Monthly Fragebogen: Prisoner of the Allies

Beatings, hunger, diphtheria: nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon’s reminiscences of his 1945-’46 internment in Allied prison camps

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The following entry will be the final excerpt posted from nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon’s post-War autobiographical novel Der Fragebogen, the end of the ‘Monthly Fragebogen’ series which has continued over the past year. I’m not sure what will replace it, at this point, but something will having to maintain a regular monthly posting pattern has been very useful, even if the content hasn’t always been the most popular. The entry below comprises a number of extracts taken from the final quarter of van Solomon’s novel, in which he describes in detail his detainment by the Allied military authorities in the Natternberg, Plattling, and Langwasser civilian internment camps  from 1945-’46 on the charge of being a “big Nazi” and a “security threat”. von Salomon was left deeply embittered by this experience and by his ill-treatment at the hands of the American GI’s, not least because he had long associated with members of the Resistance and had additionally risked his own safety by sheltering his half-Jewish lover Ille Gotthelft (who was herself arrested and detained for a period alongside him!). Natternberg especially was notorious for being a particularly poorly-run camp, and the ill-treatment which internees suffered (starvation and beatings were common, and disease was especially rife, exacerbated by what seemed like a deliberate lack of medicines) created a deep, overriding cynicism in the author about the supposed humanitarian intentions underlying the American war effort. I have extracted a number of different segments from this section of the novel to try and give readers an idea of what life was like for German detainees in these camps, since it is an aspect of WWII which seems to be very frequently glossed-over. It is often difficult to engender sympathy for the plight of Germans interned by the Allies (not to mention for those ethnic-Germans displaced from their ancestral homelands in Silesia and the Sudetenland), considering the well-known conditions in German-run concentration camps, but the reality of what occurred should regardless not be ignored. Ernst von Salomon’s novel provides a rare and very personal insight into what life was like for those Germans who were imprisoned in the wake of their nation’s defeat. 

As we drove across Munich all the inmates of the truck were silent. We passed through the horribly smashed city, through ruins. I looked at Ille. She sat in the back of the jeep, and the dust had covered her face with a grey film. She had removed her hat… Now she was crying, and her tears made little channels through the dust on her face. We drove through Munich, heading north… We saw a sign marking a road fork that led to Plattling. So we must be nearing the Danube valley. One of the two teachers amused himself by peeping through a slit in the canvas that separated us from the driver and announcing the names of the villages through which we passed. We sat, tired, sweaty and silent, in the truck and he announced:

“Natternberg!”

At once the truck left the main road and drove along a farm track. Suddenly I saw an American soldier seated behind a machine-gun. Then we passed a high, barbed-wire fence, with behind it squat, grey-green barrack huts. The track turned sharply and we stopped. The jeep had drawn up immediately behind the truck, and I could look straight down at Ille. She raised her eyes to mine and smiled. All at once there seemed to be a great many American soldiers milling about the two vehicles. One went up to the jeep and grinned at the driver, saying with a nod of his head towards Ille:

“Your girl-friend?”

The MP said:

“No – internee.”

The expression on the soldier’s face changed instantly. Grabbing Ille brutally by the arm he pulled her to her feet, shouting:

“You dirty ––––– . . . mak snell! Mak snell!”

Then he pushed her out of the jeep. She stumbled and fell. Her little case landed on top of her. She looked anxiously up towards me; her eyes were filled with a helpless astonishment. Continue reading

The Battle of Neumünster

“The flag is our symbol! We will not surrender it!” Three accounts of the infamous Landvolk farmers’ riot in Neumünster, August 1, 1929

Bauernfahne

The Landvolk movement (Landvolkbewegung, or ‘Rural Peoples’ Movement’) has become somewhat obscure today, but during the late 1920s and early ’30s it had an incredible influence over radicals on both the Right and the Left in Germany. Peasant farmers in Schleswig-Holstein, fed up with the terrible economic situation and the policies of establishment Social-Democratic or liberal politicians, began organizing collectively to fight back – a previous article on this blog, from Ernst von Salomon’s memoir Der Fragebogen, describes their often terroristic methods in some detail.  One of the most notorious events connected with the Landvolk, aside from their penchant for bomb-planting, was the infamous ‘Battle of Neumünster’ which took place on 1 August, 1929, in the town of that name. Prominent Landvolk spokesman Wilhelm Hamkens had been jailed on 1 July for inciting tax-strikes among his fellow peasants. Upon hearing that Hamkens was to be transferred for release to the town of Neumünster on 1 August, thousands of revolutionary peasants decided to converge on the town for a peaceful march and rally to welcome him back to freedom. The result was chaos. It was at the Neumünster march that the Landvolk peasants opted to fly their own flag for the first time – a black flag (representing both nationalism and German mourning), bedecked with a white plough (for their livelihood) and a red sword (indicating their fighting spirit), the three colors thus completing those of the old Empire. The police’s decision to try to confiscate the flag created havoc: battles in the streets, fingers and noses being hacked from bodies, farmers beating police with heavy ash walking-sticks. The three accounts excerpted below describe the Neumünster battle in quite vivid detail, clearly demonstrating how unstable the Weimar Republic was becoming as state authority withered and as a revolutionary spirit seized even those classes of society usually associated with stolid traditionalism. The first is a historical account from Alexander Otto-Morris’s excellent academic study of the Landvolk, while the other two constitute fictionalized retellings: one from nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon’s novel about the revolutionary peasants, the other from a well-known novel by Hans Fallada, who was a journalist in Neumünster at the time of the riot. 

Rebellion in the Province:
The Landvolkbewegung and the Rise of National Socialism
in Schleswig-Holstein (2013)
by Alexander Otto-Morris

Alexander Otto-Morris’s book Rebellion in the Province is, so far as I am aware, the most authoritative history of the Landvolk available in English. It is an excellently-written academic work which manages to be an easy, gripping read as well as deeply informative and thoroughly referenced. I have excised Otto-Morris’s numbered references to make the text more readable in a casual blog setting, but they indicate that he constructed his account from an exhaustive reading of police and governmental reports about the incident, as well as from contemporary newspaper articles. The excerpt below is taken from Chapter Six of Rebellion, which covers the movement at its peak over the course of 1929, before it descended into outright terrorism. – Bogumil

The plans for a rally in Neumünster became public after the Schleswig-Holsteinische Volkszeitung printed a letter written by Hamkens from prison to Johannes Kühl, requesting that a crowd meet him on August 1 [after being released]… Alarmed at this news, the provincial authorities took steps to avoid another disturbance. First, they arranged for Hamkens to be secretly moved to Flensburg as a precautionary measure. Then, on the day before his release, representatives of the Regierungspräsident travelled to Neumünster to meet with the town’s mayor, Lindemann, and police commander, Chief Inspector Bracker, seeking to prevent the anticipated demonstration. As the town’s police administrator, it was Mayor Lindemann who had the power to enforce the prohibition of open rallies and even of indoor meetings if they were deemed to pose a danger to the public peace, safety and order. In answer to the Regierungspräsident’s representatives’ pleas, however, Lindemann declared that he viewed a Landvolk rally as harmless and explained that rallies of the communists and the Republican-friendly paramilitary corps, the Reichsbanner, were always peaceful. Despite warnings that the Landvolkbewegung was more dangerous than the communists, especially because it was a movement without organisation, definite membership or leaders, Lindemann was unmoved. He could see no reason why the rally should be banned and was adamant that such events should be left to run their course.

Doubting that Neumünster’s police force, a chief inspector and 27 officers, were sufficient to maintain order, the provincial government representatives pressed Bracker and Lindemann to accept the assistance of a riot police contingent. In fact, so great was their concern, they even offered to put a further unit on call in Kiel. Bracker, however, was of the opinion that a riot contingent presence would simply be a provocation. Continue reading

National Socialists Before Hitler, Part V: The German Socialist Party

“Our demands are more radical than those of the Bolshevists” – The 1918 programme outline of Alfred Brunner’s German Socialist Party

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As has been established so far in this series, the party which Hitler joined in September 1919 was not the first National Socialist party ever founded. It was not even the first National Socialist party on the soil of the German Reich. That honor instead goes to the German Socialist Party (Deutschsozialistische Partei, DSP), the brainchild of Düsseldorf engineer Alfred Brunner. Brunner, born 1871, had been in contact with the Austro-Hungarian National Socialists since the early days of 1904. Distraught by the consequences of Germany’s surrender and revolution, he finally decided to found his own völkisch-socialist party, and for this purpose drafted on 1 December 1918 the programme which I have translated below. Brunner’s programme outlined the foundations for a new German Socialist Party, one drawing influence from the land-reform ideals of Adolf Damaschke as well as from the philosophy of the National Socialists across the border. Brunner’s central emphasis in fact was on mass land nationalization, viewing this revolutionary socio-economic reform as the basis for eliminating capitalist power and for negating the ‘Jewish influence’ which he saw behind every social ill. Such was Brunner’s focus on social issues that he in fact considered himself “far-left”, as “more radical than the Bolshevists”, the guarantor of an idealistic, biologically-constituted “socialism of the deed” opposed to the Jewish, materialistic “pseudo-socialism” of the Marxists. Brunner was supported in his endeavors by the Germanic Order, a branch of the Thule Society who presented his programme at their 1918 Christmas conference, published it in their journal Allgemeine Ordens-Nachrichten, and provided both funding and a party newspaper (the Münchner Beobachter). The DSP was thus linked from the very beginning to the German Workers’ Party (DAP) of Drexler and Hitler, another group which owed its origins to Thule Society funding and support. For a time however the DSP was in fact the far more successful of the two parties. While the (NS)DAP initially struggled to expand outside Munich, the DSP by mid-1920 had 35 local groups throughout the country and close to 2000 members, including a strong base in Germany’s north where for many years the Hitler-Drexler party was unable to gain a foothold. What undid the DSP in the end was its decentralized organizational structure, combined with its culture of internal party democracy; lacking the dynamism and internal authority of the Hitler-Drexler party, the DSP soon lost ground to its rival and in 1922 finally disbanded and absorbed its resources and membership into the NSDAP.

Outline for the Founding of a
German Socialist Party
on a Jew-free and Capital-free Foundation
Drafted by Engineer Alfred Brunner on 1 December, 1918
Presented at the 1918 Christmas conference of the Germanic Order

NS_Swastika

To the German Volk!

World war, revolution, and turmoil lie behind us! We have waded through misery, blood and humiliation, and yet everything has remained the same; yes, things even threaten to be worse than they were before. Merely the form of government and the men in charge have changed, while capitalism and Jewry will rear their heads higher than ever under democracy. As before, you, the German Volk, will be leeched dry, plundered and condemned to toil and worry. How did it come to this, and shall it remain this way forever? The cause of this failure lies in the fact that the struggle against these two powers has hitherto been conducted separately. Yet both are intimately connected.

Social-democracy only engages in a mock-fight against capitalism, for its leaders are Jews and capitalists!

Yet the Jew-experts1 struggle in vain against Jewry because they stand firmly on the ground of the capitalist state order, so both they and social-democracy are bound to fail.

The change required to finally establish real freedom for the German Volk is to form a German Socialist Party.

German-Völkisch and Socialist

Lassalle, the founder of German social-democracy, must as a Jew have known his racial-comrades [Rassegenossen] well when he said: “A popular movement has to keep its distance from capitalists and Jews where they appear as directors and leaders, and instead pursue its own aims.”

The new socialist party accepts German-born men only. It stands naturally on the ground of political transformation; democracy will not in the main be questioned, however, the party does not want a Western-style democracy with a Jewish-plutocratic apex, but a free Peoples’ State [Volksstaat] in which capitalism and Jewry are overcome. Continue reading

East Germany Welcomes the ‘Little Nazis’

Walter Ulbricht’s article of 28 February, 1948, announcing the end of denazification and the formal integration of former National Socialists into East German society

DDR_Einheitliche_Republik

“Long Live the SED, the Great Friend of Little Nazis!” This quote, a 1946 slogan coined by a former National Socialist out of enthusiasm for the Socialist Unity Party’s (SED) approach to denazification, is a testament to the curious way in which the German communists meted out punishment to their former enemies. The Allied powers had agreed upon the need for denazification at Yalta, and the process was initially carried out quite radically within the Soviet zone of occupation through wide-ranging internments, deportations, and the forcible expropriation of land & industry for purposes of nationalization and collectivization. Despite such measures, however, the denazification process in the Eastern sector was actually less extensive and marked by far less retribution than one might expect. The need for post-War reconstruction in war-ravaged Germany was so drastic that some segments of the SED leadership were eager to simply get the process over with and to begin integrating former Party-members back into society, so badly were former Nazis’ skills and expertise needed by the authorities. The decision to start allowing NS-Parteigenossen to play a role in building the new Germany had been made as early as June 1946, based on the caveat that participation would be limited only to politically re-educated ‘inactive’ (or ‘little’) Nazis – those low- or mid-ranking members who had demonstrably joined the Party more out of pragmatism or fear than conviction. Under the direction of the Soviet authorities the Eastern zone’s denazification process was officially declared ended in February 1948, with the article transcribed below (written by Walter Ulbricht, at that time Deputy Joint Chairman of the SED) serving as the communists’ formal announcement of the end of denazification and the restoration of equal rights to former NSDAP members. Ulbricht’s claim that the Eastern zone’s National Socialists had now embraced “democratic socialism” and had become “honest participants in reconstruction” was a signal to these ‘little Nazis’ that the regime was ready to integrate them back into the social fold, so long as they worked hard and buried their prior convictions. Many eagerly complied, flocking to the new party (the National Democratic Party of Germany) which was specifically set up under Soviet approval to nominally represent their interests in regional electoral bodies.

On Disbanding the Denazification Commissions
Walter Ulbricht

First published in Neues Deutschland, February 28, 1948

We welcome the order by the Chief of Staff of the Soviet Military Government, Marshal Sokolowski, to disband the Denazification Commissions in the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany. The content of the order is an agreement with the recommendations of the Socialist Unity Party (SED) and the bloc of anti-fascist democratic parties. At its last meeting of the party executive, the SED states that following the establishment of the basic structures of the democratic system and at the beginning of the reconstruction period, the Denazification Commissions should conclude their activities, and the work of the sequestration commissions should now come to an end as well.

The disbanding of the Denazification Commissions in the Soviet Occupation Zone is possible because the purge of the administration has been completed, because the factories of the war criminals with or without Nazi Party membership and the banks have been turned over to the people, and because the property of the large landowners, who were among the major forces of militarism, have been transferred to the peasants. In this way the supporters of fascism have been stripped of their powerful economic positions.

In contrast to certain “politicians” in West Germany, we believe it was not the working people and the middle class who were the supporters of fascism; rather it was the corporate and bank bosses and the large landowners who brought the fascists to power in order to better exploit and repress their own people and other peoples. Therefore the fascist criminals were punished and expropriated in the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany, in agreement with the anti-fascist and democratic parties, the unions, and other people’s organizations. The ordinary Nazi Party members were not called before the Denazification Commissions, however. On 21 February 1947, a year ago, the Chairman of the SED, Wilhelm Pieck, had already declared:

The majority of those, “who were taken in by the Nazi swindle and became members of the Nazi Party… belong to the working population… Of course their behavior must be judged by a different standard than that of the war criminals or the Nazi activists.” Continue reading