Monthly Fragebogen: The National Socialist political breakthrough

While visiting friends in the Wurtemburg countryside, nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon is treated to a grass-roots view of the NSDAP’s 1930 electoral triumph

In this month’s excerpt from his post-WWII best-seller Der Fragebogen, conservative-revolutionary writer Ernst von Salomon recounts his experience in Wurtemberg of the infamous German Reichstag elections of September 1930. In the previous elections of 1928 the National Socialists had won a mere 12 seats; the sudden explosive growth of the NSDAP to 107 seats a mere two years later was a triumphal shock for both the Party and for Germany, representing the dramatic political changes which had beset the country over such a short expanse of time, particularly since the onset of the Great Depression in October 1929. von Salomon’s description of the peasant regions of Swabia provide a lively account of this transformed German countryside in this period: a countryside which “was, beyond any question of doubt, National-Socialist”; a countryside where elderly women, Church-goers, and peasant girls had already begun using the ‘Hitler-greeting’ in recognition of their shared adoption of völkisch-socialist values. The political landslide of 1930, in von Salomon’s account, is thus unsurprising, a reflection of the successful permeation and normalization of National Socialist ideology into day-to-day German life at the local level.

It was during the summer of 1930, when Berlin was first beginning to feel the effects of what happened on October 23rd, 1929, that I went for a few weeks to Calw, a small, South German town in Wurtemberg, to visit the painter Rudolf Schlichter. I had read thoroughly the works of Hermann Hesse, who was also born in Calw, and the exactness of his descriptions allowed me to recognise many details of the place with great delight. The most fortunate province of Germany, solid, hard-working, industrious, middle-class Wurtemberg, was reflected in the good city of Calw as in a convex glass. The little district capital, situated in the smiling valley of the Nagold, struck me as a very picture of comely arrangement. A little industry, a certain amount of wood trade, all happily mingled together and backed by an industrious farming community, a solid Catholic minority living side by side with a quantity of Protestant sects, good roads and railways to the most delightful parts of the Black Forest and the Swabian Alps, to Pforzheim in Baden and the provincial capital, Stuttgart, all this combined to give the district capital its own specific character. If anywhere, then surely here the economic and social life drew its sustenance from a soil that would be fruitful to all seed save only that which aspired aggressively to drastic change. Here every man could, with energy and care, look after his own affairs. And when, in the evenings, the local dignitaries sat over a good, neighbourly bottle of wine, these worthies did not allow political differences of opinion to interfere with personal friendships, while their mutual interdependence in matters of trade and their frequent blood relationships both served as strong deterrents to fanaticism of any sort.

On the market place was a first-class delicatessen shop, which saw to it that the products of distant lands as well as those of an active home industry found their way into the kitchens of the Calw households. Its proprietor was to be seen at all times, enveloped in a spotlessly white coat, standing among his sacks of raisins and his prettily coloured boxes of dried fruit. In his spotlessly clean shop his ruddy, healthy face radiated confidence and politeness, while his pleasant smile promised all comers that here they could expect good, reliable service. I praised his shop heartily, and he said, in his strong Wurtemberg accent:

“You know, I worked like a black to get this business going…” and he said: “You know, I still need another ten thousand marks to get out of debt…” Continue reading