next day, as merely an "interim" affair. Such a "colorless" transitional government, he says, "will clear the way for us. The weaker it is the easier we can do away with it." This, of course, is not the view of Schleicher, who already is dreaming of a new government which will dispense with Parliament until the constitution can be changed and which he will dominate. Already, it is clear, he and Hitler believe they can each get the best of the other. But for the moment he has an ace to play. He can assure the tired old President that he can offer what Bruening could not: a government supported by Hitler and yet without the inconvenience of having the fanatical demagogue in it.

So all was ready, and on May 10, two days after his meeting with Hitler and the men around Hindenburg, Schleicher struck. The blow was delivered at the Reichstag. General Groener rose to defend the banning of the S.A. and was violently attacked by Goering. III with diabetes and sick at heart at the treachery already wrought by Schleicher, the Defense Minister tried to defend himself as best he could but he was overwhelmed by a torrent of abuse from the Nazi benches. Exhausted and humiliated, he started to leave the chamber, only to run into General von Schleicher, who informed him coldly that he "no longer enjoyed the confidence of the Army and must resign." Groener appealed to Hindenburg, for whom he had loyally fronted -- and taken the blame- -- hen the crucial moment had come, first, in 1918, to tell the Kaiser to go, and then, in 1919, to advise the republican government to sign the Versailles Treaty. But the old Field Marshal, who had never ceased resenting his obligation to the younger officer, replied that he "regretted" he could do nothing in the matter. On May 13, bitter and disillusioned, * Groener resigned. That evening Goebbels recorded in his diary: "We have news from General Schleicher. Everything is going according to plan."

The plan called for Bruening's head next, and it was not long before the conniving General was able to slip it on the block. Groener's fall had been a grave setback for the tottering Republic; almost alone among the military men he had served it ably and devotedly, and there was no one else in the Army of his stature and loyalty to replace him. But the stubborn, hard-working Bruening was still a power. He had secured the backing of the majority of Germans for Hindenburg's re-election and, as he believed, for the continuance of the Republic. He seemed to be on the eve of sensational successes in foreign policy with regard to both the cancellation of reparations and equality of armament for the Reich. But the aging President, as we have seen, had rewarded with a remarkable coolness the Chancellor's superhuman efforts in winning him a further term of office. His attitude became more frigid when Bruening proposed that the State take over a number of bankrupt Junker estates in East Prussia, after generous compensation, and give them to the landless peasants. When Hindenburg went off for the Easter holidays at the middle of May to Neudeck, the East Prussian estate which the Junkers, with the financial help of the industrialists, had given him as a present on his eightieth birthday, he got an earful from his aristocratic neighbors, who clamored for the dismissal of a Chancellor whom they now called "an agrarian Bolshevist."

The Nazis, undoubtedly through Schleicher, learned before Bruening that the Chancellor was on his way out. On May 18 Goebbels returned from Munich to Berlin and, noting that the "Easter spirit" was still lingering, wrote in his diary: "For Bruening alone winter seems to have set in. The funny thing is he doesn't realize it. He can't find men for his cabinet. The rats are leaving the sinking ship." It might have been more accurate to say that the leading rat, far from leaving the sinking ship of state, was merely making ready to put in a new captain. The next day Goebbels recorded: "General Schleicher has refused to take over the Ministry of Defense." This was true but also not quite accurate. Bruening had indeed made the request of Schleicher after upbraiding him for undermining Groener. "I will," Schleicher had replied, "but not in your government." [5]

On May 19 Goebbels' diary recorded: "Message from Schleicher. The list of ministers is ready. For the transition period it is not so important." Thus at least a week in advance of Bruening the Nazis knew his goose was cooked. On Sunday, May 29, Hindenburg summoned Bruening to his presence and abruptly asked for his resignation, and on the following day it was given him.

Schleicher had triumphed. But not only Bruening had fallen; the democratic Republic went down with him, though its death agonies would continue for another eight months before the final coup de grace was administered. Bruening's responsibility for its demise was not small. Though democratic at heart, he had allowed himself to be maneuvered into a position where he had perforce to rule much of the time by presidential decree without the consent of Parliament. The provocation to take such a step admittedly had been great; the politicians in their blindness had made it all but inevitable. As recently as May 12, though, he had been able to win a vote of confidence in the Reichstag for his finance bill. But where Parliament could not agree he had relied on the authority of the President to govern. Now that authority had been withdrawn. From now on, from June 1932 to January 1933, it would be granted to two lesser men who, though not Nazis, felt no urge to uphold a democratic Republic, at least as it was presently constituted.

The political power in Germany no longer resided, as it had since the birth of the Republic, in the people and in the body which expressed the people's will, the Reichstag. It was now concentrated in the hands of a senile, eighty-five-year-old President and in those of a few shallow ambitious men around him who shaped his weary, wandering mind. Hitler saw this very clearly, and it suited his purposes. It seemed most unlikely that he would ever win a majority in Parliament. Hindenburg's new course offered him the only opportunity that was left of coming to power. Not at the moment, to be sure, but soon.

He hurried back to Berlin from Oldenburg, where on May 29 the Nazis had won an absolute majority in the election for the local diet. The next day he was received by Hindenburg, who confirmed the points of the deal which the Nazi leader had secretly worked out with Schleicher on May 8: the lifting of the ban on the S.A., a presidential cabinet of Hindenburg's own choosing, dissolution of the Reichstag. Would Hitler support the new government? Hindenburg asked. Hitler replied that he would. That evening of May 30, the Goebbels' diary was brought up to date: "Hitler's talk with the President went well ... V. Papen is spoken of as Chancellor. But that interests us little. The important thing is that the Reichstag is dissolved. Elections! Elections! Direct to the people! We are all very happy." [6]


There now appeared briefly on the center of the stage an unexpected and ludicrous figure. The man whom General von Schleicher foisted upon the octogenarian President and who on June 1, 1932, was named Chancellor of Germany was the fifty-three-year-old Franz von Papen, scion of an impoverished family of the Westphalian nobility, a former General Staff officer, a crack gentleman rider, an unsuccessful and amateurish Catholic Centrist politician, a wealthy industrialist by marriage and little known to the public except as a former military attache in Washington who had been expelled during the war for complicity in the planning of such sabotage as blowing up bridges and railroad lines while the United States was neutral.

'The President's choice met with incredulity," wrote the French ambassador in Berlin. "No one but smiled or tittered or laughed because Papen enjoyed the peculiarity of being taken seriously by neither his friends nor his enemies ... He was reputed to be superficial, blundering, untrue, ambitious, vain, crafty and an intriguer." [7] To such a man -- and M. Francois-Poncet was not exaggerating -- Hindenburg, at Schleicher's prompting, had entrusted the fate of the floundering Republic.

Papen had no political backing whatsoever. He was not even a member of the Reichstag. The furthest he had got in politics was a seat in the Prussian Landtag. On his appointment as Chancellor his own Center Party, indignant at the treachery of Papen toward its leader, Bruening, unanimously expelled him from the party. But the President had told him to form a government above parties, and this he was able to do at once because Schleicher already had a list of ministers at hand. It comprised what became known as the "barons' cabinet." Five members were of the nobility, two were corporation directors, and one, Franz Guertner, named Minister of Justice, had been Hitler's protector in the Bavarian government during the troubled days before and after the Beer Hall Putsch. General von Schleicher was smoked out by Hindenburg from his preferred position behind the scenes and made Minister of Defense. The "barons' cabinet" was received by much of the country as a joke, though the stamina of a number of its members, Baron von Neurath, Baron von Eltz-Rubenach, Count Schwerin von Krosigk and Dr. Guertner, was such that they lingered on at their posts far into the era of the Third Reich.

Papen's first act was to honor Schleicher's pact with Hitler. On June 4 he dissolved the Reichstag and convoked new elections for July 31, and after some prodding from the suspicious Nazis, he lifted the ban on the S.A. on June 15. A wave of political violence and murder such as even Germany had not previously seen immediately followed. The storm troopers swarmed the streets seeking battle and blood and their challenge was often met, especially by the Communists. In Prussia alone between June 1 and 20 there were 461 pitched battles in the streets which cost eighty-two lives and seriously wounded four hundred men. In July, thirty-eight Nazis and thirty Communists were listed among the eighty-six persons killed in riots. On Sunday, July 10, eighteen persons were done to death in the streets, and on the following Sunday, when the Nazis, under police escort, staged a march through Altona, a working-class suburb of Hamburg, nineteen persons were shot dead and 285 wounded. The civil war which the barons' cabinet had been called in to halt was growing steadily worse. All the parties save the Nazis and the Communists demanded that the government take action to restore order.

Papen responded by doing two things. He banned all political parades for the fortnight prior to the July 31 elections. And he took a step which was aimed not only at placating the Nazis but at destroying one of the few remaining pillars of the democratic Republic. On July 20 he deposed the Prussian government and appointed himself Reich Commissioner for Prussia. This was a daring move toward the kind of authoritarian government he was seeking for the whole of Germany. Papen's excuse was that the Altona riots had shown the Prussian government could not maintain law and order. He also charged, on "evidence" hastily produced by Schleicher, that the Prussian authorities were in cahoots with the Communists. When the Socialist ministers refused to be deposed except by force, Papen obligingly supplied it.

Martial law was proclaimed in Berlin and General von Rundstedt, the local Reichswehr commander, sent a lieutenant and a dozen men to make the necessary arrests. This was a development which was not lost on the men of the Right who had taken over the federal power, nor did it escape Hitler's notice. There was no need to worry any longer that the forces of the Left or even of the democratic center would put up serious resistance to the overthrow of the democratic system. In 1920 a general strike had saved the Republic from being overthrown. Such a measure was debated now among the trade-union leaders and the Socialists and rejected as too dangerous. Thus by deposing the constitutional Prussian government Papen had driven another nail into the coffin of the Weimar Republic. It had taken, as he boasted, only a squad of soldiers to do it.


For their part, Hitler and his lieutenants were determined to bring down not only the Republic but Papen and his barons too. Goebbels expressed the aim in his diary on June 5: "We must disassociate ourselves at the earliest possible moment from this transitional bourgeois cabinet." When Papen saw Hitler for the first time on June 9, the Nazi leader told him, "I regard your cabinet only as a temporary solution and will continue my efforts to make my party the strongest in the country. The chancellorship will then devolve on me." [8]

The Reichstag elections of July 31 were the third national elections held in Germany within five months, but, far from being weary from so much electioneering, the Nazis threw themselves into the campaign with more fanaticism and force than ever before. Despite Hitler's promise to Hindenburg that the Nazis would support the Papen government, Goebbels unleashed bitter attacks on the Minister of the Interior and as early as July 9 Hitler went to Schleicher and complained bitterly of the government's policies. From the size of the crowds that turned out to see Hitler it was evident that the Nazis were gaining ground. In one day, July 27, he spoke to 60,000 persons in Brandenburg, to nearly as many in Potsdam, and that evening to 120,000 massed in the giant Grunewald Stadium in Berlin while outside an additional 100,000 heard his voice by loudspeaker.

The polling on July 31 brought a resounding victory for the National Socialist Party. With 13,745,000 votes, the Nazis won 230 seats in the Reichstag, making them easily the largest party in Parliament though still far short of a majority in a house of 608 members. The Social Democrats, no doubt because of the timidity shown by their leaders in Prussia, lost ten seats and were reduced to 133. The working class was swinging over to the Communists, who gained 12 seats and became the third largest party, with 89 members in the Reichstag. The Catholic Center increased its strength somewhat, from 68 to 73 seats, but the other middle-class parties and even Hugenberg's German National Party, the only one which had supported Papen in the election, were overwhelmed. Except for the Catholics, the middle and upper classes, it was evident, had gone over to the Nazis.

On August 2 Hitler took stock of his triumph at Tegernsee, near Munich, where he conferred with his party leaders. Since the last Reichstag elections two years before, the National Socialists had gained over seven million votes and increased their representation in Parliament from 107 to 230. In the four years since the 1928 elections, the Nazis had won some thirteen million new votes. Yet the majority which would sweep the party into power still eluded Hitler. He had won only 37 per cent of the total vote. The majority of Germans was still against him.

Far into the night he deliberated with his lieutenants. Goebbels recorded the results in his diary entry of August 2: "The Fuehrer faces difficult decisions. Legal? With the Center?" With the Center the Nazis could form a majority in the Reichstag. But to Goebbels this is "unthinkable." Still, he notes, "the Fuehrer comes to no final decision. The situation will take a little time to ripen."

But not much. Hitler, flushed with his victory, though it was less than decisive, was impatient. On August 4 he hurried to Berlin to see not Chancellor von Papan, but General von Schleicher, and, as Goebbels noted, "to present his demands. They will not be too moderate," he added. On August 5, at the Fuerstenberg barracks near Berlin, Hitler outlined his terms to General von Schleicher: the chancellorship for himself; and for his party, the premiership of Prussia, the Reich and Prussian Ministries of Interior, the Reich Ministries of Justice, Economy, and Aviation, and a new ministry for Goebbels, that of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda. As a sop to Schleicher, Hitler promised him the Defense Ministry. Furthermore, Hitler said he would demand an enabling act from the Reichstag authorizing him to rule by decree for a specified period; if it were refused, the Reichstag would be "sent home."

Hitler left the meeting convinced that he had won over Schleicher to his program and hurried south in good spirits to his mountain retreat on the Obersalzberg. Goebbels, always cynical in regard to the opposition and always distrustful of the political General, was not so sure. "It is well to be skeptical about further developments," he confided to his diary on August 6 after he had listened to the Leader's optimistic report of his meeting with Schleicher. Goebbels was sure of one thing, though: "Once we have the power we will never give it up. They will have to carry our dead bodies out of the ministries."

All was not as well as Hitler seemed to think. On August 8 Goebbels wrote: "Telephone call from Berlin. It is full of rumors. The whole party is ready to take over power. The S.A. men are leaving their places of work in order to make themselves ready. The party leaders are preparing for the great hour. If all goes well, fine. If things go badly there will be a terrible setback." The next day Strasser, Frick and Funk arrived at Obersalzberg with news that was not exactly encouraging. Schleicher was turning again, like a worm. He was now insisting that if Hitler got the chancellorship he must rule with the consent of the Reichstag. Funk reported that his business friends were worried about the prospects of a Nazi government. He had a message from Schacht confirming it. Finally, the Wilhelmstrasse, the trio told Hitler, was worried about a Nazi putsch.

This worry was not without foundation. Next day, August 10, Goebbels learned that in Berlin the S.A. was "in a state of armed readiness ... The S.A. is throwing an ever stronger ring around Berlin ... The WiIhelmstrasse is very nervous about it. But that is the point of our mobilization." On the following day the Fuehrer could stand the waiting no longer. He set out by motorcar for Berlin. He would make himself "scarce" there, Goebbels says, but on the other hand he would be ready when he was called. When the call did not come he himself requested to see the President. But first he had to see Schleicher and Papen.

This interview took place at noon on August 13. It was a stormy one. Schleicher had slid away from his position of a week before. He supported Papen in insisting that the most Hitler could hope for was the vice-chancellorship. Hitler was outraged. He must be Chancellor or nothing. Papen terminated the interview by saying he would leave the "final decision" up to Hindenburg. [iii]

Hitler retired in a huff to the nearby Kaiserhof. There at 3 P.M. a phone call came from the President's office. Someone -- probably Goebbels, judging from his diary -- asked, "Has a decision already been made? If so, there is no point in Hitler's coming over." The President, the Nazis were told, "wishes first to speak to Hitler."

The aging Field Marshal received the Nazi leader standing up and leaning on his cane in his study, thus setting the icy tone for the interview. For a man in his eighty-fifth year who only ten months before had suffered a complete mental relapse lasting more than a week, Hindenburg was in a surprisingly lucid frame of mind. He listened patiently while Hitler reiterated his demand for the chancellorship and full power. Qtto von Meissner, chief of the Presidential Chancellery, and Goering, who had accompanied Hitler, were the only witnesses to the conversation, and though Meissner is not a completely dependable source, his affidavit at Nuremberg is the only firsthand testimony in existence of what followed. It has a ring of truth.

Hindenburg replied that because of the tense situation he could not in good conscience risk transferring the power of government to a new party such as the National Socialists, which did not command a majority and which was intolerant, noisy and undisciplined.

At this point, Hindenburg, with a certain show of excitement, referred to several recent occurrences -- clashes between the Nazis and the police, acts of violence committed by Hitler's followers against those who were of a different opinion, excesses against Jews and other illegal acts. All these incidents had strengthened him in his conviction that there were numerous wild elements in the Party beyond control ... After extended discussion Hindenburg proposed to Hitler that he should declare himself ready to co-operate with the other parties, in particular with the Right and Center, and that he should give up the one-sided idea that he must have complete power. In co-operating with other parties, Hindenburg declared, he would be able to show what he could achieve and improve upon. If he could show positive results, he would acquire increasing and even dominating influence even in a coalition government. Hindenburg stated that this also would be the best way to eliminate the widespread fear that a National Socialist government would make ill use of its power and would suppress all other viewpoints and gradually eliminate them. Hindenburg stated that he was ready to accept Hitler and the representatives of his movement in a coalition government, the precise combination to be a matter of negotiation, but that he could not take the responsibility of giving exclusive power to Hitler alone ... Hitler was adamant, however, in refusing to put himself in the position of bargaining with the leaders of the other parties and in such manner to form a coalition government. [9]

The discussion, then, ended without agreement, but not before the old President, still standing, had delivered a stern lecture to the Nazi leader. In the words of the official communique issued immediately afterward, Hindenburg "regretted that Herr Hitler did not see himself in a position to support a national government appointed with the confidence of the Reich President, as he had agreed to do before the Reichstag elections." In the view of the venerable President, Hitler had broken his word, but let him beware of the future. "The President," the communique stated further, "gravely exhorted Herr Hitler to conduct the opposition on the part of the N.S. Party in a chivalrous manner, and to bear in mind his responsibility to the Fatherland and to the German people."
Site Admin
Posts: 28774
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:01 pm

Part 2 of 2

The communique giving Hindenburg's version of the meeting and insisting that Hitler had demanded "complete control of the State" was published in such a hurry that it caught Goebbels' propaganda machine napping and did much harm to Hitler's cause, not only among the general public but among the Nazis themselves. In vain did Hitler respond that he had not asked for "complete power" but only for the chancellorship and a few ministries. Hindenburg's word was generally accepted.

In the meantime, the mobilized storm troopers were chafing at the bit. Hitler called in their leaders and spoke to them that same evening. "It's a difficult task," Goebbels noted. "Who knows if their formations can be held together? Nothing is more difficult- than to tell victory-flushed troops that victory has been snatched out of their hand." Late that night the little Doktor sought consolation in the reading of the letters of Frederick the Great. Next day he raced off for a vacation on the beaches of the Baltic. "Great hopelessness reigns among the party comrades," he wrote. He declined to leave his room even to speak with them. "I don't want to hear about politics for at least a week. I want only sun, light, air and peace."

Hitler retired to the Obersalzberg to imbibe the same elements and ponder the immediate future. As Goebbels said, "the first big chance has been missed." Hermann Rauschning, the then Nazi leader in Danzig, found the Fuehrer brooding sullenly on his mountaintop. "We must be ruthless," Hitler told him, and launched into a tirade against Papen. But he had not lost hope. At times he spoke as if he were already Chancellor. "My task is more difficult than Bismarck's," he said. "I must first create the nation before even beginning to tackle the national tasks before us." But supposing the Nazis were suppressed by a military dictatorship under Papen and Schleicher? Hitler abruptly asked Rauschning whether Danzig, an independent city-state then under the protection of the League of Nations, had an extradition agreement with Germany. Rauschning did not at first understand the question, but it later became evident that Hitler was looking for a place that might serve as an asylum. [10] In his diary Goebbels noted "rumors that the Fuehrer is to be arrested." Yet even now, after his rebuff by the Reich President and the government of Papen and Schleicher, and despite his fears that his party might be outlawed, he was determined to stick to his path of "legality." He squelched all talk of a putsch by the S.A. Except for occasional spells of depression he remained confident that he would achieve his goal -- not by force and scarcely by winning a parliamentary majority, but by the means which had carried Schleicher and Papen to the top: by backstairs intrigue, a game that two could play.

It was not long before he gave an example. On August 25 Goebbels conferred with Hitler at Berchtesgaden and noted: "We have got into touch with the Center Party, if only to bring pressure on our opponents." Next day Goebbels was back in Berlin, where he found that Schleicher had already found out "about our feelers to the Center." On the following day he went to see the General just to make sure. He thought Schleicher appeared worried at the prospect of Hitler and the Catholic Center getting together, for between them they commanded an absolute majority in the Reichstag. As to Schleicher, Goebbels wrote: "I don't know what is genuine or false in him."

The contacts with the Center Party, though never intended, as Goebbels said, to be much more than a means of applying pressure on the Papen government, paid off in a farcical event which now occurred in the Reichstag and which marked the beginning of the end for the cavalryman Chancellor. When the chamber convened on August 30 the Centrists joined the Nazis in electing Goering President of the Reichstag. For the first time, then, a National Socialist was in the chair when the Reichstag reconvened on September 12 to begin its working session. Goering made the most of his opportunity. Chancellor von Papen had obtained in advance from the President a decree for the dissolution of the chamber -- the first time that the death warrant of the Reichstag had been signed before it met to transact business. But for this first working session he neglected to bring it along. He had with him instead a speech outlining the program of his government, having been assured that one of the Nationalist deputies, in agreement with most of the other parties, would object to a vote on the expected Communist motion for censure of the government. In this case a single objection from anyone of the 600-odd members was enough to postpone a vote.

When Ernst Torgler, the Communist leader, introduced his motion as an amendment to the order of the day, however, neither a Nationalist deputy nor any other rose to object. Finally Frick asked for a half hour's adjournment on behalf of the Nazis.

"The situation was now serious," Papen says in his memoirs, "and I had been caught unawares." He sent a messenger posthaste to the Chancellery to fetch the dissolution order.

In the meantime Hitler conferred with his parliamentary party group in the Reichstag President's Palace across the street. The Nazis were in a dilemma, and they were embarrassed. The Nationalists, they felt, had double-crossed them by not moving to postpone the vote. Now Hitler's party, in order to bring down the Papen government, would have to vote with the Communists on a Communist motion. Hitler decided to swallow the pill of such an unsavory association. He ordered his deputies to vote for the Communist amendment and overthrow Papen before the Chancellor could dissolve the Reichstag. To accomplish this, of course, Goering, as presiding officer, would have to pull some fast and neat tricks of parliamentary procedure. The former air ace, a man of daring and of many abilities, as he was to prove on a larger stage later, was equal to the occasion.

When the session reconvened Papen appeared with the familiar red dispatch case which, by tradition, carried the dissolution order he had so hastily retrieved. But when he requested the floor to read it, the President of the Reichstag managed not to see him, though Papen, by now red-faced, was on his feet brandishing the paper for all in the assembly to see. All but Goering. His smiling face was turned the other way. He called for an immediate vote. By now Papen's countenance, according to eyewitnesses, had turned from red to white with anger. He strode up to the President's rostrum and plunked the dissolution order on his desk. Goering took no notice of it and ordered the vote to proceed. Papen, followed by his ministers, none of whom were members of the chamber, stalked out. The deputies voted: 513 to 32 against the government. Only then did Goering notice the piece of paper which had been thrust so angrily on his desk. He read it to the assembly and ruled that since it had been countersigned by a Chancellor who already had been voted out of office by a constitutional majority it had no validity.

Which elements in Germany gained and which lost by this farcical incident, and how much, was not immediately clear. That the dandy, Papen, had been made a joke of there was no doubt; but then he had always been somewhat of a joke, even, as Ambassador Francois-Poncet said, to his friends. That the Reichstag had shown that the overwhelming majority of Germans opposed Hindenburg's hand-picked presidential government was clear enough. But in the process had it not further sapped public confidence in the parliamentary system? As for the Nazis, had they not again shown themselves to be not only irresponsible but ready to connive even with the Communists to achieve their ends? Moreover, were the citizens not weary of elections and did the Nazis not face losing votes in the inevitable new election, the fourth within the year? Gregor Strasser and even Frick thought that they did, and that such a loss might be disastrous to the party.

Hitler, however, Goebbels reported that same evening, "was beside himself with joy. Again he has made a clear, unmistakable decision."


The Reichstag quickly recognized its dissolution, and new elections were set for November 6. For the Nazis they presented certain difficulties. For one thing, as Goebbels noted, the people were tired of political speeches and propaganda. Even the party workers, as he admitted in his diary of October 15, had "become very nervous as the result of these everlasting elections. They are overworked ... " Also there were financial difficulties. Big business and big finance were swinging behind Papen, who had given them certain concessions. They were becoming increasingly distrustful, as Funk had warned, of Hitler's refusal to cooperate with Hindenburg and with what seemed to them his growing radicalism and his tendency to work even with the Communists, as the Reichstag episode had shown. Goebbels took notice of this in his diary of October 15: "Money is extraordinarily hard to obtain. All the gentlemen of 'Property and Education' are standing by the government."

A few days before the election the Nazis had joined the Communists in staging a strike of the transport workers in Berlin, a strike disavowed by the trade unions and the Socialists. This brought a further drying up of financial sources among the businessmen just when the Nazi Party needed funds most to make a whirlwind finish in the campaign. Goebbels noted lugubriously on November 1: "Scarcity of money has become a chronic illness with us. We lack enough to really carry out a big campaign. Many bourgeois circles have been frightened off by our participation in the strike. Even many of our party comrades are beginning to have their doubts." On November 5, the eve of the elections: "Last attack. Desperate drive of the party against defeat. We succeed in getting 10,000 marks at the last minute. This will be thrown into the campaign Saturday afternoon. We have done everything that could be done. Now let fate decide."

Fate, and the German electorate, decided on November 6 a number of things, none of them conclusive for the future of the crumbling Republic. The Nazis lost two million votes and 34 seats in the Reichstag, reducing them to 196 deputies. The Communists gained three quarters of a million votes and the Social Democrats lost the same number, with the result that the Communist seats rose from 89 to 100 and the Socialist seats dropped from 133 to 121. The German National Party, the sole one which had backed the government, won nearly a million additional votes -- obviously from the Nazis -- and now had 52 seats instead of 37. Though the National Socialists were still the largest party in the country, the loss of two million votes was a severe setback. For the first time the great Nazi tide was ebbing, and from a point far short of a majority. The legend of invincibility had been shattered. Hitler was in a weaker position to bargain for power than he had been since July.

Realizing this, Papen put aside what he calls his "personal distaste" for Hitler and wrote him a letter on November 13 inviting him to "discuss the situation." But Hitler made so many conditions in his reply that Papen abandoned all hope of obtaining an understanding with him. The Nazi leader's intransigence did not surprise the breezy, incompetent Chancellor, but a new course which his friend and mentor, Schleicher, now proposed did surprise him. For the slippery kingmaker had come to the conclusion that Papen's usefulness, like that of Bruening before him, had come to an end. New plans were sprouting in his fertile mind. His good friend Papen must go. The President must be left completely free to deal with the political parties, especially with the largest. He urged Papen's resignation, and on November 17 Papen and his cabinet resigned. Hindenburg sent immediately for Hitler.

Their meeting on November 19 was less frigid than that of August 13. This time the President offered chairs and allowed his caller to remain for over an hour. Hindenburg presented Hitler with two choices: the chancellorship if he could secure a workable majority in the Reichstag for a definite program, or the vice-chancellorship under Papen in another presidential cabinet that would rule by emergency decrees. Hitler saw the President again on the twenty-first and he also exchanged several letters with Meissner. But there was no agreement. Hitler could not get a workable majority in Parliament. Though the Center Party agreed to support him on condition that he would not aspire to dictatorship, Hugenberg withheld the co-operation of the Nationalists. Hitler therefore resumed his demand for the chancellorship of a presidential government, but this the President would not give him. If there was to be a cabinet governing by decree Hindenburg preferred his friend Papen to head it. Hitler, he said in a letter on his behalf dispatched by Meissner, could not be given such a post "because such a cabinet is bound to develop into a party dictatorship... . I cannot take the responsibility for this before my oath and my conscience." [11]

The old Field Marshal was more prophetic on the first point than on the second. As for Hitler, once more he had knocked on the door of the Chancellery, had seen it open a crack only to be slammed shut in his face.

This was just what Papen had expected, and when he and Schleicher went to see Hindenburg on the evening of December 1 he was sure that he would be reappointed Chancellor. Little did he suspect what the scheming General had been up to. Schleicher had been in touch with Strasser and had suggested that if the Nazis would not come into a Papen government perhaps they would join a cabinet in which he himself were Chancellor. Hitler was asked to come to Berlin for consultations with the General, and according to one version widely publicized in the German press and later accepted by most historians, the Fuehrer actually took the night train to Berlin from Munich but was hauled off in the dead of the night by Goering at lena and spirited away to Weimar for a meeting of the top Nazi leaders. Actually the Nazi version of this incident is, surprisingly, probably the more accurate. Goebbels' diary for November 30 recounts that a telegram came for Hitler asking him to hurry to Berlin, but that he decided to let Schleicher wait while he conferred with his comrades at Weimar, where he was scheduled to open the campaign for the Thuringian elections. At this conference, attended by the Big Five leaders, Goering, Goebbels, Strasser, Frick and Hitler, on December I, there was considerable disagreement. Strasser, supported by Frick, urged at least Nazi toleration of a Schleicher government, though he himself preferred joining it. Goering and Goebbels argued strenuously against such a course and Hitler sided with them. Next day Hitler advised a certain Major Ott, whom Schleicher had sent to him, to counsel the General not to take the chancellorship, but it was too late.

Papen had been blandly unaware of the intrigue which Schleicher was weaving behind his back. At the beginning of the meeting with the President on December I he had confidently outlined his plans for the future. He should continue as Chancellor, rule by decree and let the Reichstag go hang for a while until he could "amend the constitution." In effect, Papen wanted "amendments" which would take the country back to the days of the empire and re-establish the rule of the conservative classes. At his Nuremberg trial and in his memoirs he admitted, as indeed he did to the Field Marshal, that his proposals involved "a breach of the present constitution by the President," but he assured Hindenburg that "he might be justified in placing the welfare of the nation above his oath to the constitution," as, he added, Bismarck once had done "for the sake of the country." [13]

To Papen's great surprise, Schleicher broke in to object. He played upon the aged President's obvious reluctance to violate his oath to uphold the constitution, if it could be avoided -- and the General thought it could. He believed a government which could command a majority in the Reichstag was possible if he himself headed it. He was sure he could detach Strasser and at least sixty Nazi deputies from Hitler. To this Nazi fraction he could add the middle-class parties and the Social Democrats. He even thought the trade unions would support him.

Hindenburg was shocked at such an idea and, turning to Papen, asked him then and there to go ahead with the forming of a new government. "Schleicher," says Papen, "appeared dumfounded." They had a long argument after they had left the President but could reach no agreement. As they parted, Schleicher, in the famous words addressed to Luther as he set out for the fateful Diet of Worms, said to Papen, "Little Monk, you have chosen a difficult path."

How difficult it was Papen learned the next morning at nine o'clock at a cabinet meeting which he had called.

Schleicher rose [Papen says] and declared that there was no possibility of carrying out the directive that the President had given me. Any attempt to do so would reduce the country to chaos. The police and the armed services could not guarantee to maintain transport and supply services in the event of a general strike, nor would they be able to ensure law and order in the event of a civil war. The General Staff had made a study in this respect and he had arranged for Major Ott [its author] to place himself at the Cabinet's disposal and present a report. [13]

Whereupon the General produced the major. If Schleicher's remarks had shaken Papen, the conveniently timed report of Major Eugen Ott (who would later be Hitler's ambassador to Tokyo) demolished him. Ott simply stated that "the defense of the frontiers and the maintenance of order against both Nazis and Communists was beyond the strength of the forces at the disposal of the federal and state governments. It is therefore recommended that the Reich government should abstain from declaring a state of emergency." [14]

To Papen's pained surprise, the German Army which had once sent the Kaiser packing and which more recently, at Schleicher's instigation, had eliminated General Groener and Chancellor Bruening, was now cashiering him. He went immediately to Hindenburg with the news, hop iog that the President would fire Schleicher as Minister of Defense and retain Chancellor Papen -- and indeed proposing that he do so.

"My dear Papen," the stout old President replied, "you will not think much of me if I change my mind. But I am too old and have been through too much to accept the responsibility for a civil war. Our only hope is to let Schleicher try his luck."

"Two great tears," Papen swears, rolled down Hindenburg's cheeks. A few hours later, as the deposed Chancellor was clearing his desk, a photograph of the President arrived for him with the inscription, "Ich hatt' einen Kameraden!" The next day the President wrote him in his own handwriting of the "heavy heart" he felt in relieving him of his post and reiterating that his confidence in him "remains unshaken." That was true and would shortly be proved.

On December 2 Kurt von Schleicher became Chancellor, the first general to occupy that post since General Count Georg Leo von Caprivi de Caprara de Montecuccoli, who had succeeded Bismarck in 1890. Schleicher's tortuous intrigues had at last brought him to the highest office at a moment when the depression, which he little understood, was at its height; when the Weimar Republic, which he had done so much to undermine, was already crumbling; when no one any longer trusted him, not even the President, whom he had manipulated so long. His days on the heights, it seemed obvious to almost everyone but himself, were strictly numbered. The Nazis were sure of it. Goebbels' diary for December 2 included this entry: "Schleicher is named Chancellor. He won't last long."

Papen thought so too. He was smarting from wounded vanity and thirsting for revenge against his "friend and successor," as he calls him in his memoirs. To get Papen out of the way Schleicher offered him the Paris embassy, but he declined. The President, Papen says, wanted him to remain in Berlin "within reach." That was the most strategic place to weave his own web of intrigues against the archintriguer. Busy and agile as a spider, Papen set to work. As the strife-ridden year of 1932 approached its end, Berlin was full of cabals, and of cabals within cabals. Besides those of Papen and Schleicher, there was one at the President's Palace, where Hindenburg's son, Oskar, and his State Secretary, Meissner, held sway behind the throne. There was one at the Kaiserhof hotel, where Hitler and the men around him were plotting not only for power but against each other. Soon the webs of intrigue became so enmeshed that by New Year's, 1933, none of the cabalists was sure who was double-crossing whom. But it would not take long for them to find out.


"I stayed in power only fifty-seven days," Schleicher remarked once in the hearing of the attentive French ambassador, "and on each and every one of them I was betrayed fifty-seven times. Don't ever speak to me of 'German loyalty'!" [15] His own career and doings had certainly made him an authority on the subject.

He began his chancellorship by making Gregor Strasser an offer to become Vice-Chancellor of Germany and Premier of Prussia. Having failed to get Hitler to join his government, Schleicher now tried to split the Nazis by this bait to Strasser. There was some reason to believe he might succeed. Strasser was the Number Two man in the party, and among the leftwing element, which really believed in a national socialism, he was more popular than Hitler. As leader of the Party Organization he was in direct touch with all the provincial and local leaders and seemingly had earned their loyalty. He was now convinced that Hitler had brought the movement to a dead end. The more radical followers were going over to the Communists. The party itself was financially bankrupt. In November Fritz Thyssen had warned that he could make no further contributions to the movement. There were simply no funds to meet the payroll of thousands of party functionaries or to maintain the SA., which alone cost two and a half million marks a week. The printers of the extensive Nazi press were threatening to stop the presses unless they received payment on overdue bills. Goebbels had touched on this in his diary on November 11: "The financial situation of the Berlin organization is hopeless. Nothing but debts and obligations." And in December he was regretting that party salaries would have to be cut. Finally, the provincial elections in Thuringia on December 3, the day Schleicher called in Strasser, revealed a loss of 40 per cent in the Nazi vote. It had become obvious, at least to Strasser, that the Nazis would never obtain office through the ballot.

He therefore urged Hitler to abandon his "all or nothing" policy and take what power he could by joining in a coalition with Schleicher. Otherwise, he feared, the party would fall to pieces. He had been pressing this line for some months, and Goebbels' diary from midsummer to December is full of bitter references to Strasser's "disloyalty" to Hitler.

The showdown came on December 5 at a meeting of the party leaders at the Kaiserhof in Berlin. Strasser demanded that the Nazis at least "tolerate" the Schleicher government, and he was backed by Frick, who headed the Nazi bloc in the Reichstag, many of whose members feared losing their seats and their deputy's salary if Hitler provoked any more elections. Goering and Goebbels strenuously opposed Strasser and won Hitler to their side. Hitler would not "tolerate" the Schleicher regime, but, it developed, he was still ready to "negotiate" with it. For this task, however, he appointed Goering -- he had already heard, Goebbels reveals, of Strasser's private talk with the Chancellor two days before. On the seventh, Hitler and Strasser had a conversation at the Kaiserhof that degenerated into a bitter quarrel. Hitler accused his chief lieutenant of trying to stab him in the back, oust him from his leadership of the party and break up the Nazi movement. Strasser heatedly denied this, swore that he had been loyal but accused Hitler of leading the party to destruction. Apparently he left unsaid a number of things that had been swelling within him since 1925. Back at his room in the Excelsior Hotel he put them all in writing in a letter to Hitler which ended with his resignation of all his offices in the party.

The letter, which reached Hitler on the eighth, fell, as Goebbels' diary says, "like a bombshell." The atmosphere in the Kaiserhof was that of a graveyard. "We are all dejected and depressed," Goebbels noted. It was the greatest blow Hitler had suffered since he rebuilt the party in 1925. Now, on the threshold of power, his principal follower had deserted him and threatened to smash all he had built up in seven years.

In the evening [Goebbels wrote), the Fuehrer comes to our home. It is difficult to be cheerful. We are all depressed, above all because of the danger of the whole party falling apart, and all our work having been in vain ... Telephone call from Dr. Ley. The situation in the party worsens from hour to hour. The Fuehrer must return immediately to the Kaiserhof.

Goebbels was called to join him there at two o'clock in the morning. Strasser had given his story to the morning newspapers, which were just then appearing on the streets. Hitler's reaction was described by Goebbels:

Treason! Treason! Treason!

For hours the Fuehrer paces up and down in the hotel room. He is embittered and deeply wounded by this treachery. Finally he stops and says: If the party once falls to pieces I'll put an end to it all in three minutes with a pistol shot.

The party did not fall apart and Hitler did not shoot himself. Strasser might have achieved both these ends, which would have radically altered the course of history, but at the crucial moment he himself gave up. Frick, with Hitler's permission, had been searching all Berlin for him, it having been agreed that the quarrel must somehow be patched over to rescue the party from disaster. But Strasser, fed up with it all, had taken a train south for a vacation in sunny Italy. Hitler, always at his best when he detected weakness in an opponent, struck swiftly and hard. The Political Organization which Strasser had built up was taken over by the Fuehrer himself, with Dr. Ley, the Gauleiter from Cologne, as his staff chief. Strasser's friends were purged and all party leaders convoked to Berlin to sign a new declaration of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, which they did.

The wily Austrian had once more extricated himself from a tight fix that might easily have proved disastrous. Gregor Strasser, whom so many had thought to be a greater man than Hitler, was quickly destroyed. "A dead man," Goebbels called him in his diary notation of December 9. This was to become literally true within two years when Hitler decided to settle accounts.


On December 10, a week after he had been tripped by General von Schleicher, Franz von Papen began to spin his own web of intrigues. Foll lowing a speech that evening to the exclusive Herrenklub, from whose aristocratic and wealthy members he had recruited his short-lived cabinet, he had a private talk with Baron Kurt von Schroeder, the Cologne banker who had contributed funds to the National Socialist Party. He suggested that the financier arrange for him to see Hitler on the sly. In his memoirs Papen claims that it was Schroeder who made the suggestion but admits that he agreed. By a strange coincidence, Wilhelm Keppler, Hitler's economic adviser and one of his contact men with business circles, made the same suggestion on behalf of the Nazi leader.

The two men, who had been at such odds only a few weeks before, met in what they hoped was the greatest of secrecy at the home of Schroeder in Cologne on the morning of January 4. Papen was surprised when a photographer snapped him at the entrance, but gave it little thought until the next day. Hitler was accompanied by Hess, Himmler and Keppler, but he left his aides in the parlor and retired to Schroeder's study, where he was closeted for two hours with Papen and their host. Though the conversation started badly, with Hitler complaining bitterly of the way Papen had treated the Nazis while Chancellor, it soon developed to a point that was to prove fateful for both men and their country. This was a crucial moment for the Nazi chief. By a superhuman effort he had kept the party intact after Strasser's defection. He had traveled up and down the country addressing three and four meetings a day, exhorting the party leaders to keep together behind him. But Nazi spirits remained at a low ebb, and the party was financially bankrupt. Many were saying it was finished. Goebbels had reflected the general feeling in his diary the last week of the year: "1932 has brought us eternal bad luck ... The past was difficult and the future looks dark and gloomy; all prospects and hopes have quite disappeared. "

Hitler therefore was not nearly in so favorable a position to bargain for power as he had been during the previous summer and autumn. But neither was Papen; he was out of office. In their adversity, their minds met.

The terms on which they met are a matter of dispute. In his trial at Nuremberg and in his memoirs Papen blandly maintained that, ever loyal to Schleicher, he merely suggested to Hitler that he join the General's government. In view, however, of Papen's long record of deceit, of his quite natural desire to present himself in the most favorable light at Nuremberg and in his book, and of subsequent events, it seems certain that Schroeder's quite different account, which was given at Nuremberg, is the more truthful one. The banker maintained that what Papen suggested was the replacement of the Schleicher government by a Hitler-Papen government in which the two of them would be coequal. But:

Hitler ... said if he were made Chancellor it would be necessary for him to be the head of the government but that supporters of Papen could go into his government as ministers when they were willing to go along with him in his policy of changing many things. These changes included elimination of Social Democrats, Communists and Jews from leading positions in Germany and the restoration of order in public life. Von Papen and Hitler reached agreement in principle ... They agreed that further details would have to be worked out and that this could be done in Berlin or some other convenient place. [16]

And in the greatest secrecy, of course. But, to the consternation of Papen and Hitler, the newspapers in Berlin came out with flaming headlines on the morning of January 5 over accounts of the Cologne meeting, accompanied by editorial blasts against Papen for his disloyalty to Schleicher. The wily General had placed his spies with his usual acumen; one of them, Papen later learned, had been that photographer who had snapped his picture as he entered Schroeder's home.

Besides his deal with Papen, Hitler got two other things out of the Cologne meeting which were of great value to him. He learned from the ex-Chancellor that Hindenburg had not given Schleicher power to dissolve the Reichstag. This meant that the Nazis, with the help of the Communists, could overthrow the General any time they wished. Secondly, out of the meeting came an understanding that West German business interests would take over the debts of the Nazi Party. Two days after the Cologne talks Goebbels noted "pleasing progress in political developments" but still complained of the "bad financial situation." Ten days later, on January 16, he reported that the financial position of the party had "fundamentally improved overnight."


In the meantime Chancellor Schleicher went about -- with an optimism that was myopic, to say the least -- trying to establish a stable government. On December 15 he made a fireside broadcast to the nation begging his listeners to forget that he was a general and assuring them that he was a supporter "neither of capitalism nor of socialism" and that to him "concepts such as private economy or planned economy have lost their terrors." His principal task, he said, was to provide work for the unemployed and get the country back on its economic feet. There would be no tax increase, no more wage cuts. In fact, he was canceling the last cut in wages and relief which Papen had made. Furthermore, he was ending the agricultural quotas which Papen had established for the benefit of the large landowners and instead was launching a scheme to take 800,000 acres from the bankrupt Junker estates in the East and give them to 25,000 peasant families. Also prices of such essentials as coal and meat would be kept down by rigid control.

This was a bid for the support of the very masses which he had hitherto opposed or disregarded, and Schleicher followed it up with conversations with the trade unions, to whose leaders he gave the impression that he envisaged a future in which organized labor and the Army would be twin pillars of the nation. But labor was not to be taken in by a man whom it profoundly mistrusted, and it declined its co-operation.

The industrialists and the big landowners, on the other hand, rose up in arms against the new Chancellor's program, which they clamored was nothing less than Bolshevism. The businessmen were aghast at Schleicher's sudden friendliness to the unions. The owners of large estates were infuriated at his reduction of agricultural protection and livid at the prospect of his breaking up the bankrupt estates in the East. On January 12 the Landbund, the association of the larger farmers, bitterly attacked the government, and its leaders, two of whom were Nazis, called on the President with their protests. Hindenburg, now a Junker landowner himself, called his Chancellor to account. Schleicher's answer was to threaten to publish a secret Reichstag report on the Osthilfe (Eastern Relief) loans -- a scandal which, as everyone knew, implicated hundreds of the oldest Junker families, who had waxed fat on unredeemed government "loans," and which indirectly involved even the President himself, since the East Prussian estate which had been presented to him had been illegally deeded to his son to escape inheritance taxes.

Despite the uproar among the industrialists and landowners and the coolness of the trade unions, Schleicher remained unaccountably confident that all was going well. On New Year's Day, 1933, he and his cabinet called on the aged President, who proceeded to express his gratitude that "the gravest hardships are overcome and the upward path is now open to us." On January 4, the day Papen and Hitler were conferring in Cologne, the Chancellor arranged for Strasser, who had returned from his holiday in the Italian sun, to see Hindenburg. The former Number Two Nazi, when he saw the President a few days later, expressed willingness to join the Schleicher cabinet. This move threw consternation into the Nazi camp. which at the moment was pitched in the tiny state of Lippe, where Hitler and all his principal aides were fighting furiously to score a local election success in order to improve the Fuehrer's bargaining position with Papen. Goebbels recounts the arrival of Goering at midnight of January 13 with the bad news of Strasser and of how the party chiefs had sat up all night discussing it, agreeing that if he took office it would be a grave setback to the party.

Schleicher thought so too, and on January 15 when Kurt von Schuschnigg, then the Austrian Minister of Justice, visited him he assured him that "Herr Hitler was no longer a problem, his movement had ceased to be a political danger, and the whole problem had been solved. it was a thing of the past." [17]

But Strasser did not come into the cabinet. nor did the leader of the Nationalist Party. Hugenberg, who on the day before, the fourteenth, had assured Hindenburg that he would. Both men soon turned to Hitler, Strasser to be turned down cold and Hugenberg with more success. On January 15, at the very moment when Schleicher was gloating to Schuschnigg about the end of Hitler, the Nazis scored a local success in the elections of little Lippe. It was not much of an achievement. The total vote was only 90,000, of which the Nazis obtained 38,000, or 39 per cent, an increase of some 17 per cent over their previous poll. But, led b) Goebbels, the Nazi leaders beat the drums over their "victory," and strangely enough it seems to have impressed a number of conservatives. including the men behind Hindenburg, of whom the principal ones were State Secretary Meissner and the President's son, Oskar.

On the evening of January 22, these two gentlemen stole out of the presidential quarters, grabbed a taxi, as Meissner says, to avoid being noticed and drove to the suburban home of a hitherto unknown Nazi by the name of Joachim von Ribbentrop, who was a friend of Papen -- they had served together on the Turkish front during the war. There they met Papen, Hitler, Goering and Frick. According to Meissner, Oskar von Hindenburg had been opposed to any truck with the Nazis up to this fateful evening. Hitler may have known this; at any rate he insisted on having a talk with him "under four eyes," and to Meissner's astonishment young Hindenburg assented and withdrew with Hitler to another room, where they were closeted together for an hour. What Hitler said to the President's son, who was not noted for a brilliant mind or a strong character, has never been revealed. It was generally believed in Nazi circles that Hitler made both offers and threats, the latter consisting of hints to disclose to the public Oskar's involvement in the Osthilfe scandal and the tax evasion on the Hindenburg estate. One can only judge the offers by the fact that a few months later five thousand tax-free acres were added to the Hindenburg family property at Neudeck and that in August 1934 Oskar was jumped from colonel to major general in the Army.

At any rate there is no doubt that Hitler made a strong impression on the President's son. "In the taxi on the way back," Meissner later recounted in his affidavit at Nuremberg, "Oskar von Hindenburg was extremely silent, and the only remark which he made was that it could not be helped-the Nazis had to be taken into the government. My impression was that Hitler had succeeded in getting him under his spell."

It only remained for Hitler to cast the spell over the father. This admittedly was more difficult, for whatever the old Field Marshal's deficiencies of mind, age had not softened his granite character. More difficult, but not impossible. Papen, busy as a beaver, was working daily on the old man. And it was easy to see that, for all his cunning, Schleicher was fast stumbling to a fall. He had failed to win over the Nazis or to split them. He could get no backing from the Nationalists, the Center or the Social Democrats.

On January 23, therefore, Schleicher went to see Hindenburg, admitted that he could not find a majority in the Reichstag and demanded its dissolution and emergency powers to rule by decree under Article 48 of the constitution. According to Meissner, the General also asked for the "temporary elimination" of the Reichstag and frankly acknowledged that he would have to transform his government into "a military dictatorship." [18] Despite all his devious plotting, Schleicher was back where Papen had been early in December, but their roles were now reversed. Then Papen had demanded emergency powers and Schleicher had opposed him and proposed that he himself form a majority government with the backing of the Nazis. Now the General was insisting on dictatorial rule. and the sly fox Papen was assuring the Field Marshal that he himself could corral Hitler for a government that would have a majority in the Reichstag. Such are the ups and downs of rogues and intriguers!

Hindenburg, reminding Schleicher of the reasons he had given on December 2 for upsetting Papen, informed him that they still held good. He bade him return to his task of finding a Reichstag majority. Schleicher was finished, and he knew it. So did everyone else who was in on the secret. Goebbels, one of the few in on it, commented the next day: "Schleicher will fall any moment, he who brought down so many others."

His end came finally and officially on January 28, when he called on the President and tendered the resignation of his government. "I have already one foot in the grave, and I am not sure that [ shall not regret this action in heaven later on," Hindenburg told the disillusioned General. "After this breach of trust, sir, I am not sure that you will go to heaven," Schleicher replied, and quickly faded out of German history. [19]

At noon of the same day Papen was entrusted by the President to explore the possibilities of forming a government under Hitler "within the terms of the constitution." For a week this sly, ambitious man had been flirting with the idea of double-crossing Hitler after all and becoming Chancellor again of a presidential government backed by Hugenberg. On January 27 Goebbels noted: "There is still the possibility that Papen will again be made Chancellor." The day before, Schleicher had sent the Commander in Chief of the Army, General von Hammerstein, to the President to warn him against selecting Papen. In the maze of intrigues with which Berlin was filled, Schleicher was at the last minute plumping for Hitler to replace him. Hindenburg assured the Army commander he had no intention of appointing "that Austrian corporal."

The next day, Sunday, January 29, was a crucial one, with the conspirators playing their last desperate hands and filling the capital with the most alarming and conflicting rumors, not all of them groundless by any means. Once more Schleicher dispatched the faithful Hammerstein to stir up the brew. The Army chief sought out Hitler to warn him once again that Papen might leave him out in the cold and that it might be wise for the Nazi leader to ally himself with the fallen Chancellor and the Army. Hitler was not much interested. He returned to the Kaiserhof to have cakes and coffee with his aides and it was at this repast that Goering appeared with the tidings that the Fuehrer would be named Chancellor on the morrow.

That night the Nazi chieftains were celebrating the momentous news at Goebbels' home on the Reichskanzlerplatz when another emissary from Schleicher arrived with startling news. This was Werner von Alvensleben, a man so given to conspiracy that when one did not exist he invented one. He informed the jubilant party that Schleicher and Hammerstein had put the Potsdam garrison on an alarm footing and were preparing to bundle the old President off to Neudeck and establish a military dictatorship. This was a gross exaggeration. It is possible that the two generals were playing with the idea but most certain that they had not taken any action. The Nazis, however, became hysterical with alarm. Goering hastened as fast as his bulk allowed across the square to alert the President and Papen. What Hitler did he later described himself.

My immediate counteraction to this planned [military] putsch was to send for the Commander of the Berlin S.A., Count von Helldorf, and through him to alert the whole S.A. of Berlin. At the same time I instructed Major Wecke of the Police, whom I knew I could trust, to prepare for a sudden seizure of the Wilhelmstrasse by six police battalions ... Finally I instructed General von Blomberg (who had been selected as Reichswehr Minister-elect) to proceed at once, on arrival in Berlin at 8 A.M. on January 30, direct to the Old Gentleman to be sworn in, and thus to be in a position, as Commander in Chief of the Reichswehr, to suppress any possible attempts at a coup d'etat. [20]

Behind the backs of Schleicher and the Commander in Chief of the Army -- everything in this frenzied period was being done behind someone's back -- General Werner von Blomberg had been summoned, not by Hitler, who was not yet in power, but by Hindenburg and Papen from Geneva, where he was representing Germany at the Disarmament Conference, to become the new Minister of Defense in the Hitler-Papen cabinet. He was a man who, as Hitler later said, already enjoyed his confidence and who had come under the spell of his chief of staff in East Prussia, Colonel Walter von Reichenau, an outspoken Nazi sympathizer. When Blomberg arrived in Berlin, early on the morning of January 30, he was met at the station by two Army officers with conflicting orders for him. A Major von Kuntzen, Hammerstein's adjutant, commanded him to report to the Commander in Chief of the Army. Colonel Oskar von Hindenburg, adjutant to his father, ordered the bewildered Blomberg to report to the President of the Republic. Blomberg went to the President, was immediately sworn in as Defense Minister, and thus was given the authority not only to put down any attempted coup by the Army but to see that the military supported the new government, which a few hours later would be named. Hitler was always grateful to the Army for accepting him at that crucial moment. Not long afterward he told a party rally, "If in the days of our revolution the Army had not stood on our side, then we would not be standing here today." It was a responsibility which would weigh heavily on the officer corps in the days to come and which, in the end, they would more than regret.

On this wintry morning of January 30, 1933, the tragedy of the Weimar Republic, of the bungling attempt for fourteen frustrating years of the Germans to make democracy work, had come to an end-but not before, at the very last moment, as the final curtain fell, a minor farce took place among the motley group of conspirators gathered to bury the republican regime. Papen later described it.

At about half-past ten the members of the proposed Cabinet met in my house and walked across the garden to the Presidential palace, where we waited in Meissner's office. Hitler immediately renewed his complaints about not being appointed Commissioner for Prussia. He felt that this severely restricted his power. I told him ... the Prussian appointment could be left until later. To this, Hitler replied that if his powers were to be thus limited, he must insist on new Reichstag elections.

This produced a completely new situation and the debate became heated. Hugenberg, in particular, objected to the idea, and Hitler tried to pacify him by stating that he would make no changes in the Cabinet, whatever the result might be ... By this time it was long past eleven o'clock, the time that had been appointed for.our interview with the President, and Meissner asked me to end our discussion, as Hindenburg was not prepared to wait any longer.

We had had such a sudden clash of opinions that I was afraid our new coalition would break up before it was born ... At last we were shown in to the President and I made the necessary formal introductions. Hindenburg made a short speech about the necessity of full co-operation in the interests of the nation, and we were then sworn in. The Hitler cabinet had been formed. [21]

In this way, by way of the back door, by means of a shabby political deal with the old-school reactionaries he privately detested, the former tramp from Vienna, the derelict of the First World War, the violent revolutionary, became Chancellor of the great nation.

To be sure, the National Socialists were in a decided minority in the government; they had only three of the eleven posts in the cabinet and except for the chancellorship these were not key positions. Frick was Minister of the Interior but he did not control the police as this minister did in most European countries -- the police in Germany were in the hands of the individual states. The third Nazi cabinet member was Goering, but no specific office could be found for him; he was named Minister without Portfolio, with the understanding that he would become Minister of Aviation as soon as Germany had an air force. Little noticed was the naming of Goering to be also Minister of the Interior of Prussia, an office that controlled the Prussian police; for the moment public attention was focused on the Reich cabinet. Goebbels' name, to the surprise of many, did not appear in it; momentarily he was left out in the cold.

The important ministries went to the conservatives, who were sure they had lassoed the Nazis for their own ends: Neurath continued as Minister of Foreign Affairs; Blomberg was Minister of Defense; Hugenberg took over the combined Ministries of Economy and Agriculture; Seldte, the Stahlhelm leader, was made Minister of Labor; the other ministries were left in the hands of nonparty "experts" whom Papen had appointed eight months before. Papen himself was Vice-Chancellor of the Reich and Premier of Prussia, and Hindenburg had promised him that he would not receive the Chancellor except in the company of the Vice-Chancellor. This unique position, he was sure, would enable him to put a brake on the radical Nazi leader. But even more: This government was Papen's conception, his creation, and he was confident that with the help of the staunch old President, who was his friend, admirer and protector, and with the knowing support of his conservative colleagues, who outnumbered the obstreperous Nazis eight to three, he would dominate it.

But this frivolous, conniving politician did not know Hitler -- no one really knew Hitler -- nor did he comprehend the strength of the forces which had spewed him up. Nor did Papen, or anyone else except Hitler, quite realize the inexplicable weakness, that now bordered on paralysis, of existing institutions -- the Army, the churches, the trade unions, the political parties-or of the vast non-Nazi middle class and the highly organized proletariat all of which, as Papen mournfully observed much later, would "give up without a fight."

No class or group or party in Germany could escape its share of responsibility for the abandonment of the democratic Republic and the advent of Adolf Hitler. The cardinal error of the Germans who opposed Nazism was their failure to unite against it. At the crest of their popular strength, in July 1932, the National Socialists had attained but 37 per cent of the vote. But the 63 per cent of the German people who expressed their opposition to Hitler were much too divided and shortsighted to combine against a common danger which they must have known would overwhelm them unless they united, however temporarily, to stamp it out. The Communists, at the behest of Moscow, were committed to the last to the silly idea of first destroying the Social Democrats, the Socialist trade unions and what middle-class democratic forces there were, on the dubious theory that although this would lead to a Nazi regime it would be only temporary and would bring inevitably the collapse of capitalism, after which the Communists would take over and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat. Fascism, in the Bolshevik Marxist view, represented the last stage of a dying capitalism; after that, the Communist deluge!

Fourteen years of sharing political power in the Republic, of making all the compromises that were necessary to maintain coalition governments, had sapped the strength and the zeal of the Social Democrats until their party had become little more than an opportunist pressure organization, determined to bargain for concessions for the trade unions on which their strength largely rested. It might be true, as some Socialists said, that fortune had not smiled on them: the Communists, unscrupulous and undemocratic, had split the working class; the depression had further hurt the Social Democrats, weakening the trade unions and losing the party the support of millions of unemployed, who in their desperation turned either to the Communists or the Nazis. But the tragedy of the Social Democrats could not be explained fully by bad luck. They had had their chance to take over Germany in November 1918 and to found a state based on what they had always preached: social democracy. But they lacked the decisiveness to do so. Now at the dawn of the third decade they were a tired, defeatist party, dominated by old, well-meaning but mostly mediocre men. Loyal to the Republic they were to the last, but in the end too confused, too timid to take the great risks which alone could have preserved it, as they had shown by their failure to act when Papen turned out a squad of soldiers to destroy constitutional government in Prussia.

Between the Left and the Right, Germany lacked a politically powerful middle class, which in other countries -- in France, in England, in the United States -- had proved to be the backbone of democracy. In the first year of the Republic the middle-class parties, the Democrats, the People's Party, the Center, had polled a total of twelve million votes, only two million less than the two Socialist groups. But thereafter their strength had waned as their supporters gravitated toward Hitler and the Nationalists. In 1919, the Democrats had elected 74 members to the Reichstag; by 1932 they held just 2 seats. The strength of the People's Party fell from 62 seats in 1920 to II seats in 1932. Only the Catholic Center retained its voting strength to the end. In the first republican elections in 1919 the Center had 71 deputies in the Reichstag; in 1932 it had 70. But even more than the Social Democrats, the Center Party since Bismarck's time had been largely opportunist, supporting whatever government made concessions to its special interests. And though it seemed to be loyal to the Republic and to subscribe to its democracy, its leaders, as we have seen, were negotiating with the Nazis to give Hitler the chancellorship before they were outbid by Papen and the Nationalists.

If the German Republic was bereft of a middle-of-the-road political class, it also lacked that stability provided in many other countries by a truly conservative party. The German Nationalists at their peak in 1924 had polled six million votes and sent 103 deputies to the Reichstag, in which they formed the second largest party. But then, as at almost all times during the Weimar regime, they refused to take a responsible position either in the government or in opposition, the only exception being their participation in two short-lived cabinets in the Twenties. What the German Right, whose vote went largely to the Nationalists, wanted was an end to the Republic and a return to an imperialist Germany in which all of their old privileges would be restored. Actually the Republic had treated the Right both as individuals and as classes with the utmost generosity and, considering their aim, with exceptional tolerance. It had, as we have seen, allowed the Army to maintain a state within a state, the businessmen and bankers to make large profits, the Junkers to keep their uneconomic estates by means of government loans that were never repaid and seldom used to improve their land. Yet this generosity had won neither their gratitude nor their loyalty to the Republic. With a narrowness, a prejudice, a blindness which in retrospect seem inconceivable to this chronicler, they hammered away at the foundations of the Republic until, in alliance with Hitler, they brought it down.

In the former Austrian vagabond the conservative classes thought they had found a man who, while remaining their prisoner, would help them attain their goals. The destruction of the Republic was only the first step. What they then wanted was an authoritarian Germany which at home would put an end to democratic "nonsense" and the power of the trade unions and in foreign affairs undo the verdict of 1918, tear off the shackles of Versailles, rebuild a great Army and with its military power restore the country to its place in the sun. These were Hitler's aims too. And though he brought what the conservatives had lacked, a mass following, the Right was sure that he would remain in its pocket -- was he not outnumbered eight to three in the Reich cabinet? Such a commanding position also would allow the conservatives, or so they thought, to achieve their ends without the barbarism of unadulterated Nazism. Admittedly they were decent, God-fearing men, according to their lights.

The Hohenzollern Empire had been built on the armed triumphs of Prussia, the German Republic on the defeat by the Allies after a great war. But the Third Reich owed nothing to the fortunes of war or to foreign influence. It was inaugurated in peacetime, and peacefully, by the Germans themselves, out of both their weaknesses and their strengths. The Germans imposed the Nazi tyranny on themselves. Many of them, perhaps a majority, did not quite realize it at that noon hour of January 30, 1933, when President Hindenburg, acting in a perfectly constitutional manner, entrusted the chancellorship to Adolf Hitler.

But they were soon to learn.



i. Equivalent to a major general in the U.S. Army.

ii. "Scorn and rage boil within me," Groener wrote Schleicher a few months later (November 29), "because I have been deceived in you, my old friend, disciple, adopted son." (See Gordon A. Craig, "Reichswehr and National Socialism: The Policy of Wilhelm Groener," Political Science Quarterly, June 1948.)

iii. Papen, in his memoirs, does not mention Schleicher's presence at this meeting, but it is clear from other sources that he was there. It is an important point, in view of subsequent events.
Site Admin
Posts: 28774
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:24 pm

Part 1 of 3


THE THEORY WHICH HITLER had evolved in his vagabond days in Vienna and never forgotten -- that the way to power for a revolutionary movement was to ally itself with some of the powerful institutions in the State -- had now worked out in practice pretty much as he had calculated. The President, backed by the Army and the conservatives, had made him Chancellor. His political power, though great, was, however, not complete. It was shared with these three sources of authority, which had put him into office and which were outside and, to some extent, distrustful of the National Socialist movement.

Hitler's immediate task, therefore, was to quickly eliminate them from the driver's seat, make his party the exclusive master of the State and then with the power of an authoritarian government and its police carry out the Nazi revolution. He had been in office scarcely twenty-four hours when he made his first decisive move, springing a trap on his gullible conservative "captors" and setting in motion a chain of events which he either originated or controlled and which at the end of six months would bring the complete Nazification of Germany and his own elevation to dictator of the Reich, unified and defederalized for the first time in German history.

Five hours after being sworn in, at 5 P.M. on January 30, 1933, Hitler held his first cabinet meeting. The minutes of the session, which turned up at Nuremberg among the hundreds of tons of captured secret documents, reveal how quickly and adroitly Hitler, aided by the crafty Goering, began to take his conservative colleagues for a ride. [i] [1] Hindenburg had named Hitler to head not a presidential cabinet but one based on a majority in the Reichstag. However, the Nazis and the Nationalists, the only two parties represented in the government, had only 247 seats out of 583 in Parliament and thus lacked a majority. To attain it they needed the backing of the Center Party with its 70 seats. In the very first hours of the new government Hitler had dispatched Goering to talk with the Centrist leaders, and now he reported to the cabinet that the Center was demanding "certain concessions." Goering therefore proposed that the Reichstag be dissolved and new elections held, and Hitler agreed. Hugenberg, a man of wooden mind for all his success in business, objected to taking the Center into the government but on the other hand opposed new elections, well knowing that the Nazis, with the resources of the State behind them, might win an absolute majority at the polls and thus be in a position to dispense with his own services and those of his conservative friends. He proposed simply suppressing the Communist Party; with its 100 seats eliminated, the Nazis and the Nationalists would have a majority. But Hitler would not go so far at the moment, and it was finally agreed that the Chancellor himself would confer with the Center Party leaders on the following morning and that if the talks were fruitless the cabinet would then ask for new elections.

Hitler easily made them fruitless. At his request the Center leader, Monsignor Kaas, submitted as a basis for discussion a list of questions which added up to a demand that Hitler promise to govern constitutionally. But Hitler, tricking both Kaas and his cabinet members, reported to the latter that the Center had made impossible demands and that there was no chance of agreement. He therefore proposed that the President be asked to dissolve the Reichstag and call new elections. Hugenberg and Papen were trapped, but after a solemn assurance from the Nazi leader that the cabinet would remain unchanged however the elections turned out, they agreed to go along with him. New elections were set for March 5.

For the first time -- in the last relatively free election Germany was to have -- the Nazi Party now could employ all the vast resources of the government to win votes. Goebbels was jubilant. "Now it will be easy," he wrote in his diary on February 3, "to carry on the fight, for we can call on all the resources of the State. Radio and press are at our disposal. We shall stage a masterpiece of propaganda. And this time, naturally, there is no lack of money." [2]

The big businessmen, pleased with the new government that was going to put the organized workers in their place and leave management to run its businesses as it wished, were asked to cough up. This they agreed to do at a meeting on February 20 at Goering's Reichstag President's Palace, at which Dr. Schacht acted as host and Goering and Hitler laid down the line to a couple of dozen of Germany's leading magnates, including Krupp von Bohlen, who had become an enthusiastic Nazi overnight, Bosch and Schnitzler of I. G. Farben, and Voegler, head of the United Steel Works. The record of this secret meeting has been preserved.

Hitler began a long speech with a sop to the industrialists. "Private enterprise," he said, "cannot be maintained in the age of democracy; it is conceivable only if the people have a sound idea of authority and personality ... All the worldly goods we possess we owe to the struggle of the chosen ... We must not forget that all the benefits of culture must be introduced more or less with an iron fist." He promised the businessmen that he would "eliminate" the Marxists and restore the Wehrmacht (the latter was of special interest to such industries as Krupp, United Steel and I. G. Farben, which stood to gain the most from rearmament). "Now we stand before the last election," Hitler concluded, and he promised his listeners that "regardless of the outcome, there will be no retreat." If he did not win, he would stay in power "by other means ... with other weapons." Goering, talking more to the immediate point, stressed the necessity of "financial sacrifices" which "surely would be much easier for industry to bear if it realized that the election of March fifth will surely be the last one for the next ten years, probably even for the next hundred years."

All this was made clear enough to the assembled industrialists and they responded with enthusiasm to the promise of the end of the infernal elections, of democracy and disarmament. Krupp, the munitions king, who, according to Thyssen, had urged Hindenburg on January 29 not to appoint Hitler, jumped up and expressed to the Chancellor the "gratitude" of the businessmen "for having given us such a clear picture." Dr. Schacht then passed the hat. "I collected three million marks," he recalled at Nuremberg. [3]


On January 31, 1933, the day after Hitler was named Chancellor, Goebbels wrote in his diary: "In a conference with the Fuehrer we lay down the line for the fight against the Red terror. For the moment we shall abstain from direct countermeasures. The Bolshevik attempt at revolution must first burst into flame. At the proper moment we shall strike."

Despite increasing provocation by the Nazi authorities there was no sign of a revolution, Communist or Socialist, bursting into flames as the electoral campaign got under way. By the beginning of February the Hitler government had banned all Communist meetings and shut down the Communist press. Social Democrat rallies were either forbidden or broken up by the S.A. rowdies, and the leading Socialist newspapers were continually suspended. Even the Catholic Center Party did not escape the Nazi terror. Stegerwald, the leader of the Catholic Trade Unions, was beaten by Brownshirts when he attempted to address a meeting, and Bruening was obliged to seek police protection at another rally after S.A. troopers had wounded a number of his followers. Altogether fifty-one anti-Nazis were listed as murdered during the electoral campaign, and the Nazis claimed that eighteen of their own number had been done to death.

Goering's key position as Minister of the Interior of Prussia now began to be noticed. Ignoring the restraining hand of Papen, who as Premier of Prussia was supposedly above him, Goering removed hundreds of republican officials and replaced them with Nazis, mostly S.A. and S.S. officers. He ordered the police to avoid "at all costs" hostility to the S.A., the S.S. and the Stahlhelm but on the other hand to show no mercy to those who were "hostile to the State." He urged the police "to make use of firearms" and warned that those who didn't would be punished. This was an outright call for the shooting down of all who opposed Hitler by the police of a state (Prussia) which controlled two thirds of Germany. Just to make sure that the job would be ruthlessly done, Goering on February 22 established an auxiliary police force of 50,000 men, of whom 40,000 were drawn from the ranks of the S.A. and the S.S. and the rest from the Stahlhelm. Police power in Prussia was thus largely carried out by Nazi thugs. It was a rash German who appealed to such a "police" for protection against the Nazi terrorists.

And yet despite all the terror the "Bolshevik revolution" which Goebbels, Hitler and Goering were looking for failed to "burst into flames." If it could not be provoked, might it not have to be invented?

On February 24, Goering's police raided the Karl Liebknecht Haus, the Communist headquarters in Berlin. It had been abandoned some weeks before by the Communist leaders, a number of whom had already gone underground or quietly slipped off to Russia. But piles of propaganda pamphlets had been left in the cellar and these were enough to enable Goering to announce in an official communique that the seized "documents" proved that the Communists were about to launch the revolution. The reaction of the public and even of some of the conservatives in the government was one of skepticism. It was obvious that something more sensational must be found to stampede the public before the election took place on March 5.


On the evening of February 27, four of the most powerful men in Germany were gathered at two separate dinners in Berlin. In the exclusive Herrenklub in the Vosstrasse, Vice-Chancellor von Papen was entertaining President von Hindenburg. Out at Goebbels' home, Chancellor Hitler had arrived to dine en famille. According to Goebbels, they were relaxing, playing music on the gramophone and telling stories. "Suddenly," he recounted later in his diary, "a telephone call from Dr. Hanfstaengl: 'The Reichstag is on fire!' I am sure he is telling a tall tale and decline even to mention it to the Fuehrer." [4]

But the diners at the Herrenklub were just around the corner from the Reichstag.

Suddenly [Papen later wrote] we noticed a red glow through the windows and heard sounds of shouting in the street. One of the servants came hurrying up to me and whispered: 'The Reichstag is on fire!" which I repeated to the President. He got up and from the window we could see the dome of the Reichstag looking as though it were illuminated by searchlights. Every now and again a burst of flame and a swirl of smoke blurred the outline. [5]

The Vice-Chancellor packed the aged President home in his own car and hurried off to. the burning building. In the meantime Goebbels, according to his account, had had second thoughts about Putzi Hanfstaengl's "tall tale," had made some telephone calls and learned that the Reichstag was in flames. Within a few seconds he and his Fuehrer were racing "at sixty miles an hour down the Charlottenburger Chaussee toward the scene of the crime."

That it was a crime, a Communist crime, they proclaimed at once on arrival at the fire. Goering, sweating and puffing and quite beside himself with excitement, was already there ahead of them declaiming to heaven, as Papen later recalled, that "this is a Communist crime against the new government." To the new Gestapo chief, Rudolf Diels, Goering shouted, "This is the beginning of the Communist revolution! We must not wait a minute. We will show no mercy. Every Communist official must be shot, where he is found. Every Communist deputy must this very night be strung Up." [6]

The whole truth about the Reichstag fire will probably never be known. Nearly all those who knew it are now dead, most of them slain by Hitler in the months that followed. Even at Nuremberg the mystery could not be entirely unraveled, though there is enough evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the Nazis who planned the arson and carried it out for their own political ends.

From Goering's Reichstag President's Palace an underground passage, built to carry the central heating system, ran to the Reichstag building. Through this tunnel Karl Ernst, a former hotel bellhop who had become the Berlin S.A. leader, led a small detachment of storm troopers on the night of February 27 to the Reichstag, where they scattered gasoline and self-igniting chemicals and then made their way quickly back to the palace the way they had come. At the same time a half-witted Dutch Communist with a passion for arson, Marinus van der Lubbe, had made his way into the huge, darkened and to him unfamiliar building and set some small fires of his own. This feeble-minded pyromaniac was a godsend to the Nazis. He had been picked up by the S.A. a few days before after having been overheard in a bar boasting that he had attempted to set fire to several public buildings and that he was going to try the Reichstag next.

The coincidence that the Nazis had found a demented Communist arsonist who was out to do exactly what they themselves had determined to do seems incredible but is nevertheless supported by the evidence. The idea for the fire almost certainly originated with Goebbels and Goering. Hans Gisevius, an official in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior at the time, testified at Nuremberg that "it was Goebbels who first thought of setting the Reichstag on fire," and Rudolf Diels, the Gestapo chief, added in an affidavit that "Goering knew exactly how the fire was to be started" and had ordered him "to prepare, prior to the fire, a list of people who were to be arrested immediately after it." General Franz Halder, Chief of the German General Staff during the early part of World War II, recalled at Nuremberg how on one occasion Goering had boasted of his deed.

At a luncheon on the birthday of the Fuehrer in 1942 the conversation turned to the topic of the Reichstag building and its artistic value. I heard with my own ears when Goering interrupted the conversation and shouted: "The only one who really knows about the Reichstag is I, because I set it on fire!" With that he slapped his thigh with the flat of his hand. [ii]

Van der Lubbe, it seems clear, was a dupe of the Nazis. He was encouraged to try to set the Reichstag on fire. But the main job was to be done -- without his knowledge, of course -- by the storm troopers. Indeed, it was established at the subsequent trial at Leipzig that the Dutch half-wit did not possess the means to set so vast a building on fire so quickly. Two and a half minutes after he entered, the great central hall was fiercely burning. He had only his shirt for tinder. The main fires, according to the testimony of experts at the trial, had been set with considerable quantities of chemicals and gasoline. It was obvious that one man could not have carried them into the building, nor would it have been possible for him to start so many fires in so many scattered places in so short a time.

Van der Lubbe was arrested on the spot and Goering, as he afterward told the court, wanted to hang him at once. The next day Ernst Torgler, parliamentary leader of the Communists, gave himself up to the police when he heard that Goering had implicated him, and a few days later Georgi Dimitroff, a Bulgarian Communist who later became Prime Minister of Bulgaria, and two other Bulgarian Communists, Popov and Tanev, were apprehended by the police. Their subsequent trial before the Supreme Court at Leipzig turned into something of a fiasco for the Nazis and especially for Goering, whom Dimitroff, acting as his own lawyer, easily provoked into making a fool of himself in a series of stinging cross-examinations. At one point, according to the court record, Goering screamed at the Bulgarian, "Out with you, you scoundrel!"

JUDGE [to the police officer]: Take him away.

DIMITROFF [being led away by the police]: Are you afraid of my questions, Herr Ministerpraesident?

GOERING: You wait until we get you outside this court, you scoundrel!

Torgler and the three Bulgarians were acquitted, though the German Communist leader was immediately taken into "protective custody," where he remained until his death during the second war. Van der Lubbe was found guilty and decapitated. [7]

The trial, despite the subserviency of the court to the Nazi authorities, cast a great deal of suspicion on Goering and the Nazis, but it came too late to have any practical effect. For Hitler had lost no time in exploiting the Reichstag fire to the limit.

On the day following the fire, February 28, he prevailed on President Hindenburg to sign a decree "for the Protection of the People and the State" suspending the seven sections of the constitution which guaranteed individual and civil liberties. Described as a "defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state," the decree laid down that:

Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searchers, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

In addition, the decree authorized the Reich government to take over complete power in the federal states when necessary and imposed the death sentence for a number of crimes, including "serious disturbances of the peace" by armed persons. [8]

Thus with one stroke Hitler was able not only to legally gag his opponents and arrest them at his will but, by making the trumped-up Communist threat "official," as it were, to throw millions of the middle class and the peasantry into a frenzy of fear that unless they voted for National Socialism at the elections a week hence, the Bolsheviks might take over. Some four thousand Communist officials and a great many Social Democrat and liberal leaders were arrested, including members of the Reichstag, who, according to the law, were immune from arrest. This was the first experience Germans had had with Nazi terror backed up by the government. Truckloads of storm troopers roared through the streets all over Germany, breaking into homes, rounding up victims and carting them off to S.A. barracks, where they were tortured and beaten. The Communist press and political meetings were suppressed; the Social Democrat newspapers and many liberal journals were suspended and the meetings of the democratic parties either banned or broken up. Only the Nazis and their Nationalist allies were permitted to campaign unmolested.

With all the resources of the national and Prussian governments at their disposal and with plenty of money from big business in their coffers, the Nazis carried on an election propaganda such as Germany had never seen before. For the first time the State-run radio carried the voices of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels to every corner of the land. The streets, bedecked with swastika flags, echoed to the tramp of the storm troopers. There were mass rallies, torchlight parades, the din of loud-speakers in the squares. The billboards were plastered with flamboyant Nazi posters and at night bonfires lit up the hills. The electorate was in turn cajoled with promises of a German paradise, intimidated by the brown terror in the streets and frightened by "revelations" about the Communist "revolution." The day after the Reichstag fire the Prussian government issued a long statement declaring that it had found Communist "documents" proving:

Government buildings, museums, mansions and essential plants were to be burned down ... Women and children were to be sent in front of terrorist groups ... The burning of the Reichstag was to be the signal for a bloody insurrection and civil war ... It has been ascertained that today was to have seen throughout Germany terrorist acts against individual persons, against private property, and against the life and limb of the peaceful population, and also the beginning of general civil war.

Publication of the "documents proving the Communist conspiracy" was promised, but never made. The fact, however, that the Prussian government itself vouched for their authenticity impressed many Germans.

The waverers were also impressed perhaps by Goering's threats. At Frankfurt on March 3, on the eve of the elections, he shouted:

Fellow Germans, my measures will not be crippled by any judicial thinking ... I don't have to worry about justice; my mission is only to destroy and exterminate, nothing more! ... Certainly, I shall use the power of the State and the police to the utmost, my dear Communists, so don't draw any false conclusions; but the struggle to the death, in which my fist will grasp your necks, I shall lead with those down there -- the Brownshirts. [9]

Almost unheard was the voice of former Chancellor Bruening, who also spoke out that day, proclaiming that his Center Party would resist any overthrow of the constitution, demanding an investigation of the suspicious Reichstag fire and calling on President Hindenburg "to protect the oppressed against their oppressors." Vain appeal! The aged President kept his silence. It was now time for the people, in their convulsion, to speak.


On March 5, 1933, the day of the last democratic elections they were to know during Hitler's life, they spoke with their ballots. Despite all the terror and intimidation, the majority of them rejected Hitler. The Nazis led the polling with 17,277,180 votes -- an increase of some five and a half million, but it comprised only 44 per cent of the total vote. A clear majority still eluded Hitler. All the persecution and suppression of the previous weeks did not prevent the Center Party from actually increasing its vote from 4,230,600 to 4,424,900; with its ally, the Catholic Bavarian People's Party, it obtained a total of five and a half million votes. Even the Social Democrats held their position as the second largest party, polling 7,181,629 votes, a drop of only 70,000. The Communists lost a million supporters but still polled 4,848,058 votes. The Nationalists, led by Papen and Hugenberg, were bitterly disappointed with their own showing, a vote of 3,136,760, a mere 8 per cent of the votes cast and a gain of less than 200,000.

Still, the Nationalists' 52 seats, added to the 288 of the Nazis, gave the government a majority of 16 in the Reichstag. This was enough, perhaps, to carry on the day-to-day business of government but it was far short of the two-thirds majority which Hitler needed to carry out a new, bold plan to establish his dictatorship by consent of Parliament.


The plan was deceptively simple and had the advantage of cloaking the seizure of absolute power in legality. The Reichstag would be asked to pass an "enabling act" conferring on Hitler's cabinet exclusive legislative powers for four years. Put even more simply, the German Parliament would be requested to turn over its constitutional functions to Hitler and take a long vacation. But since this necessitated a change in the constitution, a two-thirds majority was needed to approve it.

How to obtain that majority was the main order of business at a cabinet meeting on March 15, 1933, the minutes of which were produced at Nuremberg. [10] Part of the problem would be solved by the "absence" of the eighty-one Communist members of the Reichstag. Goering felt sure that the rest of the problem could be easily disposed of "by refusing admittance to a few Social Democrats." Hitler was in a breezy, confident mood. After all, by the decree of February 28, which he had induced Hindenburg to sign the day after the Reichstag fire, he could arrest as many opposition deputies as was necessary to assure his two-thirds majority. There was some question about the Catholic Center, which was demanding guarantees, but the Chancellor was certain that this party would go along with him. Hugenberg, the Nationalist leader, who had no desire to put all the power in Hitler's hands, demanded that the President be authorized to participate in preparing laws decreed by the cabinet under the enabling act. Dr. Meissner, the State Secretary in the Presidential Chancellery, who had already committed his future to the Nazis, replied that "the collaboration of the Reich President would not be necessary," He was quick to realize that Hitler had no wish to be tied down by the stubborn old President, as the republican chancellors had been.

But Hitler wished, at this stage, to make a grandiose gesture to the aged Field Marshal and to the Army and the nationalist conservatives as well, and in so doing link his rowdy, revolutionary regime with Hindenburg's venerable name and with all the past military glories of Prussia. To accomplish this he and Goebbels, who on March 13 became Minister of Propaganda, conceived a master stroke. Hitler would open the new Reichstag, which he was about to destroy, in the Garrison Church at Potsdam, the great shrine of Prussianism, which aroused in so many Germans memories of imperial glories and grandeur, for here lay buried the bones of Frederick the Great, here the Hohenzollern kings had worshiped, here Hindenburg had first come in 1866 on a pilgrimage when he returned as a young Guards officer from the Austro-Prussian War, a war which had given Germany its first unification.

The date chosen for the ceremonial opening of the first Reichstag of the Third Reich, March 21, was significant too, for it fell on the anniversary of the day on which Bismarck had opened the first Reichstag of the Second Reich in 1871. As the old field marshals, generals and admirals from imperial times gathered in their resplendent uniforms in the Garrison Church, led by the former Crown Prince and Field Marshal von Mackensen in the imposing dress and headgear of the Death's-Head Hussars, the shades of Frederick the Great and the Iron Chancellor hovered over the assembly.

Hindenburg was visibly moved, and at one point in the ceremony Goebbels, who was staging the performance and directing the broadcasting of it to the nation, observed -- and noted in his diary -- that the old Field Marshal had tears in his eyes. Flanked by Hitler, who appeared ill at ease in his formal cutaway morning coat, the President, attired in field-gray uniform with the grand cordon of the Black Eagle, and carrying a spiked helmet in one hand and his marshal's baton in the other, had marched slowly down the aisle, paused to salute the empty seat of Kaiser Wilhelm II in the imperial gallery, and then in front of the altar had read a brief speech giving his blessings to the new Hitler government.

May the old spirit of this celebrated shrine permeate the generation of today, may it liberate us from selfishness and party strife and bring us together in national self-consciousness to bless a proud and free Germany, united in herself.

Hitler's reply was shrewdly designed to play on the sympathies and enlist the confidence of the Old Order so glitteringly represented.

Neither the Kaiser nor the government nor the nation wanted the war. It was only the collapse of the nation which compelled a weakened race to take upon itself, against its most sacred convictions, the guilt for this war.

And then, turning to Hindenburg, who sat stiffly in his chair a few feet in front of him:

By a unique unheaval in the last few weeks our national honor has been restored and, thanks to your understanding, Herr Generalfeldmarschall, the union between the symbols of the old greatness and the new strength has been celebrated. We pay you homage. A protective Providence places you over the new forces of our nation. [11]

Hitler, with a show of deep humility toward the President he intended to rob of his political power before the week was up, stepped down, bowed low to Hindenburg and gripped his hand. There in the flashing lights of camera bulbs and amid the clicking of movie cameras, which Goebbels had placed along with microphones at strategic spots, was recorded for the nation and the world to see, and to hear described, the solemn handclasp of the German Field Marshal and the Austrian corporal uniting the new Germany with the old.

"After the dazzling pledge made by Hitler at Potsdam," the French ambassador, who was present at the scene, later wrote, "how could such men -- Hindenburg and his friends, the Junkers and monarchist barons, Hugenberg and his German Nationalists, the officers of the Reichswehr -- how could they fail to dismiss the apprehension with which they had begun to view the excesses and abuses of his party? Could they now hesitate to grant him their entire confidence, to meet all his requests, to concede the full powers he claimed?" [12]

The answer was given two days later, on March 23, in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin, where the Reichstag convened. Before the house was the so-called Enabling Act -- the "Law for Removing the Distress of People and Reich (Gesetz zur Behebung der Not von Yolk und Reich)," as it was officially called. Its five brief paragraphs took the power of legislation, including control of the Reich budget, approval of treaties with foreign states and the initiating of constitutional amendments, away from Parliament and handed it over to the Reich cabinet for a period of four years. Moreover, the act stipulated that the laws enacted by the cabinet were to be drafted by the Chancellor and "might deviate from the constitution." No laws were to "affect the position of the Reichstag" -- surely the cruelest joke of all -- and the powers of the President remained "undisturbed." [13]

Hitler reiterated these last two points in a speech of unexpected restraint to the deputies assembled in the ornate opera house, which had long specialized in the lighter operatic works and whose aisles were now lined with brown-shirted storm troopers, whose scarred bully faces indicated that no nonsense would be tolerated from the representatives of the people.

The government [Hitler promised] will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures. Neither the existence of the Reichstag nor that of the Reichsrat is menaced. The position and rights of the President remain unaltered ... The separate existence of the federal states will not be done away with. The rights of the churches will not be diminished and their relationship to the State will not be modified. The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one.

The fiery Nazi leader sounded quite moderate and almost modest; it was too early in the life of the Third Reich for even the opposition members to know full well the value of Hitler's promises. Yet one of them, Otto Wells, leader of the Social Democrats, a dozen of whose deputies had been "detained" by the police, rose -- amid the roar of the storm troopers outside yelling, "Full powers, or else!" -- to defy the would-be dictator. Speaking quietly and with great dignity, Wells declared that the government might strip the Socialists of their power but it could never strip them of their honor.

We German Social Democrats pledge ourselves solemnly in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No enabling act can give you the power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible.

Furious, Hitler jumped to his feet, and now the assembly received a real taste of the man.

You come late, but yet you come! [he shouted] ... You are no longer needed ... The star of Germany will rise and yours will sink. Your death knell has sounded.... I do not want your votes. Germany will be free, but not through you! [Stormy applause.)

The Social Democrats, who bore a heavy responsibility for the weakening of the Republic, would at least stick to their principles and go down -- this one time -- defiantly. But not the Center Party, which once had successfully defied the Iron Chancellor in the Kulturkampf. Monsignor Kaas, the party leader, had demanded a written promise from Hitler that he would respect the President's power of veto. But though promised before the voting, it was never given. Nevertheless the Center leader rose to announce that his party would vote for the bill. Bruening remained silent. The vote was soon taken: 441 for, and 84 (all Social Democrats) against. The Nazi deputies sprang to their feet shouting and stamping deliriously and then, joined by the storm troopers, burst into the Horst Wessel song, which soon would take its place alongside "Deutschland ueber Alles" as one of the two national anthems:

Raise high the flags! Stand rank on rank together. Storm troopers march with steady, quiet tread....

Thus was parliamentary democracy finally interred in Germany. Except for the arrests of the Communists and some of the Social Democratic deputies, it was all done quite legally, though accompanied by terror. Parliament had turned over its constitutional authority to Hitler and thereby committed suicide, though its body lingered on in an embalmed . state to the very end of the Third Reich, serving infrequently as a sounding board for some of Hitler's thunderous pronunciamentos, its members henceforth hand-picked by the Nazi Party, for there were to be no more real elections. It was this Enabling Act alone which formed the legal basis for Hitler's dictatorship. From March 23, 1933, on, Hitler was the dictator of the Reich, freed of any restraint by Parliament or, for all practical purposes, by the weary old President. To be sure, much remained to be done to bring the entire nation and all its institutions completely under the Nazi heel, though, as we shall see, this also was accomplished with breathless speed and with crudeness, trickery and brutality.

"The street gangs," in the words of Alan Bullock, "had seized control of the resources of a great modern State, the gutter had come to power." But -- as Hitler never ceased to boast -- "legally," by an overwhelming vote of Parliament. The Germans had no one to blame but themselves.

Site Admin
Posts: 28774
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:24 pm

Part 2 of 3

One by one, Germany's most powerful institutions now began to surrender to Hitler and to pass quietly, unprotestingly out of existence.

The states, which had stubbornly maintained their separate powers throughout German history, were the first to fall. On the evening of March 9, two weeks before the passage of the Enabling Act, General von Epp, on orders from Hitler and Frick and with the help of a few storm troopers, turned out the government of Bavaria and set up a Nazi regime. Within a week Reich Commissars were appointed to take over in the other states, with the exception of Prussia, where Goering was already firmly in the saddle. On March 31, Hitler and Frick, using the Enabling Act for the first time, promulgated a law dissolving the diets of all states except Prussia and ordering them reconstituted on the basis of the votes cast in the last Reichstag election. Communist seats were not to be filled. But this solution lasted only a week. The Chancellor, working at feverish haste, issued a new law on April 7, appointing Reich Governors (Reichsstaathaelter) in all the states and empowering them to appoint and remove local governments, dissolve the diets, and appoint and dismiss state officials and judges. Each of the new governors was a Nazi and they were "required" to carry out "the general policy laid down by the Reich Chancellor."

Thus, within a fortnight of receiving full powers from the Reichstag, Hitler had achieved what Bismarck, Wilhelm II and the Weimar Republic had never dared to attempt: he had abolished the separate powers of the historic states and made them subject to the central authority of the Reich, which was in his hands. He had, for the first time in German history, really unified the Reich by destroying its age-old federal character. On January 30, 1934, the first anniversary of his becoming Chancellor, Hitler would formally complete the task by means of a Law for the Reconstruction of the Reich. "Popular assemblies" of the states were abolished, the sovereign powers of the states were transferred to the Reich, all state governments were placed under the Reich government and the state governors put under the administration of the Reich Minister of the Interior.14 As this Minister, Frick, explained it, "The state governments from now on are merely administrative bodies of the Reich."

The preamble to the law of January 30, 1934, proclaimed that it was "promulgated with the unanimous vote of the Reichstag." This was true, for by this time all the political parties of Germany except the Nazis had been quickly eliminated.

It cannot be said that they went down fighting. On May 19, 1933, the Social Democrats -- those who were not in jail or in exile -- voted in the Reichstag without a dissenting voice to approve Hitler's foreign policy. Nine days before, Goering's police had seized the party's buildings and newspapers and confiscated its property. Nevertheless, the Socialists still tried to appease Hitler. They denounced their comrades abroad who were attacking the Fuehrer. On June 19 they elected a new party committee, but three days later Frick put an end to their attempts to compromise by dissolving the Social Democratic Party as "subversive and inimical to the State." Paul Lobe, the surviving leader, and several of his party members in the Reichstag were arrested. The Communists, of course, had already been suppressed.

This left the middle-class parties, but not for long. The Catholic Bavarian People's Party, whose government had been kicked out of office by the Nazi coup on March 9, announced its own dissolution on July 4, and its al1y, the Center Party, which had defied Bismarck so strenuously and been a bulwark of the Republic, fol1owed suit the next day, leaving Germany for the first time in the modern era without a Catholic political party -- a fact which did not discourage the Vatican from signing a concordat with Hitler's government a fortnight later. Stresemann's old party, the People's Party, committed hara-kiri on the Fourth of July; the Democrats (Staatspartei) had already done so a week before.

And what of Hitler's partner in government, the German National Party, without whose support the former Austrian corporal could never have come legally to power? Despite its closeness to Hindenburg, the Army, the Junkers and big business and the debt owed to it by Hitler, it went the way of all other parties and with the same meekness. On June 21 the police and the storm troopers took over its offices throughout the country, and on June 29 Hugenberg, the bristling party leader, who had helped boost Hitler into the Chancellery but six months before, resigned from the government and his aides "voluntarily" dissolved the party.

The Nazi Party alone remained, and on July 14 a law decreed:

The National Socialist German Workers' Party constitutes the only political party in Germany.

Whoever undertakes to maintain the organizational structure of another political party or to form a new political party will be punished with penal servitude up to three years or with imprisonment of from six months to three years, if the deed is not subject to a greater penalty according to other regulations. [15]

The one-party totalitarian State had been achieved with scarcely a ripple of opposition or defiance, and within four months after the Reichstag had abdicated its democratic responsibilities.

The free trade unions, which, as we have seen, once had crushed the fascist Kapp putsch by the simple means of declaring a general strike, were disposed of as easily as the political parties and the states -- though not until an elaborate piece of trickery had been practiced on them. For half a century May Day had been the traditional day of celebration for the German -- and European -- worker. To lull the workers and their leaders before it struck, the Nazi government proclaimed May Day, 1933, as a national holiday, officially named it the "Day of National Labor" and prepared to celebrate it as it had never been celebrated before. The trade-union leaders were taken in by this surprising display of friendliness toward the working class by the Nazis and enthusiastically co-operated with the government and the party in making the day a success. Labor leaders were flown to Berlin from all parts of Germany, thousands of banners were unfurled acclaiming the Nazi regime's solidarity with the worker, and out at Tempelhof Field Goebbels prepared to stage the greatest mass demonstration Germany had ever seen. Before the massive rally, Hitler himself received the workers' delegates, declaring, "You will see how untrue and unjust is the statement that the revolution is directed against the German workers. On the contrary." Later in his speech to more than 100,000 workers at the airfield Hitler pronounced the motto, "Honor work and respect the worker!" and promised that May Day would be celebrated in honor of German labor "throughout the centuries."

Late that night Goebbels, after describing in his most purple prose the tremendous enthusiasm of the workers for this May Day celebration which he had so brilliantly staged, added a curious sentence in his diary: "Tomorrow we shall occupy the trade-union buildings. There will be little resistance." [iii] [16]

That is what happened. On May 2 the trade-union headquarters throughout the country were occupied, union funds confiscated, the unions dissolved and the leaders arrested. Many were beaten and lodged in concentration camps. Theodor Leipart and Peter Grassmann, the chairmen of the Trade Union Confederation, had openly pledged themselves to cooperate with the Nazi regime. No matter, they were arrested. "The Leiparts and Grassmanns," said Dr. Robert Ley, the alcoholic Cologne party boss who was assigned by Hitler to take over the unions and establish the German Labor Front, "may hypocritically declare their devotion to the Fuehrer as much as they like -- but it is better that they should be in prison." And that is where they were put.

At first, though, both Hitler and Ley tried to assure the workers that their rights would be protected. Said Ley in his first proclamation: "Workers! Your institutions are sacred to us National Socialists. I my- self am a poor peasant's son and understand poverty ... I know the exploitation of anonymous capitalism. Workers! I swear to you, we will not only keep everything that exists, we will build up the protection and the rights of the workers still further."

Within three weeks the hollowness of another Nazi promise was exposed when Hitler decreed a law bringing an end to collective bargaining and providing that henceforth "labor trustees," appointed by him, would "regulate labor contracts" and maintain "labor peace."18 Since the decisions of the trustees were to be legally binding, the law, in effect, outlawed strikes. Ley promised "to restore absolute leadership to the natural leader of a factory -- that is, the employer ... Only the employer can decide. Many employers have for years had to call for the 'master in the house.' Now they are once again to be the 'master in the house.'"

For the time being, business management was pleased. The generous contributions which so many employers had made to the National Socialist German Workers' Party were paying off. Yet for business to prosper a certain stability of society is necessary, and all through the spring and early summer law and order were crumbling in Germany as the frenzied brown-shirted gangs roamed the streets, arresting and beating up and sometimes murdering whomever they pleased while the police looked on without lifting a nightstick. The terror in the streets was not the result of the breakdown of the State's authority, as it had been in the French Revolution, but on the contrary was carried out with the encouragement and often on the orders of the State, whose authority in Germany had never been greater or more concentrated. Judges were intimidated; they were afraid for their lives if they convicted and sentenced a storm trooper even for cold-blooded murder. Hitler was now the law, as Goering said, and as late as May and June 1933 the Fuehrer was declaiming that "the National Socialist Revolution has not yet run its course" and that "it will be victoriously completed only if a new German people is educated." In Nazi parlance, "educated" meant "intimidated" -- to a point where all would accept docilely the Nazi dictatorship and its barbarism. To Hitler, as he had publicly declared a thousand times, the Jews were not Germans, and though he did not exterminate them at once (only a relative few-a few thousand, that is -- were robbed, beaten or murdered during the first months), he issued laws excluding them from public service, the universities and the professions. And on April 1, 1933, he proclaimed a national boycott of Jewish shops.

The businessmen, who had been so enthusiastic over the smashing of the troublesome labor unions, now found that left-wing Nazis, who really believed in the party's socialism, were trying to take over the employers' associations, destroy the big department stores and nationalize industry. Thousands of ragged Nazi Party officials descended on the business houses of those who had not supported Hitler, threatening to seize them in some cases, and in others demanding well-paying jobs in the management. Dr. Gottfried Feder, the economic crank, now insisted that the party program be carried out -- nationalization of big business, profit sharing and the abolition of unearned incomes and "interest slavery." As if this were not enough to frighten the businessmen, Walther Dam:, who had just been named Minister of Agriculture, threw the bankers into jitters by promising a big reduction in the capital debts of the farmers and a cut in the interest rate on what remained to 2 per cent.

Why not? Hitler was, by midsummer of 1933, the master of Germany. He could now carry out his program. Papen, for all his cunning, had been left high and dry, and all his calculations that he and Hugenberg and the other defenders of the Old Order, with their 8-to-3 majority in the cabinet against the Nazis, could control Hitler and indeed use him for their own conservative ends, had exploded in his face. He himself had been booted out of his post as Prime Minister of Prussia and replaced by Goering. Papen remained Vice-Chancellor in the Reich cabinet but, as he ruefully admitted later, "this position turned out to be anomalous." Hugenberg, the apostle of business and finance, was gone, his party dissolved. Goebbels, the third most important man in the Nazi Party, had been brought into the cabinet on March 13 as Minister of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda. Darre, regarded as a "radical," as was Goebbels, was Minister of Agriculture.

Dr. Hans Luther, the conservative president of the Reichsbank, the key post in the German economic system, was fired by Hitler and packed off to Washington as ambassador. Into his place, on March 17, 1933, stepped the jaunty Dr. Schacht, the former head of the Reichsbank and devoted follower of Hitler, who had seen the "truth and necessity" of Nazism. No single man in all of Germany would be more helpful to Hitler in building up the economic strength of the Third Reich and in furthering its rearmament for the Second World War than Schacht, who later became also Minister of Economics and Plenipotentiary-General for War Economy. It is true that shortly before the second war began he turned against his idol, eventually relinquished or was fired from all his offices and even joined those who were conspiring to assassinate Hitler. But by then it was too late to stay the course of the Nazi leader to whom he had for so long given his loyalty and lent his prestige and his manifest talents.


Hitler had conquered Germany with the greatest of ease, but a number of problems remained to be faced as summer came in 1933. There were at least five major ones: preventing a second revolution; settling the uneasy relations between the S.A. and the Army; getting the country out of its economic morass and finding jobs for the six million unemployed; achieving equality of armaments for Germany at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva and accelerating the Reich's secret rearming, which had begun during the last years of the Republic; and deciding who should succeed the ailing Hindenburg when he died.

It was Roehm, chief of the S.A., who coined the phrase "the second revolution," and who insisted that it be carried through. He was joined by Goebbels, who in his diary of April 18, 1933, wrote: "Everyone among the people is talking of a second revolution which must come. That means that the first revolution is not at an end. Now we shall settle with the Reaktion. The revolution must nowhere come to a halt." [19]

The Nazis had destroyed the Left, but the Right remained: big business and finance, the aristocracy, the Junker landlords and the Prussian generals, who kept tight rein over the Army. Roehm, Goebbels and the other "radicals" in the movement wanted to liquidate them too. Roehm, whose storm troopers now numbered some two million-twenty times as many as the troops in the Army -- sounded the warning in June:

One victory on the road of German revolution has been won ... The S.A. and S.S., who bear the great responsibility of having set the German revolution rolling, will not allow it to be betrayed at the halfway mark ... If the Philistines believe that the national revolution has lasted too long ... it is indeed high time that the national revolution should end and become a National Socialist one ... We shall continue our fight-with them or without them. And, if necessary, against them ... We are the incorruptible guarantors of the fulfillment of the German revolution. [20]

And in August he added, in a speech, "There are still men in official positions today who have not the least idea of the spirit of the revolution. We shall ruthlessly get rid of them if they dare to put their reactionary ideas into practice."

But Hitler had contrary thoughts. For him the Nazi socialist slogans had been merely propaganda, means of winning over the masses on his way to power. Now that he had the power he was uninterested in them. He needed time to consolidate his position and that of the country. For the moment at least the Right -- business, the Army, the President -- must be appeased. He did not intend to bankrupt Germany and thus risk the very existence of his regime. There must be no second revolution.

This he made plain to the S.A. and S.S. leaders themselves in a speech to them on July 1. What was needed now in Germany, he said, was order. "I will suppress every attempt to disturb the existing order as ruthlessly as I will deal with the so-called second revolution, which would lead only to chaos." He repeated the warning to the Nazi state governors gathered in the Chancellery on July 6:

The revolution is not a permanent state of affairs, and it must not be allowed to develop into such a state. The stream of revolution released must be guided into the safe channel of evolution ... We must therefore not dismiss a businessman if he is a good businessman, even if he is not yet a National Socialist, and especially not if the National Socialist who is to take his place knows nothing about business. In business, ability must be the only standard ...

History will not judge us according to whether we have removed and imprisoned the largest number of economists, but according to whether we have succeeded in providing work ... The ideas of the program do not oblige us to act like fools and upset everything, but to realize our trains of thought wisely and carefully. In the long run our political power will be all the more secure, the more we succeed in underpinning it economically. The state governors must therefore see to it that no party organizations assume the functions of government, dismiss individuals and make appointments to offices, to do which the Reich government -- and in regard to business, the Reich Minister of Economics -- is competent. [21]

No more authoritative statement was ever made that the Nazi revolution was political, not economic. To back up his words, Hitler dismissed a number of Nazi "radicals" who had tried to seize control of the employers' associations. He restored Krupp von Bohlen and Fritz Thyssen to their positions of leadership in them, dissolved the Combat League of Middle-Class Tradespeople, which had annoyed the big department stores, and in place of Hugenberg named Dr. Karl Schmitt as Minister of Economics. Schmitt was the most orthodox of businessmen, director general of Allianz, Germany's largest insurance company, and he lost no time in putting an end to the schemes of the National Socialists who had been naive enough to take their party program seriously.

The disillusion among the rank-and-file Nazis, especially among the S.A. storm troopers, who formed the large core of Hitler's mass movement, was great. Most of them had belonged to the ragged army of the dispossessed and the unsatisfied. They were anticapitalist through experience and they believed that the revolution which they had fought by brawling in the streets would bring them loot and good jobs, either in business or in the government. Now their hopes, after the heady excesses of the spring, were dashed. The old gang, whether they were party members or not, were to keep the jobs and to keep control of jobs. But this development was not the only reason for unrest in the S.A.

The old quarrel between Hitler and Roehm about the position and purpose of the S.A. cropped up again. From the earliest days of the Nazi movement Hitler had insisted that the storm troopers were to be a political and not a military force; they were to furnish the physical violence, the terror, by which the party could bludgeon its way to political power. To Roehm, the S.A. had been not only the backbone of the Nazi revolution but the nucleus of the future revolutionary army which would be for Hitler what the French conscript armies were to Napoleon after the French Revolution. It was time to sweep away the reactionary Prussian generals -- those "old clods," as he contemptuously called them -- and form a revolutionary fighting force, a people's army, led by himself and his tough aides who had conquered the streets of Germany.

Nothing could be further from Hitler's thoughts. He realized more clearly than Roehm or any other Nazi that he could not have come to power without the support or at least the toleration of the Army generals and that, for the time being at least, his very survival at the helm depended in part on their continued backing, since they still retained the physical power to remove him if they were so minded. Also Hitler foresaw that the Army's loyalty to him personally would be needed at that crucial moment, which could not be far off, when the eighty-six-year-old Hindenburg, the Commander in Chief, would pass on. Furthermore, the Nazi leader was certain that only the officer corps, with all its martial traditions and abilities, could achieve his goal of building up in a short space of time a strong, disciplined armed force. The S.A. was but a mob -- good enough for street fighting but of little worth as a modem army. Moreover, its purpose had now been served and from now on it must be eased tactfully out of the picture. The views of Hitler and Roehm were irreconcilable, and from the summer of 1933 to June 30 of the following year a struggle literally to the death was to be fought between these two veterans of the Nazi movement who were also close friends (Ernst Roehm was the only man whom Hitler addressed by the familiar personal pronoun du).

Roehm expressed the deep sense of frustration in the ranks of the storm troopers in a speech to fifteen thousand S.A. officers in the Sportpalast in Berlin on November 5, 1933. "One often hears ... that the S.A. had lost any reason for existence," he said, warning that it had not. But Hitler was adamant. "The relation of the S.A. to the Army," he had warned at Bad Godesberg on August 19, "must be the same as that of the political leadership." And on September 23 at Nuremberg he spoke out even more clearly:

On this day we should particularly remember the part played by our Army, for we all know well that if, in the days of our revolution, the Army had not stood on our side, then we should not be standing here today. We can assure the Army that we shall never forget this, that we see in them the bearers of the tradition of our glorious old Army, and that with all our heart and all our powers we will support the spirit of this Army.

Some time before this, Hitler had secretly given the armed forces assurances which had brought many of the higher officers to his side. On February 2, 1933, three days after assuming office, he had made a twohour address to the top generals and admirals at the home of General von Hammerstein, the Army Commander in Chief. Admiral Erich Raeder revealed at Nuremberg the tenor of this first meeting of the Nazi Chancellor with the officer corps. [22] Hitler, he said, freed the military elite from its fears that the armed services might be called upon to take part in a civil war and promised that the Army and Navy could now devote themselves unhindered to the main task of quickly rearming the new Germany. Admiral Raeder admitted that he was highly pleased at the prospect of a new Navy, and General von Blomberg, whose hasty assumption of the office of Minister of Defense on January 30, 1933, had stamped out any temptation on the part of the Army to revolt against Hitler's becoming Chancellor, declared later in his unpublished memoirs that the Fuehrer opened up "a field of activities holding great possibilities for the future."

Further to augment the enthusiasm of the military leaders Hitler created, as early as April 4, the Reich Defense Council to spur a new and secret rearmament program. Three months later, on July 20, the Chancellor promulgated a new Army Law, abolishing the jurisdiction of the civil courts over the military and doing away with the elected representation of the rank and file, thus restoring to the officer corps its ancient military prerogatives. A good many generals and admirals began to see the Nazi revolution in a different and more favorable light.

As a sop to Roehm, Hitler named him -- along with Rudolf Hess, the deputy leader of the party -- a member of the cabinet on December I and on New Year's Day, 1934, addressed to the S.A. chief a warm and friendly letter. While reiterating that "the Army has to guarantee the protection of the nation against the world beyond our frontiers," he acknowledged that "the task of the S.A. is to secure the victory of the National Socialist Revolution and the existence of the National Socialist State" and that the success of the S.A. had been "primarily due" to Roehm. The letter concluded:

At the close of the year of the National Socialist Revolution, therefore, I feel compelled to thank you, my dear Ernst Roehm, for the imperishable services which you have rendered to the National Socialist movement and the German people, and to assure you how very grateful I am to fate that I am able to call such men as you my friends and fellow combatants.

In true friendship and grateful regard,


The letter, employing the familiar du, was published in the chief Nazi daily paper, the Voelkischer Beobachter, on January 2, 1934, and did much to ease for the moment the feelings of resentment in the S.A. In the atmosphere of good feeling that prevailed over the Christmas and New Year holidays, the rivalry between the SA. and the Army and the clamor of the radical Nazis for the "second revolution" was temporarily stilled.


"It is no victory, for the enemies were lacking," observed Oswald Spengler in commenting on how easily Hitler had conquered and Nazified Germany in 1933. "This seizure of power -- " the author of The Decline of the West wrote early in the year, "it is with misgiving that I see it celebrated each day with so much noise. It would be better to save that for a day of real and definitive successes, that is, in the foreign field. There are no others." [24]

The philosopher-historian, who for a brief moment was an idol of the Nazis until a mutual disenchantment set in, was unduly impatient. Hitler had to conquer Germany before he could set out to conquer the world. But once his German opponents were liquidated -- or had liquidated themselves -- he lost no time in turning to what had always interested him the most: foreign affairs.

Germany's position in the world in the spring of 1933 could hardly have been worse. The Third Reich was diplomatically isolated and militarily impotent. The whole world had been revolted by Nazi excesses, especially the persecution of the Jews. Germany's neighbors, in particular France and Poland, were hostile and suspicious, and as early as March 1933, following a Polish military demonstration in Danzig, Marshal Pilsudski suggested to the French the desirability of a joint preventive war against Germany. Even Mussolini, for all his outward pose of welcoming the advent of a second fascist power, had not in fact been enthusiastic about Hitler's coming to power. The Fuehrer of a country potentially so much stronger than Italy might soon put the Duce in the shade. A rabidly Pan- German Reich would have designs on Austria and the Balkans, where the Italian dictator had already staked out his claims. The hostility toward Nazi Germany of the Soviet Union, which had been republican Germany's one friend in the years since 1921, was obvious. The Third Reich was indeed friendless in a hostile world. And it was disarmed, or relatively so in comparison with its highly armed neighbors.

The immediate strategy and tactics of Hitler's foreign policy therefore were dictated by the hard realities of Germany's weak and isolated position. But, ironically, this situation also provided natural goals which corresponded to his own deepest desires and those of the vast majority of the German people: to get rid of the shackles of Versailles without provoking sanctions, to rearm without risking war. Only when he had achieved these dual short-term goals would he have the freedom and the military power to pursue the long-term diplomacy whose aims and methods he had set down so frankly and in such detail in Mein Kampf.

The first thing to do, obviously, was to confound Germany's adversaries in Europe by preaching disarmament and peace and to keep a sharp eye for a weakness in their collective armor. On May 17, 1933, before the Reichstag, Hitler delivered his "Peace Speech," one of the greatest of his career, a masterpiece of deceptive propaganda that deeply moved the German people and unified them behind him and which made a profound and favorable impression on the outside world. The day before, President Roosevelt had sent a ringing message to the chiefs of state of forty-four nations outlining the plans and hopes of the United States for disarmament and peace and calling for the abolition of all offensive weapons -- bombers, tanks and mobile heavy artillery. Hitler was quick to take up the President's challenge and to make the most of it.

The proposal made by President Roosevelt, of which I learned last night, has earned the warmest thanks of the German government. It is prepared to agree to this method of overcoming the international crisis ... The President's proposal is a ray of comfort for all who wish to co-operate in the maintenance of peace Germany is entirely ready to renounce all offensive weapons if the armed nations, on their side, wil1destroy their offensive weapons ... Germany would also be perfectly ready to disband her entire military establishment and destroy the small amount of arms remaining to her, if the neighboring countries will do the same ... Germany is prepared to agree to any solemn pact of nonaggression, because she does not think of attacking but only of acquiring security.

There was much else in the speech, whose moderateness and profession of love for peace pleasantly surprised an uneasy world. Germany did not want war. War was "unlimited madness." It would "cause the collapse of the present social and political order." Nazi Germany had no wish to "Germanize" other peoples. "The mentality of the last century, which led people to think that they would make Germans out of Poles and Frenchmen, is alien to us ... Frenchmen, Poles and others are our neighbors, and we know that no event that is historically conceivable can change this reality."

There was one warning. Germany demanded equality of treatment with all other nations, especially in armaments. If this was not to be obtained, Germany would prefer to withdraw from both the Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations.

The warning was forgotten amid the general rejoicing throughout the Western world at Hitler's unexpected reasonableness. The Times of London agreed that Hitler's claim for equality was "irrefutable." The Daily Herald of London, official organ of the Labor Party, demanded that Hitler be taken at his word. The conservative weekly Spectator of London concluded that Hitler had grasped the hand of Roosevelt and that this gesture provided new hope for a tormented world. In Washington the President's secretary was quoted by the official German news bureau as saying, "The President was enthusiastic at Hitler's acceptance of his proposals."

From the Nazi firebrand dictator had come not brutal threats, as so many had expected, but sweetness and light. The world was enchanted. And in the Reichstag even the Socialists' deputies, those who were not in jailor in exile, voted without dissent to make the assembly's approval of Hitler's foreign policy declaration unanimous.

But Hitler's warning was not an empty one, and when it became clear early in October that the Allies would insist on an interval of eight years to bring their armaments down to Germany's level, he abruptly announced on October 14 that, denied equality of rights by the other powers at Geneva, Germany was immediately withdrawing from the Disarmament Conference and from the League of Nations. At the same time he took three other steps: He dissolved the Reichstag, announced that he would submit his decision to leave Geneva to a national plebiscite and ordered General von Blomberg, the Minister of Defense, to issue secret directives to the armed forces to resist an armed attack should the League resort to sanctions. [25]

This precipitate action revealed the hollowness of the Hitler conciliatory speech in the spring. It was Hitler's first open gamble in foreign affairs. It meant that from now on Nazi Germany intended to rearm itself in defiance of any disarmament agreement and of Versailles. This was a calculated risk -- also the first of many -- and Blomberg's secret directive to the Army and Navy, which came to light at Nuremberg, reveals not only that Hitler gambled with the possibility of sanctions but that Germany's position would have been hopeless had they been applied. [iv] In the West against France and in the East against Poland and Czechoslovakia, the directive laid down definite defense lines which the German forces were ordered "to hold as long as possible." It is obvious from Blomberg's orders that the German generals, at least, had no illusions that the defenses of the Reich could be held for any time at all.

This, then, was the first of many crises over a period that would extend for three years -- until after the Germans reoccupied the demilitarized left bank of the Rhine in 1936 -- when the Allies could have applied sanctions, not for Hitler's leaving the Disarmament Conference and the League but for violations of the disarmament provisions of Versailles which had been going on in Germany for at least two years, even before Hitler. That the Allies at this time could easily have overwhelmed Germany is as certain as it is that such an action would have brought the end of the Third Reich in the very year of its birth. But part of the genius of this one-time Austrian waif was that for a long time he knew the mettle of his foreign adversaries as expertly and as uncannily as he had sized up that of his opponents at home. In this crisis, as in those greater ones which were to follow in rapid succession up to 1939, the victorious Allied nations took no action, being too divided, too torpid, too blind to grasp the nature or the direction of what was building up beyond the Rhine. On this, Hitler's calculations were eminently sound, as they had been and were to be in regard to his own people. He knew well what the German people would say in the plebiscite, which he fixed -- along with new elections of a single-party Nazi slate to the Reichstag -- for November 12, 1933, the day after the anniversary of the 1918 armistice, a black day that still rankled in German memories.

"See to it that this day," he told an election rally at Breslau on November 4, "shall later be recorded in the history of our people as a day of salvation -- that the record shall run: On an eleventh of November the German people formally lost its honor; fifteen years later came a twelfth of November and then the German people restored its honor to itself." On the eve of the polling, November 11, the venerable Hindenburg added his support in a broadcast to the nation: "Show tomorrow your firm national unity and your solidarity with the government. Support with me and the Reich Chancellor the principle of equal rights and of peace with honor, and show the world that we have recovered, and with the help of God will maintain, German unity!"

The response of the German people, after fifteen years of frustration and of resentment against the consequences of a lost war, was almost unanimous. Some 96 per cent of the registered voters cast their ballots and 95 per cent of these approved Germany's withdrawal from Geneva. The vote for the single Nazi list for the Reichstag (which included Hugenberg and a half-dozen other non-Nazis) was 92 per cent. Even at the Dachau concentration camp 2,154 out of 2,242 inmates voted for the government which had incarcerated them! It is true that in many communities threats were made against those who failed to vote or who voted the wrong way; and in some cases there was fear that anyone who cast his vote against the regime might be detected and punished. Yet even with these reservations the election, whose count at least was honest, was a staggering .victory for Adolf Hitler. There was no doubt that in defying the outside world as he had done, he had the overwhelming support of the German people.


Three days after the plebiscite and election, Hitler sent for the new Polish ambassador, Josef Lipski. At the end of their talk a joint communique was issued which amazed not only the German public but the outside world. The Polish and German governments agreed "to deal with the questions touching both countries by means of direct negotiations and to renounce all application of force in their relations with each other for the consolidation of European peace."

Even more than France, Poland was the hated and despised enemy in the minds of the Germans. To them the most heinous crime of the Versailles peacemakers had been to separate East Prussia from the Reich by the Polish Corridor, to detach Danzig and to give to the Poles the province of Posen and part of Silesia, which, though predominantly Polish in population, had been German territory since the days of the partition of Poland. No German statesmen during the Republic had been willing to regard the Polish acquisitions as permanent. Stresemann had refused even to consider an Eastern Locarno pact with Poland to supplement the Locarno agreement for the West. And General von Seeckt, father of the Reichswehr and arbiter of foreign policy during the first years of the Republic, had advised the government as early as 1922, "Poland's existence is intolerable, incompatible with the essential conditions of Germany's life. Poland," he insisted, "must go and will go." Its obliteration, he added, "must be one of the fundamental drives of German policy ... With the disappearance of Poland will fall one of the strongest pillars of the Versailles Peace, the hegemony of France." [26]

Before Poland could be obliterated, Hitler saw, it must be separated from its alliance with France. The course he now embarked on offered several immediate advantages besides the ultimate one. By renouncing the use of force against Poland he could strengthen his propaganda for peace and allay the suspicions aroused in both Western and Eastern Europe by his hasty exit from Geneva. By inducing the Poles to conduct direct negotiations he could bypass the League of Nations and then weaken its authority. And he could not only deal a blow to the League's conception of "collective security" but undermine the French alliances in Eastern Europe, of which Poland was the bastion. The German people, with their traditional hatred of the Poles, might not understand, but to Hitler one of the advantages of a dictatorship over democracy was that unpopular policies which promised significant results ultimately could be pursued temporarily without internal rumpus.

On January 26, 1934, four days before Hitler was to meet the Reichstag on the first anniversary of his accession to power, announcement was made of the signing of a ten-year nonaggression pact between Germany and Poland. From that day on, Poland, which under the dictatorship of Marshal Pilsudski was itself just eliminating the last vestiges of parliamentary democracy, began gradually to detach itself from France, its protector since its rebirth in 1919, and to grow ever closer to Nazi Germany. It was a path that was to lead to its destruction long before the treaty of "friendship and nonaggression" ran out.


When Hitler addressed the Reichstag on January 30, 1934, he could look back on a year of achievement without parallel in German history. Within twelve months he had overthrown the Weimar Republic, substituted his personal dictatorship for its democracy, destroyed all the political parties but his own, smashed the state governments and their parliaments and unified and defederalized the Reich, wiped out the labor unions, stamped out democratic associations of any kind, driven the Jews out of public and professional life, abolished freedom of speech and of the press, stifled the independence of the courts and "co-ordinated" under Nazi rule the political, economic, cultural and social life of an ancient and cultivated people. For all these accomplishments and for his resolute action in foreign affairs, which took Germany out of the concert of nations at Geneva, and proclaimed German insistence on being treated as an equal among the great powers, he was backed, as the autumn plebiscite and election had shown, by the overwhelming majority of the German people.

Yet as the second year of his dictatorship got under way clouds gathered on the Nazi horizon.
Site Admin
Posts: 28774
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:25 pm

Part 3 of 3


The darkening of the sky was due to three unresolved problems, and they were interrelated: the continued clamor of radical party and S.A. leaders for the "second revolution"; the rivalry of the S.A. and the Army; and the question of the succession to President Hindenburg, the sands of whose life at last began to run out with the coming of spring.

Roehm, the chief of staff of the S.A., now swollen to two and a half mil lion storm troopers, had not been put off by Hitler's gesture of appointing him to the cabinet nor by the Fuehrer's friendly personal letter on New Year's Day. In February he presented to the cabinet a lengthy memorandum proposing that the S.A. should be made the foundation of a new People's Army and that the armed forces, the S.A. and S.S. and all veterans' groups should be placed under a single Ministry of Defense, over which- -- he implication was clear -- he should preside. No more revolting idea could be imagined by the officer corps, and its senior members not only unanimously rejected the proposal but appealed to Hindenburg to support them. The whole tradition of the military caste would be destroyed if the roughneck Roehm and his brawling Brownshirts should get control of the Army. Moreover, the generals were shocked by the tales, now beginning to receive wide circulation, of the corruption and debauchery of the homosexual clique around the S.A. chief. As General von Brauchitsch would later testify, "rearmament was too serious and difficult a business to permit the participation of peculators, drunkards and homosexuals."

For the moment Hitler could not afford to offend the Army, and he gave no support to Roehm's proposal. Indeed, on February 21 he secretly told Anthony Eden, who had come to Berlin to discuss the disarmament impasse, that he was prepared to reduce the S.A. by two thirds and to agree to a system of inspection to make sure that the remainder received neither military training nor arms -- an offer which, when it leaked out, further inflamed the bitterness of Roehm and the S.A. As the summer of 1934 approached, the relations between the S.A. chief of staff and the Army High Command continued to deteriorate. There were stormy scenes in the cabinet between Roehm and General von Blomberg, and in March the Minister of Defense protested to Hitler that the S.A. was secretly arming a large force of special staff guards with heavy machine guns -- which was not only a threat against the Army but, General von Blomberg added, an act done so publicly that it threatened Germany's clandestine rearmament under the auspices of the Reichswehr.

It is plain that at this juncture Hitler, unlike the headstrong Roehm and his cronies, was thinking ahead to the day when the ailing Hindenburg would breathe his last. He knew that the aged President as well as the Army and other conservative forces in Germany were in favor of a restoration of the Hohenzollern monarchy as soon as the Field Marshal had passed away. He himself had other plans, and when early in April the news was secretly but authoritatively conveyed to him and Blomberg from Neudeck that the President's days were numbered, he realized that a bold stroke must soon be made. To ensure its success he would need the backing of the officer corps; to obtain that support he was prepared to go to almost any length.

The occasion for confidential parleys with the Army soon presented itself. On April 11 the Chancellor, accompanied by General von Blomberg and the commanders in chief of the Army and the Navy, General Freiherr von Fritsch and Admiral Raeder, set out on the cruiser Deutschland from Kiel for Koenigsberg to attend the spring maneuvers in East Prussia. The Army and Navy commanders were told of Hindenburg's worsening condition and Hitler, backed by the compliant Blomberg, bluntly proposed that he himself, with the Reichswehr's blessing, be the President's successor. In return for the support of the military, Hitler offered to suppress Roehm's ambitions, drastically reduce the S.A. and guarantee the Army and Navy that they would continue to be the sole bearers of arms in the Third Reich. It is believed that Hitler also held out to Fritsch and Raeder the prospect of an immense expansion of the Army and Navy, if they were prepared to go along with him. With the fawning Raeder there was no question but that he would, but Fritsch, a tougher man, had first to consult his senior generals.

This consultation took place at Bad Nauheim on May 16, and after the "Pact of the Deutschland" had been explained to them, the highest officers of the German Army unanimously endorsed Hitler as the successor to President Hindenburg.27 For the Army this political decision was to prove of historic significance. By voluntarily offering to put itself in the unrestrained hands of a megalomaniacal dictator it was sealing its own fate. As for Hitler, the deal would make his dictatorship supreme. With the stubborn Field Marshal out of the way, with the prospect of the restoration of the Hohenzollerns snuffed out, with himself as head of state as well as of government, he could go his way alone and unhindered. The price he paid for this elevation to supreme power was paltry: the sacrifice of the S.A. He did not need it, now that he had all the authority. It was a raucous rabble that only embarrassed him. Hitler's contempt for the narrow minds of the generals must have risen sharply that spring. They could be had, he must have thought, for surprisingly little. It was a judgment that he held, unaltered, except for one bad moment in June, to the end -- his end and theirs.

Yet, as summer came, Hitler's troubles were far from over. An ominous tension began to grip Berlin. Cries for the "second revolution" multiplied, and not only Roehm and the storm troop leaders but Goebbels himself, in speeches and in the press which he controlled, gave vent to them. From the conservative Right, from the Junkers and big industrialists around Papen and Hindenburg, came demands that a halt be called to the revolution, that the arbitrary arrests, the persecution of the Jews, the attacks against the churches, the arrogant behavior of the storm troopers be curbed, and that the general terror organized by the Nazis come to an end.

Within the Nazi Party itself there was a new and ruthless struggle for power. Roehm's two most powerful enemies, Goering and Himmler, were uniting against him. On April I Himmler, chief of the black-coated S.S., which was still an arm of the S.A. and under Roehm's command, was named by Goering to be chief of the Prussian Gestapo, and he immediately began to build up a secret-police empire of his own. Goering, who had been made a General der lnfanterie by Hindenburg the previous August (though he was Minister of Aviation), gladly shed his shabby brown S.A. uniform for the more showy one of his new office, and the change was symbolic: as a general and a member of a family from the military caste, he quickly sided with the Army in its fight against Roehm and the S.A. To protect himself in the jungle warfare which was now going on, Goering also recruited his own personal police force, the Landespolizeigruppe General Goering, several thousand men strong, which he concentrated in the former Cadet School at Lichterfelde, where he had first entered the Army and which was strategically located on the outskirts of Berlin.

Rumors of plots and counterplots added to the tension in the capital. General von Schleicher, unable to bear a decent obscurity or to remember that he no longer enjoyed the confidence of Hindenburg, the generals or the conservatives and was therefore powerless, had begun to mix again in politics. He was in touch with Roehm and Gregor Strasser and there were reports, some of which reached Hitler, that he was busy trying to make a deal whereby he would become Vice-Chancellor in place of his old enemy, Papen, Roehm would become Minister of Defense and the S.A. would be amalgamated with the Army. Cabinet "lists" circulated by the dozen in Berlin; in some of them Bruening was to be made Foreign Minister and Strasser Minister of Economics. These reports had little foundation but they were grist to the mill of Goering and Himmler, who, desirous each for his own reasons to destroy Roehm and the S.A., and at the same time to settle accounts with Schleicher and the disgruntled conservatives, embroidered them and brought them to Hitler, who at any time needed little prodding to have his suspicions aroused. What Goering and his Gestapo chief had in mind was not only to purge the S.A. but to liquidate other opponents on the Left and Right, including some who had opposed Hitler in the past and were no longer politically active. At the end of May Bruening and Schleicher were warned that they were marked for murder. The former slipped quietly out of the country in disguise, the latter went off on a vacation to Bavaria but returned to Berlin toward the end of June.

At the beginning of June, Hitler had a showdown with Roehm which, according to his own account given to the Reichstag later, lasted for nearly five hours and which "dragged on until midnight." It was, Hitler said, his "last attempt" to come to an understanding with his closest friend in the movement.

I informed him that I had the impression from countless rumors and numerous declarations of faithful old party members and S.A. leaders that conscienceless elements were preparing a national Bolshevist action that could bring nothing but untold misfortune to Germany ... I implored him for the last time to voluntarily abandon this madness and instead to lend his authority to prevent a development that, in any event, could only end in disaster.

According to Hitler, Roehm left him with the "assurance that he would do everything possible to put things right." Actually, Hitler later claimed, Roehm began "preparations to eliminate me personally."

This was almost certainly untrue. Though the whole story of the purge, like that of the Reichstag fire, will probably never be known, all the evidence that has come to light indicates that the S.A. chief never plotted to put Hitler out of the way. Unfortunately the captured archives shed no more light on the purge than they do on the Reichstag fire; in both cases it is likely that all the incriminating documents were destroyed on the orders of Goering.

Whatever was the real nature of the long conversation between the two Nazi veterans, a day or two after it took place Hitler bade the S.A. go on leave for the entire month of July, during which the storm troopers were prohibited from wearing uniforms or engaging in parades or exercises. On June 7, Roehm announced that he himself was going on sick leave but at the same time he issued a defiant warning: "If the enemies of S.A. hope that the SA. will not be recalled, or will be recalled only in part after its leave, we may permit them to enjoy this brief hope. They will receive their answer at such time and in such form as appears necessary. The S.A. is and remains the destiny of Germany."

Before he left Berlin Roehm invited Hitler to confer with the S.A. leaders at the resort town of Wiessee, near Munich, on June 30. Hitler readily agreed and indeed kept the appointment, though not in a manner which Roehm could possibly have imagined. Perhaps not in a way, either, that Hitler himself at this moment could foresee. For, as he later admitted to the Reichstag, he hesitated "again and again before taking a final decision ... I still cherished the secret hope that I might be able to spare the movement and my S.A. the shame of such a disagreement and that it might be possible to remove the mischief without severe conflicts."

"It must be confessed," he added, "that the last days of May continuously brought to light more and more disquieting facts." But did they? Later Hitler claimed that Roehm and his conspirators had made preparations to seize Berlin and take him into custody. But if this were so why did all the S.A. leaders depart from Berlin early in June, and -- even more important -- why did Hitler leave Germany at this moment and thus provide an opportunity for the S.A. chiefs to grab control of the State in his absence?

For on June 14 the Fuehrer flew to Venice to hold the first of many conversations with his fellow fascist dictator, Mussolini. The meeting, incidentally, did not go off well for the German leader, who, in his soiled raincoat and battered soft hat, seemed ill at ease in the presence of the more experienced Duce, resplendent in his glittering, bemedaled black Fascisti uniform and inclined to be condescending to his visitor. Hitler returned to Germany in a state of considerable irritation and called a meeting of his party leaders in the little town of Gera in Thuringia for Sunday, June 17, to report on his talks with Mussolini and to assess the worsening situation at home. As fate would have it, another meeting took place on that Sunday in the old university town of Marburg which attracted much more attention in Germany and indeed in the world, and which helped bring the critical situation to a climax.

The dilettante Papen, who had been rudely shoved to the sidelines by Hitler and Goering but who was still nominally Vice-Chancellor and still enjoyed the confidence of Hindenburg, summoned enough courage to speak out publicly against the excesses of the regime which he had done so much to foist on Germany. In May he had seen the ailing President off to Neudeck -- it was the last time he was to see his protector alive -- and the grizzly but enfeebled old Field Marshal had said to him: "Things are going badly, Papen. See what you can do to put them right."

Thus encouraged, Papen had accepted an invitation to make an address at the University of Marburg on June 17. The speech was largely written by one of his personal advisers, Edgar lung, a brilliant Munich lawyer and writer and a Protestant, though certain ideas were furnished by one of the Vice-Chancellor's secretaries, Herbert von Bose, and by Erich Klausener, the leader of Catholic Action -- a collaboration that soon cost all three of them their lives. It was a courageous utterance and, thanks to lung, eloquent in style and dignified in tone. It called for an end of the revolution, for a termination of the Nazi terror, for the restoration of normal decencies and the return of some measure of freedom, especially of freedom of the press. Addressing Dr. Goebbels, the Propaganda Minister, Papen said:

Open manly discussions would be of more service to the German people than, for instance, the present state of the German press. The government [must be] mindful of the old maxim, "Only weaklings suffer no criticism" ... Great men are not created by propaganda ... If one desires close contact and unity with the people, one must not underestimate their understanding. One must not everlastingly keep them on leading strings ... No organization, no propaganda, however excellent, can alone maintain confidence in the long run. It is not by incitement ... and not by threats against the helpless part of the nation but only by talking things over with people that confidence and devotion can be maintained. People treated as morons, however, have no confidence to give away ... It is time to join together in fraternal friendship and respect for all our fellow countrymen, to avoid disturbing the labors of serious men and to silence fanatics. [28]

The speech, when it became known, was widely heralded in Germany, but it fell like a bombshell on the little group of Nazi leaders gathered at Gera, and Goebbels moved quickly to see that it became known as little as possible. He forbade the broadcast of a recording of the speech scheduled for the same evening as well as any reference to it in the press, and ordered the police to seize copies of the Frankfurter Zeitung which were on the streets with a partial text. But not even the absolute powers of the Propaganda Minister were sufficient to keep the German people and the outside world from learning the contents of the defiant address. The wily Papen had provided the foreign correspondents and diplomats in Berlin with advance texts, and several thousand copies were hastily run off on the presses of Papen's newspaper, Germania, and secretly distributed.

On learning of the Marburg speech, Hitler was stung to fury. In a speech the same afternoon at Gera he denounced the "pygmy who imagines he can stop, with a few phrases, the gigantic renewal of a people's life." Papen was furious too, at the suppression of his speech. He rushed to Hitler on June 20 and told him he could not tolerate such a ban "by a junior minister," insisted that he had spoken "as a trustee for the President," and then and there submitted his resignation, adding a warning that he "would advise Hindenburg of this immediately." [29]

This was a threat that obviously worried Hitler, for he was aware of reports that the President was so displeased with the situation that he was considering declaring martial law and handing over power to the Army. In order to size up the seriousness of this danger to the very continuance of the Nazi regime, he flew to Neudeck on the following day, June 21, to see Hindenburg. His reception could only have increased his fears. He was met by General von Blomberg and quickly saw that his Defense Minister's usual lackeylike attitude toward him had suddenly disappeared. Blomberg instead was now the stern Prussian general and he brusquely informed Hitler that he was authorized by the Field Marshal to tell him that unless the present state of tension in Germany was brought quickly to an end the President would declare martial law and turn over the control of the State to the Army. When Hitler was permitted to see Hindenburg for a few minutes in the presence of Blomberg, the old President confirmed the ultimatum.

This was a disastrous turn of affairs for the Nazi Chancellor. Not only was his plan to succeed the President in jeopardy; if the Army took over, that would be the end of him and of Nazi government. Flying back to Berlin the same day he must have reflected that he had only one choice to make if he were to survive. He must honor his pact with the Army, suppress the S.A. and halt the continuance of the revolution for which the storm troop leaders were pressing. The Army, backed by the venerable President, it was obvious, would accept no less.

And yet, in that last crucial week of June, Hitler hesitated -- as least as to how drastic to be with the S.A. chiefs to whom he owed so much. But now Goering and Himmler helped him to make up his mind. They had already drawn up the scores they wanted to settle, long lists of present and past enemies they wished to liquidate. All they had to do was convince the Fuehrer of the enormity of the "plot" against him and of the necessity for swift and ruthless action. According to the testimony at Nuremberg of Wilhelm Frick, the Minister of the Interior and one of Hitler's most faithful followers, it was Himmler who finally succeeded in convincing Hitler that "Roehm wanted to start a putsch. The Fuehrer," Frick added, "ordered Himmler to suppress the putsch." Himmler, he explained, was instructed to put it down in Bavaria, and Goering in Berlin. [30]

The Army prodded Hitler too and thereby incurred a responsibility for the barbarity which was soon to take place. On June 25 General von Fritsch, the Commander in Chief, put the Army in a state of alert, canceling all leaves and confining the troops to barracks. On June 28 Roehm was expelled from the German Officers' League -- a plain warning that the S.A. chief of staff was in for trouble. And just to make sure that no one, Roehm above all, should have any illusions about where the Army stood, Blomberg took the unprecedented step of publishing a signed article on June 29 in the Voelkischer Beobachter, affirming that "the Army ... stands behind Adolf Hitler ... who remains one of ours." The Army, then, was pressing for the purge, but it did not want to soil its own hands. That must be done by Hitler, Goering and Himmler, with their black-coated S.S. and Goering's special police.

Hitler left Berlin on Thursday, June 28, for Essen to attend the wedding of a local Nazi gauleiter, Josef Terboven. The trip and its purpose hardly suggest that he felt a grave crisis to be imminent. On the same day Goering and Himmler ordered special detachments of the S.S. and the "Goering Police" to hold themselves in readiness. With Hitler out of town, they evidently felt free to act on their own. The next day, the twenty-ninth, the Fuehrer made a tour of Labor Service camps in Westphalia, returning in the afternoon to Godesberg on the Rhine, where he put up at a hotel on the riverbank run by an old war comrade, Dreesen. That evening Goebbels, who seems to have hesitated as to which camp to join -- he had been secretly in touch with Roehm -- arrived in Godesberg, his mind made up, and reported what Hitler later described as "threatening intelligence" from Berlin. Karl Ernst, a former hotel bellhop and ex-bouncer in a cafe frequented by homosexuals, whom Roehm had made leader of the Berlin SA., had alerted the storm troopers. Ernst, a handsome but not a bright young man, believed then and for the remaining twenty-four hours or so of his life that he was faced by a putsch from the Right, and he would die shouting proudly, "Heil Hitler!"

Hitler later claimed that up to this moment, June 29, he had decided merely to "deprive the chief of staff [Roehm] of his office and for the time being keep him in custody and arrest a number of S.A. leaders whose crimes were unquestioned ... and in an earnest appeal to the others, I would recall them to their duty."

However, [he told the Reichstag on July 13] ... at one o'clock in the night I received from Berlin and Munich two urgent messages concerning alarm summonses: first, in Berlin an alarm muster had been ordered for four P.M . ... and at five P.M. action was to begin with a surprise attack; the government buildings were to be occupied ... Second, in Munich the alarm summons had already been given to the S.A.; they had been ordered to assemble at nine o'clock in the evening ... That was mutiny! ... In these circumstances I could make but one decision ... Only a ruthless and bloody intervention might still perhaps stifle the spread of the revolt ...

At two o'clock in the morning I flew to Munich.

Hitler never revealed from whom the "urgent messages" came but the implication is that they were sent by Goering and Himmler. What is certain is that they were highly exaggerated. In Berlin, S.A. Leader Ernst thought of nothing more drastic than to drive to Bremen that Saturday with his bride to take ship for a honeymoon at Madeira. And in the south, where the S.A. "conspirators" were concentrated?

At the moment of 2 A.M. on June 30 when Hitler, with Goebbels at his side, was taking off from Hangelar Airfield near Bonn, Captain Roehm and his S.A. lieutenants were peacefully slumbering in their beds at the Hanslbauer Hotel at Wiessee on the shores of the Tegernsee. Edmund Heines, the S.A. Obergruppenfuehrer of Silesia, a convicted murderer, a notorious homosexual with a girlish face on the brawny body of a piano mover, was in bed with a young man. So far did the S.A. chiefs seem from staging a revolt that Roehm had left his staff guards in Munich. There appeared to be plenty of carousing among the S.A. leaders but no plotting.

Hitler and his small party (Otto Dietrich, his press chief, and Viktor Lutze, the colorless but loyal S.A. leader of Hanover, had joined it) landed in Munich at 4 A.M. on Saturday, June 30, and found that some action already had been taken. Major Walther Buch, head of USCHLA, the party court, and Adolf Wagner, Bavarian Minister of the Interior, aided by such early cronies of Hitler as Emil Maurice, the ex-convict and rival for Geli Raubal's love, and Christian Weber, the horse dealer and former cabaret bouncer, had arrested the Munich S.A. leaders, including Obergruppenfuehrer Schneidhuber, who was also chief of police in Munich. Hitler, who was now working himself up to a fine state of hysteria, found the prisoners in the Ministry of the Interior. Striding up to Schneidhuber, a former Army colonel, he tore off his Nazi insignia and cursed him for his "treason."

Shortly after dawn Hitler and his party sped out of Munich toward Wiessee in a long column of cars. They found Roehm and his friends still fast asleep in the Hanslbauer Hotel. The awakening was rude. Heines and his young male companion were dragged out of bed, taken outside the hotel and summarily shot on the orders of Hitler. The Fuehrer, according to Otto Dietrich's account, entered Roehm's room alone, gave him a dressing down and ordered him to be brought back to Munich and lodged in Stadelheim prison, where the S.A. chief had served time after his participation with Hitler in the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. After fourteen stormy years the two friends, who more than any others were responsible for the launching of the Third Reich, for its terror and its degradation, who though they had often disagreed had stood together in the moments of crisis and defeats and disappointments, had come to a parting of the ways, and the scar-faced, brawling battler for Hitler and Nazism had come to the end of his violent life.

Hitler, in a final act of what he apparently thought was grace, gave orders that a pistol be left on the table of his old comrade. Roehm refused to make use of it. "If I am to be killed, let Adolf do it himself," he is reported to have said. Thereupon two S.A. officers, according to the testimony of an eyewitness, a police lieutenant, given twenty-three years later in a postwar trial at Munich in May 1957, entered the cell and fired their revolvers at Roehm point-blank. "Roehm wanted to say something," said this witness, "but the S.S. officer motioned him to shut up. Then Roehm stood at attention -- he was stripped to the waist -- with his face full of contempt." [v] And so he died, violently as he had lived, contemptuous of the friend he had helped propel to the heights no other German had ever reached, and almost certainly, like hundreds of others who were slaughtered that day -- like Schneidhuber, who was reported to have cried, "Gentlemen, I don't know what this is all about, but shoot straight" -- without any clear idea of what was happening, or why, other than that it was an act of treachery which he, who had lived so long with treachery and committed it so often himself, had not expected from Adolf Hitler.

In Berlin, in the meantime, Goering and Himmler had been busy. Some 150 S.A. leaders were rounded up and stood against a wall of the Cadet School at Lichterfelde and shot by firing squads of Himmler's S.S. and Goering's special police.

Among them was Karl Ernst, whose honeymoon trip was interrupted by S.S. gunmen as his car neared Bremen. His bride and his chauffeur were wounded; he himself was knocked unconscious and flown back to Berlin for his execution.


The S.A. men were not the only ones to fall on that bloody summer weekend. On the morning of June 30, a squad of S.S. men in mufti rang the doorbell at General von Schleicher's villa on the outskirts of Berlin. When the General opened the door he was shot dead in his tracks, and when his wife, whom he had married but eighteen months before -- he had been a bachelor until then -- stepped forward, she too was slain on the spot. General Kurt von Bredow, a close friend of Schleicher, met a similar fate the same evening. Gregor Strasser was seized at his home in Berlin at noon on Saturday and dispatched a few hours later in his cell in the Prinz Albrechtstrasse Gestapo jail on the personal orders of Goering.

Papen was luckier. He escaped with his life. But his office was ransacked by an S.S. squad, his principal secretary, Bose, shot down at his desk, his confidential collaborator, Edgar Jung, who had been arrested a few days earlier by the Gestapo, murdered in prison, another collaborator, Erich Klausener, leader of Catholic Action, slain in his office in the Ministry of Communications, and the rest of his staff, including his private secretary, Baroness Stotzingen, carted off to concentration camp. When Papen went to protest to Goering, the latter, who at that moment had no time for idle talk, "more or less," he later recalled, threw him out, placing him under house arrest at his villa, which was surrounded by heavily armed S.S. men and where his telephone was cut and he was forbidden to have any contact with the outside world -- an added humiliation which the Vice-Chancellor of Germany swallowed remarkably well. For within less than a month he defiled himself by accepting from the Nazi murderers of his friends a new assignment as German minister to Vienna, where th,e Nazis had just slain Chancellor Dollfuss.

How many were slain in the purge was never definitely established. In his Reichstag speech of July 13, Hitler announced that sixty-one persons were shot, including nineteen "higher S.A. leaders," that thirteen more died "resisting arrest" and that three "committed suicide" -- a total of seventy-seven. The While Book of the Purge, published by emigres in Paris, stated that 40 I had been slain, but it identified only 116 of them. At the Munich trial in 1957, the figure of "more than 1,000" was given.

Many were killed out of pure vengeance for having opposed Hitler in the past, others were murdered apparently because they knew too much, and at least one because of mistaken identity. The body of Gustav van Kahr, whose suppression of the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 we have already recounted, and who had long since retired from politics, was found in a swamp near Dachau hacked to death, apparently by pickaxes. Hitler had neither forgotten nor forgiven him. The body of Father Bernhard Stempfle of the Hieronymite Order, who, it will be remembered from earlier pages, helped edit Mein Kampf and later talked too much, perhaps, about his knowledge of why Hitler's love, Geli Raubal, committed suicide, was found in the forest of Harlaching near Munich, his neck broken and three shots in the heart. Heiden says the murder gang that killed him was led by Emil Maurice, the ex-convict who had also made love to Geli Raubal. Others who "knew too much" included three S.A. men who were believed to have been accomplices of Ernst in setting the Reichstag on fire. They were dispatched with Ernst.

One other murder deserves mention. At seven-twenty on the evening of June 30, Dr. Willi Schmid, the eminent music critic of the Muenchener Neueste Nachrichten, a leading Munich daily newspaper, was playing the cello in his study while his wife prepared supper and their three children, aged nine, eight and two, played in the living room of their apartment in the Schackstrasse in Munich. The doorbell rang, four S.S. men appeared and without explanation took Dr. Schmid away. Four days later his body was returned in a coffin with orders from the Gestapo not to open it in any circumstances. Dr. Willi Schmid, who had never participated in politics, had been mistaken by the S.S. thugs for Willi Schmidt, a local S.A. leader, who in the meantime had been arrested by another S.S. detachment and shot. [vi]


Was there a plot against Hitler at all? There is only his word for it, contained in the official communiques and in his Reichstag speech of July 13. He never presented a shred of evidence. Roehm had made no secret of his ambition to see the S.A. become the nucleus of the new Army and to head it himself. He had certainly been in touch with Schleicher about the scheme, which they had first discussed when the General was Chancellor. Probably, as Hitler stated, Gregor Strasser "was brought in." But such talks certainly did not constitute treason. Hitler himself was in contact with Strasser and early in June, according to Otto Strasser, offered him the post of Minister of Economics.

At first Hitler accused Roehm and Schleicher of having sought the backing of a "foreign power" -- obviously France -- and charged that General von Bredow was the intermediary in "foreign policy." This was part of the indictment of them as "traitors." And though Hitler repeated the charges in his Reichstag speech and spoke sarcastically of "a foreign diplomat [who could have been no other than Francois-Poncet, the French ambassador] explaining that the meeting with Schleicher and Roehm was of an entirely harmless character," he was unable to substantiate his accusations. It was crime enough, he said lamely, for any responsible German in the Third Reich even to see foreign diplomats without his knowledge.

When three traitors in Germany arrange ... a meeting with a foreign statesman ... and give orders that no word of this meeting shall reach me, then I shall have such men shot dead even when it should prove true that at such a consultation which was thus kept secret from me they talked of nothing more than the weather, old coins and like topics.

When Francois-Poncet protested vigorously against the insinuation that he had participated in the Roehm "plot" the German Foreign Office officially informed the French government that the accusations were wholly without foundation and that the Reich government hoped the ambassador would remain in his post. Indeed, as this writer can testify, Francois-Poncet continued to remain on better personal terms with Hitler than any other envoy from a democratic state.

In the first communiques, especially in a blood-curdling eyewitness account given the public by Otto Dietrich, the Fuehrer's press chief, and even in Hitler's Reichstag speech, much was made of the depraved morals of Roehm and the other S.A. leaders who were shot. Dietrich asserted that the scene of the arrest of Heines, who was caught in bed at Wiessee with a young man, "defied description," and Hitler in addressing the surviving storm troop leaders in Munich at noon on June 30, just after the first executions, declared that for their corrupt morals alone these men deserved to die.

And yet Hitler had known all along, from the earliest days of the party, that a large number of his closest and most important followers were sexual perverts and convicted murderers. It was common talk, for instance, that Heines used to send S.A. men scouring all over Germany to find him suitable male lovers. These things Hitler had not only tolerated but defended; more than once he had warned his party comrades against being too squeamish about a man's personal morals if he were a fanatical fighter for the movement. Now, on June 30, 1934, he professed to be shocked by the moral degeneration of some of his oldest lieutenants.


Most of the killing was over by Sunday afternoon, July 1, when Hitler, who had flown back to Berlin from Munich the night before, was host at a tea party in the gardens of the Chancellery. On Monday President Hinden burg thanked Hitler for his "determined action and gallant personal intervention which have nipped treason in the bud and rescued the German people from great danger." He also congratulated Goering for his "energetic and successful action" in suppressing "high treason." On Tuesday General von Blomberg expressed to the Chancellor the congratulations of the cabinet, which proceeded to "legalize" the slaughter as a necessary measure "for the defense of the State." Blomberg also issued an order of the day to the Army expressing the High Command's satisfaction with the turn of events and promising to establish "cordial relations with the new S.A."

It was natural, no doubt, that the Army should be pleased with the elimination of its rival, the S.A., but what about the sense of honor, let alone of decency, of an officer corps which not only condoned but openly praised a government for carrying out a massacre without precedent in German history, during which two of its leading officers, Generals van Schleicher and von Bredow, having been branded as traitors, were cold-bloodedly murdered? Only the voices of the eighty-five-year-old Field Marshal von Mackensen and of General von Hammerstein, the former Commander in Chief of the Army, were raised in protest against the murder of their two fellow officers and the charges of treason which had been the excuse for it. [vii] This behavior of the corps was a black stain on the honor of the Army; it was also a mark of its unbelievable shortsightedness.

In making common cause with the lawlessness, indeed the gangsterism, of Hitler on June 30, 1934, the generals were putting themselves in a position in which they could never oppose future acts of Nazi terrorism not only at home but even when they were aimed across the frontiers, even when they were committed against their own members. For the Army was backing Hitler's claim that he had become the law, or, as he put it in his Reichstag speech of July 13, "If anyone reproaches me and asks why I did not resort to the regular courts of justice, then all I can say is this: In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I became the supreme judge [oberster Gerichtsherr] of the German people." And Hitler added, for good measure, "Everyone must know for all future time that if he raises his hand to strike the State, then certain death is his lot." This was a warning that was to catch up with the generals in ten years almost to a day when at last the more desperate of them dared to raise their hand to strike down their "supreme judge."

Moreover, the officer corps only deluded itself in thinking that on June 30 it got rid forever of the threat of the Nazi movement against its traditional prerogatives and power. For in the place of the S.A. came the S.S. On July 26 the S.S., as a reward for carrying out the executions, was made independent of the S.A., with Himmler -- as its Reichsfuehrer -- responsible only to Hitler. Soon this much-better-disciplined and loyal force would become much more powerful than the S.A. had ever been and as a rival to the Army would succeed where Roehm's ragged Brownshirts had failed.

For the moment, however, the generals were smugly confident. As Hitler reiterated in his Reichstag address on July 13, the Army was to remain "the sole bearer of arms." At the High Command's bidding, the Chancellor had got rid of the S.A., which had dared to dispute that dictum. The time now came when the Army had to carry out its part of the "Pact of the Deutschland."


All through the summer the seemingly indestructible Hindenburg had been sinking and on August 2, at nine in the morning, he died in his eighty-seventh year. At noon, three hours later, it was announced that according to a law enacted by the cabinet on the preceding day the offices of Chancellor and President had been combined and that Adolf Hitler had taken over the powers of the head of state and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The title of President was abolished; Hitler would be known as Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor. His dictatorship had become complete. To leave no loopholes Hitler exacted from all officers and men of the armed forces an oath of allegiance -- not to Germany, not to the constitution, which he had violated by not calling for the election of Hindenburg's successor, but to himself. It read:

I swear by God this sacred oath, that I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Fuehrer of the German Reich and people, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath.

From August 1934 on, the generals, who up to that time could have overthrown the Nazi regime with ease had they so desired, thus tied themselves to the person of Adolf Hitler, recognizing him as the highest legitimate authority in the land and binding themselves to him by an oath of fealty which they felt honor-bound to obey in all circumstances no matter how degrading to them and the Fatherland. It was an oath which was to trouble the conscience of quite a few high officers when their acknowledged leader set off on a path which they felt could only lead to the nation's destruction and which they opposed. It was also a pledge which enabled an even greater number of officers to excuse themselves from any personal responsibility for the unspeakable crimes which they carried out on the orders of a Supreme Commander whose true nature they had seen for themselves in the butchery of June 30. One of the appalling aberrations of the German officer corps from this point on rose out of this conflict of "honor" -- a word which, as this author can testify by personal experience, was often on their lips and of which they had such a curious concept. Later and often, by honoring their oath they dishonored themselves as human beings and trod in the mud the moral code of their corps.

When Hindenburg died, Dr. Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, officially announced that no last will and testament of the Field Marshal had been found and that it must be presumed there was none. But on August 15, four days before the plebiscite in which the German people were asked to approve Hitler's taking over the President's office, Hindenburg's political testament turned up, delivered to Hitler by none other than Papen. Its words of praise for Hitler provided strong ammunition to Goebbels in the final days of the plebiscite campaign, and it was reinforced on the eve of the voting by a broadcast of Colonel Oskar van Hindenburg:

My father had himself seen in Adolf Hitler his own direct successor as head of the German State, and I am acting according to my father's intention when I call on all German men and women to vote for the handing over of my father's office to the Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor. [viii]

Almost certainly this was not true. For Hindenburg, on the best evidence available, had recommended as his last wish a restoration of the monarchy after his death. This part of the testament Adolf Hitler suppressed.

Some, if not all, of the mystery which cloaked the truth about the aged President's testament was cleared up after the war by Papen's interrogation at Nuremberg and later in his memoirs. And while Papen is not an unimpeachable witness and may not have told all he knew, his testimony cannot be ignored. He himself wrote the initial draft of Hindenburg's last will, and, according to him, at the Field Marshal's request.

My draft [he says in his memoirs] recommended that after his death a constitutional monarchy should be adopted, and I made a point of the inadvisability of combining the offices of President and Chancellor. In order to avoid giving any offense to Hitler, there were also certain approving references to some of the positive accomplishments of the Nazi regime.

Papen delivered his draft to Hindenburg in April 1934, he says.

A few days later he asked me to call on him again, and told me that he had decided not to approve the document in the form I had suggested. He felt ... that the nation as a whole should make up its mind as to the form of State it desired. He therefore intended to regard the account of his service as a testament, and his recommendations concerning the return of the monarchy would be expressed, as his last wish, in a private letter to Hitler. This meant, of course, that the whole point of my original suggestion had been lost, as the recommendation concerning the monarchy was no longer addressed to the nation; a fact of which Hitler later took full advantage.

No German was as well placed as Papen to observe how Hitler took the advantage.

When I returned to Berlin after Hindenburg's funeral at Tannenberg, Hitler rang me up. He asked me if a political testament by Hindenburg existed, and if I knew where it was. I said that I would ask Oskar von Hindenburg. "I should be obliged," said Hitler, "if you would ensure that this document comes into my possession as soon as possible." I therefore told Kageneck, my private secretary, to go to Neudeck and ask Hindenburg's son if the testament still existed, and whether I could have it to pass it on to Hitler. As I had not seen Hindenburg after he left Berlin at the end of May, I had no idea whether he had destroyed the testament or not.

Oskar, who had not been able to find the important document immediately after his father's death, suddenly found it. That this could not have been a very difficult feat was attested to by Count von der Schulenburg, Hindenburg's adjutant, in his testimony at Papen's denazification trial. He revealed that the President on May 11 signed two documents, his testament and his last wishes. The first was addressed to "the German People" and the second to the "Reich Chancellor." When Hindenburg left Berlin on his last journey to Neudeck Schulenburg took the papers with him. Papen says he did not know this at the time. But in due course his secretary returned from Neudeck bringing two sealed envelopes turned over to him by Oskar von Hindenburg.

On August 15 Papen delivered them to Hitler at Berchtesgaden.

Hitler read both documents with great care and discussed the contents with us. It was obvious that Hindenburg's recommendations in the document expressing his last wishes were contrary to Hitler's intentions. He therefore took advantage of the fact that the envelope bore the address "Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler." "These recommendations of the late President," he said, "are given to me personally. Later I shall decide if and when I shall permit their publication." In vain I begged him to publish both documents. The only one handed to his press chief for publication was Hindenburg's account of his service, in which he included praise of Hitler. [31]

What happened to the second document recommending that not Hitler but a Hohenzollern become head of state Papen does not say and perhaps does not know. Since it has never turned up among the hundreds of tons of captured secret Nazi documents it is likely that Hitler lost no time in destroying it.

Perhaps it would have made little difference if Hitler had been courageous and honest enough to publish it. Even before Hindenburg's death, he had made the cabinet promulgate a law giving him the President's powers. This was on August 1, the day before the Field Marshal died. That the "law" was illegal also made little difference in a Germany where the former Austrian corporal had now become the law itself. That it was illegal was obvious. On December 17, 1932, during the Schleicher government, the Reichstag had passed by the necessary two-thirds majority an amendment to the constitution providing that the president of the High Court of Justice, instead of the Chancellor, should act as President until a new election could be held. And while the Enabling Act, which was the "legal" basis of Hitler's dictatorship, gave the Chancellor the right to make laws which deviated from the constitution, it specifically forbade him to tamper with the institution of the Presidency.

But what mattered the law now? It mattered not to Papen, who cheerfully went off to serve Hitler as minister in Vienna and smooth over the mess caused by the murder of Chancellor Dollfuss by the Nazis. It mattered not to the generals, who went eagerly to work to build up Hitler's Army. It mattered not to the industrialists, who turned enthusiastically to the profitable business of rearmament. Conservatives of the old school, "decent" Germans like Baron von Neurath in the Foreign Office and Dr. Schacht in the Reichsbank, did not resign. No one resigned. In fact, Dr. Schacht took on the added duties of Minister of Economics on August 2, the day Hitler seized the powers of the expiring President.

And the German people? On August 19, some 95 per cent of those who had registered went to the polls, and 90 per cent, more than thirty-eight million of them, voted approval of Hitler's usurpation of complete power. Only four and a quarter million Germans had the courage -- or the desire -- to vote "No."

No wonder that Hitler was in a confident mood when the Nazi Party Congress assembled in Nuremberg on September 4. I watched him on the morning of the next day stride like a conquering emperor down the center aisle of the great flag-bedecked Luitpold Hall while the band blared forth "The Badenweiler March" and thirty thousand hands were raised in the Nazi salute. A few moments later he sat proudly in the center of the vast stage with folded arms and shining eyes as Gauleiter Adolf Wagner of Bavaria read the Fuehrer's proclamation.

The German form of life is definitely determined for the next thousand years. The Age of Nerves of the nineteenth century has found its close with us. There will be no other revolution in Germany for the next one thousand years!

Being mortal, he would not live a thousand years, but as long as he lived he would rule this great people as the most powerful and ruthless autocrat they had ever had. The venerable Hindenburg was no longer there to dispute his authority, the Army was in his hands, bound to obedience by an oath no German soldier would lightly break. Indeed, all Germany and all the Germans were in his bloodstained hands now that the last recalcitrants had been done away with or had disappeared for good.

"It is wonderful!" he exulted at Nuremberg to the foreign correspondents at the end of the exhausting week of parades, speeches, pagan pageantry and the most frenzied adulation for a public figure this writer had ever seen. Adolf Hitler had come a long way from the gutters of Vienna. He was only forty-five, and this was just the beginning. Even one returning to Germany for the first time since the death of the Republic could see that, whatever his crimes against humanity, Hitler had unleashed a dynamic force of incalculable proportions which had long been pent up in the German people. To what purpose, he had already made clear in the pages of Mein Kampf and in a hundred speeches which had gone unnoticed or unheeded or been ridiculed by so many -- by almost everyone -- within and especially without the Third Reich.



i. This cabinet meeting, of course, was private. and, like most of the other conferences, many of them taking place in the strictest secrecy, held by Hitler and his political and military aides during the Third Reich, its proceedings and decisions were not accessible to the public until the captured German documents were first perused during the Nuremberg trial.

A great many of these highly confidential discussions and the decisions emanating from them -- all regarded as state secrets -- will henceforth be chronicled in this book, which, from here to the end. largely rests on the documents which recorded them at the time. At the risk of somewhat cluttering the pages with numbers indicating notes, these sources will be indicated. No other history of a nation over a specific epoch has been so fully documented, I believe, as that of the Third Reich, and to have left out reference to the documents, it seemed to the author, would have greatly weakened whatever value this book may have as an authentic historical record.

ii. Both in his interrogations and at his trial at Nuremberg, Goering denied to the last that he had had any part in setting fire to the Reichstag.

iii. A document which carne to light at Nuremberg shows that the Nazis had been planning for some time to destroy the trade unions. A secret order dated April 21 and signed by Dr. Ley contained detailed instructions for "co-ordinating" the unions on May 2. S.A. and S.S. troops were to carry out the "occupation of trade-union properties" and to "take into protective custody" all union leaders. Union funds were to be seized. [17] The Christian (Catholic) Trade Unions were not molested on May 2. Their end carne on June 24.

iv. Some months previously, on May 11, Lord Hailsham, the British Secretary of State for War, had publicly warned that any attempt of Germany to rearm would be a breach of the peace treaty and would be answered by sanctions, in accordance with the treaty. In Germany it was thought that sanctions would mean armed invasion.

v. The Munich trial in May 1957 was the first occasion on which actual eyewitnesses and participants in the June 30, 1934, purge talked in public. During the Third Reich it would not have been possible. Sepp Dietrich, whom this author recalls personally as one of the most brutal men of the Third Reich, commanded Hitler's S.S. Bodyguard in 1934 and directed the executions in Stadelheim prison. Later a colonel general in the Waffen S.S. during the war, he was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for complicity in the murder of American prisoners of war during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. Released after ten years, he was brought to Munich in 1957 and sentenced on May 14 to eighteen months in prison for his part in the June 30, 1934, executions. His sentence and that of Michael Lippert, who was convicted as being one of the two S.S. officers who actually killed Roehm, was the first punishment given to the Nazi executioners who took part in the purge.

vi. Kate Eva Hoerlin, former wife of Willi Schmid, told the story of her husband's murder in an affidavit sworn on July 7, 1945, at Binghamton, N.Y. She became an American citizen in 1944. To hush up the atrocity Rudolf Hess himself visited the widow, apologized for the "mistake" and secured for her a pension from the German government. The affidavit is given in Nuremberg Document L-135, NCA, VII, pp. 883-90.

vii. The two senior officers continued their efforts to clear the names of Schleicher and Bredow, and succeeded in getting Hitler, at a secret meeting of party and military leaders in Berlin on January 3, 1935, to admit that the killing of the two generals had been "in error" and to announce that their names would be restored to the honor rolls of their regiments. This "rehabilitation" was never published in Germany, but the officer corps accepted it as such. (See Wheeler-Bennett, The Nemesis of Power, p. 337.)

viii. It is interesting and perhaps revealing that Hitler now promoted Oskar from colonel to major general. See above, p. 181.
Site Admin
Posts: 28774
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:32 pm

Part 1 of 3


IT WAS AT THIS TIME, in the late summer of 1934, that I came to live and work in the Third Reich. There was much that impressed, puzzled and troubled a foreign observer about the new Germany. The overwhelming majority of Germans did not seem to mind that their personal freedom had been taken away, that so much of their culture had been destroyed and replaced with a mindless barbarism, or that their life and work had become regimented to a degree never before experienced even by a people accustomed for generations to a great deal of regimentation.

In the background, to be sure, there lurked the terror of the Gestapo and the fear of the concentration camp for those who got out of line or who had been Communists or Socialists or too liberal or too pacifist, or who were Jews. The Blood Purge of June 30, 1934, was a warning of how ruthless the new leaders could be. Yet the Nazi terror in the early years affected the lives of relatively few Germans and a newly arrived observer was somewhat surprised to see that the people of this country did not seem to feel that they were being cowed and held down by an unscrupulous and brutal dictatorship. On the contrary, they supported it with genuine enthusiasm. Somehow it imbued them with a new hope and a new confidence and an astonishing faith in the future of their country.

Hitler was liquidating the past, with all its frustrations and disappointments. Step by step, and rapidly (as we shall see in detail later), he was freeing Germany from the shackles of Versailles, confounding the victorious Allies and making Germany militarily strong again. This was what most Germans wanted and they were willing to make the sacrifices which the Leader demanded of them to get it: the loss of personal freedom, a Spartan diet ("Guns before Butter") and hard work. By the autumn of 1936 the problem of unemployment had been largely licked, almost everyone had a job again [i] and one heard workers who had been deprived of their trade-union rights joking, over their full dinner pails, that at least under Hitler there was no more freedom to starve. "Gemeinnutz van Eigennutz!" (The Common Interest before Self!) was a popular Nazi slogan in those days, and though many a party leader, Goering above all, was secretly enriching himself and the profits of business were mounting, there was no doubt that the masses were taken in by the new "national socialism" which ostensibly put the welfare of the community above one's personal gain.

The racial laws which excluded the Jews from the German community seemed to a foreign observer to be a shocking throwback to primitive times, but since the Nazi racial theories exalted the Germans as the salt of the earth and the master race they were far from being unpopular. A few Germans one met -- former Socialists or liberals or devout Christians from the old conservative classes -- were disgusted or even revolted by the persecution of the Jews, but though they helped to alleviate hardship in a number of individual cases they did nothing to help stem the tide. What could they do? They would often put the question to you, and it was not an easy one to answer.

The Germans heard vaguely in their censored press and broadcasts of the revulsion abroad but they noticed that it did not prevent foreigners from flocking to the Third Reich and seemingly enjoying its hospitality. For Nazi Germany, much more than Soviet Russia, was open for all the world to see. [ii] The tourist business thrived and brought in vast sums of badly needed foreign currency. Apparently the Nazi leaders had nothing to hide. A foreigner, no matter how anti-Nazi, could come to Germany and see and study what he liked -- with the exception of the concentration camps and, as in all countries, the military installations. And many did. And many returned who if they were not converted were at least rendered tolerant of the "new Germany" and believed that they had seen, as they said, "positive achievements." Even a man as perspicacious as Lloyd George, who had led England to victory over Germany in 1918, and who in that year had campaigned with an election slogan of "Hang the Kaiser" could visit Hitler at Obersalzberg in 1936 and go away enchanted with the Fuehrer and praise him publicly as "a great man" who had the vision and the will to solve a modern nation's social problems -- above all, unemployment, a sore which still festered in England and in regard to which the great wartime Liberal leader with his program We Can Conquer Unemployment had found so little interest at home.

The Olympic games held in Berlin in August 1936 afforded the Nazis a golden opportunity to impress the world with the achievements of the Third Reich, and they made the most of it. The signs "Juden unerwuenscht" (Jews Not Welcome) were quietly hauled down from the shops, hotels, beer gardens and places of public entertainment, the persecution of the Jews and of the two Christian churches temporarily halted, and the country put on its best behavior. No previous games had seen such a spectacular organization nor such a lavish display of entertainment. Goering, Ribbentrop and Goebbels gave dazzling parties for the foreign visitors -- the Propaganda Minister's "Italian Night" on the Pfaueninsel near Wannsee gathered more than a thousand guests at dinner in a scene that resembled the Arabian Nights. The visitors, especially those from England and America, were greatly impressed by what they saw: apparently a happy, healthy, friendly people united under Hitler -- a far different picture, they said, than they had got from reading the newspaper dispatches from Berlin.

And yet underneath the surface, hidden from the tourists during those splendid late-summer Olympic days in Berlin and indeed overlooked by most Germans or accepted by them with a startling passivity, there seemed to be -- to a foreigner at least -- a degrading transformation of German life.

There was nothing hidden, of course, about the laws which Hitler decreed against the Jews or about the government-sponsored persecution of these hapless people. The so-called Nuremberg Laws of September 15, 1935, deprived the Jews of German citizenship, confining them to the status of "subjects." It also forbade marriage between Jews and Aryans as well as extramarital relations between them, and it prohibited Jews from employing female Aryan servants under thirty-five years of age. In the next few years some thirteen decrees supplementing the Nuremberg Laws would outlaw the Jew completely. But already by the summer of 1936, when the Germany which was host to the Olympic games was enchanting the visitors from the West, the Jews had been excluded either by law or by Nazi terror -- the latter often preceded the former -- from public and private employment to such an extent that at least one half of them were without means of livelihood. In the first year of the Third Reich, 1933, they had been excluded from public office, the civil service, journalism, radio, farming, teaching, the theater, the films; in 1934 they were kicked out of the stock exchanges, and though the ban on their practicing the professions of law and medicine or engaging in business did not come legally until 1938 they were in practice removed from these fields by the time the first four-year period of Nazi rule had come to an end.

Moreover, they were denied not only most of the amenities of life but often even the necessities. In many a town the Jew found it difficult if not impossible to purchase food. Over the doors of the grocery and butcher shops, the bakeries and the dairies, were signs, "Jews Not Admitted." In many communities Jews could not procure milk even for their young children. Pharmacies would not sell them drugs or medicine. Hotels would not give them a night's lodging. And always, wherever they went, were the taunting signs "Jews Strictly Forbidden in This Town" or "Jews Enter This Place at Their Own Risk." At a sharp bend in the road near Ludwigshafen was a sign, "Drive Carefully! Sharp Curve! Jews 75 Miles an Hour!" [iii]

Such was the plight of the Jews at about the time the Festival of the Olympics was held in Germany. It was but the beginning of a road that would soon lead to their extinction by massacre.


The Nazi war on the Christian churches began more moderately. Though Hitler, nominally a Catholic, had inveighed against political Catholicism in Mein Kampf and attacked both of the Christian churches for their failure to recognize the racial problem, he had, as we have seen, warned in his book that "a political party must never ... lose sight of the fact that in all previous historical experience a purely political party has never succeeded in producing a religious reformation." Article 24 of the party program had demanded "liberty for all religious denominations in the State so far as they are not a danger to ... the moral feelings of the German race. The party stands for positive Christianity." In his speech of March 23, 1933, to the Reichstag when the legislative body of Germany abandoned its functions to the dictator, Hitler paid tribute to the Christian faiths as "essential elements for safeguarding the soul of the German people," promised to respect their rights, declared that his government's "ambition is a peaceful accord between Church and State" and added -- with an eye to the votes of the Catholic Center Party, which he received -- that "we hope to improve our friendly relations with the Holy See."

Scarcely four months later, on July 20, the Nazi government concluded a concordat with the Vatican in which it guaranteed the freedom of the Catholic religion and the right of the Church "to regulate her own affairs." The agreement, signed on behalf of Germany by Papen and of the Holy See by the then Papal Secretary of State, Monsignor Pacelli, later Pope Pius XII, was hardly put to paper before it was being broken by the Nazi government. But coming as it did at a moment when the first excesses of the new regime in Germany had provoked world-wide revulsion, the concordat undoubtedly lent the Hitler government much badly needed prestige. [iv]

On July 25, five days after the ratification of the concordat, the German government promulgated a sterilization law, which particularly offended the Catholic Church. Five days later the first steps were taken to dissolve the Catholic Youth League. During the next years thousands of Catholic priests, nuns and lay leaders were arrested, many of them on trumped-up charges of "immorality" or of "smuggling foreign currency." Erich Klausener, leader of Catholic Action, was, as we have seen, murdered in the June 30, 1934, purge. Scores of Catholic publications were suppressed, and even the sanctity of the confessional was violated by Gestapo agents. By the spring of 1937 the Catholic hierarchy in Germany, which, like most of the Protestant clergy, had at first tried to co-operate with the new regime, was thoroughly disillusioned. On March 14, 1937, Pope Pius Xl issued an encyclical, "Mit Brennender Sorge" (With Burning Sorrow), charging the Nazi government with "evasion" and "violation" of the concordat and accusing it of sowing "the tares of suspicion, discord, hatred, calumny, of secret and open fundamental hostility to Christ and His Church." On "the horizon of Germany" the Pope saw "the threatening storm clouds of destructive religious wars ... which have no other aim than ... of extermination."


The Reverend Martin Niemoeller had personally welcomed the coming to power of the Nazis in 1933. In that year his autobiography, From V-Boat to Pulpit, had been published. The story of how this submarine commander in the First World War had become a prominent Protestant pastor was singled out for special praise in the Nazi press and became a best seller. To Pastor Niemoeller, as to many a Protestant clergyman, the fourteen years of the Republic had been, as he said, "years of darkness" l and at the close of his autobiography he added a note of satisfaction that the Nazi revolution had finally triumphed and that it had brought about the "national revival" for which he himself had fought so long -- for a time in the free corps, from which so many Nazi leaders had come.

He was soon to experience a terrible disillusionment.

The Protestants in Germany, as in the United States, were a divided faith. Only a very few -- some 150,000 out of forty-five million of them -- belonged to the various Free Churches such as the Baptists and Methodists. The rest belonged to twenty-eight Lutheran and Reformed Churches of which the largest was the Church of the Old Prussian Union, with eighteen million members. With the rise of National Socialism there came further divisions among the Protestants. The more fanatical Nazis among them organized in 1932 "The German Christians' Faith Movement" of which the most vehement leader was a certain Ludwig Mueller, army chaplain of the East Prussian Military District, a devoted follower of Hitler who had first brought the Fuehrer together with General von Blomberg when the latter commanded the district. The "German Christians" ardently supported the Nazi doctrines of race and the leadership principle and wanted them applied to a Reich Church which would bring all Protestants into one all-embracing body. In 1933 the "German Christians" had some three thousand out of a total of seventeen thousand pastors, though their lay followers probably represented a larger percentage of churchgoers.

Opposed to the "German Christians" was another minority group which called itself the "Confessional Church." It had about the same number of pastors and was eventually led by Niemoeller. It opposed the Nazification of the Protestant churches, rejected the Nazi racial theories and denounced the anti-Christian doctrines of Rosenberg and other Nazi leaders. In between lay the majority of Protestants, who seemed too timid to join either of the two warring groups, who sat on the fence and eventually, for the most part, landed in the arms of Hitler, accepting his authority to intervene in church affairs and obeying his commands without open protest.

It is difficult to understand the behavior of most German Protestants in the first Nazi years unless one is aware of two things: their history and the influence of Martin Luther. [v] The great founder of Protestantism was both a passionate anti-Semite and a ferocious believer in absolute obedience to political authority. He wanted Germany rid of the Jews and when they were sent away he advised that they be deprived of "all their cash and jewels and silver and gold" and, furthermore, "that their synagogues or schools be set on fire, that their houses be broken up and destroyed ... and they be put under a roof or stable, like the gypsies ... in misery and captivity as they incessantly lament and complain to God about us" -- advice that was literally followed four centuries later by Hitler, Goering and Himmler. [2]

In what was perhaps the only popular revolt in German history, the peasant uprising of 1525, Luther advised the princes to adopt the most ruthless measures against the "mad dogs," as he called the desperate, downtrodden peasants. Here, as in his utterances about the Jews, Luther employed a coarseness and brutality of language unequaled in German history until the Nazi time. The influence of this towering figure extended down the generations in Germany, especially among the Protestants. Among other results was the ease with which German Protestantism became the instrument of royal and princely absolutism from the sixteenth century until the kings and princes were overthrown in 1918. The hereditary monarchs and petty rulers became the supreme bishops of the Protestant Church in their lands. Thus in Prussia the Hohenzollern King was the head of the Church. In no country with the exception of Czarist Russia did the clergy become by tradition so completely servile to the political authority of the State. Its members, with few exceptions, stood solidly behind the King, the Junkers and the Army, and during the nineteenth century they dutifully opposed the rising liberal and democratic movements. Even the Weimar Republic was anathema to most Protestant pastors, not only because it had deposed the kings and princes but because it drew its main support from the Catholics and the Socialists. During the Reichstag elections one could not help but notice that the Protestant clergy-Niemoeller was typical -- quite openly supported the Nationalist and even the Nazi enemies of the Republic. Like Niemoeller, most of the pastors welcomed the advent of Adolf Hitler to the chancellorship in 1933.

They were soon to become acquainted with the very strong-arm Nazi tactics which had swept Hitler to political power. In July 1933 representatives of the Protestant churches had written a constitution for a new "Reich Church," and it was formally recognized by the Reichstag on July 14. Immediately there broke out a heated struggle over the election of the first Reich Bishop. Hitler insisted that his friend, Chaplain Mueller, whom he had appointed his adviser on Protestant church affairs, be given this highest office. The leaders of the Church Federation proposed an eminent divine, Pastor Friedrich von Bodelschwingh. But they were naive. The Nazi government intervened, dissolved a number of provincial church organizations, suspended from office several leading dignitaries of the Protestant churches, loosed the S.A. and the Gestapo on recalcitrant clergymen -- in fact, terrorized all who supported Bodelschwingh. On the eve of the elections of delegates to the synod which would elect the Reich Bishop, Hitler personally took to the radio to "urge" the election of "German Christians" whose candidate Mueller was. The intimidation was highly successful. Bodelschwingh in the meantime had been forced to withdraw his candidacy, and the "elections" returned a majority of "German Christians," who in September at the synod in Wittenberg, where Luther had first defied Rome, elected Mueller Reich Bishop.

But the new head of the Church, a heavy-handed man, was not able to establish a unified Church or to completely Nazify the Protestant congregations. On November 13, 1933, the day after the German people had overwhelmingly backed Hitler in a national plebiscite, the "German Christians" staged a massive rally in the Sportpalast in Berlin. A Dr. Reinhardt Krause, the Berlin district leader of the sect, proposed the abandonment of the Old Testament, "with its tales of cattle merchants and pimps" and the revision of the New Testament with the teaching of Jesus "corresponding entirely with the demands of National Socialism." Resolutions were drawn up demanding "One People, One Reich, One Faith," requiring all pastors to take an oath of allegiance to Hitler and insisting that all churches institute the Aryan paragraph and exclude converted Jews. This was too much even for the timid Protestants who had declined to take any part in the church war, and Bishop Mueller was forced to suspend Dr. Krause and disavow him.

In reality the struggle between the Nazi government and the churches was the age-old one of what to render unto Caesar and what to God. So far as the Protestants were concerned, Hitler was insistent that if the Nazi "German Christians" could not bring the evangelical churches into line under Reich Bishop Mueller then the government itself would have to take over the direction of the churches. He had always had a certain contempt for the Protestants, who, though a tiny minority in his native Catholic Austria, comprised two thirds of the citizens of Germany. "You can do anything you want with them," he once confided to his aides. "They will submit ... they are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them." [3] He was well aware that the resistance to the Nazification of the Protestant churches came from a minority of pastors and an even smaller minority of worshipers.

By the beginning of 1934, the disillusioned Pastor Niemoeller had become the guiding spirit of the minority resistance in both the "Confessional Church" and the Pastors' Emergency League. At the General Synod in Barmen in May 1934, and at a special meeting in Niemoeller's Church of Jesus Christ at Dahlem, a suburb of Berlin, in November, the "Confessional Church" declared itself to be the legitimate Protestant Church of Germany and set up a provisional church government. Thus there were now two groups -- Reich Bishop Mueller's and Niemoeller's -- claiming to legally constitute the Church.

It was obvious that the former army chaplain, despite his closeness to Hitler, had failed to integrate the Protestant churches, and at the end of 1935, after the Gestapo had arrested seven hundred "Confessional Church" pastors, he resigned his office and faded out of the picture. Already, in July 1935, Hitler had appointed a Nazi lawyer friend, Dr. Hans Kerrl, to be Minister for Church Affairs, with instructions to make a second attempt to co-ordinate the Protestants. One of the milder Nazis and a somewhat cautious man, Kerrl at first had considerable success. He succeeded not only in winning over the conservative clergy, which constituted the majority, but in setting up a Church Committee headed by the venerable Dr. Zoellner, who was respected by all factions, to work out a general settlement. Though Niemoeller's group co-operated with the committee, it still maintained that it was the only legitimate Church. When, in May 1936, it addressed a courteous but firm memorandum to Hitler protesting against the anti-Christian tendencies of the regime, denouncing the government's anti-Semitism and demanding an end to State interference in the churches, Frick, the Nazi Minister of the Interior, responded with ruthless action. Hundreds of "Confessional Church" pastors were arrested, one of the signers of the memorandum, Dr. Weissler, was murdered in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, the funds of the "Confessional Church" were confiscated and it was forbidden to make collections.

On February 12, 1937, Dr. Zoellner resigned from the Church Committee -- he had been restrained by the Gestapo from visiting Luebeck, where nine Protestant pastors had been arrested -- complaining that his work had been sabotaged by the Church Minister. Dr. Kerrl replied the next day in a speech to a group of submissive churchmen. He accused the venerable Zoellner of failing to appreciate the Nazi doctrine of Race, Blood and Soil, and clearly revealed the government's hostility to both Protestant and Catholic churches.

The party [Kerrl said] stands on the basis of Positive Christianity, and Positive Christianity is National Socialism ... National Socialism is the doing of God's will ... God's will reveals itself in German blood ... Dr. Zoellner and Count Galen [the Catholic bishop of Muenster] have tried to make clear to me that Christianity consists in faith in Christ as the Son of God. That makes me laugh ... No, Christianity is not dependent upon the Apostle's Creed ... True Christianity is represented by the party, and the German people are now called by the party and especially by the Fuehrer to a real Christianity ... The Fuehrer is the herald of a new revelation. [4]

On the first of July, 1937, Dr. Niemoeller was arrested and confined to Moabit prison in Berlin. On June 27 he had preached to the congregation, which always overflowed his church at Dahlem, what was to be his last sermon in the Third Reich. As if he had a foreboding of what was to come he said, "We have no more thought of using our own powers to escape the arm of the authorities than had the Apostles of old. No more are we ready to keep silent at man's behest when God commands us to speak. For it is, and must remain, the case that we must obey God rather than man."

After eight months in prison he was tried on March 2, 1938, before a Sondergericht, one of the "Special Courts" set up by the Nazis to try offenders against the State, and though acquitted of the main charge of "underhand attacks against the State" was fined two thousand marks and sentenced to seven months' imprisonment for "abuse of the pulpit" and holding collections in his church. Since he had served more than this time, the court ordered his release, but he was seized by the Gestapo as he was leaving the courtroom, placed in "protective custody" and confined in concentration camps, first at Sachsenhausen and then at Dachau, where he remained for seven years until liberated by Allied troops.

Some 807 other pastors and leading laymen of the "Confessional Church" were arrested in 1937, and hundreds more in the next couple of years. If the resistance of the Niemoeller wing of the church was not completely broken, it was certainly bent. As for the majority of Protestant pastors, they, like almost everyone else in Germany, submitted in the face of Nazi terror. By the end of 1937 the highly respected Bishop Marahrens of Hanover was induced by Dr. Kerrl to make a public declaration that must have seemed especially humiliating to tougher men of God such as Niemoeller: "The National Socialist conception of life is the national and political teaching which determines and characterizes German manhood. As such, it is obligatory upon German Christians also." In the spring of 1938 Bishop Marahrens took the final step of ordering all pastors in his diocese to swear a personal oath of allegiance to the Fuehrer. In a short time the vast majority of Protestant clergymen took the oath, thus binding themselves legally and morally to obey the commands of the dictator.

It would be misleading to give the impression that the persecution of Protestants and Catholics by the Nazi State tore the German people asunder or even greatly aroused the vast majority of them. It did not. A people who had so lightly given up their political and cultural and economic freedoms were not, except for a relatively few, going to die or even risk imprisonment to preserve freedom of worship. What really aroused the Germans in the Thirties were the glittering successes of Hitler in providing jobs, creating prosperity, restoring Germany's military might, and moving from one triumph to another in his foreign policy. Not many Germans lost much sleep over the arrests of a few thousand pastors and priests or over the quarreling of the various Protestant sects. And even fewer paused to reflect that under the leadership of Rosenberg, Bormann and Himmler, who were backed by Hitler, the Nazi regime intended eventually to destroy Christianity in Germany, if it could, and substitute the old paganism of the early tribal Germanic gods and the new paganism of the Nazi extremists. As Bormann, one of the men closest to Hitler, said publicly in 1941, "National Socialism and Christianity are irreconcilable."

What the Hitler government envisioned for Germany was clearly set out in a thirty-point program for the "National Reich Church" drawn up during the war by Rosenberg, an outspoken pagan, who among his other offices held that of "the Fuehrer's Delegate for the Entire Intellectual and Philosophical Education and Instruction for the National Socialist Party." A few of its thirty articles convey the essentials:

1. The National Reich Church of Germany categorically claims the exclusive right and the exclusive power to control all churches within the borders of the Reich: it declares these to be national churches of the German Reich.

5. The National Church is determined to exterminate irrevocably ... the strange and foreign Christian faiths imported into Germany in the ill-omened year 800.

7. The National Church has no scribes, pastors, chaplains or priests, but National Reich orators are to speak in them.

13. The National Church demands immediate cessation of the publishing and dissemination of the Bible in Germany ...

14. The National Church declares that to it, and therefore to the German nation, it has been decided that the Fuehrer's Mein Kampf is the greatest of all documents. It ... not only contains the greatest but it embodies the purest and truest ethics for the present and future life of our nation.

18. The National Church will clear away from its altars all crucifixes, Bibles and pictures of saints.

19. On the altars there must be nothing but Mein Kampf (to the German nation and therefore to God the most sacred book) and to the left of the altar a sword.

30. On the day of its foundation, the Christian Cross must be removed from all churches, cathedrals and chapels ... and it must be superseded by the only unconquerable symbol, the swastika. [5]


On the evening of May 10, 1933, some four and a half months after Hitler became Chancellor, there occurred in Berlin a scene which had not been witnessed in the Western world since the late Middle Ages. At about midnight a torchlight parade of thousands of students ended at a square on Unter den Linden opposite the University of Berlin. Torches were put to a huge pile of books that had been gathered there, and as the flames enveloped them more books were thrown on the fire until some twenty thousand had been consumed. Similar scenes took place in several other cities. The book burning had begun.

Many of the books tossed into the flames in Berlin that night by the joyous students under the approving eye of Dr. Goebbels had been written by authors of world reputation. They included, among German writers, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Jakob Wassermann, Arnold and Stefan Zweig, Erich Maria Remarque, Walther Rathenau, Albert Einstein, Alfred Kerr and Hugo Preuss, the last named being the scholar who had drafted the Weimar Constitution. But not only the works of dozens of German writers were burned. A good many foreign authors were also included: Jack London, Upton Sinclair, Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger, H. G. Wells, Havelock Ellis, Arthur Schnitzler, Freud, Gide, Zola, Proust. In the words of a student proclamation, any book was condemned to the flames "which acts subversively on our future or strikes at the root of German thought, the German home and the driving forces of our people."

Dr. Goebbels, the new Propaganda Minister, who from now on was to put German culture into a Nazi strait jacket, addressed the students as the burning books turned to ashes. "The soul of the German people can again express itself. These flames not only illuminate the final end of an old era; they also light up the new."

The new Nazi era of German culture was illuminated not only by the bonfires of books and the more effective, if less symbolic, measures of proscribing the sale or library circulation of hundreds of volumes and the publishing of many new ones, but by the regimentation of culture on a scale which no modern Western nation had ever experienced. As early as September 22, 1933, the Reich Chamber of Culture had been set up by law under the direction of Dr. Goebbels. Its purpose was defined, in the words of the law, as follows: "In order to pursue a policy of German culture, it is necessary to gather together the creative artists in all spheres into a unified organization under the leadership of the Reich. The Reich must not only determine the lines of progress, mental and spiritual, but also lead and organize the professions."

Seven subchambers were established to guide and control every sphere of cultural life: the Reich chambers of fine arts, music, the theater, literature, the press, radio and the films. All persons engaged in these fields were obligated to join their respective chambers, whose decisions and directives had the validity of law. Among other powers, the chambers could expel -- or refuse to accept -- members for "political unreliability," which meant that those who were even lukewarm about National Socialism could be, and usually were, excluded from practicing their profession or art and thus deprived of a livelihood.

No one who lived in Germany in the Thirties, and who cared about such matters, can ever forget the sickening decline of the cultural standards of a people who had had such high ones for so long a time. This was inevitable, of course, the moment the Nazi leaders decided that the arts, literature, the press, radio and the films must serve exclusively the propaganda purposes of the new regime and its outlandish philosophy. Not a single living German writer of any importance, with the exception of Ernst Juenger and Ernst Wiechert in the earlier years, was published in Germany during the Nazi time. Almost all of them, led by Thomas Mann, emigrated; the few who remained were silent or were silenced. Every manuscript of a book or a play had to be submitted to the Propaganda Ministry before it could be approved for publication or production.

Music fared best, if only because it was the least political of the arts and because the Germans had such a rich store of it from Bach through Beethoven and Mozart to Brahms. But the playing of Mendelssohn was banned because he was a Jew (the works of all Jewish composers were verboten) as was the music of Germany's leading modern composer, Paul Hindemith. Jews were quickly weeded out of the great symphony orchestras and the opera. Unlike the writers, most of the great figures of the German music world chose to remain in Nazi Germany and indeed lent their names and their talent to the New Order. Wilhelm Furtwaengler, one of the finest conductors of the century, remained. He was out of favor for a year in 1934 because of his defense of Hindemith, but returned to activity for the remaining years of Hitler's rule. Richard Strauss, perhaps the world's leading living composer, remained and indeed for a time became president of the Reich Music Chamber, lending his great name to Goebbels' prostituting of culture. Walter Gieseking, the eminent pianist, spent much of his time making tours in foreign countries which were organized or approved by the Propaganda Minister to promote German "culture" abroad. But because the musicians did not emigrate and because of Germany's great treasure of classical music, one could hear during the days of the Third Reich symphony music and opera performed magnificently. In this the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and the Berlin State Opera were pre-eminent. The excellent music fare did much to make people forget the degradation of the other arts and of so much of life under the Nazis.

The theater, it must be said, retained much of its excellence as long as it stuck to classical plays. Max Reinhardt, of course, was gone, along with all other Jewish producers, directors and actors. The Nazi playwrights were so ludicrously bad that the public stayed away from their offerings, which invariably had short runs. The president of the Reich Theater Chamber was one Hans Johst, an unsuccessful playwright who once had publicly boasted that whenever someone mentioned the word "culture" to him he wanted to reach for his revolver. But even Johst and Goebbels, who determined what was played on the stage and who played and directed it, were unable to prevent the German theater from giving commendable and often moving performances of Goethe, Schiller and Shakespeare.

Strangely enough, some of Shaw's plays were permitted to be performed in Nazi Germany -- perhaps because he poked fun at Englishmen and lampooned democracy and perhaps too because his wit and left-wing political views escaped the Nazi mind.

Strangest of all was the case of Germany's great playwright, Gerhart Hauptmann. Because he had been an ardent Socialist his plays had been banned from the imperial theaters during Kaiser Wilhelm II's time. During the Republic he had been the most popular playwright in Germany, and indeed he retained that position in the Third Reich. His plays continued to be produced. I shall never forget the scene at the close of the first night of his last play, The Daughter of the Cathedral, when Hauptmann, a venerable figure with his flowing white hair tumbling down over his black cape, strode out of the theater arm in arm with Dr. Goebbels and Johst. He, like so many other eminent Germans, had made his peace with Hitler, and Goebbels, a shrewd man, had made much effective propaganda out of it, tirelessly reminding the German people and the outside world that Germany's greatest living playwright, a former Socialist and the champion of the common man, had not only remained in the Third Reich but had continued to write and have his plays produced.

How sincere or opportunistic or merely changeable this aging playwright was may be gathered from what happened after the war. The American authorities, believing that Hauptmann had served the Nazis too well, banned his plays from the theaters in their sector in West Berlin. Whereupon the Russians invited him to Berlin, welcomed him as a hero and staged a gala cycle of his plays in East Berlin. And on October 6, 1945, Hauptmann sent a message to the Communist-dominated "Kulturbund for the Democratic Revival of Germany" wishing it well and expressing the hope that it would succeed in bringing about a "spiritual rebirth" of the German people.


The Germany which had given the world a Duerer and a Cranach had not been pre-eminent in the fine arts in modern times, though German expressionism in painting and the Munich Bauhaus architecture were interesting and original movements and German artists had participated in all the twentieth-century evolutions and eruptions represented by impressionism, cubism and Dadaism.

To Hitler, who considered himself a genuine artist despite his early failures as one in Vienna, all modern art was degenerate and senseless. In Mein Kampf he had delivered a long tirade on the subject, and one of his first acts after coming to power was to "cleanse" Germany of its "decadent" art and to attempt to substitute a new "Germanic" art. Some 6,500 modern paintings -- not only the works of Germans such as Kokoschka and Grosz but those of Cezanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso and many others -- were removed from German museums.

What was to replace them was shown in the summer of 1937 when Hitler formally opened the "House of German Art" in Munich in a drab, pseudoclassic building which he had helped design and which he described as "unparalleled and inimitable" in its architecture. In this first exhibition of Nazi art were crammed some nine hundred works, selected from fifteen thousand submitted, of the worst junk this writer has ever seen in any country. Hitler himself made the final selection and, according to some of the party comrades who were with him at the time, had become so incensed at some of the paintings accepted by the Nazi jury presided over by Adolf Ziegler, a mediocre painter who was president of the Reich Chamber of Art, [vi] that he had not only ordered them thrown out but had kicked holes with his jack boot through several of them. "I was always determined," he said in a long speech inaugurating the exhibition, "if fate ever gave us power, not to discuss these matters [of artistic judgment] but to make decisions." And he had made them.

In his speech -- it was delivered on July 18, 1937 -- he laid down the Nazi line for "German art":

Works of art that cannot be understood but need a swollen set of instructions to prove their right to exist and find their way to neurotics who are receptive to such stupid or insolent nonsense will no longer openly reach the German nation. Let no one have illusions! National Socialism has set out to purge the German Reich and our people of all those influences threatening its existence and character ... With the opening of this exhibition has come the end of artistic lunacy and with it the artistic pollution of our people ...

And yet some Germans at least, especially in the art center of Germany which Munich was, preferred to be artistically polluted. In another part of the city in a ramshackle gallery that had to be reached through a narrow stairway was an exhibition of "degenerate art" which Dr. Goebbels had organized to show the people what Hitler was rescuing them from. It contained a splendid selection of modern paintings -- Kokoschka, Chagall and expressionist and impressionist works. The day I visited it, after panting through the sprawling House of German Art, it was crammed, with a long line forming down the creaking stairs and out into the street. In fact, the crowds besieging it became so great that Dr. Goebbels, incensed and embarrassed, soon closed it.
Site Admin
Posts: 28774
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 8:33 pm

Part 2 of 3


Every morning the editors of the Berlin daily newspapers and the correspondents of those published elsewhere in the Reich gathered at the Propaganda Ministry to be told by Dr. Goebbels or by one of his aides what news to print and suppress, how to write the news and headline it, what campaigns to call off or institute and what editorials were desired for the day. In case of any misunderstanding a daily written directive was furnished along with the oral instructions. For the smaller out-of-town papers and the periodicals the directives were dispatched by telegram or by mail.

To be an editor in the Third Reich one had to be, in the first place, politically and racially "clean." The Reich Press Law of October 4, 1933, which made journalism a "public vocation," regulated by law, stipulated that all editors must possess German citizenship, be of Aryan descent and not married to a Jew. Section 14 of the Press Law ordered editors "to keep out of the newspapers anything which in any manner is misleading to the public, mixes selfish aims with community aims, tends to weaken the strength of the German Reich, outwardly or inwardly, the common will of the German people, the defense of Germany, its culture and economy ... or offends the honor and dignity of Germany" -- an edict which, if it had been in effect before 1933, would have led to the suppression of every Nazi editor and publication in the country. It now led to the ousting of those journals and journalists who were not Nazi or who declined to become so.

One of the first to be forced out of business was the Vossische Zeitung. Founded in 1704 and numbering among its contributors in the past such names as Frederick the Great, Lessing and Rathenau, it had become the leading newspaper of Germany, comparable to the Times of London and the New York Times. But it was liberal and it was owned by the House of Ullstein, a Jewish firm. It went out of business on April 1, 1934, after 230 years of continuous publication. The Berliner Tageblatt, another world-renowned liberal newspaper, lingered on a little longer, until 1937, though its owner, Hans Lackmann-Mosse, a Jew, was forced to surrender his interest in the newspaper in the spring of 1933. Germany's third great liberal newspaper, the Frankfurter Zeitung, also continued to publish after divesting itself of its Jewish proprietor and editors. Rudolf Kircher, its London correspondent, an Anglophile and a liberal, became the editor and, like Karl Silex, editor of the conservative Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung of Berlin, who had also been a London correspondent, a Rhodes scholar, a passionate admirer of the British and a liberal, served the Nazis well, often becoming, as Otto Dietrich, the Reich press chief, once said of the former "opposition papers," "more papal than the Pope." That the last three newspapers survived was due partly to the influence of the German Foreign Office, which wanted these internationally known journals as a kind of showpiece to impress the outside world. They gave a respectability to Nazi Germany and at the same time peddled its propaganda.

With all newspapers in Germany being told what to publish and how to write the news and editorials, it was inevitable that a deadly conformity would come over the nation's press. Even a people so regimented and so given to accepting authority became bored by the daily newspapers. Circulation declined even for the leading Nazi daily newspapers such as the morning Voelkischer Beobachter and the evening Der Angriff. And the total circulation of all journals fell off steeply as one paper after another went under or was taken over by Nazi publishers. In the first four years of the Third Reich the number of daily newspapers declined from 3,607 to 2,671.

But the country's loss of a free and varied press was the party's gain -- at least financially. Max Amann, Hitler's top sergeant during the First World War and head of the Eher Verlag, the party's publishing firm, became the financial dictator of the German press. As Reich Leader for the Press and president of the Press Chamber, he had the legal right to suppress any publication he pleased and the consequent power to buy it up for a song. In a short time the Eher Verlag became a gigantic publishing empire, probably the largest and most lucrative in the world. [vii] Despite the drop in sales of many Nazi publications, the daily newspapers owned or controlled by the party or individual Nazis had two thirds of the total daily circulation of twenty-five million by the time of the outbreak of the second war. In an affidavit made at Nuremberg, Amann described how he operated:

After the party came to power in 1933 ... many of these concerns, such as the Ullstein House, which were owned or controlled by Jewish interests, or by political or religious interests hostile to the Nazi Party, found it expedient to sell their newspapers or assets to the Eher concern. There was no free market for the sale of such properties and the Eher Verlag was generally the only bidder. In this matter the Eher Verlag, together with publishing concerns owned or controlled by it, expanded into a monopoly of the newspaper publishing business in Germany ... The party investment in these publishing enterprises became financially very successful. It is a true statement to say that the basic purpose of the Nazi press program was to eliminate all the press which was in opposition to the party. [6]

At one period in 1934 both Amann and Goebbels appealed to the obsequious editors to make their papers less monotonous. Amann said he deplored "the present far-reaching uniformity of the press, which is not a product of government measures and does not conform to the will of the government." One rash editor, Ehm Welke of the weekly Gruene Post, made the mistake of taking Amann and Goebbels seriously. He chided the Propaganda Ministry for its red tape and for the heavy hand with which it held down the press and made it so dull. His publication was promptly suspended for three months and he himself dismissed by Goebbels and carted off to a concentration camp.

The radio and the motion pictures were also quickly harnessed to serve the propaganda of the Nazi State. Goebbels had always seen in radio (television had not yet come in) the chief instrument of propaganda in modern society and through the Radio Department of his ministry and the Chamber of Radio he gained complete control of broadcasting and shaped it to his own ends. His task was made easier because in Germany, as in the other countries of Europe, broadcasting was a monopoly owned and operated by the State. In 1933 the Nazi government automatically found itself in possession of the Reich Broadcasting Corporation.

The films remained in the hands of private firms but the Propaganda Ministry and the Chamber of Films controlled every aspect of the industry, their task being -- in the words of an official commentary -- "to lift the film industry out of the sphere of liberal economic thoughts ... and thus enable it to receive those tasks which it has to fulfill in the National Socialist State."

The result in both cases was to afflict the German people with radio programs and motion pictures as inane and boring as were the contents of their daily newspapers and periodicals. Even a public which usually submitted without protest to being told what was good for it revolted. The customers stayed away in droves from the Nazi films and jammed the houses which showed the few foreign pictures (mostly B-grade Hollywood) which Goebbels permitted to be exhibited on German screens. At one period in the mid-Thirties the hissing of German films became so common that Wilhelm Frick, the Minister of the Interior, issued a stern warning against "treasonable behavior on the part of cinema audiences." Likewise the radio programs were so roundly criticized that the president of the Radio Chamber, one Horst Dressler-Andress, declared that such carping was "an insult to German culture" and would not be tolerated. In those days, in the Thirties, a German listener could still turn his dial to a score of foreign radio stations without, as happened later when the war began, risking having his head chopped off. And perhaps quite a few did, though it was this observer's impression that as the years went by, Dr. Goebbels proved himself right, in that the radio became by far the regime's most effective means of propaganda, doing more than any other single instrument of communication to shape the German people to Hitler's ends.

I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers, especially those of London, Paris and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one's inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one's mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime's calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a cafe, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were.


On April 30, 1934, Bernhard Rust, an Obergruppenfuehrer in the S.A., onetime Gauleiter of Hanover, a Nazi Party member and friend of Hitler since the early Twenties, was named Reich Minister of Science, Education and Popular Culture. In the bizarre, topsy-turvy world of National Socialism, Rust was eminently fitted for his task. Since 1930 he had been an unemployed provincial schoolmaster, having been dismissed in that year by the local republican authorities at Hanover for certain manifestations of instability of mind, though his fanatical Nazism may have been partly responsible for his ouster. For Dr. Rust preached the Nazi gospel with the zeal of a Goebbels and the fuzziness of a Rosenberg. Named Prussian Minister of Science, Art and Education in February 1933, he boasted that he had succeeded overnight in "liquidating the school as an institution of intellectual acrobatics."

To such a mindless man was now entrusted dictatorial control over German science, the public schools, the institutions of higher learning and the youth organizations. For education in the Third Reich, as Hitler envisaged it, was not to be confined to stuffy classrooms but to be furthered by a Spartan, political and martial training in the successive youth groups and to reach its climax not so much in the universities and engineering colleges, which absorbed but a small minority, but first, at the age of eighteen, in compulsory labor service and then in service, as conscripts, in the armed forces.

Hitler's contempt for "professors" and the intellectual academic life had peppered the pages of Mein Kampf, in which he had set down some of his ideas on education. "The whole education by a national state," he had written, "must aim primarily not at the stuffing with mere knowledge but at building bodies which are physically healthy to the core." But, even more important, he had stressed in his book the importance of winning over and then training the youth in the service "of a new national state" -- a subject he returned to often after he became the German dictator. "When an opponent declares, 'I will not come over to your side,' " he said in a speech on November 6, 1933, "I calmly say, 'Your child belongs to us already ... What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.''' And on May 1, 1937, he declared, "This new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing." It was not an idle boast; that was precisely what was happening.

The German schools, from first grade through the universities, were quickly Nazified. Textbooks were hastily rewritten, curricula were changed, Mein Kampf was made -- in the words of Der Deutsche Erzieher, official organ of the educators -- "our infallible pedagogical guiding star" and teachers who failed to see the new light were cast out. Most instructors had been more or less Nazi in sentiment when not outright party members. To strengthen their ideology they were dispatched to special schools for intensive training in National Socialist principles, emphasis being put on Hitler's racial doctrines.

Every person in the teaching profession, from kindergarten through the universities, was compelled to join the National Socialist Teachers' League which, by law, was held "responsible for the execution of the ideological and political co-ordination of all teachers in accordance with the National Socialist doctrine." The Civil Service Act of 1937 required teachers to be "the executors of the will of the party-supported State" and to be ready "at any time to defend without reservation the National Socialist State." An earlier decree had classified them as civil servants and thus subject to the racial laws. Jews, of course, were forbidden to teach. All teachers took an oath to "be loyal and obedient to Adolf Hitler." Later, no man could teach who had not first served in the S.A., the Labor Service or the Hitler Youth. Candidates for instructorships in the universities had to attend for six weeks an observation camp where their views and character were studied by Nazi experts and reported to the Ministry of Education, which issued licenses to teach based on the candidates' political "reliability."

Prior to 1933, the German public schools had been under the jurisdiction of the local authorities and the universities under that of the individual states. Now all were brought under the iron rule of the Reich Minister of Education. It was he who also appointed the rectors and the deans of the universities, who formerly had been elected by the full professors of the faculty. He also appointed the leaders of the university students' union, to which all students had to belong, and of the lecturers union, comprising all instructors. The N.S. Association of University Lecturers, under the tight leadership of old Nazi hands, was given a decisive role in selecting who was to teach and to see that what they taught was in accordance with Nazi theories.

The result of so much Nazification was catastrophic for German education and for German learning. History was so falsified in the new textbooks and by the teachers in their lectures that it became ludicrous. The teaching of the "racial sciences," exalting the Germans as the master race and the Jews as breeders of almost all the evil there was in the world, was even more so. In the University of Berlin alone, where so many great scholars had taught in the past, the new rector, a storm trooper and by profession a veterinarian, instituted twenty-five new courses in Rassenkunde -- racial science -- and by the time he had really taken the university apart he had eighty-six courses connected with his own profession.

The teaching of the natural sciences, in which Germany had been so pre-eminent for generations, deteriorated rapidly. Great teachers such as Einstein and Franck in physics, Haber, Willstaetter and Warburg in chemistry, were fired or retired. Those who remained, many of them, were bitten by the Nazi aberrations and attempted to apply them to pure science. They began to teach what they called German physics, German chemistry, German mathematics. Indeed, in 1937 there appeared a journal called Deutsche Mathematik, and its first editorial solemnly proclaimed that any idea that mathematics could be judged nonracially carried "within itself the germs of destruction of German science."

The hallucinations of these Nazi scientists became unbelievable, even to a layman. "German Physics?" asked Professor Philipp Lenard of Heidelberg University, who was one of the more learned and internationally respected scientists of the Third Reich. "'But,' it will be replied, 'science is and remains international.' It is false. In reality, science, like every other human product, is racial and conditioned by blood." Professor Rudolphe Tomaschek, director of the Institute of Physics at Dresden, went further. "Modern Physics," he wrote, "is an instrument of [world] Jewry for the destruction of Nordic science ... True physics is the creation of the German spirit ... In fact, all European science is the fruit of Aryan, or, better, German thought." Professor Johannes Stark, head of the German National Institute of Physical Science, thought so too. It would be found, he said, that the "founders of research in physics, and the great discoverers from Galileo to Newton to the physical pioneers of our time, were almost exclusively Aryan, predominantly of the Nordic race."

There was also Professor Wilhelm Mueller, of the Technical College of Aachen, who in a book entitled Jewry and Science saw a world-wide Jewish plot to pollute science and thereby destroy civilization. To him Einstein, with his theory of relativity, was the archvillain. The Einstein theory, on which so much of modern physics is based, was to this singular Nazi professor "directed from beginning to end toward the goal of transforming the living -- that is, the non-Jewish -- world of living essence, born from a mother earth and bound up with blood, and bewitching it into spectral abstraction in which all individual differences of peoples and nations, and all inner limits of the races, are lost in unreality, and in which only an unsubstantial diversity of geometric dimensions survives which produces all events out of the compulsion of its godless subjection to laws." The world-wide acclaim given to Einstein on the publication of his theory of relativity, Professor Mueller proclaimed, was really only a rejoicing over "the approach of Jewish world rule which was to force down German manhood irrevocably and eternally to the level of the lifeless slave."

To Professor Ludwig Bieberback, of the University of Berlin, Einstein was "an alien mountebank." Even to Professor Lenard, "the Jew conspicuously lacks understanding for the truth ... being in this respect in contrast to the Aryan research scientist with his careful and serious will to truth ... Jewish physics is thus a phantom and a phenomenon of degeneration of fundamental German Physics." [7]

And yet from 1905 to 1931 ten German Jews had been awarded Nobel Prizes for their contributions to science.


During the Second Reich, the university professors, like the Protestant clergy, had given blind support to the conservative government and its expansionist aims, and the lecture halls had been breeding grounds of virulent nationalism and anti-Semitism. The Weimar Republic had insisted on complete academic freedom, and one result had been that the vast majority of university teachers, antiliberal, antidemocratic, anti- Semitic as they were, had helped to undermine the democratic regime. Most professors were fanatical nationalists who wished the return of a conservative, monarchical Germany. And though to many of them, before 1933, the Nazis were too rowdy and violent to attract their allegiance, their preachments helped prepare the ground for the coming of Nazism. By 1932 the majority of students appeared to be enthusiastic for Hitler.

It was surprising to some how many members of the university faculties knuckled under to the Nazification of higher learning after 1933. Though official figures put the number of professors and instructors dismissed during the first five years of the regime at 2,800 -- about one fourth of the total number -- the proportion of those who lost their posts through defying National Socialism was, as Professor Wilhelm Roepke, himself dismissed from the University of Marburg in 1933, said, "exceedingly small." Though small, there were names famous in the German academic world: Karl Jaspers, E. I. Gumbel, Theodor Litt, Karl Barth, Julius Ebbinghaus and dozen of others. Most of them emigrated, first to Switzerland, Holland and England and eventually to America. One of them, Professor Theodor Lessing, who had fled to Czechoslovakia, was tracked down by Nazi thugs and murdered in Marienbad on August 31, 1933.

A large majority of professors, however, remained at their posts, and as early as the autumn of 1933 some 960 of them, led by such luminaries as Professor Sauerbruch, the surgeon, Heidegger, the existentialist philosopher, and Pinder, the art historian, took a public vow to support Hitler and the National Socialist regime.

"It was a scene of prostitution," Professor Roepke later wrote, "that has stained the honorable history of German learning." [8] And as Professor Julius Ebbinghaus, looking back over the shambles in 1945, said, "The German universities failed, while there was still time, to oppose publicly with all their power the destruction of knowledge and of the democratic state. They failed to keep the beacon of freedom and right burning during the night of tyranny." [9]

The cost of such failure was great. After six years of Nazification the number of university students dropped by more than one half -- from 127,920 to 58,325. The decline in enrollment at the institutes of technology, from which Germany got its scientists and engineers, was even greater -- from 20,474 to 9,554. Academic standards fell dizzily. By 1937 there was not only a shortage of young men in the sciences and engineering but a decline in their qualifications. Long before the outbreak of the war the chemical industry, busily helping to further Nazi rearmament, was complaining through its organ, Die Chemische Industrie, that Germany was losing its leadership in chemistry. Not only the national economy but national defense itself was being jeopardized, it complained, and it blamed the shortage of young scientists and their mediocre caliber on the poor quality of the technical colleges.

Nazi Germany's loss, as it turned out, was the free world's gain, especially in the race to be the first with the atom bomb. The story of the successful efforts of Nazi leaders, led by Himmler, to hamstring the atomic-energy program is too long and involved to be recounted here. It was one of the ironies of fate that the development of the bomb in the United States owed so much to two men who had been exiled because of race from the Nazi and Fascist dictatorships: Einstein from Germany and Fermi from Italy.


To Adolf Hitler it was not so much the public schools, from which he himself had dropped out so early in life, but the organizations of the Hitler Youth on which he counted to educate the youth of Germany for the ends he had in mind. In the years of the Nazi Party's struggle for power the Hitler Youth movement had not amounted to much. In 1932, the last year of the Republic, its total enrollment was only 107,956, compared to some ten million youths who belonged to the various organizations united in the Reich Committee of German Youth Associations. In no country in the world had there been a youth movement of such vitality and numbers as in republican Germany. Hitler, realizing this, was determined to take it over and Nazify it.

His chief lieutenant for this task was a handsome young man of banal mind but of great driving force, Baldur von Schirach, who, falling under Hitler's spell, had joined the party in 1925 at the age of eighteen and in 1931 had been named Youth Leader of the Nazi Party. Among the scar-faced, brawling Brownshirts, he had the curious look of an American college student, fresh and immature, and this perhaps was due to his having had, as we have seen, American forebears (including two signers of the Declaration of Independence). [10]

Schirach was named "Youth Leader of the German Reich" in June 1933. Aping the tactics of his elder party leaders, his first action was to send an armed band of fifty husky Hitler Youth men to occupy the national offices of the Reich Committee of German Youth Associations, where an old Prussian Army officer, General Vogt, head of the committee, was put to rout. Schirach next took on one of the most celebrated of German naval heroes, Admiral von Trotha, who had been Chief of Staff of the High Seas Fleet in the First World War and who was now president of the Youth Associations. The venerable admiral too was put to flight and his position and organization were dissolved. Millions of dollars' worth of property, chiefly in hundreds of youth hostels scattered throughout Germany, was seized.

The concordat of July 20, 1933, had specifically provided for the unhindered continuance of the Catholic Youth Association. On December 1, 1936, Hitler decreed a law outlawing it and all other non-Nazi organizations for young people.

... All of the German youth in the Reich is organized within the Hitler Youth.

The German youth, besides being reared within the family and schools, shall be educated physically, intellectually and morally in the spirit of National Socialism ... through the Hitler Youth. [11]

Schirach, whose office had formerly been subordinate to the Ministry of Education, was made responsible directly to Hitler.

This half-baked young man of twenty-nine, who wrote maudlin verse in praise of Hitler ("this genius grazing the stars") and followed Rosenberg in his weird paganism and Streicher in his virulent anti-Semitism, had become the dictator of youth in the Third Reich.

From the age of six to eighteen, when conscription for the Labor Service and the Army began, girls as well as boys were organized in the various cadres of the Hitler Youth. Parents found guilty of trying to keep their children from joining the organization were subject to heavy prison sentences even though, as in some cases, they merely objected to having their daughters enter some of the services where cases of pregnancy had reached scandalous proportions.

From the age of six to ten, a boy served a sort of apprenticeship for the Hitler Youth as a Pimpf. Each youngster was given a performance book in which would be recorded his progress through the entire Nazi youth movement, including his ideological growth. At ten, after passing suitable tests in athletics, camping and Nazified history, he graduated into the Jungvolk ("Young Folk"), where he took the following oath:

In the presence of this blood banner, which represents our Fuehrer, I swear to devote all my energies and my strength to the savior of our country, Adolf Hitler. I am willing and ready to give up my life for him, so help me God.

At fourteen the boy entered the Hitler Youth proper and remained there until he was eighteen, when he passed into the Labor Service and the Army. It was a vast organization organized on paramilitary lines similar to the S.A. and in which the youngsters approaching manhood received systematic training not only in camping, sports and Nazi ideology but in soldiering. On many a weekend in the environs of Berlin this writer would be interrupted in his picnicking by Hitler Youths scrambling through the woods or over the heath, rifles at the ready and heavy army packs on their backs.

Sometimes the young ladies would be playing at soldiering, too, for the Hitler Youth movement did not neglect the maidens. From ten to fourteen, German girls were enrolled as Jungmaedel -- literally, "young maidens" -- and they too had a uniform, made up of a white blouse, full blue skirt, socks and heavy -- and most unfeminine -- marching shoes. Their training was much like that of the boys of the same age and included long marches on weekends with heavy packs and the usual indoctrination in the Nazi philosophy. But emphasis was put on the role of women in the Third Reich -- to be, above all, healthy mothers of healthy children. This was stressed even more when the girls became, at fourteen, members of the B.D.M. -- Bund Deutscher Maedel (League of German Maidens).

At eighteen, several thousand of the girls in the B.D.M. (they remained in it until 21 ) did a year's service on the farms -- their so-called Land Jahr, which was equivalent to the Labor Service of the young men. Their task was to help both in the house and in the fields. The girls lived sometimes in the farmhouses and often in small camps in rural districts from which they were taken by truck early each morning to the farms. Moral problems soon arose. The presence of a pretty young city girl sometimes disrupted a peasant's household, and angry complaints from parents about their daughters' having been made pregnant on the farms began to be heard. But that wasn't the only problem. Usually a girls' camp was located near a Labor Service camp for young men. This juxtaposition seems to have made for many pregnancies too. One couplet -- a take-off on the "Strength through Joy" movement of the Labor Front, but it applied especially to the Land Jahr of the young maidens -- went the rounds of Germany:

In the fields and on the heath I lose Strength through Joy.

Similar moral problems also arose during the Household Year for Girls, in which some half a million Hitler Youth maidens spent a year at domestic service in a city household. Actually, the more sincere Nazis did not consider them moral problems at all. On more than one occasion I listened to women leaders of the B.D.M. -- hey were invariably of the plainer type and usually unmarried -- lecture their young charges on the moral and patriotic duty of bearing children for Hitler's Reich -- within wedlock if possible, but without it if necessary.

By the end of 1938 the Hitler Youth numbered 7,728,259. Large as this number was, obviously some four million youth had managed to stay out of the organization, and in March 1939 the government issued a law conscripting all youth into the Hitler Youth on the same basis as they were drafted into the Army. Recalcitrant parents were warned that their children would be taken away from them and put into orphanages or other homes unless they enrolled.


The final twist to education in the Third Reich came in the establishment of three types of schools for the training of the elite: the Adolf Hitler Schools, under the direction of the Hitler Youth, the National Political Institutes of Education and the Order Castles -- the last two under the aegis of the party. The Adolf Hitler Schools took the most promising youngsters from the Jungvolk at the age of twelve and gave them six years of intensive training for leadership in the party and in the public services. The pupils lived at the school under Spartan discipline and on graduation were eligible for the university. There were ten such schools founded after 1937, the principal one being the Akademie at Brunswick.

The purpose of the Political Institutes of Education was to restore the type of education formerly given in the old Prussian military academies. This, according to one official commentary, cultivated "the soldierly spirit, with its attributes of courage, sense of duty and simplicity." To this was added special training in Nazi principles. The schools were under the supervision of the S.S., which furnished the headmasters and most of the teachers. Three such schools were established in 1933 and grew to thirty-one before the outbreak of the war, three of them for women.

At the very top of the pyramid were the so-called Order Castles, the Ordensburgen. In these, with their atmosphere of the castles of the Order of Teutonic Knights of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, were trained the elite of the Nazi elite. The knightly order had been based on the principle of absolute obedience to the Master, the Ordensmeister, and devoted to the German conquest of the Slavic lands in the East and the enslavement of the natives. The Nazi Order Castles had similar discipline and purposes. Only the most fanatical young National Socialists were chosen, usually from the top ranks of the graduates of the Adolf Hitler Schools and the Political Institutes. There were four Castles, and a student attended successively all of them. The first of six years was spent in one which specialized in the "racial sciences" and other aspects of Nazi ideology. The emphasis was on mental training and discipline, with physical training subordinated to it. This was reversed the second year at a Castle where athletics and sports, including mountain climbing and parachute jumping, came first. The third Castle, where the students spent the next year and a half, offered political and military instruction. Finally, in the fourth and last stage of his education, the student was sent for a year and a half to the Ordensburg in Marienburg in East Prussia, near the Polish frontier. There, within the walls of the very Order Castle which had been a stronghold of the Teutonic Knights five centuries before, his political and military training was concentrated on the Eastern question and Germany's need (and right!) of expanding into the Slavic lands in its eternal search for Lebensraum -- an excellent preparation, as it turned out and no doubt was meant to turn out, for the events of 1939 and thereafter.


In such a manner were the youth trained for life and work and death in the Third Reich. Though their minds were deliberately poisoned, their regular schooling interrupted, their homes largely replaced so far as their rearing went, the boys and the girls, the young men and women, seemed immensely happy, filled with a zest for the life of a Hitler Youth. And there was no doubt that the practice of bringing the children of all classes and walks of life together, where those who had come from poverty or riches, from a laborer's home or a peasant's or a businessman's, or an aristocrat's, shared common tasks, was good and healthy in itself. In most cases it did no harm to a city boy and girl to spend six months in the compulsory Labor Service, where they lived outdoors and learned the value of manual labor and of getting along with those of different backgrounds. No one who traveled up and down Germany in those days and talked with the young in their camps and watched them work and play and sing could fail to see that, however sinister the teaching, here was an incredibly dynamic youth movement.

The young in the Third Reich were growing up to have strong and healthy bodies, faith in the future of their country and in themselves and a sense of fellowship and camaraderie that shattered all class and economic and social barriers. I thought of that later, in the May days of 1940, when along the road between Aachen and Brussels one saw the contrast between the German soldiers, bronzed and clean-cut from a youth spent in the sunshine on an adequate diet, and the first British war prisoners, with their hollow chests, round shoulders, pasty complexions and bad teeth -- tragic examples of the youth that England had neglected so irresponsibly in the years between the wars.


When Hitler came to power in 1933 the farmer, as in most countries, was in desperate straits. According to a writer in the Frankfurter Zeitung, his situation was worse than at any time since the disastrous Peasants' War of 1524-25 devastated the German land. Agricultural income in 1932-33 had fallen to a new low, more than a billion marks below the worst postwar year, 1924-25. The farmers were in debt to the amount of twelve billions, almost all of it incurred in the last eight years. Interest on these debts took some 14 per cent of all farm income, and to this was added a comparable burden in taxes and contributions to social services.

"My party comrades, make yourselves clear about one thing: There is only one last, one final last chance for the German peasantry," Hitler warned at the outset of his chancellorship, and in October 1933 he de clared that "the ruin of the German peasant will be the ruin of the German people."

For years the Nazi Party had cultivated the backing of the farmers. Point 17 of the "inalterable" party program promised them "land reform ... a law for confiscation without compensation of land for common purposes; abolition of interest on farm loans, and prevention of all speculation in land." Like most of the other points of the program, the promises to the farmers were not kept -- with the exception of the last provision against land speculation. In 1938, after five years of Nazi rule, land distribution remained more lopsided than in any other country in the West. Figures published that year in the official Statistical Year Book showed that the smallest two and a half million farms had less land than the top .1 per cent. The Nazi dictatorship, like the Socialist-bourgeois governments of the Republic, did not dare to break up the immense feudal estates of the Junkers, which lay to the east of the Elbe.

Nevertheless, the Nazi regime did inaugurate a sweeping new farm program accompanied by much sentimental propaganda about "Blut und Boden" (Blood and Soil) and the peasant's being the salt of the earth and the chief hope of the Third Reich. To carry it out Hitler appointed Walther Darre, one of the few party leaders who, though he subscribed to most of the Nazi myths, knew his field professionally and well. An outstanding agricultural specialist with suitable academic training, he had served in the Agriculture Ministries of Prussia and the Reich. Forced to leave them because of conflicts with his superiors, he retired to his home in the Rhineland in 1929 and wrote a book entitled The Peasantry as the Life Source of the Nordic Race. Such a title was bound to attract the attention of the Nazis. Rudolf Hess brought Darre to Hitler, who was so impressed with him that he commissioned him to draw up a suitable farm program for the party.

With Hugenberg's dismissal in June 1933, Darre became Minister of Food and Agriculture. By September he was ready with his plans to make over German agriculture. Two basic laws promulgated in that month reorganized the entire structure of production and marketing, with a view to ensuring higher prices for farmers, and at the same time put the German peasant on a new footing -- accomplishing this, paradoxically, by putting him back on a very old footing in which farms were entailed, as in feudal days, and the farmer and successive inheritors compulsorily attached to their particular plot of soil (provided they were Aryan Germans) to the end of time.

The Hereditary Farm Law of September 29, 1933, was a remarkable mixture of pushing back the peasants to medieval days and of protecting them against the abuses of the modern monetary age. All farms up to 308 acres (125 hectares) which were capable of providing a decent living for a family were declared to be hereditary estates subject to the ancient laws of entailment. They could not be sold, divided, mortgaged or foreclosed for debts. Upon the death of the owner they had to be passed on to the oldest or youngest son, in accordance with local customs, or to the nearest male relative, who was obliged to provide a living and an education for his brothers and sisters until they were of age. Only an Aryan German citizen who could prove the purity of his blood back to 1800 could own such a farm. And only such a man, the law stipulated, could bear the "honored title" Bauer, or Peasant, which he forfeited if he broke the "peasant honor code" or ceased, because of incapacity or otherwise, to actively farm. Thus the heavily indebted German farmer, at the beginning of the Third Reich, was protected from losing his property by foreclosures or from seeing it shrink in size (there being no necessity to sell a piece of it to repay a debt), but at the same time he was bound to the soil as irrevocably as the serfs of feudal times.

And every aspect of his life and work was strictly regulated by the Reich Food Estate, which Darre established by a law of September 13, 1933, a vast organization with authority over every conceivable branch of agricultural production, marketing and processing, and which he himself headed in his capacity of Reich Peasant Leader. Its chief objectives were two: to obtain stable and profitable prices for the farmer and to make Germany self-sufficient in food.

How well did it succeed? In the beginning, certainly, the farmer, who for so long had felt himself neglected in a State which seemed to be preoccupied with the interests of business and labor, was flattered to be singled out for so much attention and proclaimed a national hero and an honored citizen. He was more pleased at the rise in prices which Darre obtained for him by simply arbitrarily fixing them at a profitable level. In the first two years of Nazi rule wholesale agricultural prices increased by 20 per cent (in vegetables, dairy products and cattle the rise was a little more) but this advantage was partially offset by a similar rise in the things which the farmer had to buy -- above all in machinery and fertilizer.

As for self-sufficiency in food, which was deemed necessary by the Nazi leaders, who already, as we shall see, were plotting war, the goal was never achieved, nor -- given the quality and quantity of German soil in relation to its population -- could it ever be. The best the country could do, despite all Nazi efforts in the much-advertised "Battle of Production," was to reach 83 per cent of self-sufficiency and it was only by the conquest of foreign lands that the Germans obtained enough food to enable them to hold out during the second war as long as they did.


The foundation of Hitler's success in the first years rested not only on his triumphs in foreign affairs, which brought so many bloodless conquests, but on Germany's economic recovery, which in party circles and even among some economists abroad was hailed as a miracle. And indeed it might have seemed so to a good many people. Unemployment, the curse of the Twenties and early Thirties, was reduced, as we have seen, from six million in 1932 to less than a million four years later. National production rose 102 per cent from 1932 to 1937 and the national income was doubled. To an observer, Germany in the mid-Thirties seemed like one vast beehive. The wheels of industry were humming and everyone was as busy as a bee.

For the first year Nazi economic policies, which were largely determined by Dr. Schacht -- for Hitler was bored with economics, of which he had an almost total ignorance -- were devoted largely to putting the unemployed back to work by means of greatly expanded public works and the stimulation of private enterprise. Government credit was furnished by the creation of special unemployment bills, and tax relief was generously given to firms which raised their capital expenditures and increased employment.

But the real basis of Germany's recovery was rearmament, to which the Nazi regime directed the energies of business and labor -- as well as of the generals -- from 1934 on. The whole German economy came to be known in Nazi parlance as Wehrwirtschaft, or war economy, and it was deliberately designed to function not only in time of war but during the peace that led to war. General Ludendorff, in his book Total War (Der Totale Krieg) whose title was mistranslated into English as The Nation at War, published in Germany in 1935, had stressed the necessity of mobilizing the economy of the nation on the same totalitarian basis as everything else in order to properly prepare for total war. It was not exactly a new idea among the Germans, for in Prussia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries some five sevenths of the government's revenue, as we have seen, was spent on the Army and that nation's whole economy was always regarded as primarily an instrument not of the people's welfare but of military policy.

It was left to the Nazi regime to adapt Wehrwirtschaft to the third decade of the twentieth century. The results were truthfully summed up by Major General Georg Thomas, chief of the Military Economic Staff: "History will know only a few examples of cases where a country has directed, even in peacetime, all its economic forces deliberately and systematically toward the requirements of war, as Germany was compelled to do in the period between the two World Wars." [12]

Germany, of course, was not "compelled" to prepare on such a scale for war -- that was a deliberate decision taken by Hitler. In the secret Defense Law of May 21, 1935, he appointed Schacht Plenipotentiary- General for War Economy, ordering him to "begin his work already in peacetime" and giving him the authority to "direct the economic preparations for war." The inimitable Dr. Schacht had not waited until the spring of 1935 to start building up the German economy for war. On September 30, 1934, less than two months after he had become Minister of Economics, he submitted a report to the Fuehrer entitled "Report on the State of Work for War-Economic Mobilization as of September 30, 1934," in which he proudly stressed that his ministry "has been charged with the economic preparation for war." On May 3, 1935, four weeks before he was made Plenipotentiary for War Economy, Schacht submitted a personal memorandum to Hitler which began with the statement that "the accomplishment of the armament program with speed and in quantity is the [italics his] problem of German politics; everything else therefore should be subordinate to this purpose ... " Schacht explained to Hitler that since "armament had to be camouflaged completely until March 16, 1935 [when Hitler announced conscription for an army of thirty-six divisions], it was necessary to use the printing press" to finance the first stages. He also pointed out with some glee that the funds confiscated from the enemies of the State (mostly Jews) and others taken from blocked foreign accounts had helped pay for Hitler's guns. "Thus," he cracked, "our armaments are partially financed with the credits of our political enemies." [13]

Though at his trial at Nuremberg he protested in all innocence against the accusations that he had participated in the Nazi conspiracy to make aggressive war -- he had done just the contrary, he proclaimed -- the fact remains that no single person was as responsible as Schacht for Germany's economic preparation for the war which Hitler provoked in 1939. This was freely acknowledged by the Army. On the occasion of Schacht's sixtieth birthday the Army publication Militaer-Wochenblatt in its issue of January 22, 1937, hailed him as "the man who made the reconstruction of the Wehrmacht economically possible." And it added: "The Defense Force owes it to Schacht's skill and great ability that, in defiance of all currency difficulties, it has been able to grow up to its present strength from an army of 100,000 men."

All of Schacht's admitted wizardry in finance was put to work to pay for getting the Third Reich ready for war. Printing banknotes was merely one of his devices. He manipulated the currency with such legerdemain that at one time it was estimated by foreign economists to have 237 different values. He negotiated amazingly profitable (for Germany) barter deals with dozens of countries and to the astonishment of orthodox economists successfully demonstrated that the more you owed a country the more business you did with it. His creation of credit in a country that had little liquid capital and almost no financial reserves was the work of genius, or -- as some said -- of a master manipulator. His invention of the so-called "Mefo" bills was a good example. These were simply bills created by the Reichsbank and guaranteed by the State and used to pay armament manufacturers. The bills were accepted by all German banks and ultimately discounted by the Reichsbank. Since they appeared neither in the published statements of the national bank nor in the government's budget they helped maintain secrecy as to the extent of Germany's rearmament. From 1935 to 1938 they were used exclusively to finance rearmament and amounted to a total of twelve billion marks. In explaining them once to Hitler, Count Schwerin von Krosigk, the harassed Minister of Finance, remarked that they were merely a way of "printing money." [14]

In September 1936, with the inauguration of the Four-Year Plan under the iron control of Goering, who replaced Schacht as economic dictator though he was almost as ignorant of business as was Hitler, Germany went over to a total war economy. The purpose of the plan was to make Germany self-sufficient in four years, so that a wartime blockade would not stifle it. Imports were reduced to a bare minimum, severe price and wage controls were introduced, dividends restricted to 6 per cent, great factories set up to make synthetic rubber, textiles, fuel and other products from Germany's own sources of raw materials, and a giant Hermann Goering Works established to make steel out of the local low-grade ore. In short, the German economy was mobilized for war, and businessmen, though their profits soared, became mere cogs in a war machine, their work circumscribed by so many restrictions, by so many forms to fill out, that Dr. Funk, who succeeded Schacht in 1937 as Minister of Economics and in 1939 as president of the Reichsbank, was forced to admit ruefully that "official communications now make up more than one half of a German manufacturer's entire correspondence" and that "Germany's export trade involves 40,000 separate transactions daily; yet for a single transaction as many as forty different forms must be filled out."

Buried under mountains of red tape, directed by the State as to what they could produce, how much and at what price, burdened by increasing taxation and milked by steep and never ending "special contributions" to the party, the businessmen, who had welcomed Hitler's regime so enthusiastically because they expected it to destroy organized labor and allow an entrepreneur to practice untrammeled free enterprise, became greatly disillusioned. One of them was Fritz Thyssen, one of the earliest and biggest contributors to the party. Fleeing Germany at the outbreak of the war, he recognized that the "Nazi regime has ruined German industry." And to all he met abroad he proclaimed, "What a fool [Dummkopf] I was!" [15]

In the beginning, however, the businessmen fooled themselves into believing that Nazi rule was the answer to all their prayers. To be sure, the "inalterable" party program had sounded ominous to them with its promises of nationalization of trusts, profit sharing in the wholesale trade, "communalization of department stores and their lease at a cheap rate to small traders" (as Point 16 read), land reform and the abolition of interest on mortgages. But the men of industry and finance soon learned that Hitler had not the slightest intention of honoring a single economic plank in the party program-the radical promises had been thrown in merely to attract votes. For the first few months in 1933, a few party radicals tried to get control of the business associations, take over the department stores and institute a corporate state on lines which Mussolini was attempting to establish. But they were quickly thrown out by Hitler and replaced by conservative businessmen. Gottfried Feder, Hitler's early mentor in economics, the crank who wanted to abolish "interest slavery," was given a post as undersecretary in the Ministry of Economics, but his superior, Dr. Karl Schmitt, the insurance magnate, who had spent his life lending money and collecting interest, gave him nothing to do, and when Schacht took over the ministry he dispensed with Feder's services.

The little businessmen, who had been one of the party's chief supports and who expected great things from Chancellor Hitler, soon found themselves, many of them, being exterminated and forced back into the ranks of wage earners. Laws decreed in October 1937 simply dissolved all corporations with a capital under $40,000 and forbade the establishment of new ones with a capital less than $200,000. This quickly disposed of one fifth of all small business firms. On the other hand the great cartels, which even the Republic had favored, were further strengthened by the Nazis. In fact, under a law of July 15, 1933, they were made compulsory. The Ministry of Economics was empowered to organize new compulsory cartels or order firms to join existing ones.

The system of myriad business and trade associations organized during the Republic was maintained by the Nazis, though under the basic law of February 27, 1934, they were reorganized on the streamlined leadership principle and put under the control of the State. All businesses were forced to become members. At the head of an incredibly complex structure was the Reich Economic Chamber, whose leader was appointed by the State, and which controlled seven national economic groups, twenty-three economic chambers, one hundred chambers of industry and commerce and the seventy chambers of handicrafts. Amidst this labyrinthine organization and all the multitude of offices and agencies of the Ministry of Economics and the Four-Year Plan and the Niagara of thousands of special decrees and laws even the most astute businessman was often lost, and special lawyers had to be employed to enable a firm to function. The graft involved in finding one's way to key officials who could make decisions on which orders depended or in circumventing the endless rules and regulations of the government and the trade associations became in the late Thirties astronomical. "An economic necessity," one businessman termed it to this writer.

Despite his harassed life, however, the businessman made good profits. The heavy industries, chief beneficiaries of rearmament, increased theirs from 2 per cent in the boom year of 1926 to 61/2 per cent in 1938, the last full year of peace. Even the law limiting dividends to 6 per cent worked no hardship on the companies themselves. Just the opposite. In theory, according to the law, any amount above that had to be invested in government bonds -- there was no thought of confiscation. Actually most firms reinvested in their own businesses the undistributed profits, which rose from 175 million marks in 1932 to five billion marks in 1938, a year in which the total savings in the savings banks amounted to only two billions, or less than half the undistributed profits, and in which the distributed profits in form of dividends totaled only 1,200,000,000 marks. Besides his pleasant profits, the businessman was also cheered by the way the workers had been put in their place under Hitler. There were no more unreasonable wage demands. Actually, wages were reduced a little despite a 25 per cent rise in the cost of living. And above all, there were no costly strikes. In fact, there were no strikes at all. Such manifestations of unruliness were verboten in the Third Reich.
Site Admin
Posts: 28774
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Political Science

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests