Extending a Hand to West Germany’s ‘Little Nazis’

An open letter by members of the DDR’s National-Democratic Party of Germany to former officers, soldiers, and NSDAP members in West Germany

On 26 February, 1948, the Soviet Military Administration in occupied Germany issued “Order No. 35,” officially declaring an end to denazification proceedings within the Soviet zone of occupation. Less than a month later, preparatory work began under the supervision of the Soviet authorities for the establishment of a new, sanctioned political party, one which would organize Germany’s “nationally-minded” forces in support of pro-Soviet, ‘anti-fascist’ objectives: the National-Democratic Party of Germany (National-Demokratische Partei Deutschlands, NDPD). The NDPD was officially founded on 16 July 1948, and though its first chairman, Lothar Bolz, was a longtime communist, most of its founding committee and subsequent membership were made up of former Wehrmacht officers and professional soldiers, as well as ex-members of the NSDAP (‘little Nazis’, i.e. low- or mid-ranking Parteigenossen) and similar nationalist organizations. The programme eventually adopted for the party established its ideology as a form of ‘national-socialism’ shorn of the racial, militarist, and anti-Marxist qualities which had typified the worldview of the NSDAP. Instead of war, the NDPD extolled peace, and instead of elitism, it extolled democracy and anti-fascism; at the same time, nonetheless, it also openly encouraged nationalist sentiments among its membership, promoting a view of German history and culture in which certain battles and engagements of the past were venerated (the anti-Napoleonic ‘Wars of Liberation’, the 1848 revolution), and in which East Germans were encouraged to rally in patriotic defense of their “socialist Fatherland” and its Eastern Bloc “brother nations” and against the military, cultural, and financial power of the United States. The efforts of the NDPD were not just directed at winning over the “national bourgeoisie” within the Soviet zone of occupation; from the very beginning it was also hoped that the party would prove a useful vehicle of outreach to the “radical, right-wing” forces in West Germany, serving as an example of the enlightened, forgiving attitude of Soviet and German Communist authorities towards those formerly in the ‘fascist’ camp, while also providing a useful platform of communication by which pro-Soviet sympathies could be transferred to nationalists in the West. To that end, at the NDPD’s second party conference in Leipzig in June 1950, prominent members of the party were tasked with drafting an open letter to all former Wehrmacht officers, professional soldiers, and members of the NSDAP in West Germany, calling on them to unite with their brothers in the East, to clasp hands and to stand together for “collective peace” and against war and rearmament. Signed by 22 party-members (16 of whom held posts within the party), the open letter became a key propaganda tool for the NDPD in subsequent months, with members being tasked to disseminate the letter throughout both East and West and to encourage the discussion of its content. A translation of the open letter, made from the official published transcript of 1950 NDPD conference proceedings, is provided below; the statements and remarks by delegates immediately preceding and following the reading of the letter have been included to help provide additional context. 

Proceedings from the 2nd Party Conference
of the National-Democratic Party of Germany
The Proclamation of the NDPD’s
“Open Letter to Former Soldiers,
Officers, and Members of the NSDAP”  
From the stenographic transcript of the NDPD’s Leipzig Conference of 15-17 June, 1950

GÜNTHER LUDWIG – BERLIN:1

My dear party colleagues!

I have requested the floor once again in order to inform you of the following. You know that our party has campaigned and continues to campaign for equal rights for all Germans of goodwill ever since it was founded, that it makes no distinction with regards to former members of the NSDAP and former officers and professional soldiers, and that it is only natural that even today there are a fair number of all of these to be found among our delegates. As one such example, I am a former career soldier. I spoke to you as such yesterday. I was a colonel, and I also fought in Stalingrad and was a witness to the combat there, as you have heard. Under the impact of yesterday’s events, we – that is, a large number of former officers and former members of the NSDAP – met together and decided to send an open letter to West Germany. Permit me, then, to read to you this open letter:

OPEN LETTER
TO ALL FORMER MEMBERS OF THE NSDAP,
OFFICERS, AND PROFESSIONAL SOLDIERS
IN WEST GERMANY

We Germans – regardless of what we are and what we were and wherever we may reside today, whether in the West or in the East of our homeland – are all driven by a deep concern: We see borders dividing our homeland, we recognize that even our capital Berlin is split into pieces. West Germany has become the object of the deliberations and conferences of foreign generals and bankers, which leads us to fear that a new war is being prepared.

We all know what war is. We know it all too well. Our wives and our children also experienced the last one; the bombing campaign was primarily directed against residential areas. In their ruins was the end.

We Germans, irrespective of where we live, long for a peaceful life; we worry over peace, we fear for the lives of our wives and children. We know that a new war will ruin forever the efforts of our Volk to attain a new prosperity. Continue reading

Woman as National Socialist

A 1926 defense of women’s role in political life, by Austrian National Socialist activist Rita Marholz

On 25 November 1920, in a speech before the Czechoslovakian parliament, German National Socialist Workers’ Party (Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei, DNSAP) deputy Rudolf Jung declared, in response to an accusation of sexist conduct from a political opponent: “I would therefore like to explicitly state here that it was in no way my intention, as is evident from the full meaning of my speech, to insult women in general or any of the women here, or to suggest that I do not consider them to be equal. On the contrary. The turn of phrase which I chose was intended to give credit to the lady who spoke before me, not so much as a woman, but as an orator…. This should be self-evident to anyone who knows my party’s position on the question of women.” The “party position” Jung was referring to was section (h)2. of the DNSAP programme, which explicitly demanded “legal and political equality for women and further advancement of the Marriage Law.” This position set the DNSAP somewhat apart from its younger ‘brother-party’ (the NSDAP) across the border in Munich, whose programme offered no real stance on women’s issues beyond a mention of health care for mothers, and whose political culture was more overtly militant, masculine, and ‘conservative’ in nature; although the official position of the NSDAP on women was somewhat more complex than it is often given credit for, it was undeniably less progressive in regards to the ‘Frauenfrage’ (‘woman question’) than the older National Socialist parties in Austria and the Sudetenland. The original German Workers’ Party in Austria (Deutschen Arbeiterpartei in Österreich, DAPÖ), out of which the DNSAP had been reorganized following the end of the First World War, had featured women activists among its ranks from its first beginnings in 1904, and the DNSAP regularly ran women members as candidates in elections after the introduction of women’s suffrage in 1918, with a number even going on to win and to represent the party in municipal and provincial councils. This aspect of the DNSAP’s organizational culture was one of several challenged by the ascent of Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP in the early 1920s, particularly after the older National Socialist parties in Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland officially acknowledged Hitler as the supreme Führer of the NS movement in 1922 and subsequently came under increasing pressure to accept political directives issued from the more ‘rightist’ Hitler-party in Munich. The article translated below, written by activist Rita Marholz in 1926 and published in the Deutsche Arbeiter-Presse (the central party-organ of the Austrian DNSAP), presents a favorable perspective on the idea of women as National Socialist political activists. Marholz’s article can be seen as a defense of the more ‘traditional’ National Socialist perspective towards women – characterized by support for female equality and for women’s untrammeled participation in political life – in the face of the challenge posed by rising conservative elements among the movement. It is notable also for its ‘pro-worker’ language, such as its positive references to “proletarians” and to Social-Democratic politicians, a not uncommon characteristic of DNSAP publications. 

Woman as National Socialist
By Rita Marholz

First published 2 October, 19261 in DNSAP newspaper
Deutsche Arbeiter-Presse vol. 18, no.36

NS_Swastika

Women in political life! It sounds new, and yet it really isn’t. Only the historically illiterate or disinterested person who reads nothing and who never thinks holds the view that such a thing in our day would be an innovation. Even if women were not always in the foreground of political events, they have nonetheless often had considerable direct and indirect influence upon leading minds in politics, upon statesmen, kings, and high-ranking military officials. From the Greek Aspasia and the Byzantine Empresses, to the great English Queen and the Russian Tsarinas; from the mighty Marquise Pompadour and the Prussian Queen who went to plead with the Corsican conqueror for the oppressed Fatherland, to the national and municipal councilwomen of today; the one and the same path leads to the same exact goal: the exercise of political power, political influence, and political ambition. Yet motives were just as varied as methods and fields of activity. Elizabeth of England reigned as a true regent, borne along in all constitutional decisions by the spirit of her father, Henry VIII – i.e. by an audaciously masculine spirit – while the scepter of Catherine de’ Medici was guided by cruelty and bloodlust, especially towards her principal enemies, the Huguenots. Maria Theresa governed, which means she established reforms, waged wars with her royal neighbor, and involved herself in all of the important affairs of state alongside her chancellor and councillors. The Tsarina forged alliances; Queen Louise stood at the head of the German war party, wishing to see Prussia’s freedom secured by defending it with the sword. The refined but scheming spirit of the Pompadour wove the threads of French politics, though not for the benefit of the Bourbons and the French Volk, and it remains open to discussion how great her indirect share in the ensuing atrocities of the Revolution may have been, for as the mistress of the royal libertine she dominated him in the most unfavorable manner, both personally and politically; moreover, she squandered a great deal of money on her external people. Countess Dubarry, the “best friend” of Louis XV, unfortunately arrived too late… By contrast, the influence of the noble hetaira2 Aspasia on that renowned statesman of ancient Greece, Pericles, was the most advantageous imaginable. Thaïs, the lover of Alexander of Macedonia, appears to have influenced him in a heroic fashion. Antiquity recognizes both these female figures as heroines of the spirit, appropriate to the greatness of the ancient world. All of these women, as with men, practiced politics from different perspectives, dependent upon the circumstances necessitated by their country at the time. But for many, personal vanity and the pursuit of power played the greatest part in the influence which they enjoyed in political life, particularly when it came to imposing their opinions upon an influential statesman or king. Whether consort or courtesan – feminine beauty and devilry triumphed in particular cases, often enough to the ruin of a nation, a royal family, an individual man, etc. Empress Eugenie of France and Carlota of Mexico constitute striking world-historical examples of what one should not do in politics, in order not to invoke catastrophes of monstrous proportions. – A thirst for power and excessive ambition, these evil mainsprings of their actions led to a bitter end, including for themselves. Continue reading

Learning to Love the Third Reich

“Reich unity after three hundred years!” A 1933 article by trade-union leader Franz Joseph Furtwängler, extolling the achievements and possibilities of the Hitler government

In the endless debate over whether or not National Socialism can be considered a form of “real socialism,” the common narrative about the fate of Germany’s trade-unions in 1933 is frequently cited as evidence to the contrary. On 1 May 1933, the narrative goes, May Day was celebrated as a paid national holiday for the first time, with labour unions voluntarily participating in nationwide festivities; the very next day, however, the Hitler government’s true face was revealed, and the SA and police were sent out to forcibly crush the unions and throw their members into prison. While on a general level this narrative is essentially correct, it is also oversimplified: only certain unions were targeted on 2 May, only specific functionaries were taken into “protective custody,” union assets and memberships were expropriated (for incorporation into the German Labour Front) rather than the entire labour apparatus being “crushed” or dismantled, etc. What is most commonly omitted from the narrative is the fact that those trade-unions targeted (the ‘free’ or Social-Democratic unions) had already been actively collaborating with the Hitler government for some time. This was especially true of the General German Trade-Union Federation (Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, ADGB), which with a membership of 4 million and a paid staff of 200,000 constituted the largest and most significant trade-union organization in Germany. Although linked to the Social-Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) by a variety of formal and informal ties, the ADGB was technically independent of the SPD and had been since 1919, possessing its own internal culture – heavily dominated by Social-Democracy’s reformist (right-leaning) tendency – and with a segment of its leadership even comprising a key faction within Social-Democracy’s neorevisionist (nationalist or ‘far right’) wing. Influenced by these qualities, as well as by Social-Democracy’s declining political influence and the increasing likelihood of a right-wing authoritarian government, the ADGB in 1932 had begun to further distance itself from the SPD and to establish surreptitious negotiations with the Papen and Schleicher governments, hoping in this way to protect its members and the rights won for them since 1918. These negotiations continued even after Hitler took power, with the ADGB leadership going so far as to declare itself “at the service of the new state” and actively involving itself in deliberations over the charter for a corporatist social structure. This conciliatory attitude was reflected in official trade-union publications like Die Arbeit and the Gewerkschafts-Zeitung, which adopted an increasingly nationalistic tone as 1933 wore on. The article translated below provides a rather striking example of this shift in attitude. Written by Franz Joseph Furtwängler, a member of the ADGB’s executive leadership, it is openly and remarkably adulatory towards the Hitler regime, with Furtwängler applauding the political order brought to Germany (including the dismantling of the party-system!) by the  NSDAP and offering the plaintive hope that the government would prove equally successful in the socio-economic sphere, while still recognizing the value and importance of the trade-union movement. Furtwängler, incidentally, was to be one of those arrested on 2 May, and would later involve himself in resistance activities; whether the NS government could have retained his loyalty and support by way of different actions is an interesting hypothetical.

Reich Unity After Three Hundred Years!
By F.J. Furtwängler
1
First published 22 April, 1933 in trade-union journal
Gewerkschafts-Zeitung vol. 43, no.16

I.

The fundamental, profound, and – we hope – pioneering beginnings of a transformation in the body politic and in the structure of the Reich have emerged in recent weeks.

Let us recall how, at the end of the previous year, under the general interregnum of Chancellor von Schleicher, tentative efforts were made to find organically grown and consolidated forces for the shaping of state and economy, for resolving our intolerable situation, outside of the traditional party-factions conditioned by the circumstances of the Bismarckian Reich.2 Let us also recall the universal opposition of the [parliamentary] factional prelates, one of whom, the prominent Herr Ludwig Kaas,3 cast a witty remark among the electoral throng at the time about “ideological parties”4 being absolutely beneficial to the German character and hence needing to be preserved, because the trading license of their “worldview” offered the guarantee, so to speak, that they would solve contemporary problems for the benefit of the German Volk.

In fact, for years the parliamentary parties have prolonged life for themselves by forgoing their exercise of power in favor of the government’s expansive manipulation of the emergency clauses of the constitution, and finally by taking advantage of Communist ‘blocking majorities’ in parliament, irrespective of their ‘worldview’ – something utterly unthinkable in countries with an organic rather than a mechanical democracy. At the same time, the power and authority of the Reich President inevitably expanded until, in the eyes of the people, he acquired the image of an elective Kaiser.

Officially, of course, we remained “upon the grounds of the constitution,” so that by the end only the less erudite among the Volk felt the changing times in their bones, so to speak, much like a rheumatic feels the change in the weather, while the responsible ideological political administrations were neither conscious of the change nor understood what needed to be done. Continue reading

Fascists At Work

Speeches and skirmishes: a night’s work for an average British Blackshirt, as recounted by BUF journalist William ‘Lucifer’ Allen

To be a fascist in interwar Britain could be hazardous. Unity Mitford was once assaulted by a crowd of communists in Hyde Park after she stopped to listen to a public speech; incensed over the swastika badge affixed to her lapel, they attempted to beat her and throw her into the Serpentine. Jeffrey Hamm (who became Mosley’s personal secretary and a Union Movement leader after WWII) was likewise once almost killed by a mob when he came across a communist demonstration and, perhaps rather unwisely, began asking pointed public questions of the speaker. Fascists courageous enough to speak or march in public would frequently find themselves the target of bricks, bottles, paving stones, and knives, and more than a few ended up in hospital or worse. The contention from fascists themselves, as well as from some historians, is that the majority of ‘fascist violence’ was actually instigated by anti-fascist activists, rather than directly perpetrated by groups like the British Union of Fascists (BUF) against others unprovoked. Violence was not an unknown feature of left-wing politics in the UK at the time, with the BUF’s uniformed military culture arguably arising (at least in part) in response to it; Mosely’s pre-fascist movement, the New Party (an offshoot of Independent Labour), had from its very first meeting been subjected to violent disruptions by socialist demonstrators incensed over Mosley’s alleged betrayal of the Labour Party, inspiring the perception among Nupa leaders (many of whom later ended up in the BUF) that “the good old English fist” was an essential element for political survival. Regardless of who was or was not most at fault for skirmishes between fascists and their opponents, there is evidence enough that fascists could also give as good as they got at times. BUF divisions like the infamous ‘I’ Squad are alleged to have deliberately instigated punch-ups at fascist rallies on several occasions, and there are even stories of BUF members smashing up meetings of rival organizations like Arnold Leese’s Imperial Fascist League. The sense of camaraderie and mission inherent in being part of a uniformed organization beset by enemies on all sides certainly seems to have attracted many adventurous young men to the fascist ranks, perhaps almost as much as the BUF creed of patriotism and a future Corporate State. All of these elements can be seen bound up in the article below, originally published in an August 1933 edition of BUF newspaper The Blackshirt. Written by BUF writer William Allen under the pen-name ‘Lucifer’, the article provides an account of a BUF meeting and street-fight from a pro-fascist perspective, demonstrating to its readers quite how dangerous an average night’s ‘work’ could be for a Blackshirt activist and how much risk there was inherent in proselytizing for the cause of a corporatist British Empire. Despite the author’s stated intentions otherwise, that sense of risk and adventure does also come across as being somewhat part of the appeal, a source of excitement and pride for those looking to save Britain and to box the nose of the “Communist menace” in the process.

When Day is Done:
Fascists Start Work
William ‘Lucifer’ Allen
From ‘The Blackshirt’, 5 August, 1933

Business is over for the day and the office has begun the usual animated discussion of the best way of spending the evening. The cashier is hurrying off for a game of golf, the book-keeper is going to play tennis, the shipping clerk is taking his girl to the cinema, and the office boy is licking stamps at record speed to be in time for “the dogs.” Only young Brown, with the Fascist badge pinned to the lapel of his jacket, does not seem interested in the great problem of how best to amuse oneself. He is methodically packing up his things and getting ready to report for duty.

In a few minutes he is saluting the sentry at H.Q.; changes quickly into his black shirt and is snatching a meal down in the canteen before the evening’s duties begin. Before long an officer comes clattering down the stairs calling for volunteers to steward a meeting, and Brown, bolting down the rest of his sandwiches, hurries upstairs to join the others in one of the vans. To-night it is the old open Morris van, which has been through more trouble and has seen more fighting than any one member in the movement.

Nobody knows how often the driver’s windows have been broken, dents of stones and gashes of sticks and other weapons scar her sides, there is not much paint left on her; but we all love the old Morris, and some day there will be an honoured place for her in the permanent Fascist Exhibition.

A Mixed Reception

To-night she is pushing her ugly nose through the West End, and the Blackshirts aboard are getting rather a mixed reception from the crowded pavements. Here and there are dark glowering faces, hostile eyes, muttering voices. Here it is that our paper sellers have been brutally attacked and injured. Continue reading