The Uneven Alliance: German Nationals and the Hitler Government

“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
Freudenstadt
Specialist in Surgery & Gynecology
Chief Physician of the District Hospital

Freudenstadt, 11 April, 1933
His Excellency Herr Vice-Chancellor v. Papen
Berlin

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 Continue reading

Hitler’s Betrayal – Are We Still a Workers’ Party?

Black propaganda from the Communist Party of Germany, aimed at winning over disillusioned members of the SA

The explosive growth in popularity of National Socialism throughout Germany in 1930 proved particularly challenging for German Communism, which found itself suddenly competing with a highly-organized, well-disciplined opponent whose espoused “social-radicalism” seemed to have a troubling level of appeal even among certain segments of the urban proletariat. A key component in the Comintern’s solution to the rising challenge of National Socialism was its ‘Programmatic Statement for the National and Social Liberation of the German People’, first published in national Communist Party (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD) daily Die Rote Fahn on August 24, 1930, and deliberately intended to steal some of the NSDAP’s thunder by appropriating nationalist language and sentiment for the cause of Marxism-Leninism. Translated into practical party work, the new ‘National and Social’ policy line was primarily employed by Communists in the field of propaganda, particularly through organizations and publications intended to appeal to nationalists by focusing on certain attractive commonalities (i.e. a shared culture of militarism, or a hatred of the Young Plan) which could then be gradually redefined to participants in the framework of a Stalinist ideological worldview. Another favored KPD tactic during this period involved the use of demoralizing ‘black propaganda’, particularly what historian Timothy Brown calls ‘Zersetzungsschriften’ – ‘decomposition tracts’. These were leaflets, flyers, and newsletters written and produced by Communist propagandists but intended to give the impression that they were actually authored by an ‘opposition movement’ of disgruntled and disillusioned National Socialists within the NSDAP. Usually Communist Zersetzung were targeted at the Sturmabteilung (SA, Stormtroopers), which had the largest share of the NSDAP’s proletarian membership and hence, for the KPD, the greatest revolutionary potential. Zersetzung were full of complaints from supposedly ‘real’ Stormtroopers pointing out ideological hypocrisy within the party, alleging financial or racial impropriety on the part of local or national leaders, and encouraging a more sympathetic view of the ‘Reds’ and their ideas. The translated document below, a four-page newsletter titled Nation und Revolution, is an example of an SA-targeted Communist Zersetzungsschrift. Although undated and unnumbered, it was probably produced in mid-1931 and seems to have been distributed in the Stuttgart area. It covers most of the themes common to this kind of propaganda writing, condensing core arguments from the 1930 ‘National and Social’ programme and combining them with grumbling allegations about SA “Bonzen” (bigwigs) and the NSDAP’s inability to truly live up to the promises of its anticapitalist economic ideology.

Nation and Revolution
An anonymous SA propaganda newsletter,
clandestinely produced by the Communist Party of Germany

Hitler’s Betrayal of Nationalism!

Part II:1 The South Tyrolean Question and Hitler’s despicable renunciation of the Germans in South Tyrol are common knowledge. One would be correct in pointing out that the same policy of renunciation to which the Germans in South Tyrol are falling victim today could be invoked tomorrow against the Germans in Alsace, Upper Silesia, Czechoslovakia, etc.2 And in point of fact, Hitler has commenced one retreat after another along these lines. In his August 1930 letter to the French politician Gustave Hervé3 he wrote:

“I can assure you most emphatically, the movement which I represent has no intention of extending a helping hand to any course of action that appears only too likely to prevent the necessary balance of power from being established in Europe, thereby jeopardizing a much-needed peace among European nations! … The legally-binding character of private debts, regardless of the reason for which they were accrued, is always unequivocally clear… It (Germany) fulfills, and will also in future earnestly and faithfully fulfill, its private commercial debt obligations to the world.”

Hitler is openly stating here that he has absolutely no intention of doing anything at all about amending Germany’s monumental private debts to the Versailles powers. How could it be otherwise, when he is so keen upon the discourse of private ownership? The utter impracticality of national liberation without a preceding or concurrent socialist revolution is demonstrated here in Hitler’s shiftless babbling.

And what of Hitler’s fight against the “November Democracy’s policy of fulfillment,” which constitutes the be-all and end-all of National Socialist propaganda in its entirety? How would he behave in practice, if he were serious about this fight? In addition to refusing to make any reparations payments, he would then primarily need to ensure via his representatives in the state and municipal governments that the raising of funds for reparations would be made impossible, i.e. through the systematic sabotage of government measures; calls for a tax strike; struggling for improved wages, salaries, and bread; and ensuring all property goes to the German Volk in accordance with the maxim: “Bread first, then reparations!” Continue reading

Woman in the National Socialist State

NSDAP activist Dr. Sofia Rabe’s 1932 pamphlet on German women and their rights and responsibilities under National Socialism

A common criticism levelled against National Socialism during the interwar years was that the NS movement’s outlook on women tended to be somewhat backward, and therefore potentially harmful to its political success. A frequent enough accusation was that National Socialism was intent on transforming women into “breeding machines,” docile house-slaves whose sole purpose in life would be to deferentially serve their husbands while pumping out an ever-growing flock of Aryan children. In light of some of the attitudes expressed by male party members at times, this charge is perhaps somewhat understandable; a 1926 letter-writer to the Völkischer Beobachter, for example, once argued that, “It is further asserted that man wants to reduce women to a ‘breeding machine’…. Nature has given this role in its wisdom and for the good of humanity to women… It is therefore the absolute duty to her race of every normal woman to give birth to seven, but at least six, children…” Yet this particular perspective did not really reflect the reality of movement life for most National Socialists. In Austria and the Sudetenland, women National Socialists had been actively involved in party and electoral work since before the War, and the 1918 Vienna Programme had explicitly advocated “legal and political equality for women.” Even in Germany proper, where movement culture tended to be somewhat more conservative and much more overtly militant and masculine, women were actively involved in street politics: handing out leaflets, pasting up posters, attending rallies, providing first aid, hiding weapons, acting as SA ‘scouts’. The NSDAP was a broad church on many issues, including the topic of women’s rights, and while the polar extremes were represented by the radical “NS feminists” on one side and retrograde advocates of “breeding machines” on the other, the majority within the party tended towards the view that women deserved some level of agency as individuals, even if motherhood was still undeniably accepted as being their primary, intrinsic duty towards their Volk. Clarifying the party’s stance on this subject became especially important in the early 1930s, when electoral victory seemed much more attainable; women constituted a hugely important voting bloc, and tended on the whole to lean towards conservative and nationalist parties. The pamphlet translated below, written by NS-Frauenschaft member Dr. Sofia Rabe and produced by the NSDAP’s central publishing house, is an example of some of the intellectual work the party directed at women in this period. It constitutes an attempt by the author to combat negative perceptions of the National Socialist stance on women and to set against it a view of women’s emancipation in which women are to be emancipated from the workforce, not from men – while still ultimately retaining their right to independent work and education under National Socialism, if that is where their strengths lead them.  

Woman in the National Socialist State
Dr. Sofia Rabe, 1932

NS_Swastika

All other parties have repeatedly reproached female National Socialists [Nationalsozialistinnen] for failing to take a clear stance on the role which they would have to fulfill within the NSDAP: that they would simply become slaves to an ideology which is rooted in blind faith in a leader. These issues have been raised again and yet again, along with the assertion that the influx of women into National Socialism is based solely upon complete ignorance of the fate which would befall them within the Third Reich.

These allegations are expansive in number, though not in relevance nor in factual knowledge. Our opponents have written entire books about the position of women in National Socialism, all of which culminate in a single sentence: National Socialism wishes to degrade women into breeding machines, so that women in National Socialism will only have a biological function to fulfill.

At the same time, Adolf Hitler and [Alfred] Rosenberg have been quoted – in sentences taken completely out of context – and those quotations twisted and turned as needed and desired.

We women National Socialists have only one response to this: For us there is no Frauenfrage1 along such lines, we know of only one goal: to serve our Volk and to aid in the great struggle for the liberation of Germany, and in so doing to integrate ourselves into the whole of the Volk as its welfare demands.

On one side we see that old (not in years) generation who like to regard everything today as being good and right; whose ideal exhausts itself in working for its own sake; who allow themselves in their inadequacy to be set upon the wrong path.

Opposite them we see the young generation who stand today within the ranks of the NSDAP. For them the misery of women is a part of that great misery of the German Volk, and can only be solved in conjunction with it. Continue reading

Merry Christmas for 2021!

And a Happy New Year from ARPLAN

The selection for this year’s Christmas article is a humorous, holiday-themed piece from SS newspaper Das Schwarze Korps, first published on 12 December, 1935. Despite their stolid or villainous image in modern media and pop culture, humor was actually as important for National Socialists as it is for people of any other worldview. A later edition (23 July, 1936) of Das Schwarze Korps would go on to note: “People who have no sense of humor are like a punishment from God. They come in all shapes and sizes. They’re the ones who strut around like little demigods and who consider themselves above weakness and superior to everything and anything, even their fellow men,” which perhaps proves that even members of the blackshirted SS needed to laugh from time to time. Whether this particular article is genuinely funny, especially by modern sensibilities, is of course subjective, particularly as it is also intended to simultaneously act as a propaganda piece. Its topic is a satire of the absurd commercialization of National Socialism which was taking place in Germany in the aftermath of the ‘National Revolution’; much as certain transparently cynical companies today might try to move a few more products by slapping a rainbow flag on the packaging, in Germany at the time the emerging fashion was to increase sales by overzealous use of the swastika, leading to a deluge of ‘Nazi’-themed kitsch which Party-members feared would cheapen the Movement’s ideals among the public (the government did later make an active attempt to clamp down upon this practice). The Christmas theme of this piece is also interesting in light of the fact that bitter complaints about the commercialization and materialism of Christmas shopping practices are still a constant today – some things, apparently, do not change, regardless of the current government or ruling ideology! Finally, it should be noted that this article was not translated by myself, but was transcribed from the excellent collection The Third Reich Sourcebook, edited by A. Rabinbach and S.L. Gilman (I believe the translator was a Lilian Friedberg, based on the editors’ introductory notes). I hope that readers enjoy it, and I hope that you all enjoy a safe and happy Christmas.

What Will Santa Bring?
From Das Schwarze Korps of 12 December, 1935

The long December night has already descended upon the cities in the early hours of evening, and the sparkling rays of light streaming from the shop windows dissolve into nothing when they reach the middle of the sidewalk. The city streets are bustling with life. Fretting housewives carefully inspect the treasures on display, quietly calculating whether or not there’s enough in the Christmas budget to cover it.

What does Old King Cole really have in his bag? Inquisitive, bright-eyed children wonder. We’ve asked ourselves the same question and taken a careful peek in the bottomless bag of treasures, and we promise we’ll never do it again because it has ruined our Christmas surprises.

Give practical gifts! It’s been the battle cry of recent years. Oskar is in the SA and would certainly be happy to get a uniform. But who knows anything about uniforms? What color are the lapels, are the pants supposed to have piping or satin strips, or nothing at all?

But then, as coincidence would have it, the fashion pages of the Rundschau with the latest patterns appear on the table. The riddle has been solved! A delighted cry of “Eu…” leaps from the throat – but the “…reka” never escapes the lungs because the model in the sketch artist’s overimaginative design for the uniform of the SA-Gruppenführer is none other than the Führer himself! Who then would so much as dare to question the authenticity of this as a standard-issue brown suit? Aside from the fact that the epaulets are wrong, as well as the cap, and the waist belt, not to mention the fact that the Führer himself has never worn boots with shafts as stiff as that – but that’s how the sketch artist saw him; that was his vision of Adolf Hitler. Continue reading