Hitler’s True Believers: How Ordinary People Became Nazis [1st Edition] 0190689900, 9780190689902, 0190689927, 9780190689926, 0190689919, 9780190689919

Understanding Adolf Hitler's ideology provides insights into the mental world of an extremist politics that, over t

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Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
Hitler’s True Believers......Page 4
Copyright......Page 5
Dedication......Page 6
Contents......Page 8
Introduction......Page 10
1. How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas......Page 22
2. Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism......Page 50
3. The National Socialist “Left”......Page 74
4. The Militants......Page 98
5. The Nazi Voters......Page 124
6. National Socialism Gains Power......Page 148
7. Embracing the Volksgemeinschaft......Page 174
8. Striving for Unanimity......Page 198
9. The Quest for a Cultural Revolution......Page 222
10. The Racist Ideology......Page 248
11. Nationalism and Militarism......Page 274
12. War and Genocide......Page 298
Conclusion......Page 324
Notes......Page 342
Selected Bibliography......Page 410
Index......Page 438
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Hitler’s True Believers: How Ordinary People Became Nazis [1st Edition]
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Also by Robert Gellately: The Oxford Illustrated History of the Third Reich (edited by Robert Gellately) Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany, 1933-​1945 Stalin’s Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War Lenin, Stalin and Hitler: The Age of Social Catastrophe The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933-​1945 The Nuremberg Interviews: An American Psychiatrist’s Conversations with the Defendants and Witnesses at the Nuremberg Trials (edited by Robert Gellately) The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder and Other Mass Crimes in Historical Perspective (edited with Ben Kiernan) Social Outsiders in Nazi Germany (edited with Nathan Stoltzfus) Accusatory Practices: Denunciation in Modern European History, 1789-​1989 (edited with Sheila Fitzpatrick) The Politics of Economic Despair: Shopkeepers and German Politics, 1890-​1914

HITLER’S TRUE BELIEVERS How Ordinary People Became Nazis

Robert Gell ately


1 Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and certain other countries. Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, United States of America. © Robert Gellately 2020 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by license, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reproduction rights organization. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this work in any other form and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer. CIP data is on file at the Library of Congress ISBN 978–​0–​19–​068990–​2 1 3 5 7 9 8 6 4 2 Printed by LSC Communications, United States of America

For Marie and Diana


Introduction  1   1. How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas  13   2. Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism  41   3. The National Socialist “Left”  65   4. The Militants  89   5. The Nazi Voters  115   6. National Socialism Gains Power  139   7. Embracing the Volksgemeinschaft  165   8. Striving for Unanimity  189   9. The Quest for a Cultural Revolution  213 10. The Racist Ideology  239 11. Nationalism and Militarism  265 12. War and Genocide  289 Conclusion  315




Notes  333 Selected Bibliography  401 Index  429


What paths did true believers take to Nazism? Why did they join what was initially a small, extremist, and often violent movement on the fringes of German politics? When the party began its election campaigning, why did people increasingly vote for it during the years of the Great Depression from 1929 onward and make it the largest in the country? Even then, many millions withheld their support, as they would, if covertly, in the Third Reich. Were the recruits simply converted by hearing a spellbinding Hitler speech? Or did they find their own way to National Socialism? How was this all-​embracing theory applied in the Third Reich after 1933 and into the catastrophic war years? To what extent did people internalize or consume the doctrine of National Socialism, or reject it? In the first half of the book I examine how ordinary people became Nazis, or at least supported the party and voted for it in elections down to 1933. We need to remember that Hitler squeaked into power with the help of those in positions of power who wanted to get rid of democracy “forever.” Into the Third Reich I trace how the regime applied its teachings to major domestic and foreign political events, racial persecution, and cultural developments, including in art and architecture, and how people reacted or behaved in that context. This story begins with a focus on Hitler. Like millions of others after Germany’s lost war, he was psychologically adrift, searching for answers and some kind of political salvation. How did he find the tiny fringe group, the German Workers’ Party (DAP), that he and a few others


Hitler’s True Believers

transformed in 1920 into the imposing-​sounding National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), or Nazi Party? Insofar as Hitler had fixed ideas at the end of the Great War in 1918, high on the list was nationalism, in spite of the aspersions cast against it by mutinous sailors and rebellious soldiers tired of the fighting. Some aspects of what became his doctrine or ideology stemmed from the cluster of ideas, resentments, and passions widely shared in Germany at that time. His views and those of his comrades also reflected the fact that Germany was already a nation with a great deal of egalitarianism baked into its political culture. Almost without exception, the Nazis emphasized all kinds of socialist attitudes, to be sure a socialism “cleansed” of international Marxism and communism. Indeed, when he looked back from 1941, Hitler said of the NSDAP in the 1920s that “90 ninety percent of it was made up by left-​wing people.”1 He also thought it was “decisive” that he had recognized early in his career that solving the social question was essential, and he insisted that he hated the closed world in which he grew up, where social origins determined a person’s chances in life.2 A sense of the persistent appeals of both nationalism and socialism after 1918 was that many of the new or renamed political parties in the Weimar Republic, including the German Catholic Center Party, either possessed or adopted some form of socialist, nationalist, or racialist signifier in their new or modified names. Even the stodgy old conservatives had to change themselves into the cumbersome German National People’s Party (DNVP).3 The political Left in 1918 and 1919 soon fractured into the moderate Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and a breakaway from it in the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). It is worth noting the obvious, that both felt they still needed “Germany” in their titles, if only as a continuing nod to nationalism. The (renamed) liberals and conservatives went their own way. That Germany on the eve of Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in January 1933 continued to have a socialist-​oriented political culture can be illustrated by pointing to the last free elections of the Weimar Republic the previous November. No less than 71.6  percent of the vote went to parties with “socialist” or “communist” in their titles. It is true that these parties were bitter enemies, though they still shared widespread socialist attitudes and expectations. On top of that, a



hypothetical survey of German public opinion at the same time likely would have shown that the overwhelming majority—​cutting across all party lines—​would have resolutely rejected the humiliating Versailles Treaty of 1919 that blamed Germany for the Great War, forced it to pay reparations, limited its armed forces, and reduced its territory. No genius leader was needed to figure out that combining nationalism, socialism, and a hefty dose of militarism might produce a socially dynamic movement that could mobilize the entire nation. When Hitler returned to Munich in late 1918 it would have been impossible for him to overlook the antisemitism that was endemic in the city and much of the country, as it had been since well before the Great War. To some extent, he must have been steeped in an atmosphere hostile to Jews during his prewar years in Vienna. However, there is no reliable evidence that he had given expression to any race hatred before 1919, and in fact he had gotten along quite well with the Jews in his immediate environment. He remembered that, when his mother was suffering a lingering, painful death, Dr. Eduard Bloch, a Jew, did his best to help, and decades later Hitler saw to it that the doctor obtained safe passage out of the country.4 It was all the more appalling that from 1919 Hitler made radical and “rational” (as opposed to merely emotional) antisemitism a foundational part of his political “philosophy.” Unsurprisingly, therefore, during his search for a political credo after 1918 he latched on to conspiracy theories that circulated in great abundance, by which he could explain the complexities of his world, as well as the lost war, the “disgraceful” Versailles Treaty, and the Red revolutions across the land. According to such beliefs, the nation’s setbacks in foreign policy, and the discord in social life, all became explicable as the result of visible and omnipotent international wire-​pullers. Such conspiracy theories were so prominent at the time of the Nazi Party’s creation that it was unnecessary for Hitler to convince the first cohorts of true believers of “his” ideas, which were anything but unique, original, or restricted to Nazism. In due course, Hitler worked out a more complete political doctrine, cobbled together from nationalism, socialism, and antisemitism. Between 1920 and 1945, he outlined often how this theory would be used to revolutionize German society. In a September 1933 speech, for example, he observed that the Nazi Party had already secured “an


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absolute takeover of political power.” Merely to regard such a victory as the achievement of their goal, however, would be a grave mistake, he boasted proudly, because National Socialism was far more than a conventional political belief; it was a Weltanschauung or worldview. Getting power, therefore, was “simply the prerequisite to begin the quest for the real mission,” one that necessarily would entail a “transformation in almost all aspects of völkisch [racial] life.” There would be “ideological rejuvenation and the attendant racial cleansing,” as well as sweeping spiritual-​mental and cultural change, by which Germany would prove to the world its authority to lead and to dominate.5 The “racial cleansing,” we should note, pertained to finding a solution to the Jewish question, as well as getting Germany’s eugenic house in order through a thoroughgoing sterilization program. National Socialism sought more than to mobilize the politically homeless, because it aimed for the broadest possible constituency, and to do so by offering the “big Idea” to all “racially fit” Germans. To the true believers, this doctrine explained all that was wrong in their world and how to put it right. There would be a new order, a harmonious “community of the people,” or Volksgemeinschaft, as an alternative to their politically riven and class-​torn society. Together they would strive to overcome the defeat in the war and its attendant demoralization by cleaning up society, rejuvenating the militarist spirit, and restoring hope. This quest for renewal and redemption would rekindle German values into an “Aufbruchsstimmung,” a sense of euphoric “awakening,” that would sweep through the country and inevitably spill over the borders into vast stretches of Europe.6 Needless to say, there remained millions of people for whom everything about Nazism was unattractive, and as though he were admitting precisely that, Hitler said that it would take generations to create the kind of social world he desired. Although the true believers even disagreed vehemently among themselves on vital issues, and did not necessarily accept every aspect of National Socialist doctrine, such as how far and fast to push the socialist planks in the Nazi Party platform, each in their way committed exuberantly to the faith. Right after Hitler’s appointment, the dictatorship familiarized the nation of just over 65  million with its agenda, by attacking political opponents and using public violence against “race enemies” such as



the Jews.7 Indeed, broadly defined race thinking became part of the dominant ideology and rapidly made its way into everyday life, such as through the innocuous-​sounding law on the “restoration” of the civil service in April 1933. Although primarily aimed at Jews and political enemies, this law required all civil servants to fill out ancestral questionnaires and to prove their Aryan ancestry.8 The implications of this measure were vast precisely because of the size and scope of the bloated German bureaucracy, which included state employees from professors and teachers to railway employees, to those working for various authorities in Berlin, as well as in regional, local, and municipal government. In May 1939 this corps of civil servants grew to 4.7 million strong, so that forcing them to confront questions about racial ancestry immediately brought prejudicial ideas to their families, friends, and neighborhoods.9 Here was a reminder about the existential implications of National Socialism as the state’s ruling code. A similar racial “awakening” was in store for the millions more who joined the military, as they also had to show that their family tree had no Jewish branches. It went without saying that the SS needed to provide still more detailed proof. Even schoolchildren wishing to join the Hitler Youth were asked whether or not their parents and grandparents were Aryans, as were newlyweds hoping to take advantage of marriage loan schemes. A freshly ordained Reich Genealogical Authority gave its stamp of approval for the official-​ looking Ancestry Passes (Ahnenpässe), which sold in the tens of millions as race consciousness pervaded social life from cradle to grave. Little wonder that genealogical research became a thriving cottage industry.10 With remarkable suddenness National Socialism came to influence social, cultural, and political life in Germany from top to bottom, including the style of both the monumental buildings, as well as the social and racial concerns embodied in new “green” settlements that soon dotted the rural landscape. By no means were all these ideas derived from Hitler, for they reflected certain trends in Germany that existed already before 1933. Nor were people simply manipulated from “above,” and passive recipients of the messages from headquarters; they also could leverage the new teachings to attain their own ends or to settle scores with others, to capitalize on stigmatized enemies, especially the Jews, or to express their fanaticism and hatred.11


Hitler’s True Believers

Notwithstanding the importance of understanding these ideas and especially their appeal, I have found in my research into the Third Reich over the years that even well-​known historians have tended to dismiss Hitler’s ideology as “a catch-​all, a conglomeration, a hodgepodge of ideas,” as Martin Broszat put it.12 Although much has changed on that score in the last decades, National Socialism is often enough still not taken seriously or dismissed as nonsensical and irrational.13 How did such a “jumble of words” attract the devotion of so many true believers, among them the new joiners of the Nazi Party, which grew to 5,310,000 strong by 1939?14 No doubt these people committed with shadings of fidelity, as surely happened also to the millions in organizations affiliated with or sponsored by the Party. To mention only the larger ones by 1939, the German Labor Front (DAF) counted more than 22 million members, the Nationalist Socialist Welfare Organization (NSV) numbered more than 14 million, the Hitler Youth expanded to 8.7 million, and the German Women’s Enterprise (DFW) had 6.3 million in its ranks. The more ideologically driven SS had 235,526 members at the end of the prewar period. Indeed, by September 1, 1939, estimates place two-​thirds of the “Aryan” population in Germany in one or another of the Nazi Party’s numerous branches. Many of these people can fairly be described as true believers, at least for a time. Thus, around 98 percent of the half million or so “political leaders” of these many entities worked on an honorary basis and for no pay.15 Taken together, these legions of activists became steeped in Nazism and embraced these organizations’ educative-​ proselytizing missions. Even those who joined the vast movement to get on the bandwagon became involved in all kinds of mobilization exercises, including party activities, elections, education, policing, social work, celebrations, festivals, and marches, all adding to the overwhelming presence and unstoppable power of the “big Idea.”16 The first serious German study of National Socialism as a political doctrine appeared in 1964, when Ernst Nolte, at the time a respected intellectual historian, challenged the established narrative, which held that Hitler’s ideology, if not meaningless, merely performed the function of helping to mobilize the masses and to exercise power. Nolte focused on the historic roots of the ideas in a widely acclaimed book, which provided a comparative history of European fascist movements. Little can be gleaned from his book as to who made up the legions of



true believers. He brushed aside much of the “Nordic [aka Aryan] nonsense”—​as if this had not been taken seriously by many millions—​to suggest instead the alluringly simple thesis that the essence of the ideology was contained in the first four points of the Party’s 1920 program. These demanded self-​determination for all Germans, rejection of the Versailles Treaty (1919), “land and soil” (colonies) for settlement of excess population, and restriction of civil rights to those of German blood. For Nolte, as for numerous other writers, the doctrine changed little after 1924, that is, after Hitler wrote some of the first part of Mein Kampf. The basic trends of subsequent National Socialist rule, Nolte opined somewhat airily, were “national restitution, conquest of living space, and world salvation.” In fact, he said relatively little about Hitler in power, and gave a low profile to important components of Nazism, such as claiming that there was no need to discuss the socialist-​sounding aspects of the program, which Hitler supposedly had included for “purely demagogic” reasons, that is, to gain power.17 In this book, I revisit these contentions and reach quite different conclusions.18 Nolte was not alone in dismissing the “socialism” of National Socialism, which others have characterized as either “fake” or the enemy of the socialist idea.19 German writers commonly identify “genuine socialism” with the established left-​wing parties of those times and today. Yet it is worth recalling that socialism came in infinite varieties that stretched back into the nineteenth century. By the early twentieth century, numerous parties around the globe declared that they were the “real” socialists, and they damned all the others. One contemporary Austrian writer who was quite insistent about what he called “Nazi socialism” was the controversial liberal economist F. A. Hayek. As an émigré in London during the 1920s, he saw National Socialism as part of a broader collectivist movement in many parts of Europe, including in his adopted British home. His 1944 book The Road to Serfdom looked only briefly and selectively at the intellectual roots of National Socialism and said little about either its rise to power from 1920 or its manifestation in the Third Reich. Hayek used the charge of “socialism” as a kind of libertarian indictment against Nazism, and by extension all forms of government economic control.20 A number of writers have investigated the origins and development of antisemitism, which, to be sure, was widespread in Germany well


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before the rise of National Socialism.21 Others have looked into the mystical aspects of Nazism, including the occult and supernaturalism, though these impulses never became part of the mainstream under Hitler. More consequentially, several scholars have attempted to move their investigations away from narrow intellectual history to pursue other fruitful lines of inquiry.22 Cultural historians such as Johann Chapoutot have long dealt with related matters, and he underlines the importance of the Nazi discourses to social practices in the Third Reich. Like similar accounts, however, his does not examine how society might have reacted.23 Following others who trace the intellectuals and the experts in the SS, he examines the involvement of middle-​level lawyers, philosophers, and scientists.24 Beginning in 1933, the new regime aimed at a far broader revolution than among the elite, because it sought to transform the entire nation into true believers. I examine these efforts, their successes and failures, in the context of a host of changes that Hitler’s dictatorship carried through with great fanfare. Although cultural and intellectual historians have focused on aspects of this revolution, less attention has been devoted to how people received or consumed the cultural offerings that proved to be appealing.25 Historians of German foreign policy have had a great deal to say about Hitler’s worldview, sometimes claiming that he concocted a plan or program that he pursued, with tactical changes only, from 1920 to 1945. For at least fifty years, such work has been condemned for overpersonalizing the history of the Third Reich, for discounting Germany’s society and culture, and in effect for making “Nazism” synonymous with “Hitlerism.”26 Dismissing the mountains of criticism leveled at such studies, Brendan Simms reverts to an explicitly “Hitler-​centric” approach and claims with pride that his study is “context light.” He ends up tracing Hitler’s ruminations on international relations, yet strangely he insists that the man’s first and enduring preoccupation was Anglo-​America and global capitalism. The origins of this concern supposedly go back to the trenches in July 1918, when Hitler’s exhausted regiment faced an American assault and retreated. They took a few prisoners, he dropped off two of them at headquarters, and he said nothing more about it at the time.27



A better place to look for signs of Hitler’s budding ideology is the first surviving document we have of his convictions, and that is his notorious “letter to Gemlich,” well known and easily accessible online, that he wrote while still in the army on September 16, 1919.28 This is the first surviving evidence we have of his antisemitism, and thereafter it remained a core element in National Socialism, becoming a hot-​button issue into the Third Reich. What raises doubts about the primacy of Anglo-​America in Hitler’s doctrine is that already in 1919, the United States had retreated to isolationism and would maintain that stance for the next twenty years. From time to time during the 1920s and 1930s, Hitler mulled over gray thoughts about America’s potential and its destination for German emigrants who settled there. He also waxed and waned about Great Britain, especially how to win it over as a “natural ally.” Politically, however, apart from going along with the universal desire to get rid of the Versailles Treaty, selling the Anglo-​American danger to voters during his rise to power was not a priority, and it really only became a major issue closer to the war in 1939. The crucial point in any case is that National Socialism was not monolithic, for it was diverse and varied regionally, locally, and in big cities sometimes by neighborhood. Moreover, it is vital to take into account the preexisting political culture, social norms, and the collective ideology of groups like the Nazi SS, which did not act simply to fulfill Hitler’s orders or wishes but pursued a multitude of their own motives.29 The militants, the party joiners and voters, even the SS elite, often accepted most of the ideological “truths” before they came across Hitler or his writings. During the formative period of the National Socialist movement up to 1933, activists brought additional theories and beliefs with them, and encouraged by Hitler, into the Third Reich they capitalized on the party to realize aims of their own. What they regarded among themselves as roughly speaking their “big Idea” was not simply derived from their leader. As a matter of fact, soon after Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in 1933, the German military and the intellectual-​dominated bureaucracy—​many of whom had likely never stooped to vote for the Nazi Party—​supplemented, embraced, or tried to make the most of some or all of its teachings.30 During the years of the Third Reich,


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Hitler changed his mind on numerous, important issues, though a diehard intentionalist might insist these were only tactical shifts and that the strategy remained unchanged. In 1918 and 1919, Hitler shared the widespread hatred for all the Allied powers, though when it came to setting down more concrete political realities, the Nazi Party program of 1920 said nothing about Britain or the United States, and little about foreign policy, with the obvious exception of rejecting the Treaty of Versailles. The program demanded colonies, and then quietly dropped the matter later, as it did with other inconvenient items. In September 1922, Hitler announced the nebulous goal of first establishing a new Germany, one not created on a “Jewish, but a Germanic basis,” that would serve as the foundation for an “Aryan world order.”31 In the last chapters of the second volume of Mein Kampf, published in December 1926, he turned briefly to foreign policy, though without presenting a specific plan. Fundamentally there would be no such thing as living in peaceful coexistence with neighbors. The main reason, allegedly, was that the nation’s population was too large, and he wanted it to grow. Solutions like limiting the birth rate, colonizing more sparsely settled regions within the country, or sending the excess population overseas were not just wrong, they were positively harmful. Instead he demanded “the acquisition of new soil” inside Europe, and the only place enough of it existed was in the Soviet Union.32 While the notion that Germany needed living space reached as far back as the eighteenth century, for Hitler the drive to the east came to rest primarily on a biological “law” that gave the Aryans a natural right to expand their Lebensraum. Such a policy was consistent with National Socialism’s social ideal, by which each healthy individual had a right to a minimum amount of property or space, of which Germany supposedly had too little to match its population.33 Studying Hitler’s doctrine, including the varieties of it adopted by true believers, still involves dealing with aspects of his biography. Unfortunately, these accounts have become clouded by the omnipresence of his “charisma,” a word derived from sociologist Max Weber, and increasingly used by Hitler biographers in the twenty-​first century to explain his appeal and rule.34 The current Wiktionary definition of charisma, which encapsulates popular parlance, gives three kinds of



meanings:  “personal charm or magnetism”; in Christianity, “a power granted by the Holy Spirit”; and “the ability to influence without using logic.” Was that really how Hitler led a nation of millions of educated people, illogically and simply by charm or other emotional tricks? The problem that occurs as soon as we mention Hitler’s “charisma” is to close off questions as to what other historical actors, including ordinary people, might have done or believed and to magnify the significance of one man. Quite apart from how useful the concept of charisma might have been, at this time it is used loosely to describe someone or anything that is very “attractive,” such as movie stars, animals, landscape scenes, and even personal attire. The word has become nearly meaningless and is often misleading when applied to Hitler’s doctrine and his rule. Analyzing Hitler soberly and critically, it is more reasonable to suggest that he became a kind of representative figure for ideas, emotions, and aims that he shared with thousands of true believers, and eventually millions of others who were on the same wavelength. Even so, many who became important leaders, and those in the ranks, were committed to National Socialism or variations of it long before laying eyes on that man or reading his work. They projected onto him the properties of the necessary leader, a commanding figure with a military style at the head of a uniformed corps with which they would rally the masses, storm the barricades, and take power. He performed the essential task of bringing them together and providing a focal point for their energies. He became the Nazi Party’s main attraction in the early 1920s, and made it stand out from its competitors. What remains stunning and in need of exploration was how and why millions of people, never all of them, in such an educated and cultured nation eventually came to accept or accommodate themselves to the tenets of an extremist doctrine laced with hatred, and laden with such obvious murderous implications.


How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas

The first thirty years of Adolf Hitler’s life gave not the slightest hint of any leadership qualities, inclination to politics as a career, or abilities as a public speaker. Born into a family of modest means in 1889, in the sleepy border town of Braunau on the Inn River in Austria-​Hungary, he tended to be withdrawn, shy, and more inclined to the arts than anything. At age twelve he saw his first Richard Wagner opera (Lohengrin), an endurance test of more than three hours that captivated him enough to make him a lifelong Wagner enthusiast. Otherwise and contrary to later speculation, his was largely a “normal” youth. He showed some talent for drawing, and those who knew him were impressed by the artist in him.1 He appears to have read the biographies of artists, and though we do not know the exact volumes, they seem to have affirmed his desire for an aesthetic existence. After the death of his stern father in 1903, Hitler’s over-​indulgent mother soon allowed him to drop out of school, and he set his hopes on attending the Academy of Visual Arts in Vienna. Nevertheless, his first attempt to gain entrance in September 1907 did not succeed, and magnifying the shock, his beloved mother passed away that December. Hitler later said he sought an interview with the Academy’s rector and an explanation for why he had not been accepted. When they met, at least as the later politician told the story, the professor was surprised to learn that the young man had not studied architecture, as his sketches showed obvious talent in that area, rather than in painting.2 Although downcast, Hitler relates somewhat


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vaguely that he decided to focus his future on becoming an architect, and yet in October 1908 he applied again to the same school, only to be turned down once more. His psychological makeup was such that these rejections tended to confirm his convictions of being like other “unrecognized geniuses,” especially those he deemed to be talented in painting and architecture who had experienced similar setbacks. Hitler liked to represent his life to others as being determined by fate, including being born on the Austrian-​German border, so that chance had somehow ordained him as the unifier of the two countries. That was how he put it in his autobiography, Mein Kampf, written in the 1920s. There he also claimed that it was no accident that had led him to Vienna, because it was in that city that he fashioned his “image of the world and a Weltanschauung [worldview] that became the granite foundation” of all that he did. Notwithstanding his dreary everyday struggles, according to his account, Vienna turned out to be the perfect place to study the social question.3 Obviously, we cannot simply take his narratives at face value, particularly the triumph-​over-​adversity scenarios, because in his book Hitler portrayed himself as a born leader, blessed by the gods, and rising from the mists to save Germany. He tells his readers that in Vienna he read enormously, without mentioning specific books or authors, though he focused on art and architecture, studying in detail the grand buildings in Vienna’s Ringstrasse.4 Historians have noted that he immersed himself in the daily Red newspapers of the Social Democrats, the political party that based itself on the teachings of Karl Marx. Hitler said he had never heard of Marxism before he was seventeen, and that it was in search of its “real aims” that he found antisemitism, of which in the prewar era there was an abundance. This ominous racial and politically organized variety of this phobia thrived in parts of his native Austria, as well as in Germany since the 1880s. Nevertheless, in 1922 he looked down on what he called the well-​meaning schoolmasters, professors, and pastors among the pre-​1914 antisemitic organizers for having been too mild-​ mannered and thus achieving nothing.5 To this day, however, we have no reliable evidence to verify his hatred of the Jews before 1919. The Vienna in which he lived until 1913, the largest city in the multinational empire of Austria-​Hungary, was a hive of nationalist rivalries and intellectual activity, and it would have been hard to miss some

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


of the numerous popularizers of works loosely derived from Charles Darwin. His study On the Origin of Species (1859) was easily simplified into catchphrases that made their way into the budding racial discourse. Numerous writers propagated a kind of vulgarized “Darwinism,” loosely derived from the Englishman’s writings. His theory contained both an optimistic, peaceful strand that saw evolution as the “motor of humanitarian progress,” as well as the selection principle that emphasized a brutal “struggle for survival.”6 Some writers began to discern that modern civilized living contained a deadly threat in that the caring society looked after the weak and poor, thereby ruining the inherited racial substance and leading to degeneracy. These ideas were widely disseminated by assorted intellectuals, few of them in the mainstream. Nevertheless, various accounts have shown how these ideas gained influence, and not only because some of the popularizers’ books became best-​sellers.7 An international eugenics movement went back to Francis Galton, a cousin of Darwin himself. Galton’s Hereditary Genius (1869) posited that the general intelligence of society could be improved by eugenics, or in more blunt terms, by selective breeding. Medical doctor Alfred Ploetz put forward similar teachings in a work published in 1895 on “racial hygiene,” and it became one of the foundation stones of German eugenics teachings. According to Ploetz, who relied on a commonly used narrative, races rose and declined in history, and he sought to ensure the “racial heath” (Rassenhygiene) of the Germans. Ploetz was not simply a racist, for he wrote that the antisemitism of his day was at best “an empty gesture,” and that racial mixing did not necessarily lead to weakening the race. His typical eugenic worry was that social welfare permitted the weak to survive and procreate, which could lead to racial degeneration (Entartung), especially because war or revolution could eliminate the fittest.8 Some of the same concerns could be found in the large tome by Houston Stewart Chamberlain, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, which appeared in Vienna in 1899 and became a literary sensation. Though a Briton, Chamberlain took German nationality and became a Richard Wagner biographer and devotee, going so far as to marry Wagner’s youngest daughter, Eva, in 1908. He justified selective breeding and provided a “rational” explanation for the emergence of


Hitler’s True Believers

the modern “Jewish Question,” and he warned gravely that solving it was crucial for “our future.”9 Later in life Hitler recalled studying racial theory (Rassenkunde), as well as in the area of the military, without mentioning any authors.10 He came to possess many volumes, including numerous ones inscribed to him by their authors, though exactly which he took to heart remains uncertain. Thus, caution is advised in deducing how the 1,200 or so books that happened to survive from Hitler’s private library might have shaped his life.11 Tracing intellectual influences behind anyone’s later behavior is notoriously difficult. He admitted to reading Chamberlain at some point, a book that was laced with long anti-​Jewish sections. It adopted an anti-​Darwinian tone, though Chamberlain used phrases of the moment, such as struggle for existence and racial struggle. He also provided critiques of some of the major racial theorists of the century. For example, he evaluated the oft-​mentioned Arthur de Gobineau, best known for his Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853–​1855). As usual for such authors, he offered a racial typology of the yellow, black, and white races, with the Aryans being superior among the last-​named, by virtue of their language. If Chamberlain agreed that race provided the key to the rise and fall of civilizations, he felt that Gobineau was wrong about the inevitability of racial decline.12 The learned-​sounding Englishman came up with his own five “laws” for breeding or fostering a noble race, although none of his theory was scientifically verifiable.13 In Vienna at the turn of the century and during Hitler’s stay, the wildest ideas circulated about race, sex, and genius, including much in Chamberlain and in Otto Weininger’s Sex and Character, published in that city in 1903. He claimed that the genius (always a male) “knows everything, without having learned it.”14 That was just how Hitler came to see himself, a self-​taught generalist, gifted, and needing no formal education which was also the secret to his originality. Although the Jewish Weininger said he did not intend to comfort the antisemitic movement, just as Chamberlain rejected crude scapegoating of Jews, they were among many intellectuals that gave anti-​Jewish prejudice a certain respectability by providing it with some sort of rational-​ sounding basis.15 In the meantime, whatever Hitler’s dreams of becoming an artist of some kind might have been, and however much of the age’s racist

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


atmosphere he might have absorbed, he had to earn a mundane living as a painter of postcards. By age twenty, with both parents already deceased, he found himself adrift and jobless, until late 1909, when he hit rock bottom and landed in a homeless shelter. His move early the next year to a men’s hostel represented a slight improvement, and over the next three years, while eking out a meager living as a painter, he steeped himself in the biographies of other “unrecognized geniuses” and architecture. What he later called his “studies” were in fact his own readings.16 His lowly existence on the margins of society continued until his birthday on April 20, 1913, when he received funds from his father’s inheritance, spurring him to leave for Munich, where he registered as an “architectural painter.” The attraction for him in the Bavarian capital was its reputation as a center for the arts. Again, he got by with doing postcards as he had in Vienna, studied more architecture, and may even have submitted sketches in a competition for the design of a Berlin opera house. Nothing ever quite worked out, and he fended off rejections with the cold consolation of being an “unrecognized genius.”17 Art historian Birgit Schwarz convincingly argues that he did not give up his artistic dreams to become a politician because he had long since concluded that only artists could become great politicians or strategists, and he needed to see himself as one to affirm his sense of being uniquely gifted. He marveled at figures such as Frederick the Great and the theoretician of war Carl von Clausewitz. It was during those earlier times that he came to believe in himself and that he had some kind of special mission to fulfill.18 The dramatic turn in Hitler’s life, as for much of Europe, came in August 1914 and the outbreak of what became the First World War. No one wanted to heed the ominous signs that the dawning clash of arms would be like no other.19 Hitler volunteered to fight, as did millions of others around the world. In 1915, he began attaching special meaning to the war, to follow a February letter to a Munich landlord. When he and his comrades returned home, he said in a threatening tone, they hoped to “find it purer and cleansed of foreignness.” They wanted to “smash Germany’s enemies abroad but also destroy our internal internationalism—​that would be worth more than any territorial


Hitler’s True Believers

gains.”20 Exactly what he meant by this “foreignness” remains unclear. That he continued to be a committed “artistic” type can be gathered from how he spent leaves from the front in Berlin. Instead of indulging in the seamy side of the capital, he visited museums and deepened his love for art and architecture.21 One of the key moments in the emergence of National Socialism, and by no means just for Hitler, came with the revolution on November 9, 1918, followed by an unanticipated armistice two days later. A new Social Democratic government signed it, to mark Germany’s defeat in the war. Hitler heard the news in a military hospital, became deeply embittered, and returned to Munich on November 21, to find a city riven by a left-​wing revolution. At its head was the radical Independent Socialist Kurt Eisner, who since November 7 had led the Bavarian government. Eisner’s behavior was bound to alienate nationalists when, for example, on November 25 he went to Berlin and all but demanded that Germany accept responsibility for the war. Apparently, he expected national contrition for a sin that soldiers like Hitler vehemently denied having committed.22 Not surprisingly for Eisner, the first Bavarian state elections on January 12, 1919, signaled his utter defeat, as his party won only three seats out of 180. Yet speaking to the Socialist International in Switzerland on February 3, he won loud and long applause for his admission of Germany’s war-​guilt.23 After his return to Munich and on his way to resign on February 21, right-​wing radicals assassinated the unfortunate man. What followed, after a brief pause, was an even more radical Bavarian Soviet Republic (April 7 to May 1), whose leaders included Gustav Landauer, Ernst Toller, and Erich Mühsam. Like Eisner they were also Jews, a point that the racists never failed to make. The new Communist Party in Germany, the KPD in Berlin, had dispatched to Munich Eugen Leviné, who with his comrades asserted control on April 13, declaring that Bavaria had created “the dictatorship of the proletariat.” Following Vladimir Lenin’s model in Russia, Leviné, who was Jewish and born in St. Petersburg, alienated good citizens with his far-​reaching agenda and the violence in the streets, where twenty-​one people were killed.24 The end came with more horror, starting on April 30 when the Red Army murdered ten hostages, which the paramilitary Freikorps

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


(free corps) avenged with more killing.25 The behavior of the Council Republics appalled the völkisch (racialist) organizations, which claimed that such political experiments somehow “proved” the link between the Jews and Russian Bolshevism.26 The inveterate diarist Victor Klemperer, who was there, noted that nine-​tenths of Munich cheered the liberators, even when many of them came from the otherwise distrusted Berlin and Prussia.27 We have only scattered documentation for what Hitler was doing during these tumultuous months, though detailed local research strongly suggests that he was far more sympathetic than often supposed to the socialism that then held Munich in its grip.28 On April 15—​that is, during the radical period in Munich—​Hitler had been elected to a soldiers’ council as a representative of his company, so that technically he served under the authority of the Reds.29 It is unlikely that he flip-​ flopped about the international aspect of socialism or ever embraced it. That he might have favored these Marxian Socialists would have appeared most inconvenient to his later career, even if those “Red” experiences were consistent with what would become his own political theory. On May 9, when Hitler’s regiment investigated the troops who had supported the Munich rebels, he found himself on a three-​man commission scrutinizing the very regime he had previously served.30 He recalled in Mein Kampf that this service was his “first more or less entirely politically active task,” which was examining the misdeeds of the Reds, though he carefully skipped over any role he might have played himself. Then in June the army in Bavaria started choosing candidates to take a course to become speakers on anti-​Communism, and Hitler began with a third group, whose “education” ran from July 10 to 19. They enjoyed it, though curiously enough they even toyed with creating a “Social Revolutionary Party,” whose social views could be realized only by a revolution. That made it sound as if he were proud of his socialist tendencies, even though no evidence has been found of this group.31 During Hitler’s military “schooling,” Gottfried Feder, one of the lecturers, spoke about “breaking interest slavery.” His over-​ simple theory was that the abolition of interest and nationalization of the banks and stock exchange would be “the only possible and ultimate emancipation of productive work from the secret, overwhelming power


Hitler’s True Believers

of money.” Marxian Socialism’s great mistake, he said, was not understanding the differences between industrial capital, which was essential to the economy, and loan capital (Leihkapital), which held humanity in its bondage. Feder wanted a German socialism because he understood workers and employers as belonging together and that both were part of the production process, without which there would be no life, culture, or progress.32 It was easy for participants to see the link Feder wanted to draw between “exploitive high finance” and international Jews. At least that was what Hermann Esser, another participant in the course, concluded.33 Thus, Hitler was hardly alone in his psychological readiness for such messages. In Mein Kampf he referred to Feder’s book as the “catechism” of the National Socialist movement, and tellingly for his budding doctrine, with its emphasis on conspiracies, he concluded that “the fight against international finance and loan capital” was the key to Germany’s “struggle for its economic independence and freedom.”34 During his brief training, he impressed instructors by his passion, commitment, and ability to speak, so they sent him with other members of the “educational” or propaganda commando, to a camp in nearby Lechfeld. Between August 20 and 25, the men had to listen to Hitler and others attempting to explain the Versailles Treaty’s “peace conditions and the reconstruction.” This treaty had been presented by the Allies on May 7, 1919, was signed under duress on June 28, and soon unleashed a bitter nationalist backlash. For many people, this announcement and Germany’s ratification of the shocking peace terms on July 9 brought home definitively their loss in the war, and that recognition likely played a significant role in Hitler’s political transformation.35 In fact, during the early summer of 1919 the new Right began strenuously denouncing their own government and those deemed to be the powers behind the promotion and signing of the peace treaty.36 It was in that context that Hitler’s immediate officer, Captain Karl Mayr, tasked him as an “educational officer” with checking on the plethora of right-​wing and racialist parties in the city.37 On September 12, Hitler went to a meeting of the German Workers’ Party (DAP), together with a half-​dozen comrades, though he was not there as a “spy,” as historians often claim, because Captain Mayr knew the DAP well enough. It was the progeny of the secretive Thule Society, whose

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


mission was “to fight capitalism and the Jews.” Members of this group included co-​founders of the DAP Anton Drexler and Karl Harrer. The tiny party, in Drexler’s words, saw itself as “a socialist organization” that had to “be led by Germans.”38 It boasted of influential sponsors such as the publicist and playwright Dietrich Eckart. The latter’s journal Auf gut Deutsch (In plain German) featured antisemitic and anti-​Bolshevik writers, and Eckart became one of Hitler’s early patrons, even something of a mentor.39 With some exaggeration, the larger-​than-​life Eckart has been labeled as the “earliest ideological brain” of the Nazi Party.40 At the first meeting of the tiny DAP that Hitler and his army friends visited, they heard from none other than Gottfried Feder, whom Hitler earlier had found so impressive, speaking on the topic:  “How and with What Means Can Capitalism Be Destroyed?” The Munich police concluded that the tiny DAP was left-​wing, though it was by no means international socialist.41 Hitler’s brief intervention at the meeting caught the eye of DAP co-​founder Anton Drexler, who gave him a copy of his autobiographical pamphlet. After reading it, Hitler noted in Mein Kampf that it had reminded him of his own struggle to overcome the confusion of Marxism.42 Drexler wanted to reawaken Germany, create “genuine socialism,” and therefore to wrest it from what he called its “racially foreign (fremdvölkisch) and selfish leadership.”43 When Hitler had arrived back in Germany, the political landscape was already dotted with numerous nationalistic and völkisch groups, some of which joined together at Bamberg on February 18, 1919. The effort was led by several prominent organizations, including the Pan-​ German League, and the Reich Hammer Association that for years was led by the activist Theodor Fritsch. His notorious Anti-​Semites Catechism (1887) long provided a guide for true believers, such as by listing the negative remarks about Jews from famed persons in history. His proposal to solve the “Jewish question” was to reverse the emancipation of the Jews and place them under a special foreigner’s law that would lead to their complete social isolation. Left unresolved was what would happen next, though such questions were laden with murderous implications.44 Among Fritsch’s other books was one on The City of the Future, published in 1896. It offered a glimpse into the völkisch utopia, in which future garden cities would provide racially acceptable dwellers


Hitler’s True Believers

an alternative to the evils of the big city. His writings hinted at the links between antisemitism, eugenics, and environmentalism that became integral to National Socialism.45 Hitler would not agree with everything in Fritsch and was far more radical, though he nevertheless accepted the importance of getting back to the soil. National Socialism came to put a great deal of stock in providing suitable “racial comrades” with a green home and garden in settlements outside the corrupting influences of the modern big city. In 1929, when Hitler considered his ten-​year struggle, he thanked “our old master Fritsch” and those like him for their pioneering work. He also claimed that, rightly or not, he became aware of the “Jewish danger” after his own eighteenth birthday, which would have been 1907. Since that year he claimed to have read everything on that question, though the antisemitic literature of those years, as he put it, was based mainly on emotions or religion, and was “still far from as scientifically explained [sic!] as today.”46 On the occasion of the Fritsch book’s thirtieth edition in 1930, Hitler sent him a congratulatory note.47 In Bamberg in 1919, Fritsch’s association, the Pan-​Germans, and others formed the German-​Racialist Defense and Defiance Association (Deutschvölkischer Schutz-​ und Trutz-​Bund, DVSTB). It featured the swastika as its propagandist symbol, one well known in prewar Vienna. Such groups had flourished during the war and grew more extremist in the wake of defeat. The new organization liked to claim that it was no coincidence that Germany’s decline came with the rise of the Jews, the usurers, and sense of inner dissolution.48 In May 1919, membership in the DVSTB had already reached 70,000, while hundreds of local groups raised its banner.49 Hitler’s first political remarks of which we have any record occurred in August and September 1919. A complete address he gave on August 23 dealt with the peace conditions and reconstruction, a hot topic at the time, though the speech itself has been lost, as has one he held at Lechfeld later that month. An army report said the latter had touched on capitalism and had such a marked anti-​Jewish tone that it could be deemed highly inflammatory.50 The first surviving document of Hitler’s political emergence stems from September 16, 1919, when Captain Karl Mayr asked him to respond to a query from a soldier—​Adolf Gemlich—​about antisemitism. Hitler’s letter indicated that race-​hatred

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


must have been festering inside him since his days in Vienna.51 He revealed a knowledge of the racist canon, and he called for the “uncompromising removal” of all the Jews using all legal measures.52 Neither this letter nor his previous remarks make any mention of hostility to Anglo-​America, though the Gemlich note does have an anti-​capitalist and socialist flavor that became a marked feature of Hitler’s subsequent career. Which of the phobias came first, in the absence of corroborating testimony, remains an open question. Certainly from 1919 onward, antisemitism stayed at the core of Hitler’s doctrine, though he kept changing his mind about Great Britain and the United States. America’s threat remained distant, partly because of its retreat to isolationism after the Great War, from which it did not emerge as a significant factor in Europe for at least twenty years. And he kept his hopes high in winning over Great Britain as Germany’s natural ally.53 After the first appearance of Hitler’s hostility to the Jews he never let up on it, though that does not mean there existed a straight line from 1920 to the Holocaust years. If he had a primary objective in the early 1920s, it was the vague one he likely shared with millions of creating a strong Germany that could overcome the nation’s crushing defeat in the war.54 At any rate, he joined the DAP and soon outshone co-​chairs Karl Harrer and Anton Drexler to become the tiny party’s main attraction. To gain more publicity, the executive, including Drexler and also Hitler, outlined a new program on February 24, 1920. When Hitler read out their brief twenty-​five-​point platform to the overflow meeting, the crowd alternatively applauded or booed wildly. Several days later they changed the party’s name to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or NSDAP.55 More was involved in the ideology of the new Party than its rabid hostility to the Jews. Its marked socialism, for example, represented one of many varieties of the creed that its believers found more valid and appealing than Marxist-​based versions. Hitler later confessed to a meeting of his generals and officers that if he had gone to the existing parties way back in 1920 and told them they had to drop all their class-​ based pretentions and traditions—​which he hated—​to create a genuine Volksgemeinschaft, they would have thrown him out as a “crazy fool.”56 This concept of the community of the people was by no means a Nazi


Hitler’s True Believers

creation, and various political parties—​including the socialists—​had used it well before and during the First World War.57 Although it is common to claim that the new 1920 party program “contained no original ideas,” the same could be said of virtually all the other political parties.58 The planks in the program, Hitler said later, were meant to be “guiding principles” or a “political creed” with which ordinary people could identify. Apart from the predictable demand to revoke the Versailles Treaty, as well as to acquire “land and soil,” that is, colonies to feed its people, the program said little about foreign policy, and nothing about Anglo-​America. What comes through was a social vision of a strong interventionist state, opposition to finance capitalism and the Jews, as well as Pan-​Germanic nationalism. There would be censorship, even laws against certain trends in art and literature, a crackdown on crime “injurious to the common good,” confiscation of war profits, opposition to further immigration, and complete denial of citizenship to Jews. On the other hand, the program also featured typically socialist demands summed up in the slogan “the common good before individual interests.” Another point on land reform even called for certain expropriations of land for communal purposes, without paying compensation. Also in a socialist vein, the program mentioned demands for wide-​ranging health care, the education of gifted children at state expense, old-​age insurance, and profit-​sharing in large enterprises.59 Even conceding that some of the original points might be rephrased, Hitler later thought that trying to do so could impede the will to fight for the new idea, whose full implications would take years to realize.60 On March 31, 1920, the army finally demobilized Hitler, perhaps because Germany had to downsize its military in keeping with the Versailles Treaty, which permitted it to have no more than 100,000 troops. After over five and a half years, he was a civilian once again. Surprisingly, given his socially withdrawn personality, almost overnight he became a professional politician, apparently the only one the party could support at the time. Within a week he clarified his stance against the Jews, when he seized the word at a meeting in Munich’s Hofbräuhaus after someone else spoke on “Aryans and Jews.” With no concern about being challenged, Hitler leveled the bogus charge that only a few Jews had served in the

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


First World War, though going forward, he said, “We don’t want to be emotional antisemites, who want to create a mood for pogroms. What animates us is the unrelenting determination to attack the evil at its source, and to eradicate it root and branch.”61 Privately, in August the same year, he spoke of having to deal with the Jews as if they were a “bacillus,” in order to restore the healthy body.62 Thus it was early in his career that he began referring to the Jews with pestilential metaphors, such as calling them a “racial tuberculous” that had to be excised.63 This scurrilous way of talking had been common among antisemites since the 1880s.64 Later in life Hitler prided himself on having “recognized the Jew,” and he boasted of being Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch in that he would lead “the same struggle” against the Jews as “a bacillus” that he saw as the root “of all social decomposition.”65 Frequently Hitler stated flatly that Germany only got into the war in 1914 because of the Jews, who were to blame for it, and they had systematically undermined the country through black marketeering. He ended a raucous meeting on April 17, 1920, with a call of “Out with the Jews. Germany for the Pan-​Germans!”66 One of his foundational speeches came on August 13, when he audaciously addressed a large audience in the Hofbräuhaus about why the Nazi Party embraced antisemitism. First of all, he brought out his socialistic charges. He contrasted the Aryan races with the Jews, claiming that “Aryanism means the ethical perception of work, and that which we today so often hear—​socialism, community spirit, common good before individual interests. Jewry means egotistic attitude to work, Mammonism [the rule of money] and materialism, the very opposite of socialism.” He blamed the Jews as the carriers of what he called stock-​exchange capitalism, not to be confused with productive industrial capitalism. It would be nonsensical to fight the latter as the Jewish Marxists demanded, because if it were destroyed it would soon have to be created all over again.67 Nor would merely socializing industries lead anywhere, because the real enemy was loan and finance capital, which was “the only thing on earth that is truly international, in that its carrier, the Jews are international through their distribution across the world.” Therefore, so his strained argument went, their power could be broken only by a national force, a statement greeted enthusiastically by the crowd.68


Hitler’s True Believers

Secondly, Hitler blamed “the Jew as parasite” for attacking the racial purity of the nation, for undermining “the power in its blood” and thus robbing it of its pride. The Jews supposedly did everything to chip away at the health of the body politic, and when all else failed, destroyed its means of livelihood, as in the Soviet Union. Thirdly, the argument went, the Jews aimed to destroy culture, from painting to literature, theater, and music. He would follow up these charges in great detail later. Therefore, from the infancy of his career, there was a built-​in and detailed contrast between the “Aryan” Germans and the radical “other” in the Jews. Toward the end of this long speech, he laid down the principles that bound the new movement together. These included “socialism as the final concept of duty, the moral duty to work, not just for oneself but also for one’s fellow man’s sake, above all with respect to the principle: Common good before individual good.” This socialism was inseparable from nationalism and would only be possible in “Aryan nations.” “If we are socialists,” he posited, “then we must necessarily be antisemites, the contrary to materialism and Mammonism, against which we fight.” He swore that “The time will come in which it will be self-​evident, that socialism can only be realized when it is accompanied by nationalism and antisemitism.” These three concepts—​socialism, nationalism, and antisemitism—​were, he said, “the foundations of our program, and therefore we call ourselves:  National Socialists.” As for what to do against the Jews as what he deemed the primary enemy, he promised that when “this matter comes to a solution, it will also be done and thoroughly.”69 Thus, the threat of dire consequences in the hate-​filled rhetoric was there from the beginning. In numerous follow-​ up meetings, Hitler added more fanciful charges, such as that in history the Jews “intentionally” destroyed cultures, economies, even spread the false conviction that it was not gifted individuals, but the majority that made history. The Jews, so he charged, “ruined the art of nations to destroy them,” took over the press, used Marxism to enslave workers, and led them into a continuing civil war.70 Here he was repeating a refrain well known for years in antisemitic circles.71 The NSDAP would have “to remove the Jews,” with Hitler often labeling them a “pestilence” that had “falsified and poisoned the national and the social idea.”72 He contended that the

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


Jews only laughed at the political impotence of the völkisch (racialist) groups who failed to address the social problem and therefore would never win the workers away from Social Democracy. Instead of that, his option was more radical: “Today German-​völkisch must not be to dream, but to be revolutionary; not to be satisfied with mere scientific-​ analytic knowledge, but to possess the passionate will to translate words into deeds.”73 Was he now the “great man” supposedly awaited by ordinary people in Germany? As of May 1921, he still said privately that he was merely an “agitator,” not the statesman, the dictator, or “the genius” the nation needed in order to rise again.74 Yet he grew possessive about heading the party and felt threatened when similar groups wanted to join forces. He spurned the antisemitic German Socialist Party, the largest of the lot, for its willingness to participate in elections. Drexler and others in the NSDAP persisted in trying to bring the two parties together. Then there was Dr. Otto Dickel, who in March 1921 had founded the German Works Community (Deutsche Werkgemeinschaft or DWG) in Augsburg and expressed interest in linking up with the NSDAP. Although Hitler wanted no such thing, that June when he was in Berlin, Drexler invited Dickel to give what turned out to be a well-​ received speech. As the author of an acclaimed book, The Resurrection of the West, he challenged the best-​selling Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West. Indeed, Hitler also rejected Spengler’s large tome because of its fatalism, and he might have openly embraced more of Dickel’s book (which he had read), for it made anti-​Jewish and socialistic claims that we now associate with Hitler.75 Dickel took a more differentiated approach to the “Jewish question,” though much of what he said is disturbing enough to the modern reader.76 Whatever their differences, Hitler chose to see Dickel as a threat, and so demonized him. On July 10, 1921, Hitler showed up unannounced to a meeting of the three parties—​the NSDAP, the German Socialist Party (DSP), and Dickel’s own DWG—​ in Augsburg. Dickel dared (realistically enough) to suggest that the program of the NSDAP was suitable only for the “short term,” and needed to be broadened to include farmers, who might be put off by seeing “socialist” and “workers” in the Party’s name. Such propositions infuriated Hitler, whose sense of insecurity or


Hitler’s True Believers

inability to deal with this better-​educated rival led him to stomp out of the meeting, and the next day he resigned from the party.77 In a long note thereafter, he told the committee of the NSDAP, they should never have allowed Dickel to speak. In response, Anton Drexler and others begged their star to return, and when Hitler sensed their vulnerability he set conditions. Among other things, he demanded calling a gathering that he would ask to confer on him the title “chairman with dictatorial powers.” Provocatively, he asserted (with emphasis in the original) that “Germany’s salvation can only come about, not through parliament, but through a revolution.”78 This mini power-​play worked, and on July 29, he triumphed at a conference in Munich that voted in favor of his complete control.79 On April 12, 1922, when Hitler lectured the Nazi Party in Munich about its basic ideas, he began by asking whether 1918 was really an achievement, as the Left commonly boasted, or a miserable collapse.80 Who had an interest in another such failure? Supposedly only the Jews, though the masses were beginning to catch on. If the socialist idea was still monopolized by left-​wing parties, one day a mighty nationalist movement like theirs would embrace that idea and bring intellectuals and workers together. Then the real resistance would begin, presumably against the Jews, whom Hitler painted as being intent on dividing the nation against itself. The bogus charge against the Jews was that they had hived off the social idea and directed it into Marxian internationalism, a perspective that called for change: “We said to ourselves that to be ‘national’ above all else means boundless and all-​embracing love for the people.” At the same time, “To be social means to construct the state and community of the people in such a way that each individual deed is in the interest of the community of the people.” In one of his typically apocalyptic prophesies, he declared there would be:  “Either victory of the Aryan side or its extermination and victory of the Jews.”81 During the summer of 1922, he fleshed out his grand conspiracy theory, so that when on July 28 he spoke to an enthusiastic audience that overflowed the Bürgerbräukeller, he sketched the history of the fight “between the ideals of the national-​völkisch minded, and the implacable, borderless International,” namely the Jews. As he saw things, the struggle had begun 120  years earlier in England, Russia, France, and elsewhere, as the Jews obtained citizenship, and they then led a

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


“massive process of the extermination of our people and our fatherland.”82 According to his theory, Jews subsequently became the leaders of capitalism and socialism, and ultimately aimed to take over the world. If workers had organized and protested poor conditions or looked for better wages, that was only natural. “Indeed, as a noble conception, [socialism] has grown only out of Aryan hearts and had its fullest intellectual glories only in Aryan minds. To the Jews it is entirely foreign.” Where had the urge to socialism gone wrong? According to Hitler, the Jews had turned the nationalist-​oriented intellectuals, the natural leaders of such a socialist movement, away from the workers and then invented Marxist theory. They transformed the workers into internationalists. This destructive process had sown seeds of division in many countries, culminating in the tragic fate of Russia, where, he claimed, 30 million people were being martyred.83 Later in the year, even as a massive inflation soared and money lost all value, he kept insisting that social attitudes, and not only economics, had to change, because barely half the people were committed to conserving the German nation or upholding the state. As many as 40  percent were predisposed to internationalist-​Marxist teachings, and, he admitted gravely, the bitter truth was that these were “the most active and energetic elements of the nation.” Hence the goal was not simply to win a majority or get into power, “because what is really at stake is a life and death struggle between two Weltanschauungen,” in which there can be only “victors or the exterminated.” The Fascist movement in Italy had just shown that a small number willing to fight was enough to break the “Jewish-​ Marxist terror.”84 Indeed, in October 1922 Benito Mussolini’s “March on Rome” shocked Europe out of its complacency, when his small Fascist Party took power while the military and police did nothing. Comrades in the Nazi Party soon found it easy to associate the Italian boss’s self-​ description as the “Duce” (leader) with Hitler, and from the spring of 1923, many referred to him in their communications as their leader or Führer.85 With false modesty, he contended that their “mission was not to search for a person”; it was to forge a sword, and when the dictator arrived, to give him a nation (Volk) that was ready. Thus, he still shied away from crowning himself.86 When he spoke in Bayreuth that


Hitler’s True Believers

September he repeated how the Germans longed for leaders and “for the authority of the personality.”87 Throughout 1923, as inflation kept getting worse, his speeches demanded outright revolution, and usually he ended with what became his typically stark alternative: “Either Germany sinks, and we sink with it because of our pitiful cowardice, or we take on the struggle against death and the devil” and defy “what fate has thought up for us. We will see which is stronger:  Jewish, international spirit or German will.”88 There would be no struggle against the outside world, he asserted confidently, “before a victory at home is won. Only a Germany that firstly liberates itself from the Jews is capable and worthy to win.”89 Time and again he blamed the Jews for Germany’s problems, though he generally limited his demands to stripping their citizenship or deporting all those who had entered the country since 1914.90 Nevertheless, since their beginnings in 1921, the Nazi Stormtroopers (SA) represented a constant threat to the Jews in Munich, and that violence reached outlandish levels into the autumn of 1923.91 Did the Nazi Party’s Mussolini moment finally arrive on November 8, 1923? After Hitler and his accomplices seemed to win over the leaders of the Bavarian government meeting that evening in the Bürgerbräukeller, he signed a proclamation to the German people, brazenly declaring the end of “the government of the November criminals in Berlin.” In its place, he would head “a provisional German national government.” The “criminals,” so he charged, had been in power for five years since “under the shouts of pathetic deserters and escaped criminals from the jails, and they had stabbed the heroic German people in the back.”92 The Nazis hoped the revolution would gather allies for a march on Berlin, though the next day, when Hitler led his motley band in the direction of the Odeonsplatz in downtown Munich, the police opened fire, killing several trusted comrades. The authorities then arrested and tried the leaders of the abortive effort, and that seemed like the end of National Socialism. Their leader was fortunate to get away with only a dislocated upper arm, though the prison doctor’s initial examination revealed that from birth Hitler had suffered from cryptorchidism, or the absence of a testis, on the right side. The condition does not necessarily mean either effeminacy or complete infertility, though its recent

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


rediscovery in the records will likely fuel speculation about its psychological effects on the man.93 When Hitler’s big trial began on February 26, 1924, he took full advantage of the sympathetic judges. In the course of days of long testimony, he constructed a narrative of how and why he had gotten involved with the DAP because it recognized that Germany’s future had to mean the “extermination of Marxism. Either this racial poison spreads, this mass tuberculosis in our people, and Germany dies on its sick lung, or it is cut out, then Germany can thrive again, but not before.” The court blithely tolerated his merging of Marxism, racism, and the Jews. In a short essay Hitler claimed again that “The international Jews, the racial tuberculous of nations, with the help of Marxist teachings slowly but surely destroys the cornerstone of our people, its race and culture.” He also asserted that he was the Führer (leader) of the Nazi movement and no longer merely the drummer out to win support. He would have the public believe that there could be no compromises, no coalitions, no middle way, because there could be no peace with the Marxist worldview, and failure to understand that had led to the catastrophe of the revolution in 1918.94 Although on April 1, 1924, the court sentenced him to five years, during the trial he managed to project himself to the country as a popular political figure.95 The authorities released him on December 20, having served less than a year, even when there was no doubt that Hitler would take up the fight again “to awaken the national movement and unite it organizationally.”96 The obvious follow-​up to the failed revolt and sensational court appearance would be a book he could write in the Landsberg am Lech prison. The book’s advertised title in June 1924 was the awkward 4½ Years Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice. A Settling of Accounts.97 His delicate legal position, however, advised toning that down, and in May 1925 he and the publisher agreed to change it to Mein Kampf (My Struggle).98 The first volume appeared that July. Hitler did not dictate it to his later secretary Rudolf Hess, as often claimed in the literature, for he typed it himself, and during the summer of 1926 he began a second volume, which finally appeared in print on December 11.99 An examination of the parts of the book that pertain to his political doctrine shows that instead of focusing on the three fixed points that he had often mentioned, namely, nationalism, socialism, and


Hitler’s True Believers

antisemitism, as well as the underlying racial-​biological struggle for existence, his remarks on these topics are scattered throughout. The first volume dealt mainly with his biography and how he became involved in politics. Apart from showing him as “fated” to be the nation’s leader, he underlined how the loss in the Great War could be traced to “inner decay.” To overcome it the country needed a wide-​ranging eugenic program, including sterilizing the incurables, fighting venereal disease, and so on. The deepest cause—​a point he mentioned more than once—​was the failure to recognize the racial problem, namely the “menace of the Jews.”100 In passing he noted why the pre-​1914 reform efforts tinged with antisemitism, like one led by Vienna’s mayor Dr. Karl Lueger, head of the Christian Socialist Party, had failed. For Hitler, it had correctly emphasized the importance of the social question and propaganda, though without pushing nationalism because it wanted to save Austria-​Hungary, a multinational empire. Their hostility to the Jews, in his view, was based mainly on religion, and thus too meek.101 Hitler also mentioned Georg von Schönerer’s Pan-​German movement from pre-​1914 Vienna, though he judged that it “had an unclear conception of the meaning of the social problem, had sought support among the better-​off middle classes, and never tried to win over the masses. It was opposed to the Jews and nationalistic, but not socialistic enough.”102 Furthermore, it became embroiled in parliamentary politics and did not provide a new philosophy to breathe courage into followers. The Pan-​Germans picked too many enemies at once, including Catholicism, thereby failing to understand the importance of religion to the people.103 What both Austrian parties had needed was the “genius of a great leader,” who could focus the people’s attention on a single foe.104 Then he turned to Otto von Bismarck’s socialist legislation in the 1880s, which Hitler said had not worked mainly because the Iron Chancellor had not based it on a strong anti-​Marxist political philosophy.105 Bismarck had quite wrongly blamed the workers for not turning away from the Social Democratic Party, when for Hitler the capitalists and their parties were too hostile to the workers’ social demands, and so drove them into the arms of the Marxists.106

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


One point that he made in numerous ways was the importance of winning the masses for the national resurrection, for which no social sacrifice was too great. Victory would go to those struggling for a positive idea, but undoubtedly the movement would have to destroy all those standing in its way. The biggest obstacle to gaining a following among the workers had nothing to do with their defending their own class interests, because the real problem was their international leadership. The Nazi movement would have to tear these workers away from it, while also getting employers to see the light, to act in the interests of the community, and not to regard employees as enemies. Obtaining equalization for the workers, Hitler admitted with resignation, would take as long as several generations.107 What about trade unions? These would have to exist as long as they could prevent injustices and strengthen the social idea. In the future, they could not operate in the class-​struggle Marxian mode, and employees and employers would have to work together for the national good. Both groups in a single economic chamber would then solve problems while avoiding work-​ stoppages.108 At least that was his dream. He did not mention Darwin or his leading German champion, Ernst Haeckel, in the book. Nevertheless, like others focused on race questions, Hitler accepted that there was a hierarchy among races, as well as that nature’s laws and eternal struggle also applied to human society, and for him it was axiomatic that if a higher race fused with a lower, the result would inevitably be regression or degeneration. Hence his imperative was to demand “racial purity.” His combative language and sense of endless race struggles gave the impression he was a social Darwinist, though some historians reject that conclusion.109 He appears to have drawn from a wide assortment of thinkers and popularizers as a self-​styled autodidact out to revolutionize his world. When he wrote about the future options open to Germany given its limited space and growing population, he dismissed birth control, internal colonization, or increasing trade. His reason for doing so was that ultimately these options would weaken or diminish the race, as would the overseas emigration of Germans. The way out was to acquire more soil, which would mean a veritable fight for existence at some point. Germany, he wrote, had recognized before 1914 that the land it needed was in the east and had failed to get it, and he conveyed the


Hitler’s True Believers

strong impression of wanting to make good on that mistake. It was obvious to his way of thinking that in the future Germany would have to be aggressive and expansive, or die.110 In one of the rare occasions that he praised a racial theorist, he mentioned briefly in a June 1925 speech that he hoped eventually to get experts, like Hans F. K. Günther, as professors of racial hygiene at the universities.111 Günther was a trained linguist and self-​styled social anthropologist, well known in völkisch circles for his far-​reaching claims. He synthesized the classical racist canon based on such factors as skull and face shapes, skeletal features, the role of heredity, and additional historical data. As had race thinkers in previous centuries, his typology of the races rested on aesthetic appearance more than hard science. He offered a schema of racial types, of which there were, he asserted, four in Europe, with the Nordics coming out on top. He attributed to them many of the characteristics other writers said were typical of Aryans. Apart from being more pleasing to his eye, he pictured them as more courageous, freedom-​loving, and creative. Alas, they were also careless and lacked “blood consciousness,” and that made them vulnerable to non-​Nordics. Where did the Jews fit in? In his lengthy study published in 1922, he concluded that they were “foreign to the German species” (Artfremd), and their mixing with Germans constituted “race defilement.” A  worthy solution to the Jewish question, according to Günther, would be “a clear separation (Scheidung) of Jews from non-​ Jews.”112 There is much in Hitler’s writing and speeches that could have been inspired by this thinking, and he apparently possessed multiple editions of Günther’s large tome, with the earliest from 1923 inscribed by the publisher to him as “the successful champion of German racial thinking.”113 Hitler approved of others in the racial hygiene movement, including its prophets such as Erwin Baur, Eugen Fischer, and Fritz Lenz. Together in 1921, they published a textbook that dominated the field for twenty years.114 For Hitler, it was self-​evident that the German state of the future would have to implement a thorough eugenics policy. Not surprisingly, and in spite of reservations, men such as Lenz, Günther, and even the elderly Ploetz welcomed the Third Reich, where in May 1933, they joined or offered consultations to a select committee of the Interior Ministry. It was charged with assessing relevant legislative proposals,

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


from the perspective of racial hygiene and inheritance teachings.115 All of them lent their expertise to the Third Reich and were celebrated—​ particularly, no doubt, Baur, Fischer, and Lenz—​for supporting Hitler’s belief that real geniuses were born, not made.116 At one point in Mein Kampf, Hitler noted that genius nevertheless required a special stimulus, even Fate, “to bring the genius to the scene.” The same law of nature applied to race, as happened to the Aryans in history who were stimulated by special circumstances to realize their potential. Hitler claimed that the Aryans were the only “founders of culture,” so that most of the art, science, and technology that existed in the world “is almost exclusively the creative product of the Aryans.”117 Alas, Germany’s culture had now become thoroughly corrupt and badly in need of a complete refurbishing. “Theatre, art, literature, cinema, press, posters, and window displays must be cleansed of all manifestations of our rotting world and placed in the service of a moral, political, and cultural idea”—​presumably National Socialism.118 In past ages, the Aryans had subjugated other races, were winners in the great struggles, and remained victors as long as they kept their blood pure. When they broke the racial laws, and began mixing with the defeated, their culture slowly collapsed to make way for new cultures and empires. The moral here was that “all occurrences in world history are only the expression of the races’ instinct for survival, in the good or the bad sense of the term.”119 He added, grimly: “Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle, do not deserve to live.”120 In the second volume of Mein Kampf, he said that the first duty of the völkisch state was to preserve, care, and develop “the best racial elements.”121 The Jews represented the main foil to the Aryans in this eternal racial struggle, the one enemy with whom Hitler could associate multiple others. Even in Landsberg, so he told a visitor, while writing his book he had discovered that he had been “too mild” in his remarks on the Jews, and that henceforth “the sharpest means will have to be used” in order to succeed. “I am convinced, that not only for our people, but for all people, this is a life-​and-​death question. Because the Jews are a world pestilence.”122 Such scandalous claims were common among the antisemites of the time, many of whom latched on to the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which had circulated


Hitler’s True Believers

in Germany since 1919, though written in Russian much earlier. Eckart and Esser were among the early Nazi Party comrades to have accepted the validity of these wild tales.123 Hitler had first mentioned the Protocols briefly in August 1921, singling out the notion that the Jews were out to dominate the globe.124 Almost exactly two years later, with German inflation totally out of control, he cited the Protocols as showing that the Jews wanted to use hunger as a weapon to take over the masses. For Hitler, that explained what the new Soviet government was doing in Russia, as well as how Jews aimed to take Germany under their power.125 Although he did not say it explicitly, his thinking about the Jews could be summed up as suggesting that National Socialism was the only political movement whose highest priority was the victory of the Aryans in an “age of racial poisoning.” Anyone who opposed Nazism, whether deliberately or not, thereby served “Jewish interests.”126 He was willing to concede that not all Jews were necessarily consciously striving for world domination, only that their goal emerged inexorably (if vaguely) from “the nature and activity of the Jewish people.” Then he traced their history over the centuries to show their rise, until they began to cast off their disguises and openly sought power, as allegedly had just happened in Russia. This same “Jewish menace” was what Germany faced, at least according to Mein Kampf.127 He went so far in that book as to assert that “the racial question provides not only the key to world history, but to human culture in general.”128 On this topic, as well as art and music, Hitler was likely influenced by the writings of Richard Wagner, whose operas he adored. Wagner despised the Jews and like Hitler looked down on their creativity.129 In another passage Hitler said that during the Great War, Marxist scoundrels had steadily won over workers, and ultimately that led to defeat. To have stopped that, Hitler wrote, it would have been better “to hold twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people under poison gas, as happened to hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers” on the field of battle. Indeed, eliminating those scoundrels “might have rescued the lives of a million proper Germans, useful for the future.”130 In a similar vein, Georg Schott, one of his sympathetic early biographers, quoted from their personal conversation in 1924 as saying

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


that the physical annihilation of the Jews was on Hitler’s agenda. Schott himself thought some readers might conclude from his “revelations” that the Jews had so much power that it would be useless to try reversing it. Hitler, however, reassuringly said, “We want to do it and we will do it.” Schott intimated that killing a few thousand Jews would not really “solve the question,” and he recalled Hitler as saying that if one day they faced the question of “cleansing” the Volk, “ ‘we’ll have the heart for it,’ ruthlessly strike and take matters to their logical conclusion.”131 Moreover, on several other occasions in the early 1920s, Hitler confessed privately his all-​consuming antisemitism, and that as soon as he would get into power, his “first and most important task would be the extermination of the Jews.”132 Whether such statements expressed his hopes or a firm plan is hard to say, though at least Schott’s biography went through numerous editions during the Third Reich, and that never would have happened if Hitler had taken exception to it. Nevertheless, caution is advised about drawing a straight line from such utterances to the Holocaust, because Hitler issued all kinds of ugly threats, for example against the communists, on which he never remotely followed through. Mein Kampf also focused on the National Socialist movement and its organization, and in the last chapters of the second volume, turned briefly to foreign policy. Although Hitler did not present a succinct plan or timetable, he laid down a number of key goals and a logical sequence. Some of the top figures in the early Nazi Party disagreed with him and favored reaching out to the Soviet Union as a kind of socialist and anti-​capitalist soulmate. They saw a certain “complementarity” between the Germans and the Russians, both nations supposedly stabbed in the back by the Jews. Hitler, to the contrary, began edging toward an anti-​Soviet stance by talking with Arthur Rosenberg, Max Erwin von Scheubner-​Richter, and other White Russian refugees. Especially after the failed putsch in 1923, Hitler became far more aggressive about the drive for Lebensraum, or living space, in the East at Russia’s expense.133 Also in Mein Kampf he insisted that the aim of foreign policy had to be the securing of new space that the German people deserved, for without “expanding its lands a great nation would seem doomed to destruction.” Therefore, he would drop the pre-​1914 thrust of German foreign policy to the south and west to look to the East. There they would


Hitler’s True Believers

find room to settle an expanding population, as well as a place they could transform into the country’s breadbasket. These foreign policy aims visualized not just overturning the Versailles Treaty, for Germany would expand far beyond the pre-​1914 borders, which he regarded as non-​binding and almost accidental. What made it all the more pressing was that traditional Russia had allegedly been captured by the Jews leading the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, and Germany represented the “next great goal of Bolshevism.”134 If any comrades in völkisch circles disagreed with this new anti-​ Soviet orientation, he wondered, how they could convince workers that Bolshevism was “a cursed crime against humanity,” if Germany forged a link with it? What was needed to stop “Jewish world Bolshevization” was all the force that a “young missionary idea” could bring to mobilize the country, “to raise our people up again, to free it from the snares of this international serpent, and to stop the inner contamination of our blood, so that the forces of the nation thus set free can be thrown in to safeguard our nationality, and thus can, into the distant future, prevent a repetition of the recent catastrophes.”135 In the summer of 1928 Hitler took time off after a disappointing election to work on what would have become a follow-​up to Mein Kampf, this time devoting far more attention to foreign policy. He abandoned the project for reasons unknown, and only after 1945 did historian Gerhard L. Weinberg discover the manuscript and publish it as Hitler’s Second Book.136 It is filled with far more social Darwinian language than his first book, and he deliberately uses the phrase “struggle for survival” in many senses, including how the German state had to find enough Lebensraum (living space) to obtain the food for its growing population. The territory would be in the Soviet Union, and for that reason he would not hear of alliances with a country allegedly controlled by “Jewish-​capitalist Bolsheviks.” Behind such terms lurked in his way of thinking the equally far-​fetched and ever-​present international conspiracy of capitalism and communism. He detected these machinations in England, and though he wanted to reach an agreement with this “natural ally,” he worried about how “World Jewry” also exerted “controlling influences” there.137 At the Nuremberg party rally in August 1927, likely before Hitler finished that second book, he said the nation was not producing enough

How Hitler Found National Socialist Ideas


brilliant minds, so it was unable to win the competitive struggles in the world.138 That November, speaking to the National Socialist University Students’ Association (NSDStB), he concluded that the fault could be traced to the three “vices”: democracy, pacifism, and internationalism, all linked to the teachings of Marxism. We see there, he asserted, “the international Jews at work, making the nations completely faceless, enervating them and slowly bringing them to collapse.”139 National Socialism, he pronounced confidently before a large Berlin meeting in July 1928, had a “clearly outlined Weltanschauung,” a worldview, as well as a specific goal, unlike all other parties. More tellingly for the future, he concluded that foreign and domestic policies in the state necessarily interacted, so that a nation needed a sound domestic basis before engaging outside its borders. Therefore, if it “cannot clean itself up, it could not become the master of the poison within, it would never be able to break out of the foreigner’s chains.” History was driven by a struggle for existence, and “the fate of every people depended on the amount of space” to which it was tied. As so often putting the case over-​dramatically, he said that Germany faced extermination and had to obtain sufficient space for the expanding population. Once cleansed within, the nation would begin its struggle for liberation, preferably including alliances formed with Britain and Italy. Thereafter it would break out of the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles “and give Germany a future once more.”140 When he completed Mein Kampf, his doctrine or ideology had four fixed pillars, and these included a foundational and virulent antisemitism. In the few years since his “discovery” of these Jewish machinations, they seemed to grow in his mind, so that everywhere in the world where Germany faced enemies, including inside its own borders, he detected the work of the Jews. Many thousands of Germans entertained similar anti-​Jewish beliefs during the 1920s, including especially university students. That helps explain why National Socialism found fertile ground at the country’s institutions of higher learning. It was there that the thinking of the coming generation began to crystallize.141 In common with these students, Hitler shared a no less passionate nationalism, along with a Germanic socialism summed up in the vision of a harmonious “community of the people.” He had added a


Hitler’s True Believers

conviction that Germany’s future depended on obtaining Lebensraum in the East. Nor was he alone in believing that the motor of history was driven by a racial struggle in which only the strongest survived. Given his determination to make Germany a great power again, that meant war at some point, and he was just as clear in setting down certain domestic prerequisites. For all his blustering bravado, Hitler’s early career shows evidence of several fundamental intellectual weaknesses, beginning with his penchant for conspiracy thinking, by which he could link the same shadowy figures behind what appeared to the uninitiated to be opposing forces, such as capitalism and communism. A related problem was his reliance on either/​or propositions, such as we either win or die, which is a logical fallacy when an obvious alternative would be to reach an agreement. These two habits of thinking marked the remainder of his career. When he got around to party activities again after his imprisonment, the challenges of putting the NSDAP together were considerable, particularly because the sense of emergency and conditions favoring extremist politics had faded for the time being. Nevertheless, just as he had discovered his version of National Socialism, others found their own way to similar beliefs.


Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism

Those who became the Nazi Party’s initial leaders had a similar social profile to the twenty-​nine men deemed Hitler’s most important Gauleiter (regional party bosses). All but six of those had served in the Great War, after which nearly half had been in the paramilitary Freikorps (free corps) or an equivalent organization and many had been involved in the völkisch movement before Nazism.1 They vehemently rejected the revolutions of 1918–​1919, Marxian socialism, and the Weimar Republic, as they did the Versailles Treaty. These negative reactions often became bound up with antisemitism, nationalism, and an obsession about socialism. Indeed, thanks to the creation of a welfare state from 1881 onward, reinforced by the social impact of the war, a degree of socialism engrained itself in German society and was enshrined in the Weimar Republic’s constitution.2 Nevertheless, sentiments were deeply torn over socialism, most profoundly between the nationalist-​ oriented versus the internationalist varieties of this credo traditionally associated with the Marxian Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Communist Party (KPD). Although the cluster of ideas and emotions we can broadly label as National Socialism had roots going back in time, the deep psychological drive behind them began in 1918 and 1919. Some of the resentful attitudes about the shocking defeat in the war became enflamed as officers leading German troops home that November and December 1918 found themselves confronted with irregulars wearing red sashes


Hitler’s True Believers

who ridiculed them or tried to hold up the marches. In reaction, characters such as Franz Pfeffer von Salomon became one among many who formed Freikorps as early as January 1919, and who thereafter continued fighting either the Reds inside Germany or the invaders on the eastern borders. These free corps were loosely organized into 120 or more groups, eventually numbering between 250,000 and 400,000 young men. Along with nationalism and anti-​Communism, antisemitism became one of the fundamentals of their outlook on life, and for some, the border skirmishes in the east became a kind of test of their manhood.3 One of them wrote that they had been swept eastward by the crash of the western front, and gathered as if by some secret signal. They did not know what they wanted, but it was neither the present as it existed, nor a return to Imperial Germany.4 Although a relatively small percentage of the free corps men joined the Nazi Party, these brigands were symptomatic of the anger and despair at Germany’s abject position and the threat from the Left.5 The government dissolved the corps in 1920, after which an estimated one hundred or more of the men who served in them went on to became top Nazi officials.6 Another form of the backlash against the lost war and new Weimar Republic can be seen in the massive völkisch (racialist) movement, one of whose leaders listed between 120 and 125 such organizations for the period 1920 to 1922.7 The boundaries between these associations were fluid, and often people had two or three memberships at the same time.8 The multitude of such groups all over the country laid the foundation for the later Nazi movement.9 Not only that, there were any number of radical antisemitic leaders who had been part of the broader racialist movement since the 1880s and who kept looking for ways to translate their ideas into reality.10 They transitioned easily from one organization to the next until they found the Nazi Party, though there were aspects of it—​particularly Hitler’s claims as the unquestioned leader—​that some found hard to swallow.11 One of the most prominent of the ideological waystations, and the largest and most active of the early racialist groups, was the German-​ Racial Protection and Defiance League (Deutschvölkischer Schutz und Trutzbund, DVSTB). At the end of 1920, it counted 110,000 members, and during its brief existence 200,000 or more people belonged to it at one point or another. It played an important role in “organizing

Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism


and activating” the postwar movement, with sixteen of its members eventually becoming Nazi Party regional bosses and eight others taking top posts in the Third Reich.12 In contrast to the smaller prewar movements, the DVSTB spread across the entire country.13 The government outlawed it in June 1922 after the assassination of Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, whom the culprits blamed for benefiting economically from the war and not least for being Jewish. This völkisch, hyper-​nationalist, and violent mood was reflected in political parties besides the NSDAP, such as in the merger of prewar conservatives that produced a new German Nationalist People’s Party (DNVP) in November 1918. It remained dead set against the revolution, parliamentary democracy, and all forms of socialism, and was at times heavily tainted with anti-​Jewish prejudice.14 The Pan-​German League, a carryover right-​wing pressure group from Imperial Germany, led a völkisch and antisemitic movement in northern Germany, and early in the Weimar Republic tried to recruit Hitler.15 The early Catholic Bavarian People’s Party (BVP) argued vehemently against Berlin as the home of the republic and city of “Jews and asphalt.” The BVP boasted of a leader of the racialist-​Catholic movement who claimed in 1919 that the Jews were a “poison” and called for their “extermination” (Vernichtung).16 The broad antisemitic scene in the immediate postwar years reached most of the country, though it tended to be organized citywide and had no national umbrella body. Thus, the tactics varied, with some activists in Berlin resorting to violent assaults on individual Jews. Those attackers, including soldiers putting down the revolution, went to the capital city’s Scheunen quarter to search the property of Eastern Jews. Elsewhere, soldiers bothered Jewish guests in Kolberg (Pomerania), Bad Salzbrunn (Lower Silesia), and Cranz (East Prussia). There were isolated reports of student violence against Jewish students in Marburg and Giessen. In addition, there were hate campaigns in parts of Germany, like one in Berlin during March 1919, and more in other places, as reported by the Jewish Central-​Association. Taken together, an unprecedented public outpouring of antisemitism occupied the streets visually.17 As for the countryside, in states like Bavaria toward the end of the war, people came to believe that “the Jews” had wanted to stop the fighting.


Hitler’s True Believers

Some antisemites claimed that individual Jews played a key part in the revolutions of 1918 and 1919, and that they were among those who had gained financially most from the war.18 In the inflationary period that soon began, as prices went up seemingly inexplicably, anti-​Jewish prejudice spread, along with warmed-​up tales of avaricious Jewish profiteers. In August 1921, a mob in Memmingen beat a Jewish cheese dealer and dragged him to the police when they were outraged at price increases. Ordinary rural folk commonly denounced the leaders of the socialist and communist movement for being in cahoots with “big capitalists.” Neither peasant organizations nor outsiders were needed to whip up the hostile mood, for the resentment of the Jews already existed and was a pronounced feature in postwar politics.19 What was still missing was a nationwide coordinating organization that could mobilize the backlash. This was the context in which the men who became prominent in the National Socialist Party found themselves. The Nazi Party itself had remained limited in size and geographical scope since its founding in 1920, reaching around 22,000 members at the end of 1922. In the following year, even with the economy deteriorating drastically, and an inflation rate totally out of control, the party grew to only 55,287 members by the attempted Nazi Putsch in November.20 Taking into account some exaggerations in the numbers given by most parties and groups, that year by way of comparison the communists (KPD) counted 294,230 members and the socialists (SPD) had 1,261,072.21 Allied with the SPD, the new trade union organization (ADGB) that year numbered 5.82 million dues-​paying members.22 In February 1924, with Hitler’s trial still in progress and the entire Nazi Party apparatus dissolved, Social Democrats helped found the Reichsbanner, a uniformed war veterans’ league loyal to the republic that soon had an estimated 600,000 members in some 5,000 local branches.23 For reasons of its own, the KPD also created a paramilitary force in mid-​ 1924 with the Red Veterans’ Association (Rotfrontkämpferbund, RFB) that boasted 100,000 members by the end of the next year.24 Moreover, the two “Red” parties mobilized no fewer than 9.7 million votes in the May 1924 general elections, so that together, this massive left-​wing bloc, even considering its internal divisions and conflicts, represented an almost insurmountable challenge to the NSDAP that aimed to “win back” the workers and to

Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism


destroy Marxism and the republic. It would require the unforeseen social disaster of the Great Depression and divisions among these “Reds” for the NSDAP to have any chance of success, which was why the early Party did not want to play by the rules, and instead committed to a revolutionary overthrow of the entire system. One of these early activists and a future Nazi leader was Captain Ernst Röhm, born in Munich in 1887 and a lieutenant in the Royal Bavarian Army before 1914. He could look forward to a comfortable life in a much-​esteemed profession, though during the war he suffered grave wounds, including a badly disfigured face. While decorated and promoted, his future, like so many of his generation, grew uncertain when defeat led to revolution in 1918. Moreover, the war exercised a leveling social effect on officers and men, and it changed Röhm, so much so that the last thing he wanted was a return to the days of a rigid class society. Anyone reading his memoirs has to be struck by his anti-​ Marxian version of socialism, and his belief that the revolutions at war’s end had unfortunately given socialism a bad name. Little wonder that by the time he returned to the Munich in which Kurt Eisner’s uprising had begun, the events reinforced Röhm’s conviction that “destructive Jewish machinations” played a part in the revolution.25 As a self-​described “political soldier,” Ernst Röhm wanted to mobilize anti-​republican, anti-​Red, and anti-​Jewish forces, and to win over workers. In early 1919, when still serving in the military, he joined the Freikorps Epp, one of the numerous right-​wing organizations that put down the communist revolution in Munich, and he participated in the bloody repression of the left-​wing Ruhr rebellion in 1920.26 At the same time, he supported the radical nationalist volunteer units of the Einwohnerwehren (civic guards), with as many as 361,000 men in its ranks, until Allied pressure led the German government to dissolve both the civic guards and Freikorps.27 As Epp’s orderly officer, Röhm controlled large arms depots, hidden to avoid the scrutiny of the Allies seeking to enforce the limitations on arms and men written into the Versailles Peace Treaty. Even after many of the paramilitary units had been dissolved, Röhm continued to channel arms and ammunition to various volunteer groups. During these years, to go by Röhm’s memoirs, he was driven by fervent nationalism, along with deep concern that Germany was falling


Hitler’s True Believers

apart. He associated with a variety of right-​wing nationalist groups, and led a branch of the Reichsflagge, a völkisch paramilitary outfit. In October 1919 he attended a meeting of the German Workers’ Party (DAP), joining it not long after Hitler. The two quickly became close friends, and Röhm helped Hitler make contact with influential people in Munich. He eventually participated in the failed Hitler-​Putsch in November 1923, and while in jail awaiting trial, he wrote a long piece justifying what they had done. The article, called “Savior of the Fatherland,” appeared in the original (1928) version of his memoirs, though he excluded it from later editions. This essay reeks of his hatred of the Jews, blaming the misery and hunger of the times on the allegedly Jewish-​controlled stock exchange, while he complained that poor government drove the working class “into the hands of the Marxists and Jewish leaders.” Apart from the racketeers, speculators, hoarders, and the rest, he claimed that it was “primarily the Jews from all parts of the world who seize German property with a laugh.” Since the revolution of 1918, he claimed that “the Jews and their helpers have an extraordinary power base and are sucking the German people dry.” The Bavarian government had once threatened to deport all eastern Jews, yet Röhm wanted more, “because it is the Jews everywhere who are the danger, not just the eastern Jews in Bavaria!” They were supposedly responsible for spreading “the internationalist, pacifist contamination,” and he warned with typically murderous language that “if we are not successful in rooting out this disease, Germany will never rise again.” To the extent that he revealed a social vision, it was of a Volksgemeinschaft, for he did not want social class, education, or money to determine a person’s honor. The only thing that really mattered was “if you are heart and soul a German, ready to live and die for the Fatherland.”28 Thus, when it came to antisemitism, and a lot more, Hitler had little to teach Captain Röhm, whose punishment for his role in the 1923 Putsch was fifteen months in prison. Given time served, the court released him on April 1, 1924, on probation. Even with the Nazi Party formally outlawed, and contrary to Hitler’s wishes, Röhm ran in the national elections of May 1924 and won a seat.29 One Nazi insider remembered him from those times as a “soldier, a socialist and a man

Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism


of remarkable general intelligence,” who put everything he had into rehabilitating Germany and its military.30 According to Röhm, before he left prison Hitler had given him “unrestricted authority” to rebuild the paramilitary side of the outlawed Nazi movement, and at meetings on May 17 and 18 and safely in Austria, he obtained recognition as head of the Stormtroopers (SA) from the exiled Hermann Göring, its formal leader. Röhm remained delusional enough to feel that some kind of military assault on power might still be possible, and he established the Front League (Frontbann), a new organi­ zation, based on National Socialism. He merged it with the SA, the goal being to make this more centralized, national paramilitary group, with himself as its leader, an independent entity inside the NSDAP. Unsurprisingly, however, having had a change of heart, Hitler rejected such a scheme as completely unrealistic. When the two could not reach agreement, Röhm resigned all offices on May 1, 1925, and withdrew from politics for the time being. Hitler eventually recalled him from self-​imposed exile in Bolivia to serve as head of the SA beginning on January 5, 1931.31 Another former officer, and later one of the better-​known Nazi chiefs, was Hermann Göring. Often the butt of jokes for his overindulgences, thus easy to underestimate, he became important during the Third Reich. He was born in 1893 into the military way of life, attended the famed cadet school in Berlin Lichterfelde, and during the Great War won some of the nation’s highest distinctions, including the iron cross first class and the coveted Pour le Mérite, for his service in the fledging air force. For people like him, defeat in war meant more than just the end of a career, because their entire world collapsed; he took refuge abroad. Before Göring met Hitler, he seems to have had fixed ideas, such as that somehow nationalism and socialism should meld into one in order to regenerate the country, and he saw in Hitler a name who could bring people together.32 At his postwar trial in 1945, he claimed that he had joined the Nazi Party simply “because he was a revolutionary,” and to exculpate himself from the worst charges he played down any attraction to the “ideological nonsense” of the Nazi Party. Although that assertion has often been taken at face value, a closer look at his testimony reveals more.33 According to his own account, he saw Hitler for the first time


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in October or November 1922, and when they met in private afterward, Göring recalled being impressed by how Hitler explained his ideology as combining the two most powerful ideas of the day, namely nationalism and socialism. What also struck him was the man’s compelling analysis of all that had gone wrong in their world. Hitler eventually recruited this famed pilot to lead his Stormtroopers (the SA) in March 1923, because, as he explained to Göring, he considered its leaders too young and inexperienced.34 No doubt they both thought that with a war hero as head of the SA, it might be easier to find new militants.35 Indeed, Röhm said that when Göring took over the Stormtroopers, he gave it a new spirit and fresh enthusiasm.36 If Göring was warm, charming, and over-​ indulgent, Alfred Rosenberg seemed to insiders to be a cold and ascetic thinker, not a man of action. His was a circuitous route to National Socialism, for he had been born in distant Reval (today Tallinn, Estonia) in 1893, then part of the Russian Empire. At age fifteen or sixteen he had discovered Houston Stewart Chamberlin’s The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century. He read it with enthusiasm, saying that the book provided the “strongest influence” on his life and that it “was the first window of the free world” opened to him.37 He shared Chamberlain’s conviction that the “German race” had formed the most important cultures around the globe, though the “Asiatic counter-​race of the Jews” steadily threatened it. Moreover, the Jews supposedly were a danger in spreading the idea of the equality of man and in wanting democracy.38 At the time of the Russian Revolution, Rosenberg found himself studying architecture in Moscow, and he claimed to have despised everything he saw about Bolshevism. When he returned home in late 1918, he held his first public speech, with the telling title “Marxism and Jewry.” It reflected his conviction that an indissoluble link existed between these two forces, which would destroy all that he held to be beautiful and good. He immediately left for Germany, where he arrived stateless and unemployed, and he began scratching out a living as a painter. Having rejected the “outmoded” theories of the Enlightenment, as well as the egalitarian teachings of international Marxists and all he had seen of “Jewish Bolshevism,” he harbored a hatred of the Jews that became his enduring passion. In Munich, Rosenberg latched on

Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism


to a contact with Dietrich Eckart and wrote for the latter’s journal Auf gut Deutsch. It argued that the Jews were behind both capitalism and Bolshevism and highlighted the antagonism between national and international socialism. Rosenberg’s first contribution to the journal, called “The Russian-​Jewish Revolution,” began with a tirade against the Jews, whose main aim was said to be the destruction of morality and culture, using merciless terror against anything smacking of old Russia.39 He soon joined the Thule Society, whose regular guests included the future Nazi leaders Rudolf Hess and Hans Frank. The small group (maximum 200 strong), another that used a swastika as its symbol, was one among many racialist associations that opposed the mainline Social Democratic Party, while making its own socialistic and anti-​Jewish demands. Rosenberg’s first book, Traces of the Jews through the Ages, published in 1920, sought to confront the “Jewish danger” by sketching its roots. He was willing to grant the Jews human rights, though not their participation in Germany’s political life or cultural activities. Ideally, he wanted Germany to find a place in the world to which it could send all the Jews, which is why he supported Zionism at this point.40 More fatefully, he provided a long introduction to, and analysis of, the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a faked exposé out of Russia about how the Jews’ “hidden hand” conspired to rule the world. Right-​wing German newspapers published front-​page stories about these “revelations” in early 1920. Rosenberg claimed that the international conspiracy as revealed in the Protocols, written twenty-​five years earlier—​whether the document was genuine or not—​was in fact being followed by the Jews, and he outlined the successes they supposedly had chalked up.41 This was classic conspiracy theory, unmasking the hidden links between widely disparate events, all of them traced to Jews around the globe. That Hitler already accepted such a theory was reinforced by the general drift of the Protocols, first seen in a speech he gave on August 12, 1921.42 Across Europe there was tangible alarm about the spread of Moscow-​ inspired Bolshevik communism, a fear internalized by those who fled the east like Rosenberg and another Baltic German, Max Erwin von Scheubner-​Richter. As a veteran fighter against the Bolsheviks in the east, and born there in 1884, he drew the attention of other Russian


Hitler’s True Believers

émigré personalities, and a number of influential figures in Munich, including General Erich Ludendorff.43 Scheubner-​Richter joined the fledgling Nazi Party on November 22, 1920, shortly after hearing Hitler damning the Russian Revolution to inevitable failure because it was purportedly run by the Jews. Like others, Scheubner-​Richter was already among the converted, and his well-​formed views corresponded to much that National Socialism advocated or would become. His main contribution to the cause during its incubation period was to channel to it funds from Aufbau (reconstruction), a secret society of mostly wealthy individuals with strong anti-​ communist and antisemitic 44 attitudes. Rosenberg was the more prominent of the two, and his writings were well received on the German Right when he revealed the murderousness of the Russian Revolution. In his sometimes quite strange narrative, the “Bolsheviks were and are the envoys of stock-​exchange Jewry.” Supposedly, Leon Trotsky and his close comrades had left for Russia with “two hundred brothers from the New York ghetto.” That the victory of “Jewish Bolshevism” came with the Russian Revolution was for Rosenberg proven because, out of 380 Commissars in Moscow, 300 were Jews (his exaggerated figures). Also overstated was his claim that the Central Soviet of People’s Commissars consisted of 3 Russians, 2 Armenians, and 17 Jews. Although these numbers changed, up and down, for Rosenberg it was self-​evident, that “the representatives of the capitalist and national Jews”—​through the Russian Revolution—​ “openly threaten [to incite] a Jewish world revolution, in Bolshevism.”45 Like the fanatical true believer he was, Rosenberg alleged that the Jews established a violent regime in Russia such as history had never seen. Although the United States helped that country deal with a famine in 1921, he falsely asserted that the food went only to the Jews. As important as it was to stop the eastern Jews from coming to Germany, he maintained, the western Jews already in the country were more dangerous. “Anyone who means to help the German people, has to fight the Jews, and demand:  complete removal of the Jews from all posts, offices, public institutions, positions in leading economic branches and cultural affairs.” He published a steady stream of hateful articles on such themes in the Nazi Party’s newspaper, of which he became the editor. The stories were not the lewd kind featuring claims of Jewish sex

Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism


crimes, and yet his continuing conspiracy tales fueled the vicious streak in National Socialist antisemitism. It mattered not in the least to him that at the time when he blamed the killings in the Russian Civil War on the Jews, the Jews in Russia were in fact suffering as victims of the most murderous pogroms in that country’s long history.46 Rosenberg warned what might happen should “the Jewish plutocracy” open the gates to “infection” by the plague from Russia. The Jews allegedly had built an “Asiatic horde in Marxist hands,” had conquered Russia, and supposedly now looked to Europe. The battle of the future, which would mean decline or new beginning of Germany and Europe, had to be fought under the flag of völkisch thought. “On the one side stands what is for all of us the deadly enemy Asiatic-​Mediterranean spirit, led by the international Jews, on the other side our old Europe, led by German men.” For Rosenberg, the world was divided between the “carriers of culture” in the form of the Aryan or Nordic race, and the Jews as the “destroyers of culture.”47 One of his most influential accounts of National Socialist doctrine might have been Rosenberg’s brief introduction to the Party program, which he first published in 1922, with its twenty-​fifth edition appearing in 1943. In the editions published before Hitler’s appointment, it explained that the NSDAP recognized that it would be unable to fulfill its goals “unless it destroys the bacillus that poisons our blood and our soul: the Jew and those born of him in the Jewish spirit with their followers from the German camp.” “Marxism,” he stated confidently, “was not socialism = community spirit, and instead was a conscious, concealed mockery. Marxism was no declaration of war against the materialism of the age, but rather the crowning thought of Mammonism.” The long list of Marxism’s sins was made possible “because the leadership of exploitive capitalism, like Marxism, was in the hands of representatives of one and the same people: in the hand of the Jew. Thus, Marxism was and is ultimately a racial struggle.”48 It is difficult to say what Hitler and National Socialism took from Rosenberg’s main book, The Myth of the Twentieth Century. Göring later said that while he read many philosophers, including H.  S. Chamberlain, he could not get past the first chapter of Rosenberg’s big book, which put him to sleep.49 Similarly, Hitler remarked that he


Hitler’s True Believers

only glanced at the tome and that its style was too difficult. He felt it would not have sold at all save that the Catholic Church put it on its forbidden book index. Under no circumstances should anyone, he said, regard the book as representative of official Party thinking.50 Nevertheless, Rosenberg’s large volume was one expression of National Socialist doctrine, and although it was published in 1930 and well after Mein Kampf, it does not mention that book. He granted that Hitler—​whose name occurs only a few times in the text—​had masterfully shown that “real nationalism and real socialism” belonged together. Even so, these were not the ideas that Rosenberg wanted to explore, because his notions stemmed from his own readings by racial theorists, philosophers, religious historians, neo-​pagan writers, and mythologists. The main difficulty with the Rosenberg book, which is laced with pseudo-​ scientific claims, includes its many dubious concepts, such as the “law of the blood,” and additionally it skips back and forth between ancient civilizations, the Near East, Asia, various long-​lost tribes, and their mythologized history. Occasionally, there are more concrete examples of his racial theory and its implications, such as when he speaks briefly about the United States. By all accounts, he said, this was the great land of the future, and to get things in order, it would have to revitalize its racial thought, resettle or deport African Americans and Asians, and find a place for the Jews somewhere.51 In Rosenberg’s more political books, such as his attack on those responsible for the revolution of 1918, he delved into specifics, though even then he invariably ended on a strange note. Thus, when he wrote of the contradictions in what President Woodrow Wilson said in his Fourteen Points, and what he did with regard to the Versailles Peace Treaty, Rosenberg felt compelled to mention the mythical links to the Jews.52 He sought to make National Socialist theory appear to be the result of genuine research and science, rather than the product of hate, yet he was gratified that he was one of the pioneers of the party’s antisemitism. It did not matter that Hitler had given his own testimony on why he became antisemitic well before coming across Rosenberg or his works.53 If, prior to 1933, Rosenberg did not call for anything like the “final solution,” his language repeatedly hit murderous notes, such as in comparing the Jews to bacteria that would have to be controlled.54 Apart from Hitler, he was the only leading Nazi figure to produce a

Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism


large body of written work that quite frankly reads today like the rant of a quack. Two future Nazi leaders quite unlike Rosenberg were Heinrich Himmler and Martin Bormann. They were similar in being born in 1900, and nationalists who trained for the military without seeing action in the Great War. Bormann lived in distant Mecklenburg and made his living after the war as an estate manager, while associating with right-​wing paramilitary and racist groups and becoming deeply opposed to the Jews.55 In mid-​1923, he was arrested and sent to prison for his involvement in the murder of an alleged police plant. The main perpetrator, later a notorious figure as the commandant of Auschwitz, was Rudolf Höss.56 Bormann, released early, got to know Hitler in 1926 and joined the Party early the next year. Because he could never quite master public speaking, he worked his way up as the consummate insider, and whatever minor contribution he made to Hitler’s doctrine, he became so powerful and feared that during the war even the highest officials had to regard a memorandum from Bormann as if it had come directly from Hitler, a fact that gave “the Secretary of the Führer” enormous powers.57 On the other hand, Heinrich Himmler wanted more than anything to be a soldier, and he was appalled when the revolutionaries took over in 1918 and 1919. Following his demobilization on December 18, he went home to Landshut, and such was his desire to serve that in April 1919 he joined a local branch of the free corps founded by the Thule Society’s Rudolf von Sebottendorf. When soon thereafter Munich was swept by a counterrevolutionary wave of violence, led by these radicals, Himmler did not see much action. On October 18, he enrolled at the Technical University in Munich. In his diary, he dutifully noted being drawn to a demonstration on November 23 of the notorious German-​ Racial Protection and Defiance League (Deutschvölkischer Schutz und Trutzbund, DVSTB), but when he arrived too early, he did not stay to see it.58 Politically, he sympathized with the Catholic Bavarian People’s Party (BVP), which was already tinged with antisemitism. He began mentioning the Jews in his diary during 1919, though only in 1922 did he say more. He was not immediately a visceral hater of all Jews and, for example, on July 3 that year, he noted being favorably impressed by a Jewish dancer Inge Branco whom he had met. He appreciated her


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honesty and faithfulness to her boyfriend, such that he thought she deserved respect.59 Such an opinion would be unthinkable to him only a few years later. As a member of a student fraternity and often seemingly more concerned with fencing than politics, he nonetheless acquainted himself with the racist literature circulating in postwar Munich. For him it was a given to oppose the Weimar Republic and the Versailles Treaty, just as he supported the nationalist cause and wanted to bring back the Imperial German flag. His mentality was such that he moved seamlessly into the völkisch-​nationalist environment that percolated in Munich and other parts of Bavaria after the war. On January 26, 1922, he recorded attending a meeting with Captain Ernst Röhm at one of Munich’s rifle-​clubs, toward which the young man gravitated because, as he confessed to his diary in June, though a student of agriculture at the Technical University in Munich, “inwardly, I am simply a soldier.”60 The next month he enlisted in the right-​wing paramilitary Bayern und Reich, with its solid 20,000 members.61 At some point between then and November 1923, he joined Röhm’s Reichsflagge organization. Thus, Himmler’s way to National Socialism came through his own experiences and association with such groups and knowing some of their leaders, like Röhm, with whom he had an enduring and friendly relationship. Himmler finally joined the NSDAP on August 1, 1923, by which point he must have known something about Hitler—​though if he had an idol at that time, it seems to have been Ernst Röhm rather than Hitler. The diary Himmler kept does not read anything like the one by Joseph Goebbels, who mapped out his political development and ideas regularly. Himmler, on the other hand, wrote in pedantic detail mostly about his daily routine, from getting up, shaving, bathing, to personal matters such as his preoccupation with fencing, learning to dance, or banal encounters with young women. He did comment on books for a reading list he kept; for example, in April 1920 he quoted Artur Dinter’s notorious The Sins against the Blood (1918), which he distrusted and deemed the product of a writer “blinded by his hatred of the Jews.”62 Himmler felt that the racial science on which the book claimed to be based needed verification.63 Some of Dinter’s other work, however, exhibited an antisemitism with pronounced socialist tendencies, later

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found in National Socialism, though his retention of a strong Protestant faith made breaking with the Nazi movement inevitable.64 More to Himmler’s taste was the work of Houston Stewart Chamberlain, incidentally, the writer to whom Dinter dedicated his best-​selling book. The young Himmler was pleased to find in Chamberlain’s pamphlet, Race and Nation, a work that was “objective and not full of hate,” for he wanted to avoid vulgar “mob antisemitism.”65 Himmler’s writings were not filled with adoring references to a mythologized leader. His first mention of the man came on January 16, 1924, when he noted on his reading list that he had thumbed through a published collection of Hitler’s speeches, not that Himmler had heard them himself. From these he concluded that Hitler was “a truly great man and above all a genuine and true one. His speeches are marvelous examples of Germanness and Aryanism.”66 The first brief note on Hitler in Himmler’s diary came shortly afterward on February 19, when he read to friends from a pamphlet about Hitler’s life.67 The young Himmler continued delving into a variety of areas, including racism, Teutonism, even the occult, and plowing through Theodor Fritsch, one of the standard-​bearers of German antisemitism since before 1914.68 Not surprisingly, therefore, Himmler did not fall for Hitler’s charisma, such as it was, nor was he overly fond of Mein Kampf, which he read during the years 1925–​1927. His chief reaction was that “there was a lot of truth to it.” What interested him most were the parts that focused on racial health and racism. He underlined the passage: “The demand that it be made impossible for defective people to produce other defective people, is a demand of the clearest rationality, and it means in its planned implementation, the most humane deed of mankind.” This was a statement that could have been lifted from the books of a pre-​1914 proponent of eugenics. The aspect of National Socialism that Himmler highlighted in Mein Kampf was the “Recognition of the blood,” that is, “the racial basis in general,” and particularly that of “racial belonging.” He agreed that education should have the goal of giving all young Germans a sense of their superiority. By December 1927, when he was well into reading the second volume of Mein Kampf, he underlined that it favored compulsory sterilization, as well as the need “to recognize the blood,” including “for individual members of the Volksgemeinschaft”


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who would in the future be valued according to their “racial origins.” He scratched in the margin: “Would the implications be drawn from this?”69 Himmler also learned more about what the leader supposedly stood for, through popularized accounts, such as Dietrich Eckart’s imagined conversation with Hitler, initially published in 1924 on mimeographed sheets. Eckart had been a mentor and patron to Hitler, took part in the Putsch, and while seriously ill wrote this book, which is more like a pamphlet, at the end of 1923 before he died on December 26. In order for their most curious “conversation” to make sense to readers, much less to enthrall them, they would have to accept its fundamental premise, which is that history is not determined by abstract impersonal forces, much less by economics or the class struggle. Instead, in Hitler’s personalized interpretation, as provided in the book, history was “directed by a super power,” the Jews, and they had been there from the beginning, as they tried to subvert the natural, historical process for purposes of their own. Thus, what the world saw on the surface of the diverse activities of Jews “hangs together underground,” and hidden “Jewish Elders” allegedly made the crucial decisions to set the nations at each other’s throats.70 In the short book, Eckart asks leading questions and Hitler uses his long answers to trace the role of the Jews as the “secret power” over the centuries. Instead of following a neat timeline, the dialogue moves around in an effort to show how, at all the key turning points in two thousand years of history, Hitler could detect the work of an international Jewish conspiracy. For example, he asserted that the “Jewish Upper Leadership” decided at the Sixth World Zionist Congress in 1903 to unleash what became the First World War. Obviously, Hitler had no evidence to prove such a ridiculous charge, which was typical of other assertions he made, though that did not disturb either of the two characters in the book’s unfolding drama. When Eckart asked whether the Jews were nationally or internationally inclined, Hitler pronounced that it was impossible to define. “It [the Jews or Jewish influence] is a rank growth (Wucherung) moving over the entire earth, sometimes slowly, sometimes leaping forward. Everywhere it sucks ravenously. What was at the beginning teeming abundance, in the end becomes only dried-​out sap.”

Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism


When Eckart stated that “We want Germanity, true Christianity, law and order, and we want them so firmly established that our children and grandchildren can change nothing,” Hitler replied that “they,” presumably the Jews, and perhaps also those not part of the Nazi movement, “consider that impossible, and for that very reason regard our Program as nothing but empty phrases.” He claimed, to the contrary, that achieving their goals was inevitable, if not necessarily in the immediate future. Then he hit a socialist note: “Never and nowhere has there existed a real social state. Instead, everywhere and always the upper class has followed the principle, that ‘what is yours is mine,’ rather than ‘what is mine is yours.’ ” Needless to say, for Hitler “the Jew is able to take advantage of both,” the big bosses and the slaves. “We’ll go against both,” he said, “ending the rich and the slaves. That is the Aryan, the Christian Weltanschauung.” Why had German workers not been able to learn from the Soviet experience? Because, according to Hitler, they were so anxious to be masters that they had allowed themselves to be led by the nose. They should know that “all social injustices of any significance can be traced to the underground influences of the Jews.” At the end of this dialogue, Hitler declared magisterially, “It is possible to understand the Jews, only when one knows the ultimate ends they seek. That goal is, beyond world domination, the extermination of the world.” Somehow the Jews “believe they must wear down mankind in order to prepare a paradise on earth.” And while they “pretend to raise humanity, they torture the people into desperation, into madness, and decline. If they cannot be stopped, they will exterminate” humanity. In doing so, the Jews know they destroy themselves, yet they cannot stop, in what Hitler called “the tragedy of Lucifer.”71 The Hitler-​Eckart conversation offered a terrifying insight into the mind of National Socialism, and almost demanded that the story end apocalyptically. If this was really how Hitler or Himmler saw the Jews as of 1923 or 1924, then they were still containing their more savage urges until they had complete power. How strange that Himmler would have been interested in such a book, one that Hitler never disavowed, and far from it, for after Eckart passed away, Hitler said he never more found someone with whom he had the same emotional and intellectual connection.72 And he even dedicated the second volume of Mein Kampf to Eckart. Himmler noted on his reading list for January 16, 1924, that the


Hitler’s True Believers

Eckart-​Hitler book was “A down-​to-​earth and instructive conversation between Hitler and Eckart, which reveals them both so accurately. It provides a perspective over the centuries and opens your eyes to many things that you had not seen before. I wish everyone would read the book.”73 Eckart belonged to a long line of völkisch political thinkers in Germany who claimed that Jesus was Aryan, not Jewish.74 Similarly, in an April 1923 speech Hitler came out for awakening the German spirit, fighting anti-​German sentiments, and realizing the aims of a united and no longer tolerant Christianity.75 Certainly, Himmler could not have a Jewish Christ as a role model. Later he explicitly declared that it would be an attack on Christ as a person, and to suggest that Jesus was Jewish was “unworthy as well as historically proven to be untrue.”76 The original program of the NSDAP from February 1920 stated in Point 24 a demand for freedom of religion, and that the Party itself stood for “positive Christianity,” that is, above any single sect. This point also stated that the Party fought “the Jewish spirit within us and without us.” Additionally, it avowed “that a lasting recovery of our Volk can only take place within, on the basis of the principle: public need comes before private greed.” Therefore, in one breath the Party embraced some form of Christianity and antisemitism, as well as emphasizing its socialist mission. Himmler was not alone among the young activists who could welcome this brand of positive Christianity, though later he distanced himself from this religion. The great anti-​clerical in the Party was Rosenberg, whom Hitler and others had to restrain lest they lose the support of religious Germans. Himmler’s self-​image in mid-​1924, as revealed in a letter to a friend, was that he saw himself as continuing the political struggle, when others wavered after the failed Putsch the year before. “Because one has to say to oneself, if we don’t do this work which has got to be done, this sowing of the German idea [emphasis added], then no one will do it and then, in years to come, when the time is ripe, nothing will happen because nothing has been sown. It is selfless service for the great idea and a great cause.”77 For the time being, in the summer of 1924 it looked like the tide had gone out on the Nazi movement. Eckart had already died, Hitler was in prison, and Himmler took on the more mundane task of working

Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism


as second in charge to Gregor Strasser, the Nazi leader in Landshut. In October 1924, in one of the first articles Himmler wrote as an official party worker, he indicated how his hatred of the Jews had emerged. Labeled “The Jew and Science,” the short piece claimed that Germany’s entire culture was in the hands of Jews, “serving nothing but a completely Jewish effort to dominate the world.”78 Perhaps under the tutelage of the more socialistically inclined Strasser, Himmler also cultivated an anti-​capitalist streak and mixed socialism with antisemitism. As he said in a speech in April 1927, the Jews had learned how to use capitalism and to play off nations against each other in the name of internationalism. The only way to avoid that fate was “To unite all the German workers on the basis of nationalism in order to introduce a socialist regime.”79 In 1924, Himmler also read Hans F. K. Günther, one of the writers who became a champion of the Nordic race. In his 1920 book, Knight, Death, and Devil: Heroic Thought, he mixed mythical and racial views, claiming to see the unmistakable decline of the Nordic “blood community” over the generations. Far from yielding, the heroic among the Germans had to strive for a revival. “What is unique about our situation,” he professed, “is that we recognize the value of pure blood, the great deeds for which we of the Nordic race must be thankful.” But what now? In an age of miscegenation, was it not too late to talk about racial purity? For Günther it was important to strive at reversing this condition, and that was the mission.80 Himmler said he found much in this book that changed the way he thought, and he read it twice that same year.81 Günther’s conclusions were entirely consistent with the National Socialist doctrine then taking shape. As he put it in 1925, “During the present age, two races are contending for the domination of the earth”; one led by the “upper class, primarily of the Nordic race” would have to muster all its powers, to battle the “pre-​Asiatic” race, that is the Jewish race, which was either capitalist or communist. Günther’s prescription was for the complete separation of the Jews from the non-​Jews.82 Himmler was not alone among the Nazi elite to adopt such ideas, as they fit perfectly with views they already held. In January 1929, Hitler appointed Himmler to be the head of the SS, at the time a small force, likely underestimated at between 260 and 300


Hitler’s True Believers

strong. The Schutz Staffel or SS (Protective Corps) that Hitler ordered formed in 1925 had been given the mission to save Germany, which was dying out, and to create the necessary basis so that the next generation could make history.83 Already on the eve of Hitler’s appointment in 1933, the SS increased to 52,000—​many commandeered from the SA. Although Himmler aimed to build an elite force, during the last years of the Weimar Republic the tasks of the SS and SA remained similar. However, he and several trusted comrades were already working out a distinctive SS ideology.84 Yet another of the early true believers, and an entirely different creature, was Julius Streicher. Although many party members regarded him as the most repugnant or vulgar of their leaders, Hitler thought highly of him. Born in 1885, he served in the war, gaining promotion to the rank of lieutenant and winning an Iron Cross. After that, Streicher worked as a primary school teacher in Nuremberg. Since 1919 he had joined various right-​wing parties, including the notorious German-​ Racial Protection and Defiance League (DVSTB). Characteristically, given the man’s frame of mind, he left that organization because it was not antisemitic enough. To his way of thinking, the Jews were behind all evil in the world, a grossly exaggerated conviction that tended to overshadow all his other beliefs. Streicher was also a socialist of sorts, and in 1920 he joined the German Socialist Party (DSP), which was sponsored by the tiny but influential Thule Society. He soon became head of its local chapter, then a member of the national executive, and he edited the party’s newspaper, Der Deutsche Sozialist (The German socialist), which earned a dubious reputation for its outlandish charges against the Jews. When he tried to win over members of the Socialist or Communist parties, he suggested (in anticipation of Hitler’s view) that the workers should be against Jewish finance capital, not capitalism in general. Apparently, Streicher once thought he might become the strong leader that so many in the country sought, and by all accounts he was a compelling speaker and a shrewd propagandist. In his political testament, he spoke of having created a social movement in Nuremberg, to which he devoted himself tirelessly.85 Although Streicher gave up his role in the DSP to join a similar group, it was after further experimentation that on October 20, 1922,

Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism


he and an estimated several thousand members of his party founded a local group of the NSDAP in Nuremberg. His unequivocal attitude and ideological orientation were summed up in a statement he issued at the time: “The aim of National Socialism is the transformation of Germany from the ground up, a revolution.” And he added: “For us it is a fight to the finish. The central question of this struggle, however, is and remains the Jewish question.”86 The most effective method of spreading the word was the public meeting, some of them drawing more than 1,000 people. By no means was Streicher prepared to bow completely to Hitler’s authority, so that well into 1923, amid all kinds of petty internal bickering, the Franconian leader secured a kind of dictatorial position for himself in Nuremberg. Nevertheless, he and several of his comrades participated in the attempted Putsch in November, though they planned nothing on that day for their own turf in Middle and Upper Franconia.87 Later, as a member of the Bavarian Landtag, Streicher was not in the least reserved, when this assembly was in session, in quite wrongly charging that the Jews had not served in the war and that they fought only for their own “world empire and the subjugation of all nations.”88 In 1927, he declared to the Party rally in Nuremberg that National Socialism was the “Gospel of recovery of our German fatherland,” for it brought rays of hope in a time of dark despair. The doctrine also provided clarity, spoke of the coming day of freedom, and gave hope that the day was near when “the swastika flag will be draped over the coffin of Marxism.”89 Hitler put up with the whiff of scandal that surrounded Streicher until much later, perhaps because of the man’s fanatical antisemitism and his willingness to fight bitterly for the cause.90 On the other hand, the unsullied Rudolf Hess, born in 1894, served in the First World War, suffered wounds, and won the Iron Cross (second class). In 1918, and after training as a pilot, he briefly saw action and retired with the rank of lieutenant. Like many people in Germany, he was appalled by Germany’s defeat in the war and he tended to blame the Independent Socialists (USPD), whom he deemed similar to the Bolsheviks in Russia. Back in Munich early the next year, he signed on to study at the university, and got to know Professor Karl Haushofer, the theoretician of geopolitics. Thanks to wartime friends, he also met Dietrich Eckart, who encouraged him to take in a meeting


Hitler’s True Believers

of the Thule Society, known for its support of völkisch and counterrevolutionary causes. That Hess went along suggests that he was predisposed to such endeavors. He also became a member of the Freikorps Epp and participated in the liberation of Munich from communist revolutionaries in the spring of 1919.91 Nevertheless, in 1920 he favored reaching an understanding with the new Russian government, because he had heard about the limitless raw materials Germany could gain there, and he played down the atrocity stories. He liked that the new military there had restored discipline, and even speculated that one day Germany and Russia might form an alliance and get rid of what remained of the Versailles Treaty. When he heard of the famine in 1921, he started to change his mind, grew alarmed that Jews leaving Russia were coming to Germany, and also began worrying about the communist threat looming over his country.92 Hess attended the university in Munich, and in January 1920 he was there when thousands of students cheered the rector’s speech that demanded commutation of the death sentence passed on the assassin of Kurt Eisner. They were deliriously happy when the government changed the penalty to a life in prison.93 Thus, along with Hess’s fierce nationalism, he became almost inevitably a convinced antisemite as well as one of those Germans who looked for the great man, “a dictator to bring about order, to stand up against the Jewish economy, the trafficking, the usury.” He and his friends were especially opposed to the Jewish leaders among the workers.94 When on May 19, 1920, he first attended a meeting of the NSDAP to hear Dietrich Eckart speak on the topic “International or National Socialism,” Hess was impressed by Hitler’s few short interventions, finding particularly striking his authoritative demands to clean out the government, a “pigsty,” and “to throw out the Jews.” In passing, Hitler added, to stormy applause, that the Jews ran the government in Bavaria.95 Although some historians paint Hess as a caricature, utterly smitten by Hitler’s charisma, he was more than that. He did not join the NSDAP immediately, but several months later in July 1920 as member 1600.96 Nor was he simply an emotional fanatic whom Hitler overawed to the point of smothering his own personality, when in fact they got along so well because they were already on the same political wavelength.97 Hess also participated in the failed Putsch of 1923, and in the years following their imprisonment, while serving as Hitler’s “private secretary,”

Early Leaders’ Paths to National Socialism


he controlled the Führer’s appointment plans, including his speaking engagements. Hess’s office was separate from the Munich Party central headquarters and opened the possibility for members and functionaries to write him. Among other things, this office acted as a kind of filter that permitted Hitler to remain above the petty internal intrigues and squabbles.98 Hess played his part in the success of the Party, though it would be an exaggeration to suggest that in the latter 1920s he became, second only to Hitler, the crucial decision-​maker in the NSDAP.99 What comes through from an examination of how some of the main political leaders found their way to the cluster of beliefs that became National Socialism is that all of them were out of joint with the times, many had served in the war or wanted to, and all vehemently rejected the disastrous outcome. With their lives and careers thrown into question, they were ill at ease with the new Republic’s democratic order and became participants in the broad racist-​nationalist and antisemitic backlash across the country. Indeed, radical antisemitism to a considerable extent informed their entire Weltanschauung. While they did not usually threaten the Jews with death, what they said and wrote was laden with deadly implications. They accepted the need for “cleaning up society,” variously interpreted to mean the end of pluralism and tolerance, and thus a crackdown on law and order. On the foreign policy front, opinions were mixed, though they all passionately wanted to break out of the constraints imposed by the Treaty of Versailles, to restore the military and take back the lands Germany had lost. Nearly all of these fixations existed in the minds of these men before they met Hitler, as did their various efforts to find German socialism, which was often identified with creating a conflict-​ free Volksgemeinschaft or community of the people. That concept was not new, and it proved to be malleable enough so that various early party leaders could interpret its meaning, including its socialist dimensions, quite differently. Even so, historians tend to dismiss all Nazi claims to being socialist because of their persistent belief in private property and limited nationalization schemes, when in fact most of the socialist parties in German history to this day have upheld these principles as well.100 Nevertheless, even as the NSDAP was trying to get off the ground again in 1925, an internal controversy simmered precisely about the “Left” or socialist aspect of National Socialism.


The National Socialist “Left”

After the failed Putsch of November 1923, with the Nazi Party outlawed, existing divisions of opinion within the fragmented movement widened and a number of splinter groups arose. Even after the party got going again in early 1925, it faced considerable obstacles. For one thing, the Bavarian authorities kept their eye on Hitler and on March 9, 1925, imposed a speaking ban on him. In Prussia, the largest German state, the authorities extended that prohibition well into the future.1 Under those circumstances, still tied down writing Mein Kampf and living in Bavaria, on March 11 Hitler tasked a trusted Gauleiter, the Bavarian-​born Gregor Strasser, to build the movement in North Germany. All well and good, though it became immediately obvious to the energetic Strasser and those around him that the political appeals that might have worked in agricultural and the more völkisch areas of Bavaria would likely fall on deaf ears in the more urban-​industrial North, unless the NSDAP brought out its socialist side to win over the workers. Those leaders for whom this line had real appeal are referred to after the fact as the “Left” in the Nazi Party. There was urgency in resolving any internal divisions, because already in 1924, the disruptive social conditions that once encouraged new joiners began to abate. Ordinary people do not look to extremist parties like the NSDAP when social and economic conditions return to some kind of normality. In such times, how could the party make a mark on the political landscape outside Bavaria without tearing itself apart?


Hitler’s True Believers

At the re-​ founding meeting of the Party in the jam-​ packed Bürgerbräukeller in Munich on February 27, 1925, Hitler resolutely staked his claim as its sole leader, and either assumed or hoped that would heal all divisions. He reminded the members that the Nazi Party program of 1920 was supposed to serve as “the guiding star,” and yet he still defined National Socialism in vague terms, as being “the link between the liveliest national strength with the purest social well-​being.” To those who might split their movement before it got going again, he said they had nine months during his imprisonment to show they could do nothing, and he now pleaded for unity.2 He believed that if their Party was to stand up to Marxism, it would need “uncompromising fighters [Kämpfer], who are prepared to struggle for their ideal ruthlessly.” Such a movement had to have roots in the broad masses. The aim of the NSDAP before 1923 had been clear: “Fight the devil’s power, that had sunk Germany into such misery, fight Marxism as the spiritual carrier of this world plague and infection, the Jews. Don’t fight according to the model of the better-​off middle class, ‘cautiously,’ so as not to cause pain. No and again no!” Gaining a few seats in parliament would do nothing against this “world plague.” Victory would only “be certain, when the Swastika flag flies over the last workplace and last factory, and the last Soviet Star, raised or not, has disappeared.” Just as the Jews fought “for their Marxist power” against the bourgeoisie and capitalism, so the NSDAP would battle against the Jews and Marxism. “The art of all great popular leaders, at all times,” he reminded listeners, “consisted in concentrating the attention of the masses on one enemy.” Here he identified the greatest danger as the “foreign poison of the people in the body politic.” While it might be possible to break the Versailles Peace Treaty, he observed, “once the blood is poisoned, it can’t be changed.”3 How would the Nazi “leftists” translate this nebulous message to workers, many of whom had been raised on a diet of Marxian socialism or communism with their sophisticated theoretical framework that answered all questions? The most influential of these Nazi “leftist” leaders have been usually identified as the Strasser brothers.4 Gregor was the elder of the two, born in 1892, and had served with distinction in the war. Their father had strong “German socialist” inclinations, in which even before 1914 he sought to combine socialism, nationalism,

The National Socialist “Left”


and Christianity. He was opposed to both hereditary monarchy and unrestrained capitalism. Gregor was large in stature, pronounced in his Bavarian accent, and brave in uniform during the war. As a soldier he won high honors, including the Iron Cross, First and Second Class, and was promoted to lieutenant in January 1916. Like so many others, he never quite got over the formative influence of the front experience, in which he felt part of a team with a clear purpose. On returning home, he found the November 1918 revolution disgusting, and with his brother linked up with the Freikorps Epp to crush Munich’s Soviet Republic the next year. For a time, Gregor led a local paramilitary group, partly dedicated to guarding against “the Communist danger.” Strangely enough, he gave conflicting dates for when he became a member of the Nazi Party, though it was likely in the autumn of 1922, at about the same time that he joined the Stormtroopers, with whom he soon made his mark. By November 1923, though enthusiastic about the Hitler Putsch, he did not play a meaningful role in the failed effort. Nevertheless, he went to court on a charge of treason and served briefly in Landsberg.5 Afterward, in reflecting on his reasons for turning to National Socialism, Strasser said he wanted to remake Germany along the lines of a “völkisch social state.” His aim was to persuade workers of the fallacies of international Marxism and win them again for the fatherland. To his way of thinking, those who led the workers down the wrong path were above all Jews and Marxists. The decisive battle ahead, he said in the Bavarian parliament in August 1924, was not with France; it was between a “Germanic-​moral Weltanschauung and Jewish Bolshevism.”6 Otto Strasser, though born in 1897, had also volunteered to serve in the war, during which he gained promotion to the officer rank and several decorations. After helping to put down the Soviet regime in Munich, his worldview remained colored by nationalism, deep-​seated antisemitism, and a mistrust of Bolshevism. Nevertheless, in a move indicative of his ambiguous inner convictions, he joined the Socialist Party (SPD) in 1919, and when he re-​enrolled at the university in Berlin, he worked with socialist and nationalist-​oriented students to create a veterans’ association with ties to that party. When an anti-​republican group around Wolfgang Kapp in Berlin attempted a Putsch in March


Hitler’s True Believers

1920, Otto Strasser opposed it, and he agreed with the general strike designed to bring it down. Then the federal government, led by the SPD, sent troops into the Ruhr, where they committed all kinds of atrocities when finishing off what remained of the strikers. Strasser regarded this aspect of the SPD’s behavior as a betrayal, so he left the party and returned to his home in Bavaria, where in October 1920 his brother arranged a meeting with Hitler and the famed World War I leader General Erich Ludendorff.7 Otto Strasser recounted this event colorfully in his memoirs, perhaps misdating it and no doubt adding an anti-​Hitler twist or two.8 First of all, he claimed to have found Ludendorff more impressive than Hitler, who sensed Strasser’s negative reaction, and so he attacked by saying he could not understand how Strasser, as a former officer, could have fought against the Kapp Putsch. To Hitler, who said he wanted to attract the masses, stoke their nationalist sympathies, and win the next war, Strasser retorted that he desired nothing of the sort. What he was after was a new order in Germany. His brother Gregor chimed in to say that “from the Right we shall take nationalism, which has so disastrously allied itself with capitalism, and from the Left we shall take Socialism, which has made such an unhappy union with internationalism.” Otto then suggested that the Party’s name should be spelled out in proper German grammar to read small “n” national large “S” Socialism, with the emphasis on the last word. Hitler would not agree, and the younger Strasser refused to join the Nazi Party for the time being.9 Besides the Strasser brothers, Joseph Goebbels, born in 1897, was also explicitly socialist. We can follow his path to National Socialism—​or at least the story he wished to tell of it—​by reading his voluminous diary, which provides almost daily clues to his political awakening. Here was a “typical product,” if there was such a thing, of the psychological and political atmosphere of disenchantment and aimlessness that followed the lost war. Long before he had heard of Hitler, Goebbels had become “pro–​Greater Germany, and anti-​international.” While it is difficult to pin down the influences on his political thinking, in 1922 Goebbels discovered Houston Stewart Chamberlain and Otto Weininger—​coincidentally two of Hitler’s favorites—​and Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West.10 That October Goebbels said that

The National Socialist “Left”


the decline Spengler had predicted could be avoided by the elimination of the Jewish element, so like Hitler he rejected Spengler’s fatalism.11 The first mention of the “Jewish question” in his diary came on October 22, 1923, seemingly out of the blue, when he noted that the racial problem was pressing itself ever more into public life. After watching a comedy in November by Curt Goetz portraying some Jewish characters, Goebbels thought it was funny, though he wrote in his diary that “Jewry is poison that brings death to the European body politic [Volkskörper].” Moreover, he said, “the Jewish spirit of decomposition had its worst effects on German art and science, as well as on theater, music, literature, university, and the press.” Germans supposedly had been too soft and lazy, and he wanted to get them thinking again.12 Complicating matters, his girlfriend at the time was half-​Jewish, and he struggled with that until eventually breaking up with her. As a voracious reader, he stumbled upon Henry Ford’s scandalous book The International Jew. Although Goebbels had his doubts about it, he still marveled at how much it revealed. The Jewish question, he pronounced, was the burning issue of the day. He soon read The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and considered the document a fake, mainly because he figured that the Jews would not be so careless as to put their plans in writing. His opposition to the Jews seemed to grow ever more radical during the spring of 1924. On April 10, he drew up a balance sheet: “One thing is to me an inviolable truth: The Jew is in reality the Faustian man, ‘the plastic daemon of decay,’ the ‘ferment of decomposition.’ ”13 The Germans had to help themselves, and if they did not, then they deserved the worst. He stood on the side of the völkisch, and said that to the depths of his soul he hated “the Jew out of instinct and out of reason.”14 That perspective put him in the world of ideas he shared with many, including Hitler. Goebbels described his future leader in March 1924, as had Heinrich Himmler, after reading one of Hitler’s speeches, as a passionate idealist, a man who would restore Germans’ beliefs, someone with a nationalist and socialist consciousness, who would show the way to salvation.15 Goebbels hankered for the return of a “great man,” perhaps on the model of the Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and he pleaded with God to send a miracle, for the country “yearns for the One, the Man, as the earth longs for rain in summer.”16 Yet he quietly


Hitler’s True Believers

insisted that “socialism was their ultimate aim, and that the world will be ours with Hitler as the leader of German socialism.”17 On July 14, 1925, when Goebbels heard Hitler speak for the first time, he was struck by the man’s voice, gestures, and passion. It seems that Hitler was Goebbels’s psychological projection, his own dream fulfilled, for he was “just as I wished him to be.” The event turned out to be more than he had dared to expect, and when it ended, he stood outside and cried like a baby.18 This was his typical theatricality and self-​dramatization—​his diary is full of phrases about his weeping or other demonstrative expressions, as if he were writing for a receptive audience and for publication. No doubt that was his faint hope at the time. On finishing the first volume of Mein Kampf, Goebbels still had questions, though semi-​worshipful ones, about its author:  “Who is this man? Half-​plebeian, half-​god! Is this really Christ or only John the Baptist?”19 When he read through the second volume, he said that here he found the real Hitler, and he was so happy he wanted to cry out.20 The text of the Hitler speech that so convinced Goebbels has been lost, though from what he says about it in his diary, it resembled others Hitler gave to various audiences in June and July 1925. At that time, he focused on the relationship between ideology, organization, and his leadership. “When a new idea is first proclaimed,” he told listeners, it was entrusted to a person, its “preacher.” The difference between such a belief (Glauben) and a philosophical opinion was that the latter was available to all and could be interpreted variously. On the other hand, a belief needed a framework, a united movement. They should never forget that the best ideas are useless, if they cannot be translated into reality, and it would take political power to make that happen. “All those won to the new Idea, must become soldiers of the new Idea.” While not everyone could be a leader, one could be “a soldier of the new Weltanschauung!” “The organization,” he avowed often, “is not an aim in itself, but only the means of spreading the idea.” “Ideally the unity of a movement lies in the idea, and practically in the authority of a center,” that is, its leader. Why name the Party “national” instead of “völkisch”? Hitler asked rhetorically. Because the latter word could not even be defined, while “National Socialist” already enunciated more specific beliefs. What should be the strengths of the movement? That it engaged in the fight

The National Socialist “Left”


“for the redemption of our German people, not for seats in parliament, free travel passes, and so on.” They should be carried along by a genuine national enthusiasm, though it would take time to spread the word about the new Weltanschauung.21 The well-​ read Dr.  Goebbels, impressed by such speechifying, remained troubled that National Socialism was still so poorly articulated. He acknowledged that if Hitler stood before party members he could answer all their questions, though if something should happen to him, they would be lost. They instinctively knew “the idea,” without being able to grasp it or present it as well without him. Goebbels admitted that “Hitler is the idea and the idea is Hitler,” a statement that was not a confession of being entranced by the man’s charisma. Instead, it was an admission that only Hitler had the ability to present the doctrine and Goebbels had not yet mastered it, beyond the clichés of wanting to free the slaves or to give the Germans a better future.22 By contrast, Marxism, which he knew well, including its Russian variations, had an answer for every question; it was the political theory of all theories, and National Socialism would never match it. When he got to know Hitler a little more, he became fond of him. In November 1925, Goebbels observed (as did many others) that a Hitler speech was not the one-​dimensional scream we see in short film clips, for it contained humor, irony, sarcasm, seriousness, fire—​all of it delivered with passion. “The man has everything to be king. The born people’s tribune. The future dictator.”23 Yet Goebbels was not well enough acquainted with him in 1926 to be able to set down the long list of ideal attributes that he thought Hitler possessed. It was as if the principal members of the Party projected onto the flesh-​and-​blood man the characteristics they thought their almighty Führer should embody.24 In spite of such enthusiasm, political and theoretical divisions in the young party were bound to occur as it was attempting to get off the ground, as well as trying to recruit from such socially contrasting areas. Thus, in the north, where Gregor Strasser proved a capable organizer, he and other leaders grew concerned about the movement’s ideology and political direction. On September 10, 1925, at meetings in Hagen, Westphalia, they established a loose working group (Arbeitsgemeinschaft) of the North and West German districts of the NSDAP. They bemoaned the “low level” of the Party’s main newspaper,


Hitler’s True Believers

the Völkischer Beobachter (Racialist Observer) published in Munich and edited by Alfred Rosenberg.25 Although they did not explicitly challenge Hitler’s leadership, Strasser and Goebbels wanted to reorient the party’s original (1920) program to give it a more pronounced socialist ring, and Otto Strasser joined them. In the meantime, the younger Strasser had met and worked with Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, noted author of Das Dritte Reich (The Third Reich, 1923), who was a völkisch nationalist and also an advocate for German socialism. Goebbels read the book and found it marvelous. Everything “clear and so quiet, and yet gripped by an inner passion as he writes what we, the young ones, long knew by feeling and instinct.”26 Moeller van den Bruck convinced Otto Strasser that only the national socialist idea could renew Germany, so the impressionable Otto soon joined the NSDAP. He did so even though he and his brother considered its program insufficient to win followers outside Bavaria, and they came up with a more detailed political platform.27 They wanted to make it more precise, without proposing anything as radical as the Bolshevik model.28 As far as Goebbels was concerned the issue was whether nationalism or socialism came first. “For us in the West [of Germany] there’s no doubt about it. First the socialist redemption, then the national emancipation like a wind storm.”29 The Strasser program, drawn up by the two brothers with Goebbels in November 1925, did not differ as much from the original as often supposed. It postulated that National Socialism was a synthesis of a state-​building nationalism and of a socialism that supported and preserved the individual.30 The state would intervene more in industrial policy, and there would be some nationalization of industry, in what was called a “far-​reaching transfer” of ownership to the public. Workers got little mention in the program, save that a joint worker and employer council would obtain 10  percent of a company’s stock, while small businesses would be protected and farmers would be forced into local cooperatives. There was a hint of an Italian fascist–​like organization of the economy based on chambers, and pronounced antisemitism that was similar to the original NSDAP program.31 What they were after, as Gregor Strasser put it during a parliamentary debate that month in Berlin, was a “German socialism,” a new “collectivist economic order” that would replace the exploitive capitalist system, and introduce “a real socialism, maintained not by a soulless Jewish-​materialist outlook but

The National Socialist “Left”


by a believing, sacrificial and ancient German community sentiment, community purpose and community feeling. We want the social revolution in order to bring about the national revolution.”32 Soon enough, tensions within this “working group” crystallized around another budding controversy. The question was this:  If the Weimar Republic seized the property of the German princes, should they be compensated? The Strasser brothers and Goebbels, among others, thought the princes should get nothing. Yet other Party Gauleiters, such as Franz Pfeffer von Salomon, came down instead for the sanctity of private property, and that would mean compensating the princes. This inner-​party dispute illustrated the different ideological configurations that existed at the time in the NSDAP, even among those outside Bavaria. Pfeffer von Salomon’s viewpoint, coming from one born into a noble family of the Lower Rhine in 1888, suggests that the differences ran deep. Already an army lieutenant in 1911, he volunteered to fight in the war, became a captain, served on the prestigious General Staff, and won high honors. All that seemed cast in the dust when he returned home in defeat. As he led the troops toward their base in Münster, revolutionary soldiers stopped them from crossing the Rhine. According to his self-​styled legend, Pfeffer brought up two heavy machine guns to clear the way. After that he became a nationalist freebooter and anti-​ revolutionary zealot. He soon organized the Westphalian Freikorps Pfeffer, fought in the Baltic, Upper Silesia, and in the Ruhr, and also participated in the Kapp-​Putsch of 1920 in Berlin, in which right-​wing officers attempted to take power.33 After initially favoring General Ludendorff as the leader who could bring the Right together, in mid-​1924 (with the NSDAP outlawed and Hitler in prison) Pfeffer began calling himself a National Socialist, accepted most of its doctrine, and opposed “large capital,” though without rejecting private property. His proclaimed highest goal was to create a renewed Volksgemeinschaft. He favored “laws for the purity of the blood,” and in keeping with Gottfried Feder’s favorite theme, he wanted to liberate the nation from the bonds of interest slavery. Like others in the NSDAP, he was against the “harmful influence” of the Jews in the press, as well as in writing, on the stage, screen, in art, and more.34


Hitler’s True Believers

Pfeffer must have felt slightly out of place amid the Northern or “Leftist” faction of the Party, and he took exception to the Strassers’ program, because of its ideological basis. In response, on Christmas Day, 1925, he published a pseudonymous memorandum with the unsettling title:  “Breeding. A  Demand for Our Program.” The rare, thirty-​one-​ page document reveals a list of the usual influences, particularly H. S. Chamberlain, along with the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. If Pfeffer wanted a Volksgemeinschaft, it was going to be nothing like the egalitarian one favored by the Strassers and Goebbels. Though he agreed about the need for the state to invade social life, he came down in favor of what he called “an iron law of inequality.” The reason for this hard fact was the “inequality in value” of people, as could be measured by four factors: their “productivity at work,” “bodily precondition, according to health and racial features,” “spiritual–​moral–​ cultural properties,” and “genetic heritage [Erbanlagen], as measured by parents, grandparents, and so on.” The state’s mission was to foster the “higher-​valued” creatures and to diminish the “less-​valued” ones. “In plain German, we call that a breeding problem. Improving the breed of a race. People-​Breeding.” In typically social Darwinist terms, he boldly insisted that “nature itself, in a struggle for existence” supported the “selection and rearing of the best and decline of the worst.”35 Pfeffer believed in socialism, or at least the redistribution of wealth, by which the state intervened to place each member of society, according to their value, on a set of stairs. The state would reward the top two-​thirds of the population, those at the top of the stairs, the “higher-​valued” people, with all power, property, and money to develop their personalities, productivity, culture, and so on. His version of a Volksgemeinschaft included this group, while at the same time excluding anyone deemed flawed. The long list of the rejected began with “cripples, epileptics, the blind, insane, deaf, children of alcoholics and welfare institutions, orphans (illegitimate foundlings), criminals, prostitutes, the sexually disturbed, etc.” There should be no tears, he added, for the “dumb, weak, old, shiftless, the hereditarily burdened, or prone to disease,” as “without guilt” they would be allowed to deteriorate, or quoting the Bible, “Weighed and found too light. Fruitless trees shall yea chop down and throw into the fire.”36

The National Socialist “Left”


This anti-​egalitarian world would be the work of generations. He found it amusing and not entirely inaccurate to be called an “elitist aristocrat.”37 Pfeffer wanted to pick the racial elite for the military, and to “unleash a struggle for existence with the best natural selection.” He asserted that his aim was to “de-​throne money” and crown “the value of the personality,” though what he offered was more like a graphic illustration of a social Darwinian dystopia.38 We do not have Hitler’s response to this “program,” and notwithstanding how far-​fetched it might appear, it reveals the kinds of ideas that were in the air at the time inside the budding National Socialist movement, some of them later informing the inhumane practices in the Third Reich. Goebbels was trying to be diplomatic when he said that he agreed with Pfeffer on the struggle for the future state. Yet while Pfeffer had overcome the old world, he had not found the new, so he was a “wanderer between two worlds.” Goebbels remained, as of early 1926, convinced that the future would lead to socialism, and it could only be gained by organizing the working class.39 Pfeffer knew of Hitler’s growing prominence well before their first meeting in January 1925, because of the Putsch attempt and Hitler’s trial performance.40 A  contemporary described Pfeffer’s intellectual and leadership abilities in glowing terms, and said his special ability was in judging people and summing them up in a few words, a talent for which he was not always loved.41 In February 1925 Pfeffer founded the District (Gau) of the NSDAP in Westphalia, and received Hitler’s formal blessing on March 27. He joined the NSDAP and claimed the low number 16,101. A  year later, he, Goebbels, and Karl Kaufmann founded an enlarged Gau Ruhr of the NSDAP, with 113 local branches.42 There remained tension among these “Northerners” and the Strassers, a strain that Otto confused still more when he said that he and his brother opposed both capitalism and Marxism and instead wanted some kind of “state feudalism.”43 Such a strategy would nationalize heavy industry and distribute the large estates to those who worked on them. That might win some support, though surely not his suggestion that with a mixed economy the nation would take over all property, with individuals owning it on a lease basis, for such a proposal would alienate entire sectors of the country. Although this scheme was impractical and politically impossible to sell to anyone not already in


Hitler’s True Believers

a socialist party, some historians even doubt that this was “authentic socialism.”44 Actually, socialism came in infinite varieties, with whole generations of dreamers and utopians, so that we can hardly dismiss this enunciation of it. By early 1926, Hitler heard enough rumblings of discontent to call a meeting of sixty or so party leaders in Northern Bavaria, and he stacked the gathering in Bamberg with representatives from the south. When they met on February 14, he treated them to a lecture variously estimated at between two and five hours. The fragment of the record that survives deals primarily with changes in his foreign policy conceptions, as he was then working them out in Mein Kampf.45 Whereas the “northern faction” wanted a return to the borders of 1914, with colonies and a relationship with Russia, Hitler argued convincingly that Germany had to get over its old boundaries, forgo colonies, and ally with Great Britain and Italy. He was completely against approaching Russia, because, with its Bolshevism, it would be “suicide” to regard that country as anything but an enemy. “We National Socialists,” he said, “want to free the German people from economic pressure and social injustice, and therefore we must ensure getting enough land and soil, so that every racial comrade would obtain his food.” From that point of view, Germany had to adopt “an eastern orientation, an eastern colonization as before in the Middle Ages.” And in contrast to the northern group, Hitler came out in support of the German princes, who were under threat that the state would nationalize their lands. He wanted no tampering with private property, at least for the time being.46 The northern group was disappointed with Hitler’s statements. When he called Goebbels to Munich in April, the younger man was not overwhelmed by the “Hitler mythos,” as much as by the man’s ideas47 because a close reading of Goebbels’s diary suggests he wrote quite positively of how Hitler provided new insights at their meeting. “His ideal: mixed collectivism and individualism. Soil: above and below belongs to the people. Production: creative, individualistic. Factories, trusts, manufacturing, communications, etc. socialized.”48 In short, Hitler’s moderate socialism, and his tactical decision not to tackle capitalism head on, had persuaded Goebbels, and neither of them gave up advocating for socialism as such.

The National Socialist “Left”


If Hitler won the debate, it was because he had better arguments and knew how best to present National Socialism. He did not smother the so-​ called Northern faction, including the Strasser brothers and Goebbels, in his charisma.49 At Bamberg Hitler reaffirmed his dictatorial-​like powers and special place inside the Party, and Goebbels became one of the truest believers. As he put it in a newspaper article from July 1926, “The one thing that gives the movement its clearest character, which in a time of unity, it naturally must always show: the unambiguity of the leadership principle [Führerprinzip].”50 Only the initiated knew, he said, what the personality of Adolf Hitler had meant for the solidarity of the movement over the past few years. The “Heil Hitler!” greeting, which had been used occasionally since 1923, had become more common with time, with Gregor Strasser suggesting its use in the Party to bring in the New Year of 1927.51 Even then, the meaning of the leadership principle and Hitler greeting had little impact outside the Nazi Party until after the breakthrough election in 1930. If Gregor Strasser bowed to Hitler’s authority or at least his political abilities, he still advocated a more socialistic line. As might be expected, Alfred Rosenberg, as one of the party’s self-​styled ideological experts and a die-​hard anti-​Bolshevist, pushed back in a newspaper article in early 1927. Nationalism in its purest form, he said, united with socialism and, if stripped of any internationalism, represented the nation’s spirit of liberation. Hence, emphasizing the socialism in the Party’s name (as Strasser and his comrades wanted) was wrong, because the main point of their activity was to rescue the nation. Strasser replied quickly that socialism meant more than merely using the state to protect the people from capitalist greed, as Rosenberg would have it. Instead, it aimed to create another form of economic life and implied the participation of workers in ownership, profit, and management. This socialism accepted that private property was the basis of all culture, and because capitalism was an immoral system that stole the nation’s goods, the state had to step in to restore fairness. He closed with the sentence, “We are therefore, to be precise, not only ‘national Socialists,’ but also ‘antisemites’—​ in a word:  ‘National Socialists.’ ” Such exchanges about the place of socialism in the party’s ideology continued over the next several years without resolution.52


Hitler’s True Believers

We do not know exactly why Hitler decided in 1926 to pick Pfeffer von Salomon to be the new head of the SA, though the Northern faction did not send him to Munich. Hitler had traveled to Westphalia that summer, stayed with Pfeffer and his family for a week or so, and they discussed the organization of the SA.53 In the second volume of Mein Kampf, which Hitler finished only in November 1926, he set down precisely that in the future the SA could not be a military unit nor a combat league, and certainly not a secret organization. It had to be trained as a political guard, “to conduct and reinforce the movement’s struggle for its völkisch idea.”54 Pfeffer, as a former army officer who had served on the General Staff and was a veteran leader of the Freikorps, might be the best person to lead the SA and to turn it into the political instrument Hitler had in mind. Officially, he took up his new position on November 1, 1926. At that time, the Party leader underlined that members should not engage in military exercises and should instead train through sports. Their bodily fitness should immunize them against any doubts about their superiority and improve their ability to defend the movement. The activity of the SA was to engage in an “ideological war of extermination against Marxism, its structures, and its wire-​pullers. What we need are not a hundred or two hundred bold conspirators, but a hundred thousand or even hundreds of thousands of fanatical fighters for our Weltanschauung.”55 Pfeffer agreed that the SA should not be the paramilitary force that Ernst Röhm had wanted before he resigned as its head. According to Pfeffer’s later remarks, he worked out specific organizational plans for the SA in which he would be sole leader and independent of Hitler, who did not like this notion and went along because he had no better ideas of his own.56 Pfeffer and Gregor Strasser (another former army officer) used to joke that they wished Hitler had made it at least to the rank of lieutenant during the war, so that he would have some notion of how to organize the troops. At any rate, Pfeffer took Röhm’s place, and in addition led the SS, Hitler Youth, and the National Socialist Student League.57 Whereas until then the individual party bosses controlled their Stormtroopers, now final authority went to SA headquarters in Munich under Pfeffer.58

The National Socialist “Left”


To seal his agreement with Goebbels, Hitler offered him the prestigious job of Gauleiter (district boss) of the Nazi Party in Berlin. Admittedly, that would be the toughest job in Germany, given the capital city’s reputation as the Reds’ center. Goebbels left home on November 9, 1926, to take up the assignment, and in due course he led the Berlin party to considerable success. In the process, the local branch earned a reputation for violence, as well as for persistent socialistic tendencies.59 In fact, to those who said he had sold out to Hitler, Goebbels replied that the revolution had no intrinsic value in itself, and that it should be regarded as a “practical step on the way to socialism.”60 Indeed, in 1926 Goebbels penned one of his better-​known pamphlets, with the provocative title The Nazi-​Sozi, short for the Nazi Socialist. The text takes the form of his dialogue with a skeptical non-​party member, and in answering him Goebbels sets down what he understands by socialism. “We want,” he said, “a full part of the production of what the heavens gave us and what we have earned by our fists and brains. That is socialism!” Had not workers fought for socialism for decades already? No, because instead they had fought for Marxism, “the exact opposite of living socialism.” What about nationalism? Goebbels answers that there was more to it than “the comfortable moral theology of bourgeois property and capitalist profits,” because the “new nationalism is the most radical form of völkisch self-​defense.” Moreover, the Party’s antisemitism was integral to its socialism. While it was also true that all parties had programs, for the NSDAP according to Goebbels, any means was justified because their program sought “the emancipation of the productive German people.” “We do not shrink before a social revolution, if the freedom of the nation demands it.” The document ends with Goebbels declaring, in a typical end-​of-​the-​world scenario: “This future will be ours, or it will not be at all. Liberalism dies, so that socialism lives. Marxism dies, so that nationalism lives. Then we form the new Germany, the nationalist, socialist Third Reich.”61 The short book makes abundantly clear that Goebbels remained, by his own definition, a radical socialist, nationalist, and raging antisemite. Some months after he went to Berlin, he started his own newspaper, Der Angriff (The attack), and in one of its first editions he revealed the essence of his political doctrine. “We are enemies of the Jews,” he


Hitler’s True Believers

wrote, “because we are fighters for the freedom of the German people. The Jew is the cause and exploiter of our slavery. He has misused the desperate social situation of the broad masses, to deepen the unfortunate division between right and left within the nation, and to make Germany into two halves, and thus on the one hand the real reason for the loss of the war, and on the other, for the falsification of the revolution.” Goebbels branded the Jew a parasite, “the prototype of the intellectual,” the “daemon of decay,” the “destroyer of our race,” and at the same time, the “wire-​puller of the Marxist world-​conspiracy, and of international finance capital.”62 In fact Goebbels’s early writings reveal how he came to hold “the Jew” as being either directly responsible for, or the sponsor of all evils besetting Germany. In 1927, he claimed to be a socialist who opposed the Jew as “the incarnation of capitalism.” As a nationalist Goebbels believed in the doctrine of blood and race, and rejected the Jew as the “destroyer of unified blood.”63 In early 1929, he wrote that it was impossible to fight the Jews positively, because this negative factor had to be “erased from the German system [Rechnung] or it will eternally ruin it.” Would this mean terror, he asked rhetorically: “Never! It’s social hygiene. We take these individuals out of circulation, as the doctor removes the bacillus from the circulation system.”64 In the late 1920s, Goebbels’s version of socialism ran like this: “We are socialists, because for us the social question is a question of necessity and of justice, thus an existential concern of the nation, and is not an object of cheap pity or insulting sentimentality.” There was a lot more involved in socialism than fighting for the eight-​hour day, and it could “only be realized in a nation, that is united within and is free in facing the outside world.”65 Marxism was a “Jewish teaching” and international, and thus it cut the roots of the nation’s organic links to the soil. Unlike socialism in Russia, German National Socialism “believes in property, just not the misuse of property, it believes in capitalism, not its abuse.”66 That did not mean a classless society, for there would be divisions between high and low, top and bottom, but the value of work itself would be determined by “how useful it was to the state, to the nation as a whole that fostered and demanded it.” Why did the National Socialists call themselves a workers’ party? That was because they “wanted to free work from the chains of capitalism and Marxism

The National Socialist “Left”


that have imprisoned it.”67 At the same time, private property was “the foundation of all human culture,” and any social system that tried to deny private property had gone badly wrong. Instead Goebbels saw for the future “a people of free and responsible property owners: that’s the aim of German socialism.” In short: “To each his own.”68 As a useful way to defuse the tension over ideological issues, twice during 1927 Hitler had asked Gregor Strasser to come to Munich as leader of the NSDAP’s propaganda unit, a task he accepted and commenced in early 1928, believing or hoping he could still win their leader to a more socialistic course.69 When Hitler spoke about doctrine during this time, as he did to a large audience gathered in Heidelberg, he returned to his older refrain, that the party’s platform documented that “National Socialism is the highest form of socialism” and the “highest form of nationalism. It is from this knowledge that the National Socialist Weltanschauung emerges.” This teaching, he said, was no minor theoretical point, for it would be applied “to the practical struggle in all areas. It teaches a people not to capitulate like cowards, either to the enemy within or to the powers outside the borders.”70 For a show of unity, Hitler met with Gregor Strasser and Joseph Goebbels in Munich in late 1927. He gave them a chance to speak, while gently affirming that he was the one and only leader.71 On January 2, 1928, Strasser moved on as the new, impressive-​sounding Reich Organization Leader, a sign that Hitler did not disapprove of his stance. It was in that role that he unified the previously faction-​ridden party and shuffled the organization, so that when the Great Depression hit in 1929, it was perfectly positioned to take full advantage of the situation.72 For the moment, they all looked forward to the Reichstag election of May 20, 1928. In some districts, the party trained workers as speakers to disrupt left-​wing meetings, while propagandists emphasized socialistic themes such as “The Struggle against Capitalism—​the Demand of the Hour.”73 These appeals fell short and the optimism about getting workers’ support turned out to be misplaced, because in spite of all the effort, the NSDAP polled only 2.6 percent of the national vote. The results were worse in big cities and industrial centers, slightly better in more agricultural areas, so that soon enough the Party quietly relaxed


Hitler’s True Believers

its urban plan, that is, going all out to win the workers away from the Marxist parties. As part of the switch to a rural strategy, Hitler clarified point seventeen of the “unalterable” party program, that had read: “We demand a land reform suitable to our national requirements, the passing of a law for the expropriation of land for communal purposes without compensation; abolition of taxes on land and prohibition of all speculation in land.” On April 13, 1928, they changed this to read that since the NSDAP believed in private property, the notion of “confiscation without compensation” referred to finding the legal means of confiscating “land acquired illegally or not managed in the public interest.” Thus, this was a demand “aimed primarily against Jewish companies which speculate in land.”74 More than the support of farmers was needed, and for some time Hitler had made efforts to win over nationalistically inclined industrial magnates. That complicated the ideological debate within the party. Early on, he succeeded in attracting Emil Kirdorf, one of the Ruhr bigwigs, and at age eighty or so, a living monument to free enterprise complemented by a strong dose of anti-​unionism. He shared the Party’s rabid nationalism, disappointment over the lost war, and revulsion at the revolutions that followed. Kirdorf joined the party in 1927, and it was at his request, and for distribution to his well-​ heeled colleagues, that Hitler provided a pamphlet that summarized his ideas relevant to big business. There he repeated his mantra that in their highest forms, nationalism and socialism were identical, and offered his formulaic diagnosis of all that was wrong and what needed to be done, with emphasis on the harmful effects of international Marxism.75 When Hitler spoke to between 200 and 400 of the business elite in Essen on April 27, 1927, a major point he tried to get across was that those people raised in a Marxist milieu over generations were so closed-​minded that they could only be reached by a new idea embodied in his party, one that combined nationalism and socialism.76 Rudolf Hess, present that day, said this speech was greeted by “thunderous applause.”77 Nonetheless, after a year as a member, Kirdorf resigned because the socialistic rhetoric represented a considerable barrier to the NSDAP for the business community. The Party was also tainted with

The National Socialist “Left”


rabid hostility toward the Jews and was prone to illegality and all kinds of street rowdiness.78 Searching in all directions, the Nazi Party did not give up completely on getting the workers, though the electoral results from the spring of 1929, at the local, district, and provincial (Landtag) levels, called forth a more detailed agricultural plan.79 The restless Otto Strasser wondered: Was the NSDAP really a workers’ party, seriously intent on realizing German socialism, and perhaps prepared to form a coalition even with the Marxists? Or was it more a nationalist-​völkisch movement for whom it would be more natural to partner with the reactionary parties of the Right?80 This was the question that provoked another mini-​crisis with Hitler, now urged on especially by Goebbels. The context of the debate was partly set during May 1930, when Alfred Rosenberg published an essay claiming that Hitler as Führer embodied the National Socialist Idea, and that loyalty to it was synonymous with loyalty to him. This firm idea could not be toyed with by late joiners, who would find few opportunities to pose as leaders themselves.81 Was this a threat aimed at the Strassers? That very month, Hitler had a heated conversation with the pugnacious Otto Strasser that lasted for hours. When they met a second day to continue, Hitler had Gregor Strasser and Rudolf Hess there as well. Whereas Otto wanted the Party to oppose capitalism with the same vehemence that it attacked Marxism, Hitler would not hear of such a thing, because that would ruin the economy. Of course, if an industry contravened national interests, then the strong state might expropriate it. He could not agree either that management should always have to consult the workers, or that they should have profit-​sharing rights. According to Strasser, who provided the only account we have of the meeting, Hitler insisted that he was himself a socialist, while alleging that Strasser was a Marxist, or worse. Strasser quoted Hitler as saying that “the mass of the working classes wants nothing but bread and games. They will never understand the meaning of an ideal, and we cannot hope to win them over to one.” According to Strasser, Hitler said that having studied revolutions in the past, he had concluded that they all had been fundamentally racial. It was an exaggerated conclusion, to say the least, that led him to add that the struggle “will always be the same; the struggle of the inferior classes and inferior races against


Hitler’s True Believers

the superior races who are in the saddle. On the day that the superior race forgets this law, it is lost.” Strasser noted that Hitler then cited Chamberlain’s Foundations of the Nineteenth Century and Rosenberg’s new book, The Myth of the Twentieth Century, as proving this point.82 Although he was not at these meetings, Pfeffer von Salomon later remarked that he had never tried to bring socialism into the Party, and he thought that Hitler’s notion could be summarized as an unwillingness to deal directly with the social question. Pfeffer said that Hitler wanted the workers to be nationalized, for that would make a national renewal possible, and then things would be better for them.83 Hitler remarked at the end of June 1930 that “behind the mask of having to fight for socialism,” these individuals “pursued a policy such as that of our Jewish-​liberal-​Marxist enemies.”84 The conflict with Otto Strasser dragged on until July 1, when he resigned from the Party, putting out the announcement with great fanfare that “The Socialists leave the NSDAP.” He called for the formation of an alternative party. Later on, he unknowingly told an undercover police informer that the NSDAP “was no longer revolutionary” and that Hitler was betraying the party’s socialism. Hitler’s antisemitism was “sincere,” in Strasser’s opinion, and his using it politically was “extraordinarily effective.”85 Even Gregor broke with his brother, and as he explained in a letter to a friend on July 22, 1930, he thought Otto’s actions were “completely crazy.” Allegedly, Otto’s problem was that he was too theoretical, never left his desk, visited a party meeting, or attended the annual rallies, so that for him “the soul of the people had remained completely foreign.” Gregor wanted the party to retain its socialist principles, though it had to pursue the legal route to power with links to conservative political forces, and not chase after an uncertain revolution on the side of the Communists. He reacted defensively to an accusatory letter that claimed he had betrayed the party’s twenty-​five-​point program of 1920.86 “Adolf Hitler and his comrades,” he answered, “have never made a secret that they want one thing, namely the power in the state, all and any of it, and then to push through what they have outlined and proclaimed about National Socialism since 1919. No one has ever said that the seizure of power could happen only one way, such as a revolution from below.” In fact, Strasser maintained, the Führer had the right to choose the methods he saw fit to get into power.87 Perhaps

The National Socialist “Left”


reluctantly, Strasser adapted to the new situation, including to the rural orientation in elections, yet he continued to give speeches that had an unmistakable socialist ring to them.88 With the onset of the Great Depression and rise in unemployment, the prospects of success looked good for a united NSDAP in the elections scheduled for September 14, 1930. An inner-​party conflict arose, however, with a Berlin Stormtrooper leader Walther Stennes, who seemed to put his personal ambition to get a Reichstag seat before the good of the cause. SA boss Pfeffer appeared to agree with Stennes, though not Hitler, who regarded any such demands as questioning his leadership. Even after Pfeffer opted to resign his position on August 29, Stennes and some of his comrades persisted, and the next day they stormed Party headquarters in Berlin. They wanted certain just rewards, as well as for the Party to pay greater attention to their more socialistic ideology. Hitler rushed to patch things together on the eve of what became the Party’s great breakthrough, for in the elections it gained 107 seats, up from only twelve from the last round. In the meantime, Hitler called back Ernst Röhm to assume the leadership of the SA as of January 1931. Ultimately, Hitler got around to deposing Stennes on March 31, though even then the unruly Stennes briefly led a breakaway group of SA men, claiming to return to the original Nazi program as a revolutionary, not a parliamentary movement. He attempted to establish a more socialist-​sounding program, though his small group was itself divided on key issues. In any case, time had already passed them by, with the Party having just won an enormous electoral victory to become the second strongest in the Reichstag.89 Soon after this major breakthrough, and reflecting on ideological questions, Hitler confided to Otto Wagener that the world had reached a turning point, and that a “socialistic” Weltanschauung was replacing the “individualistic” one. “A thousand-​year-​old attitude toward life is being thrust aside by completely new concepts.” Whereas the focus remained on the individual, private property, and so on, these were only the shell of the old system. The mission, according to Hitler, was “to convert the nation to socialism without killing off the old individualists, without the destruction of property and values, without the extermination of culture, morals and ethics that distinguish the Europeans from Asians or other races.” Here he was differentiating his position from that of the


Hitler’s True Believers

Marxists in Russia who went too far, by eliminating what remained of the individual and nationalizing all property. Hitler was convinced that his plans would liberate workers, giving them more free time for cultural activities or hobbies, so that to some extent this variety of German socialism would lead back to a new individuality, one that would solve the problems revealed by the practices of Leninism and Stalinism. “And our synthesis is not a compromise—​I would reject any such thing—​it is instead the radical removal of all false results of industrialization and unrestrained economic liberalism.” Whereas under communism they ended up with a welfare state with the average living standards heading ever lower, he wanted a competitive system, one that fostered the free development of the personality, though “in the service of the community, where the standard is to be raised” ever higher. Then again, he occasionally sounded like a Christian Socialist whose ultimate mission, as he put it, was “to fill the people with a reborn faith and the Weltanschauung of Him, who once before was a savior in the people’s deepest hour of need.” Because most people’s heads were filled with outmoded ideas, or so Hitler thought, he put his faith in youth, with whom they would “conquer the true kingdom of heaven for the people and for all mankind!”90 When would the country be ready for German socialism? Hitler told Wagener that they could not really challenge the establishment until they had two-​thirds of the people behind them. That would take ten to fifteen years, during which time youth would have to be socialized into new ways of seeing things. Only in that next generation, which overcame its misgivings about socialism, would it be possible. “The entire Volk must want the new order,” and only then, all that remained of the liberal-​capitalist rule would finally collapse.91 Was socialism really finished inside the Nazi Party? Historians commonly accept Otto Strasser’s pronouncement about his exit from the party, and the end of the Stennes revolt, that thereby the “Left” or socialist wing of the party had ceased to exist. In fact, there remained an unmistakable socialist refrain that ran through Nazism as well as through German society, and that theme carried over into the Third Reich. The socialist message, as well as the rejection of Marxism, plutocracy, and especially the Jews, were all obvious in Alfred Rosenberg’s popular guide from 1932, which explained their program

The National Socialist “Left”


point by point. Here he piously intoned that the “rescue of Germany meant the destruction of the democratic-​Marxist-​plutocratic idols.”92 Rosenberg approvingly cited an epigraph on the title page of the book, from none other than Otto von Bismarck: “State socialism is fighting its way through.” What Rosenberg seemed to mean was that “the state as such has the duty to do everything to satisfy the needs of all its citizens.”93 As it turned out, when Otto Strasser and the “Left” allegedly exited, they took remarkably few prominent members with them, no district leaders or members of the Reichstag. This group of “leftists” was barely known to members, who mostly did not concern themselves with theoretical questions.94 Such as it was, the secession had advantages for Hitler, because it confirmed his status as the Führer who had banished the opposition, which quickly faded to insignificance. Hitler was bound to reject what the “Strasser faction” originally wanted, because his own thinking had evolved since 1920. Had he really changed his mind about socialism? In Hitler’s Second Book, dictated in summer 1928, he restated that he was a socialist, which meant to him that he saw “no class or rank, but rather a community of the people who are connected by blood, united by language, and subject to the same collective fate.”95 His new favorite theme was that “the National Socialists are not Marxists, but they are socialists, because they fight for the entire German people, not for an estate, a profession, a religion”; National Socialism was “a new people’s movement” (Volksbewegung).96 In spite of the lofty language about socialist humanity, he unfailingly declared the Jews to be the primary enemy. Germany might have been able to come to an understanding with Bolsheviks in Russia, but there never could be any compromise with Jewish Bolshevism, for “that would be to sign our own death warrant.” Hence the Strasser brothers’ desire to get closer to Russia was wrongheaded. To the contrary, in Hitler’s view, Russia would have to be eliminated, while in the meantime nothing whatsoever would be done to the Jews in Germany, in order to avoid arousing the Jews in the rest of the world. This caution had nothing to do with giving up the socialist aims, much less betraying them. “The ends remain firm and unshaken. However, the means have to be chosen rationally and pragmatically.”97


Hitler’s True Believers

How did the Party militants, the activists on the ground, the rank-​ and-​file true believers, react to all this, and how did they find their way to National Socialism in the first place? Did they even have much of a doctrine or ideology? To what extent did they come to identify with some or all of National Socialism?


The Militants

Why do ordinary people join extremist parties, often making considerable personal sacrifices? The main approach historians have adopted in dealing with the rank-​and-​file activists of the Nazi Party, SA, or SS has been to study their social background.1 Although less has been written about motivations for joining, it is common to assume that Hitler used his considerable political skills to convert his early followers, and then much of Germany. Indeed, some historians embrace the view that the rise to power of the NSDAP can be traced overwhelmingly to Hitler’s rhetorical skills and charisma.2 Yet few if any of the early leaders needed conversion, because they shared many of the same ideas, before they saw or heard the man. Several read some of his speeches, and these could hardly have electrified anyone, as much as by rationally confirming already existing beliefs. The question is this: If indeed the true-​believing rank-​and-​file early activists came to believe “fanatically” in the Idea, what routes led them to it? In Mein Kampf Hitler stated that the movement had to be composed of the most dedicated fighters, and that each region—​not him personally—​would create its own “germ cells” of ideologically driven activists. “The greatness of every mighty organization embodying an idea,” he wrote, “lies in the religious fanaticism and intolerance with which, fanatically convinced of its own right, it imposes its will against all others. If an idea in itself is sound and, thus armed, takes up a struggle on this earth, it is unconquerable, and every persecution will only add to its inner strength.”3 With such germ cells comprising the


Hitler’s True Believers

ideologically committed, there would arise a national or people’s movement, a Volksbewegung.4 At least that was the dream. The early street fighters, the Sturmabteilung (Stormtroopers, or SA), began as a modest operation. It evolved out of the DAP’s room defense squad, becoming on August 11, 1921, the Gymnastic and Sport Department. Then, in October, it published a circular that called on local leaders to seek recruits for the Stormtroopers, whose name they would henceforth honor.5 Their creation was part of far broader militarization of political life in the new republic. The aim of the SA was both to protect party meetings and to demonstrate National Socialism’s ideological devotion. One of the SA’s first major skirmishes occurred in Munich on September 21, when Hitler and his followers provoked an uproar at the Löwenbräukeller, for which he was briefly arrested. Nevertheless, the riotous events continued until November 4, when fewer than fifty of the SA—​or so Nazi legend would have it—​took on an estimated 400  “Marxists and Jews.” Hitler praised the victory in what he called their baptism of fire as fighters for their cause.6 The myth was that Stormtroopers did not worry that they had to slug it out in the gutter, as they knew what National Socialism was all about.7 With their self-​image as soldiers ready to sacrifice everything, including their own lives, for the new idea, they fought for what they deemed “true freedom.”8 The SA’s first public march was in August 1922, and such demonstrations became part of a new political style that reached a high point in January 1923 when Hitler dedicated the flags of four SA “hundreds,” and the men took an oath of loyalty that bound them to their leader. That summer, the modest operation had only two trucks and as many cars to move the militants around. Even later, most traveled by bicycle, and though many carried weapons, they hardly looked military-​ like, because they had no proper uniforms, even after the brown shirt became mandatory in 1926. It was a volunteer organization, and in the early years not always disciplined, so when its members were ordered to report, they did not all necessarily snap to attention, or even show up for duty.9 As late as December 1931, the General Inspector of the SA estimated that one-​third of the troops did not have the requisite uniform, and far more could not afford the rest of the kit. Those more poorly off had to take up the tail end of any march.10

The Militants


Well-​uniformed or not, the SA, right from its beginnings, assaulted prominent Jewish individuals and politicians and attacked their businesses and cafes. They accused the owners of being speculators, and even beat up anyone they thought “looked Jewish.”11 This violence was not limited to Munich, nor was it done only by the unemployed or socially adrift, for on several occasions the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior had to intervene, and local records show that “in some areas a great number of young teachers were involved in the antisemitic propaganda.”12 Such events picked up in lockstep with the inflation that reached unimaginable levels in the autumn of 1923. One Berlin woman wrote her son, who had recently emigrated to Palestine, that in a three-​ day period the value of one American dollar jumped from 10 billion marks to over 18 billion, and then to 40 billion. A loaf of bread that cost 900 million one day could only be had for close to 6 billion two days later. On November 5, this economic chaos provided the background for Nazi-​led attacks on 200 Jewish-​owned shops in Berlin’s Scheunen Quarter, a Jewish area in the city.13 The first leader of the SA was Hans Ulrich Klintzsch. He had been a member of the Captain Hermann Ehrhardt’s Brigade and was among the plotters of several high-​ profile assassinations. He served until March 1923 when Hitler, hoping that a famed war hero would help recruitment, replaced him with Hermann Göring. Yet he knew that it would be impossible to take away “the God of a people,” presumably Marxian socialism, without giving them a better ideological alternative.14 Speaking to the SA in October, Hitler repeated that to destroy the country’s enemies, especially Marxism, Germany needed a “völkisch dictatorship.”15 The SA attracted activists like Horst Wessel, born in 1907 and thus too young to have served in the war, who left a record of his political awakening that he wrote in 1929. He said that between ages fourteen and eighteen he had been a Bündischer, a member of a middle-​class youth group involved in wandering and sports. In fact, nearly all members of the SA in 1933 had been in such a youth group.16 At the same time, Wessel was in the Black Reichswehr, the underground army, practiced shooting, and even carried a pistol. His worldview perceived a division between “us” and “them,” with the “us” including his comrades,


Hitler’s True Believers

the fatherland, the völkisch, the German, and “them” meaning the Communists, Social Democrats, and Jews.17 Such emotional experiences were part of Wessel’s life before he became a member of the NSDAP and the SA on December 7, 1926, in Berlin. He said that what the Nazis had was “an idea, which is to say, something that the other paramilitary groups completely missed.” Once he took the big step, he had “to relearn politics and newly learn in matters of socialism.” Whereas at the time, the NSDAP was often held to be right-​wing radical, a völkisch group, he thought that was completely wrong, because “they should be labeled as national Socialists, with the emphasis on the Socialists.” Wessel, and indeed all the Berlin SA, became involved in violence, as colorfully described by Goebbels.18 As someone from the middle class, Wessel also learned about the dire poverty and misery in the working classes, though he became “a socialist, not out of feelings, as some did among the middle classes, but mainly a socialist out of reason.”19 Given the extent of the fighting among the paramilitaries in Berlin, it is no surprise that Horst Wessel was shot, indeed tracked down and assassinated, by political enemies (the Communists), and on February 23, 1930, he died at age twenty-​ two. Before then, he wrote the song “Raise the Flag” (“Die Fahne hoch!”). It became the hymn of the Party, and after the Nazi seizure of power a kind of second national anthem. Horst Wessel was not the hero the Nazis subsequently puffed him up to be, though he was a martyr for the cause.20 Historians frequently suggest that if and when such activists had socialist tendencies, these were “un-​reflected” and “un-​ideological.” That is hard to say, though, and it is not what emerges from the surviving biographical fragments of Reinhold Muchow, a militant Nazi Party leader in Neukölln, a working-​class district in Berlin, a territory dominated by the Communist Party (KPD). As a young middle-​class clerk, born in 1905, he was drawn to the völkisch-​social movement, and when only fifteen, reportedly joined the German Socialist Party (Deutschsoziale Partei), known for its antisemitism and socialism. Beginning in June 1926, Herr Muchow moved on and put himself forward as leader of a tiny section of the Nazi Party in Berlin (with about forty members) and wrote monthly “situation reports” for the NSDAP in his area. Tellingly, he began his first one with the words:  “Let’s talk in plain

The Militants


German:  Berlin is Red and at the same time Jewish. Every political occasion, every election, documents it anew. It has to be Red, because it is Jewish. Both reinforce each other easily:  Marxism and stock exchange.”21 Although he often mentioned violence, nearly every report written until they stopped abruptly in May 1927 also alluded to ideological issues, especially hostility to the Jews and communism. He eventually became a representative of Strasser-​style German socialism, but was accidentally shot to death in September 1933.22 Not far away, in Berlin-​Charlottenburg, Friedrich Eugen Hahn, a twenty-​one-​year-​old bank clerk, led the SA from early 1928. When barely a teenager he had joined a nationalistic youth group, and like many early Nazis he moved on to the highly antisemitic German-​ Racial Protection and Defense League (Deutschvölkischer Schutz und Trutzbund). Following the pattern of Horst Wessel, he associated with paramilitary groups, becoming a member of the SA in 1926 and eventually killing several political opponents. In a letter to his uncle from jail in April 1931, he wrote: “In the struggle for my idea, my last reservations simply fell away.”23 The SA strategy in big cities since at least 1928 had been to select a tavern in a communist or socialist neighborhood, take it over as its headquarters, and from there operate a battle for the streets. In Berlin the KPD also used pubs as their bases and was not above shooting the SA when provoked. It was in more socially mixed areas that the SA did best, and from which it made occasional forays into enemy territory that often led to clashes and deaths. The KPD tended to select nerve centers in sympathetic working-​class neighborhoods, and in proletarian East Kreuzberg, for example, the KPD withstood the SA onslaughts even into March 1933.24 The Left fought back also in Berlin’s Neukölln, attacking various SA taverns.25 With the help of Muchow’s activism there, and no doubt with the leadership of Berlin’s SA leader Kurt Daluege as well as Gauleiter Joseph Goebbels, the Nazis gained ground in elections. By 1933 every third voter for the NSDAP in that district came from the working class.26 The Berlin SA also went after Jews; on September 12, 1931, the Jewish New Year, they assaulted various Jews or “Jewish-​looking” people on the Kurfürstendamm. Between 500 and 1,000 men from eighteen different SA branches across the city bullied their way through cafes


Hitler’s True Believers

and restaurants, throwing furniture through the windows and beating up customers in a pogrom-​like event. They screamed obscenities and slogans such as “Knock the Jews dead!” or “Shoot the Jews.”27 Berlin was exceptionally violent, though there were other political strategies, such as in the sleepy provincial town of Eutin, Schleswig-​ Holstein. The lawyer Johann Heinrich Böhmcker said that his activities in various right-​wing, antisemitic organizations since he returned from the war made it logical for him to join the NSDAP in 1926. Two years later, tasked with assembling the loosely organized SA units in his district, he succeeded, and in 1932 he won promotion to the second-​ highest rank in the SA as an Oberführer. Eutin’s local NSDAP leader, the slightly older Dr. Wolfgang Saalfeldt, had briefly flirted with nationalist groups and joined the NSDAP in 1928, having been “convinced by Hitler’s idea.” Saalfeldt and Böhmcker as active speakers and opinion leaders helped to turn Eutin into one of the few places to give Hitler a majority in the presidential vote of 1932, as well as in the July Reichstag elections that year.28 One of the battle cries of late Weimar was “Make Way, You Old Man!” That hints at a youth revolt that cut across party lines, with one SA pamphlet from 1929 telling its leaders to instill in their men a loftier sense of life based on National Socialism.29 The ranks of the SA had expanded dramatically. Whereas in January 1931 the SA counted 88,000, one year later membership had grown to 290,000. It peaked in August 1932 at 455,000, tailing off to 427,000 by year’s end.30 Motives for joining varied enormously, with many claiming they wanted to make the country right again, and as often they were unemployed, membership in the SA gave them an opportunity for organized activity against those defined as the “enemy.” They might be able to stay in one of the SA homes in cities like Berlin, and no doubt that drew in some. Included among the host of other motives were antisemitism and a hope for more socialism, while an underlying factor was passionate anti-​Marxism.31 The American academic Theodore Abel collected hundreds of such autobiographies in 1934, having asked writers what drew them to National Socialism. Their accounts are not a statistically representative sample, and the essayists were trying to put the best face on National Socialism for this American professor. Nevertheless, they provide useful

The Militants


testimony of their immediate experiences, and they convey information about their political beliefs that it would be a mistake to ignore.32 Professor Peter Merkl later quantified the Abel essays and tried to decide which aspect seemed most important in each person’s story. He concluded that one-​third appeared to be primarily preoccupied with a desire for a new Volksgemeinschaft, while almost as many were Hitler-​ worshippers, and two-​thirds were anti-​Marxists. Obviously, there was double counting and the categories overlapped, because someone who believed strongly in Nazism’s social appeals likely opposed the Jews and the Marxists. While antisemitism was the dominant theme in about one-​seventh of these stories, a degree of this race hatred turned up in two-​thirds of them all.33 The essays were so mixed that quantifying them loses much of their significance. How to classify one man’s awakening political experience of reading Mein Kampf? Another said that his group of students, workers, merchants, and clerks held numerous meetings to talk over the ideas of the movement, until Hitler published that big book. Thereafter when they met they would read parts of it aloud and discuss it. They do not say what aspects of it they liked, and if most of them had never seen Hitler, his written words conveyed an appealing message.34 Or did the book merely confirm their already existing convictions? A clerk from the Ruhr area, disappointed at the outcome of the war, initially went over to the Communists, and though born in 1901, only in 1926 did he even hear of the NSDAP, which was not to his taste because its propaganda insulted the Left. When his brothers brought home more information, he became fascinated by the Jewish question. After another party member explained to him that nationalism and socialism were not mutually exclusive, as much as one and the same, he was ripe for Nazism and joined. Thereafter he saved money to buy a uniform, and he got along well with comrades, with whom he eagerly discussed Nazi ideology.35 An unemployed man, born in 1900 and a self-​described politically neutral individual, who heard Joseph Goebbels speak in 1929, wrote that it was like a revelation. “I immediately awakened to the significance of the idea and found what I had always been looking for:  justice and progress. Justice in the socialist demands of the program toward the workers whose bitterness I  had


Hitler’s True Believers

gotten to understand . . . Progress in awakening the natural forces of personality and race.”36 A younger man, born in 1910, visited various parties and gatherings, and found himself attracted to the NSDAP when one speaker pointed to the source of the German people’s misery to be its many divisions. He offered practical plans for overcoming their misfortunes, first doing away with the political parties, then the social classes, and in their place to create a real Volksgemeinschaft. These were goals to which the new joiner committed himself, as he found what he had been looking for.37 Given the shortage of funds, the party had to be self-​financing, and at a time of high unemployment the burden often fell on the wives. One man said his spouse worked hard at sewing, and scrimped to feed him and the family so that he could pay his party dues. Frequently, he returned late at night from a meeting or other party activity, to find her “bent over her work, happy to see me come home unharmed. This went on for weeks, months, and years.”38 Far fewer women joiners of the Nazi movement penned autobiographies, and many of these writers were fifty or older. The specific routes these essayists took to the NSDAP varied enormously. Thus, a distraught widow whose two sons were in the SA joined the party when the Reds killed one of them and wounded the other. A rabidly patriotic woman, she talked about the postwar struggle for the German soul and experimented with other parties before she joined the NSDAP. What attracted her more than anything was “the race question!!!!” (her punctuation and emphasis). Another was an experimenter who went to various party rallies and became disgusted when she visited the communists, so much so that it brought out her latent hostility to the Jews. She had heard about Hitler only because of his trial in 1924. It was when she moved in with her sister and husband that she found Nazi literature, including Mein Kampf. She got a kick out of attending Goebbels’s big rallies, especially those in Red districts, as there was sure to be a great ruckus. She took the big step of joining in 1928, interestingly, before the Great Depression.39 An older nurse and social worker, after retiring in 1927, said she had the time to study more about Hitler and what she called his struggle for the emancipation of the fatherland from its alien destroyers. She blamed the 1918 revolution on the Jews, antisocial elements and traitors.

The Militants


Another nurse from a better-​off family claimed to have been a National Socialist in her own mind since she was seventeen. Nationalism, hostility to the Jews, and even socialism came from her background, though her parents insistently curbed her relationships with workers. She joined the party only after her husband passed away, and she encouraged her son to become a member of the Hitler Youth and SS. A woman with a similar background grew ill from her service in the First World War, and while in recovery at age twenty-​seven recalled taking a sudden aversion to the Jews. Her extremist views led to conflicts with working-​class neighbors, whom she provoked with ostentatious displays of the swastika flag. She raised her son to be a true-​believing Nazi. Her hatreds aimed at the upper classes, anti-​German cultural offerings, as well as the Communists and the Jews.40 These women came to the NSDAP by way of a process of self-​ mobilization, and if they frequently mention the importance of Hitler to the movement, few seem to have had the classic conversion experience of hearing the leader speak. Some accompanied their spouse in the postwar Freikorps and the repression of Munich’s Soviet Republic, as did one woman, who learned about the NSDAP from her fellow Alsatians. Once she became a member, at the end of every day she would examine what she had done for the Party, to see if she could do more. She went out into the countryside to encourage more socially conservative women to get involved. A  young woman, born in 1917, remembered her political awakening while on vacation at her uncle’s farm. As a “secret Nazi,” he provided her with literature when she asked to learn more about Hitler. With some other girls, they founded their own Nazi youth group at school, which drew in about forty others. She talked about having arguments with several Jewish students, without mentioning what specifically moved her to become a party member.41 As for young people being drawn to National Socialism, it is worth noting that the full title of the Nazi youth group (HJ) was Hitler Youth:  Association (Bund) of German Workers’ Youth. In the years up to 1933 it also recruited mainly from a working-​class milieu, rather than from the solid educated middle class.42 Led firstly by Kurt Gruber, they proclaimed their standpoint went like this:  “This organization, as the school of socialism, forms its aims and tasks from the inner socialist pulse alone.” It “marches as the association of nationally unifying


Hitler’s True Believers

socialism.”43 During the pre-​1933  years, the slogans that embodied this doctrine included “Freedom and Bread,” “Through Socialism to the Nation,” and the line from the Party program, “Common Good before Individual Good.” Therefore, the HJ readily embraced the Volksgemeinschaft, in which German socialism pictured a community where social justice reigned, along with equality among all classes. It became a kind of sacred duty to fight internationalist Marxism and to overcome capitalism, with its distinct class divisions. Such ideas attracted increasing numbers during the years of the Great Depression. Even before then, a smaller National Socialist School Children’s League had already emerged in some areas, and it attracted people like Artur Axmann. Born into a family of five children in 1913 that fell on hard times with the death of their father in 1915, Artur grew up in a Berlin working-​class neighborhood, and his mother had to work. What turned him into a Nazi were slogans about overcoming the class struggle and founding a community of the people. He had minimal awareness of Hitler or his writings, and remembered only that someone showed him the man’s picture. A member of the Hitler Youth since 1928, and its leader much later, he wanted socialism in the Goebbels mode, but what did he understand by that loaded concept? At least when Axmann looked back he recalled that it was more a disposition, an attitude, of living and breathing the Party command:  “The common good before individual good,” or as he said it, “Putting the ‘we’ before the ‘I.’ ” His socialism was anti-​finance capitalism, and his utopia would include only his own people, hence he said the label that fit their doctrine was German Socialism. His memoir is silent on the Jews until after 1933, and then his writing becomes quite defensive.44 Axmann was part of the pre-​1933 crusade that seemed to build almost by word of mouth and, so he claimed, was even larger than those who could afford to become members, pay the dues, and get a uniform. This wave increased with growing unemployment, and without much involvement by a youthful Baldur von Schirach, born in 1907, its leader from October 1931. Although Schirach was less socialistically inclined than his predecessor, he became an antisemite after reading Henry Ford’s scandalous The International Jew, and joined the Party in 1925, soon serving as head of the National Socialist German Students League

The Militants


(NSDStB).45 Exactly two years later he boasted of drawing more than 100,000 people to its national meeting in Potsdam.46 Lydia Gottschewski had been a member of the youth group the Wandervogel (literally wandering bird) as a teenager, and when still a university student in 1929 and age only twenty-​three, she joined the Nazi Party. In 1932, she briefly became the head of the National Socialist Young Women’s Association (Bund Deutscher Mädel or BDM), the female equivalent of the Hitler Youth. She disagreed with the liberal women’s movement, with its emphasis on the individual personality and emancipated femininity. To her, National Socialist ideology on women meant more than advocating motherliness. Instead, they had to bring a “new socialist” perspective, think about the happiness of all, with the mission of creating the Volksgemeinschaft. It was crucial to awaken the broken link of young women to their race and blood, which also implied following Hitler’s iron rule to exclude everyone that did not belong, above all those of “a foreign race.” They had to fight against all signs of decay, foreign influences, and remove “the poison” from the body politic.47 Another female university student, born in 1908, whose father was involved in the völkisch movement, found impressive the racial theories of Hans F. K. Günther, and she read some of Alfred Rosenberg’s books. She joined the NSDStB, to proselytize on the university campus, only to become appalled at the apathy she discovered. She looked forward to the student elections, and in fact the Nazis won the dominant position in the national student body in 1931.48 Emma Hentschel, born in 1881 in the Prussian province of Posen, with distinctly working-​class roots, found her own way into the Nazi movement. When young she had heard about the teachings of Adolf Stöcker, who mixed antisemitism with social conservatism. She, her husband, a locomotive driver, and their three children were forced out of what became Poland. They moved to Dessau and harbored a “deep hatred” for what she called “the treasonous Marxist government” in Berlin for giving away her homeland. In 1923, the family lost what remained of their property in the inflation, and her husband died in an accident at work. Another self-​mobilizer, she began reading about Nazism, and in 1925 signed on as member 6,992. She worked as a seamstress and pushed her children toward various affiliated party organizations, such as the


Hitler’s True Believers

Hitler Youth. What drove her was the promised Volksgemeinschaft. Emma never served in a position of authority in the Party; even so, it would be wrong to assume that her contribution to its eventual success was meaningless. It was people like her, their readiness to sacrifice, and determination to hold the movement together that account for its continuity, in spite of occasional internal strife.49 A more prominent and younger Nazi activist was Gertrude Scholtz-​Klink, born in 1900, who appears to have followed her husband’s lead and became a Party member at the same time as he did. She claimed that was in 1929, though it may have been a year later, and they lived in Altenheim, near Offenburg, where he was an activist. When he died of a heart attack while marching with the SA, she vowed to devote herself in his place, and indeed she earned credit for her accomplishments at the local and regional level in Baden and Hesse. In 1932, she married Günther Scholtz, a medical doctor and local leader of the NSDAP in Ellmendingen, so that when the Third Reich arrived she rose quickly in the ranks. The words that recur in her description of her work thereafter, are social “harmony,” “Volk,” and “duty.” She thought women should stay away from policy-​making, and her goal was for them to support their men in carrying out their duties, as the regime determined them.50 Like the NSDAP, she favored a gender-​specific division of labor, with women in supportive roles to their men.51 Although the Party succeeded in attracting women, in January 1933, they represented only 7.8 percent of all members.52 A micro study of the small industrial town of Bernberg in Lippe, a mostly Protestant region, suggests that we should avoid monocausal explanations of what attracted people to the NSDAP. Those who joined in the breakthrough years between 1929 and 1931 were influenced by the ideological appeals, along with their prior orientation toward the völkisch or youth movement, as well as social anxieties about losing their class status. These considerations provided a flurry of mixed motives.53 One true believer’s biography revealed neither unemployment nor a threat to his economic existence, though the unnamed male, a white-​ collar worker, had been involved in right-​wing movements since his adolescence. On January 1, 1930, at age twenty-​one, he joined the NSDAP, which he followed up by becoming a member of the SS the

The Militants


next year. This young man began to identify with nationalist ideology, whose most radical expression he saw in National Socialism.54 University students were particularly keen on the Nazi movement, and the NSDStB, from its beginning in 1926, soon outdid all competitors. Its barbs aimed at Jewish students and professors and at the “foreign” influences at the country’s universities. Support for the Nazi League at student elections grew from 1930 onward, until in summer 1931, when it dominated German universities, well before Hitler took over in Berlin. More than a dozen future top leaders of the SS began as activists with the NSDStB, whose members were sometimes also in the SA and fought pitched battles in the streets. Most of the later SS leaders had been acculturated in, if not steeped in, an illiberal academic culture, one that looked the other way or implicitly supported Nazi activists when they disrupted classes of leftist or Jewish professors, and anyone who dared to write or speak against National Socialism. This style of behavior, often coupled with violence, became the norm during the last years of the Weimar Republic.55 The local and regional officials of the Nazi Party have received somewhat less attention in the literature, though their history sheds light on the emergence of National Socialism. In June 1932, as part of the nationwide reorganization of the NSDAP that Gregor Strasser pushed through, the party introduced the new office of the county leader (Kreisleiter), and by 1933 there was a total of 855 of them. The county occupied the position between the district or regional leader (Gauleiter), and the neighborhoods (Ortsgruppen) of up to 1,500 households, which in turn were divided into cells and blocks. Discovering what motivated new joiners is difficult. The 142 Kreisleiter in Westphalia and Lippe, for example, were relatively young, with a median birthdate of 1899. Most (69  percent) were Protestant, and of those for whom it was possible to determine their educational background (126 of the 142), 59  percent attended “higher schools,” which presumably means high school and better.56 Fifty-​seven of the Kreisleiter in Westphalia and Lippe had been in the First World War, and nearly as many were part of the young front generation, born between 1901 and 1910. All had experienced the crisis years of defeat, revolution, economic upheaval, and the imminent threat of communism, which in Germany was not a distant fantasy. As in the NSDAP as a whole, workers were underrepresented among the


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Kreisleiter, and at least those in this region and elsewhere tended to be from the middle and lower middle class.57 Many had been involved in right-​wing politics before, though for most taking out a membership was the first time they were politically organized.58 Kreisleiter Richard Drauz of Heilbronn, born in 1894, pointed with pride to his experiences during the war as the formative years of his political thinking, for it was supposedly in the trenches that all class differences melted away.59 Some such leaders missed the wartime service and were prepared for National Socialism, given that they were schooled in a violent brand of activist politics and antisemitism in a series of organizations, beginning with the Freikorps, and then on to others.60 Before 1933, the neighborhood organizations were heterogeneous and usually created on the initiative of local activists.61 Fritz Kiehn exemplifies the mixed motives for joining the NSDAP. Born in 1885, he had volunteered in the First World War and emerged having been wounded and decorated. Returning to the small town of Trossingen (Württemberg), not far from Stuttgart, he struggled to get a cigarette factory up and running and stayed clear of politics. Only in 1930 did he sign the membership forms, partly because of his already existing ideological convictions. These included strong nationalism, antisemitism, and identification with Gregor Strasser’s brand of socialism. Although the depression negatively affected his factory, forcing him to reduce staff, he stuck resolutely to a community ideology. As he put it, “In the National Socialist German Workers Party there are only party comrades, only members! Class has no meaning for us! Everyone is equal within our ranks. In my business I see only colleagues, only workers; I am one of them.”62 Although membership in the local branch remained small, Kiehn as leader (Ortsgruppenleiter) helped to mobilize voters—​or they mobilized themselves—​and made the NSDAP one of the most successful in the national elections leading up to Hitler’s appointment as chancellor. Former army captain Ulrich Freiherr von Bothmer, born a year before the turn of the century, and having served on the General Staff in the First World War, was at the start drawn to the Nationalist Party (DNVP) and had been affiliated with the Freikorps. His hometown of Bernberg became more receptive to National Socialism with the onset of the Great Depression. He had been put off by the NSDAP’s

The Militants


rejection of the fallen Hohenzollern dynasty. Eventually he overcame his reservations, and he was attracted by their concept of the Volksgemeinschaft, particularly the slogan “The common good before individual good.” So there was much he shared with others in the movement, and the NSDAP had the best chance to defeat Marxism and communism, thereby to rescue the working classes “from the fangs of Marxism.” On April 1, 1930, he joined the Nazi Party and functioned as local leader of the SA, though looking back, he wrote that “inwardly I belonged long before to the National Socialists.”63 An early activist, Karl Friedrich Kolbow, born in 1899, became Party leader (Landeshauptmann) in Westphalia in 1933. After serving in the war, including on the Russian front, he returned to study at the university in Jena. In early 1921 he changed schools, moving to Munich, though his political ideas had already been formed by his war experiences and socialization in a fraternity. He added his sense of “manly” nationalism, anti-​Republicanism, racialism, and opposition to the Jews. His arrival in Munich coincided with the Allied announcement of the Paris Peace conditions, which caused an uproar of nationalist resentment in Germany, and for which he blamed “the damned pack of Jews, the entire nation of wenches in no position to understand the greatness of the times.” He made that diary entry just days before he heard Hitler speak for the first time on February 3, and again on February 12. Although Kolbow acknowledged that the contents of what he heard had led to his joining the NSDAP on February 18, like many others he was already psychologically primed, and Hitler confirmed his existing persuasions.64 The position of Nazi Party Gauleiter only became formalized in May and July 1926 in a process made necessary in order for Munich to impose some direction over the pockets of supporters across Germany.65 Nevertheless, a great deal of autonomy remained to the first Gauleiter, many of them self-​appointed, which Hitler preferred to see as an advantage because, as he said to a membership meeting in May 1926, it was important that everyone was marching toward the same goal, and that was “to convert people to the political creed of National Socialism.”66 As it turned out, the Party Region (Gau) tended to reflect its leaders’ ideology, idiosyncrasies, social backgrounds, and preoccupations, as well as the economy and political culture of the region.


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The better-​known Gauleiter include Joseph Goebbels and Julius Streicher, though less prominent figures help to fill out the picture of what brought such men to Nazism. Thus, Otto Telschow had been a member of the antisemitic German Social Party in 1905 and served in the First World War, after which he worked for the Hamburg police. Though born in 1876, he continued to experiment politically, and found the NSDAP only in 1925. That party appeared best suited as the vehicle through which he could express his aggressive opposition to the Jews and a certain anti-​modernism.67 He became the Gauleiter of East-​Hanover, which he founded in 1928 and ruled as “King Otto,” complete with what he ordained to be a “suitable” variant of National Socialist ideology.68 By contrast, Gauleiter Karl Wahl, born in 1892 in predominantly Catholic Swabia, was one of thirteen children raised by a strict father. He trained as a metalworker, and in 1910 also began serving in the military (medical corps), which he continued during the war. After his discharge from the army in 1921, he took a junior post with Augsburg’s civil service. He had read some texts by Hitler in 1920, though he formed a local group of the NSDAP only in the autumn of 1922, and at the same time, he joined the SA. His broad motives, he said, were to raise again his “enslaved Fatherland,” and to restore its honor. Only in early 1923 did he hear Hitler speak for the first time, and when the party began anew in 1925, he poured his political energies into it and the SA. Without any close ties to Hitler, Wahl came to accept the leader’s importance to the movement, while at the same time he seemed genuinely to have believed in the social mission of the National Socialist movement.69 Wahl took evident pride in evoking the party’s utopian visions, along with the notions of “socialism of the deed,” and the even less definable “socialism of feeling.” Far from being appointed personally by Hitler as Gauleiter of Swabia in 1928, as might be expected, he read about his promotion in the party newspaper. Thereafter his operations did not change much, for he continued running them on a shoestring budget, even going without pay himself.70 About one-​third of the members he recruited up until 1933 were workers, and they registered some gains at the polls, though even then they still trailed the Catholic BVP and the Socialists (SPD) in the last elections.71 In the Third Reich he focused

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on the flight from the land to cities, and he attempted to repopulate deserted villages, as well as to create settlements in and around Augsburg.72 More hospitable to National Socialism was Upper Franconia, with around 60  percent of its population Protestant. Towns such as Richard Wagner’s Bayreuth dotted the picturesque rural countryside. Nevertheless, it was the unflagging energies of Hans Schemm, born in 1891 as the son of a shoemaker, who gave the regional movement its unique character and appeal. During the war he had served in a quarantine unit, and in 1919 he participated fleetingly in the Freikorps, and embraced nationalism and socialism. He had turned away from the Weimar Republic before National Socialism existed. Trained as a teacher, he made contact with the Nazi movement when he appeared as a guest speaker with an expertise in biology that he brought to their local meetings. He witnessed a Hitler speech shortly before the failed Putsch of 1923, and yet Schemm did not become a member. Instead he continued his involvement in Bayreuth’s racialist movement, until late 1924 when Reich propaganda leader Hermann Esser from Munich paid him a visit, after which he started a local branch of the NSDAP on February 27, 1925.73 Not without effect he added radical nationalistic and antisemitic phrases to his repertoire, though not seeking to outdo neighboring Julius Streicher on that score.74 As he toured the area, he spoke of the need to keep the race pure, especially of “Semitic” blood.75 Schemm emerged as Gauleiter of Upper Franconia only on October 1, 1928, when the region was subdivided into three districts, each of which had its unique character. He could be counted on for an uproar, as happened on September 30, 1929, in Schney at a meeting of the NSDAP, when members of the Social Democratic Party tried to break things up.76 Schemm’s speaking excursions, provocations, and organizational skills paid off in the last Reichstag elections of 1932, with Upper Franconia finishing second in Bavaria only to Streicher’s Middle Franconia, both of them above the national average. As regional party boss, he had been and remained distant from Hitler, and in the Third Reich he tended to promote local economic and social interests.77 In addition to his regional successes, the self-​ starter Schemm founded a teachers union to counter those sponsored by the SPD and other parties. The result of his efforts, the National Socialist Teachers


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League (NSLB), was born in Hof on April 21, 1929, and it grew bold enough three years later to celebrate its cause in the Berlin Sport Palace. Its triumph was all the more remarkable in that Schemm insisted that the organization had not focused on professional issues: “Its will,” he said, “has always centered on the ideological penetration of German education, the fight for political power in the state, and the cleansing of our cultural life from all Marxist destructive tendencies.”78 The thirty-​six top leaders of the SA who joined in 1925–​1926 tended to have belonged to groups like the Freikorps and often had previous commitments to the völkisch movement. Two-​thirds of them had joined either the SA, the Nazi Party, or both, prior to the (failed) Putsch. These were true believers like many other Nazi trailblazers and committed to the cause early. Although the SA leaders went from one organization to the next, it would be mistaken to conclude that they were sleepwalking, because they evidenced strong ideological convictions.79 Mostly what we see in this kind of documentation in the period up to January 1933 is that activists tended to be self-​mobilizers, and rarely mention being converted by hearing or seeing Hitler. One example of such an awakening experience is Albert Speer, a young academic born in 1905, who attended a gathering in Berlin on December 4, 1930. Speer dwelt on the near magical powers of the speech when he wrote about it in his postwar memoirs, a reaction that lent itself to the then emerging narrative of Hitler as the magical seducer and charismatic leader.80 A closer look at what Hitler actually said that evening, which Speer mostly skips over, shows that he appealed to the elitist ethos of students, and said that “sub-​humans”—​presumably the Marxian socialists—​had led the “inferior” into thinking in terms of social classes. Hitler also underlined how heroic idealism was needed to overcome the cleavages in German society, to attract the farmer away from the plow, the student from the lecture hall, and the worker from the factory, to reform “the eternal bond of commonality of our blood.” His listeners could hardly mistake his intentions, as he said plainly enough that in history “ultimately the sword had decided,” and along with forging one, he intended to heal “the wounds in the body politic.” He referred to his party’s recent gains at the polls, as written up in the press, as totally misleading: “It has to be called a German victory,” and he pleaded that the aim of the young must be to make good what the elders had ruined,

The Militants


and to find their way to the German workers. This victory would not be one of a political party, it would be an expression of “the law for the re-​creation of German power.”81 As we now know, Speer was already involved with the Nazi Party. The majority of students were leaning that way or were members, as were some of his friends with influential contacts to Goebbels and Hitler—​all of this and more before Speer heard Hitler speak. He joined the Party and SA in March 1931, and the SS the following year.82 Why did leaders of the SS became involved with National Socialism? Many were like Heinrich Himmler, part of the wartime youth generation, born between 1900 and 1910. He took over the SS in 1929, four years after its foundation, and began transforming it into an elite. In June 1931, he set out “The Purpose and Aim of the SS,” which provides a glimpse of the political and racial theory he brought to his new position. From his reading of history, he concluded that leaders of the ancient world, as well as Napoleon and Frederick the Great, had relied on the guard units when it came to the last stand. He said that Hitler had ordered him to construct such an indomitable band “from a selection of especially chosen men,” held together by their “community of blood.” Himmler foresaw a coming apocalyptic struggle, to be sure, for the next generation: The greatest problem on which we have to work and one that we have to solve, is this: Can we succeed once more, to educate and to breed a Volk [race or nation] on a grand scale, a Volk of the Nordic race, transforming by a selection process, the blood-​value of the present-​day Volk? Can we once more succeed in settling this Nordic race around Germany, turn them into peasants again, and from that seedbed create a Volk of 200 million? Then the earth will belong to us! However, if Bolshevism wins, then that means the extermination of the Nordic race, the last valuable Nordic blood, it means devastation, the end of the earth.83

Although ideally members of the SS should look like a “Nordic, blue-​eyed, blond” elite, tall and with a “properly proportioned body,” it would be wrong, he said, to believe that Germans with blue eyes were automatically a higher class than countrymen with dark eyes and hair,


Hitler’s True Believers

because he said that would lead to social divisions. Having supposedly overcome, if not eliminated social classes, Himmler did not want to substitute a “racial class struggle,” so he emphasized their shared Nordic blood.84 According to a December 31, 1931, “marriage order,” an SS man or woman forming a couple would have to agree that they would have children. They and their families would need to pass a selection process; they could marry only after the bride-​to-​be passed racial and medical tests to check for evidence of hereditary diseases and whether she could have children. As of January 1, 1932, a new “Racial Office of the SS” vetted marriage applications, and in 1935 this institution became the “Race-​and Settlement Head Office SS” (RuSHA).85 A second aspect of the SS leaders’ claim to special status was the “spiritual” factor of belonging to an ideological elite, and as Himmler said in 1931, each member had to shine as “the best and most convinced propagandist for the movement.” The SS was to become an “ideological bulwark” of National Socialism. Leaders were expected to break with their old ideas, and through schooling, to become ever more familiar with the ideological mission of the SS, and conscious of their blood. This theory, ingrained through practice, would also give members of the corps a sense of identity, one that distinguished them from the pencil-​ pushing bureaucracy. The core elements of this worldview pictured a racial division of the globe in which the dominant Nordic—​sometimes also called Aryan—​race was the source of all creativity, and in constant battle against internationalist forces, led especially by the Jews. The SS had to take an oath of loyalty and bravery, later to Hitler as “Führer and chancellor of the German Reich,” and to swear “absolute allegiance until death” to the leaders he appointed. The SS motto summed up this pledge: “Our honor is loyalty” (“Unsere Ehre heisst Treue”).86 Did Reinhard Heydrich, born in 1904 and often considered the epitome of the “Aryan” SS leader, meet his ideologically perfect match in Lina von Osten? In the 1920s, she had felt that the Orthodox Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe were “intruders and unwelcome guests.” She compared having to live in the same country with them “to a forced marriage, in which one partner literally cannot bear the smell of the other.”87 She had joined the Party in 1929 and met Reinhard in December of the next year. Although she was still a senior high school student, born only in 1911, she found her future spouse “politically

The Militants


clueless” and a snob who looked on politics as beneath him.88 She was appalled that he had never even heard of the SS, nor had he read Mein Kampf. Nevertheless, Heydrich claimed that in the early 1920s he had been a member of the youth branch of the racialist DVSTB, though it was Lena and her family who introduced the indifferent Heydrich to National Socialism. He joined the SS in 1931, the same year in which they married. In it he found a burgeoning system of ideas with which he could identify, and with it a world of clearly defined friends and foes.89 Heydrich grew in power and prestige so that during the war he became second only to Himmler in importance within the SS. The SS officer corps, whether they served in a full-​or part-​time capacity, was generally well educated, with 30.1  percent having a complete university education. Law graduates made up the single largest professional group. One of the many ways Himmler sought to ensure that the SS reflected an elite status was to recruit those of prominent social standing, especially the nobility. Nevertheless, apart from its racial criteria for membership, the SS officer corps up to 1939 was an open elite, which is to say, in theory accessible to all social classes.90 The massive expansion of the SS, as reflected in its own statistics, went from around 290 in January 1929 to 52,048 in December 1932, jumped to around 200,000 in January 1935, and stayed more or less at that level until 1938.91 This corps was supposed to read books such as those by Theodore Fritsch, H.  S. Chamberlain, and Hans F.  K. Günther, whose tome Knight, Death, and Devil:  Heroic Thought pointed to the declining Nordic “blood community” that a “heroic Germanic struggle” would reverse.92 Although Günther talked about the racial importance of the peasantry, he never became an insider to push through his ideas. Even after the NSDAP obtained a full professorship for him in Jena in 1930, at which time he first met Hitler, he did not join the party until two years later.93 Werner Best never attended a single National Socialist meeting before he joined the party in November 1930. Born in 1903, he often said that the death of his father in the war and the ensuing family difficulties, along with the military and political collapse of 1918, left him with a sense of duty “to do everything possible for Germany’s resurrection.”94 He became a self-​styled “nationalist revolutionary” whose


Hitler’s True Believers

dream had been for a “revolution from above, with the help of the Reich President, the army, and nationalist intelligentsia.” In the early 1920s he had worked to create a local branch of the national antisemitic DVSTB organization that many top Nazis had joined.95 Best gave up on the German Conservative Party (DNVP) in 1929 because of its failure to understand the social question, and he was drawn by the Strasser wing of the Nazi Party because it offered solutions to the plague of unemployment. He admitted that in 1930, with the breakthrough of Hitler’s Party, he began considering it seriously because it seemed to have a real chance of success. He said he had no problem accepting the party program, because it was similar to others in the national and völkisch movement. In November and December 1931, he met Hitler privately, but he heard him speak in public for the first time in 1932. What struck Best most was Hitler’s “near religious belief in the rightness of his ‘idea’ and of his personal mission, which conveyed such a suggestive power that it was impossible for any listener to escape. The passion and the moral seriousness gave his speeches the character of evangelism and revelation.”96 Best was already an honorary member of the SS when in the summer of 1933 he first met Himmler, and noted the man’s “schoolmasterly-​ pedagogic” inclinations. Best wanted a Nordic elite trained in key values, which included “loyalty to the Führer and comrades, courage, selfless struggle for the Volk and Idea, sense of responsibility for the mission and the office, along with upholding honor, regard for those in the ranks, care of the family, respect for property.” The SS were to be “believers in God,” not atheists, but were not to belong to any of the organized religions.97 Best became one of the most important leaders of the Gestapo. Richard Walther Darré took a more indirect route to National Socialism and the SS, one that began in distant Argentina, where he was born in 1895. His father was from Germany and his mother of mixed Swedish ancestry. They sent him back to his father’s homeland and later to England for a well-​rounded education, which he broke off to volunteer for Germany in August 1914. In the trenches, he won promotion and decoration, though the ordeal impaired his health. Over the years between 1919 and 1930, he struggled to finish his education, did stints as a farmworker, and read such authors as H. S. Chamberlain

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and Hans F. K. Günther. On the farm, as well as during his studies at Halle University, he became interested in animal breeding and the related subject of racial hygiene, better known as eugenics. Strangely for someone who was not the strongest of students, in 1928 he published a large tome on The Peasantry as the Source of Life of the Nordic Race, and two years later, a sequel, The New Aristocracy of Blood and Soil. In these he outlined a full-​blown theory in which the peasantry was the völkisch-​ biological foundation, the central pillar, and source of renewal for the Nordic race. His was a utopian social theory in the sense that it set down all the details of peasant life, from birth to selecting a spouse, and getting married. His scheme even stipulated what the proper Nordic peasant architecture should look like.98 During much of the 1920s Darré was unable to muster enthusiasm for politics, though he became convinced that Germany faced fundamental social and population problems that only a revolution could solve. His theorizing about the Nordic race was based on his training, education, and experience as an animal breeder.99 Peasant folk wisdom convinced Darré that the Nordic race from its peasant origins somehow knew that marriage was only for those of pure blood, and that anyone born with infirmities should be eliminated. Because modern Germany had forgotten such lessons, the Nordic race was in decline, and only if the state helped the peasant population, which was “the source of blood renewal,” would it restore that race again.100 Part of his answer was to create Hegehöfe, hereditary holdings, by which the peasant would return to the farm, which could not be taken away or sold off.101 He asserted without fail that it was such land holdings that held families together for generations, and constituted the source of new blood, which had to be infused into the larger body politic in order to renew its racial vitality.102 State intervention was needed because of the “false developments summed up in the terms, urbanization, industrialization, Western ideas, and international economy.”103 Darré claimed at one point that all “the Jew” had to do in the nineteenth century, when national consciousness was at last rediscovering the peasantry, was “to play tricks to make them the object of laughter.”104 As it was crucial to control marriage and procreation, he recommended a word to replace “eugenics,” and to create a new profession, the


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Zuchtwarte, literally “breeding observers.” Like court judges, they would evaluate everything to do with the “nation’s hereditary material” and work with medical doctors to survey each person’s family pedigree (Ahnentafel).105 Modern women, he conceded, might be offended by some of these suggestions, when they should feel honored to give birth to children whose blood contained the precious Nordic germ-​ cells.106 Although he did not invent the slogan of “Blood and Soil,” in his thinking the blood referred to the Nordic race, and the soil was the land it needed to flourish. Gradual depopulation of rural areas left the race on the edge of extinction, so the task ahead was to resettle the land with proper peasant homesteads.107 Because Darré wanted to implement these ideas, he required a platform, and he grew more interested in the NSDAP when it announced a more detailed agricultural policy in 1930.108 He called on his right-​ wing publisher Julius F.  Lehmann and the architect Paul Schultze-​ Naumburg to arrange a meeting with Hitler on May 11. The party leader, evidently impressed with Darré’s agrarian ideology, hoped that he also possessed the leadership qualities to mobilize the peasantry for National Socialism. Publisher Lehmann came up with the funds to pay for a full-​time position for his man at the headquarters of the NSDAP in Munich, which he joined in July. Beginning on August 1, he would head a new agricultural branch of the party. In addition to using Hitler and the Nazi Party to implement his own ideas, another opportunity opened in the SS, when Himmler—​ as a fellow agricultural specialist—​sought to win him as a recognized authority on race and breeding.109 When Darré joined in 1931, they made him the head of the new “Racial Office of the SS,” and he was soon in charge of checking the racial backgrounds of SS members and their prospective brides. In his second book, he had laid down how the race should deal with marriage and selection of mates, and now he applied this approach through his office.110 His aim would be eventually to settle qualified SS families not too far in the east, to act as a kind of racial wall holding back the Asian tide. From the start, he began exercising a profound effect on National Socialist doctrine, and when he joined Hitler’s cabinet in the autumn of 1933, he promised to convert the ideology of Blood and Soil into a new German peasant law that

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in effect would withdraw certain farms from the free market, so that owners could never lose them through indebtedness.111 Hitler went so far in early 1933 as to tell a meeting of his specialists that “the realization of racial-​political thought, re-​awoken through National Socialism, which finds its expression in the thesis of ‘Blood and Soil,’ will signify the most fundamental revolutionary transformation which has ever taken place.” Without being explicit he hinted that once they had “cleansed” and “regenerated” the people, Germany would be ready to face the world, which would be confronted by a different, renewed, more aggressive nation.112 Particularly after 1933, Himmler ordered the SS to be schooled and transformed into an “ideological bulwark” whose members internalized National Socialism and carried the Volksgemeinschaft ideal, also in defense against the enemy.113 As early as 1935, the SS founded team houses at the universities for those in secondary education, and these offered ideologically oriented programs as well. That year the focus was on five themes, beginning with “The foundations of our Weltanschauung: Race.” It followed up with “Blood and Soil,” “German socialism,” and so on, ending with “the enemies of Weltanschauung, Jews, political churches, Freemasonry, liberalism, capitalism and Bolshevism.”114 The goal in the first instance was to shore up antisemitism, and to that end, the literature did not shy away from underlining the (alleged) horrific details supposedly permitted by Judaism, such as allowing sexual relations with children in the name “of dominating the globe and exterminating the Nordic race.”115 Although in retrospect Hitler was crucial in pulling party activists together and getting the Nazi Party out in front of the competition among the many völkisch groups, he does not appear to have been the movement’s main initial drawing card, nor was his personal attractiveness the only reason that more ordinary people became Nazis. Moreover, the doctrine of National Socialism was sufficiently flexible that local leaders could emphasize different aspects of it, as the situation required or as their own inclinations determined. At least before 1933, most people who became militant Nazis had developed a rudimentary worldview of their own, and often it turned out to be close to, but not identical with the ideology that Hitler adopted. Indeed, as one member


Hitler’s True Believers

of the SS put it in 1934: “Today I know that I was a National Socialist before there was a name for that idea.”116 Like Hitler, these recruits drew their inspiration from a far larger body of thought than historians usually associate with this credo. It is sobering to discover the multiplicity of its sources, and the sheer number of people who entertained such far-​reaching desires, not all of whom even joined the Party. The seemingly meek Walther Darré’s case shows a middle-​range leader who already held strong views that were consistent with National Socialism well before he saw Hitler, and nowhere does Mein Kampf appear in his writings before 1930. After a late start, Darré turned out to a true-​believing activist, with a self-​crafted ideology to which, after 1933, he added selective bits from Hitler, Himmler, and others—​not that he needed much inspiration. The young lawyer Werner Best saw in Hitler and National Socialism a vehicle by which he could realize his own right-​wing ideas, including those about race. As one of the Gestapo leaders he became part of the RSHA or Reich Security Main Branch. It was run from its founding in 1939 by other unusually young and well-​educated leaders, with more than two-​thirds of them having attended a college or university, and nearly half having earned a doctoral degree. They considered themselves revolutionary in the sense that the community of the people was something still to be achieved, and that they wanted to bring about a heroic future, and if necessary to do so “ruthlessly.” Although the SS later became enveloped in racial illusions and peculiar rites, its cohorts prided themselves on their cold rationality. They proclaimed, as Best put it, that they were the “political ideological fighting league [der weltanschauliche Kampfbund] of the Party.”117 Of course as they all knew, the only feasible way to attain power was not through a violent revolution, as much as by slogging it out in elections.


The Nazi Voters

Beginning in 1925 the Nazi Party, though legalized again after the failed Putsch, remained extremist in its aims, inflammatory in its rhetoric, and prone to violence. The only hope of ever getting into power was to renounce revolution and to campaign in elections. Why did people turn to National Socialism? Was it the political doctrine itself, with its combination of nationalism, socialism, and antisemitism? Or was it merely the spellbinding charismatic appeal of Hitler? In spite of the enormous efforts that true believers put into winning at the ballot box, Germany’s political landscape was already crowded with parties, and there remained distinct limits to the number of voters the NSDAP could mobilize, even after the Great Depression hit in 1929. Reconstructing their motivations during the last of the Weimar Republic’s elections raises numerous important issues, all the more as Hitler only squeaked into power in 1933. In May 1930—​notably before the NSDAP had its big breakthrough in the September elections—​the Prussian Interior Ministry analyzed the electorate. In a forty-​nine-​page memorandum, the Berlin ministry observed that “economic desperation” was the biggest factor in attracting audiences to the party. Farmers had to pay too much for credit, had to compete with larger producers, and worried about “cold expropriation,” that is, losing their land to the tax collector or the creditors. Agricultural problems started with a poor harvest in 1927, and in 1927–​ 1928 prices began falling for some farm products, with the decline accelerating for all crops beginning in 1929. Besides the farmers, the


Hitler’s True Believers

Mittelstand (literally middle estate), or lower middle class of craftsmen and shopkeepers, was steadily losing customers to larger concerns like department stores, and so tended to see “the maneuverings of the Jews” behind their problems. The Prussian report said that the Nazis sought to attract such discontented voters, and even left-​oriented listeners who went to some of these events applauded the speakers. Put differently, In other words, the fertile ground for the Nazi Party included both rural and urban dwellers, and even Socialists. Finally, the report warned that the appeal of the “National Socialist idea” would not be restricted for long in taking supporters from the right-​wing and middle-​class parties, and the dangerous spread of the National Socialist movement—​looked at from the state’s point of view—​could lead to more radicalism, as already had happened in Prussia’s more eastern districts.1 In order to extend its reach into rural areas, the Nazis in April 1928 changed Point 17 of their program pertaining to farmers. Whereas originally the platform might have worried farmers when it spoke about passing a law “for the expropriation of land for communal purposes without compensation,” now that crucial phrase was changed to read that the land in question was “acquired illegally or not managed in the public interest.” Hence, the party assured potential voters, this demand was “aimed primarily against Jewish companies which speculate in land.”2 In other words, instead of threatening the peasantry with what sounded like too much socialism, the party changed its platform to add explicit antisemitism to its rural appeal, guessing or hoping that move would win more votes. Additionally, the party drew up new schemes in 1930 for farmers that addressed the crisis in agriculture that had hit before the Great Depression.3 The NSDAP took these steps in part because since 1927 it had been doing somewhat better in various elections out in the countryside. Then in May 1930 Hitler met agricultural expert Walther Darré, who from June 1 began his activity as advisor to the NSDAP, bringing with him the “Blood and Soil” ideology. Besides that, he and several others in Munich set about organizing a new branch of the party that would reach out directly to the peasantry. This Agrarian-​Political Apparatus mobilized experts or knowledgeable farmers able to analyze conditions in each district.4 Among those with some expertise and experience was the young Herbert Backe, whose own path to the NSDAP began in

The Nazi Voters


Russia, from which he fled. During the 1920s, he developed his own agrarian ideology, mixed with antisemitism. In 1933, Darré would appoint him as his state secretary in the Reich Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and the future awaited, as the two men shared many ideas.5 At any rate, by mid-​1932 the party could call on an estimated 10,000 “trained” experts, which indicated that it had its finger on the pulse of a large pool of potential mobilizers.6 National and district headquarters channeled detailed information to the local level and provided speakers’ material, such as the steps to be taken in rural areas to get people out to vote. In turn, locals were asked to send in relevant information to headquarters.7 In some places, ideological questions appeared almost as important as economic grievances. In Lower Saxony, for example, the party preached opposition to the Jews and attacked liberalism, the previous creed of a large part of the province, for letting down the people. The Nazis instead put forward the concept of the Volksgemeinschaft, and suggested that they would restore the vanishing world of traditional community relationships. The party’s activist style along with such ideological generalities gave locals the impression that it stood for a better tomorrow.8 The latest crop of speakers at election rallies were not just amateurs, but trained specialists who had gone through a new speakers’ school, which Fritz Reinhardt had founded on his own initiative. Hitler officially recognized it in April 1929, but it was Himmler—​when still involved with propaganda—​together with Reinhardt who wanted to use the school in order to control the content of what the speakers delivered. Once they had gone through a year-​long correspondence course and done trial runs before live audiences, they would be licensed to speak at gatherings in their localities. Their duty was to address at least thirty meetings within eight months. For each speech, they were paid five marks, with travel and food, and if they showed success and moved on to larger audiences, they might obtain a maximum of ten marks.9 The local party had to pay the expenses, raised from entrance fees, so that it had an interest in hosting speechmakers who could bring in the largest crowds possible. In that way, and also by collecting membership fees, the party financed itself and automatically adjusted its appeal locally to the paying customers’ wishes. Through the incessant


Hitler’s True Believers

beat of speeches, marches, bands, even door-​to-​door campaigning, and all the rest, the Nazis gave the impression of being irrepressible and unstoppable, and of offering positive alternatives to the existing social and political order.10 There were local variations in voter responses and Nazi efforts, such as in Munich–​Upper Bavaria during 1931, where national speakers visited, along with intermediate-​level specialists in economics, culture, youth, and foreign policy, while district speakers covered the Jews, Marxism, race, the peasantry, history, the press, and so on.11 The speakers’ course emphasized four core themes:  the First World War, problems linked to the dominant Socialist Party (SPD), nutritional issues, and antisemitism.12 Although this last element was not the single most important one, the directive to propagandists was to link problems, when possible, to the Jews or to the agents of the international Jewish conspiracy. In the same way, poster propaganda, even in the presidential elections, subtly hinted that many who supported Hindenburg in 1932 were prominent Jewish figures, whereas good “Aryans” should vote for Hitler.13 The correspondence courses demanded real effort by the would-​be orators, with written assignments and, toward the end of the course, a willingness to speak often in public. One of the students later maintained that the entire process worked less because Reinhardt was a great teacher than because the courses attracted those, already highly motivated by National Socialism, who wanted to get the training and information they needed. In the two weeks prior to the first round of the 1932 presidential balloting, the party held no fewer than 50,000 meetings, and it kept up this frantic pace for the two federal elections following that year.14 Like the local Nazi Party leaders themselves, speechmakers adapted differing aspects of National Socialist doctrine to the district, even within Catholic areas such as the Black Forest, which began favoring the party in 1930. Although far from heavy industry, big cities, and everyday reminders of Communist Party militancy, this region became marked by its opposition to Marxism and Bolshevism. All of Nazism’s usual appeals paled in comparison to the fear of communism. To be sure, the villages and small towns did not want the rowdiness of the SA and preferred a more low-​key approach. Yet the workers and craftsmen

The Nazi Voters


who comprised most of the local voter rolls liked the socialist aspect of Nazi ideology, though other rural areas did not.15 In Protestant Middle Franconia, the Nazis latched on to the social anxieties of rural residents. Peasants could not understand that the poor market situation meant that their own hard work and a good harvest no longer guaranteed prosperity. It was simple for the National Socialists to explain this abstract economic problem with reference to Jews, gaining positive results, for example, in Gunzenhausen. There, in the July 1932 federal election, the NSDAP obtained 66.2 percent of the vote, and in the second turn at the polls that year, the district of Rothenburg-​Land gathered 87.5 percent, in both cases well above the national average.16 In the nearby small town of Weissenburg, during the first and second round of the presidential elections earlier in the year, Hitler easily did the best of all candidates.17 Rumors circulated in Gunzenhausen that if he were elected he would force the Jews to forgive debts owed to them, and on top of that in cities like Nuremberg, Coburg, and Hof and the districts around Gunzenhausen and Ansbach, Nazi groups physically assaulted Jews to the point that they were afraid to leave their homes.18 In heavily Protestant Hesse and the area around Marburg, a prominent Nazi activist, the lawyer Dr.  Roland Freisler from Kassel, tried to throw out a Jew who came to the meeting in Schenklengsfeld on November 3, 1929. In the same town, a senior justice official struck a local schoolteacher and yelled at him:  “You’re right, and I’m right; but we can only rise again in Germany, when we drive all the Jews to the Friedrichsplatz in Kassel, surround them with machine guns, and shoot the lot.”19 Anti-​Jewish actions picked up at the time of the 1930 election and then settled down somewhat. Yet speakers making a tour there did not shy away from blood-​curdling threats, such as that the Jews, “as the main exploiters of the people, have to be brought to the nearest lamppost and hanged.”20 The police noted that while the talkers generally followed the party line, they improvised as well, with some suggesting the NSDAP would nationalize all the banks. Others insisted that the party sought a “Volksgemeinschaft, not a class struggle,” and another announced that Marxism was “a plague on the people,” and that “Marxism is Judaism and Judaism is Marxism.”21 It is striking that, whatever else they said, the agitators usually dragged the Jews into it. In Frankenberg district in Hesse, for example, they


Hitler’s True Believers

blamed Jews for dominating high finance, exploiting the little people, as internationalists forced on Germany, for robbing Germans of their idealism, and for spreading immorality. Other firebrands compared the Jews to a “sickness bacillus on the German body politic,” or as one policeman put it in reporting on a meeting, “like all other speakers of the NSDAP, this one as usual attacked the Jews sharply. The Jews are the vermin of the people.” Some mini-​demagogues warned that “international Jewish capital intended the same thing for German agriculture, as in the Soviet collectivist economy, that is, to turn farmers into proletarian workers.”22 For the NSDAP, this kind of agitation paid off, because Frankenberg district became one of the twenty in North-​and Upper-​Hesse to give Hitler an absolute majority in the second round of his failed presidential bid.23 The Nazi Party could stage a carnivalesque rally, as in the mostly Protestant Ziegenhain area of Hesse on Sunday, September 13, 1931. The party put its message on display beginning at one o’clock, when a choir welcomed the audience of 2,000 or so. Two bands tried to inspire the gathering before the region’s leader (Gauleiter) introduced the first honored guest. His main point was that the party program aimed to produce a Volksgemeinschaft, the opposite of what currently existed. Then the bands played two pieces, after which the Gauleiter from Kassel introduced another visitor, who maintained that Germany was divided into two Weltanschauungen, that of the NSDAP on one side, and all the rest on the other. “Today the German people work for the Jews,” or so he claimed, “and the people want to be free.” After him, they sang two songs, including the already mythical “Horst Wessel Lied,” as a prelude to someone who lectured about the “Party’s idea.” He did not add much, and then a band rendered two pieces before an out-​of-​town teacher addressed the unemployment problem. He made no practical suggestions, though inevitably he touched on antisemitism and bank swindles, such as one linked to a prominent Jew, and his talk also alluded briefly to the fear of Bolshevism. Anyone in the audience with enough energy remaining when all this ended at 6:30 p.m. then marched off in military style. Besides the two Gauleiter, the party brought in four speakers, three bands, a choir, and had a small parade. This rally illustrates the zealotry of the NSDAP at the local level, aiming to mobilize people—​if

The Nazi Voters


necessary by providing entertainment for those far out in the countryside. The speechmakers offered almost no typical election promises, and instead most of what they discussed pertained to National Socialist doctrine.24 That message, vague or not, resonated with the population. For example, in the two national elections of 1932 the Nazi Party in Ziegenhain district polled 69 and then 68  percent of the vote, well above the national average.25 Hitler’s visit to the nearby university town of Marburg in April 1932 attracted 20,000 people from there and surrounding rural parts. The large audience has been credited as much to the local Nazi Party’s popularity as to his mass appeal, which would not have been so extensive had Nazism not already made inroads into daily social life.26 Another perspective on how ordinary people responded to the advocates of National Socialist messages in the rural areas is evident in several diaries of people who lived in Lower Saxony at this time. Although the machinist Karl Dürkefälden in Peine did not vote for the NSDAP, his family did. Since 1931, the young man, born in 1902, was either unemployed or had only temporary jobs, and in September of that year, he and his wife had to move in with his parents. He had always been true to the Social Democrats (SPD), whereas his father, a retired farm owner, had voted for liberal parties. The father was unsure about the presidential election in March 1932, though he and his wife found Hindenburg impressive when they heard him on the radio. Everything changed with Hitler’s appointment in January 1933, for by March both parents voted for the NSDAP, and they also agreed with the first measures the Nazis introduced locally, including that the SA rounded up socialist sympathizers or took over the trade-​union headquarters. Karl’s father said simply: “There has to be order,” and he considered joining the party, only to pause when he thought about the fees. According to Karl, by the time of Hitler’s birthday in April, his father, mother, and sister had become “fanatical followers.” Karl’s brother revealed an even more radical streak, and registered with the SS in May, because he said, “everyone’s running to get in the SA.”27 The closest Hitler came to their town was when he visited the neighboring “free state” of Braunschweig—​reachable in twenty minutes or so by rail from Peine—​several times after the legalization of the party in 1925. A truly noteworthy occasion took place in October 1931, remarkable


Hitler’s True Believers

less for what he said than for its scale. The SA, SS, and Hitler Youth assembled as many as 100,000 from many parts of the country.28 Some in the city’s high society, such as the stately Elisabeth Gebensleben–​von Alten, thought that the mere sight of the parade helped her to breathe more freely and to be proud again of being German. She marveled that it took six hours for the uniformed men to pass. “Germany is really awakening again,” she wrote to her daughter. She and her family felt that without the discipline of the Stormtroopers, there would have been a full-​fledged civil war, “instead of just a minor one.” As voters, they wanted Hitler to save them from the violence of the Communists, and to some extent of the Socialists.29 Yet it was more than patriotism or fear of the Reds that moved these voters, for they were struck by the social misery they saw and put their hopes in Hitler to cure it. Thus, in Braunschweig the NSDAP picked up 47.98 percent of the vote in the national Reichstag elections in July 1932, and in the diverse region of Lower Saxony, which includes Karl Dürkefälden’s hometown, the party obtained 45.2 percent, both of them above the national average of 37.3 percent. By contrast, the NSDAP in East Prussia, far closer to the Soviet Union, appears to have pushed anti-​Marxism as its main appeal. Nazi leaders there, while claiming to be making progress in attracting the middle-​class voters away from conservatives and liberals in 1930–​1931, nevertheless admitted that “the [internal] Marxist castle remains unshaken. It is still the refuge and hope of the Jewish enemy of the people.” The Nazi Party tried to publicize what the Soviet newspapers reported to show that country’s disastrous social conditions and its political tyranny.30 In the last remotely free election of March 1933, the NSDAP would do best in East Prussia, gaining a majority with 56.5 percent of the vote.31 In Saxony, to the east, beginning in 1929, the Nazi Party held many more public meetings than the SPD, KPD, and the other competitors combined.32 Notwithstanding its activism, a survey of eastern Saxony in 1930 revealed that some villagers had never even heard of Hitler.33 And the NSDAP still lagged behind the larger SPD in members and party branches into late 1932. Nevertheless, in this more industrial land, with an estimated 50 percent of the Saxon population belonging to the working classes, the Nazis drew a hefty 40 percent of its members from

The Nazi Voters


that segment of society.34 In the breakthrough Reichstag election of July 1932, the NSDAP gathered 41.31 percent of the vote in Saxony, making it by far the biggest Saxon party. The results tailed off to 36.63 percent in the November election, but bounced back to 44.96 percent in the March 1933 balloting, with 91.62 percent of the population getting out to polling stations.35 Neither the Saxon Gauleiter Martin Mutschmann, as an early member of the antisemitic DVSTB, nor his slightly younger rival leader Martin von Killinger, with an equally dubious past in various right-​wing paramilitary organizations, made a secret of their views in a region known for its traditional hostility to the Jews.36 Even so, a survey of the topics of party meetings that survives for Schwarzenberg, an electoral bastion of Nazism (population just over 10,000) between 1928 and 1932, suggests that out of a grand total of 711 meetings, antisemitism was the subject of discussion only five times. However, opposition to the Jews could easily have been mentioned in various other happenings. For example, that theme would have fit into some of the 195 occasions that dealt with the biggest attention-​getter, namely the broad notion of “November System/​Germany’s misery,” the 75 meetings that took up the notion of “Anti-​Marxism,” or the 161 episodes labeled simply “NSDAP/​Hitler.”37 In sum, however, Saxon workers as well as other voters appear to have been attracted by a combination of positive factors, particularly the vision of creating a new Volksgemeinschaft, because in this region it contained elements of socialism, nationalism, authoritarianism, as well as a rallying cry against the class-​struggle mantra and the internationalism of the left-​wing parties.38 The one snapshot we have in 1930 of Pomeranian Ahlbeck, a small Baltic Sea resort town, reveals that the majority living “close to the beach” used to vote Nationalist, while “those in the village” had preferred the Socialists. That September brought change, and people wondered where the 700 votes for the NSDAP came from that made it the strongest party in the village. That also happened in nearby and larger Swinemünde, as well as Ostswine and Heringsdorf, where two years earlier Hitler’s party got a single, solitary vote. Perhaps it was young voters or others who used not to bother. In journalist Carola Stern’s autobiographical novel set in Ahlbeck, a fictitious Hans Schwandt reminded his sister-​in-​law Ella Assmus that he had predicted the result


Hitler’s True Believers

because Hitler “had an explanation for the economic crisis and a prescription against it.” She had experienced the First World War, did not like the revolution in 1918 and the Versailles Treaty, nor in the depression years seeing so many unemployed. She wondered whether the big-​city guests would stay away from her small guest house in the resort town and she feared going broke. According to Hans there was “some sort of conspiracy, led by Jews, who everywhere pulled the strings: not only in the economy, but in the governments of the Western plutocracies and in Moscow, where Jews stood at the head of World-​Bolshevism. Germany is supposed to be bled white. A  Jewish-​free, national politics and economy—​that’s what Adolf Hitler wants.” That story left Ella with nagging questions, though one thing was clear to her: things could not continue as they were.39 By contrast, in the more Catholic Mainz-​Koblenz-​Trier region, and indeed all the way down the Rhine to Cologne and Düsseldorf, the NSDAP did not win anything close to a majority before or after the two elections in 1932. Although the middle-​sized city of Koblenz (population 65,257 in 1933) was primarily Catholic (51,200), there were still 12,855 Protestants and 669 Jews.40 The NSDAP there had made its antisemitism abundantly clear since at least 1926 and combined it with opposition to the Jewish department store in town. In December that year the Party held a propaganda march, with signs on vehicles blaring:  “Germans, don’t buy your Christmas presents at the Jews,” “Germans buy only at Christians,” and “Avoid the department-​store Jews.” When Gauleiter Dr. Robert Ley spoke in August 1928, he presented the Party’s version of socialism.41 Gustav Simon, a new leader in Koblenz, helped to turn the city into one of the Party’s fortresses, though the big changes came only later. In a blitz Hitler-​visit to the area on April 21, 1931, he hit Bad Kreuznach (audience 15,000 to 20,000), Koblenz (a crowd of 12,000), and Trier (around 10,000). His message was that their enemies told lies about his platform. In this wine-​ growing region, the foes claimed he wanted to introduce Prohibition; in Catholic areas, they wrongly said he was an enemy of Rome and religion, and prayed to Wotan; in Protestant regions they alleged he wanted to subject the country to Rome; in working-​class areas, they declared he was a friend to big capital; to the factory owners, they argued he was a Bolshevik; in the city, they said Hitler was a slave to

The Nazi Voters


the peasants, and in rural areas, that he wanted to nationalize the land. All lies, or so he claimed. What could he really promise? He wanted a Volksgemeinschaft, a united Germany, that only the NSDAP and no other party could deliver.42 Regardless of how appealing this message might be, the Catholics remained doggedly loyal to their own party, and in March 1933, Koblenz-​Trier, along with another Catholic area in Düsseldorf-​East, were the only two districts in all of Germany where the Catholic Center Party still dominated, not the NSDAP. To be sure, in Koblenz itself Hitler’s party gained 41.2 percent of the vote, while the Catholic Center took 31.4 percent.43 In Lower Franconia, Bavaria, where 82.5  percent of the residents were Catholic, one might think that Hitler would not get much of an audience when he visited its main city of Würzburg in August 1930. Yet he drew between 5,000 and 6,000 with a seat costing one mark, standing room half that. People came from all over the district. Before it all began the SA, SS, and Hitler Youth marched behind a band that led the way to the venue. After a short introduction by the local party boss Gauleiter Otto Hellmuth, Hitler began by saying there would be no easy promises for special groups, and that the program of National Socialism was “an entirely ideological confession” (rein weltanschauliches Bekenntnis). Their struggle was not just to win a majority, because they strove for “a complete new orientation of a whole Weltanschauung.” Politics was not about personalities, it was about the government system, and since the war, that had failed badly. The country had to deal with the Jews, whom he labeled a “foreign race” and “parasites on the body politic.” The NSDAP would, in a few years, “conquer the entire German people by legal means” and open the way for their “liberation.” The police noted that the audience “applauded strongly.” To judge by the enthusiasm that evening, the party should have done well in the next elections and yet it did not, because Catholicism worked against it.44 By and large, the Catholics followed their clergy’s warnings, such as one issued by the bishops of Mainz, Freiburg, and Rottenburg in early 1931, that National Socialism “was not in accord with Catholic teachings.”45 Nevertheless, at least briefly at the end of the Weimar Republic, the strong rightward political drift carried along some convinced Catholics as well. They turned away from democracy, wanted


Hitler’s True Believers

to overcome the divisiveness within, and hoped for a new Germany. Thus, for all of the differences between Catholicism and Nazism, there existed some commonalities within the laity that could be developed in the Third Reich.46 To get elected, however, Hitler’s party had to gain support from the big cities, and the SA fought tooth and nail in larger centers like Berlin and Hamburg. Voters bought some of the message, as the diary of Franz Göll, a Berlin clerk, indicates. Thanks to the archaeological research of historian Peter Fritzsche, who came upon this work in the archives, we can track some of the man’s political motivations. Born in 1899, Göll had flirted with the völkisch movement in the early 1920s, toyed with moving to the Left, and drifted back and forth. In 1921 he had tried, without success, to publish his very own manifesto, “A Path to Salvation,” by which he meant that perhaps a great man could save Germany. Ten years later, and even though he continued to do reasonably well, his writing took an antisemitic turn, targeting the Jews as predators. He first mentioned the National Socialists in September 1932, not long after their best election showing to date. As one of their voters, Göll saw them as a “movement of renewal of the German people,” and he expected “a radical confrontation” with the Jews. Although his diary turned sour on the Third Reich after only a few years, and he resented the regime’s invasion of his private sphere, by then it was already too late to change his mind. Curiously enough, his diary for the years after 1945 retains traces of National Socialism and gives credence to Hitler’s anti-​Jewish legislation of the 1930s.47 The NSDAP by no means gave up on trying to win the working classes from the left-​wing parties, and in January 1931 it formally recognized another of many specialized organizations dedicated to specific social groups, a new NSBO (Nationalsozialistische Betriebszellenorganisation) or factory cell organization. Hitler’s intention was for it “to act as the SA in the factories” and hence become “the ideological battle troop of the NSDAP” with the mission to gain workers for the cause.48 A special effort was made to undermine the story that Hitler’s party was in the pay of big business, so that the NSBO adopted an anti-​capitalist tone. The version of socialism it propagated promised inclusion of workers in the harmonious Volksgemeinschaft, that class struggle would end, and that workers would be able to enjoy programs hitherto open only to the

The Nazi Voters


better-​off. By breaking the alleged hold of international Jewish finance on the economy, and presumably saving money, the new state would be able to do a great deal at little cost. A work-​creation program and compulsory labor service would pay for themselves. District headquarters told NSBO members to stay in their trade unions if they were in one, to try to undermine it, and only when they had enough comrades, to form their own Nazi branch.49 Membership in NSBO jumped to 300,000 by the end of 1932, though those numbers paled in comparison to the millions in the SPD affiliated Free Trade Unions. The latter’s numbers sank with increasing unemployment, though the NSBO was still slow to pick up members. Nevertheless, at the end of the Weimar Republic, groups of workers began moving toward National Socialism.50 The highly politicized atmosphere grew more fevered during the federal election called for July 31, 1932. The well-​oiled Nazi propaganda machine brought Hitler’s doctrine to the streets, backed by the violence of the Stormtroopers, which had been under a nationwide ban since April 13. The new chancellor, Franz von Papen, lifted that prohibition on June 14, just in time for the election. The NSDAP emerged from it with 230 deputies, making it by far the largest in the Reichstag, well ahead of the SPD, with 133 seats. Property owners had a right to worry that the representation of the KPD jumped from 12 up to 89 deputies. The conservative nationalists (DNVP) lost some support, but with its 37 seats, when added to the Nazi and Communist seats, together they constituted a majority of the 608 deputies in the Reichstag who did not accept the validity of the Weimar Republic or its constitution.51 Although each of these parties offered overlapping and sometimes conflicting versions of an anti-​democratic ideology, the National Socialists employed that rhetoric more effectively than its competitors.52 In Berlin and to some extent in Hamburg, the Nazi Party made inroads depending on how badly the SPD and KPD were split, for these were the two main competitors for the workers’ vote.53 Even so, Hitler’s party remained a political outsider in the big cities, including especially those with large Catholic populations, such as Düsseldorf and Cologne, and in all these cities the NSDAP vote stayed below the national average. The party did only slightly better in Catholic Munich, in spite of being headquartered there and having links to important local figures.


Hitler’s True Believers

Some SA marches into enemy territory occasionally led to full-​ fledged street riots and deaths, as in Hamburg-​Altona on July 17, 1932, which began when the Stormtroopers gathered an estimated 7,000 men at the train station, some from surrounding areas, as did their Communist foes. During the march, sniper fire may have caused a melee, and though the police intervened to stop it, a pitched battle ensued that dragged into the night, leaving a hundred wounded and eighteen dead. The event became notorious as Altona Bloody Sunday.54 It was merely one of the more outlandish examples of the growing political violence that came with the Great Depression, and that compounded the sense of crisis brought on by staggering unemployment and social desperation. According to the Nazi Stormtroopers’ own insurance company, its members’ serious injuries went from 2,506 in 1930 to 14,005 in 1932.55 Between 1930 and 1932, clashes among the various paramilitary units led to the death of 143 members of the SA, 171 from the Communist uniformed branch, and 32 from the Socialist equivalent organization. The total of those killed and wounded in 1931 rose to 8,248, including 4,699 National Socialists, 1,228 Communists, 1,696 members of the Socialist paramilitaries, and 625 from the Stahlhelm, originally a veterans’ association.56 The SA insurance had increased to 30 pfennigs in April 1930, and the entire Nazi movement contributed the same to a new “Relief Fund,” most of which went to the injured of the SA. In support of these street fighters, the Party instituted a kind of practical socialism, whereby one and all pitched in with money, gave in kind, donated their time, or bought the SA brand of cigarettes. Here was a sort of alternative society for those who felt abandoned by the Weimar “system.”57 Reichstag deputy Harry Graf Kessler of the Democratic Party, a pacifist and noble intellectual, thought at the end of June 1932 that the country was falling apart. As he said in a speech to the Reichstag, “The struggles between the radical movements (Communists and Nazis) have more affinity with the religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.” The current “bitter armed disputes between ideologies” could never lead to compromises, he said, “hence the bitterness and the hatred.”58 On November 6, in yet another federal election, the National Socialists lost some momentum, falling from 230 seats to 196. For supporters, this

The Nazi Voters


alarming drop looked even worse because of the Communist deputies’ rise from 89 up to 100. In the industrial Rhine-​Ruhr, the NSDAP preached “national” rather than “international Socialism,” with the emphasis on the last word, promising a “Volksgemeinschaft of fist and the brain,” mixed with plenty of antisemitism. Voters did not respond well, even if party membership grew steadily in the region when the depression hit.59 Where did big capitalists stand? The Nazi breakthrough at the polls beginning in 1930 had shocked the business community, all the more when in the new Reichstag, the NSDAP floated a whole raft of bills with an unmistakable socialist ring to them, including proposals to nationalize the big banks, to confiscate what the Nazis deemed to be ill-​gotten profits, and in effect to outlaw the stock market. The party’s reputation at the turn of 1930–​1931, as summed up by an editorial in a business-​friendly newspaper, was that its ideology consisted of a mélange of “anti-​pacifist nationalism, ‘wild’ antisemitism, and a ‘problematic socialism.’ ”60 A long note from the Prussian Interior Ministry of September 1930 analyzed Nazi attitudes to private property, observing that the speakers said one thing when they talked to city voters, and another to peasants, large farmers, or industrial leaders.61 Getting into power would require at least the toleration of Germany’s business leaders, and Hitler had attempted on several earlier occasions to earn their confidence. At one point he expressed admiration for Henry Ford’s business accomplishments, and he had recommended the American’s scandalous book The International Jew, which appeared in German translation in 1921. For reasons unknown, however, even mention of Ford’s name was struck from the text of Mein Kampf beginning a decade later.62 In early 1930, Hitler rejected emphatically that he had ever asked anyone to contact Henry Ford to seek funds.63 His best-​known address to the German economic elite came on January 26, 1932, before an estimated 700 to 800 people at the Industry Club in Düsseldorf. Hitler felt he had to counter the charge that he advocated one thing to the bigwigs and something else to others.64 And of course, he would have to stay clear of any mention of socialism.65 He began on a brief defensive note, saying that his party’s reputation as being anti-​business was wrong, because he favored private property. Then he turned mostly to the role of ideas in history, and this at a


Hitler’s True Believers

time when Germany was suffering from the worst economic ills of the Great Depression. He came with no shopping list of proposals or easy promises. For Hitler, the root of their problem was the country’s division between two worldviews. As he liked to claim, Bolshevism “had seized hold of a great part of Europe and Asia,” and that, coupled with “the gradual growth of confusion in white European thinking,” meant communism was on the verge of taking the entire continent. In Germany, half the nation was already lined up behind it, and it would have swept the rest, according to Hitler, had the National Socialist movement not become a massive counter force. Then came his typical either/​or ending. Germany was at a turning point: “Either the effort succeeds to shape—​out of the conglomerate of parties, associations, organizations, worldviews, arrogance of rank and class madness—​a body politic as hard as iron, or Germany will perish once and for all for lack of this inner consolidation.”66 He was not there to raise money: “No, I am here to present an outlook, and I am convinced that the victory of this outlook means the only possible starting point for a German recovery.” Material factors alone do not move history, as much as ideas, and if his listeners thought back into history, then they would realize the “tremendous power of ideas.” The primary emphasis of his party’s struggle was not foreign policy but building “a German body politic [Volkskörper] completely regenerated from within,” while being relentless, ruthless, and intolerant toward “anyone who endeavors to destroy or subvert” that new society. Only after creating that would it be possible to consider Germany’s limited Lebensraum (living space), though he gave no hints of an adventurous foreign policy, and he said not a word about the Jews. Nor did he allude to a single policy or program his government might enact to alleviate the depression, so perhaps unsurprisingly, he failed to win over big business. To make matters worse, the negative reaction of Nazi true believers to his published remarks forced party headquarters to issue disclaimers and to extol the virtues of trade unionism, denounce capitalist proposals to cut wages, and attack the current government’s plan for reducing social insurance and pensions. These pronouncements likely lost whatever support Hitler might have gained with his talk to the business community in the first place.67 Nevertheless, showing Germany’s economic elite that he could face

The Nazi Voters


them unflinchingly almost certainly added to his stature, and puffed up fellow-​travelers, such as industrialist Fritz Thyssen, who at least offered some financial assistance. At best, Hitler’s efforts with big business made the party seem somewhat more respectable and likely paved the way for future contacts.68 Hitler threw himself into mobilizing the vote in 1932, a year that would be jammed full of elections. It began on February 22, with Goebbels announcing that their leader would run for president. The lowly foot-​soldier would go up against the sitting head of state, the esteemed Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, already well into his eighties. In the brief campaign between February 27 and March 11, the NSDAP did not float new ideas. Instead, for the first time it focused on projecting the “Führer of Young Germany” as the “great man” who could get the tasks done that were beyond the “aged president.”69 Hitler was careful not to tread on sacred images and so put his challenge this way: “Old man,” he said, “you’re too worthy of our praise for us to tolerate, that behind you stand those we want to destroy. As sorry as we feel, you must step aside, because they want to fight, and so do we.”70 The result on March 13 was that no candidate won a majority, Hitler came in second to Hindenburg, and a run-​off became necessary. The day before the second round began, Hitler issued a short manifesto called “My Program.” In it he condensed what he had been saying for years, with the notable exception that he made no mention of the “Jewish question,” nor did he say a word about the need for living space. Society was being torn asunder, and “the greatest task of the future German leader was the restoration of the existing socialist and nationalist elements of our people into a new German community of the people.” He admitted being a socialist, because it was incomprehensible to him that a “machine is treated and handled with care, while the noblest representative of work, man himself, is allowed to go to ruin.” On the other hand, democracy and the parliamentary system had proven their weakness and had to be replaced by a strong leadership, one that would “overcome and exterminate” every sign of Marxism, including the “cultural Bolshevism poisoning and undermining the body politic.” All that he offered voters were vague promises, though as usual he opposed “loan capitalism” (Leihkapital), as it was “slowly but surely strangling the economy.71


Hitler’s True Believers

When he touched on the women’s question, he favored the woman’s role as man’s comrade and above all as a mother. That led to press accusations that if he were elected, he would end women’s rights. His answer was that the party would be foolish to think of taking women from the workplace, for they were comrades there to men. He favored the family and asserted that getting married and having children should never be a burden. Although from time to time he had indicated otherwise, now he said that both sexes had the same rights and duties.72 Indeed, back in October 1931, the party had founded a National Socialist Women’s League (NS-​Frauenschaft, NSF), and it commenced trying to mobilize women. In order to attract völkisch, conservative, and even Christian activists, the NSF partly retreated from advocating the traditional role of women. In one of its pamphlets from early 1932, it noted that National Socialism had come to recognize the great social changes of the previous fifty years, making it entirely appropriate to educate and integrate all women, insofar as that was permitted by their duties to marriage, family, and motherhood. The NSF now espoused, as its goal for women, that they be “in service of the entire Volk,” and that they create—​as one of their leaders said—​a “Volksgemeinschaft on the basis of National Socialism.”73 Hitler tried innovative techniques in the election against Hindenburg, including using an airplane for the first time to maximize the territory he could cover, making it possible to speak in three or four cities each day.74 In a preview of practices that would be used in the elections and plebiscites during the Third Reich, in early 1932 regional headquarters sent detailed orders to all districts that they should follow on the big day.75 Hindenburg used national broadcasts to get out the vote, and his campaign—​which cost much more than Hitler’s—​was extremely sophisticated, and it worked.76 During this election, Hitler did not mention the Jews at all, assuming it would lose him more support than pushing antisemitism would gain. On April 10, he obtained 13,418,547 votes, which was more than two million more than he had received in the first round, though he still fell short; Hindenburg won an absolute majority. During 1930 and 1931 Hitler had often spoken or written about the need for living space (Lebensraum). However, in the big election year 1932 he said far less on the topic, though in January he twice presented

The Nazi Voters


an abbreviated account of the relationship between the size of the population and its space, mostly pointing to its economic implications.77 Otherwise he remained silent on the subject, skipped over it completely in his “program” announcement of April, and only touched on the concept in passing in June and July.78 Not until October did he offer more, and then rather briefly about its impact on the standard of living.79 The single most important ideological point Hitler made during the 1932 political campaigns—​and there were no fewer than fifteen national and state elections that year—​was his emphasis on bringing the nation together into a community of the people, a Volksgemeinschaft. In the program published in April he stated that the greatest mission of the German statesman of the future was to merge the existing socialist and nationalist elements of the nation “into a new German Volksgemeinschaft.” Later that month he talked about leading a national rehabilitation in creating a community of the workers of the head and the fist, who with the peasants would share an inner solidarity. Reaching out to opponents, he hoped there would be a time when Communists and Socialists would find their way back to the people’s community. In June, he thought it was a miracle that millions now believed in National Socialism as a synthesis of nationalism and socialism, so that class struggle and the splintering into many parties could end. Indeed, he claimed that as long as nationalism and socialism were divided, they would be defeated by their united enemies, but on the day that these ideas “meld into one, they will be unbeatable.”80 After the July election, he did not pursue this point again until October. His mentions of the Volksgemeinschaft theme peaked in the November campaign, when his argument was that fourteen million already belonged to that community—​the Nazi activists and voters—​ and the others should get on board.81 The dominant threat was said to be Marxism, which was a worldview, a Weltanschauung, and it had to be defeated. That would only be possible by means of a new, better idea and that could only be the thought of the community of the people. If this ideology succeeded, Germany would be rescued, and if not, then in the long run Germany could not be saved.82 For the future, there could be no greater mission than to bring about the harmonization of the social classes and estates.83


Hitler’s True Believers

At the end of October and only a week away from the election, Hitler spoke about the coming Third Reich, holding it up as beyond classes.84 This Reich would be carried by the broad masses, the worker, the peasant, the craftsman, he said, and the nation would overcome its social and religious divides.85 Otto Dietrich, who had joined Hitler’s circle in fall 1931 and later became the Reich press chief, stated in his memoirs that the great majority of voters believed in the Volksgemeinschaft, which they would create by eliminating the class struggle and “solving the Jewish question.” The new world of National Socialism would run on a socialist efficiency principle, so that by creating equality of opportunity, especially in education, and “breaking the slavery to interest on loans,” Hitler aimed to produce social justice and harmony.86 The notion of the Volksgemeinschaft became the distinguishing feature of the NSDAP’s image in rural areas, where peasants understood it to mean many things, including overcoming the divisiveness between town and country and especially protecting their interests. The party also won over rural opinion leaders, such as Protestant village pastors and teachers, and some of the landed nobility.87 The smoldering inner-​party problem came to a head with the more socialistically inclined Gregor Strasser, who was disposed to think that the National Socialist idea was more important than any single leader. The issue boiled over toward the end of 1932, when the newly appointed chancellor Kurt von Schleicher tried to go over Hitler’s head in order to enlist Strasser for his socially and politically mixed cabinet. Because the Nazi Party’s electoral momentum had slowed down, and it was having financial problems, the situation was already tense. As Goebbels recorded in his diary, all these matters left him and his comrades depressed.88 Hitler persuaded the Nazi Reichstag deputies to side with him, instead of compromising in any way, to stay with an “all-​or-​nothing” approach and to hold out for the chancellorship. With that turn of events on December 8, Strasser resigned all his posts in the party, and a subterranean crisis of confidence in the leadership smoldered.89 The press exaggerated the situation with blaring headlines about a “The Palace Revolution against Hitler,” a “Leadership Crisis in the NSDAP,” “The Rebellion: Strasser’s Declaration of War on Hitler,” and so on.90

The Nazi Voters


In Strasser’s published letter of resignation, he intimated that Hitler wanted social chaos to grow until he would be offered the top job, and Strasser disagreed with that strategy. After saying that no one except Hitler had pressed ideological questions into the foreground as much as he (Strasser) had done, he said that gave him the right to say, “The NSDAP is not only an ideological movement which is developing into a religion, but also a fighting movement which must strive for power in the state at every opportunity so as to enable the state to fulfill its National Socialist tasks and to realize German Socialism in all its facets.”91 These developments provided the background to Hitler’s memorandum of December 15, 1932, in which he analyzed how to grow their successes. The document underlined obedience to his leadership and reminded supporters that their aim was “the victory of the National Socialist idea.” Therefore, it was important to remember that the Party organization existed to foster that idea, not the other way around. As he put it: “In order for a worldview [Weltanschauung] to spread, what it needs is not full-​time employees, but fanatical apostles.”92 Hitler’s New Year’s proclamation for 1933 highlighted how far their movement had come since the mythologized seven men had started it. “National Socialism has fought not as a parliamentary party, but as a Weltanschauung party. Middle-​class liberalism and international Marxism were and are its common enemies. Finally overcoming and completely exterminating them will lead our people back to their own strength.” He maintained that “liberalistic humanity” had reached the end of its age, and that the Bolshevik danger was immense, headed as it was by “the international Jew as the intellectual inspirer.” Just in case the people had forgotten how visceral his antisemitism was, he went on to accuse the Jews of leading the “lower races” around the globe against the more cultured “higher races.” This “Jewish-​intellectual leadership of the world revolution” had already claimed Soviet Russia and had turned it into the “take-​off point and the center of strength of Bolshevism,” poisoning the rest of the world with a network spreading outward. Civilization as the Germans knew it, so he claimed, in culture, morality, love, honor, and so on, would be destroyed, and chaos would follow. Only the Italians, thanks to the victory of Mussolini and fascism, had avoided that fate.93


Hitler’s True Believers

Presumably, Hitler intended this end-​of-​the-​world scenario to inspire the party to fight on against their common ideological and political enemies.94 He reinforced the point by counting how far the Communist movement had come in Germany since 1919, so that no treachery in Nazism’s ranks would be tolerated, and anyone who tried would be a political dead man—​as indeed Strasser already was. With rediscovered or reimagined unity, they would march into the New Year. Then on January 15, 1933, the results in the overwhelmingly Protestant Lippe state elections came through and showed progress, for the NSDAP gained 39.5 percent of the vote, compared to only 3.4 percent in the previous election there. Was this acceptance of Hitler’s leadership or of the National Socialist doctrine? In some places in Lippe ideology became relevant only when it seemed to coincide with local interests. The much-​heralded community-​of-​the-​people ideal was propagated by the village have-​nots in political struggles with more dominant local figures.95 Thus, the success of the NSDAP was bound up with multifaceted micro-​political configurations that had little to do with Hitler. If the party did not win a majority in Lippe, it took a leap forward, while most other parties lost ground, especially the rival Nationalists (DNVP). And the Communists nearly doubled their vote, a stinging reminder to good citizens of the growing menace of the “Reds.”96 Making the most of the victory in Lippe, and exaggerating its actual significance, Hitler roared to a gathering of 4,500 members of the SA, SS, and Hitler Youth in Weimar’s town square on January 15 that these results completely erased the hopes anyone might have had that their movement was in decline. “We take up the struggle for power, and follow it through, one way or another.” He continued that theme in the late afternoon in the Weimar Hall to the party leaders of Thuringia, counseling patience and hinting at steps he soon would take. He reiterated that their ideology would determine what they put in place of democracy. The task would be all the greater the deeper Germany fell victim to “the ferment of decomposition,” a coded expression for the activities of the Jews. Loyalists could not desert the party just short of its goal, and when he thundered that he would never forsake it, the assembled 3,000 rose in thunderous applause.97 Tirelessly, Hitler continued the campaign five days later before an estimated 10,000 leaders of the Nazi Party, SA, and SS in Berlin. All they

The Nazi Voters


wanted, he said, was a Volksgemeinschaft, the racially “cleansed” and socially harmonious community, instead of a nation divided on social, economic, and religious lines. Some might ask, “Does that really make any sense; can you ever reach that goal? Is there not too little time?” His answer was that they were building for the centuries, so that “they couldn’t give up tomorrow or the day after.” They were to plant the seed and give it time. “The way to heaven isn’t paved, we have to fight for it, and we won’t find the door to freedom ajar, we have to tear it open ourselves. We’re battling for a new nation! Tenacity is the mission of leadership!”98 No matter what might happen, he would thunder: “The course of our ship remains the old one. If someone asks:  And if we should go down?—​So be it! Then I’d say, as the steersman, I’ll be the last to go! I will not leave the ship!” At that, the resounding applause brought down the house.99 The true believers were in tune with him, and once the Party attained power, its ideological nature would become even more obvious.100 No single factor can account for why ordinary people began opting for the National Socialist Party, though any who did at the very least knew in broad terms what it stood for. The Party obtained support from all social classes, with 40 percent of its votes coming from working-​class households, which means that workers were still somewhat underrepresented compared to their percentage of the population. That had to be disappointing, because the NSDAP had fought desperately to win the workers away from the two Marxist parties. The other 60 percent of the Nazi votes came from the variously defined “middle classes,” which was a higher percentage than that class represented in the population. Unemployment played an indirect rather than a direct role in turning voters toward Hitler, insofar as the jobless initially went to the Communists, and that party’s growth, along with the lengthening lines before the unemployment offices, worried respectable folks, who then increasingly opted for the NSDAP.101 Religion was a key factor, with Catholics much underrepresented as Nazi voters and Protestants overrepresented, and the party did better in rural areas than in the big cities.102 In some parts of the countryside, the NSDAP gained more votes from the middle peasantry, which is to say, fewer from the rural laborers or the large landowners.103 The party’s Agrarian-​Political Apparatus, informed by Walther Darré’s “Blood and


Hitler’s True Believers

Soil” ideology, pictured the peasantry as being the country’s primary class, in that it would provide the “blood source” for the resurrection of the race. The peasants could hope that with the Nazi Party, they had a militant nationalist movement worth supporting. If elected that party would stand up for the rural folk and be in favor of self-​sufficiency in food.104 With Hitler’s appointment in sight, if not assured in early 1933, the big question was what he would do about the major items on his own agenda. What steps would he take to anchor National Socialism? What would happen on the “Jewish question,” and his antisemitism, about which he felt so passionately? How could the new regime get the economy going again, with some socialism and some capitalism? Nazi voters were drawn to the prospect of a new Volksgemeinschaft. But could the country afford wide-​ranging social programs? What of his promise to tear up the Versailles Treaty and eventually to strive for “living space”? How to prioritize this grand agenda? What was to be done with the considerable opposition, in some big cities making up the majority? Would there be all-​out repression to terrorize opponents into submission? And how would the nation consume or adapt itself ‑to the rapid-​fire changes? These and other thorny questions would be on the table for a new Hitler government, as the divided nation looked to the future with decidedly mixed emotions.


National Socialism Gains Power

What was in store for the true believers when Hitler was finally called to be chancellor on January 30, 1933? Although he had not offered a shopping basket full of promises, and in that respect was not a typical politician, nevertheless his speechifying over the years provided visions of a fresh beginning, even a national rebirth, and a new society. On the other hand, he never spelled out any specifics, and sometimes seemed to soft-​pedal his socialism, even his antisemitism. What were ordinary people to think from the snippets of news that circulated about his plans? What to expect going forward? In fact, Hitler had mapped out a political strategy of sorts in Mein Kampf, when he talked about why the German revolutions of 1918–​1919 had failed. As he saw things, that upheaval destroyed the state’s authority, which he said should rest on three pillars: popularity, coercion, and tradition. How did that formula look in the revolutionary situation of 1932–​1933? No doubt he had become the most popular politician in Germany. To be sure, he said, popularity was unstable if not combined with force, which was to be used as needed to “win back” political enemies, not to liquidate them as in the Russian Revolution. No one had to teach him about the importance of keeping the confidence of President von Hindenburg, as well as the army, both of which embodied the state’s traditions.1 How was he able to combine popularity, coercion, and tradition into the unshakeable political authority he craved? In the longest chapter in Mein Kampf, Hitler assigned mainly educative tasks to what he called


Hitler’s True Believers

the racial state, and most obviously these involved the preservation of the race. Although he said nothing about the form or structure of the state, it would have to be more centralized and invasive than the one that existed in early 1933.2 As he sketched his hopes in the mid-​1920s, he maintained that “the meaning and purpose of revolution is not to tear down the whole building, as much more to remove what is bad or unsuitable.”3 To that end, the state would have to become the expression of his will, and in practice that would turn out to be anything but totalitarian. All that lay ahead late in the morning of January 30, when former chancellor Franz von Papen, DNVP leader Alfred Hugenberg, and Hitler concluded their agreements, and minutes later he met with President Hindenburg, who finally appointed him chancellor.4 When the cabinet met at 5 o’clock, it set about discussing an Enabling Law—​ that is, how to allow the government to pass laws without the approval of the legislature (Reichstag).5 Oddly enough, Hitler had plenty of assistants in his cabinet of nearly all non-​Nazi conservatives who were willing to help him demolish what remained of democracy. New vice chancellor Franz von Papen observed matter-​of-​factly at the first cabinet meeting that it was “absolutely essential to avoid a return to the parliamentary system forever.”6 That evening from 7 until 1 o’clock in the morning, a parade of thousands of SA, SS, and Nazi Party members streamed by the Chancellery to celebrate the triumphant leader, and nearby, the elderly president.7 True believers had their moment to shine. Alongside the endless swastikas, there was a sea of traditionalist black-​white-​red flags, symbolic of the German Reich founded in 1871 and for which Hindenburg and Hitler had fought. The sheer scale of the demonstration, estimated at near one million people, was part of the “Aufbruchstimmung,” the sense of euphoric “awakening,” that swept through large sections of society.8 On February 1 the new chancellor read a radio proclamation in which he outlined the problems the country faced and the relatively reserved steps he wished to take. Since the war, he began, the nation had lost its unity, honor, and freedom, as it had become enveloped by a confusion of political opinions, economic interests, and conflicts among worldviews. As had happened earlier in their history, disunity at home

National Socialism Gains Power


led to a decline in the country’s place in the world. The new government, he pronounced firmly, would be grounded in Christianity, as the foundation of its morals, and based on the family as the germ cell of the body politic. He wished to appeal to all classes and groups to awaken a racial and national consciousness. As he intoned gravely: “Germany may not and cannot sink into anarchistic Communism.”9 More ambitiously, Hitler called for the reorganization of the economy in order to rescue the peasant from ruin and to cure unemployment, a resurgence that would establish the preconditions for the rest of the economy to blossom. There would be no wild nationalization schemes and no touching private property. With the restoration of orderliness and elimination of the “class struggle madness,” the country would be able to meet its international responsibilities. In foreign policy, the hope was for a restoration of Germany’s freedom, and resumption of its equal rights in international affairs. He also said that it would be folly to “make the work of reconstruction dependent on the approval of those who brought about the destruction. The Marxist parties and their lackeys have had 14 years to show what they could do. The result is a heap of ruins.”10 On February 2, the cabinet adopted a sweeping emergency decree “for the protection of the German people” that had been prepared by an earlier Papen government. Formally adopted two days later, the decree gave the police enormous powers. Hitler restrained himself, as well as those in the cabinet who wanted to outlaw the Communist Party (KPD), and to take radical measures against possible strikers.11 Even so, under this February 4 decree, offending persons could be kept in prison for “not under” three months. The Socialist press responded with a sarcastic question: Had the Hitler government used its first emergency measure “against Versailles, against the banks, against slavery to interest on loans, for work and bread? No! Against the freedom of the press and against the freedom of assembly.”12 The Nazi Party newspaper published numerous stories during February about “The Bloody Terror in Berlin,” by which it meant organized Communist shootings of the SA.13 Another report gave three dead and wounded in Berlin in clashes between the KPD and the SA.14 At the same time, the local Nazi Party, SA, and SS began their revenge—​ for example, in the night of February 3–​4, when the SA in Berlin shot


Hitler’s True Believers

a Communist, and on February 5, a National Socialist high school student killed the Socialist mayor of Stassfurt. A  week later in Eisleben there was a shoot-​out with the KPD, leaving one dead and twelve seriously wounded. When the Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) newspaper dared to report on the “Bloody Sunday in Eisleben,” the Berlin Police president used the story as an excuse to shut down that press again. It had already become too dangerous for some SPD politicians to appear in public, and others began quietly leaving the country.15 On February 5, a sense that Hitler had growing numbers of ordinary people on his side could be read into his appearance at the heritage-​rich Evangelical Berlin Cathedral’s funeral service for Hans Eberhard Maikowski, the SA Sturmführer in Berlin-​Charlottenburg.16 An estimated 600,000 people gathered to watch the ceremony.17 Maikowski had been in the crowd that celebrated on January 30, and on his way home Communists shot him and also killed a policeman. This SA man had been a political activist for years; born in 1908, at sixteen he gravitated toward paramilitary groups and the military. In 1926 he joined the Nazi Stormtroopers, and became notorious as one of the leaders of Charlottenburger “murder squad 33.”18 The Socialists found it scandalous that the new government proposed giving him a state funeral.19 Using the February 4 emergency decree, the new regime temporarily closed mainly Communist and Socialist newspapers, such a measure representing the beginning of the complete erosion of civil rights.20 Hermann Göring, as Reich Minister without Portfolio and Prussian Minister of the Interior, selectively removed inconvenient officials, political appointees, even police commissioners across Prussia, yet he did not replace them with hardcore Nazis as much as with sympathetic, trained veterans.21 Supporters commonly cited Göring as using “an iron broom” to clean out local administrations as well as political enemies, though it was anything but a clean sweep.22 When Göring spoke to the Berlin police on February 7, he told them not to shrink from using their weapons when necessary “in the battle with the criminals and international rabble.”23 Ten days later he issued a startling order to the police in Prussia, Germany’s largest state, telling them to fight “enemy organizations with the sharpest methods.” If officers had to shoot, he personally “would cover for them.” The

National Socialism Gains Power


Party newspaper relayed the story on its front page under the headline “Ruthless Use of Weapons against the Red Terror.”24 He also warned that any police failing to crack down because of a “false diligence” to the letter of the law could count on being prosecuted. Thus began the pseudo-​legal “terror from below.”25 Hitler held to his considered legal political strategy and obtained President Hindenburg’s permission to speak privately with the nation’s military leaders.26 On February 3, General Kurt von Hammerstein-​ Equord invited the new chancellor for dinner at his residence in the Bendlerstrasse.27 The other guests included General Werner von Blomberg, the new minister of defense, whom Hindenburg thought would check the young chancellor. Blomberg in turn had named his chief of staff, the reliable career officer Colonel Walther von Reichenau, to head the Ministeramt (Ministerial office), who was also at the dinner, along with up to thirty top military figures.28 Many ordinary people might have liked to hear Hitler speak so frankly about his military plans, though prudence advised against making his revisionist goals public. The documentary sources for what Hitler said that evening include a report penned by an undercover Russian spy and another, shorter account by General Kurt Liebmann. Though the two differ in tone, they mostly agree on substance.29 To win over the military, Hitler gave an abbreviated account of his Weltanschauung and how he would apply it to solve what he called “Germany’s crisis.” The crucial point was that all of Europe was under threat from Bolshevism, which thrived in conditions of social upheaval and deprivation.30 Why was democracy impossible? Because it left Germany divided, with one half positively disposed toward National Socialism and the other half wanting to repress it; one half hated such treason, the other believed treason to be its duty. Therefore, Hitler saw his first duty as the conquest of power, “to repress sharply” every corrosive opinion. Marxism had to be “exterminated,” and he estimated that would take six to eight years. Germany’s greater problem could be solved only with a new settlement policy that would expand the living space. With fresh recruits, the military would be able to support an active foreign policy, because “the goal of expanding the living space of the German people would also be achieved with an armed hand.” The needed space would


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“probably be in the east,” and, he noted ominously, “Germanizing the population of the annexed or conquered lands is not possible. We can only Germanize the soil. Like the Poles and the French did after the last war, we’ll relentlessly have to deport some millions of people.” If they adopted such an approach, then in fifty to sixty years their country would have a “completely new, healthy state.” The precondition was consolidation of the new order and return to the traditional outlook of the state.31 The second note-​taker at Hitler’s talk, General Liebmann, phrased his summary like this: “What to do once we win political power? Now still difficult to say. Maybe fighting for new export options, perhaps, and likely better, conquest of new living space in the east and its ruthless Germanization.” In order to turn around the situation at home, there could be no toleration of attitudes such as pacifism, and “anyone who doesn’t turn, will be bent.” The regime would strengthen youth’s will to fight, exterminate Marxism root and branch, mete out death for any treason, and “create the tightest authoritarian state leadership.” In foreign policy, there would be a struggle against Versailles, a useless endeavor without the people’s will to fight. In the economy, Hitler would rescue the peasant and plan settlements in the east for the growing population. The army need not worry about having to merge with the SA; there would be rearmament and introduction of the draft, and false ideas had to be knocked out of youth’s heads before they enlisted. In short, military values should become the nation’s social values.32 Hitler revealed much more here than he ventured in public, though he notably neglected to mention a single word about antisemitism, even when the military’s own anti-​Jewish attitudes were well known.33 His bold message was that he was out to create a “legal dictatorship,” and for that reason the officers should support his efforts.34 As Reichenau put it in a directive to the military: “It is necessary to recognize that we stand in the middle of a revolution. The rottenness in the state has to go, and that can take place only with terror. The Party will attack Marxism without reservation. The mission of the armed forces is to be at the ready.”35 Like no other general, Reichenau demanded a “National Socialist armed forces,” and of soldiers that they ought “to act inwardly on the basis of the worldview.”36

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As for the more mundane matter of winning the next election, the watchword of the new government and campaign slogan was to defend the country against communism. In the last federal election of November 1932, the KPD had gathered an impressive 5.9 million votes, making it the third strongest in the country. This show of support for communism was worrying for ordinary people concerned about their property, and therefore the Reds became a convenient target for the new regime to use in order to gain votes. At the end of January, there were protests in some working-​class areas, including Berlin and a half-​ dozen or more cities in the industrial Rhine-​Ruhr, where the SA killed a number of Communists in early February. Understandably, however, with so many unemployed, potential opposition was somewhat demoralized and resigned. The Nazi Stormtroopers, by contrast, with a half million or more activists already in mid-​1932 and growing, operated like the winning team. They found ways of getting the police to regard mainly the Communists, as well as the Socialists and other political enemies, as the provocateurs, so that organized resistance to Nazism found it difficult to get off the ground.37 The Socialist Press Service (SPD) reported that from late January to early February 1933, the police broke up marches and did not shy away from using violence. The service provided a narrative about all kinds of clashes, especially with the Communists.38 Hermann Göring drew the obvious conclusions from the unfolding events, until finally on February 22 he deputized the SA and SS, as well as some Stahlhelm members, as temporary police (Hilfspolizei). That step unleashed violence in the midst of the election, still on schedule for March 5. In Berlin the police raided the Karl-​Liebknecht-​House, the headquarters of the KPD, as well as many of their meeting places. Rudolf Diels, the new head of Political Department IA in the Berlin Police Presidency, reported that they had found nothing sensational, though that did not stop Göring from making headlines about the great success of their work.39 One Catholic politician wrote Hitler to complain about the violence, and received only the sarcastic reply that as chancellor he was also upset, and had warned his own party to be on guard for such enemies in their ranks. He alleged that these were undercover Marxists, perhaps wearing Nazi uniforms to defame the NSDAP.40


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All such events paled in significance compared to what happened in Berlin on the evening of February 27, when someone set fire to the Reichstag. At the time, police boss Rudolf Diels was meeting a colleague at the well-​known Kaffee Kranzler when a call alerted him. Diels, who had been investigating Communist plans for some kind of resistance or rebellion in the capital city, was not alone in half suspecting that this was their work. When he arrived at the scene, he found the police questioning a suspect, one Marinus van der Lubbe, from Holland, who openly insisted he had set the Reichstag aflame, and admitted to having torched other sites in the capital before.41 That same evening, as Hitler dined at the Goebbels’s home, the phone rang at 9 o’clock with word of what was happening. When Goebbels took the call, he was too shocked to believe it and only reluctantly told Hitler, who could hardly fathom it either.42 Yet the first words out of him were “That was the Communists,” and he roared furiously, “Now we’ll strike!”43 Then he and Goebbels sped off to see for themselves, and at the building they came upon Diels and others, including Göring, who blurted out: “This is the beginning of the Communist revolution.” Hitler was incensed. As Diels described it, “his face was flaming red from the fury and the heat,” he looked “as if he wanted to burst, and then he screamed, completely out of control, unlike anything I  had seen from him before.” Diels quoted Hitler as thundering: “Now there’s no mercy; anyone who gets in our way will be laid low. The German people will have no understanding for mildness. Every Communist functionary will be shot where he’s found. The Communist members of the Reichstag must be hanged this very night. Everything has to be settled that’s linked to the Communists. No more leniency either with the Social Democrats and the Reichsbanner.” Following Hitler’s orders, Göring muttered to Diels to make sure that “no Communist and no Social Democrat traitor escapes,” though the police quietly “forgot” to track down those Socialists, at least for the time being, because it seemed like overreach.44 According to a note Diels passed on to the Prussian Interior Ministry and head of the SA in Berlin on February 28, he believed that the Communists had wide-​ranging sabotage plans in the works.45 When Hitler met his cabinet that morning at 11 o’clock, he stated: “The psychologically right moment for a confrontation [with the

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KPD] has arrived. It’s pointless to wait any longer.” Göring promptly had the Communist and Socialist press closed, and ordered police to arrest all KPD members of the Reichstag, as well as leading KPD officials.46 There were various “discoveries” of what they supposedly had planned, including whispers that they wanted to poison the drinking water, interfere with public transportation, or blow up essential public buildings.47 Although historians continue to dispute who lit the fire, there is no doubt that Hitler, Göring, and other Nazis did not, though they certainly knew how to capitalize on the event.48 Indeed, as soon as ordinary people heard of the fire, some thought straightaway, or so they claimed: “This is the beginning of the Communist revolution.”49 Hitler appealed to President Hindenburg, who had seen the fire himself and readily believed both that this was not the act of a single individual, and that the KPD was likely behind it. Thus, the head of state had no reservations about granting the wish of his new chancellor, who asked him to act under article 48 of the constitution, invoke emergency powers, and sign a “decree for the protection of the state and the people” from “Communist acts of violence.”50 This diktat (Verordnung) may be the most important legal document in the history of the Third Reich. It suspended “indefinitely” the crucial rights of the citizen under the constitution, including restrictions on personal freedom and habeas corpus, freedom of speech, assembly, and of the press, and permitted the opening of mail and searching homes.51 If the Great Depression readied millions of ordinary people to see hope for a way out in Nazism, then this latest emergency prepared them to accept even curtailment of their basic legal rights to stave off an alleged Communist revolution. The March 5 election that followed saw the largest turnout in the history of voting to that point, with the NSDAP obtaining the support of 17.2 million, or 43.9 percent of the total, the largest percentage any party attained in the years of the Weimar Republic. While it remained true that Hitler’s party thereby was denied an outright majority, it was the strongest in all of Germany’s thirty-​five electoral districts, with the exception of Cologne-​Aachen and Koblenz-​Trier, both held by the Catholic Center Party. The Nazis obtained 288 seats out of 647, and as their allies in the Nationalist Party (DNVP) got 52 seats, together they had a majority. The Communist Party (KPD), in spite of the terror it faced, still managed to collect


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4.8 million votes and 81 seats, and the Socialists (SPD) 7.5 million votes and 125 seats.52 There was no question that as soon as the Reichstag met, it would pass an enabling law, the president would sign it, and democracy would be over, with barely a thin legal veneer to cover the Nazi revolution.53 A sign of things to come on March 7 was a memorandum sent to the Reich Chancellery that outlined what became the Reich Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda. This first and only new ministry would be vast in scope, to influence the press, radio, film, and theater. In addition, it would dissolve or incorporate existing cultural institutions, even marginal ones. Now all would contribute to the enormous task ahead and, according to the law, “bring awareness of the new nation to the broadest masses.”54 Centralizing the country accelerated quickly, for almost immediately Hitler and Göring began the process dubbed at the time as “coordination” (Gleichschaltung). What that meant, according to the Reichstag-​ fire decree, was that Berlin could temporarily assume the powers of the individual states “insofar as necessary to restore public security and order.” Germany would become more centralized using an orchestrated tactic, whereby regional Nazi organizations would provoke conflicts with local authorities, and then Minister of the Interior Frick would send in Special Reich Commissioners with police powers. Without a trace of irony, he told the cabinet on March 7 that “otherwise there might develop the greatest danger for order and security. Those hitherto in power in these states enjoyed no resonance with the people; the discipline of the police appears endangered, if the Reich [Berlin government] does not intervene.”55 Over the following days he dispatched these commissioners to each of the states, where they were not always welcomed.56 In Baden when the former district leader of the NSDAP there, Robert Wagner, arrived in Karlsruhe on March 9, he assumed control merely by addressing 3,000 or so SA and SS in front of the Ministry of the Interior. He and the other new leaders projected the image of a legal revolution against the KPD and SPD.57 Wagner promptly ordered the arrest of political enemies, including the leaders of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Initially, the police confined them in the local prison, where they could have visitors, feed themselves, and even get

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short “vacations.” One of the prisoners, the lawyer Ludwig Marum, a senior SPD leader and member of the Reichstag, who was also Jewish, replied when an interviewer asked about his treatment that the guards were “correct and decent,” and that he had “nothing to complain about.” He even applied for leave to take his seat at the coming Reichstag session on May 17. Instead the Karlsruhe newspapers carried a story on May 15, announcing the public transfer of Marum and six other SPD leaders to the concentration camp at Kislau. The next day at 11 o’clock, thousands gathered to watch the shameful drama, as the men got into an open police truck for a slow tour through town and village on the way to the camp. The crowds jeered, yelled insults, and whistled at the unfortunates. In an interview from the camp three weeks later, Marum told the reporter he did not want to emigrate. Alas, nearly a year later, the camp commandant and four accomplices strangled him to death. The official cause of death was given as suicide, whereas a trial after 1945 concluded it was murder.58 It all happened so quickly across the country, with Goebbels crowing triumphantly on March 8 and 9, that in carrying through the revolution there could be no doubts. He observed with great satisfaction that “now we have the whole Reich in our hands. And we can begin its reconstruction.”59 At the end of the month, a Preliminary Law for the Co-​Ordination of the [Federal] States with the Reich was followed up seven days later with another that centralized the country. By mid-​ 1933, the state parliaments (Landtage) were simply abolished.60 Hitler put a federal official (Reichsstaathalter)—​in fact usually the Nazi Party Gauleiter—​in charge and simultaneously forged a link between the party and state while pushing out any non-​Nazis.61 The new regime, reflecting Hitler’s ideology, immediately played the “law and order” card that won general approval.62 Newspapers began carrying stories that the Reich had to take over the police because Marxists had not stepped down and that had led the government to worry “about an outbreak of unrest.”63 The dictatorship began constructing a new police system in two locales, one in Prussia, where Hermann Göring was in command, and the other in Bavaria. Göring, as the minister of the interior in Prussia, paid special attention to Berlin’s Police Department IA, which also operated as the central political-​policing office for the rest of Prussia. He ordered IA


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removed physically from the Berlin Police Presidency to new quarters at Prinz-​Albrecht-​Strasse 8 and obtained an additional 200 or so personnel. Göring prided himself on working with Rudolf Diels to create the Secret State Police Office (Geheime Staatspolizei Amt) or Gestapa, with the “first [Prussian] Gestapa law,” of April 26, 1933. This new authority (Behörde) was independent of the regular administration, placed outside the traditional rules, and it possessed executive powers to arrest, search, or call on the regular police as needed. The new Berlin Gestapa began creating Secret Police Posts (Stapostellen or Stapo) within the district presidencies across Prussia.64 Newspapers reported that the Gestapa would pursue “wide-​ranging measures to combat Bolshevism and other efforts to undermine the state.”65 The independence of this new police was formalized on November 30, with what is sometimes called the second Secret State Police or Gestapo law, with Diels, the experienced political policeman, as its leader. Inside the Prussian police system, particularly at the senior levels, they pushed out Social Democratic appointees or those considered unsympathetic. Occasionally, replacements from the Party, SA, or SS took the top job locally, though if they did not measure up to professional demands, the reins were handed over to more qualified candidates. That happened in Hamburg, for example, where Anatol Milewski-​Schroeden had the position between March and May 1933, until he was dropped. Most of the fifty-​six others from the old political police stayed on, especially those previously involved with fighting communism, who now had greater freedom of action.66 In pursuit of their goals the police used violence, sometimes linked with “protective custody” orders, which rested on the emergency presidential decree of February 28. It suspended citizen rights and permitted the police to hold suspects without being charged or having a lawyer. They could be confined for up to three months and, with the permission of senior police officials, even longer after that.67 In Berlin the number of those in “protective custody” during the few days between the outbreak of the Reichstag fire and the March 5 elections was around 1,000 and for all of Germany 5,000. Additionally, the SA dragged off an unknown number of unfortunates to its beating cellars, pubs, or nearby empty buildings.68 The pattern can be seen in Saxony, where on the morning of March 1 the Dresden Police Presidency ordered house

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searches and put 240 persons in “protective custody.” Against a background of rumors of a potential Communist threat, 500 “deputy police” of SA, SS, and Stahlhelm went on the offensive, as did the 400 in Leipzig, 300 in Chemnitz, and so on elsewhere in Saxony.69 In Bavaria, the coordination process and imposition of the new secret police took a slightly different path. It began on March 9, 1933, when SA boss Ernst Röhm, SS chief Heinrich Himmler, and Munich district leader Adolf Wagner visited Bavaria’s minister president Heinrich Held to persuade him to resign. Their armed followers raided opposition headquarters and their newspapers and raised the swastika flag from the town hall.70 Held ordered his own state police armed and vainly called on the army to resist the inevitable. Finally, he obeyed Frick’s telegrammed order in the evening, so that before 11 o’clock he handed over authority of the Bavarian government’s police to Ritter von Epp as the Reich commissioner. Evidently at the suggestion of Hitler, the new government was formed with Adolf Wagner as Bavaria’s interior minister and Hans Frank as the state’s minister of justice. Epp also appointed Heinrich Himmler as commissarial police president of Munich, with Reinhard Heydrich becoming leader of what had been the political section of Department VI of Munich’s criminal police.71 On March 9, Epp also ordered police authorities across Bavaria to place in protective custody all Communist Party officials and those of the Socialist paramilitary organization, the Reichsbanner. Each policeman was to have either an SS or SA man with him, and to supply each of them with a pistol.72 There were complaints that the SA and SS sought orders from Munich, going over the heads of the local police.73 To clarify the situation, Epp directed all police in the district to take their orders only from the relevant police authorities.74 The experienced Bavarian politician Georg Heim complained from Munich in a letter on March 9 to President Hindenburg that in the night Stormtroopers raided the home of Bavaria’s minister of the interior, Karl Stützel, the person hitherto in charge of the regional police, and “dragged him in his night clothes, barefoot and beaten bloody” to party headquarters. They mistreated him and leading Catholic politician and civil servant Fritz Schäffer until early the next morning. Such complaints sent to Berlin mostly went unanswered.75


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In a press interview on March 15, Himmler said there would be no wide-​ranging purge of the police in Bavaria, and that the support of the SS and SA as deputy police had been helpful. Besides arresting the leaders of the Communist Party, the Reichsbanner, and “similar Marxist organizations,” they had turned up weapons and suspicious material. “The state,” he said, “had to protect all citizens. Unfortunately, it’s only possible to protect those affected [by taking them] into the direct protection of the police, into protective custody.” Asked what he saw as his mission, he calmly replied that it was “in exterminating criminality, educating the population to an attitude that had gone lost in the last 14 years of corruption and laxity.”76 Himmler’s theory of police work combined cracking down on the political “criminal,” meaning opponents of National Socialism, along with re-​educating the population in lost or forgotten German virtues. This dual policing-​educative mission was there from the start, and his words reflected National Socialist doctrine and German traditions. Himmler had no difficulty in recruiting police officials like Heinrich Müller, an anti-​communist specialist and later head of the Gestapo in Berlin, as well as Franz Josef Huber, who subsequently became the Gestapo boss in Vienna. Such “apolitical” career policemen, most of whom could stay at their desks unless they had a dubious political past, found the National Socialist approach to policing very tempting, because henceforth the police could adopt a proactive and preventive role.77 A different and much-​publicized track in presenting the new dictatorship to the people unfolded in Berlin, in a vivid example of how Hitler sought to combine popularity, coercion, and tradition. In order to establish his unshakable authority, on March 12, 1933, he capitalized on the People’s Day of Mourning (Volkstrauertag) in remembrance of the fallen in the Great War. Now it was staged at the Berlin State Opera with Field Marshal President Hindenburg and Chancellor Hitler, the self-​styled representative of the foot-​soldiers, in attendance. Instructively enough, in 1934 the regime renamed the occasion the Day for Commemorating Heroes (Heldengedenktag). Even greater fanfare was devoted to opening the Reichstag on March 21, before which the cabinet dispensed with some formalities about presenting the Enabling Law, which members soon agreed would

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mean the end of democracy.78 Goebbels’s assignment was to choreograph the opening ceremonies of what became the “Day at Potsdam,” with prayers in the Garnisonkirche, the resting place of Prussian kings Frederick William I and Frederick II. By no coincidence, it was on that March date in 1871 that Bismarck opened the Reichstag as the crowning glory of German unification. This semblance of a re-​enactment would illustrate the continuity from the Second to the Third Reich, and of Prussian and German history. The small town of Potsdam just outside Berlin featured a sea of Imperial flags of black-​white-​red, providing visual proof of respect for tradition. The Reich president, appearing in the uniform of a Prussian general field marshal, was deeply moved by what seemed to him a moment of national rebirth and personal vindication for appointing Hitler.79 The ceremony’s sensational national coverage with pictures and stories also ran in numerous weekly news shows that usually preceded the movie at cinema houses.80 To go by Goebbels’s diary, the streets from Berlin to Potsdam and back were so filled with the joyous crowds that the politicians’ cars could hardly get through.81 A  young man living in Potsdam, the twelve-​year-​old Hoimar von Ditfurth, later recalled how his German Nationalist (DNVP) father disapproved of the upstart Hitler. Yet Hoimar believed that psychologically there began something like a “national revolution.” He felt a renewed sense of optimism, and could not forget some of Hitler’s phrases, especially his tone, when the new leader said: “The day must come, when someone can say to Germans: People, wear your skin upright and proud. You’re no longer enslaved and unfree, you are free once more, you can rightly say once more: We are all proud, that through the grace of God’s help, we have become again real Germans.”82 A certain type of amorality, he said, came with this awakening: “The resolution to realize the ‘völkisch interests’ by all and any means, without being deterred by any incidental scruples or objections, was not only legitimate, it was in the literal sense of the term ‘the most natural thing in the world,’ and for that reason a recipe for success.”83 Embracing National Socialism became a temptation increasingly difficult to resist, reinforced by the Protestant churches, representing two-​thirds of the German population. They greeted the new regime with euphoria, with many looking forward to a re-​Christianization of the country. Protestants themselves opened the door to the “ideas of


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1933,” including especially the national awakening. Many thought that the nation finally had found spiritual relief from the trauma of defeat in 1918, and during 1933, it had recovered its lost independence, and replaced the horrors of class struggle by the miracle of national unity.84 On March 22, just after the Day at Potsdam with Hitler and Hindenburg, the Protestants staged a similar event in Berlin’s Memorial Church, topped off with an address by Joachim Hossenfelder, one of the founders of the German Christian movement, which aimed at unifying the regional churches under the banner of a “racialist [völkisch] Protestantism.” This movement Nazified itself in an effort to synthesize the new dominant ideology with its version of Christianity.85 Consistent with that aim the German Christians sought a racially pure church, which meant excluding non-​Aryans, whether they had converted or not. If the Protestant Confessing Cchurch was less dogmatic on this issue, some of its branches dismissed “non-​Aryan” pastors as well.86 This sense of revivalism carried over in the presentation of the Enabling Law to the Reichstag on March 23. Hitler spoke of his government as taking on a “program for the reconstruction of the Volk and the Reich.” The new order aimed “to eliminate the afflictions from our völkisch life which would, in future, continue to foil any real recovery.”87 Since the last war, as he saw things, Germany’s existing Volksgemeinschaft had disintegrated, thereby causing government authority to look weak, with even the federal states fighting among themselves. To deal with their economic catastrophe, he would use “an absolutely authoritarian leadership at home to create confidence.” There was an obligatory mention of wanting to keep peace, yet he contended that no one could deny Germany’s will to freedom. His main argument for the need of an Enabling Law was that for the government to deal with the extraordinary national distress, it might be necessary to depart from the constitution. “It would be inconsistent with the aim of the national uprising” and its intended goal, so his argument ran, if the government had “to negotiate with and seek the approval of the Reichstag for its measures in every given case.” Then Hitler played the card to which he had been leading in his speech: “The authority and fulfillment of the [government’s] tasks would suffer, were doubts in its stability to arise among the people.” He promised to use these

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unfettered powers granted him only in vital cases, and that he would always seek consensus.88 Then the Reichstag voted itself and parliamentary democracy out of existence, with 444 in favor and only the SPD with its 94 votes against. The regime made it impossible for the KPD to be present.89 The law passed through the legislative process in a single day, and if the legislation would have to be renewed in four years, that formality became a joke. Goebbels noted shortly thereafter in April that Hitler dominated the cabinet and there would be no more voting there. “All this has been achieved much more quickly than we had dared hope.”90 Another part of the legislative package included a strong dose of coercion. On March 21, the cabinet looked at two new measures, the first to outlaw acts “discrediting the national government.” It focused on subversive attacks (heimtückischer Angriffe) against the government and criminalized “untrue or terribly distorted opinions” (Behauptungen) that might affect “the well-​being or image of national or state governments, or the Parties and organizations that support them.”91 These measures received some fine-​tuning, culminating on December 29, 1934, when the regime adopted a “law against subversive [verbal or written] attacks on the state and the Party, and for the protection of Party uniforms.” The target no longer aimed at malicious opinions, which could prove to have “truth content,” and instead the culpable statements could be made from a “publicly spiteful, hateful” disposition toward “leading personalities of the State or the NSDAP,” or its affiliated organizations. Such utterances might “undermine the trust of the people in its political leadership,” and that elastic phrasing could be stretched in order to shield the government from any possible criticism.92 The second ordinance passed on March 21 created “special courts” in each of the Superior Regional Court districts, to try perpetrators of any such “malicious” criticism and more. Such temporary courts had been created during the turbulent beginning and end of the Weimar Republic. The latest version sought “to fight political violence,” and was designed as a “lightning” weapon to deter offenders with swift justice, while strengthening the trust of the people in the state’s legal protection.93 The rights of the accused were curtailed in “simplified” proceedings, from shortening the notice given to the defense before trial to only three days, to denial of appeals of the verdict. The special courts grew in


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number, as did the scope of the crimes for which they were responsible. Soon the judges revealed that the prior political or social background of the accused counted for more than the alleged deed. Thus, in the Rhineland, Catholic priests could expect harsh treatment, as did one who said in November 1935 that the Communists had not torched the Reichstag, because Göring had done it as an excuse to destroy the KPD. The Special Court sentenced him to one year and six months in jail, and his sister, who had supported him, got five months.94 The vast majority of cases where the “malicious attacks” were verbal relied on denunciations from the general public. Here was one of the ways ordinary people “consumed” Hitler’s doctrine as he applied it to vital political issues. Some denouncers who ran to the authorities may have been motivated by sincere belief, though such laws provided possibilities for people to make use of official ideology for individual self-​empowerment at the expense of others.95 Citizen participation assisted the exclusionary process, for without it the secret police would not have been able to nip “subversive” opinions, in the bud nor intrude into the intimate sphere of family and sexual life. In fact, being able to control who could have sex and with whom was a key item in Hitler’s Mein Kampf. In order to enforce that intention, the police or various branches of the Nazi Party relied on denunciations from citizens, or professionals such as doctors. No secret police could ever have enough of its own officials to accomplish such a mission, and as it happens, the Gestapo was far smaller than contemporaries supposed or feared. Would-​be offenders could be silenced, mostly because their friends, neighbors, or just strangers in a bar knew what was forbidden, and they usually found police or Party officials with a willingness to take even outlandish statements seriously.96 The evil twin of the Gestapo was the concentration camp. In all his speeches and publications up to 1933, Hitler rarely mentioned such places, though he abhorred the Soviet system and did not want to replicate it. He spoke of them for the first time in September 1920 in reference to those that the British created during the Boer War in South Africa. He used that example to suggest that the victorious Allies wanted to impose such camps on Germany after the First World War. In 1921, he struck a note of resistance, calling for a stop to reparation payments to France, discontinuation of disarmament, and struggle

National Socialism Gains Power


against the occupation of German lands. The exploiters should then be rounded up to do manual labor. The state should also prevent the “Jewish undermining [Unterhöhlung] of our nation, if necessary by securing their agents in concentration camps.”97 Otherwise he said little about such dens of horror, save for alluding to them briefly in his unpublished (1928) Second Book, to point out how the German government in the post-​1918 period had mistreated Germans displaced by the peace settlements, and had stuck the unfortunates in miserable holding camps.98 This kind of ad hoc use contrasts sharply with the system eventually created on his watch, during which they became a permanent fixture. Hermann Göring later said that soon after Hitler’s appointment, it was necessary to create concentration camps, particularly for Communists and some Social Democrats. Though he admitted that in the beginning there was some “brutality,” he claimed that theirs was the “least bloody and most disciplined of all the revolutions in history.”99 Interior Minister Frick told a large meeting in Frankfurt on March 10, 1933, that when the Reichstag met on March 21, members of the KPD would be “hindered” from attending. “These gentlemen have to get used to fruitful work again.” For that purpose, the government would be giving them “an opportunity in a concentration camp.”100 Newspapers on March 21, including the Nazi Party’s own, announced the opening of the first two such camps in Prussia, one at Oranienburg and the other in the former prison at Sonnenburg.101 The first mention of concentration camps in Württemberg came on March 14, in a story titled “Around 500 Communists Arrested.” It said that the police had a lot of work still to do “to cut off the head of the Bolshevik hydra,” and they would have to arrest all the Communists. Heuberg, the camp’s name, was mentioned on March 16 in a story on “Concentration of KPD Worker-​Betrayers.” The ideological theme in these stories, common for years to come, was that in the camps “for the first time the Communist leaders would have an opportunity to do useful work for the well-​being of the productive community.”102 Presumably, ordinary people who avoided involvement in communist or other opposition had little to fear. Newspapers first published pictures of prisoners in what they called a “collection camp” (Sammel-​ Lager) at Oranienburg, set up by the SA, on April 7.103 At that time SA


Hitler’s True Believers

Standarte 208 in Potsdam wrote the administrative head of the district for permission, and on April 24 wrote again to say that although the camp held 100 men, there was room for 500, and it would save money to collect all the district’s political prisoners in that place. A larger camp population would make it possible to give work to “64 tried and tested SA men” as guards. The response was positive.104 A newspaper report on April 30 gave a long, glowing account of conditions in the camp, based on a visit there.105 So-​called wild or unorganized concentration camps had popped up across the country in the wake of Hitler’s appointment in January. It is estimated that there were 170 such places in Berlin alone, in which the Deputy Police, the SA, or SS captured, tortured, and even murdered an untold number of their political enemies.106 Until the issue was settled, which of these formations took charge of a camp depended on local circumstances. Berlin’s Prinz-​Albrecht-​Strasse itself, as well as Columbia-​House, became notorious for the violence meted out there, as were the camps in the Hedemannstrasse (Kreuzberg) and in the General-​Pape-​Strasse (Schöneberg). It was mainly the SS in Columbia-​ House who turned the old military-​arrest building into a living hell from the moment the first prisoners arrived in summer 1933.107 Some of the worst violence occurred in the Berlin suburb of Köpenick. What began on June 21 with a roundup of Communists and Socialists took a bad turn when one of them shot three SA men who broke into his home. In revenge, the SA picked up over 500 more, dragged them away, and subjected them to unimaginable tortures. By the end of this “Köpenick Blood Week,” an estimated ninety-​one of the victims had been killed.108 Historians estimate the total of all those kept in the concentration camps in 1933 at around 100,000, and that does not count those picked up by the SA, beaten, kept for a time, and released without being formally charged. The estimates for these “wild” camps run to another 100,000. The death toll of those in custody in all the camps during the first year is put at nearly 600, though the documentary evidence is fragmentary.109 The large majority of these prisoners were from the KPD, followed distantly by the SPD, with a smaller percentage made up by those from other parties and trade unions. The result was that the formal, public side of working-​class political life was shattered, and

National Socialism Gains Power


what remained were small sanctuaries, so that organized resistance was the work of secretive minorities.110 Initially Jews were not specifically targeted, and if they became entangled in the dragnet, it was mostly, though not always, as members of opposition parties. By no means were only Jews with political affiliations sent to the early camps. For example, a Jewish Hessian cattle dealer, Josef Wachenheimer, to whom a farmer had been indebted for a purchase of fodder and fertilizer since back in 1927–​1928, still wanted to obtain his due in 1933. The farmer instead took advantage of the new system to get rid of his debt by denouncing Wachenheimer, who was sent to the Osthofen concentration camp. Although we do not know what happened to him there, he was released when the courts found him not guilty of usury, and he eventually left the country.111 In Prussia outside Berlin, the impulse for the establishment of concentration camps also came “from below,” when in mid-​March, the government presidents in Hanover, Osnabrück, and Münster appealed to the Prussian Interior Ministry to create “collection camps” of some kind to hold their excessive number of political prisoners. At that time, the ministry had not worked out a plan for the camps, and it simply set minimum requirements for them. After much bargaining, Berlin left it up to local district presidents to create camps where they could, and thus for example, Hanover ended up with one at Moringen, Westphalia had one at Benninghausen, and the Rhine Provinces created another at Brauweiler.112 Most of the prisoners were male, though in June three women arrived at Moringen, which by October was transformed into an all-​women’s camp, with facilities for up to 400. The local chapter of the women’s NS Frauenschaft, not the SS, provided the guards.113 The ministry also decided to build several camps to hold between 3,000 and 5,000 in the Emsland, a wetlands area in need of draining. Discussions continued until a note from the ministry on June 20 called for setting up Emsland camps at Esterwegen and Sustrum, with a total of 2,000 and Börgermoor with 1,000 protective custody prisoners. Two days later, State Secretary Ludwig Grauert, of the police department in the Prussian Interior Ministry, wrote Osnabrück with a projection of 10,000 prisoners that “would remain at that level for the subsequent years.”114 On July 7 the minister of the interior ordered that the SS take over responsibility for guarding the Emsland camps. The official efforts


Hitler’s True Believers

from Berlin to centralize camp planning and organization simply stumbled along. These examples show that the concentration camps were not unique inventions of the SS, Hitler, or even Himmler. The regime did not have to convince the existing authorities of the National Socialist “theory” of policing and the camps, and those in charge heralded them with publicity. That included allowing visits by various groups, such as the Hitler Youth (both boys and girls), as well as the press, and even judges in order to strike a positive note and gain support for National Socialism. The misleading rationale for the camps changed over time, starting out with an image that they were temporary places where misled Marxists and others could, through hard work, learn good social habits and earn their place in the Volksgemeinschaft.115 Heinrich Himmler, operating independently in Bavaria, announced the opening of Dachau on March 21 to hold up to 5,000.116 The published report said that “Communist, Reichsbanner, and Marxist leaders” in Dachau represented “a danger to the security of the state,” and they had to be confined, as it was impossible to burden the regular court prisons with such “protective custody prisoners” until they would be set free again.117 Following up on April 1, the minister of the interior in Bavaria and District Party Leader Adolf Wagner created the new Bavarian Political Police (BPP), a similar institution to the Gestapo in Prussia, and named Himmler the state’s political police commander. Under his control were all of Bavaria’s (long-​existing) political police, as well as the deputy political police, and all current or planned concentration camps in that state.118 Minister of Justice Frank tried to keep up a semblance of legality, stating that a stop had to be put to placing people in protective custody merely on the basis of “simple denunciations and arbitrary arrests by subordinate organizations.” Real opponents should be charged or released, and if they had complaints, these should be investigated, though such objections were lost in the rush of the revolutionary tide.119 Himmler used his political platform, with Heydrich as the leader (Leiter) of the Bavarian Political Police (BPP), to seek control of the decentralized political police in the rest of Germany. The press carried the brief stories of Himmler’s successes, one state at a time.

National Socialism Gains Power


His appointment as the leader of the Gestapo also in Prussia made the front-​page headline of the Party newspaper on April 20, 1934, already a day of celebration because it was Hitler’s birthday.120 Officially he became deputy chief and inspector of the Prussian Secret State Police, and Heydrich became the head of the Prussian Gestapa. At that point, Himmler and his deputy had control of the secret police across Germany.121 Who could send people to the camps on protective custody orders? Since early 1933, the answer was unclear, though Wilhelm Frick, minister of the interior, wanted to reduce the use of such orders as well as the number of prisoners in the camps. On April 12, 1934, he issued the first “unified new regulation of protective custody in the Reich,” followed on April 26 by several additions.122 The almighty power to order protective custody fell to the Gestapo, with the arrested persons given the reasons for their arrest, if not a lawyer or necessarily a court appearance. They could be kept in a jail or camp for up to three months, after which that stay could be renewed by the police through communications with senior police officials in Berlin. There were additional guidelines, though their meaning was blurred by Gestapo practices.123 When Himmler became chief of the German Police on June 18, 1936, he summarized the ideological justification for the new, increasingly invasive powers. Germany was in the heart of Europe and under assault by Bolshevism, which itself was being dominated by the Jews. The battle ahead, so he liked to claim, would take generations, as it was supposedly “the age-​old struggle between humans and subhumans in its new phase of the struggle between the Aryan peoples and Jewry.” The new police, along with the SS, so he swore, would protect the home front, just as the Wehrmacht would fight against threats from abroad.124 Out of this mythical thinking, the legal minds behind the Gestapo, including Werner Best, soon developed a Fascist or völkisch theory of the police that it publicized. Although the Gestapo originally obtained its extraordinary powers to deal with communism, by 1936 Best said that the new police regarded “every attempt to realize or even maintain any political theory” other than National Socialism “as a symptom of sickness, which threatens the healthy unity of the indivisible Volk organism.” The new police watched over the “health of the German body politic,” and destroyed all “symptoms of sickness.” The night-​watchman


Hitler’s True Believers

state was gone, so that henceforth the political police would no longer be subject to any restrictions in carrying out its mission.125 The full implications of this theory soon became clear, notably in the second wave in the history of the concentration camps. The first wave had closed out at the end of 1933 and into 1934, as the camps had been rapidly disappearing because some state (Land) officials deemed them uneconomical, and simply released the prisoners. By July 1934 only around 4,700 prisoners remained, and a Hitler amnesty on August 7, 1934, cut the number to 2,394, 67 percent of whom were in Bavaria.126 Because the latter had a disproportionally high number, Minister Frick asked Himmler several times for an account, the latest on January 20, 1934. Yet Himmler had ideas of his own; he went to see Hitler on February 20 and showed him Frick’s letter, at which point the leader decided: “the prisoners stay.” Not content merely with stopping Frick’s meddling, Himmler met Hitler again on May 7 and showed him a letter from a former Dachau prisoner, gushing with praise for how his stay in the camp had turned his life around and how he had become a “family father.” This was the kind of rationale that matched both Himmler and Hitler’s notion of how “re-​education” in the camps could rescue people for the Volksgemeinschaft. On June 20, 1934, in what was a fateful get-​together, the two men discussed a memorandum Himmler had prepared for a “law on an SS division,” and they went beyond that to make a fundamental decision about a second wave in the creation of the concentration camps. He obtained Hitler’s agreement that the guard attachment and the concentration camps would, from April 1, 1936, be included in the German budget. Now Himmler had unfettered police power, in June became chief of all German police, and also held the camps in his grasp. Even so, his ideology and ambitions did not stop there.127 It turned out that anchoring National Socialism as the dominant ideology and consolidating political control over Germany proved surprisingly easy, primarily because the great majority of ordinary people apparently had already given up on the failed Weimar Republic and were ready for change. Several key emergencies allowed the regime to curtail legal rights in the name of stopping communism. The new chancellor was ably assisted by his conservative allies, the president, and the military. Together they created the kind of “unshakable authority”

National Socialism Gains Power


Hitler wanted. At the same time, to secure the Nazi revolution, the regime did not shrink from an all-​out assault on its real or imagined enemies. On the other hand, Hitler did not set out to coerce Germany into a sullen, beaten nation, as much as to encourage and awaken an active, enthusiastic one.128 He rejected from the outset the idea that the millions who voted for the KPD or the SPD could simply be “forbidden,” and he was fully aware that the process of getting them integrated in the community could take years.129 Nevertheless, the Third Reich had been born and established itself on a firm institutional basis within a shockingly short span of time. In the face of these enormous changes, the true believers were generally overjoyed, and there was a rush to join the Nazi Party. At the same time, there were few signs of organized resistance and not a great deal of dissent. The big question going forward was how to build on the early euphoria and to win over the beaten socialist and communist working-​class movements.


Embracing the Volksgemeinschaft

How did ordinary people respond as the regime introduced the first taste of Hitler’s authoritarian doctrine? Many in the crowds that streamed by the Reich Chancellery on the evening of Hitler’s appointment were already in tune with National Socialism. One such person was the teenager Melita Maschmann, who went to the big event with her parents and her twin brother, even though neither mother nor father approved of the NSDAP and instead were Nationalists (DNVP). What attracted the young girl that cool winter Monday of January 30, 1933? She later recalled finding the idea of the Volksgemeinschaft “fascinating.” Though this word was new to her, she identified it with “the hope that somehow conditions could be created in which the people of all classes could live together as brothers and sisters.” On March 1, she joined the Hitler Youth, much against the wishes of her traditionalist parents, for whom, she said, the word “socialist had a scornful ring.”1 She embraced the promises of the new regime to end unemployment and to create political unity to replace the endless squabbles among the dozens of parties. If some of her first comrades believed in Germany’s “renewal,” not everyone shared her ideals. She “wanted to help realize the Volksgemeinschaft, in which people lived together as they would in a great family.” Almost as an afterthought, she recalled, when their girls troop marched down Berlin’s Kurfürstendamm, they stamped their feet loudly. Their leader’s order was:  “The rich Jews live there, and they should be disturbed a bit in their mid-​day nap.”2


Hitler’s True Believers

So, the inclusionary-​exclusionary aspects of the new order existed in Maschmann’s head, side by side. Hitler followed through on her loftier feelings when he fed off the energy of a massive audience in Berlin’s Sport Palace on February 10. There would be no detailed economic plans, only glittering generalities—​for example, that the new government’s highest goal had to be “the preservation of our Volk.” He conveyed a sense of what he had in mind in tight phrases: it was imperative to “eliminate the causes of our own disintegration and thus bring about a reconciliation of the German classes,” to “stamp out Marxism and its side effects,” and to break “with all the manifestation of a rotten democracy.” In doing so, his government would “give new heart to our German Volk,” and build a Volksgemeinschaft. The underlying goal was to bring back decency, including “a genuinely German culture with German art, German architecture, and German music, which shall restore to us our soul.” This pithily stated program in itself called for nothing less than a “national resurrection in all areas of life,” while being “intolerant against anyone who sins against the nation, but a brother and friend to anyone who has the will to fight with us for the resurrection of his Volk, of our nation.”3 Supporters who gathered around their radios with family or neighbors got an earful, and they welcomed the nationwide broadcast with enthusiasm. Franz Albrecht Schall, born 1913 in Altenburg, Thuringia, and just south of Leipzig, wrote in his diary after listening to the speech that it was “indescribable.” It “got millions of German hearts, inside and outside of the Reich, beating together as one.” “That was no government program,” he said, “it was the way that we have to go; all for one, one for all. Peasant and worker, the soil and the German nation (Volk), these are the roots of our might. The strengths of our native land and the energy of our people are the foundation of our [re]building. Our freedom and honor will not be gifts from heaven, but from all our work and commitment.” Make no mistake, Schall added that there would be an unrelenting struggle against those who caused Germany’s decline, the Marxists and purveyors of class struggle. Youth had to learn from the past and a “deep reverence shall be hammered into young brains for the men to whom we have to thank for our existence.” Now “our hope is: Hitler and our belief forever and ever: Germany.” Schall’s diary recorded his true-​believing faith, but it was not necessarily an accurate

Embracing the Volksgemeinschaft


account of what he really thought about politics. He wrote it as much as to show to himself and perhaps others that he drank deeply from the chalice containing Hitler’s ideology, and that he relished every drop.4 In Breslau, the historian Willy Cohn, who was Jewish, understandably reacted quite differently to the big changes afoot. When he heard the broadcast from the Sport Palace on February 10, Cohn felt that there was little more to the message than casting “the worst insults” at previous German governments, combined with blaming everything on the Marxists. Nevertheless, he figured that Hitler knew only too well how to “win over the boneheaded masses with all the ballyhoo.”5 However, the ever-​watchful Joseph Goebbels recorded that 20 million people had heard the broadcast, and following it, phone calls to government offices in Berlin from around the country indicated that even on the radio, Hitler’s words found a marvelous echo. Goebbels scribbled exuberantly for the ages that “The nation will be ours almost without a struggle, so now the German Revolution has truly begun.”6 People were then stunned by the Reichstag fire on February 27, and many jumped readily to the conclusion that the Communists were to blame.7 The Communist movement was the first target of the new regime, and Nazi Party newspapers termed the momentous Reichstag-​Fire Decree as being “protective measures against the Marxist State-​Destroyers.”8 Headlines commonly highlighted Communist shootings and other attacks, especially on members of the SA, Nazi Party, or Hitler Youth, as if to underline the imminent danger of the “Red” revolution.9 As the revolution rolled inexorably onward, true believers wanted to burnish the swastika flag, the icon of National Socialism, all the more following their victory in the March elections. As it happened, the National Day of Remembrance, though not a legal public holiday, was to be celebrated a week later, on Sunday, March 12. President Hindenburg decreed that the black-​white-​red flag (of Germany before 1918) be raised, and alongside it the swastika.10 Even with this order from on high, local branches of the SA or the Nazi Party ran into some resistance. The SPD mayor of Braunschweig Ernst Böhme, for instance, was reluctant to cooperate when a group of Nazis appeared at City Hall. They got around his obstructionism and then dragged him away from a meeting of the city council in what must have been an emotional scene.


Hitler’s True Believers

Elisabeth Gebensleben–​von Alten, whose councilor husband was present, later told her some of the details. She wrote to her daughter of the enormous national enthusiasm in the country, and mentioned that the mayor had been arrested, taken away, and soon released. She said nothing about Mayor Böhme hiding for a week until the SS found him, took him downtown, tore off his clothes, and whipped him into a state of unconsciousness. Then they poured water over him to bring him to his senses and forced him to sign a letter of resignation. To complete the humiliation, they put a red sash on him and paraded him through the streets in a ritualized demonstration of the change of power in the city. A few weeks later he left for Berlin, lucky to have gotten away.11 A not dissimilar scenario played out in Hesse, where in some places if anyone resisted the demand to put up the swastika, they were in for a rough ride. The district counselor in Bad Schwalbach, for example, later testified that “the wild mass grabbed me, choked me, pulled my hair, beat my head bloody and threw books at me. Then the SS took me into protective custody.”12 In Middle and Upper Franconia in Bavaria, in addition to depriving mayors of their office, the SA captured political enemies and, on the pretext of taking them into protective custody, carried them off to some torture chamber and mistreated them so badly that it often took months to recover.13 Elisabeth Gebensleben–​von Alten appears to have looked away from this sordid side of the story in Braunschweig, or perhaps she was cautious about passing on such stories to her daughter, to whom she preferred to describe the impressive ceremonies on March 21, with the opening of the Reichstag, and Hitler’s elegant radio speech. She and her husband no doubt had been sincerely unhappy the week before, when someone broke the windows of the Jewish stores in town. Yet stunningly, in the same letter to her daughter she noted that many former Communists all at once wanted to become National Socialists:  “Of course,” she wrote, “it’s not that simple, so first they’ll have to serve a three-​year probation in a concentration camp. Same goes for the Social Democrats.”14 Apparently Elisabeth had imbibed enough of Hitler’s ideology, or perhaps she took similar ideas from other sources, that she became her own private advocate of draconian “re-​education.” Given that no “official” concentration camps yet existed, only the “wild” or disorganized beating cellars, this mild-​mannered woman prescribed

Embracing the Volksgemeinschaft


something deeply cruel for who knows how many “enemies” and without even the hint of a trial. At the same time, the SA and SS pursued the Free Trade Unions with zeal, and on March 10, two leaders of the unions with high hopes met with Rudolf Hess, soon to be named deputy party leader, to remind him that when it came to the Versailles Treaty and reparations, they had always adopted a “nationalist stance.” Even so, five days later union leader Hermann Schlimme presented Hindenburg with a list of forty-​five cities in which Nazis had occupied union buildings. That continuing pressure inexorably drove a wedge between the SPD and the unions, with the latter desperately trying to distance themselves from politics, and especially from the accusation of being Marxist.15 For its part the SPD, which had been the mainstay of the Weimar Republic since its beginning, gallantly refused to recognize that it stood on the edge of doom. The Communists chased down in the streets and beaten bloody were allowed no such “bourgeois” luxury. Yet SPD Reichstag representative and member of the SPD’s executive Friedrich Stampfer pointed out (correctly) that in the March 5 election his party had lost less than 1 percent of its previous vote, which he dared to call a “day of glory.” Trying to make the best of the situation, he accepted that Germany had a new government and hoped that the SPD would become the legal opposition, until such time as the electorate called on them to serve as the government again. These socialist leaders could not understand that the emergency situation was unlike what happened under Bismarck in the 1880s, and they persisted in the illusion that somehow the new regime would give them a chance for a new beginning.16 Alas, the SPD, and even more the trade unions associated with it, were anxious to cooperate, so much so that their behavior—​ according to a recent sympathetic account—​ verged on “complete 17 self-​abandonment.” The regime cleverly used enticement on the workers’ traditional May 1 day of celebration, which was quickly approaching, by making it a national holiday. Since 1890 that magical date had been honored in Germany as the Workers’ Movement Day of Struggle, sometimes accompanied by strikes and protests. At the cabinet meeting on March 24, Goebbels broached the idea of renaming it the Day of National Work, and of tempting workers by turning it into a holiday for the first


Hitler’s True Believers

time. The SPD-​dominated governments in Weimar had never managed that. His eyes must have twinkled as he visualized the festival on a vast scale, to unite the German people in a single demonstration. He also proposed honoring the peasantry on the last Sunday in September with a Day of the National Harvest that they would turn into a massive event in its own right.18 More soberly, the new May 1 festival was intended as a visible symbol of the dawning of a new German Volksgemeinschaft, as the nation showed its indissoluble bond with the workers, who in turn were to celebrate their solidarity with the nation.19 Goebbels traveled to the Obersalzberg on April 16 for discussions with Hitler and several others, and was overjoyed at the plans they cooked up. They also intended to take over all the property and assets of the unions soon afterward. “This may cause a few days of disturbances,” Goebbels mused, “but then they will be ours” and in a year or so things would settle down.20 On the big day of May 1, union leaders obligingly recommended that members participate in all the events. Walther Pahl, one of the leaders of the largest General German Trade Union Council (ADGB), observed over-​ optimistically that their movement’s long years of struggle had not been in vain, and that they differed with the government only regarding its priorities of nation and socialism. “First we want socialism to shape the nation. National Socialism seeks and now realizes the unity of the nation, in order on the basis of this broad and firm foundation, to build German socialism. . . . We do not literally have to ‘fall over ourselves’ to confess that the victory of National Socialism is also our victory—​even if it was in a struggle that was gained against a Party [his very own SPD comrades] understood as the carrier of the socialist idea.”21 Events on May 1 began in Berlin at 9 a.m., when President Hindenburg addressed hundreds of thousands of young people at the Lustgarten as the vanguard of the German revolution. At midday, he and his young new chancellor received delegations from all over the country, who would join the massive crowds for Hitler’s speech at 8 o’clock that evening. Bands and an air show entertained them prior to that point. The architect Albert Speer had designed the layout for the grand event at the Tempelhof Field. Goebbels was impressed at the scene and had not been there before the rehearsal on April 29. They

Embracing the Volksgemeinschaft


opted for a monstrous demonstration at dusk before a massive stage, decked out with gigantic swastikas. As it grew dark, with lights trained on the flags, Hitler appeared on an elevated stage, with search lights beaming on him. At least according to Speer, this performance was an expression of their grand “idea,” just as it was the beginning of the orchestrated effort to use such festivities to transform Hitler-​worship into a mass public ritual.22 Ordinary people were given an opportunity to show themselves as part of a newly forming community. They were joined by Nazi leaders, followed by representative workers, some dressed as Bavarian peasants or as miners or fishermen, all in an atmosphere of uplifting joy. Also included were hundreds of soldiers, police, and the SA. At the head of the field and atop the stage was a podium where Hitler would address the crowd, estimated at between 1.5 and 2  million strong. The otherwise skeptical French ambassador André François-​ Poncet, who was there, marveled at the theatricality:  “After a few words of introduction by Goebbels, Hitler mounts the speaker’s podium. The spotlights go out save for those that are trained on the Führer in blazing brightness, so that he seems to float above the waves of the masses like a ship out of a fairytale. It’s as quiet as in a church. Hitler speaks. I had never before seen him in public under the heavenly skies. I cannot take my eyes off him.” The ambassador said it was not the content of the speech that struck him so much as his sheer physicality, with his voice sometimes warm, then raw and cutting or passionate.23 In his address, Hitler touched on the socialistic aspects of his doctrine, without any specifics. His main contention was that the ancient tradition of celebrating spring had been kidnapped by Marxian Socialists who had turned it into a day of hate, strife, discord, and class struggle. Now he wanted to preside over a renewal, to make the day a symbol of the unity and uprising of the nation. In order to recover, the Volk had to overcome its artificial divisions into classes, professions, some of them “infested by arrogance of rank and class madness.” The day should become “a symbol of constructive work, not the embodiment of decay and thus disintegration.” He wanted them to fight for “this new idea and slowly but surely to draw the entire nation into its spell.” The crescendo hit emotional and religious notes, remarkable


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given that this was the largest live audience he had addressed up to that time. He turned to Providence to bless the labors of the German people to live and be free.24 Although the spectacle was minutely orchestrated, people there were affected by the emotional experience perhaps more than by the crafted oratory, which many likely could not hear amid the enormous, boisterous crowd. They willingly sublimated themselves in the name of a greater cause, and the entire country listened on the radio, as did the worker and diarist Karl Dürkefälden. When he talked about the event with his father, he said he wanted to remain neutral, to which his father replied that was quite impossible. On the other hand, Karl had been unemployed since September 1931 and he would stay without work until June 1934, so his lack of enthusiasm might be traced in part to that. Still, his brother, who was not much better off, was committed to National Socialism, and joined the SS before the month was out. Karl wrote that those who formerly were on the Left politically in his hometown joined the SA because they were unemployed and otherwise had no way of looking after themselves. Others went over to the Stahlhelm, at the time allied with the SA, and nobody wanted to be a Communist anymore.25 In large and small cities and towns, local Nazi officialdom staged gala parades along the lines of the one in Berlin, and did their best to create a festive atmosphere that would have been unthinkable only a few months before. Front-​page newspaper stories covered the massive events in Hamburg, Stuttgart, Halle, Breslau, Nuremberg, Munich, and Frankfurt.26 In Dresden they drew 350,000 for the march, the speeches, and to listen to Hitler on the radio.27 In a small town such as Wolfenbüttel, with a population of 25,000 in 1933, the plans published in advance set out the entire day, beginning at 7:45 in the morning when employees were to meet at their place of work. After that, every minute was accounted for up to the parade at 2 o’clock, and later the community listened to Hitler’s speech.28 In Minden, an estimated 27,000 marched in the parade, which seems slightly exaggerated given that the total population numbered only a little more, and surrounding communities had their own marches. Still, there was no doubting the city’s participation, and the high point was hearing Hitler from Berlin. The main tenor of the local addresses was

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that traditional social struggles had ended and that the new state only recognized Germans with equal rights.29 In the industrial city of Bochum, organizers plotted in similar detail, including the timing of the march, an outdoor religious service, the flag-​raising ceremony, and public listening to Hitler’s speech. Large numbers were guaranteed when the trade union leadership (ADGB) asked members to appear at the Moltke Market at 4:30 to join the parade, in which the union members were to participate as part of their union, not as individuals. The press report spoke of a sea of flags, an endless festive march, with the smallest unions represented. The story did not fail to make the obvious political point of the entire exercise: “If we want to build a strong German Reich to last forever, then we have to lead the German worker back to his people as its most important foundation. German workers of the hand and the head unite!”30 Newspapers reported that 100,000 marched to the Bochum stadium to hear the Hitler broadcast, and the pictures show overflowing streets, with bands playing. National Socialist propaganda celebrated gaily that all of Bochum “was in the spell of German socialism.”31 Of course, there is no telling what people really thought, though their participation itself carried its own meanings and significance. And it remains an open question how many workers believed what Hitler said on May 1. Nevertheless, if workers were drafted to march in the parades, they could take some consolation in the knowledge that the while-​collar workers, bosses, and owners also had to get involved. They all could see at least a hint of the hoped-​for Volksgemeinschaft.32 As the regime planned, the day of national solidarity was followed on May 2, when the SA and SS throughout the entire country took over all the Free Trade Union buildings, their newspapers, co-​operatives, and even their banks. Any leaders whom they caught faced up to two weeks in protective custody, some longer. All the other unions could see what they faced next, and quietly bowed in allegiance to Hitler. In the small university town of Göttingen, the SA stormed the opposition’s offices on May 2; on May 5 and 6 the 120-​man troop captured six SPD and trade union leaders, carried them off, and beat them mercilessly. It took the unfortunate victims weeks to recover, and the entire episode, all of it falsely reported in the press and played down, left those associated with the SPD deeply demoralized. The persecution


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happened even after reports said that on May 1 practically the entire male working population of the town, estimated at 12,000 to 15,000, had dutifully assembled for the big parade, led by police on horseback and including local dignitaries. Following orders from their headquarters in Berlin, even the local trade unionists, SPD members, and others went along. That show of cooperation did not help them in the least.33 The confident regime systematically began silencing political parties, moving across the political spectrum, beginning with the KPD, as it worried good citizens most. The government had decided back on March 8 to annul the Communists’ Reichstag seats, without formally outlawing the party. The SPD’s turn came on June 22, when Minister of the Interior Frick unceremoniously declared it an enemy of state and denied its elected members their seats in the Reichstag. The Catholic Center Party obligingly dissolved itself on July 5, though it found comfort in the fact that Germany signed a “cordiality” agreement (Concordat) with the papacy on July 8 that clergy and laity hoped would ensure the sanctity of their churches and schools. When Hermann Göring visited Aachen, one of the major Catholic cities, on July 27, crowds greeted him as if he was their savior. The level of joy in the streets went beyond any manipulation, especially when he told them that the government’s priority was jobs. The Catholic Church soon found that its optimism was an illusion, though on the day in Aachen, the bishops on the podium with Göring for the march-​past also gave the Hitler greeting.34 Hitler tended to restrain his more anti-​Christian zealots in the Nazi Party, and he believed that religion, which he deemed irrational, would be undone in time by science. As he had done before 1933, Hitler encouraged the Party Gauleiter to press home ideological issues, yet only insofar as in keeping with regional political sensitivities. He remained ever conscious of the political risks involved in tackling the churches directly, preferring to make peace with them, and he followed closely the public’s reaction, recorded in his spies’ records, when the state or Nazi Party encroached on religious turf.35 Yet in 1935 and 1936 the Gestapo thought it had a winning hand when it went after clerics with accusations of homosexuality or for other morals charges. A  Gestapo Special Commando pursued such cases especially in the Rhineland, and then in Bavaria. The Gestapo devoted considerable

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resources to this campaign and did not shrink from “dirty methods,” including intimidation. It even warmed up charges from 1930 that had been resolved by the courts. Ultimately in 1936 and 1937 around 250 cases went to trial in what was played up in the press as a great scandal that besmirched both Catholicism and homosexuality.36 Indeed, the repressive apparatus negatively affected some 22,703 Catholic clerics over the course of the Third Reich, though 9,072 of these were simply warned, fined, or endured some form of “professional discrimination.” Nonetheless, an estimated sixty-​eight clerics died as a result of their treatment, most of them included among the 418 sent to a concentration camp.37 At the same time, the dictatorship launched an attack on Catholicism’s way of life, shutting down its youth groups and threatening Catholic schools, and thereby breaking the church-​state agreement of the Concordat. The authorities put pressure on parents to withdraw their children from denominational elementary schools, for these supposedly caused a rift in the Volksgemeinschaft. In spite of church objections, enrollment went ahead in “community schools” in Catholic regions.38 Though religious education was not totally abolished by 1939, it was on the way out. For all that, and in spite of the bitterness caused by the conflict, it did not appear to have caused the Catholic community to give up completely on the new government.39 The dictatorship conceived of education in terms that were infinitely broader than what happened in the classroom. The manifold organizations of the German state and Nazi Party actively pursued pedagogical and ideological initiatives as they saw fit, and millions opted to participate actively. It would be a mistake to characterize these endeavors merely as the “top-​down” indoctrination of the unwilling, when especially young people gained a sense of fulfillment and joy, while demonstrating an astonishing degree of selflessness, self-​mobilization, and dedication.40 For all age groups, the “camp” frequently became the setting in which to experience National Socialist comradeship from the inside. Even young professionals from the upper middle class, such as lawyers, went through four weeks of forced comradeship and reluctant enthusiasm.41 As much as the regime would have preferred to get rid of competing ideological influences, the right moment would never arrive to banish religion, because as Hitler told Himmler, if he did such a thing people


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would beg him for another.42 When he read the speeches of critics like Catholic Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen, he said it was pointless to act against them, and he preferred to wait.43 If the dictatorship did not approve of church involvement in secular affairs, that should not be taken to mean that Nazi doctrine was completely incompatible with the established churches. With Protestantism there was considerable overlap in social goals, if less so with Catholicism. Nevertheless, Berlin could claim to be defending the “God-​believing” nation from spiritual threats represented by liberalism, Judaism, communism, and atheism.44 Unquestionably, the most determined ideological enemy of Nazism remained the Communist Party, and an estimated 150,000 Communists were touched by some form of repression during the Third Reich. Eventually large segments of Catholics and the working class, thanks to the improved employment situation and some non-​economic factors, more or less adjusted to the new system.45 Those who found jobs again, and especially the young, were not likely to risk losing them, all the more so as integrating in the Volksgemeinschaft offered the satisfaction of being part of the larger nationalist and socialist project.46 By no means did the regime restrict its violence to political parties, trade unions, and clerics. For example, on May 6, 1933, students invaded Berlin’s Institute for Sexual Research looking for Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, its Jewish leader, who had dared to declare his homosexuality in public. This institute had championed “the principle that science rather than religious morality ought to dictate how state and society responded to sexuality.” That was surely the antithesis of every syllable that Hitler ever said on the subject. Since his days in Vienna he had looked down on homosexuality, which in Germany had been prosecuted as early as the nineteenth century. According to old friends, Hitler turned “against [homosexuality] and other sexual perversions in the big city with nausea and disgust.”47 The Third Reich enforced already existing laws against homosexuality more vigorously, and each year up to 1938, court verdicts increased. During the war the numbers declined, likely because so many young men were drafted.48 Lesbianism was deemed no less acceptable than male homosexuality, though it was not considered a danger to the nation’s survival. Even so, individual lesbians show up in the Gestapo files at least in part because

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in risking gender nonconformity or cross-​dressing they became suspicious to neighbors and were doubly endangered if they showed sympathy to official “race enemies” such as Jews.49 Gay and lesbian bars and meeting places were shuttered, with such crackdowns meant to show how traditionalist citizens shared common ground with National Socialism.50 Finally, Hitler’s allies in the Nationalist DNVP disintegrated in stages during the spring and early summer of 1933. Some opted to join the NSDAP, while others retired from politics. Their leader, Alfred Hugenberg, hurt his own cause when at the World Economic Summit in London, held between June 12 and July 27, he presented an odd memorandum that sought the return of German colonies, a stance completely contrary to Hitler’s. When the two met on June 27, the chancellor said he would like Hugenberg to stay on in the cabinet, but insisted that what remained of the DNVP dissolve itself. Most of its Reichstag deputies went over to the NSDAP.51 Only two days later Hitler announced that Hugenberg had resigned after all and that Kurt Schmitt of Allianz Insurance would take his place as minister of economics. In addition, Richard Walther Darré would now become the Reich-​and Prussian minister for food and agriculture. For a time, he had nearly unrestricted powers to implement his “Blood and Soil” ideology.52 The cabinet met on July 14 to deal with no fewer than forty-​two laws, among them the “Law against the new creation of parties.” The minister of justice thought that the timing for such a measure was “psychologically not the right one,” because the self-​dissolution of all the parties conveyed a better impression. Hitler disagreed and the law that made it onto the books stated in no uncertain terms that “in Germany the only political Party that exists is the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.”53 Heinz A. Heinz, a true-​believing author who had worked as a journalist in Britain from 1933 to 1935, wrote in a biography of Hitler that while from outside Germany the new regime was regarded as emphasizing nationalism, “from the inside the drive and force of socialism is most apparent.”54 That point certainly held for the new German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF), created on May 2, 1933, the same day the regime abolished the existing trade unions. The


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DAF consolidated all of them, including those representing blue-​and white-​collar workers. The head of the new organization, Robert Ley, said that the regime still wanted to have unions “because we know that employers are no angels,” and did not always serve “the greatness of the Volksgemeinschaft.” The DAF would temper the lust for profit and transform workers into the “master race” (Herrenmenschen).55 It was Hitler’s will, as expressed on October 24, 1933, that the DAF should build a “real” people’s community that was at the same time productive. The extent to which it succeeded remains disputed, though the labor front’s stupendous efforts and massive bureaucracy can hardly be disputed. It became a monster organization that touched on all aspects of social life, especially among workers, and in 1942 it boasted of having around 25 million members.56 The ideological tensions over capitalism and socialism inside National Socialism were not entirely resolved, so the dictatorship navigated with some caution between the two. Ley liked to claim that the quest for private property was a characteristic that separated the higher from the lower races. Whereas the latter embraced collectivism, the higher race strove for its own property as an expression of its personality: “We know that the German worker has no more passionate desire,” he asserted, “than to have a house that he can call his own.”57 One DAF theorist said that National Socialism sought to create socialism, not so much in terms of a specific economic form as by way of changed attitudes. There was no fixed socialist blueprint, and that was an advantage, even a guarantee that the German economy would not get bogged down in dogmatism. Far from rejecting private property, the state would protect it. That did not mean, as in a liberalistic order, individuals would be free to do with their property as they wished. Here National Socialism’s fundamental principle was: “Property means duties.” It had to serve the community, and in that sense, it was “socialist property.” Yet there would be no Soviet-​style confiscations and definitely no collective farms.58 With a host of programs, the DAF sought to convey a new socialist ethos, such as supporting the unemployed, those injured at work, the poorly paid, doing so directly or by way of its many affiliated organizations, such as “Strength through Joy” (Kraft durch Freude, KdF). This organization strove for the social and ideological integration of

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workers. Various branches conducted uplifting visits to the theater and concerts, including trips to Hitler’s beloved Wagner Festival in Bayreuth. Additionally, the KdF involved workers in all kinds of sports and other healthful activities, as well as with folksong and dance groups, and taught them how to play games such as chess. Although difficult to imagine now, this organization arranged for visits to factories by touring theatrical troupes, even symphony orchestras. According to its own statistics, by 1938 the KdF was engaging 50 million people in one or another of its after-​work activities, including 6.64 million attendees at 12,407 operas and operettas.59 The KdF organized inexpensive travels, near and far. In 1938 alone 6.81  million people went on vacation in different parts of Germany, and that same year 131,623 went for an ocean cruise either on chartered ships or on those owned and operated by the KdF, such as the Wilhelm Gustloff, which was launched in May 1937. The cabins of that ship were specifically designed to be “classless,” in the sense that, except for the outer ones, they were all the same size.60 Hitler checked because he disliked class prejudices and promised that in the future everybody would be able to take a sea cruise once or twice in their life.61 The regime brought the visual arts to the masses, as for example through the KdF organization, which mounted no fewer than 1,574 art exhibitions in factories and drew over 4 million people to see them by early 1938. This was not mere propaganda, and a KdF advertising brochure from 1941 announced that it sought “to establish the prerequisites for the acquisition of a deeper understanding of art.” That included attempting to show workers how to paint and to sculpt from a block of stone.62 In spite of persisting social inequalities, such activities and the egalitarian spirit they fostered found a resonance among the people, who seemed to share the enthralling vision of the future.63 Ambitiously enough, even in 1934 there were those who expressed the hope that once this “German socialism” completely assimilated Germany to itself, it would “extend and become the groundwork for the future development of other countries.”64 The underground Socialist “party line” on the KdF brand of socialism of the deed had been fixed since the beginning of the regime. It wrote off these efforts as “bread and circuses” that “fogged brains and worked propagandistically for the regime.” The last thing the KdF produced, at


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least according to these anti-​regime reports, was a “democratization of culture.” This opposition condemned the events as distracting workers from realizing that their wages were suffering and that social benefits were being deconstructed. One of these reports for 1935 observed that it was an “open question” how long the effects would hold.65 An underground reporter from Berlin bemoaned the fact that workers happily participated in the activities of the KdF, without realizing that the regime aimed to “lull them to sleep” and to overlook their own exploitation. A  worker complained that the KdF never brought in top musicians, such as the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler of the Berlin Philharmonic. Yet in due course that very musician, with his orchestra, played in factories and there are pictures to prove it.66 Among workers who traveled to Norway on one of the chartered ships, the complaints were loud and long, at least according to the underground Socialists’ comments. They could not deny, however, that many wanted to take the trips, and so the oppositional accounts emphasized the unexpected “extra costs” and other issues.67 When one of the Socialists later spoke with workers unable to take advantage of these KdF trips, they still thought the opportunity was one of Hitler’s “great creations.”68 There were other Socialists from a different underground, and no less critical of everything for which the Third Reich stood, who said in mid-​1935 that “a whole series of [presumably former] Social Democrats, Communists and trade unionists to whom we have spoken, returned full of enthusiasm for the various events organized by the KdF, particularly the vacation trips. The tendencies towards the Volksgemeinschaft were obviously strengthened in the process.” The underground thought this was most unfortunate and still hoped a momentum would build to overthrow the government.69 One of the enduring emblems of the Third Reich is the Volkswagen or people’s car, which was created initially as the KdF-​Wagen. Although Hitler was a fan and he was enthusiastic about the future of the industry, cars remained a luxury that few could afford. When he spoke on March 7, 1934, at the International Automobile Exhibition, he said that millions more would have loved a car, save that the price was too high. He wanted industry to build a Volkswagen, just as other branches had recently brought out a People’s Radio—​the Volksempfänger—​and that proved to be a great success.70 While he was seemingly enthralled by

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the notion of “socializing” the consumption of an automobile costing between 900 and 1,000 marks and the prospect of mass motorization, the industrialists were distinctly cool. They could embrace the slogan “the common good before individual good,” but to produce a car for that price seemed doubtful. In stepped famed automaker Ferdinand Porsche, who had had links to Hitler since 1933, to express more optimism. Notwithstanding the technical details that needed to be overcome, Hitler proudly announced at an automobile exhibition on February 14, 1935, that when the autobahn was completed, Germany would have “by far the most modern automobile network in the world.” That would be followed by building a car “for the broad masses.” He promised a prototype of the new people’s car by the middle of the following year.71 In spite of such pronouncements, getting carmakers to cooperate and meet the dictator’s specifications proved difficult. Robert Ley of the DAF wanted to take over the project and create a special plant for the construction of the VW, and he got Hitler’s go-​ahead in February 1937.72 At the factory’s cornerstone-​laying ceremony on May 26, 1938, a crowd of 50,000 appeared to see Hitler and the car, of which some prototypes already existed. In his speech, carried live on radio, he explained that when he came to power, Germany was far behind other nations in producing automobiles. To motorize the nation, to build a car for the popular masses among the population of more than 65 million, the machines had to be cheaper and easier to maintain. He visualized them as a “people’s means of transportation” and predicted that the new KdF-​Wagen would become “a symbol of the National Socialist Volksgemeinschaft.”73 The concept of an automobile that cost around 990 marks invited people to share in the dream by paying in advance 5 marks per week, so that they could own the car in four years. The very promise added credibility to the vision of the Volksgemeinschaft and cannot be written off as a mere illusion.74 If the VW and other people’s products did not in fact achieve widespread distribution by the outbreak of the war, that did not reduce the seriousness with which the regime pursued those goals. Although the Socialist underground talked about worker skepticism of ever driving their own vehicle, there were leftist observers who said that “the politician who promises every person an auto, if the


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masses believe the promises, is a man of the masses.” Still others said that if Hitler really had it in his head that every worker should get such a machine, then he would follow through with “his usual fanaticism”—​ even if that meant not fulfilling the basic needs of the working class.75 The autobahn network, under construction since mid-​1933, made progress, with much publicity surrounding the stretches where Hitler broke ground. One contemporary, no fan of Nazism because his books were soon “forbidden,” noted in his diary that “the plans and the models of the autobahn in the newspapers are fabulous. A marvelous vision of the future. When Europe is covered with the bands of these roads, then will it, must it also mentally and physically come together.” Yet even as he offered that compliment, on the very next page he spoke about the budding concentration camp system.76 Psychologically, the new roads provided an expansive visualization of a better future, given that Germany lagged behind most of Western Europe in cars per capita. Publicizing this project took many forms, including at least twenty documentary films, with such titles as Roads to the Future and Roads Are Fun. Picture books tried to show how constructing the highways reconciled with the environment, though some conservationists still disapproved.77 Along with campaigns to sell the Volkswagen, these publicity images opened people’s minds by putting an end to the socially divisive character of cars and making them, along with other advancements of technology, available to all. Advertising in magazines used glamorous pictures, some taken from America, that pictured Hollywood stars driving around. By the beginning of the war, 270,000 savers took out a contract, although with the war in sight VW switched to military production. Even that did not stop people from opening an account, so that by war’s end nearly half a million Germans had a buyer’s contract.78 They earned no interest on their investments, but they could enjoy “virtual consumption,” that is, they could indulge in the dream of driving their own car on the superhighway to their weekend place or vacation.79 Another branch of the KdF was “The Beauty of Labor” (Schönheit der Arbeit or SdA), created on November 27, 1933. The following year, its leader stated its shiny new mission like this:  “Today the young National Socialist Germany faces the task of transforming the

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environment according to its ideology; close to nature, life-​affirming, noble and strong.”80 The SdA advocated cleaning up the factories, letting in more air, light, and so on. The separate lunchrooms would be turned into “classless” ones for workers and salaried employers. The organization pushed for better housing at new plants, as well as daycare facilities. It had campaigns such as “sun and green for all workers,” “battle against noise” and “good light” in the plant, “clean people in a clean workplace,” and serving midday hot meals. Out in the countryside the Beauty of Labor sponsored community-​building and educational programs. Its campaign to beautify villages, introduced in stages, set out to transform unhygienic places into models of their kind, and by 1939 an estimated 5,000 villages had been brought up to snuff. The ambitions of the organization reached into the home, where it offered prototypes of how a proper dwelling should look. The SdA boasted about its successes, and given the practical side of what it accomplished, it would be hard to believe it did not help to establish more positive attitudes toward National Socialism.81 The KdF called for voluntary participation, and no doubt that helped to encourage more people to appreciate the regime’s “socialism of the deed.”82 It is easy to underestimate how such programs contributed to the regime’s legitimacy and added to the dictatorship’s considerable staying powers. At the time, even some of the jaded Socialist underground thought that KdF activities gave workers at least a glimpse of the Volksgemeinschaft.83 Yet another of the many ways that National Socialist ideology affected everyday life was through its welfare system. Quite ostentatiously, in Mein Kampf, Hitler’s biological theory of society condemned state-​giving for keeping “existing evil” alive. Instead, his mission was to eliminate the “basic deficiencies” in economic and cultural life that led or could lead to degeneration.84 Once in power and facing the misery of the poor and unemployed, various Nazi leaders began introducing more caring aspects of German Socialism, about which Hitler was of two minds. To begin with, on May 3, 1933, he recognized the National Socialist People’s Welfare (NSV), which was to be responsible for all questions of people’s welfare and assistance.85 The NSV actually started outside the Party in April 1932, though once Hitler took it seriously, orders went out in


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June that each district had to create a branch of its own under the national leadership of Erich Hilgenfeldt. The NSV “coordinated” most of the other welfare institutions, though not religious charities or the Red Cross. Its guidelines asserted that the former “Liberal-​Marxist” system encouraged recipients to become dependent on welfare, and instead the new organization would provide help during the transition phase to the “true Volksgemeinschaft.”86 “Real German Socialism,” as summarized by Hilgenfeldt’s slogans, went like this: “We want to be fanatical health servants of the German Volk”; “We’re there not to commiserate with each other, but to struggle together”; and “The rights of the individual from the community can never be greater than their duties toward the community.” Accordingly, those who deserved help were not the weak, as much as “the creative, genetic-​biologically, useful Germans,” and “essential parts of the Volksgemeinschaft.”87 Regardless of sounding so hard-​hearted, given the genuine social crisis at the start of the new regime the NSV could not watch people die on the sidewalks, so it went into the business of supplying food to the needy by way of soup kitchens. In the first year, the NSV distributed 40,000 meals a day in Berlin alone. And in 1937, there were still 115 such kitchens in Greater Berlin.88 This caring mission sent children of disadvantaged Party comrades for a stay in the countryside, and in 1936 the NSV expanded its social reach even more. Beginning in 1933, it took 352,501 youth for sojourns at various homes in the rural parts or abroad, and by 1940 that number grew to 726,047. The other side of the coin was that the churches were left to look after so-​called anti-​socials (Asoziale) or any young people suffering from hereditary diseases.89 The NSV even became involved in art when, in 1936, Propaganda Minister Goebbels tasked it with discovering and promoting poorly-​off artists who might make a contribution to the “cultural stamp of the German race.” The new Help-​Work for the German Visual Arts reported that already in its first year it sponsored seventeen exhibitions, visited by more than 140,000 people. Some 1,823 artists had displayed 2,882 works, of which they sold 80 percent at some of these shows.90 Another aspect of the NSV was the NS-​Schwestern (Nurses), whose numbers rose to 10,880 in 1939, though that was less than 10 percent of those working with the Red Cross and others. The “Brown sisters”

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in nurses’ outfits at train stations became a symbol of the “caring” regime. Fulfilling medical or first-​aid tasks and working in hospitals was only part of their charge. As one of their self-​mobilized and dedicated sisters put it, providing help gradually led to winning over the mother and child “also ideologically. I invited them to our communal evenings. And here a new world arose before their eyes. Here for the first time in their lives they saw what the real Volksgemeinschaft means.”91 The NSV eventually grew to over 15 million members, not coerced but rather won over by its positive mission. Some of its sub-​organizations also played a role, as did “Mother and Child.” By 1941, the latter could boast more than 40,000 trained caregivers, from kindergarten teachers to nurses and midwives. They looked after mothers with large families and provided medical assistance to the needy. In 1941 the number of visits and counseling sessions reached over 10 million.92 One branch of the NSV that gained enormous publicity, the Winter Help Works (WHW), also began as a reaction to the Great Depression with a collection of money from mid-​September 1931 to March 1932. Although the NSDAP had been opposed to the idea of the welfare state before 1933, once in power, Hitler did not—​atypically—​insist on coordinating all welfare associations. In June Goebbels took the WHW under his ministry, and with the initial motto of “The Fight against Hunger and Cold,” he set out to mobilize private donations. Simultaneously combining that drive with another feature of National Socialist doctrine, the propaganda minister inspired the roundup of beggars to start on September 15 and to end by October 1, 1933, with the beginning of the WHW. He encouraged the police, SS, and SA to “clean up the streets” as a first step and one generally welcomed by the population.93 The regime wanted to reduce or cut welfare, so its goal was to get citizens to help the poorest “national comrades.” To collect their money, thousands of SA, Hitler Youth, or Nazi Party members volunteered for the WHW or other charities on a regular basis. Regional leaders took their own initiatives, as in Hamburg, where top Party leader Karl Kaufmann provided his own motto on September 15, 1933:  “No one from Hamburg will go hungry this winter.” When the Nazi Block Wardens knocked at the door, they noted if the resident gave, and also posted a decal that said: “We Help!” One woman from Hamburg


Hitler’s True Believers

recalled “give, give, give . . . and at the end of the month they stuck one of the signs on the door. . . . After a while there were already five, six, seven, eight signs glued to the front door.”94 The regime used charity drives to show it was serious about the Volksgemeinschaft. They ran each winter until 1945, and Hitler opened each one with a speech. The propaganda of the NSV and WHW contributed to the betterment of the poor because it changed the prevailing psychological climate, and their collections created among those affected a sense of being taken seriously.95 In January 1934, on behalf of the Winter Help Works, they came up with the idea of a “one-​pot meal [that] shows the world what German Socialism means.” The chancellor and the worker once a month ate humbly, and from the money saved each person was to give a small sum. The entreaty was that even Hermann Göring, said to be ill at the time, still had only pea soup. The moral was to “protect the family” and give. The statute establishing the WHW passed officially on March 24, 1937, stated that its underlying principle was “common good before individual good,” which was a plank in the original program of the NSDAP.96 Goebbels noted later in the year that the funds were “to serve exclusively only socialist construction.”97 The money donated to the WHW went up to 1.6 billion marks by 1942–​ 1943, with much of that going to “Mother and Child.”98 To liven things up, various Nazi groups put on their own special “days” as part of the Winter Help. Thus, Heinrich Himmler, ever conscious of public relations, introduced the first “Day of the German Police” on December 18 and 19, 1934. The WHW proved to be a perfect means to show that the dictatorship was not simply a terroristic police state, for it had an obvious social conscience and gave to those really in need. The police in Berlin and likely elsewhere initially raised “serious objections” to collecting money on the grounds that such activity might damage their image.99 They were brought around, and in 1936 Himmler insisted that all the police, including the detectives and the Gestapo, participate in such events with the SS. The new celebration of the police and their collection for the WHW was played up in the press as a means of showing them “as the best friend and helper of the German people, and as the worst enemy of criminals and enemies of state.”100 The local happenings in city and town proved so popular that in 1937 the “day” became a week-​long festival.101 Two years later Himmler reported

Embracing the Volksgemeinschaft


raising 9,450,000 RM.102 He or his second-​in-​command Heydrich usually spoke or wrote something each year; in 1937, for example, the latter emphasized the “preventive tasks of the police.”103 He said that because the police dealt with “degenerate” criminals or “willful enemies of the German community of the people and of the German Reich,” it would be “senseless to wait” until they committed their deeds. Instead, “It is much more the duty of the institutions called to secure the Volk and the Reich, that such deeds threatening the Volk be hindered in good time in the first place.”104 Providing help to the needy offered “racial comrades” a certain sense of satisfaction, as long as they were not asked too often. That was a concern of the Economics Ministry in mid-​1934. Officials listed four major fund-​raisers, and numerous “special donation” drives, all kinds of “days” on which people were asked to give, in total more than two dozen per year. The ministry went through the list in order to remove some and to shield those with low incomes. The worry was that constantly imploring people to be charitable could become “a kind of permanent tax.”105 All of these activities engaged the entire population in National Socialism and conveyed a socialist message of caring for the people. The young Bernd Hartwig recalled living in Lübeck as a child and going door to door to collect small food donations for the WHW. He also sold Christmas badges for that cause on street corners. Looking back, he thought that the post-​1945 stories about the “myth” of the Volksgemeinschaft were wrong. At least his generation, he recalled, had “learned how important the feeling of togetherness” was to the sense of responsibility for the community, and that social origins and education alone were not decisive. Even his better-​off parents looked forward to overcoming the class-​based world into which they had been born.106 Joachim Fest, also born in 1926 but into a better-​off family ill-​disposed to Nazism, remembered that by 1936 the neighbors began casting aside their last reservations, and “not only formally, but with increasing conviction” defected to Nazism when won over by the regime’s accomplishments.107 Recalling the big WHW collection in 1939, the former teacher Willy Cohn, dismissed because he was Jewish, noted that in Breslau a lot happened to raise money. He reminds us that the Jews were treated as


Hitler’s True Believers

if they were not even there. Still he marveled at how well officials had organized it all, with the police, firemen, and so on marching past. Looking back on six years of the Third Reich, he said the historian in him had to admit “objectively” that there were accomplishments about which it could boast. In spite of the persisting pockets of poverty and the poor condition of workers’ housing, his diary gives the impression that he was positively impressed.108 Cohn could see for himself that racist exclusionary policies existed side by side with the attempt to build a harmonious Volksgemeinschaft, which was obviously intended for Aryans only. What he, and likely most people, did not know was that in spite of the social ideals espoused by organizations like the DAF and NSV, and all the others, the officials involved could not resist skimming off some of the many hundreds of millions that flowed through their hands. Corruption and embezzlement grew widespread and difficult to control. It became impossible when it came to many of the country’s higher leaders’ practices inside Germany, quite apart from what happened during the war.109 Although Hitler cracked down brutally on crimes of ordinary people, he proved unwilling to tackle even outlandish corruption, if Nazi bigwigs were involved, lest that damage the regime’s political image.110 The larger picture people faced from 1933 onward was the shocking suddenness with which Hitler, the National Socialists, and their allies changed a parliamentary democracy into a one-​party dictatorship, and an open civil society into one that became increasingly closed. At the same time, the regime began to work on building the Volksgemeinschaft and to introduce some aspects of the promised German Socialism. These achievements exercised increasing appeal, likely more than the intangible “Hitler myth” or his supposed charismatic speeches. Concrete positive changes in everyday life and a more socialist atmosphere almost certainly had a greater effect in winning over people than did propaganda and terror. The challenge for the dictatorship was to deepen the faith of the true believers and to convert the rest, and that would entail, above all, beating unemployment and tearing up the Treaty of Versailles. Victories on those fronts would overcome more opposition and make inroads to a “yes-​saying” even among those who had previously been resistant to Hitler’s ideology.


Striving for Unanimity

Like other autocrats in history, Hitler lusted for the people’s unanimous agreement with everything he did, and from that perspective much always remained to be done. One supporter attested in his diary, during 1934, that thus far the results had been mixed. While he greeted the seizure of power and broadly accepted National Socialism, he was put off because the new system demanded “not only complete obedience, but inner, joyous enthusiasm” [emphasis in original]. His efforts to have serious discussions about Hitler’s speeches were rebuffed by his local Party leaders who “knew” what the correct interpretations were.1 That perspective was typical of radical ideological movements that routinely claim a deep desire for spontaneous input, when in practice they desperately seek complete control and proof of agreement. How people consumed Hitler’s doctrine, identified with it, or sublimated it in their lives depended on a multitude of factors. The country badly needed to get the economy up and running again, and particularly those out of work hoped for an end to unemployment. The peasantry, experiencing its own crisis even before the Great Depression, looked for state assistance of assorted kinds. The regime itself had to deal with such problems while pushing its rearmament priorities. If the authoritarian dictatorship were to gain a broad consensus, it would have to surmount these and other hurdles. Just as the key to getting into power was the economic crisis of the Great Depression, solving the unemployment problem was ultimately the crucial way to secure the new dictatorship, and to turn large sections


Hitler’s True Believers

of the nation into National Socialists. Alarmingly enough, Germany’s joblessness in January 1933 was not declining, nor was the economy on the mend. The staggering unemployment rate was 34.36  percent (or 6  million people), and economists suggested there were another 2 million “invisible” people without work. Indeed, the National Bureau of Economic Research in the United States, using a broad definition, found that in 1932, the year before Hitler became chancellor, the German unemployment rate stood at 43.8 percent, nearly double the United Kingdom’s 22.1 percent.2 Although on February 1, 1933, Hitler promised the nation two four-​ year plans to get the economy going again, he said at a cabinet meeting a week later that the next five years “must be devoted to re-​making the military defense [Wiederwehrhaftmachung] of the German people” and that all public sponsored re-​employment schemes had to be judged with that priority in mind.3 Far from priming the pump of the civilian sector, he bluntly told military leaders that state subvention of industry was “nonsense.”4 When Minister of Labor Franz Seldte suggested that the May 1 celebration would make an ideal occasion to announce a recovery plan, Hitler avoided doing so. Seldte complained that it was difficult to coordinate the creation of new jobs because there was no “unitary plan and a unitary leadership from the center.”5 After the March 1933 election, passage of the Enabling Law, and crushing the trade unions, Hitler again met with representatives of industry, finance, and academia. He stipulated that he did not seek a state-​run, planned economy and instead wanted entrepreneurs to get people back to work. The role of the state was to make suggestions, help overcome certain problems, and promote the private economy. To attain equal rights in international affairs, however, Germany needed to rearm secretly, and then confront the world with accomplished facts.6 In a decree to regional leaders on May 31, Hitler twisted the message by contending that the “new concept of state and economy” could thrive only in domestic “peace and quiet” and on the basis of curing unemployment, which “was the most important economic mission of the present.” There would be nothing like a Russian Revolution, or attacks on the leaders of the economy.7 That same day, after much hand-​wringing, the cabinet approved a work-​creation scheme, a program named after State Secretary Fritz Reinhardt, with a budget of

Striving for Unanimity


one billion marks. Passed the next day as the Law for the Reduction of Unemployment, it aimed to create between 700,000 and 800,000 new jobs.8 That did not happen overnight, so a second Reinhardt program in September added additional funds for subventions to construct and repair homes and to build a superhighway, the autobahn. Though trumpeted by propaganda, the latter produced few jobs, slowly reaching just over 80,000 by the end of 1934. Hitler said that building it would have a positive psychological effect and would “awaken trust.” Carmakers, he liked to repeat, were still turning out big, expensive cars, when the market yearned for cheaper ones and he himself was already dreaming of something like the Volkswagen.9 Evidently he had become convinced that a rapid increase in the tempo of rearmament was not possible, so he pressed forward with these funds to stabilize the regime.10 At the same time, Hitler began sternly announcing the “end of the revolution,” meaning the end of the Nazis’ own political upheaval. On July 6, he spoke to regional leaders, telling them that “the river of the revolution which has been released must be channeled into the safe bed of evolution.” It made no sense to replace a good businessman who was not in the Party with a good National Socialist ignorant of business. Nor could they afford to “roll out the Jewish question again,” for that would turn the whole world against them.11 A few days later, he delivered a similar message to the main disturbers of the peace at a 70,000-​strong regional meeting of the SA in Dortmund.12 On September 19, he stretched the truth again to underline that the government’s focus was decidedly on work creation. Yet he still insisted that in the long run the answer was not in “artificial measures” like injecting state funds, while confessing to being worried about how to hold down unemployment figures in the winter.13 In fact, that December the numbers headed up slightly, until the trend went unmistakably downward in the new year.14 The economy began recovering thanks to a variety of factors, including the much-​heralded psychological one that better times were at hand. The work-​creation program helped, and private investment followed. Hjalmar Schacht, the aged new president of the Reich Bank, played an important role, and though not in the Nazi Party, he had been an advocate for Hitler since before 1933. From the day of his appointment on March 17, Schacht added a veteran’s hand to steadying


Hitler’s True Believers

the economy, and, having negotiated reparations payments from the last war, he was confident that he knew what the financial world would tolerate. On a May trip to the United States he broke the news directly to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull that Germany was unilaterally calling a moratorium on repaying its foreign debts. They were shocked, as were the British, and after largely fruitless meetings, Germany called the moratorium to be effective from June 30. The end of payments did not come immediately. Instead Schacht cleverly dragged out the process in an attempt to avoid the legal, political, and economic consequences of defaulting.15 The bank president also facilitated a larger budget by financing civilian and military outlays with IOUs to a kind of phantom company, Mefo, that would be paid later.16 It is difficult to say precisely what percentage of the total budget went into rearmament, for by this ingenious method, half or more was financed off the books. According to a military memorandum from 1938, likely beginning in June 1933, the government budgeted 35 billion marks for the next eight years.17 What that meant in concrete military terms can be gathered from the army’s new program of December 1933, which called for a peacetime army of 300,000. It would be misleading to suggest that the budget pre-​ programmed the escalation of the nation’s foreign policy, because that suggestion seems to place things backward. Without question, however, such plans certainly led to a new military-​industrial complex.18 Nevertheless, Hitler’s long-​held ideology had a built-​in ambitious foreign policy that presupposed the restoration of Germany’s military. That line of thinking was shared by leaders of the armed forces and a majority of German citizens, whether in the Nazi Party or otherwise. If the nation had known of the secret goal of establishing a strong military, given surging popular nationalism, it might well have supported it. The reintroduction of the draft in March 1935 was welcomed and eventually drew off young men from the over-​ample labor force. The average yearly number of unemployed—​measured here in millions—​ dropped as follows: 1933, 4.8; 1934, 2.7; 1935, 2.2; 1936, 1.6; and 1937, 0.9, at which point Germany reached full employment, and in fact labor shortages began in some areas.19 By the mid-​1930s, most Germans, including especially those employed in industry, began to feel the return of the economic good times,

Striving for Unanimity


and that made the idea of the Volksgemeinschaft seem attractive.20 It was not only a vague hunch, because along with curing unemployment, wages also began to grow. In 1928, the last full year before the Great Depression, pegging real wages (that is, adjusted to inflation) at 100, their trajectory went downward to 97 in 1930; and hit bottom at 86 in 1932. Thereafter, wages rose steadily to 91 in 1933; 94 in 1934; 95 in 1935; and 101 in 1937, which would mean that they finally recovered their pre-​ Depression level only then. They kept on rising after that.21 As the economy slowly improved, people were overjoyed even to get part-​time work after years of having none at all.22 We get the personal perspective of an ordinary worker in the diary of Werner X, later discovered by his grandson. The nineteen-​year-​old Werner lost his job in a Berlin factory on March 3, 1933, only two days before the big election. As there was no employment anywhere, he had go on the dole, which twice per week gave him a miserable one mark, 87 pfennigs, and most of that went to pay for his keep at his mother’s place. He knew nothing about politics, though he noted that after a few months, things started to pick up with Hitler in power, and he got occasional jobs. Only in 1935 did he land a full-​time one, with reasonable pay, and it made him proud to be the breadwinner. Werner wrote in his diary, “At last I can take charge of my own life, all of a sudden everything seems possible.” He had already met Sigrid, the woman who would become his wife, though they did not marry right away. When she looked back she remembered that Werner started to be attracted to National Socialism, and soon wanted a small swastika flag in their apartment window. The change in his economic fortunes, though modest, affected his attitude to life. He began noticing that children of workers had a chance to move up in the world, and his own life was improving. Before this time, no one in the family had gone skiing in the mountains or even seen the ocean, and now he could. When her grandson asked Sigrid about Nazi crimes, all she could think of saying was that they did not worry about them. There had been Jewish teachers in her school, and one day they were gone. “That was just how things were, we didn’t ask any questions, perhaps we were scared.”23 “Non-​economic” rewards, and not just money wages, had a positive psychological impact not to be underestimated, and like some of the


Hitler’s True Believers

Labor Front programs, they obviously appealed to Werner X. The regime floated other bonuses, like one tucked into the June 1, 1933, Law for the Reduction of Unemployment that offered a program for the “promotion of marriage.” This marriage loan plan sought to fulfill several goals at the same time. First of all, new couples would be eligible for an interest-​free loan if the woman had been employed for at least six months, between June 1, 1931, and May 31, 1933, and she agreed to leave her job. This program aimed to free up full-​time positions for young men.24 A symbolic gesture that showed how far Germany had come in beating unemployment came on November 3, 1937, when the regime adjusted the marriage loan scheme, so that henceforth women would no longer have to leave their jobs at all.25 A loan of 1,000 marks would be granted the couple to purchase made-​in-​Germany household goods, which would spur the economy. In addition, the implementation order declared that husband and wife had to be unreservedly supportive of the nation, be free of hereditary diseases or bodily deformities, and be of good reputation. In order to foster more births, the regime offered to cancel 25 percent of the original loan for each new baby, thereby encouraging population growth and the number of large families, which had been declining. Finally, the marriage program reflected what National Socialism deemed to be the rightful role of women.26 Did this program help reduce unemployment? It did so modestly, and yet in 1933 the state granted 141,559 such loans, which therefore provided the same number of new jobs.27 By the end of 1937 a total of 878,016 couples had taken advantage of the scheme. And there could have been far more, save that the government deliberately dampened the demand, by cutting back on the amount given to each couple.28 What did the regime have in store for the long-​suffering peasantry? National Socialism had visualized its key role in the rebirth of the race. When Richard Walther Darré joined the leadership of the NSDAP during the last years of the Weimar Republic, he helped the party to hone its rural message.29 He became one of the most committed Nazi ideologues, one of Hitler’s true believers, and among his proposals to rescue the peasantry was to establish Hegehöfe, hereditary farms that could not be sold off or traded away.30 He firmly believed state intervention was necessary.31 In a May 1933 interview, he explained that “the aim of German agrarian policy is not mass production, as in the

Striving for Unanimity


conception of the Soviet-​Russian grain factories, but in the healthy small farm like that of the well-​grounded peasant. So besides solving Germany’s food problem we can solve the country’s population-​policy question.”32 As soon as Darré joined the cabinet at the end of June 1933, as the Reich-​and Prussian minister for food and agriculture, as well as the Reich peasant leader, he advocated an interventionist position. In a first interview as minister, on July 20, he announced the forthcoming Reichserbhofgesetz (Hereditary Farm Law), and he declared unflinchingly that without it “the biological substance of the German blood cannot be maintained.” No farm, regardless of how large, had anything to worry about as long as it was economically viable. And if heavily indebted large farms did not want to become part of the program, the state would be leaving it to the owners’ private initiative to muddle through.33 On September 26, he presented what became one of the regime’s most ideologically based programs. He told the cabinet that the rural population was declining, as was the peasantry, “the blood source of the nation.” This was his standard clarion call, and now he repeated that “the existence of a people stands or falls with the stabilization of the peasantry.” Hitler thought that some farms should enjoy an exceptional legal status; indeed, he claimed, whenever in the past the peasants had been integrated into normal economic life, they had gone to ruin. Steps had to be taken or in thirty to forty years the German population would fall drastically. The cabinet agreed, not without some reservations, to take whatever legal steps were needed to prevent farms from being divided into ever smaller lots, and “to secure the foundations of the German people.”34 The Reich Hereditary Farm Law, as passed shortly afterward, was the regime’s effort to introduce German Socialism in the countryside and to guarantee an independent peasantry. By contrast to farm collectivization in the Soviet Union, this law aimed “to secure the peasantry, as the blood source of the German people, by way of ancient German custom. The peasant farms shall be protected from over-​indebtedness and divisions through inheritance.” The farms would be of sufficient size to be sustainable, and on the death of the father, his heir was in the first instance to be the oldest son, followed by others designated in the


Hitler’s True Believers

law. Only those of “German or related blood” could claim to be one of these peasants, and that excluded anyone “whose ancestors on the father or mother’s side had Jewish or colored blood.” Hence, the law possessed an exclusionist racist component from the outset. In theory, the independent Germanic farmers would exist in perpetuity, the peasantry would be revived, become more productive, have more children, and they would spread into the new “living space” in the east.35 The new hereditary farm law reflected the demands of agrarian interest groups since the days of Imperial Germany, and it might well be summarized, as contemporaries put it, as meaning that “the peasant must be German, Aryan, and hereditarily sound.” Yet the regime put race or tribe above family, because only one child could inherit the farm, and not everyone could agree about that. Whereas previously all family members worked the land in the expectation of inheriting some of it, would they do so if there were no chance of reaping that reward? Critics friendly to the peasantry argued that such farms would tend to produce fewer, not more children.36 Since banks could not foreclose on these holdings, would they grant any credit? An accompanying law to bail out farmers’ debt failed and was withdrawn. Ideological initiatives, even with Hitler’s blessing, ran up against economic realities, at least at this stage. The upshot was dissatisfaction with the law. For all that, the authorities made adjustments, and the conflict between ideology and economics diminished. Moreover, fostering middle-​ sized farms might have made it slightly easier to manage food supplies during the war.37 It is also true, however, that the regime’s attempts fell short in trying to withdraw these farms from the long-​term shift from rural to industrial work, to raise the birth rates among the peasantry, and to seal off the agrarian sector from the inexorable spread of capitalism. In the short term, the state’s policies may have helped to get Germany out of the agricultural crisis from which it had suffered since 1927.38 When Hitler and Darré announced the hereditary farm law on October 1 at the massive first annual Harvest Festival, they expected that they would be applauded. Goebbels had suggested that along with May 1, the regime use the last Sunday in September as a Day of the National Harvest, or what became the Reichserntedankfest. Such celebrations went back for centuries in Germany. In capitalizing on that date, as with May 1, the dictatorship sought to ground its legitimacy

Striving for Unanimity


through continuity with tradition, while at the same time giving the festivals their unique ideological-​political message. The Propaganda Ministry took the lead and financed the festivities. One of its working committees, led by Leopold Gutterer, searched out a locale in Lower Saxony and opted for an open field and hill near the small town of Bückeberg, which had historic associations with Frederick the Great. The region was considered the heartland of the peasantry’s support for National Socialism. The committee located an oval-​shaped field that rose in a gentle slope to a newly built speaker’s platform. Goebbels put Gutterer and Albert Speer in charge of creating the setting, and the logistical challenges grew each year to accommodate the increasing number of participants. In 1933 alone 500,000 attended and by 1937 that rose to 1.3  million.39 At the first one, pregnant women happily went along, and reportedly four children were born during the ceremony.40 A typical day on the Bückeberg hill was choreographed in minute detail. According to the plan for 1935, for instance, the formal liturgy began at noon as Hitler arrived at the grounds to a twenty-​one-​gun salute. Then he greeted honored guests and reviewed the troops. Between 12:03 and 12:18, he made what he later called his “Way through the People,” as he slowly walked up the steps built into the center of the hill, while bands played or peasant choirs sang. Standing along the way, at the front of the columns of people, were peasants in traditional festive garb. When he reached the top the second stage of the show commenced, with Goebbels briefly announcing the official opening, followed by noise bombs going off. Atop the hill, Hitler would receive from a specially chosen peasant woman the symbolic gift of a harvest crown, with a choir singing as if this were part of a religious ritual. Part three went from 12:30 with a military demonstration and march-​past, and promptly at 1 o’clock, in the fourth stage of the event, Hitler began his walk “through the people” down the hill to the larger speaker’s stage waiting below. There Darré spoke for fifteen minutes and Hitler for thirty, with his address the centerpiece of the ceremony. Then came the breakout, signaled by the singing of the national anthem and the first verse of the Horst-​Wessel Song, written by and named after a fallen Nazi hero, after which it was farewell. Hitler and his party left at 2 o’clock.41


Hitler’s True Believers

The architect Albert Speer, who claimed credit for the architectural design at Bückeberg, in fact leaned heavily on the talents of Rudolf Wolters, who did the work while Speer was busily massaging Nazi Party contacts and preparing for the Nuremberg rally. It was there that he used what became the famed searchlight cathedral, which was not quite as original as often assumed, because “light architecture” and “light advertising” were common already in the 1920s. Nevertheless, Speer impressed Goebbels and Hitler with his work for the big May 1 festivities in Berlin, as well as for the event at Bückeberg, and again for the Nazi Party rally at Nuremberg.42 The dictatorship and other authoritarian regimes used festivals such as these in search of popular approval, or at least to get people more involved in National Socialist activities. Indeed, the Third Reich had a full calendar of celebrations and special “days.” The aim of the organizers was to engage the participants and to energize them.43 Hitler took enormous pride in these events, asking rhetorically in his 1935 speech: “Where is the head of state, who can walk through his people, like I can walk through you?” Leopold Gutterer, the organizer of the festival, thought it “symbolical that the Führer ascended from out of the mass of people at the foot of the mountain. For he arose out of the people to the head of the nation. And just as once more he descended from the heights of the Bückeberg and is swallowed up by the people, so he as Führer and Reich Chancellor always finds again the connection with his people.”44 The speeches from Bückeberg, like those on May 1, were carried live on national radio, and all over the country, villages and towns held their own harvest celebrations, making it an impressive national occasion. Hitler had claimed in his speech in October 1933, that “liberalism and democratic Marxism denied the peasant,” and instead the National Socialist revolution saw the noble toiler of the soil as “the most secure basis of the present and the unique guarantee of the future.” They were building a new community of the people, in which no group could stand alone. This he had explained to millions in the cities, and they were ready to sacrifice for those in the countryside, just as they expected the peasants to do their duty. Together, town and country would have “to rescue the neediest national comrades, to alleviate their hardship.”45

Striving for Unanimity


In villages even in Catholic areas, such as rural Warendorf, Westphalia, great efforts had gone into preparing the day before, putting up harvest wreaths and swastikas. The Sunday opened with a packed church service, featuring the various Nazi organizations in full uniform. During the day, local speakers hailed Hitler as the People’s Chancellor and emphasized his “compassion” with the people on the land. There was the inevitable parade, with this one featuring twenty-​ one festive wagons, accompanied by thirty-​six riders in representative costumes, such as “Figures from Grandfather’s Time,” and shepherds with sheep. The end of the parade was a wagon “Blessing the Harvest,” with such parades then leading to the communal listening to Hitler’s radio address. The day ended with a village dance.46 In the city of Hagen, with a population over 100,000, also in Westphalia and part of the Rhine-​Ruhr, the first Harvest Festival in 1933, though less organized, worked better in terms of getting peasant carts in from the countryside. Perhaps because of its novelty, it also attracted more attention and spontaneous enthusiasm than the annual events later. Even so, photographs from 1935 show the crowds around city hall. In 1933 and in spite of getting only short notice, a special feature was a common midday meal, to which all classes in the city appeared, from the mayor to the unemployed. A local newspaper called the scene a “genuine Volksgemeinschaft.”47 Still another way for the dictatorship to energize ordinary people, and not only those involved in the National Socialist movement, was by way of continuing elections and plebiscites. To begin with, the revision of the law on plebiscites that the Hitler government introduced on July 14, 1933, changed their character from those of the Weimar Republic; henceforth “only the Reich government could ask the people” directly if they agreed with a “measure” passed by the government.48 Dissenting voices might still be heard, if people stayed home, voted “no,” or spoiled their ballot.49 Not until September 20, 1933, did Hitler say more about the plebiscite, and he did so during a session of the General Council for the Economy, a group of economic specialists. The regime had “given new hope” to millions, he said, and while admitting that the last eight months had been a kind of “storm and stress period,” he maintained that the results had been positive for the economy. The role of the state


Hitler’s True Believers

was only to clear the way, after which entrepreneurs would have to march forward on their own. On the political front, he said that authority, leadership, and personality—​all key ingredients in National Socialism—​had pushed their way through. Some “professional critics” had to be locked away, though the people knew that freedom did not mean allowing the completely ignorant to say what they wanted. Quite the reverse, the people saw the “highest freedom” as being able to do something useful in their own area of specialization, and nothing could be more satisfying for the two million unemployed than to have work again. Then he mused that he had been “considering for a long time, whether suddenly the moment might arise, in which I  appeal again to the German people, simply to show the world where the German people stand. The world would then experience a unique drama, that we could get not 75, dare I guarantee 85 to 90 percent of the entire nation behind us. I would only do this, when it seemed absolutely necessary, such as for foreign-​policy reasons, to put on such a demonstration before the whole world.” That exercise would reawaken the trust and the activity of the people, as it had done already in the economy. Thus, Hitler sensed that he had to keep the nation engaged politically, to demonstrate its support and show that it would “march through thick and thin with the government.”50 An opportunity arose out of the international Geneva Disarmament Conference that had been meeting, with limited success, since February 2, 1932. Although Germany had been seeking equality of military rights in international affairs, that is, to have sovereignty over its own military affairs, France, and to a lesser extent, Great Britain wished to continue the limitations on troop numbers and armaments. During the spring of 1933, Hitler spoke mostly about his peaceful intentions, while conservatives in his cabinet, especially Minister of Defense Von Blomberg, Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath, and Bank President Schacht, preferred to break off negotiations. On October 4, Von Blomberg and Hitler agreed both to block the disarmament conference and to leave the League of Nations, another distasteful hangover from the Versailles Treaty and the First World War.51 As the chancellor explained to his cabinet on October 13, he had decided to dissolve the Reichstag, to call new elections, and

Striving for Unanimity


to hold a plebiscite in order to ask the people to identify with the peace policy of the government. The Reichstag election and plebiscite would take place simultaneously, and the extent of the turnout would be of decisive importance.52 The official proclamation stated that “the German Reich government and the German Volk” were united in wanting peace, rejecting violence, agreeing on disarmament, and desiring negotiations, all providing one precondition: that Germany be granted equality of rights. Because it was not, it had to withdraw from the disarmament conference and League of Nations.53 In an evening radio address on October 14, Hitler asserted that Germany had reduced its military might to insignificance (when in fact it had been forced to do so), in the expectation (or faint hope) that the victors would “keep their promises” to do likewise, and they had not. In the previous eight months, he claimed, he had restored a country, in which communism had subverted its art, poisoned its morality, and ruined its economy. Then he turned to the narrative of his bloodless revolution, that did not “destroy cultural monuments and works of art,” nor “smash a single storefront window, did not loot a single shop, and did not damage a single building.” Germany would still be willing to participate in disarmament conferences, though only as a partner with equal rights. The government now wished to prove to the world that it and the people yearned only for peace with honor. The vote for a new Reichstag, coupled with a plebiscite, was intended to give them an opportunity “to make a historic vow,” in approving the principles of the government, and “documenting unreserved unanimity” with those principles as well. The rallying cry was “for peace and honor.”54 The question put in the plebiscite, after the long preamble, ran like this: “Do you, German Man, and You, German Woman, approve the policy of your Reich Government, and are you willing to declare those decisions as the expression of your own opinion and your own will, and freely bear witness?” In response to foreign journalists in Germany, who characterized the results in advance as a farce or “sorry jest,” the minister of the interior and minister of propaganda issued instructions in the press with some fanfare on November 8, four days before the big day, for a “free vote” and warned that any attempt to influence the result had to be stopped by all means.55


Hitler’s True Believers

At midday on November 10, Hitler spoke on national radio from a giant factory in Berlin. Without using the term, he appealed to the Volksgemeinschaft, and sounding socialistic he reminded listeners that in his youth, he had been a worker too, and knew nothing of titles when he grew up. During his nine months in office, he claimed to have reduced unemployment, and he admitted there were still too many without a job. “Now I will show the enemies that they have no more allies in Germany.”56 The lawyer Kurt Rosenberg jotted in his diary what happened during the speech. It is a fascinating account in that he was no supporter; indeed, his life was being torn to shreds only because he was Jewish. Rosenberg reported that “The Volk is again fully engaged. Yesterday, during the Hitler speech, an hour of work-​stoppage, one minute of traffic peace—​ a remarkable picture like in a movie that suddenly stuck. Everything on the roads, pedestrians, didn’t move a speck—​ the streets became almost empty—​with everything coming from the radio:  Impressions of a dead city.” The streets themselves were covered in posters, some hanging from one tree to another with phrases such as “With Hitler for Honor, Equality, and Peace,” or “Against the Rearmament Madness.” Then cars rushed about blowing their horns, drums were beating, and trucks were filled with boisterous SA men yelling to get out and vote. Fantastic rumors circulated, such as that the secrecy of the ballot would be betrayed or that the pollsters could figure out who voted “no.” Everywhere there was movement and intoxication, unbelievable activity and propaganda. The Jews already feared what would be next, and Rosenberg confessed sadly to himself that he had worked out hundreds of different plans, because he could see that there was no future for him in Germany.57 Among those jostling to get ahead of the populist parade soon after Hitler called the vote were members of the German Academy of Literature, who asked the people to show their unity behind the government in this “question of honor.” Shortly thereafter, eighty-​ eight German authors who were among the nation’s (remaining) best published an “oath of loyalty” and they offered complete support for “the reconstruction of the Reich.”58 Another remarkable display came from German universities, some of whose distinguished professors gathered at Leipzig University on November 11. Among them was

Striving for Unanimity


eugenics expert Eugen Fischer, outdoing himself in lauding Hitler as the “mighty architect” who designed the house that all Germans were helping to build in the spirit of a “new socialism.” Arguably the nation’s most famous philosopher, Martin Heidegger, insisted that Hitler did not “beg” for a vote, that he was “giving the nation the direct possibility of making, directly, the highest decision of all, namely whether the entire people wants its own existence or does not.” Moreover, Heidegger attributed godlike powers to their leader for “awakening” the national will and “forming it into a single decision.” Around 900 professors signed this appeal, and willingly put their academic seal of approval to Hitler at a key juncture in the establishment of the Third Reich.59 To the question posed in the national plebiscite, 95.1 percent of the votes gave their “yes,” and 4.9 percent said “no.” Put another way, out of a total of 45,178,701 of all those eligible to vote, 40,633,852 supported the government’s position. In the larger cities, the no-​vote percentages went into the double digits with Hamburg (13.0 percent) and Berlin (10.8 percent) having for those times the dubious distinction of leading the way. As polling booths in rural areas were generally easier to supervise, the support there was higher than in the cities. The Reichstag election held at the same time showed a similar pattern, with 92.1 percent voting for the single list of Nazi candidates. Yet remarkably enough there were districts in Berlin and Hamburg where fewer than 80 percent of the eligible voters cast a ballot in favor of the governing party.60 No historian believes that Germany was already so homogenized that all “yes” voters had exactly the same motives or meanings, though as in any election, each vote was counted as one for or against. Behind each was a multiplicity of opinions and attitudes, from ecstatic agreement to sullen assent.61 And scholars vary in opinion about the extent to which this balloting was manipulated.62 Some German historians who lived through the times tended to believe that either way, these exercises generally reflected the popular mood, and the socialist underground made the same point, in spite of recording obvious “irregularities.”63 The result was not proof of the power of Hitler’s “charisma,” for some Jews voted “yes,” not because of, but in spite of Hitler. Willy Cohn, a teacher in Breslau and former Social Democrat, for instance, soberly recorded in his diary that “It wasn’t difficult for me to vote ‘yes’ for the foreign policy of the government.” That was because he


Hitler’s True Believers

was patriotic, had fought in the Great War, and held an “earned iron cross.” He was surprised at the number of no votes, and he still hoped that the government’s former enemies would now be “reconciled.”64 On the other hand, Professor Victor Klemperer, deemed Jewish in spite of having converted, voted “no.”65 Some liberal-​minded souls did the same while coming up with various ploys to avoid being singled out for their stance, as did the author Ruth Andreas-​Friedrich and a circle of resisters with whom she was acquainted.66 In the countryside, officials pressured people for a “yes” vote. In Peine, Lower Saxony, Karl Dürkefälden commented in his diary about the flood of propaganda, with everyone receiving posters to put in their windows saying: “Vote with Yes.” Nevertheless, Karl and his wife voted a resounding “no,” and he saw from the published results that they were the only two in the village to do so. He concluded that if the ballots had been counted correctly, the number in favor would have been “at most 80 percent,” which still would have been a substantial victory.67 A lengthy analysis by underground Socialists associated with the Neu Beginnen (New beginnings) summed up the results like this: Because of the extraordinarily high number of votes in favor of the regime even critical foreign observers were tempted to assume that the numbers had been faked or resulted from direct force and terror. Those assumptions, however, are based on a mistaken perception of the real and profound influence fascist ideology has upon all classes of Germany society. Obviously, the plebiscite is not the real expression of a greater part of the population. Nevertheless, the number of sincere supporters of the regime is still underestimated abroad. . . . Careful observations show that the results of the election in general are a true indicator of the mood of the population. Particularly in rural districts and in small villages there may have been many “corrections.” The general result indicates an extraordinarily rapid and effective process of turning society fascist.68

That was a most grudging admission, not to be dismissed out of hand, and large-​scale electoral fraud likely did not take place, not just in this vote, but in others as well.69 No doubt the government exaggerated the significance of the November plebiscite as proving that the German

Striving for Unanimity


people had overcome all domestic political barriers and conflicts and had merged in an indissoluble inner unity. So ran the preamble to a new “Law on the Reconstruction of the Reich,” promulgated on January 30, 1934. It destroyed what little remained of the individual states’ rights, abolished their parliaments, and the Berlin government absorbed their powers.70 The Reichstag met, because a two-​ thirds majority was needed to change the constitution. Hermann Göring, as president of the Reichstag, remarked that this was the first such assembly to be united around a single Weltanschauung. Hitler delivered a lively address to thunderous applause and calculated that those who remained opposed to them added up to at most 2.5  million, compared to the 40  million supporters. He was pleased to have eliminated the Communists, marveled at the revolution for being “almost totally without bloodshed,” and expressed pride in “the enormous unifying power of our idea.” For no regime, as he liked to put it, “could endure any length of time only by the use of force.” Then, evidently swept away by his own enthusiasm, he mentioned that it would be a priority of the Reich government to ascertain “whether it embodied the will of the people” by consulting it “over and over again,” presumably with additional plebiscites.71 When he spoke to a Party gathering on February 24, he rashly promised “to appeal to the nation at least once every year.”72 In the midst of this growing national euphoria, a lingering concern was his Stormtroopers, the SA, who continued to engage the population, though in ways that grew increasingly disturbing. In January 1933, there were around 500,000 in the SA, and the numbers grew dramatically by year’s end to nearly 3 million.73 Rudolf Diels, head of the secret police office in Berlin, may have exaggerated when estimating that between January and November 1933, as the SA in Berlin increased from 60,000 to 110,000, “70 percent were likely former Communists.”74 At any rate, the flood of new members in 1933 and 1934 made discipline problems all but inevitable. Whereas up to 1933, ordinary people may have judged brown-​shirt violence as admirable or at least tolerable, as long as it aimed at left-​wing paramilitary groups, it was quite another matter once those “enemies” were driven from the streets. The growing problem with the SA might have taken care of itself had the economy recovered faster and created more good jobs. It was


Hitler’s True Believers

more difficult for the regime to engage a mass of the SA unemployed, especially when depriving them of the “obvious” spoils, such as the leadership and control of the police. When Hitler appointed SA leader Ernst Röhm as minister without portfolio in December 1933, it was an honor without real implications for running things. Was it another attempt to tame the man’s radicalism, because for months, the Führer kept announcing that the revolution was over? Additionally, Röhm saw the SA as being able to absorb the far smaller army, whereas Hitler had assured military leaders that the armed forces would remain untouched by any outside interference.75 The dictatorship called for more self-​sacrifice and patience, and as usual, it matched that paltry inducement with threats of what would happen to bellyachers. On May 11, 1934, in another campaign against “Complainers and Troublemakers,” Goebbels warned that all such types would be confronted and their “criminal attitudes” revealed to the people.76 This missive also targeted a more conservative group gathered around Vice Chancellor Franz von Papen. He delivered a dissonant and badly timed speech at Marburg University on June 17. The remarks themselves appear to have been crafted by Edgar Julius Jung, one of the so-​called Young Conservatives, formerly opponents of the Weimar Republic who quickly became disenchanted with the Third Reich. This faction of the dissatisfied felt that in “the second wave” of the German Revolution already brewing, a victory for the SA would mean “the rule of the inferior.” Herr von Papen’s lecture made clear his distaste for more socialism, and what he preferred instead was “a creative fulfillment of the current revolution,” whatever that might mean. The country had already gone through so much to end the threat of Marxism, he observed, that it would be ironic if the Nazi Party carried out the kind of socialization that their defeated enemies had always wanted. Von Papen also had less than flattering words for the dregs thrown up by the revolution, and with a finger pointed at the SA, he said the Party should be cleansed of it.77 Hitler was with Goebbels when they got wind of the speech, which the propaganda minister instantly pronounced was “aimed against us.” Goebbels and Alfred Rosenberg, ideological rivals, both grumbled in their diaries about these “reactionaries.”78 When Hitler boasted to Rosenberg that he had Jung arrested, he sounded bloody-​minded,

Striving for Unanimity


and yet apparently did not go all out against these more conservative elements, including Papen, out of respect for the venerable President Hindenburg, who had some advice of his own to offer, when on June 21 Hitler visited him in Neudeck.79 The president and General von Blomberg strongly urged their chancellor to bring the revolutionary troublemakers to their senses.80 Others who worried about the pretensions of these Stormtroopers included the ravens in black, Himmler and Heydrich, who since April, when they took another step toward centralizing their authority over the political police, had begun systematic surveillance of this group, especially its leaders. About a week before the end of June, Hitler instructed this murderous duo of a possible strike, and they both then met with chiefs of the SS and SD. They said the SS would be putting down an “attempted SA-​Putsch,” and ordered preparation of a file on “dangerous persons.” Military leaders informed Hitler that it went without saying that he could count on their support. On June 30, before the action against the SA commenced, he made certain that the troops remained in their barracks, because as he said emphatically, “This is a Party matter.” The heads of the military provided technical assistance; they knew of the attack and when it would occur.81 To establish a credible narrative of the bloody events that ensued, the dictatorship released a series of brief accounts to the press on June 30, explaining why it was necessary “to destroy and exterminate undisciplined and disobedient characters and anti-​social or diseased elements.” These people were all the worse for being “traitors” who conspired with unnamed “foreign powers.” The reports emphasized the sexual depravity of these men and provided enough details for most people to figure out the gory details. By late in the day the regime released a short list of the SA leaders already shot. Also executed, allegedly because of involvement in the plot, was Hitler’s old rival Gregor Strasser. So were the former chancellor Kurt von Schleicher and his wife. The total casualties have been put at around one hundred. Hitler released word of the “choice” they gave Röhm to commit suicide, and when he would not, he was shot.82 During a meeting of his cabinet, Hitler excused the bloodletting by comparing it to a naval mutiny, during which it was the captain’s duty


Hitler’s True Believers

to strike down insubordinates. Minister of Defense Blomberg thanked him for the decisive action, which he exaggerated as saying it had likely saved the country from civil war. Hitler asked for and obtained without question a new law that amnestied those involved in the murders committed in the course of putting down the “treasonous attacks” between June 30 and July 2.83 On July 3, the Nazi Party newspaper reported soberly that the Führer, not the courts, had “sentenced” these people to death.84 More remarkably still, the noted jurist Carl Schmitt justified that action in an article for a distinguished legal journal, on the grounds that a real leader ought “to defend the law from the most fatal abuse if, at a moment of danger, he creates unmediated justice.” That is, he acts as a judge, jury, and executioner.85 Given such thinking, it was not surprising that the overwhelming initial reaction of the population to this first mass murder of the Third Reich was one of relief. It gave people another opportunity to identify with the coercive side of the dictatorship, and with Hitler. The Gestapo reports on public reactions often provide surprisingly frank analyses. The surveys survive only for some regions, and it seems likely that the least favorable ones came from Catholic areas, such as around Düsseldorf, Aachen, Cologne, Trier, and Koblenz. By the end of July, the Aachen police had been able to gather more information and stated that “the entire population accepted with satisfaction the determined measures and the open explanation of the Führer and feels relieved of a heavy pressure.” That sounded formulaic, so the police had to add that in the course of the month there had been a “gradual decline in this excellent popular mood,” and that it had held up best among workers. Catholics had reservations, as some of the victims came from Aachen. At the same time, the Gestapo in Cologne, Koblenz, and Trier said that the purge had a “positive effect,” increased the trust in Hitler, and some people favored a “more authoritarian state.” In each region, however, in the course of the month the positive reaction abated. The cooling enthusiasm could be traced partly to the regime’s continuing inability to create as many jobs as desperate people needed.86 In more Protestant Hanover, the police offered some obligatory phrases, such as that the action had “strengthened the trust in the Führer.” The police sometimes added that many hoped the purge

Striving for Unanimity


would go beyond the SA, to cleanse other branches of the movement at the local level.87 In Pomerania, Hitler’s justification for the action was received with “great satisfaction among all social classes,” particularly because the purge put an end to discussions about a “second revolution” that had been widely circulating.88 Another perspective from early July comes from the diary of Willy Cohn from Breslau, when he wrote that “the most nonsensical rumors are flying,” and, with the newspapers saying next to nothing, it was nearly “impossible to form a picture” of what really had happened. This disappointed patriot said that “as a Jew” he would not take a position, though he rightly observed that it was extraordinary for these people to be executed without a semblance of a trial. He observed that “good order” had been restored and Hitler’s authority was “undoubtedly firmer” than ever. Cohn seemed to be convinced by some of the stories about the misdeeds of the victims, and even to feel that Germany “had surely stood before the abyss.”89 Other Nazi opponents, particularly the SPD underground, reflected similar opinions, and one Bavarian account from the end of July remarked with disappointment that the formerly “indifferent workers” were pleased to see that “those up there,” namely the better-​off classes, had been hit by the fist. Some in Berlin would have liked to see more of the “big shots” knocked off. Most of these accounts point to an increased respect for or trust in Hitler, and killing some of those who misused their newfound power satisfied a popular lust to make at least some of them pay.90 On August 1, Hitler went to see the dying President Hindenburg and promptly informed his cabinet of the gravity of the situation. Even with the president still alive, he said they had an obligation to take certain necessary steps, one of which was to pass a law by way of which he would assume the duties of the departing head of state and supreme commander of the armed forces. At that same cabinet meeting, Minister of Defense General von Blomberg informed Hitler, without his having asked for it, that the next day the general would have the military take an oath to Hitler personally. On August 2, Hindenburg died, and the law swiftly dissolved the office of president. Hitler told the Reichstag that henceforth he wished merely to be the “Führer and Reich Chancellor.” By then he was cocky enough to say it was his


Hitler’s True Believers

wish that the law on the “Head of State” be validated by putting it to the people in a plebiscite, which was promptly scheduled for Sunday, August 19.91 The campaign was short, featured no countrywide rallying tours, and Hitler spoke only once. The propaganda, such as it was, emphasized that the former president had a close relationship with Hitler and that he could not be replaced. On August 15 with the opening of Hindenburg’s will, the old man thanked Providence for allowing him to experience the hour of Germany’s resurgence. Pleased that he had witnessed the beginning of a new Volksgemeinschaft, he noted how “my Chancellor Adolf Hitler and his movement have taken a decisive step of historic significance toward the great goal of bringing the German Volk together in inner unity beyond all differences of rank and class.” That was close to recommending Hitler from the grave.92 German academics, including Martin Heidegger and seventy others of various ranks, scurried to show their support in an appeal in the semi-​official newspaper of the regime.93 That may not have helped that much, because with barely a week of campaigning, Hitler received “only” 89.9  percent of the votes cast. From the regime’s perspective, it was good to obtain 38,394,848  “yes” votes, but all the worse that 4,300,429 people said “no” and the countrywide negative vote came to 10.1 percent. The “no” vote was larger in the bigger cities, such as Hamburg (20.4 percent) and Berlin (18.5 percent). The strongholds of the working-​class movement in Berlin, Wedding, Prenzlauer Berg, and Neukölln offered the least support (just over 70 percent in each). Yet comparing this plebiscite to the one in 1933, the biggest increase in the “no” votes occurred in Catholic areas.94 As the results of the plebiscite came in, Goebbels confessed that he had expected better and, with Hitler, concluded that the Catholics were to blame. They faulted Alfred Rosenberg’s latest anti-​church campaign for needlessly stirring up the hornets’ nest.95 Indeed, this second plebiscite came at a time when an ideological war against the Catholic Church was in full swing, in spite of the regime’s promises of more concord. One region, for example, was annoyed because the authorities took away the flag of the Catholic Young Men’s Association.96 Moreover, the country was still firmly in the grip of the Great Depression, an existential matter that the police reports never failed to mention. In addition,

Striving for Unanimity


it seems likely that some of the Nazi Stormtroopers, whose leaders had been killed off shortly before in June, almost certainly voted “no” in a quiet act of revenge.97 Their vote did not necessarily mean a rejection of National Socialism, for hidden behind it were all kinds of resentments that, once the economy got rolling, could well pass away. As might be expected, given the mixed signals of the plebiscite, people interpreted them differently. The event did not prove that the popularity of the regime declined as Hitler concentrated all power in his own hands, because a whole series of considerations motivated people to vote as they did.98 Not all “yes” and “no” votes meant the same thing, and yet as Victor Klemperer observed, Hitler was the “undisputed victor” in spite of suffering a moral defeat of sorts.99 The Gestapo in Cologne said the concerns of the “naysayers” in that city and district were similar to those in the rest of the country. The “rootless proletariat” and “anti-​state elements” in big cities came forward, especially those previously organized by the two Marxist political parties. Then there were the “bourgeois reactionaries” who, feeling that they had to vote their conscience, might have changed their minds with a better question. Finally, there were the Catholics, especially prominent in the Rhine-​Ruhr area. Whereas in 1933 the church had supported the vote, this time around, it was fully engaged with National Socialism as the enemy ideology. The police rightly concluded that the Party had a “tough mission to break through to this mass of people with National Socialist thought.”100 Some of the Socialist underground reported that people vacillated about how to vote and what it meant. Some said it was better to vote “no,” to send a message so that “they up there finally notice what’s going on,” while others said it was better to vote “yes” so that “they up there don’t notice what’s going on until they are trampled over.” There was talk of officials at the polls who put on pressure, and of other irregularities, though the conclusion of the report was that “there were no falsifications” and that the regime “ran the election above board.” Although former Communist and Socialist members were pleased that the results were worse than those of the previous November, someone in the NSDAP said, “Yes, this time we won 38 million yes-​votes completely on our own, this time even without Hindenburg we won 90 percent of the population.”101 On the other hand, another group of


Hitler’s True Believers

underground Socialists said the results, at least in comparison to what happened in the last plebiscite, did not depress their resistance movement quite as much, and some comrades booked it as “a success in the struggle against the regime.”102 When Hitler looked back on the first years of the new “Third Reich,” he could be moderately pleased to have realized many of the tenets of the doctrine that he and the Nazi Party had espoused over the years. He had made a pact with the military, with whom he saw eye-​to-​eye, and took significant steps in beginning to create the Volksgemeinschaft. Already reaching out to workers, he had also tried to satisfy the ideological (but not necessarily the economic) quest to keep peasant farms in the hands of small independents. Hitler might well have had socialist aspirations, but he was also convinced that most people—​especially the industrialists—​were not ready for it, so that he introduced it only gradually. He also had played the nationalist card by withdrawing from the League of Nations, and the results of the first plebiscite seemed to show that nationalism united the people more than any other single aspect of National Socialism. The dictatorship could not let up its mobilization efforts because, when people were not fully engaged in 1934 for the second plebiscite, the results were disappointing. Another aspect of Germany’s reawakening that was meant to appeal was supposed to be its cultural renaissance and building program, and the Nazi regime invited the people to be part of that as well.


The Quest for a Cultural Revolution

Hitler defined his cultural and artistic mission in grand, sweeping terms, and that was why he said he paid special attention to architecture, commonly referred to in Germany as Baukunst, the art of building. In fact, he often spoke of himself as a Baumeister, or master builder. From his perspective, the Volksgemeinschaft could not see itself in modern commercial cities, nor be inspired by them, so he needed to provide a more “fitting” urban environment.1 In addition, the new Reich and various local authorities—​not all of whom were moved by Hitler—​ planned or constructed hundreds of modest Siedlungen or “settlements” of various sizes and styles based on their own version of what they called Bausozialismus, or construction socialism. Family dwellings and minutely planned “green” living spaces would offer the community of the people idyllic settings conducive to breeding the master race. Such settlements would, it was hoped, eventually become the models for the vast spaces that Germany might conquer one day in Eastern Europe. For Hitler, underlying all cultural and artistic visions and plans was National Socialism’s racial-​biological theory of “the arts,” according to which they reflected the condition, health, or purity of the race or society that created them. As he put it, “Racially determined ideological tendencies of an age will also determine the tendencies and psyche of its art.” The ancient Greeks built a recognizable architecture, directly related to society in fifth-​century Athens. Likewise, early Bolshevik art, as he said in Mein Kampf, revealed through its modernist and formless expressions nothing more than the “morbid excrescences of insane and


Hitler’s True Believers

degenerate men.” Similarly, he claimed that a veritable “plague” of the arts had descended on Europe around 1900, before which time Dadaism, Cubism, or other varieties of modern art would have been unthinkable. If that art really corresponded to the condition of society, then the social world would be rotting, and he warned of dire consequences: “Woe to the people who can no longer master this disease!”2 In early 1928, he contended that if art remained only superficial to the nation, then it was not fulfilling its true mission, which was to become the property of all and bind people together. He also alluded to the social mission he saw for the arts: “If we want our nation [Volk] to come to an inner renewal,” he said, “we must foster this side of life,” by helping German artists and bringing all the arts to the fore. First, they would have “to shovel out the manure” of “the products of the present degeneration and racial bastardization” filling the museums. Tirelessly he pointed to the cowardice and capitulation of the intellectuals before those he defamed as “the brazen Jewish composers, writers, painters who put the most pitiful garbage before the nation.” Hence the need to purge all art of the tyrannical influences of criticism, for which he had long blamed mainly the Jews.3 Culture and art in the new Reich was supposed to provide an inner immunization against the infection of Marxism and other ideas that, as he saw it, had undermined the country in 1918.4 On March 23, 1933, Hitler once more made far-​reaching cultural claims in heralding the Enabling Law. He swore that in addition to purifying the nation of political parties (beginning with the Marxists), the government also intended to undertake a thorough moral purging of the German body politic, including education, the theater, the cinema, literature, the press, and radio. Henceforth, he intoned, art would give expression to the “determining spirit of the age. Blood and race will once again become the source of artistic intuition. The task of the government, particularly in an age of limited political power, is to ensure that the internal value of life and the will of the nation to live are given much more monumental artistic expression in culture.”5 When Hitler spoke in September 1933 at the cultural event that was part of the Nuremberg Party Rally, his published remarks bore the telling title The German Art as the Proudest Defense of the German People. The main point was that the NSDAP had already secured “an

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absolute takeover of political power” by the end of March; had it been merely one of the conventional political parties, it would have regarded that victory as the achievement of its great goal. However, given that National Socialism represented an entirely new way of looking at the world, getting into power was understood as “simply the prerequisite to begin the quest for the real mission.”6 This was the theoretical context within which Hitler developed his racial-​biological theory of the arts, according to which Providence provided various races with different life purposes and worldviews. Each race, as endowed by nature with specific gifts, asserted its will to exist and acted either heroically or unheroically. In a nation (Volk) that was mixed like Germany, with a conglomeration of components, it would be possible for the “unheroic elements” to indoctrinate the “heroically disposed.” Against that tide National Socialism stood for the “heroic valuing of blood, race, and personality, as well as the eternal law of selection,” so that it was bound “to fight the Weltanschauung of pacifist, international democracy.” Henceforth, “under no circumstances whatsoever would the representatives of the degeneracy we have just put behind us suddenly become the ones to carry the flag of the future.” There would be no room for “babblers,” such as the practitioners of Dadaism, Cubism, Futurism, or for “self-​ worshipping impressionists.”7 Once the Volk was racially cleansed, so that its unique art and genius could flow freely, Hitler anticipated or at least hoped that “a new artistic renaissance of the Aryan people” would be under way. He claimed that Germans admired the art and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome because they shared a common Aryan racial root, and now the Nordic spirit would have to take on its own cultural tasks and find its own way, as had its racial predecessors. What was needed was some state-​sponsored ideological rejuvenation, while shaking off decadent or racially foreign elements. It would be simplistic to think of introducing a new style, he said, when what was necessary was to collect the best racial stock, and hope that Providence would provide guidance. Inevitably it would be up to the geniuses, so he appealed to German artists to become aware of their tasks:  “Because folly and injustice seem to rule the world, we call on you to play your part in proudly defending the German Volk with German art.”8


Hitler’s True Believers

Crafting the Volksgemeinschaft would necessarily mean excluding the “wrong kinds” of artistic influences, though Hitler remained ambivalent about banning books, and mostly did not get involved in the details of censorship, which he left to others.9 Already on February 28, the regime had passed a new law against “trash literature” that outlawed pornography, “sexual-​science,” as well as informational materials on abortions and birth-​ control literature.10 Student activists in Berlin ransacked Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science on May 6, thereby indulging their hatred of the man for being both Jewish and homosexual.11 With local Nazis taking the lead, the first sustained attack on books began in April and May 1933 when university students burned the volumes that reflected an “un-​German spirit.” On May 10, students asked Joseph Goebbels, who was not the initiator of the ninety-​three book burnings carried out in seventy cities and stretched out over two months, to accept the “honor” of speaking on the occasion of the “action against the un-​German spirit.” The otherwise wordy propaganda boss agreed, though he gave only this one speech at such an event, and it was carried live on national radio. “Revolutions,” he declared with evident zeal, “when they are real do not stop anywhere!” They do not just affect politics, economics, or cultural life. “Revolutions are breakthroughs of new Weltanschauungen,” new ideologies and doctrines, and when they really deserved the name, they were never satisfied with overturning merely one area of public life. “A revolutionary must be able to do everything: he must be just as great in tearing down the old values as in building up the [new] values. If you students take on the right to commit the spiritual trash to the flames, then you must also take on the duty to replace it and to open the way for a real German spirit.” Thus, he sermonized, that evening they had gathered “to commit to the flames the demon of the past,” in what was “a great, symbolic act to document before the world:  Here disappears the spiritual basis of the November-​Republic into the earth,” out of which would arise, like a Phoenix, the spirit of the new. “The flames are not merely a symbol of the decline of the old epoch, but also of the rise of the new epoch.”12 After that pontificating an estimated 40,000 spectators looked on as students threw books onto the pyre, chanting as they did: “Against the class struggle and materialism, for a people’s community and an idealistic

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lifestyle! I hand to the flames the writings of Marx and Kautsky.” There followed the works of numerous others deemed to exercise a corrosive effect on society. In Breslau, SA trucks went to the schools to pick up the offending tomes. One of the troopers said, “Don’t forget the Bible, that’s also part of Jewish culture.”13 Victor Klemperer, a philology professor in Dresden and Jewish, noted that a circular from Berlin to all universities declared that “When the Jew writes in German, he lies,” so that henceforth Jews would only be allowed to write in Hebrew, a ridiculous and unenforceable rule.14 The writer Erich Ebermayer happened to be in a Leipzig bar with a friend on May 10 when the radio switched to Berlin and picked up the phrase: “The pyre has been built!” He wondered, was it a celebration? Then he heard that hundreds of students were taking truckloads of books to be burned. One by one they stepped forward and said: “I give to the flames the work of . . . ,” followed by the name of a writer. We can only imagine Ebermayer’s anxiety as he mulled over whether he himself would be next, and then was half relieved, half disappointed to have been overlooked. Not for long, though, because on May 14 when he bumped into a bookseller in town, the man told him that indeed all his books had been forbidden. He found out later that his transgressions might be overlooked if he would join the Party, a step he found impossible to take.15 Goebbels obtained enormous powers over culture through his Propaganda Ministry, created in March 1933, and he soon lusted for more. After some difficulties, he gained Hitler’s approval on September 22 to proclaim the creation of a new Reich Culture Chamber (RKK).16 Goebbels noted with satisfaction that he had just reached “a further step towards the unification of our intellectual life.”17 The chamber itself was the umbrella organization for seven others, one each for literature, theater, cinema, music, the press, radio, and the visual arts. According to the chamber’s first implementation order, “All those involved in the creation, reproduction, intellectual or technical processing, the dissemination, preservation, and sale of cultural goods must be a member.”18 It went without saying that political enemies, such as the Communists and all Jews, would be excluded; indeed, as the writer Ebermayer jotted in his diary, it meant that anyone deemed “not acceptable” would be robbed of their livelihood. He confessed a reluctant admiration for the “devilishly well considered system for the iron tyranny of the intellect.”19


Hitler’s True Believers

Goebbels as president of the RKK took charge of censorship by way of a new Reich Chamber of Literature, which excluded on average 300 authors per year during the peacetime years, and even more after 1939. The new authorities told themselves that the word “censorship” sounded too negative, so that official pronouncements spoke only of “harmful and undesirable” books or authors. Book buyers could never be told that a publication was prohibited, only that it was “no longer available.” The regime proscribed a total of 5,485 titles, although locally the authorities seized more. In addition, a whole host of other bureaucrats became censors, and if that resulted in some disarray, the system worked well enough once it was up and running.20 Heading up the invasive system was the ubiquitous Dr. Goebbels, who held a PhD in literature and was a writer himself. He took a certain pride in opening “The Week of the German Book” on November 5, 1934, using the occasion—​the first of what would become an annual event—​to present something close to a National Socialist theory of literature. Although he said, in following Hitler, that the spoken word had been the preferred weapon to make the revolution, once the regime moved to a more evolutionary stage the written word would have its place. It had been necessary, he said, to adopt the spoken language of the people in order to get through to them, and “if an idea is right,” it should be possible to explain it to anyone. The old maxim of art for art’s sake was “completely unthinkable in a National Socialist state; that art belongs to the artist, and that the artists have a privilege to while away the hours, above the people, in the thin atmosphere of aesthetics.” Henceforth, the book had to become involved with the life of the people, and that did not mean kitsch or lots of swastika-​waving. What he wanted was that authors get at the spirit behind the symbols, to lay bare “what we think and feel.” Beyond that he offered no prescriptions for “Nazi literature,” though obviously it would have new political and propagandistic tasks.21 The regime also encouraged capital “C” culture, such as outings to hear classical music and trips to Bayreuth for the Wagner operas. That small Bavarian town was the seat of the Richard Wagner cult, the man whose operas Hitler adored. In the mid-​1920s, its festival ran into financial difficulties because of a decline in the popularity of Wagner’s operas. Hitler gallantly rode to the rescue in June 1933 and provided

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a hefty subsidy to pay the bills. Just as important, he attended for an entire week.22 The beginning of the Third Reich did not mean a complete break with the cultural past, and there continued ageless traditions, such as the days to “let loose” before Lent in a Karneval (carnival) in dominant Catholic areas. These remained popular and beloved, though on their own initiative locals gave them a new ideological twist.23 In Cologne, for example, which had canceled these events during the Great Depression, they began anew in February 1933. Meeting rooms featured the host of costumed characters except that now some made fun of the Jews. The next year, among its floats in the parade were several with men dressed as obvious caricatures of Orthodox Jews, riding on a wagon adorned with the large sign that read “The Last Ones Move On” to somewhere in the Middle East. Again in 1936 the carnival featured an antisemitic refrain, making fun of the deadly serious anti-​Jewish Nuremberg Laws. Similar motifs could be seen in numerous other Catholic cities between 1934 and 1939. These demonstrations were in places where the Nazis did not have any electoral breakthroughs before 1933.24 The one Gestapo report that touches on the carnival in Cologne for 1935 did not mention any signs, and soberly observed that the people’s mood there, as well as in Bonn, was “satisfactory,” while in the rural parts it was “downright good.” The festivities aided this positive psychology, for in good times and bad, by tradition the Rhinelander withdrew from politics for the day. This year the authorities were more involved and wanted to turn it into a real festival (Volksfest). Alas, incomes still had not bounced back, even with the economy doing reasonably well, so that the ordinary person could not afford to participate in all the festivities—​meaning the usual heavy drinking. The police official noted that there were hardly any political jokes, and that was a sign “of an all-​too-​great fear that state or Party officials might intervene.” The Gestapo reporter found this regrettable because in tough times a good political joke served the population by letting off steam at petty official annoyances.25 When it came to the visual arts, Hitler had a more formal shrine in mind, and in what was supposed to be a solemn ceremony on October 15, 1933, he laid the cornerstone for the House of German Art, whose plans he had worked on with the architect Paul Ludwig Troost. This


Hitler’s True Believers

forging ahead in the battle for German culture came only one day after Hitler had withdrawn the country from the Disarmament Conference and League of Nations, so that there was a sense of national revivalism in the air. Quoting Scripture, he said that “Man does not live by bread alone,” and Germany now faced the task of repairing its culture as well as getting the economy going again. No doubt he derived special satisfaction from situating the new building in Munich, which he said was meant as a kind of reward for its special artistic character.26 The one sour note in the elaborate ceremony came after Party district leader Adolf Wagner passed over to him a glistening silver hammer, lovingly designed by Troost. Hitler was supposed to strike three blows to the foundation stone, but to the gasps of the crowd, the hammer broke when he hit it. That left him standing there mortified, if briefly, holding only the handle. Hitler later told Speer: “When the hammer shattered I  knew at once it was an evil omen. Something is going to happen, I thought. Now we know why the hammer broke. The architect was destined to die,” which is what happened to Troost in January 1934.27 Perhaps the evil omen warned of far more than that. After moving on briskly with laying the cornerstone for the neoclassical building, the ceremony was accompanied by an ostentatious Day of German Art, a parade conceived to create grand impressions. The theme, “Highpoint of German Culture,” was designed to show the links with the past. It featured town criers and court servants dressed in the style of the fifteenth century, thereby showing the connections of the Third Reich to the long and glorious Germanic past. Apparently, the public accepted the validity of the display, which featured a modest number of floats. Later parades tried to make the links to the ancient past more obvious. Thus in 1937 the motto was “2,000 Years of German Culture,” and the pageant featured 3,212 appropriately costumed participants, 26 festive wagons, and hundreds of animals, followed by marching soldiers, SA, SS, and others. That year they opened the House of German Art in Munich. Each of its annual catalogues was adorned with what looks very much like a Roman centurion in headdress. Situated in front of him was an eagle perched on a laurel with a swastika, and to one side, there was a torch, the symbol of enlightenment, hope, and courage. These catalogue covers, like the Days of German Art, sought to popularize a particular interpretation of history,

The Quest for a Cultural Revolution


“to give our Weltanschauung visual expression,” by demonstrating relationships to a heroic past.28 Historians tend to think such events “numbed” the people into forgetfulness or insensitivity, but today it is difficult to say how people reacted, and they likely enjoyed them as they did other parades and festivals.29 Each year during the Nuremberg Party rallies, Hitler spoke about culture at some length, without going much beyond general statements that were variously interpreted by artists, as well as those in the Party, as advocating either a völkisch or folksy style or more modernism. Although he had come down heavily against the latter in Mein Kampf, he settled the official argument during his speech on culture in September 1934.30 One point was obvious: there would be no place for the “spoilers of art,” such as the Cubists, futurists, Dadaists, and so on, nor for the backward-​looking folksy types lost in the ancient Germanic mists. Instead Hitler offered the slogan, “To be German means to be clear,” by which he meant that art had to be conscious of its political purpose, which was to educate the people in National Socialism, and anything that deflected from its political program had to be repressed. In the new Germany, the state would clear away the fog and promote a resurrection of the arts, neither seeking innovation for its own sake as in modernism, nor following antiquated traditions. Instead, at least so he claimed, he wanted to “relax stylistic restrictions” and “liberate creative forces” with the hope that geniuses would emerge. It would be those forces, with their special relationship to the Volk, who would deliver the cities from chaos, create unique art, and elevate great public edifices above private buildings.31 At the 1935 Party rally, he referred to the House of German Art under construction as “the new temple of the Goddess of art.” Supporting the arts was not an extravagance that Germany, still recovering from the Great Depression, could not afford. To the contrary, he insisted that because the arts “reproduced the spiritual life of a people,” they “unconsciously exert the greatest imaginable direct influence on the mass of the peoples and nations.” Modernist experiments failed, so he judged, because people lost interest in them. His vision was that the arts had to counter the degeneration all around, by “rendering a true picture of the spiritual life and inner powers of the race.” With regard to artistic freedom, he said that just as it would be nonsensical to allow an


Hitler’s True Believers

assassin to be free to attack a neighbor, so it would be foolish to permit anyone “to inflict spiritual death on people,” by producing art such as Dadaism or Cubism. He often said that the “greatness of the present” would be measured by what it left behind, which should not be read as meaning that he had a death wish, for he visualized a glorious future millennium.32 A more pressing question was what kind of art to put into the new House of German Art. In 1935 the ambitious local Nazi bigwig Adolf Wagner talked about exhibiting “1,000 Years of German Art,” after the jury reached some consensus on showing and putting up for sale “suitable” German work. The adjudicators asked participants to submit their best, and as they ended up with more than 25,000 entries, virtually every living artist in the country was represented.33 Some 15,000 pieces were sent to Munich. However, on May 8 Adolf Ziegler, a leading artist involved in the process, informed Goebbels that they were having “issues,” as did Wagner on June 2. Propaganda Minister Goebbels concluded that to resolve the disputes about the quality of the art, they would need to get more lay jurors involved, because the artists on it were overly opinionated.34 Finally, Goebbels and Hitler flew to Munich, and when the leader laid eyes on the selections, he considered canceling the exhibition for a year because in his estimation the works proved that Germany had no artists who deserved to be shown. What Hitler had wanted was to stimulate art production, so that much would be sold and distributed across the country, thereby establishing a national artistic taste compatible with National Socialist doctrine. Heinrich Hoffmann, his photographer, who was there, dissuaded the dictator from canceling and imploringly said that out of the 8,000 works remaining they could surely find 1,500 or more worthy pieces. Hitler promptly appointed him as the final judge, giving him the stern guideline: “I do not like any sloppily painted pictures, because with some of them you don’t know which is top and which is bottom, and the frame-​maker has to put a hanger on every side.”35 The final choice of the paintings, after additional weeding by Hitler, comprised mainly those in the genre style of the nineteenth century. These were arranged by subject, such as landscapes, still-​life, portraits, allegories, the lives of peasants, and variations on the theme of the mother as source and guarantor of the pure race. He did not favor

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explicit political or ideological art, and ridiculed those who thought they could win favor by drawing him, a swastika, or another Nazi icon. The art had to be subtle and suggestive. When Hitler and Goebbels did a final inspection of the exhibition on July 12, they were pleased.36 At the opening of the House of German Art on July 18, 1937, Hitler said the higher mission of the arts was to bring about a “renaissance” and to reshape the nation’s spiritual orientation, which meant that “Germany’s resurrection was to be not only political or economic, but first and foremost cultural.” He wanted to rejuvenate German art, and a crucial part of that task was eliminating from the “Reich, and thus from the life of its Volk, all those influences that are detrimental to our existence.” The museum was to be a “temple” to “genuine and eternal German art.” Hitler said that creating the new building marked the end of the “chaotic architectural bungling” that had gone on for years. He swore that “from now on we are going to wage a relentless cleansing-​ war against the last elements of our cultural disintegration. Anyone among the [artists] who still believes to be driven by a higher destiny, has already had four years to prove himself.” Then, sounding even more threatening, he said that henceforth—​“and of that you can be sure—​ we will pick up and eliminate all those mutually supporting, and self-​ sustaining cliques of babblers, dilettantes, and art forgers.”37 Typical pieces in the first exhibition included one by Thomas Baumgartner, showing a peasant family at mealtime, and another by Julius Paul Junghanns titled Niederrheinisches Weidebild (Lower Rhine pasture), featuring animals with a farmer. Junghanns particularly enjoyed creating scenes with heavy draft horses hitched to a plow, working the fields with the peasant. Baumgartner and Junghanns were shown in all subsequent exhibitions. The best known of the oil paintings in the first exhibition is the triptych by Adolf Ziegler, Die vier Elemente (The four elements), depicting young nude women. Hitler also enjoyed the nineteenth-​century genre painters Carl Spitzweg and Eduard Grützner, both of whom offered works that felt close to the people, with amusing images such as of the drunken friar, the bookworm, or the poor poet. Hitler’s own collection included several by Spitzweg, many by Grützner, though more surprisingly, also Franz von Stuck’s Die Sünde (The sin), which depicts Eve in a voluptuous pose with a snake (symbol of evil or the devil) wrapped around her.


Hitler’s True Believers

Among the sculptors shown at the inaugural exhibition was the well-​ known Arno Breker, who created heroic, athletic types and the heads of the famous. His nudes appear as slightly more streamlined variations on the classical ideal female or male body. Such work fitted comfortably within Hitler’s theory of art, and particularly its emphasis on Greco-​ Roman themes. The other favored sculptor was Josef Thorak, who crafted bold figures, including Kameradschaft (Comradeship), which he displayed at the first exhibition.38 All these works today are often taken as emblematic of the Third Reich, and usually branded as Nazi kitsch. Yet they grew out of German culture, and the undoubted popular success of the 1937 exhibit—​with 554,759 visitors that year—​and the seven shows that followed revealed that this art fit much contemporary taste, and ordinary people liked it.39 At least looking back during the war, Hitler remarked that the millions who eventually visited these exhibitions gave him a certain satisfaction.40 Personally, however, he was not so taken by these national showcases, out of which he had hoped one or more artistic geniuses would emerge.41 One of his adjutants, Nicolaus von Below, who accompanied him on visits to the annual shows, said that the leader spent hours going through them, checking to be sure of the jury’s selections. Von Below heard him say that the quality of the painting and sculpture was not up to his tastes, and that it would take decades before improvement could be expected. As far as von Below was concerned, Hitler had become stuck in nineteenth-​century art.42 Nevertheless, the Führer as a self-​styled artistic genius believed that the popular masses were susceptible to the appeals of Romantic kitsch in art, and that did not bother him, for at least it could eventually lead to an artistic feeling. “Degenerate art,” on the other hand could do real harm.43 Precisely because the Nazis accorded such a lofty place to the visual arts, an obvious counterpoint was to pillory examples of the “degenerate” varieties, and Goebbels sent out his minions to collect obvious sins against the new orthodoxy. The prominent painter Adolf Ziegler was given the mission to select such work, and he visited nearly all the museums and galleries in Germany. The exhibit for 1937 opened on July 19 not far away from the Great German Art Exhibition, to give citizens a chance to see for themselves these “documents of decay.” Ziegler was outraged that such “trash” had set the tone in the visual arts

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over the last decades. He was particularly insulted, as a veteran himself, to see how such art spit on soldiers in the war, defamed mothers as prostitutes, and disgraced Christian symbols. Now the “misleading” trend-​setters of old would be cast out.44 The next year in Düsseldorf, as part of the Reich Music Days in May, organizers created a corresponding exhibition of “Degenerate Music.” Predictably, Hitler blamed the Jews for this phenomenon as well, though apart from heaping scorn on American jazz, and above all Jewish composers, it was even more difficult to set guidelines for good music than for painting.45 The short guide to the exhibit reads more like a racist polemic than a critique of the music.46 The “degenerate art” exhibition in 1937 had 2,009,899 visitors, though many of them came with Party-​organized mass visits as rituals of derision and shaming.47 The awkwardly displayed modern art was supposed to leave a bad taste in the viewer’s mouth. According to its modest catalogue, the exhibition revealed the “cultural decay” at work before “the turn” to National Socialism. Here was visual evidence of what the experts had considered great art. Visitors were supposed to see the “ideological, political, racial, and moral aims and intentions” of the driving powers behind such decadence, with many of the artists in the Communist Party.48 Hitler was not just a patron of the visual arts, its sponsor and dictator; he also “invented” the National Socialist theft of art beginning shortly after reincorporating Austria into the Reich in 1938. His agents began there and soon also in Germany, to seize individual paintings and entire collections from Jews, such as the brothers Louis and Alphonse Rothschild. Hitler blamed collectors such as these for hoarding great art and keeping it from the people, and he held Jewish critics responsible for simultaneously running down classical art, valorizing modern styles, and hence undermining cultural traditions.49 His assistants exercised the “Führer’s right to reserve” particular paintings for their boss or for the art museum he wished to create in Linz.50 As Germany conquered more countries, Hitler and individual Nazi leaders hungrily amassed enormous art collections of their own.51 How did ordinary people respond to National Socialism and the arts? Once the regime pushed out the Jews from painting, music, and literature and, as part of the new censorship, also deprived them of


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any role as critics, the new policies in all these areas appear to have won over the majority of the educated middle class, while the emphasis on German classics in music and other areas matched the tastes of nationalist-​conservative circles. Additionally, the regime expended great energies in bringing all the arts to ordinary people, hitherto often deprived of any exposure to the richness of Germany’s cultural heritage.52 It would be a mistake to write off the active involvement of those in the newly fostered and racially “cleansed” cultural establishment as merely opportunists. Much more was involved, because the educated elite welcomed the new regime as opening the way to achieve the national-​cultural goals for which they had long striven.53 Thus, it became natural enough for many such intellectuals to identify with National Socialism. Arguably Hitler’s greatest passion was architecture, about which he had definite ideas, and he often linked it to his notion of German Socialism. In Mein Kampf he wrote that building too was decaying, with German cities increasingly filled with standardized dwelling places. To the extent that urban centers had anything awe-​inspiring to offer, he moaned, the grand creations had been put up in centuries past. According to his theory of “ruin value”—​a theory that Albert Speer later claimed to have propounded—​modern buildings were deemed to be utterly unsuited to become “bridges of tradition” to future generations, and thus were unlike the ruins of ancient Greece and Rome. Hitler’s building designs and sketches from 1925 show his distinctive style, his preference for monumental-​sized buildings, and his admiration for the Greco-​Roman or classical models. He shuddered at the thought—​ closer than he could imagine—​that if one day German cities were destroyed, the only structures that would remain would be large Jewish department stores. Such shrines to commercialism, veritable symbols of rapacious (Jewish) capitalism, were deemed to be undermining small shopkeepers, and so these places had been the target of organized antisemitism in Germany and Austria since the latter part of the nineteenth century. Speer and Hitler wanted to design new buildings with an eye to enduring quality, so that in hundreds of years, should it come to pass, even the ruins would tell stories of a great people.54 Hitler, well aware that the critics would point to his megalomania and exorbitant tastes, claimed with satisfaction that all the great

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builders from the Egyptian pyramids and the Roman Colosseum had also been so derided.55 Thus unbound, the artsy new chancellor gave the first building commissions to Paul Ludwig Troost. These were all in Munich, such as the “temple of honor” to those who died during the Putsch attempt in 1923. Another was the Führer-​Bau, the Party headquarters, with both buildings located at the head of a long axis. Troost also designed the Haus der Deutschen Kunst (House of German Art), at the southern end of the English Gardens. The latter still stands and is imposing, with a block-​like shape and symmetry, topped with a flat roof. The edifice has little or no external decoration, and this “Neo-​or Reduced Classicism” was by no means unique to Hitler’s Germany. At the time, examples of it could be found in London University’s Senate House (1932), as well as in Washington’s Federal Reserve Board (1935). This updated classicism, while combining elements of modernity and tradition, conveys a sense of significance and power.56 Hitler’s reasons for choosing Troost’s style instead of Paul Schultze-​ Naumburg’s more folksy variety came out during a discussion he had with Speer in 1934. Although Schultze-​Naumburg was a Nazi Party member and the author of a book with the imposing title Art and Race,57 Hitler sneered at his proposal for a Nazi Party building: “It looks like an oversized marketplace for a provincial town,” he quipped. “If we are going to build a Party forum, we want people centuries hence to be able to see that our times had a certain building style.”58 Troost died in 1934; otherwise Hitler would likely have kept him on as the chief court architect, given that the two shared a taste for the more theatrical aspects of building.59 Providence, he opined in 1935, had not blessed the country in its time with a great music composer, painter, or sculptor, though Germany already had accomplishments in those fields, and could fall back on them. In architecture, however, with the aim of raising a “higher sense of nationhood,” there was “a pressing need” for public buildings that were authentically German, not laden with symbolism or copied from another era. “As long as the dominant architectural characteristics that strike the eye of the beholder in modern cities are the big commercial stores, bazaars, hotel and office buildings of the sky-​scraper kind, there can be no question here either of art or true culture.” To Hitler’s way of thinking, the Imperial era and especially the Weimar Republic had


Hitler’s True Believers

woefully neglected public projects in favor of private-​capitalist interests. Now both artistic values and political considerations were at the heart of the decision to rebuild. “Nothing would be more suited to silence the petty complainers than when they are confronted with the language of great [building] art.” Germany needed the grace of Providence to provide the artistic genius that could express the greatness of the present. His hope was that a new artistic blossoming would “awaken in the people the consciousness of the high destinies to which they are called.”60 Soon after he took office he began ambitious plans for the reconstruction of Berlin. In his earlier autobiography, where he had talked about the characteristics needed to win over the masses, he said that having a central focal point was crucial. “Only the presence of such a place, exerting the magic spell of a Mecca or a Rome, can in the long run give the movement a force which is based on inner unity and the recognition of a summit representing this unity.”61 Just as Napoleon III had remodeled Paris, Hitler would redesign Berlin, but on a far greater scale, reflecting his lust for sweeping conquests abroad. On January 30, 1937, the anniversary of his appointment, he announced his modernization scheme and named Albert Speer as his new General Bau Inspektor (GBI or General Construction Inspector) for the capital city. Berlin was going to be a landmark for the Volksgemeinschaft, and much more. The city would be transformed along a North-​South axis, similar to Paris’s broad and elegant Champs-​Élysées, which is 70 meters wide and 1.9 kilometers long and ends spectacularly at the Arc de Triomphe. Hitler stipulated that Berlin’s comparable avenue had to be 120 meters wide with a similar arch at the end, which he had sketched in 1925. Whereas the one in Paris is 50 meters high, the Berlin arch would stand at 120 meters and be far broader. Hitler’s arch would be without external decorations, in a sense typical of the age, and that would have made it look even more massive.62 At the other end of the Berlin axis, he decided to create what he said would be nothing less than the “eighth wonder of the world,” a domed edifice that could hold up to 180,000 people. The notion of creating such a marvelous building to hold an entire community went back to the period of social crisis following the First World War. At that time some progressive spirits in the architectural world latched on to the

The Quest for a Cultural Revolution


notion of creating a single, large, harmonious space. The Gothic cathedral served as a model—​without the excessive decorations—​for they were considered a symbol of strong faith, and a project to which many artists could contribute according to their craft. Out of this utopian architectural dream of social harmony arose the Bauhaus in Germany during the 1920s. Two of its best-​known practitioners were Bruno Taut, who published a book on Die Stadtkrone (The city crown), and Walter Gropius, whose image of the “complete work of art” (Gesamtkunstwerk), occasionally also called a Zukunftskathedrale des Sozialismus (A future cathedral of socialism), was better known. As Gropius put it in 1919, “We will work together on a great work of architecture. On a building that is not only architecture, but everything, painting, sculpture, everything together that constitutes a great work of architecture, in which architecture itself fades again into the other arts.”63 Although Hitler was no advocate for those modernists, some of his ideas on architecture reflected the times. The best-​known creations of the new Reich reused certain features characteristic of German monumental architecture, with pillars, columns, arches, the Führer-​balcony, sharply drawn outlines, powerful proportions, hierarchical symmetry, and impressive, isolated symbols of authority.64 The architects who worked on remodeling Berlin referred to the Great Dome as the City Crown. Indeed, some of Hitler’s favorite architects had belonged to the progressive Werkbund, or Crafts Association, founded in 1907 to resist the perceived threat to German culture posed by modernization. Included among its stellar members were Paul Ludwig Troost, Heinrich Tessenow, the mentor to Albert Speer, and Speer himself for a time, but also the more radical Walter Gropius and Bruno Taut. Thus, National Socialist architecture drew from a mixed fund of ideas going back well before 1933.65 In the summer of 1936, Hitler had passed his own sketch of the triumphal arch to Speer, and with it the commission to draw up plans for a new Berlin. Nine months later, as a gift for his forty-​eighth birthday, the architect presented him with a first scale-​model. Its centerpiece would be a Grand Dome, that from the outside would stand 290 meters high, with its green roof of copper. St. Peter’s in Rome could easily have fit inside. The Berlin dome’s flagstaff, running up 40 meters, would be topped by the image of an eagle clasping a swastika badge and laurel in


Hitler’s True Believers

its claws. But after the victory over France in 1940, Hitler’s ambitions grew, so he changed the plan: “The crowning of the greatest building of the world must show the eagle over the world.”66 Urban renewal and grand building schemes in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany required the elimination of whole neighborhoods, a kind of metaphor for the exclusionary side of establishing the Volksgemeinschaft. A  law on the new formation of German cities (October 4, 1937) provided the legal basis for seizing private property for public use (eminent domain). The state would compensate the individuals whose property was confiscated. Although no cities were named, the law gave Hitler virtually unchecked powers of decision.67 Berlin’s axis would be the main avenue, though it was only in 1942 that Hitler mentioned renaming the city Germania, a term that Albert Speer popularized later.68 Along the central axis, there would be government buildings, as well as a new horseshoe-​shaped stadium that would seat no fewer than 405,000 people. They drew up a similar axis at the Bückeburg Festival, with the “Führer-​way” that he took through the adoring crowds. Marching in uniforms down the broad avenue in straight lines, whether in Berlin or Munich, gave participants a sense of belonging, equality, and a direction, heading toward their leader. To the spectators the marching thousands conveyed an overwhelming sense of power, strength, and national pride. Hitler was conscious of the significance of the grand axis and the role of marches, and they used a similar scheme at the Nuremberg Party rallies, where thousands of uniformed men stood in line to serve as a reference point, with a broad and empty straight line down the middle reserved for Hitler.69 Since July 1933, when he decided to hold all future party rallies in Nuremberg, his expansive vision of the site and its buildings grew to entail what was called the “largest construction project of the world.” That was how the blueprint was presented at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937, and the plans kept developing. Thus, the existing Zeppelin Field would expand to hold up to 250,000, with seats for 70,000 to watch proceedings. The axis down the middle grew to be two kilometers long. A new Congress Hall would hold 50,000 to 60,000 people, and a German Stadium would have places for 400,000. In addition, a March Field would be created to host the parading Wehrmacht and would be designed for 250,000 spectators.70

The Quest for a Cultural Revolution


The ideological implications of the monumentality and the axis construct carried over to other buildings, such as the new Reich Chancellery, that Hitler commissioned Speer to create in January 1938. What impressed the leader most was that after the entrance gallery, a visitor had to walk along a reception area that was twice as long as a similar one in the Versailles palace. He believed the distance, high ceilings, and marble floors would convey to foreigners coming to see him something of the power of the new Reich. In December, addressing an architectural exhibition, he asked rhetorically why they were building more than before. It was that there were more Germans than ever, and he intended to grow their number. Therefore, they had to put up structures as large as the technical possibilities permitted because they were “building for eternity.”71 Shortly afterward, when he spoke to workers, he again asked: “Why always the biggest? I do this to restore to each individual German his self-​respect. In hundreds of areas I want to say to the individual: We are not inferior; on the contrary, we are the complete equals of every other nation.”72 The ambitions only continued to mushroom, for by 1940, while the priorities of the moment focused on five “Führer cities,” Berlin, Nuremberg, Munich, Hamburg, and Linz, that was merely the tip of the iceberg. In addition, the regime foresaw the wide-​ranging transformation of the fifty or so German cities with populations of 100,000 or more. Though nobody calculated the staggering costs, they could be paid for only if, the regime imagined, it became possible to conquer vast tracts of Europe and perhaps the world.73 As impressive as these monumental edifices were, there was far more to architecture in the Third Reich, because in order to realize German Socialism, various state or local authorities built hundreds of small Siedlungen or “settlements,” a concept defined at the time as a planned, unitary construction area of limited size and using various forms. Such “green” dwelling places no doubt appealed to many people. Gottfried Schmitt, a self-​declared former Communist who had become a fighter for the Nazi cause and a true believer since the early 1920s, told a journalist in 1934 that workers were finally getting the kind of socialism that for years “had been dangled before our eyes.” He said that all around Munich “hundreds of little houses” were going up, “each with its own bit of garden.” Schmitt inaccurately credited Hitler alone for


Hitler’s True Believers

this socialist development, and especially for rejecting mammoth block buildings “that drag the people’s roots right out of the ground.”74 In fact, housing developers in Germany were already fighting over the styles and shapes of future family living, and this conflict had obvious implications for the new regime. From the National Socialist point of view, no doubt the modernist Weissenhof-​Settlement (1927) epitomized everything they hated. Built in Stuttgart, designed by architects such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Le Corbusier, the individual structures looked cold and sterile. Their new apartment building, a typical modern four-​ storied, flat-​roofed, anonymous block, could work just as well as a business office as for a living space. As a kind of reaction to this development, the “Stuttgart School” offered the Kochenhof-​Settlement, in which all the buildings had to have a saddle roof and be made of wood. Built in 1933, with veteran Paul Schmitthenner as the lead designer, they followed his building theory, which he summarized like this: “The leadership in the construction field belongs in the hands of a building master [Baumeister], ready to fight the international, un-​ German and the imprecise, who has shown their attitude and ability also in their work.” His was an anti-​modern line he had held for years, and he wanted it established in the new Germany.75 There were similar attitudes in Munich, notably in the work of Guido Harbers, who had finished his studies before 1933. He claimed that his ideas were well received in Great Britain when he spoke to the Architectural Society there in May 1932 in a lecture titled “On Small Things.” As a member of the Nazi Party, and newly appointed as the Munich city council’s home-​construction authority, he organized one of the first “model settlements” in Ramersdorf-​Munich in the summer of 1933. After a competition, he chose eighteen architects to put together a concept for a settlement of 230 single-​family and row houses. Harbers’s theory of the small house was that of the haven, to which the busy person could retreat from the “everyday compulsions” and where the soul could recover. The settlement opened in 1934, and he believed it should be a prototype for the future “National Socialist form of living.” Each house had an airy, private garden, meant to offer a healthy organic environment in which to raise children. Harbers had the inside track, and his first settlement was followed up by more than

The Quest for a Cultural Revolution


two dozen others in Munich alone, all built in the 1930s. Private industry sponsored some of these, including one in Munich-​Allach for fifty-​two “children-​rich families.”76 These kinds of settlements must have been attractive for anyone who wanted a home of their own. It is worth noting that no one in Berlin, and certainly not Hitler, dictated their styles to Harbers or Schmitthenner. They grew out of German cultural traditions, just as did the rebellious Bauhaus group. It is true that those who adopted the National Socialist doctrine, such as Hans Stephan, one of the department leaders who worked on Berlin with Speer, said that German building as a whole was led by a strong will and therefore was coherent in all its forms. “The Volksgemeinschaft,” he averred, “is the central point of all creation in the Third Reich. Serving the community is the characteristic of the new building mission.” A new “community spirit,” it was claimed, informed a “socialism of construction” (Bausozialismus).77 In reality, however, the regime permitted certain long-​existing styles to continue, and the construction of small homes persisted during the first phase of new home building, up to 1936.78 Settlements began dotting the map, with Braunschweig claiming the title of a “settlement city.” Its new mayor, Wilhelm Hesse, said the Lehndorf settlement was built there on the basis of Nazism’s concept of the Volksgemeinschaft and represented a “milestone on the way to socialism.” Its planned 2,000 living units and 8,000 inhabitants were for neither the poor nor the rich, and were to be “classless” and self-​ administered. Some new homeowners in the community settlement would be able to finance themselves, and those who could not would work off their down payment. At the end of 1937, of the 1,728 units built, most were small houses, some with a garden, and, as a concession to chronic needs, there were 518 rental apartments.79 The local NSDAP group (Orstgruppe) selected the first occupants, who had to fit the Aryan image prescribed by National Socialism and had to be employed. Obtaining this residence was supposed to foster their economic well-​being. They should be able to produce healthy and strong children, so as “to plant good genes [Erbgut] in the area.” It was self-​evident that every applicant would have to pass a health examination, and their local Nazi Party would have to vouch for their “political reliability.”80 Even then, they had their homes for a three-​year


Hitler’s True Believers

trial period, and if any failed to live up to expectations, the settlement cast them out. It operated like the Volksgemeinschaft, with a built-​in exclusionary mechanism.81 This settlement thinking was akin to the Reich Minister of Food Darré’s conception of the small peasant farm’s role in “racial renewal.”82 Indeed, an SS “comradeship settlement” in Berlin Krumme Lanke, conceived in 1937, was inspired by the Stuttgart School and Paul Schmitthenner.83 The German Labor Front built the “model settlement” at Mascherode, choosing as one of four architects Julius Schulte-​Frohlinde, another traditionalist. Planned in 1935, representative of the second phase of settlement building, the community for 6,000 was self-​contained and also constructed according to the principles of the Stuttgart School. The homes and their inhabitants were supposed to reflect the underlying ideology and overcome class distinctions.84 Houses were either of the one-​family type or row houses, with varied styles to avoid what became typical suburban monotony. The settlement had a large NSDAP community house for joint events, and part of that building served as the Nazi Party and Hitler Youth headquarters. Later the administrators had to add rental apartment buildings, though Schulte-​Frohlinde tried to ensure that these multi-​story buildings fit the community concept.85 Not all such settlements lived up to the picture-​perfect “green” models. For example, the Hermann-​Göring Settlement, built in 1936–​ 1937 for 214 harbor workers with “children-​rich” families in Hamburg-​ Wilhelmsburg, had no proper water and sewage system. The unhappy settlers complained loud and long.86 In the second building phase of these settlements, from 1936 to the beginning of the war, the emphasis shifted somewhat to creating homes for “loyal followers” in the form of either garden cities or other settlements with rental apartments. Although the underlying ideology remained the same, the preferred form changed from one-​family homes to the multi-​story apartment building. The variation was a consequence of the introduction of the Four-​Year Plan under Göring in 1936, which involved growing the number and scale of factories, and homes were needed for their expanding workforce. The German Labor Front (DAF) moved into the business of creating “people’s apartments.” Even after that, the DAF offered continuing advice to those who wanted their own house or who might want to move into a new settlement.87 Hitler

The Quest for a Cultural Revolution


was of two minds because National Socialist thinking identified the single-​family home, with a garden, as the ideal setting to raise a large family, and such places would be needed after the war to encourage people to have more children and thereby to replace the fallen who died in battle.88 Gottfried Feder, one of Hitler’s close comrades since before 1923, tried his hand as the Reich commissar for settlement affairs when appointed on March 29, 1934. He wanted government subventions to meet the great housing need and to fulfill ideological imperatives. Otherwise, he said, the effort to restore the “nation’s mental and physical health” would be threatened. “Resettling the population according to National Socialist principles is absolutely essential. The German person [Mensch], once the ties to the big city are loosened, has to be rooted again to the soil.”89 Ambitiously enough, Feder provided a housing blueprint in 1939 that attempted to synthesize the advantages of the city and those of the village, which had large families with ties to the soil. His “ideal city” would not exceed 20,000 people. No more than 30 percent of the inhabitants would live in apartment blocks, and the remainder would have single-​family homes. There would be room for cultural activities and green space carved out for the Volksgemeinschaft, with groups of 3,500 residents clustered around a community house.90 The dreams of designing the utopian “social settlement” did not stop at the German border. Thus, in the so-​called Ostmark, made up of parts of Czechoslovakia and Austria, which Germany took over in 1938, there was too little time before the war to do much more than promise every family its own home. Various authorities built small settlements in Linz, Steyr, and in the Steiermark. The architects who dominated the projects included Paul Schmitthenner and others from the Stuttgart School, with the ideological basis taken from settlements in Germany. The eye-​catching changes and monumental buildings in the works would have transformed Linz and to a lesser extent Vienna.91 Since 1933 Germany had been short of “home space” (Wohnraum) for families, and the Third Reich never overcame the deficit. In contrast to the Weimar Republic, the new Reich generally did not wish to finance homebuilding, and instead saw its mission “in awakening private initiative.”92 The chronic shortage of proper housing was as bad in the countryside as in the big cities. A long report from 1938 by the SD


Hitler’s True Believers

suggested that there was a need for five million apartments or homes. This problem was not helped by numerous overlapping organizations. The report asked:  “Would it not be more effective to have the DAF [Labor Front] as the trustee of the Volksgemeinschaft’s social matters, to use its considerable material and ideological means more strongly than it has until now, in this immensely important part of our social-​ political life?” The unsatisfactory living conditions brought with it the “danger of a negative opinion toward National Socialism.”93 The failure to meet such everyday needs did not go away when those without a home of their own contemplated the new monumental buildings. The official concern was to eliminate that negativity, as well as to overcome Germany’s lingering demographic problem of being too small to meet the greater tasks it would have to fulfill during the war and after it. In anticipation of that problem, Hitler named a committee in early 1940 to study housing and settlement issues. After long discussions led by Robert Ley, head of the German Labor Front (DAF), Hitler appointed him on November 15 as a new “Reich Commissar for Social Housing Construction.” Ley was instrumental in preparing a detailed proposal for the postwar building of 300,000 dwellings that would foster “children-​rich families,” and thereby make good again the population gap caused by the war. The public housing was to be generously designed, with 80 percent going for three-​bedroom households, while the remaining units would be slightly larger or smaller.94 The building plan soon foresaw six million homes over the next ten years, and was only one aspect of the DAF’s even broader postwar concept for the “Social Work of the German People,” that would also deal with wages, labor deployment, social insurance, and health care. At least on the drawing board, this project was partly how the regime would establish German Socialism and it would have drawn millions of ordinary people to embrace it. Ley’s social vision, which was foundational to the entire plan, was—​as he revealed to the foreign press—​to create a “master race out of a nation of proletarians.”95 Such a program also would have helped to integrate the newly incorporated eastern areas into the larger German Reich.96 Although discussions continued within the bureaucracy, these and other ambitious plans were all but discarded in 1942, increasingly overcome by the demands of the war economy, and finally the war itself.97

The Quest for a Cultural Revolution


Social housing projects, as with architecture and all the arts, had a social, political, and racial function to foster the “right kind” of people, with suitably martial attitudes, and to reflect and foster the race as it stormed into the future. Nevertheless, there were contradictions at the heart of the entire Nazi cultural project. On the one hand the regime embraced monumental buildings and advanced technology, and at the same time it sprinkled the rural landscape with what looked like quaint villages, such as the one Hitler enjoyed at the Obersalzberg.98 Even there, beginning in 1937, his minions evicted the locals, leveled old buildings, tore up mountains, and fenced off vast tracts of “restricted land” where people used to wander freely.99 That happened while Hitler and his architects were scrupulously planning environmentally friendly cities such as a new Munich, with carefully preserved rivers and green spaces.100 The writer Erich Ebermayer wondered how artists of any kind could ever thrive in the Third Reich. “Art is freedom,” he said, and “Dictatorship cannot, however, tolerate freedom, otherwise it surrenders itself. Hence art and dictatorship are mutually exclusive.”101 It was easy to pillory art designated as harmful, and quite another to call forth genius artists. For good reason, the regime did not repeat the 1937 exhibition shaming “degenerate art,” because as Hitler observed the following year at Nuremberg: “The greatness of a cultural age cannot be measured by the extent to which it rejects previous cultural productions, but instead by the measure of its own cultural contributions.”102 Yet the Nazis discredited their entire cultural heritage, even the building accomplishments of the Third Reich, because they became captivated by an all-​pervasive racist and expansionist ideology, and they persecuted millions in its name, while calmly contemplating ever greater foreign conquests and wholesale mass murder.


The Racist Ideology

Hitler’s racism was integral to his doctrine, and although over the years he modulated his public expressions of certain beliefs, antisemitism remained at the core of his Weltanschauung, of the National Socialist movement, and the new regime. Historians have focused attention on the evolution of official policies and propaganda, and yet a closer look shows that hostility to the Jews was brought home far more publicly and violently at the grassroots level than is often assumed. To be sure, racism both targeted and extended well beyond the Jews, and everything the regime touched was tinged with it—​housing, sports, vacations, farming, culture, and above all private sexual relations. Whatever mixed signals German Socialism may have sent about improving the lives of ordinary people, that there would be no place for Jews was self-​evident. One form of public repression, straight out of the Middle Ages, that angry mobs inflicted on Jews in Hitler’s Germany was the Prangerumzug, literally the “pillory march.” Before the main event even began, victims’ heads could be shaved, and faces blackened in a ritualized casting of someone out of the Volksgemeinschaft. Even witnessing the event brought home the reality of National Socialist ideology. Germany’s relatively small population of 499,682 “believing Jews” was less than 1 percent of the 65.2 million people in the country, according to the June 16, 1933, census. Jews as a percentage of the total had been declining for years, and their number fell by an estimated 25,000 during Hitler’s first months in power.1 Even more vulnerable to attack were the 98,747 foreign Jews in the country, of whom around 80 percent were traditionally


Hitler’s True Believers

labeled as Ostjuden or Eastern Jews, namely those who had wandered from eastern Europe and had settled in Germany.2 Following on the heels of the March 5, 1933, Reichstag election, Nazi radicals began a nationwide campaign of violence aimed at the Jews, and onlookers were often unable to tell whether the unfortunates were German citizens or not. One of the first “shaming processions,” as recorded by Walter Gyssling, a former army officer and journalist, in his diary for March 9/​10, spelled out the horror in Munich. Stormtropper (SA) rowdies staged the fake execution of a rabbi, and at midday, used whips to drive a Jewish lawyer down the street, without shoes or coat, and wearing only a shirt and torn underclothes. Around his neck was a sign:  “I the Jew Siegel will never complain again about National Socialism.” This was the respected Dr. Michael Siegel, who had gone to the Police Presidency to plead on behalf of an arrested friend. After the SA beat him savagely, they paraded him around town for its demonstration effect.3 Word of Dr. Siegel’s tragic tale spread, and it horrified Jewish lawyers, such as Kurt F. Rosenberg in Hamburg, who mentioned the story in his diary. Exaggerations, gossip, and rumors stirred his insecurity. “From day to day, we ready ourselves to be thrown out of our profession. The antisemitic wave grows day in and out.”4 The SA and Nazi Party radicals often took matters into their own hands and also attacked department stores, mostly owned by Jews in Germany. The hotheads claimed to see a “green light” when, on March 11, Hermann Göring said that the Prussian police were not going to act as a “protective troop for Jewish department stores.”5 One Jewish newspaper listed places where the SA or others in civilian clothes threatened these businesses. For the week of March 8 to 12, the cities included Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Gotha, Leipzig, Chemnitz, Zwickau, Hanover, Kassel, Magdeburg, Königsberg, Mainz, and numerous smaller places. Not mentioned was Braunschweig, where on March 11 a large group stormed one of the stores, broke the display windows, and mishandled the staff and some customers. Officially, the authorities blamed “Communist disturbers of the peace,” when everyone knew that the culprits were the National Socialists, heralding a new day.6 A photograph taken on March 11 of the mass demonstration in Würzburg, a city of around 100,000 in Bavaria’s Lower Franconia, showed crowds milling in front of Jewish stores. This display was in a

The Racist Ideology


predominantly Catholic area that had given little support to National Socialism in the previous elections. Indeed, in that city on January 30, 1933, the SA began “commandeering” the automobiles of Jews, and when one Jewish merchant asked the police for help in another such case on March 11, they informed him they could do nothing. Three days afterward, Nazi radicals stormed a theater identified with “Asphalt-​ culture,” in search of its Jewish owner, who managed to flee.7 The social alienation of the Jews affected individuals and age groups differently, as the experiences of the teenager Herbert A. Strauss in Würzburg demonstrate. He recognized the changes under way, though students and teachers in the Catholic high school he attended did not taunt him or the other two fellow Jewish students with hatred or hostility.8 Yet even in that city, virulent racism had assumed an organized political form in the early 1920s, and prominent in that movement was the dentist Otto Hellmuth, later the Nazi Gauleiter of Lower Franconia. As a member of the local antisemitic DVSTB since 1920, before joining the Nazi Party, he delighted in provoking the Jews, and also the Catholics.9 In traditionally Protestant Kassel, a city of 180,000 in 1933, among whom there were 3,200 Jews, roughly 2 percent of the population, the anti-​Jewish events exploded on March 9. Violence reached a high point on March 24 and 25, when the SA captured several prominent Jewish merchants and lawyers, brought them to a beating cellar, put them on a phony trial, and sentenced them to lashings with a rubber truncheon.10 One of the lawyers was Max Plaut, who had turned away from the religion of his elders to assimilate, and who had earlier acted as a defense attorney in trials against National Socialists. Now they led him through the streets to the SA tavern, while forcing him to scream out “Heil Hitler!” They outlandishly “sentenced” him to 200 lashes with the truncheon. What was left of the man, they dragged to his home, where after a week of terrible suffering he died. In addition to such acts, the SA set up a symbolic concentration camp in the town square, with a donkey inside. The sign on the camp wall read: “concentration camp for unruly citizens who do their shopping at the Jews.”11 By attacking these lawyers and judges, the thugs also struck at the heart of the legal protections in the constitution. Jews made up an estimated one-​quarter of the legal profession, many working in desirable urban centers, and there was already tension with antisemitic


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members of the bar before 1933. Indeed, there was a veritable panic of overcrowding among the professions during the depression years, so that it became easy for the avaricious to embrace or accept the new exclusionary policies.12 Public shaming was not restricted to Jewish lawyers, as the eighty-​ one-​page report of a police investigation from March 1933 reveals. Fritz Klein, the twenty-​five-​year-​old leader of SA Standarte 122, born near Heilbronn in Württemberg, was an unskilled worker who knocked around until 1930, when he joined the Stormtroopers. Now his company followed up a decree variously dated March 16 or 17, from Württemberg’s Minister of the Interior and Police Commissar, to search for “guns and Communist propaganda.” On March 18 he and his comrades may have been responsible for dragging out Heilbronn’s Jewish butcher, forcing him to carry his special knife visibly with him through town to his place of work, after which they took him to the “Brown House,” where they beat and interrogated him.13 Whether Klein and his group were involved in that incident or not, over a period of several days they visited a half-​dozen or more villages in the area. When Klein, fifteen of the SA, and a dozen police showed up in Creglingen on March 25, they outdid themselves in their cruelties. That Saturday most of the small Jewish community was in the synagogue when Klein and his men interrupted serv­ ice to read out a list of “suspects,” and then led sixteen men to the Rathaus.14 Klein later told investigators from Stuttgart that a senior police official was in charge of the operation, though he admitted to picking up the Jews and said that when they arrived at the Rathaus, the assembled people shouted their support. In the meantime, police searched the Jews’ homes. Inside the Rathaus, the SA took each defenseless captive in turn to the next room and beat them with rubber truncheons and steel rods, supposedly to find out where the guns were stashed. Could people outside hear the screams of agony? Several accounts say they could. When sixty-​seven-​year-​old Hermann Stern tried vainly to escape, they took out their spite on him until they withdrew at noon, leaving him unconscious on the floor. Klein later admitted that he had intended to beat the Jews from the outset, and he and the other policemen described how they had “processed” each person. Klein was not shy about saying

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that “for years” he had hated the Jews for “squeezing” the people and that this hatred could have added to his zeal in the beatings.15 These men revealed their ideological motivation, and none resorted to the excuse of “circumstantial pressures.” Another SA member said: “I will also admit that my mistreatment of the Jews resulted from my innermost convictions, that I have hated the Jews since my youth.” Another admitted that what he did “happened because of my personal hatred of the Jews.” All claimed to have come to their own conclusions about the Jews. Apart from the beatings, the SA cut the helpless victims’ hair and beards to shame those who could still move before letting them leave.16 Finally, they put four of the Jews in a truck, turned their hats around to make them look funny, and took them into “protective custody.” Stern died of his wounds, and two days later Arnold Rosenfeld succumbed in the hospital. Klein’s case did not even go to court, and on December 5, 1934, the Reichsstaathalter in Württemberg amnestied one and all, save for a man charged with theft.17 When the police sent reports to their superiors in the district capitals, they tended to play down such incidents, perhaps out of concern that they might not appear in control.18 Other accounts of similar attacks, like one in Dresden on March 18, noted that when the police arrived they declared, in a reversal of their traditional passion to enforce the law, that their duties did “not include the protection of Jews.” Many of the recorded attacks were against foreign Jews, and it seems likely that as many or more were assaulted without reporting it, or the police simply refused to take note of the incidents.19 Hence, we have an incomplete picture of how prevalent these public shaming rituals and violence aimed at the Jews might have been. Similar instances at this time took place elsewhere, as did torching or damaging of Jews’ property. Occasionally there is photographic evidence, as from Duisburg on March 24, when the SS forced Rabbi Mordechai Bereisch, one of the local Jewish leaders, to march through town with a long flowing cape tied about his shoulders, a kind of shawl made up of the black-​red-​gold flag of the hated Weimar Republic. By the time the procession reached the city theater, the police estimated, about 1,000 people had joined in. Bereisch had a Polish, not a German passport, and he left the country as soon as they released him. At a similar action in Göttingen four days later, the crowd which was twice as large, gathered to see the SA with a


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cattle cart filled with a half-​dozen humiliated Jewish shopkeepers and others that went around until a policeman stopped it. The incident in Göttingen appears to have been planned in advance, for the NSDAP had created an action committee on March 2, and on March 28, 120 to 140 SA men and assorted others destroyed the windows of all Jewish businesses, as well as those of a synagogue, and many homes owned by Jews.20 At the very least these episodes broadcast the new regime’s exclusionary policies in the most vivid terms possible.21 Throughout March 1933, notably before the officially sanctioned boycott of the Jews and its resulting violence and destruction of prop­ erty, Jewish people were subjected to numerous assaults, shaming rituals, and so on all over the country. The Polish embassy registered the complaints of Jews of Polish nationality and forwarded these cases to German authorities seeking redress. There were many; for March 11, for instance, there were twenty violent attacks in Berlin alone. That March the embassy recorded a dozen similar assaults in Düsseldorf, about the same number in Duisburg-​Hamborn, with others in Essen, Cologne, Gelsenkirchen, and Wanne-​Eickel. There were more such attacks in Saxony’s large cities: Leipzig, Dresden, Chemnitz, and Plauen.22 And there were numerous reports with the specific locale not given, when radicals carried off a “suspect” Jewish male to the police in an open wagon or truck, sometimes after a shaming or beating. One Jewish man in March 1933 tried to help a Jewish friend to avoid trouble. The SS brought him downtown, beat him with truncheons, then made him drink a bottle of castor oil. After this ordeal around 100 SA and some townsfolk waited outside and took him in a handcart around town for an hour or so. After this ordeal he spent two weeks in the prison hospital. The night of his release, he left the country for which he had fought for four years during the war.23 The diary of Hitler Youth member Franz Albrecht Schall conveys a sense of how antisemitism permeated the ranks. Until the end of March, most of what he recorded of National Socialist doctrine dealt with the desire of wanting to reawaken Germany and to fight Marxism or “cultural Bolshevism.” Living in Dresden and still in school, he wrote almost nothing about any hatred toward the Jews until March 29, 1933, when he noted that in a few days his group would begin “the boycott campaign against the world-​enemy and parasites:  Jews. You’ll get to

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know us! Decades long you’ve sprinkled your poison in the people, decades long you’ve drowned a once clean land with kitsch, filth, and smut; you’ve captured the people’s property shamelessly and brutally and filled your pockets from big businesses and trusts! The anger of the people will make you small again, the way you came at the beginning, over in Poland and Galicia!” Here was self-​encouragement worthy of a hard-​bitten member of one of the death squads that later roamed across Eastern Europe. Two days after this entry, he excitedly scratched in his diary that he was reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and though he was still at the Vienna days of the future dictator, Schall wrote that he had the same problems and thoughts.24 Was that what he really thought, or was such exaggerated pride expected within his circle of comrades? Radicals decided on the spot whether a Jew acted in a way they deemed worthy of being “shamed.” In Mannheim, for example, in July 1933 someone (unknown) disapproved of the low wages paid by a “furniture Jew,” that is, the Jewish owner of a furniture store. The SA, complete with one of its marching bands, picked up the “insolent foreigner,” put two signs around his neck, with one saying, “I am an exploiter,” and the other printed out, “Jewish exploiter, pays one mark for 5 hours’ Work.” They paraded him to his workplace and to the merriment of the crowd then “taught him” how to sweep the streets, after which they struck up a humiliating “propaganda march.”25 An iconic photograph from Cuxhaven, often assumed to be from the period after the Nuremberg Laws of September 1935, shows a hapless couple. Actually, the picture was taken on July 27, 1933, and published the next day. The couple had been picked up by a so-​called Rollkommando of the Marine-​SA. They captured Oskar Danker, age forty-​three, and the twenty-​three-​year-​old Adele Edelmann, and while leading them about town, beat them with a rope. Around Oskar’s neck was a sign reading “As a Jewish male I only take German girls to my room”; Adele’s sign stated: “I am the biggest pig in town and give myself only to Jews.” The couple survived this harrowing ordeal and soon left Cuxhaven separately.26 Since the early 1920s, Hitler had damned all such sexual relationships between Germans and Jews, and that message was baked into his doctrine. However, even without knowing much about Nazism, many wanted to outlaw miscegenation. Such neighbors in Würzburg


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informed the local area leader of the NSDAP, who on August 20, 1933, along with the SA and SS, picked up a twenty-​nine-​year-​old man and led him to the police station with a sign around his neck. It read: “I have lived with a German Woman as my Concubine.” The police did not arrest the woman, a widow with two small children, though they put him in protective custody and released him on September 2, and in 1934 he emigrated.27 An account of another such event comes in part from the reports of American journalist Quentin Reynolds. In August 1933, he was among visitors to Nuremberg, along with Martha and Bill Dodd, the grown children of US ambassador William Dodd. None of the Dodd family had much sympathy for the Jews, and they thought Hitler should be given a chance. When Reynolds and the Dodd siblings arrived at their hotel about midnight, the streets were surprisingly full, even though the Party rally was days away. Reynolds asked the hotel people what was happening, and they told him with a great chuckle that it was a parade and that they were “teaching someone a lesson.” The Americans later went for a stroll and saw marching SA men approaching, two of whom in front were “half-​supporting, half-​dragging” someone or something. As they got closer, the young foreigners could see “it” was a human, whose head had been shorn and covered in white powder. A crowd of perhaps 5,000 laughed uproariously at a pitiable young woman, who was wearing one of the typical signs of her sin in “wanting to live with a Jew.” The SA took her into the hotel lobby and back out, and on to the next hotel. Reynolds discovered that she was Anna Rath and that her “crime” was having a relationship with a Jew “after the ban on Aryan-​Jewish marriages.” That was what Reynolds later published in his memoir but he was wrong, because that prohibition became part of the Nuremberg Laws only in September 1935, two years later. Before then, Nazi radicals took the law into their own hands, to the evident delight of the folks that evening.28 A separate report of what might have been the same or a similar incident began when a couple was sitting peacefully at a river. Two foresters walking by grew suspicious and asked for identification. They soon summoned the SS, who steered the couple through the village with a sign that read, “I am a Jew and have defiled a German Girl.” One of them wore a placard saying, “I have defiled the German Forest.”

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Soon brought in an open truck to Nuremberg, where they were greeted with obscenities and jeers, the couple found themselves on a music stage before a beer-​swilling crowd. Then the SS or SA dragged them off to other such places, where crowds spit on and cursed the man. Finally, after some hours, they took him to the police, who put him in protective custody. They took the woman home, only to pick her up again to shear off her hair. If this was indeed Anna Rath, her travail had only begun. We know the Gestapo sent the man to Dachau for two years, after which he emigrated. The information is unclear on what became of the female victim.29 Although Hitler’s antisemitism was foundational to his doctrine, he remained unsure of how far or how fast to implement it. He told his cabinet on March 29 that he had personally called on the Nazi Party to organize a boycott of the Jews, particularly their businesses. The excuse was the negative stories circulating in the United States about German repression of the Jews.30 In fact, he wanted to channel the protests and be seen as keeping his election promises. On the other hand, only two days later State Secretary Paul Bang brought forward a plea to the cabinet from the Karstadt Department Store chain for an additional 1.5 million marks’ credit to cover its debt payments. Otherwise it would have to close and the 20,000 people it employed would lose their jobs. In addition, 13,000 deliveries would go unpaid, and that would affect between 5,000 and 6,000 merchants of various kinds.31 These and other such demands to help the stores was ironic because the Nazi Party’s own lower-​middle-​class organization, the NS-​Hago, led the boycott planned for April 1, and it had for years demanded the end of the “Jewish department stores.” That point was also in the original program of the NSDAP. Yet before the boycott began, the cabinet heard reservations about it, from the justice, finance, and transportation ministries, and the Reich Bank. Hitler himself grew tepid, even though it was his idea to begin with, and he quickly entertained an early pause to it.32 The Party newspaper announced that the boycott was to start on April 1 at 10 o’clock and continue until their leaders called it off.33 The SA often became violent, and some people fought back, as did the Jewish lawyer Hans Schumm, who lived in Kiel. When Nazis tried to interrupt his sister’s wedding, he shot one of them. That led to his arrest and an execution-​style killing in a prison cell.34 The SS abducted another


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lawyer and head of the Jewish Veterans’ Association in Chemnitz and shot him in a nearby forest.35 Jews reacted in many different ways, as in Göttingen, where six Jewish merchants closed their stores even before April 1, and within a year another fourteen liquidated theirs.36 Others, like a diarist in Breslau, Walter Tausk, regarded the boycott as a “modern pogrom,” because of the endless brutalities he witnessed or heard about. Some non-​Jews told him that throughout Silesia there was a “blood rage” (Blutrausch) that went far beyond the SA standing in front of a business with a sign saying:  “Do not shop at the Jews.” They chased Jews to the Brown House in Breslau, shaved their heads, and beat their naked bodies with truncheons until they were nearly dead. Tausk reported these continuing for two weeks, long after Berlin officially ended the boycott. No doubt the local Nazi radical Edmund Heines fired up or tolerated the radicals. As a longtime member of the SA and newly appointed police president of Breslau, Heines also set the tone, given that some actions that Tausk recorded were obviously carried out by individual thugs in uniform acting on their own.37 The teacher Willy Cohn in the same city, also Jewish, concluded that Germany had let him down, in spite of his military service. He mentioned the frequent Jewish suicides and concluded that the Jews’ role in Germany had reached its end.38 Ordinary citizens’ behavior on the day of the boycott varied across the entire spectrum, from enthusiastic support to complete rejection. Most historians regard the event as a propaganda failure. Yet the boycott underlined the seriousness with which the regime took its fundamental stance against the Jews, and made clear that they were excluded from the Volksgemeinschaft.39 Although the regime quickly called off the boycott, it followed up on April 7 with what it euphemistically labeled the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service. The law’s formulation implied that the civil service had been politically corrupted and that the new power-​ holders were “restoring” it, which was far from the truth. The Ministry of Justice provides an illustration of the broader implications. In April 1933, there were 45,181  “tenured” positions in the Prussian justice system, of which 1,704 were held by Jews. By March 1934 only 331 Jews remained.40 Those who had served in the First World War were temporarily exempted from this law unless they were also activists in

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the Socialist Party, as happened to Inge Deutschkron’s father, a teacher. When her father lost his job on April 7, they moved away from the neighborhood in Berlin where their political beliefs were known.41 Well before 1933, National Socialism had made inroads at the universities, and soon professors wanted to get onside, either because of their hostility for Jews or from their anti-​republican and national conservative attitudes. They adjusted overnight to easing out Jewish professors or others whose politics were out of step. In July 1933, when the distinguished physicist Max Planck was asked whether he would like to get involved in a meeting to discuss the treatment of Jewish professors, he answered meekly that if thirty professors did that, there would be “150 people ready to declare their solidarity with Hitler tomorrow, because they want to have those jobs.” Indeed, with a large body of well-​educated, unemployed academics, he might have been right, though in their silence the establishment professoriate might be viewed as coming close to complicity.42 Far from protesting, numerous professors joined the Nazi Party and their support for the regime went well beyond memberships. At Heidelberg University, for example, a broad range of professors of all age groups flooded the public with speeches and publications that condemned the “weak” and “un-​German” Weimar Republic, while praising the “national uprising.” This activity and a long list of other politically oriented deeds were intended to reveal the university’s ideological convictions, which no doubt had a broad social impact.43 Victor Klemperer managed to keep his job as a professor of Romance languages at the Technical University in Dresden, because he was a war veteran—​a concession Hitler made to placate President Hindenburg—​ though on April 30, 1935, Klemperer was unceremoniously dismissed. He was fortunate to be living in what was called a “mixed marriage,” and he survived the war in Germany thanks to his wife’s indefatigable resistance and moral courage in not taking the easy way out by divorcing him.44 The April 7 law for the first time spelled out the meaning of “non-​ Aryan.” That clarification, as the non-​Jewish diarist Luise Solmitz discovered to her dismay, had unanticipated ripple effects. Her daughter had wanted to join the female Hitler Youth (BDM), and one day she brought home a form from school to be signed. It stated: “My daughter


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Gisela S.  is of Aryan/​not Aryan ancestry.” Parents were to cross out whichever words did not apply. For those who did not know, there was a printed explanation, stating that it was sufficient if one of the grandparents was non-​Aryan, in order for the child to be classified that way as well. That was in fact the definition of Aryan given in the implementation order of the new Civil Service Law, so that all the supposedly grand racial theory that had seeped into German culture about race thinking and the Jews came down to such a fateful formula.45 It turned out that in spite of her mother and father admiring so much about National Socialism and the new regime, Luise’s husband was deemed to be Jewish, so their daughter could not join the Nazi organization.46 Out in the German countryside, Jews had often played an important role as cattle dealers or butchers. Peasants had come to rely on them over many decades, and such positive economic relationships represented something of an obstacle to the realization of National Socialist racial policies.47 In order to crash through that barrier in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, for example, members of the SS entered the home of a Jewish cattle dealer on April 7, 1933, and terrorized the family. In Middle Franconia, locals put up signs at the entrance of villages declaring that the Jews were not welcome. The region was known partly because of the notorious Julius Streicher in Nuremberg, the Gauleiter, who happened to be the head of the “action committee” that organized the April 1 boycott. Because of such threats, most Jewish traders stayed away from markets, a factor that left the peasants disgruntled and unable to sell their livestock.48 The authorities made serious efforts to apply the “Aryan paragraph” to trades like cattle-​dealing, which would have shut out the Jews completely, though the process dragged out until 1938.49 During the spring months of 1933, as many as a thousand incidents of various kinds rained down on Eastern Jews, and combined with the public attacks on German Jews, they not only had a terrorizing effect on them, but showed how seriously the regime took its antisemitism.50 National Socialists at the grassroots continued their violence toward Jews, sometimes as so-​called individual actions throughout 1933 and in waves that rose and fell into 1935. These could be stimulated by any number of causes, such as in Kassel when “a number of Jews” suspected of having intimate relations “with German girls” were paraded down

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the streets during the summer of 1933 by the population, with the assistance of the SS, before the unfortunates were turned over to the Gestapo.51 University students, with their tradition of antisemitism, needed no prompting to harass both Jewish students and professors.52 The government introduced a “numbers clause” for universities on April 25, 1933, that restricted Jewish students who could attend to their percentage in the German population, which meant cutting their numbers to under 1 percent. Such steps opened places for students and were popular at a time of high academic unemployment and poor prospects among the professions.53 Medical doctors rushed to join the Nazi Party, perhaps in part because the regime prioritized health and race issues. Indeed, the social elite was over-​represented in the Nazi Party from 1919 to 1945, a finding that can be rightly termed shocking.54 The doctors would play a crucial part as examiners and counselors in the regime.55 They coveted the positions of Jewish physicians, and in March and April 1933, officials anticipated the decrees from Berlin and broke contracts or canceled various legal agreement with Jewish doctors.56 Physicians as Nazi Party members were over-​represented by a ratio of three to one, compared to their percentage in the population. Of those having to register in the new Reich Physicians’ Chamber from 1936 to 1945, some 44.8 percent of the total signed on to the Party before or after 1933.57 That was at the top of all professions, followed by 29.1 percent of the lawyers, 24.3 percent of teachers, and 19.6 percent of all engineers.58 Doctors told Hitler, on April 5, of their enthusiasm to build the Volksgemeinschaft. Their leader’s response was that he wanted “to cleanse the Volk, particularly the intellectual groups, of foreign-​born influences.” He underlined “the need for the immediate eradication of the majority of Jewish intellectuals from the cultural and intellectual life of Germany,” in order to assure the people’s “natural right to the intellectual leadership of its own kind.” Hitler reassured those searching for a position that it was “precisely for this German youth that living space and employment opportunities must be created by thoroughly repulsing racially foreign elements.”59


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What the radical exclusionary policies meant for other citizens like Dr. Hertha Nathorff, née Einstein, can be read in her diary. As head of a children’s clinic in Berlin-​Charlottenburg, she could feel the change in the air on the day of Hitler’s appointment. Overnight her patients, without saying much, revealed “how they believe in him, want to believe, are ready to serve him, and to me it’s as if I  heard a page of world history turning.” She was Jewish and distantly related to Albert Einstein, born in Laupheim, a small town in Württemberg, in 1885. She and her husband, Erich, practiced in Berlin, where he was the head doctor in Berlin-​Moabit. Soon she saw the Nazi Party pins under the coats of her patients, discreetly hidden for her benefit, and she tried to brush off the rowdiness of the drunken SA in the street and obvious violence. As of March 31, the State Commissioner of Health for Berlin ordered the dismissal of all Jewish welfare doctors, though Dr. Nathorff was informed that she would lose her position as the head doctor for a Women’s Counseling Service on April 25.60 Almost in disbelief she recorded that on April 14, Nazi radicals carried off well-​known Jewish surgeons straight out of their operating rooms, while others were put in carts and paraded about to the roar of the crowd. It was her patients’ questions about her race that gave her heartache, and their evident joy at the small improvements in their lives seemed to deepen the pain. Practicing medicine became increasingly difficult for this married couple, and with reluctance they began thinking about emigration.61 As of September 30, 1938, Jews were deprived of their titles, professional certification, and right to treat non-​ Jewish patients. Nathorff’s private practice had to post a sign stating, “Only qualified to treat Jews.”62 Ultimately, a racist and eugenic regime seeks much more than regulating the practice of medicine. In this context it aimed to control sex, particularly because Hitler and many more racists reserved their special wrath for miscegenation, or sexual relations across race lines. He had for years called for the “ruthless” sterilization of anyone suffering from incurable diseases, and he was preoccupied with the dangers of syphilis, prostitution, and the big cities.63 He regarded these problems in the context of the larger issues that reflected the “political, ethical, and moral contamination of the people.” Although all of these evils had to be fought, “the original sin” that would spell doom for those

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who surrendered to it was the “sin against the blood.” The term itself was associated with incest, though in time and partly thanks to the influence of Artur Dinter’s The Sins against the Blood (Die Sünde wider das Blut, 1917), for racists the phrase became synonymous with “race defilement.” These expressions went back to colonial times, but in the Third Reich this “defilement” came to mean sexual relations between Jews and non-​Jews.64 In 1922, Hitler stated what he wanted: “The Jews seduce our young girls, and thereby infect the people. Every Jew caught with a blond girl, should be . . . (hanged!) . . . we need a court that sentences these Jews to death.”65 During the first years of the dictatorship, “race defilement” cases often began with a denunciation from a citizen or passerby in the street and seemed to end blithely with the Gestapo putting an accused person in “protective custody.” In fact, the victims could be sent off to a concentration camp where cruelties could be inflicted for months. That happened to Louis Schloss from Nuremberg, who ended up in Dachau on May 15, 1933, and was immediately beaten so badly that he died the next day of his wounds. And all of this happened more than two years before his “crime” made it onto the books.66 By mid-​1935 there was a veritable wave of “race defilement” stories in the press and on the streets, so much so that the Gestapo in Minden district observed that there had developed into a “race defilement psychosis.” People began to sense such cases everywhere, and to call on the police to track down even illicit relations reaching back many years.67 The Gestapo wrote of numerous incidents from the Rhineland, and in May a mob attacked a Jewish butcher for having such relations with an Aryan woman. Remarkably, his business picked up afterward because, the police said, certain “elements” wanted to make an anti-​Nazi point. A few months passed before a report from Aachen stated with frustration that “the mentality of the Catholic population considered the Jews in the first instance as human beings and then only secondarily think of the case from a racial-​political standpoint.”68 The police in Recklinghausen in June 1935 said that people rejected the kind of struggle the SA or the Party led against the Jews. On the other hand, the SA appeared to be dominated by the view that the Jewish question had to be solved from below by whatever means, and “the government would have to follow.”69 That July the Gestapo Berlin stated that it had


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arrested seventy-​two people because of “race defilement,” almost two months before such a crime was on the books.70 In Hesse, the police observed that “fortunately, antisemitism among the people remains fresh and powerful,” as shown in the summer of 1935 by a continuing series of excesses against the Jews. The police made the same claim in Hanover province, especially for Northeim, where in June seventeen people attended the funeral of a Jew, including university students and some “reactionaries.” The mayor had their pictures and names pasted up for passersby to see in the four Stürmer newspaper display cases. When those publicly shamed persons went to court to have these removed, they lost, indicating how divided the town was on this ideological issue.71 The Gestapo in Breslau observed, as if it were a routine event, that on Sunday, July 28, the “usual propaganda proceeding of the SA Brigade 20” took place, as had also happened the previous Sunday, when “20 Jews and 20 Aryan females” ended in police custody. The crowd did not lead the offenders through the city, though their pictures were displayed alongside previous ones. Even worse, when they were taken into “protective custody,” a crowd of thousands in the street applauded as they witnessed these people being sent off to a concentration camp.72 Anti-​Jewish demonstrations also occurred elsewhere in central and eastern Germany during the summer of 1935. In Halle, they were reported in all parts of the district, and police had to intervene out of fear for security. The Gestapo complained bitterly that the “resistance spirit” of so many toward National Socialism took the form of ostentatiously buying at the shops of Jews. Police said that some regulation was needed to guard against friendly and sexual relations between “Aryans and Jews,” for there was apparently a notable “weakening of racial consciousness.” In Schneidemühl, the Gestapo reported that “the largest segment of the people” wanted sharper measures against the Jews, while shying away from violence.73 In some places during that summer, the NS-​Hago organized marches and demonstrations against the Jews. The Gestapo in Osnabrück stated that “the Jewish question is in the foreground of political interests” in the city and immediate surroundings. The Jews there had allegedly been “pushy,” so that the Party and its affiliations had to take “stronger defensive measures.” Peasants who did business with the Jews and

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“contributed to the enslavement of the people” were photographed, with their pictures put up in public. In Osnabrück itself, the Jewish department store, Wertheim, found itself under siege by large groups, which sometimes included uncontrollable elements. The police noted that the “high point of the defensive struggle was a powerful mass demonstration of the NSDAP” on August 20, with more than 25,000 people involved. The Party Kreisleiter addressed this throng, averring that “What is playing itself out in Osnabrück is not antisemitism in the usual sense, is not a struggle against the Jews as such, but is a struggle for the German soul, therefore a kind of pro-​Germanism.” He claimed that nothing had been done to anyone, save that customers leaving Jewish firms were being photographed, and that was done “to show them that they still had not recognized the great German mission.” He claimed that such “traitors” supported “the Jews in their efforts at world domination.”74 The underground Socialists’ reports show that across the entire country, violence against Jews was an important aspect of the 1935 wave of antisemitism. Ever anxious to underline opposition or dissent, the Socialists pointed to the decidedly mixed popular response. Nevertheless, here and there the anti-​Jewish actions and propaganda left its traces and citizens “lost their impartiality with regard to the Jews.” The underground mentioned numerous instances of boycotts, property damage, and violence, with Nazi radicals conducting alleged “race defilers” through the streets, and occasionally the tumult took on pogrom-​like proportions.75 The reports were usually vague about the behavior of the crowds who became involved in the anti-​Jewish demonstrations, though their mere presence, ranging between active and passive involvement, constituted a crucial aspect of these violent exercises in the politics of the gutter.76 To deal with such chaos, representatives of various ministries in Berlin, as well as the police, met on August 20. Justice Minister Franz Gürtner was likely correct when he said that all the restraining orders of the state or the Party would be “useless” as long as “the Volk believed that those in leadership positions were not displeased to see that the existing orders were exceeded.”77 The conference revealed a broad consensus among the bureaucrats in Berlin, the Gestapo, and the SD. Whether this particular gathering “inspired” Hitler’s actions


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remains uncertain, but to formulate the Nuremberg Lawslaws, he ordered officials to present options that in fact had been fundamental to his racism for decades.78 Reinhard Heydrich had more to say in a follow-​up letter about the meeting, suggesting that the way forward was through the systematic passage of laws. That step had to be matched by the political and ideological schooling “of the people by the Party and the press.” Violence would ebb as soon as people saw that the “Jews’ economic dominance was being broken.” Several immediate steps could be taken: First, they should not be permitted freedom of movement or allowed in big cities, where they could easily hide. Second, and in order to stop lynch justice against those who “defiled the race,” he wanted the prevention of any further mixed marriages between Aryans and Jews, and that, he said, could have the additional advantage of saving “racially valuable” people for the Volksgemeinschaft. Third, a law should forbid extramarital relations across the ethnic barrier. Additionally, he wanted the state to stop assistance to Jewish firms, and their right to engage in trade should be withdrawn. Nor should they be allowed to deal in land, for it belonged to the community. Finally, and anticipating later measures, he suggested that the passports of Jews be restricted and that those granted should be marked distinctively in some way.79 The main thrust of the Nuremberg Laws promulgated at the Nazi Party rally on September 15, 1935, was to ban future marriages between Jews and non-​Jews and to outlaw their sexual relations outside marriage, thereby to prevent “miscegenation.” Additionally, women under age forty-​five were forbidden to work in the homes of Jews. Moreover, the new Reich citizenship law defined the Reichsbürger (literally, citizens of the Reich) to be only those “of German or related blood.” And in line with the Nazi Party Program of 1920 that said Jews could not be citizens, the law labeled them Staatsangehöriger, literally those who belong to the state and could claim its protection, though not necessarily full citizenship rights.80 How did ordinary people consume these measures and the antisemitic ideology that informed them? On the one hand, the cooperation of neighbors, friends, workmates, or passersby in the street provided the teeth to these laws, as well as to many other kinds of regulations that encroached on the private sphere of sexual or family life. The Gestapo

The Racist Ideology


had no difficulty in obtaining abundant information, and that was true even in Catholic areas that were otherwise disconcerted because of the regime’s attacks on the clergy.81 Ordinary citizens were loath to say what they thought in public about such sensitive matters. A report from the Gestapo in Düsseldorf noted:  “People live their own lives, think for themselves, have their private opinions, that they mention only within a small circle of those they trust and friends.” When there were “excesses” committed against the Jews nearby, people knew about it, “had their ‘opinion,’ but don’t show it and have practiced their silence.”82 The reports were similar for Koblenz, Cologne, Trier, Münster, and Dortmund. While the gen­ eral population tended to reject antisemitism, the NS-​Hago answered with increased demands to boycott the Jews with outright violence. A story from Trier in September 1935 stated that “violent acts against Jews and Jewish property took place in almost all the counties of the district.” Soon after the Nuremberg rally, supposedly “the population heard the news with satisfaction” and the violence against the Jews soon subsided.83 Yet the reports of the Socialist underground told a less tidy tale, for in the month of the Nuremberg Laws, these accounts suggested that “four-​fifths of the population rejected” the new measures. Even so, these stories leave little doubt that the persecution of the Jews, often using violence, continued to roll across the country.84 Looking at the laws from the inside, General Gotthard Heinrici, a colonel in Berlin, told his parents that such statutes caused all kinds of “insurmountable difficulties,” because many people could not say with certainty who their forefathers were. Additionally, female servants not only left jobs in Jewish homes, but also quit the residences of “non-​Aryans.” He added, in passing showing the intermingling of antisemitism and eugenics in Nazi ideology, “that in the future the slogan will no longer be to exterminate every drop of Jewish blood, but the other way around: wherever a drop of Aryan blood is found, it is to be cultivated. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know.”85 Nevertheless, the Gestapo office in Paderborn recorded that some people thought the new laws did not go far enough, and that they should have barred all women, not only those under forty-​five, from working in Jews’ homes.86 The Gestapo in Berlin claimed that, perversely, these laws acted as a kind of “protection” of the Jews from


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“individual actions.” For all that, the report for January 1936 noted that the police had turned up no fewer than 311 cases of “race defilement” during the previous October.87 The police still complained that the measures were not working, and the Gestapo in Hanover, Harburg, Cologne, and Hildesheim added their own complaints. The October 1935 report from Kassel stated that the “enlightened population” was pleased that “individual actions” had nearly ceased. Nevertheless, there was a lesson to teach: “It is still regrettable that the responsible political leaders in meetings or at gatherings leave much to be desired when it comes to explaining things to the people. A senseless, fired-​up and hate-​ filled speech against the Jews merely leads to individual actions, and it does not win over the indifferent to antisemitism.”88 The September report from Dortmund said that while people were not as overwhelmed by the annual Party rally as before, that most “recognized the new laws,” whereas the Jews regarded the measures as the ultimate decision, meaning they had “really been cast out of the Volksgemeinschaft.”89 There were complications for anyone caught up in this legal tangle, as recorded in the diary of Luise Solmitz, who was a true believer living in Hamburg and at the same time was married to a man henceforth defined as a Jew. In shame and anger she whispered to her diary that those laws meant that their beloved daughter was “rejected, shut out, despised, worthless.” When their neighbors raised the swastika for festive occasions, she would not be allowed that privilege, and so would commonly be regarded as Jewish and shut out of the Volksgemeinschaft to which she so desperately craved to belong.90 Mixed in with other forms of racism, this antisemitism percolated through German society and especially the Nazi Party during the 1930s. It affected even non-​Nazis and those who had long rejected the screams of those hostile to the Jews. As one civil servant put it in April 1937, “It would be good for Germany if it got rid of the Jews.”91 Such sentiments and ceaseless harassment, much of it public, erupted into what became the “Night of Broken Glass,” or Reichskristallnacht, a massive pogrom that began in the night of November 7 and 8, 1938, and carried on into the following day and night. Hitler, assisted by Goebbels, unleashed what would become a massive assault on the Jews, by capitalizing on the assassination of a minor German official in Paris, a deed committed by Herschel Grynszpan, a young Jewish male. The riots did not stop at

The Racist Ideology


murder and arson, and swept through all of Germany, wherever Jews lived and no matter how few might remain in a tiny village.92 For Jews the pogrom was a nightmare turned into reality, and the number killed has been put at over 100, while an estimated 500 committed suicide. Willy Cohn, formerly a patriotic German Jew, who had long since despaired, said that “the mood in the street is certainly antisemitic, and people are happy about what happened to the Jews.” His remaining and unfulfilled wish was that the government loosen the regulations, so that he and his family could emigrate.93 Dr. Hertha Nathorff’s physician husband, Erich, was one of the 30,000 male Jews sent to a concentration camp, and he returned only in mid-​December, with his beard cut, hair turned gray, and unable to tell his wife what had happened. The shock was so great that it took days for him to recover. The couple and their son managed to emigrate to the United States in April 1939.94 Some 360 synagogues were destroyed and thirty-​one department stores burned down or demolished, if plundering was kept to a minimum, at least according to a report of the Security Service (SD) Main Office on December 7, 1938. It rightly noted that the pogrom and the series of government restrictions that followed “aimed at the complete exclusion of the Jews from all areas of life, with the final goal [Endziel] their removal from the area of the Reich by all means and in the shortest possible time.”95 Some local SD accounts hit a formulaic note, such as that the population regarded the pogrom with “satisfaction.”96 Although some mayors were cited as being pleased to say that it was self-​ evident for good citizens to understand “the struggle against the Jews,” few agreed with the wanton destruction of property.97 That was the primary objection, with some people saying that those responsible should be held to account. The SD-​Elbe noted for the east that opinions were divided as well, and no one liked the destruction of goods. In general, the report concluded that like the boycott of the Jews in April 1933, the pogrom was a “tactical mistake.”98 The condemnations nationally ranged across the political spectrum.99 The underground Socialists, ever hoping for the regime’s end, stated that the overwhelming majority of people abhorred the excesses, though these left-​wing resisters likely underestimated how far antisemitism had spread.100 Less comforting for the Jews was the Socialists’ observation


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that people who wanted to say anything about the negative aspects of the pogrom had a difficult time making their case.101 Private diaries of ordinary citizens revealed that many found the riots and the arrest of the thousands of Jews that followed to be terribly upsetting.102 The Himmler-​Heydrich team had long been opposed to this kind of pogrom, as Hitler had been early in his career, for the three of them wanted a rational and more thoroughgoing solution. On November 12, a meeting chaired by Hermann Göring decided to “fine” the Jews for all the damages, and additionally to accelerate the Aryanization program by which Jews were coerced into selling off their businesses, often at bargain-​basement rates.103 The violence also helped to prepare the ground for the positive reception of the “fine” leveled on the Jewish community for the upheaval.104 At this meeting Heydrich said he opposed creating ghettos, and would prefer marking the Jews with a yellow star on their clothing so that they would be “controlled by way of the watchful eye of the entire population.”105 Antisemitism was not the only aspect of the regime’s racism that it pushed, for a central reason for controlling sex had to do with the eugenics program. Although from its beginnings the Nazi Party claimed that Germany had too many people and too little space, the answer was not birth control. As Hitler put it in 1928, when the learned sciences said, “restrict births,” that meant restricting all life, and perhaps inadvertently including those of the “highest worth.”106 He and other racist thinkers claimed that the Germans were a “people without space.” Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick, who addressed the first meeting of the Advisory Board for Population and Racial Policy on June 28, 1933, painted a dark picture. His talk, broadcast on the radio and widely published, was likely written by Dr. Arthur Gütt, one of his more notorious racial experts. The speech estimated that there were around 500,000 people suffering from “serious physical or mental hereditary defects [Erbleiden].” Some authors, he said, estimated that “20 percent of the German population could be seen as gene-​biologically damaged, and from whom children were no longer desired.” Echoing the cry of eugenicists since the late 1880s, listeners were informed that the “mentally challenged and less valuable people” tended to have more children, while the healthy people had fewer. Frick then pulled out the well-​tried economic argument that tallied up the cost of caring for the infirm,

The Racist Ideology


a problem magnified by the modern welfare state. The solution was to “hinder” the “asocial, inferior, and hopeless, hereditarily ill” from having children. That “negative” population policy had to be matched by a “positive” one that encouraged the healthy to marry and have more children. The new regime did that in part by a new marriage scheme, as we saw earlier.107 The initial result was the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring (July 14, 1933), which did not aim specifically at Jews and instead legalized compulsory sterilization of any citizen suffering from hereditary diseases. These included eight maladies, such as congenital feeble-​mindedness, hereditary blindness or deafness, epilepsy, and schizophrenia. The law provided some safeguards, such as new hereditary health courts, made up of a judge and two medical doctors, as well as a federal appeals court.108 In 1935 there were just over 200 of these courts, and 30 appeals courts, all part of the eugenic apparatus.109 Seventy-​five percent of all cases began when someone from the medical profession, which generally embraced the program with enthusiasm, informed the authorities. 110 With shocking exactitude, newspapers began heralding the law on January 1, 1934, when it was about to come into effect. One article dared to claim that science estimated “the number of persons, who within a short period of time will have to be sterilized, at around 400,000.” It said that “around half of the 400,000 will be male and female.”111 As it turned out, these scandalous figures may have been quotas, because historical research has shown that the program met those numbers precisely. They had been reduced from the ones that Frick dared to broach earlier, perhaps because of rumblings from the churches.112 The circle of those who could be sterilized expanded quickly, because social as well as medical grounds could be used, including against unruly characters or women who had more than one illegitimate child.113 At the time of the Nuremberg Party Rally in 1935, leaders had given some thought to introducing a general law against “marriages of parasites on the body politic.” Hitler demanded such a law and a “certificate of eugenic health,” though after reflection within the bureaucracy, the decision was modified, and there was no requirement to obtain documentation to prove eugenic health before marriage. During discussions, Dr. Arthur Gütt, leader of the health office in the Ministry


Hitler’s True Believers

of the Interior, said that merely threatening a general ban on suspect marriages should “awaken the conscience and sense of responsibility” of people to avoid a union that was unlikely to produce racially fit offspring.114 Only in dubious cases, as determined by the health offices or somewhere else along the line, would couples need to be examined by medical doctors.115 Hence, the law as passed on October 18, 1935, for the Protection of the Genetic Health, did not go as far as radicals would have wished.116 Its underlying racist premise, as Gütt warned often enough, was that Germany faced a eugenic danger, if the “wrong kind” of people continued to have children, and the “right kind” of people limited their offspring.117 The logical extension of the sterilization program inside Germany was euthanasia, a touchy policy that Hitler had mentioned as desirable long before.118 Only after the outbreak of war in September 1939 did he issue an authorization, sometimes misleadingly termed an executive order.119 Instead, specified doctors obtained a kind of license to kill, not an order to shoot, and it was backdated from October to September as if to signify that the war represented an opportunity to realize the most radical aspects of Hitler’s ideology.120 While it did not aim specifically at Jews, any in chronic care were especially vulnerable. The central office handling the program was located at Tiergartenstrasse 4 in Berlin, code-​named T4 to keep it and the program secret. Implementation came under the Chancellery of the Führer, with Philipp Bouhler and Viktor Brack in charge. They opted for gassing as the method, because potentially there were too many eligible people to give them injections or overdoses of medicine. In October Brack established a quota system for those to be euthanized, when he calculated that roughly 70,000 would die, and indeed the killing continued until it reached just beyond that figure. When he explained the operation to jurists on April 23, 1941, he claimed that 80  percent of the relatives of the deceased were “in agreement,” 10 percent “protest,” and the rest were “indifferent.”121 Some relatives were concerned, like one woman who wrote the hospital where her two siblings reportedly died within a few days of each other. She did not object in principle, and she claimed to accept the Third Reich: she wished to “find peace again,” if only doctors could assure her that these deaths had taken place by virtue of some law that made it possible to “relieve people from their chronic suffering.”122

The Racist Ideology


Although it is common to attribute Hitler’s order of August 24, 1941, to stop euthanasia to the influence of the sermon by Catholic Bishop Clemens August Graf von Galen on August 3, recent research suggests otherwise. The bishop had been informed about what was happening for at least a year, during which time a host of Protestant clergy had registered complaints. Hitler was not about to ignore public opinion, which was crucially important to his dictatorship. That may have played into his decision to stop these killings, though in fact the operation already had reached Brack’s preset quota.123 In the years beginning in 1933, what stands out was how Nazi hotheads brought home the cruel reality of racism in general and especially antisemitism. It was all so public and impossible to overlook. There was also a “positive” eugenic program to increase the quantity and quality of the German people, though from the outset, it was more than anything the violence against the Jews that attained unprecedented proportions. The public did more than stand idly by, because numerous individuals cooperated in the enforcement of racial policy, before and after the milestone reached with the Nuremberg Laws in 1935. The period of false calm that followed was shattered with a massive pogrom in November 1938. Not long before, Hitler’s triumph at the Munich Conference may have led him to conclude that a brief and ostentatious act of violence against the Jews would mobilize the masses to support the more radical aspects of his platform, including in foreign policy.124 Indeed, during the same years of peace up to 1938, the regime had been pursuing ambitious plans. Getting rid of the restrictions imposed by the Versailles Treaty was crucial to National Socialist thinking, as it was to those in the broader movement and many who were not, so that any success at revising the disastrous end of the First World War was almost bound to be rewarded with great acclaim. At the same time those very victories led naturally into risking war, until a momentum built that escaped control.


Nationalism and Militarism

Hitler was surprisingly circumspect about taking radical steps in foreign policy before he felt confident about enjoying the nation’s full support. Privately on February 3, 1933, he conferred with his military leaders about his ambitious plans, which included finding living space in the east for the German population he was anxious to grow. The military was even more pleased when Germany withdrew from the League of Nations and left the Disarmament Conference in October. The army then assiduously pushed in the direction that Hitler and most people in Germany wanted, and on December 14 submitted a plan for a 300,000-​ man peacetime force of twenty-​one divisions.1 Thus, even before the end of Hitler’s first year in power, the Third Reich was following up on his pledge to undo what most Germans regarded as the shameful Versailles Treaty that the country had been forced to sign on June 28, 1919. The American colonel Edward House, close advisor to President Woodrow Wilson, who was at the ceremony, noted that “The whole affair was elaborately staged and made as humiliating to the enemy as it well could be.”2 Apart from territorial losses, including all of Germany’s colonies, the army was limited to 100,000 and forbidden to have any tanks, planes, or submarines. The German Navy, rather than turn over some seventy-​five vessels of various sizes interned at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys, scuttled the lot, so the nation was left nearly defenseless. Adding to the indignities, the victors insisted on assigning to Germany the sole guilt for the war (Article 231), and Article 232 saddled it with reparations bills that would have taken


Hitler’s True Believers

decades to pay. Any German leader beginning to undo this humiliated outcome of the Great War and to rebuild the country’s military might would inevitably reap nationalist acclaim. Going forward, the question was precisely how to go about undoing what remained of the Versailles Treaty regarding which not only Hitler but most ordinary people in the country felt so passionately. Part of the treaty’s heritage mandated that the Saarland be excised temporarily from Germany, with the promise of a later plebiscite, eventually scheduled for January 13, 1935. The Saarland was given the choice of keeping its legal status as it was, joining France, or returning to Germany. Unsurprisingly, given that the Saarlanders were every bit as German as anyone in neighboring Rhineland, 90.7 percent of the voters opted in favor of joining the Third Reich, while only 0.4 percent wanted to link with France. Even the Catholic Church was anxious to be seen as supporting the return of the Saarland, and no doubt it helped that a pastoral letter from the Bishop of Cologne’s Catholic Church Province was read on January 6, asking that the laity pray “for a victorious outcome of the Saar vote. As German Catholics, it is our duty to intercede for the greatness, the well-​being, and the peace of our fatherland.”3 Although officially Germany was supposed to keep out of the plebiscite campaign, the regime expended tremendous energies in that regard. Some non-​Nazis wondered why, because, they said, “no one in the world doubts that the Saarlanders would confess their loyalty to Germany.”4 Before the vote, French ministers had shared their fond hopes with Britain’s Anthony Eden, perhaps to gain “a large minority.” Later he noted that during the two months leading up to the vote, in spite of some irregularities the international machinery was in place, and kept things from falling apart.5 Historians sometimes emphasize the terror used by locals and Nazis from Germany, though no one doubts that a large majority of the Saarlanders wanted to rejoin their native land. The results in the Saarland might generously be interpreted as a vote for Germany and not necessarily for Hitler and the Nazis, though how voters could make such a nuanced decision—​given that the dictatorship was so firmly in place—​remains an open question.6 In point of fact, Hitler did not need to convert the great majority of the people to his Pan-​German nationalism, because the majority already believed in it. When reunification with the Saarland went ahead

Nationalism and Militarism


on March 1, Hitler avowed solemnly from Saarbrücken that the “Reich was on the way to a noble and peaceful Volksgemeinschaft, and in the future, it would continue to be as peaceful as it was strong, honorable and true.”7 Yet his government promptly built on the nationalist momentum to reintroduce conscription on March 16, while at the same time changing the military’s name from the Reichswehr into the slightly more aggressive sounding Wehrmacht.8 Had the nation been asked about that policy in a free vote, it almost certainly would have heartily endorsed this step. Police observers were quietly pleased to report that part of the joy about conscription was that all social classes would have to serve two years in the ranks. The egalitarian appeal of German Socialism and the emerging Volksgemeinschaft shone amid hopes that the military experience would have an educative-​disciplinary effect on youth.9 In his proclamation on the reorganization of the Wehrmacht, Hitler announced that the army would now increase to thirty-​six divisions by October 1, 1939. The self-​confident dictator invited the French, British, Italian, and Polish ambassadors to the Reich Chancellery to explain this step. He repeated his mantra about Germany (supposedly) having gone along with the Versailles Treaty’s disarmament clauses, in the expectation that the other European powers would limit their military, and when they did not, he was left with no choice but to increase Germany’s army and to introduce universal military conscription.10 He traveled to Munich on Sunday, March 17, which by no coincidence was the newly renamed Heroes’ Remembrance Day. This was the moment in 1813 when King Frederick William III of Prussia, previously defeated in 1806 by Napoleon, signaled to his people the beginning of a war of liberation.11 Although Hitler was hailed as never before, one Gestapo report on negative public opinion in the Catholic region and city of Aachen said that “unfortunately, National Socialism as Weltanschauung” had made “little progress.” The main reason, it said, was that in this territory, “the activity of Catholic spiritual leaders, who under the guise of fighting the so-​called new heathenism, increasingly fight against the [Nazi] movement itself and its underlying principles.”12 Other testimony from across the Rhine-​Ruhr area was more positive, as it was in the city and region of Cologne, where the police concluded


Hitler’s True Believers

that “even the enemies of National Socialism” agreed with the reintroduction of conscription and the declaration of “national sovereignty.” In Düsseldorf the delight over the return of the Saarland, along with the announcement of conscription, reached the national peak of joy, especially among young people. Even in Aachen, the Gestapo said that “the population closed ranks behind the foreign policy measures of the government.” The police in Koblenz guessed that the people and the government would have been ready to tackle any difficulty, should others raise objections to the German draft. As if to top things off, also on March 17 the nation let out a hearty cheer when its football team beat France in an international match that they played in Paris, of all places.13 To offset concerns at home and abroad about the regime’s aggressiveness, Hitler gave a long lecture to the Reichstag on May 21, one that stretched the truth so far as to say that National Socialist doctrine demanded peace with its neighbors. He rattled off the broken promises of leading European statesmen, still offered to sign mutual non-​aggression treaties, and ended on a conciliatory note: “The peoples want peace. The governments must be able to maintain it.”14 Although he had little or no intention of following through on his offers, they may have quieted some concerns about war. How did people respond to the continuing examples of German nationalist assertion? If the diary of a self-​exiled former Democratic Party Reichstag deputy, Harry Graf Kessler, is any indication, then even non-​ Nazis were positive. This pacifist advocate concluded, after studying the text, that Hitler’s proposals “could ensure European peace for decades” and that it would be a travesty “for other states not to examine them closely.” This supportive remark came from someone who left Germany in early March 1933 without having said a positive word about Hitler.15 The excitement continued to build into the spring and summer of 1935,16 and it even gained some Catholic support on Corpus Christi day (June 20, 1935)  in Munich. Strangely enough, the regional Nazi Party there attempted to stop the army from marching in a religious parade, until military officials interceded with Bavaria’s political boss, Franz Ritter von Epp, and the church got its way to have the soldiers participate.17 Indeed, as the early feats in foreign policy revealed, Catholicism was not strong enough to resist the appeals of nationalism

Nationalism and Militarism


and militarism, even at this very moment when the church was under attack by the Gestapo for alleged morals offenses.18 Hitler continued to grapple with the implications of his ideology for Germany in the here and now. In his unpublished second book of 1928, he had reasoned that the British (or the English as he usually called them) regarded the protection of their empire as crucial, so that instead of challenging it by building a grand fleet, the prudent step would be to stop talking about lost colonies, and thereby win over Britain as a “natural ally.” After several failed attempts at resolving the issues, Hitler had proposed reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement on the size and firepower of the German and British navies and air forces in March 1935. Yet in the midst of negotiations he had forged ahead on his own and had announced conscription. When British foreign secretary Sir John Simon and Anthony Eden visited Berlin shortly afterward, Hitler said to them that he was ready to concede naval supremacy to Britain “fundamentally and forever.”19 When the new German special ambassador to Britain, Joachim von Ribbentrop, phoned Berlin later with the British deal wrapped up, an elated Hitler exclaimed that this was the happiest day of his life.20 Indeed, because the new attitude in London confirmed the grand theoretical foundations of his ideology, he felt certain that he was on the right path. When they signed the papers on June 18, the otherwise sagacious Goebbels quite mistakenly guessed that within five years, the two countries would have an alliance.21 In spite of, or even because of this agreement, Chancellor Hitler decided at the end of February 1936 that he would soon send troops into the demilitarized Rhineland. This German territory, according to postwar treaties, was supposed to remain without any military forces, more or less in perpetuity.22 The German army, including even high officers who would subsequently oppose Hitler, claimed that remilitarizing the Rhineland was essential to the country’s defense.23 Late in the evening of March 6, 1936, Hitler informed the cabinet of his decision, and troops crossed the Rhine the next day.24 During the time leading up to the big event, he was occasionally not quite the confident figure he would soon present to the world.25 As he recalled later, “The forty-​eight hours after the occupation of the Rhineland were the tensest moments in my life. Had the French back then entered the


Hitler’s True Believers

Rhineland, we would have had no choice but to beat a hasty retreat, because with the military equipment at our disposal, we could in no way have put up even a semblance of real resistance.”26 On the same day that the troops crossed the Rhine, Hitler convened the Reichstag, once more to tamp down anxieties in France and Britain, while simultaneously appealing to German citizens as the heroic statesman who had restored the nation’s honor. His disarming claim was that marching into the Rhineland was strictly one aimed at securing the peace. Then he trotted out his favorite theme about German willingness to reduce arms if other nations would follow suit. He accused France of attempting to capitalize on the situation, particularly by allying with the Soviet Union, thereby leaving Germany with no choice but to respond.27 “We have no territorial claims in Europe,” he added—​for dramatic effect, if far from the truth. As for one of his favorite claims about Germany’s shortage of space, he said, as if he were a diplomat, that such questions “in Europe could not be settled by war.” Unashamedly he averred that he could “not close this historic period of the restoration of the honor and freedom of my people without asking the German people to grant to me and my fellow workers, the retrospective support [Zustimmung] for everything I  have done during these years.” Therefore, he would dissolve the Reichstag, so that in a new election on March 29 “the German people can give its judgment on my leadership and that of my co-​workers.”28 The election would serve as a retroactive plebiscite on the reoccupation. Germans were not asked a question, only offered a list of preselected candidates in a campaign that mixed many themes, including Hitler’s support for socialism and peace.29 Although Victor Klemperer opposed the regime that deprived him of his academic position because he was Jewish, he nonetheless figured that Hitler would get overwhelming support with no need “to fake a single vote.”30 Willy Cohn, also forced out of his teaching post because he was Jewish, thought so as well.31 Some of Klemperer’s friends believed bits of the propaganda, and there were others who were old and sickly, who were taken to the polls by the SA get-​out-​the-​vote squad (Schleppdienst).32 In fact, the results showed that 98.8 percent approved, which was all the more remarkable given that officially 99 percent of those eligible went to the polls.33

Nationalism and Militarism


The anti-​Nazi Socialist underground group New Beginning, desperately clinging to hopes that citizens would reject this nationalism, found that while many feared French intervention or even war, when they heard that nothing had happened by the evening of March 7, the popular mood “swung from anxiety into a consciousness of victory.” This underground admitted with resignation that the powerless reaction of the world contributed to “the sincere, freely given support of the overwhelming part of the population.”34 The Social Democratic underground offered a lengthy collection of negative analyses that underlined fear of another war. An account from Bavaria even likened the Rhineland move to “a large injection of opium.” Young people had been especially enthusiastic, supposedly because “Day in, day out, youth is injected by the new great-​power ideology in every possible way, no matter what we do.” Still another report from Bavaria maintained that “nationalist sympathies were much in evidence,” though nowhere was the enthusiasm spontaneous. One account from Saxony stated that “unfortunately, people regard Hitler’s behavior as correct.” The story from Augsburg was that Hitler had impressed most people with this latest move, and “many are convinced that Germany’s foreign policy demands are justified and could not simply be brushed aside.”35 No doubt there was some manipulation of the vote, and the Jews had lost their suffrage with the passage of the Nuremberg Laws. In rural areas and small towns, there was more interference, with some officials boasting of their feats, as did the District Propaganda Leadership in Eichstätt, Franconia. The get-​out-​the-​vote service worked systematically, it said. “Anyone in district Eichstätt who could not be brought to the voting box was either dead or lost.”36 According to an account of the situation from the Superior State Court president in Jena, “The bold deed of the Führer on March 7 and the Reichstag election, connected with its enthusiastic affirmation of the German people to their leader, have doubtlessly very much raised the popular mood.” Reinforcement came with economic improvements, in spite of dark patches here and there.37 The court president in Braunschweig said that the reoccupation of the Rhineland and the federal election had “found their full resonance. Unfortunately, the value of the vote as a measure of the people’s trust has been somewhat


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diminished by certain happenings, which were supposed to ‘improve’ the results.” There were “corrections” that led “in one district to one-​ hundred percent having voted for the list.” Supposedly, veteran National Socialists disapproved of falsifying the outcome. “Nonetheless,” the court president added, “if one were to exclude the mistaken ballots, the Yes-​Votes could be estimated at around 95 percent.”38 Were so many ordinary people in agreement with National Socialism? There were, to be sure, glaring abuses, as in Catholic Upper Bavaria, that led to the removal of the mayor and local district Party leader. Nevertheless, in rural Catholic and urban working-​ class areas, both habitually opposed to National Socialism before 1933, the election marked a breakthrough of sorts. In Aichach, for example, the Bavarian Political Police wrote on April 1 that numerous Catholic priests had implored parishioners to support Hitler. One of them said that “All who feel the duty to protect religion, God, and Christianity should recognize the signs of the time and on March 29 give Bolshevism the answer: ‘The closed unity of the German people stands behind Adolf Hitler.’ ”39 In traditionally more pro-​Nazi Upper and Middle Franconia, church leaders of both denominations recommended supporting Hitler, even when they realized that such a vote could be mistaken by certain forces to mean that the people agreed with the Nazis’ anti-​Christian and anti-​church efforts.40 In working-​class areas and larger cities in Bavaria, the political police and state administration in the Bavarian Ostmark (Lower Bavaria, Upper Palatinate, Upper Franconia) also reported for March 1936 “joy and confidence” on the eve of the vote, even when the illegal Communist and Social Democratic Parties spread anti-​government propaganda. In Augsburg, the police observed that previously “dissatisfied or still Marxist-​oriented circles” of workers greeted Party speakers on March 25 with “genuine enthusiasm and support,” an orientation that became apparent in the election, when Hitler obtained 98.13  percent of the votes. The police added that their having hounded down the oppositional leaders, as well as the decline in unemployment, played a role in the results. The German Labor Front (DAF) for the Bavarian Ostmark observed that even those who were not doing well economically voted in favor.41

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Every single vote in any election is counted as one, though behind each lurks a multiplicity of motivations. Whatever the broad spectrum of private concerns, doubts, fears, hopes, illusions, or anxieties, a majority seemed to accept that the vote amounted to a consensus of support, if not at the level suggested by the official statistics.42 In spite of a momentary lull in international tensions, and the abatement of the government’s concern about its support among the people, Hitler aimed at far more. He put down his own conclusions on military planning and the economic situation in a secret memorandum on the Four-​Year Plan, most likely in August 1936.43 The prologue of the plan revealed his apocalyptic vision.44 His grim diagnosis was that the struggle among peoples in history was ultimately about their assertion for existence. The most recent battle over ideas, growing with ever-​ greater intensity since the French Revolution of 1789, found its extreme expression in Soviet Bolshevism, which sought nothing less than the destruction of the leading social classes in the world, and their replacement by “worldwide Jewry.” Here the Jews were pictured at the center of his cosmology of evil and blamed for everything that had or could go wrong. They were leading the Bolshevik attack in the ideological clash, a danger magnified by the expansion of the Red Army. Marxism’s victory in the Soviet Union established “a forward base for its future operations,” so that Germany faced its “most important mission” because this time the outcome—​should Bolshevism win—​would not merely be another horrific Versailles Treaty. It would be “the complete extermination, and yes elimination of the German nation.”45 Allegedly for the good of the world, Germany had been able to hold back this Red tide because of its political leadership, firm ideology, and well-​organized military. Hitler claimed that the nation had never before found such ideological unity as it had “since the victory of National Socialism,” and the task ahead was to build up the military quickly, using all possible resources. The country’s economic situation left much to be desired and ultimately could only be solved “by extending the living space of our people.” More soberly, he said, the Four-​Year Plan had two imperatives: first, “the German army must be fully operational in four years,” and second, “the German economy must be fit for war within four years.”46


Hitler’s True Believers

Hermann Göring, soon appointed to head the Four-​Year Plan, met with top ministers on September 4 to proclaim that “what the Russians have constructed,” with their Four-​Year Plans, “we can also match.”47 As of October 18, Hitler endowed this man with nearly dictatorial powers to fulfill the plan, which two days later Göring translated into a whole series of decrees.48 All of those were aimed at the realization of Hitler’s orders, “regardless of any reservations or difficulties.”49 Behind closed doors, Nazi Party radicals, including Goebbels, Himmler, and Rosenberg, suggested strongly to Hitler that a big success in foreign policy would counter any lingering internal discontent. That was what General Ludwig Beck, the chief of the general staff, said at the time.50 Beck was already out of step with the regime and would eventually join the secretly forming opposition. On the other hand, the army coaxed Hitler into a meeting because it was convinced that its rearmament was not being given the priority of the air force and navy. To sort things out, Hitler invited leaders of the three branches, as well as the foreign and defense ministers, to gather at the Reich Chancellery on November 5, 1937. Also present was Hitler’s Wehrmacht adjutant Friedrich Hossbach, who apparently did not take down a verbatim rec­ ord, only cryptic notes, and wrote up the notorious final version five days later. Therefore, the document that survives is Hossbach’s distillation of Hitler’s remarks during the long meeting, which began at 4:15 p.m. and ended at 8:30.51 Perhaps Hossbach elided much of Hitler’s ideological hocus-​pocus when he penned his summary, because in this document the leader sounds unlike the person who wrote the memorandum on the Four-​ Year Plan. Now he uttered not a word about the Jews and pointed to Russia fleetingly as unlikely in the short run to intervene in Central Europe. That made him sound more like a traditional power politician discussing possible foreign policy options.52 According to Hossbach’s notes, Hitler defined Germany’s aims as efforts “to secure and preserve the nation,” and if possible “to enlarge it. Therefore, it is a problem of space” that would be needed in Eastern Europe for Germany’s ever-​expanding population. The nation’s “racial core,” he complained in his usual refrain, was too heavily concentrated in too little space, and in order to secure its future, they had to solve that problem. Then he went through various options, only to

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show that attaining self-​sufficiency in raw materials, even in food, was not possible. Another option was participating in international trade, though Britain controlled the seas, meaning that “the German people, with their strong racial core could only seek the necessary space on the European continent.” Alas, history revealed that “every expansion of space comes only by breaking resistance and always carries a risk.” Nonetheless, he concluded that the only way forward was through the use of force, so that the question was when and how. This was the first time Hitler openly advocated war, without making a decision for the war to come. He claimed that Germany could wait no longer than (a seemingly distant) 1943–​1945, because after that, the military advantages it enjoyed would diminish. Also, the costs of maintaining the political-​ military complex would become so expensive that it would adversely affect Germany’s standard of living. Therefore, he had resolved to deal with the matter soon, and perhaps as early as the following year.53 Whenever Germany would go to war, Hitler regarded it as important to defeat Austria and Czechoslovakia, so as to cover the country’s flank. Britain and France would not do much to stop that open aggression because, he calculated, the two Western powers had already written off those countries. To hold Russia in check, it was important that initial operations take place with surprise and “with lightning speed.” Although Blomberg and the head of the army leadership, General Werner von Fritsch, did not oppose war in principle, they advised against one at this stage. The upshot of the meeting was that Hitler decided on several “lightning wars,” and soon. He did not bring up his well-​known theme that the Lebensraum he sought, as they all should have known from Mein Kampf, was not in Austria or Czechoslovakia, but farther east.54 When he spoke to his generals again on January 21, 1938, he emphasized that National Socialism had emerged as a “form of the social” that he wanted for the entire globe. In Hitler’s view, Bolshevism was the main competitor, and while it “destroys what exists,” National Socialism “eliminates the defects of the existing by gradual construction and development.” His survey of the globe revealed that only “40 to 50 million people of pure blood” (divided among nations such as Britain, France, the United States, and so on) ruled the world. “There is only one race on earth that is unique, a mostly closed-​off, unitary race


Hitler’s True Believers

and language, with its 110 million Germans in the heart of Europe.” Brushing aside any quibbles about the exaggerated figures, he concluded that these calculations gave him “great optimism” that the world “will and must belong to this people.” Remarkably, no one present blinked at his broaching the ambition for world conquest.55 Before much more saber-​rattling, and in the midst of scandals in the private lives of Generals von Blomberg and Fritsch, Hitler assumed the role of supreme commander of the armed forces, and on February 4, 1938, he created a new Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW).56 Only days later. and following his own script, Germany soon squeezed tiny Austria, until on February 12 Hitler summoned its chancellor, Kurt von Schuschnigg, to Berchtesgaden, and got him to accept, even embrace “the National Socialist body of ideas.”57 When Schuschnigg returned home, however, he had a change of heart, and tried to call a snap plebiscite on independence. Initially, Hitler mulled over what to do, such as whether he himself should become the elected president of Austria.58 When the German leaders eventually demanded more than was on offer, Schuschnigg capitulated, though Austrian president Wilhelm Miklas dithered, in spite of wholesale uprisings by which local Nazis took over large parts of his country. Finally, early on Saturday, March 12, German troops crossed the border, and they were greeted with a hail of flowers from wildly enthusiastic crowds.59 On that same Saturday, Hitler flew to Munich and traveled onward to cross the Inn River at Braunau in Austria, where people outdid themselves in their joy. In Linz, the town he liked to call his home, he spoke from the Rathaus to tens of thousands who greeted him as the returning “great man.” He declared that it had been fate that had called him away to become the leader of the Reich, and also had given him a mission, “which was to give my dear homeland again to the German Reich. I have believed in this mission, lived and fought for it, and I believe I have now fulfilled it.” That Sunday, March 13, he signed a Law for the Re-​Unification of Austria with the German Reich, on no less an occasion than the Heroes’ Remembrance Day for 1938.60 There was a far darker side to this story, with a wave of vicious antisemitism that did not need to be imported, for the main perpetrators were Austrian Nazis and their helpers. That Hitler’s regime favored robbing and persecuting the Jews only added to its appeal for those thugs.61

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In addition to the Socialists and Communists, the Nazis also fell upon the Jews overnight, including in Hitler’s Linz, where their property was swiftly “Aryanized.” As his triumphant contingent drove to Vienna, ecstatic mobs lined the way, with Himmler and his team going in advance to pick up “enemies of the Reich.” When Hitler turned onto the Ringstrasse on March 15, he was greeted like a national hero. Speaking from the balcony of the New Hofburg, he gave the renamed country—​the Ostmark—​a mission to become “the bulwark” of the nation, protecting it from the unmentionable East. He held up the victory as proof of the power of the idea inspiring the people. “As Führer and Chancellor of the German nation and of the Reich, I now report to history that my homeland has joined the German Reich.”62 Hitler decided that Austrians would be asked retroactively to vote on their incorporation into the nation, and he soon announced that Germans would be asked as well. Both would also vote for candidates to the Greater German Reichstag, and on the ballot, they could answer with a single “yes” or “no.”63 Here Cardinal Theodor Innitzer of Vienna proved enormously helpful and, on his own initiative, came forward with words of welcome. He asked his bishops to urge the faithful to support the vote, and for churches to display the swastika. Even more remarkably, Karl Renner, the Austrian Social Democratic leader, endorsed the takeover of his country. Germany’s Catholic population was delighted by Innitzer’s nationalist appeal. Catholic priests not only championed the vote, according to reports from the heavily Catholic Westphalia-​North; they took pains not to offend against the spirit of the times.64 Martin Bormann, as senior official in the office of the Deputy Führer under Rudolf Hess, ordered that all branches of the National Socialist movement should wear their uniforms in the week of April 3 to 10, in order to show that they stood totally in the service of the coming plebiscite.65 As it happened, 99.59 percent in Germany said “yes,” with slightly more in Austria at 99.73 percent. Around a half million either spoiled their ballot or voted “no.”66 Friedrich Reck-​Malleczewen, a noble living in Munich and diehard Hitler opponent, said he recognized that the results were falsified as the four people in his home and twenty others he knew had voted “no,” even when the official tally said their enclave had unanimously


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said “yes.”67 The extent of the fraud remains an open question. Nicolaus von Below, Hitler’s realist air force adjutant, knew that doubters would question the outcome, yet he thought that in all likelihood, it was valid.68 The Socialist underground dismissed these results, as it had most of the earlier ones.69 Perhaps this time, as in the Saarland and on the other occasions, the vote was more for Germany than for Hitler or Nazism, but could voters really separate the nation from its leader and his doctrine?70 Germany’s most influential historian of the post–​Second World War era, Hans-​Ulrich Wehler, who lived through these times, thought that these exercises showed that Hitler enjoyed extraordinary popularity and international recognition.71 The mass participation in the elections certainly signified more than the regime’s success merely mobilizing people for the vote.72 The reporter for the New York Times, who was on the spot, considered that the turnout was “a tribute to Hitler no less than a fervid profession of national and racial solidarity.” Fifty million people, he thought, “gave a silent affirmation to the annexation of Austria.”73 Victor Klemperer reflected sadly on “How deeply Hitler’s attitudes are rooted in the German people, how good the preparations were for his Aryan doctrine, how unbelievably I  have deceived myself my whole life long, when I imagined myself to belong to Germany, and how completely homeless I am.”74 Hitler’s acclamation by the masses after such bloodless victories, with barely a whisper from Britain and France, gave an answer to any doubting generals. Not satisfied for long, on April 21 he mentioned his preliminary plans for “lightning strikes” against Czechoslovakia.75 Nicolaus von Below was still bathing in the euphoria over Austria, when toward the end of May, Hitler surprised him with harsh charges against the British and Czechs, because on May 20 Czech president Edvard Beneš mobilized his army of 3.5  million.76 This imprudent step gave the German leader a convenient excuse—​though he would have found another—​to order the High Command of the OKW to draw up a new version of Case-​Green, the code name for an attack on Czechoslovakia.77 On May 28, at a conference in the Reich Chancellery, Hitler explained his reasoning to assembled military leaders. Allegedly, the

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Czechs just had shown that they were an imminent threat, and to deter French or British involvement, he wanted Germany to pick up the pace of building the Western Wall, which had been under construction since 1936. According to Von Below, all those present appeared to support his boss or said nothing.78 Two days later, Hitler signed this order, which he prefaced with a phrase that became notorious in history: “It is my unalterable revolve [unabänderlicher Entschluss] to destroy Czechoslovakia in the near future by way of a military action.”79 As a prelude to what he anticipated to be another easy victory, the self-​satisfied dictator addressed a large and enthusiastic gathering in Berlin’s Sport Palace on September 26. He prefaced his remarks with a claim that he knew was utterly untrue: Any future operation against Czechoslovakia, he swore, was the “last territorial demand that I have to ask of Europe.” Yet his own military leaders were already aware of his intention to take the rest of Czechoslovakia, and not just the parts where Germans then lived.80 According to Hitler, the Czechs had mistreated the Sudeten Germans, a situation that had reached a breaking point when Czech President Beneš refused to let these subjugated people have their freedom. As Hitler well knew, such a concession would have been impossible without the self-​dissolution of the Czech state.81 A hot war looked inevitable, at least to Chief of the General Staff Beck, who kept submitting memoranda to his immediate superior that show his agreement with Hitler on the fundamentals, not on the timing.82 However, the war scare was nipped in the bud at a four-​power meeting in Munich on September 29 and 30. Czechoslovakia was not even given a seat at the table and was simply informed that it would lose the Sudeten area, where Germans were concentrated, and which also contained much of the Czech defensive fortifications.83 Germany’s Socialist underground felt that this victory was harder to swallow than the last one: “It shook the opposition to Hitler to the core, in their belief in the final victory of the law and the rediscovery of trust and belief in the world. Where should the enemies of the dictatorship now seek their moral strength, prepared as they were, to put their lives on the line for these ideals, if the world’s democratic powers sell them for a bogus peace?”84 Although German civilians had their reservations, when leadership attained what so many wanted without any fighting, worries softened, and according to the Socialists, the


Hitler’s True Believers

conviction emerged: “Hitler can demand what he wants, and the others will yield again and again. Won’t the Führer’s delusions of grandeur spread to ever-​larger circles of the population?”85 Joseph Goebbels, who often let his triumphalism run wild over prudence, rather more soberly than usual observed in his diary that everyone was relieved that the crisis had passed. “We were all hanging by a thread over a bottomless pit,” he admitted, and “now we have firm ground beneath our feet again. That’s a wonderful feeling.” He dutifully prepared a grand parade for Hitler’s return to Berlin, and people filled the streets and cheered as never before. “The mood is unprecedented,” Goebbels reflected, and “everyone is overjoyed about keeping the peace. We should be clear about that to ourselves. The nations don’t want another world war. That’s the mood in London, Paris, and also in Rome and Berlin.” It would have been easy enough to have stumbled into a war.86 Journalist Ruth Andreas-​Friedrich, no friend of the regime, remarked that when she finally heard the news, “all of Munich went out of its mind with joy.”87 The American journalist William L. Shirer, hardly a champion of Nazism either, noted how impressed he was by “the delirious joy of the citizens in Munich—​and Berlin—​when they learned on Friday [September 30] that it was not only peace but victory.”88 Yet some hours after Hitler had agreed at Munich to refrain from war, he mentioned to his adjutants that there would eventually be the need to use “well-​trusted methods” to deal with the “disputed questions” concerning Poland. That could wait until the “already won victory was digested,” though he made clear that there would only be quiet when the entire Versailles Treaty was finally and completely annulled.89 To that end, on October 21 he directed that the Wehrmacht be at the ready “at any time to take the rest of Czechoslovakia, if it were to pursue a policy opposed to Germany.”90 Events played into his hands when, on March 10, 1939, the Czech government in Prague tried to impose its rule on Slovakia, such that the latter used the threat as an excuse to declare its independence. Although the British ambassador to Berlin, Nevile Henderson, anticipated the pending intervention, the most he could get from the German Foreign Office was that Germany had “legitimate claims” to make and would “behave in a decent manner.”91 On March 15, even as Hitler conferred

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with the beleaguered Czech president, he ordered the Wehrmacht to invade, and it did so without meeting any resistance, nor hearing much of a protest from Britain or France. His calculations proved correct, so that when he entered Prague he was proud to declare “the return” of Bohemia-​Moravia, which he proclaimed had “belonged to the living space of the German people for a millennium.”92 Was Germany already heading for a war of ideologies? A great deal would happen during the rest of 1938, including the violent anti-​Jewish pogrom on November 9, the day after which Hitler gave a secret speech to some 400 representatives of the press. It is noteworthy that, with the smoke from burning synagogues still in the air, he did not say a word about the murderous events. Instead he mused that for years he had been forced to talk about peace, and that might have led people to misunderstand his aims. In order to change that perception, he wanted to work with the press to make clear “that there are things that can be realized only by violence.” Pointedly, he recalled that Napoleon had succeeded not merely because he was a brilliant strategist and leader on the battlefield, but also in that he had reaped the ideas sown by the French Revolution. Similarly, the object of the moment was to convince the German people of the National Socialist idea; it did not matter if he believed it, but it was crucial that they did. What was necessary was “that behind me I have strong believers, a decided, self-​secure, confident German Volk.” Hence it was his duty—​and that of the press—​to awaken that strength for the mission ahead. Historians who insist that once Hitler had the instruments of power in his hands, he could have cared less about public opinion should look more closely at this speech, as it conveyed his notion of a dictatorship whose ideas and actions had to be rooted in popular support.93 What was the great mission for which the people should be prepared? Even what had been far-​fetched fantasies were now were becoming feasible, Hitler stated matter-​of-​factly, because their “racial value” was beyond all others. What about their numbers? Contrary to what pessimists were claiming, Germany was rising, he said and when he looked at the United States’ 126 or 127 million people (his figures) he blithely discounted on racial grounds all except the 60 million or so Anglo-​Saxons. The Soviet Union possessed not even 55 million Great Russians, with the remainder of poor racial stock. Britain had a mere


Hitler’s True Believers

46 million living in the Motherland. His listeners must have pricked up their ears when he told them that by 1940 Germany would be able to boast of “80 million of a single race, and around it almost another 8 million” closely related by race. The narrative was that just as Germany had once been the great empire and had lost its way, after 400 years its “recovery” and “way to greatness” were at hand.94 For all this gloating, the German military harbored grave reservations about a clash of arms that could early escalate into a Europe-​wide war for which the Wehrmacht was not prepared. This hesitancy bothered Hitler, and to erase it, his adjutants Rudolf Schmundt and Gerhard Engel suggested that he meet with officers and become better acquainted. Germany’s leader would also see that his armed forces were enthusiastic supporters.95 These talks in early 1939 provide insights into the factors that led into what would become a war of ideologies. The meetings began on January 18, when Hitler spoke to young lieutenants about the duty and mission of officers. For that purpose, he drew on the lessons of Prussian-​German military history, which, he said, had revealed that virtues such as patriotism, enthusiasm, loyalty, obedience, and courage in the army had led the way to greatness. A week later, he addressed the high commanders of the army, air force, and navy for a more gala affair in the new Reich Chancellery. After greeting each of these gentlemen personally, he spoke about matters that he deemed were “inappropriate” for the public. Instead of his usual historical narrative, he skipped to the biggest event in his life, the 1918–​1919 revolution. That episode, he said, represented the failure of the entire ruling class. Now the question boiled down to this: Could Hitler find the necessary “racially endowed elements” to build a new corps of leaders, a “select leadership elite”?96 Frankly, he said, “the great mass of our people come not from Nordic-​leadership oriented elements.” Very many belonged to a pre-​ Aryan race—​a concept not used in Mein Kampf—​and “the great majority is not Nordic-​Dominant.” These he compared to a female seeking a male to be the master of her world. Such “basic race” Germans would be happy to do as they were told as long as the “ruling organization” used discipline. Only Nordic-​Germanic men had the ability “to become organizers, to become the masters of the world.” How could he find them? Not simply by their appearance, for what set them apart was

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their “absolute, personal courage.” And with that leadership corps, in one hundred years or so, a “new social kernel would arise,” one that was not capitalist, but specifically political, and it would put the nation “into contention for the domination of Europe.”97 Shortly after this incendiary talk, Hitler spoke to the public for the first time after Kristallnacht in an address to the Reichstag on January 30, the sixth anniversary of his appointment as chancellor. Almost as a prelude to war, he vowed to organize society like an army—​the militarist’s dream! He asked rhetorically: Could two or more completely contrary points of view exist in a single army unit? Obviously not. Therefore, the same should hold true in political life, so that the Volksgemeinschaft he was building was based, he now candidly admitted, on military principles that had been “proven” over the centuries. “It is nonsense,” he instructed listeners, “to presume that obedience and discipline have no application in the remainder of the life of peoples, and that they are useful only for soldiers. Quite to the contrary! A  Volksgemeinschaft, raised in discipline and obedience, can more readily mobilize the forces necessary to secure the existence of the people, and thereby to serve the interests of all.” The resurrection of the nation could not simply be commanded or forced, he reminded them; it had to be gained “by the compelling power of the idea itself, hence by the toil of continuing education.”98 His radio audience might well have wondered: Did Germany need still more land after all it had claimed in 1938? As if to answer, he used selective statistics to argue that the country had between 135 and 140 people per square kilometer, which was supposedly too many to feed within its existing borders. By contrast, the United States had only one-​ third of that population, with fifteen times as much arable land. This remained his justification for Germany’s need for Lebensraum. The rest of the world would have seen it his way, or so he contended, except that “the Jews” got in the way. Allegedly, it was they who incited the nations to war against each other, in order to profit from it financially and to “gratify their vengeance” announced in the Old Testament. Therefore, should the Jews start another world war, he threatened, implying that they had done so in 1914, he now (as often before) pressed himself forward as a prophet: “This time the result would not be the Bolshevization of the world, but the extermination of the Jewish race in Europe.”


Hitler’s True Believers

Hence the main allegation against the Jews at this point was that they were communist “inciters,” and he swore that nothing would “sway Germany from its reckoning” with them.99 This self-​stylization of having a genius-​like gift to make correct prophesies was one of Hitler’s favorite oratorical tropes. This notorious prophesy aspect of the speech was without precedent. Never had a leader of a modern world power announced such a murderous threat against an entire class of noncombatants. Curiously, the various collectors of public opinion reported little or no reaction to this “prophesy” about the fate of the Jews. Although Hitler had not made a decision to kill all the Jews, the murderous threat was already there, and to keep it on people’s minds in the years ahead, he or his paladins repeated the prophesy in public. In the last of his prewar speeches to the military, Hitler addressed the commanders of the army in the Kroll Opera on February 10, 1939, after which they visited the Reich Chancellery and were treated to dinner. He admitted that some in the military had regarded his actions in 1938 with skepticism or inner reserve. Now he thought it important that officers understand his thinking and motivation, for (he wanted them to believe) he was following a preconceived plan. His conclusion as to the options open to a growing nation, one that could not provide all its own food, was by now part of a mantra. Still, listeners might not know, he opined sternly, why seeking Lebensraum was the only way out, even if at some point that might mean war. In order to face that situation, the nation needed greater self-​confidence, and to restore it, he had constructed the great buildings and the wide autobahn. Without popular belief, there could be no resurrection. The world, he intoned, had reached an intellectual and spiritual turning point, “and National Socialism is really more, gentlemen, than an everyday event.” Back in the 1920s, he recalled, it seemed to him that only two ideas mobilized people, for which they would willingly die: nationalism and socialism. Instead of watching them fight each other, he had united those ideas, hence the National Socialist Party. During the past six years, he conceded that the legislation of his government had only begun to create a Volksgemeinschaft, and it would take generations to complete. It would be too simple for soldiers to say this did not concern them, but it must, because “in the next great war, entire peoples

Nationalism and Militarism


will get involved. That is, Weltanschauungen [worldviews], ideologies will be involved. Nations, gentlemen! Today it’s racial knowledges, peoples that fight. It’s obvious that the symbolism of this struggle will be completely different. The next war will be entirely a war of ideologies [Weltanschauungen], that is, consciously a national and a racial war.” They would have to become ideological leaders, so they had to know what moved a people to fight. What he wanted was for state and society to be organized like an army—​again, the militarist’s dream. The word that stands out most in his language between 1925 and 1933 is not “art” or “Jews,” but “military,” which he mentioned obsessively. Now he repeated his favorite rhetorical question: Could two or more completely contrary points of view exist in a single military unit? And, as he had often concluded, they could not and the same should be true in political life. Indeed, the Volksgemeinschaft he was building was, so he insisted again, to be based on proven military principles. His officers would have to stand behind him in “tough times,” in his “fight for the Weltanschauung,” even if the entire nation should desert him. Coming to the point, he told them gravely that it was his intention “to solve the German question, that is, to solve the German space problem.” To steel their resolve, soldiers needed an Idea, for that was what “ultimately moves men, fires them up to go forward. That’s also the only thing that keeps a nation upright through a long war.” Whereas “in earlier times officers went with sword and Bible, in the next war it would be appropriate for officers to go with sword and ideology [Weltanschauung] at the head of the troops.” In the future, they should see in Hitler “not only the highest commander of the German Wehrmacht,” they must also regard him as the “highest ideological leader [weltanschaulicher Führer], to whom you are likewise duty-​bound, for better or for worse.”100 By March, and without needing to hear these words, British prime minister Neville Chamberlain had had enough of Hitler’s malevolence and broken promises, most recently his seizure of the rest of Czechoslovakia. On March 31, 1939, Chamberlain told Parliament that he wished to extend a protective hand to Poland, which was clearly going to be Germany’s next victim. He promised that if any action which threatened Polish independence should occur, which the Polish


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government decided to resist, then the British government would come to its support, and France would do so as well.101 Far from being deterred, Hitler persisted in his conviction that the British would not dare get involved. Indeed, already on March 25 he had casually informed the commander-​in-​chief of the army, Walther von Brauchitsch, that he intended to use force if, by the end of the summer, Poland had not accepted his demands. The head of the OKW, Wilhelm Keitel, somewhat belatedly obtained a directive from Hitler on April 3 for an attack on that country.102 When Hitler’s adjutant, Von Below, read the follow-​up directives on April 11, their implications did not really sink in, because such hypothetical cases had come and gone before.103 In reality, Hitler had not yet made a decision for war, for he had stipulated only that preparations go ahead for an attack to be launched at “any time” after September 1.104 The German leader celebrated his fiftieth birthday on April 20, 1939, in a style he thought befitting of the occasion. To the thrill of massive crowds, and in a car driving with his General Construction Inspector Albert Speer, they moved slowly along Berlin’s sparkling-​new East-​West Axis, the centerpiece of what would become the future capital city of Europe and even the world. A  military march showed off the latest weapons, and that evening Speer presented him with a giant model (almost 4 meters high) of an Arch of Triumph, based on the sketch Hitler had drawn before 1933.105 The staggering costs of all this construction, along with vast urban renewal schemes, monumental architectural plans, and the stupendous expenditures on the military, were bound to break the budget. The obvious solution was a quick war for plunder, profit, and prestige.106 Just over a month later, on May 23, Hitler confided to his military brass that he had solved Germans’ “ideological problems,” and now they faced economic obstacles that could be conquered only by invading other countries. That was plain enough. Now he determined to attack Poland “at the first suitable opportunity,” and even if for years he had said that he wanted to avoid a two-​front war, he was prepared to take on the West if need be. The war to come, he said, would be thoroughly ideological in its aims and especially in how it would be fought.107 He already knew that revising the German-​Polish borders would be popular among and even justified by the military, the people, and likely

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most of the opposition.108 Even Hitler’s Socialist underground enemies in Silesia, a region bound to be affected by conflict with neighboring Poland, observed when looking ahead that a war against Poland “could be made popular” among German workers.109 How to assess Hitler’s nationalist ideology, its militarist expressions, and public consumption near the end of the peacetime years? Often it seemed that he was preaching to the converted, for his words and deeds were in tune with attitudes that were already widely accepted. And even as the fear of war weighed on people’s minds ever more heavily, they persisted in making the best of it. The elusive popular mood was traced by a Wehrmacht survey in August 1938 for Munich and the surrounding area, and provided a succinct account. From my study of differing kinds of primary sources, it would be fair to conclude that what it said, to a greater or lesser extent, fitted other parts of the country. The survey stated that while “the specter of unemployment” was gone, wages were rising, theaters, movies, cafes were filled, and there was dancing long into the night, the mood of the people was not what it should be because of worries about the future. There were wide swathes of the population who were living it up in the belief that the economic boom would end “sooner or later in war.” People compared it to the fun-​loving times before the Great War in 1914. “Therefore, as grateful as the people are, that they enjoy all this thanks to the Reich leadership’s love of peace [sic!], there is nevertheless among many people, anxiety and trepidation, as in the saying ‘One day you’ll come to grief, you’ll try it once too often.’ (Der Krug geht solange zum Brunnen, bis er bricht.) Thus, things can change, and a war could bring a bitter end to the happiness and welfare of the present.”110 It was as if people intuitively recognized that in their adapting to Hitler’s doctrine and embracing the transformed society after which it was being fashioned, the efforts would necessarily culminate in war that some believed, or hoped, they could win.


War and Genocide

During the summer of 1939 a sense of impending crisis gripped international relations in Europe, and at the center the building storm was Germany. When Hitler spoke with Carl J. Burckhardt, the high commissioner of the League of Nations in Danzig, on August 11, he seemed to plead for understanding from the British and French. Yet even as he sought understanding, he sounded aggressive in his claim that all his efforts, informed by ideological-​economic considerations, were directed at acquiring Lebensraum in the east. “If the West is too blind and too stupid to understand this, I will be forced to reach an understanding with the Russians, turn and strike the West, and then after their defeat turn back against the Soviet Union with my collective strength. I need the Ukraine so that no one can starve us out, like in the last war.”1 Here was a brief outline of the wars to come, though with no thought given to the consequent death of millions, as the Third Reich strove to realize the most inhumane aspects of Hitler’s ideology. In his chat with Burckhardt, Hitler alleged he was holding back his generals, who were supposedly upset at the “impudence” of the Poles. When he met with those military leaders at the Berghof later in August, it was to say that the moment was right to strike Poland because in the future there would never be another man who enjoyed as much authority as he did.2 His bombshell announcement was that he had worked out a non-​aggression treaty with the Soviet Union.3 For now, the goal was “the destruction of the living forces” of Poland, though some generals later denied hearing this atrocious threat. Hitler told


Hitler’s True Believers

them to use whatever methods were needed, and to “close their hearts to pity. Brutal operations. Eighty million [German] people must obtain their rights. Their existence has to be assured.”4 The planned attack built on simmering resentments of the Poles, and Hitler assigned the most radical tasks to the politically reliable SS.5 After conferring with Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich’s office organized Action Groups (Einsatzgruppen or ESG), made up of men drawn from the Gestapo, Kripo (Criminal Police), and SD (Security Service).6 During June and July, commanders attended a two-​week training course in how to apply their ideology in Poland, with special attention to the role of Jews. These 2,700 or so men were to be used initially in five units of around 500, each of them following behind the lines of the invading army. At meetings in August and September, Himmler and Heydrich gave these men blanket authorization to take all necessary steps to stamp out resistance. The Jews, of whom there were said to be three million in Poland, were termed “a very great danger.”7 The war began on September 1, 1939, at 4:45 a.m., when German forces crossed the border into Poland. Some loyal German citizens still harbored doubts, as did the teacher and non-​Nazi August Töpperwien. Yet he was impressed by the transformation of the country, with the evacuation of parts of it near France, the air raid precautions, and so on, all of it done “with machine-​like exactitude.”8 Hitler made further appeals to Britain and France on September 3, and blamed “the Jewish-​democratic world enemy” for bringing both countries into the war that day. At the same time, Himmler issued orders to the ESG “to shoot on the spot” any Polish “revolutionaries” or those found with a weapon. Army leadership commands three days later were consistent with Himmler’s, especially on shooting loosely defined “partisans.”9 Heydrich stressed the point on September 7, when he told his charges that Poland was going to be erased from the map, deprived of its ruling class, its people turned into slaves.10 In conversation with the commander-​in-​chief of the army Brauchitsch, Hitler demanded the “ethnic cleansing” (völkisch-​politische Flurbereinigung) of Poland.11 For the moment he agreed that Polish territory would be divided into three zones, the first comprising the region that Germany had lost by the Versailles Treaty. The returned lands would be annexed to the Reich, with all Poles, Jews, and Gypsies (millions in total) thrown out,

War and Genocide


and new German “armed settlers” (Wehrbauer) brought in. A second zone, to be called the General Government, would contain the bulk of the Polish population, and would be harshly ruled like an abject colony. Along its eastern border they would build a wall to divide Germany permanently from Russia, and there would be a third zone beyond that to the east, used for the “worst Polish elements,” a kind of “reservation” or ghetto, to which Jews from Germany and Austria would also be sent.12 Heydrich ordered the formation of Jewish Councils (Judenältestenräte) in Poland, comprising twenty-​four elders. They would take the census and be made responsible for implementing German orders, which would later involve them in the deportations to death camps.13 Adding to Poland’s woes in the meantime, the Soviet Red Army attacked from the east on September 17. On September 28 the Germans took Warsaw, and in early October the fighting ended. Estimates of the number of Polish civilians, including Jews, killed either by the Wehrmacht, the SS, or the Ethnic German Self-​Protection militia, run as high as 65,000.14 In conversation with propagandist and east European expert Alfred Rosenberg on September 29, Hitler conveyed his negative impressions of Poland, saying the country had featured “a thin Germanic” upper class, beneath which there was “dreadful material.” He damned the Jews as “the most horrendous thing one could imagine. The towns were covered with filth.” Henceforth, “only an unerring master hand” could rule there.15 Hitler sounded slightly less brutal in his public victory speech: “The most important task” in Poland, he professed, was “a new ordering of ethnographic relations, which means a resettlement of the nationalities.” The aim was to transform “the entire Lebensraum,” and that included “regulating the Jewish question.”16 To that end, on October 7 he appointed Himmler as the Reich Commissar for the Consolidation of German Nationhood (Reichskommissar für die Festigung deutschen Volkstums or RKFdV) with wide-​ranging executive power to plan and implement the Germanization of the east. Although there would be rivalries and conflicts with other organizations, no one seriously questioned the harsh methods to be used to create a National Socialist utopia in the east.17 The Gestapo left nothing to chance on the German home front, and in late August and early September had preemptively arrested


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large numbers of former Communist Party functionaries, as well as some Socialists and other political enemies.18 Hitler ordered Himmler to adopt all measures deemed necessary, and when that imperative landed on Heydrich’s desk, he formulated a far-​reaching decree on the “principles for domestic security of state during the war.” These called upon citizen vigilance and cooperation as never before.19 Other rulings followed, equally informed by National Socialist doctrine and its racialist interpretation of crime, such as one aimed at loosely defined “Parasites on the Body Politic” (Volksschädlinge). These offenses were deemed to “offend healthy popular sentiment” (gesunde Volksempfinden).20 When Hitler met with Wehrmacht leaders on October 17, he admitted unflinchingly that in the General Government (most of former Poland), there was “devil’s work” to be done. Hans Frank, the new governor, would be given tools to create “total disorganization,” deliberately keeping living standards low, with its people merely serving as a source of slave labor. This “hard racial struggle” (Volkstumskampf) would follow “no legal norms,” nor would it be consistent with traditional German principles. Jews and Poles from the newly annexed parts of Poland would be deported to the General Government, as would the Jews from the Reich.21 To run the newly incorporated areas, Hitler preferred civilian leaders, especially those known for their xenophobic nationalism and fanatical political beliefs, like Arthur Greiser. Even before he formally took over the Warthegau—​the region along the Warthe River in former Poland—​Greiser had ordered that each locality was “to be given a German character as quickly and thoroughly as possible.”22 Hitler said of Greiser, while hinting at the decision-​making style he preferred, that he “liquidates the Polish intelligentsia where he sees fit” and ensured the end of all “Polish influence.”23 On November 12, the higher SS and police leader in Posen stated that an immediate priority in the Warthegau was to “evacuate” the Jews, even though he could not yet give a destination for the unfortunates.24 The sheer madness of seeking to transform the Warthegau into a racially pure Germanic utopia virtually overnight can be detected in the number of people involved: there were only 325,000 Germans living in the region with a total Polish population of just over four million, which included around 435,000

War and Genocide


Jews. In their place, ethnic Germans would be brought in from various pockets in the east.25 When Hitler had paid a victory visit to Danzig on September 19, 1939, he took along euthanasia specialists, who together with locals tasked a commando unit, under SS Major Kurt Eimann, to kill mental patients in chronic care. That process continued into December, and by that time 7,000 had been murdered.26 Elsewhere in the Danzig–​West Prussian region, thousands more were shot, and the euthanasia program soon spread to neighboring Pomerania.27 Germans experimented with various methods until they eventually came up with a gas van that began in the Warthegau on January 15, 1940, under Herbert Lange, a Gestapo official and one of the leaders of ESG VI. His new mission was to murder all those in psychiatric clinics in the Warthegau using a specially equipped truck as a mobile gas chamber.28 Meanwhile, Western Europe held its breath and, if anticipating what was to come, did little to give Hitler any real worries. His ideas, combined with those of his generals, informed the strategy for the attack to the west. The famed Blitzkrieg, which got its name later, began on May 10, 1940. The Wehrmacht did not have an advantage in total army divisions, artillery, tanks, and certainly not in the navy.29 Surprisingly enough, Germany chalked up stunning victories while allowing British and some French troops to evacuate at Dunkirk. The war was all but over on June 18, and after some delay, the new master of Europe agreed to sign an armistice, specifically, in the same railway carriage that French marshal Ferdinand Foch had used on November 11, 1918, when he conveyed ceasefire terms to the defeated Germans. With this gesture, Hitler fulfilled every German nationalist’s dream of revenge.30 In the Fatherland, Berliners indulged their joy of parades on July 18, viewing a march that went through the Brandenburg Gate. Festivities aside, the nation focused hopes for peace on the speech Hitler delivered the next day before the Reichstag. He may have been serious about ending the war, yet his “appeal to reason” aimed at the British was laden with jarring antisemitic reflections. “The National Socialist Movement,” he claimed, had delivered Germany “from the Jewish-​ capitalist shackles imposed by a plutocratic-​ democratic, dwindling class of exploiters.” Then he outlandishly professed to have lived up


Hitler’s True Believers

to the Munich agreement of 1938, supposedly undone by “the Jewish-​ capitalist warmongers, their hands covered with blood, who saw in the possible success of such a peaceful revision [of Versailles], the vanishing of plausible grounds for the realization of their insane plans.” Thus, a conspiracy of “corrupt political creatures and greedy financial magnates made its appearance, for whom war was a welcome means to bolster business. The international poison of the peoples began to agitate against and to corrode healthy minds.” Listeners were supposed to believe that the war was caused by the “big capitalist clique of war profiteers” and the Jews, not by Hitler’s lust for conquest.31 Given this hate-​laced “appeal to reason,” it is not surprising that within the hour, the BBC broadcast a categorical rejection of the peace offer, which according to the SD tracking of popular opinion did not dampen Germans’ “attitude of sure victory.” The SD claimed, with slight exaggeration, that “the nation had reached an unprecedented inner unity and close connection between the front and home.” It stated that organized opposition had all but ceased to exist, and that people were growing impatient for the invasion of Britain as an answer to the increasing bombings of civilian targets in Germany.32 A  great deal of additional evidence shows how the early successes solidified the National Socialist consensus, though there were also some who heartily disagreed.33 The dominant reaction, even in liberal circles, was one of fighting a “war of liberation,” and such an impression prevailed among those who felt that Hitler had provoked the conflict.34 The decisive German victories in Western Europe also silenced the few generals who had toyed with opposition, including Chief of Staff Franz Halder.35 Fatefully, however, the Third Reich reached a turning point at the end of July 1940, when Hitler rashly opted to take on the Soviet Union, which so many in his own country and in the West had badly underestimated. If the Red Army were smashed, he told his military leaders, “Britain’s last hope would be shattered. Germany then will be the master of Europe and the Balkans. Decision: Russia’s destruction must therefore be made a part of this struggle: Spring 1941.” The next day, without waiting for an order, much less questioning this premature step, Halder set his staff to work out a strategy for the attack.36 Here was a dramatic about-​face in less than two weeks, with Hitler going from (half-​heartedly or not) offering peace to Britain to pivoting

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into another war. What was he thinking? Since the late 1920s he had argued for acquiring Lebensraum in the East, to provide for the next hundred years and turn Germany into a decisive continental power.37 He had not worked out a precise scheme, though he was delighted to sign a tripartite pact with Japan and Italy on September 27, 1940, in hopes of cowering Britain and the United States.38 He kept putting off the invasion of Britain until October and then dropped it. Soviet boss Stalin’s only move was to send his abrasive foreign minister, Vyacheslav Molotov, to Berlin that November, and the Soviet Union’s expressed territorial ambitions likely confirmed Hitler’s long-​held anti-​Bolshevik convictions.39 When he assessed the strategic situation with his generals on January 8 and 9, 1941, he argued that Stalin would inevitably make ever greater demands—​indeed, he had done so only recently. The upshot, one gen­ eral recorded, was that “Russia must be smashed as soon as possible.”40 On January 30, in the midst of these ruminations, for the first time in public in two years Hitler repeated his threat that “if the Jews should succeed in plunging the rest of the world into a general war, then all of the Jews will have played out their role in Europe.” He misdated his original utterance to September 1939 and the first day of the war, as if he had identified the Jews as the ultimate target in the war itself. Thus, his myth-​laced ideology appeared to be gaining the upper hand over military and political rationality.41 Some contemporaries claimed that they had barely noticed this horrific threat against the Jews, if only because such tirades of hatred had become commonplace.42 Hitler set the tone for the invasion to come when he told the chief of Wehrmacht operations staff, Alfred Jodl, in March 1941:  “The impending campaign [in the East] is more than a clash of arms; it also entails a struggle between two ideologies. To conclude this war it is not enough, given the vastness of the space, to defeat the enemy’s forces.” Indeed, “The Jewish-​Bolshevik intelligentsia, until now the ‘oppressor’ of the people, must be liquidated,” along with the non-​Jewish intelligentsia.43 At the end of the month he spoke to a gathering of around one hundred top commanders of the army, navy, and air force, for whom he underlined that in the coming conflict soldiers should forget any ideas of comradeship. “This is a war of extermination,” and very different from the war in the West. They were going to “solve the


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continental problem finally and thoroughly,” and break up the Soviet state into many pieces.44 The speech seemed to lull any doubters, and there was no record of any dissenting voices.45 Thus the ideological and propaganda campaign prior to the conflict, as well as its military preparations, already contained explicit genocidal elements. No less bloody-​ minded, if more mundane, considerations animated the planners on the staffs of the general quartermaster, Ministry of Agriculture, and Four-​Year Plan, concerned with provisioning the invading troops.46 The experts took pride in their rationality, and at a meeting on May 2, the state secretaries calculated coldly that in the coming war, the Wehrmacht would have to feed itself from Russia, at the expense of the native population, with the result that “x million people” would have to starve.47 The full implications of this utterly amoral plan was embodied in the meek-​sounding “Economic-​ political guidelines for the economic organization of the East, Group Agriculture,” issued on May 23. It also stipulated which parts of the Soviet Union would be fed or not, complete with the exact allocations, as if it was calm rationing. In fact it was a witch’s brew for mass starvation. The document was influenced by Herbert Backe, the state secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture. He was born in Russia, knew its agriculture well, and embraced the need for extensive Lebensraum more than Walther Darré, his nominal boss, who was being pushed aside, partly for not being imperialistic enough. The plan calculated that the Wehrmacht had to be fed, as did Germany and Western Europe, and that the shortfall of food would result in a famine in parts of the Soviet Union. The inevitable result: “Many tens of millions of people in these areas will be superfluous and will die or wander off to Siberia.” The scheme could not be implemented, though it was not for want of trying, because it proved impossible to keep food away from so many people.48 As it was, the need to provision the troops heading east, military operations, “pacification” of the areas by the SS, and Nazi ideology interacted with devastating results, and cost millions of lives. The army’s “Guidelines for the Behavior of the Troops in Russia” of June 4 came with an ideological preface, defining the enemy as “the carriers” of Bolshevism. The struggle ahead would demand “ruthless and energetic measures against Bolshevik agitators, guerrillas, saboteurs, Jews, and complete elimination of any active or passive resistance.” An

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additional June 6 order claimed that political commissars accompanying the Red Army had originated “barbaric and Asiatic methods of war,” so that they were “to be shot immediately.”49 This command built on the widespread belief of officers and men in the Wehrmacht that communism had been created by and was dominated by Jews, and that the political commissars fired up the resistance of the Red Army. The result would be that between June and December 1941, as many as 10,000 commissars were shot out of hand. This policy (one among many) backfired, as it encouraged the Soviets’ will to resist, and Hitler lamely backed away from it on May 6, 1942, saying there would be a pause in the killing “on an experimental basis.”50 The original commissar order was only one aspect of the difference with the invasion of Poland in 1939. Whereas, back then, a number of generals had restrained the ESG (Einsatzgruppen), and even stood perpetrators before military courts, such reservations evaporated in the euphoria of easy victories in Western Europe, and the authority and prestige that they brought to Hitler.51 Operation Barbarossa on June 22, 1941, marshaled just over three million troops of the German armed forces, and another half million from allied countries.52 Behind the army groups were four ESG with more than a dozen sub-​commandos, that is, units of various sizes. These 3,000 or so men in total had the mission of completing “security-​police measures outside the area of [the fighting] troops.”53 Heydrich gave more details orally on July 2, when he said their ultimate goal, to be pursued with “ruthless sharpness,” was the “political pacification” of the occupied areas.54 Necessarily their activities could not be isolated from those of the Wehrmacht, whose officers would rarely use their discretionary powers to halt executions.55 On the day of the invasion, Hitler issued a proclamation stating that, while no one in Germany had any animosity toward Russia, after several decades of “Jewish-​Bolshevik” rule, that country sought to carry its ideology to Germany. There also had developed a “conspiracy of the Jewish-​Anglo-​Saxon warmongers” with the “Jewish ruling powers” in Moscow, so that Germany had to defend itself.56 The propaganda machinery, which had been silent until then, quickly made up for lost time. Materials distributed to Party speakers under Goebbels’s direction baldly claimed that world Jewry and Communism,


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if defeated in Germany, were “embodied in Anglo-​Saxon plutocracy and Bolshevik state capitalism.”57 Typical was a front-​page story in the official newspaper bearing the headline: “Unity of the Jewish International Revealed.” The paper emphasized the conspiratorial links of the Jews in London, Washington, and Moscow.58 The Propaganda Ministry had work to do, because most Germans were shocked by the opening of hostilities, though soon public opinion recovered, as news came in of the sweeping early victories.59 Indeed, nationalism and the prospect of righting the wrongs of the 1919 Versailles Treaty played a considerable role in winning over people, whether they became true believing Nazi Party members or not. For example, Hoimar von Ditfurth as a beginning medical student did not regard himself as a National Socialist, and yet he concluded that the attack on Poland in 1939 was legitimate to take back land Germany had lost under the Versailles Treaty. Once the fighting began, even some enemies of the regime in quiet conversations with Von Ditfurth’s father, who rejected everything about the Third Reich, naively confessed that for the time being they would have to focus on winning the war, after which there would be time for settling accounts with National Socialism. Britain had stayed in the conflict, and to knock it out, Hitler had opted to attack the Soviet Union. The younger Von Ditfurth fully accepted that rationale, and as a nineteen-​year-​old when he heard news on the radio of the opening attack heading east, he was positively electrified. Though later in life a distinguished psychiatrist and pacifist, he recalled being filled with admiration for the daring of the German military leadership. “Now we would show the Soviet Russians that their cunning, Asiatic-​Communist mentality had represented a permanent threat to our eastern border.”60 The ebullient Hitler said in a meeting on July 16 with Field Marshal Keitel, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Lammers, and Hermann Göring that the task now was to divide “the giant cake according to our needs, in order to be able:  first, to dominate it; second, to administer it; and third, to exploit it.” He was bold enough to say that European Russia was as good as gone, and that he would never allow any military power west of the Ural Mountains. For the moment, he wanted to focus on creating a “Garden of Eden in the newly won eastern territories.”61

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The vast scale of the Eastern European land mass and the few Germans available to control it inclined occupation forces to use open terror. Soon troop shortages forced the military and even the SS to make some ideological compromises and to recruit from non-​German countries, and those soldiers proved crucial to “pacification” operations and carrying out the Holocaust.62 The racist regime also had to import hundreds of thousands of despised foreign workers from Poland and Ukraine to meet labor shortages. The regime forced these “slaves” to wear either a “P” or “Ost” on their clothing and told them that sexual relations with German men or women would be subject to the death penalty. The Gestapo, local officials, businesses, and the Nazi Party all cooperated in the enforcement of the strict rules. By 1945, there were between 7.7 and 7.9 million foreign workers in Germany. If these “racially inferior” people contradicted the project of building a race-​based Volksgemeinschaft, their stigmatization and laboring at menial tasks in factories, on farms, or in the home offered the “master race” a reminder of its privileged status.63 The basic structure that integrated the Wehrmacht into the Holocaust began with the prewar planning and set of ideas about what lay ahead. Killing Jews was regarded as legitimate, especially if that action was part of “settling accounts” for the crimes of Bolshevism. If the mass-​scale murder of the Jews, based on ideological considerations, was generally left to the SS and police apparatus, along with local collaborators, the Wehrmacht participated in the killing, most notably in Yugoslavia and Greece.64 Heydrich issued numerous additional guidelines to the ESG, stressing repeatedly that they were not to stand in the way of local “self-​cleansing operations of anti-​communist or anti-​Jewish circles.”65 The killing began all along the line, and within days, such as when Special Commando Tilsit of ESG A  under Franz Walter Stahlecker arrived in Garsden, Lithuania. On the morning of June 24, this group summarily executed 200 Jews and alleged communists, and even before then, Lithuanian partisans began murdering Jews and anyone deemed responsible for the recent Soviet occupation.66 That same day the Wehrmacht and Einsatz Kommando (ESK) 1b reached Kaunas, the second-​largest city, and stood idly by for days as “partisans” murdered in a bestial fashion some 2,300 Jews.67 The German mass murders


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began under Karl Jäger, the head of ESK 3, when it arrived on July 2. During the following months he kept scrupulous track of the body counts until, by the end of 1941, the total added up to 137,346.68 The liberation of Latvia’s capital, Riga, on July 1 was accompanied by massive violence against “internal enemies.” That meant primarily Jews and communists, though mainly the former. By October 15, Stahlecker was pleased to report the deaths of 6,378 Jews from Riga, and before he left he saw to it that those who remained were herded into a ghetto, that his successor had “cleansed” in two horrific operations on November 30 and December 8, killing an estimated 25,000 people.69 When misfortune brought the arrival of 1,000 Jews from Berlin, he interpreted Himmler’s orders to liquidate the ghetto as an excuse to murder them, even though German administrators and the military told him they needed those people. The Jews were marched to nearby Rumbula following a premeditated plan concocted by SS Lieutenant General Friedrich Jeckeln, the new higher SS and police leader for the Ostland. He even brought in around 100 officials from the SS, police, and civil administration to show them how such things were done.70 With the blood still showing on the ground outside Riga, more transports of Jews began arriving at what became an improvised “camp.” For example, around 1,000 German Jews from Nuremberg, Fürth, Bamberg, and Würzburg—​after being held briefly at the collection camp on the Nuremberg Party Rally grounds—​reached Riga on December 2. A similar number came from Stuttgart, Vienna, and Hamburg within the following four days. Added to these 4,000 were 10,000 more in January and February 1942. The Riga ghetto persisted into 1943, when it was dissolved over several months. For German Jews, the significance of being “deported” at that time was conveyed to Hilde Sherman-​Zander, who was with her family during a brief stopover in Düsseldorf. She recalled decades later: “I was turning around . . . when I suddenly received a blow to the back and fell down the narrow stairs into the slaughterhouse. I will never forget this moment in my life: On the stairs above stood P., a high-​ranking Gestapo official. . . . It was as if I were stunned. It was the first time that a stranger touched me. And addressed me in the familiar form. In Düsseldorf. In Germany.” The technology of deportations from Germany was both needlessly cruel and mind-​numbingly scrupulous.71

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The die had been cast before SS Lieutenant General Friedrich Jeckeln got to Riga. He had already assembled experiences as a perpetrator because he had been the higher SS and police leader for Russia-​South and Ukraine since June 1941. He became personally involved on September 1, when western parts of Ukraine were turned over from the military to civil administration. An “embarrassing” situation arose when Hungary, a German ally, pushed a large number of Jews into what was to become Reich Commissariat Ukraine. Jeckeln hoped that in the six days remaining from August 25, his units would be able to “liquidate” the estimated 11,000 Jews in an operation that soon commenced near the town of Kamenez-​Podolsk. The matter was discussed in the civil and military administration in advance. Jeckeln took pride in killing around 23,600 men, women, and children in what was to that point the largest single murder operation of the campaign.72 In Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, the Red Army left timed booby traps before evacuating, and between September 24 and 28, when these exploded, several hundred Germans and some locals were killed. Wehrmacht Major General Kurt Eberhard consulted with SS leaders, including Friedrich Jeckeln, the higher SS and police leader, and together they decided to exact revenge on the Jews. The military left it to the ESG C Special Commandos (SK) 4a under Paul Blobel to do the “dirty work,” along with some Waffen-​SS, two police battalions, and the Ukrainian Deputy Police.73 On September 29, Jews were led to a gulley called Babi Yar. There were so many people walking that one survivor said it felt more like a march or a demonstration. By the end of the next day, the death toll stood at 33,771, in what was one of the worst massacres of the war.74 Friedrich Jeckeln went on to organize still others. Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau, the highest-​ranking officer in the area, heard murmurings of dissent about such killings, and in response issued a notorious order to the Sixth Army, filled with ideological arguments justifying mass murder. He told soldiers that they had to accept the necessity for using harsh measures against “Jewish sub-​humans.”75 How stark the contrast here to his attitude during the Polish invasion, when he had taken exception to an SS music director having fifty Jewish civilians shot. At that time, his reasoning was that such behavior could endanger discipline in the army, though by 1941


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he obviously had jettisoned those concerns.76 Soldiers going home to Germany on leave were not shy in talking about the murder of the Jews and the deleterious impact this had on Ukrainian perpetrators.77 In Ukraine’s Eastern Galicia during June and July, there were at least thirty-​five pogroms in cities, towns, and villages, one of the worst in Lemberg (Ukrainian, Lviv). The Ukrainian underground (OUN) sprang into action soon after the Soviets left and began “arresting” Jewish males. German troops arrived at the end of June and allowed the OUN to institute a pogrom that may have killed up to 1,000 in a matter of days. German special commandos, among other units, after finding more NKVD victims, obtained permission to eliminate in reprisal “elements opposed to the Reich.” There followed a hunt for Jews by local militia, ordinary citizens, and some members of the Wehrmacht. On July 2, as the pogrom came to a preliminary end, the leader of the security police (BdS), Felix Landau, recorded in his diary that they had reached Lemberg at around 4 p.m.: “Shortly after arriving, we shot the first Jews.” He said he was “not fond of shooting defenseless people—​even if they’re Jews,” yet he and his men continued doing so.78 They killed most in sites on the edge of Lemberg, with the death toll reaching an estimated 4,000. By the time these invaders made it to neighboring Tarnopol, the Ukrainian militia was already in the process of exacting revenge on the Jews for the deaths the Soviet secret police had meted out before they left.79 Comparable events followed all over the area.80 For Belarus, Heinrich Himmler sent an “explicit order” to his units in the Pripet Marches on August 1, 1941, that “all Jews have to be shot. Jewish women driven into the swamps.”81 Also on this day, lest anyone think that Hitler did not bother with such details, the head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Müller, wrote that “the Führer was to be presented with running accounts of the work of the Einsatzgruppen in the East,” including photographs and documents.82 The Wehrmacht (OKW), including Field Marshal Keitel, the quartermaster general, and such figures as Bormann, Ribbentrop, and Goebbels, were also to be kept in the picture.83 The fact that Hitler knew the details came out occasionally during his monologues at table.84 Operating on the principles of National Socialism as he understood them, and as Reich commissar for the consolidation of German

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nationhood, Himmler took the initiative in developing an ideological vision for the entire east. Only two days after the beginning of the war he had tasked the geostrategic specialist Konrad Meyer with drawing up what became General Plan East. It would involve the complete racial reordering of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and foresaw transferring up to thirty million people, mostly Slavs, to distant Siberia. Representatives from numerous branches of the sciences put their expertise at the disposal of this endeavor.85 Any remnants of nations not “resettled” would become slaves for the ten million or so German settlers in the area. These slaves would be used, Himmler said, until after some years, enough Germans would be found to manage the settlements themselves.86 In a note on January 12, 1943—​shortly before the end of Stalingrad—​he had Meyer add to the plan (besides former Poland) all the Baltic States, Belarus, and parts of Russia as far north as the region around Leningrad and to the south, all of the Crimean peninsula.87 Such blueprints provide a harrowing insight into what the future would have held for millions. Regional and local officials strove to realize their own visions, as did an ideological fanatic like Arthur Greiser, the administrative head of the Warthegau. He sought the permission of Hitler or Himmler to carry out the murder of the Jews in this region.88 From the Führer headquarters where Himmler consulted with his boss on September 17, 1941, he informed Greiser the following day of Hitler’s wish “to liberate and empty Germany and the Protectorate of Jews as soon as possible.”89 Indeed, Hitler wanted the deportations to take place in broad daylight to make them known and to serve as a warning to America.90 In fact, since March 1941 Reinhard Heydrich had been pushing for the deportation of the Jews somewhere to the east, and on July 31 he obtained Göring’s signature on a memorandum that Heydrich had penned himself. He would be empowered “to make all the necessary organizational, practical, and financial aspects with regard to a complete solution (Gesamtlösung) of the Jewish question for the entire German area of influence in Europe.”91 The goal visualized the mass deportation of the Jews after the end of the successful war, a time that then seemed not that distant. Various German authorities came up with a “rationale” for getting rid of the Jews, whether to provide housing for bombed-​out citizens, to fight disease, to deal with “partisans,” to get their property


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or money, and so on. In fact, these were merely particular expressions of National Socialist antisemitism.92 In Germany, the Jews’ reaction to the star decree (issued September 1, 1941), which required them to wear a yellow star on their outer clothing in order to make their presence known to good citizens, can be gleaned from the diary of former teacher Willy Cohn in Breslau. He thought that when people saw the star they found it as “embarrassing” as he did, and in some cases, he might have been right, given that isolated official reports from across the country suggested that while some citizens “greeted” the measure, others criticized it.93 Cohn began to guess what was happening to the Jews in the East, and it was with a shudder that he learned on November 15, by postcard, that he and his family would have to leave their apartment by the end of the month and be sent somewhere else. In fact, he was arrested on November 21 and four days later was deported with his wife and two young daughters, to disappear without a trace.94 A younger Berlin resident, Inge Deutschkron, only nineteen at the time, remembered that when she wore the Jewish star it was as if she had put a mask on her face. “There were some that looked at me with hatred, there were others who gave me a sympathetic glance, and still others who spontaneously looked away.” On the other hand, there were passersby who put food in her pocket and otherwise showed kindness. She survived the war and deportation—​and she saw the first transport leaving Berlin—​by going underground, which would have been impossible without help from sympathetic citizens.95 Else Behrend-​Rosenfeld was forced to live in a “collection camp” for Jews in Munich’s Berg am Laim, though she gained a positive impression from most people, who (she thought) simply refused to see the yellow star. Only a few made hateful remarks to her.96 She was aware of the early deportations from Germany’s incorporated areas and was shocked when more than 5,000 Jews were deported from Baden and the Palatinate to unoccupied France in October 1940. With a doctorate in history, having worked as a caregiver in a women’s prison before 1933, the forty-​ish Behrend-​Rosenfeld was picked as one of the leaders in the camp. On Saturday, November 8, 1941, she was told of the deportations out of Munich beginning in the middle of the following week, though nobody realized that most people would be sent to their deaths. She

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also obtained help to escape and survive underground, and she made it to Switzerland in April 1944.97 The few official accounts of popular reactions to these deportations provide little more than general impressions. Thus, when the gendarme in Forchheim prepared eight Jews at the Paradeplatz to be trucked to Bamberg on November 27, 1941, the policeman’s formulaic account stated blandly that “a large number of local residents gathered, who watched them being sent off with great satisfaction.” From Bamberg the Jews would travel on to Nuremberg and then to Riga, where they likely perished.98 The action began to deport 400 Jews from the Minden district via Bielefeld on December 11. Although the local Gestapo sought to keep the process secret, word got out and the SD collected mixed opinions. The majority supposedly “greeted” the deportations, with one worker saying it should have happened long before, while others disapproved of the use of fine city buses to carry the Jews to the railway station. Yet there were citizens who were astonished that the treatment was so brutal, and some worried about the vengeance that would befall Germans living in America. Given the winter season, a few thought the Jews would not survive the trip and so considered the deportation too harsh.99 The Jews could have been sent to one of the Warthegau’s main cities in Łódź, which already had a ghetto with well over 100,000 trapped inside. In September and October, a reconstituted special commando Herbert Lange cleared smaller ghettos using a hermetically sealed van and carbon monoxide gas to kill the residents. Soon Lange looked for a single fixed site and decided on Chełmno, an out-​of-​the way village only 50 kilometers from Łódź. Lange and twelve other SS men set up a rudimentary facility in November 1941, initially used carbon monoxide in bottles, and later modified gas vans developed by the Criminal Technical Institute in Berlin.100 In total, thirty such vans had their exhaust fumes fed into the back of the trucks.101 Chełmno became the first death camp, with Lange as its commandant, operating from December 8. It produced nothing more than death, so it was not really a camp, as it had no barracks for even semi-​permanent slaves. Approximately 150,000 Jews and 5,000 Gypsies would be killed on arrival, with no effort made to exploit their labor.102 Only six survivors made it through the war.


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A series of death camps grew under the watch of Odilo Globocnik, a radical antisemite and true-​believing Nazi. When he conferred with Himmler on October 13, 1941, he got a green light to build a death camp at Bełżec.103 Globocnik had long possessed a worldview that amounted to National Socialism, well before the existence of the Nazi Party. As an activist in Austria, he rose to become Gauleiter of Vienna, until dubious financial dealings led to his dismissal.104 Himmler came to the rescue and in November 1939 sent Globocnik to be his SS and police leader in Lublin. Riven by hatred for Jews and Slavs since his teenage years, Globocnik was anxious to clean out this district and to resettle it with ethnic Germans. As it happened, personnel trained in mass murder became available after the stop order for the T4 euthanasia program in Germany in August 1941, and the organizers in Berlin, namely Bouhler and Brack, visited with Globocnik that September. Working with such specialists in mass murder, “Globus” soon also oversaw the creation and the operation of Sobibór and Treblinka.105 If pursuing the ideological goal of murdering the Jews hindered the war effort, as is sometimes assumed, it would be difficult to make that point on the basis of Operation Reinhard, carried out in Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka, and considered the largest single massacre of the Holocaust.106 The killing occurred mainly within twenty-​two months and required between 20 and 35 Germans in each of the camps, or 121 in total. Of these, 43 were in the SS, and 33 or more of them were longtime activists who identified with National Socialism. No doubt other motives played a role, and many had been involved in the T4 operation, though a factor such as peer pressure should not be overestimated.107 In each of these places, guard duties were performed by 90 to 130 Ukrainians, while Jews did the physical work, after which they were killed.108 Part of the reason we know so little about these camps was that there were so few survivors. In Bełżec the Germans killed between 500,000 and 600,000 Jews; only two came out alive. In Sobibór, they killed an estimated 150,000 to 200,000. An estimated 300 of the 600 rebels in Sobibór made it beyond the camp perimeter, and then had to face the often-​hostile native population.109 There was a rebellion in Treblinka, after the deaths of between 750,000 to 800,000, and there were many

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escapees, though only about 100 cleared the region.110 A  postwar German prosecutor found that only 4 made it out alive from Chełmno; “around 50” survived Sobibór, and “around 40” from Treblinka.111 On the evening of June 4, 1942, the day that Heydrich died of wounds resulting from attacks by underground assassins in Czechoslovakia, Himmler convened a meeting of SS and police leaders. He touched on several topics, among them the “emigration” of the Jews. He bluntly told them that in a year they would have the whole process finished; “then none of them will be left to emigrate. Because now we simply have to clean house.”112 That made their task explicit and imperative. A few weeks later Himmler issued one of the only written orders about this Operation Reinhard, when he told those in charge that he wanted to be finished by the end of the year. Even useful work by Jews had to end by that date. These steps, he said, were “required with a view to the necessary ethnic division of races and peoples for the New Order in Europe, and also in the interests of the security and cleanliness of the German Reich and its sphere of interest.” Any breach of such regulations could become “a source of moral and physical pestilence.” Ideological considerations apparently outweighed economic necessity.113 “Globus” took pride in killing around 1.7  million innocent men, women, and children in these three camps, as he wrote to Himmler in early 1944, with the sun setting on the Third Reich, seeking decorations for his men.114 His lengthy account reads like a business report and details the considerable amount of gold and other valuables taken from victims. Nevertheless, if the object had been the materialistic one of robbery, then the Germans would have taken far more care in hoarding the takings; in many places they simply left the local riffraff to gorge on the booty. The standard study of these camps by Yitzhak Arad rightly concludes that the mass murder of the Jews in these places resulted from Nazi racial ideology. The harvest of Jews’ property, money, and valuables was merely a by-​product.115 Auschwitz-​Birkenau became the main site for the mass murder of the Jews in 1943, namely after the Reinhard camps had mostly ceased. Auschwitz began back in 1940 as an “ordinary concentration camp,” designed more to terrorize the Polish population than to kill Jews. Rudolf Höss became the commandant in May, and on June 14, the camp’s “foundation day,” 728 Polish prisoners arrived. After the


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beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Soviet POWs were sent to the camp, with plans to exploit their labor. The entire scale of operations increased exponentially with an order of September 26, 1941, to build another camp just over a mile away at Birkenau, initially to hold up to 50,000 and later as many as 200,000 Soviet POWs.116 SS experts decided in late October to increase the number of crematoria in the main camp to cope with the ever-​larger number of bodies they anticipated.117 There was a lingering interest in exploiting the labor of those in this and the other camps, though they were mistreated so badly that many died within weeks or even days. In the main camp there were two gas chambers that closed in July 1943, and in their place at Birkenau, they built four purpose-​designed ones, each linked to a crematorium. They used deadly Zyklon B gas and well-​tried techniques to keep the prisoners from learning what was happening until it was too late. The dreadful death toll of the Auschwitz camps eventually numbered between 1.1 and 1.5 million, some 90 percent of whom were Jews, with other victim groups such as the Gypsies making up the remainder.118 This program of mass murder was pushed through by SS true believers who accepted the murderous implications of National Socialist doctrine, whatever else their motives might have been. On November 29, 1941, Heydrich invited bureaucrats at the level of state secretaries to a meeting at Wannsee, outside Berlin, to discuss matters related to the “Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” Shortly before, he and Himmler decided that the emigration of all European Jews to places outside the German sphere of influence had to stop completely, a decision that was translated into a Gestapo order on October 23. Whereas until that moment the Nazis wanted to push out the Jews to anywhere in the world, now it would seem that they no longer wanted any to escape.119 It took time for the entire bureaucracy in the far reaches of the Reich to hear of this change, which suggests the unwieldiness of the vast undertaking.120 Heydrich’s Wannsee Conference was originally planned for December 9 and postponed until January 20, 1942. He wanted to assert his control and clarify details of a process that had already begun. Those invited knew that deportation of Jews “to the East” ended in death, and it was obvious that the original plan of waiting until war’s end to solve the “Jewish question” had been overtaken by events on the

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ground. Discussions had more to do with how, when, and where the process would continue. The aim was to kill as many as possible of the eleven million Jews enumerated in the conference minutes. In addition to the Jews to be killed in the many countries inside, or allied with the Great German Reich, they wanted to include Jews in England, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Turkey, and the USSR. They drew up this horrific vision according to ideological dictates.121 When did the tide in the war seem to change? Until the onset of the autumn weather, the German offensive against the Soviet Union in 1941 had seemed wildly successful. On October 10, Goebbels recorded the great progress, yet he sensed that Hitler and other leaders were “almost too positive and optimistic.”122 That uncanny insight was shared by General Friedrich Fromm, head of army equipment and commander of the Reserve Army, who in conversation with General Georg Thomas on October 26 mentioned Germany’s overextended position and the looming threat posed by the economic potential of the United States combined with the British Empire. Fromm’s blunt conclusion was “Promptly to recognize, that at the high point of power,” they had to seek peace before Germany was forced onto the defensive. On November 4, Fromm presented a memorandum with the same information to Minister of Armaments and Munitions Fritz Todt and told him bluntly that it was no longer possible to maintain “the army at the necessary level of war readiness.”123 By November 24, Fromm repeated to Army Chief of Staff Halder that with the declining production of armaments, it was necessary to make peace.124 Nor was Fromm alone, because four days later, economic advisors in discussions with Todt said point-​blank that “The war against Russia can no longer be won.” The minister asked tank expert Walter Rohland to join him for a meeting the following morning with Hitler. There, albeit without Fromm, Rohland reported on his inspection tour of the front, mentioned the economic potential of the United States and Britain, and concluded that the war could not be won. Todt interjected hurriedly to soften the blow by adding, “This war can no longer be won militarily.” Then Hitler meekly asked, “How then shall I end this war?” When Todt said that the only option was a political solution, Hitler responded, “I can scarcely still see a way of coming politically to an end.”125


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Hitler’s fateful dilemma, and his new refrain, was that Germany could negotiate only after it had chalked up a great victory, one that never came to pass. Indeed, the German offensive, which ground to a halt near Moscow in early December, was overextended, ill-​prepared for the cold temperatures, and unable to cope with the Red Army’s counterattack.126 In spite of it all, Hitler would not allow the troops to withdraw immediately to defensible positions, likely because of the new international situation that occurred on December 7, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Joseph Goebbels noted that “the world war” had finally arrived. He was with Hitler when he got the news, and both chose to believe that the United States would have to busy itself with “their war,” and hence be less involved in Europe. Their wishful thinking was that the chance of realizing “the German dream of world power” was greater than ever.127 When, on December 11, Hitler spoke to a hastily convened Reichstag, he opined that as they all knew, the power behind Roosevelt was “the same eternal Jew that believes that his hour has come to impose the same fate on us that we have all seen and experienced with horror in Soviet Russia.” He claimed that the Jews and Roosevelt were out to establish a worldwide dictatorship.128 With that he declared war on the United States, although Germany, by treaty with Japan, was not obligated to do so. When he spoke to his Reich leaders the next day, he brought up his notorious “prophecy” of what would happen to the Jews, should they bring about another world war.129 Even though several historians insist that Hitler made his “fundamental decision” for the Holocaust at this time, that view remains in dispute.130 Whether there was one decision or more to undertake the Holocaust, by the end of 1941, the mass murder was well under way. It was informed above all by National Socialist ideology. It was self-​evident that the invaders were aiming to kill all the Jews of Europe that they and their collaborators could get their hands on, sooner or later. The borders were sealed, the death camps under construction, the mills of death churning. There were bound to be continuing zigs and zags in the decision-​making and its implementation, though any stumbling blocks were more about tactical considerations, the when and how, not the ultimate goal. Announcing his “prophesy” once again at his annual public celebration on January 30 in the new year, Hitler declared

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venomously that the “war could only end, either with the extermination of the Aryan peoples, or that Jewry disappears from Europe.”131 The formulaic official report of public reaction merely repeated the gist of what he said.132 As for the war against the Red Army, the Wehrmacht tried another grand offensive in 1942, launched on June 28. Even at that moment Hitler maintained, as he had often done before, that they had come as brutal colonists, to subjugate the people and deprive them of education and their own culture.133 Little wonder that such racist attitudes stiffened resistance, eventually breaking the German offensive with the loss at Stalingrad on February 2, 1943. Although Propaganda Minister Goebbels wanted Hitler to mobilize the country fully, he obtained only a blessing to speak to the nation on the radio in response to Stalingrad on February 18. His stern admonition was that if the Wehrmacht was not able to break the danger from the east, then Germany and all of Europe would fall to Bolshevism, whose goal was “the world revolution of the Jews. They want to bring chaos over the Reich and Europe,” Goebbels declared, and out of the resulting desperation they strove to create a Bolshevist and capitalist tyranny.134 Alas, even massive rallies like his were no substitute for hard facts on the battleground. On July 3, Hitler launched another strategic offensive, which he had to stop after less than two weeks. That defeat, according to General Walter Warlimont, who was present at the Führer’s headquarters, “handed the Russian the initiative, and we never recovered it again right up to the end of the war.”135 The German war then entered a third and final stage which was brought home by Allied bombing, especially from mid-​1943 onward. Several massive raids sent shock waves through the country, as happened with Operation Gomorrah, the attack on Hamburg (July 24–​August 3), where the bombing created horrendous firestorms. As bad as it was, rumors exaggerated the death toll, and that response in turn produced, according to the SD, a kind of “November [1918] mood” in many parts of the country.136 Estimates of the deaths in, and near, Hamburg ranged between 18,000 and 80,000, though farther away in Silesia, the figure jumped to 350,000.137 One female evacuee carried the baked and shrunken body of her child in a suitcase. When it fell to the ground and opened, it revealed the corpse, to the horror of bystanders.138


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The sense of being under siege grew in September 1943, with the Allied landings in mainland Italy. In response to the growing threat, Hitler issued a military directive in which he explained important changes. Whereas the initial danger posed by Bolshevism had necessitated concentrating forces in the east, the “greater danger” now appeared in the west, with the possibility of an Allied landing there. Germany could not let the enemy get a foothold, which would pose an immediate threat, whereas in the east, the Wehrmacht could afford to give up territory without taking “a fatal blow to the German nervous system.”139 As the army left Soviet territory, it followed a scorched-​earth policy of destroying everything that might be of value to the oncoming Red Army. The horror of it defies all description.140 To fortify the Wehrmacht’s mentality, on December 22 Hitler introduced the National Socialist Leadership Officers (NSFO), a corps that sounded like the Red Army’s political commissars that he had so despised. His intention, he explained on January 7, 1944, was the “complete unanimity and slow penetration of the entire Wehrmacht with the National Socialist body of ideas.”141 Along with these ideological appeals, the army used coercion to keep the troops fighting.142 In spite of stupendous efforts to build fortifications along the English Channel coast in France, the Allied landings in Normandy on June 6 succeeded and soon gained ground. From the perspective of even many non-​Nazis, worse still was the attempt on Hitler’s life on July 20. Thereafter, Himmler led a crusade against internal enemies, and in addition, with Goebbels in charge, an all-​out effort began to mobilize the country for total war. In April 1944, Hitler had already gone so far as to allow Jews to be brought into Germany, about which Himmler soon informed Wehrmacht generals. He said they would take an initial group of 100,000 from Hungary, with perhaps as many to follow for digging caves to hide factories from the bombing. He assured them, however, that these people would be sealed off from public view. Why was Himmler confident enough to allow this? He told them it was because they had followed up on Hitler’s “prophecy,” and solved the Jewish question.143 Presumably his listeners knew what that meant. In Hitler’s final anniversary speech on January 30, 1945, and long since out of variations on ideological themes, he declared that, when he

War and Genocide


came to power, a fierce struggle against “Jewish-​Asiatic Bolshevism was already raging.” As he had for years, he likened this force to a disease, to which Germany would supposedly have fallen prey had National Socialism not carried out a “gigantic economic, social, and cultural reconstruction.” In his proclamation to German soldiers, he solemnly vowed that they were involved in a struggle for existence, because “the goal of the Jewish-​eastern-​international world conspiracy opposing us is the extermination of our people.”144 Here was the thin justification for the country’s last stands in the west and above all in the east. The ideology informing this strategy remained unchanged, and while he tolerated sending out peace feelers in March 1945, he knew these had no chance without a major German pushback, even if it was only temporary.145 Alas, his insistence to hang on meant that, in the final seventeen months of the war, the Allies dropped three-​quarters of all their bombs, and caused an estimated 350,000 to 380,000 deaths, three-​quarters of whom were German civilians. As for the Wehrmacht, during the last five months, it suffered 1.54 million deaths, or an average of 11,846 each day.146 Looking back on what had happened in Germany since 1933, the records show that during the years of peace, the Third Reich went on a spending spree, and Hitler frankly admitted that it had run up against economic problems that, in August 1939, he decided to resolve by an improvised “lightning war.” Swift successes followed, so much so that by early winter 1941, he came to be viewed as perhaps the most powerful man in the world. He often traced this success to his own abilities and to his National Socialist doctrine, which was broadly acclaimed at home and even in parts of Europe outside Germany. The tides of war inexorably began to change in October–​November 1941, with the ensuing decline and fall that followed in less than three and a half years. It was one of the most precipitous, bloody, and devastating reversals in all of history. In that short span of time, the Third Reich translated the most murderous aspects of National Socialist ideology into practice, as Hitler and those under his command instituted unimaginable crimes, including the Holocaust. They brought death and destruction everywhere they went, and they left their country reduced, divided, and humiliated.


As Hitler and his true believers never ceased repeating, central to their movement was the National Socialist “big Idea,” which was constructed out of elements of radical nationalism, a variety of socialism, and passionate antisemitism. To that potent mixture they added a quest for Germany’s reawakening and the pursuit of “living space.” Not one of these ideas was new or particularly original to Germany in 1918 or 1919. The wildly unsettled atmosphere of the new Weimar Republic called into being all kinds of demagogues who rode successive waves of outrage. During the first period of the Nazi Party’s stormy existence, between 1920 and 1923, its espoused aim was for a violent revolution, though the attempt to take power in 1923 proved to be woefully prepared and poorly executed. The movement seemed well on the way to the trash bin of history, with its leaders in jail and the party dissolved. All the more surprising was its reincarnation from 1925 as a “normal,” if extremist party that battled in elections like other political parties. Only gradually did more true-​believing activists join the struggle, and they did so less because they fell victim to Hitler’s charisma than because they found in National Socialism a doctrine that was akin to their own rough-​and-​ready thinking. This cluster of ideas proved to be successful precisely because they were unoriginal and were already embedded in Germany’s political culture. The first cohorts to join Nazism brought with them a sense of outraged nationalism, even victimhood, and a particularly deep emotional commitment to the cause that was sparked by the lost war and the Versailles Treaty, which the nation was forced to sign, against its will, in


Hitler’s True Believers

1919. Moreover, the new republic had to accept sole guilt for starting the war, and responsibility for paying the vast reparations bills submitted by its former enemies. The haplessness of the new republic was such that it could not find a way to govern itself, nor to run the economy. The early true believers in National Socialism also entertained strong socialist attitudes, and none wanted a return to the class-​ridden society of imperial Germany. Although at the time observers scoffed at “Nazi-​ Socialism,” the early leaders, the activists, and early joiners of the Nazi Party took this socialism very seriously, and they fought for it, often but not always in the name of creating a mythical Volksgemeinschaft, or community of the people. Socialism in one form or another was already built into the political culture of the country, and National Socialism reflected it from its beginning to the end. Germany was also well acquainted with antisemitism before the Nazis, and politically organized forms of it existed there and in other parts of Europe since the 1880s. That race-​based hostility to Jews, in spite of the hopes of many civil libertarians, never quite disappeared. Instead, it assumed different forms, and during the Great War became ubiquitous. By 1919, it flourished as never before, thanks in part to the prominent role it played in the German revolutions at that time. Hitler and others like him in the young Nazi movement “found” their antisemitism at that very moment. Perhaps it had been latent in them or unexpressed before, but when it emerged in the stormy years of the early Weimar Republic it was more bloody-​minded than ever. That this antisemitism would become integral to National Socialism came about naturally and almost inevitably, because it seemed to fit the rest of the doctrine as if tailor-​made. Wrapped together, nationalism, socialism, and antisemitism, along with the quest for “living space,” though twisted over time to fit the needs of the movement, constituted the essential core of Hitler’s doctrine. Yet no matter how powerful each of these ideas was on its own, and how explosive they became when combined with ready violence, in all likelihood Nazism would not have succeeded without the twin economic disasters of the inflation in 1923 and the Great Depression beginning in 1929. It was these economic and social calamities, and their fateful consequences, that led so many ordinary people to become Nazis. They were hardly alone, for in the last elections of 1932, a majority of people voted for parties that rejected the constitution of the



Weimar Republic, and hoped instead for some kind of authoritarian dictatorship. A majority of the voters also wanted parties favoring “socialism” in one form or another. To a great extent, therefore, Hitler and the Nazis were part of an even larger anti-​democratic, socialist, and antisemitic movement in the country. What was to be done in 1933 when Hitler was finally appointed chancellor? Although the millions of Nazi true believers despised everything about the Weimar Republic, the last thing they hoped for as an alternative was a replica of the hated Soviet Union. Millions of German Communists (KPD) obviously thought otherwise and uncritically lauded Stalin’s version of a communist utopia. It would be a difficult task for Hitler’s dictatorship to change their minds and those of the more moderate Social Democrats (SPD). The anti-​model of how to rule that was seared into Hitler’s psyche was the German revolution in 1918 and 1919, with its unruly mobs. To make sure such a history did not repeat itself, he wrote in Mein Kampf, the state’s authority should rest on “popularity, coercion, and tradition.” If a leader could combine these, his authority would be “unshakeable.”1 In order to establish these attributes for the regime he would lead, Chancellor Hitler set out with calculating determination, and he was ably assisted by non-​Nazis in his cabinet. No one doubted that he was by far the most popular politician in the country, and his government, as well as the Nazi Party, played up nationalism, German traditions, and militarism. Most citizens either heartily agreed or at worst were prepared to be loyal to the new governing authority, so that, by and large, German society subordinated itself dutifully. There was no real sign of organized resistance, and any underground opponents in the socialist and communist movements were terrorized brutally. What role did the persecution of the Jews play during the peacetime years in turning people into Nazis? At the very least it would have been nearly impossible for new joiners of the Nazi Party to have overlooked its antisemitism, about which it made such a public fuss right from the start of the new regime. Casting the Jews out of the “community of the people” also might have played a psychological role in forming that community, by reminding people of their special “Aryan” status. And of course, the avaricious gained at the expense of the Jews whose positions and properties they coveted. To the consternation of German Jews, popular reaction varied about antisemitism, and a certain consensus


Hitler’s True Believers

developed down to 1939: most people were not displeased at the exclusion of the Jews from the “community of the people.”2 During that time, the eye-​ catching support the dictatorship mobilized in the successive plebiscites and elections was impressive, though it cannot be taken at face value or as an accurate measure of how the electorate consumed or identified with Hitler’s ideology. No doubt those exercises provided additional clues of an unquestionably building consensus that by the end of the peacetime years would include a healthy majority. Another sign of those times was the army of people who enlisted in various Nazi organizations, and who at the very least familiarized themselves with the movement’s ideology. These self-​ mobilized, dedicated, and enthusiastic volunteers toiled long hours at welfare and socially caring activities. Such true believers appear to have embraced the National Socialist doctrine in varying degrees of excitement and self-​sacrifice. Nevertheless, scholars’ efforts to quantify this general enthusiasm for National Socialism, in exact percentage terms, over the twelve years of the Third Reich, have been assailed in the literature for good reason, not least because the sources for such a survey are so mixed and not fully reliable. Enough is known, however, to say that the popularity of the regime and support for its policies fluctuated over time, by issue, and among different social and religious groups. Even basic loyalties, such as in welcoming national renewal or reversing the despised Versailles settlement of 1919, could and did pull in contradictory directions, so that patriots could be tempted by radical nationalism and then suffer shock when the military began flexing its muscle in 1939 and getting involved in endless wars. Experts in the Federal Republic of Germany after the end of the Second World War provided a retrospective picture of public opinion, if one distorted by time and overtaken by events. When they examined adults in the country (including West Berlin) in 1948, among the questions they asked, one that touches on Hitler’s ideology and its consumption was this: “Do you consider National Socialism to be a good idea that was poorly implemented?” A remarkable 57 percent said “yes,” 28 percent said “no,” and 15 percent were undecided.3 In 1985, when the same German scholars investigated the opinions of those born before 1932, they found that 56 percent admitted to believing in National



Socialism at some point; 32 percent denied any such convictions, and 11 percent “no longer remembered.”4 How much of these positive inclinations toward the Third Reich and its teachings could be traced to efforts to introduce “German Socialism,” about which the Nazi Party argued so much during its rise to power? The answer depends on whom you could ask and when. Certainly those in the vast National Socialist movement picked up on the clues about what Hitler and those around him wanted socially. It was not merely a matter of leaders enunciating the goal of curing unemployment. To a considerable extent it was they who made it happen, using such innovative techniques as the marriage loan scheme, while aiming for a “racially pure,” and thus a more perfect, Volksgemeinschaft. Those who found jobs again, and especially the young, could relish integrating into the community, enjoying some of the fruits of their labor, and belonging to the grander nationalist and socialist project.5 Even trade unionists, until 1933 diehard opponents of Nazism, began changing their minds in March and April that year. In a line straight out of the script that Hitler had repeated for years, union leader Lothar Erdmann said at the time, “We are socialists, because we are German. And exactly for that reason the goal for us is not ‘the’ socialism, but the socialist Germany. This German socialism grows out of German history into the future living space of the German people. The socialist Germany will never become a reality without the nationalization of the socialist movement.”6 This was the substance of the very message that the Nazi Party had been preaching since 1925 or even before. In spite of co-​opting the unions, Hitler often admitted that creating a Volksgemeinschaft would be the work of generations. Moreover, he had additional, equally important goals that required rearming the country. Could people content themselves with getting along with a bit less, if the country began to reclaim its sovereignty and “rightful” place in Europe? The answer seems like a qualified “yes.” The upshot was that Nazism’s economic new order did not adopt the classic “Keynesian” method of putting more money in the hands of consumers to spend and thereby to unleash a multiplier effect in the economy as a whole. Instead the option was for the state to direct vast fortunes into the manufacture of the arms required to flex its military might.7 The government did not stop there, for it became socialist-​interventionist after its


Hitler’s True Believers

fashion, because as the Nazi Party’s newspaper boasted in 1936, “where capitalism considers itself still untouched, it is in fact already harnessed to politics.”8 The result was a dynamic if wildly imbalanced mixed economy that came to emphasize the readying of the nation for war. In moving forward, the dictatorship offered ordinary people the prospect of respectable places to live, admittedly open only to those who were racially fit and politically reliable. A home of their own, with a garden, would be the crown jewel of German Socialism for the racially select believers. Festivals for workers and farmers celebrated the efforts of ordinary people and the sense of being part of a special community. Enhancing that feeling of belonging, the German Labor Front’s branch organizations focused attention on those who toiled on the factory floor, as well as what they did in their leisure time. The official effort aimed to give new meaning to their lives, while conveying broad hints of what their socialist future would look like. It was true that the regime did not build as many new “green” settlements in or near German cities as people wanted, or make the Volkswagen widely available. In spite of these shortcomings, the efforts themselves allowed citizens some “virtual consumption” of the better things in life. Change was also tangible, because numerous social policies as well as the freshly minted organizations aimed to reduce or eliminate class barriers. For example, beginning in 1933 university students had to attend a labor service camp for ten weeks, and in the following year Gymnasium graduates were compelled to do a six-​month stint. The future leader of the Labor Service proclaimed with pride: “There is no better means to overcome social cleavages, class hatred, and class conceit than to have the son of a factory owner and a young laborer, a young intellectual and a farmhand serve their common people and fatherland side by side, wearing the same garb and consuming the same fare.”9 Here was yet another path to transforming the existing social world, creating a socialist Volksgemeinschaft, and why ordinary people became Nazis. At the same time, and in spite of its enticements there continued to exist a sizeable minority that scoffed at the very idea of such a community.10 The importance of these holdouts should not be exaggerated, especially if we set them alongside the millions of true believers who embraced National Socialism. Hitler had made socialist promises for years, though once in power his own lifestyle increasingly took on



imperial trappings. As the self-​declared master builder, he set his dreams into the stone of monumental buildings, the scale of which was beyond even a prospering Germany to finance. He would adorn these edifices with the art he admired, all in the name of restoring the people’s pride. To enhance their confidence—​and his own sense of grandeur—​Hitler and those around him seriously attempted a cultural revolution, a kind of forced “rebirth.” They did not shrink from using heavy-​handed methods or suppressing basic freedoms. Were they building the new, supposedly harmonious community as an end in itself, simply to satisfy true believers and win over a few more? Or was this activity a prerequisite for an assertive foreign policy that would undo the results of the lost war and gain living space or Lebensraum in Eastern Europe? Indeed, shortly after Hitler’s appointment he told military leaders privately that that was exactly what he wanted, and most of them were pleased, all the more when the government began pouring vast sums into rearmament. Nationalism and visions of a return to national glory contributed greatly to winning over people to National Socialism, even those unmoved by its other appeals. Few people withheld their applause when the regime introduced conscription and recouped the territorial losses imposed by the Versailles Treaty. At the same time, Hitler’s sixth sense, for knowing what he could get away with, seemed validated as he gained bloodless victories into the late 1930s. During the years of victory in the war, the majority of patriotic Germans were enthusiastically behind it. It is unclear whether as many also favored Hitler’s well-​known promise to acquire Lebensraum in the vast reaches of the Soviet countryside, although there does seem to have been a broad acceptance of National Socialist and military values.11 The easy triumphs and the cheering crowds lent greater prestige and more authority to the expansive ideology, which was flexible enough to envision far more than undoing the outcome of the First World War. That task was accomplished by mid-​1940, even though Britain stayed in the fight. Hitler opted to attack the Soviet Union in 1941, supposedly to knock it out, and as he had intimated for years, it was in the resource-​rich east that he or Himmler would populate with racially qualified German settlers. The leaders of the Nazi Party, the SS, and many in the ranks had long since become captive of the big Idea that fed their ambitions for


Hitler’s True Believers

conquest. They viewed eastern Europe through ideologically tinted glasses that distorted everything they saw. As a matter of fact, versions of their prejudicial thinking melted seamlessly into older, anti-​Slavic attitudes to convince Hitler and most military officers that the “real war” against the Soviet Union was going to be swift and easy. To cower the millions in the East, the Wehrmacht, the SS, and their helpers were encouraged, before the fighting began, to ignore the rules of war, to eliminate the Jews as well as the traditional social elites, and to make it impossible for a military power to arise ever again anywhere west of the Ural Mountains, that is, far east of Moscow. In his evening ruminations at table in July 1941, barely a month into the war, Hitler said it would be a mistake to educate the Slavic masses, who should learn just enough to recognize the signs on the roads. He mythologized how the English controlled the millions in India, and that supposed model was always in the back of his mind, even though nothing the British did remotely compared to the slaughter Germans inflicted in eastern Europe.12 Such untrammeled brutality, fueled as it was by schooling in racism, turned out to be counterproductive and stiffened resistance. During the autumn and winter of 1941, as the Wehrmacht began stumbling, Hitler and the ever-​eager Himmler began transforming the “war of ideologies” into a war against the Jews. This turn of events was hardly a surprise, for radical antisemitism had been integral to National Socialist thinking since the 1920s, when Hitler as well as others in his circle began using pestilential metaphors for the Jews. Such hate speech had been used to justify the cruelties inflicted on these “race enemies” in Germany, yet again in Poland during 1939, and especially after troops crossed the frontier heading east in June 1941. When the deportations of Jews from Germany began in the autumn of that year, reaction across the country showed considerable variations, with a minority openly applauding, shouting expressions of hate, or laughing at the misfortune playing out before them. The abusive public chorus, led by Hitler and Goebbels, was absolutely clear, but did people take all that rhetoric literally or as some kind of typical threat they had often heard before? Germans could acquire detailed knowledge of what was happening to the Jews by asking nearly anyone returning on leave from service in the east whether they were in the military, the SS, or one of the many



other organizations involved. The murderous process itself unfolded in different ways across Europe, and there were far too many participants for the entire operation to be kept secret.13 The reaction or behavior of German citizens was divided. On the one hand they engaged in conduct that could fit into categories like consensual, participatory, profiteering, and on the other there was indifference, ignoring, and rejection. From the dictatorship’s point of view what was crucial was that it could realize one of its major ideological aims with no fear that ordinary people would mobilize to stop what was happening. By the autumn of 1941, even the thought of raising objections or registering mild disagreement had all but vanished when it came to this matter that was so important to Hitler and others in charge. Killing Jewish men, women, and children—​ nearly all of them civilians—​began quickly and escalated, so much so that by the end of 1941 one point was obvious: The invaders were, sooner or later, going to murder all the Jews of Europe whom they could get their hands on. By late autumn of that year, the murderous process was well under way and no longer merely on someone’s secret wish list. What happened to the Jews became an “open secret” that Germans really only began questioning with the country’s dwindling military fortunes.14 Early in 1942, at the Wannsee Conference, officials talked about “resettling” all eleven million Jews in Europe. Hitler spoke ominously about sending all of them “to Russia,” when the logic of his threats and the encoded language he used indicated beyond doubt that he would never tolerate the existence of the Jews anywhere.15 This is not to say that there existed a monolithic killing machine that worked almost automatically, because on the ground there were endless blunders and conflicts among a myriad of agencies and personalities.16 Even marking the Jews in Germany with yellow stars and arranging their deportation required an awkward “learning process.”17 One of Hitler’s favorite tales to relate to his military during the war was that Germany, because of its position at the center of Europe, had been thrust into a Darwinian “struggle for existence” over hundreds of years, an “eternal selection process of the better and the stronger.” As he told the story, if he had not restored the Wehrmacht from the moment he obtained power, then a “giant” from the east, a new Genghis Kahn backed by the Jews, would have devoured Germany. In Hitler’s


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view there were no meaningful alternatives to the war, and history showed that only the stronger side survived.18 In the wake of the defeat at Stalingrad in early 1943, he persisted in offering his Party bosses confidence about a future “Greater Germanic Reich,” freed of all Jews. The conquerors would rule it all in accordance with the brutal dictates of their own doctrine. After that “the way to world domination is as good as assured.”19 Or so he said. Just over a year later, in talks to his generals at the Berghof, he offered a revealing account of how National Socialism had become the dominant ideology since its humble beginnings in 1919. His Weltanschauung, he declared simply, was his “way of looking at all the problems of existence” supposedly based on the latest science. It had been proved right, he said, and the regime had applied this worldview to forming the new body politic (Volkskörper). He emphasized that it was also his duty to destroy competing worldviews that he held to be false. Little wonder at this point that he could frankly admit to having ruthlessly “forced the Jews out of their positions” in Germany. “I acted here exactly as nature does, not cruelly but reasonably, in order to preserve the better.” In so doing, he boasted, he had also robbed any potential revolution in Germany of its leadership, so that any humanity toward the Jews would have been misplaced. More than that, he blamed the Jews as the organizers of Soviet Bolshevik “bestiality,” which would have murdered millions of German intellectuals and taken away their children. When he reminded his generals and officers once more of his “prophecy” of what would happen—​and in fact had already happened—​to the Jews in the event of a world war, those present applauded enthusiastically, as they did frequently during his speech.20 What was really on his mind? He returned again to their seminal experience of the German revolution in 1918, to contrast it with their present situation. As he did so often, he asserted that the introduction of the National Socialist Weltanschauung had made all the difference, just like Bolshevism in the Soviet Union. Could these officers imagine the ancient Russian monarchy being able to stand fast against the Germans in 1941? He had said for years that the Soviet Union would be their most dangerous enemy, and that was because they had an ideology. Of course, now Germany possessed what previous generations had lacked, namely unanimity between the state’s leadership, the



state-​informing idea, and the state’s representatives. Henceforth, children would be socialized and educated in National Socialism. “Such a body politic, trained and created, can never more be destroyed,” and so there would be no repetition of the 1918 revolution. He wanted his listeners to believe that the present war would see “National Socialist thought” deepened within the Wehrmacht, and after victory, their aim would be to work still more to transform the German people into an “indestructible block”—​that would then fulfill its mission in Europe.21 The beginning of the end to these fantasies came on June 22, 1944, when the Red Army opened a major counteroffensive, exactly three years since Germany’s unprovoked attack on the Soviet Union. Hitler calmly assured visitors to the Obersalzberg, and there were many, that they would be able to “fight Germany free again,” in spite of the successful Western Allied landings not long before in Normandy.22 With such doubts in the air, he spoke to several hundred generals and officers in the afternoon, when he still claimed resolutely to see Germany in the ascendant and becoming “the dominant power in Europe.” If in the end the nation proved unable to assert itself in the war, then the process of “natural selection” would decree that the stronger side should succeed. He had made such statements since the early 1920s, so these words should not be taken to mean he was choreographing or directing the defeat that he saw coming.23 He was emotional, if still not unduly pessimistic, and he said that anyone who thought they would fail had not understood the fundamental transformations of the country under his watch. “We will be victors in this war and then bring the German people into good order.” Convinced as he was of the “science” and learning behind his ideology, he boldly told his generals and officers that “our antisemitism will spread over the world, exactly as in the past the ideas of the French Revolution preceded the French armies and thereby facilitated Napoleon’s victories.”24 Astoundingly, he was comparing the liberal-​humanitarian ideas of 1789 and their call for “liberty, equality, fraternity” to National Socialist antisemitism. How did the German Wehrmacht consume National Socialist ideology? Given that around seventeen million people eventually served in the armed forces, at least socially the military mirrored German society. However, tracking how the troops internalized the ideological appeals has been a controversial topic since before the war ended. The


Hitler’s True Believers

Allies sent in psychological-​warfare teams to interrogate the first POWs taken in Africa, Italy, and Western Europe. These specialists consciously sought to correct simplistic propaganda images of German society and its military as being thoroughly Nazified, and in fact the outside experts began to “de-​ideologize” the Wehrmacht. This impulse persists up to the present day.25 Nevertheless, historians have cast serious doubt on such exaggerated conclusions, among them the young German scholar Felix Römer, who offers a differentiated analysis of a broad sample of prisoners in American captivity. The Allies had interrogated these captives and later eavesdropped on their “private” conversations. Although captured in the west, some also had experienced war on the eastern front. Their continuing avowals of loyalty cut across old religious, class, and political lines, and to the extent that any prisoners now claimed to reject Hitler and Nazism, they tended to belong to older oppositional clusters. Römer concludes that entering the Wehrmacht solidified Hitler’s vaunted “community of the people,” and yet he notes that soldiers rarely embraced Nazism fully, but rather in diverse shadings, stages, and not without inconsistencies. If most POWs were not prone to philosophize about National Socialism, all the same, ideological convictions were integral to their world, and part of an unspoken consensus.26 Social groups like the working class, thought to be immune to the appeals of National Socialism up to 1933 and even beyond, tended to have a change of heart once they joined the military, where they served with loyalty and never threatened anything like a mutinous repeat of November 1918.27 Not all Germans in uniform believed the tales about an international Jewish conspiracy that had to be stopped, or they brushed aside the torrent of hateful words and still identified with National Socialism. For example, the teacher August Töpperwien, a non-​Nazi officer and committed Christian, took the Stalingrad defeat not as a sign that the tide had turned decisively against Germany, but rather “as the first real test of the nation’s confidence in victory.” In spite of the calamitous retreats from the Soviet Union in early 1943, not long before Stalingrad he noted: “The other powers have more men than we, and also can produce more weapons than we can (U.S.A.!). Our confidence can be built on the belief in the National Socialist idea.” At the end of the following



year and into the next, he delightedly recorded the call-​up of older men and young boys, including his son. It was a time like no other, he wrote from the east, with “the entire Volk in arms on defense: men and women, boys and girls! The front is everywhere, out there and at home! Merciless necessity!” Hitler’s mistake, he said on May 2, 1945, shortly after hearing of the leader’s death, was to have made war on the Anglo-​ Americans when “his real enemy was Bolshevism.”28 Töpperwien may be an exceptional case, though he was certainly not alone in seeing a “deeper meaning” in National Socialism. Ordinary Germans recorded similar sentiments in their diaries and letters, revealing their hopes and expectations, as well as doubts, despair, anxieties, and a determination to carry on.29 In late 1944, the regime became both more ideological and terroristic on the German home front, because in spite of its redoubled propaganda efforts, too many people, even some local Nazi Party leaders, were growing war-​weary. Their bosses in Berlin, for the most part, were not about to conclude that the decision for war might have been wrong, the ideology flawed, or their occupation of foreign lands too brutal. Instead they sought the fault in their own ranks, at the level of individual cowardice or personal failures. These “defeatists” had to be rooted out and punished to the extreme, as if the leaders sought a way out of the war by becoming more brutal against the enemies within.30 With German-​ on-​ German terror raging across the land, and the invaders closing within earshot of the Berlin bunker, Hitler and Goebbels, along with most military leaders, desperately clung to hope. In Munich on February 24, in what was his last speech to the public, Hitler had a proclamation read on his behalf by an old comrade, Hermann Esser. What was remarkable was Hitler’s claim to have foreseen years before what he called “the unnatural alliance between exploitive capitalism and contemptuous Bolshevism.” And in spite of the mass murder they had inflicted on the Jews of Europe, he continued to picture the Jews as ultimately responsible for the fate that was closing in on Germany. He took pride in having created a “new socialist German Volk and state” and a Volksgemeinschaft, without which it would have been impossible for the nation to resist so long. The “unnatural alliance” between the capitalist powers and the Soviet Union was bound


Hitler’s True Believers

to collapse, so he implored Germans to fight on. He ended with a final prophecy that victory would go the German Reich.31 A Wehrmacht propaganda officer tasked to collect information on the morale of the people reported that in Berlin, Hitler’s talk “left a strong impression,” and that his “words and belief in the final victory and the historical turn in this year, was the topic of lively conversation.” Perhaps so. However, the same account noted Goebbels’s speech on February 28, which was equally unrepentant, and which upset Berliners by recalling how Frederick the Great had held out against all odds in the Seven Years War. “What does Frederick’s time mean to us?” one local asked rhetorically. “In those days it was man against man and not man against tank and above all not against bombs.” Still the Berliners were not thinking about a peace at any price, and the dominant opinion was that under no circumstances should Germany end the war.32 On March 12, 1945, Hitler confided to his propaganda minister that perhaps a separate peace with the Soviet Union might be worth considering after all, though that would mean having to drive the Red Army back to make Stalin amenable to negotiations, and it might still be possible to get part of Poland.33 Privately at least, Goebbels and Albert Speer maintained that it was not the mission of a war policy to lead the people to a kind of heroic defeat. In his diary for March 14, Goebbels recalled that Hitler himself said that in Mein Kampf, with regard to the diplomacy in the First World War.34 There he stressed that every way had to be found for the survival of a people and not to do so would be “to shirk one’s duty.”35 Hitler kept putting his faith in one ruthless general or another to deliver a mighty blow he thought they needed in order to negotiate in strength with the enemy, which had been his repeated plea since late 1941. In the same spirit and perhaps to retain Hitler’s good graces, Speer suggested in a memo on March 18 that Germany concentrate all available forces on the rivers Rhine in the west and Oder in the east to shock the enemy, and thus “to find a favorable end to the war.”36 Hitler’s response the next day was the so-​called Nero order, that is, for widespread demolition to halt the advancing enemies, though what caused the most destruction was not that decree from on high as much as local decisions to defend a city or town. The Allies would then



halt and use tanks, artillery, and the air force to obliterate the resistance. Hitler’s lingering faith for a “miracle ending” to the war flared up slightly on April 12, with the death of President Roosevelt. In the Berlin bunker there was momentary hope that the inherent political divisions among the Allies would emerge.37 And emerge they did, though only after 1945. Hitler’s last appeal to the military on the Eastern Front, on April 15, was that the “Jewish Bolshevik” enemies were preparing to attack and that his soldiers should form themselves “into a sworn community to defend, not the empty concept of the Fatherland, but in the defense of your homeland [Heimat], your women, your children, and with them our future.”38 Goebbels continued to believe in salvation almost to the end and thought that Hitler might be able to turn around the desperate situation with one radio speech. The downcast leader, who had developed a kind of allergy to the microphone, knew better. How the Third Reich ended for German civilians became a local issue that was decided by a multitude of factors, with some towns imploring Wehrmacht units to leave and not to defend them, while others fought on, or in despair became part of an epidemic of suicides that ran through the country in waves beginning in early 1945.39 Unquestionably, some civilians and soldiers kept going out of fear of retribution, worry about the Red Army’s promised revenge, hatred of the Allied bombings, or because of the Nazi regime’s outright reign of terror during the last months of the war.40 Others looked after their immediate interests, as did the Chamber of Commerce and some industrialists in Hamburg, who sought to remove slave laborers and return prisoners to the concentration camps, to prevent revolts and to avoid appearing as oppressors when British troops arrived.41 Yet there were still young patriots pleased to sign up for the Wehrmacht. Seventeen-​ year-​ old Christoph Töpperwien, drafted on March 17, 1945, complained in a letter that reached his father on April 18 that although some of the age group with him had deplorable habits—​such as liking American jazz—​they still showed signs of patriotism.42 Other young enthusiasts included Wolfhilde von König, who joined the NSDAP only in April 1943, just after the stunning Stalingrad defeat. She carried on dutifully in her Munich school during the war before moving to the Health Service of the BDM, the young women’s organization. When the twenty-​fifth anniversary of the NSDAP rolled


Hitler’s True Believers

around in February 1945, she jotted in her diary that the Party was now undergoing a real test—​a statement that may only have reflected the propaganda of the moment. Still, she was clearly concerned that some members were vacillating, and she thought it was all the more important for the “true comrades to stand together and to inspire the other racial comrades.” She stuck to that attitude until the American troops arrived.43 On the other hand, in Berlin the Wehrmacht propaganda squads collecting evidence of the people’s morale shrewdly enough observed in March 1945 that it was important “precisely at the present time to distinguish between attitude [Haltung] and mood [Stimmung]. The attitude of Berliners is good and will remain good. That does not mean that the general mood is not downcast and that some, who stand by their man and will continue to stand by him, still talk and talk as if there were hardly any more hope for a good outcome of the war.”44 The report from the capital quoted an unknown civilian as saying: “We will gladly starve, sleep even less and work still more, if someone could get the bombs off our backs! Starving and bombs, both together, just cannot go on.”45 Even the German enemies of Nazism admitted that there were many millions in various branches of the Nazi Party who continued to believe “in the National Socialist Idea and Hitler’s mission.”46 Others came to reject National Socialism and even to sympathize with communism, as did the young Peter Brückner, later a social psychologist. He remembered wanting to learn what was really happening to the Jews, not least as his mother, who had emigrated, was Jewish. If he had been asked in 1941–​1942 whether they were being slaughtered, he said, he would have answered “Yes.” Even then he imagined their deaths by hunger and disease, not the means used and certainly not “the technology of destruction.”47 The snippets of official “public opinion” in the last reports about the persecution of the Jews show that, from at least 1943 onward, a recurring theme was that the war and especially the bombing represented the revenge of the Jews for various acts that Germans had committed against them.48 Perhaps inadvertently near the end of the war, two Berlin workers, overheard in conversation, made it sound as though they



thought the Jews had brought about the war as revenge, “because we treated [them] so badly.”49 People carried on in the capital city to the very end, as they did nearly everywhere and for innumerable reasons, whether in the name of the “big Idea,” for the nation, the hometown, for the sake of “doing the right thing,” and with an indomitable spirit of self-​sacrifice. Once the nightly waiting for bombs or grenades passed, it turned out to be harder on the nerves to anticipate visits from invading troops. That was how the author Margret Boveri put it because, as it turned out, she had “far less anxiety about exploding metal, than about exploding people”—​the latter presumably the disorderly or drunken Red Army soldiers she experienced in Berlin.50 No leader in Berlin worked for defeat, and in his last days, when Hitler was not damning former comrades or sinking into apathy, he planned his suicide. When Traudl Junge, one of his secretaries, learned about this she asked him the obvious question:  “Do you not think that the German people expect that you will fall at the head of your fighting troops?” His ignoble reply: “I am physically too weak to fight. My shaking hands can hardly hold a pistol.” He wanted to be sure that, living or dead, his body should not fall into the hands of the Russians. She thought to herself: “ ‘First soldier of the Reich’ commits suicide, while children defend the capital city.”51 Hitler asked her to take down his political testament, in which he reiterated his outlandish charge against the Jews for starting the war, as well as his “prophecy” that millions of his people would not have died in the war without “the true culprits, if more humanely, being held to account.”52 He still refused to state unequivocally that the mass murder had actually taken place, though he knew well enough, for he had asked to be kept informed. Then he expelled the “treasonous” Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring, both of whom had left Berlin earlier and eventually also committed suicide. Goebbels remained in the bunker and had long planned his own death as well, along with his wife’s and the murder of their six children.53 These chieftains did not lead the nation to a heroic end, and neither their last days nor their demise would inspire future generations. This regime was not remotely threatened by collapse or betrayal from within. It had to be brought down from the outside, and to do so the Allies had to muster all the


Hitler’s True Believers

resources they could command and pay an enormous price in treasure and blood. Hundreds of thousands in the Allied forces and countless civilians were killed or wounded in the combined effort to get to Berlin, in order finally to put an end to the Third Reich and to discredit the ideas that inspired it.


Abbreviations Dok. Document DRZW Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg (Stuttgart, 1979–​2008), leading German scholarly account of the war in 10 vols., some in several parts IfZ Institute for Contemporary History, Munich IMT Trials of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal (German ed.) RGBL Reichsgesetzblatt; official German gazette VEJ Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland 1933–​1945 (Munich: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2008ff.), in 16 vols. VfZ Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte; (Quarterly Journal of the Institute for Contemporary History) Introduction

1. Entry (Nov. 30, 1941), Adolf Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier 1941–​1944, Werner Jochmann, ed. (Munich, 1980), 146. 2. Entry (July 27–​28, 1941), ibid., 72–​73. 3. See Wolfgang Treue, ed., Deutsche Parteiprogramme 1861–​1961 (Göttingen, 1961), 101–​49.



Notes to pages 2–7

4. Brigitte Hamann, Hitlers Edeljude: Das Leben der Armenarztes Eduard Bloch (Munich, 2010), 259–​83. 5. “Adolf Hitlers Rede auf der Kulturtagung der N.S.D.A.P.” Reden des Führers am Parteitag des Sieges 1933 (Munich, 1934), 22–​27. 6. Wolfram Pyta, Hindenburg: Herrschaft zwischen Hohenzollern und Hitler, 2nd ed. (Munich, 2009), 808, 818. 7. Dok. 52, Volkszählung (June 16, 1933), reprinted in VEJ, vol. 1, 177–​79. 8. RGBL I (Apr. 7, 1933, and Apr. 11, 1933), 175–​77; 195. Hans Mommsen, Beamtentum im Dritten Reich: Mit ausgewählten Quellen zur nationalsozialistischen Beamtenpolitik (Stuttgart, 1966), 47–​53. 9. See Jane Caplan, Government without Administration: State and Civil Service in Weimar and Nazi Germany (Oxford, 1988), 142–​48. 10. See Erich Ehrenreich, The Nazi Ancestral Proof: Genealogy, Racial Science, and the Final Solution (Bloomington, IN, 2007), 58–​77, 150. 11. Robert Gellately, The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy 1933–​1945 (Oxford, 1990), 129–​58. For recent studies, see Janosch Steuwer, “Ein Dritten Reich wie ich es auffasse”: Politik, Gesellschaft, und privates Leben in Tagebüchern, 1933–​1939 (Göttingen, 2017); Moritz Föllmer, Individuality and Modernity in Berlin: Self and Society from Weimar to the Wall (Cambridge, 2013); Mary Fulbrook, Dissonant Lives: Generations and Violence through the German Dictatorships (Oxford, 2011). 12. Martin Broszat, German National Socialism 1919–​1945 (Santa Barbara, CA, 1966), 32. 13. For a similar point and critique of the literature, see Claus-​Christian W. Szejnmann, “Nazi Economic Thought and Rhetoric during the Weimar Republic: Capitalism and Its Discontents,” Politics, Religion & Ideology (2013): 355–​76. 14. See Thomas Klepsch, Nationalsozialistische Ideologie: Eine Beschreibung ihrer Struktur vor 1933 (Münster, 1990), 9–​17. 15. Armin Nolzen, “The NSDAP after 1933: Members, Positions, Technologies, Interactions,” in Shelly Baranowski, Armin Nolzen, and Claus-​Christian W. Szejnmann, eds., A Companion to Nazi Germany (Hoboken, NJ, 2018), 99, 103. 16. Oliver Werner, ed., Mobilisierung im Nationalsozialismus: Institutionen und Regionen in der Kriegswirtschaft und der Verwaltung des “Dritten Reiches” 1936 bis 1945 (Paderborn, 2013), 9–​26. For a recent survey of popular support, see Thomas Rohkrämer, Die fatale Attraktion des Nationalsozialismus: Zur Popularität eines Unrechtsregimes (Paderborn, 2013), 94–​142. 17. Ernst Nolte, Der Faschismus in seiner Epoche: Die Action Française, der Italienische Faschismus, der Nationalsozialismus, 2nd ed. (Munich, 1965), 391. 18. Useful here is Boaz Neumann, “The Phenomenology of the German People’s Body (Volkskörper) and the Extermination of the Jewish Body,”

Notes to pages 7–8


20. 21.


23. 24.





New German Critique (2009): 149–​81; also his Die Weltanschauung des Nazismus: Raum, Körper, Sprache (Göttingen, 2010). This phenomenological study suggests the “rationality” behind the most evil deeds, because for those who accepted the National Socialist ideology all the horrors that followed were logical and necessary. Eberhard Jäckel, Hilters Weltanschauung: Entwurf einer Herrschaft (Tübingen, 1969) skirts the socialism issue; also Kurt Sontheimer, “Der nationale Sozialismus,” Die Zeit (March 14, 1997). For “fake socialism” see Ernst Piper, Alfred Rosenberg: Hitlers Chefideologe (Munich, 2007), 47. F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents, org. ed., 1944 (Chicago, 2007). See, for example, Jäckel, Hilters Weltanschauung. For a critique also of those who disagree with that study, see Klaus Holz, Nationaler Antisemitismus: Wissenssoziologie einer Weltanschauung (Hamburg, 2010), 359–​430. The classic studies of the prehistory are George L. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich (New York, 1964); and Fritz Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair: A Study of the Rise of the Germanic Ideology (Berkeley, 1961). See Claus-​Christian W. Szejnmann, “National Socialist Ideology,” in Baranowski, Nolzen, and Szejnmann, eds., A Companion to Nazi Germany, 85; also Christian Geulen, “Ideology’s Logic: The Evolution of Racial Thought in Germany from the völkisch Movement to the Third Reich,” in Devin O. Pendas, Mark Roseman, and Richard F. Wetzell, eds., Beyond the Racial State: Rethinking Nazi Germany (Cambridge, 2017), 197–​212. Johann Chapoutot, The Law of Blood: Thinking and Acting as a Nazi (Cambridge, MA, 2018), 408. See also Christian Ingrao, Believe and Destroy: Intellectuals in the SS War Machine (Medford, MA, 2013). Studies include Ulrich Herbert, Best. Biographische Studien über Radikalismus, Weltanschauung, und Vernunft 1903–​1989 (Bonn, 1996); Michael Wildt, Generation des Unbedingten. Das Führungskorps des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes (Hamburg, 2002). For an analysis and critique of the literature, see David B. Dennis, Inhumanities: Nazi Interpretation of Western Culture (Cambridge, 2012); Jost Hermand, Culture in Dark Times: Nazi Fascism, Inner Emigration, and Exile (New York, 2014); Wolfgang Bialas and Anson Rabinbach, eds., Nazi Germany and the Humanities (Oxford, 2007); most useful is Anson Rabinbach and Sander L. Gilman, eds., The Third Reich Sourcebook (Berkeley, CA, 2013). For a critique of the literature, see Lars Lüdicke, Hitlers Weltanschauung: Von “Mein Kampf ” bis zum “Nero-​Befehl” (Paderborn, 2016), 15–​42. This account focuses on foreign policy and does not deal with how National Socialism was translated into social reality. See Brendan Simms, “Against a ‘World of Enemies’: The Impact of the First World War on the Development of Hitler’s Ideology,” International


28. 29.

30. 31. 32. 33. 34.

Notes to pages 8–13 Affairs (2014): 317–​36. See also his Hitler: A Global Biography (New York, 2019), xv–​xxiii. The classic response to intentionalism is Tim Mason, “Intentions and Explanation: A Current Controversy about the Interpretation of National Socialism,” in Gerhard Hirschfeld and Lothar Kettenacher, eds., Der “Führerstaat”: Mythos und Realität (Stuttgart, 1981),  23–​42. Dok. 61, Eberhard Jäckel and Axel Kuhn, eds., Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905–​1924 (Stuttgart, 1980), 88–​90. Michael Wildt, “Veralltäglichung und Radikalisierung: Probleme des Charisma-​Konzepts für die Analyse des NS-​Regimes,” in ZeitRäume: Potsdamer Almanach des Zentrums für Zeithistorische Forschung (2006), 214–​22. See also Ludolf Herbst, Hitlers Charisma: Die Erfindung eines deutschen Messias (Frankfurt, 2010). For varieties of commitment among judges, see Stephen J. Sfekas, “The Enabler, the True Believer, the Fanatic: German Justice in the Third Reich,” The Journal of Jurisprudence (2015): 189–​229, here 195. Dok. 408, Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 698. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf: Eine kritische Edition, Christian Hartmann, Thomas Vordermayer, Othmar Plöckinger, and Roman Töppel, eds. (Munich, 2016), vol. 1, 383–​439. Hermann Graml, Hitler und England: Ein Essay zur nationalsozialistischen Aussenpolitik 1920 bis 1940 (Munich, 2010), 21. Volker Ullrich, Adolf Hitler: Biographie Vol. 1, Die Jahre des Aufstiegs (Frankfurt, 2013), generally follows the classic Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1889–​ 1936: Hubris (London, 1998); and his Hitler 1936–​1945: Nemesis (London, 2000). A more cautious approach is Peter Longerich, Hitler: Biographie (Berlin, 2015). It elides most ideological questions and keeps German society in the background. Simms, Hitler: A Global Biography, 241 asserts that Hitler, after having the Nazi movement in his “charismatic hold” up to 1933, once in power merely extended that grasp “over much of the population.” For a general critique, see Michel Dobry, “Hitler, Charisma, and Structure: Reflections on Historical Methodology,” Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions (June 2006): 157–​71.

Chapter 1

1. Alfred Rosenberg, Letzte Aufzeichnungen: Nürnberg 1945/​46, 2nd ed. (Uelzen, 1996), 320; Joachim von Ribbentrop, Zwischen London und Moskau: Erinnerungen und letzte Aufzeichnungen (Leoni am Starnberger See, 1953), 46; Ernst Hanfstaengl, Hitler: The Missing Years, org. ed., 1957 (New York, 1994), 38–​74. For additional sources, see Eric Michaud, The Cult of Art in Nazi Germany (Stanford, 2004), 1–​73. 2. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 131. 3. Ibid., vol. 1, 129–​63; 189–​99.

Notes to pages 13–18


4. Brigitta Hamann, Hitlers Wien: Lehrjahre eines Diktators, 12th ed. (Munich, 2012), 93–​102. 5. Dok. 197 (Jan. 7, 1922), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 541–​43. On the origins of Nazi antisemitism, see Shulamit Volkov, “Kontinuität und Diskontinuität im Deutschen Antisemitismus 1878–​1945,” VfZ (1985): 221–​43. 6. Hans-​Günter Zmarzlik, “Der Sozialdarwinismus in Deutschland als geschichtliches Problem,” VfZ (1963): 246–​73, here 247. 7. Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (London, 2003), 22–​ 41; Peter Weingart, Jürgen Kroll, and Kurt Bayertz, Rasse, Blut, und Gene: Geschichte der Eugenik und Rassenhygiene in Deutschland (Frankfurt, 1988), 15–​138; Alfred Kelly, The Descent of Darwin: The Popularization of Darwinism in Germany 1860–​1914 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1981), 100–​122. 8. Alfred Ploetz, Die Tüchtigkeit unsrer Rasse und der Schutz der Schwachen: Ein Versuch über Rassenhygiene und ihr Verhältnisse zu den humanen Idealen, besonders zum Socialismus (Berlin, 1895), 140–​45; Robert N. Proctor, Racial Hygiene: Medicine under the Nazis (Cambridge, MA, 1988), 15. 9. Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Vienna, 1899), vol. 1, 546, 574. Brigitta Hamann, Winifred Wagner oder Hitlers Bayreuth (Munich, 2002), 41–​44. 10. IfZ Archiv, F19/​3: Ansprache Hitler vor Generälen und Offizieren am 22. June 1944 im Platterhof, 9. 11. Timothy W. Ryback, Hitler’s Private Library: The Books That Shaped His Life (New York, 2008), xv. 12. Chamberlain, Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, vol. 1, 309–​14. 13. Ibid., 326–​39. Geoffrey G. Field, Evangelist of Race: The Germanic Vision of Houston Stewart Chamberlain (New York, 1981), 220–​21. 14. Otto Weininger, Geschlecht und Charakter (Vienna, 1903), 137. 15. Dok. 416, speech (Nov. 2, 1922), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 717, 720. 16. Letter (Mar. 12, 1944) by his secretary and published in Christa Schroeder, Er war mein Chef: Aus dem Nachlass der Sekretärin von Adolf Hitler (Munich, 1985), 133–​34; Birgit Schwarz, Geniewahn: Hitler und die Kunst, 2nd ed. (Vienna, 2011), 58–​61. 17. Schwarz, Geniewahn: Hitler und die Kunst,  76–​82. 18. Ibid., 86, 88. 19. See Richard J. Evans, Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815–​1914 (New York, 2016), 698–​716. 20. Dok. 30, Hitler letter (Jan. 22, 1915), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen,  64–​69. 21. Wolfram Pyta, Hitler: Der Künstler als Politiker und Feldheer: Eine Herrschaftsanalyse (Munich, 2015), 129.


Notes to pages 18–21

22. Allan Mitchell, Revolution in Bavaria: The Eisner Regime and the Soviet Republic (Princeton, 1965), 133, 137. 23. Ibid., 255. 24. Ibid., 319. 25. Heinrich August Winkler, Weimar 1918–​1933: Die Geschichte der ersten deutschen Demokratie (Munich, 1998), 81. 26. Rudolf von Sebottendorf, Bevor Hitler kam: Urkundliches aus der Frühzeit der nationalsozialistischen Bewegung (Munich, 1933), 9, 142–​43; see also reprint of Beobachter (Sept. 17, 1919), 161–​62. 27. Entry (May 2, 1919), Victor Klemperer, Man möchte immer weinen und lachen in einem: Revolutionstagebuch 1919 (Berlin, 2015), 168. 28. Thomas Weber, Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi (New York, 2017),  20–​39. 29. Othmar Plöckinger, Unter Soldaten und Agitatoren: Hitlers prägende Jahre im Deutschen Militär 1918–​1919 (Paderborn, 2013), 46–​54; Albert Krebs, Tendenzen und Gestalten der NSDAP Erinnerungen an die Frühzeit der Partei (Stuttgart, 1959), 47. 30. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 561. Thomas Weber, Wie Adolf Hitler zum Nazi wurde: Vom unpolitischen Soldaten zum Autor von ‘Mein Kampf ’ (Berlin, 2016), 137–​39. For a contrary view, see Plöckinger, Unter Soldaten und Agitatoren, 65, 89; idem, “So viel Dolchstoss war noch nie,” Süddeutsche Zeitung (Aug. 28, 2016). 31. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 563. 32. Such theories were current in Germany’s völkisch movements. See Gottfried Feder, Das Manifest zur Brechung der Zinsknechtschaft des Geldes (Munich, 1919), 6; 55–​57. 33. Esser cited in Weber, Wie Adolf Hitler zum Nazi wurde, 157; Plöckinger, Unter Soldaten und Agitatoren, 111–​12; 271. 34. Gottfried Feder, Der Deutsche Staat auf nationaler und sozialer Grundlage (Munich, 1923). Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 573–​75. He also mentions Alfred Rosenberg’s Die Spur des Juden im Wandel der Zeiten (1920). 35. Weber, Becoming Hitler,  80–​81. 36. Ulrich Herbert, “Wer waren die Nationalsozialisten? Typologien des politischen Verhaltens im NS-​Staat,” in Gerhard Hirschfeld and Tobias Jersak, eds., Karrieren im Nationalsozialismus: Funktionseliten zwischen Mitwirkung und Distanz (Frankfurt, 2004), 17–​42, here 29. 37. Weber, Becoming Hitler, 103. 38. Ibid., 117. 39. See Steven F. Sage, Ibsen and Hitler: The Playwright, the Plagiarist, and the Plot for the Third Reich (New York, 2006), 39–​48. 40. Von Sebottendorf, Bevor Hitler kam, 73, 171. See also Georg Franz-​ Willing, Ursprung der Hitlerbewegung 1919–​1922, 2nd ed. (Preussisch Oldendorf, 1974), 129–​33. 41. Plöckinger, Unter Soldaten und Agitatoren, 147. 42. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 589.

Notes to pages 21–25


43. Anton Drexler, Mein politisches Erwachen: Aus dem Tagebuch eines Deutschen sozialistischen Arbeiters, org. ed., 1923, 4th ed. (Munich, 1937), 56. 44. Theodor Fritsch, Antisemiten-​Katechismus: Eine Zusammenstellung des wichtigsten Materials zum Verständnis der Judenfrage (Leipzig, 1887). 45. Theodor Fritsch, Die Stadt der Zukunft (Leipzig, 1896). See also Dirk Schubert, “Theodor Fritsch and the German (völkische) Version of the Garden City: The Garden City Invented Two Years before Ebenezer Howard,” Planning Perspectives (2004): 3–​35. 46. See Dok. 62 (Aug. 3, 1929), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 3, part 2, 336–​43, here 341–​42. 47. See Dok. 31 (Nov. 28, 1930), ibid., vol. 4, part 1, 133–​34. 48. Dok. 3, in Werner Jochmann, ed., Nationalsozialismus und Revolution: Ursprung und Geschichte der NSDAP in Hamburg 1922–​1933. Dokumente (Frankfurt, 1963), 25–​28. 49. Jahrbuch (1922), cited in Walter Jung, Ideologische Voraussetzungen, Inhalte, und Ziele außenpolitischer Programmatik und Propaganda in der deutschvölkischen Bewegung der Anfangsjahre der Weimarer Republik: Das Beispiel Deutschvölkischer Schutz-​und Trutzbund (PhD diss., Göttingen, 2000),  11–​18. 50. Dok. 7 and 8 (Aug. 21 and 25, 1919), in Ernst Deuerlein, ed., “Dokumentation: Hitlers Eintritt in die Politik und die Reichswehr,” VfZ (1959): 198–​200. 51. Pyta, Hitler: Der Künstler als Politiker und Feldheer, 144–​49. 52. Dok. 61, Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen,  88–​90. 53. Simms, Hitler. A Global Biography, 21–​22; and his “Against a ‘World of Enemies,’ ” 329–​30, argues that the Anglo-​America phobia preceeded the antisemitism. 54. Weber, Becoming Hitler, 123. 55. Dok. 83, Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 109–​11. Weber, Becoming Hitler, 156. 56. IfZ Archiv, F19/​3: Ansprache Hitler vor Generälen und Offizieren am 22. June 1944 im Platterhof, 13–​14; 58. 57. Michael Wildt, “Volksgemeinschaft: A Controversy,” in Pendas, Roseman, and Wetzell, eds., Beyond the Racial State, 317–​34. 58. Ullrich, Hitler Biographie, Bd. 1, 108. 59. Treue, ed., Parteiprogramme, 146–​49. 60. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 2, 1159–​160. 61. Dok. 91 (Apr. 6, 1920), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 119–​20. 62. Heinrich Heim (Aug. 12, 1920), cited in Ullrich, Hitler Biographie, Bd. 1, 123. 63. Dok. 123 (Aug. 7, 1920), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 173–​80, here 176. 64. See, for example, Paul de Lagarde, Juden und Indogermanen: Eine Studie nach dem Leben (Göttingen, 1887), 339, where he sees the Jews as worms


65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77.

78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89. 90. 91.


Notes to pages 25–30 and bacilli; “they should be quickly and totally exterminated.” Heinrich Class of the Pan-​German League in his book under the pseudonym Daniel Frymann, “Wenn ich der Kaiser wäre”: Politische Wahrheiten und Notwendigkeiten (Leipzig, 1913), 74, called the Jews a “poison.” Entry (Feb. 20, 1942), Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier, Jochmann, ed., 293. Albrecht Tyrell, Vom “Trommler” zum “Führer” (Munich, 1975), 47; Dok. 93, Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 122–​25. Dok. 136 (Aug. 13, 1920), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 184–​204, here 190. See also Holz, Nationaler Antisemitismus, 399–​412. Dok. 136, Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 195. Ibid., 200–​202. Dok. 416 (Nov. 2, 1922), ibid., 717. See, for example, Class, “Wenn ich der Kaiser wäre,”  30–​38. Dok. 481 (Jan. 29, 1923), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 822. Dok. 178 (Jan. 1, 1921), ibid., 279–​82. Cited in Longerich, Hitler Biographie, 91. See remarks on Spengler in Otto Wagener’s memoirs, Henry Ashby Turner Jr., ed., Hitler aus nächster Nähe: Aufzeichnungen eines Vertrauten 1929–​1932 (Frankfurt, 1978), 387. Otto Dickel, Die Auferstehung des Abendlandes (Augsburg, 1921), 80–​133. Hellmuth Auerbach, “Regionale Wurzeln und Differenzen der NSDAP 1919–​1923,” in Horst Möller, ed., Nationalsozialismus in der Region: Beiträge zur regionalen und lokalen Forschung und zum internationalen Vergleich (Munich, 1996), 65–​86. Dok. 262 (July 14, 1921), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 436–​38. Tyrell, Vom “Trommler” zum “Führer,” 120–​31; Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905–​1924, Nr. 269 and 270, 447–​50. Dok. 377 (Apr. 12, 1922), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 607–​25. Ibid., 618–​20. Dok. 393 (July 28, 1922), in ibid., here 657. Ibid., 659, 663. Dok. 411 (Oct. 22, 1922), in ibid., 702–​8. Longerich, Hitler Biographie, 126. Dok. 525 (May 4, 1923), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, here 924. Dok. 576 (Sept. 30, 1923), ibid., 1021. Dok. 566 (Sept. 5, 1923), ibid., 998–​1004, here 1004. See, for example, speeches (Jan. 27, 29, 1923), ibid., 813, 815, 818, 822, 824. Dok. 405 (Sept. 18, 1922), ibid., 690–​93; Dok. 416 (Nov. 2, 1922), 717–​21. Dirk Walter, Antisemitische Kriminalität und Gewalt: Judenfeindschaft in der Weimarer Republik (Bonn, 1999), 97–​110; Michael Wildt, Volksgemeinschaft als Selbstermächtigung: Gewalt gegen Juden in der Deutschen Provinz 1919 bis 1939 (Hamburg, 2007), 72–​78. Dok. 597 and 598, Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 1056–​57.

Notes to pages 30–34


93. Entry book (Nov. 11, 1924), reprinted in Hitler als Häftling in Landsberg am Lech 1923–​24: Die Gefangenen-​Personalakte Hitler nebst weiteren Quellen aus der Schutzhaft-​, Untersuchungshaft-​, und Festungshaftanstalt Landsberg am Lech, Peter Fleischmann, ed. (Neustadt an der Aisch, 2015), 416–​17. 94. Dok. 605 (Feb. 26, 1924), Testimony at People’s Court Trial, in Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 1064–​65. 95. Bernd Steger, “Der Hitlerprozess und Bayerns Verhältnis zum Reich 1923–​24,” VfZ (1977): 441–​66. 96. Dok. 58 (Sept. 18, 1924), Otto Leybold to Staatsministerium der Justiz, in Hitler als Häftling in Landsberg, 146–​50. 97. Advertisement, reprinted in Othmar Plöckinger, Geschichte eines Buches: Adolf Hitlers “Mein Kampf,” 1922–​1945 (Munich, 2011), 39. 98. Ibid., 89. 99. See Florian Beierl and Othmar Plöckinger, “Neue Dokumente zu Hitlers Buch Mein Kampf,” VfZ (2009): 261–​96; also Plöckinger, Geschichte eines Buches, 85; 121. 100. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 733, 853. 101. Ibid., vol. 1, 355–​59. Also Hamann, Hitler’s Wien, 337–​435. 102. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 361. 103. Ibid., vol. 1, 315–​16, 335. 104. Ibid., vol. 1, 353. 105. Ibid., vol. 1, 481. 106. Ibid., vol. 1, 187. 107. Ibid., vol. 1, 190–​93; 881–​85. 108. Ibid., vol. 2, 1515–​30. 109. Robert J. Richards, Was Hitler a Darwinian? Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory (Chicago, 2013), 192–​242. Cf. Frank-​Lothar Kroll, Utopie als Ideologie: Geschichtsdenken und politisches Handeln im Dritten Reich (Paderborn, 1998), 309–​13. 110. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 383–​97. 111. Hitler speech, Dok. 50 (June 12, 1925), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 1, 92. 112. Hans F. K. Günther, Rassenkunde des Deutschen Volkes (Munich, 1922), 431–​34. 113. Roman Töppel, “ ‘Volk und Rasse’: Hitlers Quellen auf der Spur,” VfZ (2016): 1–​35, here 14–​16; Ryback, Hitler’s Private Library, 110. 114. Erwin Baur, Eugen Fischer, and Fritz Lenz, Grundriss der menschlichen Erblichkeitslehre und Rassenhygiene (Munich, 1921); and vol. 2, Fritz Lenz, Menschliche Auslese und Rassenhygiene (Munich, 1921). 115. See Günter Neliba, Wilhelm Frick. Der Legalist des Unrechtsstaates: Eine politische Biographie (Paderborn, 1992), 178. 116. Töppel, “ ‘Volk und Rasse.’ Hitlers Quellen,” 19. 117. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 755.

342 1 18. 119. 120. 121. 122. 123. 124. 1 25. 126. 127. 128. 129. 130. 131. 132.

133. 134. 135. 136. 1 37. 138. 1 39. 140. 141.

Notes to pages 35–39 Ibid., vol. 1, 669. Ibid., vol. 1, 769. Ibid., vol. 1, 753. Ibid., vol. 2, 1009. Dok. 654, interview (July 29, 1924), in Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 1242. Wolfram Meyer zu Uptrup, Kampf gegen die “jüdische Weltverschwörung”: Propaganda und Antisemitismus der Nationalsozialisten 1919–​1945 (Berlin, 2003), 110–​11. Dok. 273 (Aug. 12, 1921); Dok. 517 (Apr. 20, 1923), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 451–​57;  906–​9. Dok. 553, ibid. (Aug. 1, 1923), 955–​59. Klepsch, Nationalsozialistische Ideologie, 138–​39. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 799–​821. Ibid., vol. 1, 881. See Richard Wagner, Das Judenthum in der Musik (Leipzig, 1869), 17–​22; Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 785. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 2, 1719. Georg Schott, Das Volksbuch vom Hitler (Munich, 1924), 217, with different emphasis and pagination in Pyta, Hitler: Der Künstler als Politiker und Feldheer, 173. IfZ, Archiv, ZS 640: Major a.D. Josef Hell, Notizen (1922). For additional documentation see Thomas Weber, “Hitler’s Preferred ‘Final Solution’ of the Early 1920s and the Evolution of the Holocaust: A Neo-​Intentionalist Interpretation,” Paper (German Studies Association, 2019). Michael Kellogg, The Russian Roots of Nazism: White Émigrés and the Making of National Socialism, 1917–​1945 (Cambridge, 2005), 165, 185. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 2, 1653–​57; 1677. Ibid., vol. 2, 1677–​78. See Gerhard L. Weinberg, ed., Hitlers Zweites Buch, published as Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 2a, xiv. Ibid., vol. 2a, 104–​19; 122–​23; 135 Dok. 168, speech (Aug. 21, 1927), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 2, part 2, 490–​98. Dok. 195, speech (Nov. 21, 1927), ibid., vol. 2, part 2, 550–​57. Dok. 2, speech (July 13, 1928), ibid., vol. 3, part 1, 11–​22. Ulrich Herbert, Geschichte Deutschlands im 20. Jahrhundert (Munich, 2014), 272–​79.

Chapter 2

1. Calculated from Anlage 1, Peter Hüttenberger, Die Gauleiter: Studie zum Wandel des Machtgefüges in der NSDAP (Stuttgart, 1969), 213–​20. Note: the biographies are incomplete. For analyses and literature see Jürgen John,

Notes to pages 41–43


Horst Möller, and Thomas Schaarschmidt, eds., Die NS-​Gaue: Regionale Mittelinstanzen im zentralistischen “Führerstaat” (Munich, 2007). 2. Detlev J. K. Peukert, Die Weimarer Republik: Krisenjahre der klassischen Moderne (Frankfurt, 1987), 132–​37. 3. Martin Dröge, Männlichkeit und “Volksgemeinschaft”: Der westfälische Landeshauptmann Karl Friedrich Kolbow (1899–​1945): Biographie eines NS Täters (Paderborn, 2015), 173–​76. 4. See Ernst von Salomon, Die Geächteten (Berlin, 1930). 5. Mark A. Fraschka, Franz Pfeffer von Salomon: Hitlers vergessener Oberster SA-​Führer (Göttingen, 2016), 185–​92. 6. See James M. Diehl, Para-​Military Politics in Weimar Germany (Bloomington, IN, 1977), 29–​39; Eleanor Hancock, Ernst Röhm: Hitler’s SA Chief of Staff (New York, 2008), 39; Hans Fenske, Konservatismus und Rechtsradikalismus in Bayern nach 1918 (Bad Homburg, 1969), 76–​112. 7. Jung, Ideologische Voraussetzungen, 11. 8. Herbert, Best,  58–​62. 9. Richard Bessel, Political Violence and the Rise of Nazism: The Storm Troopers in Eastern Germany, 1925–​1934 (New Haven, 1984), 14. 10. See Alexandra Esche, Hitlers “völkische Vorkämpfer”: Die Entwicklung nationalsozialistischer Kultur-​und Rassenpolitik in der Baum-​Frick-​ Regierung 1930–​1931 (Frankfurt, 2017), 27–​52. 11. See Max Robert Gerstenbauer (born 1873) in Alexandra Esche, “ ‘[D]‌amit es auch wirklich etwas gutes wird!’ Max Robert Gerstenhauers Weg in der NSDAP,” in Daniel Schmidt, Michael Sturm, and Livi Massimiliano, eds., Wegbereiter des Nationalsozialismus: Personen, Organisationen, und Netzwerken der extremen Rechten zwischen 1918 und 1933 (Essen, 2015),  37–​53. 12. Uwe Lohalm, Völkischer Radikalismus: Die Geschichte des Deutschvölkischen Schutz-​ und Trutz-​Bundes 1919–​1923 (Hamburg, 1970), 90–​93;  327. 13. Stefan Breuer, Die Völkischen in Deutschland: Kaiserreich und Weimarer Republik (Darmstadt, 2008), 150–​60. 14. Hermann Beck, The Fateful Alliance: German Conservatives and the Nazis in 1933. The Machtergreifung in a New Light (New York, 2008), 15–​22, 190–​91; George L. Mosse, Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism (New York, 1978), 238–​44. 15. Barry A. Jackisch, “Continuity and Change in the German Right: The Pan-​German League and Nazism, 1918–​39,” in Larry Eugene Jones, ed., The German Right in the Weimar Republic (New York, 2014), 166–​93. 16. Derek Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of the Nazis: Religious Identity and National Socialism (New York, 2010), 49–​51; 71. 17. Walter, Antisemitische Kriminalität,  27–​37. 18. Benjamin Ziemann, War Experiences in Rural Germany, 1914–​1923 (Oxford, 2007), 187.


Notes to pages 43–49

19. Ibid., 186–​90. 20. Michael H. Kater, The Nazi Party: A Social Profile of Members and Leaders, 1919–​1945 (Cambridge, MA, 1983), 263. 21. Klaus-​Michael Mallmann, Kommunisten in der Weimarer Republik: Sozialgeschichte einer revolutionären Bewegung (Darmstadt, 1996), 87; Richard N. Hunt, German Social Democracy, 1918–​1933 (Chicago, 1964), 100. 22. Hans-​Ulrich Wehler, Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte 1914–​1949 (Munich, 2003), vol. 4, 315. 23. Benjamin Ziemann, Contested Commemorations: Republican War Veterans and Weimar Political Culture (Cambridge, 2013), 63–​67. 24. Mallmann, Kommunisten, 193–​95. 25. Ernst Röhm, Die Geschichte eines Hochverräters, 5th ed. (Munich, 1934), 15, 31, 123. See also Peter Longerich, Die braune Bataillone: Geschichte der SA (Munich, 1989), 18–​22. 26. Röhm, Geschichte eines Hochverräters, 110–​12. 27. Fenske, Konservatismus und Rechtsradikalismus, 76–​112, here 83. 28. Röhm, Geschichte eines Hochverräters, 249–​52. 29. Hancock, Ernst Röhm,  71–​72. 30. Kurt G. W. Lüdecke, I Knew Hitler: The Lost Testimony of a Survivor from the Night of the Long Knives (Barnsley, UK, 2011), 317. 31. See Röhm, Geschichte eines Hochverräters, 321–​46; Albert Krebs, Tendenzen und Gestalten der NSDAP: Erinnerungen an die Frühzeit der Partei (Stuttgart, 1959), 146; Longerich, Die braune Bataillone, 45–​50; Hancock, Ernst Röhm,  80–​85. 32. Hermann Göring, Aufbau einer Nation, 2nd ed. (Berlin, 1934), 28–​43. 33. See, for example, Joachim C. Fest, The Face of the Third Reich: Portraits of the Nazi Leadership (New York, 1970), 74. 34. International Military Tribunal (henceforth IMT), German ed., vol. 9, 271–​72. 35. Göring interview (May 28, 1946) in Leon Goldensohn, The Nuremberg Interviews, ed. Robert Gellately (New York, 2004), 129. 36. Röhm, Geschichte eines Hochverräters, 173. 37. Alfred Rosenberg, Letzte Aufzeichnungen, Nürnberg 1945–​46, 2nd ed. (Uelzen, 1996), 274. 38. Reinhard Bollmus, Das Amt Rosenberg und seine Gegner: Studien zum Machtkampf im nationalsozialistischen Herrschaftssystem, 2nd ed. (Munich, 2006), 22. 39. See Kai-​Uwe Merz, Das Schreckbild: Deutschland und der Bolshewismus 1917 bis 1921 (Berlin, 1995), 437–​40. 40. Alfred Rosenberg, Die Spur des Juden im Wandel der Zeiten (Munich, 1920), 132–​34. 41. Alfred Rosenberg, Die Protokolle der Weisen von Zion und die jüdische Weltpolitik (Munich, 1923), 147.

Notes to pages 49–54


42. See Dok. 273, Hitler’s notes (Aug. 12, 1921), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 451–​57; a full exposition is his speech (Aug. 11, 1922) in ibid., Dok. 397, 675–​78. 43. Kellogg, Russian Roots of Nazism, 196–​216. 44. Johannes Baur, “Die Revolution und die ‘Weisen von Zion’: Zur Entwicklung des Russlandbildes in der frühen NSDAP,” in Gerd Koenen and Lew Kopelew, eds., Deutschland und die Russische Revolution 1917–​ 1924 (Munich, 1998), 165–​90, here 165–​73. 45. Alfred Rosenberg, “Antisemitismus” (Aug. 21, 1921), and idem, “Der jüdische Bolschewismus” (Nov. 26, 1921), Kampf um die Macht: Aufsätze von 1921–​1932, 5th ed. (Munich, 1938), 75, 135–​41. 46. Rosenberg, “Der Pogrom am Deutschen und am russischen Volke” (Aug. 4, 1921), Kampf um die Macht,  82–​88. 47. Alfred Rosenberg, Pest in Russland! Der Bolshewismus, seine Häupter, Handlanger, und Opfer (Munich, 1922), 90–​96. 48. Alfred Rosenberg, Wesen, Grundsätze, und Ziele der Nationalsozialistischen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei: Das Programm der Bewegung (Munich, 1932), 8–​9. 49. Göring interview (May 28, 1946) in Goldensohn, The Nuremberg Interviews, 109. 50. Entry (Apr. 11, 1942), in Henry Picker, ed., Hitlers Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier, 3rd ed. (Stuttgart, 1976), 213. 51. Alfred Rosenberg, Der Mythos des 20. Jahrhunderts: Eine Wertung der seelisch-​geistigen Gestaltenkämpfe unsere Zeit, org. ed., 1930 (Munich, 1939), 21–​25, 553, 672–​74. 52. Alfred Rosenberg, Novemberköpfe, org. ed. 1927 (Munich 1939), 309–​15. 53. Entry (Aug. 23, 1936), in Jürgen Matthäus and Frank Bajohr, eds., Alfred Rosenberg: Die Tagebücher von 1934 bis 1944 (Frankfurt, 2015), 198–​200. 54. Alfred Rosenberg, Dietrich Eckart: Ein Vermächtnis (Munich, 1928), 217–​18. 55. Lohalm, Völkischer Radikalismus, 74, 340. 56. Rudolf Höss, Kommandant in Auschwitz: Autobiographische Aufzeichnungen, ed. Martin Broszat, 7th ed. (Munich, 1979), 37. 57. Rosenberg, Letzte Aufzeichnungen,  206–​8. 58. Heinrich Himmler, Tagebuch (Nov. 23, 1919), in BArchiv Koblenz: NL 1126/​5. 59. Ibid., July 3, 1922. 60. Ibid., June 11, 1922. 61. Werner T. Angress and Bradley F. Smith, “Diaries of Heinrich Himmler’s Early Years,” Journal of Modern History (1959): 206–​24, here 211. 62. Artur Dinter, Die Sünde wider das Blut (Leipzig, 1918). 63. Josef Ackermann, Heinrich Himmler als Ideologe (Göttingen, 1970), 26. 64. Artur Dinter, Das völkisch-​soziale Programm (Weimar, 1924), 5–​45. 65. Ibid.,  26–​29. 66. Cited in Peter Longerich, Heinrich Himmler: Biographie (Munich, 2008), 86.


Notes to pages 55–61

67. Angress and Smith, “Diaries,” 211. 68. Hitler mentioned meeting Himmler in a May 22, 1923, letter and described him as the quiet, “bookkeeper-​type,” and that the man’s “concept of a new, völkisch-​Germany is close to our own.” The editors of Hitler’s early writings doubt the authenticity of this letter. Dok. 531, Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905–​1924, 930. 69. Cited in Katrin Himmler and Michael Wildt, eds., Himmler private: Briefe eines Massenmörders, 2nd ed. (Munich, 2014), 32–​33. 70. Dietrich Eckart, Der Bolschewismus von Moses bis Lenin: Zweigespräch zwischen Adolf Hitler und mir (Munich, 1924), 17. For a wide-​ranging account, see Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World-​Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (London, 1967), here 169–​215, and Sage, Ibsen,  39–​56. 71. Eckart, Der Bolschewismus von Moses bis Lenin, 5, 13, 50. 72. As recalled by Schroeder, Er war mein Chef, 65. 73. Dok. 6, in Ackermann, Heinrich Himmler als Ideologe, 241. 74. Eckart, Der Bolschewismus von Moses bis Lenin, 36. 75. Dok. 505, speech (Apr. 6, 1923), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 864–​68. 76. Himmler Verfügung (June 28, 1937), cited in Ackermann, Heinrich Himmler, 77. 77. Himmler to Robert Kistler (Aug. 22, 1924), cited in Longerich, Himmler,  88–​89. 78. Klaus Mües-​Baron, Heinrich Himmler: Aufstieg des Reichsführers SS (1900–​ 1933) (Göttingen, 2011), 210. 79. Longerich, Himmler, 101. 80. Hans F. K. Günther, Ritter, Tod, und Teufel: Der heldische Gedanke (Munich, 1920), 183–​93. 81. Longerich, Himmler,  87–​88. 82. Hans F. K. Günther, Der Nordische Gedanke unter den Deutschen (Munich, 1925), 129–​31, 431–​34; Hans-​Jürgen Lutzhöft, Der Nordische Gedanke in Deutschland 1920–​1940 (Stuttgart, 1971), 111–​32. 83. See Shlomo Aronson, Reinhard Heydrich und die Frühgeschichte von Gestapo und SD (Stuttgart, 1971), 52–​55; Mües-​Baron, Heinrich Himmler, 469–​73; Longerich, Himmler, 132–​38. 84. Bastian Hein, Elite für Volk und Führer? Die Allgemeine SS und ihre Mitglieder 1925–​1945 (Munich, 2012), 47, 66, 81. 85. J. W. Baird, ed., “Das politische Testament Julius Streichers,” VfZ (1978): 680. 86. Cited in Rainer Hambrecht, Der Aufstieg der NSDAP in Mittel-​und Oberfranken 1925–​1933 (Nuremberg, 1976), 34. 87. Ibid.,  43–​54. 88. Bayerischer Landtag, Verhandlugen (Jan. 25, 1925), 1019–​21. 89. Cited in Randall L. Bytwerk, Julius Streicher, Nazi Editor of the Notorious Anti-​Semitic Newspaper, Der Stürmer (New York, 1983), 27.

Notes to pages 61–68


90. Eric G. Reiche, The Development of the SA in Nürnberg, 1922–​1934 (Cambridge, 1986), 15–​19. 91. Rudolf Hess to Klara and Fritz Hess (May 18, 1919), Wolf Rüdiger Hess, ed., Rudolf Hess: Briefe 1908–​1933 (Munich, 1987), 240–​42. 92. Hess to Klara and Fritz Hess (Mar. 8, 1920), and his “Notiz” (Sept. 1921) in ibid., 248–​49, 279–​80. 93. Hess to Klara Hess (Jan. 1, 1920), ibid., 245–​46; Detlev Rose, Die Thule Gesellschaft: Legende, Mythos, Wirklichkeit, 3rd ed. (Tübingen, 2008), 141–​45. 94. Hess to Klara and Fritz Hess (Mar. 24, 1920), Hess, ed., Rudolf Hess: Briefe, 250–​51. 95. Dok. 101, meeting report (May 19, 1920), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 134. 96. Dok. 3 (Aug. 1921), Albrecht Tyrell, ed., Führer befiehl . . . Selbstzeugnisse aus der “Kampfzeit” der NSDAP (Düsseldorf, 1991), 22. 97. See Hess (Aug. 1920) in Hess, ed., Rudolf Hess—​Briefe, 263. 98. Peter Longerich, Hitlers Stellvertreter: Führung der Partei und Kontrolle des Staatsapparates durch den Stab Hess und die Partei-​Kanzlei Bormann (Munich, 1992), 8–​9. 99. Dietrich Orlow, The History of the Nazi Party: 1919–​1933 (Pittsburgh, 1969), 150. 100. See, for example, Christoph H. Werth, Sozialismus und Nation: Die deutsche Ideologiediskussion zwischen 1918 und 1945, 2nd ed. (Weimar, 2001), 206–​13.

Chapter 3

1. The ban was to be until late September 1928. Dok. 41, Tyrell, ed., Führer befiehl,  107–​8. 2. Dok. 6, speech (Feb. 27, 1925), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 1,  14–​28. 3. Ibid. 4. Reinhard Kühnl, Die nationalsozialistischen Linke 1925–​1930 (Meisenheim am Glan, 1966), 1–​4. 5. Peter D. Stachura, Gregor Strasser and the Rise of Nazism (London, 1983),  11–​25. 6. Bayerischer Landtag, Verhandlugen (Aug. 1, 1924), 518–​21. See also his more explicitly antisemitic speech (Aug. 21, 1927), Dok. 111, in Tyrell, ed., Führer befiehl, 281–​83. 7. Patrick Moreau, Nationalsozialismus von Links: Die “Kampfgemeinschaft Revolutionärer Nationalsozialisten” und die “Schwarze Front” Otto Strassers 1930–​1935 (Stuttgart, 1964), 12–​17. 8. Date of the meeting may have been early 1921 according to Udo Kissenkoetter, Gregor Strasser und die NSDAP (Stuttgart, 1978), 15, note 12. 9. Otto Strasser, Hitler and I (Boston, 1940), 1–​9.


Notes to pages 68–73

10. Joseph Goebbels, “Erinnerungsblätter” (March 1921–​January 1923; January–​August 1923), in Ralf Georg Reuth, ed., Joseph Goebbels, Tagebücher 1924–​1945 (Munich, 1999), vol. 1, 80, 85. 11. Ralf Georg Reuth, Goebbels (New York, 1993), 53. 12. Citations in order from Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 1, i, 35 (October 22, 1923); 50–​51 (November 14, 1923); (March 31, 1924), 116. 13. Goebbels later attributed the former remark to Richard Wagner, the latter to Theodor Mommsen. See his “Rassenfrage und Weltpropaganda,” Reichstagung in Nürnberg 1933 (Berlin, 1933), 131–​42. 14. Citations in Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 1, i, 35 (October 22, 1923); 119–​20 (Apr. 8, 1924); 120–​21 (Apr. 10, 1924). 15. Entry (March 20, 1924), ibid., 108–​9. 16. Entry (July 4, 1924), ibid., 160–​61. 17. Entry (June 15, 1925), ibid., 315. 18. Entry (July 14, 1925), ibid., 326–​27. 19. Entry (Oct. 14, 1925), ibid., 365. 20. Entry (Dec. 12; Dec. 30, 1926), ibid., part 1, vol. 1, ii, 159; 164. 21. Dok. 50 and 55, speeches (June 12; July 8, 1925), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 1, 91–​100; 106–​17. 22. Entry (Aug. 7, 1925), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 1, i, 338. 23. Entry (Nov. 6, 1925), ibid., 375. 24. Claus-​Ekkehard Bärsch, Der junge Goebbels: Erlösung und Vernichtung (Munich, 2004), 75. 25. Gregor Strasser to Joseph Goebbels (Nov. 11, 1925), in ibid., 115–​16. 26. Entry (Dec. 18, 1925), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 1, ii, 35. 27. Moreau, Nationalsozialismus von Links,  20–​23. 28. See Dok. 49a, in Tyrell, ed., Führer befiehl, 119; Herbst, Hitlers Charisma, 228–​32. 29. Entry (Sept. 11, 1925), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 1, i, 353. 30. See also Gregor Strasser, “Nationaler Sozialismus: ‘Was heisst das: Vaterland?’ ” (Sept. 4, 1925), in Gregor Strasser, Kampf um Deutschland: Reden und Aufsätze eines Nationalsozialisten (Munich, 1932),  72–​77. 31. Reinhard Kühnl, ed., “Zur Programmatik der nationalsozialistischen Linken: Das Strasser-​Programm von 1925–​26,” VfZ (1966): 317–​33. 32. Verhandlungen des Deutschen Reichstages: Reichstagsprotokolle (Nov. 24, 1925), Bd. 388, 4561. See also Kissenkoetter, Gregor Strasser, 26. 33. Mark A. Fraschka, Franz Pfeffer von Salomon: Hitlers vergessener Oberster SA-​Führer (Göttingen, 2016), 79–​80. 34. Ibid., 241–​42. 35. Ibid., 302.

Notes to pages 73–79


36. Ibid., 303. Quoted from the Book of Daniel 5:27, and the Gospel of Luke 3:9. 37. IfZ Archiv: Zs 0177, Bd. 1, Interview Albrecht Tyrell and Franz Pfeffer von Salomon (Feb. 20, 1968), 31. 38. Fraschka, Franz Pfeffer von Salomon, 305. 39. Goebbels, “Die Radikalisierung des Sozialismus,” Nationalsozialistische Briefe, Feb. 1, 1926, cited in Fraschka, Franz Pfeffer von Salomon, 312. 40. Ibid., 268–​69. 41. See Otto Wagener’s memoirs, Henry Ashby Turner Jr., ed., Hitler aus nächster Nähe: Aufzeichnungen eines Vertrauten 1929–​1932 (Frankfurt, 1978), 15. 42. See Wilfried Böhnke, Die NSDAP im Ruhrgebiet 1920–​1933 (Bonn–​Bad Godesberg, 1974), 81, 108–​9. 43. Strasser, Hitler and I, 81. 44. Stachura, Gregor Strasser, 48. 45. See Gerhard L. Weinberg, ed., Hitlers Zweites Buch, in Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 2a, also in translation as Hitler’s Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf (New York, 2003). 46. See Dok. 101, speech (Feb. 14, 1926), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 1, 294–​96. 47. Kershaw, Hitler Hubris, 276–​77. 48. Apr. 13, 1926, Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 1, ii, 73. 49. Dietrich Orlow, History of the Nazi Party: 1919–​1933 (Pittsburgh, 1969), 69–​70 overestimates the role of Hitler’s personality in these politics, and yet those views are widely repeated. 50. Dok. 57a, Goebbels (July 3, 1926), Tyrell, ed., Führer befiehl, 156–​57. 51. Dok. 62a, Strasser (Jan. 9, 1927), ibid., 163–​64. 52. Alfred Rosenberg, “Nationaler Sozialismus?” Völkischer Beobachter (Feb. 1, 1927), and Gregor Strasser, “Nationaler Sozialismus!,” Nationalsozialistische Briefe (Feb. 15, 1927), reprinted in Tyrell, ed., Führer befiehl, 278–​81. 53. See Bruce Campbell, The SA Generals and the Rise of Nazism (Lexington, KY, 1998), 33. 54. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 2, 1377–​99, here 1399. 55. Hitler to Pfeffer (Nov. 1, 1926), in Jochmann, ed., Nationalsozialismus und Revolution, 241–​42. 56. IfZ Archiv: Zs 0177, Bd. 1, Interview Albrecht Tyrell and Franz Pfeffer von Salomon (Feb. 20, 1968), 30. 57. Dok. 44, Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 1, 83–​84. Longerich, Die braune Bataillone,  53–​55. 58. Siemens, Stormtroopers,  33–​34. 59. For his melodramatic account, see Joseph Goebbels, Kampf um Berlin: Der Anfang (Munich, 1932). 60. Peter Longerich, Joseph Goebbels: Biographie (Munich, 2010), 85. 61. Joseph Goebbels, Der Nazi-​Sozi (Elberfeld, 1926), 4, 6–​7, 9, 21. 62. Goebbels, “Warum sind wir Judengegner?” (July 30, 1928), in Joseph Goebbels, Der Angriff: Aufsätze aus der Kampfzeit (Munich, 1934), 329–​31.


63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84.

Notes to pages 79–84 See also Bernhard Sauer, “Goebbels’ ‘Rabauken’: Zur Geschichte der SA in Berlin-​Brandenburg,” in Berlin in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Jahrbuch des Landesarchivs (Berlin, 2006), 107–​64, here 117. See Joseph Goebbels, Der Nazi-​Sozi (Elberfeld, 1927); and Goebbels, “Warum sind wir Judengegner?” in Goebbels, Der Angriff: Aufsätze aus der Kampfzeit, 329–​31. Joseph Goebbels, “Der Jude” (Jan. 21, 1929), in Goebbels, Der Angriff: Aufsätze aus der Kampfzeit, 322–​24. Joseph Goebbels, “Warum sind wir Sozialisten?” (July 16, 1928), in ibid., 222–​24. Joseph Goebbels, “An den Deutschen Arbeiter!” (Aug. 24, 1930), in ibid., 245–​47. Joseph Goebbels, “Warum Arbeiterpartei?” (July 23, 1928), in ibid., 224–​26. Joseph Goebbels, “Sozialismus und Eigentum” (Nov. 14, 1929), in ibid., 227–​29. Moreau, Nationalsozialismus von Links,  25–​26. Dok. 160, “Was ist Nationalsozialismus?” (Aug. 6, 1927), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 2, ii, 439–​65. See Dok. 208, “Die ‘gespaltene’ NSDAP” (Dec. 19, 1927), ibid., 584–​86; Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels (Munich), part 1, vol. 1, ii, 305. Kershaw, Hitler Hubris, 300. See Jeremy Noakes, The Nazi Party in Lower Saxony 1921–​1933 (Oxford, 1971), 101. Dok. 254 (Apr. 13, 1928), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 2, ii, 771. Henry Ashby Turner Jr., “Hitler’s Secret Pamphlet for Industrialists, 1927,” Journal of Modern History (1968), 348–​74. Dok. 112 (Apr. 27, 1927), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 2, ii, 285–​86. Letter (Apr. 27, 1927), Hess and Müller, eds., Hess. Briefe, 380. Henry Ashby Turner Jr., German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler (New York, 1985), 94–​96. Dok. 22, “Nationalsozialismus und Landwirtschaft” (Mar. 7, 1930), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 3, iii, 115–​20. See Kissenkoetter, Gregor Strasser, 42. Alfred Rosenberg, “Idee und Führer,” Völkischer Beobachter (May 3, 1930), reprinted in his Blut und Ehre. Ein Kampf für deutsche Wiedergeburt: Reden und Aufsätze von 1919–​1933 (Munich, 1938), 161–​63. Strasser, Hitler and I, 106–​14. IfZ Archiv: Zs 0177, Bd. 1, Interview Albrecht Tyrell and Franz Pfeffer von Salomon (Feb. 20, 1968), 28–​31. Dok. 67, Hitler to Goebbels (June 30, 1930), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 3, iii, 249–​50.

Notes to pages 84–90


85. See St. Archiv Marburg: Reg. Bezirk Kassel. Best. 165/​3942, Bd. II, Reg. Pr. Kassel to Preuss. M.Inn (Feb. 27, 1931), 1–​13. 86. Dok. 136, Gregor Strasser to Rudolf Jung (July 22, 1930), in Tyrell, ed., Führer befiehl, 332–​33; Moreau, Nationalsozialismus von Links,  41–​45. 87. Dok. 1, Gregor Strasser to Herrn Erckmann (Aug. 7, 1930), in Kissenkoetter, Gregor Strasser, 196–​99. 88. See Gregor Strasser, “Der Weg der Gewerkschaften” (Sept. 15, 1929); “Der deutsche 1. Mai” (May 1, 1931), in Gregor Strasser, Kampf um Deutschland: Reden und Aufsätze eines Nationalsozialisten (Munich, 1932), 241–​49; 288–​92. 89. Longerich, Hitler Biographie, 215–​18; Siemens, Stormtroopers, 55–​61; Timothy S. Brown, Weimar Radicals: Nazis and Communists between Authenticity and Performance (New York, 2016), 64–​72. 90. Turner, ed., Hitler aus nächster Nähe, 70–​71, 267–​68, 217, 259. 91. Ibid., 443–​45. 92. Alfred Rosenberg, Wesen, Grundsätze, und Ziele der Nationalsozialistischen Deutschen Arbeiterpartei: Das Programm der Bewegung (Munich, 1932), 11. 93. Ibid., 9. 94. Kühnl, Die nationalsozialistischen Linke, 253. 95. See Gerhard L. Weinberg, ed., Hitlers Zweites Buch, in Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 2a, 34. 96. Dok. 61 (June 19, 1930), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 3, iii, 235; Dok. 76 (July 18, 1930), 280. 97. Turner, ed., Hitler aus nächster Nähe, 153–​54.

Chapter 4

1. See Jürgen W. Falter, “Spezifische Erklärungsmodelle und Motive der NSDAP Mitgliederschaft,” in Jürgen W. Falter, ed., Junge Kämpfer, alte Opportunisten: Die Mitglieder der NSDAP 1919–​1945 (Frankfurt, 2016),  65–​79. 2. Laurence Rees, Hitler’s Charisma: Leading Millions into the Abyss (New York, 2012), 21, 68. 3. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 905–​6. 4. Dok. 6, speech (Feb. 27, 1925), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 1,  14–​28. 5. Longerich, Die braune Bataillone, 24–​26; Daniel Siemens, Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler’s Brownshirts (London, 2017), 8–​9. 6. Dok. 314, speech (Nov. 9, 1921), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 514. 7. Peter Merkl, The Making of a Stormtrooper (Princeton, 1980), 254. 8. See anon., Der unbekannte SA Mann: Ein guter Kamerad der Hitler-​ Soldaten (Munich, 1930, 2nd ed., 1934). 9. Martin Schuster, Die SA in der nationalsozialistischen “Machtergreifung” in Berlin und Brandenburg 1926–​1934 (PhD diss., T. U. Berlin, 2004), 101–​9. Siemens, Stormtroopers,  9–​15.


Notes to pages 90–94

10. Longerich, Die braune Bataillone, 135. 11. Walter, Antisemitische Kriminalität, 97–​110. 12. St. Archiv Würzburg: LRA Achaffenburg, 2256 (July 3, 1922); (Sept. 1, 1922). 13. Michael Wildt, Volksgemeinschaft als Selbstermächtigung: Gewalt gegen Juden in der Deutschen Provinz 1919 bis 1939 (Hamburg, 2007), 72–​78. 14. Dok. 583, speech (Oct. 14, 1923), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 1031–​ 34, here 1031. 15. Ibid. (Oct. 19, 1923), Nr. 586, 1039. 16. See Merkl, Stormtrooper, 205. 17. See Manfred Gailus and Daniel Siemens, eds., “Hass und Begeisterung bilden Spalier”: Die politische Autobiographie von Horst Wessel (Berlin, 2011), 48. 18. Joseph Goebbels, Kampf um Berlin: Der Anfang (Munich, 1932). 19. Horst Wessel, “Politika,” in Gailus and Siemens, eds., “Hass und Begeisterung,” 108–​9. Original, Kraków, http://​jbc.bj.uj.edu.pl/​dlibra/​colle ctiondescription?dirids=118. 20. See, for example, Fritz Daum, SA-​Sturmführer Horst Wessel: Ein Lebensbild von Opfertreue (Reutlingen, 1933). 21. Situations-​Bericht (June 1926), Dok. 1, in Martin Broszat, ed., “Die Anfänge der Berliner NSDAP 1926–​27,” VfZ (1960): 92–​93. 22. Ibid., 85–​118. Entry (Sept. 13, 1933), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, vol. 2, iii/​2, 267. 23. See Sven Reichardt, Faschistische Kampfbünde: Gewalt und Gemeinschaft im italienischen Squadrismus und in der Deutschen SA (Cologne, 2002), 490–​96. 24. For an account at the neighborhood level, see Oliver Reschke, Kampf um den Kiez: Der Aufstieg der NSDAP im Zentrum Berlins 1925–​1933 (Berlin, 2014), 162ff. 25. Eve Rosenhaft, Beating the Fascists? The German Communists and Political Violence, 1929–​1933 (Cambridge, 1983), 111–​27; 209. 26. Detlef Schmiechen-​Ackermann, Nationalsozialismus und Arbeitermilieus: Der nationalsozialistische Angriff auf die proletarischen Wohnquartiere und die Reaktionen in den sozialistischen Vereinen (Bonn, 1998), 209. 27. Bernhard Sauer, “Goebbels’ ‘Rabauken’: Zur Geschichte der SA in Berlin-​Brandenburg,” in Berlin in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Jahrbuch des Landesarchivs (Berlin, 2006), 107–​64, here 130–​31. 28. Berlin Document Center autobiographies, reprinted in Lawrence W. Stokes, Kleinstadt und National Sozialismus: Ausgewählte Dokumente zur Geschichte von Eutin 1918–​1945 (Neumünster, 1984), 287–​91. 29. Siemens, Stormtroopers,  82–​83. 30. Longerich, Die braune Bataillone, 111, 159.

Notes to pages 94–100


31. Eric G. Reiche, The Development of the SA in Nürnberg 1922–​1934 (Cambridge, 1986), 105–​7. 32. For additional testimony, see Conan Fischer, Stormtroopers: A Social, Economic, and Ideological Analysis 1929–​35 (London, 1983), 143–​69. 33. Peter H. Merkl, Political Violence under the Swastika: 581 Early Nazis (Princeton, 1975), 32–​33; 453; Reichardt, Faschistische Kampfbünde, 632. 34. Theodore Abel, Why Hitler Came to Power, org. ed., 1938 (Cambridge, MA, 1986), 72–​73. 35. Merkl, Stormtrooper, 254. 36. Ibid., 271. 37. Merkl, Political Violence, 571. 38. Abel, Why Hitler,  88–​90. 39. Autobiographies in Merkl, Political Violence, 136, 127, 374, 454–​55. 40. Ibid., 123–​24, 124, 127, 128–​29. 41. Ibid., 130, 131–​32. 42. Arno Klönne, Jugend im Dritten Reich: Die Hitler-​Jugend und ihre Gegner (Düsseldorf, 1982), 88–​89; Michael H. Kater, Hitler Youth (Cambridge, MA, 2004), 16. 43. Cited in Peter D. Stachura, Nazi Youth in the Weimar Republic (Oxford, 1975), 48. 44. Artur Axmann, Hitlerjugend: “Das kann doch nicht das Ende sein” (Koblenz, 1991), 26–​46. 45. Stachura, Nazi Youth, 245–​46. 46. Baldur von Schirach, Hitler-​Jugend: Idee und Gestalt (Leipzig, 1934), 30. 47. Lydia Gottschewski, Männerbund und Frauenfrage: Die Frau im neuen Staat (Munich, 1934) 48–​54, 74, 86. 48. Autobiographies in Merkl, Political Violence, 130, 131–​32, 133. 49. Autobiography in Torsten Kupfer, Generation und Radikalisierung: Die Mitglieder der NSDAP im Kreis Bernberg 1921–​1945 (Berlin, 2006), 46–​51. 50. Interview (1981) with Claudia Koonz, printed in her Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family and Nazi Politics (New York, 1987), xxi–​xxxv, 168–​69. See also Christiane Berger, Zur Wirkung einer nationalsozialistischen Karriere in Verlauf, Retrospektive, und Gegenwart (PhD diss., Hamburg, 2005), 21–​24. 51. See Gertrude Scholtz-​Klink, “Aufgabe: Wille und Ziel der Deutschen Frauen,” N.S. Frauen-​Warte (July 1933), 33–​34; Ute Frevert, Women in German History: From Bourgeois Emancipation to Sexual Liberation (New York, 1999), 216–​30. 52. Michael H. Kater, The Nazi Party: A Social Profile of Members and Leaders, 1919–​1945 (Cambridge, MA, 1983), 150–​51. 53. Kupfer, Generation und Radikalisierung,  74–​76. 54. The case of Alfred F., in ibid., 108–​9. 55. Wildt, Generation des Unbedingten,  72–​99.


Notes to pages 100–104

56. Wolfgang Stelbrink, Die Kreisleiter der NSDAP in Westfalen und Lippe (Münster, 2003), 10–​26. 57. Table 5.1 in Claus-​Christian W. Szejnmann, Nazism in Central Germany: The Brownshirts in “Red” Saxony (New York, 1999), 209. For Dresden, see Annekatrin Jahn, “Cuno Meyer und Hellmut Walter,” in Christine Pieper et al., eds., Braune Karrieren: Dresdner Täter und Akteure im Nationalsozialismus (Dresden, 2012), 51–​57. 58. Stelbrink, Kreisleiter der NSDAP,  26–​44. 59. Susanne Schlösser, “Die Heilbronner NSDAP und ihre ‘Führer’: Eine Bestandsaufnahme zur nationalsozialistischen Personalpolitik auf lokaler Ebene und ihren Auswirkungen ‘vor Ort’,” in Heilbronnica 2-​Beiträge zur Stadtgeschichte, Christhard Schrank and Peter Wanner, eds., Quellen und Forschungen zur Geschichte der Stadt Heilbronn 15, 2003, 281–​317, here 285. 60. Rudy Koshar, Social Life, Local Politics, and Nazism: Marburg, 1880–​1935 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1986), 188. 61. Carl-​Wilhelm Reibel, Das Fundament der Diktatur: Die NSDAP-​ Ortsgruppen 1932–​1945 (Paderborn, 2002), 29–​32. 62. See Hartmut Berghoff and Cornelia Rauh, The Respectable Career of Fritz K. : The Making and Remaking of a Provincial Nazi Leader (New York, 2015), 12–​42, citation 32. 63. Cited in Kupfer, Generation und Radikalisierung, 55; 104–​5. See also similar sentiments in the diary of Kurt Klenau (born 1899), in ibid.,  104–​7. 64. Martin Dröge, Männlichkeit und “Volksgemeinschaft”: Der westfälische Landeshauptmann Karl Friedrich Kolbow (1899–​1945): Biographie eines NS Täters (Paderborn, 2015), 124–​93. 65. Jeremy Noakes, “Viceroys of the Reich? Gauleiters 1925–​45,” in Anthony McElligott and Tim Kirk, eds., Working towards the Führer: Essays in Honour of Sir Ian Kershaw (Manchester, 2003), 118–​52. 66. Hitler speech (May 22, 1926), in Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 1, 445. 67. http://​www.bunte-​fraktion-​wustrow.de/​dokumente/​Telschow%20-​ %20Hitlers%20Gauleiter%20in%20Osthannover.pdf, retrieved Mar. 17, 2019. 68. Bernhard Gotto, “Dem Gauleiter entgegen arbeiten? Überlegungen zur Reichsweite eines Deutungsmusters,” in John, Möller, and Schaarschmidt, eds., Die NS-​Gaue, 80–​99, here 88. 69. Karl Wahl, “. . . es ist das deutsche Herz:” Erlebnisse und Erkenntnisse eines ehemaligen Gauleiters (Augsburg, 1954), 39–​53; Noakes, “Viceroys of the Reich,” 124. 70. Wahl, Erlebnisse, 59; Martina Steber, “Regions and National Socialist Ideology: Reflections on Contained Plurality,” in Claus-​Christian

Notes to pages 104–108

71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89.


W. Szejnmann and Maiken Umbach, eds., Heimat, Region, and Empire: Spatial Identities under National Socialism (New York, 2012), 25–​ 42, here 31–​32. Gerhard Hetzer, “Die Industriestadt Augsburg. Eine Sozialgeschichte der Arbeiteropposition,” in Martin Broszat et al., eds., Bayern in der NS-​Zeit (Munich, 1981), vol. 3, 1–​233, here 68–​72. Walter Ziegler, “Die Selbstverständnis der bayerischen Gauleiter,” in Hermann Rumschöttel and Walter Ziegler, eds., Staat und Gaue in der NS-​Zeit Bayern 1933–​1945 (Munich, 2004), 77–​125, here 91–​94. Franz Kühnel, Hans Schemm. Gauleiter und Kultusminister (1891–​1935) (Nuremberg, 1985), 27–​36. Hambrecht, Aufstieg der NSDAP, 137–​43. Brigitte Hamann, Winifred Wagner oder Hitlers Bayreuth (Munich, 2002), 118. Geoffrey Pridham, The Nazi Movement in Bavaria 1923–​33 (London, 1973), 128–​29. Ziegler, “Die Selbstverständnis der bayerischen Gauleiter,” 94–​98. Cited in Konrad H. Jarausch, The Unfree Professions: German Lawyers, Teachers, and Engineers, 1900–​1950 (New York, 1990), 99. See Bruce Campbell, The SA Generals and the Rise of Nazism (Lexington, KY, 1998), 38–​39; 147. Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, Memoirs (New York, 1970), 16. Hitler speech to NSDStB (Dec. 4, 1930), in Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 4, i, 145–​47. Magnus Brechtken, Albert Speer: Eine deutsche Karriere (Munich, 2017), 31–​37; Sebastian Tisch, Albert Speer 1905–​1981 (Vienna, 2016), 31–​42. Himmler in BArchiv Berlin, NS 19/​1934 (June 13–​14, 1931), Bl. 94–​105; 109–​13. Himmler speech, “Das Blut und die Einheit des Reiches” (Mar. 7, 1938), in Heinrich Himmler, Geheimreden 1933 bis 1945 und andere Ansprachen, Bradley F. Smith and Agnes F. Peterson, eds. (Frankfurt, 1979), 54. Isabel Heinemann, “Rasse, Siedlung, deutsches Blut”: Das Rasse-​und Siedlungshauptamt der SS und die rassenpolitische Neuordnung Europas (Göttingen, 2003), 50–​51. Jens Banach, Heydrichs Elite: Das Führerkorps der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD 1936–​1945 (Paderborn, 1998), 87–​94. Lina Heydrich, Leben mit einem Kriegsverbrecher (Pfaffenhofen, 1976),  42–​43. Shlomo Aronson, Reinhard Heydrich und die Frühgeschichte von Gestapo und SD (Stuttgart, 1971), 34; Günther Deschner, Reinhard Heydrich: Statthalter der totalen Macht, 4th ed. (Esslingen, 1977), 36–​38. Robert Gerwarth, Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich (London, 2011), 37, 54. Lohalm, Völkischer Radikalismus, 327.


Notes to pages 109–112

90. Herbert F. Ziegler, Nazi Germany’s New Aristocracy: The SS Leadership, 1925–​1939 (Princeton, 1989), 147. 91. Michael H. Kater, “Zum gegenseitigen Verhältnis von SA und SS in der Sozialgeschichte des Nationalsozialismus von 1925 bis 1939,” in Vierteljahresschrift für Sozial-​und Wirtschaftsgeschichte (1975), 339–​79, here 375. 92. Hans F. K. Günther, Ritter, Tod, und Teufel: Der heldische Gedanke (Munich, 1920), 183–​93. 93. Hans F. K. Günther, Mein Eindruck von Adolf Hitler (Pähl, 1986). 94. Herbert, Best,  43–​47. 95. Lohalm, Völkischer Radikalismus, 327. 96. BArchiv Koblenz: NL Best, 23/​10. 97. BArchiv Koblenz: NL Best, 23/​7. 98. On his background and influences, see Uwe Mai, Rasse und Raum: Agrarpolitik, Sozial-​, und Raumplanung im NS-​Staat (Paderborn, 2002), 35–​46; Anna Bramwell, Blood and Soil: Richard Walter Darre and Hitler’s Green Party (Abbotsbrook, 1985), 13–​90; Gustavo Corni and Horst Gies, eds., Blut und Boden: Rassenideologie und Agrarpolitik im Staat Hitlers (Idstein, 1994), 17–​24; Lutzhöft, Der Nordische Gedanke,  52–​55. 99. R. Walther Darré, Das Bauernthum als Lebensquelle der Nordischen Rasse (Munich, 1928), 277–​308. 100. Ibid., 426–​47. 101. Ibid.,  435. 102. R. Walther Darré, “Das Ziel” (July 1932), in Um Blut und Boden: Reden und Aufsätze, 3rd ed. (Munich, 1941), 338–​39. 103. Darré, “Blut und Boden als Lebensgrundlagen der nordischen Rasse” (June 22, 1930), in ibid., 27. 104. R. Walther Darré, ed., Nordische Bluterbe im süddeutsche Bauerntum (Munich, 1938), 14–​15. 105. R. Walther Darré, Neuadel aus Blut und Boden (Munich, 1930), 168–​69. 106. Ibid., 142–​43. 107. Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 5, ii, 317, note 3. Oswald Spengler used the conceptual pair in his classic work, in the sense of a struggle between blood and soil. August Winnig used the concepts in the 1920s. 108. Dok. 22 (Mar. 6, 1930), Hitler, “Nationalsozialismus und Landwirtschaft,” Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 3, iii, 115–​20. 109. For similar cases, see Esche, Hitlers “völkische Vorkämpfer.” 110. Heinemann, “Rasse, Siedlung, deutsches Blut,” 52–​53; Peter Longerich, Heinrich Himmler: Biographie (Berlin, 2008), 137–​38. 111. Dok. 11 (Oct. 6, 1933), in Corni and Gies, eds., Blut und Boden,  74–​75. 112. Dok. 112, speech (Jan. 3, 1933), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 5, ii, 317–​19. 113. Hans-​Christian Harten, Himmlers Lehrer: Die Weltanschauliche Schulung in der SS 1933–​1945 (Paderborn, 2014), 60–​61.

Notes to pages 113–119 114. 115. 116. 117.


Ibid.,  66. Hein, Elite für Volk und Führer, 225–​40. Abel, Why Hitler, 244. Werner Best, Die deutsche Polizei (1940), 85; BArchiv Koblenz: NL Best,  23/​10.

Chapter 5

1. See St. Archiv Marburg: Reg. Bezirk Kassel. Best. 165/​3840. Preuss. M.Inn: Referentendenkschrift an Reg. Pr. Kassel (May 1930). For prices, see Münkel, Nationalsozialistische Agrarpolitik, 54. 2. Dok. 254 (Apr. 13, 1928), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 2, ii, 771. 3. Dok. 22 (Mar. 7, 1930), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 3, iii, 115–​20. 4. See Horst Gies, “NSDAP und Landwirtschaftliche Organisationen in der Endphase der Weimarer Republik,” VfZ (1967): 341–​76, here 348. 5. Bertold Alleweldt, Herbert Backe: Eine politische Biographie (Berlin, 2011),  17–​36. 6. Figures in Harten, Himmlers Lehrer, 20. 7. See, for example, BArchiv Berlin Sammlung Schumacher 207, 52–​55, 84–​ 87, 98, 166. 8. Jeremy Noakes, The Nazi Party in Lower Saxony, 1921–​1933 (Oxford, 1971), 125. 9. BArchiv Berlin: Sammlung Schumacher: 203, Gau Hessen-​Nassau Nord, Prop. Rundschreiben, Brief (Dec. 1930), 1–​10. 10. See St. Archiv Marburg: Reg. Bezirk Kassel. Best. 165/​3840. Preuss. M.Inn: Referentendenkschrift to Reg. Pr. Kassel (May 1930); William Sheridan Allen, The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1922–​1945, rev. ed. (New York, 1984), 138–​44. 11. Pridham, Nazi Movement in Bavaria, 100–​101. 12. Turlach O Broin, “Mail-​Order Demagogues: The NSDAP School for Speakers, 1928–​34,” Journal of Contemporary History (Oct. 2016): 715–​37. 13. Gerhard Paul, Aufstand der Bilder: Die NS-​Propaganda vor 1933 (Bonn, 1992), ­chapter 4, ­illustration 58. 14. Randall Bytwerk, “Fritz Reinhardt and the Rederschule der NSDAP,” Quarterly Journal of Speech (1981): 298–​309, here 307–​8. O Broin, “Mail-​ Order Demagogues,” cites this author as giving 54,000. 15. Oded Heilbronner, Catholicism, Political Culture, and the Countryside: A Social History of the Nazi Party in South Germany (Ann Arbor, MI, 1998), 162–​63,  236. 16. See Stefanie Fischer, Ökonomisches Vertrauen und antisemitische Gewalt: Jüdische Viehhändler in Mittelfranken 1919–​1939 (Göttingen, 2014), 184–​85. 17. St. Archiv Nürnberg, LRA Weissenburg: 28, Halbmonatsbericht (Mar. 15, 1932; Apr. 16, 1932).


Notes to pages 119–124

18. See Hambrecht, Aufstieg der NSDAP, 248–​54. 19. St. Archiv Marburg: Reg. Bezirk Kassel. Best. 165/​3942, Bd. 1 Landrat an Regierungspräs. Kassel (Dec. 14, 1929). 20. St. Archiv Marburg: Reg. Bezirk Kassel. Best. 180 LA Frankenberg 180/​ 3432, report (Dec. 20, 1930). 21. St. Archiv Wiesbaden: 408/​127, reports 1930–​31, here from Freidendiez, Katzenelnbogen, Holzappel, Diez a/​Lahn. 22. St. Archiv Marburg: Reg. Bezirk Kassel. LA Frankenberg 180/​1955, reports from Bottendorf, Gemünden, Ernsthausen, Vöhl, Haina, Frankenau, Ederbringhausen, Frankenberg, and Löhlbach. 23. See Eberhart Schön, Die Entstehung des Nationalsozialismus in Hessen (Meisenheim am Glan, 1972), 200–​201; population data http://​www. geschichte-​on-​demand.de/​frankenberg.html. 24. St. Archiv Marburg: Reg. Bezirk Kassel. 165/​3942, Bd. II, Landrat Ziegenhain report (Sept. 13, 1931). 25. Schön, Nationalsozialismus, 201. 26. Koshar, Social Life, Local Politics, and Nazism: Marburg, 204. 27. Diary entry (May 31, 1933), in Herbert Obenaus and Sibylle Obenaus, eds., “Schreiben wie es wirklich war”: Aufzeichnungen Karl Dürkefäldens aus den Jahren 1933–​1945 (Hanover, 1985), 54. 28. Dok. 48 (Oct. 18, 1931), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 4, ii, 159–​60. 29. Letters Elisabeth Gebensleben–​von Alten to her daughter (Oct. 18, 1931; Apr. 22, 1932; [July 14, 1932]), in Hedda Kalshoven, ed., Ich denk so viel an Euch: Ein deutsch-​holländischer Briefwechsel 1920–​1949 (Munich, 1995), 123, 143, 150. 30. BArchiv Berlin: Sammlung Schumacher: 207, Gau Propaganda reports, (1931–​1932), 52–​55; 84–​87;  96. 31. Statistisches Jahrbuch für das Deutsche Reich (1934), 540. 32. Doc. 13, Szejnmann, Nazism in Central Germany, 268. 33. Ibid., 33. 34. Ibid., 208. 35. http://​www.gonschior.de/​weimar/​Sachsen/​Uebersicht_​RTW.html. 36. Mike Schmeitzner, “Martin Mutschmann und Manfred von Killinger: Die ‘Führer der Provinz,” in Christine Pieper et al., eds., Braune Karrieren,  22–​26. 37. Szejnmann, Nazism in Central Germany,  70–​71. 38. Ibid., 248. 39. See Carola Stern, In den Netzen der Erinnerung: Lebensgeschichten zweier Menschen (Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1986), 61. 40. See http://​www.verwaltungsgeschichte.de/​rhp_​koblenz. html#Grosskoblenz. 41. See local/​regional reports (July 1928–​Apr. 1932), in Franz Josef Heyen, Nationalsozialismus im Alltag: Quellen zur Geschichte des

Notes to pages 124–128

42. 43.

44. 45. 46. 47. 48. 49. 50.

51. 52. 53. 54.

55. 56. 57. 58.


Nationalsozialismus vornehmlich im Raum Mainz-​Koblenz-​Trier (Boppard am Rhine, 1967), 2–​81. Dok. 54, 55, 56 (Apr. 21, 1932), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 5, i, 83–​88. Petra Weiss, “Die Stadtverwaltung Koblenz im Nationalsozialismus,” http://​www.rheinische-​geschichte.lvr.de/​themen/​Das%20Rheinland%20 im%2020.%20Jahrhundert/​Seiten/​DieStadtverwaltungKoblenzimNationa lsozialismus.aspx. BayHStArchiv Munich: Minn 73818: Polizeidirektion Würzburg (Aug. 6, 1930). Cited in Jürgen W. Falter, Hitlers Wähler (Munich, 1991), 188. Günter Plum, Gesellschaftsstruktur und politisches Bewusstsein in einer katholischen Region 1928–​1933: Untersuchung am Beispiel des Regierungsbezirks Aachen (Stuttgart, 1972), 164, 195. Peter Fritzsche, The Turbulent World of Franz Göll: An Ordinary Berliner Writes the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, MA, 2011), 138–​60. Hitler cited in Gunther Mai, “Nationalsozialistische Betriebszellen Organisation: Zum Verhältnis von Arbeiterschaft und Nationalsozialismus,” VfZ (1983): 573–​613, here 577–​78. See, for example, reports, Reg. Präs. Koblenz (Feb. 1931–​May 1932), in Heyen, Nationalsozialismus im Alltag,  50–​51. Heinrich August Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe: Arbeiter und Arbeiterbewegung in der Weimarer Republik 1930 bis 1933 (Bonn, 1987), 604–​8; Jürgen W. Falter and Dirk Hänisch, “Die Anfälligkeit von Arbeitern gegenüber der NSDAP bei den Reichstagswahlen 1928–​1933,” Historical Social Research, Supplement 25 (2013): 145–​93. Statistisches Jahrbuch für das Deutsche Reich (1932), 541. Benjamin Lieberman, “The Meanings and Function of Anti-​System Ideology in the Weimar Republic,” Journal of the History of Ideas (1998): 374. Ibid., 429–​35. Ursula Büttner, “Der Aufstieg der NSDAP,” in Hamburg im “Dritten Reich” (Göttingen, 2005), 27–​65, here 53; Anthony McElligott, Contested City: Municipal Politics and the Rise of Nazism in Altona, 1917–​1937 (Ann Arbor, MI, 1998), 191–​96; Andrew Wackerfuss, Stormtrooper Families: Homosexuality and Community in the Early Nazi Movement (New York, 2015), 229–​36; diary entry (July 18, 1932), Joseph Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof zur Reichskanzlei: Eine historische Darstellung in Tagebuchblättern, 4th ed. (Munich, 1934), 130. Longerich, Die braune Bataillone, 122. Camiel Oomen, “Wir sind die Soldaten der Republik!” Das Berliner Reichsbanner und die Politische Gewalt 1930–​1933 (PhD diss., Utrecht, 2007), 21. Longerich, Die braune Bataillone, 136. Entries (June 25; June 27, 1932), Harry Graf Kessler, Tagebücher 1918–​1937 (Frankfurt, 1962), 672–​73.


Notes to pages 128–133

59. See Wilfried Böhnke, Die NSDAP im Ruhrgebiet 1920–​1933 (Bonn–​Bad Godesberg, 1974), 192, 199, 214–​15; Volker Franke, Der Aufstieg der NSDAP in Düsseldorf: Die nationalsozialistischen Basis in einer katholischen Grossstadt (Essen, 1987), 81. 60. Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (Dec. 15, 1903), cited in Henry Ashby Turner, German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler (New York, 1985), 134. 61. See St. Archiv Marburg: Reg. Bezirk Kassel. Best. 165/​3840. Preuss. M.Inn: Referentendenkschrift an Reg. Pr. Kassel (Sept. 5, 1930). 62. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 2, 1619, note 186. 63. Dok. 13 (Feb. 4, 1930), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 3, iii, 74. He also denied Ford funding before; Dok. 497, interview (Mar. 17, 1923), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 845. 64. The Nazi press reprinted this speech—​also misdating it to January 27. Vortrag Adolf Hitlers vor westdeutschen Wirtschaftlern im Industrie-​Klub zu Düsseldorf am 27. Januar 1932 (Munich, n.d.). 65. Wagener’s memoirs, Henry Ashby Turner Jr., ed., Hitler aus nächster Nähe, 479. 66. Dok. 15 (Jan. 26, 1932), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 4, iii, 74–​110, also for what follows. 67. Henry Ashby Turner, German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler (New York, 1985), 210–​19. See also Ullrich, Hitler Biographie, Bd. 1, 326–​29. 68. Turner, German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler, 157. 69. Entry (Feb. 22, 1932), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof,  49–​50. 70. Dok. 29 (Feb. 27, 1932), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 4, iii, 138–​44. 71. Dok. 1, “Mein Programm” (Apr. 2, 1932), ibid., vol. 5, i, 3–​14. 72. Dok. 7 (Apr. 4, 1932), ibid., vol. 5, i, 20–​21. 73. Kersten Heinsohn, “Kampf um die Wählerinnen: Die Idee von der ‘Volksgemeinschaft’ am Ende der Weimarer Republik,” in Sybille Steinbacher, ed., Volksgenossen: Frauen in der NS-​Volksgemeinschaft (Göttingen, 2002), 29–​47, here 44–​45. 74. Longerich, Hitler Biographie, 252. 75. St. Archiv Wiesbaden: LA 483/​885. Gau Hessen-​Nassau-​Süd to all Kreisleiter (Mar. 7, 1932). 76. Anna von der Goltz, Hindenburg: Power, Myth, and the Rise of the Nazis (New York, 2009), 157–​59. 77. Dok. 4 (Jan. 8, 1932), Dok. 15 (Jan. 26, 1932), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 4, iii, 20, 90. 78. Dok. 89 (June 12, 1932); Dok. 111 (July 15, 1932); Dok. 118 (July 17, 1932); Dok. 123 (July 20, 1932), ibid., vol. 5, i, 164; 222; 234; 243. 79. Dok. 15 (Oct. 16, 1932), ibid., vol. 5, ii, 30–​31. 80. Dok. 51 (Apr. 20, 1932); Dok. 70 (May 22, 1932); Dok. 109 (July 15, 1932); Dok. 92 (June 14, 1932); Dok. 1 (Apr. 2, 1932), ibid., 80, 117, 218, 175, 9.

Notes to pages 133–137 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87.

88. 89. 90. 91. 92. 93. 94. 95. 96. 97. 98. 99. 100. 101. 102.

103. 104.


Dok. 17 (Oct. 16, 1932), ibid., vol. 5, ii, 65. Dok. 25 (Oct. 19, 1932), ibid., 88. Dok. 35 (Oct. 24, 1932), ibid., 108. Dok. 47 (Oct. 30, 1932), ibid., 132. Dok. 56 (Nov. 3, 1932), ibid., 170. Otto Dietrich, 12 Jahre mit Hitler (Munich, 1955), 33–​37. See Wolfram Pyta, Dorfgemeinschaft und Parteipolitik 1918–​1933: Die Verschränkung von Milieu und Parteien in den protestantischen Landgebieten Deutschlands in der Weimarer Republik (Düsseldorf, 1996), 342, 395, 422, 463; Zdenek Zofka, Die Ausbreitung des Nationalsozialismus auf dem Lande: Eine regionale Fallstudie zur politischen Einstellung der Landbevölkerung in der Zeit des Aufstiegs und der Machtergreifung der NSDAP 1928–​1936 (Munich, 1979), 98–​100. For the key role of opinion leaders in turning villages and towns to National Socialism, see Richard F. Hamilton, Who Voted for Hitler? (Princeton, 1982), 437–​53. Entry (Jan. 3, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 233–​34. Longerich, Hitler Biographie, 279–​81. See Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 5, ii, note 13, 256. Letter Strasser to Hitler (Dec. 8, 1932), in Kissenkoetter, Gregor Strasser, 202–​3; see also Peter D. Stachura, Gregor Strasser and the Rise of Nazism (London, 1983), 108–​14. Dok. 99, “Denkschrift” (Dec. 12, 1932), inHitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 5, ii, 273–​78. Dok. 107 (Dec. 31, 1932), ibid., vol. 5, ii, 297–​311. Entry (Dec. 30, 1932), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 231. Caroline Wagner, Die NSDAP auf dem Dorf: Eine Sozialgeschichte der NS-​ Machtergreifung in Lippe (Münster, 1998), 258. Election results in Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 5, ii, note 3, 364. Dok. 138 (Jan. 15, 1933), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 5, ii, 366–​68. Dok. 143 (Jan. 20, 1933), ibid., 378–​79. Dok. 143 (Jan. 20, 1933), ibid., 385. Ibid. See Falter, Hitlers Wähler, 364–​74. For Protestant, rural areas, see Pyta, Dorfgemeinschaft, 324–​478; for mixed examples, see Christian Peters, Nationalsozialistische Machtdurchsetzung in Kleinstädten: Eine vergleichende Studie zu Quakenbrück und Heide/​Holstein (Bielefeld, 2015), 442. Paul W. Thurner, André Klima, and Helmut Küchenhoff, “Agricultural Structure and the Rise of the Nazi Party Reconsidered,” Political Geography (2015): 50–​63. Harten, Himmlers Lehrer, 20.


Notes to pages 138–143

Chapter 6

1. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 2, 1307–​9. 2. Ibid., vol. 2, 991–​1109. 3. Ibid., vol. 1, 685. 4. Beck, Fateful Alliance,  83–​88. 5. Neliba, Wilhelm Frick,  78–​79. 6. See Dok. 1 (Jan. 30, 1933); Dok. 2 (Jan. 31, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei. Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 1–​8, here 6. 7. Entry (Jan. 30, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 251–​54. 8. Wolfram Pyta, Hindenburg: Herrschaft zwischen Hohenzollern und Hitler, 2nd ed. (Munich, 2009), 808, 818. 9. Hitler speech (Feb. 1, 1933), Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 191–​94. 10. Entry (Feb. 1, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 255. 11. Dok. 3, Akten der Reichskanzlei. Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 9, 11; RGBL I, Feb. 8, 1933, 35–​40. 12. See Sozialdemokratischer Pressedienst, Berlin (Feb. 4, 1933). 13. See Völkischer Beobachter (Feb. 19–​20, 1933), 1. 14. Berliner Morgenpost (Feb. 23, 1933), 2. 15. Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe, 877. 16. Manfred Gailus, “1933 als protestantisches Erlebnis: emphatische Selbsttransformation und Spaltung,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft (2003): 485. 17. Entry (Feb. 5, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 258. 18. See Reichardt, Faschistische Kampfbünde, 494–​96. 19. See Sozialdemokratischer Pressedienst, Berlin (Feb. 4, 1933). 20. RGBL I, Feb. 6, 1933, 35–​41. 21. See Beck, Fateful Alliance,  102–​3. 22. Diary entry (Feb. 14, 1933), Luise Solmitz, Dok. 119, Jochmann, ed., Nationalsozialismus und Revolution, 400–​433, here 425. 23. Hermann Göring, “Die nationalsozialistiche Polizei,” in his Reden und Aufsätze, Erich Gritzbach, ed., 8th ed. (Munich, 1943), 18. 24. “Rücksichtsloser Waffengebrauch gegen den roten Terror,” Völkischer Beobachter (Feb. 22, 1933), 1. 25. Lothar Gruchmann, Justiz im Dritten Reich 1933–​1940: Anpassung und Unterwerfung in der Ära Gürtner (Munich, 1988), 320. 26. Pyta, Hindenburg, 809. 27. See Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Hammerstein oder Der Eigensinn: Eine Deutsche Geschichte (Frankfurt, 2009), 113–​15. 28. Hans-​Erich Volkmann, “Von Blomberg zu Keitel: Die Wehrmachtführung und die Demontage des Rechtsstaates,” in Rolf-​ Dieter Müller and Hans-​Erich Volkmann, eds., Die Wehrmacht: Mythos und Realität, (Munich, 1999), 47–​65, here 51; Kirstin A. Schäfer, Werner

Notes to pages 143–147


30. 31. 32.

33. 34. 35. 36. 37. 38. 39. 40. 41. 42. 43. 44. 45. 46. 47. 48.


von Blomberg: Hitlers erster Feldmarschall. Eine Biographie (Paderborn, 2006), 104. The note arrived in Moscow Feb. 14, 1933, reprinted in Andreas Wirsching, Dokumentation: “ ‘Man kann nur Boden germanisieren’: Eine neue Quelle zu Hitlers Rede vor den Spitzen der Reichswehr am 3. Februar 1933,” VfZ (2001): 517–​50, here 545. Abschrift des kommunistischen Nachrichtendienstes (Feb. 6, 1933), ibid., 545–​48, also for what follows. Ibid. See Thilo Vogelsang, Dokumentation: “Neue Dokumente zur Geschichte der Reichswehr 1930–​1933,” VfZ (1954): 398–​435, here 434–​35. See also Gerhard L. Weinberg, The Foreign Policy of Hitler’s Germany: Diplomatic Revolution in Europe, 1933–​36 (Chicago, 1970), 25–​27. Voglesang, Dokumentation, here 433–​37. See Klaus-​Jürgen Müller, Generaloberst Ludwig Beck: Eine Biographie (Paderborn, 2008), 102–​3; Schäfer, Werner von Blomberg,  101–​6. Klaus-​Jürgen Müller, Das Heer und Hitler: Armee und nationalsozialistisches Regime 1933–​1940 (Stuttgart, 1969), 64. Cited in Johannes Hürter, Hitlers Heerführer: Die Deutschen Oberbefehlshaber im Krieg gegen die Sowjetunion 1941–​42 (Munich, 2007), 130–​31. Schmiechen-​Ackermann, Nationalsozialismus und Arbeitermilieus, 390–​402. See Sozialdemokratischer Pressedienst, Berlin (Jan. 30–​Feb. 3, 1933); Detlev Peukert, Die KPD im Widerstand: Verfolgung und Untergrundarbeit an Rhein und Ruhr 1933 bis 1945 (Wuppertal, 1980), 79–​89. See Völkischer Beobachter (Feb. 25 1933); also Rudolf Diels, Lucifer Ante Portas: . . . es spricht der erste Chef der Gestapo (Stuttgart, 1950), 188–​89. Dok. 28, Wilhelm Simpfendörfer to Reichskanzler (Feb. 22, 1933), in Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1; answer from Lammers (Feb. 23, 1933), 111. Diels, Lucifer Ante Portas, 192. Entry (Feb. 27, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 269–​71. Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler wie ich ihn sah: Aufzeichnungen seine Leifotografen (Munich, 1974), 52. Diels, Lucifer Ante Portas, 193–​94. Dok. 33, Diels to Daluege (Feb. 28, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 131–​32. See Völkischer Beobachter (Feb. 28; Mar. 3, 1933). See Dok. 32, Dok. 34, Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 128–​33. For a refutation of the Nazi conspiracy to set the fire, see Richard J. Evans, “The Conspiracists,” London Review of Books (May 2014), 3–​9;


49. 50. 51. 52. 53. 54.

55. 56. 57. 58.

59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64.

65. 66.

Notes to pages 147–150 Klaus Wallbaum, Der Überläufer. Rodolf Diels (1900–​1957): Der erste Gestapo-​Chef des Hitler-​Regimes (Frankfurt, 2010), 98–​104. Diary entry (Feb. 27, 1933), in Hitlerjunge Schall: Die Tagebücher eines jungen Nationalsozialisten, André Postert, ed. (Munich, 2016), 244. Pyta, Hindenburg, 814. RGBL I (Feb. 28, 1933), 83. Falter, Hitlers Wähler,  38–​41. Pyta, Hindenburg, 819. Dok. 46, Denkschrift (Mar. 7, 1933), in Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 168–​71. Also Dok. 56 (Mar. 11, 1933), in ibid., 193. Entry (Mar. 6, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 275–​76. For a complete account, see Alan E. Steinweis, Art, Ideology, and Economics: The Reich Chambers of Music, Theater, and the Visual Arts (Chapel Hill, NC, 1993). Dok. 44 (Mar. 7, 1933), in Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 159–​66, here 161. Dok. 51, press reports (Mar. 9), ibid., note 4, 184–​85. Johnpeter Horst Grill, The Nazi Movement in Baden 1920–​1945 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1983), 248–​49. Josef Werner, Hakenkreuz und Judenstern: Das Schicksal der Karlsruher Juden im Dritten Reich, 2nd ed. (Karlsruhe, 1990), 39–​47; Monika Pohl, “Ludwig Marum: Das Verfolgungsschicksal eines Sozialdemokraten” (Nov. 28–​29, 2013), in two parts http://​archiv.bruchsal.org/​story/​ ludwig-​marum-​verfolgungsschicksal-​eines-​sozialdemokraten. Entries (Mar. 8–​9, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 278–​79. Law of Mar. 31, 1933, RGBL I (Apr. 2, 1933) , 153–​54; Law (Apr. 7, 1933), 173. Paul Sauer, Württemberg in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus (Ulm, 1975), 38. Andreas Wagner, Mutschmann gegen von Killinger: Konfliklinien zwischen Gauleiter und SA-​Führer während des Aufstiegs der NSDAP und der “Machtergreifung” im Freistaat Sachsen (Beucha, 2001), 95. Detlev Peukert, Volksgenossen und Gemeinschaftsfremde: Anpassung, Ausmerze, und Aufbegehren unter dem Nationalsozialismus (Cologne, 1982),  82–​83. See “Die Rückwirkungen auf die Länder,” Berliner Morgenpost (Mar. 7, 1933), 2. Hermann Göring, Aufbau einer Nation, 8th ed. (Berlin, 1943), 60–​61; Christoph Graf, Politische Polizei zwischen Demokratie und Diktatur: Die Entwicklung der Preussischen Politischen Polizei vom Staatsschutzorgan der Weimarer Republik zum Geheimen Staatspolizeiamt des Dritten Reiches (Berlin, 1983), 128–​39. Völkischer Beobachter (Apr. 28, 1933), dateline Apr. 27. Henning Timpke, ed., Dokumente zur Gleichschaltung des Landes Hamburg (Frankfurt, 1964), 174; for a broader examination, see Robert

Notes to pages 150–154

67. 68. 69. 70. 71.

72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77.


79. 80. 81. 82. 83. 84.


Gellately, The Gestapo and German Society: Enforcing Racial Policy, 1933–​ 1945 (Oxford, 1990), 50–​61. RGBL I (Feb. 28, 1933), 83. Johannes Tuchel, Konzentrationslager: Organisationsgeschichte und Funktion der “Inspektion der Konzentrationslager” 1934–​1938 (Boppard am Rhein, 1991), 100. Andreas Wagner, “Machtergreifung” in Sachsen: NSDAP und Staatliche Verwaltung 1930–​1935 (Cologne, 2004), 128–​33. Jochen Klenner, Verhältnis von Partei und Staat 1933–​1945: Dargestellt am Beispiel Bayerns (Munich, 1974), 37–​49. “Reichsregierung greift in Bayern ein,” Berliner Morgenpost (Mar. 10, 1933), 1; Falk Wiesemann, Die Vorgeschichte der nationalsozialistischen Machtübernahme in Bayern 1932–​1933 (Berlin, 1975), 272–​83; Ortwin Domröse, Der NS-​Staat in Bayern von der Machtergreifung bis zum Röhm-​ Putsch (Munich, 1974), 66–​75. “Reichsbannerführer in Schutzhaft,” Berliner Morgenpost (Mar. 11, 1933); Klenner, Verhältnis von Partei und Staat,  52–​55. BayHSt. Archiv Munich: MA 106670 Halbmonatsbericht Reg. Präs Oberbayern for Mar. 1–​15, 1933. St. Archiv Munich: Oberbayern LRA 134028. Epp to Reg. Pres. (Mar. 10, 1933). Dok. 54, from Regensburg (Mar. 10, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 190–​91. Himmler interview, Völkischer Beobachter (Mar. 15, 1933), dateline Mar. 14. For background and press coverage, see Robert Gellately, Backing Hitler: Consent and Coercion in Nazi Germany (Oxford, 2001), 34–​40; also Andreas Seeger, “Gestapo-​Müller”: Die Karriere eines Schreibtischtäters (Berlin, 1996), 37–​38. Dok. 68 (Mar. 20, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler 1933–​ 1938, vol. 1, 239; Hans Schneider, “Das Ermächtigungsgesetz vom 24. März 1933: Bericht über das Zustandekommen und die Anwendung des Gesetzes,” VfZ (1958): 197–​221. Pyta, Hindenburg, 820–​25; Jesko von Hoegen, Der Held von Tannenberg: Genese und Funktion des Hindenburg-​Mythos (Weimar, 2007), 383–​95. Ralf Forster, “Der ‘Tag von Potsdam’ und die Medien,” in Manfred Gailus, ed., Täter und Komplizen in Theologie und Kirchen 1933–​1945 (Göttingen, 2015), 51–​61. Entry (Mar. 22, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 285–​86. Hoimar von Ditfurth, Innenansichten eines Artgenossen: Meine Bilanz, 2nd ed. (Düsseldorf, 1989), 87, 93. Ibid., 104. Gailus, “1933 als protestantisches Erlebnis,” 495.


Notes to pages 154–159

85. Ibid., 486. See also Doris L. Bergen, Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich (Chapel Hill, NC, 1996), 21–​43. 86. Manfred Gailus, “Keine gute Performance: Die Deutschen Protestanten im ‘Dritten Reich,’ ” in Manfred Gailus and Armin Nolzen, eds., Zerstrittene “Volksgemeinschaft”: Glaube, Konfession, und Religion im Nationalsozialismus (Göttingen, 2011), 96–​121. 87. Verhandlungen des Reichstags: Reichstagsprotokolle (Mar. 23, 1933), Bd. 457, 25–​32, also for what follows. 88. Ibid. 89. Ibid.,  33–​45. 90. Entry (Apr. 22, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 302; RGBL I (Mar. 13, 1933), 104. 91. RGBL (Mar. 21, 1933), I, 135. 92. Ibid. (Dec. 29, 1934), I, 1269–​71. 93. Ibid. (Mar. 21, 1933), I, 136; Gruchmann, Justiz im Dritten Reich, 946–​49. 94. Ralph Angermund, Deutsche Richterschaft 1919–​1945 (Frankfurt, 1990), 140–​46. 95. Föllmer, Individuality and Modernity, 105–​31. 96. See Bernward Dörner, “Heimtücke”: Das Gesetz als Waffe: Kontrolle, Abschreckung, und Verfolgung in Deutschland 1933–​1945 (Paderborn, 1998). 97. Dok. 146, speech (Sept. 20, 1920); Dok. 208, article (Mar. 13, 1921), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 233, 348. 98. See Weinberg, ed., Hitlers Zweites Buch, 163. 99. Göring, Aufbau einer Nation, 89; Diels, Lucifer Ante Portas, 227–​29. 100. Sauerländische Volksblatt (Mar. 11–​12, 1933). 101. Völkischer Beobachter (Mar. 21, 1933). 102. Markus Kienle, Das Konzentrationslager Heuberg bei Stetten am kalten Markt (Ulm, 1998), 126–​28. 103. See Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv, Potsdam: SA Standarte 208 to Government President Potsdam (Apr. 11, 1933); also Berliner Morgenpost (Apr. 7, 1933), 6. 104. Berliner Morgenpost (Apr. 24, 1933). 105. Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (Apr. 30, 1933). 106. Daniel Siemens, “Prügelpropaganda,” in Michael Wildt and Christoph Kreutzmüller, eds., Berlin 1933–​1945 (Munich, 2013), 33–​48, here 43–​44. 107. Kurt Schilde and Johannes Tuchel, Columbia-​Haus: Berliner Konzentrationslager 1933–​1936 (Berlin, 1990), 14–​33. 108. Longerich, Die braune Bataillone, 174. 109. For the evidence see Gellately, Backing Hitler, 59–​63; Graf, Politische Polizei, 271; Nikolaus Wachsmann, KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps (New York, 2015), 31; Evans, Coming of the Third Reich, 348. 110. Peukert, Volksgenossen, 120–​30.

Notes to pages 159–163


111. Kim Wünschmann, Before Auschwitz: Jewish Prisoners in the Prewar Concentration Camps (Cambridge, MA, 2015), 43–​49. 112. Tuchel, Konzentrationslager,  62–​65. 113. Jane Caplan, “Introduction” to Gabriele Herz, The Women’s Camp at Moringen: A Memoir of Imprisonment in Germany, 1936–​1937, Jane Caplan, ed. (New York, 2006), 22–​23. 114. Dok. 2, Ludwig Grauert to Government President Osnabrück (June 22, 1933), in Erich Kosthorst and Bernd Walter, Konzentrations-​ und Strafgefangenlager im Emsland 1933–​1945: Zum Verhältnis von NS-​Regime und Justiz. Darstellung und Dokumentation (Düsseldorf, 1985), 59–​61. 115. Paul Moore, “ ‘And What Concentration Camps Those Were!’: Foreign Concentration Camps in Nazi Propaganda, 1933–​39,” Journal of Contemporary History (2010): 649–​74. 116. Berliner Morgenpost (Mar. 21, 1933), 3. 117. Ibid. 118. Dok. 15 (Apr. 2, 1933), Shlomo Aronson, Reinhard Heydrich und die Frühgeschichte von Gestapo und SA (Stuttgart, 1971), 99, 323. 119. BHSt. Archiv Munich: Abt. I, MF 19/​67403: Kabinettssitzung (Apr. 7, 1933). 120. Völkischer Beobachter (Apr. 21, 1934), 1. See also Graf, Politische Polizei, 208–​9; Aronson, Reinhard, 187. 121. Karl Buchheim, “Die SS: das Herrschaftsinstrument,” in Martin Broszat et al., Anatomie des SS-​Staates, 5th ed. (Munich, 1989), 36–​43. 122. “Einheitliche Neuregelung der Schutzhaft im Reich,” Völkischer Beobachter (Apr. 14, 1934), 1. 123. See Robert Gellately, “The Prerogatives of Confinement in Germany, 1933–​1945: ‘Protective Custody’ and Other Police Strategies,” in Norbert Finzsch and Robert Jütte, eds., Institutions of Confinement: Hospitals, Asylums, and Prisons in Western Europe and North America, 1500–​1950 (Cambridge, 1996), 191–​211; Martin Broszat, “Nationalsozialistische Konzentrationslager 1933–​1945,” in Broszat et al., Anatomie des SS-​Staates, vol. 2, 11–​133. 124. Cited in Longerich, Himmler Biographie, 213. 125. Werner Best, “Die Geheime Staatspolizei” (1936), in Martin Hirsch, Diemut Majer, and Jürgen Meinck, eds., Recht, Verwaltung, und Justiz im Nationalsozialismus (Cologne, 1984), 328–​29. 126. Stanislav Zámecnik, “Das frühe Konzentrationslager Dachau,” in Wolfgang Benz and Barbara Distel, eds. Terror ohne System: Die ersten Konzentrationslager im Nationalsozialismus 1933–​1945 (Berlin, 2001), 13–​39,  37–​39. 127. See Tuchel, Konzentrationslager, 307–​9; Charles W. Sydnor Jr., Soldiers of Destruction: The SS Death’s Head Division, 1933–​1945 (Princeton, 1977),  24–​26. 128. See Rohkrämer, Die fatale Attraktion des Nationalsozialismus, 94–​142.


Notes to pages 163–170

129. See Dok. 1 (Jan. 30, 1933); Dok. 2 (Jan. 31, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei. Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 2.

Chapter 7

1. Melita Maschmann, Fazit: Mein Weg in der Hitler Jugend (Munich, 1979),  8–​18. 2. Ibid.,  19–​20. 3. Hitler speech (Feb. 10, 1933), Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 204–​7. 4. Diary entry (Feb. 10, 1933), in Hitlerjunge Schall: Die Tagebücher, 237–​38. 5. Diary entry (Feb. 11, 1933), in Willy Cohn, Kein Recht, Nirgends: Tagebuch vom Untergang des Breslauer Judentums 1933–​1941, Joseph Walk, ed. (Cologne, 2006), vol. 1, 9. 6. Entry (Feb. 10, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 260–​61. 7. Diary entry (Feb. 27, 1933), in Hitlerjunge Schall. Die Tagebücher, 244. 8. See Völkischer Beobachter (Mar. 3, 1933), 3. 9. “Wieder ein Hitlerjunge erstocken,” in Völkischer Beobachter (Feb. 28, 1933), 1. 10. Dok. 56, ministerial discussion (Mar. 11, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 195–​97. 11. Elisabeth Gebensleben–​von Alten (Mar. 10 and 14, 1933) to her daughter, in Kalshoven, ed., Ich denk so viel an Euch, 169–​79. 12. Wolf-​Arno Kropat, “Die nationalsozialistische Machtergreifung in Wiesbaden und Nassau,” in Eike Hennig et al., eds., Hessen unterm Hakenkreuz: Studien zur Durchsetzung der NSDAP in Hessen, 2nd ed. (Nördlingen, 1984), 260–​78. 13. Rainer Hambrecht, Der Aufstieg der NSDAP in Mittel-​und Oberfranken 1925–​1933 (Nuremberg, 1976), 399. 14. Elisabeth Gebensleben–​von Alten (Mar. 22, 1933) to her daughter, in Kalshoven, ed., Ich denk so viel an Euch, 182–​85. 15. Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe, 893–​94. 16. Ibid., 890–​92. 17. Michael Schneider, Unterm Hakenkreuz: Arbeiter und Arbeiterbewegung 1933 bis 1939 (Bonn, 1999), 68. 18. See Entry (Mar. 24, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 287–​88; Dok. 72, ministerial discussion (Mar. 24, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 252. 19. Dok. 93 (Apr. 7, 1933); Dok. 72, ministerial discussion (Mar. 24, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 311–​12. 20. Entries (Apr. 17; May 1, 1933), Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof, 299–​300,  305–​7. 21. Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe, 921–​22.

Notes to pages 171–176


22. See Albert Speer, “Die Aufbauten auf dem Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin zum 1. Mai 1933” (June 1933), in Anna Teut, ed. Architektur im Dritten Reich 1933–​1945 (Frankfurt, 1967), 187–​88. 23. André François-​Poncet, Botschafter in Berlin 1931–​1938 (Berlin, 1962), 128–​29. 24. Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 259–​64. 25. Diary entry (May 2, 1933), in Aufzeichnungen Karl Dürkefäldens, Obenaus and Obenaus, eds., 10, 46–​48. 26. Vossische Zeitung, May 2, 1933. 27. Diary entry (May 1, 1933), in Hitlerjunge Schall: Die Tagebücher, 264. 28. See http://​www.ns-​spurensuche.de/​index.php?id=4topic=15key=1. 29. Gisela Hirschberg-​Köhler, “Das Festjahr in Minden,” in Werner Freitag, ed., Das Dritte Reich im Fest: Führermythos, Feierlaune, und Verweigerung in Westfalen 1933–​1945 (Bielefeld, 1997), 93–​97. 30. Schneider, Unterm Hakenkreuz, 96. 31. Johannes Volker Wagner, Hakenkreuz über Bochum: Machtergreifung und Nationalsozialistischer Alltag in einer Revierstadt (Bochum, 1983), 254–​57. 32. Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe, 928. 33. Cordula Tollmien, Nationalsozialismus in Göttingen 1933–​1945 (PhD diss., Göttingen, 1998), 99–​103. 34. Günter Plum, Gesellschaftsstruktur und politisches Bewusstsein in einer katholischen Region 1928–​1933: Untersuchung am Beispiel des Regierungsbezirks Aachen (Stuttgart, 1972), 209. 35. Entry (Aug. 19, 1935), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 3, 278. Also Nathan Stoltzfus, Hitler’s Compromises: Coercion and Consensus in Nazi Germany (New Haven, 2016), 80–​108. 36. Hans Günter Hockerts, Die Sittlichkeitsprozesse gegen Katholische Ordensangehörige und Priester 1936–​1937: Eine Studie zur nationalsozialistischen Herrschaftstechnik und zum Kirchenkampf (Mainz, 1971),  12–​57. 37. Table 9, Ulrich von Hehl, Priester unter Hitlers Terror: Eine biographische und statistische Erhebung (Mainz, 1983), lxxxiv. 38. Anselm Faust, Bernd-​A. Rusinek, and Burkhard Dietz, eds., “Historische Einführung,” in Lageberichte Rheinischer Gestapostellen (Düsseldorf, 2012ff.), vol. 2, part 1, 22–​24. 39. Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich in Power (New York, 2005), 248. 40. See Kiran Klaus Patel, “Education, Schooling, and Camps,” in Baranowski, Nolzen, and Szejnmann, eds., A Companion to Nazi Germany, 181–​97; Elizabeth Harvey, Women and the Nazi East: Agents and Witnesses of Germanization (London, 2003), 191–​231. 41. See Sebastian Haffner, Defying Hitler: A Memoir (New York, 2000), 258–​68; also Thomas Kühne, Belonging and Genocide: Hitler’s Community, 1918–​1945 (London, 2010), 32–​54. 42. Entry (Oct. 14, 1941), Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier,  82–​85.


Notes to pages 176–180

43. Entry (Oct. 25, 1941), ibid., 108. 44. Richard Steigmann-​Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–​1945 (Cambridge, 2003), 216. 45. Hartmut Mehringer, Widerstand und Emigration: Das NS-​Regime und seine Gegner (Munich, 1997), 84. 46. Jens-​Uwe Geuttel, “Work(ers) under the Swastika,” in Baranowski, Nolzen, and Szejnmann, eds., A Companion to Nazi Germany, 115–​28. 47. Hamann, Hitlers Wien, 515. 48. Günter Grau, ed., Homosexualität in der NS-​Zeit: Dokumente einer Diskriminierung und Verfolgung (Frankfurt am Main, 1993), 197. 49. See Gestapo Würzburg 16015, in Gellately, The Gestapo and German Society, 180–​84. A brilliant micro-​study of this case is Laurie Marhoefer, “Lesbianism, Transvestitism, and the Nazi State: A Microhistory of a Gestapo Investigation,” American Historical Review (Oct. 2016): 1167–​ 95. Claudia Schoppmann, “National Socialist Policies toward Female Homosexuality,” in Lynn Abrams and Elizabeth Harvey, eds., Gender Relations in German History: Power, Agency, and Experience from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century (Durham, NC, 1997), 177–​87. 50. See Laurie Marhoefer, Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis (Toronto, 2015), 4, 174–​75, 193–​94. 51. Beck, Fateful Alliance, 283–​93. 52. Friedrich Grundmann, Agrarpolitik im “Dritten Reich”: Anspruch und Wirklichkeit des Reichserbhofgesetzes (Hamburg, 1979), 39; Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 284–​85. 53. Dok. 193 (July 14, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 660–​61. 54. Heinz A. Heinz, Germany’s Hitler (London. 1934), 265. That author joined the SS in 1934 and the NSDAP in 1937. 55. “[Robert] Ley über die Zukunft der Gewerkschaften,” in Berliner Morgenpost (May 3, 1933), 1–​2. 56. Rüdiger Hachtmann, Das Wirtschaftsimperium der Deutschen Arbeitsfront 1933–​1945 (Göttingen, 2012), 9–​14. 57. Cited in Schneider, Unterm Hakenkreuz, 248. 58. Ibid., 248–​49. 59. Ibid., 228–​29. 60. Ibid. 61. Entry (Sept. 27–​28, 1941), Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier,  72–​73. 62. Julia Timpe, Nazi-​Organized Recreation and Entertainment in the Third Reich (London, 2017), 79. 63. Hans-​Ulrich Wehler, Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte 1914–​1949 (Munich, 2013), 621. 64. Heinz, Germany’s Hitler, 266. 65. Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (Dec. 1935), 1456.

Notes to pages 180–184 66. 67. 68. 69. 70.

71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79.

80. 81. 82. 83. 84. 85. 86. 87. 88. 89.


Ibid., 1457. Ibid. (May 1939), 462–​80. Ibid., 478. Bericht (July 1935), Die Meldungen der Gruppe Neu Beginnen aus dem Dritten Reich 1933–​1936, Bernd Stöver, ed. (Bonn, 1996), 529. Hitler speech (Mar. 7, 1934), Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 369–​70. See Wolfgang König, Volkswagen, Volksempfänger, Volksgemeinschaft: “Volksprodukte” im Dritten Reich: Vom Scheitern einer nationalsozialistischen Konsumgesellschaft (Paderborn, 2004),  83–​84. Hitler speech (Feb. 14, 1935), Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 2, 481. Hans Mommsen and Manfred Grieger, Das Volkswagenwerk und seine Arbeiter im Dritten Reich (Düsseldorf, 1996), 126, 128. Hitler speech (May 26, 1938), Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 2, 867–​68. Hachtmann, Wirtschaftsimperium,  501–​3. Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (Dec. 1935), 488–​89. Diary entry (Sept. 25, 1933), Erich Ebermayer, Denn heute gehört uns Deutschland (Hamburg, 1959), 174. Thomas Zeller, Driving Germany: The Landscape of the German Autobahn, 1930–​1970 (New York, 2006), 51–​65. König, Volkswagen, Volksempfänger, Volksgemeinschaft, 180; Mommsen and Gieger, Das Volkswagenwerk, 197. See Hartmut Berghoff, “Enticement and Deprivation: The Regulation of Consumption in Pre-​War Germany,” in Martin Daunton and Matthew Hilton, eds., The Politics of Consumption: Material Culture and Citizenship in Europe and America (Oxford, 2001), 165–​84. Karl Kretschmer (July 1934), “Über die Aufgaben des Amtes für ‘Schönheit der Arbeit,” in Teut, ed., Architektur im Dritten Reich, 282–​85. Timpe, Nazi-​Organized Recreation, 180–​92. Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich (Cambridge, 2004), 176–​77. Timpe, Nazi-​Organized Recreation, 10, 83. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 153. Dok. 12 (May 3, 1933), in Herwart Vorländer, Die NSV. Darstellung und Dokumentation einer nationalsozialistischen Organisation (Boppard am Rhein, 1988), 197. Dok. 16, “Richtlinien” (July 1933), in ibid., 198–​200. Dok. 169, “Tatgewordener deutscher Sozialismus” (no date), in ibid., 373. Mark B. Cole, Feeding the Volk: Food, Culture, and the Politics of Nazi Consumption, 1933–​1945 (PhD thesis, University of Florida, 2011), 94–​95. Dok. 90, Statistik Erholungshilfswerk, Vorländer, Die NSV, 78, 283.


Notes to pages 184–190

90. Dok. 103 (1937), ibid., 295–​96. 91. Cited in Birgit Breiding, Die Braunen Schwestern: Ideologie—​Struktur—​ Funktion einer nationalsozialistischen Elite (Stuttgart, 1998), 85; see also 76, 176. 92. Dok. 76, “Statistik Mutter und Kind,” Vorländer, Die NSV, 266. 93. Dok. 190, Propaganda Ministry to Reich Chancellor (July 12, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 654–​56; Florian Tennstedt, “Wohltat und Interesse: Das Winterhilfswerk des Deutschen Volkes: Die Weimarer Vorgeschichte und ihre Instrumentalisierung durch das NS-​ Regime,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft (1987): 157–​180, 177–​78. 94. Axel Schildt, “Jenseits der Politik? Aspekte des Alltags,” in Hamburg im “Dritten Reich” (Göttingen, 2005), 249–​304, here 264–​68. 95. Uwe Lohalm, “Für eine leistungsbereite und ‘erbgesunde’ Volksgemeinschaft. Selektive Erwerbslosen-​und Familienpolitik,” in ibid., 379–​431, here 390. 96. Dok. 58, Vorländer, Die NSV, 241–​43. 97. Entry (Dec. 8, 1937), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 5, 41. 98. Armin Nolzen, “The NSDAP’s Operational Codes after 1933,” in Martina Steber and Bernhard Gotto, eds., Visions of Community in Nazi Germany: Social Engineering and Private Lives (Oxford, 2014), 94. 99. BArchiv Berlin: R/​19/​389, WHW to Berlin Polizei (Nov. 4, 1933). 100. “Polizei als Freund und Helfer,” Völkischer Beobachter (Dec. 18, 1934). 101. “Der Tag der Deutschen Polizei,” Völkischer Beobachter (Dec. 9, 1936). 102. BArchiv Berlin: R/​19/​389, WHW to Himmler and Heydrich (Feb. 6, 1939). 103. “Die Abwehr der Staatsfeinde,” Völkischer Beobachter (Jan. 26, 1938). 104. “Kripo und Gestapo: Die Aufgaben und die Arbeit der deutschen Sicherheitspolizei,” Düsseldorfer Nachrichten (Jan. 29, 1939). 105. Unsigned, undated Denkschrift, Dok. 303, Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, part 2, 1130–​35. 106. Bernd Hartwig, Die Dinge lagen damals anders: Ein Bericht über die Hitler-​Zeit 1933–​1945 (Aachen, 2002), 38–​41. 107. Joachim Fest, Ich nicht: Erinnerungen an eine Kindheit und Jugend, 6th ed. (Reinbek bei Hamburg, 2006), 78. 108. Diary entry (Jan. 29, 1939), Cohn, Kein Recht, Nirgends: Tagebuch, vol. 2, 595–​96. 109. See Frank Bajohr, Parvenüs und Profiteure: Korruption in der NS-​Zeit (Frankfurt, 1991), 49–​74. 110. Volker Ullrich, Adolf Hitler: Biographie: Die Jahre des Untergangs 1939–​ 1945 (Frankfurt, 2018), 411–​13.

Chapter 8

1. Cited in Steuwer, “Ein Drittes Reich, wie ich es auffasse,” 95–​96;  406–​7. 2. See Dan P. Silverman, Hitler’s Economy: Nazi Work Creation Programs, 1933–​1936 (Cambridge, MA, 1998), appendix, 251; Statistisches Jahrbuch für das Deutsche Reich (1933), 291; (1941–​42), 426; Falter, Hitlers Wähler, 292;

Notes to pages 190–193

3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

16. 17.

18. 19.

20. 21. 22.


Table 1 in Walter Galenson and Arnold Zellner, eds., The Measurement and Behavior of Unemployment (Cambridge, MA, 1957), 455, 534. Dok. 17, ministerial conversations (Feb. 8, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei. Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 50–​51. Andreas Wirsching, Dokumentation: “ ‘Man kann nur Boden germanisieren’: Eine neue Quelle zu Hitlers Rede vor den Spitzen der Reichswehr am 3. Februar 1933,” VfZ (2001): 517–​50, here 546. Dok. 114, Minister of Labor to Lammers (Apr. 27, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 400–​415. Dok. 147, conversation with industrialists (May 29, 1933), ibid., vol. 1, 506–​27. Dok. 151, Hitler Erlass (May 31, 1933), ibid., vol. 1, 540–​41. Dok. 149, Chefbesprechung (May 31, 1933), ibid., vol. 1, 530–​33. Dok. 211, Vermerk (Sept. 18, 1933), ibid., vol. 1, part 2, 740–​43. Christoph Buchheim, “Das NS-​Regime und die Überwindung der Weltwirtschaftskrise in Deutschland,” VfZ (2008): 381–​414, here 391. Dok. 180 (July 6, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 629–​36; Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 286–​87. “Hitler in Dortmund,” Berliner Morgenpost (July 11, 1933), 2. Dok. 212, cabinet meeting (Sept. 19, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, part 2, 745. See appendix in Silverman, Hitler‘s Economy, 251. Dok. 156, cabinet sitting (June 8, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 547–​50; Christopher Kopper, Hjalmar Schacht: Aufstieg und Fall von Hitlers mächtigstem Bankier (Munich, 2006), 241–​42; Cordell Hull, Memoirs (New York, 1948), vol. 1, 237–​39. Mefo = Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft, a holding company to handle secret funds for rearmament. See Richard J. Overy, War and Economy in the Third Reich (Oxford, 1994), 181. Michael Geyer, “Das Zweite Rüstungsprogramm (1930–​1934),” Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen (1975), 125–​72, here 134. See also Dok. 87 (Apr. 4, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 291–​92. Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy (New York, 2006), 54, 57. Detlev Humann: Arbeitsschlacht: Arbeitsbeschaffung und Propaganda in der NS-​Zeit 1933–​1939 (Göttingen, 2011), 734; Christopher Kopper, Hjalmar Schacht: Aufstieg und Fall von Hitlers mächtigstem Bankier (Munich, 2006), 201–​50. Norbert Frei, 1945 und Wir: Das Dritte Reich im Bewusstsein der Deutschen (Munich, 2005), 113–​14. See Table 18 in Dietmar Petzina et al., eds. Sozialgeschichtliches Arbeitsbuch III: Materialien zur Statistik des Deutschen Reiches, 1914–​1945 (Munich, 1978), 98. Diary entry (Nov. 24, 1936), Victor Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen bis zum letzten: Tagebücher 1933–​1941 (Berlin, 1995), 323.


Notes to pages 193–198

23. Maxim Leo, Haltet euer Herz bereit: Eine ostdeutsche Familiengeschichte, 6th ed. (Munich, 2011), 144–​48. 24. Ute Frevert, Women in German History: From Bourgeois Emancipation to Sexual Liberation (New York, 1989), 217–​20. 25. RGBL I (Nov. 3, 1937), 1158–​59. 26. RGBL I, Law (June 1, 1933), 323–​29; and implementation order (June 20, 1933), 377–​39. 27. Humann, Arbeitsschlacht, 119. 28. Ibid. 29. R. Walther Darré, “Das Ziel” (July 1932), in Um Blut und Boden: Reden und Aufsätze, 3rd ed. (Munich, 1941), 338–​39. 30. R. Walther Darré, Das Bauernthum als Lebensquelle der nordischen Rasse (Munich, 1928), 435. 31. R. Walther Darré, “Blut und Boden als Lebensgrundlagen der nordischen Rasse” (June 22, 1930), in his Um Blut und Boden, 27. 32. Interview (May 5, 1933), cited in Gustavo Corni and Horst Gies, Brot—​ Butter—​Kanonen: Die Ernährungswirtschaft in Deutschland unter der Diktatur Hitlers (Berlin, 1997), 26–​27. 33. Grundmann, Agrarpolitik, 39. 34. Dok. 217, cabinet sitting (Sept. 26, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, part 2, 829–​33. 35. RGBL I (Sept. 30, 1933), 685–​92. 36. Gustavo Corni, Hitler and the Peasants: Agrarian Policy of the Third Reich, 1933–​1939 (New York, 1990), 146–​51. 37. Daniela Münkel, Nationalsozialistische Agrarpolitik und Bauernalltag (Frankfurt, 1996), 112–​20; 270–​80. 38. Grundmann, Agrarpolitik, 151. 39. Detlev Schmiechen-​Ackermann, “Inszenierte ‘Volksgemeinschaft’: Das Beispiel der Reichserntedankfest am Bückeberg 1933–​1937,” in Stefan Winghart, ed., Die Reichserntedankfest auf dem Bückeberg bei Hameln (Hamel, 2010), 10–​19, here 14. 40. Diary entry (Oct. 15, 1933–​Jan. 5, 1934), in Obenaus and Obenaus, eds., Aufzeichnungen Karl Dürkefäldens, 73. 41. Bernd Sösemann, “Appell unter der Erntekrone: Das Reichserntedankfest in der nationalsozialistischen Diktatur,” Jahrbuch für Kommunikationsgeschichte (2000), 113–​56. 42. Magnus Brechtken, Albert Speer: Eine deutsche Karriere (Munich, 2017), 50. 43. Sösemann, “Appell,” 113–​17. 44. Cited in Bernhard Gelderblom, Die Reichserntedankfest auf dem Bückeberg 1933–​1937, 3rd ed. (Hameln, 2012), 55; see also his “Das Reichserntedankfest als emotionale hoch aufgeladenes Fest,” in Winghart, ed., Die Reichserntedankfest,  21–​29. 45. WTB-​Pressedienst (Oct. 2, 1933), reprinted in Corni and Gies, eds., Blut und Boden,  75–​76.

Notes to pages 199–203


46. Tobias Kügler, “Zustimmung zur ‘christlichen Volksgemeinschaft’ Erntedankfest im Kreis Warendorf 1933,” in Werner Freitag, ed., Das Dritte Reich im Fest: Führermythos, Feierlaune, und Verweigerung in Westfalen 1933–​1945 (Bielefeld, 1997), 87–​92. 47. Thorsten Schrumpf-​Heidemann, “Erst ‘begeistertes Bekenntnis zum Führer,’ dann ‘Erstarrung in würdiger Form’: Die Erntedankfeste in Hagen 1933–​1935,” in Freitag, ed., Das Dritte Reich im Fest, 127–​34. 48. RGBL I (July 14, 1933), 479. 49. Otmar Jung, Plebiszit und Diktatur: die Volksabstimmung der Nationalsozialisten (Tübingen, 1995), 31–​34. For a broad introduction, see Ralph Jessen and Hedwig Richter, eds., Voting for Hitler and Stalin: Elections under 20th-​Century Dictatorships (Frankfurt, 2011). 50. Dok. 214 (Sept. 20, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, part 2, 805–​21. 51. See Klaus Hildebrand, Das vergangene Reich: Deutsche Aussenpolitik von Bismarck bis Hitler (Berlin, 1999), 677–​80. 52. Dok. 230 (Oct. 13, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, part 2,  903–​7. 53. “Aufruf der Reichsregierung an das deutsche Volk” (Oct. 14, 1933), in RGBL I, 730–​31. 54. Speech (Oct. 14, 1933), in Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 308–​14. 55. Dok. 242 (Nov. 8, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, part 2, 938–​39. 56. Hitler speech (Nov. 10, 1933), Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 330. 57. Diary entry (Nov. 11, 1933), Kurt F. Rosenberg, in Beate Meyer and Björn Siegel, eds. “Einer, der nicht mehr dazugehört”: Tagebücher 1933–​1937 (Göttingen, 2012), 154. 58. Rolf Düsterberg, Hanns Johst: “Der Barde der SS”: Karrieren eines Deutschen Dichters (Paderborn, 2004), 176–​227; http://​pressechronik1933.dpmu.de/​ 2013/​10/​26/​pressechronik-​26–​10-​1933/​vossische_​zeitung_​1933–​10-​26_​2–​2/​ downloaded Jan. 9, 2019. See also Benjamin G. Martin, The Nazi-​Fascist New Order for European Culture (Cambridge, MA, 2016), 12–​17. 59. Bekenntnis der Professoren an den deutschen Universitäten und Hochschulen zu Adolf Hitler und dem nationalsozialistischen Staat (Dresden, 1933), 9–​10, 13–​14. 60. Figures vary slightly, here from Statistisches Jahrbuch für das Deutsche Reich (1935), 550; and Jung, Plebiszit und Diktatur,  50–​55. 61. Steuwer, “Ein Drittes Reich, wie ich es auffasse,” 492, makes heavy weather with this point. 62. Evans, The Third Reich in Power, 109–​10. 63. Hans-​Ulrich Wehler, Der Nationalsozialismus, Bewegung, Führerherrschaft, Verbrechen (Munich, 2009), 72; Bericht (Dec. 1933), Die Meldungen der Gruppe Neu Beginnen, Stöver, ed., 2.


Notes to pages 204–209

64. Diary entries (Nov. 12, 13, 1933), Cohn, Kein Recht, Nirgends: Tagebuch, vol. 1, 101. 65. Entry (Nov. 14, 1933), Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen, vol. 1, 68. 66. Entry (Oct. 27, 1938), Ruth Andreas-​Friedrich, Der Schattenmann: Tagebuchaufzeichnungen 1938–​1945 (Berlin, 1947), 21. 67. Diary entries (Jan.–​Feb. 7, 1934), in Obenaus and Obenaus, eds., Aufzeichnungen Karl Dürkefäldens,  75–​77. 68. Bericht (Dec. 1933), Die Meldungen der Gruppe Neu Beginnen, Stöver, ed., 2. 69. Markus Urban, “The Self-​Staging of a Plebiscitary Dictatorship: The NS-​Regime between ‘Uniformed Reichstag,’ Referendum, and Reichsparteitag,” in Jessen and Richter, eds., Voting for Hitler and Stalin, 39–​58, here 43. 70. RGBL I (1934), 20. 71. Verhandlungen des Reichstags: Reichstagsprotokolle (Jan. 30, 1934), Bd. 458,  7–​20. 72. Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 366–​67. 73. Siemens, Stormtroopers, 159. 74. Diels, Lucifer Ante Portas,  207–​8. 75. See Thilo Vogelsang, Dokumentation: “Neue Dokumente zur Geschichte der Reichswehr 1930–​1933,” VfZ (1954): 398–​435. 76. “Gegen Miesmacher und Kritikaster,” Völkischer Beobachter (May 13–​14, 1934), 7. 77. For original Rede des Reichsvizekanzlers, see https://​www. bundesarchiv.de/​oeffentlichkeitsarbeit/​bilder_​dokumente/​00634/​index. html.de. 78. Entries (June 18–​July 1934), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 3, i, 64–​73. 79. Diary (June 28, 1934), Alfred Rosenberg: Die Tagebücher, 137–​40. 80. Kershaw, Hitler Hubris, 511. 81. Longerich, Hitler Biographie, 395–​402; Heinz Höhne, “Gebt mir vier Jahre Zeit”: Hitler und die Anfänge des Dritten Reiches (Frankfurt, 1996), 264–​78. 82. Reports in Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 397–​400. 83. Dok. 375 (July 3, 1934), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, part 2, 1354–​58. 84. Völkischer Beobachter (July 3, 1934). 85. Cited in Siemens, Stormtroopers, 177. 86. Lagebericht der Gestapostellen Aachen, Cologne, Koblenz, Trier (for July 1934), in Faust et al., eds., Lageberichte Rheinischer Gestapostellen, vol. 1, 209–​13; 236–​37; 265–​66; 277–​78. 87. Lagebericht Stapo Hannover (July 4; Aug. 9, 1934), in Gestapo Hannover meldet: Polizei-​und Regierungsberichte für das mittlere und südliche Niedersachen zwischen 1933 und 1937, Klaus Mlynek, ed. (Hildesheim, 1986), 167–​68, 190.

Notes to pages 209–215


88. Lagebericht (Aug. 4, 1934), Die Geheimen Staatspolizei in den Preussischen Ostprovinzen 1934–​36: Pommern 1934–​34 Quellen, Robert Thévoz et al., eds. (Cologne, 1974), 31–​32. 89. Diary entry (July 1–​12, 1934), Cohn, Kein Recht, Nirgends. Tagebuch, vol. 1, 131–​37. 90. Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (July 21, 1934), 200–​202. 91. Dok. 382 (Aug. 1, 1934), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, part 2, 1384–​86; Kershaw, Hitler Hubris, 524–​25. 92. Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 439. See also Pyta, Hindenburg, 860–​71. 93. Völkischer Beobachter (Aug. 19–​20, 1934). 94. Statistisches Jahrbuch für das Deutsche Reich (1935), 551; Jung, Plebiszit und Diktatur,  68–​70. 95. Entry (Aug. 20, 1934), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 3, i, 95. 96. BayHSt. Archiv: Reichsstatthalter 276/​2: Monatsbericht Reg.Prä. Lower Franconia and Aschaffenburg (for Aug. 1934). 97. Frank Omland, Nationalsozialistische Volksabstimmung und Reichstagswahlen in Kiel 1933–​1938, 47–​48, http://​www.akens.org/​akens/​ texte/​diverses/​konferenz/​FO_​SH_​33–​38_​dt.pdf. 98. Longerich, Hitler Biographie, 420. 99. Entry (Aug. 21, 1934), Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen, vol. 1, 13–​38. 100. GSt. Archiv, Berlin-​Dahlem. Rep. 77, Nr. 32, 82–​85. 101. “Bericht über die Lage in Deutschland” (Aug.–​Sept. 1934), in Die Meldungen der Gruppe Neu Beginnen, Stöver, ed., 232–​38. 102. Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (1934), 287.

Chapter 9

1. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 693–​99. 2. “Adolf Hitlers Rede auf der Kulturtagung der N.S.D.A.P,” Reden des Führers am Parteitag des Sieges 1933 (Munich, 1934), 22–​26. 3. Dok. 224 (Jan. 26, 1928), Hitler, “Nationalsozialismus und Kunstpolitik,” Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 2, ii, 651–​56. 4. Adolf Hitler, “Kunst verpflichtet zur Wahrhaftigkeit,” in Völkischer Beobachter (Sept. 7, 1934). 5. Verhandlungen des Reichstags: Reichstagsprotokolle (Mar. 23, 1933), Bd. 457,  25–​32. 6. Adolf Hitler, Die deutsche Kunst als stoltzeste Verteidigung des Deutschen Volkes (Munich, 1934), 3. For a more systematic account, see Paul Schultze-​Naumburg, Kunst und Rasse (Munich, 1928). 7. Hitler, Die deutsche Kunst als stoltzeste Verteidigung des Deutschen Volkes,  5–​6. 8. Ibid., 13–​16. For a more systematic account, see Schultze-​Naumburg, Kunst und Rasse.


Notes to pages 216–221

9. Guenter Lewy, Harmful and Undesirable: Book Censorship in Nazi Germany (New York, 2016), 7–​13. 10. Burkhard Jellonnek, Homosexuelle unter dem Hakenkreuz (Paderborn, 1990), 81. 11. See Marhoefer, Sex and the Weimar Republic, 193; Robert Beachy, Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity (New York, 2014), 241–​47. 12. Goebbels speech (May 10, 1933), in Helmut Heiber, ed., Goebbels Reden 1932–​1939 (Munich, 1971), vol. 1, 108–​12. 13. Diary entry (May 10, 1933), Cohn, Kein Recht, Nirgends: Tagebuch, vol. 1, 42. 14. Diary entry (Apr. 25, 1933), Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen, vol. 1,  24–​25. 15. Diary entry (May 10, 14, 1933), Ebermayer, Denn heute,  77–​84. 16. Dok. 215 (Sept. 22, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, part 2, 822–​23. 17. Entry (Sept. 23, 1933), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 2, 274. 18. RGBL I (Sept. 22, 1933), 661–​62. 19. Entry (Nov. 16, 1933), Ebermayer, Denn heute,  203–​6. 20. Lewy, Harmful and Undesirable, 193–​97. 21. Goebbels speech (Nov. 5, 1934), in Heiber, ed., Goebbels Reden, vol. 1, 168–​73. 22. Hamann, Winifred Wagner, 249–​57. 23. See Maik Hattenhorst, “Vereinheitlichter und fröhlicher Mummenschanz: Karneval in Stadtlohn 1934–​1939,” in Freitag, ed., Das Dritte Reich im Fest, 157–​63. 24. See Carl Dietmar and Marcus Leifeld, Alaaf und Heil Hitler: Karneval im Dritten Reich (Munich, 2010), 123–​27. 25. Gestapo Cologne for Feb. 1935 (Mar. 4, 1935), in Faust et al., eds., Lageberichte Rheinischer Gestapostellen, vol. 2, part 1, 211–​12. 26. Hitler speech (Oct. 15, 1933), Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 315–​16. 27. Speer, Inside the Third Reich, 49. 28. Stefan Schweitzer, “Unserer Weltanschauung sichtbaren Ausdruck geben” : Nationalsozialistische Geschichtsbilder in historischen Festzügen (Göttingen, 2007), 61–​109. 29. Mostly negative remarks from witnesses and interviews are cited in ibid., 236–​52; Juergen Meyer, “De Nazis nit op d’r Schlips getrodde,” t.a.z. (Feb. 7, 2005) http://​www.taz.de/​!645888/​, retrieved July 2, 2019. 30. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 2, 1147–​71. 31. Adolf Hitler, “Kunst verpflichtet zur Wahrhaftigkeit,” in Völkischer Beobachter (Sept. 7, 1934); Hildegard Brenner, “Die Kunst im politischen Machtkampf der Jahre 1933–​34,” VfZ (1962): 17–​42.

Notes to pages 222–226


32. Die Reden Hitlers am Parteitag der Freiheit 1935 (Munich, 1935), 28–​43. See also Peter Paret, “German and Un-​German Art,” in his An Artist against the Third Reich: Ernst Barlach, 1933–​1938 (Cambridge, 2003), 109–​37. 33. Karl-​Heinz Meissner, “ ‘München ist ein heisser Boden: Aber wir gewinnen ihn allmählich doch,’ ” in Peter-​Klaus Schuster, ed., Die “Kunststadt München” 1937: Nationalsozialismus und “Entartete Kunst,” 3rd ed. (Munich, 1988), 37–​55. 34. Entry (June 7, 1937), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 4, 171. 35. Hoffmann, Hitler wie ich ihn sah, 143–​44. 36. Entry (July 12, 1937), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 4, 216. 37. “Hitlers Rede zur Eröffnung des Hauses der Deutschen Kunst, München” (July 18, 1937), reprinted in Kunst für Alle (Heft 12, Sept. 1937), 273–​90. 38. Jonathan Petropoulos, The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany (New York, 2000), 215–​26. 39. See Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung 1937 im Haus der Deutschen Kunst zu München: Offizieller Ausstellungskatalog (Munich, 1937). 40. Entry (July 28, 1942), Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche, 475–​80. 41. Schwarz, Geniewahn: Hitler und die Kunst, 203–​13. 42. Nicolaus von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant 1937–​45 (Mainz, 1980), 82. 43. Entry (June 13, 1943), Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier, 398. 44. Adolf Ziegler speech in Schuster, ed., Die “Kunststadt” München, 217–​18. 45. Entry (Feb. 20–​21, 1942), Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier, 288. 46. Hans Severus Ziegler, Entartete Musik: Eine Abrechnung (Düsseldorf, 1938), 3–​32; Pamela M. Potter, Most German of the Arts: Musicology and Society from the Weimar Republic to the End of Hitler’s Reich (New Haven, 1998),  16–​22. 47. See Ines Schlenker, Der Neue Salon: The Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung at the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich, 1937–​1944 (PhD thesis, London, 2000), 152–​53. 48. Entartete Kunst: Ausstellungsführer (Berlin, 1937), reprinted in Schuster, ed., Die “Kunststadt” München. 49. Entry (Dec. 23–​24, 1941), Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier, 156–​57. 50. Schwarz, Geniewahn: Hitler und die Kunst, 237–​65. 51. Jonathan Petropoulos, Art as Politics in the Third Reich (Chapel Hill, NC, 1996), 179–​240. 52. Jost Hermand, Culture in Dark Times: Nazi Fascism, Inner Emigration, and Exile (New York, 2014), 126–​27. See Michael H. Kater, The Twisted Muse: Musicians and Their Music in the Third Reich (New York, 1997). 53. Moritz Föllmer, “Ein Leben wie im Traum”: Kultur im Dritten Reich (Munich, 2016), 58.


Notes to pages 226–231

54. Speer, Inside the Third Reich, 56; Karl Arndt, “Architektur und Politik,” in Karl Arndt et al., Albert Speer Architektur: Arbeiten 1933–​1942 (Frankfurt, 1978), 113–​35, here 113–​15. 55. Hermann Giesler, Ein anderer Hitler: Bericht seines Architekten: Erlebnisse, Gespräche, Reflexionen (Leoni am Starnberger See, 1978), 205. 56. Raphael Rosenberg, “Architekturen des ‘Dritten Reiches’: ‘Völkische’ Heimatideologie versus international Monumentalität,” in Ariane Hellinger et al., eds., Die Politik in der Kunst und die Kunst in der Politik (Wiesbaden, 2013), 57–​86. 57. Schultze-​Naumburg, Kunst und Rasse (Munich, 1928). 58. Speer, Inside the Third Reich, 64. 59. Dieter Bartetzko, “Obsessionen aus Stein: Die Architekten des ‘Dritten Reiches’,” in Hans Sarkowicz, ed., Hitlers Künstler: Die Kultur im Dienst des Nationalsozialismus (Frankfurt, 2004), 110–​34, here 115. 60. Die Reden Hitlers am Parteitag der Freiheit 1935 (Munich, 1935), 38–​43. 61. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 897–​98. 62. Sketchbook in Frederic Spotts, Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics (New York, 2003), 314, 317, 358. 63. Gropius cited in Marco De Michelis, “Das Bauhaus und die moderne Architektur-​Geschichtsschreibung,” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift für Architektur und Bauwesen Weimar (1979): 335–​37. See also Kurt Junghanns, “Die Idee des ‘Grossen Baues,’ ” in ibid., 304–​8. 64. Bartetzko, “Obsessionen aus Stein,” 111–​12. 65. See Joan Campbell, The German Werkbund: The Politics of Reform in the Applied Arts (Princeton, 1978), 3, 285. 66. Hans J. Reichhardt and Wolfgang Schäche, Von Berlin nach Germania: Über der Zerstörungen der “Reichshauptstadt” durch Albert Speers Neugestaltungsplanungen, 2nd ed. (Berlin 2001), 109–​17. 67. RGBL I (1937), 1054–​55. 68. Entry (June 6, 1942), Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche, 366; Brechtken, Albert Speer, 611, note 50. 69. Steffen Krämer, “Achsen für den Aufmarsch: Zur politischen Inszenierung des urbanen Raumes im Dritten Reich,” Schriftenreihe der Winckelmann Akademie für Kunstgeschichte München, Testbeitrag Nr. 18 (Feb. 2014),  1–​18. 70. Yasmin Doosry, “Wohlauf, lasst uns eine Stadt und einen Turm bauen . . .”: Studien zum Reichsparteitagsgelände in Nürnberg (Tübingen, 2002), 108, 125, 211ff. See also Michael Ellenbogen, Gigantische Visionen: Architektur und Hochtechnologie im Nationalsozialismus, 3rd ed. (Graz, 2012), 69–​87. 71. Hitler (Dec. 10, 1938), Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 1, 984. 72. Hitler cited in Speer, Inside the Third Reich, 69.

Notes to pages 231–236


73. See Jost Dülffer, Jochen Thies, and Josef Henke, eds., Hitlers Städte: Baupolitik im Dritten Reich. Eine Dokumentation (Cologne, 1978),  17–​25. 74. “Schmitt” was either an interview subject or composite image the author wished to project in Heinz, Germany’s Hitler, 143–​44. 75. Paul Schmitthenner, Baukunst im neuen Reich (Munich, 1934), 38. 76. Guido Harbers, “Wohnkultur und ‘Wirkungsgrad,’ ” in Beilage zum Baumeister: Monatshefte für Baukultur und Baupraxis (Mar. 1934), b33–​b34. 77. Hans Stephan, Die Baukunst im Dritten Reich, insbesondere die Umgestaltung der Reichshauptstadt (Berlin, 1939), 7–​8. See also Gerdy Troost, Das Bauen im neuen Reich (Bayreuth, 1938). 78. Markus Mittmann, Bauen im Nationalsozialismus, Braunschweig, die “Deutsche Siedlungsstadt,” und die “Mustersiedlung der Deutschen Arbeitsfront” Braunschweig-​Mascherode (Hameln, 2003), 32–​33. 79. Wilhelm Hesse, cited in Helmut Weihsmann, ed., Bauen unterm Hakenkreuz: Architektur des Untergangs (Vienna, 1998), 313–​14; Mittmann, Bauen im Nationalsozialismus, 187. 80. For an example of the application, see http://​www.vernetztes-​gedaechtnis. de/​ideologieplaene.htm, retrieved March 25, 2016. 81. Mittmann, Bauen im Nationalsozialismus, 184–​87. 82. Corni and Gies, Brot—​Butter—​Kanonen,  24–​28. 83. Matthias Donath, Architektur in Berlin 1933–​1945: Ein Stadtführer (Berlin, 2007), 154–​56. 84. Mittmann, Bauen im Nationalsozialismus, 262–​63. 85. Weihsmann, ed., Bauen unterm Hakenkreuz, 314–​15. 86. Karl Christian Führer, “Meister der Ankündigung: Nationalsozialistische Wohnungsbaupolitik,” in Hamburg in “Dritten Reich,” 432–​44, here 440. 87. Föllmer, Individuality and Modernity, 117–​18. 88. Weihsmann, ed., Bauen unterm Hakenkreuz,  65–​73. 89. Dok. 13, Feder to Reichskanzlei (Sept. 24, 1934), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 2, part 2, 61–​66; also (Oct. 24, 1934), 120–​22. 90. Gottfried Feder, Die neue Stadt: Versuch der Begründung einer neuen Stadtplannungskunst aus der sozialen Struktur der Bevölkerung (Berlin, 1939), 18–​26, 207. 91. Ingeburg Weinberger, NS-​Siedlungen in Wien: Projekte—​Realisierungen—​ Ideologietransfer (Vienna, 2015), 116–​27. 92. Karl Christian Führer, “Anspruch und Realität: Das Scheitern der nationalsozialistischen Wohnungsbaupolitik 1933–​1945,” VfZ (1997): 225–​ 56, here 242. 93. SD Jahresbericht 1938, in Meldungen aus dem Reich 1938–​1945: Die geheimen Lageberichte des Sicherheitsdienstes der SS, Heinz Boberach, ed. (Herrsching, 1984), vol. 2, 210–​14.


Notes to pages 236–241

94. See Nov. 15, 1940, RGBL I, 1495–​98. 95. Marie-​Luise Recker, Nationalsozialistische Sozialpolitik im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Munich, 1985), 82–​154, here 98. 96. Hachtmann, Wirtschaftsimperium, 444–​50. 97. Dieter Rebentisch, Führerstaat und Verwaltung im Zweiten Weltkrieg: Verfassungsentwicklung und Verwaltungspolitik 1939–​1945 (Stuttgart, 1989), 336–​45. 98. See Ulrike Haerendel, “Wohnungspolitik im Nationalsozialismus,” Zeitschrift für Sozialreform (1999), 843–​79. 99. See Otto Dietrich, 12 Jahre mit Hitler (Munich, 1955), 212–​13; Volker Dahm et al., Die tödliche Utopie: Bilder, Texte, Dokumente, Daten zum Dritten Reich, 6th ed. (Munich, 2011). 100. Giesler, Ein anderer Hitler, 258–​63. 101. Entry (Nov. 16, 1933), Ebermayer, Denn heute, 206. 102. Speech (Sept. 6, 1938), Reden des Führers, 37.

Chapter 10

1. Dok. 52, Volkszählung (June 16, 1933), reprinted in VEJ, vol. 1, 177–​ 79; for the estimate of 525,000 in January 1933, see Saul Friedländer, Nazi Germany and the Jews: vol. 1: The Years of Persecution, 1933–​1939 (New York, 1997), 15. 2. Hermann Beck, “Violence against ‘Ostjuden’ in the Spring of 1933 and the Reaction of the Authorities,” in Hermann Beck and Larry Eugene Jones, eds., From Weimar to Hitler: Studies in the Dissolution of the Weimar Republic and the Establishment of the Third Reich, 1932–​1934 (New York, 2019), 163–​93, here 164. 3. Dok. 6, diary entry (Mar. 10, 1933), reprinted in VEJ, vol. 1, 76–​78. 4. Diary entries (Mar. 23, 26, 1933), Kurt F. Rosenberg, “Einer, der nicht mehr dazugehört”: Tagebücher 1933–​1937, Beate Meyer and Björn Siegel, eds. (Göttingen, 2012), 61–​62. 5. Prussian Political Police report (Mar. 11, 1933), Otto Dov Kulka and Eberhard Jäckel, eds., Die Juden in den geheimen NS-​Stimmungsberichte 1933–​1945 (Düsseldorf, 2004), 45. 6. Günter Plum, “Wirtschaft und Erwerbsleben,” in Wolfgang Benz, ed., Die Juden in Deutschland 1933–​1945: Leben unter nationalsozialistischer Herrschaft (Munich, 1989), 268–​313, here 274–​75. 7. Roland Flade, Die Würzburger Juden: Ihre Geschichte vom Mittelalter bis zur Gegenwart (Würzburg, 1987), 257–​66. 8. Herbert A. Strauss, In the Eye of the Storm: Growing Up Jewish in Germany, 1918–​1943. A Memoir (New York, 1999), 30–​47. 9. Michael Meisner, Bekenntnisse eines Aussenseiters (Würzburg, 1985), 160. 10. Wolfgang Prinz, “Die Judenverfolgung in Kassel,” in Wilhelm Frenz et al., eds., Volksgemeinschaft und Volksfeinde Kassel 1933–​1945: vol. 2: Studien (Fuldabrück, 1987), 144–​222, here 169–​71.

Notes to pages 241–247


11. Dietfrid Krause-​Vilmar, “Zur Vertreibung und Vernichtung der deutsch-​ jüdischen Bevölkerung Nordhessens in der Zeit der NS-​Diktatur,” Mitteilungen ’98 des Geschichtsvereins Naumburg e.V. (1999), 19–​28. 12. Jarausch, Unfree Professions, 100–​107. 13. Mar. 18, 1933, Chronik der Stadt Heilbronn, http://​www. stadtgeschichte-​heilbronn.de/​fileadmin/​bilder/​2-​nord/​23-​ns-​zeit/​2301-​ machtergreifung/​2301–​12-​machtergreifung-​pultbuch.pdf, retrieved Aug. 20, 2018. 14. See Stephan Schurr, “Die ‘Judenaktion’ in Creglingen am 25. März 1933. Eine Quellendokumentation,” in Gerhard Naser, ed., Lebenswege Creglinger Juden: Das Pogrom von 1933, 3rd ed. (Bergatreute, 2002), 59–​82. 15. Ibid. 16. Protocol (Mar. 1933), reprinted in Hartwig Behr and Horst F. Rupp, Vom Leben und Sterben: Juden in Creglingen, 2nd ed. (Würzburg, 2001), 213–​52. 17. For a novel based on this story, see Lion Feuchtwanger, Die Geschwister Oppermann (Frankfurt, 1981), 254–​59. 18. See St. Archiv Nuremberg: LRA Schwabach, Abg. 1956, Nr. 8444, Bezirksamt files (1933) for Weissenburg i./​Bay. 19. Beck, The Fateful Alliance, 131. 20. Cordula Tollmien, Nationalsozialismus in Göttingen 1933–​1945 (PhD diss., Göttingen, 1998), 80–​82; Wildt, Volksgemeinschaft als Selbstermächtigung, 101–​23. 21. See Rebecca Boehling and Uta Larsky, Life and Loss in the Shadow of the Holocaust: A Jewish Family’s Untold Story (Cambridge, 2011), 41–​43. 22. Beck, “Violence against ‘Ostjuden’ in the Spring of 1933,” 166–​67. 23. Ernst Hofmann, report (1933), in VEJ, vol. 1, 278–​79. No location, likely a small town. 24. Diary entries (Mar. 29, 31, 1933), in Hitlerjunge Schall: Die Tagebücher, 254–​55. 25. Hakenkreuzbanner (July 6, 1933), reprinted in Hans-​Joachim Fliedner, ed., Die Judenverfolgung in Mannheim 1933–​1945: vol. 2:Dokumente (Stuttgart, 1971), 338–​39. 26. Diary entry (Aug. 20, 1933), Rosenberg, “Einer, der nicht mehr dazugehört”: Tagebücher, 129. Photo available at https://​juden-​in-​ cuxhaven.jimdo.com. 27. St. Archiv Würzburg: Polizeidirektion Nr. 274. 28. Quentin James Reynolds, By Quentin Reynolds (New York, 1963), 118–​21. 29. Alexandra Przyrembel, “Rassenschande”: Reinheitsmythos und Vernichtungslegitimation im Nationalsozialismus (Göttingen, 2003), 83–​84. 30. Dok. 78, Ministerbesprechung (Mar. 32, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, 270–​71. 31. Dok. 80, Ministerbesprechung (Mar. 31, 1933), ibid., 278–​79. 32. Dok. 80 (Mar. 31, 1933), ibid., 276–​77. 33. Völkischer Beobachter (Mar. 30, 1933), 1–​2.


Notes to pages 247–251

34. Johannes Ludwig, Boykott, Enteignung, Mord: Die “Entjudung” der Deutschen Wirtschaft (Hamburg, 1989), 113–​14. 35. Kurt Schatzky, in Monika Richarz, ed., Jüdisches Leben in Deutschland: Selbstzeugnisse zur Sozialgeschichte 1918–​1945 (Stuttgart, 1982), 292–​300, here 293. 36. Tollmien, Nationalsozialismus in Göttingen, 86. 37. Entries (Mar. 29–​Apr. 29, 1933), Walter Tausk, Breslauer Tagebuch 1933–​ 1940 (Berlin, 1988), 45–​68. 38. Entries (Mar. 29–​Apr. 22, 1933), Cohn, Kein Recht, Nirgends: Tagebuch, vol. 1, 23–​33. 39. Steuwer, “Ein Drittes Reich, wie ich es auffasse,” 164–​71. 40. Lothar Gruchmann, Justiz im Dritten Reich 1933–​1940: Anpassung und Unterwerfung in der Ära Gürtner (Munich, 1988), 166. 41. Inge Deutschkron, Ich trug den gelben Stern, 4th ed. (Cologne, 1983),  10–​18. 42. Herbert, Geschichte Deutschlands, 364–​67. 43. See, for example, Steven P. Remy, The Heidelberg Myth: The Nazification of a German University (Cambridge, MA, 2002), 12–​49. 44. Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen, vol. 1 (May 2, 1933), 195. 45. RGBL I (Apr. 7; Apr. 11, 1933), 175–​77, 195. 46. Diary entry (May 20, 1933), Tagebuch Luise Solmitz, in Frank Bajohr, Beate Meyer, and Joachim Szodrzynski, eds., Bedrohung, Hoffnung, Skepsis: Vier Tagebücher des Jahres 1933 (Göttingen, 2013), 205–​7. 47. Daniela Münkel, Nationalsozialistische Agrarpolitik und Bauernalltag (Frankfurt, 1996), 351–​52. 48. Falk Wiesemann, “Juden auf dem Lande: die wirtschaftliche Ausgrenzung der jüdischen Viehhändler in Bayern,” in Detlev Peukert and Jürgen Reulecke, eds., Die Reihen fast geschlossen: Beiträge zur Geschichte des Alltags unterm Nationalsozialismus (Wuppertal, 1981), 381–​96, here 381–​84. 49. See Stefanie Fischer, Ökonomisches Vertrauen und antisemitische Gewalt: Jüdische Viehhändler in Mittelfranken 1919–​1939 (Göttingen, 2014), 204–​16. 50. For the estimate see Beck, “Violence against ‘Ostjuden’ in the Spring of 1933,” 184. 51. Stapo Kassel (Aug. 29, 1933), in Kulka and Jäckel, eds., Die Juden in den geheimen NS-​Stimmungsberichte, 54. 52. See Geoffrey J. Giles, Students and National Socialism in Germany (Princeton, 1985), 14–​72. 53. “Entfernung von Marxisten und Juden aus Lehrämtern und Anstalten,” in Völkischer Beobachter (Apr. 14–​15, 1933), 5. 54. Kater, The Nazi Party, 237. 55. See Gabriele Czarnowski, “The Value of Marriage for the ‘Volksgemeinschaft’: Policies towards Women and Marriage under

Notes to pages 251–257

56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61. 62. 63. 64. 65. 66. 67. 68. 69. 70. 71. 72. 73. 74. 75. 76. 77. 78. 79. 80. 81. 82. 83.


National Socialism,” in Richard Bessel, ed., Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany: Comparisons and Contrasts (Cambridge, 1996), 94–​112, here 98. Michael H. Kater, Doctors under Hitler (Chapel Hill, NC, 1989), 183–​86. See ibid., 56–​57. See Table A.15, Jarausch, Unfree Professions, 253. “Der Reichskanzler umreißt die rasse-​hygenischen Aufgaben der Ärzte,” in Völkischer Beobachter (Apr. 7, 1933), 1. Diary entries (Jan. 30; Feb. 27; Apr. 14; Apr. 25, 1933), Das Tagebuch der Hertha Nathorff: Berlin–​New York, Aufzeichnungen 1933 bis 1945, Wolfgang Benz, ed. (Frankfurt, 1988), 35–​36, 39, 41. Diary entries (Apr. 14; May 15; July 6; 1933; Sept. 18, 1938), ibid., 39; 43; 46–​47;  114. Diary entry (Sept. 18, 1938), ibid., 114. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 1, 671. Ibid., 657. Dok. 355 (Feb. 2, 1922), Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen, 565–​66. Kim Wünschmann, Before Auschwitz: Jewish Prisoners in the Prewar Concentration Camps (Cambridge, MA, 2015), 52. Stapo Minden for Aug. 1935 (Sept. 4, 1935), Kulka and Jäckel, eds., Die Juden in den geheimen NS-​Stimmungsberichte, 154. The first incident (May 8, 1935), in BArchiv Berlin: R58/​661, 129–​ 30; for the later ones, GSt. Archiv, Berlin-​Dahlem. I HA Rep. 90.P Rheinprovinz, reports (Sept. 5, Dec. 9, 1935). GSt. Archiv, Berlin-​Dahlem. I HA Rep. 90.P, report (June 6, 1935), Recklinghausen. Ibid., report (July 1935), Berlin. Ibid., reports (May 4; July 4; Aug. 1935), Hanover. Ibid., report (Aug. 3; 1935), Breslau. Ibid., report (Aug. 1935), Schneidemühl. Ibid., report (Sept. 4, 1935), Osnabrück. See Aug. Report, Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (1935), 920–​37. Wildt, Volksgemeinschaft als Selbstermächtigung, 215. Dok. 212, Chefbesprechung (Aug. 20, 1935), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 2, t. 1, 742–​46. Ullrich, Hitler Biographie, Bd. 1, 612–​14. See Dok. 3, Heydrich an die Teilnehmer der Chefbesprechung (Sept. 9, 1935), in Michael Wildt, ed., Die Judenpolitik des SD 1935 bis 1938: Eine Dokumentation (Munich, 1995), 70–​73. RGBL I, 1146. For details see Gellately, The Gestapo and German Society, 129–​58. GSt. Archiv, Berlin-​Dahlem. I HA Rep. 90.P, reports (May 5; July 6; Sept. 6; Dec. 7, 1935). Ibid., report (Nov. 6, 1935) Trier.


Notes to pages 257–261

84. See Sept. Report, Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (1935), 1026–​45, here 1029. 85. Letter (Sept. 22, 1935), in Notizen aus dem Vernichtungskrieg: Die Ostfront 1941–​42 in den Aufzeichnungen des Generals Heinrici, Johannes Hürter, ed. (Darmstadt, 2016), 178–​79. 86. Gestapo Bielefeld Report (Oct. 5, 1935), in BArchiv Berlin: R58/​513, for Paderborn 82–​83; for Bielefeld, 161–​64. 87. Gestapo Berlin Report (Jan. 1936), in BArchiv Berlin: R58/​567, 122–​26; Mar. 1936, BArchiv Berlin, R58/​578, 122–​24. 88. Gestapo Kassel Report (Oct. 1935), in BArchiv Berlin: R58/​559, 30–​31. 89. Gestapo Dortmund Report (Sept. 1935), in BArchiv Berlin: R58/​ 514,  17–​19. 90. Diary (Sept. 15 and 20, 1935), in Steuwer, “Ein Drittes Reich, wie ich es auffasse,” 177–​78. 91. See Apr. Report, Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (1937), 481. 92. Gellately, Backing Hitler, 128. 93. Entry (Nov. 11, 1938), Cohn, Kein Recht, Nirgends: Tagebuch, vol. 2, 539. 94. Diary entries (Dec. 16; Apr. 28, 1939), Das Tagebuch der Hertha Nathorff, 139; 162–​63. 95. Kulka and Jäckel, eds., NS-​Stimmungungsberichte,  304–​9. 96. SD Gotha (Oct.–​Dec. 1938), in ibid., 339. 97. Mayor Bielefeld, in ibid., 315–​16. 98. SD-​Elbe, ibid., 361. 99. SD-​Berlin (for 1938), ibid., 375–​6. 100. See Feb. Report, Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (1939), 201–​2; and for Apr. (1940), 256–​68. 101. Dec. Report, Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (1938), 1352–​53. 102. Entries (Nov. 9–​11, 1938), Andreas-​Friedrich, Der Schattenmann, 25–​35; diary entries (Jan. 22–​Apr. 2, 1939), in Obenaus, eds., Aufzeichnungen Karl Dürkefäldens, 85–​102; entries (Nov. 10–​14, 1938), Gottfried Abrath, Subjekt und Milieu im NS-​Staat: Die Tagebücher des Pfarrers Hermann Klugkist Hesse, 1936–​1939 (Göttingen, 1994), 343–​44. 103. “Die Sühneleistung der Juden,” in VB (Nov. 24, 1938). 104. Alexander Korb, Reaktionen der Deutschen Bevölkerung auf die Novemberpogrome im Spiegel amtlicher Berichte (Berlin, 2007), 91–​97. 105. See IMT, vol. 28, 499–​540, 1816-​PS, “Stenographische Niederschrift der Besprechung über die Judenfrage bei Göring am 12. Nov. 1938,” here 534. 106. Dok. 34 (Oct. 10, 1928), Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 3, i, 145. 107. Wilhelm Frick, “Wir müssen wieder den Mut haben, unseren Volkskörper nach seinem Erbwert zu gliedern,” Völkischer Beobachter (June 29, 1933), 13. 108. RGBL I (July 25, 1933), 529–​31.

Notes to pages 261–266


109. Annette F. Timm, The Politics of Fertility in Twentieth-​Century Berlin (Cambridge, 2010), 133. 110. Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution (Chapel Hill, NC, 1995), 27. 111. “Sterilisierung von 400,000 Menschen,” Berliner Morgenpost (Dec. 21, 1933), 2. 112. Gisela Bock, Zwangssterilisation im Nationalsozialismus: Studien zur Rassenpolitik und Frauenpolitik (Opladen, 1986), 237–​38. 113. See Dok. 49, “Die Auscheidung der Asozialen,” in Hamburger Fremdenblatt (Oct. 13, 1937), reprinted in Wolfgang Ayass, ed., “Gemeinschaftsfremde”: Quellen zur Verfolgung von “Asozialen” 1933–​1945 (Coblenz, 1998), 93–​94. 114. Dok. 231, Besprechung (Sept. 25, 1935), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 2, t. 1, 231. 115. Asmus Nitschke, Die Erbpolizei im Nationalsozialismus: Zur Alltagsgeschichte der Gesundheitsämter im Dritten Reich (Wiesbaden, 1999), 121–​23. 116. RGBL I, 1246. 117. Arthur Gütt, Dienst an der Rasse als Aufgabe der Staatspolitik (Berlin, 1934). 118. See Doks. 21–​25, in Ernst Klee, ed., Dokumente zur “Euthanasie” (Frankfurt, 1985), 85–​91. 119. See, for example, Chapoutot, The Law of the Blood, 2. 120. See Dok. 23, postwar testimony of Hans Heinrich Lammers, in Klee, ed., Dokumente zur “Euthanasie,”  86–​87. 121. Dok. 80, ibid., 219–​20. 122. Correspondence reprinted in IMT, vol. 35, here 689. 123. See Michael Burleigh, Death and Deliverance: “Euthanasia” in Germany 1900–​1945 (Cambridge, 1994), 162–​80; Beth A. Griech-​Polelle, Bishop von Galen: German Catholicism and National Socialism (New Haven, 2002),  92–​93. 124. Longerich, Hitler Biographie, 620–​22; Ullrich, Hitler Biographie, Bd. 1, 740.

Chapter 11

1. Dok. 273, Chef Heeresleitung (Beck) Denkschrift (Dec. 14, 1933), Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 1, ii, 1032–​36. 2. Robert Gerwarth, The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End (New York, 2016), 199. 3. Faust et al., eds., “Historische Einführung,” in Lageberichte Rheinischer Gestapostellen, here vol. 2, part 1, 7. 4. Diary entry (Jan. 8, 1935), Ebermayer, Denn heute, 462. 5. Anthony Eden, Facing the Dictators: The Memoirs of Anthony Eden (Cambridge, MA, 1962), 110–​18.


Notes to pages 266–270

6. Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich in Power (New York, 2005), 626. 7. Hitler speech (Mar. 1, 1935), Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 2, 484–​88. 8. RGBL I (Mar. 16, 1935), 375. The supplementary law (May 21, 1935), in ibid., 609–​14, formally established conscription as part of a new Wehrgesetz. 9. Stapo Hannover (Apr. 3, 1935), in Gestapo Hannover meldet, 331–​32; Gendarmerie Muggendorf and Unterweilersbach (Mar. 31, 1935), in Martin Broszat et al., eds., Bayern in der NS-​Zeit: Soziale Lage und politisches Verhalten der Bevölkerung im Spiegel vertraulicher Berichte (Munich, 1977), vol. 1, 80. 10. Hitler Proclamation (Mar. 16, 1935), Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 2, 491–​95. 11. François-​Poncet, Botschafter in Berlin, 263. 12. Lagebericht Stapo Aachen (for March 1935), in Faust et al., eds., Lageberichte Rheinischer Gestapostellen, vol. 2, i, 319. 13. Lagebericht Cologne, Düsseldorf, Aachen, Koblenz (for March 1935) in ibid., in order 341, 258–​59, 319, 357. For Munich see Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (Mar.–​Apr. 1935), 279. 14. Verhandlungen des Reichstags: Reichstagsprotokolle (May 21, 1935), Bd. 458, 39–​56, here 55. 15. Entries (May 25, 26, 1935), Harry Graf Kessler, Tagebücher, 734–​35. 16. See Mar. Report, Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (1935), 279. 17. Christian Hartmann, Halder: Generalstabschef Hitlers 1938–​1942 (Paderborn, 1991), 47–​48. 18. Lagebericht Stapo Münster (for Mar. 1935), in Meldungen aus Münster 1924–​1944, Joachim Kuropka, ed. (Münster, 1992), 151. 19. Dok. 555, Hitler-​Simon conversations (Mar. 25, 26, 1935), in Akten zur Deutschen auswärtigen Politik, Series C, vol. 3, ii, 1022–​57, here 1044. 20. Von Ribbentrop, Zwischen London und Moskau, 63–​67. Diary entry (Mar. 18, 1935), Alfred Rosenberg: Die Tagebücher, 179. 21. Diary entry (June 21, 1935), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 3, i, 250. 22. Klaus Hildebrand, Das vergangene Reich: Deutsche Aussenpolitik von Bismarck bis Hitler (Berlin, 1999), 701–​10. 23. Klaus-​Jürgen Müller, Generaloberst Ludwig Beck eine Biographie (Paderborn, 2008), 219–​22. 24. Dok. 39, Ministerbesprechung at 21.15 hours (Mar 6, 1936), Akten der Reichskanzlei. Regierung Hitler, vol. 3, 164–​65. 25. Alexander Wolz, Die Rheinlandkrise 1936: Das Auswärtige Amt und der Locarnopakt 1933–​1936 (Munich, 2014), 409–​33. 26. Paul Schmidt, Statist auf diplomatischer Bühne 1923–​45 (Frankfurt, 1964), 320.

Notes to pages 270–274


27. Verhandlungen des Reichstags: Reichstagsprotokolle (Mar. 7, 1936), Bd. 458,  63–​75. 28. Ibid.,  70–​75. 29. Frank Omland, Nationalsozialistische Volksabstimmung und Reichstagswahlen in Kiel 1933–​1938, 51–​59, http://​www.akens.org/​akens/​ texte/​diverses/​konferenz/​FO_​SH_​33–​38_​dt.pdf. 30. Entry (Mar. 23, 1936), Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen, vol. 1, 251. 31. Entry (Mar. 28, 1936), Cohn, Kein Recht, Nirgends. Tagebuch, vol. 1, 316. 32. Entry (May 22, 1937), Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen, vol. 1, 350. 33. Statistisches Jahrbuch für das Deutsche Reich (1937), 565. 34. Bericht, Jan.–​Feb. 1936 (Mar. 20, 1936), Meldungen der Gruppe Neu Beginnen, 654–​56. 35. Ibid. 36. Stimmungsbericht Kreispropagandaleitung Eichstätt (Jan.–​Mar 1936), in Broszat et al., eds., Bayern in der NS-​Zeit, 504. 37. OLGP Jena (May 2, 1936), in BArchiv Berlin: R22/​5087, 23–​24. 38. OLGP Braunschweig (May 6, 1936), in BArchiv Berlin: R22/​ 3357,  11–​13. 39. Monatsbericht des Bezirksamts Aichach (Apr. 3, 1936), in ibid., 358. 40. Bay.HStArchiv: MA 106677, Monatsbericht (Apr. 7, 1936). 41. DAF Reports (Mar. 1936), reprinted in Broszat et al., eds., Bayern in der NS-​Zeit, 249–​50. 42. For critique, see Steuwer, “Ein Drittes Reich, wie ich es auffasse,” 491–​92. 43. For background, see Dieter Petzina, Autarkiepolitik im Dritten Reich: Der nationalsozialistische Vierjahresplan (Stuttgart, 1968). 45–​46. 44. For a perspective emphasizing the second part of the document, see the oft-​cited Wilhelm Treue, “Hitlers Denkschrift zum Vierjahresplan 1936,” VfZ (1955): 184–​210. 45. Dok. 490, Hitler Aufzeichnung (Aug. 1936), Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series C, Band V, 2, 793–​801, here 795. 46. Ibid., 801. 47. Dok. 138, Ministerratssitzung bei Göring (Sept. 4, 1936), Akten der Reichskanzlei. Regierung Hitler, vol. 3, 500–​504. 48. RGBL I, 887. 49. Dok. 158, Erlass Göring (Oct. 22, 1936), also Docs. 159 and 160, in Akten der Reichskanzlei: Regierung Hitler, vol. 3, 559–​75; see also Alfred Kube, Pour le mérite und Hakenkreuz: Hermann Göring im Dritten Reich (Munich, 1986), 156–​63. 50. Müller, Generaloberst Ludwig Beck, 253. 51. Walter Bussmann, “Zur Entstehung und Überlieferung der ‘Hossbach-​ Niederschrift,’ ” VfZ (1968): 573–​84. 52. Bernd-​Jürgen Wendt, Grossdeutschland: Aussenpolitik und Kriegsvorbereitung des Hitler-​Regimes, 2nd ed. (Munich, 1993), 134–​36.


Notes to pages 275–279

53. Dok. 19, Besprechung (Nov. 5), Niederschrift (Nov. 10, 1937), Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series D, Bd. I, 25–​32. 54. Ibid.,  29–​32. 55. Dok. 104, Aufzeichnung eines Offiziers (Jan. 22, 1938), in Klaus-​ Jürgen Müller, Armee und Drittes Reich 1933–​1939: Darstellung und Dokumentation (Paderborn, 1987), 243–​47. 56. Dok. 107 (Feb. 4, 1938), decree, ibid., 252. 57. Dok. 294, Besprechung (Feb. 12, 1938), Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series D, Bd. I, 421–​22. 58. Entries (Mar. 11, 1938—​for the day before; Mar. 12—​for the day before), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 5, 199–​203. 59. Bruce F. Pauley, Hitler and the Forgotten Nazis: A History of Austrian National Socialism (Chapel Hill, NC, 1981), 208–​14. 60. RGBL I, 287–​88. 61. Evan Burr Bukey, Hitler’s Austria: Popular Sentiment in the Nazi Era, 1938–​1945 (Chapel Hill, NC 2000), 33–​39. 62. Hitler speech (Mar. 15, 1938), Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 2, 823–​24. 63. Otmar Jung, Plebiszit und Diktatur: die Volksabstimmungen der Nationalsozialisten (Tübingen, 1995), 114. 64. Stimmung und Lagebericht NSDAP Gauleitung (June 1938), in Meldungen aus Münster, Kuropka, ed., 504–​5. 65. US Holocaust Research Institute Archives: RG 11. Osobyi Achive: Fond 500–​1, Opis 1, folder 161a. Bormann (Mar. 30, 1938), 66. Statistisches Jahrbuch für das Deutsche Reich (1940), 634. 67. Entry (Sept. 1938), Friedrich Percyval Reck-​Malleczewen, Tagebuch eines Verzweifelten (Stuttgart, 1966), 66. 68. Von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant,  93–​96. 69. Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (April/​May 1938), 426–​28. 70. Evans, The Third Reich in Power, 626. 71. Wehler, Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte, 621–​23. 72. Steuwer, “Ein Drittes Reich, wie ich es auffasse,” 491. 73. Hedwig Richter and Ralph Jessen, “Elections, Plebiscites, and Festivals,” in The Oxford Illustrated History of the Third Reich, ed. Robert Gellately, 96–​98 (Oxford, 2018). 74. Entry (Apr. 5, 1938), Klemperer, Ich will Zeugnis ablegen, vol. 1, 401. 75. Dok. 133, Aufzeichnung Schmundt, Führer Besprechung, Studie “Grün,” on Apr. 21, 1938 (Apr. 22, 1938), Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series D, Bd. II, 190–​91. 76. Von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, 100–​103. 77. Dok. 175, Entwurf Weisung (May 20, 1938), Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series D, Bd. II, 236–​40. 78. Von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, 103.

Notes to pages 279–286


79. Dok. 221, Oberste Befehlshaber Wehrmacht an Heer, Marine, Luftwaffe (May 30, 1938), Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series D, Bd. II, 281–​85. 80. As explained to a “newcomer” at the time: Walter Warlimont, Im Hauptquartier der deutschen Wehrmacht 1939–​1945: Grundlagen, Formen, Gestalten (Frankfurt, 1962), 33. 81. Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 2, 924–​33. 82. See, for example, Dok. 149, 155, 158, Beck’s “Betrachtungen” (May 5, 1938); “Denkschrift” (June 3; July 16, 1938), in Müller, Armee und Drittes Reich, 326–​49. 83. [Alfred] Jodl, Dienstliches Tagebuch (Sept. 28; Sept. 29, 1938), Dok. 1780-​ PS, in IMT, 388–​89. 84. Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (Oct. 10, for Sept. 1938), 939–​40. 85. Ibid. 86. Diary entries (Oct. 1, for Sept. 30, 1938; Oct. 2, for Oct. 1, 1938; Oct. 3, for Oct. 2, 1938), Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, part 1, vol. 6, 122; 124, 127–​28. 87. Entry (Sept. 30, 1938), Andreas-​Friedrich, Der Schattenmann, 17. 88. Entry Berlin (Oct. 3, 1938), William L. Shirer, Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent, 1934–​1941 (New York, 1941), 115. 89. Entry (Oct. 1, 1938), Gerhard Engel, Heeresadjutant bei Hitler 1938–​1943, Hildegard von Kotze, ed. (Stuttgart, 1974), 40. 90. Dok. 136-​C, IMT, vol. 34, 477–​81. 91. Dok. 213 (Mar. 14, 1939), Aufzeichung Weizäcker, Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series D, Bd. IV, 221. 92. Cited in Von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, 154. 93. “Hitlers Rede vor der deutschen Presse,” in Hildegard von Kotze et al., eds., “Es spricht der Führer”: 7 exemplarische Hitler-​Reden (Gütersloh, 1966), 268–​86, here 268–​81. 94. Ibid., 285–​86. 95. Von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, 144; Domarus, ed., Hitler: Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 2, 1039. 96. Dok. 166, Hitler speech vor Befehlshabern (Jan. 25, 1939), in Müller, Armee und Drittes Reich, 360–​65, here 360–​62. 97. Ibid., 362–​65. 98. Hitler speech (Jan. 30, 1939), in Verhandlungen des Reichstags: Reichstagsprotokolle (Jan. 30, 1939), Bd. 460, 2–​21, 5–​6. 99. Ibid.,  16–​17. 100. Dok. 167, Hitler speech to Truppenkommandeuren in Berlin (Feb. 10, 1939), in Müller, Armee und Drittes Reich, 365–​75. 101. Dok. 136, telegram (Mar. 31, 1939), Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series D, Bd. VI, 141–​42. 102. Dok. 149, Keitel Weisung and Anlage (Apr. 3, 1939), ibid., 154. See also Dok. 120-​C, IMT, vol. 34, 380–​422, here 388.


Notes to pages 286–290

103. 104. 105. 106. 107.

Von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, 159. Warlimont, Im Hauptquartier der deutschen Wehrmacht,  34–​35. Brechtken, Albert Speer: Eine Deutsche Karriere, 112–​13. Tooze, Wages of Destruction, 315. Dok. 433, Besprechung (May 23, 1939), Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series D, Bd. VI, 477–​83. 108. Klaus-​Jürgen Müller, Das Heer und Hitler: Armee und nationalsozialistisches Regime 1933–​1940 (Stuttgart, 1969), 392. See also Entry (Apr. 18, 1939), Helmuth Groscurth, in Helmut Krausnick and Harold C. Deutsch, eds., Tagebücher eines Abwehroffiziers 1938–​1940: Mit weiteren Dokumenten zur Militäropposition gegen Hitler, (Stuttgart, 1970), 173. 1 09. Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade (May 10, 1939), 425–​35. 1 10. BA Militär-​Archiv: RW 19/​14: Wehrwirtschaftsinspektion VII: Bericht, Munich (Sept. 9, 1938), 56–​57.

Chapter 12

1. Carl J. Burckhardt, Meine Danziger Mission (Munich, 1960), 339–​46. 2. Dok. 192 and Dok. 193, Aufzeichnung ohne Unterschrift (Aug. 22, 1939), Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series D, Bd. VII, 167–​72. For a critique, see Winfried Baumgart, “Zur Ansprache Hitlers vor den Führern der Wehrmacht am 22. August 1939: Eine quellenkritische Untersuchung,” VfZ (1968): 120–​49. 3. For Stalin’s calculations and the documentation, see Robert Gellately, Stalin’s Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War (New York, 2013),  46–​53. 4. Dok. 192 and Dok. 193 (Aug. 22, 1939), Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series D, Bd. VII, 167–​72. 5. Dieter Pohl, Die Herrschaft der Wehrmacht: Deutsche Militärbesatzung und einheimische Bevölkerung in der Sowjetunion 1941–​1944 (Munich, 2008),  52–​53. 6. See Wildt, Generation des Unbedingten, 422. 7. Dok. 1 (n.d.), “Vorschlag für den Einsatz der Geheimen Staatspolizei und des SD RFSS im Falle Polen,” in Stephan Lehnstaedt and Jochen Böhler, eds., Die Berichte der Einsatzgruppen aus Polen 1939, Vollständige Edition (Berlin, 2013), 23–​44. 8. Entries (Sept. 5 and 16, 1939), in Hubert Orlowski and Thomas F. Schneider, eds., “Erschiessen will ich nicht!” Als Offizier und Christ im Totalen Krieg (Düsseldorf, 2006), 38–​39; 43–​44. 9. Helmut Krausnick and Hans-​Heinrich Wilhelm, Die Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges: Die Einsatzgruppen der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD 1938–​1942 (Stuttgart, 1981), 44–​49. 10. BArchiv Berlin R58/​285, 1ff. 11. Krausnick and Wilhelm, Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges,  63–​64.

Notes to pages 291–294


12. BArchiv Berlin, R58/​825. See also Entry (September 30, 1939), Goebbels Tagebücher, part 1, vol. 7, 130. 13. BArchiv Berlin R58/​276, 232–​35. 14. Richard J. Evans, The Third Reich at War (New York, 2008), 9–​15. 15. Diary Entry (Sept. 29, 1929), Alfred Rosenberg: Die Tagebücher, 290–​92. 16. Verhandlungen des Reichstags: Reichstagsprotokolle (Oct. 6, 1939), Bd. 460,  51–​63. 17. Christian Ingrao, The Promise of the East: Nazi Hopes and Genocide, 1939–​ 43 (Medford, MA, 2019), 40. 18. Martin Broszat, “Nationalsozialistische Konzentrationslager,” in Broszat et al., Anatomie des SS-​Staates, vol. 2, 86–​93. 19. BArchiv Berlin: R 58/​243, 202–​4: Chef der Sipo Runderl.: Grundsätze der inneren Staatssicherung während des Krieges (Sept. 3, 1939). 20. RGBL I (Sept. 6, 1939), 1679. 21. Doc. 864-​PS, IMT, vol. 26, 378–​83. 22. Doc. 65 (Sept. 29, 1939), in Jürgen Matthäus et al., eds., War, Pacification, and Mass Murder, 1939: The Einsatzgruppen in Poland (Lanham, MD, 2014), 123–​24. 23. Entry (Sept. 28, 1939), Engel, Heeresadjutant, 63. 24. BArch Berlin R75/​3b, 7–​8. 25. Ingo Loose, “Wartheland,” in Wolf Gruner and Jörg Osterloh, eds., The Greater German Reich and the Jews: Nazi Persecution Policies in the Annexed Territories, 1935–​1945 (New York, 2017), 189–​218, here 190. 26. Volker Riess, Die Anfänge der Vernichtung “lebensunwerten Lebens” in den Reichsgauen Danzig-​Westpreussen und Warteland 1939–​40 (Frankfurt am Main, 1995), 24–​25. 27. Ibid., 171. 28. Christopher R. Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939–​March 1942 (Lincoln, NE, 2004), 188–​89. See Doks. 18–​20, Klee, ed., Dokumente zur “Euthanasie,” 70–​81; also Ernst Klee, “Euthanasie” im NS-​Staat: Die Vernichtung “lebensunwerten Lebens” (Frankfurt, 1983), 95–​100. 29. DRZW, vol. 2, 282. 30. Von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, 232–​35. 31. Verhandlungen des Reichstags: Reichstagsprotokolle (July 19, 1940), Bd. 460,  65–​79. 32. Reports (June 24; July 25–​29, 1940), Heinz Boberach, ed., Meldungen aus dem Reich: Die geheimen Lageberichte des Sicherheitsdienstes der SS 1938–​ 1945 (Herrsching, 1984), vol. 4, 1305; vol. 5, 1412–​38. 33. Entry (July 24, 1940), Friedrich Kellner, “Vernebelt, verdunkelt sind alle Hirne”: Tagebücher 1931–​1945 (Göttingen, 2013), vol. 1, 80. 34. Eric Kurlander, Living with Hitler: Liberal Democrats in the Third Reich (London, 2009), 139–​41.


Notes to pages 294–299

35. Wolfram Wette, Die Wehrmacht: Feindbilder, Vernichtungskrieg, Legenden (Frankfurt, 2002), 153–​54. 36. Entry (July 31, 1940), Halder, War Diary, 241–​46. 37. See Weinberg, ed., Hitlers Zweites Buch, 122–​23. 38. Andreas Hillgruber, Hitlers Strategie: Politik und Kriegsführung 1940–​1941, 3rd ed. (Bonn, 1993), 65–​278. 39. Steven Kotkin, Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929–​1941 (New York, 2017), 817. 40. Entry (Jan. 16, 1941), Halder, War Diary, 310–​11. 41. Domarus, Hitler Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 4, 1663. 42. Hartwig, Die Dinge lagen damals anders,  103–​4. 43. Hitler (Mar. 3, 1941), in Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht, vol. 1, 341. 44. Entry (Mar. 30, 1941), Halder, War Diary, 345–​47. 45. Hürter, Hitlers Heerführer, 12. 46. Alex J. Kay, Exploitation, Resettlement, Mass Murder: Political and Economic Planning for German Occupation Policy in the Soviet Union, 1940–​1941 (New York, 2011), 121. 47. Dok. 2718-​PS, IMT, vol. 31, 84. 48. Doc. 126-​EC, IMT, vol. 36, 135–​57, here 145. See Christian Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde: Die deutsche Wirtschafts-​und Vernichtungspolitik in Weissrussland 1941 bis 1944 (Hamburg, 1999), 44–​58. 49. Dok. 11 and 12, in Hans-​Adolf Jacobsen, “Kommissarbefehl und Massenexekutionen sowjetischer Kriegsgefangener,” in Broszat et al., Anatomie des SS-​Staates, vol. 2, 187, 189. 50. Felix Römer, Der Kommissarbefehl: Wehrmacht und NS-​Verbrechen an der Ostfront 1941–​42 (Paderborn, 2008), 367, 535–​37. 51. Hürter, Hitlers Heerführer, 172–​73. 52. DRZW, vol. 4, 183–​89. 53. Krausnick and Wilhelm, Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges, 128–​29, 145. 54. Ibid., 150–​51. 55. Hürter, Hitlers Heerführer, 520–​21. 56. Domarus, Hitler Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 4, 1726–​32. 57. Jeffrey Herf, The Jewish Enemy: Nazi Propaganda during World War II and the Holocaust (Cambridge, MA, 2006), 99–​105. 58. VB (June 29, 1941), 1. 59. Reports (June 26; July 7, 1941), Meldungen aus dem Reich, vol. 7, 2443, 2470. 60. Von Ditfurth, Innenansichten eines Artgenossen, 170–​73. 61. Dok. 221-​L, IMT, vol. 38, 86–​94. 62. See Jochen Böhler and Robert Gerwarth, eds., The Waffen-​SS: A European History (Oxford, 2017). 63. For details, see Gellately, Backing Hitler, 151–​82. 64. Pohl, Die Herrschaft der Wehrmacht, 244–​47.

Notes to pages 299–303


65. Heydrich to ESG (June 26, 1941), in Peter Klein, ed., Die Einsatzgruppen in der besetzten Sowjetunion 1941–​42: Die Tätigkeits-​und Lageberichte des Chefs der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD (Berlin, 1997), 318–​19. 66. Andrej Andrick, Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord: Die Einsatzgruppe D in der südlichen Sowjetunion 1941–​1942 (Hamburg, 2003), 131–​32. 67. Krausnick and Wilhelm, Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges,  205–​7. 68. Wolfram Wette, Karl Jäger: Mörder der litauischen Juden, 3rd ed. (Frankfurt, 2012), 87–​129; Jäger Bericht (Dec. 1, 1941), reprinted in appendix. 69. Dok. 180-​L, IMT, vol. 37, 670–​717. 70. Andrej Angrick and Peter Klein, The “Final Solution” in Riga: Exploitation and Annihilation, 1941–​1944 (New York, 2012), 130–​63. 71. Ibid., 203. Also Strauss, In the Eye of the Storm, 183–​86; H. G. Adler, Der verwaltete Mensch: Studien zur Deportation der Juden aus Deutschland (Tübingen, 1974), 323–​465. 72. Dok. 70, Jeckeln to Himmler (Aug.30, 1941), in VEJ, 7, 270–​71; Krausnick and Wilhelm, Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges, 249–​50; Ingrao, Believe and Destroy, 152–​54. 73. Wette, Die Wehrmacht, 118–​19. 74. The classic account is Anatoli Kuznetsov, Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel (London, 1970). 75. Wette, Die Wehrmacht,  101–​2. 76. Hürter, Hitlers Heerführer, 181–​82. 77. Entry (Oct. 28, 1941), Kellner, Tagebücher, vol. 1, 191–​92. 78. Cited in Thomas Sandkühler, “Endlösung” in Galizien: Der Judenmord in Ostpolen und der Rettungsinitiativen von Berthold Beitz 1941–​1944 (Bonn, 1996), 117–​18. 79. Ibid., 120. 80. See Omer Bartov, Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz (New York, 2018); Shimon Redlich, Together and Apart in Brzezany: Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians, 1919–​1945 (Bloomington, IN, 2002),  106–​7. 81. Dok. 51 (Aug. 1, 1941), in VEJ, 7, 227–​28. 82. RSHA Order (Aug. 1, 1941), in Klein, ed., Die Einsatzgruppen, 342. 83. Krausnick and Wilhelm, Truppe des Weltanschauungskrieges, 540–​41. 84. Entry (July 24, 1942), Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche, 189–​90. 85. See Isabel Heinemann and Patrick Wagner, eds., Wissenschaft, Planung, Vertreibung: Neuordnungskonzepte und Umsiedlungspolitik im 20. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart, 2006). 86. Speech (June 4, 1942), Himmler, Geheimreden, 159. 87. See Dok. 72, Czeslaw Madajczyk, ed., Vom Generalplan Ost zum Generalsiedlungsplan (Munich, 1994), 256. Further sources in Robert Gellately, “The Third Reich, the Holocaust, and Visions of Serial Genocide,” in Robert Gellately and Ben Kiernan, eds., The Specter of Genocide: Mass Murder in Historical Perspective (Cambridge, 2003), 241–​63.


Notes to pages 303–308

88. Loose, “Wartheland,” 204. 89. Himmler to Greiser in Adler, Der verwaltete Mensch, 173. 90. Entry (Sept. 17, 1941), in Peter Witte et al., eds., Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers 1941–​42 (Hamburg, 1999), 213, n. 57. 91. Dok. 710-​PS, IMT, vol. 26, 266–​67. 92. Herbert, Geschichte Deutschlands, 473–​74. 93. See, for example, Dok. 582 and 583 (Nov. 9 and 11, 1941), in Kulka and Jäckel, eds., Die Juden in den geheimen NS-​Stimmungsberichte, 465. 94. Diary entries (Sept. 19; Oct. 11; Nov. 15, 1941), Cohn, Kein Recht, Nirgends: Tagebuch, vol. 2, 982, 991, 1008. 95. Inge Deutschkron, Ich trug den gelben Stern (Cologne, 1978), 87, 93–​94. 96. Diary entries (Sept. 21; Sept. 6, 1941), Else R. Behrend-​Rosenfeld, Ich stand nicht allein: Leben einer Jüdin in Deutschland 1933–​1944 (Munich, 1988), 115–​18. 97. Entries (Mar. 3; Oct. 27, 1940; Nov. 16, 1941); ibid., 79, 91, 121–​29. 98. Gendarmerie Forchheim (Nov. 11, 1941), in Kulka and Jäckel, eds., Die Juden in den geheimen NS-​Stimmungsberichte, 474. 99. SD Minden (Dec. 6 and 12, 1941), ibid., 476–​77. 100. Browning, Origins, 355–​56; 372. 101. Yitzhak Arad, Bełżec, Sobibór, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps (Bloomington, IN, 1987), 11. 102. Patrick Montague, Chełmno and the Holocaust: The History of Hitler’s First Death Camp (Chapel Hill, NC, 2012), 34–​54. Figures in Stephan Lehnstaedt, Der Kern des Holocaust: Bełżec Sobibór, Treblinka, und die Aktion Reinhardt (Munich, 2017), 33. 103. Entry in Witte et al., eds., Der Dienstkalender Heinrich Himmlers, 233–​34. 104. Johannes Sachslehner, Zwei Millionen ham’ ma erledigt: Odilo Globocnik Hitlers Manager des Todes (Vienna, 2014), 20–​97. 105. Lehnstaedt, Kern des Holocaust, 34. 106. Arad, Bełżec, Sobibór, Treblinka, 376. 107. Sara Berger, Experten der Vernichtung: Das T4-​Reinhardt Netzwerk in den Lagern Belzec, Sobibor, und Treblinka (Hamburg, 2013), 298–​316. 108. Arad, Bełżec, Sobibór, Treblinka, 377. 109. Ibid.,  333. 110. Ibid.,  298. 111. Adalbert Rückerl, ed., NS-​Vernichtungslager im Spiegel deutscher Strafprozesse: Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Chelmno (Munich, 1977), 13, n. 13. 112. Speech (June 4, 1942), Himmler, Geheimreden, 159. 113. Dok. 96, Himmler to Friedrich-​Wilhelm Krüger (July 19, 1942), VEJ, vol. 9, 337. 114. Dok. PS-​4024 (Jan. 5, 1944), IMT, vol. 34, 58–​89. 115. Arad, Bełżec, Sobibór, Treblinka, 161. 116. Sybille Steinbacher, Auschwitz: Geschichte und Nachgeschichte (Munich, 2004),  71–​72.

Notes to pages 308–312


117. Browning, Origins, 357–​58. 118. Steinbacher, Auschwitz, 105. 119. Dok. 286, VEJ, 5, 735. Robert Gerwarth, Hitler’s Hangman: The Life of Heydrich (London, 2011), 205. 120. Adler, Der verwaltete Mensch,  29–​32. 121. Peter Longerich, Wannsee-​Konferenz: Der Weg zur “Endlösung” (Munich, 2016),  57–​62. 122. Entry (Oct. 10, 1941), Goebbels Tagebücher, part 2, vol. 2, 86–​87. 123. Bernhard R. Kroener, Generaloberst Friedrich Fromm: Eine Biographie (Paderborn, 2005), 410–​17. 124. Entry (Nov. 24, 1941), Halder, War Diary, 564. 125. Walter Rohland, Bewegte Zeiten: Erinnerungen eines Eisenhüttenmannes (Stuttgart, 1978), 77–​78; Tooze, Wages, 507. 126. DRZW, vol. 4, 772. 127. Entry (Dec. 8, 1941), Goebbels Tagebücher, part 2, vol. 2, 453. 128. Hitler speech in Verhandlungen des Reichstags: Reichstagsprotokolle (Dec. 11, 1941), Bd. 460, 93–​106. 129. Entry (Dec. 13, 1941), Goebbels Tagebücher, part 2, vol. 2, 498–​99. 130. Christian Gerlach, The Extermination of the European Jews (Cambridge, 2016), 82, continues to hold to the December 12 date. Ullrich, Hitler Biographie. Bd. 2, 314, finds the conclusion “plausible.” For a succinct response, see Longerich, Wannsee,  57–​61. 131. Domarus, Hitler Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 4, 1828–​29. 132. Report (Feb. 2, 1942), Meldungen aus dem Reich, vol. 9, 3235. 133. See, for example, entry (July 22, 1942), Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche, 453–​54. 134. Speech (Feb. 18, 1943), in Heiber, ed., Goebbels Reden, vol. 2, 172–​208. 135. Warlimont, Im Hauptquartier der deutschen Wehrmacht, 348. 136. Report (Aug. 2, 1943), Meldungen aus dem Reich, vol. 14, 5562. 137. Dietmar Süss, Tod aus der Luft: Kriegsgesellschaft und Luftkrieg in Deutschland und England (Munich, 2011), 88. 138. Entry (Aug. 20, 1943), Reck-​Malleczewen, Tagebuch eines Verzweifelten, 177. 139. Hitler Weisung Nr. 51 (Nov. 3, 1943), Walther Hubatsch, ed., Hitlers Weisungen für die Kriegsführung 1939–​1945: Dokumente des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht (Frankfurt, 1962), 233–​40. 140. See Willy Peter Reese, Mir selber seltsam fremd: Russland 1941–​44 (Munich, 2003). 141. DRZW, vol. 9, part 1, 590–​91. 142. See, for example, Christoph Rass, “Menschenmaterial”: Deutsche Soldaten an der Ostfront. Innenansichten einer Infantriedivision, 1939–​1945 (Paderborn, 2003), 411–​12. 143. Himmler speeches (May 5 and 24, 1944), Himmler, Geheimreden,  202–​3.


Notes to pages 313–323

144. Domarus, Hitler Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 4, 2179–​87. 145. Entry (Mar. 12, 1944), Goebbels Tagebücher, part 2, vol. 15, 486. 146. Robert Gellately, “Decline and Collapse,” in Gellately, ed., Oxford Illustrated History of the Third Reich, 340.


1. Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 2, 1307–​9. 2. Ian Kershaw, Popular Opinion and Political Dissent in the Third Reich: Bavaria, 1933–​1945 (Oxford, 1983), 317. 3. Elisabeth Noelle and Erich Peter Neumann, eds., Jahrbuch der öffentlichen Meinung (Allensbach, 1956), 134. 4. Table 2 Allensbacher Archiv, IfD-​Umfrage 4055 (Mar. 1985). One percent offered no information. 5. Leo, Haltet euer Herz bereit, 144–​48. 6. Lothar Erdmann, “Nation, Gewerkschaften, und Sozialismus,” in Arbeit (Mar.–​Apr. 1933), 129–​61, cited in Winkler, Der Weg in die Katastrophe, 894–​95. See also Michael Schneider, In der Kriegsgesellschaft. Arbeiter und Arbeiterbewegung 1939 bis 1945 (Bonn, 2014), 769. 7. Peter Hayes, “The Economy,” in Gellately, ed., Oxford Illustrated History of the Third Reich, 189–​212, here 194. 8. Ibid., 195. 9. Konstantin Hierl (1933), cited in Hermann Beck, “The Antibourgeois Character of National Socialism,” Journal of Modern History (2016): 572–​ 609, here 602. 10. See, for example, the father of historian Joachim Fest, a pious Catholic who detested both Catholic leader Franz von Papen and KPD leader Ernst Thälmann, in Fest, Ich nicht, 88; or the conservative Reck-​ Malleczewen, Tagebuch eines Verzweifelten. Interesting here are the letters of Ernst Thälmann from German imprisonment, An Stalin: Briefe aus dem Zuchthaus 1939 bis 1941, Wolfram Adophi and Jörn Schütrumph, eds. (Berlin, 1996). 11. Nicholas Stargardt, The German War: A Nation under Arms, 1939–​45 (London, 2015), 312–​15; Thomas Rohkrämer, Die fatale Attraktion des Nationalsozialismus, 240–​57. 12. Entry (July 27, 1941), Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier,  47–​48. 13. Stargardt, The German War, 244, 257–​58. 14. Frank Bajohr and Dieter Pohl, Der Holocaust als offenes Geheimnis: Die Deutschen, die NS-​Führung, und die Alliierten (Munich, 2006), 15–​79, here 78. 15. Entry (Jan. 27, 1941), Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier, 241. 16. David Cesarani, Becoming Eichmann: Rethinking the Life, Crimes, and Trial of a “Desk Murder” (Cambridge MA, 2006), 125. 17. See Adler, Der verwaltete Mensch,  47–​54.

Notes to pages 324–329


18. Hitler secret speech (May 30, 1942), in Picker, Hitlers Tischgespräche, 491–​502. 19. Entry for prior days (May 8 and 10, 1943), Goebbels Tagebücher, part 2, vol. 2, 228–​41, 259. 20. Wilhelm, ed., “Hitlers Ansprache vor Generalen und Offizieren am 26. Mai 1944,” 146, 155–​56. 21. Ibid., 160–​61. 22. Von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, 376. 23. See, for example, Bernd Wegner, “Hitler, der Zweite Weltkrieg, und die Choreographie des Untergangs,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft (2000): 493–​ 518; Ullrich, Hitler Biographie. Bd. 2, 591–​627. 24. Archiv IfZ: F19/​3: Ansprache Hitler vor Generälen und Offizieren am 22. June 1944 im Platterhof, 55, 66. 25. See my review of recent German literature in Journal of Modern History (2015): 479–​85. 26. Felix Römer, Kameraden: Die Wehrmacht von innen (Munich, 2012), 70, 79, 283, 418. See also Klaus Latzel, Deutsche Soldaten—​ nationalsozialistischer Krieg? Kriegserlebnis—​Kriegserfahrung 1939–​1945 (Paderborn, 1998). 27. For critical remarks see Omer Bartov, “The Missing Years. German Workers, German Soldiers,” in David F. Crew, ed., Nazism and German Society (New York, 1994), 41–​66; also Omer Bartov, Hitler’s Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich (Oxford, 1992). 28. Orlowski and Schneider, eds., “Erschiessen will ich nicht!” Als Offizier und Christ im Totalen Krieg, 195, 196, 328, 351. 29. Detlef Vogel, “Der Kriegsalltag im Spiegel von Feldpostbriefen (1939–​ 1945),” in Wolfram Wette, ed., Der Krieg des kleinen Mannes: Eine Militärgeschichte von unten (Munich, 1992), 199–​212; Ortwin Buchbender and Reinhold Sterz, eds., Das andere Gesicht des Krieges: Deutsche Feldpostbriefe 1939–​1945 (Munich, 1982). 30. Sven Keller, Volksgemeinschaft am Ende: Gesellschaft und Gewalt 1944–​45 (Munich, 2013), 419–​29. 31. Domarus, Hitler Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 4, 2203–​7. 32. Dok. 80 (Mar. 9, 1945), in Wette et al., eds., Das letzte halbe Jahr, 295–​96. 33. Entry (Mar. 12, 1945), Goebbels Tagebücher, part 2, vol. 15, 486. 34. Entry (Mar. 14, 1945), ibid., 500–​501. 35. See Hitler, Mein Kampf, kritische Edition, vol. 2, 1563. 36. Brechtken, Albert Speer. Eine deutsche Karriere, 278–​79. 37. Longerich, Hitler. Biographie, 991; Longerich, Joseph Goebbels: Biographie, 670. 38. Weisung Nr. 75 (Apr. 15, 1945), Hubatsch, ed., Hitlers Weisungen für die Kriegsführung, 310–​11. 39. Christian Goeschel, Suicide in Nazi Germany (Oxford, 2009), 164–​65. 40. Gellately, Backing Hitler, 224–​55.


Notes to pages 329–331

41. Marc Buggeln, Slave Labor in Nazi Concentration Camps (Oxford, 2014), 263–​64. 42. Letter Orlowski and Schneider, eds., “Erschiessen will ich nicht!” Als Offizier und Christ im Totalen Krieg, 347–​48. For further exploration, see Stargardt, The German War, 482–​520. 43. Entry (Feb. 24, 1945), Sven Keller, ed., Kriegstagebuch einer jungen Nationalsozialistin: Die Aufzeichnungen Wolfhilde von Königs (Berlin, 2015), 204. 44. Dok. 75 (Feb. 1, 1945), in Wolfram Wette et al., eds., Das letzte halbe Jahr: Stimmungsberichte der Wehrmachtpropaganda 1944–​45 (Essen, 2001), 227–​28. 45. Dok. 80 (Mar. 9, 1945), in ibid., 293–​95. 46. Entry (Mar. 7, 1945), Kellner, Tagebücher, vol. 2, 914–​15. 47. Peter Brückner, Das Abseits als sicherer Ort: Kindheit und Jugend zwischen 1933 und 1945 (Berlin, 1980), 148. 48. See, for example, SD-​Schweinfurt (Sept. 6, 1943); SD-​Schwerin (Mar. 7, 1944); SD-​Bad Brückenau (Mar. 1944), in Kulka and Jäckel, eds., Die Juden in den geheimen NS-​Stimmungsberichte, 531, 537–​38, 540. 49. Dok. 81 (Mar. 31, 1945), Wette et al., eds., Das letzte halbe Jahr, 317. 50. See, for example, Note (May 6, 1945), in Margret Boveri, Tage des Überlebens Berlin 1945 (Berlin, 2004), 125. 51. Diary entry (Apr. 26, 1945) written in 1947, Traudl Junge, assisted by Melissa Müller, Bis zur letzten Stunde: Hitlers Sekretärin erzählt ihr Leben, 5th ed. (Munich, 2002), 196–​97. 52. Nuremberg Doc. 3369-​PS, reprinted in Domarus, Hitler Reden und Proklamationen, vol. 4, 2236–​39. 53. Von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant, 414–​17.


Archival Sources Essential documentation for this study is located in the German federal archives at the Bundesarchiv Berlin and in Koblenz, as well as in the Bundesarchiv-​ Militärarchiv Freiburg (BA-​MA). I was able to use the Osoby Archiv Moscow, by way of microfilmed copies of captured German files, now held at the United States Holocaust Research Institute Archives (USHMM) in Washington. I also found important documents at Munich’s Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ), and in its journal, the Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte (cited as VfZ). Otherwise the archival sources are spread widely in Germany’s regional and local archives. I used those in Bamberg, Berlin, Berlin-​Dahlem, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Koblenz, Landshut, Ludwigsburg, Marburg, Munich, Neuburg an der Donau, Nuremberg, Potsdam, Speyer, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden, and Würzburg. The exact files are cited in the endnotes. Primary Published Sources The best place to begin is with Hitler’s writings and speeches, as well as those of the many other Nazi leaders. Surprisingly, Hitler’s words remain scattered, particularly for the years of the Third Reich. For the period up to 1933, we have Eberhard Jäckel and Axel Kuhn, eds., Hitler Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen 1905–​1924 (Stuttgart: DVA, 1980). Hitler’s speeches and writings up to 1933 have been collected and published as Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen (Munich: De Gruyter Saur, 1992–​2003), 5 vols. in 12 parts. A similar edition 401


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of his writings and speeches for the period 1933–​1945 does not yet exist, and is now in preparation under the leadership of Dr. Magnus Brechtken of the IfZ. That institute also has sponsored an annotated edition of Hitler’s Mein Kampf: Eine kritische Edition, Christian Hartmann, Thomas Vordermayer, Othmar Plöckinger, Roman Töppel, eds. (Munich: Institut für Zeitgeschichte, 2016), in two large volumes. I have used its pagination in this book. For analysis, see Othmar Plöckinger, Geschichte eines Buches: Adolf Hitlers “Mein Kampf,” 1922–​1945 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2011); Florian Beierl and Othmar Plöckinger, “Neue Dokumente zu Hitlers Buch Mein Kampf,” VfZ (2009): 261–​96; Roman Töppel, “ ‘Volk und Rasse.’ Hitlers Quellen auf der Spur,” VfZ (2016): 1–​35. Hitler’s “second book” was discovered and published by Gerhard L. Weinberg, ed., Hitlers Zweites Buch, and appeared in the collection Hitler Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen, vol. 2a, also in translation as Hitler’s Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf (New York: Enigma, 2003). There are several partial or thematic collections of Hitler’s writings and speeches during the Third Reich, the best known being Max Domarus, ed., Hitler Reden und Proklamationen, 1932–​1945 (Leonberg: Pamminger, 1988ff.), 4 vols., also in English translation. Caution is advised, as the speeches are usually reprinted only in part, with large sections summarized or excluded. And that collection is far from complete. Hitler’s speeches in full to the Reichstag can be found in Verhandlungen des Reichstags: Reichstagsprotokolle, now accessible online. For his wartime ramblings at table, see Adolf Hitler, Monologe im Führerhauptquartier 1941–​1944, Werner Jochmann, ed. (Munich: Wilhelm Heyne, 1980), and Henry Picker, ed., Hitlers Tischgespräche im Führerhauptquartier, 3rd ed. (Stuttgart: Seewald, 1976). His interventions behind the scenes as head of government can be read in the series Akten der Reichskanzlei. Regierung Hitler (Boppard am Rhein: Boldt, 1983ff.), 11 vols. For foreign policy I have used the official Akten zur Deutschen Auswärtigen Politik, Series C and D. The latter also contains much useful military documentation, as does Klaus-​Jürgen Müller, Armee und Drittes Reich 1933–​ 1939: Darstellung und Dokumentation (Paderborn: Schöningh, 1987). Some of Hitler’s remarks on the war can be found in Kriegstagebuch des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht (Frankfurt, 1965), 4 vols. Many documents were gathered by postwar prosecutors, some of which were published as Der Prozess gegen die Hauptkriegsverbrecher vor dem Internationalen Militärgerichtshof (14. November 1945 bis 1. Oktober 1946): Amtlicher Text in deutscher Sprache, in 42 vols., cited as IMT, with document numbers. Only some of this material is available in English and online. Other useful collections include Robert Eikmeyer, ed., Adolf Hitler. Reden zur Kunst-​und Kunstpolitik (Frankfurt: Keller, 2004); and Hildegard von Kotze et al., eds., “Es spricht der Führer”: 7 exemplarische Hitler-​Reden (Gütersloh: Siegbert Mohn, 1966). Hitler’s speeches were mostly published in the German press, and I have used various German newspapers, as cited in the text, with the most important being the Völkischer Beobachter (Racialist observer). Others, including secret speeches, are cited in the endnotes.

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Many of those around Hitler kept diaries or wrote letters, and these are essential primary sources. The most important of these by far are Die Tagebücher von Joseph Goebbels, Elke Fröhlich, ed. (Munich: Saur, 1993–​2008), 32 vols. Key events are covered in Joseph Goebbels, Vom Kaiserhof zur Reichskanzlei: Eine historische Darstellung in Tagebuchblättern, 4th ed. (Munich: Franz Eher, 1934). See also Helmut Heiber, ed., Goebbels Reden 1932–​1939 (Munich: Heyne, 1971–​ 1972), 2 vols. Among the many other accounts by men and women around Hitler, the following proved useful: Anton Drexler, Mein politisches Erwachen: Aus dem Tagebuch eines Deutschen sozialistischen Arbeiters, 4th ed. (org. ed. 1923, Munich: Deutscher Volksverlag, 1937); Dietrich Eckart, Der Bolschewismus von Moses bis Lenin: Zweigespräch zwischen Adolf Hitler und mir (Munich: Hoheneichen Verlag, 1924); Ernst Röhm, Die Geschichte eines Hochverräters, 5th ed. (Munich: Eher, 1934); Wolf Rüdiger Hess, ed., Rudolf Hess—​Briefe 1908–​1933 (Munich: Langen Müller, 1987); Heinrich Himmler, Geheimreden 1933 bis 1945 und andere Ansprachen, Bradley F. Smith and Agnes F. Peterson, eds. (Frankfurt: Propylaen, 1979); Werner T. Angress and Bradley F. Smith, “Diaries of Heinrich Himmler’s Early Years,” Journal of Modern History (1959): 206–​24; Katrin Himmler and Michael Wildt, eds., Himmler private: Briefe eines Massenmörders, 2nd ed. (Munich: Piper, 2014); Alfred Rosenberg, Letzte Aufzeichnungen: Nürnberg 1945/​46, 2nd ed. (Uelzen: Jomsburg, 1996); Jürgen Matthäus and Frank Bajohr, eds., Alfred Rosenberg: Die Tagebücher von 1934 bis 1944 (Frankfurt: Fischer, 2015); Otto Dietrich, 12 Jahre mit Hitler (Munich: Isar, 1955); Joachim von Ribbentrop, Zwischen London und Moskau: Erinnerungen und letzte Aufzeichnungen (Leoni am Starnberger See: Druffel, 1953); Lina Heydrich, Leben mit einem Kriegsverbrecher (Pfaffenhofen: Ludwig, 1976); Albert Speer, Inside the Third Reich, Memoirs (New York: Macmillan, 1970); Paul Schmidt, Statist auf diplomatischer Bühne 1923–​45 (Frankfurt: AULA, 1964); Christa Schroeder, Er war mein Chef: Aus dem Nachlass der Sekretärin von Adolf Hitler (Munich: Langen Müller, 1985); Traudl Junge, assisted by Melissa Müller, Bis zur letzten Stunde: Hitlers Sekretärin erzählt ihr Leben, 5th ed. (Munich: Claassen, 2002); Rudolf Diels, Lucifer Ante Portas . . . es spricht der erste Chef der Gestapo (Stuttgart: DVA, 1950); Otto Wagener’s memoirs, Henry Ashby Turner Jr., ed., Hitler aus nächster Nähe. Aufzeichnungen eines Vertrauten 1929–​1932 (Frankfurt: Ullstein, 1978); Albert Krebs, Tendenzen und Gestalten der NSDAP: Erinnerungen an die Frühzeit der Partei (Stuttgart: DVA, 1959); Heinrich Hoffmann, Hitler wie ich ihn sah: Aufzeichnungen seines Leibfotografen (Munich: Herbig, 1974); and Ernst Hanfstaengl, Hitler: The Missing Years (New York: Arcade, 1994). For the war years see Nicolaus von Below, Als Hitlers Adjutant 1937–​45 (Mainz: Hase & Koehler, 1980); Gerhard Engel, Heeresadjutant bei Hitler 1938–​1943, Hildegard von Kotze, ed. (Stuttgart: DVA, 1974); Helmuth Groscurth, Tagebücher eines Abwehroffiziers 1938–​1940: Mit weiteren Dokumenten zur Militäropposition gegen Hitler, Helmut Krausnick and Harold C. Deutsch, eds. (Stuttgart: DVA, 1970); Walter Warlimont, Im Hauptquartier der deutschen Wehrmacht 1939–​1945:


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Grundlagen, Formen, Gestalten (Frankfurt: Bernard & Graefe, 1962). I have cited others in the endnotes. The Bundesarchiv and IfZ have sponsored a new documentary collection on the persecution of the Jews (cited as VEJ), Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland 1933–​1945 (Munich: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2008ff.), in 16 vols. A crucial secondary source for military history (cited as DRZW) is Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg (Stuttgart: DVA, 1979ff.), in 10 vols. For “official” primary materials on the consumption/​rejection of National Socialism, there are several important collections: Meldungen aus dem Reich 1938–​1945: Die geheimen Lageberichte des Sicherheitsdienstes der SS, Heinz Boberach, ed. (Herrsching: Pawlak, 1984), 17 vols.; and Otto Dov Kulka and Eberhard Jäckel, eds., Die Juden in den geheimen NS-​Stimmungsberichte 1933–​1945 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 2004). See also Anselm Faust, Bernd-​A. Rusinek, and Burkhard Dietz, eds., Lageberichte Rheinischer Gestapostellen (Düsseldorf: Droste, 2012ff.), 2 vols. in 3 parts; Gestapo Hannover meldet: Polizei-​ und Regierungsberichte für das mittlere und südliche Niedersachen zwischen 1933 und 1937, Klaus Mlynek, ed. (Hildesheim: August Lax, 1986); Die Geheimen Staatspolizei in den Preussischen Ostprovinzen 1934–​36: Pommern 1934–​36 Quellen, Robert Thévoz et al., eds. (Cologne: Grote, 1974); and Meldungen aus Münster 1924–​1944, Joachim Kuropka, ed. (Münster: Regensberg, 1992). On the civilian underground reception of the Third Reich, see Die Meldungen der Gruppe Neu Beginnen aus dem Dritten Reich 1933–​1936, Bernd Stöver, ed. (Bonn: Dietz, 1996); and Deutschland-​Berichte der Sopade, 1934–​1940 (Frankfurt: Zweitausendeins, 1980), 7 vols. I have used many ego documents, particularly diaries and letters. Only occasionally have I resorted to memoirs, because these are not as reliable for this book’s purposes. References to the extensive material published at the time by either the main characters, true believers, or their supporters and critics can be found in the endnotes. Select Secondary Sources and Ego Documents Abel, Theodore. Why Hitler Came to Power. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986, org. ed., 1938. Abrath, Gottfried. Subjekt und Milieu im NS-​Staat: Die Tagebücher des Pfarrers Hermann Klugkist Hesse, 1936–​1939. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994. Ackermann, Josef. Heinrich Himmler als Ideologe. Göttingen: Musterschmidt, 1970. Adler, H. G. Der verwaltete Mensch: Studien zur Deportation der Juden aus Deutschland. Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1974. Allen, William Sheridan. The Nazi Seizure of Power: The Experience of a Single German Town, 1922–​1945. rev. ed. New York: Watts, 1984. Alleweldt, Bertold. Herbert Backe: Eine politische Biographie. Berlin: WvB, 2011.

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Andreas-​Friedrich, Ruth. Der Schattenmann: Tagebuchaufzeichnungen 1938–​1945. Berlin: Suhrkamp, 1947. Angermund, Ralph. Deutsche Richterschaft 1919–​1945. Frankfurt: Fischer, 1990. Andrick, Andrej. Besatzungspolitik und Massenmord: Die Einsatzgruppe D in der südlichen Sowjetunion 1941–​1942. Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2003. Andrick, Andrej, and Peter Klein, The “Final Solution” in Riga: Exploitation and Annihilation, 1941–​1944. New York: Berghahn, 2012. Arad, Yitzhak. Bełżec, Sobibór, Treblinka: The Operation Reinhard Death Camps. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987. Arndt, Karl. “Architektur und Politik.” In Albert Speer Architektur: Arbeiten 1933–​ 1942, edited by Karl Arndt et al., 113–​35. Frankfurt: Ullstein, 1978. Aronson, Shlomo. Reinhard Heydrich und die Frühgeschichte von Gestapo und SD. Stuttgart: DVA, 1971. Axmann, Artur. Hitlerjugend: “Das kann doch nicht das Ende sein.” Koblenz: S. Bublies, 1991. Ayass, Wolfgang, ed. “Gemeinschaftsfremde”: Quellen zur Verfolgung von “Asozialen” 1933–​1945. Koblenz: Bundesarchiv, 1998. Baird, J. W., ed. “Das politische Testament Julius Streichers,” VfZ 26, no. 4 (1978): 660–​93. Bajohr, Frank. Parvenüs und Profiteure: Korruption in der NS-​Zeit. Frankfurt: Fischer, 1991. Bajohr, Frank, Beate Meyer, and Joachim Szodrzynski, eds. Bedrohung, Hoffnung, Skepsis: Vier Tagebücher des Jahres 1933. Göttingen: Wallenstein, 2013. Bajohr, Frank, and Dieter Pohl. Der Holocaust als offenes Geheimnis: Die Deutschen, die NS-​Führung, und die Alliierten. Munich: Beck, 2006. Banach, Jens. Heydrichs Elite: Das Führerkorps der Sicherheitspolizei und des SD 1936–​1945. Paderborn: Schöningh, 1998. Baranowski, Shelley. Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Baranowski, Shelley, Armin Nolzen, and Claus-​Christian W. Szejnmann, eds. A Companion to Nazi Germany. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell, 2018. Bärsch, Claus-​Ekkehard. Der junge Goebbels: Erlösung und Vernichtung. Munich: Fink, 2004. Bartov, Omer. Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018. Bartov, Omer. Hitler’s Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Bartov, Omer. “The Missing Years: German Workers, German Soldiers.” In Nazism and German Society, edited by David F. Crew, 41–​66. New York: Routledge, 1994. Baumgart, Winfried. “Zur Ansprache Hitlers vor den Führern der Wehrmacht am 22. August 1939: Eine quellenkritische Untersuchung.” VfZ 16, no. 2 (1968): 120–​49. Baur, Johannes. “Die Revolution und die ‘Weisen von Zion’: Zur Entwicklung des Russlandbildes in der frühen NSDAP.” In Deutschland und die Russische


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Revolution 1917–​1924, edited by Gerd Koenen and Lew Kopelew, 165–​90. Munich: Fink, 1998. Beachy, Robert. Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity. New York: Knopf, 2014. Beck, Hermann. “The Antibourgeois Character of National Socialism.” Journal of Modern History 88, no. 3 (2016): 572–​609. Beck, Hermann. The Fateful Alliance: German Conservatives and the Nazis in 1933: The Machtergreifung in a New Light. New York: Berghahn, 2008. Beck, Hermann. “Violence against ‘Ostjuden’ in the Spring of 1933 and the Reaction of the Authorities.” In From Weimar to Hitler: Studies in the Dissolution of the Weimar Republic and the Establishment of the Third Reich, 1932–​1934, edited by Hermann Beck and Larry Eugene Jones, 163–​93. New York: Berghahn, 2019. Behr, Hartwig, and Horst F. Rupp. Vom Leben und Sterben: Juden in Creglingen. 2nd ed. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2001. Behrend-​Rosenfeld, Else R. Ich stand nicht allein: Leben einer Jüdin in Deutschland 1933–​1944. Munich: Beck, 1988. Bergen, Doris L. Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996. Berger, Christiane. Zur Wirkung einer nationalsozialistischen Karriere in Verlauf, Retrospektive, und Gegenwart. Hamburg: PhD diss., 2005. Berger, Sara. Experten der Vernichtung: Das T4-​Reinhardt Netzwerk in den Lagern Belzec, Sobibor, und Treblinka. Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2013. Berghoff, Hartmut. “Enticement and Deprivation: The Regulation of Consumption in Pre-​War Germany.” In The Politics of Consumption: Material Culture and Citizenship in Europe and America, edited by Martin Daunton and Matthew Hilton, 165–​84. Oxford: Berg, 2001. Berghoff, Hartmut, and Cornelia Rauh. The Respectable Career of Fritz K.: The Making and Remaking of a Provincial Nazi Leader. New York: Berghahn, 2015. Bialas, Wolfgang, and Anson Rabinbach, eds. Nazi Germany and the Humanities. Oxford: OneWorld Publications, 2007. Bock, Gisela. Zwangsterilisation im Nationalsozialismus: Studien zur Rassenpolitik und Frauenpolitik. Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1986. Boehling, Rebecca, and Uta Larsky. Life and Loss in the Shadow of the Holocaust: A Jewish Family’s Untold Story. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011. Boehnert, Gunnar C. “The Jurists in the SS-​Führerkorps, 1925–​1939.” In Der “Führerstaat”: Mythos und Realität. Studien zur Struktur und Politik des Dritten Reiches, edited by Gerhard Hirschfeld and Lothar Kettenacher, 361–​74. Stuttgart: Klett-​Cotta,  1981. Böhler, Jochen, and Robert Gerwarth, eds. The Waffen-​SS: A European History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. Bollmus, Reinhard. Das Amt Rosenberg und seine Gegner: Studien zum Machtkampf im nationalsozialistischen Herrschaftssystem. 2nd ed. Munich: Oldenbourg, 2006.

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Boveri, Margret. Tage des Überlebens Berlin 1945. Berlin: WJS-​Verlag, 2004. Bramwell, Anna. Blood and Soil: Richard Walter Darré and Hitler’s Green Party. Abbotsbrook: Bourne End, 1985. Brechtken, Magnus. Albert Speer: Eine deutsche Karriere. 2nd ed. Munich: Siedler, 2017. Breiding, Birgit. Die Braunen Schwestern: Ideologie—​Struktur—​Funktion einer nationalsozialistischen Elite. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1998. Brenner, Hildegard. “Die Kunst im politischen Machtkampf der Jahre 1933–​34.” VfZ 10, no. 1 (1962): 17–​42. Breuer, Stefan. Die Völkischen in Deutschland: Kaiserreich und Weimarer Republik. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2008. Broszat, Martin, ed. “Die Anfänge der Berliner NSDAP 1926–​27.” VfZ 2, no. 1 (1960): 85–​118. Broszat, Martin, et al. Anatomie des SS-​States. 2 vols. 5th ed. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch, 1989. Broszat, Martin, et al., eds. Bayern in der NS-​Zeit: Soziale Lage und politisches Verhalten der Bevölkerung im Spiegel vertraulicher Berichte. Munich: Oldenbourg, 1977–​1983, 6 vols. Brown, Timothy S. Weimar Radicals: Nazis and Communists between Authenticity and Performance. New York: Berghahn, 2016. Browning, Christopher R. The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy, September 1939–​March 1942. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. Brückner, Peter. Das Abseits als sicherer Ort: Kindheit und Jugend zwischen 1933 und 1945. Berlin: Klaus Wagenbach, 1980. Buchbender, Ortwin, and Reinhold Sterz, eds. Das andere Gesicht des Krieges: De