Freeman

ARTICLE

World in the Grip of an Idea: 10. Germany - National Socialism in Power

OCTOBER 01, 1977 by CLARENCE B. CARSON

In this series, Dr. Carson examines the connection between ideology and the revolutions of our time and traces the impact on several major countries and the spread of the ideas and practices around the world.

In the presence of his prospective cabinet and before President Hin­denburg of the Weimar Republic, Adolf Hitler intoned these words on the morning of January 30, 1933: "I will employ my strength for the wel­fare of the German people, protect the Constitution and laws of the German people, conscientiously dis­charge the duties imposed on me and conduct my affairs of office im­partially and with justice to everyone." So saying, he was sworn as Chancellor of the Republic. The other members of the cabinet having taken their oaths, Hitler affirmed his good intentions to the President in a brief speech. Hindenburg, who had delayed asking Hitler to form a government for months, looked as if he were about to make reply but instead dismissed them with his fa­vorite formula: "And now, gentle­men, forward with God!"¹

Within months of this ceremony about the only relic of the Weimar Republic still standing was Presi­dent Hindenburg, and he would not survive much longer. A Nazi Revolution had taken place, was, as a matter of fact, still in process. This revolution was accompanied by the standard concomitants of modern revolution: suppression of liberty, confiscation of property, concentra­tion camps, persecution of classes or categories of people, terror, and vio­lence. The terror that gripped Ger­many in the mid-1930′s was soon extended beyond German bound­aries and during World War II threatened much of the world, if not all of it.

Ever since, indeed, beginning while it was going on, a great deal of ink has been spilled in attempts to account for Hitler and Nazism. One main approach has been to try to explain the violence, brutality, and viciousness of Nazism by what may be called a biographical-psychological examination of the leaders. Thus, Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Himmler, and others are studied in order to discover their frustrations, quirks, sexual in­adequacies, deprivations, and other origins of their hatreds. For exam­ple, a psychological study of Hitler made during World War II specu­lated that his disorders might have begun with misguided toilet train­ing due to the excessive neatness and cleanliness of his mother. Any­one familiar with the literature knows of the reputed homosexuality of Ernst Roehm (organizer of the ill-famed SA—"Storm Troopers") and of the drug taking of Hermann Goering, for example.

How Nazism Gained Support in Germany

The major difficulty with the bio­graphical approach, aside from the speculative nature of so much of it, is that while it may shed some light on the origins of the brutishness of Hitler and his henchmen it does not explain their success in gaining the support of so many Germans. For this, there is a supplementary ex­planation. It is to be accounted for by something in the German charac­ter.

Although the collective guilt of Germans for Nazi acts was officially rejected by the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, this did not keep it from being widely believed and frequently imputed to them by writ­ers and commentators. The Ger­mans have been accused of being especially drawn to authoritarian governments. This has been attri­buted by some to Martin Luther and the Lutheran Church. (But surely, it could be argued, if Luther was an authoritarian he was no more so than the Catholic Church. If this were once admitted, however, the specifically German character of this penchant would be refuted.) There are many variations on the Nazism-as-a-phenomenon-attribu­table – to – something – Germanic theme. Some focus on Prussian militarism, others on latent anti-Semitism, and so on.

Whatever the motives of those who advance the biographical-Germanic explanation (combined, usually, with the notion that Hitler belonged to the "right wing"), the impact is to disentangle and sepa­rate Nazism from what is crucially necessary to understanding it. The biographical-Germanic approach tends to make it sui generis, some­thing peculiar to Germany. Those who add the supposed "right wing" attribute do attempt to universalize it but confine it to movements which either do not exist or have no com­mon ground in the contemporary world.

A simple story may both show the fatuousness of some of these at­tempts at explanation and lead us toward an understanding of the character of Nazism. The story is about a scene which the present writ­er witnessed a good many years ago on the outskirts of the small Ger­man town Herzogenaurah. It is but a few miles from the seat of a well-known university at Erlangen but has no claim to fame or notice of its own. Another American soldier and I were walking along the road on a late summer afternoon. We heard a commotion up ahead and saw there were perhaps a dozen children in­volved in it. As we approached them, we made out what was going on. The children were chasing, taunting, and otherwise harassing a deformed person. Whether we broke it up or whether it was done by some older German escapes my memory, but it was broken up. The details have faded, but the shameful incident has stuck in my memory.

Intolerable Differences

What is to be made of this inci­dent, of this cruel attack by chil­dren, ganged up, on a deformed and helpless person? My first reaction, as I recall it, was quite conventional. What I had witnessed was the com­ing out of some loathsome trait in the German character. Or, the thought occurs to me now, perhaps the children should have been rounded up and taken to a psychia­trist in order to determine what it was in their earlier childhood that had bent them to participate in this particular cruel mischief. Mature reflection, however, convinces me that such approaches to an explana­tion are to be rejected.

What is misleading about this in­cident is that the person ganged up on and attacked was deformed. Once it is understood that this was inci­dental, what happened is all too commonplace. The person was not attacked because he (or she) was deformed but because he was differ­ent. It happens every day many times over. Children gang up to taunt and harass someone or other in their midst who is in some way different. The target often changes from day to day.

The present writer recalls having been beset by what seems to have been the whole female contingent of his eighth grade class when he an­nounced that he was in favor of Wendell Willkie instead of Roosevelt for President. The com­munity was pro-Roosevelt Demo­cratic, and I was, for a moment, a threat to its solidarity. Such behavior is almost as natural to chil­dren us pecking to death one of their number which develops an open sore is to barnyard fowls. Adults are not immune to it, though when they are trying to appear civilized they claim when they are picking on someone who is different that they are only teasing.

Nonetheless, herein lie the roots of collectivism. It is sometimes sup­posed that the wellspring of collec­tivism is envy. Undoubtedly, envy sometimes plays a role in collec­tivism, but it is not clear that it is essential. What is essential is the longing to be at one with some dom­inant group or order or class of peo­ple and to expel and, perhaps, de­stroy all who do not belong to it. It is, as H. L. Mencken once noted, the longing for the warm smell of the herd. It is powered much more by hatred than envy, hatred for the alien in the midst, the one who is different, and who thus disrupts the supposed unity. (This is mostly non­sense, of course, since such unity as exists arises from the focus on the alien. Expel the alien, and the dif­ferences among those in the "uni­fied" group begin to stand out once again.)

None of us is immune to the col­lective urge. No doubt the Germans have it but so also do the French, the English, the Italians, the Russians, the Hottentots and the Bantu: the Jew and the Gentile, white and black, Protestant and Catholic, Oriental and Occidental. It may even be an urge which the human race shares with the lower animals. Nor is the collective urge necessar­ily and always productive of evil. When it is confined, restrained, lim­ited, and civilized it enables us to enjoy the good fellowship and share in productive efforts with those of like mind and spirit. But when it is powered by hate, ideologized, and joined with the power of govern­ment—let loose to employ force—it is dangerous, wanton, and de­structive. It becomes collectivism—the idea that has the world in its grip. The reason for including Nazism in this account is that some aspects of collectivism come out more clearly in it than elsewhere.

The Politics of Collectivism

Adolf Hitler was a master of what for want of a better phrase may be called the Politics of Collectivism. The phrase has probably never had any currency because we do not or­dinarily think of collectivism as having a politics. After all, politics has to do with persuasion, with compromise, with composing differ­ences, and with gaining office or position. By contrast, collectivism has to do with concerting all energy behind a set of objectives, with the crushing of dissidence, and with the removal of offending elements. Poli­tics entails the modes of behavior of those who would gain and hold favor when people are free to accept or reject them, in ordinary usage.

Even so, there is what may be called a politics of collectivism. It entails the methods of operation by which total power is attained and imposed. It is the means by which a collectivist gets the weight of the populace behind him. When Lenin attempted it, he provoked civil war. Stalin achieved it, in so far as he did, by extensive and prolonged terror. Hitler used terror, too, but much more selective terror than Stalin, and it was coupled with other equally effective methods. His mas­tery of the politics a collectivism can best be understood by exploring his methods.

Hitler’s methods are revealed in Nazi ideology. Indeed, the ideology was itself a method of gaining and imposing power. There was always a tendency not to take Nazi ideology seriously, and for good reason. The intellectual level of it, in Mein

Kampf, which is the major exposi­tion of it, is very low. It is difficult to take a writer seriously who breaks into a historical discourse with statements about bowlegged Jews seducing young blonde German maidens, and that in the coarsest and most vulgar language. It is pos­sible to laugh or cry at such hyper­bole but hardly to take it seriously. Yet, as it turned out, Hitler was serious, perhaps even sincere, and Nazi ideology requires careful examination.

Emotional Appeal

Nazi ideology, that is, Hitler’s ideology, was not an intellectual system. It was not arrived at by deduction from self-evident truths (praxiological) nor by analysis (dialectics) nor built up from the facts (inductive). Probably the least important aspect of Nazi ideology, to Hitler, was whether it was true or false. He was not interested in im­proving people’s minds but in at­tracting followers; his appeal was not to the intellect but to the feel­ings. If Hitler had been reliably in­formed that the incidence of bow­leggedness among Jewish men was much less than that for the German populace as a whole, it is most doubtful that he would have revised Mein Kampf to accord with the new information.

Nazi ideology was a compound of what may be best characterized as beer hall or, in the American idiom, barroom exposition. The amount of alcohol that makes the generality of people convivial turns some people into public speakers. Such a person is likely enough to become a loud­mouthed expounder of ideas, taking for listeners any and all who are in the vicinity, though one will often serve as well as ten. He will expound at length on what is wrong with the world and how it can all be set right. Such a person may have a consider­able fund of information, a good memory for striking detail, and be fairly well acquainted with popu­lar ideas. However, he prefers monologue (his) to discussion, re­quires at most an occasional nod for encouragement, and will not brook disagreement with what he is say­ing. His ideas are to thought what Hollywood mock-ups are to build­ings, imitations which could hardly bear close examination.

Gaining Followers

Hitler’s main discovery was how to make such talk productive in get­ting followers. The beer hall, or bar­room, habitué who becomes a public speaker under the influence does not attract followers; on the contrary, he is probably hard put to find drinking companions. We can surmise, if we think about it, why it is that he probably does not attract followers. It is not that he fails to take his ideas seriously or that many of those about him do not share his prej­udices. It is rather that he does not take himself seriously. Everyone knows that regardless of how cogent his ideas, the talkative drinker is not going to do anything about them. He is only going to talk about them. Hitler learned how to make such talk attract followers. He learned how in the course of numer­ous meetings in beer halls in Munich in the early 1920′s.

Hitler did take himself seriously. (There is no reason to suppose that he was one of those who become public speakers under the influence, for he cared little for alcohol. His beverage was power, not alcohol.) The problem was how to get others to take him seriously and join forces with him. The way he discovered was to remove all doubt that he would act, all doubt that he meant business. Those who ventured to at­tend one of his meetings stood a good chance of witnessing the Nazi de­termination to act. Hitler did not hold seminars in Nazi doctrine; he arranged "happenings" as a backdrop to his fervent speeches. Any person or group which ex­pressed their disagreement vocally was beaten up and thrown out of the meeting. He neither invited differ­ences of opinion, nor did he tolerate them. The violent attacks on those who disagreed signified a deter­mination and willingness to act. Those who did not take Hitler seriously in his meetings could suffer a broken head for their oversight. There was more to it than this, of course. Hitler was an astute student of mass psychology. His meetings were a bizarre form of entertain­ment. He usually charged admission during the early years. The Storm Troopers would be in attendance, the threat of violence in the air, the beer hall the setting, and then the main fare, his speech. He scheduled speeches for the nighttime whenever possible, for, as he noted in Mein Kampf, people are more readily influenced at night. He usu­ally spoke at great length, two or more hours. The critical powers of the mind decline as the posterior grows numb, and it is at this juncture that the demagogue can be most effective. Hitler could play on the vagrant prejudices which come to the fore as the mind ceases to discipline its contents; he could pro­ject feelings of discomfort onto the enemy of his choosing, thereby transforming discomfort into hatred.

All this would probably have been of no account without ideology. Hit­ler claims to have given considera­ble attention to various ideologies, particularly to Marxism both in its Communist and Social Democratic formulations, and to the various nationalist dogmas. He perceived, too, what must be their fatal error. They could not act decisively and forcefully. They tended to divisions among themselves which weakened them and made them irresolute. The solution to this that he hit upon was to have a single authoritative leader, though the idea may not have originated with him since Lenin had already exemplified it. But this would not solve the problem if the ideology divided the popula­tion drastically. It was in solving this problem that Hitler showed himself the consummate politician of collectivism.

Marxism Is Divisive

Marxism as an ideology divides the people. With its focus upon and almost total reliance upon the pro­letariat, it alienates the rest of the population. Its atheism alienated Christians. Its internationalism, which Hitler ascribed to Marx’s hav­ing been a Jew, failed to muster the national spirit of a people. Even so, Hitler gleaned much from Marxism. He believed Marxism to be right in destroying before making a revolution:

It indicates a lack of deep insight into historical developments when today peo­ple who call themselves folkish make a great point of assuring us over and over that they do not plan to engage in nega­tive criticism, but only in constructive work…. Marxism also had a goal, and it, too, has a constructive activity…; but previously, nevertheless, it practiced criticism for seventy years, annihilating, disintegrating criticism, and again criticism, which continued until the old state was undermined by this persistent corro­sive acid and brought to collapse. Only then did its actual "construction" work begin. And that was self-evident, correct and logical.2

He denied that the success of the Marxists arose from the complicated Marxian literature. Instead:

What has won the millions of workers for Marxism is less the literary style of the Marxist church fathers than the in­defatigable and truly enormous prop­aganda work of tens of thousands of untiring agitators, from the great agitator down to the small trade-union official and the shop steward and discus­sion speaker….3

The Führer Principle

Hitler described his ideology as the "folkish philosophy." He said:

The folkish philosophy is basically dis­tinguished from the Marxist philosophy by the fact that it not only recognizes the value of race, but with it the importance of personality, which it therefore makes one of the pillars of its entire edifice.4

What Hitler refers to as the "im­portance of personality" should be understood as the importance of leaders and the Führer principle. Actually, as Hitler noted, Com­munists have had to rely on "lead­ers." Hitler is quoted on this point, however, more to show that he was aware of or claimed similarity with the Marxists than for the acuteness of his distinction.

The major tactical difference be­tween Nazism and communism was that Nazi ideology was not nearly so divisive. Hitler sought to forge an organic unity of the German people (excluding Jews and convinced Marxists, whom Hitler thought of as "ideologized Jews"). He would bind the Germans—industrialists, work­ers, military, and civil service—into a great productive and creative unity. To avoid dividing them, he steered clear of specific programs. As to what would be done economi­cally, he said: "I had at that time and still possess today the unshaka­ble conviction that it is dangerous to tie up a great politico-philosophical struggle with economic matters at too early a time."5 He inveighed, too, against those who would try to tie the Nazi Party to either a Protestant or Catholic base. This would only serve to divide rather than unite the people.

Hitler’s Use of Religion

The way Hitler used the Christian religion deserves more space than it can be given here. While Hitler was almost certainly a pagan, he fre­quently spoke as if he were the lead­ing defender of Christianity and conscientiously doing the will of God. Typically, he could effect being most pious when appealing for ra­cial purity. Instead of preaching celibacy, he declares at one place, the Church ought to enjoin racial mixing, and by this "admonition finally to put an end to the constant and continuous original sin of racial poisoning, and to give the Almighty Creator beings such as He Himself created."6 Of course, Hitler did not derive this doctrine from Chris­tianity at all; he was using phrases and ideas drawn from Christianity to give a religious gloss to his own ideology.

Setting the Stage

Nazi ideology was concocted from German mythology, from the ema­nations of other contemporary ideologies, from anti-Semitism, and from Pan Germanism. Hitler in­tuited the ideological temper of the age and mixed a brew which would appeal to it. He was probably incap­able of extended reasoning and he was certainly undisciplined to sub­mitting conclusions to the test of evidence. He made contact with ideas at the point at which they have largely come loose from what­ever gave rise to them. In this, he resembled the barroom talker. But, unlike our imaginary talker, he did not simply express them; he wove them into an ideology by repetition, by the skillful merging of images, by using his powerful will to hold them together. There was something de­monic about his ability to express ideas that had a wide currency in Germany —that were popular and appeared to derive from thepeople—and yet to give every one of them his own context.

The Nazi ideology, though, should be thought of as a script to a play. People do not, by and large, read the script; they much prefer to watch the performance, to see the words take on life, to see them entwined with the action. If anyone was ever won over to Nazism by reading Mein Kampf he has yet to be heard from. But many were drawn into the movement as the play began to un­fold.

Hitler was a revolutionary, a rev­olutionary socialist mayhap, cer­tainly a revolutionary collectivist. He made no secret of his revolu­tionary intent. "National Socialism as a matter of principle," he said, "must lay claim to the right to force its principles on the whole German nation…. It must determine and reorder the life of a people…."7 Its purpose was to be realized by "tear­ing down a world and building another in its place…."8 Hitler did not, of course, specify much of what was to be torn down and he only promised that an organic unity would take its place.

Even though Hitler was a revolu­tionary, following his stint in prison in the mid 1920′s he set upon a course of trying to come to power by popular support. There is no reason to suppose that his punishment had converted him to legality, but it may have helped him to see the futility of any attempted seizure of power. Germany was much more ready to fall apart than it was to be pulled together by revolution. Anyone who grabbed a particular power in Ger­many might well see it evaporate in his hand.

If the Reichstag were taken over, its powers might revert to the states. If the army chieftains submitted, the soldiers might refuse to fight. The unions could bring a revolution to naught, if it did not suit them, by a general strike. Control of Prussia was undoubtedly the key to the con­trol of Germany (assuming that Catholic Germany did not then se­cede), but that was hardly easier for Hitler to achieve than control over all of Germany simultaneously. As much as he despised elections, they offered the most likely route to power.

Rebuilding the Party

The failure of the Munich Putsch in 1923 and the subsequent impris­onment of Hitler and other Nazis all but destroyed the Nazi Party. When Hitler got out of prison, the task of getting electoral support appeared almost insuperable. The Party had to be rebuilt, his own control of it reasserted, and if it were to be any­thing but a Bavarian party it would have to make a beginning along these lines. The leader of the Storm Troopers, Ernst Roehm, had left the country, and that branch of the movement would have to be rebuilt. Most of the German states prohib­ited Hitler from making speeches, thus stilling his most effective method of gaining followers. In the face of these difficulties, Hitler did manage to revive and rebuild the Party, and the restrictions were eventually removed. Even so, in the Reichstag elections of 1928 the Nazis only got a sufficient percent­age of the vote to name 12 deputies, 12 out of 491!

As noted earlier, the Depression gave Hitler his opportunity. As un­employment rose in Germany, so did the Nazi vote. In the election held in September of 1930 the Nazi Party got the second largest number of delegates in the Reichstag, second only to the Social Democratic Party. But they still had only 107 of 577 total delegates. The crucial fact, however, was that with the growth in delegate strength of the Nazi and Communist parties, none of the three configurations of non-revolutionary parties which usually formed governments could muster a majority. If a grand coalition of par­ties of the center plus the Social Democrats could have been formed it would have commanded support from only about 250 delegates. The old center parties had only 107 dele­gates. The nationalists could proba­bly not have mustered 90.

Heinrich Bruning was named Chancellor and formed a government which had representatives from parties with only 137 dele­gates. The Social Democratic Party did not participate in the govern­ment, but Bruning was only able to maintain power with its tacit sup­port. He turned increasingly to rule by emergency decrees issued in con­junction with President Hindenburg in order to be able to function and still avoid votes in the Reichstag which would bring about the fall of the government. "In 1930 the Reichstag passed ninety-eight laws. In 1931 the number fell to thirty-four, while Hindenburg issued forty-two emergency decrees. In 1932 the Reichstag passed only five laws, while Hindenburg issued sixty decrees."9

The 1932 Elections

The Reichstag elections held in 1932 help to explain this virtual parliamentary collapse. In the elec­tions held in July of that year the Nazis became the leading party with 230 delegates in the Reichstag. The Communists had been gaining with each election and now had 89. To­gether the Nazis and Communists commanded 319 votes, a majority. There was, of course, no possibility that the two would form a govern­ment and work together, but they could and would combine, by a vote of no confidence, to bring down at will any government named. It ap­parently meant, too, that the Ger­man voters had opted for revolution, though who should bring it about, whether Nazis or Communists, was not yet clear. It was ominous, too, that the vote for the more moderate parties had been steadily declining. The Democratic Party, such voice as nineteenth century liberalism had, elected only four delegates to the Reichstag. The German People’s Party had only seven. Even the So­cial Democratic Party had been steadily declining in popularity.

Hindenburg had already tapped Franz von Papen to be Chancellor, and he formed a government from the center and nationalist parties. But he threw away whatever chance he might have had for tacit support from the Social Democratic Party (which would not have provided him with a majority in the Reichstag after the elections, in any case) by taking over the government of Prus­sia and driving the Social Demo­crats out. This was a fortuitous event for Hitler, for when he was made Chancellor he also took over the government of the largest state in Germany.

No Ruling Majority

It may well have been that Pa-pen’s control of the government and the police in Prussia, which included the city of Berlin, prevented a Communist uprising, for Berlin was the center of Communist strength. The government ordered, too, the disbanding of the Nazi SA (Storm Troopers), but this order was shortly rescinded. Papen might govern without the Social Democrats but not without some sort of assent from the Nazis. In any case, Papen was dependent upon Hindenburg and his emergency decrees for the day to day governing of Germany.

The Reichstag had no sooner as­sembled after the election than the Communists proposed a no confi­dence vote in the Papen govern­ment. It carried by the whopping vote of 512 to 42. Hermann Goering, the Nazi President of the Reichstag, prevented Papen from filing a dis­solution order from Hindenburg which would have forestalled the test. Hitler had already refused to come into the Papen government as Vice Chancellor, insisting that he must head any government in which the Nazis participated. Hindenburg could not accept that solution at this time. So, there was little to be done but call for a new election.

The Reichstag election held in November of 1932 hardly improved matters. The Nazis lost a few dele­gates; the Communists gained a few; the National Party gained a few, and the Social Democrats lost a few. The Nazis and Communists com­bined still commanded a majority of the delegates. For once, however, the Nazis allowed the Reichstag to hold a few sessions without a crisis until it adjourned. Hindenburg called upon General Kurt von Schleicher to form a government. He maneuvered to try to get the support of enough parties to govern but in such a way that he lost whatever trust he had among party leaders. He tried to divide the Nazi Party by bringing Gregor Strasser into his cabinet. Strasser refused, and Hitler was furious with Schleicher. In like manner, he attempted to get support from the Social Democrats but suc­ceeded only in irritating the leader­ship of that party. Meanwhile, Franz von Papen, who had earlier been a protege of Schleicher, began to maneuver behind his back.

Hitler As Chancellor

With the January 31, 1933 meet­ing of the Reichstag facing him, Schleicher recognized that he could not govern. Most likely, the dele­gates would hardly have been seated before he would have been subjected to a no confidence vote as humiliat­ing as that received earlier by Pa-pen. There was one way, he thought, by which he could govern and Hitler could be prevented from coming to power. President Hindenburg should dissolve the Reichstag, grant him emergency powers to govern, and suppress the Nazis and Com­munists before any new elections were called, if any were called. Hin­denburg would not agree to this course, and Schleicher resigned.

At this juncture, Hindenburg asked Hitler to become Chancellor of a new government. Historians, with perfect hindsight, have found fault with Hindenburg’s decision ever since. He was, after all, 85 years old and was almost certainly becoming senile. But if Hindenburg had been at the height of his intel­lectual powers, there is little reason to suppose he would have acted dif­ferently. He was on the horns of a dilemma. To follow Schleicher’s pro­posal would be to make him, or someone else, dictator. It would al­most certainly mean the end of con­stitutional government and the Weimar Republic as well. (Hinden­burg’s honor was involved here, for he had pledged himself to obey the Constitution and uphold the Repub­lic.) Even then, there was no assur­ance that whoever he chose as dic­tator could govern, and Hindenburg did know this. Such a dictator would have to depend upon the regular army (the Reichswehr).

But could the army impose a dic­tator on Germany? Hindenburg doubted it, and for good reason. The Treaty of Versailles, not Hinden­burg, was to blame for this state of affairs. The army was restricted to 100,000 men, and the morale of those was an uncertain factor. Paramilitary forces vastly outnum­bered the army, and many of them were armed and wore uniforms. Of­ficers in the SA had been seen for some time swaggering about requir­ing regular army personnel to salute them. Any attempt at suppressing the Communists might bring forth a general strike from the unions. What Schleicher proposed would, at the least, suspend the Constitution and most likely bring civil war. That was one horn of the dilemma.

The other horn was Hitler. For all his blustering, crudeness, and vulgarity—this was well known—he was still an unknown quantity in one sense. He had not yet had the authority or responsibility for gov­erning. Might not responsibility sober and tame him? Might not the necessity for getting a majority in the Reichstag restrain him? More, the cabinet might hold him in check. The Nazis were to have only two posts besides that of Chancellor. Papen was to serve as Vice Chancel­lor, and he was no wild man. Hugenburg, the head of the Nationalist Party, had a strong and tenacious personality; Hitler needed his party, and had him in the cabinet. Hindenburg detested Hit­ler, had delayed as long as he could raising him to power, but had finally to act. Reassured by his advisers, he made the fateful appointment.

Anyone dealt such a hand at cards as Hindenburg held, to change the figure of speech, should have asked for a new deal. Hindenburg already had, of course, but another election had left him holding the same cards, so to speak. Was there really any reason to hope that yet another elec­tion would bring about any great change? So, hoping for the best, Hin­denburg listened to the cabinet being sworn and gave them his charge with his familiar parting words: "And now, gentlemen, for­ward with God!" Hitler was not a gentleman—far from it. Germany did not go forward with God; in­stead, it went down with Adolf Hit­ler. At last, Hitler had the opportu­nity to prove that he was serious.

He was serious. He meant every word he had written and spoken, and more.

Next: 11. The Promise and the Terror.

 

—FOOTNOTES—

1Eliot B. Wheaton, Prelude to Calamity: The Nazi Revolution 1933-35 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1968), pp. 202-03.

2Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Manheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943), p. 453.

3lbid., p. 472.

4Ibid., p. 448.

5Ibid., p. 604.

6Ibid., p. 405.

7Ibid., pp. 577-78.

8Ibid., p. 581.

9Wheaton, op. c p. 97.

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October 1977

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