Collapse of the Weimar Republic
The Hole in the Republic's Heart
One of the best discussions of German society during the flowering of the Republic comes from Alex de Jonge. He relies heavily upon individual experiences
Berlin in the 1920s was a very special place, for its cabarets, its theaters, for its musical, literary and artistic life. Because of the pale and colorless quality of official Wei mar politics, and because the traditional upper and middle classes had lost so much ground all moral authority, and indeed all talent flowed through exclusively cultural channels. It was as if all energy was absorbed by culture and pleasure seeking, bike races and bordellos. Moreover, the contrast between Berlin West as an isolated and localized pleasure center and the profound poverty and human misery which surrounded it, from the revolution to the slump gave the city its particular edge and atmosphere. It had a bite to it, a sense of irony and frenzy, which was fostered by the carefree and cynical character of the Berliners themselves; this created a mood which made people behave "as if there were no tomorrow."
In the dying years of the republic, from 1928 onward, as conventional politics and politicians grew daily more impotent and the stock market erected a statue to "The Unknown Solvent." the edge grew keener still. There was an increasing sense of imminent collapse and the suspicion that there might be something nasty in the wood shed. The spirit of "mature Weimar" is a strange combination of moods: extraordinary enlightenment and liberalism; extraordinary weakness; a great capacity for creative technology; a sinister willingness to search for and worship strange gods; and occasional flashes of perverted violence and vileness that are almost beyond description.
A German study of the twenties has a chapter entitled "Technik Technik ber alles." It was indeed a period which saw very considerable achievements in both technology and pure science. Einstein worked and taught in Berlin, and the next generation of scientists included names such as Werner von Braun. Between 1919 and 1929 German scientists won seven Nobel prizes.
The German motor industry put names such as Mercedes, Opel, BMW firmly on the map. In 1928 Fritz von Opel's rocket-powered car clocked 195 km (117 mph) on the Avus, Berlin's motor-racing track. Germany was indeed motor mad:
The most dangerous side of the motor "craze" continues to be the subject of public discussion. The Deutsche Tageszeitung refers in indignant terms to an advertisement for a motorcycle which, it is claimed, with a little practice it can be ridden even up bad streets and round curves with the hands off the handlebars.
The period saw experimental high-speed trains such as the Flying Hamburger which clocked 151 mph. Radio broadcasting started on a large scale, and on March 8-9, 1929, between 11:30 PM and 1:30 AM the first TV broadcast went out. Yet, for the general public, the greatest achievement was undoubtedly the perfection of the Graf Zeppelin, which became the symbol of Germany's technological achievements, "a monster of supreme beauty, the idol and fetish of a nation easily given to idolatry." The Zeppelin was 260 yards long—twice the length of a soccer pitch—and the height of a twelve-story building. Its quarters were designed in the style of a luxury ocean liner. The envelope was full of hydrogen-filled balloon cells set in two rows running the length of the craft, with a narrow catwalk in between them. Flying in the Zeppelin was quite unlike ordinary powered flight. At takeoff the ground crew lifted it up and literally threw it into the air. It would float quietly and vertically upward. Only when it reached the desired height were the engines started, but even then the only sound to be heard was a remote hum. Flight was slow, but virtually silent.
The Zeppelin was the sole asset of a company called Zeppelin Ltd. and its skipper, Dr. Eckener, "the Columbus of the air," was its managing director. In 1929 it under took a trip to New York with sixteen passengers. Accord ing to The Times (London) the fare, one way, was £ 600, which was more than twice the price of a cheap motorcar. A passenger from Lucerne describes the trip:
No one on board suffered from air sickness, although the airship on the second half of the voyage plunged on more than fifty occasions towards the sea and recovered her altitude only with difficulty.... Little preparation had been made [for the passengers] on board. There was a lack of food and wine, and in case of accident only one parachute was available.
He came back on The Mauretania.
The airship was not, in fact, the safest of vehicles. A modern hot-air balloonist and scientist considers the design to have been ludicrously dangerous. Safety depended to a great extent on the amazing intuitive abilities of skipper Eckener. He had a remarkable "nose" for danger, and would take major navigational decisions on "sniffing the air.Ó According to Captain Ernst Lehmann, Eckener's second in command, sometimes a lot depended on his "sense of smell":
On one of our fights we hit very bad weather in the Rhone Valley. Suddenly Dr. Eckener came dashing into our control gondola and simultaneously pulled at all five strings, each of which releases sand ballast. I could not believe my eyes, for one should never normally pull at more than one string, so that the ship may gain height gradually. Dr. Eckener's unorthodox action made our dirigible shoot almost perpendicularly upward. The passengers—this happened during dinner—were thrown out of their seats, and the dishes from the table crashed onto the floor. But how right was our Doctor! We would have flown straight into a mountain had he not instantly sensed the danger and released sand ballast in quantity.
Yet for all its obvious disadvantages the Zeppelin won a place in the German heart and imagination. Alec Swan remembers a Danish girl who was being courted assiduously by a Zeppelin lover. He suggested to his incredulous fiancee, in all seriousness, that they spend their honeymoon aboard that splendid dirigible!
One of the most important practical achievements of Weimar Germany was, of course, the Bauhaus movement led by the architect Walter Gropius. Its consequences for the history of design and architecture do not require emphasis here, nor is this the appropriate place to repeat its story. More interesting for an account of the spirit of Weimar is a certain fundamental strangeness, crankiness even, in its conception. It was very much a part of the series of countercultures, communes and "alternative societies" which riddled Weimar, and which show just how urgently the new generation wished to dissociate itself from its conventional cultural heritage and turn its back on the world of traditional and official values.
The Bauhaus was, initially at least, very much part of this quest for differently organized social forms. It sought for a creative association with an "organic" basis, one that tried to deny the division of labor and the separation of labor and capital. These divisions seemed to all those in search of alternatives to modern industrial society to be the distinctive features of a modern world which they abhorred—a world which was capitalized, divided, industrialized, despiritualized. William Morris would have agreed with them, as would many young people who sought to recover the sense of community and unified values which they considered to have been characteristics of the Middle Ages, and which they hoped to find again through National Socialism.
The Bauhaus was named after the medieval institution of the Bauhtte. First a builder's shelter, the term had come to mean a vertically structured group which included every one working on a particular building: masons, builders, joiners, painters, sculptors, architects. The emphasis on the "vertical" structuring of an organic whole recalls the attitudes of persons who would greet the fascist notion of the corporate state with sincere idealistic excitement. Members of a Bauhtte would belong to different guilds, but would bring their skills together to form the collective working upon a particular project.
The early members of the Bauhaus had other, and more crankish, characteristics. Many of them followed strange gods. The Mazdaznan religion had an important influence upon the movement, and the students' canteen was run according to its principles of ritual feeding. There were also Luddites who wished to revive medieval craftsmanship and design furniture expressing the spirituality to be achieved through a meatless diet. Of course, the achievement of the most influential design school of the century transcends such crankiness, yet it is important to the feel of the era, if not to the history of style, to appreciate that in its essential attitudes and conceptions the Bauhaus was a part of the strange forces which directed people's energies away from an existing, inherited culture, encouraging them to reach toward the most radical alter na tives. In art, design and politics the radical alternative acquired a dreadful attraction for the Weimar generation, an attraction which was responsible for the creation of exciting new works, modes of design and ultimately of feeling, but which would also hasten the republic's end.
The Bauhaus and what it stood for, its style and attitudes, were profoundly antipathetic to conservative circles. When Marcel Breuer wrote to a Krupp subsidiary asking for a few lengths of steel tubing to make the prototype of what was to become the famous Breuer chair, he was informed that he was dealing with a serious enterprise, which would not release its materials for so frivolous a purpose as the construction of tubular steel furniture. Later the Nazis condemned the Bauhaus style of architecture out of hand. One of the reasons given was that one of the Bauhaus's hallmarks, the flat roof, was un-German, oriental and hence Jewish. Indeed, the Bauhaus style with its radical design conceptions—which appeared to fly in the face of all German tradition in the interests of decadent innovation—was associated with communism, avant-garde art, moral decadence, Jewish ness and revolution. This extraordinary amalgam of qualities, genetic characteristics and aesthetic attributes combined everything that conservatives and Nazis alike loathed. They labeled that loathing with the splendid and all-embracing term "Kultur-Bolshewismus," an expression which covered all aspects of the modern movement, from abstract painting to atonal music, and took in the new permissive morality as well.
The quest for an alternative society reflected in some of the stranger aspects of the Bauhaus had started long before the war with the youth movement, the Wandervgel. When originated it had been an immensely serious spiritual brotherhood, which sought, as an elite, for the regeneration from within of a German nation whose sense of organic wholeness had been eroded by the divisive forces of materialism. The movement involved a lot of tramping around the countryside, and in the interests of a sense of brotherhood there was much singing of old folk songs around campfires. It was an attempt to revert to the values of an imaginary Middle Ages, and to restore the pure Teutonic spirit. It offered an alternative to unenlightened self-interest, the base values, the lack of ethical and ethnic sense which seemed to so many critics of early twentieth-century society, throughout Europe, to characterize the modern age. The generation of 1914 believed, really believed, in their spiritual values; and that genera tion of Wandervgel went to war with books of poetry in their haversacks. The tradition continued into the Weimar period in a different form. Wandering from youth hostel to youth hostel, with a guitar and some friends, was a way of escaping from the misery of an impoverished and hungry city life. Thousands of young Germans simply went on the road, a cross between hikers, boy scouts, tramps and seekers after truth. Much of the high serious ness of the youth movement persisted:
They did not greet each other in the ordinary way. When one of them shook hands with another member, they both clasped their fingers in an iron pressure, and at the same time looked firmly and seriously into each other's eyes, as if they were giving at that moment the solemn promise of eternal holy friendship. If the other person was not a member, the look was searching as if to discover if he were worthy of such an intimacy.
Wandervgel had provided a whole regiment of Freikorps, wearing the Wandervgel colors of red, green and gold on their sleeves and their emblem, the swastika, upon their helmets. When the young Prussian officer G. R. Halkett first heard of the Nazi movement, he assumed it to be a political offshoot of the Wandervgel. They had much in common: the swastika; the greeting of "Heil"; a belief in the guild system and the abolition of usury: a belief in higher breeding; Aryan values; and the quest for a peculiarly German form of socialism as an alternative to the rule of big business.
The innumerable Siedlungen (communes) which dotted Weimar Germany were largely peopled by old members of the youth movement and its sympathizers. They were evidence of the enduring need felt by that generation to escape tradition and form a new kind of society, a new kind of community. Many of them had much in common with the ideals of the early Bauhaus, for example the Loheland School of Gymnastics, Crafts and Husbandry. Situated in the Rh n, a lonely, barren hilly country, it taught weaving, dyeing and a special form of gymnastics and dance—to both sexes. Gymnastics were performed naked in order that body movements might be observed more closely. The serious affirmation of a serious reason for nakedness is very characteristic. Gymnastics were considered a necessary basis for both weaving and husbandry. The regime also involved sun worship and mystic vegetarianism.
Such communities were not hotbeds of immorality. Nothing could be further from the stewpots of Berlin. The mood of high seriousness running through them precluded the trivialization of sex. Traditional morality was, of course, rejected, but sex was accepted only as part of a serious relationship. Promiscuity and sexual athleticism were rejected as strongly as they would have been in any puritanical society. The Siedlungen formed a loosely knit movement of like-minded young people trying to create a new kind of Germany, founded on certain values and beliefs: they were anti-capitalist, backward-looking to the Middle Ages, intent on cultivating a healthy mind in a sun-bronzed body and put ting patriotic idealism before self-interest. They were also on the lookout for a leader who would bring about the spiritual reawakening of their country, a fact, Halkett observes, reflected in the surprising number of Siedlungen where attempts were made to give birth to a Messiah!
Any resemblance between the attitudes outlined above and the values, if not practices, of National Socialism is not a coincidental one. It is hard to understand the passionate idealism with which so many Germans greeted that movement in the 1930s, the great capacity for idealistic sacrifice which a whole generation displayed, unless one realizes that for many young people National Socialism was the actualization of their dreams of an alternative society, dreams which already played such an important part in the Weimar period. Quite recently the wife of a leading Nazi observed in private conversation that for her generation National Socialism seemed to be Germany's last chance to "turn history into myth," to recreate through modern planning and technology the modern version of an organic medieval community. Small wonder, as Halkett wryly observed, that Nazi Germany became one enormous Siedlung.
Nudism was another manifestation of Weimar culture's attempt to re-evaluate all values. The naked gymnasts of Loheland were anything but an isolated phenomenon. In fact "Nacktkultur" was perhaps the most widespread of all manifestations of the spirit of a new Germany. It had nothing to do with the titillation of strip shows, nothing indeed to do with sex at all. It was central to the cult of the body, sun worship. sport and that naturalness and freedom of physical movement permitted for the first time in women's fashions of the twenties—short skirts, bobbed hair and the disappearance of the corset. Though this was an international movement Germany was perhaps more extreme in its celebration of those values than was the rest of Europe. Nudists, inevitably, formed societies. In the summer they would swim together, and were known to skate naked on the ice in winter. When one such group, which went in for naked get-togethers in members' houses, was charged with immorality, it uttered an impassioned plea for adult morality: "We are sufficiently mature morally to remove our clothes without shyness or embarrassment when the circumstances require it." Circumstances appear to have required it frequently. The headmaster of a mixed Berlin secondary school, for example, permitted nude dancing and gymnastics in his establishment "for reasons of health.''
One of the most characteristic of Weimar institutions, combining crankiness and high technology, was the weekly "naked day" at the Luna Park swimming pool in Berlin. The pool boasted an artificial wave machine, which sent Atlantic rollers down the bath at regular and frequent intervals. On "Naked day" German families, spanning three generations, could be seen sitting or swimming, naked as the day they were born. The peculiar atmosphere of the place was compounded by the fact that its waiters were fully and formally dressed.
Alec Swan remembers an English journalist, Douglas Reed, returning from a nudist colony which he had visited in the line of duty. He had kept his trousers on, only to be approached and reproached by a naked lady of generous proportions who derided him for "hiding the lovely body that God has given you." Nudism has spread since those days, and flourishes in Berlin today —to the extent that there are even nude discotheques. Yet in the twenties it was a unique and peculiarly German phenomenon, or "aberration" as Sefton Delmer called it, quite unknown elsewhere. To many observers it appeared to characterize the nation's capacity for pushing practice to the extremes of theory —in this case theories about the liberation of the body —in a manner that could be excessively dogmatic and sometimes downright embarrassing.
One may understand nudism of the "health and efficiency" sort but it also had other manifestations which defy belief. Alec Swan writes:
I remember a party where a lot of English film people had come over for a conference and we all went on to somebody's house to dance. People started to strip, and finally everyone ended up naked, all playfully slapping one another's bottoms. This kind of thing really happened, however hard it may be to believe. People would just take off their clothes and indulge in hearty and utterly harmless bottom-smacking. Just dancing about fairly drunk and smacking bottoms; there was no question of an orgy or anything like that. It was just the end of a fairly ordinary UFA party. That sort of thing could not have happened in Paris; it would not, at any rate, have had the peculiarly gross quality that made it a Berlin evening.
Yet nudity was by no means always so gross. Count Kessler took the sculptor Maillol to Frankfurt, where he was amazed and dazzled by the nude sunbathers:
I told him that this was only part of a new feeling for life, a new conception of life which had tri umphed in Germany since the war. People really wanted to live, to enjoy light, sun, happiness and their own bodies.
Significantly, Maillol was equally excited by the new German architecture. Kessler associated it with the spirit that informed the nudist movement, finding it the expression of that spirit through building.
The quasi-mystical crankiness that pervaded Germany at this time had more than curiosity value to it. It suggested an increasing imbalance between rational and irrational forces, an imbalance which was potentially dangerous:
One might define politics É as an eternal struggle between reason and the miraculous. In times of crisis reason comes under pressure, her weapons, once so keen, are suddenly blunted, she is assailed by doubts, she either flees or is imprisoned. This is what makes a Great Time. When a people is well fed, its brain free of pressures, the advantages of reason can be perceived once again, the times grow small, boring and cheerful. God grant us a Small Time.
A highly perceptive observer of the period sees the irrational element undermining all the good intentions of the new republican type:
His intelligence responded to the modern spirit. He tried hard to emerge, and help the nation emerge, from the misty atmosphere of Teutonism. But his character and instincts were centuries behind his mind. He could no more escape the hereditary tendency to fanaticism and intolerance than he could prevent himself from romanticizing the "New Realism."
So it was that a mystic, ritualistic element crept into all the rationalist movements fostered by the Social Democrats, actually paving the way for the return to paganism now being consummated under the Third Reich. The Nazis were not the first to revive the ancient sun worshippers' festival on the eve of the summer solstice, that was the chief event in the calendar of the sunbathing and nudist clubs to which most of the leading spirits among the Social Democrats belonged.É Gradually, too, a fetish was made of the crudity of life in the youth hostels, and this led the young German to hark back more and more to the primitive habits of his ancestors.
The spirit of the new Germany was thus imbued with the doctrinaire quest for new values:
Nearly all the Social Democrats that I knew had adopted one or other of the reforms that always cling to the skirts of a progressive movement. Some were vegetarians or ate only raw food; others went in for rational dress and regarded high heels and corsets as marks of spiritual decadence; others made a fetish of personal hygiene, washing their hands so continually that one might be excused for imagining they were trying to wash away Germany's war guilt; and a great number practiced free love, not frivolously, but in the solemn conviction that they were thereby hastening the millennium and lifting mankind to a higher plane. But whatever the fad, any deviation from it was taken as seriously as a major heresy. These new games had to be played according to the rules and anyone who took them lightly was snubbed accordingly.
The strange and characteristic combination of progressive thinking and primitivism emerges with great clarity in the Weimar generation's quest for strange gods. Alternative religions flourished as never before. Ludendorff even was involved in a pagan cult which sought for the values of a pre-Christian Germany, and the swastika itself, of course, is an age-old occult emblem. It was a time when people were so anxious to believe in something that they were ready to believe in anything, with a deadly gullibility that is its own evidence of the rootlessness, the lack of center that typified the time. Writing in 1932, Rudolf Olden made a study of the contemporary cult of the ir rational, specifically linking it to the political climate of his age. This analysis seems fairly obvious in retrospect; it took rather more insight in the early 1930s.
If things were not as they are, if the intellectual and the rational were not always sacrificed to the miraculous, if those under its spell did not accept it so willingly as a way of expressing their feelings, I would not need to point to instances from other walks of life where the political trends of the day impose the supremacy of the irrational upon anyone who would be a thinking man. In the short history of the German republic there has been such a dramatic swing from the rational to the irrational that even a blind man could see it. Of course no political party is altogether free of the irrational.... But never perhaps has a nation turned its back upon the rational so decisively and unmistakably to opt openly for the miraculous as we have today.
The irrational has combined with the impact of personality to bring about the conspicuous success of the National Socialist party. This is not the place to criticize that party's program. It suffices that the program was drawn up long after the movement started, and was abandoned long before its victory.É It was the "Totality of the Program"—i.e., promising everything to everybody—that was perhaps useful, but it was neither decisive nor necessary.... When the party abandoned its pro gram this did it no damage.
Its method consisted of the amplification of meth ods used by all collectives, using flags, symbols, uniforms, marching columns, keeping step, and music to spread a feeling of unity which shaped a mass out of individuals. The decisive influence was that of the leader upon the mass.
Fhrers apart, Germany was full of confidence men, gurus. charlatans, astrologers, alchemists and miracle workers of various kinds. Some were ordinary frauds: one of the best known cases is that of Max Klante, who persuaded the Berlin public that he could pick winners with almost monotonous regularity, since he had access to stable information. That some should have believed him is inevitable, but that the people of Berlin should have believed him on such a scale that he could buy a large villa in the suburbs and keep horses in training himself seems scarcely credible. His system was simple. He offered anyone investing with him a return of 600 percent a year, to be secured by his successful betting. He used modern publicity and public-relations techniques to advertise his service—which got off to a good start. When the early clients found they were indeed getting 600 percent, they told others and the Klante bandwagon started to roll. So quickly did the business grow that long after he was no longer bringing off betting coups at 6-1 a time, he was able to pay his old customers out of his new subscriptions. Inevitably the whole system collapsed and most people lost a lot of money. However, the fact remains that numerous people were prepared to believe (a) that someone would do them the favor of making their money multiply six times in a year, and (b) that it is possible to predict the outcome of a horse race.
Max Klante was a people's con man. The case of Fritz Haber is very different, and perhaps even stranger. Haber was a distinguished scientist. In his search for an artificial fertilizer, he invented the explosive which permitted Germany to continue fighting the war without the help of imported saltpeter. He also invented poison gas by another mistake. In the 1920s he devoted much time and effort to the attempt to extract gold from seawater, and enjoyed much official support for the project. When, in the course of his research, he discovered that he had misplaced a decimal point in his early calculations, he had a nervous breakdown.
Haber could not really be described as an alchemist, but Fritz Tausend actually made the serious claim that he could manufacture gold, and for some time he was taken perfectly seriously in official circles. Again it was a case of people believing what they want to believe. The government backed him in the hope that his techniques might solve the reparations problem. Ludendorff, too, gave him financial support. Eventually the "demonstrations" he laid on were seen to be deceptions and he went to prison in 1929, but not before he had been taken seriously by persons who ought to have known better.
More extreme claims still were made by the Austrian autodidact peasant Schappeller, who claimed to have invented a new source of energy. "Space Energy," which would transform life on earth, make its controller the lord of creation, provide infinitely cheap power and create diamonds out of stone, gold out of mud. He too won support in high places, sufficient to enable him to purchase the castle which dominated the village of his birth and carry out expensive restorations. Part of the support came from the ex-kaiser himself, who provided Schappeller with large sums. After his proteg was exposed as a charlatan, the ex-kaiser outlined his motives for supporting him. It was not, he said, that he had any ambition to rule the world: "He wished to liberate himself from the heavy burden of guilt which the collapse of Germany had inflicted upon him through his participation in an under taking which would render his old empire apt for social renewal.''
Occultism and clairvoyance also enjoyed a tremendous vogue at the time, sometimes with ludicrous results:
A case due to come before a Berlin court tomorrow arises from a spiritualistic seance in 1920, at which the medium announced that Ludwig Uhland (who died in 1862) would give a demonstration. A pencil was then removed from a closed satchel, and a few moments later the occupants of the dimly lit room found themselves, it is stated, in the possession of a poem entitled "Wiederkehr, " written on stained yellow paper, in handwriting resembling that of the poet and signed L. Uhland—1920. The poem is said to have been accepted as authentic by two hundred experts.
Those present at the seance bound themselves to silence, but one of them, an author, has now begun proceedings against the medium for the restitution of the manuscript, which, he states, was originally delivered into his hands.
The judge reserved his decision, and refused to allow the spiritualists to give the evidence of dead people through mediums.
Erich Jan Hanussen was one of the most popular occultists and clairvoyants of the early 1930s. He was a charlatan with a good mind-reading act and considerable hypnotic powers. A member of fashionable Berlin, he used to give public demonstrations of hypnotism in nightclubs; he was also proteg of Count Helldorf, a senior Nazi who later became Berlin's chief of police. After the Nazis came to power, he became their magician and astrologer until it emerged that, far from being the Danish baron he purported to be, he was a German Jew. A few days after the discovery, he was found shot dead in a forest outside Berlin. However Hanussen lives—or at least his stage name does! Today in Berlin there are posters advertising the fabulous occult and clairvoyant powers of one Erich Jan Hanussen.
Stranger than run-of-the-mill charlatanism was the case of a certain Weissenberg, a Berlin prophet regarded by many as a saint and a miracle worker. Weissenberg claimed to raise the dead—by means of cheese. He treated a small child with curds, and when it died maintained that it was not really dead: a liberal application of cheese to head and foot should restore it. The cheese was applied and time passed. After a week the body was forcibly removed, although the parents, trusting Weissenberg's judgment, maintained that the child was still alive and that the police had killed it by interrupting the treatment. Weissenberg went on to conduct religious meetings, attempting to raise the dead. His public was middle-aged, working class and gullible, and his meetings produced scenes of quite extra ordinary mass hysteria. He would begin them by asking for contributions for the community he had founded. New Jerusalem. Then Sister Grete Mller, one of his assistants, would enter into a trance. She spoke with the voice of "Old Bismarck," who would urge all present to subscribe to New Jerusalem. The crowd would begin to get hysterical, then Weissenberg would walk among them laying on hands and calming them. They would then suppose themselves to be historical persons from Wilhelm II's circle, and would all shout and scream together. Despite the fact that Weissenberg went to prison, his sect grew and grew and, of course, considered him a martyr.
It was a time when Germany was literally full of persons describing themselves as spiritual leaders. Some of them were noble, holy and rather remarkable men. R. Olday describes such a guru, "The Old Man," who preached a gospel of peace in the Hamburg slums and commanded a considerable following. Others were more exotic. Indeed the most exotic false prophet of them all was the utterly remarkable Muck Lamberty, who spread something akin to a medieval religious hysteria wherever he went. Leading a "New Troupe" of dancers, singers, players and followers who had come to him from the Youth Movement he moved from town to town, preaching pantheism, ecstasy and the fire of the spirit. He and his band would literally dance into a town, and when they arrived every one would dance with them—policemen, mayor and fire brigade. Eyewitnesses confirm that when, for example. they entered Erfurt they got the whole town dancing and singing with them in a joyful condition of mass hysteria.
Lamberty was an interesting kind of Pied Piper, for he was a racist and an anti-Semite, preaching the need for high racial purity. This may explain why he and his troupe were so welcome in the future Nazi stronghold of Thuringia. Lamberty practically took over the province, with a castle, Leuchtenberg, placed at his disposal; and he was even invited to preach from the cathedral pulpit—on mystical texts such as "Wir wollen wieder ins Blaue!" His Nietzsche-esque celebrations of Dionysiac ecstasy were brought to a halt, however. Two "Virgin Marys" in his commune, each claiming to bear the new Messiah by Lamberty, complained to the local authority that he was holding courts of love in his castle. A hearing of a distinctly medieval kind was held and Lamberty was formally banished. However short-lived his reign, though his mixture of racism, ecstasy, leadership, dancing and medievalism do not seem altogether harmless, particularly when one recalls the Nazi leader's wife and her belief that the Nazis had the chance "to turn history into myth."
Perhaps the most telling case of strange gods and leaders, and one that takes us to the very heart of conservative Weimar, involves a simple act of deception that got out of hand. The story of Harry Domela is that of a German "Inspector General," and like Gogol's play of that name it is a monument to small-town gullibility. But with one difference: it is true.
The young Domela had spent a year in Berlin living on his wits. He was often penniless, in and around a crim inal fringe of vagabonds and down and outs. He moved on to Hamburg where his luck changed appreciably. He made some money playing cards and decided to pay a visit to Heidelberg. There he made friends with members of one of the smartest student corporations. An actor by nature, Domela had suggested that he was a young gentleman, Baron Korff, traveling round Germany for his pleasure. He was immediately accepted at face value, and entertained liberally and frequently by students who found him no end of a fine fellow. His memoirs, incidentally, give a fascinating outsider's view of the remarkably ritualistic and taxing patterns of entertainment in their fraternity houses.
Domela enjoyed himself thoroughly and was pleased to be able to pass for what he was not, but he was much too sensible to believe that the deception could last forever. He knew the game was up when an officer asked him about the regiment in which he purported to have served. He answered evasively, but his interlocutor made it quite clear that he did not believe him for a moment. However, instead of concluding he was an impostor, the officer informed Domela that he had been "identified," although his secret was safe. The officer then informed the bemused con man that he, Domela, was really of course His Royal Highness Prince William of Prussia traveling incognito!
Domela conceded, reluctantly, that there might be some thing in it. From that moment his life changed. He moved from one first-class hotel to another, without ever having to pay a bill. He would occasion ally and graciously accept a small gift or loan, but on the whole he would content himself with free board and lodging. When he moved on, word would precede him that a mysterious and august personage would be taking the train. He was met by the stationmaster, who would pass him on to the hotel manager. Often the mayor would pay him an unofficial visit, and insist on his going to the local opera—in the royal box. A tactful audience would pretend that he was not really there. Sometimes the guard would be turned out for his inspection. Once he accepted an invitation to shoot on an estate in East Prussia upon which he had worked as a laborer not so very long before. Old ladies curtsied to him; old gentlemen bowed; he was even presented with a dachshund. The mayor of Gotha insisted on showing him round the town, since a young prince ought to know about town planning. The Commanding Officer of the Erfurt garrison saluted him in public although he was in civilian dress and the colonel was an officer in the republican army.
The story is a splendid testimonial to the collective gullibility of the age, and its respect for an authority which had abdicated all power some eight years earlier. It is also a fascinating study in the psychology of royalty. In his memoirs we see Domela not only feeling an increasing disgust at the obsequious treatment he receives, but coming to take it for granted, while feeling at the same time something very close to irritation at the loss of liberty and restriction of movement which are among the burdens of any member of a princely house. Yet despite his growing dislike of the kind of Germany he discovered, he could not bring himself to leave the game until he was about to be unfrocked. He then attempted to join the French Foreign Legion, only to be arrested at the railway station. He was sent to prison for a short sentence, and there he wrote his memoirs, which set most of Germany laughing, and left a handful of students, hotel managers, mayors and station-masters feeling rather subdued.
Domela's story rings with the higher lunacy of great farce, yet it is also a wretched tale. If a poor little amateur im postor like Domela, with no resources, could deceive so many people in high places for so long, small wonder that another, greater impostor, with a political party and a propaganda genius to support him, and ample funds at his disposal, would prove able to deceive the whole of the nation for more than a decade.
No less important than the irrationalist movement was the role played by various manifestations of violence. The whole society had an uncomfortably violent feel to it, particularly in Berlin. As Alec Swan put it:
There was always a feeling of violence about Berlin, which was not true of other capital cities. You felt that the rule of law was skin deep and people were capable of a greater degree of physical violence than one was accustomed to live with elsewhere. You felt that you could easily be arrested; and that if you were, there was no knowing what might become of you. It was a town in which it seemed remarkably easy to get shot, beaten up or generally maltreated.
Violence started with official violence. Swan was profoundly shocked by regular newspaper reports describing the army or the police going into action in the streets of Berlin—against strikers or Communists. Their assaults were described with all the dash and admiration for the heroic boys in gray usually reserved for the dispatches of war correspondents trying to keep up morale on the home front. A regular Berlin headline of the age might read: "Police obliged to open fire on a demonstration—ten dead." One cannot help questioning the nature of the obligation.
Christopher Isherwood, as we have seen, found the dark part of Berlin "very dark indeed, a kind of sinister jungle" and there, too, acts of remarkable and idiosyncratic violence could occur. The Berlin underworld was in many ways unique. It was highly organized into clubs, the "Ringvereine," which were criminal associations with patriotic names such as Immertreu [Always-True] or euphemistic ones such as "The Harmless Thirteen. " They had considerable group solidarity, as the following news-story suggests:
An affray between criminals and members of the Hamburg Carpenters Guild occurred on Saturday night in Berlin, near the Schlesischer Bahnhof, a district of ill-repute. A number of Hamburg carpenters were gathered in a cafe when several members of a criminal organization arrived. They had been to the burial of a colleague and were dressed in dinner jackets and silk hats. A brawl followed in which two of the carpenters were hurt. The aggressors disappeared and the caf was closed. Later four more carpenters arrived, and at the same time thirty-five taxicabs with reinforcements for the original aggressors.
The Verein in question was Immertreu. In the ensuing revolver fight one carpenter was killed, others wounded, and the caf wrecked. Members of the Verein were eventually brought to a trial, in the course of which someone stole the fur coat belonging to Frey, their defending attorney. Immertreu never found the culprit, but they bought Frey a new fur coat.
There was more to the Berlin underworld than mere violence, however. It also had a peculiar kind of clumsy poetry—the dinner jackets and silk hats, the thirty-five taxicabs—and that poetry is very much a part of the feeling of the age. It comes out most strongly in one of the most famous arrests that the Berlin police have ever made. One summer a Verein, whose alleged basis for association was an interest in boating, rented an island on one of the lakes outside Berlin. The members were armed and hard to get at, since they controlled the hire of all boats to and from the island. The police hit on the idea of masquerading as a singing Verein, and wrote asking for leave to serenade them. Leave was given and the police choir duly arrived by steamer. They landed, sang a couple of songs, and then proceeded to draw their revolvers and arrest the entire audience.
Even prison life seemed to have a different feel in Germany. A long-term occupant of Sonnenberg prison, which was run according to the "soft" principles of penal reformers, wrote to a newspaper to complain:
Slackness, disorder, and injustice.... The prison authorities do not further the maintenance of law and discipline when they countenance and even encourage the rowdy elements in the prison; or when they tolerate insults against the state, the nation's officers and even other prisoners.
Yet towering over this idiosyncratic but, on the whole, understandable climate of urban violence was a pattern of crime of an altogether different nature: pathological, sickening actions with almost mythic significance. The fact that it could happen at all casts its own light upon the climate of the Weimar age: "Hardly a month passed without some terrible murder becoming known. In many cases ordinary criminal instincts were combined with sexual perversions typical of the day."
There was the case of Piter Kurten, the Dsseldorf murderer, who killed innumerable victims from his school days on. In later life he killed children, burying their bodies on the outskirts of town. He eventually started writing to the press telling them where his latest victim was to be found. The motive was, quite simply, pleasure, and when he finally gave himself up it was so that his wife might collect the reward. His performance in court was at first horrifyingly detached and matter of fact, but despite his reserve he shocked the court so profoundly that he saw the enormity of his deeds reflected in their faces, whereupon he stopped talking and hid in the dock. Kurten was guillotined.
Karl Denke was a peasant mass-murderer who came to grief when he failed to kill one of his intended victims with the first blow. A fight ensued in the course of which help arrived, and Denke, a quiet, religious man, was arrested. He hanged himself in his cell that night. A search of his house revealed innumerable bloodstained garments, including fifteen jackets bound together with human skin, 351 teeth, braces of human skin, a barrel full of bones, a dish full of human fat, and a large quantity of smoked human meat in jars. Denke had been selling it as goats' meat.
Haarmann of Hanover was perhaps the worst of the three. He was a homosexual who would pick up boys, take them back to his home and have sex with them. Often he would reach a state of sexual frenzy, in the course of which he would murder them, sometimes by biting their throat out. He would sell their meat, preserved or otherwise, to butchers and food manufacturers. Once again, as with Denke, we find that combination of food and violence, which, in various forms, such as the Weisswurst, threads its way through the history of the age. Haarmann had been under suspicion of mass murder for a long time and tried to brazen it out, walking openly about the town in a dark suit carrying an umbrella. He was a friend of the chief of police, having probably been an informer, and the chief was reluctant to prosecute. The city grew increasingly hysterical as more and more recently buried bones were unearthed. He was eventually arrested and found guilty of twenty-seven murders. As Rom Landauer has said: "Indeed human nature could assume no lower forms."
"The Republic with a hole in its heart" never enjoyed widespread popular support. It is astonishing to realize that pro-republican parties had their first and only majority in the 1919 election, when people voted for parliamentary democracy rather than a system of soviets. The very idea of liberalism was profoundly unsympathetic to many Germans. E. Mowrer, one of the most intelligent observers of Weimar German, believed that as a race the Germans hated common sense, reason and liberal values, all of which they regarded as dreadfully bourgeois. They nursed a passion for irrationality—principles beyond mere reason—which made them loathe a republic begot by reason out of defeat, that made a point of playing down ceremonial and personality, and that required one to vote not for a face but for a list. Moreover, the forces opposing the Social Democrats declined to fight reason with reason; this in itself would have been a betrayal. "Whoever fights liberalism with its own weapons has become liberal," wrote Hans Zeher in Die Tat, October 1931, while Spengler suggested that the last fight of Western civilization against the forces seeking to corrupt it—i.e., capital ism and materialism —would be "the fight of blood against money."
Official republican politics was a colorless business. Violet Markham was astounded at the monotony, order and lack of oratory to be found in political meetings of the early 1920s. Speakers simply read out prepared speeches, and hecklers had to mount the platform to make a point. She was equally amazed at the Germans' tolerance of long boring speeches. Politics, moreover, was depersonalized to the point where it was not possible to get the party list of candidates for a particular electoral area. Let alone for the Reich. Hitler's impact becomes more understandable when one grasps the nature of the competition. When Count Kessler discussed Hitler's success with a leading republican, he blamed it upon the republic's failure to make any appeal to Youth or Heroism: those who sought heroics turned elsewhere.
Herr Wallenberg blames the colorless quality of republican politics upon a certain German thoroughness. He considered German democracy to be a peculiar kind of growth. Its architects had observed and analyzed what had happened in other and older democracies, and then, proceeding from fundamentals, set out to demonstrate that they could build a better and more perfect system by working from first principles. The theory was perfect, but the practice made for a gray, anonymous state, free of any glamour or leading principle, which could provide a rallying point to a nation long accustomed to rallying. Not only did the republic lack all emotional connection, even more important it lacked a republican right wing. The right was either fascist or monarchist; the idea of a "conservative republican" was a contradiction in terms. In the meantime, the Communists, the second largest party in Weimar Germany's last election, were quite as anti-republican as the right.
The weakness of the republic was increased by the fact that young energy flowed into the arts not into politics. One old Jew from East Berlin who was a good Communist told me that well-to-do middle-class Jewish families actively discouraged their children from playing any sort of political role in the republic. Those who disobeyed were frequently disowned, treated as pariahs. His view would seem to suggest that the most talented gene pool in Germany played no part in republican politics. This had by no means always been the case. Walther Rathenau, the first foreign minister of the Weimar Republic, was a Jew. In 1922 he was gunned down in his car on his way to work by a band of right-wing extremists, including Ernst von Salomon who was imprisoned for his part in the action. Von Salomon later wrote that it was precisely because Rathenau was both an excellent foreign minister and a Jew that he had to be killed. His assassination is perhaps the most notorious of all the political murders that studded the early years of the Weimar Republic.
It is perhaps arguable that the lack of political participation was, in fact, part of a more widespread failure of the intelligentsia to stand behind their new republic. Thus Max Weber and Thomas Mann, two of the most distinguished authors to have survived the war, may both have endorsed the republic, but neither did so with any conspicuous enthusiasm. At no stage was there anything approaching a distinguished republican "establishment." Moreover, it is striking that Germans of the Weimar generation tend to describe themselves as "good democrats," an abstract expression, where, if pressed, an Englishman might well talk of a belief in Parliament, and an American speak of his Constitution. In contrast a Weimar German would speak of "democracy," an abstraction, and it was the nebulous nature of that abstraction which rendered it so vulnerable to pressure.
The democratic idea itself had a kind of feebleness born of decency. Wallenberg suggested that the kind of radical policies initiated by Roosevelt's New Deal would have been totally unacceptable to many good democrats simply because they flouted nonessential democratic principles. This respect for the technical aspect of the rule of law was such that it took a Hitler to put through policies which appeared to get Germany out of the depression. One day at the height of the slump, Wallenberg's father suggested that the government should abolish or reduce unemployment benefits and put the unemployed to work building roads. His son, a "good democrat," was horrified, but today he realizes that more actions of that kind might have stopped Hitler from coming to power.
The most telling condemnation of the style of Weimar republicanism comes from the Nazis themselves and the word they used to express the whole "evil" of the regime: "System," the Weimar period being the "Systemzeit." The Hitler people used the term as a blanket indictment of the persons and principles which had betrayed Germany. This is because the very idea of democratic institutions and a rule of law securing inalienable rights defended by a constitution was profoundly abhorrent to so many Germans. "System" suggests a society ruled by law. But what the Nazis, and many idealists, wanted was a society governed according to principles above the law itself; this was the basis of Hitler's defense at his 1924 trial. Democracy had no charm for a nation too full of persons of widely varying complexions and idealisms, all ready to bend or smash the rule of law in the interests of "a higher moral issue"—and anyone who felt he was wrong to do so was just part of the abhorred System.
Pro-republican forces may have been weak, but the anti-republican faction was full of conviction. The republic, from the outset, had failed to detach itself from its past. On the rostrum of the Reichstag the speaker's and ministers' chairs continued to bear the imperial and royal insignia: the crown and black eagle. Of course, it is notoriously difficult to fulfill a revolution's promise of radical change for the better; the examples of France and Russia spring to mind. Alexis de Tocqueville suggested that social habits and institutions shape the hearts and minds of a nation so powerfully that a mere change in mode of government is unlikely to make for a long-lasting alteration in the social climate. True of France, how much truer is this of Weimar Germany, where the members of the old administrative establishment in law, civil adminis tration and education were actually kept on by the revolu tionary government that had overthrown the regime to which they had pledged their allegiance !
Professor Reiff's old law tutor lamented to him bitterly at the time:
How can you possibly hope to institute a new republic when all the old legal and administrative establishment are still in their old positions? You cannot turn a nation round over night and create new institutions when the persons who have to operate them grew up in the atmosphere of the old ones.
The republic, then, enjoyed the services of a monarchically minded judiciary, which explains the extraordinary disproportion in sentencing throughout the period. Right-wing assassins tended to be discharged or given light sentences (Hitler got fortress arrest), whereas the usual fate of the left-wing extremist was to be "shot while trying to escape."
University and high schools too were largely staffed by old-regime teachers, who became increasingly monarchical as their world and its values collapsed around them. They felt they had a sacred mission to bring up the young according to the old ways. Moreover, the student corporations were also radically anti-republican. although they were too socially secure ever to side with the Nazis. One student, a member of Saxo-Borussia, named Ludwig Freiherr Heyl-Worms, explained that the role of such corporations had become a central one, since the dis appearance of the officer caste made them now the sole supporters of the monarchical tradition. Whether or not they were pro-Nazi, there can be no doubt that such attitudes made those students ready to assent to the eventual destruction of the republic.
The army was, of course, equally anti-republican. Its commanders were determined to transfer the best of Prussianness, both attitudes and cadres, into the new republic, which had pledged itself to serving military interests. Because the president was commander in chief of the Reichswehr, the army swore a personal oath of allegiance to the man, not to the state. This was a minor point as long as the man in question was an ex-saddler; it became crucial when the man had once been commander in chief of the Imperial Army.
The republic made no attempt to keep the army in check. It had relied on its support against "Red terror," and was never positive that it might not have to call upon it again. In the meantime Reichswehr officers were paid salaries at one degree higher than their civil-service counterparts, and the army continued to enjoy much of its traditional prestige. Sefton Delmer, who knew Berlin better than most foreigners, once made the mistake of going to a fancy-dress ball with a toy sword and a spiked imperial helmet. He was nearly lynched, and compelled to leave. When I asked him whether, with all his experience of Germany, he should have been surprised at his reception, he replied, "I was, nevertheless. I did not think they would be quite so primitive." In retrospect it is obvious that he was lucky to escape unscathed.
It is difficult to account for the tolerance of the republican "revolutionaries" towards forces within their own administration that declared themselves openly against the regime. One suspects it derives from a combination of weakness and decency. At all events, it makes for a strangely half-hearted defense of republican principles. On 11 August 1927, Count Kessler asked the manager of a smart Berlin hotel why he had put out no flags to celebrate the anniversary of the republic, only to be in formed that flags had been expressly forbidden by the management. The republican flag—black, red, gold—was known by many as "black. red, mustard," or even "black, red, chicken shit." Many German embassies, the representatives of the republic abroad, preferred to display the flag of the merchant marine which, strangely, sported the imperial colors of black, white, red.
One anniversary a republican colleague of Professor Reiff's, who lived on the Hohenzollerdamm, hung out a republican flag. His neighbor, an aristocrat who had been political secretary at the Imperial War Ministry, stuck a broom out of his window in response. The republican called the police, who were calmly informed that the broom's owner belonged to a "Chinese Club" and this was their sign. The republican took the amateur Chinaman to court, only to come up against the republican judiciary. The judge's view was how dare he provoke his neighbor by displaying the flag of his republic ? The case was dismissed.
Which flag to fly was a burning issue throughout the period, and the saddest of all the flag stories has no hint of right-wing brutality or republican heroics. It concerns an attempt to provide republican sympathizers with a little color, and in its Germanic combination of method, lunacy and ridicule it is a perfect rendering of the sad hole in the republic's heart, or how to blow your nose on a national emblem:
Herr Dr. jur. Ludwig Oppenheimer has patented a model called the Reichsbanner handkerchief. The patent is for handkerchiefs or display handkerchiefs with the Reichsflag colors—black, red, gold. The colors are either a narrow stripe along the corner (Form One) or a flag with the colors placed on one corner (Form Two)....
The invention is intended to register the patriotic feelings of every German. The intention behind Form One is that the colors appear from the breast pocket, behind Form Two that the flag appear as a worthy emblem whenever the handkerchief is brought out for normal use.
The Depression and the Republic
An unloved Republic faced its biggest challenge when the world Depression arrived.
From The Brown Book of Hitler Terror (1933)
Germany was the first European country to be affected by the developing world crisis. Production fell and unemployment rose. In the winter of 1930 there were already over three million unemployed in Germany. The employ ers began a general attack on wages. According to esti mates made by the Berlin Finanzpolitische Korrespondenz the average weekly wages of industrial workers fell as follows: in the summer of 1929, the average was 44.60 Reichsmarks; in March 1930 39.25 RM. The average weekly wage throughout the year, which in 1928 and 1929 was 42 and 45 marks, fell to 37 marks in 1930, and 30 marks in 1931. Under the Papen-Schleicher Government the average weekly wage was reduced to 50% of what it had been in 1928 and 1929: it fell to 20.80 marks in August 1932, and since then it has fallen still further. The Finanzpolitische Korrespondenz estimates the total wage reductions of workers and employees in Germany, from July 1929 to July 1932 at approximately 38 billion marks....
Together with the wage and salary reductions there was also a tremendous rise in unemployment. According to official figures of the Reich Ministry of Labor, unemployment rose to over six million. The official Trade Research Institute, however, showed that these official figures were not comprehensive, as they covered only those workers who were reporting at the Labor Exchanges; that in addition to the "visible" unemployed, there were also many "invisible." On the basis of Health Insurance statistics, which cover all employed persons, the invisible unemployment amounted to approximately two million. While therefore the Ministry of Labor figures showed close on six million unemployed in the winter of 1931-32, and five million in the summer of 1932, the Institute estimated the figures at eight million in the winter of 1931-32 and over seven million in the third quarter of 1932—the best season. But even these figures did not accurately reflect the position. They did not include the hundreds of thousands of persons who had been unemployed for several years and were walking the streets of the towns as beggars or wandering through Germany as tramps; nor did they include the destitute children and the young unemployed who could find no work when they left school. They did not include the hundreds of thousands of small merchants and trades people, of people who had formerly been "independent" and professional people, who were living on the verge of starvation and were in fact unemployed. The real number of unemployed at the end of 1932 must be put somewhere around about 9 million!
The position of the middle-class was increasingly getting worse.... The crisis brought wide sections of the middle class down into the proletariat. The number of bankruptcies rose. Compulsory sales became more and more frequent. The small tradespeople of the towns and the small peasants were particularly severely hit. And the crisis hit sections of people who had hitherto not been affected, and whose position had improved during the preceding period of relative stabilization. Unemployment began to creep into the most privileged sections of intellectual workers. The standard of living of teachers, engineers, doctors, lawyers, writers, artists, fell lower and lower. A quarter of the university lecturers could find no posts. Of eight thousand graduates from technical colleges and universities in 1931-32, only 1,000 found employment in their professions; 1,500 continued their studies "provisionally," suffering great privation; 1,500 found temporary work as street-hawkers, waiters, etc.; but 4,000 remained totally unemployed. An investigation undertaken by the Hartmannbund, the officially recognized doctors' association, showed that in 1932 70% of the German medical profession were earning less than 170 marks a month ($42.50). The German legal association found that its members were in much the same position. According to a statement is sued by the Prussian Minister of Education, of 22,000 teachers who completed their training in the previous year, only 990 found posts, and even these were only temporary and auxiliary teaching posts. And these figures cover Prussia only! The number of unemployed engineers and chemists in creased five times between April 1930 and April 1932, while unemployment among technical staffs doubled, and among all employees rose by 1 1/2 times, during the same period. The position of those university lecturers who were still employed got worse from year to year. Hours were lengthened. Salaries were rigorously cut. In addition, there was an increase in short time working; many industries worked only 3 to 5 days a week.
By early 1930, the unemployment crisis had become noticeable throughout Germany.
3 August 1930 Vlkische Beobachter Article, "Before the Collapse"
The announced reduction in force in the Berlin metal industry has already begun. On the basis of the announcement, apparently more than 3, 000 white collar workers are involved. The bulk of the terminated workers received four weeks notice. But a more precise survey over the full impact of these announcements is possible only today.
At the General Electric Berlin plant, 10 percent of all office workers have been given notice. At Siemens, the number is similar. The Chrysler automobile factory has fired 25% of its office staff. The German Telephone and Telegraph company told its employees that they would not issue termination notices, but only if they agreed to lower their work week by 10%. At the Stock plant in Marienfelde, it has already been reduced by 45%. The Adler Company, Frankfurt, has sought permission to dismiss another 500 workers.É . The plant today employs 2, 800 workers, who have already agreed to a 40 hour work week, with the equivalent reduction in pay.É
In the light of the worsening economic situation, which has led to an uncounted number of closings, bankruptcy filings, and firings, it is expected that the overall pay will be reduced by 10%.
28 August 1930 Gttingen Tageblatt Article
The situation prevailing in those industries still functioning has worsened considerably in the last months. A few figures might demonstrate this point. According to the recent statistics of the Federal Office, of the 8,035 enterprises engaged in making iron and steel, 1,197 have closed their doors and 145 are in bankruptcy proceedings. This means that 16% of the industry has simply disappeared.
In the local Hagenau area, the iron and steel industry normally employs 42,000 workers. On 1 January of this year, the number of employed was only 26,924. But by 1 July, this figure had fallen to 21,017. Thus at present only half of the usual number of workers are employed. In Hagenau alone, in the first half of this year, 68 companies have shut down; the majority of these will apparently never again open. In [nearby] Solingen industry, the number of unemployed has grown from 40.2 to 57.6 in 1,000 inhabitants at a time when in the Reich, the averaged unemployment figure fell from 36.7 to 30.2; thus in Solingen unemployment is nearly twice as high as the national average, and 120% more than at the same time last year.
In addition to the iron and steel sector, employment in the tool and die industry is most unsatisfactory. The figures dropped significantly in the month of July. Official statistics show than of 100 workplaces, in the aluminum sector only 57.4 were filled; in the brass and nickel sector 47.0, silver plating 60, stainless steel, 60.1, sheet metal 51.6, finished decorations 63.6. Only the table-ware and furniture sector could show that 80% of its places were employed. Even with a shortened work-week, full employment could not be achieved; at present nearly 50% of the firms have introduced such a limitation on work. . . .
23 May 1930 Speech by Carl Duisberg to the Executive Committee of the Reich Organization for German Industry
Things have come so far that in broad circles of our people, even those of the middle classes, and civil servants, and even in some business circles, many today believe it is not morally defensible, for a firm to show a profit, for an enterprise to be in the black. Even when they fully admit that successful companies are the ones who always have to pick up the tab for the extensive and faulty experiments of public policy in the economy. Under these circumstances, it is really not surprising that some of the best and oldest companies have had to close. You cannot say that today's economic crisis is responsible for everything. Today we can prove that in spite of our warnings and advice, which, because they came from employers were received with animosity, and even ridicule, we have been long experiencing a down-turn in the economy which is today mirrored in unemployment as high as 2.08 million people.
3 January 1931 Gttingen Tageblatt Article
In the last 15 days of the old year, unemployment in all of Southwest Germany rose strongly. In several areas the shutting down of the tobacco industry produced a huge upswing in unemployed. The number of brick layers seeking work rose from 178,000 in the middle of December to 193,000 by the end of the year. The number of women seeking work, largely as a result of dismissals from tobacco factories, is relatively much higher, for this figure grew by 18%, from 39,355 to 48,954
18 January 1931 Vo§ische Zeitung Article
In Germany, unemployment has reached 4 million. But wherever the employment of men has dropped, the number of working women has increased. Already today, 75% of all women work. As a result, 6 million employed women confront 4 million unemployed men. We have, for example, more than 20, 000 young teachers without jobs, but the number of female teachers, and even those who are married, grows ever larger. A similar situation exists in the other professions. The State is providing the "good" example in this regard. Private industry gladly follows. How shocking is the fact when men, in the prime of their life, who have wives and children to feed, are thrown out on the streets! How scandalous is the condition, when everywhere young girls are given preferential treatment in hiring. No Cabinet Minister, no party has raised this aspect of unemployment or knows any way to counter it. They fear los ing votes. But Germany will self-destruct, if the women can work, and the men are forced to be unemployed!
The next two documents were written by American journalists who visited Germany in 1931, at the depth of the depression. Both give excellent analyses of a republic in which democracy had stopped working, but a viable alternative had not yet been found. These eye-witness accounts reveal the full impact of the depression upon German society.
The first selection comes from a book written by H.R. Knickerbocker, a foreign-correspondent for the New York Evening Post. In 1912, he visited Germany for a first hand look at the impact of the depression there, and to learn what political results were likely to follow.
Selections from H.R.Knickerbocker The German Crisis (1932)
In the present German crisis Hitler and his Fascists have overrun the stage, but in the wings stand the Communists. German Fascism might have appeared without German Communism. Neither could have appeared without German poverty. Poverty in various degrees is present in every country. Unemployment is widespread all over the world. Discontent is no monopoly of Germany and many outside this country must ask themselves why Germany is in any more danger of radical alteration of its Government or of its economic system than any other country with an equal percentage of jobless. There are good reasons why.
The first is that here the discontent that proceeds from poverty is politically organized. The second is that the poverty of certain classes of the population is unusually acute. The third is that the political and economic discontent is of long standing. We in America are comparative newcomers to economic depression and it is difficult for us to realize that the nations of Central Europe have never regained a pre-war standard of business stability and of living.
The political organization of discontent in Germany makes it impossible to measure the consequences that may result from various degrees of unemployment in the terms of the same degrees of unemployment in other countries. We may have in America more or fewer jobless in proportion to our population than has Germany but the consequences of a growing number of jobless in Germany may be far more serious than the consequences from an equal growth of unemployment in the United States or England.
It may be taken for granted that every jobless man is a dis contented man, in any country. But the degrees of their discontent vary with the extent of their poverty and with the character of the political organization of the country. In a land such as the United States where even the jobless, by drawing on their savings or on the re sources of their employ ed friends and relatives or on the assistance of public organizations, may continue to live on a comparatively tolerable standard, the degree of discontent remains within the bounds of the system.
A jobless man in America expresses his discontent usually by voting in opposition to the men or the party in power. He may change his vote from Republican to Democratic or vice versa. The inconsequential size of the American Communist Party is sufficient index that not many even of the American jobless are inclined to go farther. But if he were so inclined, and wished to express his opposition not merely to the party in power, but to the Government itself and to the capitalist system, he would find no adequate political vehicle to satisfy his inclination. This is as much as to say that the American Communist Party is small because nobody votes for it, and that nobody votes for it because it is small.
This true political paradox is directly reversed in Germ any. Here the discontent is greater because most of Germany's jobless, though helped by the dole, live today on a level that would be quite intolerable for most Americans and a level that in varying degrees has become intolerable also for the German. Every day that the crisis continues there increase not only the whole number of unemployed and the number of those receiving a dole averaging less than $4 a week, but also the number of those who have exhausted their right to this dole and are relegated to the so-called communal charity, averaging $1.75 a week. There were 700,000 on this minimum dole at the end of 1930; there were 1,500,000 attempting to live on it at the end of 1931. Before regaining the right to the $4 dole, the unemployed man must find work and continue at his job twenty-six weeks.
Granted that the discontent is more acute, the next question in attempting to define the chief difference between this country and other countries in the world crisis is that of the political outlets. Here German is unique. It has two chief outlets for revolutionary feeling, each providing a vehicle for the most diverse discontents, each promising a radical change in the government and in the system. On the one hand is the Communist Party, promising every thing to the worker; on the other hand is the National Socialist Party of Adolf Hitler, promising everything to everybody. And aside from these reasons, both parties are large because many people vote for them, and many people vote for them because they are large.
That is to say, the two extreme parties followed the course of development of most political movements. They first reached a certain size through the votes of persons who were willing to throw away their votes for their principles. But the larger they grew the more attractive they became. In politics more than in any other realm the rule holds true that nothing succeeds like success. Today nobody feels he is throwing away his vote by casting it for a party that gave Hitler 6,406,000 votes at the Reichstag election of 1930 or for a party that gave "Moscow" 4,590,000....
Not all German discontent proceeds from material impoverishment, but one definition of the two radical parties in Germany is that the Communists are people who never had anything, and the National Socialists are people who had something and lost it.... How far the trend toward radicalization of the population has been influenced by the economic depression is expressed in a striking way by comparing the growth of unemployment with the growth of the vote for the Nazis and for the Communists. The comparison may also give some clue to the future political consequences of a continued growth in unemployment.
Taking the various Reichstag elections since 1920 as indexes, Germany had in the 1920 election year 464,000 unemployed and gave the Communist Party 589,000 votes, or 120% of the jobless. The National Socialists did not then exist.
Skipping the 1924 elections as unrepresentative, in as much as they were strongly influenced by the backwash of the inflation, Germany had in the 1928 election year, 2,500,000 unemployed and gave the Communists 3,263,000, or 124% of the unemployed, and the National Socialists 809, 000 or 30% of the unemployed. Both radical parties together polled 4,072,000, about 160% of the unemployed.
In election year 1930, Germany had 4,438,000 unemployed, and gave the Communists 4,590,000, slightly more than 100% of the unemployed, and the National Socialists 6,406,000, or 140% of the unemployed. Both radical parties together got 10,996,000, or about 240% of the unemployed.
It will be seen that the radical vote was always larger than the number of unemployed, and that it not only increased as the number of unemployed increased, but increased at a faster rate.... If the unemployed should number 5,000, 000 at the next election, the radical parties, according to this calculation, should poll at least 20,000,000 votes out of the total 35,000,000.... Throughout Germany the radical vote goes hand in hand with the misery of unemployment. Two-thirds of the Communist vote and one-half of the National Socialist vote at the 1930 elections came from regions containing much less than one-half the population of Germany, but regions where the percent age of unemployment was considerably above that of the whole country.
Jobless centers and Communist centers are Berlin and its industrial environs, the giant chemical works of Merseburg, the milltowns of Thuringia and Saxony, the steel and coal regions of the Ruhr and Westphalia, the mines of Silesia. Few of these places are on the itinerary of tourists to Germany, but all deserve visiting in the attempt to render a whole picture of what is today transpiring in this country and an idea of what the future may hold in store.
Of the great cities in Germany, Berlin with its 500,000 job less and its 1930 Communist vote of 739,235 and its National Socialist vote of 395,988, stands near the top of the list for unemployment and radicalism. And in Berlin, the homeless customers of Zum Ollen Fritz (At the Sign of Old Fritz), were capable teachers to supplement the lessons of statistics. In their rags and their bitterness they represented essential cause and effect in the round of events that has made this nation focal object of the fears of Europe.
Knickerbocker visits the working class section of Berlin.
An iron screen guarded the buffet and behind the bars lay a fly-specked platter of fried horsemeat and a pair of horse meat sausages. The guests were hungry. They sat at their tables and gazed through the bars at the horse meat. It was dinner time, but they ordered nothing. Their hunger had nothing to do with dinner time. Of forty guests in the restaurant, only two had anything on their tables. Between one old man and a frowzy woman stood a beaker of malt beer. First he took a sip, put the beaker down and stared at the horsemeat. They were the liveliest guests in the room until we came in.
It was not Russia. Zum Ollen Fritz had the sign of Frederick the Great on its door, and a restaurant named after the greatest Hohenzollern must be German, even in red Wedding [the working-class district of Berlin]. Here in the dense north of Berlin was a chance to determine if not the extent of German poverty, certainly its most acute form, and here in Zum Ollen Fritz were plentiful witnesses to answer the question why the German capital has more Communists than any city outside Russia....
They accepted me. My uniform matched theirs—the uniform of the homeless—rags. My companions, experts in the field to be explored, were better dressed. Max, leader of the barricade fighting on the Kslinerstra§ e in 1929, was a blacksmith by trade, but he wore a stiff collar. With the exception of four years in the penitentiary for inciting to Communist uprising, he had been looking for work since 1923. He was now under sentence again for a seditious speech and would begin to serve his time in a few days. Hans, hief of the Wedding section of the outlawed "Red Front Bund," had been sought by the police for the last three months. Otto, the third of our party, was a journalist. All were long-time members of the Communist Party. In Wedding that meant welcome everywhere behind the scenes.
"Comrade," called Max. "Four small beers." The waiter brightened at the largest order of the evening. At the surrounding tables heads turned to view with apathetic envy the affluent comrades who could afford four four-cent beers. Beneath a advertisement that read "Men's Home—Bed fifty pfennigs," sat a half-dozen men with their heads resting on the table, sleeping. "Why don't they go to the men's home and get a decent sleep?" I asked. "Because they haven't got fifty pfennigs" (12 1/2 cents) answered the waiter.
A tall young man, his skinny neck sticking out of a tattered overcoat that flapped about his ankles, wandered through the room holding out a once-white dress shirt. He was willing to trade the shirt for the price of a horse meat sausage. He found no takers. His own chest was shirt less.... In the corner opposite him were broken chairs piled in a heap. At the table in between sat three girls. They sought credit for a sandwich. They promised to come back at midnight and pay. The proprietor refused. He did not doubt they would pay if they got the money, but he doubted whether they could earn fifty pfennigs apiece by midnight.
We went out, bought a newspaper. Four Communists, caught pasting posters contrary to the emergency decree providing heavy penalty for unlicensed proclamations, had been sentences to a total of thirteen years in jail. The leader got four years. Hans exclaimed: "The outside world is going to be surprised. Everybody thinks we Germans are so orderly and easygoing. They think a Communist revolution in Germany would be quite different from Russia. They think we wouldn't shed any blood. I tell you," and he clenched his fist, "we are going to correct that error."
"And how!" echoed Max, as we crowded through the door of the Die Weisen Quelle, past a group of work men. They were all talking unemployment.... In the pastoral Meadow Spring, twenty or thirty men and a few women sat and watched a young couple dance to the snaggled tune of a cracked phonograph. It was still dinner time, and cards on the wall advertized "If you want to whip Max Schmeling, eat our goulash—thirty-five pfennigs," but nobody had anything on their tables. "How do these proprietors get along?" I asked. "They don't," was the reply. "They're not much better off than their customers."
Of all the impressions left by a night in the underworld of Berlin's jobless none was so strong as the fact that in a dozen restaurants, out of a total of perhaps 500 guests observed, not more than one-tenth had so much as a glass of beer before them. When a German becomes too poor to buy beer he has approached the desperation point. The Federal Statistical Office reports that beer consumption has receded from 102.1 liters per head of population in 1913 to 74.7 liters in 1931, with a sharp drop from 90 liters in 1930.
Down by the Alexander Platz, where the red brick bulk of Police Headquarters throws a massive shadow across the thick mesh of traffic, we came up short before a crowd. The high helmets of two policemen bobbed up and down as they struggled to lift a man to his feet. A woman cried, "What's the matter with him?" "Hunger!" replied the policeman. "Hunger!" echoed the crowd, and fell back to make way for the policeman who led off a thin youth, whose legs wobbled and whose face was white as a sheet of paper. So dramatic that it might have been taken from a stage, this example of German poverty deserves record only because the policeman cried "hunger." Men usually fall on the street from intoxication, and certainly the first thought of a policeman picking up a prostrate man is "drunk." When a Berlin SCHUPO [i.e. Schtzpolizei], surely no sentimentalist, exclaims "hunger," it may be taken for granted that he at any rate believes his diagnosis is correct....
Fifteen million Germans are supported today on the dole and according to official statistics none of them have all they want to eat. The midnight moon in the Frbelstrasse stood high over the gas tanks, shed silver on the block long bulk of Berlin's Night Refuge for the Homeless. A lamp burned in the warden's office. Not another light showed in the building. Too late to enter. It was no lark to spend a night as a homeless tramp in Berlin, and the exploration of the question "How great is Germany's poverty?" ceased to be amusing when the winter wind cut through my rags. We hurried past long lines of barracks. In them were part of the army of Germany's jobless. Today there are approximately 5,000,000 of them. The public treasury, the Federal Government, the States, the cities and towns spend around $750,000,000 a year for the support of the 5 million and their families and the 1,200,000 part-time workers who, earning less than the dole, are furnished the difference to enable them to life.
But Max, Hans, Otto and I were looking for the unemployed who receive no doles. Hunting for a warm place, we made for the Schlesischer Railroad Station. Once upon a time night wanderers could sleep in the waiting room. We went in. The place was empty save for two SCHUPO's and a railroad policeman. Their scrutinizing eyes made Hans uneasy. We left.... In the Zarowka, low-ceilinged cellar across the street from the Schles ischer Bahnhof, a squat, dark woman showed us beds. Five to a room, the beds were filthy, had no sheets. A mark—25 cents—apiece was too expensive. We moved on to the Hotel Metropol, stood shivering before a dark hall until the porter answered our ring.
"Got fifty-four guests," he muttered, "at eighty pfennigs apiece. See for yourself." He tossed us a key. We climbed five flights of stairs, found room ninety-six, observed five beds, considered the bed clothes gray with dirt, noted a cracked jar, remarked it would be a good room for a suicide and departed. It was 3 o'clock....
Banging on a cellar window, Max awoke a cobbler; demand ed he should let us in. Out of page of Dostoevsky appeared a figure at the cellar door. His teeth clattered and bit his words, and the wind blew his ragged shirt back from his raw belly, but in the most matter of fact and hospitable tone, as if he received visitors every morning at 4, he invited us to "Hurry in. Hurry in." He held up his candle for us to see our way. His thin arms trembled. Past his bed, a pile of rags on the floor, we clambered over stacks of shoes dried with age, countless. He let us through his back door into the court, said, "knock when you want to come back," and retired to his den. "Can you imagine," exclaimed Max. "That guy's a Social Democrat. Starving to death. Living like an animal in a cave. And he's still a Social Democrat."
We climbed the back flight of stairs [to Max's apartment]. ... In Max's kitchen, scrubbed, clean, neat, his wife rolled the youngest member of the household (still sleeping) into the hall, and essayed to explain how she managed to feed her husband, her five children, aged four months, four, six, nine and eleven years, and herself on her husband's unemployed dole of 15 marks 35 pfennigs, $3.80 a week. While she made a pot of imitation coffee, she talked. "First, what I have to take out before food: Max gets 85 pfennigs a week for tobacco. We have to pay 3 marks a week back rent; 70 pfennigs for gas; 50 pfennigs a week for installment payments on a sweater for Max, and 30 pfennigs a week to rent towels; 1 mark 30 for newspapers and 1 mark party dues. That makes 6 marks 80 pfennigs and leaves 8 marks 20 pfennigs—$1.95 a week to feed seven people."
"But why," I exclaimed, "why 1 mark 30, nearly 10% of your income, for newspapers?"
"There is the Rote Fahne The Red Flag], the Rote Post [The Red Post], and the Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung [The WorkersÕ Illustated]. As good Communists, we must read the party press." This seemed to be the most remarkable example of several things. But most remark able of all was the utterly matter of fact way she mention ed that out of an income of fifteen marks eighty-five pfennigs, two marks thirty, or 15% went to the party.
"And how do you buy food for seven people a week with eight marks, twenty pfennig?"
"Bread and potatoes," she replied. "Mostly bread. On the day we get the money we buy sausage. Can't resist the temptation to have a little meat. But the last two days of the week we go hungry. That is, mostly it's Max that goes hungry."
It is pertinent to observe that Max's unemployment dole amounting to a round sixty-three marks a month is, be cause of the five children, considerably above the average. According to the Labor Office in Neuklln, the average dole received throughout the Reich by an unemployed worker with wife and one child is fifty-one marks a month.... Until I undertook this investigation I shared the opinion widely held at home that the German dole provided a living for its recipients. It even seemed probable that a good many persons would prefer to live on the dole than to go to work. I also held the opinion that the Russian employed worker had less to eat than the German unemployed worker [Knickerbocker had visited Russia in 1930 and written a book on that experience]. All these opinions have been revised in the face of the observed facts in Berlin. The dole at its present level in Germany is not enough to live on; too little to die on....
In 1927 the German dole amounted to about 80 marks per month. After deducting the 32 marks 50 pfennigs for rent and household necessities, this left 47 marks 50 pfennigs for food, or two and one-half times as much as the dole recipient has for food today.... Today the edicts of 5 June and 6 October 1931, decreed under the pressure of mounting budget deficit, have reduced the dole to its present average of 51 marks, and on this stark standard must exist approximately 15,000,000 Germans....
But in addition to the full-time unemployed there are part-time workers who receive public support. Of the 16,000, 000 persons still at work in Germany, 22%, or about 3,600,000 work on short time. One third of these work more than three days a week and are therefore better off than the unemployed, hence receive no dole. Another third work in trades so well paid that even if they work less than three days a week they receive more than the unemployed, hence receive no dole. That last third, or 1,200,000, however, though still technically "employed," earn less than the dole, and are provided by the public treasury with sufficient means to make up the difference between their earnings and the dole.
Adding the 1,200,000 part-time workers to the 4,200,000 dole recipients ... and estimating two dependents (wife and child) to each unit, the total of 16,200,000 [Germans currently supported on the dole] is reached.... The actual total would probably be more, since the statistical aver age shows 3.7 persons dependent on each dole unit [a calculation which would suggest the figure was closer to 19,980,000]....
Outside, in the winter dawn, emerged a long gray line of men hurrying toward the entrance of the City Refuge on the Frbelstra§ e. We hurried with them. They sought soup cards. Down the Gormanstra§e crowds of men and women hurried into the Central Labor Office. We hurried with them. They sought work.
Into an old car-barn on the Ackerstra§e, converted by the city into a "Warming Hall," hurried a throng of tattered fig ures. We hurried to them. They sought only warmth....
Are not 15,000,000 people enough to make a revolution? The Faubourg Saint Antoine [in Paris, 1789] was hungry. It revolted. Red Wedding is hungry. Will it revolt? And hunger is not the only factor in revolt. Suppression is another. Is it conceivable that Hitler may do what hunger has not yet done? What will be the result of Fascist sup pression added to Communist hunger, Communist numbers and Communist organization if Hitler comes into power? This is not the least of the questions to be answered for a clear picture of what a Hitler Government may mean to the outside world as well as to Germany.
Knickerbocker next visited the textile manufacturing area of Saxony, and particularly the town of Falkenstein, a strongly Communist area. Here a member of the Falkenstein Labor Office takes him to visit a typical family .
The head of the household, a building trades worker, was watching the pot boil in the kitchen, the only heated room of three. This, declared his wife with some acerbity, was the sole occupation of the head of the household and had been so for the two years he had been out of work. There are five million jobless in Germany, but there are no jobless wives of the jobless, and no eight-hour day for them. The hardest working people in this country are the wives of the unemployed, and sixteen hours of sparing, scraping, darning, washing in the ceaseless effort to stretch the dole to its uttermost limits is their unremitting daily stint. Custom is stiff as cast iron. Custom in German decrees the man shall do no house work. Unemployed, he glooms. The wife slaves.
The pot contained dinner for the head of the household, his wife, and five children. It consisted of lumps of dough boiled to make a kind of dough soup. Nothing else for Sunday dinner. The sixth child, four months old, lay in its cradle. The mother, thirty-six, tired, haggard, was pregnant.
The children took off their sound outside clothing and the mother hung it up for next Sunday. Their home clothes were ragged. They sat down with great appetites to eat the dough soup, and as I looked at their plump red cheeks, I thought of Russia. There too, bread and potatoes are for many the only food, but there, too, the children show no signs of undernourishment. Medical statistics may tell a different story, but the physical appearance of a population living on bread and potatoes is difficult for a lay eye to distinguish from one living on more than enough meat, eggs and milk.
At this unusual moment when tens of millions of jobless in the chief centers of Western civilization are eating less than they ever did before, no question is more interesting than that of the limits to which diet may be reduced with out actual physical injury. Haphazard examples are no scientific criterion, but it is, nevertheless, noteworthy that the champion junior wrestler of Falkenstein, a husky youth of nineteen, jobless for two years, has lived on almost nothing but bread and potatoes, and can still pin the shoulders of any other youth in town; and that the captain of the Falkenstein football team, a master in the strenuous game of soccer, twenty-two years old, has been jobless for three years, and during that time has also lived almost exclusively on bread and potatoes....
Over a breakfast in our hotel the Falkenstein football captain, Sander, a handsome well-built youth, paused between mouthfuls of the highly appreciated ham to explain "I'd like to have more to eat than the bread and potatoes of the unemployed, but I reckon I don't need it." The ham, he admitted, was the first meat he had in seven days.... Sander outlined his parents' budget: father unemployed, 11 marks dole; brother, unemployed, 4 marks 50 pfennigs dole; sister, employed in factory, 8 marks wages; him self, unemployed, 4.50 dole—making a total of 32 marks, or not quite $7.60 a week for a family of five adults. Their expenditures for food, he asserted, were about $4 for the family, or 80 cents apiece a week. They ate virtually nothing but bread and potatoes.
They were lucky to have the employed sister. The family we visited that Sunday receives a dole of $5.50 a week for eight persons. Seventy-five cents, said the mother, goes for rent at a special reduced rate; another 75 cents for heat, $1 for clothes and incidentals, leaving $3 a week for food for eight persons. To the food purchasable with this sum are added three portions of soup daily six days a week, furnished gratis by the "Peoples Kitchen," supported by local private charity and dealing out 400 portions of soup a day, some for nothing, some for two and 1/2 cents, and some for five cents a plate, depending upon the financial condition of the recipient.
Whether the rest of us eat too much or not, and despite the fact that the children showed no exterior signs of under nourishment, when they finished their dough soup they begged for more. There was no more. Across the hall another jobless worker's family underscored the shadows on the picture of the unemployed. One of the six children was tubercular, but had to sleep in the only sleeping room with the other seven members of the family. Most significant of all, the mother in the most matter-of-fact way remarked that the six were all that was left of an original nineteen. Thirteen had died in infancy.
His final stop was a small village in nearby Thuringia, Fehrenbach.
We had thought that a strong candidate for head of the misery list was Falkenstein, with its 50% unemployed and its barracks full of families living half a dozen to the room on a dole that left 6 cents a day apiece for food. But here in the midst of the Thuringian Forest, traditional home of Europe's most famous glass blowers, is a group of villages whose wretched inhabitants make Falkenstein's poverty-stricken citizens appear almost well-to-do in comparison. Falkenstein had 50% unemployed; these villages have more than 90%. Falkenstein had families of eight living on a dole of less than $1 a day per family; these villages have families of eight living on a dole of 35 cents a day per family. The prospect for Falkenstein is more hunger. The prospect for these villages in Thuringia is hunger that nears starvation.
Not that it seems likely this population will die of outright starvation. No considerable number of persons in the modern Western world dies of starvation. They do in China. But the degree of downright hunger in these villages of Thuringia, a short motor drive from the Weimar home of Goethe, is even more impressive to a citizen of the Western world than the mass misery of the remote incredible East.
We drove through the Forest of Thuringia on a winter afternoon. The smokeless stacks of abandoned glass works threw occasional shadows across the snow-decked roads and the gapping windows of deserted factories eyes us coldly. All the seventy-five miles from Jena we had passed not half a dozen automobiles, although the towns and villages crowded one upon another. We were not the only travelers, but the others went on foot.
In Altenfeld, a glass kiln glowed. We went in. Out of the deep dusk of the interior, whirling globes of white and yellow swung toward us. Fire caverns shone behind the legs of dim-bodied men. Above their heads twirled magic shapes of incandescence. Some shapes descended, fell into molds. The men blew and puffed their cheeks and heaved their chests. The wood molds steamed and sent white jets to cloud the heads of black-faced boys waiting for the product of the incantation. The molds opened. The yellow glass cooled, turned cherry red, and the black-faced boys scooped on their shovels another dozen cognac bottles. Another twelve men had earned 1/4 of a cent apiece! ... It was the last day. Tomorrow the big kiln would close and 220 men out of 280 employed in the works would be discharged.
On this, their last day of employment, the men required no speed-up orders. About their haste was a desperate earnestness. Every bottle meant a quarter of a penny, and if they had blown hard enough and twirled fast enough and if each one in the course of six days had turned out two thousand eight hundred bottles, each one could take home at the end of the week seven whole dollars to mitigate the news "I'm fired." ... What faced the crew after their last day of employment? To see, we drove on to Fehrenbach.
The forest town of Fehrenbach is like a toy town. Its houses, neatly painted, stand out sharply against the dense green of the fir-clad slopes. The snow on the roofs glitters in the clean high air. It is one of healthiest districts of Germany.... The Mayor of Fehrenbach received us in his tiny shack, the city hall, a room about the size of a large bathroom. "The unemployed of Fehrenbach," he explained, meant the entire population. They had all been employed in glass or lumber, both now paralyzed. Fehrenbach had 1,300 inhabitants, 285 families. Of these 176, or 97%, were unemployed. The most prosperous of these families were the 170 that still received the regular dole of 13.50 marks, $3.20 per family a week. The worst off were the 106 families who had exhausted their right to draw the state dole and were on the local charity dole. In Fehrenbach this amounted to 6.50 marks, $1.55 a week per family aver aging four persons, or slightly more than 5 cents a day per person to cover the entire expenses of living....
Of its entire 1,300 population, twenty individuals, said the mayor, still have work. This is the feature that makes unique the situation of Fehrenbach and the half-a-dozen other villages in this district, comprising a total population of around 6,000. Everywhere else, where a good part of the population is still employed, the neighbors may be able to help in the most desperate necessity. Here where, as the Mayor said, nobody ever has all he wants to eat, nobody has anything with which to help even in the most desperate necessity....
With the Mayor we visited a series of families. In one the man, his wife and four children, were sitting in the kitchen, neat as all German kitchens seem to be, no matter how poor the family. This family received 9.50 marks a week and two of the children received a cup of milk and a roll apiece every other day from the Quaker donations. The housewife reluctantly gave me their menu for the day: Breakfast—coffee made from roasted wheat, and bread without butter; lunch—potatoes boiled with bacon, one pound of bacon to last six meals; dinner—boiled potatoes without bacon.
This six days a week and on Sundays one pound of the cheapest meat for the six members of the family.
In the next household a glass worker, his wife and three children received 9 marks a week. Their menu was the same. From house to house throughout the village the story was repeated, monotonous, without light or shade, and the most remarkable feature of the people's attitude was the completely matter-of-fact way in which they an swered questions. "Yes, we are hungry," they replied in much the same manner one would say: "Yes, today is Monday." Only once did an old glass worker swallow hard as he related that on Sundays his family of five usually managed to get one-half pound of meat, and that it tasted extraordinarily good. None of them made the least gesture toward asking us for alms, and it was always necessary carefully to explain the purpose of my visit before they would talk about their condition. "They are proud," explained the Mayor, Òand none of them likes to admit how poor he is." ...
In considering the general economic condition of Germany and especially the condition of its unemployed it must be remembered that there are three categories of doles: the first category is unemployed insurance. To receive it the worker must have worked uninterruptedly and paid his unemployment insurance premiums for one year. The worker is entitled to this insurance whether he can show necessity or not. The payments vary according to the wages the man received and the size of his family. The Labor Office in Neuklln Berlin reports the average payment since the re ductions affected by the latest Government decrees is 55.64 marks a month. This sum the jobless worker may receive for sixteen to twenty weeks, according to the length of his former employment.
After the jobless worker has exhausted this period he goes into the so-called Kreisenfrsorge [District Welfare]. This is a straight dole. To receive it the worker must show necessity. It also varies, but averages ... 46.14 marks a month. In this category, the worker may remain from 38 to 52 weeks.
After this period, the jobless man is relegated to the so-called Wohlfahrt or local charity dole, made up from contributions by the Reich, by the States, and cities and towns where the worker resides. In it the worker may re main for as long as the money holds out. According to the Labor Office, the average of this dole throughout the Reich is 29.68 marks a month.
This sum means genuine hunger for the recipients and one of the most important features to keep in mind about the German system of unemployed relief is that the longer the crisis continues the more of the unemployed go on the local charity dole. The size of the local dole depends on how much revenue the villages have, and the longer the crisis lasts the less money they have and the smaller be comes the bold. The villages of the Thuringian Forest, according to rule, must contribute one-third of the local charity dole. In fact, they have absolutely no money in their treasury and can contribute nothing.
It may be that ... the phenomena of the Thuringian Forest villages are local, extreme, non-typical. It is true that the glass industry here would suffer in any case from high freight rates and that it never enjoyed any particular economic advantages except cheap labor. But that the present degree of poverty is un paralleled is asserted by almost every witness and that there could exist in the midst of the most highly industrialized country in Europe a series of communities of whose 6,000 population at least 5,500 are not only jobless but perceptibly near the starvation point is an index figure of some value for judgment of the state of the whole country....
On our way through the forests we passed a memorial to the fallen in the war. Snow piled high on the back of a steel-helmeted soldier and snow covered all but a few names on the bronze honor roll. Nearby stood another memorial, but the snow on the roof of the abandoned glass factory covered no honor roll.
The second selection is a more speculative piece. William Harlan Hale was a prominent writer of provocative pieces for America's leading journals. He also visited Germany in 1931 and published his reflections for The Nation.
Selections from William Harlan Hale, "From the Heart of GermanyÓ
When you leave Berlin, with its political demonstrations, and its legions of glittering policemen murderously armed to the teeth, and come here to Weimar, you go into a sort of retirement. It is traditional that in this town of hallowed past the present world and its troubles should be come un real. You are expected to forget Hoover, unemployment, long-term credits, and Laval; the only world here traditionally considered real is the world of Goethe, Schiller, and their circle of poets, musicians, and brilliant ama teurs. When great change strikes thoughtful Germany it comes last to Weimar, where the fascination of the past is still most vivid.
Now it has come to Weimar; the fever of confusion and despair has left no locality untouched. Start talking, even here, to the kindly people who sit next to you in a small restaurant, or on the terrace of the Belvedere palace, or in the park that Goethe so superbly laid out; you hear, over and over, "It can't go on." You might expect this in the centers of political agitation; it surprises you in the wood lands of Thuringia.
"It can't go on." The country is nearing the point where disaster is inevitable. An intelligent merchant here gave me the simile: Germany is like a formerly well-to-do citizen whose income enabled him to maintain a high standard of life. His income began to decline, but his whole arrangement of life forced him to keep the standard as high as be fore. His income dropped more rapidly; he had to borrow; he fell into an accumulation of debts, he had to bor row again. His intentions were of the best, but his vision was naturally limited and he could not see into the future. He trusted in a coming change for the better; he adhered to his old standard and in order to get more credits he had to falsify the statements of his re sources. He was not dishonest, he was merely blinded by himself and by circum stances. He could no longer pay the interest; his creditors realized that he could never pay back the capital. There was no way out of the collapse.
This is the national process: the growing unreality of wealth. Germany is surviving only on the basis of foreign capital; this can be withdrawn and the entire economic system wrecked in two weeks. There is no reliance to be placed on such an order. The structure of capitalism here is becoming, day by day, more wobbly. You stand by in a horrible fascination against the moment when the building will come crashing down with a great roar of bursting stone and timber. What is apparent even to the visitor in a German city is the fact that the middle class is dramatically on the point of vanishing. Every month thousands of people who traditionally belonged to that class—teachers, small professional men, shop keepers, officials—are falling into the sea of the proletariat. When the factor is unemployment, that change is automatic and in its speed remorseless. When the factor is taxation, the change is more gradual but no less inevitable. There are thousands of trained officials in Germany who receive less than $500 a year. There are city doctors and sanitary officials who earn far below $1,000. Taxes, in no less than twenty varieties, remove about 50 percent of these sums. A new ordinance places a fine of 5 per cent for every two weeks' delay in payment of taxes beyond the stated quarterly date. The fine adds up mechanically to 130 percent a year. The man who cannot pay his taxes on the appointed day is sooner or later lost. As the percent ages on his payments roll up, his doom is sealed. Bankruptcy before the state naturally includes a surrender of real property; and with such Draconian mechanics proceeds the transition from landed middle class to shiftless proletariat.
Let no one imagine that the [failure of the] Prussian referendum of 9 August [a right-wing sponsored plebescite which would have required Germany to renouce all if foreign financial obligations.] meant that the German people had discarded the intentions of radicalism. The referendum was followed in a few days by announcements of cuts of 15 or 20 percent in the already pathetically slender salaries of thou sands of officials. Extensive reductions in the salaries of all public-school teachers are being considered. In the finest shop ping streets in Berlin—the Friedrichstra§e and the Leipzigerstra§e—hundreds of thousands of square feet of select store and office space stand vacant. The Wohnungsnot [housing shortage] of three years ago has so completely disappeared that the best modern cooperative settlements cannot begin to rent their flats—while in Berlin alone no fewer than 125,000 families are living in huts and tents in what are euphemistically called "orchard colonies." The dreaded Hauszinssteuer [Real Estate tax] exacts ruinous tribute from all owners of occupied premises. The burden is so great that property values are virtually vanishing, since almost no buyer can afford to pay from $1,000 to $8,000 a year tax on his city house or country estate. The best homes are being deserted by their inhabitants just for the sake of spiting the government and pre enting it from getting the taxes due. High mortgages on the finest metropolitan houses bring nothing but catastrophe when the sale value declines from $100,000 in 1916 to $15,000 in 1931. But with the doubling and tripling of taxes and the dizzy decline of wages and land values, there has been no adequate fall in the cost of living. Within the year the price of bread has risen 250 percent. These facts and situations do not discourage radicalism. They do not on the long term inspire enthusiasm for the existing order and the present government. The defeat of radical elements on 9 August was the expression of a popular desire for peace and order in a moment of utmost international crisis; the more thoughtful elements of the German nation dominated. But what was support for August 9 did not mean support for 1932 and thereafter.
To a foreign observer (who has no political passions one way or the other) there is manifest among even the higher middle groups of society an increasing skepticism of German social democracy. It is not merely a dislike for, or an indignation against, the party now in power; it is doubt as to the efficacy of the whole system. In point of fact, one hears few grave charges against the government: usually they are those of local extravagance or bureaucratic duplication, not those of corruption or hopeless blunder of policy. The admiration for Dr. Brning [the Chancellor] as a man of heroic calm and courageous decision penetrates deep into the camp of his political opponents.
No, it is skepticism about the present social democracy that one feels. Deeper than that, it is skepticism about the capitalist system. When Germany hears that America is menaced by 8,000,000 unemployed, is shutting down its most famous factories and letting its finest crops go to waste, it begins to feel that little help will come from us, that with all our notorious wealth we are no longer in a position to help. When Germany observes the failure of English exports to compete in its very own colonies with the goods of China and Japan, when it sees the sacred pound sterling go wavering, when it realizes that England won its war, it begins to doubt the potency of that much-advertised Anglo-German friendship. The people are being slowly and painfully convinced, after the short hysterical enthusiasm over the "Hoover year," [ President HooverÕs unilateral declaration of a moratorium on all reparations for one year – it was now ended] that the outside nations will do little for them. Self-help, they are told, must be the program. And when even the vast capitalist strengths of England and America cannot succeed in keeping their own houses in order, what chance is there for weak and tubercular Germany to accomplish that for herself?
There are, as is known, two ways out: Hitler's nationalism, and communism of the Russian brand. Both ideals are represented in Germany by powerful parties backed with considerable funds, able propaganda agents, and trained shock troops and marksmen. Young Germany is choosing between one and the other. Young Germany knows only this one thing: it will not follow the ways of its fathers, it will not pay reparations. The young men had nothing to do with the war, and they will not pay for it. They possess no accumulated wealth or inheritances which could prompt them to cling to the present order, with its moderate safety, rather than fly to revolution and financial crash. They have nothing to lose, and every thing to gain, in an overthrow. What they have now is training, and no jobs; a very real Germanic strength, and nothing to apply it to. Overly mature for their years, and over-nervous and highstrung in their personalities, they are determined to carry though some reform which might make their lives worth living. Above all, I repeat: they will not pay reparations.É
Thus Germany confesses itself to be in a state of siege. The nation stands alone, and it feels its own foundations slowly weakening under it. It is the sick man of Europe—and its illness is the destiny of our civilization. With the most compelling system of social reform in the world on the other, there is not much deep reality in the cuta way charms of Mr. MacDonald [British Prime Minister] or the laconic visits of Mr. Stimson accompanied by Andy Mellon [British Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mellon US Secretary of the Treasury].
To reduce the German situation to such essentials as these is not to be a professional alarmist; it is merely to admit what everyone realizes today but often likes to gloss over in silence. It is merely to take as basic what the whole world is feeling—skepticism of the power of international accords to cope with the forces of nationalism, French Caesarism, and the eternal hunger for war. It is to take as basic also a greater feeling—the doubt of the capitalist world, the insecurity, the weariness.
There are bright sides to the possibilities of a Communist Germany: the new order, with a program of central planning and administrative reform, would surely bring about an improvement in those domestic conditions which are now becoming insufferable. Communism regnant in Germany would assuredly not extinguish the country's disinterested world of scholarship and art and scientific research; would not submerge the entire population into an undifferentiated mass-existence; would probably not even begin in especially vicious bloodshed. Communism in Germany would have to adapt itself to a different plane of culture from that in Russia; for the German mind is modern, while the Russian may be said to be medieval.
Leaving aside all commercial considerations, there is a chief political reason to be fearful of a Communist Germany. The new order would carry with it the threat of a war to the end with France. What coordinate events and what consequences such a day would bring is in the power of no man to imagine.
And so, when I listened to a thoughtful German speak, as the sun went down beyond the gentle valley where Bach wrote his organ works, Goethe rounded out his "Faust," Schiller first produced his dramas, and a hundred other preachers, poets, artists, and philosophers have per form ed their living work—when I listened to him speak of the cold inevitability of a conclusion, of an entire recommencement , and of a war, I found that not even here, above the silent town, was there any escape to be found from the rising tides that beat on the shores today.
Individual Germans React to the Great Depression
Almost as deeply affected by the depression were the petty Bourgeoisie, small independent businesses and self-employed artisans. The following documents by a German seamstress in Limburg admirably catches that despair.
Diary Entries by Frieda Schmidt 15 March 1932
It is 6 pm. Both my apprentices have left, laughing and making jokes. They are young and carefree. The sewing room is empty, with only me still here by the machine. But my hands are lazy now, and I don't have that much work. As I press my hands to my forehead, I realize how tired I am, tired from too much thinking and worrying. What difficult times we are living through, o full of debilitating anxiety. And it's already lasted for weeks, months, yes even years. More and more I sense the gradual stopping of all business life. I have very little work at all [she is a tailor and seamstress]. As yet, it suffices for my greatly reduced necessities of life; as yet, it is sufficient for the constant expenses which the house and business require. But what will happen when I too stand with nothing?—Will I have to go to be stamp ed [in unemployment offices]?—To my simple way of thinking, I can't understand at all why it has not been possible to give people work? Why is it still possible that a few senseless and unfeeling Financiers can dictate laws which mean the ruin of humanity? I believe that with true humanism, which springs out of active human love and from a higher reason and which treats people as more important than all lust for power and self-interest, every thing would be different, everything would be bet ter and the wheels of the world, which are no longer turning, might be put into motion once more! Sometimes it seems as if all the misery and sufferings of starving and famish ed creatures caused by delays in legislation by those in power; must mount up to the very heavens. In truth they do, but the echoes of all these screams still do not reach the ears of the men who rule the world, and who stand deaf and blind, and without any feelings—except those which compel them to think only of them selves, their stomachs, and their pocketbooks.
22 March 1932 Letter by Frieda Schmidt
Praise God that we are gradually being freed from the claws of winter by life-giving rays of sunshine and the awakening spring. Never before has every fiber of my being so yearned, never before as today have I so rejoiced in the rebirth of the world around me, and within me. Perhaps it is the quite natural reaction to all the difficult days and weeks which have passed since the death of my mother, and which have frozen my heart in ice. "but poor heart, do not complain, there is nothing that does not change." With what intensity do we hope, and exclaim with Goethe: "Oh happy those who still can hope to emerge from this sea of errors." And should the hopes that we have entrusted to some idol which we have erected be extinguished, in this awful and difficult period, we not only have fears for tomorrow and for those we love, but we also are afraid even to hope. I was never really an optimist —indeed in one sense I remain a fatalist—but now many times horror seizes my heart as I con tem plate the delusions and the "sea of error" into which we have been tossed. But I won't write about politics; I understand far too little about the situation, because I think much too much only with my heart, and I would only bore you.É
I know only that it is good that my mother is gone, and for her sake I would not for a moment want her back a gain, for she is now beyond pain and physical suffering, and I need no longer be in constant worry about her and her condition.É But no night passes that I do not dream of her, and indeed see her in dangerous situations, which disturbs me and breaks my heart. And thus I find myself unable really to recover, much as I ought to, but everything should and must become better now that the days are longer, and brighter and warmer.
16 April 1932 Diary Entry by Frieda Schmidt
I am in a mood that borders on despair. No matter how often I add it up, the results are always the same: gradually, but steadily, my expenses are exceeding my in come. I have been frugal as never before, have become a regular penny pincher, almost to an obsession, which is not at all good for me. No matter how I turn and twist the figures around, it's all downhill for me, and I don't know what will then happen. It has come so far that I can no longer even think of money for clothes or shoes, not to mention any other item which might make life more beautiful, such as a trip, even if it were only to Frankfurt, a visit to a theater or any other luxury, no matter how small. There's only just enough left for me to squeeze by—so far.
9 January 1933 Diary Entry by Frieda Schmidt
Now we are in the year from which mankind expects so much. I wonder if something will happen? It certainly would be very very desirable for all of us.
14 February 1933 Diary Entry by Frieda Schmidt
How will this all end I ask myself over and over again. I find no answer, and simply do not know of one. Many times I feel so cowardly, close to the edge of breaking; I don't know what I would do if there was no fear of the "hereafter." Death becomes all the more attractive as life, or better the possibility for living, turns more and more away from us. I would never have believed it possible that I would one day be so poor, insignificant, and despairing as I am today. I always trusted in the work of my hands, which had ever provided for my well-being; never before was I fearful or thought that I would have to worry about lacking the most essential necessities of life. My distress grows greater from day to day. I have practically no work at all. In spite of great frugality, I do not make enough for a bare existence.
And now for the third week in a row I am sick with the flu. So I lie in bed and thoughts, like wild wolves, fall upon me, and I see everything that I have accumulated with so much love and care, my own beautiful home, disintegrating, see it shattered and dwindle away, in order to pay debts which I have had to incur. And I'm so very much alone in my distress. What can someone, secure in his own certain income, ever know about such distress. Only a person who has spent his last Reichs mark without knowing where the next one will come from can sympathize with me. Anxiety about what to morrow will bring is what wears me out, and not only me, but many, many others. From this Hitler, the wildly celebrated and adored "People's Messiah", the leader of the NSDAP, I do not expect our salvation [Hitler has been appointed Chancellor on 30 January]. In my eyes he is a man possessed of a fanatical idea, who knows how to arouse the masses hypnotically. Yet I can understand [his appeal]. The distress is so great, and people who have no work—especially Germans who love to work—must be in despair. Little inducement is needed to inflame them passionately for everything that is promised.
To my way of thinking, a fundamental change can take place only if money, humanity's own "flu", would disappear, and all persons could thereby grow more human, that is more idealistic and self-less. But I know I won't live to see that.
20 February 1933 Frieda Schmidt Letter to a Friend
Oh my dear, it has been, and continues to be a "miserable" existence for me. Normally, I am not a bad patient. But now, so entirely alone, with no work, and little chance of any in the future, with continuing bills and apprehension, and more financial calculations, how can I help but become fully de pressed? I see no purpose any more in my life. I fail to see why I should continue to struggle up the mountain, only so that fate can knock be down again. Don't tell me that life, like nature, is still beautiful. Just look around yourself. I certainly love nature, in its immeasurable fullness; and yet it offers little consolation for the ever-present distress of my daily life, and is over-trumped by the constant thought of from where and how will the money arrive for my daily existence.É And I do not hear any "music of the future" from that aspiring drummer, Hitler. To me, a dictatorial change only in Germany would not be enough, for there must be a series of revolutions, fundamental alterations and reforms in the whole crazy economic and financial structures of the world. But that would take far greater distress than at present, and will occur only if all people were badly off, that is if all humans learned the meaning of extreme distress. Then maybe they would come to see the importance of compassion and brotherhood, and then all destructive hatreds would die out. Naturally, I wish that all people could live well, but as long as one nation or a people throw stones in the way of the other, such prosperity will not be possible.
23 March 1933 Diary Entry by Frieda Schmidt
I feel as if our whole culture is just nonsense, as long as one nation wants to dominate another, and only a few people understand that the important thing is for all hu man ity to prosper, and that they can do so [without harming other people]. For the earth is rich enough to nourish all who live on it. But now Germany is filled with the "nationalistic" ideas of the NSDAP, of Adolf Hitler. "Heil Hitler" is the slogan which runs through all classes of the people,and allows uncounted numbers to place their faith and trust in that man, the Fhrer. But will the "Hosannahs" of today not be followed necessarily with cries of "Crucify, crucify?" I am skeptical. But then, I am not a "nationalist" in the desired sense. I can't say that very loudly these days, or else I could expect to tour a prison, as a "enemy of the state." No, I can't bring myself to soar up with nationalistic feelings. Why should we Germans take precedence as a chosen race (such as is being preached here) before all other nations. Isn't every nation deserving of its own existence? Is our civilization to be judged so much higher than the ethics and customs of natives of the Fisher Islands? They are only different; that's the only border. In insufferable arrogance, we call ourselves "culture-bearers," and all the others barbarians, entirely uncultured, who ought not even be compared with us. We condemn others from our own ethical and moral standards, and all too easily forget that they too have their concepts of honor and jus tice, which must be judged equally as valuable as are our own, despite the fact that they appear as strange to us as our thoughts and actions appear to them.
1 January 1934 Diary Entry by Frieda Schmidt
A new year—and an opportunity to look backwards and forwards. No feeling of gratitude fills me when I con tem plate the past year. My business is quietly deteriorating. Unemployment is still here. Never before have the weeks before Christmas brought no work. By early November I had finished all the orders, and nothing new came in. I waited week after week. How awful it was to just sit there, and waiting for the doorbell to ring. Is no one coming at all? And if it did ring, it was either the gas man or light company representative, or someone else who wanted money. Four weeks I sat like that, and then I suddenly decided to travel to Frankfurt, where I spent three weeks working with relatives and friends. Thus in the most bitter cold days, I saved on light and coal, and earned a few Marks in my pocket to pay off some pressing debts. How humiliating this all is. Previously I would have laughed at anyone who would have suggested that one day such cares would weigh directly on me. Many times, it seems as if a thick fog has clouded my eyeglasses, forcing me to wipe them constantly in order to clear my head and my heart. But it is an illusion. The choking hardship is still there, and I wake up often in the middle of the night with the terrifying question: how can this go on? Only five years ago I had an average monthly income of 250 RM. Then it became 220, then 170, 110 [in 1932], and in this past year only 95. Should this continue, I could not go on. Monthly expenses on mortgage, gas, light, water, heating, health and life insurance takes out monthly 50 RM. And I still want to continue the habit of eating and drinking. What is left for clothes and shoes. When I go out, I always wear a coat [to cover old clothes], and then I am ashamed that in this era of general poverty I have not lost my feelings of pride [in clothes]. Yet much worse than my shame over the shabby coat is my fear of life.
"Hate or Love? From the Berlin Courts", Vo§iche Zeitung Article, 12 November 1929
The defendant, a 27 year-old worker, with the appearance of an idealist, stood before the First District Court . . . [accused] of opening the gas oven in order to end his life and that of his wife at the same time. The attempt failed, and the wife herself went to the police to bring charges. They are in the process of getting a divorce, but are not yet divorced. The Judge explained to the wife her right not to testify against her husband. But in spite of that she persisted. For or against her man? Out of hatred or love?
According to her story, the marriage had been good, and would still be good, if they both had not lost their jobs. Then dissatisfaction began. According to her, he had not diligently enough sought for new work. And one day she had nothing at all to eat. She endured her hunger for still another day, then she went to the streets [as a prostitute]. She insisted that her husband approved, or at least knew she was going to do it. But once she had left, he thought about the source of her earnings, and began divorce proceedings.
At the same time, the man entered into a close relation ship with a young girl. The wife tolerated it, "since the marriage was going to be dissolved anyway." But she herself felt driven, one day, to follow the pair, in order to observe them with her own eyes. She [approached them and] placed her own hands over theirs, saying: "Be happy."
But on the first night that he did not come home, she opened the gas over. Neighbors saved her. But early in the morning she tried suicide a second time. This time her husband himself came in, broke down the kitchen door and found a note in her hand, on which she had written: "I leave this life, because after the separation, it has become too difficult for me to bear alone." In addition, she had made a will: "Everyone should have something, but nothing for that two-timer."
Some time later, he was overcome with depression, and believing that his wife was asleep, he turned on the gas. She noticed it, turned it off and opened the windows. A few hours later, he tried again, but again she intervened. Then she screamed at him: if he wanted to kill yourself, have the guts to do it alone. She had shown the courage to do that. He replied, if he were to die, then she had to also; no other man need be angered by her. At this they became reconciled, but afterwards, she still went to the police.
1932 Article in "Rumpelstilsken," Nu wenn schon!
Life begins to become bestial.... If you want to see how the "people" are trying to remain healthy, don't visit the municipal swimming pools, for there you see only those who have enough money to afford the 20 pfennig entrance fee and have some pennies left over for other things. So instead, inspect [what goes on] in the East—in Treptower park, and neighboring Plnter Woods. There you can find a constant stream of guests, from early morning to evening, today more than ever, for at the beginning of the vacation period on June 30, once again 15% fewer Berliners have decided to go away. Even the public relief agencies have not sent so many children as usually into the country or up to the seaside. So there only remains Berlin, and in order to save on fares, the people seek out the closest possible goal.
The wife of an unemployed lower-middle class man select ed a small clearing in Plnter Woods to take her three children. There are a lot of trees, and the singing of many birds, not exactly like a park, but pure nature. The wife arrives with a double stroller, into which she has packed the two smallest, and breakfast, lunch, and supper as well. Now the youngest lies on a pillow on the grass and is trying to get the big toe of his right foot into his mouth. The other two children, perhaps three and five years old, likewise naked as blue jays (just think of the saving in clothes!) play away the whole day in their sand box, as they call it. But it isn't sand, just dirt. By 10 in the morning, the two of them are murderously dirty. Doesn't matter, for mother will soon rinse them off, in the pump located near the play ground in Treptower Park. All around the clearing, legs are sticking out of the bushes, and some boy or women sleeps or dozes in the shade. For an hour or more I walked up and down in the Plnter Woods and I found not a single pair together. It was not always like that! But today it seems as if the saying is correct: whoever has nothing more to give, cannot be admitted to your heart. Today literally hundreds of thousands have lost their joy in living. And that is, I believe, something unique to Berlin; in no small town is this sense of hopeless resignation so great.
6 January 1932 Vo§iche Zeitung Article
In the last weeks, numerous cases have become public in which Berlin lawyers, apparently impoverished, have embezzled their clients' money. The statistics of the Bar Association's relief organization show with horrifying clarity that in broad circles of the legal profession the depression has caught many victims. In 1929, the organization received only 33 requests for help. By 1930 this number had grown to 84, and in 1931, from Berlin alone, the number has exceeded 150.
13 October 1932 Vo§iche Zeitung Article
At the market, my wife always buys her vegetables from the same stand. Even when business is slack at the other stands, he has customers. His goods are excellent. Personally, he is eager, polite, and patient. But somehow he doesn't seem to fit the picture, and so one day my wife asked him: "What did you do before?"
He hesitated. "I was an engineer, at Siemens," he then replied. "Oh dear," my wife said.
"Not at all," he answered. "I'm earning more than I did then, my family has no worries about eating, and that is more than most people can say for themselves these days. By the way," and he nodded at the stand near him, " that one belongs to a former professor at Berlin University."
Ideas and institutions become useless, unions and organi zations become powerless. Only personal abilities never loose their effectiveness.
From Stamping Chronicle— The Fate of 261 Unemployed (1932)
At Easter 1932, 5, 800 children graduated from a large city's school system, and according to the author ities, 60% of these were unable to achieve either an apprentice ship or employment.... In the summer semester, 1930, 137, 000 were enrolled in the Universities in Germany. In 1934, there will probably be more than 150,000. This means 150, 000 want to become Ph.D's. The surplus of well-educated, unemployed academics at present has almost reached that number. And these unemployed academics already have years of "disguised unemployment" behind them—after all, what else is studying except unemployment. They are becoming aware that for decades, if not for their whole lifetime, they face only unemployment, because no one can figure out a way to include them in the work force of the State and nation.
Mr. S, who works in the Unemployment Office, has collapsed under the pressure of his work, even though his physical condition is very good. He works in the Enrollment Section (Insurance), where the staff, in spite of recent additions, can meet the great increase in applications, produced by the sudden rise in the unemployment figures, only by working an additional 36 to 39 hours a week overtime!
Hardest hit by the Depression were the petty bourgeoisie, an awkward name encompassing primarily white-collar salaried workers: clerks, salesperson, accountants, secretaries and bank tellers. Their plight is well described in the fictional treatment of the life of Heinz Hackendahl.
Hans Fallada, The Iron Gustav (1938)
What he cannot grow accustomed to is the daily trip to the unemployment office. Heinz Hackendahl always returns from there sad and tired and often angry. It's a simple affair; millions have to do it with him every day (and later twice a week). You go to an office and receive a card. Your card is stamped to show that you have presented it and then you can leave and once a week you receive the money. Really, a very simple affair. But it makes one sad and tired and often angry....
First, there is the unemployment office itself. It occupies a small former private house which sits in a small private street. Nothing fancy, for heaven's sake. Only small people live there, former school-teachers or business clerks now retired, who before the inflation struck had the good luck to invest their live savings in the small jerry -built houses with 500 square feet of a garden. Only small people live on the street and even slightly smaller people now make their way to the unemployment office there and yet Heinz Hackendahl learns from the other unemployed that the residents of the street have handed in petition after petition requesting the moving of the unemployment office. According to the residents, the stamping office shames their street. It devalues their property. They can no longer enjoy their coffee as they see the unemployed shuffle by. They want the office moved to a street where even smaller people live.
Naturally, no one learns what the gentlemen of the unemployment office think of this request. But thereafter, policemen patrol the street, guaranteeing the moral behavior of the unemployed; no shouting, no singing, someone is watching you! Naturally the unemployed constantly discuss this matter. They have lots of time to discuss such things as they stand around waiting for their stamps. They give speeches constantly about it. They discuss it with passion, with hatred, with bitterness. They walk by the houses with indifference. Oh no, they are not affected by this, no need to have policemen there on their account! But they look with silent hatred at the plastic flamingoes on the lawn, the glass balls on the windows, the poor small people out gardening. If the retired inhabitants cannot stand the unemployed, the latter reciprocate the aversion ten-fold.
Then there are the officials of the unemployment bureau. It is entirely clear that the officials in their rooms and behind their desks are employed only because the others are unemployed. The unemployed are their employers. Hence, the unemployed figure, these officials might try to be a little polite, yes indeed, they should treat the unemployed with friendliness and with care.
But the atmosphere in which you stand around and wait for your stamp, sometimes for hours, is enough to make you sick and in despair. How wretched you feel, as you hear someone cry out in the corridor that he is hopping mad. These brothers, these bloodsuckers, have blocked his unemployment check and at home he can see his wife and children slowly croaking.
"Yes, you goggle-eyes behind that desk, I mean you. Do you hear your children cry out at night from hunger and you don't have a morsel of bread left nor even a penny with which to buy anything?" So he screams and it helps not a bit that Heinz Hackendahl's neighbor whispers to him that only last week this brother drank his whole unemployment allowance on the same day he received it. Sometimes this is true, and sometimes not, but it is still awful for a man to show himself so naked and shameless in front of his colleagues.
My God, how Heinz Hackendahl learned to hate the stamp office more than the offended residents ever could.
Thus, spring turns into summer, and many times the heavens are brilliantly blue, the sun shines, and fresh lilacs bloom in the small garden lots. The unemployed, however, are old and grey. Their lives are regulated by stamps; for them there is no summer. For them, the only season is "going stamping." It's like a sickness, which when it strikes, gradually, slowly but surely, kills all joy and cripples every pleasure which men possess....
So Heinz Hackendahl turns his steps toward home, arriving out of sorts, tired and hopeless, envious of Irma who always has something to do in the house. For her, there is no unemployment; in fact, with the care of baby Otto, she has more to do than ever before. Heinz would sit on a chair and watch her, knowing that again today, for the whole blessed long day, he has nothing else to do but sit and watch her.
And after a while, she would glance at him two or three times, and say: "You make me nervous with your staring, Heinz. Come here, try and see if you can wash baby's clothes." And many times he would stand at the wash-board and begin to scrub. But even if he could do the job, it did not bring any pleasure, for work must have some meaning if it is to make you happy. Mere work, just to be working, as an occupation to pass the time, is stupid.
Then Heinz would give it up, or else she would take the work out of his hands and say: "Just leave it, Heinz. I don't want to make you angry, but honestly you infuriate me just looking at you. You look as if you are half-falling asleep. I know, I know all about it ... and I am so very sorry. But couldn't you just being something? Couldn't you go visit one of your old friends, or your old school-teacher. You've been planning that for some time now."
"Really?" says Heinz. "I don't know. It almost looks as if it is going to rain. But maybe I would like to go any way...." For a little while longer he wanders indecisively around the house, but then as Irma nudges him a little, he leaves....
Heinz Hackendahl's moods fluctuate between deepest depression and periods of the strongest tension. When he is depressed, the trip to the stamp office seems to be a nearly impossible chore. On his way, he watches those lucky men, with lunch-boxes under their arms, going off to work. They see him too, but pay him no mind, or else they might think that his coat was rather shabby and thin. And as he watches them, he is filled with bitterness; they are all younger than he! Year by year a new generation arrives to seek work—and he is over whelmed by a deep and painful fear that he is growing old, so old that he will soon be unsuited for any kind of work, even before he has ever worked at all. Worn out, worn out by unemployment.
And so he arrives again at the unemployment office, gets into line along with the others, only one among many, one among the ever more unemployed. But by now he recognizes certain faces, and although he fears some, he seeks out others. There was one man— certainly a stupid fellow—who is always beaming: "Well, my friend, here again? Well, we are certainly over the worst part by now." And this he repeats, week by week, month by month, always with the same friendly and slightly feminine smile, never shaken in his hopes.
But there is another, whose name was Marwede. Heinz does not like standing next to him. "Morning brother! Remember Preis? You know that little guy who was always here with us, who used to work at the Electric Company—you know him. He's flown away too. Drank Lysol. They brought him to the hospital, but too late. Everything was eaten away.... That's right, brother. He's lucky, got it all behind him now; we still have to face the music." Marwede looks at Heinz Hackendahl: "Kinda hard to take, ain't it? But that's life. Suicide or crime—those are our escapes. There's nothing else!"
"But the economy might recover," says Heinz.
"Ah, but how? Who's going to do it? Tell me that! And even if it does, so what. They don't need us any more. There are so many younger men. We won't ever be able to work again. Recently I tried it. Doesn't work. After two hours, I was sick."
"That's because you haven't eaten enough," says Heinz.
"Do you think that we're some kind of boiler—add a few more shovels of coal, perhaps another well-buttered sandwich, and the wheels will start turning again? Never, my friend! The little wheels don't want to do it any more. They've gone asleep. They won't fall into that trap again. They want to have their rest. Suicide or crime, riend, there's nothing else."
"In the meantime," Heinz replies with unnecessary anger, "you can get yourself stamped."
"Yes, in the meantime! You have no idea, friend, how I feel on many mornings. There I lie on my bed, fully dressed. I don't know whether I will have the strength to get dressed in the morning, so I don't undress at night. There I lie, and count off my buttons like daisy petals: Suicide, Crime, Stamp, Suicide ..."
"You obviously have funny clothes, since they always select stamps."
"Nope, it's just that I'm a coward. Hey, we don't need to fool ourselves. All men are primarily cowards. You, me, everyone; we are all cowards."
"Then don't go blowing off steam about Suicide and Crime!"
"Right, better say nothing at all! Suddenly, everything will pass away! You know, every evening I have my eye on a bar on Tauentzien street. A fat money-bags with a swollen wallet always goes there.... And about one o'clock in the morning, he always makes his way home, in a pleasant haze, through Wittenberg Square."
"Just shut your trap," Hackendahl cries angrily. "You're making all this up."
"Don't get so excited! You've certainly thought about the same thing, so why are you getting excited? But then, you too are naturally as cowardly as I am."
"If you don't cut out this crap, Marwede," Heinz Hackendahl hisses and threatens him with his fist.
And after such an encounter, Heinz goes back home completely defeated. There he sees his son, his little child Otto, who cries remarkably little. He lies in his crib, while his father goes to get stamped. He takes his first steps and his father is off getting stamped. Otto will learn to speak, and the father will be away getting stamped. And as Heinz continues to get stamped, perhaps a little later his son might provide him with company along the way to the unemployment office. And then still later, perhaps the two could go off together, father and son, each to collect his own stamp.
It was not at all difficult to foresee such a future, and then the words "suicide" and "crime" did not sound so horrible....
"Irma," he would then say, "aren't you sick of being married to an unemployed man?"
"In a rotten mood?" she would ask. "Don't worry. It will be all right again, quite suddenly, just watch out, right at the moment when you least expect it, when you lose all hope."
"Then it must be about to happen real soon for example in the next three minutes.... No, I asked you, aren't you sick of me?"
"Nonsense! A Berliner doesn't lose courage so easily. Go over to mother's. She promised she'd try to get me some herring. And hurry up a bit."
"I'm just a collector of herring" he says, but he goes.
And then comes one day, and everything is different. The heavens do not need to be blue, it can even be raining, but the heart beats quite differently, full of strength and full of hope. What a joke, he thinks, if I really get a job today. "I have such a feeling, Irma" he says. "Today, something will happen. Naturally, something good. Don't wait dinner for me, I will visit my sister Sophie...."
On such an optimistic day, the wait at the unemployment office is unpleasant only if it last too long. On such a day, he can even laugh at Herr Marwede: "What, haven't you committed murder yet? Nor suicide? My friend, you will most assuredly celebrate you 50th, your golden anniversary here! They will probably give you an Honorary Unemployment Degree, with your stamped card set in gold to hang around your neck."
At this Marwede is furious but it doesn't affect Heinz one bit. As soon as he is stamped, he leaves. He feels a certain spirit: there is a buoyancy in his step. At the newsstand he buys the paper, checks the ads for openings, and starts off on his rounds.
And the buoyancy, his faith, and his joyous hope sustains him in the employment office. With a smile on his face, he outdistances his competitors, he charms the personnel managers, he even produces a small chuckle from the grey-faced employer representative. On such a day he can do everything: double entry bookkeeping, Italian and American translations (accurate naturally), typing, expert stenography, and English and French correspondence. Arrange window displays? But of course, I have often done that too....
On such a day it didn't affect him at all, when he hears the standard answer: "You'll hear from us." (He never does) or "All positions are full. Too bad, for we were just looking for someone like you. Never mind, we'll keep you in our files should something turn up." (It never does)
No, it doesn't both him. He hunts on, if no success here, then it will come across the street. Some place there is work for him today; this morning he had such a feeling! And when all the ads have been explored in vain? Well, that doesn't prove anything either. He'll simply go visit Sophie.
"Well, still out looking?" she asks coolly. "It's wonderful how you don't lose hope. Naturally you can use the mimeograph machine, but make sure you clean it properly when you are finished. Last time the roller was quite filthy." Even this doesn't upset him, although he knows he left the machine immaculately clean. But who knows who else was using it to reproduce letters of inquiry. Demand for such a machine must be huge.
"Have you had lunch?" asks Sophie in her most proper "head nurse" voice. "Yes? Well, I don't believe you for a moment, but I won't force you to eat. So go to it. You know where everything is, but please pay attention to one more point. If you must smoke here, please use my cigarettes. Yours stink so awful that the office was completely unusable for days."
And so she leaves; perhaps she is really that kind of person; perhaps she merely has grown accustomed to giving orders. Anyone who has to preserve order in such a big institution with so many women around cannot afford to be gentle and loving. And she is certainly neither gentle nor loving. In truth, she never has been!
So Heinz is a little angry as he starts the machine, but his buoyancy today is so great it gradually overcomes even this small vexation. He has to be careful in any case, for he wants to mail out only first-class copies, with dark type but with absolutely no smears. The first impression, the very cleanliness of the testimonial, is enormously important. He has very little to include: his apprenticeship papers from the bank and his dismissal papers from the bank. For someone in his mid-twenties that is damned little. It appears as if this fellow has never worked. So Heinz Hackendahl has improved his application. First he includes his high-school diploma, and later his proof of military service, because that too might help. He even includes an account of his life and education just to be sure, even though many firms prefer these to be hand-written. Others, however, hated hand-written applications and refused to accept them.
He attempts to picture to himself the kind of position which he might secure with this application. No, probably nothing big at first, he didn't demand much: a normal salary, his boss or department head doesn't have to be particularly loving. His co-workers? Well, it really doesn't matter. He would learn to live with them! Nothing tremendous, only some nice work, a position with some life in it. "Why don't you stay on an hour or so on overtime, Herr Hackendahl. Otherwise we will never finish all our work."
Oh that times might return when people had to avoid taking on tasks because there was too much work to do! Today we stretch work out so that one job supports many. We have discovered the part-time worker. During the war we invented the over-time worker. For destructive war is a much better employer than the constructive war which men call peace.
So he sits and writes his letters for this set of applications, using a new pen. He blows on the paper, even a speck of dust would disrupt the uniformity of the writing. He uses a lining guide. Before he begins to write, he arranges the material in his head according to sentences, considering how to distribute these in the letter. A letter of application must not be too long, but also ought not to suffer from malnutrition. Whatever creativity remains in Heinz Hackendahl is poured out in these letters.
Heinz is intelligent and has a good memory. His intelligence tells him that all his letters are in vain. With two million unemployed, his chances are minute. At the stamp office they say that in response to an advertisement, sometimes two or even three thousand applicants appear, many offering to work for one-half, even one-quarter of the salary, money which would not even keep them in beer. No, his chances are almost zero; his chances don't warrant the postage he will spend; his chances don't warrant the buoyancy nor the new pen nor the paper. If he were to write: "Dear Boss, ho ho, I am the jolly green giant and I have something for you," his letter would probably have a better chance of being read.
And his memory reminds him that he has sent dozens, even hundreds of such letters before. What success did they have? His memory responds with infallibility: to hundreds of letters he received no answer. Ten letters brought replies that they would get in touch with him shortly (he never heard from them again) and five times he was asked to come in for an interview (unfortunately, "the position has just been filled.")
But Heinz Hackendahl writes on and hopes. At the unemployment office, the men used to talk foolishly of the right to work, an inalienable right of all men. For a long time no one speaks like that any more. Now he only has a hope for work, even temporary work.
He checks himself, and writes on, concentrating on his task. And gradually, even this hope drains out of him and the endless heavy despair begins again, and it is almost impossible to go out, even to the unemployment office.
Vlkische Beobachter Help Wanted Notices
April 14, 1932
Party Comrade, watchmaker by trade, unemployed, with out any source of income since March 1931, married, one child, seeks work of any kind, preferably in metallurgy, since he once worked as a locksmith.
April 25, 1932
Student (National Socialist), who cannot continue his studies because of the economic situation, seeks a position after May 1 as a chauffeur, even at a low salary. He will not turn down any kind of work and is in a position to offer tutoring in a number of fields.
16 September 1931 Vo§iche Zeitung Article
Whoever saunters through the residential streets of the West side of Berlin, through those clean, quiet, well-kept streets, will note as he walks along that a person, usually old, will dog his steps, a man or a woman, most often a Gentleman or a Lady—for they are not dressed any differently that we are—and ask for money. Many of them approach with a smile, as if they were greeting an old acquaintance; others beg silently, without any facial expressions; but none, as yet, uses the whining sing-song tone of the professional beggar.É
The worst are those who won't speak. As long as there is daylight, hey sit as if lost, on the sides of the broad streets; later they stretch out along the railings outside of restaurants, standing still, staring at the eating patrons, not speaking, not requesting anything, not moving.
27 January 1930 Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung
On Monday afternoon, before the city "Warming Hall," Ackerstrasse 2, a tumult arose among the unemployed against which the police had to use their rubber night- sticks. Since the Warming Hall was filled, a greater part of the unemployed could not get in. About 200 persons gathered, acting disorderly on the street and seeking to provoke the police. Finally a fist-fight broke out, which made the intervention of the police necessary. The unemployed attacked police officers.
After repeated orders to disperse, the police were able, in a short period, to clear up the entrance to the Warming Hall by using their rubber night sticks. The principle agitators among the demonstrators were arrested and brought to the police station.
Apparently the incident was staged by Communists, for many of the demonstrators wore armbands labelled "Anti-fascist Guard."
25 June 1930 Westphalian Fighter Article
Proletarians of the Ruhr, into the streets! March today out of the mines, out of the pits, out of the unemployment offices, out of the tenement houses! Everyone out! Everyone for the strike and victory of the Metal-Workers of the Northwest!
Down with the reformist-christian traitors! Fight against salary theft. Our goal is the seven-hour day, with a guaranteed full pay, and 20 pfennig more per hour. . . .
Today's the day. March, demonstrate in all cities of the Ruhr. Into the streets, whoever opposes salary decreases. Into the streets, whoever condemns the benefits decrease for the unemployed. Into the streets, whoever wants to block the forced decrease in the pay of officials and civil servants. Into the streets, all who seek to drive out the suffocating middle class coalition and its fascist watchdogs!
March for a Soviet Germany, which will destroy the capitalist parasites, and give employment and bread to all workers.
Excessive rhetoric was not limited to the Left. Increasingly, economic dislocation was causing a Right-wing reaction. The following two essays are from the Abel Collection which we have seen before. These have been selected for inclusion here because they are from Nazis who show the hostilities produced by economic disaster.
Nazis and the Depression
"SA-Man" Sens Autobiographical Essay
Born in 1897, he is 37 years old when he writes this essay. At 14 he was apprenticed to a baker, was drafted in 1914 and served throughout the war, returning to Germany wounded in April 1918. He worked again as a baker, marrying in 1919.
In 1922, thanks to a small inheritance and my own frugality, I leased a small village bakery in Rosenburg on the Saale River. With my wife working at my side from early morning to evening, we saved on wages, and with this nest egg and a small loan, we were able to carry out some necessary repairs to the rather dilapidated building. The outbreak of the inflation  brought financial difficulties. My income fell drastically, and the business could not be maintained. I went to work as a common handy-man at the Maizena factory in Barby, working from 7 in the morning to 4:30, at a distance of 1 hour by foot, and in the remaining hours I worked in the bakery, so that it would not have to close. But in 1926, in spite of all this, the Jewish manager of the Loan Company forced me to give up the bakery, and I had to watch my complete inventory and furniture seized for debts.
I moved to Schnbeck, and after a period of unemployment, went on welfare. With this pitifully small "alms" from the city, I and my wife, with support from relatives, lived for nearly two years. Then I found work as a door-to-door peddler, but that lasted only until 1929. Just think about it. In the best years of my life, through the machinations of "red" governments, inflation, unbearable taxes, etc, I was systematically robbed of every chance for me to making a living. And in addition, in place of any "Gratitude of the Fatherland," we front-line soldiers were ruled over by a group of money-grubbers who withheld from us all the means of receiving even sufficient pfennigen to feed ourselves, not to mention the opportunity to earn a decent living, which was certainly a right we had earned! If you think about that, you will understand why a large portion of this defrauded and infuriated populace welcomed the energetic activities of the nationalist para-military organizations, especially the Hitler Movement. By its combination of nationalist goals and reforms of social programs, the NSDAP attracted many old soldiers and idealists to its ranks.É
[In 1928], I was selling coal door to door for a distributor, but in 1929 I was thrown out of work again. In my free time, I went to work for the [Nazi] Movement, an activity which for many unemployed became a "career" (honorary). With friends who were of a similar mind, I worked on my "stamping" buddies [i.e. those who were in line for unemployment stamps], distributed flyers, sold the Party's newspapers, served as an SA Man guarding rallies, and faced ever more frequent visits from the police who searched my apartment.
Peter Emig Autobiographical Essay
Born in 1906, the author is 28 when he wrote this essay. After high school, he had become a bank teller.
It was 1923, the whirlpool of the Inflation swept me along. I had to learn to count and think in millions and billions. Money was of no importance. Every day we made demands to have advances on our salary, and advances on advances, but when we got something and went out to buy, we had enough for only a box of matches. A madness seized the people, a search for instant gratification. As fast as money was earned it was spent, because the next day it would be worth less. Then suddenly the Inflation was over, and we had to begin all over again learning to count our pfennig and learning how to live on an empty stomach. The fight for daily bread joined the energetic fight for promotions.
Here and there the joists holding up the economy began to creak alarmingly; here and there apparently prosperous businesses, artificial creations from the Inflation, went bust. We began to hear about the first lay-offs of workers. We often gathered with school comrades who had been on the front, who had looked death in the eyes hundreds of times and although nearly our age had experiences which were much fuller than our own. Their harsh stories and caustic comments about the present situation made us begin to have our own thoughts about the Revolution and its results. The wedge which had been driven into the Youth of Germany became all the more cutting. On one side are those who praise extravagantly the new state, the freedom of the individual, and who consider the loss of the war as the start of a new and happier times; on the other side are people who curse at the humiliation of the Peace Treaty, who curse the betrayal of the soldiers who had endured four years of death and destruction defending the fatherland, the stab in the back which had destroyed their efforts. We saw the whirlpool of parties. Like mushrooms they sprang up from the earth, sending out ever new promises, and damning all other parties; always new political organizations with wonder ful pro grams, who promised money and property and every other thing possible, and yet something was missing, and we couldn't tell what it was.
We watched the  election campaigns. With enthusiasm we helped hang up posters for the German National Peoples Party [DNVP—Conservatives]. We did so because they flew the old colors, black-white-red, and the old war flag. We were interested in them because they upheld the tradition of the old army, and no longer spoke about monarchism.
Then we were astonished to see during the elections a very small organization of men marching about with a new, fully unknown flag, blood red with a black swastika on a white field. Old men with gray beards, soldiers, youngsters, all marching side by side in this small formation. The smallest group of all. Here, for the first time, we heard someone talk about Hitler,É
In 1931 I stood outside the Sportspalast at 5:00 in order to get a seat for the rally which started at 8:30. I was enthralled by the fanatical, impressive, and convincing manner with which Dr. Goebbels criticized the government and spoke of all that was false in the land and how it must be made better. I attended parades and rallies, spent enthusiastic hours following propaganda marches, and became a hate-filled enemy of all those kind of people who waltzed along the march on either side, and madly screamed insults and unflattering comments at the participants. Here I witnessed the first street fighting, saw wounded men, and the obstinate determination of both sides, prepared to fight for their cause until death.
At the end of the year, upon the urgings of my friends in the organization, I joined the National Socialist Workers Union which was waging the struggle in our company. Then in spring 1932, as our firm went bankrupt, the 130 Nazis who had formed their own organization, were the first who were laid off. Now events proceeded blow by blow. The Sportspalast threatened to collapse under the frantic applause which greeted speakers like Goebbels, Gring, Frick, and after such rallies, the usual Security Police actions against the participants who were on their way home. One night I saw a Schupo [Security Police], acting like a wild man, strike down an older lady with his night stick. Along with four others, I immediately wrench ed the stick away from him, knocked off his helmet, and drove him away. In the next minute, I was severely beaten by some of his colleagues. I still feel the pains today. They carried me off to the Headquarters of the NSDAP in the Hedemannstrasse. And the next day, I applied for membership in the NSDAP.
Remarkably, the "conversion" of the real Peter Emig coincides exactly with the fate of our fictitious Heinz Hackendahl, whose unemploy ment woes we have seen above. Doubtlessly tens of thousands followed a similar Odyssey into the Nazi ranks.
From Hans Fallada's The Iron Gustav
Heinz Hackendahl is taking a walk.... The streets are poorly lit and dirty, full of rubbish and people. Some thing is going on again in his world, or at least in his city Berlin, which is his world. Heinz suddenly remembers having read something about it in the newspapers; the politicians are fighting over whether a new battle cruiser should be built or not. ... Some are for it, others are against it, and so they print their hand-outs and hold their public demonstrations and talk and chatter away. ... My God, it makes Heinz sick: papers and speeches, and in the end, nothing happens. Everything ends up in the mud, just like the mimeographed hand-outs which are lying there, trampled into the mud even before the demonstration ends....
Suddenly, Heinz is very bored by being alone and walking through the night with his own fearful thoughts. He walks over to a [group of men arguing politics], and listens in awhile. He can do that. He is unemployed, and looks unemployed, that is just like everyone else in the group. They glance at him quickly, at his shabby winter coat with the stretched button-holes, they take in his hungry face with the high cheekbones and sunken eyes, and they continue talking.
"Battle cruisers; such things cost thirty or forty million marks! If only they would distribute this among us, it would be better..."
"Right! What can we do with this one tin-can of a boat. The other nations have ten, twenty such ships."
"Right comrade! Let every unemployed be given 20 marks. Now that would be something."
"But if they spend thirty million, that would create more jobs," one added soberly....
Heinz Hackendahl wanders from one group to another, listening silently to what is said. But no matter where he goes, he always hears the same thing, only with different words: despair, suspicion, dejection. Not that he thinks any differently, for this battle cruiser does not seem to make much sense to him either. But whom should he listen to? People like these speakers? But they all sound the same. And throughout the country, all speakers talk the same way. That is the most discouraging thing of all: ... nowhere is there the slightest sign of hope.
He leaves the street and wanders through Victoria Park. ... Victoria means victory, and we aren't celebrating many of those recently.... Heinz Hackendahl sits upon a park bench; ... he has no desire to walk farther.... If only he had something to smoke; it would not be half-bad just now. But smoking too was something else that was not being dished out recently. Involuntarily, Heinz shuffles his feet and stares ahead into the gloom....
Thank God, someone else is walking by. Heinz leans forward and follows him with his eyes. He is happy that something can divert him from his thoughts, so hunched over he stares at the man who walks by. It would be splendid if the man took it into his head to come over and sit down and chat awhile. But the man entertains no such idea. He doesn't even look at him. He is probably return ing from one of the demonstrations and wants to get home as soon as possible, so he walks vigorously, in a sort of hurry. Around his arm, there is something light, probably an armband, so he is likely some guard or official in the political meeting...
Heinz stares after the man as if he wanted him to stop, but the man marches on past the nearby bushes and is gone. Heinz is just about to surrender himself to his thoughts once more, when something else happens. This time there are three of them. They are not march ing, they are running. They are going right by Heinz, when one of them sees him and calls out: "There he is."
Slowly they approach him, almost carefully, but then another says: "No it's not him."
"Good evening," Heinz says in order to prove that he is indeed not the person. "Good evening," the others answer promptly. "Have you seen someone come by here recently?"
"Yes," Heinz replies, "he went to the right. You'll find him around that bush." And scarcely has he given the instructions but the others are off running, and this time in the right direction, around the bush.
Once more Heinz reconciles himself to his solitude, when he hears something like a scream, and it too came from around the bush on the right. He springs up from the bench, hesitates, and then hears clearly, from some where close by, the sounds of struggle and groans.... Heinz runs in that direction. He suddenly realizes in a flash that the three who had inquired after the first man were not his friends and acquaintances, but his political enemies, and that they wanted to beat him up. Although Heinz until that very moment always counted himself as being one who has a deep aversion for "politics," and is proud of that fact, nevertheless he cannot believe that three should be entitled to fall upon one....
He turns the corner of the bush and finds exactly what he suspected. The three have hold of the man and, silently panting, are dragging him to the ground, in order to beat him. And it will not take much longer.
"Stop!" cries Heinz, falling back upon some middle-class restraint. It seems to him that he must at least warn them he is about to interfere. But they only glance at him. "Bugger off," one cries. "We can handle this Nazi pig by ourselves." But at that moment, the speaker gets a blow that send him reeling. The second is now under attack by their victim, while the third tries to get at him—but by then Heinz is in it. Yes, Heinz hates fist-fights (he thinks), but tonight he is in such a mood that he is willing to take on the whole world. It makes no difference to him that a Nazi is the intended victim. To Heinz, Nazi is only a word in the newspaper, and usually employed as an insult; they are people who have some thing against Jews, but otherwise, Heinz knows nothing at all about them.
Without another word, Heinz joins in the fighting. The man who had fallen is now back on his feet, so it remains two against three, but the two defenders will not give way. Suddenly the uproar is over. A police whistle blows. The attackers disappear like lightening into the bushes, and the man with the armband grabs him by the hand. "Quickly, run!"
"Why run?" inquires Heinz. "You were the one who was assaulted."
"Shut up and run," the other answers sharply, and both take off, avoiding the path, stumbling over a railing, falling, and then rising to run off into the night, through the park and into the street. "Run!"
Finally, they stop somewhere in the shadow of a high wooden fence. The other lets go of Heinz and says: "Well, we made it. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Ramin."
"Hackendahl," Heinz murmurs, embarrassed by the formality of it all.... "Unemployed?" asks the other, and his bright eyes, out of which a sharp but not hostile spirit peeks, examines Heinz carefully.
Heinz gladly provides the information: "For quite some time," he says. He rather likes the man with whom he has so recently raced through the dark night. Something seems to draw him to this man. "Yes, yes," the other drawls, "And when you've been out of work for so long, nothing seems right any more."
"Nothing at all," Heinz confirms.
"You have nothing to occupy your time? Nothing that you like to do? There is, after all, a kind of work which is work all right, even if it is not work in the eyes of the employment office."
"You mean this," says Heinz, and points to the armband—political work. "Perhaps," says the other.
"No," says Heinz. "I don't go in for that sort of thing."
"Because you don't like it, or because you just don't do it?"
"Both, I won't have anything to do with politics, nothing at all."
"OK, OK," the other replies indifferently. "Don't you even vote, when elections roll around?"
"I wouldn't think of it. During the campaign, they promise you the world, and afterwards, everything remains the same as it was before."
"No," the other man replies.
"What do you mean, no!"
"I mean, it gets worse."
"That's what I meant!" says Heinz.
"It gets worse, because you didn't vote. You and three million others."
"Oh, but if ..."
"You don't want to have anything to do with politics, and yet you constantly talk about it! That's the way it goes. Everyone says they don't want to know about politics, but can talk of little else. It always the same!" He sniffles, looks at Heinz, laughs a little at his stricken face, and then says: "What's your name?"
"No, no, your first name."
"Come with me, Heinz Hackendahl, come into this fine tavern. It isn't all that comfortable, and is is not always free of fights, but you must come in and tell me all about yourself...."
And so Heinz Hackendahl meets Herr von Ramin, and is in turn introduced to his task, to his work, to much disagreement, and to anger, hatred, faith. In short, he meets the party [i.e. the National Socialist Party]. But not all at once. No overt persuasion is employed on him. Rather, after this first night, during which no more politics was discussed, but his wounds were anointed with iodine, and the swelling cooled with ice packs, Heinz Hackendahl makes his way home again, unharmed and unproselytized.
His wife and mother-in-law are waiting up for him, and it doesn't bother Heinz very much that they do not express any concern over the fact that he was out half the night, and show no fear for his safety, although they knew he left the house in a mood of despair. Instead, Heinz gets a scolding for his disheveled appearance, and his torn jacket. Following his rather brief mumbled report on the night's experiences, Irma only mutters sarcastically, "Now he takes up politics! And naturally he picks the Nazis. They are worse than the Communists!"
"You're right," Heinz grins and goes to his bed for a much needed snooze.... But he cannot sleep. He lies awake thinking of the large meeting room, actually the pasting room of a former paper-bag factory, which was now the house and headquarters of Herr von Ramin. It didn't resemble a home or living area, but seemed like a military barracks, with three iron cots and a shaky ward robe filled with very little, and a container for bread and the monkey-fat which passed for margarine. They had eaten some of this while their wounds were being attend ed and Herr von Ramin, who obviously comes from a good family ... explains that once he could offer bacon, sausages and ham, but his prominent relatives in the country had now cut him off, because of his party convictions.
"That's him," Ramin suddenly says, pointing with his knife, and Heinz Hackendahl stood up and looked at a picture on the wall, the only picture in the room. He knew the man from his many appearances in newspaper photographs, but in this picture he looks quite different. It seems as if, in some way, he was at home in this room, while sandwiched between the headlines, most of which were directed against his party, he seemed out of his element, in a struggle, on a battlefield....
All of this tumbles through Heinz's mind as he lies in the dark.... Finally he sleeps, and when he has had enough, he wakes, goes off to get stamped, stands in line at the employment bureau, listlessly engages in conversations, and then abruptly leaves, when one of the officials there addresses him gruffly because he is talking with his hands in his pockets. Later he wanders through the street, reads the papers when he can pick them up off the sidewalk, and the single difference today is that he makes a special effort to get hold of Angriff [the Nazi paper published by Joseph Goebbels]. Otherwise, things go along same as always. He plays a little with his son, until the child gets bored, watches the women until they get nervous and eject him, and lives out precisely the life of every other unemployed person.
But somehow it is different. For often, as he loiters around killing time and everything else worthwhile in his life, he thinks about that barracks in the former paper-bag factory and on a fight in the bushes of Victoria Park ... and about a picture on a wall. Now he has something to think about, something for his wasted mind to chew on, and his mind relives the experience again and again. The pictures do not fade; no, they dominate all his thoughts.
There is no doubt that all the other people in the barracks room are also unemployed.... Unemployed, but they did not seem to suffer from lack of things to do, nor did they appear to suffer fits of depression. On the contrary, they seem to be in the best of spirits, a wholly new kind of unemployed, satisfied, orderly, and, he correctly senses, filled with high hopes.
And so Heinz Hackendahl sits around and does nothing, and decays bit by bit. Thorns and thistles and all sorts of unhealthy weeds grow up within him, where once stretched well-tended fields. But this Ramin and his comrades.... All right, Herr von Ramin had give him a calling down for being unpolitical and the like, but he hadn't delivered this lecture in a very serious fashion, and so Heinz does not take it very tragically. He could go back there just to see how they manage to be satisfied with their few marks, just like the birds in the field, and how they preserve their hopes, just like idealists.... He instinctively feels that those men in the barracks room must have a faith. And as he stands still thinking about himself, he is startled, and suddenly realizing the loss of the last years, he turns around with a jerk and says to himself: "I don't give a damn what they do, but I will not go on living like this. I want to see why these men, who are no better off than me, can still lead such a different life...."
And so he goes, and he sees.... He goes to the paper-bag factory. But if he expected that they would greet him with a "hello" and treat him like an honored guest and helper, he is wrong.... He is shown to a long board table, at which three, four others already sit, and receives mimeographed handouts to fold, something about the battle cruiser. And all this is done without ceremony, as if he just belongs there. So he sits and listens to them speak, he folds his papers like they do, and listens and even says a word or two.
Heinz expects that they will be talking about the battle cruiser in question, and wonders how he can say anything at all, since he knows nothing about it.
They talk about almost everything, but no one says a word about the battle cruiser. That is the first surprising discovery which Heinz makes. They didn't seek to avoid discussing this topic, not on your life, they are not so well-mannered and not so diplomatic. Rather the fact is, the party has taken such and such a position on this question, and for these men the question is therefore settled. No criticism, no hindsight, no experts here. And this in a day when every man on the street is absolutely convinced that were he mayor, or cabinet minister, or governor, or President, he could solve all the problems, do every thing differently, but make everything turn out right!
But in this room, they don't talk like that. They have faith, and that is that. He'll be able to handle it, they say, or at the most, they cast a quick glance at the picture on the wall. No, they don't discuss it, but they speak about how these hand-outs can be most effectively distributed. These men sitting around this wide table concern themselves only with things which they know, which they can handle. They strive to carry out their tasks as well as possible and leave the solution of other problems to other people. They have faith—it sounds funny, agreed; in these days it sounds very funny, but they have faith. In these distrustful days, they have trust. In these covetous days, they seek no money. They sit there and fold the sheets, and then go out and distribute them—as well as possible....
This is the greatest experience which Heinz Hackendahl has had in years. To think that such a thing as comrade ship really exists. These people not only depend on each other, trust each other, share the same faith, pursue the same goals, but they also belong together, and share their lives with each other, regardless of upbringing and education. The one gives orders well, and then the others obey, without wincing or complaint. But this does not make the one who gives the order the least bit better than those who obey, and none feels that it should. Both are necessary, they need each other, and it can hap pen that the one who gives orders today might receive them tomorrow, and the recipient of orders would then become the "chief."
But it is much more than just this, it is comradeship. Heinz Hackendahl understands quickly why no fuss at all is made about the fact that one night he had suddenly sprung to Herr von Ramin's defense in that fight. Among these men such action is expected. If someone is in trouble, you help him, not in the expectation of reward, but because no man ought to face trouble alone. What touches one,eventually touches all.
Now today, at the Unemployment Office, thousands and tens of thousands, in truth nearly two and a half million humans are standing in line, getting themselves stamped, in offices all across the land. They all receive the same card and the same stamp, and they all receive the same tiny unemployment check. But each is alone, they jeer at each other's convictions, they press forward in line, pushing aside the weak, and when they go home, each marches alone into his individualized hell.
But these who sit in the barracks room of the paper-bag factory, these men are never alone. The very greeting they exchange—comrade— shows that they are some how linked together. What concerns one, concerns them all, and what is of no concern to the whole, is ignored by all the individuals. O God, in this damnable age, is there really a community which is worthy of such trust? And add to this their faith, their faith that very soon, very soon indeed, things would be entirely different, wound in fact be much, much better!
Heinz Hackendahl remembers that he sometimes had seen some Nazis in line at the Unemployment Office. They were not many against the mass of men there, actually he recalls only a pair of them. Sometimes Heinz had rather wondered what made those fellows so obstinate. No matter how many quarrels existed among the unemployed, when confronted with that pair of Nazis, they unite in their hatred. Again and again, the pair was forced to the back of the line, and when they finally reached the window, they were treated sharply and rudely by the officials of the Unemployment Office.
Sometimes Heinz had wondered why these people dis played their party badge so ostentatiously. They could easily have stuck it in their pockets and made life easier for themselves! But now he begins to understand that they did not want to have it easy for themselves, that they despised the easy life, and that they were proud of the hatred of the others. And he also understands that the strength for all this, that their perseverance, their endurance comes from the single feeling: we are not alone! We have comrades.
Heinz Hackendahl sits more than once at the long table. He comes more and more, for it pleases him to be there, he feels good to be with them. And hence it is quite natural that he should once again come to the rescue, whenever someone is needed. More than once, Heinz Hackendahl stands on a street corner, or before large theaters, and hands out broadsheets, or carries signs with slogans.
He hears the jeers and ridicule of those who think differently, and he himself believes that he does not always share the opinions expressed on the hand-outs he distributes. He would have been less than a man had these jeers not awakened his obstinacy. Then one time, the sheets are ripped out of his hands, and thrown away. Another time he is arrested by a policeman on a charge of obstructing traffic. At the station, the police do not speak very friendly to him.
Up to this time, he thinks he is only acting a guest role, without committing himself. But he learns that he cannot creep through life anonymously. Someone noted his face, and on one of his nightly walks home, he is ambushed and gets his thrashing, which at first he thinks has broken at least a half-dozen bones in his body. When he recovers enough, well enough again to crawl away, he decides it would be just as well not to crawl home and face Irma's reproaches, so he returns to the barrack room. And once again, he receives no special treatment, no praise or condolence, but prompt medical care.
It is on this occasion that one of the comrades, with a pad soaked in iodine in his hands, remarks: "Well Hackendahl, this is the third time you've been beaten up for us...." With loving care, he dabs a little at two bleeding scars, which burned like fire, then he continues: "If I were you, I'd find out why I'm doing all this."
"And what would that be?" Heinz asks somewhat indifferently, more concerned with his pains than with his future.
"If I were in your place, I'd join the party, then at least I'd know why my bones were being broken."
Heinz Hackendahl does not answer, but glances over at Herr von Ramin, who gives no sign of having heard the conversation, and continues his two-finger typing of a report for headquarters.
"But I know nothing at all about the party's program," Heinz answers after a short pause.
"Well then, just shut up," his attendant replies unmoved.... "You're still wet behind the ears, you don't known from nothing. In political matters, you're still in diapers. Wait awhile until you are as old as papa...."
And so the dispute ends, the recruiting is over and three or four days later, Heinz goes into a small smoke-filled room which is the party headquarters in his district. "I'd like to join the party," he says a little embarrassed and a little defiant.
But the little man with the friendly owl-eyes behind his glasses pays no attention to this great decision. "Fine," he says, "just sign here, and fill this out, and also this declaration that you are an Aryan."
"Fine," echoes Heinz and fills it out.
"That will be six marks," says the man in the glasses.
"I don't have six marks, I've only two."
"Fine, then give me the two, and bring the rest when ever you get it."
And so Heinz Hackendahl enters the party, with little or no commotion. It seemed to him an obvious move.
Youth and the Depression
During the depression, the Nazi appeal to youth proved particularly effective. Its dynamic and colorful politics, its proclaimed aim of breaking down class barriers, its leader-follower relationship, and its remarkably youthful member ship and leadership offered young people a type of commitment in politics which the more traditional parties did not offer. As seen in the fictional Heinz Hackendahl and the real Peter Emig, economic sufferings brought many of the young unemployed into Hitler's ranks. Only the Communists offered anything similar and they, because of their class commitment, remained largely confined to the working class.
Young people from the middle class saw the Nazi movement as a means to destroy the staid conventions and social barriers inherited from the older generation. But they also were attracted to the emotional promise of a national crusade to restore German greatness. The following report indicates the success the Hitler Youth had already won among Protestant young people.
1931 Lutheran Church Report
The cause which at the moment is most closely associated with the name of National Socialism and with which, at a moderate estimate, certainly 70 per cent of our young people, often lacking knowledge of the facts, are in ardent sympathy, must be regarded, as far as our ranks are concerned, more as an ethical than a political matter. Our young people show little political interest. Juniors in high school are not really much concerned with the study of Hitler's thoughts; it is simply something irrational, something infectious that makes the blood pulse through one's veins and conveys an impression that something great is under way, the roaring of a stream which one does not wish to escape: "If you can't feel it you will never grasp it...."
But if the initial appeal might have been non-political, the Hitler Youth increasing politicized the schools and universities where they were active. In the state of Oldenburg, for example, children of Republicans were harassed by the fellow pupils
21 November 1930 Letter from the Black-Red Gold Reichsbanner [a pro-Republican para-military organization founded by Socialists and Democrats] to the Oldenburg Ministry for Churches and Schools
The Committee of the Oldenburg branch of the Reichsbanner Black-Red-Gold 2l submits the following matter to the State Ministry with a request for a prompt comment:
Leaflets have recently been distributed in the play grounds of the schools of the city of Oldenburg and its vicinity, inviting people to join a National Socialist Pupils' Asso ciation. We enclose one of these leaflets.
A number of pupils have already followed the appeal to join this pupils' association. These consider them selves pledged, in the spirit of the leaflet, to bully those who disagree with them. In the playground these pupils join together and sing National Socialist combat songs. Children of Republicans are called names, their satchels are smeared with swastikas, and they are given leaflets with swastikas or 'Heil Hitler' or 'Germ any awake' written on them. In the school in Metjendorf the son of a Republican was beaten up during the break by members of the pupils' association so badly that he had to stay at home for over a week. Grown-ups who are known to be members of a Republican party are called names by the pupils when they pass by the school. In one case this even happen ed out of the window of a classroom.
Since the children of Republicans are unfortunately in a minority in secondary schools they cannot defend them selves against these combined attacks. With an effort they preserve their self-control, but as soon as the child gets home, this too collapses. He then seeks refuge in tears and complaints. The parents find that lessons following breaks in which their child has been molested by his classmates are useless because he is too preoccupied with the events of the break. Some times teachers, not knowing the reason for the child's inattention, punish him as well. The same state of mind influences his homework, which therefore can not be of a standard which a child in a good, cheerful mood would normally achieve. Again this has its effects at school.
It might be answered that parents and children have the right to make a complaint. This is true and yet at the same time not true. It must unfortunately be said that apart from a group of teachers who would treat such a complaint objectively, there are a number from whom this cannot be counted on and to whom one does not turn because they too are National Socialists or are active in other right-wing associations. The relation ship of trust necessary between teachers and parents and their children has completely gone.
Since we have heard that some headmasters have already declared that they are not in a position to deal with these incidents as required, since they have still received no instructions from the Ministry, we request that such instructions should be issued as soon as possible. We can presumably be sure that the State Ministry will adopt an attitude which does justice to all concerned and will decree that pupils' associations of political organizations are forbidden.
German youth apparently were particularly impressed by the willing sacrifices which dedicated Nazis undertook. In an atmosphere of increasing violence, the Nazis suddenly gained a new martyr, a young SA leader Horst Wessel. Early in 1930, only a week after the death of his younger brother in a mountain-climbing accident, Horst Wessel was murdered by the hand of a Communist. Joseph Goebbels, who personally knew Horst Wessel, was quick to turn this horrible incident into a triumph of the Nazi Youth Spirit.
15 January 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Worked very late yesterday. Very late in the night I received word that the Communists had struck down our Storm Leader Horst Wessel in his home. He was seriously wounded and is hospitalized at Friedrichshain. The poor mother! Just after the [accidental death] of her son Werner! But now it is high time that we begin to clean out this mess. It can't go on like this! The final decisive day of battle comes closer and closer.
19 January 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday I visited Frau Wessel at noontime. It was a difficult hour. This noble mother has lost everything. I could scarcely offer words of comfort: two sons offered at once; that is really too much. And then she told me about the life of Horst Wessel. It was like a novel by Dostoevsky: the simple man, a worker, a girl friend, the middle-class family, his constant qualms of conscience, his physical suffering. That was the life of this twenty-two year old idealist and dreamer. I then went to the hospital and saw him for just a minute. His entire face is filled with wounds and mutilated. He gazed at me steadily and then his eyes filled with tears and he stammered out: "One must endure everything!—I am happy!" I too was almost in tears. Back at the business office, work, work. The Red Newspapers are slander ing this pure youth, calling him a pimp. In fact his murderer was one. What can one say to all this? Rally around each other? Or beat them all to a pulp?
Some disputed evidence does support the idea that Horst made his livelihood off the earnings of several prostitutes, but no historical consensus exists over these charges.
Surprisingly, Horst Wessel survived the assassination for nearly six weeks, dying on 23 February 1930. Immediately, Goebbels seized upon his murder to turn him into a popular hero, and model for young Nazis everywhere. In the following speech, Goebbels shows al the tricks that made him such a powerful speaker—the bathos and emotionalism, the sincerity and fanaticism—and it also reveals his mastery of the ringing slogan—in this case, the opening lines of Horst WesselÕs song.
27 February 1930 Goebbels Speech: "Raise the Banner"
One very late evening, with unexpected time to enjoy without disturbances a good book, I sat filled with happiness breathing peace and relaxation In the middle of this silence the telephone rang. With dreadful apprehension I lifted the receiver and received news more frightful than one could have expected: "Horst Wessel has just been shot down." Quaking with internal horror I asked anxiously, "Dead?" "No, but there is little hope for him." Suddenly the walls seemed to be closing in, and the floor threatened to fall. But I armed myself against the unthinkable. It can't be true.
A few days later, I sat in the small hospital room on the ground floor and shrank back from the unbearable picture before me. How the bullet had devastated the head of this heroic young man. His face is disfigured so that I scarcely recognized him. But he lay there radiating joy and happiness. His bight, clear eyes shone; we could not speak very much for the doctor had forbidden any excitement. He only repeated again and again a few words: "I am so happy." He did not really need to say that, for one could see it just by looking at him. Under the blood and the wounds there glowed that youthful radiating smile. He still had the faith.
On another Sunday afternoon, I sat at his bedside, after the crush of visitors had passed, and soft light of the sunset came slowly through the high windows. Once again we had become hopeful. Things seemed to be getting better; his fever had broken, the wounds were healing. He was sitting half upright and was speaking. Of what? What a dumb question! He was speaking about us, about the Movement, about his comrades. That afternoon, they had gathered outside the door, passing by his room one after the other, with their arms out stretched in a salute, only in order to see their young Storm Leader for a moment and to greet him. "Without them," he said, "all this would be unbearable!" I looked at his hands, now grown quite small and white. At his drawn face, where his nose sat strong and lordly, topped by two twinkling eyes. Were they shining from fever once more? He can no longer eat; his strength is ebbing away, but his spirit is lively and agile. He can no longer read, only talk and talk. It is difficult to ignore the warning signs from the nurse on duty. Will I ever see him alive again? Who knows! If only blood poisoning does not develop, then everything will be well.
Outside in the garden, I encounter his lonely mother. Her glance is full of the one great question. "Will he be able to sleep tonight?" What else can one say but yes. One tries to convince oneself and others.
But the poisoning did set in. By Thursday there is clearly very little hope. He asks to speak to me, and on an impulse the doctor gives permission. How difficult it was to cross over that small doorstep, before which Death itself stood guard! He did not know how serious his condition had become. But almost as if he sensed darkly that this was to be our last encounter, he begged: "Don't go away!" And the nurse nodded that I could stay, and he relaxed. "Don't lose your courage," I said, "your fever comes and goes. Our Movement too has been suffering from fevers for the past two years, but in spite of all that, today we are strong and healthy." That comforted him. "Come again" his eyes, his hands, even his hot dry lips seemed to say, as with a heavy heart I had to leave. A heavy premonition told me that this was a farewell forever.
Early Saturday. His condition is hopeless. The doctors no longer permit visitors. His deadly wounds produce fevered fantasies. He no longer recognizes his own mother.
Sunday morning at 6:30 in the morning, after a difficult struggle, he surrenders his spirit. Two hours later, when I reached his deathbed, I could not even believe that this was Horst Wessel. His face was yellow wax, his wounds still bound with white bandages. The black stubble of a beard sprouted on his chin. His eyes were half open, staring glassily into nothingness: into that eternity which stretches before all of us. His hands, small and cold, clasped white flowers, yellow tulips and violets.
Horst Wessel has passed on. After struggle and conflict here lay silently and immovable that which was mortal about him. But, I felt almost physically certain, that his spirit had risen, in order to live on in all of us. He himself believed and knew that it would; he himself had left behind that glorious phrase: "he marches on in spirit in our ranks."
When later on, in a truly German Germany, workers and students march together, they will sing his song and he will be within their midst. In an ecstasy, in an inspiration, as in a torrent, he wrote that song, which was truly born out of his life, and which in turn testifies to life. Already throughout the country it is being sung by the brown soldiers. In ten years, students in schools, workers in their factories, soldiers on the march will be singing it. His songs makes him immortal. This is the way he had lived, this is the way he died. A wanderer between two worlds; between yesterday and tomorrow, between the past and the future. A soldier of the German revolution! And just as he stood so often, hands on his hips, proud and upright, with his youthful smile on his red lips, standing in front of his comrades, always ready to put his life on the line, so he stands here today within our midst and he will remain with us.
I see in spirit columns marching, endless, endless. A humiliated Volk stands up and puts itself into motion. A reawakened Germany demands its rights: freedom and bread! And behind our standards, he marches with us, step by step. Perhaps then his comrades will no longer recognize him, but many of them will pass on to where he is now. And new ones will take they place, and new ones.
But he will continue to march on, silent and knowing. The flags wave, the drums beat, the fifes blow joyfully; and from a million throats sound the hymn of the German revolution:
Raise the Banner.
Since the Nazi leaders had for years been predicting the necessary collapse of the Republic, they welcomed the coming of the depression. But the new crisis only heightened the divisions within the party, partially because of the flood of new recruits. Even the most bloody Nazi sacrifices were constantly being undercut by the in-fighting so characteristic of the party.
Despite his determined faith, Goebbels himself became convinced that Hitler had led them all into a blind alley, and his diary became full of frustration over his inability to get Hitler to become a real leader. The following documents give a most instructive picture of the state of the NSDAP as it approached its greatest opportunity.
A Divided NSDAP Responds to the Depression
29 January 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Long talk with ...[Hermann] Gring over Hitler and Munich. Gring is often there. ... but he sees only the black side of things, not the frequent light. But still all of that mess must be reformed. Hitler himself works far too little. It can't go on like this. Sometimes even he lacks the courage to make decision. He is no longer leading.
5 March 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday morning, discussion with Gring ... Hitler continues to tip-toe around the issues. Very upset about my ultimatum, and played the Duce in Lippert's presence. Uttering wild threats against Strasser, describing me as only a small-minded Gauleiter, swearing that he would not journey to Berlin at all, and then on Saturday took himself off for Berchtesgaden, where he again praised my talents to Gring. In short, a typical picture of the chief when he is being forced against his will to make some necessary decision. Proudly I am expected to love the scraps thrown to me. A handshake and more prom ises.... Hitler has send a circular to all the Gaue denouncing the Strasser Newspapers, and naming me Head of Propaganda—how many times is this now?—and Strasser has been given an ultimatum: either surrender the newspapers, or the Organization Division of the Party in Munich. If only this would be true. But I won't believe it until I see it happen. Personally, I remain calm. I can afford to wait! Hitler knows all this very well, but he is jealous.... Our time is drawing near. If only we had a leadership that kept the goals strictly and rigidly in mind! But? Poor Hitler!
16 March 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday afternoon a conference concerning Angriff and the Business Office. The Strasser newspapers are gaining the upper hand. We and the Beobachter are being backed up against the wall. Result of our talks: Wilke is going to Munich in order to negotiate for one last time with Hitler and Amann. I don't expect very much from all this. But I too am reluctant to engage in an open battle, since that would jeopardize the entire Movement. Munich, and that includes the Chief, has lost all credit with me. I simply don't believe in them any more. Five times now, Hitler—the reasons are really irrelevant—has broken his word to me. That is a bitter recognition for me, but I am prepared to draw from it my own conclusions. Hitler hides himself away, he refuses to make decisions, he no longer leads, but lets events carry him along. I was prepared to be loyal to him to the last drop of my blood. But he cannot expect me to permit Strasser to steal away my Gau. Wait and see! By tomorrow evening Wilke will have a good reading on the situation down there. My own people are strongly united behind me, and they are look sharp. I preserve my composure, and apply the brakes. [Speaks at a NS culture evening, ending it with a long conversation with artists.] What fantastic people these are. Home very late and very tired. This morning SA Man Behnke died, after suffering from a head wound for two-years. A new victim of the bloody terror of the Reds. He too shows us the way! Outside it has become winter once more. The snow piles high. I am staying at home. Work and some leisure!
1 April 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday with G ring for an hour's discussion with the Chief in Rheingold [a local beerhall] and Sanssouci [Frederick the Great's palace in Potsdam]. I opened up and revealed my resentment and anger. Now I feel much better. First, the political situation: If the DNVP [Conservative Party] remains firm—Hugenberg wants this and in a longer conversation yesterday the Chief strengthened him in this resolve—then tomorrow the Reichstag will be dissolved. We will get about 40 seats in the new elections. What fun that will be! Our course has been forced on us: "Away with this administration!" Now concerning the newspaper situation: I brought up to the Chief all my thoughts. He was furious over both of the Strassers. I successfully ripped the "Mask of Integrity" off of Strasser, showing him for what he really is, and described to the Chief all his disgusting dirty tricks. He was very upset, and my account made a deep impression on him. I believe that we will be able in time to talk him around to acting. "A curtain has dropped between Strasser and me," he said. Hope fully he will act soon. Did I want to become a Minister in Saxony? The Chief asked me about it. For the time being I have refused. We then assembled the list of candidates for the Reichstag election. Worked against Strasser and his circle of friends. That will wound them. I was able to insert a pair of very decent Berliners. Amann arrives today, and the dance will go on. The Strasser Newspapers must be destroyed. Hitler now claims he has no more loyalty toward Strasser.
2 April 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday morning in Gring's office a conference with Hitler, Epp, Sthr, Buch, Reventlow, Gring and me. Sthr does not think the DNVP will stay the course [i.e. vote no-confidence in the present government]. Hitler too now has his doubts. I myself believe that they will most likely back out. Sthr was intolerably fresh in contradict ing Hitler. These party bosses! One always has to watch out. Otherwise the meeting was mostly hot air. Before hand, I had a conversation with Amann. Now he wants to destroy Strasser. I added some fuel to the fire. Hitler is very nervous. Apparently he is quite unsure of him self. ... The decision will only come tomorrow. We are working for a dissolution of the Reichstag, but I doubt whether that will happen. After the Reichstag meeting, I reported to Hitler at Sanssouci. He still believes that the DNVP will stand to their guns.
4 April 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday, the DNVP totally collapsed, and refused to support the vote of no confidence. After the Chancellor's speech, Hugenberg himself stood up and justified his party's vote—with no confidence. He cuts a laughable figure. He's history! The Chief was in a foul mood. Resolved to leave the National Committee. Hitler and Hugenberg meet. Hitler agrees to announce our leaving only fourteen days from now. Until then, Hugenberg promises to bring down the cabinet. I don't believe it. I think the Chief is going about this all wrong. Yesterday in the Reichstag was really great. Everyone expected a dissolution. And that would have been greatly to our advantage. Good reviews about our Sportspalast rally. Worked at home briefly in the afternoon. Then off to the City Council meeting. In the evening a talking film: "Blue Angel." Janning's greatest artistic accomplishment. But otherwise the film is horrible. "Unrat." Yes that is what life seems like in the brains of our cosmopolitan literati. Afterwards a long talk with the Chief. He leaves today. Still no decision in the newspaper question. I'm no longer expected any. The Sportspalast is already totally sold out for the 2 May rally. Hitler will speak. Today again much work. A real pack of wolves! Oh well, the fate of this Reichstag will soon be decided, and thereby also Strasser's own fate. He has become quite small and insignificant. Back to work!
5 April 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Against Hitler's orders, Strasser's National Socialist announces in big headlines the news of our withdrawal from the National Committee. Hitler is in a fury. This will certainly break Strasser's neck. If Hitler only acts now, he is really lost. Yesterday he telephoned Gring. I'll learn the details later today.... Into the Reichstag. Talk to Gring and Epp. They are furious over Strasser. Epp is off to Munich to report everything to the Chief.
13 April 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday an exciting time in the Reichstag. Great votes. First the Chancellor spoke, then Sthr read a declaration, and then we voted ... The DNVP divided into two parts and saved the government with their 11 votes. We voted again and again from 3 until 8 pm, and the administration's majority wavered between 7 and 70. The Hugen berg wing of the party is collap sing. The cabinet is saved. Monday comes the third reading of the bill, and a last attempt to dissolve the government, but I don't believe it will succeed. The cabinet remains because the fear of new elections is too large. The Chief is here. He threw a fit over the DNVP. Unfortunately he had surrendered himself totally to a great illusion. ... I won't let him get away this time, until he acts. Things require a speedy solution. One can't play politics if one doesn't have firm control over a press. We spent a long time together in the evening discussing things, and Dreher and Buch joined us. Then attended the sound film "Love Waltz" and continued our talks at a cafe long into the night. He stays here until tomorrow evening. I won't let him get away. He must clean out the party, otherwise sooner or later we will have a debacle like the DNVP. Hitler finally sees this himself. But it is still a long way between his seeing it and his acting upon it. I will use everything at my disposal to hurry things along. Today we will see each other again.
Today has turned into a wonderful spring Sunday. I slept out all my tiredness and feel quite happy. He will eventually remove Strasser from the Organization Division. That would be a triumph, for thereby the entire clique would be eliminated. Dr. Strasser is the evil spirit of our party. The new Reichstag delegation [after the expected elections] will be composed of people entirely against him. Gregor is being knocked out by his own brother. Well there is some justice in that. This Strasser anti-spirit must be rooted out, lock, stock and barrel.
Shortly afterwards, Hitler did call in Otto Strasser and challenged the direction he and his brother were going. The following account is from Otto's autobiography, written after he escaped from Hitler's death squads in 1934 when they had killed his brother Gregor.
Memoirs of Otto Strasser about his meeting with Hitler in 1930
How do you justify Blank's theories? Hitler demanded. "His conception of loyalty. the distinction he makes between the Fhrer and the Idea, are incitements to Party members to rebel." "No." I said, "it is not a question of diminishing the Fhrer's prestige. But for the free and Protestant German the service of the Idea first and foremost is an ingrained necessity. The Idea is divine in origin, while men are only its vehicles, the body in which the Word is made flesh. The Fhrer is made to serve the Idea, and it is to the Idea alone that we owe absolute alleg iance. The Fhrer is human, and it is human to err."
"You are talking monumental idiocy. You wish to give Party members the right to decide whether or not the Fhrer has remained faithful to the so-called Idea. It's the lowest kind of democracy, and we want nothing to do with it! For us the Idea is the Fhrer, and each Party member has only to obey the Fhrer..."
"What you say [Hitler continued] would lead to the dissolution of our organization, which is based on discipline. I have no intention of allowing our organization to be disrupted by a crazy scribbler. You have been an officer; you see that your brother accepts my discipline, even if he doesn't always see eye to eye with me. Take a lesson from him; he's a fine man."
He seized my hands, as he had done two years before. His voice was choked with sobs, and tears ran down his cheeks.... "All that is very simple for you, Herr Hitler," Strasser continued, "but it only serves to emphasize the profound difference in our revolutionary and Socialist ideas. The reasons you give for destroying the Kampfverlag I take to be only pretexts. The real reason is that you want to strangle the social revolution for the sake of legality and your new collaboration with the bourgeois parties of the Right."
At this Hitler grew violent.
"I am a Socialist, and a very different kind of Socialist from your rich friend Reventlow. I was once an ordinary working-man. I would not allow my chauffeur to eat worse than I eat myself. But your kind of Socialism is nothing but Marxism. The mass of the working classes want nothing but bread and games. They will never understand the meaning of an ideal, and we cannot hope to win them over to one. What we have to do is to select from a new master-class men who will not allow them selves to be guided, like you, by the morality of pity. Those who rule must know they have the right to rule because they belong to a superior race. They must maintain that right and ruthlessly consolidate it....
What you preach is liberalism, nothing but liberalism. There is only one possible kind of revolution, and it is not economic or political or social, but racial, and it will always be the same: the struggle of inferior classes and inferior races against the superior races who are in the saddle. On the day the superior race forgets this law, it is lost. All revolutions—and I have studied them carefully—have been racial...."
"Let us assume. Herr Hitler, that you came into power tomorrow. What would you do about Krupp's? Would you leave it alone or not?"
"Of course I should leave it alone," cried Hitler. "Do you think me so crazy as to want to ruin Germany's great industry?"
"If you wish to preserve the capitalist regime, Herr Hitler, you have no right to talk of Socialism. For our supporters are Socialists, and your program demands the socialization of private enterprise."
"That word 'socialism' is the trouble," said Hitler. He shrugged his shoulders, appeared to reflect for a moment and then went on:
"I have never said that all enterprises should be socialized. On the contrary, I have maintained that we might socialize enterprises prejudicial to the interests of the nation. Unless they were so guilty, I should consider it a crime to destroy essential elements in our economic life. Take Italian Fascism. Our National Socialist state, like the Fascist state, will safeguard both employers' and workers' interests while reserving the right of arbitration in case of dispute."
Hitler, exasperated by my answers continued: "there is only one economic system, and that is responsibility and authority on the part of directors and executives. I ask Herr Amann to be responsible to me for the work of his subordinates and to exercise authority over them. Herr Amann asks his office manager to be responsible for his typists and to exercise his authority over them; and so on to the lowest rung of the ladder. That is how it has been for thousands of years, and that is how it will always be."
"Yes, Herr Hitler, the administrative structure will be the same whether the state is capitalist or socialist. But the spirit of labor depends on the regime under which it lives. If it was possible a few years ago for a handful of men not appreciably different from the average to throw a quarter of a million Ruhr workers on the streets, if this act was legal and in conformity with the morality of our economic system, then it is not the men but the system that is criminal."
"But that—" Hitler replied, looking at his watch and showing signs of acute impatience "that is no reason for granting the workers a share in the profits of the enterprises that employ them, and more particularly for giving them the right to be consulted. A strong state will see that production is carried on in the national interest, and, if these interests are contravened, can proceed to expropriate the enterprise concerned and take over its administration."
At the same time, apparently, he called in Gregor Strasser and secured his support. Goebbels was gleeful when he heard the news.
28 April 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Saturday we left for Munich ... Esser picked us up. In the afternoon, Feder had received a tremendous dressing down by the Chief. Bravo! Hitler once again begins to lead. Bravissimo! Strasser was called into a private audience and really flogged. Ultimatum: either give up the National Socialist [newspaper], or the leadership of the Organization Division. Hitler appears in great form. Esser is beside himself with joy. The Chief is entirely on our side. In the evening with Epp, Esser, Streich er and Gring we visit Hanfstaengl. We have music—Hanfstaengl plays some fantastic Strauss songs—we converse.... Epp is cooperative and supportive. I am always happy when I don't have to sit around with the party big-wigs.
Sunday, the meeting begins at 9 in the morning. Every one is there. Strasser seems quite humbled. Hitler leads me forward quite ostentatiously. He told me privately that Strasser has been given an ultimatum. But in order to spare him from total destruction, nothing will be said about it in today's meeting. Give up the newspapers, or he is out on his ear. ... The entire party bureaucracy is to be shaken up. Bravo! Bravo! And now they all will behave quite small and cowardly —not because they acknowledge their faults, but out of fear of loosing a chance to be on the election lists. To hell with them! ... Hitler is obviously once more the leader. Thank God. Everyone is enthusiastically behind him. Strasser and his circle is crushed. He sits there like a bad con science. Hitler has hung him out to dry, hopefully until the time comes for him to be hung on the gallows. A real source of satisfaction to me. After the speeches, Hitler stands up again and in the total silence of the room announces my appointment as Propaganda Chef. Well, I really don't begrudge the reactions of the others. Strasser turns chalk white. At the end of the meeting, he stutters out a few sentences, and everything is over. We have won all down the line. The opposition lies smashed on the floor. Strasser is destroyed. Now he'll see about the newspaper question. Suddenly all these cowardly Munich creatures began crowd ing around me. Yes that's human nature for you! É
Home by the night train. Willikens travels with me. He has suddenly become a very subdued dog! Berlin! What a wonderful day. Oh how my people will rejoice over this. Goebbels triumphant! Well it had to come. I have been waiting for it long enough. Now back to work. I take great joy in it once more. Hitler—and this is the essential point—Hitler once again takes up the reins, and the whole pack of big-wigs down there lies down like dogs and sit up to beg. That's what they are, only heroic minstrels! All of them, all of them, all of them. It makes one want to vomit.
Otto Strasser subsequently left the NSDAP and founded his own party. His brother, Gregor, however, decided to stay at his post. In early May 1930, he announced the terminat ion of his National Socialist Berlin newspaper. Goebbels was now master of the Nazi press in the capital city. Gregor Strasser remained in charge of the Organization Division of the NSDAP, and secured the promise of a number of names on any forthcoming Nazi ballot.
But in typical fashion, despite Hitler's orders nothing hap pened. The Strasser newspaper continued to appear, and Goebbels found himself helpless.
26 June 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday, telephone conversation with the Chief and Commander of the SA [Pfeffer]. The Chief wants me to handle the newspaper question by firing the little people here in Berlin, while he does nothing to the big-wigs down there in Munich. How typical of Hitler! In Plauen [where they had met on this issue a few days before], he was already mounted in the saddle ready to attack. Today he calls for retreat.É Hitler wants me to come down to Munich, but I consider such a trip a waste of time. He will only give more promises that he will fail to keep. I am sick and tired of all this perpetual back and forth. I am repeatedly impressed only by his indecisiveness. Gregor is very friendly to me. The Chief tells me that he has broken completely with his brother, but I don't trust those crafty Bavarians. In the Reichstag we are discussing the budget. Boring stuff. The government crisis is now nearing its high point. No one knows how it will end. Hugenberg ! How I despair of the old goat.
Hiding out from being arrested in a slander case against President Hindenburg, Goebbels moved frequently during these days, and could only despairingly watch developments. With the party so badly divided, and HitlerÕs leadership under attack, even Goebbels seems to have lost faith during what would turn out to be the decisive turning point in favor of the Nazis.
The Breakthrough Campaign
15 June 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
In the Reichstag everything is inside-out. The Government is unable to arrange its majority. Today the decision will fall. Either the DNVP will capitulate once again [and vote for the government] or Paragraph 48: Dictatorship and Dissolution of the Reichstag. In any case I must hold myself ready to go vote, even though I most probably will be arrested at the same time.
18 July 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday, fabulous walk with Erika through the woods. Until evening. Wonderful peace, the eternal forest. Erika is very lovable, and is much attached to me. In the evening, Gring telephoned. Paragraph 48 is announced. Tomorrow will be the third vote over whether the Reichstag will be dissolved and over the Amnesty question. So I must away. Erika cries. Should the Reichstag be dissolved, they will probably arrest me at once [for his parliamentary immunity would expire]. Shit on that. Uneasy night! Tonak is on his way. Then we're off. Adio. To Berlin! Telephoned Gring: the decisive vote is scheduled for 10:00. Tonak does not come. We wait, wait, wait. A whole hour. It's awful. Maybe everything hinges on my vote. What an awful prospect. Finally at 11:00 Tonak drives up. Erika cries again. Adio! at 60 mph we rapidly drive into town, arriving in Berlin at 12:30. Headlines in the Berliner Zeitung: " It all hinges on his vote." My heart stops. Frulein Bettge gives me final instructions: into the meeting. The Reichstag is in an uproar. I arrive five minutes before the decisive session begins. At first a little bit of monkey business, then, the Emergency Decree is rejected by the Reichstag. The Chancellor gets to his feet: "The Reichstag is herewith dissolved!" Hurrah. Complete chaos in the chambers. The KPD sing the Internationale. Reventlow chalk white. Praise be to God, I get out of the building without any complications. Off to the Grings. Elections are scheduled for 14 September. Tonight Gring and I drive to Hitler. Hopefully they will not arrest me beforehand.
21 July 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday ate lunch with Hitler. He was very nice to me and we laughed a lot. In the afternoon, we drove to Murnau, a wonderful trip. How beautiful the mountains glistened. We take up quarters in Seehausen. At first surrounded by many people, but later we are left entirely alone. The Chief, Geli, Frau Raubal and me We walk through the quiet evening. The Chief tells war stories. That is his most favorite and inexhaustible theme. Early into bed.
Today up at 6:00, and drive the serpentine way through the glistening morning to Oberammergau. That fascinating nest in the hills. The passion play begins at 8:00. First part last from 8 to 12, and the second from 2 to 6 p.m. Before 5,000 people. I am greatly and pleasantly surprised. The natural amphitheater, the colors, the forcefulness, the Volkstum. One is deeply moved, often brought to tears. A fantastic Christus and Magdalen. And a lovely John. Often a great deal of kitsch creeps in, but in its totality filled with the good taste of the Volk. Christ's farewell in Bethany and the Last Supper scene were fantastic. Everything about the performance was alive. The Choir full of majesty and precision. In spite of the lengthy duration, scarcely a single boring passage. I attended with great skepticism and yet am very happy that I have seen it. The place swarmed with party comrades. Our Movement is scraping through everywhere. On the trip home we run into a serious storm near Starnberg. Arrive at 10:00 in Munich. I am dead tired. Am going right into bed. Tomorrow our work begins again. I will really drive this campaign forward with propaganda. And tomorrow the court in Hanover will decide whether or not I am to be arrested. But now I will go to sleep. I am still entirely possessed by the impress ions from the passion play. And I am very happy that something like this still exists in Germany. One must bring the Volk back to the fountains of their own Volkstum. Then once again it will regain its sense of security and instinct. The scene before Pilate was a masterful lecture on the nature of the Jew. He has always acted like that, and he continues to act like that today. Only fools change, not the spirit and not human nature. The Jew always remains the old Adam.
Goebbels threw himself headlong into the campaign. Working closely with Hitler he composed flyers, and spoke at dozens of rallies. But his principal activities centered in Berlin, where he pulled out all the stops.
But the NSDAP was hardly the united Movement Goebbels pictured in his propaganda. Hardly had the Strasser issue been settled when a more serious threat suddenly appeared. As noted before, the SA had never really become fully integrated with the political leadership. In the late summer of 1930, shortly before the elections which had been set for 14 September, a number of local SA units rebelled against what they perceived to be Pfeffer's arbitrary attempt to bring them into line. The most serious rebellion was in Berlin.
30 August 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Very very difficult days lie behind me. I was almost shattered by these events. On Wednesday afternoon Edgar Schrder brought me the first news of a planned rebellion of the SA. The were going to give us an ultimatum (requesting more seats on the election list), and threatened to attack if their demands were not met. They wanted a battle. At first I could not believe it, but gradually I became convinced that this danger was in fact acute. In the middle of it, sitting like a big spider, was Stennes. Wetzel and Breuer were only his puppets! I had to travel to Dresden. There I discovered by telephone that the situation was much worse than I had feared. The SA leaders had summoned their groups, and were in open rebellion against the [Berlin] Gau and against Munich. They hid their real intentions behind demands for money, the whole thing was being capitalized upon. Stennes is a traitor. I spoke in two different halls in Dresden. The talks went well, but they were very difficult for me to deliver. The whole situation pressed down upon me like a horrible doom. But I made it through the talks, and pulled myself together. Than night Dr. Conti visited me in my hotel, and reported on the catastrophic situation. The planned Sportspalast rally for Friday is now questionable. Conti travels to Munich in order to make a report.
Thursday: After a sleepless night again back to Berlin. Everything was this way and that. Breuer and Hustert were baying hatred like wild men. The worst kind of disappointment for me. Talked with Stennes. With unabashed openness he made his demands: 3 Reichstag seats for the SA, more money, and more political influence [upon the party]. If he did not get his way, the SA would disrupt the Sportspalast rally tomorrow. I called Munich, and faked agreement. We'll get our revenge on 15 September [the day after the elections]. Hitler once again was unavailable. I left for Hamburg, with a heavy heart. From there I telephoned Berlin: more complications. Spoke with Hitler: didn't surrender anything. He can't either. But he doesn't fully understand the situation. Considers it only a frivolous development. I explain every thing patiently to him. Wagener is already on his way to Berlin. With full authority to settle the matter. In Hamburg I spoke before 10,000 people. In spite of everything, I am in wonderful form. In Berlin, troops from Storm Standard IV demolish our business office; Wilke and Muchow are badly beaten. [rest of the entry, 13 lines, is illegible].
1 September 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
At 2 in the morning a telegram arrived from Berlin. The SA attacked our business office and demolished it. Two SS men were wounded trying to defend the building. For one second I lost my nerve. But then I quickly come to a decision. Everything else was thrust into the back ground. I'm off for Berlin. Telephoned Hitler in Bayreuth. He himself is also going to travel to Berlin. We leave at 3 in the morning, filled with gray apprehension, doubts. Are our four-years of work going to be destroyed? Never! Once more I feel myself bursting with energy. Day breaks. Around me frightful scenes of panic and despair. Our people seemed completely broken in spirit. ... Hitler arrives and gives a final appeal. Everything now depends upon which way the knife cuts. ... Poor Hitler. This is the reward for his long years of indolence and negligence. Stennes arrives. Hitler goes with him into the hotel, stays until 6 am. Is this then the end? Never! I recommend appearing to give in at least until the elections are over. And at least in their charges of lacking financial and material support [from the NSDAP], the SA are correct. Hitler is also wavering. I don't leave him for a single moment. An hour's nap and then I'm off for my court appearance. I refuse to make a defense, and am found guilt of slander: 6 weeks in prison and 500 Marks fine. In the recess, I go to see Hitler who is with Gring. New worries appear. I urge that we unite, or else a catastrophe is unavoidable. The rebellion is spreading through the countryside. At 4 in the afternoon, a decision. Hitler removes Pfeffer, and himself takes over the supreme command of the SA. The SA groups are won over by promises of larger subsidies from the party. Letter to Stennes. Will he accept or reject it? I lay down for an hour, when I awake the decision is already in. The SA leader supports Hitler. Everything is accepted. A dining-room revolution! Stennes has subordinated himself once again. ... With Hitler to visit the SS, which remained loyal through it all. The bodyguard must now go back to their bases. The rebellion is crushed. Off to the Veterans Hall. Filled with SA men. Many still want to spring into action and seize power, and are sitting there filled with resentment and waiting. Hitler speaks. Then Litzmann takes over, then Treueschwur. I speak last. Like a hot knife through butter. That is the end of the Stennes Putsch. Settling our score will have to be post poned till after 14 September. A soothing rally, jammed packed. I was in good form. Later I spoke at three other SA centers. I am determined to recover control over these SA. Within the shortest possible time. Got home late and worn out. The Press! Awful stuff! Stennes' action was truly criminal in causing all this attack. Oh well! Work on. After four days, I get my first night sleep. This morning I'm hitched back up to the plow. Don't think too much about all that's happened. It almost seems like a dream to me. But we've got to clean up this wreck. Will we be able to do so by the elections on the 14th? I'm certainly going to try everything. Back to work. God grant us our old faith.
3 September 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday spend the whole day cleaning up the mess. In every area. When I arrived at the business office, it was in complete rubble. By the time I left, everything was back to order. At first, the workers there were all very mistrustful of each other.É At SA offices, things seemed to be very quiet. Stennes appears to desire peace. ... Only when the danger revealed that we might loose our Movement did we all discover how much we loved it. Now all our work is in full action. I hope that we will recover our full unity by 14 September.... Evening to the Alexanderplatz, then to Kleist, then Friedenau [all sections of Berlin], and then to the center of the "Rebell ion Troop" which had devastated the business office. Everywhere I found the old trust still there. [But he remembers,] the whole business office was a wasteland. My office was covered with piles of blood. Blood shed by my own comrades! Horrible sight! But Germans are like this! Will we ever be able to liberate this Volk. Home very late and tired. Today I feel completely worn out. Tonight the Sportspalast. G ring and Strasser are scheduled to speak with me. Much of the future depends on this evening.
4 September 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
[Evening speech last night went well]. The old jubilation. Today Off to Nrnberg, tomorrow Munich, Saturday Knigsberg. This is the feverish pace of modern politics. I am happy that the election campaign is coming to an end. How much I have sacrificed for the Movement during this campaign! Now I must be repaid with at least some success. Destiny will not rob me of that.
9 September 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Last week of the election campaign. I believe we will have a tremendous victory. Evening ... go to hear Treviranus [leader of a new Lutheran-oriented Christian-Social Party] in the Sportspalast. I was greeted with "hurrah's." But after only a few catcalls by us, I and my people were ushered out of the hall by the police. But our plan worked. The Sportspalast was half empty. Afterwards I spoke to a proletarian audience at the Alexanderplatz, and to middle class people in Halensee. Both were over flowing. Our rallies are stupendous. I almost think that in Berlin we have completely filled in whatever cracks were opened by the SA rebellions. In any case, I am applying all my powers to do so. At present, the entire election campaign in Berlin by the other parties seems to be a personal attack upon me. It is truly a wonderful feeling to be hated so. Tonight I am scheduled to make four speeches. I am dead tired and inwardly completely exhausted.
11 September 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
In the evening, rally at the Sportspalast. Never has the place been backed to full. 100,000 requests for tickets. A mindless enthusiasm. I speak for nearly an hour, before Hitler comes. I have never been received with such frenetic jubilation. For that I can thank Stennes. Then Hitler comes. A storm of rejoicing, a hurricane of joy. He speaks for an hour. For the first time, a Berlin speech that is really first class. Even I am swept away. The audience roars. Who can now speak about our petty troubles? We have victory in our pockets! Now we need only deflect the most recent electoral lies. Our departure from the Sportspalast is nearly life-threatening. The people are as if possessed. Out of all this fanaticism, a Volk can and will lift itself up. A difficult drive to the Orpheum, where at midnight I must tell the overflowing hall that Hitler is simply exhausted and can not come. But the people there are most understanding. So off with the Chief and Gring for a late dinner at Gring's house. The Chief is in rapture. Me too. We discuss the SA case. Removing all our mistakes can only be done a step at a time. The Chief wants me to stay on here in Berlin. I must agree, even though much of the enjoyment has gone out of my work here. He now sees that in the SA question not a bit of guilt rests on me. Rather the fault lies in the construction of our organization. These flaws must gradually be removed. The influence of the political leadership must be strengthened. The SA can no longer be allowed to possess political ambition. Hitler now knows that all too well. I am very happy that at the end, everything has turned out well. Where there are still weaknesses, we will slowly rebuilt. Then Hitler starts telling stories. He is once again his old self. We separate at three in the morning. Today will be another difficult working day. I am to speak at five rallies in the evening.
12 September 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday had a long talk with Stennes and then went to lunch with the Chief. I believe I've finally made contact with Stennes. Hitler was very happy about the Sportspalast. Now we must just keep up this work. Our electoral victory is assured. I estimate that we will get 250,000 votes in Berlin. Dead tired I go home for an hour's nap.É Between 8 and 11, I speak at Lichtenberg, Treptow, Kleist, Zehlendorf-Wannsee. Everywhere the halls are overflowing. No incidents. I come through without a scratch. Dead tired into bed but scarcely find any sleep.É All told last night I gave seven speeches. I believe that is a world's record. But my nerves are now shot. Our campaign propaganda was admirable.
15 September 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Voted yesterday morning. Drove around to various SA centers. Many wounded. Ate lunch at Gring's. Frau G. is again there. I am glad. At the business office long negotiations with the police. I am able to get our prisoners [arrested for demonstrating before the polling places]. Listened to a quiet concert at Hotel Kaiserhof. I am literally shaking with excitement. The first returns are in. Fantastic! Sportspalast is overflowing; it has never seen such thundering jubilation. Rejoicing soaring to ever more rejoicing, [we have won] an unbelievable increase. A fighting spirit that sweeps everything before it. The bourgeois parties are crushed. As of now we have won 103 seats, that is 14 times what we had before. In Berlin, 360,000 votes. I certainly had not expected that many. Our people are out of hand. An enthusiasm like 1914. The Sportspalast is a madhouse. SA units carry me on their shoulders throughout the hall. Until 4 am, I tour the various SA centers. Everywhere the same picture. Joy, a fighting spirit. Today I am filled with holy peace. I am resolved to turn at once to the question of reorganizing the Gau. But beforehand, I must seek some time to refresh myself. The coming months will only bring the heat of battle. Forward as before, don't become tired, don't slack off. Our slogan is "Fight on!" Either in the government, or in opposition, we strive for a new Germany. Just back from a press conference. Afterwards off to a Gau conference. New positions are filled, the reorganization is initiated. I am totally tired and totally happy. Last night more than repaid four years of hard work. From the bottom of our hearts we are all grateful to Providence. Heaven has extended its blessing hand over us. How my family at home must be rejoicing! And the whole party! And the future Germany.
Election Charts: 14 September 1930
The first chart gives the details from the September 1930 elections which was the first great breakthrough of the NSDAP. As we have seen, their leaders had predicted that with the economic dislocation aiding their cause, they might conf idently expect to double their seats! When all the votes were in, however, they won 107 seats, jumping to second place among German political parties.
Reichstag Election Results (577 seats- 81% turnout) – The numbers in parenthesis are the results from the last election.
Number % of Total
Party of seats votes Votes
SPD 143 (153) 24.5 8,577,700 Socialist Party
NSDAP 107 (12) 18.3 6,407,397 Nazi Party
Zentrum 87 (78) 14.8 5,186,000 Catholic Party
KPD 77 (54) 13.1 4,592,100 Communist Party
DNVP 41 (73) 7.0 2,458,300 Conservative Party
DVP 30 (24) 4.5 1,578,200 Moderate Liberals
Peasants 27 (22) 4.2 1,641,300 Farming Party
WP 23 (23) 3.9 1,362,400 Business Party
DDP 20 (25) 3.8 1,322,400 Democratic Party
CS 14 (4) 2.5 868,200 Lutheran Party
Where did the Nazi voters came fro?. The next chart shows that in spite of the tremendous Nazi campaigns, the working-class parties (SPD and Communist), as well as the Catholic (Center) Party remained remarkably stable. NSDAP increases came almost exclusively from new (i.e. younger or newly motivated) voters and from the break-up of middle-class parties.
German Elections: 1924-1932
(Votes in millions)
Parties 1924 1928 1930 July Nov
(SPD and KPD) 10.5 12.3 13.0 13.1 13.1
(exclud. Center) 13.2 12.9 10.3 4.0 5.3
Catholic Center 4.1 3.7 4.1 4.5 4.2
NSDAP 0.9 0.8 6.4 13.7 11.7
A final chart compares the rise in Nazi party membership and voting strength with the concurrent rise in unemployment in Germany..
Chart of Nazi Membership and Voters in Comparison with Unemployment Figures
Year NSDAP Nazi Unemployed
1928 108,717 809,939 1,762,000
1929 176,426 2,200,000
1930 (Sept) 293,000 6,407,397 3,520,000
1930 (Dec) 389,000 3,909,000
1931 806,294 11,339,446 4,911,000
1932 1,414,975 13,745,000 6,200,000
The Legal NSDAP Seeks Power
It seemed as if Hitler's tactics of staying within the law were paying premiums. Hence, the leadership was all the more concerned when shortly after the election, three lieutenants were tried for treason because, while on active duty with the military, they had supported National Social ism—a condemned revolutionary group opposed to the State—and had spread propaganda among the troops. At their trial before the Supreme Court in Leipzig, Hitler took the stand to assure the court and Germ any that he was only pursuing power through legal means.
In his testimony, Hitler went out of his way to assure the army about the loyalty of his own party, and the harmless nature of the Storm Troops [Sturmabteilung] he had organized:
25 September 1930 Testimony of Hitler before the Federal Tribunal in Leipzig
PRESIDENT OF THE COURT: I believe the general public is well aware of the background [of the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923]. You, Mr. Witness, on 1 April 1924 were found guilty of high treason and condemned to five-years in prison. And at the Nuremberg Party Rally of September 1923, you described the Party as a Fighting Union, and that doubtlessly armed action was planned.
HITLER: In those days, the Storm Troops were going to be transformed into a military organization. But it was not I that marched them into the barracks; rather they were housed there [by the Bavarian government]. The situation then was such that it seemed as if the latent state of war between Bavaria and the Reich would burst into the open. In 1925, however, I resolved that the precedents of 1923 should be completely extinguished and that the Movement should be led back to its original principles. I issued a decree ordering the complete disarmament of the Storm Troopers. In no fashion should they receive military characteristics. Rather, all the Storm Troop units were exclusively for the purpose of protecting the Movement against other parties. All military exercises were prohibited and if any individual even owned a weapon without having the necessary license, the unit was dissolved at once and the individual members were kicked out of the SA. I did everything I could to prevent the S.A. from assuming any kind of military character. This was doubly difficult at a time when every one was trying to beat up Fascists wherever they could be found, and because the Germans are a Volk which have a deep love for weapons. But throughout these years, I always expressed the opinion that any at tempt to replace the Army would be madness (In an agitated voice). We are none of us interested in replacing the Army; my only wish is that the German State and the Ger man people should be imbued with a new spirit.
Since the witness became ever more excited, the PRESI DENT warned him to drop this form of a public pro pagan da speech and moderate his deportment, and only discuss those things which as a witness he was asked.
HITLER: ... We will see to it that, when we have come to power, out of the present Reichswehr a great German People's Army shall arise. There are thousands of young men in the Army of the same opinion. That does not mean that we are going to replace the Army. We see in the professing of this demand one of the preconditions for Germany's future.
PRESIDENT: One could certainly advance those ideas entirely through legal means, but from your program, or at least reading between the lines, something quite different is intended.
HITLER: It would be impossible to lead an organization so large as ours if we said one thing in public and then gave secret orders under the table. It would also be out of the question for us to publicly announce that there would be no military exercise [for the SA] and then still hold them. On questions of this kind only my orders are valid. All my political enemies, and the State authorities too, can scrutinize all my speeches and orders. In all my orders, my basic principle is that if a Party regulation conflicts with the law it is not to be carried out. I am even now punishing failure to comply with my orders. Many Party members have been expelled for this reason; among them Otto Strasser, who actually toyed with the idea of revolution. I never agreed to any such tactic.... I can assure you, however, that, when the Nazi Movement's struggle is successful, then there will be a Nazi Court of Justice too; then the November 1918 revolution will be avenged, and heads will roll (Loud cheers from the gallery)....
PRESIDENT: What do you mean by the words "a German National Revolution?"
HITLER: The concept of a "national Revolution" should always be considered in a purely political sense. For the National Socialists it means simply an uprising of the oppressed German people.
PRESIDENT: Do you mean an independent movement, or one that has been advanced by a Party?
HITLER: Naturally any movement represents such an uprising, but it does not need to prepare for it by illegal means. After one or two more elections, the National Socialist Movement will have a majority in the Reichstag and will then prepare the National Socialist Revolution.
PRESIDENT: You mean a spiritual revolution? And if someone were to understand something more by that phrase, you would reply: that is not our fault.
HITLER: Germany has been beaten to its knees by this Peace Treaty. The entire German law-making apparatus today is nothing more than an attempt to anchor the Peace Treaty in the German soul. The National Socialists consider this Treaty as not having the force of a law, but as something forced upon us. We refuse to accept the principle that future generations, who are completely innocent, should be penalized. If we employ all possible means to oppose the Treaty, we already find ourselves on the way to a revolution.
PRESIDENT: But with illegal methods?
HITLER: Should we come to power, we will fight against the Treaty with all means available, even those which in the eyes of the world might be considered illegal.
PRESIDENT: What do you mean by the phrase "The Third Reich?"
HITLER: For us, the old German Empire remains an honorable memory, for we once fought to defend it. But this former state, from its very inception, suffered from inner weaknesses. And after that state came the government of today, the embodiment of democracy, of internationalism. This second State wanted to expel from the German Volk all the men who wanted to maintain their rights which had originated in the Empire. Therefore, we hope for a new Reich, in which all institutions—from the highest organizations of the State down to the local groups which serve to preserve our Volkness—will lead our Volk into a happy future. It is understand able that this Third Reich must en gage in conflict with the forces of disintegration which rule today. This explains why our enemies attempt to picture our fight as illegal and to ascribe to us motives which are not true. Whoever is of the opinion that individual instances can be used to demonstrate a basic philosophy, which cannot be found in party publications and orders, will certainly find a thousand cases. In our Movement, I have uncounted millions who have shed their blood for our Germany. These young men, indeed fighters, have been beaten-up, and have often been hauled before the courts, even though they have only sought what is best for Ger many. They have been knocked about and persecuted by red mobs. Considering their youth, it is completely understandable that these men sometimes might utter things which are not part of the Movement's philosophy.
PRESIDENT: How do you intend to go about creating this Third Reich?
HITLER: Our propaganda is the spiritual revolutionizing of the German people. 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.... The Constitution prescribes the ground rules for our fight, but not the goal. We will enter legal organizations and will in this way make our Party a decisive factor. But when we do attain power by constitutionally legal means, we will mould the State in the manner which we consider to be the right one.
THE PRESIDENT: This, too, by constitutional means?
Goebbels was overjoyed by the verdict which the court reached.
26 September 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday a truly great day. 9:00 a.m. in Leipzig, a huge mob of people before the Supreme Court building. After some hesitation, I was admitted to the room. Hitler testified in a straight forward fashion: firm, secure, determined, often falling into pathos, but always remaining great. The impression was powerful. It is a question of the "legality" of the party, and Hitler gave away nothing, remaining ever clever and cautious. How I love him. The accused officers are fantastic. Especially Scheringer, what a man. Ludin is more weak. The investigating judge, Braune, is pitiful, and yet is considered a leading jurist, who deservedly got his come-uppance. He had only an idiot as the crown witness.... We wait for the longest time, and then Hitler was sworn in, but our testimony was rejected. So once more back into the hall. The officers testified. Marvelous. What a spirit, what a sense of belong to a corps, what role models. Here is Young Germany, with which future workers will identify. And Old Germany sits up there on the bench in judgment. Even today. But for how long. Tears of joy burst from my eyes. 7:00 end of the court. Farewell to Hitler. He is very pleased. The reviews in the press are fabulous. The stock market plunges at news of Hitler's speech. Rightly so! The day of our salvation comes nearer.
Gregor Strasser was still Director of the Party Organization (and thus titular head of its bureaucracy), and chief Nazi spokesman in the Reichstag. Although Goebbels had tried his best to destroy him and his influence, Strasser could still rise to the occasion. Shortly after Hitler's oath of legality, Strasser spoke in the Reichstag on the nature and aims of the party.
17 October 1930 Gregor Strasser Reichstag Speech
We have not come into this house to poison ourselves with parliamentarianism.... Nor have we come to make political deals in the hope of securing cabinet seats....
We National Socialists want not reaction but recovery. We want no planless revolution, but reorganization in stead of disintegration and anarchy. We want no civil war or class agitation, but we want the internal recon ciliation of the people, the union of the good forces of the workers of hand and brain.... We want the protection of all honorable labor and its product against the open or concealed abuses of capitalism; we want the eradication of organized speculation, hostile to the people and the economy, which milks the people and cheats them of their right to work, income and security.
We want no persecution of the Jews, but we demand the exclusion of the Jews from German life. We demand a German leadership, without a Jewish spirit, without Jewish backers and Jewish financial involvement, which today rule almost the whole of political life. We demand the protection of our cultural inheritance against Jewish presumption and encroachment.
We want no new war, for we know that Europe and the world can only recuperate when the leading civilized peoples of earlier times have themselves recuperated. In this we put our faith in the new generation of our age and in like-minded people abroad; we renounce the mercy of our present foreign enemies, with their calcified brains and their hate-filled hearts. But we do not shun a war if after organization and mobilization of German power it should prove to be the only means of restoring German political and social freedom.
We want no agitation against religious denominations and no persecution of the Christian churches, but we demand the sincere cooperation of the churches in the renewal of German culture, without which the churches too become spiritually barren and empty. From the pastors we want no party politics, but instead service for the peace of the human soul, for the moral improvement of the masses, so that labor will again have moral value, and so that professional honesty and a feeling of responsibility may again replace the destructive lust for pleasure and gain which divides the German people, and reduces it to destitution. Finally, we require of the servants of the Christian denominations that they do not weaken the God-given instinct of national self-determination and that, in the spirit of original Christianity, they shall not allow religious differences to become a political danger to the German people....
[These are the] principles of our domestic and foreign policy. We do not need to hide them; we state them clearly for all the world to hear. With all the power of our minds and hearts we reject the stain of war guilt, which oppresses every single German and robs him of his honor....
We National Socialists emphatically do not stand for senseless rearmament at any price, as we are accused of doing; we demand that the other peoples disarm ... but as long as the other peoples are rearming, we do demand for the German people the right to provide for its own protection, for the necessary protection of its in terests. Our foreign policy therefore requires above all the restoration of German honor. A state in which this word "honor" is not understood in its entire intellectual content and in its consequences will sooner or later have to die. We demand the restoration of German honor. [The German Republic] has followed the wrong path and we must retrace our steps....
Our domestic policy is just as clear and plain. If we think through the consequences of living on under the present state, commonsense tells us we are being utopian. A State which can no longer put its own house in order; a Reich which knows no better than to take out a series of stopgap loans, leaving to the next generation a tangle of debts; a State whose border lands are collapsing: such a State, especially when embodied by the present leader ship, can never under any circumstances begin and carry out that sweeping essential task of re new al which is so necessary to the salvation of the German Volk. The Volk want order, work, and bread....
For us the solution of the social questions is not a matter of book learning, nor a matter of rigid theory to be carried out sometime in the distant future; it is an essential question of the present, which must be tackled immediately, by new men.... Economics for us does not mean shouting at the stock exchange, making financial deals and speculations at the cost of the suffering people; it means the production of value, in order to live and for the benefit of the general public. For us, Volk does not mean an ad-hoc committee of employers and workers, of employment offices which cannot offer employment, of millions of unemployed who wait for work for months and years; nor is Volk a group of civil servants and parliamentarians. For us, Volk is a healthy and vital community sharing the same fate, capable of internal and external defense, which belongs together because of common character, customs, and language. The "State" for us is not a soulless law-making and bureaucratic machinery, but the living bearer of custom, order and law against the enemies of the German Volk in all areas.
At all times we respect the constitutions of the Reich and the individual states, but we require that these be moral and that they ensure morality. The present system of the degenerate capitalist age as well as a Marxism which is equally unnatural because it developed from the same ideological basis, have confronted the German Volk with a desperate task: to accumulate and pay interest on imaginary sums of billions, on the basis of a shaky cur ren cy, while being unable to work and feed themselves. What is produced today is not even sufficient to pay the taxes and interest on the State apparatus itself! In this way the economy of a whole people is doomed to extinction.
Our first aim is therefore the elimination of waste in the German economy—first by overcoming unemployment and restoring the condition of agriculture; second, by solving the problem of the just wage; and third, by reorganizing our monetary system. National Socialism demands not only a year of compulsory labor service [from everyone], which might under certain circumstances be institutionalized, and which might, circumstances permitting, yield a profit which could be used to pay reparations. National Socialism as a world view demands further the proclamation of a general obligation to work as part of constitutional law....
For long enough we Germans have dreamed of a State which would share in world industrial production and in world trade, without supporting this participation by cultivating our own land and independent domestic economy; today those who want to maintain these ideas only destroy our economy instead of strengthening it. We there fore demand provisions of employment, by means of a Federal building and loan association which would construct buildings without interest, commissioned by the State. We see the most important task of German industry in increasing the value of quality products. But for the rest, National Socialism stands for the broadest kind of self-sufficiency. By the National Socialist idea of a general obligation to work, we imply nothing more than the logical extension of compulsory education and compulsory military service.
Thus will be reawakened and mobilized among our people that power which will fundamentally alter the [Versailles] Treaty and the present situation. We shall carry out this policy, and behind us is the German people, which has given us a mandate unprecedented in the parliamentary history of all the peoples of the earth.
18 October 1930 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday from 10:00 to 5:30 pm in the Reichstag. ... Strasser delivered a speech that was really quite good. It won great attention from the chamber. Thus, once again he sits firmly in the saddle, and I must sit behind him. ... A wonderful autumn outside in the land. One would like to be anywhere, but sitting in the Reichstag.
Goebbels' diary reveals that in spite of this tremendous victory, the NSDAP was still far from united. Many of his concerns center upon questions of leadership.
18 January 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Today the 60th birthday of the Reich is being celebrated by the men who destroyed the Reich! We stand firmly armed for battle: to march into the Third Reich. Yesterday in the morning with the Chief in his hotel. We discussed the political situation. Reichswehr: in the evening he is meeting Hammerstein [Kurt Freiherr von Hammerstein-Equord was Commander-in-Chief of the German Army between 1930 and 1934. He was strongly against Hitler, and was dismissed from his post on 1 February 1934]. We must get the Reichswehr on our side. The economy: industrial leaders are coming ever closer to us, because of their despair over current conditions. This course must be further encouraged. Economics will be the instrument that finally destroys all credit in this system. The Reichs President: at present nothing can be done here. He is firmly under the control of Brning [Heinrich Brning was head of the Catholic Center Party and Chancellor from March 1930]. Otherwise, our situation is pretty good. There is only one danger, that everything takes too long and the energy of the party reaches a boiling point. Decisive action must be taken to prevent that. We discussed Gring [a reformed heroin addict, who Goebbels was convinced had returned to that habit]. The Chief will take him under his wing. He must overcome his troubles. I am terribly sorry for him and see how much of a friend he is to me.
6 February 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Although suffering from a fever, I went yesterday to the Reichstag. The Chancellor spoke. Very reserved. The chamber was jammed pack, right up to the roof. A small intermezzo with the Communist Distin Ulbricht [really named Walter Ulbricht, subsequently the first President of Communist East Germany], who directed all his barbs only at me—but before a generally empty house—and then came my hour. I was in fabulous form. Spoke for an entire hour before a crowded house. The Chancellor turned whiter and whiter in his seat. My party seconded me in fabulous fashion. It was a thundering triumph and was so regarded by most in the house. Everyone was enthusiastic. Afterwards the debate lost much of its interest, and grew hot only when Brning came to the speaker's podium for concluding remarks. He was very nervous and uncertain. Totally out of his element. The opposition catcalls got on his nerves.
20 February 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday, prepared for out trip to Weimar. Tomorrow we leave. Frau von Dirksen and Magda are accompanying me [Magda Quadt, a divorced mother with a young son was GoebbelsÕ new love interest. He will eventually marry her. Dirksen was the widow of a prominent ambassador and mother of an important diplomat]. In the afternoon I spent an hour with Frau v. Dirksen. She complained about Rosenberg, whose new book in fact contains many unfortunate sections [especially savage attacks upon Christianity]. The Churches are furious and it has caused quite a stir. We really don't need something like this just now. Great complaints about Gring. He suffers from a superiority complex. All the result of his addition to morphine. He has even engaged in an unheard-of conflict with Der Angriff. He considers himself a future Chancellor. In fact he is only a unrestrained opportunist. One must see to it that he is brought to some sanatorium. He can't simply be allowed to destroy himself.
21 February 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Chatted with Kaufmann. He too complains about Gring. Told me that Brning, about whom Gring is constantly raving, recently said "that man is totally an ass." Horrible. He has become a comic figure, compares with Falstaff. He must be sent off for a cure. He can no longer serve in a representative capacity.
26 February 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Next Thursday I am off for Munich where we will arrive at some plans for our next actions. Goal: To build a great front of the nationalist opposition, under our leader ship. Something like this must happen; everyone wants it. But Hitler is tied up with plans for building a party headquarters! Action is what is needed, not looking on and observing. Or sitting around drinking coffee! Poor Hitler, he must be wrenched out of that Munich milieu.
16 March 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday was wonderful. In the afternoon with Magda to the zoo and looked at the carnivores, while they were being fed. Even the lion loses his majestic bearing at such times. Just like humans when they are hungry. The apes are inferior animals, lewdness personified. Magda is very nice to me and clinging. Then off for a conversation with Gring. I tell him everything. He denies that he is a morphine addict. But his protests are thin and can scarcely be believed. He accuses me of supported Stennes, of allowing Der Angriff to praise me too much, that people are envious of me, and so on and so forth. Nonsense. I reply with a sharp polemic against the new Economic Program which has been worked out by Hierl and Wagener, and which is circulating in draft form. There is not the slightest sign of Socialism in it. I have sent a written expose to Munich about it. Gring is a firm believer in the market system. Poor socialism! But I won't stop insisting on it. The party faces a turning point. Socialism must be reinstated in our programs. We will not have fought all these years in vain. Gring and I part as half-friends. But there are still many things that link us together. ... At night long discussion with Willi He§ . The theme: Munich. Everywhere one hears skepticism. Hitler hasn't the faintest idea about public opinion. Next time I will really talk turkey to him.
The SA Threaten Revolt
Despite HitlerÕs assurances and the electoral triumphs, many in the party, particularly in the SA, resented the limitations imposed by the tactics of legality. Prior to 1930, the Storm Troopers had been a fringe group of zealots whose isolation within a hostile German environment welded them together in com radeship. Crudely anti-capitalist, hostile to big business and banks, and suspicious of conventional parliamentary politics, they viewed all politicians, including their fellow Nazis in the Reichstag, as a sink of corruption. Theirs was an aggressively male world.where supreme values were physical courage, comradeship and personal loyalty to a leader, who had won their respect. They greeted with alarm the emergence of new kind of NSDAP—no longer a collection of like-minded fanatics, but a huge organization in which bureaucracy proliferated. These paper-work heroes seemed to be getting the glory while the SA, as usual, had to do all the dirty work, risking injury or even their lives fighting political opponents, spending long hours in arduous marches and parades. In particular, the SA resented men like Goebbels who had seen to it that a majority of the Nazi Reichstag seats in the 1930 elections did not go to SA members. Even SA contempt for Parliament did not stop them wanting seats in it and the salaries that went with them.
Hitler had constantly to maneuver between the conservative and Vlkisch pressure groups and the more revolution ary SA. Hitler's Leipzig oath paid dividends in January 1931, when the Army removed a ban on employing Nazis on Army bases and enlisting Nazi sympathizers into the Army. But emphasizing legality ran the risk of alienating the storm troopers. Indeed, just before the Reichstag elections in September 1930, as we have seen above, the Berlin SA had mutinied and it had required all Hitler's powers of persuasion and a promise of a higher subsidy to pacify them.
In early 1931, Hitler recalled Ernst R hm from South America (where he had been staying since the failure of the 1923 Beerhall Putsch) and appointed him head of the SA. Now, for the first time a centralized SA administration began to appear, and with it a tremendous increase in members. In 1930 the entire SA had numbered but 37,000 men. By the end of 1931, more than 170,000 were enrolled. All this expansion, however, only increased conflict between the political organization and the SA.
On 20 February 1931, as proof of his sincerity to pursue a policy of legality, Hitler forbade the SA to take part in street fighting. But, for many stormtroopers, this was another instance of the way in which Hitler was abandon ing the revolutionary ideals of the movement. Particularly outspoken in his demands for increased SA input was the leader of the East German Stormtroopers, Walter Stennes.
25 March 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Monday Evening, off to Munich. Franke oriented me about events there, and then a long discussion with Rhm. He is in a fury over Stennes, who he thinks is an idiot. Has arranged everything to remove him. The Chief, on the contrary, is against such an action. Me too. We had some troubles talking Rhm out of his plans. In Munich they simply don't have any understanding of the opinion in the country. Plans for the Brown House take up all their time and energy [this was the name of the new and expensive party headquarters whose construction Hitler was personally supervising]. Hitler is fabulous to me. He alone down there is smart and clearheaded. The SA situation troubles me greatly. Rhm is not going to master the situation by the way he is going. Stennes is hard to take, but I will make an effort to try to get him back into line.É Spent the whole day with Hitler discussing the situation. The new Economics Program will not be published,É At least I have been able to prevent this piece of direct misfortune. In the afternoon, at a cafe. The Chief as bourgeois. Horrible to see him tippling in this coffee klatsch with such narrow-minded philistines.É My office in Munich is really beautiful, and the Brown House will be a major work of art. If only Munich's policies would match it. In fact, Berlin is Munich's destiny, one way or the other. I will leave Stennes alone for the time being. If it comes to a fight, however, I stand by Hitler, although I believe that much of what goes on down there in Munich needs to be reformed. Awful train-ride home. Filled with anxiety lest Der Angriff be forbidden. It gets on my nerves. The Chief invited me to spend Easter at Berchtesgaden. But I prefer being with Magda. Monday she accompanied me to the train and waved goodbye. This beautiful, beautiful woman! Will my speech in Magdeburg tomorrow be forbidden? Off to work!
29 March 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Once again a big stink with the SA. Stennes continues to operate somewhere in the background. He is working deliberately toward his goal, and the indolence of the Brown House only adds water to his mill. In Munich people are said to be quite upset with me. That is crazy, because I will always remain true to Hitler. But I must reserve for myself the right to criticize the party leadership. We should learn from our past mistakes.É Back in Berlin a mountain of work. My skepticism over the "path of legality" has not been misplaced. Yesterday, Hindenburg uses Article 48 to issue an emergency decree: by it the constitution is completely set aside. It requires prior registration for all rallies, in other words, they will be forbidden. Placards and printed materials must be submitted to the censor. Weapons are forbidden. This is only another form of dictatorship. And Brning is Gring's friend. Cheers! Long live legality! It is enough to make one puke! Now we must come up with new methods of proceeding. This will be very difficult. And there still remains the latent crisis over the SA and about the role of Socialism. One certainly has reasons to be very sad. We have made many mistakes. Above all, we have negotiated too often with the enemy. Today he deceives us. Much of this is Gring's fault. In future we must threaten all sorts of mischief and remain as inscrutable as the Sphinx. Today we have been unmasked. We are just like other human beings. Hard a lee! Back into the most stubborn opposition. Fight, work, act. No more negotiations.
2 April 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Well now the shit has hit the fan! But I will begin in chronological order. On Tuesday a telephone call from Munich: I should meet Hitler in Weimar. First I traveled to Dresden, and spoke with great success in two overflowing halls, and then left by automobile that night for Weimar, arriving at 5:00 in the morning. Fell right into bed. Not suspecting a thing! Wednesday: I met the Chief in the corridor. Things are very serious. Rhm explained: Stennes has been deposed, he had rebelled openly, and declared himself independent of Munich. Apparently, however, news of his removal was leaked too early to the press. And the dance started. I can do nothing more than adjust myself to the new situation. Telephoned Berlin. The Angriff building and the business office of the party have been occupied by the SA. Wei§auer [whom Goebbels had recently appointed as editor of the newspaper] openly sympathizes with Stennes and the Angriff prints in large letters his impossible demands. Berlin is become an ant-hill of activity. For me there can no longer be any question; I stand loyally by Hitler. Even when I criticize him. I don't want to recognize some "Line of the Main River" [i.e. a division of the NSDAP into a North (SA oriented) and South (Munich based)]. Our Movement matters more than anything else. The SA must obey. Stennes won't allow himself to fit in. Good, then he must be fought, even if it takes half a year or more. I remain with Hitler.É Wei§auer telephones atrocity stories and wants to list the SA terms. But that's all over with now. Wei§auer is playing a two-faced game, and I order his dismissal at once from the paper.É The telephone constantly brings more horror stories and rumors. Stennes is working to take over the whole Gau and Angriff. Blood be still! This is just a charade. They want to lure me back to Berlin. I won't think of it. I will accompany Hitler to Munich and there, in peace, figure out my counter attack. Dalugue [formerly of the SA, but now head of the Berlin SS] is in Weimar, strongly supports the Chief. Reports tumble over each other. In between, I talk for some time with Anka [an old girlfriend]. But that's been over for a long time now. In Berlin, Ehrhardt appears to be at work as well, an opportunistic intriguer. Maybe we'll recover our SA after all. This is the greatest, but perhaps also the last crisis of the party. We must fight our way through it.
In the evening, Hitler speaks, and then me. Endless jubilation! I proclaim myself openly and absolutely behind the Fhrer. Torchlight parade. Poor SA! What an outrageous game is being played with you as the pawns. We leave late at night, by car to Jena. No beautiful Easter vacation this year. Once again. In God's name, one becomes so minimalist in one's demands for happiness. It is a sad trip. I am very sorry for Hitler. He is shrunken and white. We talk for a long time, but there is no spirit behind it. Hitler bravely puts on a show, but in fact he is entirely broken. In the train we sleep in the same compartment. A heavy, restless sleep. Munich! Sunshine! The press is already shrieking our troubles into the morning air. Should I participate in all this? Is this not treason to our holy cause which has been sanctified by so much blood and death? Never, never! Magda has arrived from Berlin and waits for me in the hotel. I am beside myself with joy, but what kind of a reunion is this? She is completely shaken by the events. That's good! She stands loyally and firmly on my side. I won't read any more reports. Work the whole morning through. In the afternoon, dictate a sharp attack upon the rebels, and then I am dead tired. The Chief is still working. I will stay in Munich. The picture becomes more and more favorable to us by the hour. But at what a cost to our nerves?
Since each SA unit was more or less independent, it took quite some time before Hitler and the official SA-Leader Ernst R hm learned that most of the units were staying aloof from the "revolt." Some SA units supported Stennes and tried to rally fellow Nazis behind him One of these was the Berlin SA, which distributed the following pamphlet.
April 1931 SA Berlin Pamphlet Berlin
National Socialists of Berlin!
The Munich party leadership of the NSDAP yesterday ordered the dissolution of the Berlin SA and dismissed the supreme SA leader, Captain Stennes. whom Hitler had repeatedly assured of his trust. The news has provoked indignation, embitterment and a deep feeling of shock in the Berlin SA and beyond that in SA sections throughout the Reich.
What is at stake? Is it only a conflict of personalities, a leadership struggle? No, the cause of National Socialism is at stake!
In the person of Captain Stennes the whole SA is being attacked. Munich has forgotten that readiness for sacrifice and simplicity once created the Party and made it strong. Today they build the 'Brown House' in Munich at a cost of millions whereas the individual SA men have not a penny with which to repair their torn boots. In the face of the emergency decree, in the face of daily sacrifices of blood by the SA, while the fight against the movement and the terror have reached their peak, a Munich clique brings fratricidal warfare into the ranks of the Party.
The SA has helped the Party in its struggle to gain thou sands of seats in the Reich, in individual states and municipalities. Now that the SA have done their duty, they can go. They are now a cumbersome conscience, reminding people of the betrayed Party program and demanding the fight for the old ideals of National Socialism, in contrast to the opportunistic policy of interests in Munich.
This is not illegal putschism, as the Jewish press wants to represent it, but only in order to prevent the Party's betrayal of the SA and of National Socialism. The SA leadership has no intention of letting their SA comrades be misused for the financing of the Brown House and as a pawn in political bargains. With a sense of deep responsibility towards every single SA man and towards the whole German people, it acts according to the great fundamental law of National Socialism:
The common welfare comes before individual welfare and according to the deepest law of comradeship, loyalty for loyalty.
"Raise the flag, close the ranks. The SA marches." Stennes takes over command.
Significantly in this appeal the SA insisted that "our struggle is not directed against Adolf Hitler but against those around him whom he has not yet recognized for what they are." This gave Hitler the opportunity to move quickly against the rebels by demanding declarations of loyalty from each of the SA leaders. Once that was done the whole "rebellion" collapsed.
4 April 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Developments are now forced upon us. Stennes has already lost, Hitler and I have led the counter-attack through the press. Strongly against Stennes. The Chief has worked closely with me in all this. Declarations of loyalty [to Hitler] pour in from all the Gaue. The Beobachter prints a huge article by Hitler against Stennes. Things are finally settled. The picture changes hourly. Wei§auer has committed almost unbelievable treason against the Movement and against me personally. I simply can't understand this. The whole thing appears to be a large-scale conspiracy between Stennes and Wei§auer. Who knows what kind of money stands behind even this. I live in a nervous state of disquiet. In the decisive hours, Gring made a move against me, trying to take into his hands the plenipotentiary power which the Chief had entrusted to be. The Chief refused; but he does not want me to go back to Berlin just now and published a declaration of confidence in me which in all of its glory surpassed anything he has ever said about me. I will never forgive Gring for this. It is enough to make one despair of humanity. It's a huge pile of frozen shit. Wei§auer! What a horrible disappointment! It will be difficult for me to recover after this. But then I move into action, blasting out the traitors in one sudden blow. The Chief and I address an appeal to the Berlin party. Stennes crumbles. Yesterday was his defeat. Its ranks shinning, the SA returns to the party. The revolt is finally destroyed. Yesterday evening, Magda and I sat around with Hitler, and he tells fabulous stories of his experiences during the Kapp Putsch. What a man he is! Magda is very loving and good to me. I honor her very much. Yesterday was certainly a terrible Good Friday. It was my most critical hour. But I believe that the crisis has been overcome. This morning Amann returns from Berlin. He reports terrible things about the Angriff office. Wei§auer has repeatedly lied to me and deceived me. Tomorrow is Easter. Outside it is raining up a storm. Inwardly I am wounded and my soul feels as if rubbed raw. And I am deadly tired. Magda is wonderful. I need peace. I want to hear nothing more, and see nothing more. What a vacation. Quiet! don't think more about it, get on with it! Happy Easter!
6 April 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Berlin. Everything proceeds according to schedule. Stennes takes at the most 200 men with him. I will ruthlessly clean out this dungheap. Yesterday morning a talk with Esser. He paints everything in the darkest colors. Speaks for Gring. Everywhere, he claims, the strongest opposition to me. Stennes threatened, and my so-called friends offered no resistance. Tomorrow evening I will go myself to Berlin and cut through the gordian knot. Hitler stands loyally by me. I will never forget him for this. ... Last night long discussion with Hitler, over the style and essence of culture and civilization. He has a clear head and is a genuine intellectual. Today we all travel out to Tegernsee. I hope that I will get Berlin in line very shortly. But then I will most certainly be at the end of my strength. I am totally depressed. It has been one of my greatest personal trials. But it had to be mastered. Otherwise I would have fallen beneath the wheels.
9 April 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Late last night drove with Amann to Berlin. The night seemed filled with fantasti apparitions. I had to go to bed the minute we arrived. 102 degree fever, which distorts everything. Nevertheless I held conferences around the clock. ... The situation at the Angriff office seems hopeless. Wei§auer carried on there like one possessed. The result is only to strengthen Amann's power [as publisher of the major Nazi newspaper, the Vlkische Beobachter, Amann would gain tremendously if he took over GoebbelsÕ paper as well]. He offers to take over the publication of all the provincial editions of Angriff. All of this is Wei§auer's "work." Yet that dog writes me a letter assuring me of his loyalty. Then Schulz comes, the new SA leader in the East [replacing Stennes] who has at least tried to understand psychologically the meaning of the Berlin revolt. And so many of my decent people joined in É that is what hurts the most. Munich has made so many mistakes, and we in Berlin have to pay the price. Schulz recognizes all this. He is very reasonable and estimates Stennes' following as 35% of the Berlin SA. But that seems too high to me. Schulz will undertake the necessary political moves, and thus my situation in Berlin suddenly becomes wonderful and clear. We must await developments. I too have made a bunch of mistakes. I was too trusting; I believed too strongly in people, motivated to a large extent by skepticism and a disdain for some of the personalities involved, I held myself aloof from the whole conflict. In the evening the 5 area leaders arrived. Not one of our political functionaries deserted. The party in Berlin remains undisturbed. I expected nothing less. Difficult night. Today the fever has gone down, but I feel so done in that I can scarcely talk. The whole experience was so shattering. This morning I telephoned Hitler giving him a thorough situation report. He is very satisfied.É Magda calls up from Severin. She's very worried about me. I myself am in a mood that borders on despair. But probably my sickness contributes greatly. Keep your head up, my boy! Now I have to spend the rest of the afternoon dictating.
12 April 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday was the most difficult day of all. ... Worked until late in the evening. Heard a gramophone playing and was plunged into despair. Magda is in Berlin and doesn't telephone me. An insane jealousy took possession of me. I wait and wait. Ilse Stahl comforted me, without even knowing she was doing so. She is very reasonable. I spent an awful night with a frightful headache. I called her this morning. No one there. Then finally she calls: the man with whom she lived before me, has wounded her with a gun, in her apartment. She is quite done in. In her voice I sensed that I might very well lose her. I fell into the deepest despair. I sense for the first time how much I love Magda. I must see to it that order is restored to my life once again. Perhaps such a loss is necessary in order to get me back onto the really important things. Who knows! Destiny's ways are incomprehensible. I had begun once again to think that I might achieve personal happiness. That now is over and for good. It may be that I can't have such happiness. I must, and should, and will remain single. Now that everything leaves me, I will once again find my old strength. And return to my work with redoubled energy. And not think about myself at all. What a wretched thing life really is! And what a pile of shit, this thing called humanity!
Goebbels' pessimism is understandable, but the Stennes affair actually brought a decisive victory for the political leadership of the party, and some important reforms in organization, including tighter control over the membership and activities of local branches, and the introduc tion of training schools for SA leaders. Unintentionally, however, these new developments caused further problems. The new SA leadership itself was not lacking in ambitions.
28 April 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Writing after some difficult days. On Saturday to Munich, worked until the wee hours, then a difficult sleep. ... Chief leads us on a tour of the Brown House. It is his greatest hour! The Senate Hall is really fantastic. The Chief is very nice to me. He remains as friendly as ever. I really like him a lot. ... On Monday morning, 9:00 discussion with the Chief. I sketch out a picture of the Berlin Gau and developments there. Especially the intellectual roots of the constant crises in Northern Germany. The party must become more Prussian, more active, more socialist. He understands me, but has some tactical reservations. Nevertheless I succeed gradually in persuading him that he must come to Berlin more often and devote more attention to the question of socialism. He has lost any of his doubts about me and condemns in the sharpest fashion the back-biting against me in the party. I raise the question of cabinet positions, and he declares himself wholeheartedly on my side. "Berlin belongs to you, and it will remain so." This is the only way I can work. Conflicts wear me out and break my spirit. We depart as comrades and friends.
29 April 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday evening, after a frightfully busy day of work, appear with Rhm in the Sportspalast. General review of the Berlin SA. Fabulous conclusion. Rhm speaks. Very good. Then Heines announces his resignation and Petersdorf assumes command of the Gau Storm. I hope I will soon be able to bring him around. Rhm treated me with extreme politeness. I will meet him again today. I believe that he and Gring are playing dishonorable games with me. I go home tired and depressed. And then late in the evening came Magda exuding goodness and love and devotion, so freed from care about me. So laughingly happy.
17 May 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
By sleeping coach to Munich. Lots to make one angry there. Franke is fighting with Schwarz, another case of turf conflict over office responsibilities. I simply march in ... and after a half hour I have everything I wanted. One must only treat these Munich boobs in the right way. I'm not afraid to draw my bow on them. Hitler arrives later. He shows glowing and hearty amiability toward me, and excitedly tells me of his trip to Oldenburg. We will have a great victory there today. Such things do us good. Hitler is always a source of strength and optimism. One has to be an optimist in order to carry our cause to victory. Convents being burned down in Spain will certainly help us too. Those stories will deal a big blow to the Center Party who are still in bed with their Red friends. Hitler wants to take me along to Berchtesgaden, but I long to return to Berlin. In the afternoon I sit in a cafe with Franke and Hlcken and exchange our worries about the party. Hlcken is a typical suspicious Secret Policeman. But that's good. One is otherwise all too gullible. The hoard of spies both here in Munich and in Berlin cause us much trouble. Then many of the SA people are new to the party, and that causes bad blood. The party is also running the danger of becoming more and more bourgeois. And then there are these homosexuals. I simply don't trust many of them. Is Rhm one? Someone must warn Hitler in time. Should they take over, it would be the beginning of the end for us.
31 May 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
This afternoon we leave. Magda spends the night. I am so happy to be back in Berlin. Yesterday, Magda and I discussed everything. Now we both understand the situation. We have solemnly exchanged promises: we will become husband and wife when we have conquered the Reich. I am so happy. Magda is like a child. Now I have two tasks: one for the Volk, and one for me.
10 June 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
To the Brown House, Conference of the party leadership. Frick and the loathsome Gring are also there. Strasser opens an attack upon Hitler. A General Secretary for the party should be named—naturally Strasser—and both the Organization and Propaganda Divisions should be put under him. The Party should be divided into three sections: The SA, the State (Hierl) and the fighting Movement (Strasser). In addition, a special commissioner should be set up for Prussia. In other words, the Chief will be promoted to a sort of honorary presidency, and I will be shut out in the cold. The attack included some petty criticism of me, above all in the area of propaganda. Gring supports Strasser very strongly, out of hatred for me. Even Hierl joins in. The Chief defends himself with cleverness and strength. All the suggestions are turned down. Anything else would be simply suicidal. I remain quiet, thinking my own thoughts. I have very few friends in the party, in fact practically only Hitler. Everyone seems jealous of my successes and my popularity. Gring works against me obsessively. I must do something about that pretty soon. But in fact, he is pathological.... Strasser and Gring's attack fails completely, but I will have to be on the alert. These despicable intriguers must be driven back. The Chief desires only that I come more often to Munich. I will indeed do that. In my own interest and in the interest of my work. ... Gring is a big mouthed sluggard. He wants influence, but undertakes no responsible work. In the evening I talk for a long time with the Chief. He is furious over this back-stabbing attack. And that can only work to my advantage. He has no intention whatsoever of giving up Prussia, or the absolute leadership of the party.
24 June 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Worked deep into the night. Munich. Something stinks. A heavy attack against Rhm in the Post, accusing him of being gay [in fact this newspaper article included a number of RhmÕs love letters]. This is most disagreeable. How much of it is true? In Munich there is a mad agitation. Talked with Schwarz, Bouhler, Frank and Strasser [some lines are missing].
30 June 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
I stumble upon a well-laid conspiracy: The SS (Himmler) have erected here in Berlin an espionage bureau to spy on me [the infamous Sicherheits Diens, (Security Service) or SD headed by HimmlerÕs aide Reinhard Heydrich]. And this group spreads about the wildest rumors. I think they are agents provoca teurs. On Thursday, in Munich, I will demand the immediate termination of this sewer. Either I have Hitler's trust or I don't. I won't continue working like this. Himmler hates me. Now I will destroy him. This key-hole peeping animal must disappear. Gring fully agrees with me.É With Kube by car to Tilset, directly on the Lithuanian border. Rhm is there also. Very friendly to us, but who can believe it? I am suspicious of him from the bottom of my heart.É Gring gets along very well with the Italian fascists. The Rhm scandal is being taken very seriously down there. É Today I have published a declaration in Angriff, that I am determined to remain in Berlin. I will help drive the saboteurs out of our stockings. Tonight the Sportspalast. General Meeting of the Berlin NSDAP. The first time that any party has dared to hold such a meeting in Berlin. I think we'll have a huge attendance. Fabulous weather, and in spite of everything I am in great spirits. But one should not praise the day before night comes. Remain an enemy of mankind and suspicious. A friend in need is better than 100 on a feather!
Goebbels Diary Entry, 1 July 1931
Yesterday the Sportspalast was filled with party members. A wonderful rally. I delivered an accounting of our activities during the past year. Fabulous enthusiasm. The people acted like members of a large family. A feeling of intoxication, think of it, the whole Sportspalast filled with Party Comrades! Thus our summer's work comes to an end. Today only a meeting of the Gau section leaders and then off to Munich to smoke out the espionage nest. Sunday I am finally off on vacation. The weather is wonderful, and I am beside myself with joy.
3 July 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
In the evening, a long discussion with the Chief. I bring up the question of the SS espionage. He is furious about it. Ordered its immediate termination. An hour beforehand I had a hefty argument with Himmler about the same thing. The Chief assures me explicitly that I possess his full confidence. He will never take Berlin away from me. Not even if all the other Gauleiter positions become filled with bureaucrats. He is absolutely serious about this. We then discussed the situation in Berlin and in the Reich. We have no cause to be pessimistic. He is the eternal optimist.
6 August 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
In the evening a long talk with Frau von Schrder over Petersdorf [the SA leader of Berlin who had just been removed]. She vigorously defended him. His removal seems to have been the result of a conspiracy between Rhm, Helldorf and his Adjutant Ernst. I see the future of the SA as very bleak. The homosexual shadow hangs over it. A hard press campaign begins against the Plebiscite [opposing the Young Plan]. Should we win it—and I cannot believe that we will—then things will roll forward all by themselves. Should we lose it, then a terror campaign like never before will begin against us this winter.
17 August 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday evening went with Magda to the Universum, for the film Donaumont. What a horribly hard and realistic film. One feels like kneeling down before every soldier who ever fought at Verdun. And yet today, all of that is forgotten. Poor Volk! Modern war is only a slaughterhouse. It is difficult to survive in all that madness.
18 August 1931 Goebbels Diary Entry
A Hitler Youth by the name of Hoffmann has died from wounds. The only son of his mother, 17 years old. But he has fallen on the field of honor. His mother cannot even afford to bury him. I spring into action. What a horrible situation. I am quite depressed by it all.
Still pledged to a policy of "legality," and with the party reeling from scandals and divisions, Hitler seemed to have led his movement into a blind alley. Publicly, however, the NSDAP remained committed to the heretofore successful policy of legality. This approach was clearly set out in this letter from Gregor Strasser to one of the Gauleiters.
12 September 1931 Gregor Strasser to Gauleiter Dr. Schlange
Dear Party Comrade:
I acknowledge receipt of your letter of 9 September and request that you attend to the following: ...
You will surely know that for years I have strongly attacked the Steel Helmets [the conservative veteransÕ organization], for I have always adhered to the view point—and still do—that one of the most important tasks of our party is to win over our Marxist comrades (and thus we do not want to alienate them with the reactionary program of the Steel Helmets). But today an even greater task of the party is to achieve power, to counterattack by every means possible Herr Brning's systematic tactics of wearing us down. In other words, we must destroy the Brning cabinet as soon as possible.
If we were to wait until we have converted enough Social Democrats to bring down the Brning government, you and I would certainly have to age at least a decade and today's political situation would certainly have changed drastically. In other words, the acute political task facing us is to force the destruction of this government, which must be carried out with the methods, the organization, and the individuals which at pre sent are available for this purpose, regardless of how far some of them are from being able or willing to support our revolutionary goals. In other words, the road to a National Socialist government, according to the opinion of all politically informed people, insofar as it is possible to be accomplished legally, must lie through the stage of a so-called Right-Wing Cabinet. Whether or not this accords with our desires in individual points is of no importance, for the important thing is to reach our first goal, and then, firmly in control of power, to implement the principles of National Socialism on a much stronger and powerful foundation.
This is the policy of the so-called national opposition. The Fhrer himself has approved this program.... It of course goes without saying that while this national opposition must be carried out in close external cooperation with the Steel Helmets and the German Nationals [the conservative party], it must be accomplished without changing any of our own principles and our past attitudes toward these institutions.... [This cooperation] is, however, in view of the common task of the national opposition a properly conceived measure, but a measure which falls under the chapter of tactics, not under the chapter entitled principles....
In the conclusion to his book about the situation in Germany in late 1931, H.R. Knickerbocker gave a trenchant analysis of the political realities, and the successful game the Nazis were playing.
H.R.Knickerbocker "Hitlerites and Reds Imperil the German RepublicÓ (1932)
Fifty thousand Bolsheviks made the Russian revolution. Germany has an estimated six-million voters for its Communist Party. Five hundred thousand Fascists put Mussolini in power in Italy. Adolf Hitler has a possible twelve million voters behind the National Socialist Party in Ger many.... Today, at the beginning of the fourteenth year of the German Republic, its stability appears more seriously threatened than ever before. From election statistics one may gather that considerably more than a majority of the German people are against the Republic. The strength of Hitler's forces, the forces of German Fascism, is approaching the democratically decisive fifty-one percent. Against him, but against the Republic as well, are the forces of German Communism, also steadily rising, though not so fast. The two resolutely anti-Republic parties number far more than one-half of the population, if the tale of local voting holds true for the Reich.
In this critical period in the history of the Republic the critical dates crowd one another. Without counting on any violent attempt by one or another group to take power, the operation of the democratic system sets forth three immediately decisive moments in the nearest future. On any one of three dates within the next four months the German Republic may be jeopardized. On February 23 the Reichstag is due to meet. If Chancellor Heinrich Brning fails this time to carry his minority Government through, Hitler may come in. In May, by the fifth at the latest, a successor to the eighty-five-year-old Hindenburg must be chosen. It is no longer absurd to conceive that Hitler himself might become President of Germany, and it seems improbable that any one except Hindenburg could be elected President without Hitler's support.
A Hitler man in the Presidency would mean Hitler eventually master of the Reich. In May, the twentieth at the latest, Prussia, two-thirds of the Reich, must elect a new Diet. Hitler's following has increased so enormously since the Reichstag election of September 1930, that he has today at least an even chance to win more than 50 percent of the seats in the Prussian Legislature, control of the Prussian Government and therewith control of nearly half the armed forces of Germany—the Prussian police.
By the statistics and by the rules of democracy, Hitler should win. But the rules of democracy presuppose that all the voters, or at least a majority of them, are democratic and will abide by the rule of the majority. Hitler has promised to take power only by legal means. He has made no promise that he will resign if his majority becomes a minority. He has in fact promised to abolish democracy and parliamentary government the moment a democratic vote puts the instruments of power in his hands. Faced with this prospect, the present masters of the Reich and of Prussia may be forced to decide whether for the sake of the democracy it is better for democrats to establish a dictatorship or turn over power to a Fascist dictator who openly announces he will never give it back. Civil war is a conceivable outcome in any case.