Right or Left? Right and Left!

“The way of the future involves bringing together the man of the Right with the man of the Left” – a brief 1932 article by conservative-revolutionary intellectual Hans Zehrer

Left_Right_Left_RightHans Zehrer is somewhat of an obscure figure today, at least in comparison with like-minded members of the German national-revolutionary movement such as Ernst Niekisch and Karl Otto Paetel, both of whom have managed to acquire a greater degree of modern celebrity in certain online circles. This is perhaps unfair to Zehrer, who was undoubtedly more widely-known than both during the crucial 1928-1933 period in Germany; certainly he was more influential. Born in 1899, Zehrer fought in the Great War and, after having participated in the 1920 Kapp Putsch, settled down to a fairly respectable life of political journalism. What made Zehrer’s name was his taking over the editorship of foundering national journal Die Tat (‘The Deed’) in October 1929. Die Tat swiftly grew under Zehrer’s stewardship to be the most widely-read political journal in the country, outselling its nearest left-wing competitor by tens of thousands of copies. The key factor in Die Tat’s success was its unique political position. Zehrer and his circle of contributors published detailed critiques of capitalism, advocating its replacement by a mercantilist system of mass nationalization, stringent autarchy, and exclusionary tariff barriers. They rejected not only the concept of parties, but the entire Left-Right divide altogether, arguing instead for a ‘Third Front’ alliance between all militant forces from far-left to far-right. They were also elitists, rejecting the NSDAP for its plebeian roots and its ‘mass party’ character, desiring instead a “revolution from above” led by the army and the President. The high point for Zehrer probably came during the short-lived government of ‘social general’ Kurt von Schleicher, where Zehrer became the Schleicher regime’s ideological ‘man behind the throne’ and Die Tat served as a kind of unofficial journal of state policy. The short article below, taken from a 1932 edition of Die Tat, is a fairly typical example of Zehrer’s position on the ‘Left-Right’ issue, invoking as it does the unifying Volksgemeinschaft ideal as well as stressing the belief that in reality only superficial qualities separate “the man of the Right” from the “man of the Left”.

Right or Left?
Hans ZehrerTAT_logo

First published in Die Tat, vol. 23, no.7, 1932

We ask of ourselves that question which is imposed upon us by today’s era and which appears to be of decisive importance to it: Right or Left? We have guided these absolutely time-bound and, to a later age, surely incomprehensible antitheses back to their authentic intellectual and historical foundations. In the process they have steadily dissipated, been drawn further and further inwards, and in this way we have suddenly arrived at a position which offers us the prospect of something that we only truly experienced for a short period in August 1914, but which otherwise does not belong among those values that today’s System can offer us: a Volksgemeinschaft, a unified nation!1 And from this position we are able to answer that question which the era has posed to us: Right and Left! Only a style of thinking which has affirmed the synthesis between the two, and which has carried it out, is responsive to those problems which the future will present to us, and over which the current era is presently in despair.

A man today, provided he is an active, vital person, is either Right or Left. The commonality of conservative man – who by his nature, traditions, blood, and character could never recognize the current System – with the new men of the Left, whom the current System has chewed up and spat out, is greater, and both are much closer, than they realize. The way of the future involves bringing together this man of the Right with the man of the Left, and vice versa, in order to create out of both a new Volksgemeinschaft under the mythos of a new nation. Continue reading

Papen’s Marburg Speech

The infamous June 1934 ‘Marburg speech’ of Franz von Papen and Edgar Jung: a national-conservative critique of the excesses  of National Socialism

Papen_Hitler_Blomberg_12March1933

Early 1934 was an extremely difficult time for the conservatives and bourgeois-nationalists in Germany who, only a year before, had been convinced that the ‘National Revolution’ and the emerging Third Reich were as much theirs as they were the National Socialists’. Under the process of Gleichschaltung the new government had been gradually dissolving or absorbing independent nationalist groups into the NSDAP. At the same time there appeared to be an escalating breakdown in order, with Party radicals growing increasingly disruptive and violent, often turning their frustration at the slow pace of reform upon the perceived forces of ‘Reaktion‘. In the midst of the chaos and the rumors of an impending ‘Second Revolution’ a group of Catholic conservative intellectuals, working within the offices of Vice-Chancellor Franz von Papen, began plotting ways for bourgeois-nationalists to take back the state, hoping to steer it away from ideological radicalism and towards a more traditionalist authoritarianism centered on Christian spiritual renewal. The result of their handiwork was what became known as the ‘Marburg speech’, translated in full below. Written chiefly by conservative-revolutionary intellectual Edgar Jung, one of Papen’s consultants and speechwriters, the speech was anti-democratic while still being carefully disparaging of the NS regime, critiquing its violence, its militarization of public life, its monopoly on political power, its ‘coordination’ of the independent judiciary and the press, and in particular its hostile policies towards Christianity. The conspirators cleverly pushed this speech on Vice-Chancellor Papen at the last minute, while he was still on the train to deliver an address before the University League at Marburg. When an alarmed Papen read the speech and protested that it might “cost him his head” he was informed that he had no choice but to give it, since hundreds of copies had already been provided to the domestic and foreign press. Papen conceded, and rather bravely read the speech verbatim despite his misgivings. The conspirators’ hope was that this action would galvanize the nationalist, Catholic, and conservative forces within Germany into opposition behind Papen. The result instead was the final consolidation of the Hitler regime. Goebbels used every effort possible to suppress dissemination of the speech domestically, while Papen was forced to apologize and to resign from the cabinet. Hitler and Göring, now utterly convinced of the need to sweep away their remaining enemies, began setting the course for the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ not two weeks later. Papen survived the resulting ‘Blood Purge’ by the skin of his teeth with a brief period of arrest. Others would not be so lucky, with most of the conspirators ending up incarcerated or, like Edgar Jung, shot.  

Speech by Vice-Chancellor von Papen
before the University League
Marburg, 17 June, 1934

Kreuz_und_Adler

On 21 February 1933, in the turbulent days when National Socialism first stepped forward to govern the German Reich, I spoke to the Berlin student body in an attempt to explain the significance of this new epoch [Zeitenwende]. I spoke, as I pointed out at the time, in a location dedicated to the exploration of truth and intellectual freedom. I do not want to confess myself an adherent to the liberal conceptions of truth and freedom. Ultimate truth lies with God alone, and the quest for it derives its ultimate meaning only from this starting-point. Today, where I am privileged once again – in this medieval jewel, this city of Saint Elisabeth – to stand on academic soil, I add to the remarks I made at that time that even though the ideal of objective truth may be undisputed, we do not want to renounce the most elementary foundation of human civilization, the duty to subjective truth, to honesty, that is demanded of us Germans. This place of scholarship, therefore, appears to me particularly suited to giving a truthful account before the German people. Because the voices that demand that I adopt a principled position on German current affairs and on German conditions are becoming ever more numerous and more urgent. It is said that by removing the Weimar Prussian regime1 and by amalgamating the National Movement I have taken on such a pivotal role in German affairs that it is my duty to monitor these developments more keenly than most other Germans. I have no intention of evading this duty. On the contrary – my inner commitment to Adolf Hitler and his work is so great, and so attached am I with my very lifeblood to the German renewal currently being carried out, that from the point-of-view of both man and statesman it would be a mortal sin not to say what must be said during this crucial stage of the German Revolution.

The events of the last year and a half have gripped the entire German Volk and stirred them deeply. That we have found our way back from the vale of sorrow, hopelessness, hatred, and division and returned to the community of the German Nation once more seems almost like a dream. The tremendous tensions which we have experienced since those August days of 1914 have been broken; from them the German soul has emerged once again, before which the glorious and yet so painful history of our Volk passes in review, from the sagas of the German heroes to the trenches of Verdun and, yes, even to the street-fights of our day.

The unknown soldier of the World War, who conquered the hearts of his countrymen [Volksgenossen, lit. ‘folk-comrades’] with contagious energy and unshakeable faith, has set this soul free. With his Field Marshal he has set himself at the head of the nation in order to turn a new page in the book of German fate and to restore spiritual unity. We have experienced this unity of spirit in the exhilaration of a thousand rallies, in the flags and festivities of a nation which has rediscovered itself. But now, as enthusiasm is leveling out and as the hard work in this process comes to the fore, it becomes apparent that a reform process of such historical proportions also produces slag [Schlacken] from which the nation must cleanse itself. Slag of this kind exists in all areas of our life, in the material and the spiritual. Foreign countries, who view us with resentment, point their fingers at this slag and construe it as evidence of a serious process of dissolution. One should not be ready to celebrate too early, because only once we have mustered the energy to free ourselves from this slag will we immediately be best able to prove how internally strong we are and how resolute we are in not letting the path of the German Revolution be tarnished. We know that the rumors and the whispering must be drawn back out of the darkness into which they have fled. Continue reading

Monthly Fragebogen: Prisoner of the Reich

“Ever heard of what they call ‘shot while attempting to escape?'” Nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon describes his brief brush with arrest and imprisonment in early 1933

Oranienburg, Konzentrationslager

Despite his deep involvement in the radical-nationalist politics of the Weimar era, nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon was regarded with some distrust by the National Socialist government following the 1933 Machtergreifung. von Salomon was an ‘Ehrhardt man’, a follower of prominent Marine Brigade Freikorps leader Hermann Ehrhardt, whose relationship with Hitler and the NSDAP had been largely antagonistic and was probably the original source of much of the regime’s suspicion. Ehrhardt had helped stymie Hitler’s attempts to march on Berlin in 1923, had been behind the (absolutely disastrous) alliance between Otto Strasser and SA-rebel Walter Stennes in 1931, and his more prominent followers had moved fairly openly in National Bolshevik or similar circles prior to 1933. The company the writer kept following Hitler’s accession to the Chancellorship would not have helped allay any latent mistrust, considering he tended to mix with those who the new state regarded as politically unreliable. von Salomon’s reputation as a potential troublemaker was further compounded by an incident which occurred while visiting the home of writer friend Hans Fallada on 7 April, 1933, shortly after the NSDAP took power. Fallada had attempted to shock his housemaid by telling her that his guest was an “assassin”, a reference to von Salomon’s role in the Rathenau-murder and his (alleged) involvement in  the Landvolk bombings of the late ’20s. The housemaid promptly gossiped about the mysterious houseguest to Fallada’s landlords, who in turn decided to report this “assassin” to the authorities, reasoning that they had intercepted a plot to murder the Führer.  The inevitable result was both men being picked up by the police on the 12th and held without charge for a fortnight or so, a period of internment that was thankfully brief due to the intercession of friends helping clear up the misunderstanding. von Salomon’s account of this experience is transcribed below, taken from the 1954 English translation of his post-WWII bestseller Der Fragebogen

Easter of 1933 found me living at Grünheide near Erkner, a suburb to the east of Berlin. The owner of a guest-house on Lake Peetz had furnished for me a small building some distance from his pension. It consisted of one room only, but it was big enough and comfortable enough for me to be able to sleep in it and work in it as well. Rowohlt lived a hundred yards away, in a small house with a narrow garden that led down to the lake shore. I could see from the light in his sleeping porch whether or not he was at home. He usually returned exhausted and then he would throw me out by noisily lowering the bed on his veranda. One evening I went over, thinking that I might be able to discuss something with him, but he pulled down his bed; I strolled back to my own place, feeling rather depressed, worked for a little, and then went to bed. It seemed to me that I had only just fallen asleep when I was awakened by noise and a tremendous banging on my door. I cried:

“All right, Rowohlt, what is it?”

But it wasn’t Rowohlt. It was the police. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was precisely six a.m. I thought, with a certain satisfaction, that they were acting exactly according to form. I turned on the light and opened the door. Immediately the room was filled with powerfully built men, who brought with them the fresh morning air. They fell upon my bed and table, and rummaged through my trunk and my suits.

“Why didn’t you open the door at once?” one of them asked me. I replied that I had wished to check that it was really six o’clock. The man said:

“So you know all about it, eh?”

I assured him that I did know more or less all about this sort of thing. That was a mistake, for the man said at once:

“In that case I needn’t waste a lot of words on you. You’re under arrest.” Continue reading

Monthly Fragebogen: The Rathenau Murder

On a drive to Silesia, nationalist writer Ernst von Salomon and comrade Hartmut Plaas reminisce over their participation in the assassination of Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau

Walther_Rathenau

The murder of Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau in 1922 was one of the defining events of the early Weimar Republic, today typically presented as a prime act of anti-semitism: Rathenau’s liberalism, his wealth and links with industry, his role in Germany’s defeat in the Great War, his prominence in the development of the new democratic Republic, all were in his murderers’ eyes apparently a by-product of his Jewishness. Yet the reality is a little more complex. Rathenau was a liberal, but one who dreamed of a powerful, organic “New State” which would transcend “petit-bourgeois parliamentarism” through a “living structure” of “corporations” representing all “multifarious elements of local and professional life.” Rathenau was a Jewish capitalist, but one who saw the war economy as the model for the future: a private economy subordinated to the interests of the nation through state planning and the corporatist reorganization of industry. There is a reason that his ultranationalist murderers described him as looking “a decent sort” while at the same time worrying that he might be one of the Learned Elders of Zion. These assassins were young (and immature) men, members of the clandestine Organisation Consul (OC), a terrorist group which had grown out of the Marinebrigade Ehrhardt freikorps. They were undoubtedly anti-semitic, undeniably sought to achieve National Revolution through murder and terror, yet they also admired Rathenau’s vision as they simultaneously feared how it might strengthen the Republic they despised: “He is our hope, for he is dangerous… I couldn’t bear it if once again something were to arise out of the chaotic, the insane, age in which we live.” Ernst von Salomon, former OC-member and author of the post-WWII bestseller Der Fragebogen, was jailed for his role as a lookout in the Rathenau murder, as well as for his involvement in other subsequent acts of Fehme violence. In this month’s excerpt from the Fragebogen, von Salomon recounts a drive to Silesia in 1939 in which he and friend Hartmut Plaas (and their wives Ille and Sonya) reminisced over their role in Rathenau’s death and their impressions of the subsequent trial. A cynical reader might take the at times mournful, regretful tone adopted here to be a confection designed to polish over von Salomon’s spotty reputation in a US-occupied, post-WWII democratic Germany. Yet one should also keep in mind that Hartmut Plaas was executed in 1944 for the vital role he played in Admiral Canaris’s anti-Hitler resistance efforts – and that von Salomon’s Ille was herself half-Jewish, a friend whom Ernst had pretended to marry specifically to protect. Both men, like Rathenau himself, were in reality complex figures. 

I said:

“When Kern sent me to Hamburg, back in 1922, to find a chauffeur – because the naval officers could all drive torpedo boats but not cars – I went to Warncke. He couldn’t drive either, but he took me to a bar where his people were in the habit of going. There were a lot of young men there, almost all ex-sailors, and while Warncke was finding a chauffeur I had a good look at them. I recognised one who’d been at Cadet School with me, a chap called Winzer. We used to call him UXB, because we never knew when he was going to blow up. I couldn’t help going up behind him, slapping him on the shoulder and saying: ‘Well, UXB?’ He spun round and bellowed: ‘Good Lord! Salomon!’ This shook me, because of course I was travelling under a false name. ‘Quiet!’ I said: ‘I’m called Schievelbein these days.’ He understood at once and we sat down together and had a talk. [Note: By a ‘chauffeur’ von Salomon means a getaway driver; the assassins drove up besides Rathenau as he was being driven to the Foreign Office, shooting and throwing a grenade at him, before speeding away. – Bogumil]

“Later, when the police had traced my movements as far as Hamburg, they interrogated all the young men who’d been in the bar, including Winzer. They got nothing out of any of them. Their questions kept revolving around a young man who’d come from Berlin. One of the ex-sailors, who wanted to have a bit of fun with the police, and who in fact knew nothing, laughed when they questioned him. ‘The young man from Berlin? He certainly had nothing to do with the Rathenau murder. He was a Jew!’ The police followed this up at once: how did they know the young man was a Jew? Winzer had called him Salomon. Winzer was then asked what the name was of the young man who’d come from Berlin. Winzer was absolutely unable to remember his name; he was somebody he’d known very slightly, years before, at Cadet School, and there’d been so many cadets. The police found out very easily that Winzer had been at Karlsruhe Cadet School. They made enquiries whether there had ever been a cadet there called Salomon. And that was that. They had me.” Continue reading