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:
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.
We know how war is waged, what it devours and what it spoils. A new war – it will bear no comparison with the last war, it will be even more terrible, it will completely destroy our homeland, it will affect us all without distinction, both you and us. In the name of everything which we hold dear, we Germans must prevent a new war, and we can prevent it.
After the First World War, the majority of us still did not understand how and why wars are made. And because we understood this too late, that is why everything repeated itself even more terribly, even more momentously.
The Second World War made us realize how wars are made: through the despicable abuse of national sentiment and love for one’s homeland.
The course of two world wars has demonstrated to us that a Volk’s happiness cannot be bought through war. Hence why we turn in particular today to all of those who, during the last war, took to the battlefield out of misguided love for their Fatherland, only to end up standing deeply disappointed before the ruins of their German homeland.
We turn to you in the firm belief that you have the same concerns and the same thoughts about Germany. That you of all people can render our Fatherland a special service – this is certain. A great responsibility lies with you.
In West Germany – as our relatives and acquaintances from over there tell us and write to us – a misconception is being nurtured among the population that only through a new war can Germany once again become a great and unified state. You over there, and we over here, must all stand together in order that our Volk are spared this third war, in order that the conviction is anchored in our Volk that only through the advocacy of peace can Germany become a great and unified state and achieve its national rebirth.
Out of such national responsibility we have resolved to give our approval to the call by all peace-loving people for the banning of the atomic bomb. Like all Germans who fear for our common homeland and for our collective peace, we too are of the opinion that the government which is the first to use atomic weapons against any country commits a crime against humanity and must be considered a war criminal.
We are waiting for your approval!
We extend a hand to you, you there and we here – we all are Germans. We stood together with you on the wrong front and devoted years of our lives to a bad cause, the war which destroyed Germany. This time we wish to stand together with you on the right front and serve a good cause: Germany and peace!
We reach out to you! Give us your hand!
The following among our party colleagues have signed this open letter, whose names I will now read:
Wilhelm Adam, Dresden, former colonel und 1st adjutant of the 6th Army.
Günter Aßmann, Chemnitz, former colonel und quartermaster-general of the German army mission in Romania.
Dr. Ernst-Julius Bergfeld, Stralsund, former member of the NSDAP.
Theophil Beust, Langensalza, former training instructor of the NSDAP.
Siegfried Dallmann, Berlin, former executive district student leader [of the NSDAP] in Thuringia.
Horst Dressler-Andress, Erfurt, former president of the Reich Chamber of Broadcasting.
Otto Eismann, Suhl, former master sergeant of the Air Intelligence Agency z. b. V. 16.
Egbert von Frankenberg und Proschlitz, Erfurt, former major and commodore of the fighter squadron 51 ‘Edelweiss’.
Dr. Karl Geißler, Berlin, former SA-man.
Dr. Horst Gössinger, Rudolstadt, former social-activity-leader in the Hitler Youth.
Franz Hahn, Cottbus, former block-assistant of the NSDAP.
Klaus-Werner Jacobs, Erfurt, former captain, 1st General Staff officer of the Korpsgruppe Bork.
Dr. Otto Korfes, Potsdam, former major-general and commander of the 295th Infantry Division.
Arno von Leski, Berlin, former major-general and commander of the 24th Panzer Division.
Dr. Richard Markert, Berlin, former lord mayor of Bremen.
Johannes Müller, Dresden, former department head in the DAF, Berlin.
Vincenz Müller, Berlin, former lieutenant-general, eventually leader of the 4th Army.
Arthur Pommerenke, Schwerin, former non-commissioned officer and officer cadet in the 16th Panzer Division.
Ernst Raab, Meiningen, former captain and division commander in the 19th Army, Driving Department 445.
Helmut Schaefer, Berlin, former captain and battalion commander in the Panzergrenadier Regiment 114.
Hans Theodor Rochlitz, former first sergeant of Medical Company 1/1.
Wilhelm Wolfgram, Schwerin, former staff sergeant in Infantry Division 203.
Dear party colleagues!
I believe that we can and must wholeheartedly support the concerns of those men who once belonged to the NSDAP or who used to be professional soldiers, and who now, with this open letter, wish to serve our collective struggle for peace. For this reason, I propose that here we pass a resolution. If you are in agreement with this, then I ask of you, once the resolution which I have just drafted has been read, to signal your agreement with your delegate card. The resolution shall read:
“The second party conference of the National-Democratic Party of Germany welcomes and endorses the open letter to all former members of the NSDAP, officers, and professional soldiers in West Germany. It recommends that all former members of the NSDAP, officers, and professional soldiers in the German Democratic Republic – whether they are in the ranks of the National-Democratic Party of Germany today or not – affix their signature to this open letter and send it to their former comrades who presently live in West Germany. Our party conference appeals to them in the hope that they will clasp the hand which is honestly offered them.” (Applause)
If you are in agreement with this resolution, then I ask that you show your card. Thankyou. Cross-check. Abstentions? The resolution was passed unanimously. (Loud applause)
We will now take a ten-minute break to facilitate the distribution of the drafting committee’s materials, that is, the printed draft resolutions.
(After the break)
Dear party colleagues!
Our party conference is nearing its conclusion. I request that the chairmen of the drafting committee and the electoral committee stand by.
Before giving up the floor, I would like to point out that a wide range of delegates to the party conference have expressed their desire to also sign the ‘Open Letter’ submitted to the conference, thereby taking on the responsibility of ensuring that the letter is delivered to the West of our homeland. Over the next few days, the regional associations, district associations, and local branches of our party will busy themselves persuading all former professional soldiers and members of the NSDAP – both inside and outside of our party – to collect signatures for this letter and its dispatch. We will do this in an organized manner, thereby amplifying the impact of this step.
Now, I wish to ascertain whether all the necessary documents are in your hands. These are: the draft resolution on the political director’s report, the draft resolution on the chairman’s paper, the draft decision on the deputy chairman’s paper. First in order, we will hear the draft resolution on the political director’s report. Fellow party-member Dallmann has the floor on the drafting committee’s report…
1. Günther Ludwig (b.1899 – d.1971) was, as he states, a former officer in the Reichswehr and the Wehrmacht. Ludwig was taken prisoner at Stalingrad in 1943 and while in captivity joined the National Committee for a Free Germany (NKFD), a pro-Russian propaganda initiative established by the Soviets for the purpose of ‘curing’ German POWs of their loyalties to Hitler and National Socialism. After the war’s end, Ludwig ended up involved in the East German Volkspolizei and Volksarmee, and was also a leading functionary of the NDPD, helping to co-found the party branch in Thuringia, while also at various points acting as a leading party-member in Mecklenburg and Berlin. The “Berlin” besides Ludwig’s name in the transcript here indicates the NDPD branch which he was representing at the party conference.
2. Lothar Bolz (b.1903 – d.1986) was a former communist rather than a nationalist, having joined the Communist Party of Germany in 1929. He spent the National Socialist era in exile in the USSR, working in the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute in Moscow, and in 1943 he helped co-found the NKFD. Bolz’s position as a longtime communist made him trustworthy to the Soviet occupation authorities, while his experience at working with (and converting) German-nationalist POWs in the NKFD meant that he was close to the ideological objectives of the NDPD; as such, he was made chairman of the National-Democratic Party when it was founded in 1948. Bolz would remain NDPD chairman until 1972, when he was replaced by Heinrich Homann, who unlike Bolz had previously been an NSDAP member. Bolz at various points held various high-ranking positions in the East German government, including serving as Foreign Minister from 1953 to 1965.
To begin, I must apologize for not being able to respond to your latest ARPLAN post sooner. I am currently working on an International Relations research paper about “pariah states” and why their survival depends on them receiving support from larger neighbors with similar ideological orientations and geopolitical interests. While the topic itself is technically related to the latest post, the research paper itself is a different matter altogether. Therefore, I felt it was necessary to write this comment first before proceeding to write a separate one for the latest post.
There is enough empirical evidence on my Blog as well as yours to argue that “pariah states” such as the German Reich and the DPRK cannot survive in this world alone. The German Reich saw the Soviets as a potential strategic partner who might help them overcome the Versailles Treaty and the Allied Powers. The Soviets helped the German Reich evade arms control limitations of the Versailles Treaty by allowing statesmen and generals invest in the Soviet Union as part of the Reichswehr’s secret rearmament programs. Conversely, the PRC has helped the DPRK evade international sanctions and turn a blind eye to its nuclear weapons development. In both cases, we have two nations with a shared opposition to a prevailing hegemon and engaging in an exchange of ideas and values that are not necessarily economic in nature.
Currently, I am still gathering documents and other historical evidence to support my assertions. Thanks to your continued efforts on ARPLAN, I am also confident that I have the makings of a solid case to be made from the standpoint of conventional IR analysis. Who knows, maybe it will lead to an entirely new Theory for IR?
Good luck with your paper!
The latest ARPLAN post supports my longstanding conclusions about the role of Nationalism in the DDR or “East Germany.” The Soviets knew that not all Germans in the German-speaking world were truly supportive, let alone complicit, in the affairs of the Hitlerists. If anything, the Soviets were at willing giving the German-speaking world a second chance, even though they were forced to hold onto a small sliver of East Prussia. Barring the NSDAP members, a sizeable number of people mentioned herein are former Wehrmacht personnel who found themselves in a German-speaking world that had its size and influence diminished significantly. They had witnessed two major wars and believed the German-speaking world must pursue peace to ensure its survival.
This brings me to another important point that I had addressed on my Blog, and that is the role of Nationalism in the DDR. It is clear to me that there were two opposing Nationalisms within the German-speaking world after 1945, which went on to shape the national consciousnesses of the “West German” and the “East German.” The West German viewed themselves as complicit in the actions of the Hitlerists and therefore must atone in some form or another, creating the “Vergangenheitsbewältigung” that continues to perplex foreigners and East Germans alike. The East German, meanwhile, had nothing to atone because they believed that the Soviet Union had wiped the slate clean for the German-speaking world and provided them with a newfound purpose.
The open letter itself represents one of those efforts in the late 20th century to remind all Germans everywhere in the German-speaking world that they are still Germans first and foremost. Legal names like “West Germany” and “East Germany” will always be artificial constructions that do not reflect the true Authentic Dasein of the German-speaking world as a whole. The real problem, and I am convinced that it is a genuine one, is how to reunite whatever remains of the German-speaking world. Clearly, the NDPD had to have realized that the lands east of the Oder-Neiße Line could not be retaken without risking a major war. And although they refrained from specifically mentioning those lands, given the broader geopolitical context of the Cold War, they continued to emphasize the importance of reuniting West and East Germany, West and East Berlin.
The significance of reunification, as it was promoted by the NDPD, is worth addressing in the context of what would later happen a few decades later. The “West German” and “East German” have grown apart from each other that I cannot help but perceive them as two different Volksgemeinschaften as opposed to being one Volksgemeinschaft. Even today, there are still cultural and social divisions that persist among the “West Germans” and “East Germans.” It is almost as if they are still being defined by two opposing sets of values and ideas.
A notable case involves the political orientations of “East Germans” in comparison to “West Germans.” Socialistic and Nationalistic ideas and values tend to receive far greater support among “East Germans” than they do among “West Germans.” The “West Germans,” by contrast, are more receptive to Liberal Capitalist ideas. Certainly, there may have been attempts by the West German government to impose its ideas and values on the East Germans, but I doubt they were successful.
This is something which interests me, too, to the extent that I’ve considered doing an article on it (which would mean actually having to write something myself for a change). The DDR ended its denazification process surprisingly early, and started integrating former NSDAP members back into society as soon as 1946. Some ended up in prominent positions, or even on the SED Central Committee. The state put up roadblocks against paying Holocaust reparations, purged suspected “Zionists” from party ranks, and never established formal relations with Israel. And it also formalized the role of “rehabilitated” nationalists and ex-NSDAP members in politics and society through the role of the NDPD. More interestingly, it tried to establish a unique identity for itself as a separate nation and to encourage patriotic sentiment through emphasizing the country’s cultural and sporting achievements. (Military, too – some of the pro-military propaganda aimed at youth can be quite funny). It revived elements of Prussian military tradition and under Honecker began gradually moving away from demonizing figures like Luther and Frederick the Great to lionizing them. There’s some decent sources which touch on the topic if you dig around – this blog is generally excellent and this article (if you have Jstor access) provides some good insight on how the DDR tried to square veneration of the past with its professed progressivism:
I looked into those sources that you provided in your response to the other comment. The documentation itself appears to support my argument that something definitely happened in the DDR during the latter half of its existence. The “East German” not only tried to resist the Liberalization of Young Minds but also attempted to restore older ideas and values once cherished in the German-speaking world. And despite the annexation of the DDR by the BRD, the vast majority of “East Germans” continue to defy all efforts to emulate the “West Germans.” The “East Germans” might be improving economically, albeit at great cost to the “West Germans,” but they are still psychologically and psychically different. The various statistical data and infographics that can be found on the World Wide Web (WWW) can attest to this reality.
Given those differences, my conclusion that today’s Germany is dominated two Volksgemeinschaften will remains valid for the foreseeable future. The differences are too vast for us to be describing the “West German” and “East German” as the two halves of a single Volksgemeinschaft. The looming question that I think people in the German-speaking world and elsewhere should be asking is what will truly reunite those two. This reunification will not be the same as the one which occurred under the terms of what was essentially a new Versailles Treaty. Rather, it needs to be a reunification that has to come from the creation of a new national consciousness.
The problem that continues to boggle me is that none of the current ideologies within the German-speaking world appears capable of fulfilling such a task. Neither Liberal Capitalism nor Marxism-Leninism will suffice and the same can be said about Pan-Germanic Socialism. We can cite another reason for the latter which does not have anything to do with Hitlerism. The Pan-Germanism aspect also has to contend with the prevalence of “Pan-Europeanism” among a sizeable number of “West Germans.” In essence, there is a recurring belief that all Europeans should identify more with Europe as opposed to their own nations. The intended aim of Pan-Europeanism is the eventual establishment of a “United States of Europe.” Today, we now know that the outcome of such a plan is the EU/NATO, a Liberal Capitalist project beholden to the Jeffersonian Empire of Liberty.
Pan-Germanism, as we understand it in related ARPLAN posts, advocates for the unification of the entire German-speaking world into a single nation. It might be open to cooperation and alliances with the rest of Europe, but it will never undermine the sovereignty and autonomy of the German-speaking world on behalf of Liberal Capitalist utopian thinking. The German-speaking world exists as its own hegemon and therefore does not need the rest of Europe in order to govern itself. Any contemporary formulation of Pan-Germanic Socialism will espouse Hard Euroscepticism, expecting the same attitude from the rest of Europe.
But Euroscepticism in general has yet to gain enough traction across the European mainland and more so in the German-speaking world. I mean, what is the likelihood of today’s Germany leaving the EU/NATO and pursuing its own foreign policies?
I got some good news to report. Over the course of the previous week, I managed to begin articulating an alternative Theory of International Relations that aligns with the Work-Standard and the historical data on ARPLAN. Our conclusions that the history of the 20th century could have occurred differently now has a theoretical basis. The IR Theory which I had devised on my Blog is neither Liberal Capitalist nor Marxist-Leninist, seeking to transcend the Neoliberalism’s ideological hegemony over the subdiscipline. In fact, it was meant to accommodate a multiplicity of different ideologies, including the various “Artistic Socialisms” (that is, any Socialism not derived from the works of Marx and Engels).
I chose to call it “Consciousness Theory.” The name itself has grown on me and it best describes the general interpretations and assumptions on how Nations unaligned with Neoliberalism formulate their foreign policies and why they act in certain ways.
The key assumption is that Nations conduct themselves in any prevailing world order with a preconceived “National Interest” which emanates from their “National Consciousness.”
The National Consciousness tells us how a Nation’s Totality presents themselves to other Nations and how they are in turn perceived by them. A Totality does not become a Nation without forging a “National Identity” through their State. Their Nation’s perceptions and attitudes toward other countries is informed by a “National Essence” that binds the Totality and the State to a shared culture, tradition, language, history, social customs and norms.
Supported by their National Identity and National Essence, a Totality’s National Consciousness is what enables their State to formulate its foreign policies as part the “National Interest.” The Totality and the State are bound to a shared Destiny that they define for themselves, existing in a reciprocal relationship where both support each other as the Nation. On my Blog, this idea finds its economic embodiment in the form of the Work-Standard’s Life-Energization Reciprocity (LER) Process and its digital subvariant, the Life-Energization Reciprocal Electrification (LERE) Process. The Totality creates Arbeit from economic activities and receive Geld in return from the State through the direct conversion of Arbeit-into-Geld. A likewise Geld-into-Arbeit procedure also occurs when the State receives Geld from the Totality and converts it into more Arbeit.
On ARPLAN, I do see a recurring pattern of metaphysical thinking on display across various posts. The key difference is that they are often mentioned in specific political terms such as “Community of Fate” or “Community of Essence.” Even so, they all refer back to the same pattern that the Work-Standard has revealed in the contexts of the LER and LERE Processes.
Furthermore, Consciousness Theory’s interpretation of the National Interest differs from the Liberal Capitalist version as it appears among the leading Theories of International Relations. The most obvious difference is that the Realist and Liberal IR Theories conflate the National Interest with “Self-Interest.” Those Theories consistently believed that the National Interest is a zero-sum game where one Totality must exploit another for their own personal gain. They would argue that it was somehow ‘irrational’ for the various authors on the ARPLAN Blog to be advocating for an alliance between the German Reich and the Soviet Union.
In contrast, Consciousness Theory argues that it is possible for Nations to have similar strategic goals driving their respective National Interests. One Nation’s attempts to realize its National Interest on the world stage may potentially benefit the National Interest of another Nation. While this can occur as a result of specific geopolitical or ideological considerations, they can also be achieved by States and their Totalities engaging in mutual dialogue and cooperation. The original ARPLAN itself was one such example.
Moreover, the National Interest is not static and it is possible for the State and the Totality to have competing perspectives. I demonstrated how that could occur when I discussed about Consciousness Theory in relation to “Council States” under Socialism and “Corporate States” under Corporatism. In the Council State and the Corporate State, the Self is capable of becoming an active participant in redefining or recontextualizing the National Interest of their Nation. The former has the Self working with the Totality to define the National Interest for their State in a functioning Council Democracy. The latter, meanwhile, involves the Self advancing the interests of the State in its role as the intermediate between Organized Labor and the Business Community.
Overall, Bogumil, Consciousness Theory has so much latent potential that I can see it as a revolutionary gamechanger on par with the Work-Standard. I am confident that it will provide others with a newfound perspective that they did not realize was possible.
I uncovered some interesting tidbits of information that I should share with you because it is related to your area of interest than my own. Since I am unsure if you were already aware of the following information in your research, I felt compelled to bring it to your attention in the latest ARPLAN post. To begin, I had begun mapping out the known extent of foreign relations between the German Reich and the Soviet Union prior to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and Operation Barbarossa. All the information on ARPLAN so far has filled in some of the gaps on the motivations behind the German Reich’s foreign policies toward the Soviet Union. The rest was left in the Soviet archives and has only been brought to light in recent decades.
Thanks to the course set by Walther Rathenau, the German Reich was relying on the Soviet Union for various strategic materials that cannot be found within the German-speaking world. Yes, the German Reich prior to the Hitlerists was technically a pariah state under the terms of the Versailles Treaty. In addition to the military cooperation between the Soviet Red Army and the German Reichswehr, German efforts invest in the Soviet economy both economically and financially were also being promoted at a time before the Eastern Bloc and before the Soviet Union became a juggernaut that it would later become.
German financial institutions, due to the war reparations imposed by the Versailles Treaty and later economic sanctions, struggled to acquire foreign currencies to obtain various natural resources which cannot otherwise be found anywhere within the broader German-speaking world. Without foreign currencies, the Manufacturing Sector will not be able to receive the raw materials they need to create various finished goods for the Services Sector. Meanwhile, the Soviet economy also needed foreign investments in order for the Soviet Union to become self-sufficient. Since the infrastructure and productive forces were not there yet, the State Capitalism of NEP was promoted as a gradual step toward Pure Socialism.
The needs of German finance and Soviet industry led to a series of trade agreements that lasted from the Rapallo Treaty to the opening phases of Operation Barbarossa. German banks and investors provided the Soviet economy with Reichsmarks to spend on their industrialization. The Soviets paid back their loans based on the Values of various raw materials sent to the German-speaking world, the Prices of which were denominated in Soviet Rubles. While gold was among the raw materials exported, it was not the only one.
The 1st Five Year Plan could not have been achieved without the Soviet economy receiving access to machinery and industrial tools. German heavy industries were arguably the biggest benefactor compared to the rest of the German economy. By the time Karl Otto Paetel finished writing “The National Bolshevik Manifesto,” the Soviet Union had accumulated a Sovereign Schuld of $155,000,000 in 1933 US Dollars. As of November 2022, that is the equivalent of around $3,553,220,000 USD. In spite of their best efforts, the 1st Five-Year Plan almost forced the Soviet Union to default on their Sovereign Schuld and get tossed into the Great Depression like the Western countries.
But the NSDAP, for whatever reason, decided to intervene and helped the CPSU avoid defaulting on the Sovereign Schuld. It was a decision on the NSDAP’s part and the only person that I know of who vocally criticized this decision was Hermann Göring. Göring expressed skepticism on the CPSU’s determination to pay all Sovereign Schuld owed to the German Reich for the same reasons that I had stated earlier. The CPSU and the NSDAP had no access to foreign currencies.
Göring’s skepticism later subsided when it became apparent that the CPSU would pay its Sovereign Schuld in raw materials such as crude oil, timber, manganese, gold and silver. The gold and silver exported to the German Reich were harvested ores that had yet to be converted into actual bullion and could instead be used for various industrial applications such as electrical appliances and demolitions for construction work. The NSDAP still drained the German Reich’s gold reserves in order to promote the economic recovery of the German-speaking world.
It is no secret that the Hitlerists were opposed to the Soviet Union prior to 1939. Even so, there were attempts by the CPSU to convince elements of the NSDAP to change the Anti-Soviet orientation of the German government. The economic factions within both parties believed that their countries would benefit from forging an “economic alliance,” a plan that they discussed off-the-record between 1935 and 1938. The argument was that German financing of the Soviet economy will allow the latter to support the German economy. The German Reich, upon reuniting the German-speaking world, would help the Soviet Union create an economic and military alliance to promote the “‘collective security’” of Eastern Europe and possibly even the Eurasian landmass. The result was something far greater than that of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
“‘Collective security’” is the specific term that these factions within the NSDAP and CPSU chose to describe those arrangements. Their ideal goal would have been something akin to establishing the CMEA (Council for Mutual Economic Assistance) and the Warsaw Pact during the 1930s. But when it became apparent that the Hitlerists were unwilling to support such an endeavor, not to mention Stalin’s paranoia that led to the purges of his Foreign Ministry, these factions were forced to settle for an attempt to promote peaceful coexistence.
Have you ever heard of the “Kandelaki Affair” that happened in the German-speaking world around 1935-1937 by any chance, Bogumil? I would like to share more information about the topic once I have delved into that and some other related topics further.
No, I’ve never heard of any of this before, apart from some of the details you touched on re Rathenau and German/Russian relations pre-1933. Very interesting information, thankyou!
Oh, you were not aware about the information I mentioned in my previous comment? Those were some interesting tidbits that I found, and there were a couple more worthy of mention that predated the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by several years. There has been a decades-long debate among Western scholars between the early 1970s and early 2000s on whether the Soviets were planning to enter an alliance with the German Reich, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan. The exact implications of such an alliance vary, ranging from an earlier implementation of CMEA and the Warsaw Pact in Eastern Europe to the entire Eurasian landmass being split into German, Italian, Soviet, and Japanese spheres of influence. The debate itself is not so much about what the Soviets intended to do once they had joined such an alliance, but whether Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP were willing to refrain from waging war on the Soviet Union and whether Josef Stalin and the CPSU were determined to overcome their stances in the Comintern.
There were a number of factions within the CPSU that preferred some form of détente, agreement, cooperation, or alliance with the German Reich. They argued that Stalin’s official Anti-German stances to the Comintern did not truly reflect his unofficial positions on the German Reich. Regardless of whatever concessions they expected to receive from the NSDAP, these CPSU factions were consistently after the same objective: to promote peace and understanding between the Soviet Union and the German Reich. Their activities predated the Second World War and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact because they had suffered a serious setback when Stalin’s paranoia caused him to purge elements of his armed forces and his government.
Officially, the CPSU advocated for a foreign policy of ‘Collective Security’ in Europe. On paper, it meant ensuring that no nation in Europe would be capable of threatening the western borders of the Soviet Union. In actual practice, however, the Soviet Foreign Ministry ended up supporting the Germans and Italians on the one hand and the British and French on the other. At stake in the prospect of German-Soviet rapprochement was the German Reich’s positions toward Czechoslovakia, Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe.
The scholars of this debate maintained that the NSDAP and the CPSU both shared the same intentions for Eastern Europe. The NSDAP wanted to reunite Sudetenland and Danzig with the rest of the German-speaking world. The CPSU conversely wanted a collective security buffer against the French, the British, and the Americans. This collective security buffer involved the establishment of Socialist nations across Eastern Europe, which would have been tantamount to implementing the CMEA/Warsaw Pact alliance in the 1930s. The NSDAP would have been able to join that collective security buffer, but there were other factors in the German-speaking world preventing such a possibility from ever happening.
The first steps in the construction of the collective security buffer begin between 1934 and 1936. The CPSU sought a Non-Aggression Pact with Czechoslovakia and the NSDAP proposed a similar one to Poland. The CPSU’s Non-Aggression Pact was meant to serve as the beginnings of a defensive bulwark against the Allied Powers. The NSDAP’s Non-Aggression Pact was actually a sincere one in order to coax the Polish into supporting them against the Soviets.
Next, something needed to be done about the Baltic states, Belarus, and Ukraine. The CPSU wanted Belarus and Ukraine under their control, whereas the NSDAP wanted the Baltic states. The NSDAP’s Non-Aggression Pact with the Polish complicated this because, if Warsaw conceded to the NSDAP’s demands for German territories, Poland will be compensated by regaining its own former territories across a large chunk of western Ukraine.
Third, the questions of Finland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece and Turkey need to be addressed. Should Finland and Bulgaria fall under Soviet influence? Should Hungary and Romania fall under German influence? If Fascist Italy did not invade Albania, should Albania be brought under Soviet influence? What about Greece or its eastern neighbor, Turkey?
The scholars, based on my readings of their arguments, posited that the outcome of the Second World War would have been different if the Soviet Union and the German Reich found some points of mutual agreement on where to draw their spheres of influence. They maintained that the Soviets were fine with the Germans reuniting the German-speaking world, but they were counting on them to serve as the bulwark of their collective security buffer. Everything depended on the possibility that some faction inside the NSDAP would be willing to support such an offer.
Barring the Strasserists, I have been developing a curiosity on where Hermann Göring stood on this particular matter because his name pops up in reference to this issue between 1933 and 1937. It is not too surprising to me since Göring played an influential role in the economic policies of the NSDAP. But did Göring somehow became convinced that the German Reich was better off being an ally of the Soviet Union? Was he under the influence of his cousin, Herbert Göring, whose government office pertained to the public finances of the German Reich?
How do we even begin to deconstruct everything I had just discussed so far? The simplest way to approach the scholarly debate, Bogumil, is to realize that the Soviet Union could have fought the Second World War alongside the Germans, Italians, and Japanese.
Everything depended on how the German Reich and Soviet Union should define their spheres of influence in Eastern Europe. The countries in question are Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey.
If I was caught in a scenario comparable to this one, here’s how I envisaged the ideal scenario:
-The Soviet Union retains control of Belarus and Ukraine, adding Finland, Poland, Bulgaria to its sphere of influence as satellite states.
-The German Reich acquires Hungary, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia as satellite states.
-Fascist Italy should have Albania and Greece on the condition that the Soviet Union is allowed access to the Mediterranean Sea, establishing naval bases beyond the Black Sea.
That leaves us with Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Turkey. The German Reich acquires Czechia and lets Slovakia become a Soviet satellite state. Yugoslavia should be partitioned between pro-German Croatia and pro-Soviet Serbia. And Turkey is allowed to remain neutral. In short, six German satellite states, five Soviet satellite states, two Italian satellite states, and a cooperative Turkey willing to work with the Germans, Soviets, and Italians.
I should preface, Bogumil, that everything that I had just written here did come close to becoming a reality in the early years of the Second World War. If for whatever reason the NSDAP decides to dispute those territorial claims or the fact that they owe the CPSU about 200,000,000 Reichsmarks between late June and early July of 1941, the CPSU was more than willing to renegotiate in exchange for a swift armistice from the NSDAP. All the NSDAP have to do is come back to the diplomacy table and keep the Wehrmacht’s guns pointing at the Allied Powers.
Oh, I was already aware of the fact there were discussions (both within the German and Soviet governments, and between them) over the possibility of the USSR entering the Axis alliance. It’s one of those great “what ifs” of history – if a few different decisions had been made, how might the War have turned out? How might Stalin and the USSR be viewed now? Very interesting hypothetical. Personally, even if they had managed to satisfactorily define their spheres of influence, and if WWII had ended with the Reich and the USSR intact as the dominant powers over Europe (or if it hadn’t broken out at all), I suspect there would still have been a Russian/German conflict. Two expansionist superpowers sharing a border (with or without a few buffer states) would probably make that inevitable. I was more talking about the fact that there were negotiations over a potential economic alliance before 1939, which I don’t think I was aware of. Another very interesting comment though, regardless. With regards to Göring, I’m not really sure what his position on a German-Russian alliance was, but I did find the following in Roger Moorehouse’s book The Devil’s Alliance: Hitler’s Pact with Stalin:
And this was in Richard Overy’s Goering: The Iron Man:
I don’t know a lot about Göring, tbh, but I do remember reading somewhere else that in terms of foreign policy he leaned more towards a restoration of Germany’s 1914 borders and its overseas colonies, rather than a specific focus on heavy expansion into Eastern Europe. If that’s true, then it would make sense for him to be in favour of rapprochement with Russia, especially if he’d been involved in trying to build a trade relationship with them.
The possibility of an “economic alliance” would not occur overnight in the 1930s. Like that “military alliance,” it too is another ‘what if’. And there were people in the Western Europe and the US at the time who thought the Soviets and the Germans were going to pursue those alliances.
For the economic alliance, there was a 1938 research article by a Dutch researcher, based on economic data from the US Treasury Department, that German-Soviet trade relations could lead to the foundations of an “economic alliance.” Although a promising prospect, the author of that report also cautioned that it is still too early to speak of one and that the two countries would need to work further to realize it. The economic alliance would have to require more effort from both countries to achieve it, but the possibility was still there in the wake of the Anschluss.
The research article in question is entitled “Russia’s Trade with Germany”: http://www.jstor.org/stable/45335542
Given that conclusion, I am convinced that if the Germans and the Soviets were to somehow find a workable solution on how to divide their spheres of influence in Eastern Europe, that alliance needs to be fully achieved no later than the 1940s. The real problem, which I am glad you mentioned, is how long would this economic alliance last? Was it incorporated into the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and eventually broken when the German Reich invaded the Soviet Union? What would be the point of splitting Eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence and forging those alliances?
The other research I found stipulated that the long-term aim of German-Soviet rapprochement and those alliances is to implement a détente between the NSDAP and the CPSU. That détente may or may not have occurred in the 1940s. If anything, it is more likely that the détente would probably happen between the late 1940s at the earliest or the 1960s at the latest. And granted, this is assuming the NSDAP and CPSU both realized that their expansionist aims do not lie in Eastern Europe but across the Eurasian landmass.
Why would the German Reich pursue détente and refrain from declaring war on the Soviet Union? It is true that there were factions inside the NSDAP that believed the German Reich should expand eastward, but their contention was the precise boundaries of the German sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. Would it be something close to what I had outlined in the previous comment? Is it everything west of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic), including Belarus and Ukraine? Or, as post-1945 historians assumed, is it everything west of the Urals?
These questions cannot be properly ascertained without us also realizing that, in addition to those factions, other factions within the NSDAP believed that the German Reich should retake its colonial holdings in Africa. That brings me to Hermann Göring, who is cited in the available literature as having some vested interest in promoting rapprochement between the NSDAP and the CPSU. If the German Reich is going to regain its African colonial holdings, his thinking went, then there needs to be rapprochement with the Soviet Union. The long-term stability of those colonies will require a détente between the German Reich and the Soviet Union.
The evidence you cited is copacetic with that conclusion, Bogumil. Göring knew that because of the German-speaking world’s geographical position, the German Reich cannot afford to experience another World War on two fronts. He was also of the view that the German Reich was better off pursuing broader foreign policies that pertained to Africa and Asia (where its former colonies were located). And even if there were hostilities between the German Reich and the Soviet Union, it would at least occur through proxies as was the case in the Spanish Civil War.
To the best of my knowledge, the Reichskolonialbund was the foremost advocate of this endeavor. I am sure that, of the various factions in the NSDAP, they had the most to gain from German-Soviet rapprochement, especially if doing so means the realization of détente in Eastern Europe. After all, their downfall occurred unceremoniously in 1943, when the NSDAP decided their activities were not conducive to its strategic interests in Eastern Europe.
Now, what would be the intended outcome of that endeavor? It would still result in the Germans, Soviets, Italians, and Japanese carving much of the Eurasian landmass into their spheres of influence. Since the Germans will not be invading the Soviet Union, that will be happen, regardless of whether the US decides to intervene in the Second World War or not.
The Allies will lose most or all of their colonies in the process and there will be a subsequent Cold War, with the German Reich being the third power between the Americans and the Soviets. The Cold War will be multipolar as opposed to bipolar. And even if Imperial Japan and Fascist Italy managed to survive along with the German Reich, their presence only supports that conclusion.
How are things going with you? I hope that this message reaches you in good health.
My decision to finish that paper ahead of time has finally paid off. Over the past few weeks, I discovered additional information related to your area of research that put the rest of my conclusions into perspective. I was also able to figure out why Hermann Göring advocated for German-Soviet trade relations conductive to realizing a détente between the German Reich and the Soviet Union. The signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, contrary to what the readers of our blogs may be expecting, was not that détente. In fact, the détente was the diplomatic alternative to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.
That was the conclusion of the author who wrote “A Soviet Bid for Coexistence with Nazi Germany, 1935-1937: The Kandelaki Affair.” I found two other authors who arrived at similar conclusions:
“Foreign Exchange Crisis of 1936”: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40748563
“Karl Schnurre and the Evolution of Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1936-1941”: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1432205
What brought Göring to entertain this proposal was a “Balance of Payments Crisis” that struck the German Reich around late 1935 and early 1936. After it became apparent to that the Germans will no longer abide by the terms of the Versailles Treaty, the Allies levied “economic boycotts” (the precursor to today’s economic sanctions) in retaliation. German financial institutions were deprived of foreign currencies to facilitate payments for raw materials imported from outside the German-speaking world. As foreign currency reserves ran low, the economic recovery of the German Reich was at risk of being ruined. Without foreign currencies, the German Reich cannot import raw materials to sustain the German economy and the rearmament of the German armed forces. The Reich Ministry of Agriculture even reported in 1935 that because of a poor harvest and overpopulation of pigs, they requested foreign currencies to start importing foodstuffs.
Consequently, the NSDAP found itself caught in the middle of a three-way dispute between the Reich Ministry of Agriculture, the Reich Ministry of War, and the Reich Ministry of Economics. They warned that the economic recovery was at risk of being derailed from people were smuggling foreign currencies into the German Reich, rising food prices, and looming raw materials shortages. Together with German rearmament, these issues were gradually compounding to create Currency Depreciation in the Value of the German Reichsmark. Hjalmar Schacht and Hermann Göring were specifically chosen by Hitler to resolve the Balance of Payments Crisis.
In short, to solve the Balance of Payments Crisis, Schacht and Göring had the following options:
-Scale back German rearmament.
-Implement rationing and price controls.
-Reduce the government expenditures and devalue the Reichsmark.
-Develop self-sufficiency in the German Reich.
-Acquire more foreign currencies by increasing exports to other nations.
The NSDAP refused to go along with the first and second proposals, fearing that those options will infuriate the German people and the armed forces. Schacht argued for spending cuts and devaluation, whereas Göring advocated for greater self-sufficiency by commissioning a governmental study that would later recommend the “Four-Year Plan.” Both men eventually concluded that the best way to address the Balance of Payments Crisis, continue the rearmament, and sustain the economy at the same time was to build better trade relations with the Soviet Union. If there was anything that Stalin refused to export to the German Reich, importing from the Kuomintang or the Imperial Japanese will suffice.
This brings me to the CPSU, which chose to develop a working dialogue with the NSDAP prior to 1939 because they realized that the Balance of Payments Crisis will not help the KPD seize power in the German Reich. Thanks to the Soviet archives, historians in the 1990s were debating exactly what sort of relationship the CPSU had with the NSDAP. The Soviet perspective of the CPSU’s relations with the NSDAP is so complicated that the historians at the time coalesced around four competing historiographical schools of thought. To quote the second source:
“(1) The Soviet Union as the friend of Collective Security and the League of Nations rebuffed the German advances.
(2) The Soviet Union preferred to cooperate with the West in securing peace but was willing to listen to German proposals because of Western appeasement.
(3) The Soviet Union preferred to expand its territory in alliance with other dissatisfied powers, such as Nazi Germany, but found itself fitfully cooperating with the West because of Hitler’s intransigence.
(4) The Soviet Union pressed for an agreement in order to use Nazi Germany to foment war and thereby export revolution and expand the USSR, but was rejected by the Germans.”
The first school argued that the CPSU were staunchly opposed to the NSDAP, whereas the fourth school insisted that the CPSU was initially supportive of the NSDAP prior to Operation Barbarossa. The author, citing the diplomacy conducted by Reich Foreign Ministry’s Dr. Karl Schnurre, believed that the CPSU’s true stances where somewhere between the second and third schools of thought. The CPSU was willing to work with either the NSDAP or the Western Allies. Although that does not guarantee the possibility of the Soviet Union joining the Axis Powers or the Allied Powers, it does, however, imply that the CPSU could be persuaded to support either.
The best analogy that I found to be the most appropriate was the Chinese position on the subject of Korean Reunification because China has its own reasons to support and oppose that proposal.