Learning to Love the Third Reich

“Reich unity after three hundred years!” A 1933 article by trade-union leader Franz Joseph Furtwängler, extolling the achievements and possibilities of the Hitler government

In the endless debate over whether or not National Socialism can be considered a form of “real socialism,” the common narrative about the fate of Germany’s trade-unions in 1933 is frequently cited as evidence to the contrary. On 1 May 1933, the narrative goes, May Day was celebrated as a paid national holiday for the first time, with labour unions voluntarily participating in nationwide festivities; the very next day, however, the Hitler government’s true face was revealed, and the SA and police were sent out to forcibly crush the unions and throw their members into prison. While on a general level this narrative is essentially correct, it is also oversimplified: only certain unions were targeted on 2 May, only specific functionaries were taken into “protective custody,” union assets and memberships were expropriated (for incorporation into the German Labour Front) rather than the entire labour apparatus being “crushed” or dismantled, etc. What is most commonly omitted from the narrative is the fact that those trade-unions targeted (the ‘free’ or Social-Democratic unions) had already been actively collaborating with the Hitler government for some time. This was especially true of the General German Trade-Union Federation (Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, ADGB), which with a membership of 4 million and a paid staff of 200,000 constituted the largest and most significant trade-union organization in Germany. Although linked to the Social-Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD) by a variety of formal and informal ties, the ADGB was technically independent of the SPD and had been since 1919, possessing its own internal culture – heavily dominated by Social-Democracy’s reformist (right-leaning) tendency – and with a segment of its leadership even comprising a key faction within Social-Democracy’s neorevisionist (nationalist or ‘far right’) wing. Influenced by these qualities, as well as by Social-Democracy’s declining political influence and the increasing likelihood of a right-wing authoritarian government, the ADGB in 1932 had begun to further distance itself from the SPD and to establish surreptitious negotiations with the Papen and Schleicher governments, hoping in this way to protect its members and the rights won for them since 1918. These negotiations continued even after Hitler took power, with the ADGB leadership going so far as to declare itself “at the service of the new state” and actively involving itself in deliberations over the charter for a corporatist social structure. This conciliatory attitude was reflected in official trade-union publications like Die Arbeit and the Gewerkschafts-Zeitung, which adopted an increasingly nationalistic tone as 1933 wore on. The article translated below provides a rather striking example of this shift in attitude. Written by Franz Joseph Furtwängler, a member of the ADGB’s executive leadership, it is openly and remarkably adulatory towards the Hitler regime, with Furtwängler applauding the political order brought to Germany (including the dismantling of the party-system!) by the  NSDAP and offering the plaintive hope that the government would prove equally successful in the socio-economic sphere, while still recognizing the value and importance of the trade-union movement. Furtwängler, incidentally, was to be one of those arrested on 2 May, and would later involve himself in resistance activities; whether the NS government could have retained his loyalty and support by way of different actions is an interesting hypothetical.

Reich Unity After Three Hundred Years!
By F.J. Furtwängler
1
First published 22 April, 1933 in trade-union journal
Gewerkschafts-Zeitung vol. 43, no.16

I.

The fundamental, profound, and – we hope – pioneering beginnings of a transformation in the body politic and in the structure of the Reich have emerged in recent weeks.

Let us recall how, at the end of the previous year, under the general interregnum of Chancellor von Schleicher, tentative efforts were made to find organically grown and consolidated forces for the shaping of state and economy, for resolving our intolerable situation, outside of the traditional party-factions conditioned by the circumstances of the Bismarckian Reich.2 Let us also recall the universal opposition of the [parliamentary] factional prelates, one of whom, the prominent Herr Ludwig Kaas,3 cast a witty remark among the electoral throng at the time about “ideological parties”4 being absolutely beneficial to the German character and hence needing to be preserved, because the trading license of their “worldview” offered the guarantee, so to speak, that they would solve contemporary problems for the benefit of the German Volk.

In fact, for years the parliamentary parties have prolonged life for themselves by forgoing their exercise of power in favor of the government’s expansive manipulation of the emergency clauses of the constitution, and finally by taking advantage of Communist ‘blocking majorities’ in parliament, irrespective of their ‘worldview’ – something utterly unthinkable in countries with an organic rather than a mechanical democracy. At the same time, the power and authority of the Reich President inevitably expanded until, in the eyes of the people, he acquired the image of an elective Kaiser.

Officially, of course, we remained “upon the grounds of the constitution,” so that by the end only the less erudite among the Volk felt the changing times in their bones, so to speak, much like a rheumatic feels the change in the weather, while the responsible ideological political administrations were neither conscious of the change nor understood what needed to be done. Continue reading

National Socialists Against Capitalism

“Down with the slavery of capitalism!” Articles by Gregor Strasser, Rudolf Jung, Otto Strasser, Joseph Goebbels, and Alfred Krebs on the “malignant, materialist spirit of capitalism”

The question of National Socialism’s exact relationship with socialism is a contentious one. It is also a longstanding one. In 1911, Austrian Social-Democrat Julius Deutsch was already asserting that the “deutschsozial” ideology professed by the Austro-Hungarian German Workers’ Party was merely a propagandistic smokescreen covering strikebreaking, embezzlement, and clandestine funding from “the dirtiest, most exploitative” employers. Deutsch’s arguments are still commonplace today, in one form or another – the assertion that any socialistic elements in National Socialism (right down to the name) were simply part of a premeditated rhetorical trick used to fool gullible workers into serving reactionary interests has changed little over the past century, with actions such as the NSDAP’s treatment of Germany’s unions in 1933 or its privatization of certain industries put forward as evidence for National Socialism’s underlying capitalist nature. By contrast, there are others who like to claim as close a relationship between Marxism and ‘Nazism’ as possible, alleging that the latter grew directly out of the former and that the two share the same basic ideological precepts – usually these allegations come from conservatives, presented as part of an attempt to tar the modern Left with the brush of Hitler and the Holocaust. The position of many National Socialists themselves was that their movement comprised a legitimate (indeed the most legitimate) branch of Germany’s historical socialist tradition, representing the most vital aspect of the broader ‘national wing’ of German socialism. NS theoretician Rudolf Jung makes this argument directly in his ideological work Der nationale Sozialismus when he observes that, “Marxists constantly maintain that there is only one form of socialism, the Marxist, and that everything else is mere fraud and deception… [but] socialism has always existed, both before Marxism and alongside it… [Marxists] represent only one of socialism’s orientations, the avowedly Jewish one.” National Socialism’s origins in the Austrian labor movement, its professed commitment to far-reaching economic reform (profit-sharing, land reform, nationalization of trusts, greater economic equality), its hostility towards the traditional Right, and its seemingly earnest efforts to appeal to the German worker were all taken at face value by many within the movement, viewed as evidence that they were affiliated with a revolutionary ideal which stood against the capitalist system and which sought to establish in its place a new form of truly German Socialism. The five articles translated below comprise a general cross-section of views from representatives of the ‘left wing’ of the National Socialist movement, with each article representing an attempt by its author to address the issue of capitalism from a National Socialist perspective: to describe its deficiencies, identify its driving forces, and to present the National Socialist economic worldview as an authentic and distinct alternative. Theoretical argumentation of this type was not at all uncommon within National Socialist propaganda and publications, which placed a great deal of emphasis on trying to outline a coherent anticapitalist economic doctrine. Whether or not such formulations are convincing ultimately depends upon one’s own personal beliefs and biases, but there is little doubt that the sentiments expressed here were taken very seriously by many within the NSDAP, who professed to be fighting for a Germany which was to be equally as socialist as it was nationalist.

The Slave-Market of Capitalism
By Gregor Strasser
First published 23 August, 1926

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This article was translated from the 2nd edition of Gregor Strasser’s book Kampf um Deutschland (1932), a collection of speeches and essays by Strasser which he felt best demonstrated “the directness and the uncompromising nature of our struggle.” Strasser gives no indication in his book where this article originally appeared, but considering its intended audience (workers) and its largely polemical style, a likely answer would be his newspaper Der nationale Sozialist or one of its regional editions, which were intended for a more ‘general’ readership than were some of the NSDAP’s theoretical publications. It represents probably the most overtly propagandistic of the five articles included here, luridly describing the symptoms of capitalism without offering much in-depth analysis. – Bogumil

“Long live freedom! Long live Germany! Long live the accomplishments of the Revolution!” Are you familiar with these cries, German worker? Do you not recognize them from your newspapers, which – particularly in these days of so-called “constitutional celebration”1 – print them in the largest type, in order that they might rouse you and rally you like the sound of fanfare?

Yes indeed, in the comfortable chambers of the Jewish gentlemen editors, in the large rooms of your trade-union bigwigs – there is the environment right for dispensing such slogans, there is it so easy to speak of democracy and freedom, and there are the accomplishments of the Revolution demonstrated so vividly by the occupants.

Yet I wish to show you another picture, a picture which most of you already know, which you are aware of through shameful experience, which you know from fearful apprehension: the objective evidence of unemployment! – There they stand in their hundreds and thousands, German women and men in wretched, tattered garments, pale, haggard, hungry, torpid, hateful, tormented; they stand in winding queues, hour after hour, only to hear the bleak answer “No” from across a cold counter before taking delivery of a paltry handout, too little to live on and too much to starve on. There they stand, members of every age group, of every profession, in every stage of physical and mental distress, and want for nothing but work, nothing but a meagre income in order to be able to buy bread for themselves and for their children at home, want for nothing but employment in order to be able to rid themselves of the ghastly soul- and body-crushing hardship of months and years of forced inactivity – ah, they are so tired, so deathly tired, so weary and worn down to the bone, that they no longer even think at all of finding a high wage, a comfortable occupation; they no longer even think of themselves as human beings, as whole, complete human beings who have an inalienable right to live and to let their children live, to have happiness and sunshine and to bestow happiness and sunshine upon their children; instead they want for nothing but work, nothing but meagre earnings and to finally attain employment again – something which they cannot find! This is a slave-market a thousand times worse than those markets of antiquity, of barbarism, for there every slave found work, every slave had bread and clothing and lodging for himself and for his family, he was an object of value for his master – but here he can keel over without anyone giving a damn for him, here his family can starve and live in holes in the ground – and all of this in the name of freedom, all of this in the name of democracy, all of this under the flag of the accomplishments of the Revolution!! Continue reading

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.

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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