The Conqueror State and Gleichschaltung
The previous chapter has examined the rather improvised way that the Weimar Constitution was set aside and new political arrangements created. Not acting from any "master-plan," these developments followed a pattern which can be more properly called "the conqueror State." Power was seized by individual Nazis or individual Nazi groups. They did this by driving out opponents in both the State and the Party. Hitler became involved only after power had been successfully conquered. Hitler did not personally participate in the process of conquest.
This chapter continues that study by concentrating on the similar process by which hundreds of non-political institutions and groups were "coordinated." Here once more orders did not come following deliberations in Berlin (or Munich) but were carried out by individuals and groups.
Gleichschaltung: Labor Unions
The issue of what to do with the formerly powerful Trade Unions occupied many people's thoughts. In particular, the conservatives urged the new government to undertake a thorough reform by State fiat.
31 March 1933 Roland Brauweiler, Executive Director of the United German Employers Association to Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen
Enclosed, please find my short essay concerning the question of trade unions. I would be very grateful if, within the next few days, I could have an opportunity to speak about this issue which you recently raised at the Herrenklub and about some other related matters. These things must be handled quickly and thoroughly, not least of all out of interest for the unity of the National Front.
Concerning the Trade Union question.
1. A quick solution is necessary ....
2. Possible solutions to consider:
a. Removal of only the privileged position of the old trade unions and establishment of full legal and factual equality for all those groups which support the present administration [i.e. Nazi and Nationalist workers clubs].
b. Creation of a united Trade Union movement through forced combination of all existing trade unions.... Decisive would be that the new employee organization be inwardly homogeneous and thoroughly reliable.
c. Creation of an inwardly reliable new trade union, made up only of those groups which support the present Administration; this union alone would have the right to engage in collective bargaining agreements etc. Similar to the [Italian Fascist] Carta del Lavoro, this would mean not only equality for the new group, but rather a clear preferential treatment instead of the old trade unions.... Should this latter take place, the more or less simultaneous dissolution of the old trade unions would most likely occur.
3. In the necessary transition period, until the new organization is fully in place, it would be desirable for the Administration to appoint Commissioners who would function as trustees for the property and institutes of the old trade unions.
As we have seen in a previous chapter, during the chaotic spring of 1933, Nazi thugs had frequently attacked Trade Union organizations, and many union leaders disappeared into Concentration Camps. But despite the pressure, the workers generally remained loyal to their old organizations. In March 1933, elections were held for work councils, and the Nazi NSBO group won only 25 percent of the vote.
Yet many Trade Union officials believed they should work out some arrangement with the new government by dropping their close ties to the SPD and adopting a strictly non-political attitude. The following resolution by the Trade Union's national organization is remarkably similar to that proposed by the Executive Director of the Employers' Union.
9 April 1933 Executive Committee Resolution of the General German Trade Union Federation
Loyal to its duty to cooperate in the construction of a social order for the Germans, in which the basic rights of the workers are secured in accordance with their importance for the state and the economy, the General German Trade Union Federation declares itself willing to place the labor force's own organization (which the trade unions have created through devoted years of activity) at the service of the new state.
The Trade Unions recognize now as before that their own freedom of action must be limited by the higher law of the State acting in its role as the representative of the whole national community. The State must have the right to intervene to regulate and establish order within the economy; its duty is to create an economic constitution which binds the economic leadership to the fulfillment of overall economic obligations, because only in this way is it possible to achieve unity between the leadership of the State and of the economy.
The Trade Unions are therefore prepared to cooperate in the corporative structure of the German economy as planned by the Government..... The ADGB welcomes the efforts to unify the trade union movement. It will therefore assist the new State in its attempt to carry out this unification and will put its experience at its disposal.
This reorganization of Trade Union law will inevitably require new State regulations and supervision of the previous self-administration of the Trade Unions. In order to ensure both that the measures planned by the Government are uniformly carried out, and that the Trade Unions can cooperate effectively, and in order to restore to the German workers and the German economy a sense of security so necessary for the interest of the community as a whole, the Executive Committee of the ADGB recommends the appointment of a Reich Commissioner for the trade Unions.
A number of Nazis however were not ready to settle for compromises. Joseph Goebbels confided to his diary in mid April
17 April Goebbels Diary Entry
Up here, I have thoroughly discussed all the urgent questions with the Fhrer. On 1 May we will organize a grandiose demonstration of the German ˙will.Ó On 2 May, all Trade Union Offices will be seized. ˙Gleichschaltung˙ must take place in this area as well. Perhaps for a few days there will be trouble, but then they will belong to us. One can no longer hesitate here. We are actually doing the workers a favor if we free them from their parasitical leaders, who have only made life difficult for the workers.
Once the Trade Unions are in our hands, the other parties and organizations will no longer be able to hold out.
The idea for this move apparently came from Robert Ley, head of a minor bureau in MunichĠs Brown House, the so-called Political Organization of the NSDAP. He had conceived a way of extending his own power base, while by-passing both the SA and State organizations. He persuaded Hitler to let him have a stab at reorganizing the working men and women of Germany. As early as 21 April 1933, he had worked out a rough plan to assume control over the Trade Unions by utilizing not the power of the State, but the muscle of the Nazi party.
21 April 1933 Robert Ley Memorandum
On Tuesday, 2 May 1933, the Gleichschaltung Action of the Trade Unions will begin. The direction of the entire operation lies of the hands of my Action Committee....
The essential operation will be directed against the General German Trade Union Federation (ADBG) and the General Independent Employees' Federation (AFA). Anything beyond that which concerns the Free Trade Unions is left to the discretion of the Gauleiters. They are responsible for the Gleichschaltung in individual areas. Those concerned in the action should be members of the National Socialist Factory Cell Organization (NSBO).
SA as well as SS units are to be employed for the occupation of Trade Union properties and for taking the concerned persons into custody. The Gauleiters are to proceed on the basis of the closest cooperation with the appropriate Gau NSBO leaders....
The following persons are to be taken into protective custody: all trade-union chairmen, the district secretaries and the branch managers of the Bank for Workers, Employees and Officials. The chairman of local committees as well as the employees of unions are not to be taken into protective custody but are to be urged to continue their work. Exceptions are to be made only with the permission of the Gauleiters.
Seizure of the independent Trade Unions must proceed in such a way that the workers and employee will not get the impression that this action is aimed at them, but, on the contrary, attacks a superannuated system which no longer conforms with the interest of the German Volk.
The provisional local leadership of the ADGB and the AFA is to be taken over by a Commissioner of the NSBO. All negotiations with state authorities and other organizations are to be immediately put into the hands of the newly-installed Commissioners. All funds and accounts of the independent Trade Unions are to be blocked immediately and to remain so until Thursday afternoon at 6:00 p.m....
Mass meetings are to be arranged as soon as possible, to be freely attended by all Trade-Union members. In these meetings, the significance of the action must be explained and it must be pointed out that the rights of workers and employees are unconditionally guaranteed....
The operation is to proceed in a highly disciplined fashion. The Gauleiters are personally responsible for this: they are to keep the direction of the operation firmly in hand.
Ley worked closely with Joseph Goebbels in the preparation of this assault. It began with one of Goebbel's most successful propaganda events: the Tempelhof Rally for the Day of German Labor, 1 May 1933
2 May 1933 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday, started off visiting Hitler at his home. He is fabulously happy. Worked in the Ministry and then off to Tempelhof Field. Fantastic multitudes. I play host to the workers of the Reich. What a joyful occasion! One couldn't get over it. Ate lunch with Hitler. Everyone is thrilled. Reception at Hindenburg's. The old Gentlemen is very nice to me. Gave a bicycle to Harald [Goebbels' step-son]. The reception was impressive. The President carried it off very well. Later, the workers hear Hitler. What splendid fellows. Transformers running red-hot all over the field. Loud-speakers are blasting. A fantastic hour, and everything in order. One and a half million people were there. Our entrance was like a triumphant procession. I opened the rally. Stood quietly there for a few minutes. What an impressive thing. Then Hitler spoke. Very well. Fantastic uprush of enthusiasm. Our ride home was a victory parade. They were still marching deep into the night. Everyone was happy. Papen and Blomberg offered me their hands. I am so tired. Still, I spent a lot of time swapping tales with Hitler. Life is so beautiful.
Our old friend and diarist Erich Ebermayer was also impressed, but not enthusiastic, for he guessed what might be coming next.
2 May 1933 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry
Another "great day" has passed. But for those of us whose hearts are not joined to the Nazis, these national holidays, which are certainly effective in welding the nation together, are more like a test of nerves. M and I fled from all of it, and just before the streets became jammed with all the parades, we escaped into the surrounding countryside.... In Berlin this great day of the German people saw a series of massive rallies. First a gathering of schoolchildren in the Pleasure Garden. President Hindenburg and Hitler moved through the ten-thousands to an overwhelming ovation.... Later workers' delegations from all over the Reich assembled at the Tempelhof airport, and were greeted by Goebbels. At noon they ate with Hitler, and afterwards were received by President Hindenburg.... In the evening, one and a half million people marched to Tempelhof Field. Goebbels opened the gathering, and then the Fhrer spoke. He was in his best form....
Now these gentlemen can again make a new move. Gradually I am beginning to understand their tactics; after every great triumph, which leads a few million more hesitating Germans to join their banner, they unleash some new and completely illegal brutality which, however, seems somehow to have been sanctioned in advance and in the general ecstasy of enthusiasm, its full effect is never noticed.
[Later that same day] The blow has already fallen. This morning early all the Labor Union offices throughout the Reich were occupied. The entire assets and property of the unions have been confiscated. Countless labor and socialist leaders have been arrested. This, therefore, is the postscript to the May Day celebrations! Even as the German workers marched home from that "grandiose demonstration to destroy class conflict," the police were marching to rob them of the fruits of decades of hard labor, to destroy their organizations, and to lock up their leaders, who have done nothing but their duty, unfortunately, they only did their duty.
But not everyone was so negative in reacting to the coordination of the trade unions.
1 May 1933 Anonymous Diary Entry ˙
I remember the first of May [in past years] as a day which always stressed the class barriers. In school and university, a few students would stay away; and they would be ridiculed the next morning as "Reds." The same held true for our factory workers, who never knew whether they could or should celebrate the socialist holiday.
Adolf Hitler, our leader, has made the first of May the holiday of labor.... Today we all marched along the streets of our city, endless columns of working people, including the managers. It was a real demonstration of unity and if this unity lasts, I think we shall have won the battle for "bread and freedom." This was the subject of Hitler's speech. which we all were listening to on the big parade grounds where the final demonstrations took place.
When we finally gathered in the factory-yard in the morning there was a surprise for all of us. The president of our corporation first assisted our youngest apprentice in hoisting the flag, and then announced that the first holiday of labor would be celebrated by giving a week's salary to every workman as a special bonus. This request had been made by Hitler personally a few days ago and big business gladly accepted the suggestions. What one strong man can do! Marie [his wife] will buy a new dress with the money. She is terrible excited and wants me to hang a picture of Hitler in our living room. Hitler certainly is a great psychologist!!!
It was not the Federal or State governments which seized the trade union offices, indeed the whole plan to do so was never discussed in the Cabinet. Hitler probably did not know the details of what Ley intended, but Goebbels was certainly in on the secret.
3 May 1933 Goebbels Diary Entry
As agreed upon beforehand, the unions have been systematically occupied. No incidents worth mentioning. The union bosses have been arrested. The whole thing went off like clockwork. The revolution marches on ... Afternoon, picnic in the forest, then off to home. Magda [his wife] and I spend the whole evening at Hitler's. The press reports [of the 1 May rally] are great. The union leadership is bombarded once again. The union bosses capitulate. We are the masters of Germany.
Hitler may have been kept in the dark because the whole thing might have fizzled; that would explain Goebbels' unrestrained glee. In any case, the entire action was unauthorized and illegal. In a pattern which was to be repeated constantly in the Third Reich, legitimation of illegal actions came only after the fact. Weeks later an improvised decree was passed which did not recognize Ley's new empire, but instead created a new institution, the Trustees of Labor, who were empowered to serve as a sort of final authority in regulating wages and collective agreements. But there was little economic reasoning for this new group, and no political rationale.
Five years later, in a revealing speech, Robert Ley gave an account of the hectic improvisation of these early days. Although the speech is filled with exaggerations, especially in regards to the "Fhrer's orders," it gives a frank insight into the disorganized nature of the Gleichschaltung process.
11 September 1937 Robert Ley Speech
When in April 1933 I received the order from the Fhrer to take over the Trade Unions, I did not receive it because I was an expert on the Trade Unions. I hardly knew how many trade unions there were and I did not know the differences between them. I knew least of all about the way in which they were financed, about their structure and about their economic enterprises. In a word, I went there as a layman and I think I was myself more surprised than anyone to have been given the job. It was not as if we had a complete program that we could haul out and according to which we could set up the Labor Front. Instead I received the Fhrer's order to take over the Trade Unions and then I had to see what I could make of it.
As you know, we were not given a legal status, we were not integrated in the State in any way. On the contrary, after the take-over of the Trade Unions, I went to the Fhrer a few days later to report that I had taken over all the unions. When I said that it was now time for us to receive a legal status and be recognized by the State as the Labor Front, the Fhrer replied in his benevolent, fatherly way: "Let us wait and see what becomes of this changeling." He did not want to give legal status to a chaos that was not yet sorted itself out, he did not want to create a public corporation with a constitution and statutes. The Fhrer indicated that this had to develop first.
I can say to you frankly, party comrades, that I felt embittered and defeated then because I saw how everyone else was getting laws and then developing their organizations on the basis of these laws. At the time, I almost thought that the Fhrer mistrusted me since he did not give me the same.
When we took over the Trade Unions, what did we find, what was there in existence. Ideologically speaking, class warfare was anchored in the Trade Unions and they lived off this. On the one side stood the employers' associations, on the other side the employees' associations. The whole thing was seen as ordained by God. Nobody would ever have doubted that the Lord himself wanted it this way and that this could not be changed, that this was a natural law: that there were classes, that one had to recognized these classes, that they fight one another and that they each had to represent their interests as parties confronting one another.
Ideologically speaking, that was the state of affairs which we found. Apart from that, there was ideological chaos and muddled ideas about a corporate system. This was true of all of us. If two National Socialists met and talked about the corporate system, there were bound to be ten different opinions, because each of these two had so many opinions on the corporate system. In practice, I have never met two National Socialists who were of one opinion on the corporate system. It was a real catastrophe in June and July 1933. I can tell you I did not sleep for several nights on account of the corporate system; I could not make heads or tails of it and I began to believe I was more stupid than the others. But I did not want to accept this. So I bought all sorts of colored pencils and made drawings and plans for days and nights on end. There were conferences; the others kept quiet and pretended to be unwilling to reveal their knowledge. They pretended to be very clever. This corporate system turned out to be an absolute chaos of ideas, a complete muddle.
I then tried to study Othmar Spann [an Austrian professor who advocated corporatism]. But he is unclear and confused like Marx. It is the language of the Jew, the old Moses which no German can understand; it is the language of Bolshevism and the Jew, the language of the Jesuit, the language and learning of Jesuit Rome which he speaks, mixed up with bits of National Socialist thought, of completeness and unity, and then again with Marxist thought, in short, a philosophical muddle which nobody understands. In a word, I was very unhappy during those days of June, July and August 1933.
As a third source of ideas, there was the NSBO, a Party institution, the factory cell organization of the party. I must confess that until then I had dealt with it only on business. It was subordinate to me in my function as Inspector [of the Political Organization of the Party] under Strasser and I had the task of supervising it, of authorizing or not authorizing circulars and of supervising the finances, etc.. I did not do all these things with great enthusiasm. Something prevented me from taking it seriously. Now I know what stopped me then. I can tell you today: the NSBO was, ideologically speaking, just as badly constructed. It did not fit into our National Socialist ideology and it was intentionally constructed like that by Herr Strasser. It was intended to become his power base and serve his treason. So he vetoed employers joining it. If it is intended to be a factory cell, the employer must of course be represented as well. That is quite clear.
Thus the NSBO was essentially founded on the lines of class warfare just like the Trade Unions. ... So at that time I found: the class struggle in its purest form.
So Ley decided to create his own power base, an organization he called the DAF, German Workers' Front. In doing so, he fought a constant war with the SA, with the ministerial bureaucracy of the State, and with employer organizations who wanted to neutralize any powerful working class voice. In late November 1933, Ley finally reach a compromise with the State bureaucrats, and the decree which set up the DAF detailed only vague and rather narrow powers for Ley's group. We shall have occasion later on in this collection to discuss the effective workings of the German Workers' Front.
The seizure of the Trade Unions (and their property) was only the most spectacular and earliest example of Gleichschaltung applied outside of a political group. The next set of documents show how it worked in education.
Gleichschaltung in the Youth and Education˙
On 5 April 1933, Baldur von Schirach, leader of the Hitler Youth, using some SA men and a handful of teenagers from the Hitler Youth, seized the Berlin headquarters of the Reich Committee of German Youth Associations. This central organizations represented 135 different youth groups, with a combined membership of more than 5 million boys and girls. An eyewitness account of the incident has survived. ˙
Postwar Account of 5 April 1933 incident
District Leader Karl Nabersberg [of the Hitler Youth] ordered guards at the doors of the building, and then led the rest of his raiding party into the house. Behind him marched a young boy carrying an old carbine. Frau Helen Gehse was sitting in the office of the Committee of German Youth Associations which was being seized on orders of Baldur von Schirach. She recalls that there were also two secretaries, a book-keeper, and a few other clerks. Frau Gehse identified herself as the representative of the Committee. Nabersberg rudely demanded to speak to the Executive Committee. Frau Gehse said she regretted that the committee men, who served in an honorary capacity, did not keep regular office hours and were, in fact, seldom in the building. Nabersberg angrily demanded that Herman Maass, the Executive Secretary, should be fetched at once.
At the moment, Hermann Maass was visiting Major General Ludwig Vogt, the President of the Committee in his home in Wilmersdorf. Maass had originally been a leader in the Socialist Workers Youth Organization, and like Frau Gehse and other officials of the Committee, he was a member of the Social Democratic Party.
When Hermann Maass arrived, he was received with charges and threats. He attempted to answer, but Nabersberg screamed: "Don't make any of your speeches here! Pack up your stuff and take it home with you."
"I will never forget," Frau Gehse recalls, "the sad and death-like look Hermann Maass cast on Nabersberg.... I myself received the order to stay quietly in my room. A small Hitler Youth was ordered to stand watch over me, but he seemed ill at ease with the situation. In any case, he asked me very shyly if it was all right for him to throw his sandwich wrapper into my wastepaper basket."
In the meantime, Nabersberg and his group swept through all the rooms. Numerous official publications of the Committee and all the back issues of its magazine, Young Germany. were confiscated. In order to do their work undisturbed, our five employees were sent home on a three-day vacation.
"When I returned to the office," Frau Gehse reports, "Nabersberg called me into his office, lay a pistol on the desk in front of him, and asked me if I was ready to continue to work under his leadership. In the meantime, I had met Hermann Maass, and at his advice I agreed to stay at my job. Maass thought it important for him to be kept informed [through Frau Gehse] of the developments in the office, and especially what activity would be undertaken against the groups of the Reichs Committee."
The Executive Committee protested the seizure of its property to the Ministry of the Interior, but to no avail. A few days later, Schirach justified his illegal action in a proclamation, insisting that he was only seeking to unite all the youth of Germany.
On 17 June 1933, Hitler retrospectively legitimatized Schirach's move by naming him "Youth Leader of the German Reich." His functions, however, were left unclear, as well as his legal powers. But Schirach was quick to move. Within the next three days, SA and Hitler Youth leaders, often with drawn revolvers, took over all the principal Youth Organizations. They used for their move the documents seized in the Reich Committee of German Youth Associations. Only after this forced seizure was an official decree issued.
22 June 1933 Baldur von Schirach Proclamation
The Youth Leader of the German Reich, Baldur von Schirach, has published the following order:
1. The Greater German League [the largest Youth Organization outside the Hitler Youth], together with its sub- and member organizations is dissolved. This action includes the following:
a. Free Band of the Young Nation
b. German Free Band
c. German Boy Scout League
d. The Geusses organizations
e. Community German Boy Scouts
f. Regional German Boy Scouts
g. German Boy Scout Corps
h. Free Band of Protestant Boy Scouts
2. The Reich Committee of German Youth Associations is dissolved herewith. Previous tasks of the Reich Committee will be taken over into the expanded sphere of tasks of the Reich Youth Leader.
3. All Youth Organizations in Germany are to report immediately to the Youth Leader of the German Reich. Groups which do not report, or report only incompletely, by 15 July 1933, are to be considered as dissolved.... Reports are to be submitted by the top leadership for the entire organization.... It is mandatory that the report contains:
a. name of the society (with accurate information about its legal status);
b. board of directors (names, residences, telephone numbers);
< c. information about persons authorized to represent the society;
d. office of the society (telephone);
e. banking and checking accounts, with names of authorized signatures;
f. accurate membership figures;
g. constitution of the society;
h. information about the organizational structure insofar as it is not contained in the constitution;
i. information about the chairmen of districts, regional, state, or other sub-divisions.
4. The tasks of the Youth Leader of the German Reich can only be accomplished with the help and contributions of all affiliated organizations. The amount of these contributions will be fixed in the very near future.
By this kind of action, the central office identified and removed key leaders in each group, and levied fees to control the treasuries of each society. This is a typical way that Gleichschaltung occurred. Most of the action was voluntary for the organizations contacted simply complied with this ÒdecreeÓ! After the war, Schirach was candid about his authority in issuing this decree.˙
Post-war Memoirs of Baldur von Schirach
In fact, the Greater German League [and its member groups] was the only Youth Organization which I ever formally dissolved. I had no legal authority to do that. But all I had to do was publish my decree ordering its dissolution in the press, and the thing was accepted as an accomplished fact. Actually, it was all a bluff. But elsewhere it was not so easy, and I had to figure that it would take years before I would be able to unite all the Youth Organizations into a single Movement.
Nevertheless, the process was completed within a few months. The large Protestant Youth Association, for example, was merged with the Hitler Youth in December 1933, when the newly elected Lutheran Reichs Bishop worked out the following agreement.
December 1933 Agreement between Baldur von Schirach and Reichs Bishop Ludwig Muller ˙
Young men of the Evangelical Youth Movement, who are under 18, will be enrolled at once in the Hitler Youth. Whoever refused to be a member of the Hitler Youth may no longer continue as a member in the Evangelical Youth Movement.
All members of the Evangelical Youth Movement will henceforth wear the uniform of the Hitler Youth....
On two afternoons every week, and on two Sundays every month, the Evangelical Youth Movement will be free to hold its own educational and religious activities. If necessary, members will be released for these days from their other organized activities.
Similarly, for all members of the Evangelical Youth Movement, service in the Hitler Youth will be limited to two week day afternoons, and two Sundays in the month....
For all this success, however, Schirach, like Ley before him, could not persuade Hitler to create a State Youth Organization. That victory would come only much later.
One of the most important Gleichschaltung processes occurred in the school systems of Germany. Similar to the United States, the public schools of Germany were under the control of the local states, not the Federal Government. When, as a result of the events of March, the state governments were either taken over by Nazis, or dissolved and replaced by Nazi Party leaders appointed as Federal Commissioners, the school system was suddenly open to NSDAP pressures. The chief force in the Gleichschaltung of the schools was the National Socialist Teachers Union (NSLB). In most states, the district leader of the NSLB simply assumed the post of Inspector of the Schools. Using the Federal Decree for the Preservation of the Professional Civil Service, these Nazi Inspectors then conducted a thorough purge of the schools. In Prussia for example, 118 of the 529 School Superintendents were fired and replaced. Baden removed 78.
26 June 1933 NSLB Leader Hehl to Minister of Schools (and Gauleiter of East Bavaria) Schemm
[Letter contains a Black List, identifying undesirable Superintendents, with comments such as]: must go; is unacceptable to us; fanatic democrat.
For me it is personality which counts, and only after that educational experiences and special qualifications. We need personalities upon whom we can rely, who won't stab us in the back at some future time. After all, a Superintendent of Schools doesn't need all that much pedagogical knowledge.
On their own initiative and without any authorization from the State, Nazi Party leaders issued quite specific orders to these new Inspectors of schools.
June 1933 Gauleiter of Middle Franconia to a new District Inspector of Schools
You are herewith named as inspector of schools for the district of [ }. effective immediately. The previous district inspector will be available during the next week for your assistance and training. Up till now, you have been a National Socialist, and certainly you will continue to be one. But in your new job, you will be first of all a National Socialist, and only then an inspector of schools and official of the school system. Your task is precisely defined: to politicize, that is Nazify, the schools within your district as soon as possible. For National Socialism is the essence of what it means to be German. Don't be soft. If any German teacher or educator is currently not doing their duty, they have already separated themselves thereby from the German People. Don't fear that you might be going too far. Rather, fear not doing enough.
The majority of these new Inspectors were old party members, many also members of the SA and they were enthusiastic in their actions encouraging Nazi teachers.
July 1933 Inspector of Schools for Middle Franconia to a National Socialist Teacher
Through your membership in the NSDAP you have aided the Movement to reach our victory.... Thus you have the honor to be numbered among the liberators of the German people. And from today on, you will enjoy the honor of bearing the symbol of the new German Reich at all times. I desire that all National Socialist teachers, beginning today, appear at the posts in the Brown Uniform [of the SA].
And warning those teachers who were not National Socialists...
Director of Schools for Middle Franconia to All Teachers and Superintendents, July 1933
I have assumed, on orders, the leadership of the entire Middle Franconian school system. I expect that all the officials and teachers of this system will take special care that no disturbance or disorder disrupts the educational process. It would be too easy to simply dismiss recent events as accomplished facts. That is precisely what happened in November 1918. Then too, a large percentage of the officials came to accept rapidly the altered political circumstances. And what happened thereafter might happen again to us.... But make no mistake. This is not just another cabinet change! ... Try to understand that a whole new system has arrived....
Whoever has true insight and is dedicated to his profession as an educator of the German youth will greet with joy the new political relationships. But in any case, let everyone know that democracy has been set aside for good, and in its place a Dictatorship has emerged. And everyone knows what a Dictatorship means: a simple either/or. Either submit, or be broken. But everything and anything that now happens does not occur individually, or just for some principle, but only for the entire German people. Teachers in the public schools were always teachers of the people. Today, for the first time, teachers can truly function according to the highest goal of the National Socialist Dictatorship: the well- being of the whole before the well-being of the individual.
The impact of the "coordinated" schools can be seen in two interesting memoirs by former students.
Postwar Account Hans Gunter Zmarzlik, who was 11 when Hitler took power
Our Principal was a National Socialists, an "old fighter," who shortly after the Seizure of Power was given his chance [by being abruptly promoted]. He was not beloved, but also not hated. He was making a good career for himself, was narrow-minded, but well-intentioned. There were many in Germany who were making careers out of being a Nazi....
And our teachers? Only a few were dedicated National Socialists, but most of them were more or less German National or Youth-Movement Conservative by instinct. The furthest "Left" among the teachers in my school only went so far as a man who had once been a member of the German People's Party [a moderate liberal Party of professionals and businessmen]. He considered himself culturally emancipated, but insisted on separating his humanism from politics. One day in 1936, for example, he said in class: "Now, Heine [a famous German poet who was Jewish] can't be officially mentioned, but his poem Balsazar is so good that we are going to learn it anyway." Still, this same teacher also took particular pleasure in telling about Fascist practices in Italy, especially when they dragged political opponents from their beds, tied up their pants, forced castor-oil into them, and then make them run around for hours. I found this story vile, and said so. He said I was just too emotional, and did not understand the hard necessities of politics....
On one of the walls of the school stood the frequently cited quotation from the Fhrer; "Whoever lives, also is struggling. And he who will not struggle in this world of eternal strife, does not deserve to live." Our teachers made this quotation quite plausible for us. Almost all of them had been front-line fighters or at least soldiers in the First World War, and then became teachers only after a crash course following the war. They were always only too happy to interrupt the classes in order to discuss their war-time experiences, and loved to talk constantly about battle scenes and the comradeship of the front, in victory and defeat. It appeared [to us] that they were not at all fond of peace.
Among the required assignments in our German classes were large doses of World War literature. But even on our own, we students loved to devour these books, ... in which the front-line comradeship triumphed over the horrors of the battle scenes, and whoever dies, had received at least the Iron Cross [for courage].... The UFA films, which we saw on our own and in school presented the same picture. As students and not even National Socialists, we were willing cannon fodder, and were certainly being prepared for a Second World War.
There was no room for any dissenting opinion. For example, I found in my father's library a copy of Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front, which stressed a quite different side of the war. I proposed, one day, to discuss that book in my German class. But the teacher avoided the theme. "It is not helpful to examine [Remarque's point of view]. Suppose we had all participated in a swimming meet, and had won many prizes, but unfortunately in the process a few participants had been injured in a fall from the diving board. [Remarque] treats only that side of the war." Naturally all of us, teachers as well as students, had been caught up in the wake of the great successes of the new government. We were bedazzled by Germany's recovery of power.
If the teacher in Zmarzlik's school had needed very little pressure to conform to a common line, resistance, as described in the next memoir, was almost always in vain.
Postwar Account Erich Dressler, a high-school student when Hitler took power
The Paulsen High School was an old-fashioned, snobbish institution. The teachers there paid no attention whatsoever to the Fhrer's motto that "the formation of character is more important than the formation of intellect." They continued to plague us with Latin and Greek, instead of introducing subjects which we might have been able to put to use. We students were determined not to be intimidated by this out-of-date attitude, and we said so to our teachers to their face. They didn't reply, because I believe they were a little afraid of us, but they also did not change their teaching methods. So we were forced to take further action.
It actually was quite simple. Should the Latin teacher give us a huge section from Caesar to translate, we simply did not do it, and explained later that we could not do so because that afternoon we had to attend meetings of the Hitler Youth. One of the old farts one day gathered together all his nerve and scolded the class. This was reported at once to our Hitler Youth Group Leader, who went to see the Principal and demanded that the teacher be fired. Our Group Leader was only 16, but as a leader of the Hitler Youth he said he could not tolerate anything which might hinder the performance of our Hitler Youth activities, which were, after all, much more important than our school work. From that day onward, we had no more trouble about homework. If we didn't feel like doing it, then somehow we always had some "Hitler Youth activity" that had to be done, and nobody dared say anything about it.
For teachers who had survived a purge because of their past political ties, and who somehow managed to accommodate the brats of the Hitler Youth, there still remained the on-going fear of being simply dismissed because of denunciations. "Teacher X did not rise during the playing of the Horst Wessel song;" "Teacher Y spends too much time praising the Church and the Hapsburgs;" "Principal Dr. Frieda Sander, apart from a question concerning her ability as an educator, should be removed at once because from a political point of view, a female principal is a contradiction in terms. A Principal must possess all the qualifications of a political leader ... and a woman whose strength lies in quite a different area, can never be a political leader." ˙
The number of teachers actually removed varied widely. In Franconia, for example, only 53 teachers were fired in the whole district, and 14 of these were soon rehired. But in Hamburg, where broad democratic reforms had been introduced into the schools during the Republic, 637 teachers were removed between 1933 and 1935. This action was widely praised because numerous young teachers, who had been out of work for years, were promoted. Naturally, they became enthusiastic supporters of the new state.
A similar process was going on in the Universities. Again, the lead was taken by local groups of National Socialists, in this case the NS Student League.˙
19 April 1933 National Socialist Student League Proclamation
We have no respect for clever monks in their quiet cells, when the future of German universities is at stake. The university can no longer accommodate the private individual either in the shape of a lecturer or in the shape of a student. It is precisely in this shift against the private individual, against this emissary from bourgeois society, the breeding ground of liberalism, who is high on education; it is precisely in this shift that the new university distinguishes itself fundamentally from the "autonomous" educational academies of a liberal Republic.
Fired by such zeal, Nazi students led boycotts of undesirable (notably liberal and Jewish) professors. With the passage of the Law for the Re-establishment of the Professional Civil Service (7 April 1933), the State responded with a thorough purge. In the year following the winter semester of 19332, 1,145 professors (15% of the 7,758 tenured university teachers) were dismissed. About 30% of these dismissals were for racial grounds, and 56% for political unreliability. An additional 541 librarians, researchers and museum personnel were also dismissed.
In general, the university faculty offered little or no help to their purged colleagues. On the contrary, from the beginning, many professors hoped for benefits from the new government, either for themselves or their often unemployed graduate students. On 11 November 1933, 700 Professors signed a declaration supporting Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist State. Even the most distinguished University representatives were quick to fall in line.
May 1933 Martin Heidegger Speech on becoming Dean of the Faculty at Freiburg University
The much-praised "academic freedom" shall be driven out of Germany's universities, for this freedom, being merely negative, is not genuine. What it meant primarily was unconcern, a capricious exercise of intentions and inclinations; it was non-commitment. The concept of a German student's freedom is now being returned to its true meaning. From this true meaning future bonds and obligations of the German student shall devolve.
The first bond is that with the national community. It imposes an obligation to take part, in thought and deed, in the endeavors, the desires, and the skills of all classes and all members of the nation. This bond shall henceforth be firmly established, and rooted in the student existence, by the Labor Service.
The second bond is that with the honor and fate of the nation in the midst of other nations. It demands a readiness -- secured by skill and education and firmed by discipline -- to put one's very life in the scales. This bond shall embrace and penetrate all student existence as Military Service.
The third student bond is that with the spiritual mission of the German people. This nation determines its fate while living its historical existence under the evident sign of the superiority of the political forces that shape the human condition, and while ever struggling anew for the attainment of its spiritual world. Thus exposed to the extreme precariousness of its own existence, this nation wishes to be a spiritual nation. It demands of itself, and for itself in its leaders and guardians, the hardest clarity of the highest, widest, richest knowledge. This will be demonstrated in education, in the Knowledge Service....
These three bonds -- bonds that reach from the people to the fate of the nation in its spiritual mission -- all emanate equally from the German soul. The three services to which they give life -- Labor Service, Military Service, Knowledge Service -- are equally essential and of equal rank....
The academic discussion of a new kind of university did not remain pure theory; numerous individuals were anxious to have a whole new student body.
9 August 1933 Decree of the Prussian Minister for Science, Art and Education
In extension of my decree of 29 June 1933, I order that all students in Prussian colleges and universities, who in the last years demonstrably participated in Marxist (Communist or Social-Democratic) or otherwise anti-National groups, are to be immediately dismissed from their university studies.... A student's membership in a particular political party (with the exception of the Communist Party) is not sufficient grounds alone to justify a charge of Marxists or other anti-National behavior. This also includes those cases where the student is an enrolled member of one of the concerned parties, to which he paid dues and attended their rallies.
The preconditions for a charge of engaging in Marxist or other anti-National behavior are specifically fulfilled if a student has come forward in a hateful fashion (in word, writings or other special behavior) against the National Movement, slandered its Fhrer, or persecuted, degraded or otherwise sought to damage national-minded fellow students. Especially damaging in this area would be membership in pacifist, treasonable or similar organizations (for example, the "German Peace Society.").
A few months later, the philosopher Heidegger recently appointed President of his University, struck a blow where students would most feel it.
3 November 1933 Rector Martin Heidegger on Financial Support for all Students in Baden
Students who during the last few years have fought for the national revolution in the SA, SS or other armed formations are entitled, upon submission of a certificate signed by their superiors, to special consideration in the award of financial support (tuition remission, stipends, etc.) On the other hand, no awards may henceforth be given to Jewish or Marxist students.˙
A good insight into how quickly the Gleichschaltung of the Universities occurred comes from the war-time memoirs of a German Theologian who fled from Bonn University in 1938.
Memoirs of Professor Paul E. Kahle
Up to the Nazi period the Senate of the Universities and the individual Faculties had been kinds of small Parliaments, where every [faculty] member had a vote and decisions were [taken] by majority. The Rector [President] was elected by the majority of the Senate, the Deans by majorities of the individual faculties. They had to act according to the decisions of these bodies. The Nazis abrogated the parliamentary system. Nobody had any more right to vote, the Rector being the Fhrer of the University and the Deans the Fhrer of their schools. The candidates for these posts were no longer proposed by a majority vote. The Rector was nominated by his predecessor and approved by the Minister, and he had to act according to instructions received from the Nazi Minister and authorities of the Party, and the Deans were selected by the Rector and had to follow the orders given by him. Rectors and Deans were nominated for a longer period, their offices not being restricted to one year as in pre-Nazi times. It is clear that only Nazis could get these posts. The faculty was assembled by the Dean from time to time, but no voting took place. There was only a discussion in the presence of the Dean, and nobody could foresee what he was going to do. He was responsible to the Rector and to the Party.
The result of this practice was that the Professors who wee not Nazis--and that was the great majority -- disassociated themselves as far as possible from faculty and university activities, where they were completely unable to change anything, and limited themselves to teaching and research work; they only came to the meetings of the faculty when there were on the program matters which which they were directly concerned. The following example may show the way in which matters were handled by university authorities.
Dr. Wener Eichhorn, a Sinologist ... had spent some years in China ... and published a number of learned articles and essays which were appreciated by experts.... He applied for appointment as an Assistant Professor of Chinese in the [Arts and Science] Faculty. His book-length monograph had been accepted, and he had passed a Colloquium before the faculty. He had also passed the training in the "NS Teaching Assistant Camp," with success. His last hurdle was the Inauguration lectures, a series of three hour-lectures given on different days on a subject chosen by him and approved by the Faculty. The audience consisted of members of the faculty presided over by the Dean, the Rector, the Fhrer of the Teaching Assistants, and the Fhrer of the Student Government, all people interested in the appointment. What Eichhorn said was interesting, quite original and the result of studies on Chinese texts. But it was not so easy to follow the lectures, so it was not surprising that the Rector (an Ophthalmologist) ... and the Fhrer of the Teaching Assistants (a Mineralogist) and the Fhrer of the Student Government, (a student who had been sent to Bonn for his qualities as a decided Nazi) did not understand much of the lectures. After the last lecture, before any of the experts of the faculty were able to say anything, the Rector , supported by the two Fhrers, declared in a loud voice ... that these lectures which they did not understand were not sufficient and that the candidate could not be accepted as an Assistant Professor. My remarks that Eichhorn was able to read and interpret Chinese texts and that this was more important for a Sinologist than to give lectures for a general public ... did not help. The three Fhrers of the University had decided the fate of the candidate. They had no time for any further discussion, and the faculty was left no opportunity of saying anything....
Apparently, the faculty could live with this blow to their authority. The following document describes a marvelously symbolic confrontation in the university city of Erlangen.
Postwar Memoirs of Wolfgang Trillhaas ˙
In March 1933 we realized that an epoch had come to an end.... The [grand wise old man] not only of our faculty but of the whole university, Theodor von Zahn, died on 15 March 1933, at 95 years of age. On 17 March he was laid to rest with a funeral cortege that stretched on endlessly. The entire teaching staff was present in full academic robes, and a huge number of clergy. As we approached the Train Station, the procession had to stop since the crossing gates were down and there was no subway passage. Suddenly, right next to our solemn funeral procession a train drew up and stopped; it was composed entirely of freight-cars filled with the arrested leaders of the Socialist Party (some with head-bandages) being transported to prison. And for a few minutes, the representatives of the establishment, the university, the church and the State gazed at this sign of what was to come. But "their eyes looked inward," so no one really saw what stood before us.
Memoirs of Professor Paul E. Kahle
I do not remember having heard of any activity by the NS Student League in Bonn before the Nazis came to power. But the Nazis accomplished a complete Nazification of the students in the course of a few years in the following ways:
1. Many students, perhaps the majority, came from the Hitler Youth where they had become more or less convinced Nazis.
2. Every student had to attend the Reich Labor Service before he was allowed to begin his studies in a university. The RAF was organized according to Nazi methods.
3. All students had to join the SA, and to take part in its exercises. They were not forced to do so, but the majority were expected to do it.
4. All the fraternities of the students were abolished by the Nazis. The students were forbidden to meet together, except in meetings arranged by the Nazis. All the houses and all the properties of the former fraternities were confiscated by the Nazis and converted into centers of Nazi organizations.
5. The departmental caucuses were taken over by Nazi students. Every student had to become a member of one of the caucuses, and here he was controlled by a Nazi who was made head of the caucus and who selected his collaborators.
6. All student voting was abrogated, as everywhere in Germany. A Student Fhrer was sent from [Party Offices] in Berlin to each university, a student himself. This man was carefully selected by the Reichs Student Fhrer (Dr.Scheel) who was responsible to the party for the Nazification of the universities. This Student Fhrer became automatically the head of student government at the University and was responsible to the Reichs Student Fhrer in Berlin. Even the Rector had no influence in his nomination. The Student Fhrer had to act as a kind of supervisor of the University, and had in a way more influence that the Rector himself. Together with the Rector and the Fhrer of the Teaching Assistants, he was the most influential man in the University. He selected his collaborators from the decided Nazi students, and by this Nazi Student government, every student of the University was controlled.
With control of university appointments exercised by a select group, it was not surprising that academic careers became precarious. Promotions and appointments were almost entirely arbitrary, and within a few years, there was a serious shortage of young academics. The following complaint by the Rector of University of Berlin was shared by many.
15 December 1937 Rector Hoppe Comments at a Conference of University Rectors, Marburg
I must emphatically stress the need to establish that the candidate's academic ability is entirely adequate. I do not deny that the candidate's ideological and political attitude must be guaranteed, but if it is given priority and if academic knowledge is lacking, we may end up with problems none of us want. Academic ability is undoubtedly above all the main requirements.
Gleichschaltung was not limited to institutions like the public schools and universities, but extended to even the most insignificant private organizations.
20 September 1933 Speech and Resolution of the German Mathematical Association in its annual convention in Leipzig
We wish thus to conform to the spirit of the total state, and to cooperate loyally and honestly.
Unconditionally and joyfully, we place ourselves -- as is a matter of course for every German -- at the service of the National Socialist movement and behind its leader, our Chancellor Adolf Hitler. And we hope that we have something to offer. What mathematics and natural science offer for political education in today's state will be indicated later in the address by Senior Academic Counselor Ernst Tiedge.
But we also know that even in a merely advisory capacity, we are in a position to be heard only if in external matters, too, we adapt ourselves to the demands of the Movement. Hence, we decided to submit these three points for your approval:
1. The leadership principle [Fhrerprinzip]. We are to elect a leader, who is to bear the sole responsibility [in the German Mathematical Association].
2. The leader then will appoint his assistants, and especially the members of a leader's council [Fhrerrat]. In so doing, he shall be obliged to observe the requirements of Aryan ancestry in the strictest form, i.e. as they apply to leading government officials.
3. The Association's board is to be dissolved. It is the prerogative of the leader to organize that institution in a new form.
In one institution after another, party members bullied or persuaded the group to put them in charge, to replace democratic procedures with the Fhrerprinzip and to combine numerous local clubs with a more streamlined "little empire" under Nazi leadership. This applied even to Tennis Clubs.
4 August 1933 Neu Isenburg Newspaper Report
After the coordination of the First Neu-Isenburg Tennis Club Inc. and the nomination of Bank Manager [and prominent Nazi] Heinz Schmidt as leader, the first combined membership meeting of the two previously existing tennis clubs, which have been amalgamated to form the tennis club "Red-White" Neu-Isenburg, took place in the upper hall of the Gymnastics Club 1861. The numerous members who attended warmly approved the minutes of the combined committee meeting of 27 July and declared themselves to be in agreement with the proposed re-naming of the club. The leader, Heinz Schmidt, then nominated the new committee.
If it made little sense for the Mathematical Association or the Tennis Club to become "coordinated," what can be said about the rabbit-breeders who hastened to infuse their society with National Socialists principles. ˙
Joseph Filler, Our Rabbits
Since the National Socialist assumption of power, German rabbit breeding has made unheard of progress; German rabbit breeding received a new aim. The people concerned with it were imbued with new organizational and eugenic impulses. For the first time, a generally valid basis was given to breeding and keeping rabbits, which raised rabbit breeding from the un-organic state of former times to a major economic factor....
Even the smallest groups were not overlooked.˙
5 September 1933 Activity Report of local Nazi group Theisenort, Kronach County
The war veterans association was gleichgeschaltet on 7 August 1933, and the Singing Club of Theisenort on 7 August 1933. It was not necessary for the Shooting Club of Theisenort, because the leadership and member ship are already 80% party members. General situation: quiet. Counter-revolutionary measures or attempts at any disturbance or slander, are not apparent. Relations between individual party members is hearty!
3 January 1934 Activity Report of local Nazi group Lauenstein, Kronach County
From the various organizations in the area, only the veterans group and the German Athletic Club, as well as the Singing Club have been gleichgeschaltet. But letters have been sent to the Volunteer Fire Department, the Red Cross, the Goat Insurance Association, and Christmas Club Thrift Society requesting them to become gleichgeschaltet. Until now, the Gleichschaltung of these organizations has not taken place; they are, however, small groups, and should carry it out by themselves. So far, however, they have not done so.
Thanks to the work of a Canadian historian Lawrence D. Stokes, we have an extraordinarily rich collection of primary sources from the small North-German town of Eutin, outside of Lbeck. These documents clearly show that the Gleichschaltung
process was at work in every nook and cranny of Eutin society.
13 April 1933 Letter from the Eutin branch of the NS Union of German Victims of the War to the Eutin Town Government
In March 1930, the NS Union of German Victims of the War was founded in Lbeck Province and especially here in Eutin. It considered one of its most important tasks to be the recruiting of those misled veterans who belonged to the [rival, SPD-associated] Reichs League for Disabled Veterans, War Participants, and Veterans' Dependents. ˙ In this task we were largely unsuccessful.
Since the formation of the Hitler Government, the Reichs League has become strongly involved with political actions, although according to its Constitution it is supposed to be politically neutral. In reality, the Reichs League can be considered only a subordinate arm of the SPD. In its national publications, they have printed articles critical of Hitler's administration. Our recently formed National Socialist Union of Victims of the War and Reichs Union of German Victims of the War, is a thorn in the side for the Reichs League. Now they have had recourse to using methods of intimidation and lies and slanders. German veterans, especially those who are still members of the Reichs League, are being stirred up, strongly hindering the achieving of the great goal of the National Socialist Union, which is to unite all German veteran organizations into one German War Victim Organization. The local office of the National Socialist Union of German War Victims requests the Eutin Government to dissolve the Reichs League, since it operates not in a national, but rather in an international sense, and thus can no longer be considered representative of German veterans. Further, we request that all property and possessions of the Reichs League be confiscated and used to meet the needs of the impoverished war victims in Lbeck Province.
The town government could not legally dissolve the Reichs League, but it did the next best thing.
21 April 1933 Eutin Town Government Letter to the East-Holstein Branch of the Reichs League for Disabled Veterans, War Participants, and Veterans' Dependents
The town and county government consider their concept of national duty and social conscience to be irreconcilable to accepting petitions from any Marxist-oriented organization. Although the Reichs League for Disabled Veterans, War Participants, and Veterans' Dependents will still be recognized as a legal organization, the town government has decided that as of 22 April, they will no longer respond to any petitions from them. In order that your membership might not loose all of their legal rights, we advise you in the future to address all your petitions and proposals to the National Socialist Union of War Victims Inc, who have agreed to protect the rights of all wounded veterans, regardless of whether they are members of their organization.
On 31 May 1933, the Reichs League dissolved itself, and urged their members to join the Nazi veterans' organization. 200 veterans apparently followed this advice and joined the Nazi group.
Most active in pushing the Gleichschaltung of small clubs and business groups was an organization with the typical Nazi title of "Combat League of Middle-Class Tradespeople." Founded in 1927 by Alfred Rosenberg, it considered itself a "cultural SA," and aimed at eliminating the influence of big department stores, consumer cooperatives, and the cliques of prominent commercial families which had traditionally dominated the social and economic life of small and middle-sized towns. With more than 550,000 members in 1933, this Combat League organized boycotts and interfered with business and clubs.
Although it had a national headquarters in Berlin, with its own Reichs Fhrer, initiatives for actions always began locally, and were then sanctioned by the national office. Frequently, however, State and Party officials were alarmed at the disruptions caused by local Combat Leagues.
13 May 1933 Protest of Reich Commissioner for the Economy, Head of the Economic Department of the NSDAP, and Fhrer of the Combat League
The organization of the Combat League of Middle Class Tradespeople is an instrument for carrying out specific economic duties and the setting of these tasks is the sole responsibility of the leadership of the Reich Combat League.
Under no circumstances do the following form part of these duties: the appointment of Commissars, the Gleichschaltung of associations and plants, the dismissal and replacement of undesirable people, the exercise of direct influence on prices or of direct influence on business activity.
These tasks have been delegated to the State and local authorities as well as to the Reich Commissioners for the Economy and their representatives and delegates. All offices of the Combat League, therefore, are strictly forbidden to take unauthorized action of the kind described above. Contravention will from now onwards be punished by law
Even Hermann Gring had to make personal interventions.
2 June 1933, Ging to Dr. von Renteln, Leader of the Reich Combat League
Even recently the complaints about interference by the Combat League have not ceased, despite the fact that Gleichschaltung can no longer be used as an excuse for this interference. In particular, public bodies and business institutions are suffering from these interventions. For example, frequently in elections to Chambers of Industry and Commerce, owing to the intervention of the Combat League (which is naturally more representative of the interests of the small business) medium-sized and large business have been excluded from participation in the leadership of these chambers.... We therefore request that in future all interference in public bodies and business institutions and in their associations should cease.
How little this worked is shown by the following immediate events in the small town of Eutin, where two prominent Nazis, the new mayor, and the High School Teacher and President of the City Council Dr. Gottfried Wolf, headed the Eutin branch of the Combat League for German Culture
8 June 1933 Meeting Report of the Eutin Elocution Society
On 8 June occurred the constitutionally prescribed General Membership meeting of the Eutin Elocution Society. The North-West Group of the German Elocution Society, to which our local society belongs, has recently joined the Combat League for German Culture For the purposes of Gleichschaltung the Eutin Elocution Society voted unanimously to delete Article 2 of our Constitution ˙
The next part of the agenda concerned elections. In order to achieve Gleichschaltung, the entire eleven-person executive committee resigned. By unanimous agreement, a new 7-Person Board was formed. The next point involved a preview of the forthcoming Winter program, and it produced a lively discussions. [about how "conscious adherence to German ways and German culture can influence the selection of our lectures."] Certainly the winter will bring worthy and stimulating presentations
16 April 1933 Report of a Meeting of the Handicraft Association of L beck Province
In conjunction with the Handicraft Association's official exhibit featuring works by their students, apprentices, and other unemployed youngsters, the branch meeting was held. After opening remarks by the chairman, Master-Painter (ret.) D, in which he summoned the membership to further proofs of loyalty to their association in order to demonstrate that indigenous handicrafts fully support the new state, not only for the well-being of handicrafts in general but also out of service to the fatherland, the Managing Director of our Handicraft Association, Herr Putensen, delivered the business and financial reports. This led to the next order of the agenda: "Proposals for Reconstruction of the Handicraft Association." Here Master Barber B took the floor, and with reference to the energetic and successful national revolution, and in order to raise the important question of the Gleichschaltung of all the economic associations, proposed that the present executive committee resign their positions at once, in order to make way for a new leadership, more able to march with the times. He proposed that the new Board consist of four NSDAP members, plus two others (the current Chairman D and the Business Manager Putensen). Herr D replied that he had already had a conversation on this issue with the Provincial Governor, and could state that the executive committee was prepared to resign at once, in order to clear the way for the new situation. Herr B then read off the names of the new Board Members, and Herr B himself assumed the chair. With heartfelt words he thanked the previous leadership for their activities. What the new order of the Handicraft Association would look like he could not say just then. But a new spirit would have to enliven the whole organization. Following this, Herr Putensen began his lecture entitled: "The Tasks of the Handicraft Association in the new State."
26 April 1933 Easter Meeting of the Independent Fishermen's Guild of Lbeck Province
Under the chairmanship of the Guild's High-Master, the well-attended Easter Meeting of the Independent Fishermen of Eutin and surrounding areas took place. In a short, gripping talk, the High Master discussed the importance for the German Volk
of the National Uprising. He ended his presentation with a "Sieg Heil for our Volks Chancellor Adolf Hitler". Following instructions from the Combat League for Middle Class Tradespeople, which advised: "The leadership of the Guilds are admonished to voluntarily resign their positions", the Guild turned to the Gleichschaltung.
The executive committee has resigned, the Guild then proceeded to vote a new Board, to which two-thirds would be members of the National Socialist German Workers Party. The new Board was unanimously elected, after agreeing that in conformity with the ˙
Fhrerprinzip, they would resign all their positions at the request of the President of the Handicraft Chamber [in Berlin]. The assembled Guildsmen declared unanimously that they would be represented in the Rally for the Day of National Work on 1 May.
In Eutin's there were fifteen Guilds, and in these 6 High Masters were Nazis in 1932. During the Gleichschaltung, 4 more "old Fighters" took over as High Masters of their professional guilds, while Nazi majorities dominated all the Executive Committees.
25 April 1933 Report of the Combat League for Middle-Class Tradespeople in
The Extraordinary General Assembly of the Eutin Handicraft Union included this time also invited representatives from all the handicrafts, especially those involved with local trades. About 80 persons attended. The meeting was opened and chaired by the Chairman of the Union, High Master Barber Herr B. The Chairman said that the present assembly met in order to take a position on the purpose and goal of the new Combat League for Middle-Class Tradespeople, which did not want to become a new organization, but only wanted to unite all the existing middle-class groups. There then followed a short talk by the Province Director of this Combat League, Herr Wilhelm Estorff, in which he said the following: Fellow Germans, Fellow members of the Middle Class! As your Lbeck Province Director of the Combat League for Middle Class Tradespeople, I have the responsibility of carrying out the Gleichschaltung
in all of the groups, unions, organizations, and guilds in this area. Gleichschaltung
means, the leadership must consist of a Board on which the Chairman and at 51% of the Board Members are National Socialists. Just as there is only one political direction now throughout all of the German Reich, our highest Fhrer, Reichs Chancellor Adolf Hitler also wants to see only one direction for the Middle Class, and indeed a direction that follows his spirit.... Our Combat League, standing outside the individual groups which comprise it, serves as a guardian of the cleanliness, legality, and economic interests of the entire German Middle-Class. With all of its strength and all of its deepest feelings, the Combat League puts itself at the service of Handicrafts, Trade, and Commerce. As the leader of this Combat League, I will dedicate my entire life to insuring that no Middle-Class economic existence is further undermined, until a complete reorientation of our Middle Class is worked out.
In many instances, the process required little outside pressure. Clubs seemed to fall over themselves to insist that they had always been National Socialists.
27 April 1933 Report of the Meeting of the Euten Men's Gymnasts Society
Our Men's Gymnasts Society held a common Squadron Leader and Executive Committee meeting. After completing the business section of the agenda, a lively discussion developed about these great days of Vlkisch Renewal. The hearts of every gymnast beats faster today and we certainly shed no tears for certain departed statesmen. The spirit of Father Jahn [the founder of the early 19th century gymnastic and patriotic organization] fills the soul of our current Fhrer, Adolf Hitler, and joyfully we declare ourselves joined to him, for he and we strive for exactly the same thing. The Vice-chairman of the German Gymnast Society has released an Easter message, which spoke a clear language. Among other things it said: See to it that our Gymnasts seriously practice both military training as well as the traditional gymnastic exercises. We desire that next to the Brown SA, and the Grey Steel Helmets, there will stand the Blue Gymnasts, and we have the ambition that our Blue ranks will not lag behind the SA or the Steel Helmets, in patriotic awareness in soldierly spirit, or military ability. Forcefully, we stand with the present times, and we recall how, in the days gone by, our Gymnast spirit and abilities helped make German history. But today, such a contribution will only be possible if the Gymnast Associations keep themselves inwardly pure. Therefore, we have proclaimed the Aryan Paragraph. All units are obligated to exclude Jewish members from their ranks. No Jewish Gymnast should any longer be among us at the German Gymnast Festival in Stuttgart [30 July 1933]. Jewish Gymnasts who participated as front line fighters during the World War, or whose sons or fathers fell in the World War, can,with full honor, stay in the Gymnast Societies. .... The Gymnast Society is our way; the Volk is our goal, a free, strong, proud German Volk.
3 October 1933 Report on the Formation of a Eutin Men's Singing Society
Singers and friends of the Eutiner Men's Choir (founded in 1843 as the Eutiner Song Table) and the Handworkers Song Table (which is more than 60 years old) met today in a festival which is very important for the musical life of Eutin. Harkening back to their old traditions, they have decided to unite and form the "Eutin Men's Singing Society of 1843." ... In a humorous speech, Town Assembly Member Wolf described himself as the midwife of this new Society and said his work had been very easy since the entire process only took 25 minutes. Then Dr. Saalfeldt [the new Nazi mayor of Eutin] ... spoke of the harshness involved in political struggles, and that music had the task of uniting the ideal to this harsh reality. The program that followed certainly confirmed his point, fighting songs and hymns, two quite different approaches, yet both in their way effective. Dr. Saalfeldt then attached two Swastikas and a symbol of the old German Reich to the flags of the former clubs, as signs of the new break-through, and then he pledged the new Society to follow the Fhrer loyally and ended by leading a common singing of the National Anthem The third speaker, Middle-School teacher K, spoke ... about the need to advance German singing to overcome the enemies within.... Through the encouragement of German songs, that which is the German spirit, German feelings, will sing out ever more clearly through the entire German people. So, join a singing society, to strengthen the true Volksgemeinschaft! German song is the eternal, unquenchable source for the strength which we need in the battle for Germany's rebirth. Always when Germany fought (Luther, 1813, 1864, 1914, Horst Wessel), songs sounded brighter than ever before. We are ready to give our all for Germany, as are all Germans!
An old German proverb insists: "evil people do not have songs." All Nazi functions were noted for their music.
The impact of this thorough (and largely sincere) cooperation by all segments of the population was profound indeed upon those who wanted to hold aloof from the Nazi Revolution. These diary entries show more forcefully than other sources the deep psychological alienation which was taking place, as well as the helplessness caused by confronting not an organized but a frighteningly effective opposition.
7 May 1933 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry
I do not know what is the matter with me. Although I am completely healthy, and have every reason to be grateful to fate for my way of life, some mysterious anxiety possesses me. Is it the times? politics? or what? By using indifference and objectivity, one can always come to terms with the times. But that which now so heavily and gloomily seems to threaten me appears inescapable. I have the feeling of total helplessness.
9 May 1933 Erich Ebermayer, Diary Entry
One feels oneself increasingly alone. Everywhere my friends are converts to Adolf Hitler. It is as if an invisible force field surrounds we few who refuse to be converted. And of my young friends, the very best now have become the most radical National Socialists. I can't deny that. The two sons of the Leipzig Art-Historian Wilhelm Pinder, two first-class, fine young men -- the youngest for a time closely attached himself to me -- have become almost fanatical Nazis. I can't discuss anything with them, for they really believe. And no logical argument can destroy faith. They run around in their Hitler-Youth uniforms, beaming with happiness and pride. Today ... as I tried to engage Eberhard P in a conversation and dared to suggest -- how week and powerless I feel in confronting these victorious youths -- that perhaps the old culture, the spiritual and artistic values held in common for the last five hundred years, would be destroyed in the whirlpool of the present time, my young friend replied, with naivete and a little impudence; "So what, my dear! That culture was not very important after all! And according to the Fhrer, we now have a Thousand-year Reich, which will create its own culture."
One of the most dramatic events in these days was the public book-burnings held in most university towns. Organized neither by the State, nor by the NSDAP, this action was carried out by zealous Student-Government leaders, anxious to show their strength against the academic establishment. No wonder it caught so many people by surprise.
10 May 1933 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry
What happened tonight was the hardest thing yet for me since the Nazi Revolution began, and perhaps the most serious development of all. It was completely unexpected. M and I were in a cafe, when suddenly the radio began to blast. At first we didn't pay any attention. Then suddenly we were startled by something. What's going on? "We are in the Palace Square in Berlin," the announcer was saying. "The funeral pyre has been erected!" Funeral Pyre? What for? A celebration of friendship? a victory fire? a delayed celebration of May day? I am an old fan of May bonfires. Are the Nazis going to seal their victory by lighting a bonfire? "Hundreds of students are bringing in more wagon loads ...." Wagon loads -- what the devil! "Thousands and thousands of people are standing shoulder to shoulder in the square. A warm spring night lies over Berlin." Between the soft words of the announcer we can hear the sounds of the crowd, calls, auto horns, the motors of trucks moving about.
What is going on? We listen with growing anticipation. I feel that some piece of insanity is under way. And then it begins. Someone begins to speak, a student-government leader in so far as we can tell. He speaks in a cold, cutting voice, filled with apathetic hatred and blatant stupidity -- this typically Nazi combination we have had ample opportunity to know. He speaks in the name of the students of Berlin, in the name of the German youth, in the name of intellectual Germany. His words, so unspeakably foolish, false, pharisaical, surpass anything that we have heard in the past three months. This silly babbler dares to bring formal charges against German literature of the last fifty years, and against the poetry of Europe. In the name of the youth, he declares war against these works and condemns them to complete destruction!
Now the students set fire to their bonfire. Through the loudspeaker, we can hear the crackle of the first flames, as if rags were flapping in the wind. The wood begins to sizzle, branches snap. We can hear the burning of great flames, M and I sit as if paralyzed, as if we had been seized by a cramp. Around us the average citizens continue to swill down their beer as if nothing were going on. They are not the slightest bit interested, for it's not the news and it's not music. And yet, it is one of the most newsworthy items that will go out over the airwaves tonight, the most insane kind of music.
Now a student approaches the burning pyre and cries out in a high excited voice: "I commit to the flames, the works of...." The names ring through the room like the crack of a whip ... Thomas Mann, Stefan Zweig, Franz Werfel, Fritz von Unruh, Ernst Toller, Erich Maria Remarque, Bertold Brecht, Heinrich Mann, ... Russians, Englishmen, Frenchmen, and then more Germans. The list seems endless. And after every name, the cheers of the mob, the sounds of the books thrown onto the burning fire, the greedy tongues and bursts of flames, which reach out for their newest booty.
The students speak slowly, clearly. Our nerves are about to break. I expect any moment to hear my name. M is as white as the wall behind him. All the light has gone out of his eyes, replaced with a wild, ferocious, passionate hatred, indignation beyond measure, and sadness as if he had been informed of someone's death.... Every time an author named Erich is sent into the flames, he instinctively grabs my arm for that endless second between the first and last names. And unfortunately there are three or four Erichs among the burned....
Then suddenly it is over. I am not included. Not dangerous enough, not famous enough! I will be handled through the cold shoulder, not through the dancing flames. I do not know whether it will be any easier.... We know that we have just lived through something very serious, something final: the inviolability of free human thinking has now been repealed. The fact of this burning of books is irreparable. It is rape and misery. It is capitulation and destruction. It is the severance of the new Germany from the world of culture.
And for me? For me it is a liberation from all my horrifying doubts, for it makes it finally impossible ever to compromise -- I feel all this clearly, like an aching in my body. Never can I work, live, and struggle for a youth that has committed such an act! Never can I recognize a state, which has tolerated, demanded, or even ordered such a display! ... But will the real Germany which tonight was slapped in the face as never before == will it continue to live on in secret? After all this? Can we call out to the fanatic youth: "You will never kill the spirit?" Does it make any sense to continue to believe in the "real Germany," to hope and await the "real Germany?" It might take decades, I know it now. I know also that there will come very difficult times for me, for us all. Both in general and personally! Years of the deepest loneliness, years of the deepest struggles, years of being forced to stay on the sidelines, years of humiliation and torment -- if not worse.
Should I undertake all this? Must I undertake it? We sat on a bench deep in the neighboring woods, darkness around us, silence...." We must leave," says M quietly as if he were reading my thoughts. "We must go abroad. Please, Please, let us go away.... Tonight, tomorrow morning early!" His face is benumbed, white and benumbed, like I have never seen before. "I can no longer live in this country" he says quietly.
14 May 1933 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry
I have just received a telegram from my publisher, Paul von Zsolnay in Vienna. My novel, Fight for Mount Odilien has been banned. So, not burned, but banned. In a strange way, I am not the least bit sad or embittered but feel downright lucky and liberated! Yes, and basically, I am proud.
[Later that same evening] I have just met a Leipzig book-dealer whom I know. He gave me his condolences over the banning of Odilien, as if he were sympathizing at the death of one of my closest relatives. Softly, deeply serious, and rather maliciously. Then I asked how he had learned. It was published in the Book-dealers' newspaper yesterday. And it was too bad also about my other books.... Ò I stared at him. And what other ones? Oh, he replied good-naturedly, all of my books had been banned. Night in Warsaw, The Animal, Victory for Life, Doctor Angelo..Didn't I know that? No I did not know. These books had not been published by Zsolnay. Nevertheless, continued my jovial fellow-citizen, they have all been banned. Yes indeed, banned! Too bad, but I was still young.
With a light heart I continued home. I had not wanted so much liberation all at one....
16 May 1933 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry
It is inconceivable how cowardly mankind is. Since the announcement of the banning of my books, everyone -- even those few whom I considered my true friends -- have turned away from me as if I were a leper. Even in the "Literary Association of the Alumni of the St. Thomas School," which only last year voted me honorary life membership, I felt an icy wind when we met for our regular weekly meeting which have been so enjoyable. The younger members, mostly in their last years at the school and recent graduates, have all been caught up in the spirit of the times, and has filled with the passionate enthusiasm of the revolution. All of them have the sense that a new era has begun. They do not show their rejection of me in any tactless way -- the sons of the upper crust of Leipzig are too well-brought-up for that -- but they pass me by with condescending smiles on their faces. And that is more painful and harder for me than open warfare. From now on, I will avoid their meetings. Coincidentally, I received a letter from H W., an old friend, with whom I had a most unfriendly meeting in Berlin in March. The letter has affected me deeply. Apparently the events of the past few weeks have given me a very thin skin, and I let even the smallest things get to me. He writes:
ÒIt is quite proper that today politics should take precedence over everything else, since Germany has given us the genius of Adolf Hitler. I am only ashamed that for too long we were skeptical and small-minded toward the Fhrer , and did not recognize his importance, his totally gigantic talents and uniqueness. And so I feel all the more obligated now to follow him with blind and unquestioning obedience.Ó
There is nothing else to do but to break off with him. Hard as it will be for me, for H W has been a true and good friend to me for many years, back to our childhood. How murderously politics intrudes on everything. Overnight it destroys ties which were thought to be permanent. But the closer two people stand in friendship, the more impossible it becomes to continue that friendship when they are separated by differing approaches to the world by a different Weltanschauung....
While Herr Ebermayer's anguish was doubtlessly real, and shared by many Germans, the vast majority found ways to accept it. The following documents is a postwar analysis, but it accurately reflects the reaction of most citizens.
Postwar Account by Herbert K a junior high school student in 1933
In so far as I could observe, people viewed the dissolution of organizations and the wave of arrests as unwelcomed but inevitable accompaniments to the so-called National Revolution. And towards those individuals who had been arrested -- they were never gone for very long, usually returning after a few months -- of course we felt sorry for them, but felt that they should have been more careful, or as we say in Swbish, they should have learned how to hold their tongues. If they had done so, just like all the others were doing, then nothing would have happened to them either. In short, we didn't take it too tragically. Especially because, the worst things ended after only a few months.
The SA Terror Out of Control
Such an attitude could not be adopted by the many hundreds of opponents of the Nazis who were seized by local SA groups, or, increasingly, arrested by the local police on complaints issued by local Nazis. The following documents illustrate the anarchy which reigned throughout Germany in the summer of 1933.
13 March 1933 Walter Tausch Diary Entry
Morale in Breslau is very depressed. Once more SA units have occupied the court house, kicking out all the Jewish lawyers (allegedly because Jewish lawyers had brought their comrades into prisons!), and then a strong guard was posted in front of the court house, and heavily armed contingents cordoned off the entire judicial complex. But (and this shows the stupidity of these "soldiers of the Third Reich"), this afternoon, one could enter the Attorney General's office, and through it gain access to the court house -- I myself did it without being hindered in any fashion.
Without showing any interest at all, the population passes these "soldiers of the Third Reich." These men are between 18 and 20 years of age, with drawn faces. Most of them seem like common criminals. What they lack in appearance, they make up for with posing, fake military stamping of feet, and loutish trampling whenever they go into public. Above all, they are unbelievably proud of the automatic pistol which dangles in a holster from their belts, and proud of their rifles, muskets, revolvers and night-sticks. They are playing at war, and take themselves immensely serious. At the same time they stink frightfully of barracks odors, and give the impression of being from the lowest class of people ever assembled. If one addresses them -- and I have repeatedly done so quietly and with specific questions -- they pull their body into stiff attention, and reply in an abrupt military bark, and reveal a bottomless stupidity. They know nothing except that they are to carry out the orders they have been given.
From the perspective of the Ministries in Berlin, the situation was getting rapidly out of hand. This was apparent above all to Minister Frick who had himself greatly contributed to the ÒuprisingÓ but now wanted to get it under control.
15 March 1933 Minister of Interior Frick to Gauleitung of Pomerania
In spite of the decree of the Fhrer, and the decrees issued by my office, activities authorized by your Gau continue to interfere with and occupy official Prussian and municipal administrative bureaus, law-enforcing agencies, county and communal offices and even theater management and similar groups. For the last time, and in the strongest possible terms, I hereby demand that the decrees of the Fhrer and my own office be respected absolutely. All and every interference in artistic institutes and theaters are to be removed. In addition, all confiscated account books are to be returned at once, and all Commissioners (except those which have been explicitly approved by me) are to be removed. If you desire to make certain changes, they must be requested of my office either by telephone or telegraph, and receive my prior approval.
From Friday noon, the Authority of the State, which now is exercised by the National Government, is to be enforced everywhere with all means available. At present this State Authority is suffering greatly from the independent and often erroneously motivated attacks by NSDAP Gau and local party leadership.
Marxist Organizations and clubs (union houses, etc) are not included in this decree since they are not state or municipal institutions.
Attacks upon foreigners have led in some circumstances to very difficult foreign political conflicts. The Fhrer has therefore ordered that all those guilty of attacks upon foreigners are to be immediately dismissed from the party and turned over to the police. Should party leaders believe that they are not in a position to carry out this order of the Fhrer, they should report at once to me so that I can send out Commissioners capable of doing so.
Perhaps one reason this decree was not effective was that prominent Party leaders continued to employ inflamatory language which seemed to encourage the kind of lawless behavior their decrees condemned. One of the most outspoken was Hermann Gring. Not only was he Hitler's designated heir, but as Minister President of Prussia he was head of the largest police force in Germany.
17 March 1933 Hermann Gring Speech before Pomeranian Farmers Union
We have cleaned things up, and settled accounts with the damnable criminals of German history, settled accounts for that damnable November 1918 and this cleansing will and must be carried out.... The Government of National Concentration will, with an iron fist, destroy those conflicts of interest which in the last fourteen years have grown artificially so large between individual groups of our people, and force them into that harmony which is so necessary for the well-being of our German
If the previous speaker has said, Marxism must never be allowed to return, I will say something more: Not only with they never return, we will exterminate them! I will BEAT these creatures so long throttling their necks with my hands, until they are finished. We will not only exterminate these pests, we will rip out the very word Marxism from every book in the country. In fifty years, a person in Germany will not even know what that word means.
Coincidentally, less than a week after this inflammatory speech, and on a single day, two new weapons were added to the arsenal of the leaders of this settling of accounts – the SA. The first a public announcement of recently organized private detention centers run by the SA and the SS. Although entirely illegal, obviously State authorities were not going to interfere.
21 March 1933 Vlkischer Beobachter Article
On Wednesday [the next day], in the neighborhood of Dachau, the first Concentration Camp will be opened with a capacity of 5,000 persons. Here will be gathered all Communist functionaries, as well as, when it is deemed necessary, those Reichsbanner and Social Democrat officials who endanger the security of the state, since it is no longer possible in the long run to overtax the state prisons by keeping these functionaries in these institutions. Yet it has also been shown that it is not advisable to allow these people to run around in freedom, since they continue their instigations and create unrest. We must undertake these measures in the interest of the security of the state, without paying attention to narrow-minded objections. The Police and the Ministries of the Interior are convinced that in this fashion they are acting in a way that will lead to the pacification of the entire national population.
The second weapon was provided by the State, and its origins is most instructive. In the hectic first two months of the new regime, as we have seen, so many individuals had been dragged off and beaten up by SA Men, that the government decided some regulation was now required. So the cabinet passed the following law permitting punishments for individuals who criticized the government or the NSDAP.
A clear pattern was now evolving. The SA took the initiative. The government reacted by blaming the victims, and passed a law which further concentrated power in the police. In order to protect individuals from Nazi arbitrary justice, the equally threatening power of the police was introduced.
21 March 1933 Decree "For the Elimination of Secret Attacks against the Government of National Concentration"
On the basis of Article 48 of the Federal Constitution, [i.e. The Emergency Decree vested in the President] the following has been ordered:
1. Whoever deliberately presents or spreads a false or insulting assertion of a factual nature, which is likely to damage seriously the well-being of the Reich, or of an individual State, or the reputation of this Administration, or that of an individual State, or the reputation of those parties and organizations which support this Administration, will be punished by a prison sentence of up to two years, unless other laws have been violated which bear heavier sentences, and if the person has published or spread the rumor in public, with a prison sentence of not less than three months.
2. If serious damage to the Reich or an individual State has occurred as a result of this fact, he can be punished with imprisonment in a State penitentiary.
Local SA groups now proceeded to interfere whenever and wherever they wanted. The following documents show the variety and effectiveness of their activities.
1 April 1933 Bimonthly Report of the County Office of Aichach, Upper Bavaria ˙
The last weeks of March passed under the mark of revolutionary disturbances. The County offices were occupied by an SA Special Commissioner, who removed the County Treasurer, the director of the County Welfare Program, and the Mayor of the village of Todtenweis. Only after lengthy negotiations with the SA offices in Ingolstadt, did the SA Special Commissioner repeal his order. Further attacks took place in the city of Aichach itself, where the Mayor and his assistant were ordered removed and the town council dissolved. At present, however, negotiations are under way to restore the Mayor to his office.
14 April 1933 Bimonthly Report of the County Office at Aichach, Upper Bavaria
Particular difficulties in the political field have, in general, during the last two weeks not occurred. The National Socialists have been particularly anxious to get as many as possible of their candidates elected to the town councils in the county, even in those towns where in the last Reichstag elections they were in the minority. Accordingly, Mayors have been warned that if they do not at once join the National Socialist Party, if reelected, they would not be confirmed [by the Special SA Commissioner for the County].
8 May 1933 Bernkastel District Magistrate Report
Presently under arrest, and indeed in the jail at Wittlich, are two Communist officials, E and F, both from the community of N. The local leader of the NSDAP in N. is of the opinion that these two men are the principal organizers of the Communist Party is the district, and that it is useful to keep them in prison for a while longer. Also the chairman of the town council in N. has supported this suggestion, and justified his opinion by noting that peace and quiet have prevailed in N. ever since the two men were arrested. Both men were probably participants in recently reported break-ins, because since their arrest, no further thefts have occurred. The mayor also shares this opinion. I have therefore decided to prolong the arrest, but will return for a reconsideration of a release request in fourteen days.
21 June 1933 Bimonthly report of the District Commissioner for Upper and Middle Franconia
Separate reports from Naila, Wunsield, Munchberg, Bayreuth, Schwabach indicate that in these predominantly "Red" areas, new Steel Helmet groups are emerging, whose membership is predominantly former members of the SPD, and in part also of the Communist Party... In Behringersdorf, the prohibited Worker Sport and Athletic Union tried to reform itself as the "Hindenburg Union." But it has been dissolved....
Concerning the Gleichschaltung of the Trade Unions, the County Office of Rothenburg on the Tauber has reported that in the gleichgeschaltete Unions, the same old former Social-Democrat instigators have come back into the leadership just as before the ˙
Gleichschaltung process, and that no real conversion of these people can be expected....
3 August 1933 Bimonthly report of District Commissioner for Swabia
Such a large percentage of the population has so rapidly and publicly changed their colors recently, it is impossible to say with certainty whether or not their interior convictions actually support the national government. Since denunciations and protective custody are feared, it is often difficult to learn their true position. Former members of the SPD, who were primarily workers, have had the easiest job in accepting the new relations, and have done so, apparently for the most part, with the utmost sincerity....
28 June 1933 Wittlich District Magistrate Order
On the basis of Paragraph #1 of the Presidential Decree for Protection of the People and the State, I have ordered the arrest of [five Communists]. This arrest is justified because of their agitation, in Communist fashion, among the people of N, and that it is therefore most likely that some acts of violence might be perpetrated against [these Communists]. The arrest order has been issued for their own safety. In addition, of course, the situation presents a danger for public security and order, should it come to the feared acts of violence against [the Communists].
The immediate issuance of this arrest order was made necessary because the local leader of the NSDAP in the Community of N, as well as the district leader in M, and the SA leader of L have declared that should an arrest order not be given, some acts of violence by the SA against the above-mentioned person could be expected. To protect these people, therefore, and to preserve public security and order, I issued the arrest order.
2 August 1933 Prum District Magistrate Report
Today, in accordance with the Presidential Decree for Protection of the People and the State ... I have ordered the arrest of the carpenter B, from the town of K. In a public bar, B declared: "Hitler has accomplished nothing at all; I have done more than Hitler; and he won't be able to fulfill all the promises he has given. The uniform (by which he meant the SA uniform) is nothing more than a dirty shirt [i.e. brown], and the hat [worn by the SA] looks like a cheese box." On the basis of a complaint about these statements, I considered B's arrest as necessary, in view of the agitated feelings against him.
14 July 1933 Bimonthly Report of the County Office at Aichach, Upper Bavaria
As I have already reported on June 30, a very tense situation has existed here for the past few weeks between the NSDAP and the local Steel Helmet organization, which was founded only at the beginning of May. On 11 July the representative of the [SA] Special Commissioner ordered the arrest of the deputy local leader of the Steel Helmet, Reichart, because, along with his Steel Helmet troop, he had failed to appear at the ceremony ordered by the SA in order to incorporate the Steel Helmets within the SA. By Saturday morning, however, Reichart was released from jail. At present, eight citizens of the county are under arrest, primarily because of critical remarks concerning the present government, and because of threats against the Assistant Mayor and Local Party leader of Pottmes. One man is in Dachau Concentration Camp [a Communist arrested on 23 March by order of the SA Special Commissioner and sent to the Concentration Camp, along with three other members of the Communist Party. The latter were released on 1 May].
11 May 1933 Bitburg District Magistrate Report
All prisoners here have been released except for four persons. These four who remain under arrest are
1. the Jew A, from D
2. the Jew B, from F
Both of these persons are the spiritual leaders of the Communist Party in the district, and have tried in various communities in the district to organize local cells. Also still under arrest is
3. the Worker C, from G, who on March 14, 1933 in a coffee house in Bitburg threatened: "In three weeks, the main street here will be lined with skulls, and I have been sent here from Belgium especially to get ready to help the comrades who are preparing to attack,"
and 4. the Worker E, from H, because he reportedly said that the SA leader in N would not die a natural death!
The representative of the district office of the NSDAP believes that in the interest of the preservation of law and order, these four persons should be kept under arrest, and strongly recommends that under the circumstances they should be transferred to a Concentration Camp. For the time being, therefore, I cannot support the idea of releasing these persons, and have ordered the necessary measures to continue their arrest.
The following document demonstrates the complexity of the local situations. The person issuing the complaint was the local leader of the Steel Helmets, the veterans organization, whose national leader was a member of Hitler's cabinet. These documents clearly show the impotence of the local police and judiciary bodies in the face of arbitrary actions by members of the NSDAP.
1 July 1933 Complaint of A to the Public Prosecutor of Trier
Herewith I submit a formal complaint against SS-Leader B of W on charges of illegal detention of my person and usurpation of police authority. The following facts support my complaint:
During the night of 20/21 June 1933, a number of SS men under the leadership of the above named B appeared before my house and demanded that the door be opened. In reply to my question as to their purpose, the leader of the group answered that I would soon discover what it was all about. After I had opened the door as they demanded, the SS men entered my house, with B as their spokesmen, and demanded whatever Steel Helmet documents might be in my possession. After I had turned these over to him, B informed me that I should get dressed at once and go with them. To my question whether such a detention was justified and could he show me the arrest order, B replied that he didn't need such formalities. In the presence of the group I was forced to get dressed. Before I was taken away, I asked my wife, who was also in the house, to go out at once and telephone to my superior in Trier, Herr C and request legal representation.... B then immediately forbade my wife from leaving the house, and put armed SS men before the open door of my home. In the name of my wife, I also wish to issue a formal complaint against B for illegal detention and usurpation of police authority.
After being transported to the local court house, no one, not even the clerk of the court, who was on duty, could give me any explanation for my arrest. Yet despite this, I was held there from 4 a.m. to 8 o'clock, when I was then released on order of the clerk of the district magistrate....
10 July 1933 Reply of SS Leader B
During the night of June 19/20 of this year, on the occasion of the action against the Steel Helmets, I received a special order from SS Division IT/5 Trier to take all Steel Helmet leaders and sub-leaders into protective custody, and to secure at the same time all weapons in the possession of these Steel Helmet leaders. This order reached me by way of a telegram.... I carried out this order which came from my immediate superior.
3 August 1933 Report of Bad Kreuznach Party Inspector to Court Officials
The Action concerning the purging and reorganization of the Steel Helmet was carried out on orders of the government. I enclose a copy of the decree. There are, however, no direct orders to arrest this or that particular Steel Helmet leader. It cannot, however, be ruled out that in this or that particular case an arrest might have been necessary. If the plaintiff in this instance was placed under arrest, it certainly happened solely in order to insure his own safety, in accordance with the governmental order which insisted that steps should be taken to avoid any excessive violence against Steel Helmet leaders, which otherwise might have occurred. There can be, therefore, no talk here of illegal detention, especially because the SS people were only acting on orders.
14 August 1933 Conclusion of Trier Public Prosecutor's Office
I have concluded that I am not in a position to issue a warrant in regards to the complaint of July 1, 9133 against B and comrades on charges of illegal detention. According to the official investigation, on 20 June 1933, the government ordered the closing of all bureaus of the Steel Helmets. At the same time, all Steel Helmet leaders were prohibited from undertaking any activity within the former organization. This decree was sent down to all the subordinate organizations of the NSDAP. If, in this situation, individual organizations of the NSDAP receiving this order then issued commands for the arrest of Steel Helmet leaders, the defendants in this case -- without having an opportunity to examine the legality of the order which they have received -- must at the very least be considered as justified in their actions. Under these circumstances, I find no grounds for official action, and I have dismissed the case.
While the courts refusing to intervene, Nazis who were highly placed in State positions were quite willing to give a cover of legality to the SA terror.
29 May 1933 Minister-President Gring to District Officials and Police Departments in Berlin
Re: SA and SS Questioning of Prisoners Currently Held by Police Authorities
Experience has shown in many cases that when persons arrested on suspicion of punishable political offenses or actions inimical to the state are questioned by the regular police the results are not nearly as successful as when the questioning of these same persons is carried out by members of the SA and SS. In view of the extraordinary situation prevailing, it appears advisable, to empower for the time being all police authorities, in suitable cases, on their own initiative or in response to requests from the national organizations [i.e. SA, SS or Steel Helmets] to turn certain prisoners under arrest over to auxiliary police officials for responsible questioning in their own offices [i.e. outside the police station], including confrontation with other guilty parties or witnesses who are to be temporarily released or transferred for this purpose. Against such procedures, no objections are to be raised especially if the involved prisoners are transported to the outside office by police officials who again retrieve them after the questioning.
I request that you provide all your subordinate officials as soon as possible with instructions to this effect. Within a month, you are to report to me the results of this new procedure, with an accompanying recommendation on whether or not the process should continue.
The results of such interrogations were often brutal.
27 June 1934 Letter of Reichs Commissioner Franz Xaver Ritter von Epps to President Paul von Hindenburg ˙
In regards to the State Case arising out of the serious injury and subsequent death of the mechanic Oskar Pflaumer from Nrnberg, and the directly related investigation of the participants and those who aided and abetted, I have decided to dismiss the case.
According to a report of the Prosecuting Attorney from the State Court in Nrnberg-Frth, the facts of the case are as follows:
.... In the course of this action [clearing the city of Nrnberg of undesirable and suspicious people prior to the holding of the NSDAP Party rally], on 16 August 1933, among other people one Oskar Konrad Pflaumer of Nrnberg, an extremely active Communist, 29 years old, married and employed as a mechanic, was taken into custody and held in police headquarters. On the same evening, at around 11:00 p.m., upon direct orders of Sturmbannfhrer Korn, this Pflaumer was brought by a number of SA Men to the above-mentioned SA headquarters for the purpose of confrontation with other Communists and for the purpose of questioning. In the night, Pflaumer was serious mistreated by a whole group of SA-Men, so that shortly after he was returned to the arresting police headquarters, on 17 August 1933 at around 5:30 a.m., he died from his mistreatment. According to the medical report presented to the court there are grounds to believe ˙
that Pflaumer ... an athletic and powerfully built man had been "bent over," and had been subjected to a "Bastinado," and that the resulting bleeding under his skin ... had led to his death. [In his official report, the examing doctor concluded: Òthe victim was brutally and savagely beaten to death under mindless conditions.Ó]
Should the judicial process proceed ... it is unavoidable even if the public were excluded from the court room that the general public would learn about the event. And thereby the reputation of the SA, the Party, the Police and the National Socialist State would be damaged to a most difficult degree, and maybe even badly shaken.
Even greater would be the damage such a trial would do to the German Reich, because -- and this is certainly likely to happen -- foreign countries would receive knowledge of the event....
Since this deed was carried out not for some ignoble purpose, but rather in order to achieve in the highest degree possible the good of the Fatherland and the preservation of the National Socialist State, the quashing of this indictment ... is not unreconcilable with standard procedures of criminal justice.
The Attorney General of the Superior Court in Nrnberg supports this position. The Bavarian Ministry of Justice likewise supports the quashing of the case. These reasons do not permit me to act in any other fashion.
SA Chaos Threatens the State
Throughout the summer of 1933, anarchic terror continued to spread through the German countryside, with the police and government apparently unable to do anything about it. A particularly good example can be found in local SA attempts to create new jobs. The following six documents come from the town of Eutin, but are typical of a process that was sweeping all of Germany. Hitler may have encouraged Germans to help solve the unemployment problem, but local SA big-wigs took over from there.
31 May 1933 Announcement of the NSDAP District Leader of Lbeck Province
The Volks Chancellor Adolf Hitler, in his great speech of 1 May, called upon private employers to support the restoration of German economic life and the struggle against unemployment. The undersigned District Leader know of a large number of local Volks Comrades whose level of income and property place them in a position where they could respond to this call. Now, once again, we explicitly call upon these Volks Comrades, to turn their national convictions into facts. All the subordinate groups of the NSDAP District are herewith requested to investigate how far this request is being honored
Reference is to attempts in the United States to boycott German goods because of alleged mistreatment of Jews. This move will be more fully discussed in the chapter on Anti-Semitism
6 June 1933 Announcement of the NSDAP Kreisleiter of Lbeck Province
The German people do not believe that the problem of creating work will be solved by the stars. ˙You yourself must cooperate in solving it.Ó Using your judgment and trust, you must do everything you can to create new jobs. Ever single individual has the responsible to avoid delays, to avoid waiting to place his work orders, to do what he should do and one day must do. Every single individual has the responsibility himself to trust in the future and contribute at once his part. Every employer, every home owner, every businessman, every single individual has the responsibility to put in the front of our minds, jobs for German laborers. If today the world spreads the most false assertions against us, if today they attempt to proscribe German labor [Reference is to attempts in the United States to boycott German goods because of alleged mistreatment of Jews] then we must expect Germans themselves to support labor by creating jobs. This appeal is directed to those million individuals who can easily give work to an additional million persons. We refer once again to yesterday's appeal of the Kreisleiter [for towns and cities to hire immediately some of the unemployed]. We will carefully work to see that this appeal is implemented.
How they worked is demonstrated by the following document. It is the "confession" of a local rich farmer who had been arrested for allegedly making critical remarks about Hitler and the Swastika.
27 June 1933 Statement of Otto J de, Member of the DNVP, Steel Helmet Leader, and Owner of a large farm near Offendorf
After the discussion with Criminal Policeman K, in the presence of Stenographer K who read out to me District President Bhmcker's proposal concerning the acceptance of obligations by which the order for my arrest can be set aside,˙
I herewith declare myself prepared to accept such an obligation. According to the presentation by the police officer, the following alternative obligations were possible: punishment in the form of a sum of money, or hiring a worker for my farm in accordance with the Reich's program for creating jobs, or an endowment for the Bad Schwartau NSDAP organization. I regret my past failings and by my signature below extend my promise to accept one of the three alternatives presented to me and to carry it out fully.˙
On 19 June, J de had been jailed for two days, under hard labor, and then brought to SA Leader Bhmcker for this talk. This farmer paid a "cautionary" fine of RM 1000 [an enormous sum for the times], but on 14 July he was again summoned to Bhmcker, who informed him that his "crime" really deserved three months in prison and that unless an additional RM 2,000 were immediately paid, that sentence would be imposed immediately. Herr J de came up with the money. Johann Heinrich Bhmcker, the local SA leader, had become the District President after the March elections.
23 August 1933 District President Bhmcker to Farmer Willi D, of Meinsdorf
As I have been informed today, you have refused to hire an available worker as part of the program to eliminate unemployment. You know what a great favor the county and with it the public in general has shown you through repeated tax abatements on your property. I believe it would not be unreasonable if the county government could demand in return the hiring of a single worker. Therefore, you have been assigned worker A Should you not have hired him by tomorrow noon time, I will immediately undertake steps to raise the taxes on your farm.
29 August 1933 District President Bhmcker to Farmer Willi K of Bockholt
As I have been informed, you have refused to hire an available worker as part of the program to eliminate unemployment. Such action violates today's National Socialist principles. You are therefore requested to hire, and at once, worker Z. Your entire economic situation certainly puts you in a position to employ another worker. There ought to be plenty of outside work on your farm. Should you not agree to this demand, the county administration will no longer consider you as belong to our Volksgemeinschaft.
It is important to remember that none of this activity was being ordered by either State authorities in Berlin or Nazi Party officials in Munich. Indeed, such excessive zeal was frequently challenged by officials of the State and the Party.
14 October 1933 Directive of the Oldenburg Ministry of the Interior
Although the continuing decline of unemployment figures throughout the commonwealth is very happy news, Party and Government officials are advised against the practice of forcing employment, especially upon the farming community. Such excessive demands for employment of workers placed on individual employers can lead to a collapse of the farm, whereby, in the long run, both the labor market and the economy will suffer. The elimination of unemployment must be built up in an organic and systematic fashion, in which both the public and well as the private sectors cooperate in carrying out the battle to attain a common and lasting victory.
The implied threat behind Bhmcker's power were the Concentration Camps. The existence of these camps were not secret, as the following article from the Eutin newspaper makes clear.
22 July 1933 Article in the Eutin Newspaper, "The Government of Eutin performs active feats of Reconstruction: 22 barrels of top-soil produced."
Protective Detentions, with which disloyal political elements and open enemies of the State are being "congratulated" today, has turned into a blessing for the whole German ˙
. Since the incarceration of these unruly birds who more or less receive their spiritual nourishment from Moscow, not only has a sudden peacefulness descended on political life in Germany, but individual districts can accomplish important cultural projects with their cheap labor. Here in Eutin this fact has been made very obvious along the Linden Brook. Every day, some 20 prisoners under SA guards, have been working there in God's free, beautiful nature, and created a work which will benefit the entire population of this part of the Lbeck Commonwealth.
For many years now, people have tried to cultivate the land along Linden Brook, which as is well known belongs to the city; the old moat which it forms has become partially overgrown. Now new life rules the Linden Brook. Under the leadership of Storm Trooper T, and following a well-thought-out plan, the wide moat has been cleared, and the recovered soil spread in the adjourning fields and the stubble there rooted out. If through this process the landscape becomes fertile, some noble strands of grass will be sown, so that an ideal and extremely valuable meadowland will be preserved. Later, the city government will rent out this land to individual gardeners....
One hopes that the entire work will be done in one year, for we expect a great increase in the number of available prisoners, since it seems certain circles are undertaking such hostile acts toward our Volk that they can scarcely wait until they are taken into custody! "Obey the laws of necessity, not those of selfish interest" could be the lesson these elements learn during their work for the well being of the whole ˙ The Prisoners work eight hours each day at the Linden Brook, not counting the time it takes to march there. The city administration is defraying part of the additional costs, because the prison budget does not cover work on the outside. "The common good before private gain."
Although the sight of prisoners at labor was not unusual, most Germans did not look too closely at what was going on. Erich Ebermayer, for example, first discussed news about concentration camps while on a visit to Switzerland.
27 July 1933 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry
Only today I learn some details about the concentration camps, which at home people only hear about in rumors and whispers. Nearly a dozen of these camps are already in existence, and what goes on in them is so bad, that we can only be ashamed of our country. Numerous refugees from these camps have fled to Switzerland. Their reports have been published: beatings, hunger, destruction of human dignity, bestial tortures, murder -- these are the weapons against the helpless who find themselves in the camps because of their convictions or their faith: thousands of communists, socialists, Jews, priests -- and through the happy irony of world history -- aristocrats and reactionaries [who had helped Hitler to power].
For every lawyer like myself, indeed, for every person who has a sense of justice, this situation is shocking, since it is not a question of arrest or punishment for crimes in the sense that is followed by all civilized states. That at least would be understandable, for states do identify people who are "enemies" and cause them to be arrested in order to try them before a court and punish them with their deserved -- or even undeserved sentences. There have always been political prisoners and show trials.
But that which is truly inconceivable, and a slap in the face to the German character, is that we are not dealing here with people who have been arrested or sentenced. Such people are dealt with by law, according to set procedures which provide numerous rights for all concerned. ... But whoever disappears into a concentration camp is without any rights, and is simply cut off from humanity. No one knows where he is. No lawyer can look after his rights. There is no way to file a complaint, to launch an investigation, to correct an abuse. There is no hearing, and no verdict. And the worst thing of all: there is no fixed period to serve, no terminal day of release! The knowledge of the length of his sentence, which every criminal knows, is not given to the concentration camp inmates. He seems to stand before an endless arbitrary will. He is cut off from the world, completely isolated, and deprived of any opportunity to fight for his fate, to justify his actions, to provide a defense.
It is the final destruction of the rule of the law: the victory of a brutal power, responsible to no one....
The SA made no secret of their Concentration Camps, and indeed seemed to go out of their way to parade the newly detained prisoners through the streets.
August 1933 Walter Tausch Diary Entry
I counted about one hundred prisoners, and more than one hundred and thirty heavily armed SA auxiliary police. The entire procession was secured at the front, back and on the sides, like you see in the movies of Russians being marched off to Siberia. It was a depressing sight, because everyone knew that there were only a very few real "criminals" among the prisoners. Most of them seemed well dressed, articulate and properly behaved, clearly middle-class. I also recognized some "people from high society," an editor of the local newspaper, for example, city officials, and professors. The entire parade proceeded slowly down the street, surrounded and followed by a thick mob of people. One of the prisoners was a cripple, who had to hobble along painfully: a worker clearly. I realized that this was a show, a show intended to frighten us, but certainly I came away with a contrary impression. Just think, after seven months of constant warfare day at night against the Communists and others, the "Hitler Government" has still not rooted them out....
I easily walked along side and after 45 minutes we arrived at the Concentration Camp, which I did not walk by, but turned slowly around and returned. What I saw, in the middle of this wonderful summer day, was wretched. The camp looked like the front-line trenches of a beleaguered fort, barbed wire spread around as if before Verdun. On the street and behind the gate a massive number of police and SA people were standing guard with rifles and revolvers, but grinning and enjoying the beautiful Sunday weather. Three old barracks made of corrugated iron stood in a row to the left of the gate, and behind these prison-cages, which were far too small to house that swarm of men that had been marched in, stood the prisoners, resting now or already receiving "re-education."
Repeating my first expression, wretched, I walked home with only one wish, that I never end up in such a prison. That I never even get in a situation where I would have anything at all to do with these defenders of the "Third Reich," and I begin to work out various scenarios of how to act should, in spite of myself, I find myself one day in "protective custody."
29 September 1933 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry
New concentration camps have been set up. Dachau is rebuilt and enlarged; Oranienburg is said to have grown to the size of an entire city. Every county has its own camp. Himmler's power is limitless and is no longer cramped by the judicial or legal system. Gradually, next to the constitutional processes, there has developed a second, secret method of justice, run by the SS and Himmler. People who are acquitted of crimes by the regular courts are often met at the door of the courthouse or at the exits of the police-stations by Himmler's agents, and before the eyes of their lawyers are dragged off anew. They disappear into the cellars of the SS or the camps, and often are never seen again. At least, for the outside world, they are totally unreachable.
And even those, who have been sentenced and have served their terms, are often met at the doors of the prisons by the SS and they too disappear anew, and this time for an undetermined period of time and with small likelihood of ever returning. The Nazi lawyers call this "Justice Correction." Sentences, which the SS leadership feels are too lenient, and acquittals which appear to them dangerous, are simply "corrected."
These are facts. And everywhere there circulate the wildest kinds of rumors about the treatment of inmates in the camps themselves. It is important to bear in mind all the time, that next to the building of the Autobahns, and next to the joyful rhythm of newly created jobs, which certainly is now pulsating throughout the country, there is this other side! I am personally of the opinion that this side is more important than that which stands in the light of publicity. For neither individuals nor states, can lead a decent life in the daytime, and at night be scoundrels.
Press Censorship, of course, prevented any news about the full realities of the camps and other features of the persecutions from ever appearing in public. But more important than censorship was the intimidation and terror perpetrated the SA under the loose leadership of the ambitious SA Chief, Ernst Rhm.
Thwarted SA Ambitions
Despite their apparent power in Germany, many in the SA were growing dissatisfied with their impotence within the established institutions. Still comprising largely impoverished and unemployed men fundamentally hostile to any "Establishment," the SA were disgusted by the failure of the Nazi Party, after months in office, to confer the material benefits they had anticipated. The Government was aware of this growing disgust, and tried to placate the SA by insisting that old Party fighters be given priority in employment.
The following extraordinary letter was sent to Eutin SA leader and District President Bhmcker by one such disgruntled SA Man, a former Bank Clerk in Eutin.. It is a remarkably revealing document, and it accurately reflects the tenor of the SA threat.
18 June 1933 Letter of Carl Friedrich T to District President Bhmcker
I am convinced that you are not fully aware of the tragedy of my unemployed destiny, which consist of the fact that I hold the local record for the longest period of unemployment -- I have been without work for four years and eleven months now, broken only by a five-month position at the employment office in Eutin in 1931, and this record, as I know today, cannot be excelled by anyone in the province! Since the middle of 1928, I live in the most humble of circumstances, only seldom softened by sporadic charitable gifts from relatives, and under this truly aesthetic life style I have been trying to reach a better future. Naturally, over the years, I have made numerous attempts to secure a position in my profession, but as you yourself know all too well, it was impossible for people who had become politically active, and defended their stand in a public and well-informed manner, to keep any job in any government office. To my own cost, I proved this fact twice over, in 1929 and 1930, once at the city hall in Eutin, and the second time at the employment office, where my position was terminated with reference to my "treasonable activities."
In 1928, along with a large percentage of the proletarian SA men, I was won over to the Movement by the socialist and strongly anti-capitalist program of the NSDAP, especially the systematic exposition of Gottfried Feder and Gregor Strasser, and then I learned that Hitler himself was a person who came out from the depths, which meant he too had no property and did not have the good fortune to be set up in life by a rich father and thus could really understand what suffering was and that alone makes a realistic view of the world possible. So there was a guarantee of a State that would be formed on socialist and nationalist principles.
The composition of Storm Troop 30, which from its beginnings was nearly two-thirds proletarian, demonstrated the understanding of these with the convincing socialist theses. Unfortunately our propaganda, which aimed at winning over the Social Democratic and Communist workers, was not crowned with overwhelming success. Then in the year 1930, our political propaganda turned more toward smashing the bourgeois parties and achieved the result that bourgeois voters by the hundreds swarmed into our party, along with all other kinds of drift-wood, that is persons who had grown up in a bourgeois ideology and only came to us out of fears over their growing economic impoverishment. These people, many of whom enjoyed "reputation and influence," knew very well how to twist the local Movement around their fingers. Precisely at that moment, the German workers started to leave and stand outside, waiting to see what would happen.
On more than a dozen occasions in 1931 and 1932 I talked with Party Comrades of a bourgeois persuasion and established that they lacked even a rudimentary understanding of the National Socialist Weltanschauung, or at the most had only a simplistic grasp which they distorted with their previous bourgeois views, and that they supported the organization of the NSDAP only because it stood in the crassest contradiction to the methods and practices of their own old parties. It is indeed comical to see in the last year and even today men in SA uniform who in 1929 and 1930 would frequently label us "bandits," "politicians of catastrophe," "scandalous rabble" and such, and one of these even dared to say to me last week, "They didn't take US seriously in those days!"
[After recalling how he joined the SA Storm 30 in November 1928, he bragged about his activities]. In more than 40 "First Meetings," such as in Ahrensbk, Ssel, Lebatz, Gothendorf, Lbeck, Kiel, Neumnster, Pln, Oldenburg, Preetz, etc, at times in 20 degree winter weather, as a simple SA man, I sacrificed my own interests and above all, and this can be proved, my health for our Movement. I therefore can justly claim to belong to those who have steadfastly and regularly discharged my duty. For me today, it is a bitter pain to see total strangers working in those bastions which we once stormed, strangers who joined the Movement only long after we had fought through the successful Oldenburg municipal elections in December 1929, and secured 7,600 votes in this corner of Lbeck Province.
After most carefully examining all those who have come to good positions thanks to the Party's influence, I believe that, all things considered I too belong to those who have a first-class claim to a job, and that Justice, which has always been the highest law governing actions in our Movement because we have been better Socialists than all the others, must also descend upon me!
It did. A few weeks later, T received a position in the office of the municipal hospital in Eutin, replacing the dismissed leader of the Reichsbanner. In 1936, however, he was turned down in his attempt to become Head of the District hospital office, apparently because he lacked the necessary training. He was killed on 25 June 1940 during the war in France.
Such petty gifts of jobs satisfied few in the SA, Many more were convinced that they were needed for a more important function: to save National Socialism from its domestic enemies.
26 April 1934 Obertruppfhrer Alfred Harder Letter to Standartenfhrer˙ Reimann, Berlin
During the visit of my Staff Chief in Hamburg I had the opportunity to speak to him for a few minutes. My Staff Chief, as well as you, requested me, to write out a report of everything we discussed. Since I have belonged to the Movement since 1928, with membership number 93,326, I believe I am capable of arriving at the following conclusion both in the interest of the Movement, as well as my SA Comrades.
After the seizure of power on 5 March 1933 a natural result of the victory opened up the ranks of the SA, SS and so forth, and then there rushed in all those who are always present only when there's no danger, and who are always hoping to benefit personally. Thus, our "former" enemies now dressed themselves in our honorable uniforms, perhaps some out of conviction, but the great mass surely only in order to be there. Could any of these men, who only a few days before acted in hostile fashion toward us, have suddenly become National Socialists? Could any of these men have put on our honorable uniforms out of honorable convictions? We old fighters say "No." We ourselves could never and would never be anything other than National Socialists. Never could we have followed any Fhrer other than ADOLF HITLER. We have given him our oath and we will keep it.
It seems today as if the fight for power took place years ago, but if we were to think back only two years, and think of the period when the communists ruled Hamburg, when an SA Man lost everything, but still, day by day, did his duty without complaining, with empty stomachs, while the "better" people despised and jeered at us, and almost every day we carried one of our comrades to his final resting place, never knowing when we might expect the same destiny? These men, who fought during those days, would do the same fighting today and tomorrow; whenever the Fhrer were to call they would be the first to respond. Out of conviction, we became National Socialists and fighters for the ideas of our Fhrer; out of love for Fhrer and Fatherland, we became fanatics, who would gladly and happily die rather than see Germany turned over to Communism. Whoever is honorable, whoever thinks not of himself but of Germany, is prepared to die for his Fatherland. Honor, openness, and loyalty are the virtues of the old fighters. One can learn such virtues only in fighting, where every man must stand up to be counted. Sneakiness and hypocrisy were not to be found among the old fighters.
Today, however, one must admit that the race has been won by the "newcomers" at the expense of the lower ranks. Today these new men can't be more helpful and loving enough. With the same "loving attention" they once showered on us in hatred now they hypocritically ooze sincerity, for wearing a uniform with [officer's] stars is certainly something else again, something better.
Quietly, we old fighters hear and see all this sneakiness and think back to the old fighting days, but also think ahead to the days which must come once again, when these so-called "fighters" who think they are SA-Men because they wear that uniform, will disappear as fast as they have appeared, and once again we old fighters will have to face the music alone. As an old fighter yourself, you, Standartenfhrer, have certainly seen into the souls of these men; it is not easy for us to watch how foreign elements are at work, elements who in 1923 betrayed the freedom of the Fatherland and today attempt to worm their way even into the leadership ranks of the SA. Everywhere opportunity knocks, these men rush into the front, while the old fighters quietly hold back; how many SA Men have actually resigned as Party members? As ever, they wait the call of our Fhrer!
Certainly, every old fighter cannot become an SA Leader or a politician, but many of them have the knowledge and the spirit without knowing how to put it to practical use. Here too, those who know everything better, who have always been National Socialists etc. etc., inhibit the chances of the old fighters to move up in the world. We do not fight for positions and reputations, we fight for that justice which our Fhrer represents. But could not some way be found in order to give the old fighters an opportunity to demonstrate his political as well as his military experience, or even some opportunity to develop these talents further? in order to really create a new NS leadership corps.
We old fighters always know where our enemies lurk, not in the circles of manual laborers -- no, these men are believers, and through the measures undertaken by our government they have become convinced of the correctness of National Socialist policies. Our enemies stand in the ranks of the Intellectuals, the reactionaries; these men of a vanished past still believe in a monarchy. We could care less about the form a state takes; the needs of the Volk are what count with us, we want that the reorganization, which the Fhrer has started in a National Socialist sense, should be carried through and whoever opposes or sabotages this reorganization, they are our enemies.
As the guarantors of the Movement, we cannot rest, until the entire apparatus of the State is cleansed of these servile tools of Reaction. Only then will we have that state for which we all have fought and will fight for in the future, a National Socialist Germany.
Ernst Rhm, the SA Chief of Staff. shared all these frustrations. In a newspaper article of June 1933, he expressed his disillusionment over the incomplete Revolution.
June 1933 Ernst Rhm Article, "The SA and the Revolution ˙
A tremendous victory has been won. But not absolute victory! The new State did not have to disown the bearers of the will to revolution as the November men had to with the red hordes who were the followers of their revolution, born of cowardice and high treason. In the new Germany the disciplined brown storm battalions of the German revolution stand side by side with the armed forces. Not as part of them.
The Reichswehr has its own undisputed task: it is committed to defend the borders of the Reich, so far as its small numbers and completely inadequate armament enables it to do so. The police have to keep down the law-breakers.
Beside these stand the SA and the SS as the third power factor of the new State with special tasks. The Fhrer and Chancellor of the German people needs them for the tremendous work of German revival which still lies before him. For the SA and the SS are the foundation pillars of the coming National Socialist State -- the State for which they have fought and which they will defend. The SA and SS are militant spiritual bearers of the will of the German revolution.
Already here and there, philistines and grumblers are daring to ask in astonishment what the SA and SS are still there for, since Hitler is now in power. After all, they point out, we are all nationalists again. Swastika flags fly over the streets. There is law and order everywhere. And if it is disturbed, the police will take care that it is restored as quickly as possible. So why the SA and SS?
The philistines and grumblers, whether they stand in the ranks of our eternal and irreconcilable adversaries, or are gleichgeschaltet, or even wear the swastika, have not understood the meaning of the German revolution and never will understand it. The course of events between 30 January and 21 March 1933 does not represent the sense and meaning of the German National Socialist revolution.
Anyone who wanted to be a fellow-traveler -- during shining torchlight processions and impressive parades with rumbling drums and booming kettledrums, with blaring trumpets and waving flags -- and now believes he has "taken part" in the German revolution, can go home! He has confused the "national uprising" with the German revolution! He has intoxicated himself with outward appearances; perhaps he has got carried away by the unheard-of mood of "Potsdam Day," perhaps he was delighted to see millions and millions of workers march for Germany at the Festival of German Labor, and for a few hours felt a breath of our spirit, but he is not one of us!! For the coming years of struggle he can creep back to the hearth or the desk or the pub from whence he came. The fighters in the simple brown service shirt of the SA and SS will not miss him on their path forwards to the German revolution, just as they did not meet him when, in long years marked by sacrifices and blood, they fought their passionate fight for a new Germany....
The SA and SS will not tolerate the German revolution going to sleep or being betrayed at the halfway stage by non-combatants. Not for their own sake, but for Germany's sake. For the brown army is the last levy of the nation, the last bastion against Communism. If the German revolution is wrecked by reactionary opposition, incompetence, or indolence, the German people will fall into despair and will be an easy prey for the bloodstained frenzy coming from the depths of Asia. For this reason the fantasy in the minds of some
Gleichgeschaltete people and low-level dignitaries calling themselves National Socialist, that to keep calm is the first duty of a citizen, is a betrayal of the German revolution.
The people who are now everywhere "involved" and murmur -- still softly as yet -- their little uptight bourgeois maxim of "law and order" were nowhere to be seen during our long pilgrimage in search of the new Germany for which we longed. At the most, they stood aside and looked on as we fought and bled for Germany. We were too undistinguished for them, too loud, too radical. We still are, as far as they are concerned. It is enough for them that the black-white-and-red colors of the Bismarck empire are flying over Germany and, as a concession to the revolution, the swastika flag. For them the degree of outward power so far acquired, in which they are allowed a share, is enough. They would have even been contented with considerably less, because they did not have to struggle; they were only the beneficiaries of our victory....
If those bourgeois simpletons think it is enough that the State apparatus has received a new sign, that the "national" revolution has already lasted too long, for once we agree with them. It is in fact high time the national revolution stopped and became the National Socialist one. Whether they like it or not, we will continue our struggle -- if they understand at last what it is about -- with them; it they are unwilling -- without them; and if necessary against them!
Clearly this speech was a wake-up call for those highly placed Nazis who were enjoying the fruits of their ÒrevolutionÓ in secure government posts. Alerted repeatedly to the constant interference by the SA in local, regional and national levels, Adolf Hitler was pressured into issuing a public call formally ending the "Revolution." It was a direct rebuke to the rowdy SA elements of the party, and doubtlessly was inspired by a concern they might destabilize his new government.
6 July 1933 Adolf Hitler Speech to the Reich Commissioners
The political parties have now been finally abolished. This is an historic event, the meaning and significance of which many people have not yet understood. We must now abolish the last remnants of democracy, especially the methods of election and the majority decisions still employed today in local governments, in economic organizations and works committees. The responsibility of the individual must be stressed.
The achievement of outward power must be followed by the inward education of man. We must beware of making doctrinaire decisions from one day to the next and of expecting a final solution from them. People are easily capable of bending outward forms to suit their own intellectual stamp. The switch-over must not be made until suitable people have been found to carry out the switching. More revolutions have succeeded in their first assault than, once successful, have been established with firmness and stability. Revolution is not a permanent state, it must not develop into a lasting state. The full force of the revolution must be guided into the secure bed of evolution. In this respect the most important part will be the education of the ˙
The present state of affairs must be improved and the people embodying it must be educated in the National Socialist conception of the State. A businessman must not therefore be dismissed if he is a good businessman even if he is not yet a good National Socialist; especially not if the National Socialist put in his place knows nothing about business. In business, ability alone must be decisive. The task of National Socialism is the safeguarding of the development of our Volk. But we must not keep looking round to see what next to revolutionize; rather we have the task of securing one position after another in order to hold them, and occupy them gradually in model fashion. In this we must gear our actions to a period of many years, and plan in terms of long periods of time. We cannot provide bread for any worker by a theoretical Gleichschaltung of people. History will not judge us by the number of businessmen we dismissed or locked up, but by whether we know how to provide work. Today we have the absolute power to succeed. But we must be able to replace those we dismiss by their betters. The businessman must be judged first on his business abilities; we must keep the economic apparatus in order. We shall not abolish unemployment with Economic Commissions, or with theories and blueprints of organizations. The main thing now is not programs and ideas but the daily bread of five million people. The economy is a living organism which cannot be changed at a blow; it is constructed according to primitive laws bound up with human nature. The carriers of intellectual poison now seeking to penetrate the economy are a menace to both State and people. Practical experience must not be rejected simply because it is opposed to a particular idea.
In confronting the nation with reforms, we must show that we understand things and can cope with them. Our task is work, work, and again work! Our success in providing work will be our most powerful source of authority. Our program is not a matter of fine gestures, but of maintaining the life of the German people.
The ideas of the program do not demand that we act like fools and overturn everything, but that we realize our concepts wisely and carefully. In the long run, the more successful the economic underpinning of our program, the more secure will be our political power. Reich Governors must ensure, and are responsible for seeing, that no organizations or party authorities shall claim governmental rights, dismiss people, or fill offices for which only the Reich Government and, in the field of economics, only the Reich Minister of Economics is responsible.
The Party has now become the State. All power comes under the authority of the Reich. The emphasis of German life must be prevented from shifting back into particular areas or even organizations. No longer does authority stem from any part of the Reich but only from the concept of the Germans as a nation.
This idea sounded very good on paper, or in a speech, but it was far from reality.The following document was written by a perceptive and disgruntled SA leader, who saw clearly the chaos on the local level, particularly in his case, the dangerous interference in business and industry from the National Socialist Labor Organization (the NSBO) from Robert Ley's new German Worker's Front (DAF)
Summer 1933 Memorandum by an SA leader
The authority of the State is in danger through constant unjustified interference by political officials in the machinery of normal administration. Every NSBO functionary, NSBO local branch leader, NSBO district leader ... every political cell leader, political local branch leader, political district leader is giving orders which interfere with the exercise of the authority of the ministries at the lower levels, that is to say, the authority of the regional governments, the district offices, down to the smallest police station.
Everyone is arresting everyone else, avoiding the prescribed official channels; everyone is threatening everyone else with protective custody; everyone is threatening everyone else with Dachau.
Businesses are being forced to dismiss any number of employees, and businesses are being compelled to take on employees without checking on their qualifications.... Right down to the smallest police station, the best and most reliable officials have become uncertain about the hierarchy of authority; this clearly must have a devastating and destructive effect on the State.
I really cannot be counted among the pussyfooters, and for that very reason I must say that if the revolution is to be turned into an ordered relationship between State and Volk,
the State apparatus must be made completely safe from all revolutionary interference from the street. It must be left to the responsibility of the State ministries alone, both in the spheres of policy and of personnel, to embody revolutionary ideas in a form which is suitable to the community....
Every little street cleaner today feels he is responsible for matters which he has never understood.... No one can dispute the fact that, at the moment, two-thirds of the daily work in my area, and in all other areas I know, has to be wasted on trifles arising from Party officials' lack of discipline.... The leadership principle is in grave danger from these conditions.... I do not mind if my giving this warning makes me appear a grumbler. I can only state that these present circumstances must inevitably lead to chaos.
A few months later, Frick issued specific rules aimed at curtailing the SA abuses, and restoring some calm to the local areas.˙
6 October 1933 Circular of Reich Minister of the Interior Frick
Despite repeated announcements by the Reich Chancellor and despite my numerous circulars new infringements by subordinate leaders and members of the SA have been reported again and again during the past weeks. Above all, SA leaders and SA men have independently carried out police actions either for which they had no authority whatever or which they carried out in a way that cannot be reconciled with the existing laws and regulations of the National Socialist Government. In this way, even extraterritorial status of a foreign ambassador has recently been seriously violated by unauthorized SA men, thereby involving the foreign policy of the Government.
These infringements and excesses must now cease once and for all. I make it the duty of Reich Commissars, State Governments and all subordinate institutions to intervene sharply against such infringements or any attempt at unauthorized interference. Unless members of the SA are employed as auxiliary police officers or as auxiliary officials in the frontier service by the proper authorities, they have no police jurisdiction whatsoever. In future, therefore, all police activities of the SA in all circumstances must cease....
Where it becomes necessary in exceptional circumstances to employ members of the SA to assist the police in particular actions, they must never act independently but only in the presence of and under the supervision of the police, and only in accordance with the orders of the police officer. The leader of the police force carries full responsibility for the employment and the conduct of such auxiliary SA men. Furthermore, auxiliary police officers and auxiliary border customs officers are not to carry out their work except in the company of an official˙ Only if these orders are minutely observed can agents provocateurs be effectively prevented from damaging the SA and the National Socialist State.
The functions of the National Socialist State administration and the police executive must not be disturbed in any way by unauthorized infringements on the part of the SA. The authorities must not submit to such interference. Punishable actions by members of the SA must be prosecuted.... In cases in which members of the SA have undoubtedly committed punishable acts, there must never again be any ground for saying that the culprits could not be found, or that their prosecution was prevented....
In his capacity as Supreme SA F hrer , the Chancellor will publish a corresponding decree to the SA which will be made known to every SA office and every SA man.
Aware of the hostility from these Party functionaries he despised, Rhm was forced to warn his SA. But any perceptive SA Man could read between the lines of this warning.
31 July 1933 Ernst Rhm Order
I am attempting to insure that everywhere the rights of the SA are recognized and secured as the officially recognized troops of the National Socialist Revolution. The proposed decree concerning special SA courts of justice will give a legal foundation to my attempts. [Rhm had proposed removing all SA men from the jurisdiction of the regular courts, subjecting them only to SA justice, thus making them similarto soldiers in the Reichswehr. Despite his efforts, no decree to this effect was ever issued.]
I personally protect and gladly take responsibility for the actions of all SA Men, even those which are not in accord with existing legal requirements, but which serve exclusively the interest of the SA. This includes, for example, an SA Leader who, as punishment for the murder of an SA man, seized and tried up to 12 members of that enemy organization which had carried out the initial murder. That Leader ordered the trial to be carried out quickly and with harsh military results.
But at the same time I have received reports, although only a few, in which members of the SA -- I will not call them SA-Men, for that they are not -- have made themselves guilty of unheard-of excesses. Among these belong acts which were only settling personal revenge, unallowed mistreatment of individuals, thefts, break-ins and plundering. I order that all such men, who shame the honorable SA uniform they wear, should be proceeded against with limitless sharpness. To protect such villains is entirely false, and contrary to the SA code of honor or the concept of comradeship. Only such things risk damaging the good name of the SA.
As long as the SA courts are not yet installed, such criminals, if their actions are not so great as to require death as an example for all, must be driven out of the SA with derision and disgrace, and turned over to the responsible police authorities. The interest of the SA demands that these fellows be stripped of their honor and punished harshly.
Only if such actions are carried out can I, with the necessary weight, demand of State Officials that SA Men should not be arrested by the Police but only by SA-Men. We must keep our own ranks clean, and any appearance of immorality, of an attitude which contradicts the true spirit of the SA, must be immediately and thoroughly exterminated lock, stock and barrel.. In the future, I will hold SA Leaders personally responsible if, exercising a false indulgence, they fail to attack ruthlessly such excesses.
To his comrades, R hm constantly expressed his outrage over the bureaucratic atmosphere which appeared to be gaining the upper hand. On one occasion, he exploded with anger in a conversation with the Nazi Leader of Danzig.
Late summer 1933 Hermann Rauschning Conversation with Ernst R hm
Rhm's scars were scarlet with excitement. He had drunk a few glasses of wine in quick succession. "Adolf is a swine," he swore. "He will give us all away. He only associates with reactionaries now. His old friends aren't good enough for him."... He was jealous and hurt.
"Adolf is turning into a gentleman. He's got himself a tail-coat now!" he mocked.... "Adolf knows exactly what I want, I've told him often enough. Not a second edition of the old imperial army. Are we revolutionaries or aren't we?... If we're not, then we'll go to the dogs. We've got to produce something new, don't you see? A new discipline. A new principle of organization. The generals are a lot of old fogies. They never have a new idea. Adolf has learnt from me. Everything he knows about military matters, I've taught him. War is something more than armed clashes. You won't make a revolutionary army out of the old Prussian NCO's. But Adolf is and remains a civilian, an "artist", and idler. ÒDon't bother me, that's all he thinksÓ. What he wants is to sit on that hilltop and pretend he's God. And the rest of us, who are itching to do something, have got to sit around doing nothing.... Hitler puts me off with fair words. He wants to let things run their course. He expects a miracle. Just like Adolf! He wants to inherit an army all ready and complete. He's going to let the "experts" file away at it. When I hear that word, I'm ready to explode. Afterwards he'll make National Socialists of them, he says ... I'm the nucleus of the new army, don't you see that?"
During the fall campaign over the plebiscite to leave the League of Nations and the Disarmament Conference,, Rhm continued to fan the threat of a "second revolution."˙
5 November 1933, Ernst Rhm Sportspalast˙ Campaign Speech
One often hears voices from the bourgeois camp to the effect that the SA have lost their reason for being. I want to say to these gentlemen: the bureaucratic spirit which has barely changed after the Seizure of Power must still be changed in a gentle, or if need be, in an un-gentle manner. By no means can the National Socialist Revolution be regarded as completed.
Local SA groups apparently continued to follow read this message as encouraging them.
2 February 1934 Complaint of a Salesman from T--
On Saturday, 27 January this year, I was calling upon a customer of my firm in T, when H P, a farmer in T, a member of the NSDAP and, to my knowledge, a group leader in the SA, came into the house of my customer.... H P came up to me and demanded that I go out into the yard with him. I obeyed, and H P told me that I was a salesman for a Jewish Firm in Oppenheim and therefore must immediately leave the village of T. He could not be responsible for my personal safety otherwise, for the population was very upset [at my presence]. I then went over to the door and saw that 10 or 12 young men were in fact standing out front. H P added that I should go at once,otherwise my motor bike might be destroyed.
Although Hitler's response to all this was to emphasize the importance of the State and issue laws which appeared to unify Party and State, all these decrees left an ambiguity as to where real locus of power. But this public stance of unity certainly convinced many Germans like Erich Ebermayer that by the end of their first year in office,, the Nazi seizure of power was complete.
30 January 1934 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry
Today, throughout the nation, they celebrate the first anniversary of the "Seizure of Power." In this first year of power, the National Socialists have succeeded -- to deny it would be self-deceiving -- in attracting to their side the overwhelming majority of the German people, not only the factory workers, the farmers, and the lower classes, but also the upper elites, the artists, and the educated. We few are become ever fewer. We are, indeed, almost alone....
1 March 1934 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry
Have I ever begun a March in my life in a more hopeless situation? I drew up a balance sheet. All my books, with one exception, have been banned. This one, Instrument in God's Hand, has not exactly been banned, but strongly rejected. I am apparently under a boycott of sorts. Production recently, a zero. No new ideas in sight. Prohibited from writing for the radio. Dismissed without warning as director and author for the Leipzig Theater makes my position here unbearable. The boycott of me personally, widens daily. In a city such as Leipzig, news of official disapproval gets around very fast. Then every one quakes, turns away from the rejected person, as if he carried the plague. My departure from Leipzig, originally planned as voluntary, has now become forced. There is no other choice.
I stand before the void, not only externally and professionally. What is much worse, I must recognize that my war against intrigue and resistance, and above all the constant pressure of these times has made me more unproductive than ever before in my life. the hopelessness that my world will ever be put right again, the feeling that the times simply roll over me, may have some relationship to my own artistic creativity. Naturally, I can, I must, find the power to snap out of this mood and continue my work, independent of enemies and persecution. At present, however, I do not have that strength. I have never exactly required success, but I must feel a little resonance from readers, in order that I might believe in the purpose of my writing. Now, I no longer feel even the smallest response....
Isolated as Ebermayer was, he could not sense the growing hostility between the frustrated SA and the official authorities. To many in the SA, even puny Employment Office personnel were could snub them. The swaggering Brown Shirts could no longer command and expect immediate obedience.
May 1934 Report of the Employment office, Amberg (Franconia)
The opinion is widely prevalent among the SA, especially in the country-side, that membership in the SA ought to produce some special advantages. Although the local employment office does make special note of membership in any of the formations of the party, we also have found that in many cases, men had joined the SA only in order to gain [a better chance at getting a job. Should their expectations in this regard not be met at once, they become ill-mannered and often aggressive....
Nowhere was this aggressive tone encountered more frequently than in the increasing report of sadistic practices in Concentration Camps under SA control.
21 June 1934 Report of the Attorney General's Office in the Reich and Prussian Ministry of the Interior to the State Secretary of the same Ministry
Re: Mishandling of Prisoners in Concentration Camp "Vulkanwerft," Bredow near Stettin
The camp received no financial assistance from the State, but was supported by gifts, in the first instance large amounts from prominent local business firms etc, but later also money demanded from or earned by the prisoners....
From the very beginning, in the camp, which contained between 25 and 40 prisoners, serious mistreatment of prisoners occurred. This maltreatment followed according to a so-called "wind-speed" scale. Velocity # 1 consisted of 50, Velocity # 2 of 100 lashes with a whip on the naked rear-end. Orders for the administration of Wind-speeds were given from Police Headquarters in Stettin, normally by Dr. Hoffmann either in written form or on the telephone, and then carried out in the Camp in a cellar where a special bunker had been erected. The whipping was supervised by the Commander of the Camp, who counted the lashes.
In addition, in the last months numerous instances of mistreatments occurred, carried out by the ever more brutal Camp Guards, especially one Fink, who constantly exceeded his orders. At the beginning, the administration of Wind-speeds was applied only to enemies of the state and dangerous common criminals, in order to encourage them to give accurate testimony; later on other prisoners were mistreated including even party comrades and SA-Men accused of some crime or other, accusations which often turned out to be groundless. Even as the number of such mistreatments mounted, so too did their severity, so that when the camp was finally dissolved, four persons, including a woman, were in such bad condition with life-threatening wounds, that they had to be brought to a hospital.
The Final SA Crisis
The SA throughout Germany continued to express its contempt for both the political leadership and party bureaucrats. "Political Earthworms," was one of their favorite epithets. Many in the SA believed that they must do something to save the National Socialist Revolution from being destroyed from within, by the gleichgeschaltete civil service, and police (even if working with Himmler's SS).
To some observers, perhaps to Hitler himself, a far greater threat than these ill-manners was the military ambition of Rhm and his SA leaders. They aspired to become the Brown Army, replacing the Reichswehr. The Minister of Defense, General von Blomberg, had adopted a benevolent tone towards the new government, but he and army authorities were increasingly concerned about the growth and ambitions of the SA.
By the beginning of 1934, through aggressive recruiting and the absorption of other para-military organizations, the SA had grown to nearly 2,500,000 men. The Reichswehr continued at a level of slightly over 100,000 men. True many of the SA were riff-raff, but Hitler found himself caught between the demands of his professional army, and the tugs of loyalty to the Old Fighters. On 28 February 1934, in a conference attended by Reichswehr, SA and SS leaders, Hitler rejected Rhm's idea of forming a militia, and forced Blomberg and Rhm to sign an agreement in which the SA would be limited to pre- and post-military training, under the direction of regular army officers. But two days later, Blomberg wrote in alarm to Hitler.
The Versailles demilitarized zone in which all military uniforms and groups were banned.
30 February 1934 Defense Minister General von Blomberg to Hitler
I feel obliged to refer again to the significance of the armed staff guards of the SA. According to an order of the Chief of Staff [of the SA, i.e. Rhm], every ˙
Obergruppe and Group is to set up its own armed staff guards with a heavy machine gun company. This has already begun in certain areas. According to a report by the Commander of Military District VI, leaders of SA brigades are planning the formation of such a staff guard as well and are swearing in SA people for 18 months for that purpose. Selection and training are being carried out with the aim of appearing in public. In terms of numbers, this would amount to 6,000 to 8,000 men permanently armed with guns and machine guns in that military district alone. It is particularly unfortunate that the formation of these staff guards is taking place in connection with so-called SA auxiliary labor camps, which are mostly situated in the big cities. Today I received a report that a staff guard armed like this is being formed in Hchst am Main, that is to say, in the neutral zone [in which the Versailles Treaty prohibited all uniforms and military exercises].
The tension of these days has been described in rather florid fashion by Hans Bernd Gisevius, a police expert in the Ministry of the Interior.
Post-War Account by Hans Bernd Gisevius
A tremendous sense of muddle and insecurity prevailed. Throughout Germany the phrase about the second revolution lurked like a mysterious flame, now flaring high, now smoking thickly. And whenever it was spoken, all those who had not yet been displaced from their accustomed paths felt a paralyzing uncertainty. The revolutionaries themselves became uneasy. There was something in the sultry air, and a flood of probable and wildly fantastic rumors spilled out over the intimidated populace. Insane tales were fondly believed. Everyone whispered and peddled fresh rumors.
Apparently everyone saw ghosts as well. Among those to whom the bogeyman in person appeared were Gring, Himmler, Rhm, and [SA leader] Karl Ernst. All of a sudden these ill-sorted comrades in fear became extremely concerned with the question of whether assassins had been hired to murder them and who these killers might be. Significantly enough, they did not search for suspicious Jews, Marxists, or reactionaries. Old hands at intrigue that they were, they looked for their deadly enemies in their own ranks....
Meanwhile, Hitler wavered. He wavered whenever he thought of President Hindenburg. He suspected that the old man was on the watch, but he knew that if he acted prudently there would be no need to fear the president much longer. Still cloudy was the question of whether his own succession to the presidency would go through without a hitch. That depended on the army.... Hitler wavered whenever he considered the army. Could he bend it to his will, as Rhm kept urging? Or should he throw Rhm to the dogs as a sacrifice to the army? He wavered when he thought about the men behind the army. Could he rely on the Black-White-Red nationalists, or was that reactionary clique agitating against him.... He wavered when he thought of Gring, of Himmler, of Goebbels, Ley, Hess, and all the myriad other little Hitlers who surrounded him.
If Adolf Hitler at this point, scarcely one and a half years after his seizure of power, had possessed a few allies within the country, the threatening catastrophe might have been averted. For then he could have employed the Black-White-Red groups [i.e. the Conservative Establishment], the Steel Helmets, the bourgeoisie, or the churches as support in a campaign against radicalism. He might have re-established some kind of political equilibrium by playing off the adherents of state authority against the Party fanatics. But since in his passion to achieve total power, he had thrust away all the potential allies, he was backed only by his revolutionaries.
And the revolutionaries were pushing forward impatiently. The bankrupts were confessing old sins and making new demands. The idealists were waving yellowed programs and devising new plans. The zealots were recalling old promises and proclaiming new glories. The boors were talking about the virtues of austerity and demanding uniforms with gold braid. the candidates for pensions babbled enthusiastically about the thousand years of plenty to come and grabbed what they could in ten months.... But all of them had one sovereign cure which they hoped would bring them closer to their confused and ill-understood goals. That cure was "a second revolution." In April, May, and June , Hitler must have felt that the genii had been led out of the bottle.
There he stood, "our Fhrer;" his voice drowned the clamor of his retinue; even while he was menaced by their insane demands, he was cheered by the silly, credulous masses. What was he to do now? What rock was he to climb to escape the sweeping tide which his own sorcery had created? We need not look far for an answer to our questions. It is interesting to note what he himself afterward admitted about these last weeks: "The danger and the tension that bore down upon everyone had gradually become unendurable." These words make clear not only what happened, but the fact that it had to happen.
There is no need to introduce unnecessary complications in analyzing what led up to 30 June. It is manifestly false to attribute the events to reactionary uprisings or treason on the part of Rhm, the chief of staff, or the fact that the SA was a hotbed of perversion. Fundamentally the reason was very simple indeed; the old magic formulas had ceased to work. Adolf Hitler could no longer command the demons he had called up.
All he could do now was shoot at them.
The immediate issue involved a confrontation between Hitler and R hm. What follows is Hitler's own version of what happened on 4 June 1934
July 1934 Adolf Hitler Speech to the Reichstag
At the beginning of June I made a last attempt and had yet another talk with Rhm which lasted nearly five hours and was prolonged until midnight. I informed him that from numberless rumors and from numerous assurances and statements of old, loyal comrades and SA leaders, I had gained the impression that by certain unscrupulous elements a National-Bolshevist rising was being prepared which could only bring untold misery upon Germany. I explained to him further that reports had also come to my ears of the intention to draw the army within the scope of these plans. I assured Chief of Staff Rhm, that the assertion that the SA was to be dissolved was an infamous lie and that I refused to make any comment upon the lie that I myself intended to attack the SA, but that I should at any moment be ready personally to oppose any attempt to raise chaos in Germany and that anyone who attacks the State should know from the outset that he will have me for his enemy. I implored him for the last time to oppose this madness on his own accord -- let him at the same time use his authority to stop a development which in any event could end only in catastrophe.
I raised afresh vigorous protests on the score of the impossible excesses which followed one after another and demanded the immediate and complete elimination of these elements from the SA in order not to dishonor, through a few unworthy individuals, the SA itself, together with millions of decent comrades and hundreds of thousands of old fighters. The Chief of Staff left this interview after assuring me that the reports were partly untrue and partly exaggerated, and that moreover he would for the future do everything in his power to set things right.
Three days later, Rhm released the following statement. Despite its belligerent tone, there is no evidence that Rhm had plans for a putsch against Hitler or the government.
7 June 1934 Rhm Announcement
I have decided to follow the advice of my doctors and take a cure in order to restore my energies which have been severely strained by a painful nervous complaint. My place will be taken by the Chief of the Leadership Office, Obergruppenf hrer von Krausser.
1934 will require all the energies of every SA fighter. I recommend, therefore, to all SA leaders to begin organizing leave already in June. Therefore, for a limited number of SA leaders and men, June, and for the majority of the SA, July will be a period of complete relaxation in which they can recover their strength.
I expect the SA to return on 1 August completely rested and refreshed in order to serve in those honorable capacities which nation and fatherland expect of it. If the enemies of the SA live in hope that the SA will not return, or will return only in part, from its leave, we will allow them this brief pleasurable anticipation. They will receive the appropriate reply at the time and in the manner appearing most suitable.
The SA is and remains Germany's destiny.
Others were deeply worried by all this tension. President Hindenburg, although seriously ill, called Vice-Chancellor Papen to his home at Neudeck, and complained about the domestic situation. "Things are going badly, Papen. See what you can do to put them right."
Goebbels Tageb cher ˙
By provision of the Weimar Constitution, the diplomatic service was directly under the Reich President.
To the Nazis., this concern seemed a reactionary conspiracy . The Goebbels diary dramatically shows his own concern for what he saw as a threat from the Right.
21 May 1934 Goebbels Diary Entry
On Saturday afternoon, Blomberg came for coffee. We took a little trip out onto the lake in our boat. All of Berlin seemed to be out for a sail for Pentecost. Blomberg is very nice. Told stories about Papen, and his ambitious personal plans. He wants to take over Hindenburg's job when the old gentleman dies. That's completely out of the question. On the contrary, that position must be used to really clean up some of the mess that is entrenched here. Above all in the Foreign Office. [which reported directly to the President.] [Foreign Minister Neurath is too weak to do that job, even though he is as nice and loyal as can be.
29 June 1934 Goebbels Diary Entry
Wednesday, visited Bremen. Everywhere great concern about the growth of the reactionaries. Spoke in the evening before 60,000 people. Good success. The people are only waiting for us to act. Really sour morale in the Reichswehr. Turns out that Papen's speech has been written by Dr. Jung.... Hanke brings me the newest pastoral letter from the Roman Collars. Strongly critical of the State. Now we must attack.... On Thursday, worked in Berlin. But getting more and more depressed. Everywhere, the reactionaries are at work. Drove out to Cladow for a free afternoon. Ate lunch with the Fhrer.
Here Goebbels referred to an important speech by Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen. Choosing as a forum a long-standing invitation from the University of Marburg, Papen voiced the concern of many over the tyranny and corruption of the administration that had taken over Germany, and attacked the lack of freedom. Not only Goebbels interpreted it as part of a reactionary conspiracy, involving Conservatives, Catholics, and Army Officers, and a challenged to the Nazis. Most historians agree that on his own, Papen would never have had the ability or the courage to give this speech. But no evidence has yet been found of a broad Conservative coalition working to overthrow Hitler
17 June 1934 Franz von Papen Marburg Speech
The events of the past eighteen months have gripped the whole German nation and stirred it to its depths. Almost as if in a dream we have found our way out of the vale of despondency, hopelessness, hatred and division, back to the community of the German nation....
The domination of a single party in place of the multiparty system, which has rightly disappeared, seems to me, historically speaking, a transitional phase, justified only so long as the revolution must be secured and until the new process of selecting personnel starts to operated. For the logic of anti-liberalism demands the principle of an organic political development which rests on the voluntary adherence of all sections of the nation. Parties can be superseded only by organic bonds creating that free national community to the establishment of which this revolution must lead.... There is no point in disguising the emergence of a certain hiatus between the intellectual aims and the day-to-day reality of the German revolution....
It is certainly obvious that the bearers of the revolutionary principle should initially occupy also the positions of power. But once the revolution has taken place, the Government must represent the people as a whole, and must on no account be the exponent only for particular groups; otherwise it would fail in its attempt to construct the national community. We must also get away from false romantic notions which are not appropriate to the twentieth century. We cannot, for example, consider dividing the nation after the manner of the ancient Greeks into Spartans and helots. The final outcome of that development was that the Spartans had to concentrate on repressing helots, thereby weakening the diplomatic strength of Sparta. In a state where there is a true national community, domestic political war-cries must finally cease. Certainly, there must be a process of selection. But the natural criterion for the selection of people for appointments cannot be replaced by that of membership of a particular organization, so long as the motives for such membership cannot be analyzed....
I have defined the problems of the German revolution and my attitude towards them particularly sharply because there appears to be endless talk of a second wave which will complete the revolution. Anyone who irresponsibly toys with such ideas should not deceive himself about the fact that a second wave can easily be followed by a third, that he who threatens the guillotine is the first to come under the knife. Nor is it clear in what direction this second wave is meant to lead. It is true that there is much talk about future socialization. Have we experienced an anti-Marxist revolution in order to carry out the program of Marxism? For any attempt to solve the social question by collectivizing property is Marxism. Will the German people become richer, will its national income grow bigger, will anybody be better off, except possibly those who smell the possibility of plunder in such a raid? There is certainly a social problem caused by economic and demographic processes. But these can be mastered only if property is once more made aware of its responsibilities, not by raising collective irresponsibility to a principle. A form of economic planning which moves further and further away from personal initiative and responsibility must not be made into a principle. Anyone who has not observed that every form of collectivism leads to corruption, has been going about the world with his eyes shut.
No nation that wishes to survive can afford a permanent uprising from below. At some stage, the movement must come to an end; at some point there must emerge a firm social structure held together by a legal system secure against pressure, and by a State power that is unchallenged. A ceaseless dynamic creates nothing. Germany cannot be allowed to become a train hurtling into the blue with no one knowing where it will stop. History flows of its own accord, it does not need to be constantly driven forward. If, therefore, a second wave of new life is to sweep through Germany, then it must do so not as a new social revolution, but as the creative completion of work already begun. The statesman is there to create forms, his sole concern should be for State and people. The State is the sole power and the final guarantee of that which every citizen can claim iron justice. In the long run, therefore, the State cannot tolerate any dualism, and the success of the German revolution and the future of our nation will depend on the discovery of a satisfactory solution to the present dualism of Party and State.
The Government is well aware of the selfishness, the lack of principle, the insincerity, the unchivalrous behavior, the arrogance which is on the increase under the guise of the German revolution. Nor has it any illusions as to the threat to that reserve of public confidence on which any government must draw. If one desires close contact and unity with the people, one must not underestimate their intelligence. One must return their confidence and not everlastingly attempt to brow-beat them. The German people realize the gravity of the situation; they feel the economic crisis; they perceive clearly the defects of the many laws passed in haste and emergency. They are acutely sensitive to violence and injustice. Clumsy attempts at deceiving them with white-wash will not work.
In the long run, no organization, no propaganda, however excellent, will be able to maintain their confidence. I have therefore all along held a different opinion of the propaganda movement against so-called critics. Not by incitement, especially of the young, not by threats against the helpless part of the nation; only by a confidential talking things over with people can confidence and devotion be maintained. The people are aware that heavy sacrifices are demanded of them. They will follow the Fhrer in unshakeable loyalty if they are only permitted to have a share in the making and carrying out of decisions, and provided every word of criticism is not immediately interpreted as malicious, and if despairing patriots are not immediately branded as traitors.
It is time to come together in brotherly love and respect for every citizen, to cease obstructing the work of those who are in earnest, and to silence doctrinaire fanatics....
Papen's speech panicked some leaders in the Nazi party, who feared that the Army (out of a fear of Rhm) would now combine with conservative elements in the bureaucracy and business community to entrap Hitler, either by persuading the President that Hitler was no longer in control of his own party, or by waiting until the President had died and then carry out a coup claiming to be saving the country from SA radicalism.
Insofar as present historical scholarship can establish, an unholy alliance of Gring, Goebbels, Himmler and Heydrich now formed to protect their positions from the dangers of the SA, and to force Hitler to take action against Rhm. In the post-war Nuremberg Trials, two witnesses strongly supported this interpretation.˙
Postwar Evidence of Field-Marshal von Kleist
About 24 June 1934, as army commander in Silesia, I was warned by the Chief of the General Staff that an attack by the SA on the Army was imminent and that I should unobtrusively keep my troops on the alert. During the tense days following, I received a flood of reports and information which gave a picture of feverish preparations on the part of the SA. This information came from the most varied sources (the troops, the SA, old Steel Helmet types, SS, civilians and government authorities). Despite the very reserved attitude adopted by the troops, a dangerous state of tension developed in the garrisons between them and the local SA. Only a spark was needed to touch of the explosion.
In this situation, I considered that bloodshed could only be avoided by a man-to-man talk [with the SA leaders]. On 28 June, therefore, I asked SA Major Heines to come and see me; I told him to his face that I knew of his preparations and I gave him a warning. He replied that he knew all about my measures and had thought that they were preparations for an attack on the SA. He had only put the SA on the alert in order to resist an attack. He gave me his word as a [former] officer and SA leader that he had not planned or prepared any surprise attack upon the Army.
During the night of 28-29 June, he rang me up again. He said more or less that as far as he was concerned the situation had changed. He had just learned that not only the Army in Silesia, but from 28 June the Army throughout the Reich, was on the alert for an SA putsch. He was going to fly to Munich early on the 29th to see Rhm. Whereupon I also flew on 29 June to Berlin and reported to General Fritsch [C-in-C of the Army], and General Beck [Chief of the General Staff] about my conversation with Heines. I added: "I have the impression that we -- Army and SA -- are being egged on against each other by a third party." By that I meant Himmler and that much of the information [about an expected SA putsch] had in fact originated with him. Thereupon, General Fritisch summoned General Reichenau [a pro-Nazi general, and right-hand man to Minister of Defense Blomberg], and asked me to repeat to him what I had just said. Reichenau replied: "That may be true, but it's too late now."
Postwar Testimony of Hans Bernd Gisevius
First I have to say that there never was a Rhm putsch. On 30 June there was only a Gring-Himmler putsch. I am in a position to give some information about that dark chapter, because I dealt with, and followed up this case in the police department of the Ministry of the Interior, and because the telegrams sent during these days by Gring and Himmler to the police authorities of the Reich came into my hands. The last of these telegrams reads: "By order of Gring, all documents relating to 30 June will be burned immediately."
The Rhm Purge
On 30 June 1934, Hitler, persuaded by Gring, Himmler and Heydrich that Rhm was about to stage a coup, suddenly moved against his own followers. In a hasty addition to his diary, Goebbels caught the urgency and uncertainty of the situation.
29 June 1934 Goebbels Diary Entry
Thursday evening ... To Cladow. How long? This morning, a telephone call from the F hrer. Fly at once to Godesberg. So it's about to happen. God be with us. But anything is better than this frightful waiting. I am ready.
Using a hand-full of armed SS men, Hitler and Goebbels descended on the vacation town of Bad Wiessee,where Rhm had ordered a conference of SA leaders. The events are well described in the following memoirs by Hitler's chauffeur.˙
Undated Postwar Account by Erich Kempka
Victor Lutze was an SA Oberf hrer and member of the Reichstag from Hanover. In March 1933, he became Police Chief of Hanover. He would become R hm's successor as head of the SA.
It is already dawn when we land at the Munich airport, Oberwiesenfeld. During the flight, there had been a light shower and the grass at the airport is sparkling in the morning light. When Hitler jumps out of the machine, two officers of the Reichswehr report to him. He takes them aside and gives them their orders. Outside the reception building, three cars are waiting which have been ordered by telegraph from the garage of the Reich Party Headquarters in Munich. Some old friends of Hitler's from the early days of the party are standing by them. Hitler goes up to the cars and orders the tops put up. I am struck by the harshness of his voice. His face is even more serious than during the flight. I am already at the wheel when he sits down beside me: "Kempka, we're going to the [Bavarian] Ministry of the Interior first." [where Hitler arrested the Munich Police Chief, SA Obergruppenfhrer August Schneidhuber.]
Hitler sits down beside me again and gives the order: "To Wiessee, as fast as possible! It must have been about 4:30 a.m., the sky has cleared up, it is nearly bright daylight. We meet watering carts and people on their way to work. ... Hitler sits beside me in silence. From time to time, I hear talking in the back, Goebbels and Lutze [Victor Lutze wss an SA Oberfhrer and member of the Reichstag from Hanover. He had become Police Chief of Hanover in March 1933, and would shortly become RhmĠs successor as head of the SA].
Just before Wiessee, Hitler suddenly breaks his silence: "Kempka," he says, "drive carefully when we come to the Hotel Hanselbauer. You must drive up without making any noise. If you see an SA guard in the front of the hotel, don't wait for them to report to me; drive on and stop at the hotel entrance." Then after a moment of deathly silence: "Rhm wants to carry out a coup."
An icy shiver runs down my back. I could have believed anything, but not a coup by Rhm! I drive up carefully to the hotel entrance as Hitler had ordered. Hitler jumps out of the car, and after him Goebbels, Lutze and the adjutants. Right behind us another car stops with a squad of detectives picked up in Munich.
As soon as I have turned the car so that it is ready to leave at a moment's notice, I rush into the hotel with my gun drawn. In the hall I meet Standartenfhrer Uhl, the leader of Rhm's staff guard. Hitler's bodyguard, Schreck, is taking him at gunpoint down to the laundry room, which for the next hour serves as the first prison for the arrested SA leaders. In passing, Schreck calls out to me: "Quickly! Run up to the Chief! He needs you!"
I run quickly up the stairs to the first floor where Hitler is just coming out of Rhm's bedroom. Two detectives come out of the room opposite. One of them reports to Hitler: "My Fhrer, the Breslau Police Chief is refusing to get dressed!" Taking no notice of me, Hitler enters the room where Obergruppenfhrer Heines is remaining. I hear him shout: "Heines, if you are not dressed in five minutes, I'll have you shot on the spot!"
I withdraw a few steps and a police officer whispers to me that Heines had been in bed with an 18-year-old SA Obertruppfhrer. At last Heines comes out of the room with his 18 year-old fair-haired boy mincing in front of him. "Into the laundry room with them!" cries Schreck.
Meanwhile, Rhm comes out of his room in a blue suit and with a cigar in the corner of his mouth. Hitler glares at him but says nothing. Two detectives take Rhm to the vestibule of the hotel where he throws himself into an armchair and orders coffee from the waiter. I stay in the corridor a little to one side and a detective tells me about Rhm's arrest. Hitler had entered Rhm's bedroom alone with his dog-whip in his hand. [more a riding crop than a whip; it is used to train dogs.] Behind him were two detectives with drawn pistols. He spat out the words: "Rhm, you are under arrest." Hitler looked up sleepily from his pillow: "Heil, my Fhrer." "You are under arrest" bawled Hitler for the second time, turned on his heel and left the room.
Meanwhile, upstairs in the corridor things are getting quite lively. SA leaders are coming out of their rooms and being arrested. Hitler shouts at each one: "Have you had anything to do with Rhm's schemes?" Naturally, they all deny it, but that doesn't help them in the least. Hitler usually knows about the individual; occasionally, he asks Goebbels or Lutze a question. And then comes the decision: "Arrest him!"
But there are others whom he lets go. Rhm's doctor, SA Gruppenfhrer Ketterer, comes out of the room and to our surprise he has his wife with him. I hear Lutze putó ting in a good word for him with Hitler. Then Hitler walks up to him, greets him, shakes hands with his wife and asks them to leave the hotel; it isn't a pleasant place for them to stay in, that day.
We follow Hitler into the yard and here he tells his bodyguard Schreck, to charter a bus as quickly as possible to take the SA leaders who are in the laundry room back to Munich. How slowly the minutes pass! More and more SA leaders arrive from outside [other hotels in the area] and are brought into the laundry room. I stand at the hotel entrance and hear Rhm order coffee from the hotel manager for the third time.
Suddenly ... there is the sound of a car arriving! At first I thought it was the bus chartered by Schreck but instead, to my horror, a truck full of heavily armed SA men rattles into the yard. Now they'll be some shooting, I think to myself. I can see Bruckner negotiating with the Sturmfhrer of the SA. The man seems to be refusing. Walking backwards, he tries to get to his truck. ... At this moment, Hitler goes up to him: "Drive back to Munich immediately!" he tells the puzzled fellow. "If you are stopped by SS on the way, you must let yourselves be disarmed without resistance." The Sturmfhrer salutes and jumps into the truck, and the SA men leave again. No shots, no sign of resistance. All this time, Rhm is sitting unsuspectingly drinking his third cup of coffee. Only a single word from him, and the whole thing would have worked out differently....
Now the bus arrives which has been fetched by Schreck. Quickly, the SA leaders are collected from the laundry room and walk past Rhm under police guard. R hm looks up from his coffee sadly and waves to them in a melancholy way.... At last Rhm too is led from the hotel. He walks past Hitler with his head bowed, completely apathetic. Now Hitler gives the order to leave. I sit at the wheel of the first car with Hitler beside me and our column, which in the meantime has grown to about twenty cars, starts moving.
Subsequently, Rhm with about 70 of his top SA leaders were executed without trial or judicial verdict. In addition to these killings, Gring and Himmler also settled old scores with enemies who had so far escaped their clutches. Among the murdered victims were the former chancellor General Kurt von Schleicher and his wife, his chief assistant General Bredow, Papen's speech-writer, Edgar Jung of the German Catholic Action in Berlin, and Gregor Strasser, the former head of the Nazi Party organizations who had so nearly split the party in December 1932. Papen himself was placed under house arrest, and apparently escaped execution only on the intervention of Gring.
In the public announcement, however, the Germans were given a plausible, even convincing story of immortality and ambition in the SA.
30 June 1934 Anonymous Diary Entry
Tonight, on the radio, I, and with me the whole German nation, have been listening to the most dramatic broadcast which I have ever heard in my life: Dr. Goebbels' vivid tale of the events which happened in the course of the day with the Commander of the SA, Ernst Rhm, and several of his followers. There have been rumors for a long time that Rhm was homosexual. Many honest people have been talking about this situation seriously and have wondered why no action has been taken to remedy it.
Today the purity and sanity of the high command of the SA has been restored by Hitler himself who, as Dr. Goebbels has told us, asked and asked Rhm to give up his sinful behavior. Rhm and some of his friends who might even have tried to set up a more fanatic super-national-socialist government were executed tonight without trial, and we all admired the frankness with which Dr. Goebbels admitted these incidents and situations which any new government may innocently run into.
We, the good patriots, are being released from a great worry. We always had believed that some kind of moral obligation toward men who had helped Hitler win power might keep the Fhrer's eyes closed, even it crimes were being committed. Thank God, this is not so. Our government even admits temporary setbacks, and by this open and frank attitude it can be certain of the full-hearted co-operation of all of us in the future.
Perceptive Germans, however, were shocked at this blatantly illegal action by the Chancellor. Erich Ebermayer is a good witness to the reaction of many.
1 July 1934 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry
As the realization of what happened yesterday gradually sinks in, a paralyzing horror grabs hold of my soul. What really happened yesterday? What will happen today? What murderous fury stalks through the country? Can't it strike again at any minute?
At 8, I pick up M, who wanted to accompany me to Naumburg. It is a muggy morning, which exactly matches our attitude. M had scarcely slept. He is still hoping that the political events of the last 24 hours will lead to the collapse of the Hitler government. Even I am more optimistic in thinking this might now happen, and not as a new revolution, or a revolt, but through legal means. Why else do we have a President?
Now is the time for the President to act! Now or never! After all, Hitler is only the Chancellor, named by Hindenburg as President of the Reich, and thus, according to the constitution, can be dismissed at any time. Now or never Hindenburg must announce to the world: no matter who bears the responsibility for these recent events, whether the murderers or the murdered have more guilt, nevertheless the 30th of June events required that there be a change in governments. That would not only be a decent, but also a worthy solution of the problem, and one which the entire world would understand. I cannot help but think that the old man in Neudeck [the President's estate in East Prussia] is just as shocked as everyone else by these actions of the NSDAP, and that he no longer considers it proper to include in the government a party in which mutual and apparently limitless murder goes on, and he certainly will not leave this party in sole control of the government.
3 July 1934 Erich Ebermayer Diary Entry
The Swiss newspapers report several hundred shot, including the secretary of Vice-Chancellor von Papen and numerous high officers. The world press reacts to the German event with loathing and disgust. "Hitler and his gangsters" is the headline of today's lead article in the Times.
President Paul von Hindenburg, however, has sent two telegrams from his home at Neudeck: To Hitler:
From reports available to me, I see that through your decisive initiative and by courageously risking your very person, all the treasonable agitation has been nipped in the bud. You have saved the German people from a serious danger. I express to you my most sincere thanks and express my appreciation. With heartfelt greetings,
And to Gring
I express to you my thanks and my appreciation for your energetic and successful activities during the suppression of the attempted high treason. With comradely greetings.
Today the Cabinet thanked the Fhrer, swore him eternal loyalty, and passed the following law:
The measures taken on 30 June and 1 and 2 July 1934 to counteract attempt at treason and high treason shall be considered as national emergency defense.
The Revolt is broken.
Adolf Hitler is the victor and all-powerful master of Germany.
On 13 July 1934 in a speech before the Reichstag, Hitler justified his actions in a largely fictitious story of a plot. Its impact upon the participants, however, was very great. The following document is from the diary of the Lord Mayor of Hamburg, one of the dignitaries invited to hear the speech.˙
13 July 1934 C.V.Krogmann Diary Entry
The Reichstag meeting was deeply moving. None of us had known that the danger for Germany [from Rhm] had been so great. The Chancellor was frightfully upset, and at the beginning did not speak well. His real temperament, however, came through when he began to discuss the events which had lead to the 30th of June. The reaction of the Reichstag was spontaneous and reflected their true feelings, especially when the Chancellor sang the praises of the Armed Forces.
13 July 1934 Hitler Speech to the Reichstag
At 1 o'clock in the night I received the last dispatches telling me of the SA alarm-summonses; at 2 o'clock in the morning I flew to Munich. Meanwhile Minister-President Gring had previously received from me the commission that if I proceeded to apply a purge he was to take similar measures at once in Berlin and in Prussia. With an iron fist, we beat down the attack on the National Socialist State before it could develop. The necessity for acting with lightning speed meant that in this decisive hour I had very few men with me. In the presence of Minister Goebbels and of the new SA Chief of Staff, the action of which you are already informed was executed and brought to a close in Munich. Although only a few days before I had been prepared to exercise clemency, at this hour there was no place for any such consideration. Mutinies are suppressed in accordance with iron laws, which are eternally the same. If anyone reproaches me and asks why I did not resort to the regular courts of justice for conviction of the offenders, then all that I can say to him is this: in this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I became the Supreme Court of the German people!
Mutinous divisions have in all periods been recalled to order by decimating them. Only one State has failed to make any use of its Articles of War and this State paid for that failure by collapse -- Germany. I did not wish to deliver up the young Reich to the fate of the old Reich. I gave the order to shoot those who were the ringleaders in this treason, and I further gave the order to burn out, down to the raw flesh, the ulcers of the poisoning of the wells in our domestic life and of the poisoning of the outside world. And I further ordered that if any of the mutineers should attempt to resist arrest, they were immediately to be struck down with armed force. The nation must know that its existence -- and that is guaranteed through its internal order and security -- can be threatened by no one with impunity! And everyone must know for all future time that if he raises his hand to strike the State, then certain death is his lot. And every National Socialist must know that no rank and no position can protect him from his personal responsibility and therefore from his punishment. I have prosecuted thousands of our former opponents on account of their corruption. I should in my own mind reproach myself if I were now to tolerate similar offense in our own ranks. ... Every Volk is itself guilty if it does not find the strength to destroy such noxious creatures. If people bring against me the objection that only a judicial procedure could precisely weigh the measure of the guilt and of its expiation, then against this view I lodge my most solemn protest. He who rises against Germany is a traitor to his county, and the traitor to his country is not to be punished according to the range and the extent of his act, but according to the purpose which that act has revealed. He who in his heart proposes to raise a mutiny and thereby breaks loyalty, breaks faith, breaks sacred pledges, can expect nothing else than that he himself will be the first sacrifice....
Without once informing me and at a moment when I had no thought of any such action, Chief of Staff Rhm entered into relations with General Schleicher through an utterly corrupt and dishonest go-between, a certain Herr A-. It was General Schleicher who spelt out the secret aims of Chief of Staff Rhm. It was he who gave concrete form to the ideas of the latter and maintained that:
1. The present regime in Germany is not to be tolerated.
2. Above all, the Army and all national associations must be united in a single band.
3. The only man to be considered for such a position is Chief of Staff Rhm.
4. Herr von Papen must be removed and [Schleicher] himself would be ready to take the position of Vice-Chancellor; moreover, further important changes must be made in the Cabinet of the Reich.
As usual in such cases, there began then the search for the men to form the new Government, always with the understanding that I myself should, at least for the time being, be left in the position which I now hold....
A foreign diplomat has explained that the meeting of Schleicher and Rhm was of course of an entirely harmless character. That matter I need not discuss with anyone. In the political sphere, conceptions of what is harmless and what is not, will never coincide. But when three traitors in Germany arrange and effect a meeting with a foreign statesman whom they themselves characterize as "serviceable," when they effect this meeting after excluding every member of their staff, when they give strict orders that no word of this meeting shall reach me, then I shall have such men shot dead even if it should prove true that at this consultation, which was thus kept secret from me, they talked of nothing save the weather, old coins, and like topics.
The penalty for these crimes was hard and severe. Nineteen higher SA leaders, thirty-one other Leaders and members of the SA, were shot, and further, for complicity in the plot, three leaders of the SS, while thirteen SA leaders and civilians who attempted to resist arrest lost their lives. Three more committed suicide. Five who did not belong to the SA, but were members of the Party, were shot for taking part in the plot. Finally there were also shot three members of the SS who had been guilty of scandalous ill-treatment of those who had been taken into protective custody.
In order to prevent political passion and exasperation venting itself in lynch justice on further offenders, when the danger was removed and the revolt could be regarded as suppressed, as early as Sunday 1 July, strictest orders were given that all further retribution should cease. Thereby from the night of Sunday 1 July, the normal state of affairs was re-established. A number of acts of violence which do not stand in any connection with the plot will be prosecuted before the ordinary courts
The actual number of victims, according to Gisevius, was probably closer to 200. Goebbels was exultant, but suspicious of the Reichswehr's support.
18 July 1934 Goebbels Diary Entry
On Monday, flew back from Heidelberg, two hour trip to Berlin. Right out to Cladow. Fhrer is already there. Wonderful sail in our boat. Once again spoke with the Fhrer about the whole SA question. He sees things quite clearly now. Only he is still somewhat frigid about the Army. Not all of them are like Blomberg. Oh the Bendlerstra§e [location of the Army Headquarters in Berlin]. They are trying to swallow him up! Even Lutze is growing suspicious of them.˙
The Rhm Massacre – also known as The Night of the Long Knives -- was remarkably effective. It cowed the conservatives; silenced the fanatics in the party; placated the army; and, as the following reports show, was favorably received by many Germans.
5 July 1934 Harburg-Wilhelmsburg GESTAPO Report
In the month covered by this report, the 30th of June naturally has pride of place. The measures proceeded smoothly in [Harburg-Wilhelmsburg, Hanover].... Among the population at large, confidence in the Fhrer has been consolidated by his energetic action. There are, however, increasing requests for further energetic measures to be taken in the various Party organizations right down to the lowest levels, and in particular there are demands for liberation from "the local Mussolinis." If all the Party formations restricted themselves to the tasks delegated to them by the Fhrer, instead of giving orders to governmental authorities, the whole population would long ago have been filled with the spirit of National Socialism -- in particular, with a sense of responsibility, cleanliness and discipline. It is essential that the Fhrer's announcement regarding the purging of the SA should be acted upon by all Party organizations.
This announcement called for, among other things, a removal of all homosexuality from the SA so that every German mother would be proud to send her son into that organization.
14 July 1934 County Commissioner of Ebermannstadt Bi-monthly report
The events of 30 June 30 and 1 July have caused no further repercussions here in the county. Everywhere, however, the populations followed with great interest the developments. Frequently it has been ascertained that false rumors were being spread about.... In general, however, it seems certain that the purge and the political intervention of the Fhrer against the former Chief of Staff Rhm and the mutinous SA leaders found broad approval. In particular the action has strengthened everywhere the people's trust in the leadership and their personal respect for the Chancellor.
Only in a few cases did any arrests have to be made, and these occurred because of gross attacks on the SA; and even in these cases it appeared that the motivations for the slanderous remarks were personal in nature. The Fhrer's speech before the Reichstag was carried into every beer hall and public square by the radio. In general, the speech was received with satisfaction by all the people, even those who always stand on the sidelines, since the entire background was so clearly explained.
Nevertheless, some unrest among the population was clearly present. The following document, written for official eyes, and thus open to the Nazis as well, is discreet, but still makes the point that further changes would have to be made.
31 July 1934 County Office Aichach, Upper Bavaria Bi-monthly Report
The population here is thoroughly loyal to the state, and overwhelmingly in favor of the present government and the Fhrer. Nevertheless, sentiments were heard questioning whether the methods employed [to suppress the alleged Rhm revolt] were well chosen to lead to the ultimate goal. In the countryside, there is not much talk of politics right now during the harvest time. But still one hears remarks like "Hitler might well have been right, but a further purging of the Party, and especially the local leaders, is still necessary." This had been heard quite a lot around here, even though most people don't want to talk about this at all because they fear any discussion would only end in un-pleasantness. They do complain, however, that the newspapers don't print very much about the event, or can't print very much, and that contrary to previous times, different opinions are not allowed to be expressed in the newspapers. They also complain that in particular no list has been published about just who was killed during the Rhm Revolt. Also around here it is note-worthy that not so many kinds of newspapers are bought, because, as they say, it doesn't make any difference which newspaper you read, all of them say just about the same thing. Still the population did receive with some evidence of satisfaction the news that the Special Commissioners and Special plenipotentiaries [of the SA] had been removed.
One of the most important consequences of the Rhm Massacre was the nearly total elimination of the SA as an effective party organization. One hard-core SA Man latter reflected on his experiences.
Post-war Account by a former SA Man
That was not the SA any more. All those with money or a degree went into the SS and all the rest came into the SA on the basis of the motto: I must join something, otherwise .... This dilution was terrible. Ernst Rhm was stupid in thinking after 1933 that he now had a tremendous power base. The SA had swollen enormously and he relied on that, but it could not be effective.....
We were only waiting for Rhm to carry on the revolution, the social revolution.... We thought: we created that, we prepared the way, why shouldn't we carry on with it. We were strong enough in those days to influence the party. We simply laughed at the party members running around in their uniforms after 1933. The officials' or whatever they called themselves -- we didn't take them seriously. The politicians, these party functionaries were not at all popular with us. Party politics were suspect. And they made such a big thing of themselves: "We define the political objectives." We couldn't take that. A twit running around in a brown uniform and he is to define our political objectives, and we are to carry out ˙his political will! We were the fighting troop. And we didn't want anyone to take over from us. In May, six weeks before the "Rhm Putsch," Rhm was here in Hamburg -- there was a big parade -- he made a very clever speech: "They shouldn't imagine they will escape the night of the long knives," he said.
After the disgusting events at Wiessee, that was the end of it for me. And not only for me. It had become pointless. Earlier on we had the Strassers. In Berlin we had Stennes, and at the end we put our faith in Rhm....
What I can't understand is that after the murders in Wiessee, the SA let itself be stripped of power so easily. Simply fizzled out. But by then most of the SA had got jobs. The hunt for jobs was on: an SA man could become a gas man, a state employee at the gas works. One got a job with the Welfare Office, another with the Job Center. Many had been unemployed and now they had work. ... Most of them lost much of their revolutionary elan. The real revolutionaries drew the consequences and got out. Resigned
There were two other immediate results from the Rhm Purge. The first was Hitler's consolidation of legal power. Aware that thousands of Germans looked to the presidency as a constitutional check to National Socialist power, Goebbels and Hitler knew that it would have to come under their control. Goebbels had actually raised the question in mid-1933, just 6 months after Hitler had become Chancellor.
Hitler become Reichs President
19 July 1933 Goebbels Diary Entry
Today Lammers [Highest ranking official in the ChancellorĠs Office] came by to see me concerning the question of a successor to Hindenburg. Hitler certainly can not tolerate some Reichs President over him, and must certainly not let sonny boy Oscar [HindenburgĠs son] become important. Hitler should unite in his own person both the position of President and Chancellor. Then we would find some way out [of the present narrow power base]. Above all, whatever is decided must be then voted on by the whole nation, so that it does not come about merely through the benevolence of the Reichswehr. Naturally, they will propose just such a union of the offices, so that later they will be able to claim that they arranged it all.
25 August, 1933 Goebbels Diary Entry ˙
I'm sitting in our hotel in Munich. Yesterday, slept in. The Chief had a long talk with Frick, and I with Hange. Frick filled me in afterwards..... After Frick, I held a long and fundamental discussion with the Chief. What will happen at the death of Hindenburg? Hitler called to the position at once. But then, a vote of the people. Chancellorship and Reichs Presidency united in one office. New and strengthened position for the Chancellor in every respect. Everyone would clearly see that Hitler was the Fhrer [i.e. leader].
Following the Rhm Purge, which some historians claim was also initiated to bring the army over to his side, Hitler felt strong enough to rush through a decree in the cabinet even before the President died!
1 August 1934 Decree on the Presidency
The office of the President will be consolidated with that of the Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the President shall consequently be transferred to the Fhrer and Chancellor, Adolf Hitler. He shall select his representative.
This law is effective as of the time of the death of President von Hindenburg.
Thus when Hindenburg died, on 2 August 1934, Hitler immediately assumed the powers of the presidency, and required every member of the armed forces to swear a personal oath of loyalty to him, as head of the state.˙
2 August 1934 Oath of German Soldiers
"I swear by God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Fhrer of the German nation and people, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath."
For comparison, the previous oath taken during the Weimar Republic read: "I swear loyalty to the Constitution and vow that I will protect the German nation and its lawful establishments as a brave soldier at any time, and will be obedient to the President and to my superiors.˙
Some of the leading Generals objected to the oath, but were told by General Blomberg, the Minister of Defense, that it was a temporary measure, to cover the emergency following the President's death. This was a flat lie.
The Decree transferring the Presidency to Hitler without an election was submitted to the people for a plebiscite on 19 August 1934. Despite the intimidation of a huge campaign, some opposition was still encountered.˙
August 1934 Activity Report of Local Nazi group in Niederrieden [population 618, all Catholics], Memmingen County, Swabia Bavaria ˙
The best description of [local conditions] can be seen in the result of the election. We find it simply impossible that there were so many "No" votes. For in our propaganda effort we had done the very best we could. Our cause was greatly damaged, and that right before the voting, by a visit by several Swiss citizens to our village. These visitors, with their stupid jokes and stories from Switzerland (about the Rhm Purge, etc.) did their very best to influence the vacillating inhabitants, who already were not too reliable in their political convictions. I believe that most of the "No" votes came from Catholics, because we are richly blessed in this area by the presence of many cloistered nuns and their followers. A few of the "No" votes, I ascribe to evil-minded trouble-makers, who don't like the law and order of our new state....
The Nazis should have been pleased with the plebiscite.˙
19 August 1934 Plebiscite Results
In favor of Hitler 38,000,000 88.3%
Against 4,250,000 9.7%
Invalid votes 750,000 1.7%
But Goebbels was quite upset.
22 August 1934 Goebbels Diary Entry
Monday, into the office. ... Our failure at the polls is the main discussion point. ... I will work out some action plan for the future. The results in Berlin were particularly bad. Partially it was our own fault.... Lunch with the Fhrer. Many were there. Discussed the reasons for our failure. Everyone sought the explanation in unlikely places. In any case, the constant discussions have come to an end. We need to give more speeches and go out to the Volk. É More firmness needed against the enemies of the State, must be radically removed.... Tuesday, slept in late ... then discussed situation and worked out plans. I prepared an expos for the Fhrer about the election campaign. Revealed our mistakes. They must be eliminated. I won't rest until they are.
Immediately after the plebiscite, the Government passed a law which legalized, after the fact, the oath administered to the Army, and, in making it permanent, required a similar oath of all civil servants.
20 August 1934 Decree on Oath for Civil Servants and Soldiers
Public officials and soldiers of the Armed Forces must take an oath of loyalty on entering the service.
I. The oath of loyalty of public officials will be: "I swear: I shall be loyal and obedient to Adolf Hitler, the Fhrer of the German Reich and people, respect the laws, and fulfill my official duties conscientiously, so help me God."
II. The oath of loyalty of the soldiers of the Armed Forces will be: [as above, ]
The second important result of the Rhm Purge was a realignment of the power relations within the Party, and between Party and State. The first move was to eliminate the last remnants of SA anarchy. The Nazi Minister of the Interior was only too happy to oblige.
4 July 1934 Minister of the Interior Frick to SA Chief of Staff Victor Lutze ˙
Some time ago, the previous Chief of Staff [of the SA] ordered the appointment of special SA Delegates and Commissioners to the State governments and their subordinate offices. This institution has not proved in the least beneficial. The Delegates and Commissioners have, in many cases, claimed powers to which they were not entitled and have interfered with and impeded the orderly conduct of business by the state apparatus. I therefore request that you recall the special Delegates and Commissioners at once. The State Governments have received a copy of this letter.
Within a week, Lutze had issued the necessary order which, in effect, restored fully the autonomy of the various state, county, and municipal governments.