Hitler Purges the ‘Salon Bolsheviks’

Adolf Hitler’s brief letter of 30 June, 1930, instructing Joseph Goebbels to “ruthlessly purge” the NSDAP of Strasserist “salon Bolsheviks”

Hitler_und_Goebbels

A couple of months ago I published a translation of the infamous July 4, 1930 article by Otto Strasser announcing the departure of the ‘socialists’ from the NSDAP.  Otto’s article and his decision to withdraw himself and his supporters from the Party were the culmination of a long series of incidents stretching all the way back to Otto’s first entry into the National Socialist movement in 1925; I described these to a very brief extent in that article’s introduction. Mentioned in Otto’s article was a June 30 letter from Adolf Hitler to Gau Berlin-Brandenburg leader Joseph Goebbels, ordering the Gauleiter to effect a “ruthless purge” of all “salon Bolsheviks” (i.e. Strasserists) from local Party organizations. This short letter has now also been translated, and is provided for reading below. Hitler’s letter comprised the ‘final straw’ of the ‘Strasser crisis’, the internal Party conflict between Otto Strasser, Goebbels, and their respective factions which raged throughout the early months of 1930. In my earlier article I described how the spark which lit the conflict, which had been steadily brewing for years over personality issues and questions of doctrine & tactics, was Otto’s decision to start a newspaper that would directly compete with Goebbels’s Der Angriff. Like all good feuds, however, there are multiple potential sources of conflagration – another likely cause was the decision by Eugen Mossakowsky, one of Otto’s prominent disciples, to start publicly casting doubt on Goebbels’s claim to have been arrested and flogged by Belgian troops for participation in the Ruhrkampf in 1924. Openly accusing the ‘Little Doktor’ of dishonesty led to Mossakowsky being brought before the local USchlA (Party arbitration committee) and quickly forced to resign from the NSDAP. Thus began a process of expulsion of Strasser’s leading spokesmen from the Party, while in the background a propaganda campaign of speeches and articles was waged by the Goebbels faction (backed by the leadership) and Otto’s oppositionists against one another. Hitler’s letter marked the final end to the dispute, accusing the Strasserists of being disruptive elements with ‘Jewish-liberal-Marxist’ tendencies, and giving Goebbels full authority to start purging them wholesale from the Party. 

Adolf Hitler’s Letter to Joseph Goebbels
Regarding the 1930 ‘Strasser-Crisis’

Munich, 30th June 1930

Dr. Joseph Goebbels,
Gauleiter of Berlin,
Berlin.

For months now, as responsible leader of the NSDAP, I have been watching attempts to bring discord, confusion, and insubordination into the ranks of the movement. Under the mask of desiring to fight for socialism an attempt is being made to advocate a policy which fully corresponds with the policy of our Jewish-liberal-Marxist opponents. What is demanded by these circles is the wish of our enemies, from the Red Flag through to the Frankfurt Stock-Exchange Gazette.1 I now consider it necessary to ruthlessly and without exception eject these destructive elements from the Party.

So long as I lead the National Socialist Party it will not become a debating club for rootless literati or chaotic salon-Bolsheviks, but will remain what it is today, an organization of discipline which was not created for the doctrinaire tomfoolery of political wanderers,2 but to fight for a future Germany in which the concepts of class have been shattered and a new German Volk determine their own destiny! Continue reading

National Socialists Before Hitler, Part VI: Drexler’s Political Awakening

“From the journal of a German Socialist worker”: selected chapters from Anton Drexler’s 1919 political testament

Anton_Drexler

In the autumn of 1918 Karl Harrer, a sports journalist for the right-leaning newspaper Münchner-Augsburger Abendzeitung, was charged by the Thule Society with forming a völkisch ‘Thule Workers’ Ring’ among the proletariat – part of a wider plan to win workers for nationalism and undermine the socialist forces then dominant within Bavarian politics. Attending a public meeting at Munich’s Wagner Hall on 2 October, Harrer was struck by a speech given by a laborer named Anton Drexler (then-head of the Munich branch of the Free Workers’ Committee for a Just Peace) calling upon bourgeois and workers to “unite!” Although Drexler’s speech was greeted with hostility by the crowd, Harrer saw in it opportunity; he approached Drexler with the offer to assist in forming a ‘Political Workers’ Circle’ to help spread their shared ideas among Drexler’s laborer contacts. Drexler, who had attempted in vain to do this himself in the past (both as a prior, dissatisfied Fatherland Party member, and via his own Free Committee), was intrigued by the offer, and so the Political Workers’ Circle was formed. By 5 January 1919 the Circle had evolved into the German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP), an independent political organization with its own written Guidelines as its conceptual basis. To help propagandize for the new Party and to provide greater intellectual weight to its fairly sparse and unsatisfactory Guidelines, Drexler published a political pamphlet sometime between May and September 1919. Drexler’s My Political Awakening: From the Journal of a German Socialist Worker is, like Hitler’s later Mein Kampf, a mixture of personal biography and ideological worldview, providing an introduction both to Drexler as a person and to the substance of his National Socialist philosophy. Several selected chapters of Drexler’s brochure are provided below as an example, translated by myself from an original 1920 2nd edition. Although this series is called ‘National Socialists Before Hitler’, and Hitler joined the DAP on 19 October 1919, the content of the 1920 edition does still technically qualify as being “before Hitler”. Unlike the later 1923 3rd edition, which was substantially rewritten, the 2nd edition’s text is identical to that of the 1919 original, apart from the addition of a second foreword and the rather telling removal of Drexler’s original dedication to Harrer as “the founder of the German Workers’ Party”. The pamphlet’s strong focus on workers’ issues and on the inadequacies of mainstream (Marxist) socialism are very typical of early National Socialist writing, as is Drexler’s positioning of himself as a dissident voice within the broader socialist workers’ movement. 

My Political Awakening:
From the Journal of a German Socialist Worker
(Selected Chapters)
Written in 1919 by Railway Toolmaker Anton Drexler,
Founder & 2nd Chairman of the German Workers’ Party (Bavaria)

NS_Swastika

Foreword to the First Edition

I must begin by saying that the ideas I have laid down here are purely political as well as trade-unionist in nature, and that with this document I am not presenting myself to the public as a fellow combatant in the World War; I was busy instead with my battleground on the home front. Many a workmate has told me, “it’s a pity about me that I’m in the wrong place, that I could accomplish a lot more in the circle of the socialist working-class.” Sometimes a feeling comes over me as though these people were right, as if I really have to incorporate my socialist mindset entirely into Social-Democracy. And only with severe internal struggles have I remained loyal to my National Socialism,1 for which I am now grateful to Fate. To portray the storms that surged around me on my lonesome island in the midst of the workers’ sea, to communicate the experiences that I have been able to gain in political matters to the working-classes and to every productive worker – that is the purpose of this document. No excuses should be made to my colleagues, I haven’t the slightest reason to make them, but I want to make it understandable to them that my political opinion, which is so isolated among workers, has arisen only from concern over the existence of the German worker.

Neither pettiness, nor ambition, nor the idealism of the money-purse have brought me to my political position. As a “neutral” standing outside the fence of the political parties – that is, without having previously absorbed a party catechism myself – I have studied domestic political life and activity, and not without also dedicating my primary focus to matters of foreign-policy.

Allowing themselves to be enveloped in the ‘internationalism’ of the workers’ leaders and pacifists of enemy countries – this myopia on the part of  the German workers’ leaders and other party men in their assessment of enemy war aims has led Germany and the German working class to where it is today.

As the only Munich worker who was not deceived by the intentions of England and America and who therefore publicly advocated for the attainment of a ‘just peace’, I not only have the right but also feel I have the obligation within myself to apprise the public of my experiences and impressions since my ‘political awakening’, all the more so as I also became acquainted with the ‘secret powers’ that made it possible for our governments, as well as many party leaders to – for the most part unconsciously – work directly for the interests of our destroyers. Continue reading

Monthly Fragebogen: Prisoner of the Allies

Beatings, hunger, diphtheria: nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon’s reminiscences of his 1945-’46 internment in Allied prison camps

German_POWs

The following entry will be the final excerpt posted from nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon’s post-War autobiographical novel Der Fragebogen, the end of the ‘Monthly Fragebogen’ series which has continued over the past year. I’m not sure what will replace it, at this point, but something will having to maintain a regular monthly posting pattern has been very useful, even if the content hasn’t always been the most popular. The entry below comprises a number of extracts taken from the final quarter of van Solomon’s novel, in which he describes in detail his detainment by the Allied military authorities in the Natternberg, Plattling, and Langwasser civilian internment camps  from 1945-’46 on the charge of being a “big Nazi” and a “security threat”. von Salomon was left deeply embittered by this experience and by his ill-treatment at the hands of the American GI’s, not least because he had long associated with members of the Resistance and had additionally risked his own safety by sheltering his half-Jewish lover Ille Gotthelft (who was herself arrested and detained for a period alongside him!). Natternberg especially was notorious for being a particularly poorly-run camp, and the ill-treatment which internees suffered (starvation and beatings were common, and disease was especially rife, exacerbated by what seemed like a deliberate lack of medicines) created a deep, overriding cynicism in the author about the supposed humanitarian intentions underlying the American war effort. I have extracted a number of different segments from this section of the novel to try and give readers an idea of what life was like for German detainees in these camps, since it is an aspect of WWII which seems to be very frequently glossed-over. It is often difficult to engender sympathy for the plight of Germans interned by the Allies (not to mention for those ethnic-Germans displaced from their ancestral homelands in Silesia and the Sudetenland), considering the well-known conditions in German-run concentration camps, but the reality of what occurred should regardless not be ignored. Ernst von Salomon’s novel provides a rare and very personal insight into what life was like for those Germans who were imprisoned in the wake of their nation’s defeat. 

As we drove across Munich all the inmates of the truck were silent. We passed through the horribly smashed city, through ruins. I looked at Ille. She sat in the back of the jeep, and the dust had covered her face with a grey film. She had removed her hat… Now she was crying, and her tears made little channels through the dust on her face. We drove through Munich, heading north… We saw a sign marking a road fork that led to Plattling. So we must be nearing the Danube valley. One of the two teachers amused himself by peeping through a slit in the canvas that separated us from the driver and announcing the names of the villages through which we passed. We sat, tired, sweaty and silent, in the truck and he announced:

“Natternberg!”

At once the truck left the main road and drove along a farm track. Suddenly I saw an American soldier seated behind a machine-gun. Then we passed a high, barbed-wire fence, with behind it squat, grey-green barrack huts. The track turned sharply and we stopped. The jeep had drawn up immediately behind the truck, and I could look straight down at Ille. She raised her eyes to mine and smiled. All at once there seemed to be a great many American soldiers milling about the two vehicles. One went up to the jeep and grinned at the driver, saying with a nod of his head towards Ille:

“Your girl-friend?”

The MP said:

“No – internee.”

The expression on the soldier’s face changed instantly. Grabbing Ille brutally by the arm he pulled her to her feet, shouting:

“You dirty ––––– . . . mak snell! Mak snell!”

Then he pushed her out of the jeep. She stumbled and fell. Her little case landed on top of her. She looked anxiously up towards me; her eyes were filled with a helpless astonishment. Continue reading

The Battle of Neumünster

“The flag is our symbol! We will not surrender it!” Three accounts of the infamous Landvolk farmers’ riot in Neumünster, August 1, 1929

Bauernfahne

The Landvolk movement (Landvolkbewegung, or ‘Rural Peoples’ Movement’) has become somewhat obscure today, but during the late 1920s and early ’30s it had an incredible influence over radicals on both the Right and the Left in Germany. Peasant farmers in Schleswig-Holstein, fed up with the terrible economic situation and the policies of establishment Social-Democratic or liberal politicians, began organizing collectively to fight back – a previous article on this blog, from Ernst von Salomon’s memoir Der Fragebogen, describes their often terroristic methods in some detail.  One of the most notorious events connected with the Landvolk, aside from their penchant for bomb-planting, was the infamous ‘Battle of Neumünster’ which took place on 1 August, 1929, in the town of that name. Prominent Landvolk spokesman Wilhelm Hamkens had been jailed on 1 July for inciting tax-strikes among his fellow peasants. Upon hearing that Hamkens was to be transferred for release to the town of Neumünster on 1 August, thousands of revolutionary peasants decided to converge on the town for a peaceful march and rally to welcome him back to freedom. The result was chaos. It was at the Neumünster march that the Landvolk peasants opted to fly their own flag for the first time – a black flag (representing both nationalism and German mourning), bedecked with a white plough (for their livelihood) and a red sword (indicating their fighting spirit), the three colors thus completing those of the old Empire. The police’s decision to try to confiscate the flag created havoc: battles in the streets, fingers and noses being hacked from bodies, farmers beating police with heavy ash walking-sticks. The three accounts excerpted below describe the Neumünster battle in quite vivid detail, clearly demonstrating how unstable the Weimar Republic was becoming as state authority withered and as a revolutionary spirit seized even those classes of society usually associated with stolid traditionalism. The first is a historical account from Alexander Otto-Morris’s excellent academic study of the Landvolk, while the other two constitute fictionalized retellings: one from nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon’s novel about the revolutionary peasants, the other from a well-known novel by Hans Fallada, who was a journalist in Neumünster at the time of the riot. 

Rebellion in the Province:
The Landvolkbewegung and the Rise of National Socialism
in Schleswig-Holstein (2013)
by Alexander Otto-Morris

Alexander Otto-Morris’s book Rebellion in the Province is, so far as I am aware, the most authoritative history of the Landvolk available in English. It is an excellently-written academic work which manages to be an easy, gripping read as well as deeply informative and thoroughly referenced. I have excised Otto-Morris’s numbered references to make the text more readable in a casual blog setting, but they indicate that he constructed his account from an exhaustive reading of police and governmental reports about the incident, as well as from contemporary newspaper articles. The excerpt below is taken from Chapter Six of Rebellion, which covers the movement at its peak over the course of 1929, before it descended into outright terrorism. – Bogumil

The plans for a rally in Neumünster became public after the Schleswig-Holsteinische Volkszeitung printed a letter written by Hamkens from prison to Johannes Kühl, requesting that a crowd meet him on August 1 [after being released]… Alarmed at this news, the provincial authorities took steps to avoid another disturbance. First, they arranged for Hamkens to be secretly moved to Flensburg as a precautionary measure. Then, on the day before his release, representatives of the Regierungspräsident travelled to Neumünster to meet with the town’s mayor, Lindemann, and police commander, Chief Inspector Bracker, seeking to prevent the anticipated demonstration. As the town’s police administrator, it was Mayor Lindemann who had the power to enforce the prohibition of open rallies and even of indoor meetings if they were deemed to pose a danger to the public peace, safety and order. In answer to the Regierungspräsident’s representatives’ pleas, however, Lindemann declared that he viewed a Landvolk rally as harmless and explained that rallies of the communists and the Republican-friendly paramilitary corps, the Reichsbanner, were always peaceful. Despite warnings that the Landvolkbewegung was more dangerous than the communists, especially because it was a movement without organisation, definite membership or leaders, Lindemann was unmoved. He could see no reason why the rally should be banned and was adamant that such events should be left to run their course.

Doubting that Neumünster’s police force, a chief inspector and 27 officers, were sufficient to maintain order, the provincial government representatives pressed Bracker and Lindemann to accept the assistance of a riot police contingent. In fact, so great was their concern, they even offered to put a further unit on call in Kiel. Bracker, however, was of the opinion that a riot contingent presence would simply be a provocation. Continue reading