A couple excerpts of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
Simon and Schuster, 1960 - hardcover
from pages 188 - 196
7 THE NAZIFICATION OF GERMANY: 193334
THE THEORY WHICH HITLER had evolved in his vagabond days in Vienna and never forgottenthat the way to power for a revolutionary movement was to ally itself with some of the powerful institutions in the Statehad now worked out in practice pretty much as he had calculated. The President, backed by the Army and the conservatives, had made him Chancellor. His political power, though great, was, however, not complete. It was shared with these three sources of authority, which had put him into office and which were outside and, to some extent, distrustful of the National Socialist movement.
Hitler's immediate task, therefore, was to quickly eliminate them from the driver's seat, make his party the exclusive master of the State and then with the power of an authoritarian government and its police carry out the Nazi revolution. He had been in office scarcely twenty-four hours when he made his first decisive move, springing a trap on his gullible conservative "captors" and setting in motion a chain of events which he either originated or controlled and which at the end of six months would bring the complete Nazification of Germany and his own elevation to dictator of the Reich, unified and defederalized for the first time in German history.
Five hours after being sworn in, at 5 P.M. on January 30, 1933, Hitler held his first cabinet meeting. The minutes of the session, which turned up at Nuremberg among the hundreds of tons of captured secret documents, reveal how quickly and adroitly Hitler, aided by the crafty Goering, began to take his conservative colleagues for a ride.*(1) Hindenburg had named Hitler to head not a presidential cabinet but one based on a majority in the Reichstag. However, the Nazis and the Nationalists, the only two parties represented in the government, had only 247 seats out of 583 in Parliament and thus lacked a majority. To attain it they needed the backing of the Center Party with its 70 seats. In the very first hours of the new government Hitler had dispatched Goering to talk with the Centrist leaders, and now he reported to the cabinet that the Center was demanding "certain concessions." Georing therefore proposed that the Reichstag be dissolved and new elections held, and Hitler agreed. Hugenberg, a man of wooden mind for all his success in business, objected to taking the Center into the government but on the other hand opposed new elections, well knowing that the Nazis, with the resources of the State behind them, might win an absolute majority at the polls and thus be in a position to dispense with his own services and those of his conservative friends He proposed simply suppressing the Communist Party; with its 100 seats eliminated, the Nazis and the Nationalists would have a majority. But Hitler would not go so far at the moment, and it was finally agreed that the Chancellor himself would confer with the Center Party leaders on the following morning and that if the talks were fruitless the cabinet would then ask for new elections.
Hitler easily made them fruitless. At his request the Center leader, Monsignor Kaas, submitted as a basis for discussion a list of questions which added up to a demand that Hitler promise to govern constitutionally. But Hitler, tricking both Kaas and his cabinet members, reported to the latter that the Center had made impossible demands and that there was no chance of agreement. He therefore proposed that the President be asked to dissolve the Reichstag and call new elections. Hugenberg and Papen were trapped, but after a solemn assurance from the Nazi leader that the cabinet would remain unchanged however the elections turned out, they agreed to go along with him. New elections were set for March 5.
For the first timein the last relatively free election Germany was to havethe Nazi Party now could employ all the vast resources of the government to win votes. Goebbels was jubilant. "Now it will be easy," he wrote in his diary on February 3, "to carry on the fight, for we can call on all the resources of the State. Radio and press are at our disposal. We shall stage a masterpiece of propaganda. And this time, naturally, there is no lack of money."(2)
The big businessmen, pleased with the new government that was going to put the organized workers in their place and leave management to run its business as it wished, were asked to cough up. This they agreed to do at a meeting on February 20 at Goering's Reichstag President's Palace, at which Dr. Schacht acted as host and Goering and Hitler laid down the line to a couple of dozen of Germany's leading magnates, including Krupp von Bohlen, who had become an enthusiastic Nazi overnight, Bosch and Schnitzler of I. G. Farben, and Voegler, head of the United Steel Works. The record of this secret meeting has been preserved.
Hitler began a long speech with a sop to the industrialists. "Private enterprise," he said, "cannot be maintained in the age of democracy; it is conceivable only if the people have a sound idea of authority and personality . . . All the worldly goods we possess we owe to the struggle of the chosen . . . We must not forget that all the benefits of culture must be introduced more or less with an iron fist." He promised the businessmen that he would "eliminate" the Marxists and restore the Wehrmacht (the latter was of special interest to such industries as Krupp, United Steel and I. G. Farben, which stood to gain the most from rearmament). "Now we stand before the last election," Hitler concluded, and he promised his listeners that "regardless of the outcome, there will be no retreat." If he did not win, he would stay in power "by other means . . . with other weapons." Goering, talking more to the immediate point, stressed the necessity of "financial sacrifices" which "surely would be much easier for industry to bear if it realized that the election of March fifth will surely be the last one for the next ten years, probably even for the next hundred years."
All this was made clear enough to the assembled industrialists and they responded with enthusiasm to the promise of the end of the infernal elections, of democracy and disarmament. Krupp, the munitions king, who, according to Thyssen, had urged Hindenburg on January 29 not to appoint Hitler, jumped up and expressed to the Chancellor the "gratitude" of the businessmen "for having given us such a clear picture." Dr. Schacht then passed the hat. "I collected three million marks," he recalled at Nuremberg.(3)
On January 31, 1933, the day after Hitler was named Chancellor, Goebbels wrote in his diary: "In a conference with the Fuehrer we lay down the line for the fight against the Red terror. For the moment we shall abstain from direct countermeasures. The Bolshevik attempt at revolution must first burst into flame. At the proper moment we shall strike."
Despite increasing provocation by the Nazi authorities there was no sign of a revolution, Communist or Socialist, bursting into flames as the electoral campaign got under way. By the beginning of February the Hitler government had banned all Communist meetings and shut down the Communist press. Social Democrat rallies were either forbidden or broken up by the S.A. rowdies, and the leading Socialist newspapers were continually suspended. Even the Catholic Center Party did not escape the Nazi terror. Stegerwald, the leader of the Catholic Trade Unions, was beaten by the Brownshirts when he attempted to address a meeting, and Bruening was obliged to seek police protection at another rally after S.A. troopers had wounded a number of his followers. Altogether fifty-one anti-Nazis were listed as murdered during the electoral campaign, and the Nazis claimed that eighteen of their own number had been done to death.
Goering's key position as Minister of the Interior of Prussia now began to be noticed. Ignoring the restraining hand of Papen, who as Premier of Prussia was supposedly above him, Goering removed hundreds of republican officials and replaced them with Nazis, mostly S.A. and S.S. officers. He ordered the police to avoid "at all costs" hostility to the S.A., the S.S. and the Stahlhelm but on the other hand to show no mercy to those who were "hostile to the State." He urged the police "to make use of firearms" and warned that those who didn't would be punished. This was an outright call for the shooting down of all who opposed Hitler by the police of a state (Prussia) which controlled two thirds of Germany. Just to make sure that the job would be ruthlessly done, Goering on February 22 established an auxiliary police force of 50,000 men, of whom 40,000 were drawn from the ranks of the S.A. and the S.S. and the rest from the Stahlhelm. Police power in Prussia was thus largely carried out by Nazi thugs. It was a rash German who appealed to such a "police" for protection against the Nazi terrorists.
And yet despite all the terror the "Bolshevik revolution" which Goebbels, Hitler and Goering were looking for failed to "burst into flames." If it could not be provoked, might it not be invented?
On February 24, Goering's police raided the Karl Liebknecht Haus, the Communist headquarters in Berlin. It had been abandoned some weeks before by the Communist leaders, a number of whom had already gone underground or quietly slipped off to Russia. But piles of propaganda pamphlets had been left in the cellar and these were enough to enable Goering to announce in an official communiqué that the seized "documents" proved that the Communists were about to launch the revolution. The reaction of the public and even of some of the conservatives in the government was one of skepticism. It was obvious that something more sensational must be found to stampede the public before the election took place on March 5.
*This cabinet meeting, of course, was private, and, like most of the other conferences, many of them taking place in the strictest secrecy, held by Hitler and his political and military aides during the Third Reich, its proceedings and decisions were not accessible to the public until the captured German documents were first perused during the Nuremberg trial.
A great many of these highly confidential discussions and the decisions emanating from themall regarded as state secretswill henceforth be chronicled in this book, which, from here to the end, largely rests on the documents which recorded them at the time. At the risk of somewhat cluttering the pages with numbers indicating notes, these sources will be indicated. No other history of a nation over a specific epoch has been so fully documented, I believe, as that of the Thrid Reich, and to have left out reference to the documents, it seemed to the author, would have greatly weakened whatever value this book may have as an authentic historical record.
On the evening of February 27, four of the most powerful men in Germany were gathered at two separate dinners in Berlin. In the exclusive Herrenklub in the Vosstrasse, Vice-Chancellor von Papen was entertaining President Hindenburg. Out at Goebbels' home, Chancellor Hitler had arrived to dine en famille. According to Goebbels, they were relaxing, playing music on the gramophone and telling stories. "Suddenly," he recounted later in his diary, "a telephone call from Dr. Hanfstaengl: 'The Reichstag is on fire!' I am sure he is telling a tall tale and decline even to mention it to the Fuehrer." (4)
But the diners at the Herrenklub were just around the corner from the Reichstag.
Suddenly [Papen later wrote] we noticed a red glow through the windows and heard sounds of shouting in the street. One of the servants came hurrying up to me and whispered: "The Reichstag is on fire!" which I repeated to the President. He got up and from the window we could see the dome of the Reichstag looking as though it were illuminated by searchlights. Every now and again a burst of flame and a swirl of smoke blurred the outline. (5)
The Vice-Chancellor packed the aged President home in his own car and hurried off to the burning building. In the meantime Goebbels, according to his account, had had second thoughts about Putzi Hanfstaengl's "tall tale," had made some telephone calls and learned that the Reichstag was in flames. Within a few seconds he and his Fuehrer were racing "at sixty miles an hour down the Charlottenburger Chaussee toward the scene of the crime."
That it was a crime, a Communist crime, they proclaimed at once on arrival at the fire. Goering, sweating and puffing and quite beside himself with excitement, was already there ahead of them declaiming to heaven, as Papen later recalled, that "this is a Communist crime against the new government." To the new Gestapo chief, Rudolf Diels, Goering shouted, "This is the beginning of the Communist revolution! We must not wait a minute. We will show no mercy. Every Communist official must be shot, where he is found. Every Communist deputy must this very night be strung up."(6)
The whole truth about the Reichstag fire will probably never be known. Nearly all those who knew it are now dead, most of them slain by Hitler in the months that followed. Even at Nuremberg the mystery could not be entirely unraveled, though there is enough evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the Nazis who planned the arson and carried it out for their own political ends.
From Goering's Reichstag President's Palace an underground passage, built to carry the central heating system, ran to the Reichstag building. Through this tunnel Karl Ernst, a former hotel bellhop who had become the Berlin S.A. leader, led a small detachment of storm troopers on the night of February 27 to the Reichstag, where they scattered gasoline and self-igniting chemicals and then made their way quickly back to the palace the way they had come. At the same time a half-witted Dutch Communist with a passion for arson, Marinus van der Lubbe, had made his way into the huge, darkened and to him unfamiliar building and set some small fires of his own. This feeble-minded pyromaniac was a godsend to the Nazis. He had been picked up by the S.A. a few days before after having been overheard in a bar boasting that he had attempted to set fire to several public buildings and that he was going to try the Reichstag next.
The coincidence that the Nazis had found a demented Communist arsonist who was out to do exactly what they themselves had determined to do seems incredible but is nevertheless supported by the evidence. The idea for the fire almost certainly originated with Goebbels and Goering. Hans Gisevius, an official in the Prussian Ministry of the Interior at the time, testified at Nuremberg that "it was Goebbels who first thought of setting the Reichstag on fire," and Rudolf Diels, the Gestapo chief, added in an affidavit that "Goering knew exactly how the fire was to be started" and had ordered him "to prepare, prior to the fire, a list of people who were to be arrested immediately after it." General Franz Halder, Chief of the German General Staff during the early part of World War II, recalled at Nuremberg how on one occasion Goering had boasted of his deed.
At a luncheon on the birthday of the Fuehrer in 1942 the conversation turned to the topic of the Reichstag building and its artistic value. I heard with my own ears when Goering interrupted the conversation and shouted: "The only one who really knows about the Reichstag is I, because I set it on fire!" With that he slapped his thigh with the flat of his hand.*
*Both in his interrogations and at his trial at Nuremberg, Goering denied to the last that he had any part in setting fire to the Reichstag.
Van der Lubbe, it seems clear, was a dupe of the Nazis. He was encouraged to try to set the Reichstag on fire. But the main job was to be donewithout his knowledge, of courseby the storm troopers. Indeed, it was established at the subsequent trial at Leipzig that the Dutch half-wit did not possess the means to set so vast a building on fire so quickly. Two and a half minutes after he entered, the great central hall was fiercely burning. He had only his shirt for tinder. The main fires, according to the testimony of experts at the trial, had been set with considerable quantities of chemicals and gasoline. It was obvious that one man could not have carried them into the building, nor would it have been possible for him to start so many fires in so many scattered places in so short a time.
Van der Lubbe was arrested on the spot and Goering, as he afterward told the court, wanted to hang him at once. The next day Ernst Torgler, parliamentary leader of the Communists, gave himself up to the police when he heard that Goering had implicated him, and a few days later Georgi Dimitroff, a Bulgarian Communist who later became Prime Minister of Bulgaria, and two other Bulgarian Communists, Popov and Tanev, were apprehended by the police. Their subsequent trial before the Supreme Court at Leipzig turned into something of a fiasco for the Nazis and especially for Goering, whom Dimitroff, acting as his own lawyer, easily provoked into making a fool of himself in a series of stinging cross-examinations. At one point, according to the court record, Goering screamed at the Bulgarian, "Out with you, you scoundrel!"
JUDGE [to the police officer]: Take him away.
DIMITROFF [being led away by the police]: Are you afraid of my question, Herr Ministerpraesident?
GOERING: You wait until we get you outside this court, you scoundrel!
Torgler and the three Bulgarians were acquitted, though the German Communist leader was immediately taken into "protective custody," where he remained until his death during the second war. Van der Lubbe was found guilty and decapitated.(7)
The trial, despite the subserviency of the court to the Nazi authorities, cast a great deal of suspicion on Goering and the Nazis, but it came too late to have any practical effect. For Hitler had lost no time in exploiting the Reichstag fire to the limit.
On the day following the fire, February 28, he prevailed on President Hindenburg to sign a decree "for the Protection of the People and the State" suspending the seven sections of the constitution which guaranteed individual and civil liberties. Described as a "defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state," the decree laid down that:
Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searchers, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.
In addition, the decree authorized the Reich government to take over complete power in the federal states when necessary and imposed the death sentence for a number of crimes, including "serious disturbances of the peace" by armed persons.(8)
Thus with one stroke Hitler was able not only to legally gag his opponents and arrest them at his will but, by making the trumped-up Communist threat "official," as it were, to throw millions of the middle class and the peasantry into a frenzy of fear that unless they voted for National Socialism at the elections a week hence, the Bolsheviks might take over. Some four thousand Communist officials and a great many Social Democrat and liberal leaders were arrested, including members of the Reichstag, who, according to the law, were immune from arrest. This was the first experience Germans had had with Nazi terror backed up by the government. Truckloads of storm troopers roared through the streets all over Germany, breaking into homes, rounding up victims and carting them off to S.A. barracks, where they were tortured and beaten. The Communist press and political meetings were suppressed; the Social Democrat newspapers and many liberal journals were suspended and the meetings of the democratic parties either banned or broken up. Only the Nazis and their Nationalist allies were permitted to campaign unmolested.
With all the resources of the national and Prussian governments at their disposal and with plenty of money from big business in their coffers, the Nazis carried on an election propaganda such as Germany had never seen before. For the first time the State-run radio carried the voices of Hitler, Goering and Goebbels to every corner of the land. The streets, bedecked with swastika flags, echoed to the tramp of the storm troopers. There were mass rallies, torchlight parades, the din of loudspeakers in the squares. The billboards were plastered with flamboyant Nazi posters and at night bonfires lit up the hills. The electorate was in turn cajoled with promises of a German paradise, intimidated by the brown terror in the streets and frightened by "revelations" about the Communist "revolution." The day after the Reichstag fire the Prussian government issued a long statement declaring that it had found Communist "documents" proving:
Government buildings, museums, mansions and essential plants were to be burned down . . . Women and children were to be sent in front of terrorist groups . . . The burning of the Reichstag was to be the signal for a bloody insurrection and civil war . . . It has been ascertained that today was to have seen throughout Germany terrorist acts against individual persons, against private property, and against the life and limb of the peaceful population, and also the beginning of general civil war.
Publication of the "documents proving that Communist conspiracy" was promised, but never made. The fact, however, that the Prussian government itself vouched for their authenticity impressed many Germans.
The waverers were also impressed perhaps by Goering's threats. At Frankfurt on March 3, on the eve of the elections, he shouted:
Fellow Germans, my measures will not be cripped by any judicial thinking . . . I don't have to worry about justice; my mission is only to destroy and exterminate, nothing more! . . . Certainly, I shall use the power of the State and the police to the utmost, my dear Communists, so don't draw any false conclusions; but the struggle to the death, in which my fist will grasp your necks, I shall lead with those down therethe Brownshirts. (9)
Almost unheard was the voice of former Chancellor Bruening, who also spoke out that day, proclaiming that his Center Party would resist any overthrow of the constitution, demanding an investigation of the suspicious Reichstag fire and calling on President Hindenburg "to protect the oppressed against their oppressors." Vain appeal! The aged President kept his silence. It was now time for the people, in their convulsion, to speak.
On March 5, 1933, the day of the last democratic elections they were to know during Hitler's life, they spoke with their ballots. Despite all the terror and intimidation, the majority of them rejected Hitler. The Nazis led the polling with 17,277,180 votesan increase of some five and a half million, but it comprised only 44 per cent of the total vote. A clear majority still eluded Hitler. All the persecution and suppression of the previous weeks did not prevent the Center Party from actually increasing its vote from 4,230,600 to 4,424,900; with its ally, the Catholic Bavarian People's Party, it obtained a total of five and a half million votes. Even the Social Democrats held their position as the second largest party, polling 7,181,629 votes, a drop of only 70,000. The Communists lost a million supporters but still polled 4,848,058. The Nationalists, led by Papen and Hugenberg, were bitterly disappointed with their own showing, a vote of 3,136,760, a mere 8 per cent of the votes cast and a gain of less than 200,000.
Still, the Nationalists' 52 seats, added to the 288 of the Nazis, gave the government a majority of 16 in the Reichstag. This was enough, perhaps, to carry on the day-to-day business of government but it was far short of the two-thirds majority which Hitler needed to carry out a new, bold plan to establish his dictatorship by consent of Parliament.
(1) NCA, III, pp. 272-75 (N.D. 351-PS).
(2) Goebbels, Kaiserhof, p. 256.
(3) See affidavit of Georg von Schnitzler, NCA, VII, p. 501 (N.D. EC-439); speeches of Goering and Hitler, NCA, VI, p. 1080 (N.D. D-203); Schacht's interrogation, NCA, VI p. 465 (N.D. 3725-PS); Funk's interrogation, NCA, V. p. 495 (N.D. 2828-PS).
(4) Goebbels, Kaiserhof, pp. 269-70.
(5) Papen, op. cit., p. 268.
(6) Rudolf Diels, Lucifer ante Portas, p. 194.
(7) For sources on the responsibility for the Reichstag fire see: Halder's affidavit, NCA, VI, p. 635 (N.D. 3740-PS); transcript of Gisevius' cross-examination on April 25, 1946, Trial of the Major War Criminals [hereafter cited as TMWC], XII, pp. 252-53; Diehl's affidavit, Goering's denial, TMWC, IX, pp. 432-36, and NCA, VI pp. 298-99 (N.D. 3593-PS); Willy Frischauer, The Rise and Fall of Hermann Goering, pp. 88-95; Douglas Reed, The Burning of the Reichstag; John Gunther, Inside Europe (Gunther attended the trial at Leipzig). There are many alleged testaments and confessions by those claiming to have participated in the Nazi firing of the Reichstag or to have positive knowledge of it, but none, so far as I know, has ever been substantiated. Of these, memoranda by Ernst Oberfohren, a Nationalist deputy, and Karl Ernst, the Berlin S.A. leader, have been given some credence. Both men were slain by the Nazis within a few months of the fire.
(8) NCA, III, pp. 968-70 (N.D. 1390-PS).
(9) NCA, IV, p. 496 (N.D. 1856-PS).
from pages 247 - 256
The radio and the motion pictures were also quickly harnessed to serve the propaganda of th Nazi State. Goebbels had always seen in radio (television had not yet come in) the chief instrument of propaganda in modern society and through the Radio Department of his ministry and the Chamber of Radio he gained complete control of broadcasting and shaped it to his own ends. His task was made easier because in Germany, as in the other countries of Europe, broadcasting was a monopoly owned and operated by the State. In 1933 the Nazi government automatically found itself in possession of the Reich Broadcasting Corporation.
The films remained in the hands of private firms but the Propaganda Ministry and the Chamber of Films controlled every aspect of the industry, their task beingin the words of an official commentary"to lift the film industry out of the sphere of liberal economic thoughts . . . and thus enable it to receive those tasks which it has to fulfill in the National Socialist State."
The result in both cases was to afflict the German people with radio programs and motion pictures as inane and boring as were the contents of their daily newspapers and periodicals. Even a public which usually submitted without protest to being told what was good for it revolted. The customers stayed away in droves from the Nazi films and jammed the houses which showed the few foreign pictures (mostly B-grade Hollywood) which Goebbels permitted to be exhibited on German screens. At one period in the mid-Thirties the hissing of German films became so common that Wilhelm Frick, the Minister of the Interior, issued a stern warning against "treasonable behavior on the part of cinema audiences." Likewise the radio programs were so roundly criticized that the president of the Radio Chamber, one Horst Dressler-Andress, declared that such carping was "an insult to German culture" and would not be tolerated. In those days, in the Thirties, a German listener could still turn his dial to a score of foreign radio stations without, as happened later when the war began, risking having his head chopped off. And perhaps quite a few did, though it was this observer's impression that as the years went by, Dr. Goebbels proved himself right, in that the radio became by far the regime's most effective means of propaganda, doing more than any other single instrument of communication to shape the German people to Hitler's ends.
I myself was to experience how easily one is taken in by a lying and censored press and radio in a totalitarian state. Though unlike most Germans I had daily access to foreign newspapers, especially those of London, Paris and Zurich, which arrived the day after publication, and though I listened regularly to the BBC and other foreign broadcasts, my job necessitated the spending of many hours a day in combing the German press, checking the German radio, conferring with Nazi officials and going to party meetings. It was surprising and sometimes consternating to find that notwithstanding the opportunities I had to learn the facts and despite one's inherent distrust of what one learned from Nazi sources, a steady diet over the years of falsifications and distortions made a certain impression on one's mind and often misled it. No one who has not lived for years in a totalitarian land can possibly conceive how difficult it is to escape the dread consequences of a regime's calculated and incessant propaganda. Often in a German home or office or sometimes in a casual conversation with a stranger in a restaurant, a beer hall, a cafe, I would meet with the most outlandish assertions from seemingly educated and intelligent persons. It was obvious that they were parroting some piece of nonsense they had heard on the radio or read in the newspapers. Sometimes one was tempted to say as much, but on such occasions one was met with such a stare of incredulity, such a shock of silence, as if one had blasphemed the Almighty, that one realized how useless it was even to try to make contact with a mind which had become warped and for whom the facts of life had become what Hitler and Goebbels, with their cynical disregard for truth, said they were.
EDUCATION IN THE THIRD REICH
On April 30, 1934, Bernhard Rust, an Obergruppenfuehrer in the S.A., onetime Gauleiter of Hanover, a Nazi Party member and friend of Hitler since the early Twenties, was named Reich Minister of Science, Education of Popular Culture. In the bizarre, topsy-turvy world of National Socialism, Rust was eminently fitted for his task. Since 1930 he had been an unemployed provincial schoolmaster, having been dismissed in that year by the local republican authorities at Hanover for certain manifestations of instability of mind, though his fanatical Nazism may have been partly responsible for his ouster. For Dr. Rust preached the Nazi gospel with the zeal of a Goebbels and the fuzziness of a Rosenberg. Named Prussian Minister of Science, Art and Education in February 1933, he boasted that he had succeeded overnight in "liquidating the school as an institution of intellectual acrobatics."
To such a mindless man was now entrusted dictatorial control over German science, the public schools, the institutions of higher learning and the youth organizations. For education in the Third Reich, as Hitler envisaged it, was not to be confined to stuffy classrooms but to be furthered by a Spartan, political and martial training in the successive youth groups and to reach its climax not so much in the universities and engineering colleges, which absorbed but a small minority, but first, at the age of eighteen, in compulsory labor service and then in service, as conscripts, in the armed forces.
Hitler's contempt for "professors" and the intellectual academic life had peppered the pages of Mein Kampf, in which he had set down some of his ideas on education. "The whole education by a national state," he had written, "must aim primarily not at the stuffing with mere knowledge but at building bodies which are physically healthy to the core." But, even more important, he had stressed in his book the importance of winning over and then training the youth in the service "of a new national state"a subject he returned to often after he became the German dictator. "When an opponent declares, 'I will not come over to your side,'" he said in a speech on November 6, 1933, "I calmly say, 'Your child belongs to us already . . . What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.'" And on May 1, 1937, he declared, "This new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing." It was not an idle boast; that was precisely what was happening.
The German schools, from first grade through the universities, were quickly Nazified. Textbooks were hastily rewritten, curricula were changed, Mein Kampf was madein the words of Der Deutsche Erzieher, official organ of the educators"our infallible pedagogical guiding star" and teachers who failed to see the new light were cast out. Most instructors had been more or less Nazi in sentiment when not outright party members. To strengthen their ideology they were dispatched to special schools for intensive training in National Socialist principles, emphasis being put on Hitler's racial doctrines.
Every person in the teaching profession, from kindergarten through the universities, was compelled to join the National Socialist Teachers' League which, by law, was held "responsible for execution of the ideological and political co-ordination of all teachers in accordance with the National Socialist doctrine." The Civil Service Act of 1937 required teachers to be "the executors of the will of the party-supported State" and to be ready "at any time to defend without reservation the National Socialist State." An earlier decree had classified them as civil servants and thus subject to the racial laws. Jews, of course, were forbidden to teach. All teachers took an oath to "be loyal and obedient to Adolf Hitler." Later, no man could teach who had not first served in the S.A., the Labor Service or the Hitler Youth. Candidates for instructorships in the universities had to attend for six weeks an observation camp where their views and character were studied by Nazi experts and reported to the Ministry of Education, which issued licenses to teach based on the candidates' political "reliability."
Prior to 1933, the German public schools had been under the jurisdiction of the local authorities and the universities under that of the individual states. Now all were brought under the iron rule of the Reich Minister of Education. It was he who also appointed the rectors and the deans of the universities, who formerly had been elected by the full professors of the faculty. He also appointed the leaders of the university students' union, to which all students had to belong, and of the lecturers union, comprising all instructors. The N.S. Association of University Lecturers, under the tight leadership of old Nazi hands, was given a decisive role in selecting who was to teach and to see that what they taught was in accordance with Nazi theories.
The result of so much Nazification was catastrophic for German education and for German learning. History was so falsified in the new textbooks and by the teachers in their lectures that it became ludicrous. The teaching of the "racial sciences," exalting the Germans as the master race and the Jews as breeders of almost all the evil there was in the world, was even more so. In the University of Berlin alone, where so many great scholars had taught in the past, the new rector, a storm trooper and by profession a veterinarian, instituted twenty-five new courses in Rassenkunderacial scienceand by the time he had really taken the university apart he had eighty-six courses connected with his own profession.
The teaching of the natural sciences, in which Germany had been so pre-eminent for generations, deteriorated rapidly. Great teachers such as Einstein and Franck in physics, Haber, Willstaetter and Warburg in chemistry, were fired or retired. Those who remained, many of them, were bitten by the Nazi aberrations and attempted to apply them to pure science. They began to teach what they called German physics, German chemistry, German mathematics. Indeed, in 1937 there appeared a journal called Deutsche Mathematik, and its first editorial solemnly proclaimed that any idea that mathematics could be judged nonracially carried "within itself the germs of destruction of German science."
The hallucinations of these Nazi scientists became unbelievable, even to a layman. "German Physics?" asked Professor Philipp Lenard of Heidelberg University, who was one of the more learned and internationally respected scientists of the Third Reich. "'But,' it will be replied, 'science is and remains international.' It is false. In reality, science, like every other human product, is racial and conditioned by blood." Professor Rudolphe Tomaschek, director of the Institute of Physics at Dresden, went further. "Modern Physics," he wrote, "is an instrument of [world] Jewry for the destruction of Nordic science . . . True physics is the creation of the German spirit . . . In fact, all European science is the fruit of Aryan, or, better, German thought." Professor Johannes Stark, head of the German National Institute of Physical Science, thought so too. It would be found, he said, that the "founders of research in physics, and the great discoverers from Galileo to Newton to the physical pioneers of our time, were almost exclusively Aryan, predominantly of the Nordic race."
There was also Professor Wilhelm Mueller, of the Technical College of Aachen, who in a book entitled Jewry and Science saw a world-wide Jewish plot to pollute science and thereby destroy civilization. To him Einstein, with his theory of relativity, was the archvillian. The Einstein theory, on which so much of modern physics is based, was to this singular Nazi professor "directed from beginning to end toward the goal of transforming the livingthat is, the non-Jewishworld of living essence, born from a mother earth and bound up with blood, and bewitching it into spectral abstraction in which all individual differences of peoples and nations, and all inner limits of the races, are lost in unreality, and in which only an unsubstantial diversity of geometric dimensions survives which produces all events out of the compulsion of its godless subjection to laws." The world-wide acclaim given to Einstein on the publication of his theory of relativity, Professor Mueller proclaimed, was really only a rejoicing over "the approach of Jewish world rule which was to force down German manhood irrevocably and eternally to the level of the lifeless slave."
To Professor Ludwig Bieberback, of the University of Berlin, Einstein was "an alien mountebank." Even to Professor Lenard, "the Jew conspicuously lacks understanding for the truth . . . being in this respect in contrast to the Aryan research scientist with his careful and serious will to truth . . . Jewish physics is thus a phantom and a phenomenon of degeneration of fundamental German Physics."(7)
And yet from 1905 to 1931 ten German Jews had been awarded Nobel Prizes for their contributions to science.
During the Second Reich, the university professors, like the Protestant clergy, had given blind support to the conservative government and its expansionist aims, and the lecture halls had been breeding grounds of virulent nationalism and anti-Semitism. The Weimar Republic had insisted on complete academic freedom, and one result had been that the vast majority of university teachers, antiliberal, antidemocratic, antiSemetic as they were, had helped to undermine the democratic regime. Most professors were fanatical nationalists who wished the return of a conservative, monarchical Germany. And though to many of them, before 1933, the Nazis were too rowdy and violent to attract their allegiance, their preachments helped prepare the ground for the coming of Nazism. By 1932 the majority of students appeared to be enthusiastic for Hitler.
It was surprising to some how many members of the university faculties knuckled under to the Nazification of higher learning after 1933. Though official figures put the number of professors and instructors dismissed during the first five years of the regime at 2,800about one fourth of the total numberthe proportion of those who lost their posts through defying National Socialism was, as Professor Wilhelm Roepke, himself dismissed from the University of Marburg in 1933, said, "exceedingly small." Though small, there were names famous in the German academic world: Karl Jaspers, E. J. Gumbel, Theodor Litt, Karl Barth, Julius Ebbinghaus and dozen of others. Most of them emigrated, first to Switzerland, Holland and England and eventually to America. One of them, Professor Theodor Lessing, who had fled to Czechoslovakia, was tracked down by Nazi thugs and murdered in Marienbad on August 31, 1933.
A large majority of professors, however, remained at their posts, and as early as the autumn of 1933 some 960 of them, led by such luminaries as Professor Sauerbruch, the surgeon, Heidegger, the existentialist philosopher, and Pinder, the art historian, took a public vow to support Hitler and the National Socialist regime.
"It was a scene of prostitution," Professor Roepke later wrote, "that has stained the honorable history of German learning."(8) And as Professor Julius Ebbinghaus, looking back over the shambles in 1945, said, "The German universities failed, while there was still time, to oppose publicly with all their power the destruction of knowledge and of the democratic state. They failed to keep the beacon of freedom and right burning during the night of tyranny."(9)
The cost of such failure was great. After six years of Nazification the number of university students dropped by more than one halffrom 127,920 to 58,325. The decline in enrollment at the institutes of technology, from which Germany got its scientists and engineers, was even greaterfrom 20,474 to 9,554. Academic standards fell dizzily. By 1937 there was not only a shortage of young men in the sciences and engineering but a decline in their qualifications. Long before the outbreak of the war the chemical industry, busily helping to further Nazi rearmament, was complaining through its organ, Die Chemische Industrie, that Germany was losing its leadership in chemistry. Not only the national economy but national defense itself was being jeopardized, it complained, and it blamed the shortage of young scientists and their mediocre caliber on the poor quality of the technical colleges.
Nazi Germany's loss, as it turned out, was the free world's gain, especially in the race to be the first with the atom bomb. The story of the successful efforts of Nazi leaders, led by Himmler, to hamstring the atomic-energy program is too long and involved to be recounted here. It was one of the ironies of fate that the development of the bomb in the United States owed so much to two men who had been exiled because of race from the Nazi and Fascist dictatorships: Einstein from Germany and Fermi from Italy.
To Adolf Hitler it was not so much the public schools, from which he himself had dropped out so early in life, but the organizations of the Hitler Youth on which he counted to educate the youth of Germany for the ends he had in mind. In the years of the Nazi Party's struggle for power the Hitler Youth movement had not amounted to much. In 1932, the last year of the Republic, its total enrollment was only 107,956, compared to some ten million youths who belonged to the various organizations united in the Reich Committee of German Youth Associations. In no country in the world had there been a youth movement of such vitality and numbers as in republican Germany. Hitler, realizing this, was determined to take over and Nazify it.
His chief lieutenant for this task was a handsome young man of banal mind but of great driving force, Baldur von Schirach, who, falling under Hitler's spell, had joined the party in 1925 at the age of eighteen and in 1931 had been named Youth Leader of the Nazi Party. Among the scarfaced, brawling Brownshirts, he had the curious look of an American college student, fresh and immature, and this perhaps was due to his having had, as we have seen, American forebears (including two signers of the Declaration of Independence).(10)
Schirach was named "Youth Leader of the German Reich" in June 1933. Aping the tactics of his elder party leaders, his first action was to send an armed band of fifty husky Hitler Youth men to occupy the national offices of the Reich Committee of German Youth Associations, where an old Prussian Army officer, General Vogt, head of the committee, German naval heroes, Admiral von Trotha, who had been Chief of Staff of the High Seas Fleet in the First World War and who was now president of the Youth Associations. The venerable admiral too was put to flight and his position and organization were dissolved. Millions of dollars' worth of property, chiefly in hundreds of youth hostels scattered throughout Germany, was seized.
The concordat of July 20, 1933, had specifically provided for the unhindered continuance of the Catholic Youth Association. On December 1, 1936, Hitler decreed a law outlawing it and all other non-Nazi organizations for young people.
. . . All of the German youth in the Reich is organized within the Hitler Youth.
The German youth, besides being reared within the family and schools, shall be educated physically, intellectually and morally in the spirit of National Socialism . . . through the Hitler Youth.(11)
Schirach, whose office had formerly been subordinate to the Ministry of Education, was made responsible directly to Hitler.
This half-baked young man of twenty-nine, who wrote maudlin verse in praise of Hitler ("this genius grazing the stars") and followed Rosenberg in his weird paganism and Streicher in his virulent anti-Semitism, had become the dictator of youth in the Third Reich.
From the age of six to eighteen, when conscription for the Labor Service of the Hitler Youth. Parents found guilty of trying to keep their children from joining the organization were subject to heavy prison sentences even though, as in some cases, they merely objected to having their daughters enter some of the services were cases of pregnancy had reached scandalous proportions.
From the age of six to ten, a boy served a sort of apprenticeship for the Hitler Youth as a Pimpf. Each youngster was given a performance book in which would be recorded his progress through the entire Nazi youth movement, including his ideological growth. At ten, after passing suitable tests in athletics, camping and Nazified history, he graduated into the Jungvolk ("Young Folk"), where he took the following oath:
In the presence of this blood banner, which represents our Fuehrer, I swear to devote all my energies and my strength to the savior of our country, Adolf Hitler. I am willing and ready to give up my life for him, so help me God.
At fourteen the boy entered the Hitler Youth proper and remained there until he was eighteen, when he passed into the Labor Service and the Army. It was a vast organization organized on paramilitary lines similar to the S.A. and in which the youngsters approaching manhood received systematic training not only in camping, sports and Nazi ideology but in soldiering. On many a weekend in the environs of Berlin this writer would be interrupted in his picnicking by Hitler Youths scrambling through the woods or over the heath, rifles at the ready and heavy army packs on their backs.
Sometimes the young ladies would be playing at soldiering, too, for the Hitler Youth movement did not neglect the maidens. From ten to fourteen, German girls were enrolled as Jungmaedelliterally, "young maidens"and they too had a uniform, made up of a white blouse, full blue skirt, socks and heavyand most unfemininemarching shoes. Their training was much like that of the boys of the same age and included long marches on weekends with heavy packs and the usual indoctrination in the Nazi philosophy. But emphasis was put on the role of women in the Third Reichto be, above all, healthy mothers of healthy children. This was stressed even more when the girls became, at fourteen, members of the B.D.MBund Deutscher Maedel (League of German Maidens).
At eighteen, several thousand of the girls in the B.D.M. (they remained in it until 21) did a year's service on the farmstheir so-called Land Jahr, which was equivalent to the Labor Service of the young men. Their task was to help both in the house and in the fields. The girls lived sometimes in the farmhouses and often in small camps in rural districts from which they were taken by truck early each morning to the farms. Moral problems soon arose. The presence of a pretty young city girl sometimes disrupted a peasant's household, and angry complaints from parents about their daughters' having been made pregnant on the farms began to be heard. But that wasn't the only problem. Usually a girls' camp was located near a Labor Service camp for young men. This juxtaposition seems to have made for many pregnancies too. One coupleta take-off on the "Strength through Joy" movement of the Labor Front, but it applied especially to the Land Jahr of the young maidenswent the rounds of Germany:
In the fields and on the heath
I lose Strength through Joy.
Similar moral problems also arose during the Household Year for Girls, in which some half a million Hitler Youth maidens spent a year at domestic service in a city household. Actually, the more sincere Nazis did not consider them moral problems at all. On more than one occasion I listened to women leaders of the B.D.M.they were invariably of the plainer type and usually unmarriedlecture their young charges on the moral and patriotic duty of bearing children for Hitler's Reichwithin wedlock if possible, but without it if necessary.
By the end of 1938 the Hitler Youth numbered 7,728,259. Large as this number was, obviously some four million youth had managed to stay out of the organization, and in March 1939 the government issued a law conscripting all youth into the Hitler Youth on the same basis as they were drafted into the Army. Recalcitrant parents were warned that their children would be taken away from them and put into orphanages or other homes unless they enrolled.
The final twist to education in the Third Reich came in the establishment of three types of schools for the training of the elite: the Adolf Hitler Schools, under the direction of the Hitler Youth, the National Political Institutes of Education and the Order Castlesthe last two under the aegis of the party. The Adolf Hitler Schools took the most promising youngsters from the Jungvolk at the age of twelve and gave them six years of intensive training for leadership in the party and in the public services. The pupils lived at the school under Spartan discipline and on graduation were eligible for the university. There were ten such schools founded after 1937, the principal one being the Akademie at Brunswick.
The purpose of the Political Institutes of Education was to restore the type of education formerly given in the old Prussian military academics. This, according to one official commentary, cultivated "the soldierly spirit, with its attributes of courage, sense of duty and simplicity." To this was added special training in Nazi principles. The schools were under the supervision of the S.S., which furnished the headmasters and most of the teachers. Three such schools were established in 1933 and grew to thirty-one before the outbreak of the war, three of them for women.
At the very top of the pyramid were the so-called Order Castles, the Ordensburgen. In these, with their atmosphere of the castles of the Order of Teutonic Knights of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, were trained the elite of the Nazi elite. The knightly order had been based on the principle of absolute obedience to the Master, the Ordensmeister, and devoted to the German conquest of the Slavic lands in the East and the enslavement of the natives. The Nazi Order Castles had similar discipline and purposes. Only the most fanatical young National Socialists were chosen, usually from the top ranks of the graduates of the Adolf Hitler Schools and the Political Institutes. There were four Castles, and a student attended successively all of them. The first of six years was spent in one which specialized in the "racial sciences" and other aspects of Nazi ideology. The emphasis was on mental training and discipline, with physical training subordinated to it. This was reversed the second year at a Castle where athletics and sports, including mountain climbing and parachute jumping, came first. The third Castle, where the students spent the next year and a half, offered political and military instruction. Finally, in the fourth and last stage of his education, the student was sent for a year and a half to the Ordensburg in Marienburg in East Prussia, near the Polish frontier. There, within the walls of the very Order Castle which had been a stronghold of the Teutonic Knights five centuries before, his political and military training was concentrated on the Eastern question and Germany's need (and right!) of expanding into the Slavic lands in its eternal search for Lebensrauman excellent preparation, as it turned out and no doubt was meant to turn out, for the events of 1939 and thereafter.
In such a manner were the youth trained for life and work and death in the Third Reich. Though their minds were deliberately poisoned, their regular schooling interrupted, their homes largely replaced so far as their rearing went, the boys and the girls, the young men and women, seemed immensely happy, filled with a zest for the life of a Hitler Youth. And there was no doubt that the practice of bringing the children of all classes and walks of life together, where those who had come from poverty or riches, from a laborer's home or a peasant's or a businessman's, or an aristocrat's, shared common tasks, was good and healthy in itself. In most cases it did no harm to a city boy and girl to spend six months in the compulsory Labor Service, where they lived outdoors and learned the value of manual labor and of getting along with those of different backgrounds. No one who traveled up and down Germany in those days and talked with the young in their camps and watched them work and play and sing could fail to see that, however sinister the teaching, here was an incredibly dynamic youth movement.
The young in the Third Reich were growing up to have strong and healthy bodies, faith in the future of their country and in themselves and a sense of fellowship and camaraderie that shattered all class and economic and social barriers. I thought of that later, in the May days of 1940, when along the road between Aachen and Brussels one saw the contrast between the German soldiers, bronzed and clean-cut from a youth spent in the sunshine on an adequate diet, and the first British war prisoners, with their hollow chests, round shoulders, pasty complexions and bad teethtragic examples of the youth that England had neglected so irresponsibly in the years between the wars.
from pages 1095 - 1096
On New Year's Day Hitler threw eight German divisions into an attack in the Saar and followed it with a thrust from the bridgehead on the Upper Rhine by an army under the command ofto the German generals this was a bad jokeHeinrich Himmler. Neither drive got very far. Nor did an all-out assalt on Bastogne beginning on January 3 by no less than two corps of nine divisions which led to the most severe fighting of the Ardennes campaign. By January 5 the Germans abandoned hope of taking this key town. They were now faced with being cut off by a British-American counteroffensive from the north which had begun on January 3. On January 8 Model, whose armies were in danger of being entrapped at Houffalize, northeast of Bastogne, finally received permission to withdraw. By January 16, just a month after the beginning of the offensive on which Hitler had staked his last reserves in men and guns and ammunition, the German forces were back to the line from which they had set out.
They had lost some 120,000 men, killed, wounded and missing, 600 tanks and assault guns, 1,600 planes and 6,000 vehicles. American losses were also severe8,000 killed, 48,000 wounded, 21,000 captured or missing, and 733 tanks and tank destroyers.* But the Americans could make good their losses; the Germans could not. They had shot their last bolt. This was the last major offensive of the German Army in World War II. Its failure not only made defeat inevitable in the West, it doomed the German armies in the East, where the effect of Hitler's throwing his last reserves into the Ardennes became immediately felt.
*Among the American dead were several prisoners shot in cold blood by Colonel Jochen Peiper's combat group of the 1st S.S. Panzer Division near Malmédy on December 17. According to the evidence presented at Nuremberg 129 American prisoners were massacred; at the subsequent trial of the S.S. officers involved, the figure was reduced to 71. The trial before an American military tribunal at Dachau in the spring of 1946 had a curious denouement. Forty-three S.S. officers, including Peiper, were condemned to death, twenty-three to life imprisonment and eight to shorter sentences. Sepp Dietrich, commander of the Sixth S.S. Panzer Army, which fought in the northern side of the Bulge, received twenty-five years; Kraemer, commander of the 1st S.S. Armored Corps, ten years, and Hermann Priess, commander of the 1st S.S. Panzer Division, eighteen years.
Then a hue and cry arose in the U.S. Senate, especially from the late Senator McCarthy, that the S.S. officers had been treated brutally in order to extort confessions. In March 1948 thirty-one of the death sentences were commuted; in April General Lucius D. Clay reduced the death sentences from twelve to six; and in January 1951, under a general amnesty, John J. McCloy, the American High Commissioner, commuted the remaining death sentences to life imprisonment. At the time of writing all have been released. Almost forgotten in the hubbub over the alleged ill-treatment of the S.S. officers was the indisputable evidence that at least seventy-one unarmed U.S. war prisoners were slain in cold blood on a snowy field near Malmédy on December 17, 1944, on the ordersor incitementof several S.S. officers.