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

The Fundamentals of National Socialist Economic Policy

Gottfried Feder’s 1932 outline of the fundamental principles and proposals of National Socialist economic policy

The article by Gottfried Feder translated below first appeared in the 1932 edition of the Nationalsozialistisches Jahrbuch, a collection of ideological and organizational resources published annually for members of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Feder at the time of writing was chairman of the NSDAP’s Reich Economic Council (Reichswirtschaftsrat, RWR), a body established in 1931 to ostensibly act as the Party’s “supreme organ for all fundamental questions of National Socialist economic policy,” and his article provides a general outline of the foundational ideological principles which Feder believed should guide the development of the NSDAP’s proposed economic reforms. Following its massive success in the 1930 national election the NSDAP had become increasingly focused on the task of developing practical policy solutions to the problems facing the German economy; party organizations like the RWR, and articles like Feder’s, were part and parcel of this attempt at making National Socialist economic remedies more accessible to German voters and more realizable to the country’s financial experts. Despite the prominence of the NS Jahrbuch and the lofty-sounding description of the RWR’s role, it should be noted that Feder’s position as the party’s economic authority in this period was not as authoritative as one might first assume. From 1930 onwards Feder found himself in direct competition with figures like Otto Wagener, head of the NSDAP’s Economic Policy Department (Wirtschaftspolitische Abteilung, WPA), who maintained a much closer working relationship with Hitler and who had been far more competent at building up a base of influential supporters within the ranks of the party. Feder’s prior status as the “Ideologist of the Movement” had been largely honorific, a propagandistic title conferred upon him by the party press in recognition of his role in the early development of the NSDAP and its programme, and even as chair of the RWR he struggled to maintain a level of influence within the party bureaucracy commensurate with that of some of his rivals (by 1934, in fact, he ended up completely sidelined from the leadership and from policy-making altogether). Feder’s views in this article thus provide a fairly succinct overview of a very prominent perspective on National Socialist economic principles, but it is not necessarily a completely definitive perspective. Not everyone within the movement would have agreed with Feder’s positions on private property or corporatist organization, for example, particularly those within the more ‘revolutionary’-minded factions of the National Socialist Party.

The Fundamentals of National Socialist Economic Policy
Gottfried Feder
First printed in the National Socialist Yearbook for 1932.

NS_Swastika

1. The Purpose and Spirit of the Economy

The national economy in its totality has the purpose above all of adequately providing for the three basic necessities of all folk-comrades in terms of food, housing, and clothing, and beyond that of satisfying every need of a cultural and civilizational nature in accordance with the state of technology and the income conditions of the time. The economy as a whole is a serving limb in the overall organism of the Volk; in the best sense it is of service to the Volk for the greatness and the welfare of the nation.

A nation’s economy is not an end in itself, it is not there to enrich individual business leaders at the expense of their officials, employees, and workers, and even less is it there to serve as an object of exploitation for international High Finance.

2. Form of Economy

There are three possible directions for an economy:

1. A free economy without any fetters (capitalist-liberal).

2. A tethered, bound, planned economy (Marxist-collectivist).

3. A corporatively-structured, genuinely national economy (universalist-National Socialist1).

The completely unfettered capitalist economic form leads to ever sharper disparities between rich and poor; it produces methods of exploitation which culminate in the depersonalization and degeneration of the entire economy; and it unleashes prolonged economic struggles which the state itself, impotent and passive, has to sit back and observe. The tethered, bound, and planned Marxist economic form, the socialization of the means of production, leads to the elimination of the most powerful economic factor, the productive personality. Under such a system, economic fruitfulness atrophies and declines. Continue reading

National Socialism and Animal Rights

“Cruelty against animals will and must disappear…” Hermann Göring’s polemical attack against vivisection, and the full text of the Reich Animal Welfare Act of 1933

There is an interesting segment in Rudolf Jung’s 1922 treatise on National Socialist ideology, in the chapter titled “The Tasks of Municipal Policy,” where the author suggests various grass-roots reforms which the National Socialist movement should pursue. Included among the predictable suggestions for improved housing, sanitation, road repair, social measures, etc., is a section on “Animal Welfare” in which Jung posits that “animal welfare is also human welfare” since “animal abusers above all have a predisposition towards criminality.” The inclusion of animal welfare among core policy demands is curious but does not derive from any idiosyncrasy on Jung’s part, being a consequence instead of the fact that some of National Socialism’s ideological roots lay within the racial völkisch movement, which itself had evolved out of the ‘life-reform movement’ (Lebensreformbewegung) of the late 19th century – a very loose collection of social-reformist groups whose disparate adherents had advocated a wide variety of often-faddish causes (temperance, athletics, nudism, vegetarianism, homeopathy, paganism, communal living, astrology, land reform, animal rights, etc.) as a means of improving the German people’s quality-of-life. National Socialism inherited from the völkisch and life-reform movements a utopian reverence for the natural world, a powerful suspicion of urbanization, and the ‘progressive’ view that man was an animal like any other – a “domesticated animal,” to be sure, but still an animal. The combination of these perspectives led to a general rejection of the Christian teaching that man possessed a higher status than animals; for National Socialists, it was the acceptance of such a notion which had helped alienate man from his natural surroundings, opening the door to highly destructive forces (capitalism, materialism, unchecked industrialization and urbanization) and to the development of a harmful moral code entirely divorced from the Natural Order that guided all other living things. As a result it was man’s duty to protect and to respect animals wherever he could, a principle which the NSDAP rather strikingly put into practice after achieving power in 1933 by making Germany one of the first nations in the world to introduce comprehensive national legislation protecting animals from abuse and regulating their general treatment. Translated below are two examples of this somewhat neglected aspect of National Socialist ideology. The first is a transcript of Hermann Göring’s famous radio broadcast of August 1933, in which Göring outlines in detail the NS movement’s vehement opposition to vivisection (experimentation on living animals) and the measures the Hitler government proposed to take against it. The second is the complete text of the Reichstierschutzgesetz (Reich Animal Protection Act) of November 1933, which sets out the government’s provisions for the treatment of animals and the punishments to be dispensed towards those who abuse them.

The Struggle against Vivisection
Hermann Göring
Radio broadcast speech of 28th August, 1933.

NS_Swastika

“To equate the animal with an inanimate object and to grant the owner absolute right of disposal over it is not in accordance with German sensibilities; above all it it not in accordance with the National Socialist worldview as the intellectual outlook of the German people.”

Folk-comrades! Since the day on which I first issued my decree against the cruelty to animals that is vivisection, I have received a flood of telegrams and letters expressing great delight and the most spirited approval for the fact that aggressive steps have finally been taken to combat this abuse against animals.1 My decree striking so suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, may have come as something of a surprise. The struggle against vivisection has been going on for years. Much has been said and quarreled about it, in both scientific and unscientific forms, but nothing has yet been done. From day one the National Socialist government was clear that energetic measures had to be taken against it, yet that it would take months before such a law, with all of its preparation, could be passed.

In order to prevent the torture of animals from spreading any further during this period of preparation, I have now intervened with this decree and have exercised my vested right to impose protective custody in a concentration camp upon those who still believe that they can treat animals as inanimate commodities.

The German Volk have always had a particular affection for animals, and have always treated the issue of animal welfare with special attention. They have always regarded animals as God’s creatures, especially those which for thousands of years have been their companions at home and on the farm, yes, in some respects one could say their coworkers and – one need only consider horses here – their comrades-in-arms. Animals, for the German people, are not only living beings in the organic sense, but creatures that lead their own emotional lives, that feel pain and show joy, loyalty, and devotion. It would never have been in accordance with our national sentiment to equate the animal with an inanimate, lifeless, and unfeeling thing, to regard the animal merely as an insentient and soulless object of exploitation, as an implement of labor that can perhaps be utilized for reasons of utility, and that can also be tormented or destroyed on the same utilitarian grounds. The fables and legends of the Aryan peoples, particularly those of the German Volk, demonstrate this spirit of solidarity shown by Aryan man. 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