“Well, that’s revolution…” Complaints and observations from a member of the German National People’s Party about his party’s unequal position in the NSDAP-led ‘National Government’
When Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on 30 January, 1933, it was not as the leader of a uniformly National Socialist regime. The initial Hitler cabinet was instead a coalition government comprising, alongside the more radical NSDAP, the monarchist German National People’s Party (Deutschnationale Volkspartei, DNVP), the paramilitary Stahlhelm, and several non-partisan conservative figures such as Franz von Papen and Konstantin von Neurath. The early hopes among Germany’s patriotic circles that this ‘National Government’ augured a new era of equal dominance for the various forces of the political Right were soon dashed, however, particularly after the passage of the Enabling Act. The National Socialists began using their newfound authority to enforce a process of ‘consolidation’ and ‘coordination’ throughout Germany, in which the political apparatus at every level was gradually occupied by NSDAP functionaries while political opponents – including those ostensibly on the same side as the NSDAP – were systematically harassed and oppressed. German Nationals were not spared any of this treatment – DNVP officials found their offices ransacked, their staff persecuted, their meetings broken up, and their middle-class voters jeered at in National Socialist rallies and newspapers. The office of Vice-Chancellor von Papen, seen by many on the Right as a sympathetic figure, was soon flooded with hundreds of alarmed letters from German Nationals and from other conservatives, men and women who had become painfully aware that the new ‘National Government’ would be neither monarchist nor conservative but was instead marching steadily towards a new and troubling political form of National Socialist radicalism. The two documents translated below, written by a certain Dr. Bubenhöfer – a prominent Freudenstadt physician and a member of the Württemberg DNVP’s leadership committee – provide a typical example of the kinds of reports sent to the Vice-Chancellor’s office by concerned German Nationals. The complaints and observations in Bubenhöfer’s letter and accompanying political memorandum help illustrate some of the key ideological differences between the DNVP and the more revolutionary NSDAP: Bubenhöfer’s writing expresses considerable concern about the ‘socialism’ within the NSDAP, about the NSDAP’s tolerance for Germany’s pre-existing welfare state measures, about its deliberate sidelining of other patriotic groups, and about the potential for instability represented by the SA. Interestingly, some of Bubenhöfer’s complaints are a little atypical of the DNVP, which tended to be more ‘moderate’ on most issues than the NSDAP; Bubenhöfer was a member of the DNVP’s völkisch wing, and as well as being perturbed about the NSDAP’s totalitarianism he also complains that it has been far too lenient in its treatment of Marxists, Jews, and “racial inferiors!” What eventually happened to Bubenhöfer is uncertain, but the DNVP soon faced the same fate as most other nationalist organizations – by the end of June 1933 it was pressured to dissolve itself, with many of its members and officials feeling obliged to go over to the NSDAP.
The Uneven Alliance:
Württemberg DNVP Leader Dr. Bubenhöfer’s
April 1933 Letter to Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen
Dr. Med. Bubenhöfer
Specialist in Surgery & Gynecology
Chief Physician of the District Hospital
Freudenstadt, 11 April, 1933
His Excellency Herr Vice-Chancellor v. Papen
Esteemed Herr von Papen!
Might I once again avail myself of the right which you granted me, to be able to write to you?
If, in an hour of leisure, you might read through a short essay which I have recently dictated, as is my custom, and would perhaps write me your opinion on this or that, I would be most grateful. I have lived with all of these issues for many years, they consume me both inside and outside of my job. I have delivered many a lecture on these various topics. Above all, however, I am particularly concerned by issues regarding the assessment of the Centre, the position to take towards the NSDAP, and the topic of eugenics. And I would be grateful for a brief critique from you, whom I consider such a capable critic. There is so much going on right now which we do not like. Well, that’s revolution. My friends and I witness so much which shocks us. I will mention only two things: As I was able to tell you in Stuttgart, I salvaged a national defense organization, with weapons, out of Captain Damm’s old Freischar organization,1 preserving it through all the perils of the Bolz government.2 Today the SA are no longer willing to recognize us; yes, they even go so far as to doubt our national will because we are not National Socialist.
14 years ago, together with a few friends, I founded a German-völkisch order with which we hoped to perform long-term völkisch work with the aim of combating Freemasonry. Today we ourselves are denounced as Freemasons. Well, such things are the phenomena of revolution, but they nonetheless strongly dampen the satisfaction of nationally-minded men in the National Revolution. What the Stahlhelm3 wrote recently, that Hitler might one day be pleased to have them, I had also hoped might some day be said of a National Government about my organization. But the National Socialists do not need us and do not want us. And so I have no other recourse but to dissolve the organization, which is so highly esteemed by all sides – including by Reichswehr Minister von Blomberg – and thus to destroy, at least formally, a camaraderie which has held fast for 11 years of the most difficult times. When as a leader one has to say farewell to thousands of comrades without any apparent discernible need, because now our “friends” are at the helm, this is something which simply has to be endured. And yet we German Nationals, to whom I also belong, are part of the government. One would therefore think that an organization led by a man known throughout the state of Württemberg for his nationalist spirit would be acceptable to any National Government. We were to be in the government, I was told, not the SA leader.4
If I may permit myself another very brief remark: A colleague of mine, a Dr. Eichhorn, was recently boasting that he had received a very gracious letter from Herr von Papen. Yet this man, insofar as he is not a complete fool, is of the champagne socialist type, and among other things is a friend of the worst socialists whom we have here. I shall therefore permit myself a warning against him. Such people only make improper use of their ‘connections’ with authority figures.
I am very grateful to you for allowing me to approach you occasionally with my concerns,
and remain respectfully,
and with truly German greetings,
your very devoted
Note: The following document was appended to Bubenhöfer’s letter to Franz von Papen, above, and was intended to provide the Vice-Chancellor with a general summary of Bubenhöfer’s worldview and of his observations and recommendations regarding the contemporary political situation in Germany. Although von Papen was not a member of the DNVP, he was regarded as being sympathetic towards the party (he had campaigned alongside the DNVP and Stahlhelm as part of the so-called “Combat Front Black-White-Red” for the March 1933 elections), and was seen by many as being an influential representative of the more traditionalist-bourgeois Right within the otherwise NSDAP-dominated Reich government. It was thus quite common in the early 1933-1934 period for those conservatives and nationalists troubled by the radical course of the new regime to appeal to von Papen by letter in the hope that he could influence Hitler and the cabinet into a more ‘reasonable’ direction. – Bogumil
If someone wishes to evaluate this regime as an outsider, then they will detect absolutely no sign of the DNVP’s share in it. The scene on the streets is purely fascist. The governments in the individual states are, in reality, entirely National Socialist. There are hardly any non-National Socialists among the commissars, from top to bottom. The Stahlhelm is merely tolerated, at least in southern Germany. Other national defense organizations are no longer recognized at all, insofar as they have not immediately been dissolved. Thus: we practically have a fascist state. Within the Reich government itself, the participation of a few non-National Socialist ministers seems to have been valued thus far, on account of their usefulness. Outside of it, however, this is barely noticeable. Once cannot fend off the impression of an expanding National Socialist bureaucracy [Bonzentums].
With such observations, the question arises for those who think in a purely national fashion: What is to be done? For the German National in particular, the burning question – or at least, the one that never leaves him – is: Does it still make sense to maintain an independent DNVP? It is lacking, at least so far, the vital younger generation almost entirely. And there is no telling how this shortcoming might be rectified. If it persists, then it will mean the gradual dissolution of the party. For this reason, I proposed to the DNVP executive board in Württemberg a year ago that we German Nationals should provide the Volk with a shining example of self-renunciation and pure devotion to the patriotic idea by unanimously going over to the NSDAP. This was rejected at the time on the grounds that the upward development of the NSDAP would one day falter, and then we German Nationals would have to serve as the catchment area for returning National Socialists, particularly those from the educated circles. Developments since then have demonstrated the opposite. Now it looks like we may have to prepare ourselves for the longer term. In my view, the mass transfer of the DNVP into the NSDAP would have accelerated the separation of the NSDAP’s socialist (undoubtedly Marxist, to a large degree) and non-socialist wings, which I believe some day will inevitably occur. Since Hitler assuredly belongs to the non-socialist wing, our unified entry would have strengthened his position. For today one already has the impression that Hitler himself fears the 2nd phase of the National Socialist revolution. It is conspicuous how, at the moment, he speaks only about the national revolution, never of the socialist one. And if his socialism boils down to the old Prussian “Suum cuique”5 in the sense of Spengler, for example, then no appreciable difference can be discerned between his view on the resolution of the social question and that of the German Nationals. I had imagined that a strong German National wing within the NSDAP would have accomplished more in terms of reinforcing the only truly feasible state-conception and worldview, the Christian-conservative, than a fairly weak DNVP, which for the duration sits in the government as a little-noticed and perhaps even irritating ally. What should we German Nationals then do today, if the National Socialists might some day give us the boot on account of some difference in the cabinet? We would then find ourselves in hopeless opposition; hopeless because an honest German National could never go against the National Socialists together with the other parties, particularly alongside the Centre and the SPD.
Herr von Papen has repeatedly stated: “We must throw out all of our party-books as soon as possible.” Admittedly this would require that the NSDAP, too, finds its way back to the völkisch movement from the party perspective. For the time being that will not happen, because the NSDAP’s successes as a party have been far too significant. But therein lies the great danger – that the National Socialist leaders, perhaps without wanting to or expecting to, might abandon the Führerprinzip and fall prey to the madness of numbers.6 It seems to me that parliamentary thinking, despite all of the emphasis upon authoritarian governance, is still far too much in evidence within the minds of Germans and indeed within every party. I see only one way of definitively delivering us from parliamentarism, with all of its trappings: the monarchy. The divine right of the monarch has never been clearer to me than at this time. Only a man who stands at the head of the Volk by virtue of the hereditary monarchy can direct his gaze upwards, alone, without having to squint down or to the side. Only he can be free of any commitments of a subordinate character, for he has to take no account of the voting masses and needs only do that which he can justify before God and his conscience. Only ministers appointed by a Kaiser guarantee continuity of leadership in all its effects.
Hitler’s SA, probably the most faithful outfit that a man can have, are well on their way to becoming a Praetorian Guard. Praetorians, however, are ultimately mercenaries, men without the broad perspective which can be possessed by a politician built for leadership, such as by a Kaiser or his ministers, who are independent of public sentiment. In my view the NSDAP is threatened not only by the quarrel between its socialist and non-socialist elements, but also by that between the SA and the political leadership, whereby the only hope is that Hitler is the Führer for both. But when one sees how so very often Hitler has banned independent actions by SA-men already, and how these actions nonetheless still occur every day, it gives one serious food for thought.
Could a mass transfer of the German National People’s Party into the NSDAP still have a corrective effect here, perhaps even save the day? I’m rather afraid that that time has passed, because the NSDAP would not value such a defection so highly as it would have a year ago, although I may be wrong.
When someone like myself is in agreement with so many points of the NSDAP, and above all with the splendid crackdown which has occurred since March 5, then the question keeps haunting him: Should we not all convert as a body? Because either there is still a dreadful confusion in Germany, or we German Nationals will inevitably be completely absorbed by the stronger ally.
During the clean-up operations, I believe that I observed a certain amount of protection for the Centre, or at least for the officials from the Centre. And yet the Centre is the most dangerous enemy. It should be possible today (or else never) to prove as a lie the chronic falsehood of the Centre that the Centre is the party of German Catholics. We should open the eyes of the German Catholic – who, as I know from my own family, is just as good a German (or at least can be) as the Evangelical – to the fact that, up until a few years ago, none of us really understood the significance of ‘ultramontane’. Even in terms of pure numbers, the Centre never really had the right to call itself the party of German Catholics. In the mendacious association of ultramontane politics with faith, there lies for German Catholics the lasting danger of obfuscation. We must rescue them from this fog – then the Centre will be stripped of its power. The German Catholic can see his interests represented just as well within the DNVP; or if for psychological reasons that does not seem possible or feasible, then the nationally-conscious Catholics might prefer to form their own Catholic national party. I don’t think that will prove necessary, however, because I cannot see why German Catholics and German Protestants cannot work together politically if both only seek to be German and to consciously keep church and state apart. No reasonable Protestant would desire to rob the Catholic of his faith. So, limit the church to its duties and allow the state to fulfill its own. The example of Mussolini, although evaluated very differently, seems to me particularly notable. Only if we in Germany consciously put an end to the old battle of ‘Pope vs Kaiser’ in its modern form, so that the Kaiser for us is treated as the epitome of state power while the Pope is simply the high prince of the Catholic Church, with no say in the affairs of German state, will we be able to overcome the centuries-old dangers of sectarian dualism. Whether a unified German church then gradually arises out of this ecclesiastical peace accord is, I believe, today beside the point. The pressing need of today is the clear separation of the German people from ultramontane influences.
It has always been clear to me that overcoming Marxism, materially and spiritually, would be much easier (has it actually been overcome?) than overcoming the Centre, if only because the intellectual content of the Centre is incomparably superior to and more substantial than that of Marxism. Marxism is, incidentally, far from over. Just think how many National Socialists were Marxists until recently, and how many still are internally. Above all, one should not allow the SPD people too much breathing room. They are even more dangerous than the Communists, whose will to fight is far from broken, at least in terms of their own form of underhanded attacks. The revolution proved thoroughly bloodless, and regrettably there are far too many people in Germany who will never be able to become German again as long as they live. I do not believe that being held behind barbed wire or in prisons for months or even years changes people’s souls in such a way that hate-filled, internationalist lumpen or ideologues can become nationalist German men, especially since the intellectual leadership – or rather, intellectual seduction – of our “proletarians” (I hate this expression, which was only devised for purposes of incitement) is exercised by racially-alien elements: the Jews. These leaders must be put to death, and indeed in considerable numbers. Only when this poison is excised will we be able to reach the soul of the German worker once more. I sometimes wonder whether Germany can give the world the never-before-seen spectacle of two relatively bloodless revolutions. I do not believe that a revolution without deliberate terror can really make its mark. One has to consider what would have happened to we Germans if the Jews had led their combat troops, the KPD and the SPD, to victory.
The boycott against Jewry also seems to me to have been – and still is – a wholly inadequate measure. After all, it is not being implemented, because the Germans are far too good-natured for it. Was nobody throughout the entire world genuinely upset about the atrocities in Russia? Certainly not, and not in the least because the sheer scale of the terror left the world petrified for a time. And who, at the end of the day, were the fathers of the Russian Revolution? Jews. I am not saying that we should imitate these Jewish methods, but we must fill their kindred around the world with a holy fear by initiating a correspondingly tough action against the Jews in Germany and against their dominance in every possible field, otherwise they will not be silenced. We must use the German Jews as hostages against Jewish financial power. This is the kind of talk they understand.
Closely related to the Jewish question is that of eugenics. We German doctors, along with many others, have long been aware of the importance of eugenic issues. But so long as internationally-minded people were in government, so long as Jews were in leadership positions in all German parliaments and in the medical associations, no productive work of any kind could be done. German eugenics must exclude the Jews from its care by definition. And what shall then be accomplished? That can perhaps be summed up with two words: racial-restoration and, as far as is possible, racial-Nordification. We thus have to make use of every means available to the state to ensure that good racial elements propagate via reproduction, while inferior elements die out as gradually as possible. Alongside the fostering of economic opportunities, as well as of early marriage and child-blessed marriages, the issue of sterilization, and in particular the compulsory sterilization of all racially-inferior people, must soon be resolved in a positive sense. Any objections from the church shall be opposed. God has given us the wisdom to recognize the dangers which threaten our Volk, hence we also have the right and the duty to use this wisdom to serve the Volk’s welfare.
And closely related to this issue is the need for productivity in agriculture, the opportunity of bringing our later-born peasant’s sons back to Germany as farmers.7 Then, and only then, will fresh young blood flow from the land once more, from the holy soil into the upper strata of the Volk, who obviously, as millennia of experience have shown, are continuously in danger of dying out as a result of the excessive expenditure of their vitality. Anyone who is familiar with Ammon’s social pyramid, which perhaps represents the God-given stratification within a Volk even better than Galton’s social onion, will clearly see the necessity of a free peasantry. It makes sense that we should scale back the big cities, which ultimately portend the death of a Volk, to a tolerable size – that we, as Böhmer said, need to conduct a progressive de-urbanization.8 But these are certainly questions for a later time.
If we attain a better stratification (I would like to say a God-given one) through conscious cultivation of the racially-good elements (and we still have relatively tolerable racial conditions within Germany) and through a deliberate reduction in the number of racial inferiors, and if at the same time we consciously resolve the relationship between industry, commerce, and agriculture in a truly social spirit, i.e., in the sense that the different classes, estates, and occupational groups can live together side by side, then the demands for public welfare, which have brought us to the brink of ruin, will slowly decline. For we will gradually be able to dismantle the immoral institution of the public health insurance system, with its immoral influence upon everyone who has anything to do with it (patients, doctors, health insurance employees), and we will be able to limit the social welfare of the state to the old and to those infirm of body and mind. Any excessive public welfare is immoral and will inevitably have a demoralizing effect.
The statement made by the professor after the revolution in 1918 that, “We lost the War not despite, but because of social welfare legislation,” has proven correct for no one more clearly than it has for doctors (pension addiction,9 malingering). Quite apart from the fact that the public health insurance system gradually became an instrument of power for Social-Democracy, its worst effect lies in the fact that there is always a third party, an unauthorized person, standing between doctor and patient. How demoralizing this situation has proven over the course of previous decades, we German doctors have had to experience to the point of disgust. The issue of the miserable remuneration of the medical profession, which by its nature should be representative of a class of leaders, has become, both externally and (unfortunately for many) also internally, purely a matter of earnings. The intention of previous governments to make physicians liable for business tax underscores this fact. For anyone who has witnessed the complete hypocrisy of the health insurance system, and the serious threat that it poses to the moral standard of the medical profession and also to its patients, the necessary promotion of a free medical profession which is not bound by health insurance laws must become clear. All medical care has been perverted over the past few decades. At immense cost we have nurtured the children of drunkards and scoundrels of all kinds, to the point that, despite not even being able to support themselves, they have nonetheless been able – as a result of the senseless and immoral system of equal, direct, and secret electoral franchise – to cast their votes in favor of state-destroying elements. At the same time that the middle-class was also suffering from serious health problems, because they simply could not afford the funding for treatments, we were supporting countless inferior – or at the very least inadequate – individuals at public expense, via countless institutions of public welfare. The example of tuberculosis, for instance, speaks volumes here.
In the end, every measure will fail if the Volk are not led in a German-völkisch spirit, a spirit which knows only one thing: being German, thinking German, feeling German. Anyone who will not or who cannot contribute in this fashion must be removed completely from the leadership, even if this leaves only the smallest circle of people. To what extent the churches are prepared to lend us their support is a question I dare not answer, for my trust in the active attitude of the churches has been severely shaken, particularly since the revolution.
1. The ‘Freischar Damm’ was a nationalist paramilitary association which was active in the state of Württemberg during the 1920s; its roots originally lay in the Orgesch (‘Organization Escherich’), another paramilitary group of which it was an offshoot. Led by Captain Erich Damm (b.1886), a WWI veteran who had fought in the Baltics for the Freikorps, the Freischar Damm was a particularly violent and conspiratorial institution – Damm at one point instructed his followers that for every comrade killed in operations, ten enemies were to be murdered in retribution. Like most small, far-right organizations in Germany at the time, there was heavy overlap between Damm’s group and other radical-nationalist organizations, including the NSDAP and the followers of noted Freikorps leader and political schemer Hermann Ehrhardt. Bubenhöfer himself was the leader of an unnamed, quasi-paramilitary völkisch organization in Württemberg (the “German-völkisch order” referred to later in the letter); his intimation here is that his order served as a kind of successor organization to the earlier Freischar led by Captain Damm.
2. Eugen Bolz (b.1881–d.1945) was a member of the Centre Party and a prominent Württemberg politician. Bolz served variously as Minister of Justice and as Minister of the Interior in Württemberg’s state governments from 1919 onwards, and was notorious on the Right for his actions in the early 1920s cracking down heavily against nationalist paramilitaries. In 1928 Bolz became State President of Württemberg, and due to parliamentary instability was forced to rule by emergency decree from 1932 until his forced removal from office in 1933.
3. The Stahlhelm were also technically a part of the ‘National Government’, alongside the NSDAP, DNVP, and various other ‘partyless’ conservative elements (like von Papen): Franz Seldte (b.1882–d.1947), one of the co-leaders of the Stahlhelm alongside Theodor Duesterberg (b.1874–d.1950), was Reich Minister of Labor in the Hitler cabinet. Seldte had entered the Reichstag in the elections of 5 March, 1933 and thereafter sat as a partyless “guest” of the DNVP until he officially joined the NSDAP on 27 April, 1933. During the early 1933-1934 period, nationalists and conservatives outside the National Socialist movement assumed that the National Government would be a broad right-leaning coalition, and there was an expectation that their various organizations (including paramilitaries) would work alongside one another to rebuild the New Germany. This was not to be the case – the NSDAP used its dominant position in the state to increasingly pressure (sometimes violently) these groups to conform to National Socialist ideology, with most eventually ending up banned or being forcibly merged into the NSDAP’s sub-organizations.
4. This is a somewhat unusual statement, as by April 1933 Ernst Röhm (b.1887–d.1934) did not yet have an official position within the Reich government – Röhm was not made a Reich Minister (without portfolio) until December 1933, although he did have a seat in Bavaria’s state cabinet. Possibly Bubenhöfer is referring to the general position of influence which the SA had attained in Germany following Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor. He may also be making reference to Christian Megenthaler, an NSDAP member and SA-Obergruppenführer who was a minister in Württemberg’s small state government at Bubenhöfer’s time of writing. From 12 May, 1933 until the end of the regime in 1945, Megenthaler would serve as Württemberg’s State President.
6. “The madness of numbers” – The German word used here, “Zahlenwahnsinn,” does not have a direct English equivalent. It generally translates to something like “numbers-madness” or “obsession with numbers/statistics,” and in this instance is intended to imply that the NSDAP, as a popular party which based its support upon the masses and upon conquest of the electoral system, was at risk of ruling in a democratic manner (i.e. according to whatever was popular with the largest number of people) rather than in a fashion that was genuinely best for Germany.
7. Traditionally in Germany the inheritance of a peasant’s farm would pass to the first-born son. The second, third, fourth, etc. (i.e. “later-born”, “nachgeborene”) sons of peasants would often not get to experience land ownership, hence why so many ended up emigrating (either to the cities or to the New World) or entering the military.
8. Otto Ammon (b.1842–d.1916) was the founder of German social anthropology; he believed that positive traits were more highly concentrated in ‘Germanic’ racial types. Sir Francis Galton (b.1822–d.1911) was an English scientist, most famous for coining the term ‘eugenics’ and for his propagation of Social Darwinist ideas. Georg Rudolph Böhmer (b.1723–d.1803) was a German scientist and doctor who specialized in the fields of anatomy and botany.
9. “Pension addiction” – in German, “Rentensucht.” In 1889, the German government ruled that those workers with psychiatric disorders stemming from workplace accidents were to be provided with a compensatory pension. This led to a trend which came to be described as “pension addiction” – people actively seeking a medical diagnosis which would lead to their being awarded a pension by the state, whether out of deliberate need, because of personal neuroses, or as part of a deliberate attempt to swindle the German welfare system. Such “pension chasers” (“Rentennörgler”) were regarded dimly by conservative-oriented physicians, who often viewed mental infirmities (sometimes even including shell shock from the War) as being an inbuilt, biological weakness within the individual, not as an inflicted illness which necessitated a form of social care or compensation. Some medical practitioners further interpreted such ‘weaknesses’ as being a sign of inferior racial make-up, and would try to ascribe pension chasing behavior among the lower classes to their supposedly sub-standard racial pedigree.