Jan. 28. Government resigned.
Jan. 30. Hitler appointed Reich Chancellor; Vice-Chancellor, von Papen; Foreign Minister, von Neurath.
Feb. 1. President dissolved Reichstag.
Feb. 27. Reichstag fire.
March 5. Hitler won 288 seats at General Election.
March 8. Jews in many towns forced to close their shops.
March 9. Nazi
troops occupied Bavarian Government offices in
March 10. Bavarian Government submitted to Nazis.
April 1. Boycott
of Jews enforced throughout
May 1. Hitler, addressing enormous crowds, intimated that scheme of compulsory labor would be introduced.
May 17. Hitler announced
June 22. "Green Shirts" and "Black Shirts" suppressed.
June 23. Social-Democratic Party suppressed.
June 27. Dr. Hugenberg, leader of the Nationalist Party, resigned Ministry of Economic Affairs.
June 29. Center, or Roman Catholic, Party wound up.
June 30. Chancellor instructed Minister of
Interior to take necessary action to promote peace between
July 9. Concordat between Holy See
Aug. 20. Government's industrial plan, including provision of £25,000,000 for enlargement and repair of public buildings and house property.
Aug. 21. Reichstag
Fire Trial of five men opened at
Nov. 12. General Election gave Hitler
complete rule over
Dec. 23. Judgment delivered in Reichstag Fire Trial. Van der Lubbe, a Dutchman, found guilty and sentenced to death. Torgler, leader of German Communist Party, and three Bulgarians, were acquitted, but kept in custody.
I REMEMBER IN every detail the conversation to be recorded in this chapter. It made an indelible impression on me. From it dates my inner revulsion against National Socialism. For now I began to understand the true nature and aims of this movement.
I can still feel today the narrow, restricted atmosphere, the smell of new furniture, the meaninglessness of an outworn day. The familiar blend of narrowness and bohemianism, petit bourgeois pleasures and revolutionary talk. I can still hear the ubiquitous and abstruse Puzzi Hanfstängel manhandling the piano in the next room. He had just composed a march which seemed to appeal to Hitler's taste—a bastard product of Wagner motifs.
A small sofa, a few chairs, a table: Frau Raubal, Frau Goebbels, Forster, Goebbels, and myself sitting in the room. Behind us the "leader," the newly appointed Reich Chancellor. He was leaning across his desk, turning over the pages of documents. Facing him were Julius Streicher and Wagner of Munich. Tea was being served, and small cakes. Frau Raubal, whose manner suggested motherly kindliness, was trying to help a harmless conversation on its way. We were listless. Frau Goebbels, her face in very un-German make-up, was watching Hitler, and I, too, was unable to drag my thoughts
away from the conversation that was being carried on behind me and moving me to a growing excitement.
It was late at night. Hitler had been to the cinema—some patriotic rubbish
"A magnificent film," he said, "a remarkable film. That's the sort of thing we shall need."
A few minutes later Hitler came up in the lift.
"How did you like the picture?" Forster asked.
"A horror—absolute rubbish. The police will have to stop it. We've had enough of this patriotic balderdash!"
"Yes, my Führer," Goebbels exclaimed, pushing forward, "it was feeble, very feeble. We have a great educational task ahead of us."
Prince August Wilhelm of
"It's about time some sort of cruelty-to-animals law was passed against this abuse of historical memories."
The date of this evening is recalled to me by the following day, which was
of special significance. I had dined with Hitler, after having brought him my
report. It was a momentous day, for the post of Reichsstatthalter
(lieutenant-governor of the Reich) had just been created. The sole purpose
of this measure was to suppress in time the independent aims of the provinces.
strivings. The German renaissance would have come from a different quarter and in an essentially different form.
Our nocturnal conversation arose out of our anxieties regarding such a development. The two Bavarian Gauleiter, Streicher of Franconia and Wagner of Munich, had brought us the tale. It was Streicher who gave Hitler his cue in the conversation. I had not listened to the beginning of it and became attentive only when I heard Hitler's voice behind me getting louder.
"The religions are all alike, no matter what they call themselves. They
have no future—certainly none for the Germans. Fascism, if it likes, may come
to terms with the Church. So shall I. Why not? That will not prevent me from
tearing up Christianity root and branch, and annihilating it in
After a pause, he resumed:
"Leave the hair-splitting to others. Whether it's the Old Testament or the
New, or simply the sayings of Jesus, according to Houston Stewart
Chamberlain—it's all the same old Jewish swindle. It will not make us free. A
leptic Paul out of
Christianity—others have done so before us. You can make Christ into a noble
human being, and deny his divinity and his role as a savior. People have been
doing it for centuries. I believe there are such Christians today in
Streicher or Goebbels made some remark which I did not catch—a question perhaps.
"You can't make an Aryan of Jesus, that's nonsense," Hitler went on. "What Chamberlain wrote in his Principles is, to say the least, stupid. What's to be done, you say? I will tell you: we must prevent the churches from doing anything but what they are doing now, that is, losing ground day by day. Do you really believe the masses will ever be Christian again? Nonsense! Never again. That tale is finished. No one will listen to it again. But we can hasten matters. The parsons will be made to dig their own graves. They will betray their God to us. They will betray anything for the sake of their miserable little jobs and incomes.
"What we can do? Just what the Catholic Church did when it forced its beliefs on the heathen: preserve what can be preserved, and change its meaning. We shall take the road back: Easter is no longer resurrection, but the eternal renewal of our people. Christmas is the birth of our savior: the spirit of heroism and the freedom of our people. Do you think these liberal priests, who have no longer a belief, only an office, will refuse to preach our God in their churches? I can guarantee that, just as they have made Haeckel and Darwin, Goethe and Stefan George the prophets of their Christianity,
so they will replace the cross with our swastika. Instead of worshiping the blood of their quondam savior, they will worship the pure blood of our people. They will receive the fruits of the German soil as a divine gift, and will eat it as a symbol of the eternal communion of the people, as they have hitherto eaten of the body of their God. And when we have reached that point, Streicher, the churches will be crowded again. If we wish it, then it will be so—when it is our religion that is preached there. We need not hurry the process."
Hitler paused. Frau Raubal asked me a question about my family, and I failed to catch what followed.
"Let it run its course," I presently heard Hitler say. "But
it won't last. Why a uniform religion, a
"No," he replied to a question, "these professors and mystery-men who want to found Nordic religions merely get in my way. Why do I tolerate them? Because they help to disintegrate, which is all we can do at the moment. They cause unrest. And all unrest is creative. It has no value in itself, but let it run its course. They do their share, and the priests do theirs. We shall compel them to destroy their religions from within by setting aside all authority and reducing every-thing to pale, meaningless talk. Shall we succeed? Certainly and irresistibly."
The conversation took a quieter turn. Goebbels sat down
at our table, and Hanfstängel came from the other room to join us. The two Bavarian leaders related a few cases of uncompromising resistance from the Bavarian Catholic Church.
"They had better stop deceiving themselves," said Hitler menacingly. "Their day has passed. They have lost."
He would not, he went on, do the same as
"I'm a Catholic. Certainly that was fated from the beginning, for only
a Catholic knows the weaknesses of the Church. I know how to deal with these
"The Catholic Church is a really big thing. Why, what an organization! It's something to have lasted nearly two thousand years! We must learn from it. Astuteness and knowledge of human nature are behind it. Catholic priests know where the shoe pinches. But their day is done, and they know it. They are far too intelligent not to see that, and to enter upon a hopeless battle. But if they do, I shall certainly not make martyrs of them. We shall brand them as ordinary criminals. I shall tear the mask of honesty from their faces. And if that is not enough, I shall make them appear ridiculous and contemptible. I shall order films to be made about them. We shall show the history of the monks on the cinema. Let the whole mass of nonsense, selfishness, repression and deceit be revealed: how they drained the money out of the country, how they
haggled with the Jews for the world, how they committed incest. We shall make it so thrilling that everyone will want to see it. There will be queues outside the cinemas. And if the pious burghers find the hair rising on their heads in horror, so much the better. The young people will accept it—the young people and the masses. I can do without the others."
"I promise you," he concluded, "that if I wished to, I could destroy the Church in a few years; it is hollow and rotten and false through and through. One push and the whole structure would collapse. We should trap the priests by their notorious greed and self-indulgence. We shall thus be able to settle everything with them in perfect peace and harmony. I shall give them a few years' reprieve. Why should we quarrel? They will swallow anything in order to keep their material advantages. Matters will never come to a head. They will recognize a firm will, and we need only show them once or twice who is the master. Then they will know which way the wind blows. They are no fools. The Church was some-thing really big. Now we're its heirs. We, too, are a Church. Its day has gone. It will not fight. I'm quite satisfied. As long as youth follows me, I don't mind if the old people limp to the confessional. But the young ones—they will be different. I guarantee that."
At the time, I regarded this whole speech as sheer braggadoccio, and as a concession to the pornographic Streicher. Nevertheless, it shook me to the depths. I had not supposed Hitler capable of so much cynicism. Later I was to remember it many times—at the time of the currency trials, and then of the immorality trials of Catholic priests, the purpose of which was to brand them as criminals in the eyes of the masses and thereby deprive them in advance of the halo of martyrdom. It was a cunning, and as has since transpired, long-
planned scheme, for which Hitler himself is solely responsible.
I heard little more after this. The only thing that interested me further was the Führer's ostentatious contempt for the Protestant church. Hitler by no means shared the hopes and desires of many militant, anti-Rome Protestants, who thought to shatter the Roman church with the aid of National Socialism, and establish an essentially evangelical, German, united church of which Catholics would be expected to form a subordinate section. I have spoken many times since then with the Reich Bishop Muller, who was very nearly my predecessor as President of the Danzig Senate. His ambitions lay in this direction.
"The Protestants haven't the faintest conception of a church," I
heard Hitler saying. "You can do anything you like to them—they will
submit. They're used to cares and worries. They learnt them from their squires.
The parsons, when they were invited to the Sunday roast goose, had their place at
the foot of the table, amongst the children and tutors. It was even an honor
that they were not asked to sit at the servants' table. They are insignificant
little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you
talk to them. They have neither a religion that they can take seriously nor a
great position to defend like
The conversation ebbed again into unimportant details and mere abuse, and rose only once more to higher levels of interest. Hitler was speaking about the peasantry, claiming that under their Christian exterior, the old eternal heathendom still lurked, and broke out again and again.
"You're a farmer," he said, turning to me. "What can you tell us about it? How are conditions in your district?"
I rose and joined the group. In our district, I said, we had highly rationalized farming where there was little of the old
customs left. But no doubt it was true: if you scratched the surface, ancient, inherited beliefs were revealed.
"You see," Hitler returned triumphantly; "that is what I'm building on. Our peasants have not forgotten their true religion. It still lives. It is merely covered over. The Christian mythology has simply coated it like a layer of tallow. It has preserved the true contents of the pot. I have said this to Dane, and told him that we must start the great reformation. He has suggested means to me, magnificent means! I have approved them. The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again. In our 'Green Week' and in the 'Traveling Agricultural Exhibition' he will allude to our inherited religion in picturesque and expressive language that even the simplest peasant can understand.
"It will not be done in the old way, running riot in colorful costumes and dreaming of a departed, romantic age. The peasant will be told what the Church has destroyed for him: the whole of the secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the shapeless, the daemonic. The peasant shall learn to hate the Church on that basis. Gradually he will be taught by what wiles the soul of the German has been raped. We shall wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race. And this is where we must begin. Not in the great cities, Goebbels! There we shall only lose ourselves in the stupid godlessness propaganda of the Marxists: free sex in nature and that sort of bad taste. The urban masses are empty. Where all is extinguished, nothing can be aroused. But our peasantry still lives in heathen beliefs and values.
"The same is true of all other countries,
mental conjurors. Unless we give the masses something in exchange for what we take from them, they will later fall a prey to every kind of swindle. But it is through the peasantry that we shall really be able to destroy Christianity because there is in them a true religion rooted in nature and blood. It is through the peasantry that we shall one day be able to act as missionaries to the urban masses as well. But there is plenty of time for that."
With that the conversation ended. We sat on for a time round the table, where Hitler joined us. Frau Goebbels was solicitous for the well-being of the Führer. It was time to break up, she said.
"You have had a hard day behind you, my Führer, and another before you tomorrow."
We took our leave, and I went to my small hotel near the Friedrichstrasse Station.
It was all fulfilled later, even to the last item Hitler had hinted at.
Attempts were and are being made to make use of old folk-customs to
de-Christianize the peasantry. I have seen pavilions at the agricultural
exhibitions subtly planned with this end in view. I have seen a picture-series,
prepared with the greatest pedagogical skill, representing the struggle of the Steding peasants against the Church in
which were personal ones from Darré, were designed to ascertain how far we might be regarded as belonging to the true élite and how serious we were about the total revolution of National Socialism.
In other words, they were a test of our trustworthiness. That was the first step. The second was pressure on us to give up membership in the Church. How quickly the whole process moved became clear to me from the case of an acquaintance of mine, the Westphalian farmer Meinberg, a splendid fellow who was unmistakably solid and loyal. He was a Staatsrat (councilor of state) and a leader of the peasantry, Darré's deputy in the Reich Labor Ministry, and a most apt pupil. A new fireplace appeared in his ancient peasant homestead, its walls decorated with runes and heathen maxims. The crosses had disappeared to make room for other sacred symbols. Woden, the ancient huntsman, was in the place of honor. And on the hearth burned the new, eternal flame. Was Hitler right in saying that the Christian crust was a thin one in our peasants? What happened to us happened also to the men of the S.S., especially to the higher ranks—the ranks of the Hitler youth. Thoroughly and systematically, with iron logic, the war of annihilation against Christianity was being waged.
AT THE DINNER TABLE
(SUMMER OF 1933)
THAT SUMMER I frequently dined with Hitler in his flat. He lived at that time on the second floor of the new Reich Chancellery. His home was middle-class, one might almost say petit bourgeois. The rooms were smallish, the furnishing simple and without refinement. There was not a single piece that revealed anything of good personal taste or artistic value.
Whenever Hitler was in
At dinner, there was soup, followed by a meat course, vegetables and a sweet. Hitler himself ate no meat, but he devoured astonishing portions of the sweet, and his personal cook, an old party member, prepared special vegetable dishes for him. But Hitler placed no vegetarian compulsion on his guests, nor did he refuse them alcohol in the shape of beer. There was a choice between beer and lemonade, and it was amusing to watch newcomers, especially enthusiastic party members, choosing lemonade, with a side-glance at the temperate Führer, in order to make a good impression.
There was always a mixed and varied company at the table. Invariably some
outstanding person was present, a film star, an artist or a leading member of
the party. There were ladies, too, but usually in the minority. On one occasion
I met two strikingly pretty blondes; Hitler asked one of them to sit beside
him, and kept putting his hand on her arm. Sometimes, too, society women were
among the guests. It was at one of these gatherings that I made the
acquaintance of Hess's sister. She was a handicrafts expert, and had bound
Hitler's books for him. A frequent visitor at that time was Prince August
Then there was that constant visitor, Puzzi Hanfstängel, whose linguistic abilities and knowledge of the world were in great demand; but his curiously shaped head was more
striking than what he had inside it. Goebbels, too,
was there quite frequently. He visited Hitler whenever he could, remembering,
perhaps, the adage, "Out of sight, out of mind." Brückner,
Hitler's tall adjutant, was another frequent visitor, and so was Sepp Dietrich. Everybody of note in the party who visited
The tone was informal. Often Hitler was silent, or made only desultory remarks. Again, he would pontificate in a booming voice, and everyone would listen in silence. It was interesting to watch Hitler talking himself into a fury, and to note how necessary to his eloquence were shouting and a feverish tempo. A quiet conversation with him was impossible. Either he was silent or he took complete charge of the discussion. Hitler's eloquence is plainly no natural gift, but the result of a conquest of certain inhibitions which, in intimate conversation, still make him awkward. The convulsive artificiality of his character is specially noticeable in such intimate circles; particularly notable is his lack of any sense of humor. Hitler's laugh is hardly more than an expression of scorn and contempt. There is no relaxation about it. His pleasures have no repose.
At one of these dinners I had, in fact, the opportunity of hearing his views on humor. I was sitting opposite Goebbels, who was on Hitler's left. The two were discussing the National Socialist humorous papers and the significance of wit as a weapon. In humor, too, or what he called humor, Hitler saw only a weapon. It was at this time that, in connection with the Stürmer and its Jewish caricatures, he gave utterance to the remark later much quoted in the party, that this was "the form of pornography permitted in the Third Reich." Evidently Hitler took pleasure in these filthy stories.
After dinner, coffee and liqueurs were served in Hitler's small study. There was some smoking too, but not much. Occasionally the coffee would be served on a large terrace rather like a roof-garden, which overlooked the treetops in the gardens of the old Reich Chancellery. Hitler's entire entourage, especially his stepsister, Frau Raubal, who at that time lent his home a housewifely character, were continually worried about his safety. Attempts at assassination were already feared, particularly within the Chancellery gardens, and Hitler had been warned against walking in them. He took little exercise. The terrace was his substitute for a garden.
It was on this terrace that, after dinner one evening in the early summer of
1933, I was present at a conversation that was most revealing of Hitler's
political opinions about America, and showed how far-reaching were his plans
even then, and how mistaken was the belief that National Socialism had
political aims only in the east and southeast of Europe. A trusted, leading
member of the
"We shall create a new
He then outlined broadly all that a hard-working and energetic government could do to create order. All the pre-
conditions for a revolution were there, a revolution which in a few decades, or even years, would transform a corrupt mestizo state into a German dominion.
"Besides, we have a right to this continent, for the Fuggers and Welsers had
possessions there. We have got to repair what our German disunity has
destroyed; we must see to it that it is no longer true that we have lost all
that we once occupied. The time has passed for us to give place to
Von P., his guest, agreed as to the special opportunities of
"These people will need us if they are going to make anything of their
country," Hitler remarked. They had less use, he said, for investment
capital than for the spirit of enterprise and for organizing ability. And they
were fed up with the
"We shall give them both: capital and the spirit of enterprise. We
shall make them a third gift: our philosophy," said Hitler. "If ever
there is a place where democracy is senseless and suicidal, it is in
know about the German colony? Can anything be done along these lines?"
He turned to von P., who replied that it was very doubtful whether we ought to keep in touch with good society. In his opinion we should attain our purpose more quickly by making use of other classes, such as the Indios and the mestizos.
"Both, my dear P.," Hitler interrupted impatiently. "We
require two movements abroad, a loyal and a revolutionary one. Do you think
that's so difficult? I think we have proved that we are capable of it. We
should not be here otherwise. We shall not land troops like William the Conqueror
Hitler asked further questions about German possibilities in
I turned to Hanfstängel with the suggestion that
this seemed to me a most alarming repetition in an aggravated form of the whole
pre-war policy. Would it not be wiser not to challenge
tradiction to the
fundamental rules laid down by Mein Kampf. But now
for the first time I heard derogatory mention made of this book in Hitler's
presence, and concluded from this that it was by no means regarded in the inner
circles as the binding pronouncement it was given out to be for the masses. It
was Hanfstängel's opinion that sooner or later we
should in any case have to face the hostility of the
"And if you look closer," concluded Hanfstängel,
"you will find that everything about
That night I heard mentioned for the first time the general outlines of the
future great German overseas Reich. I was amazed to hear that Hitler was
reaching out to the Pacific. Above all, he was interested in the former great German
island empire, embracing the Dutch possessions and the whole of
AT THE DINNER TABLE 65
and culture as a preliminary step towards
(SUMMER OF 1934, AFTER THE JUNE "PURGE")
This brings me to
One man has evidently greatly influenced his conceptions concerning
separation of the Russian Ukraine and the
establishment of a
Directly or indirectly, Deterding convinced Hitler
Among intimate friends, Hitler let himself go. I often heard him shout and stamp his feet. The slightest contradiction threw him into a rage. This was the beginning of the technique by which he would throw his entourage into confusion by well-timed fits of rage, and thus make them more submis-
AT THE DINNER TABLE 67
sive. People began to be afraid of his incalculable temper. The terror of the 30th June and the bloody deeds against patriots and citizens were bearing fruit.
Everywhere, Hitler complained, there were nothing but sterile old men in their second childhood, who bragged of their technical knowledge and had lost their sound common sense.
"If I say: I want to do this or that, Neurath tells me I can't. We'll have everyone up in arms. If I say: Damn your economic science, bring me money, Schacht says he can't, we must first consider a fresh plan."
Hitler then began to dream of all he could do if only he were not surrounded
by a lot of indolent old fools who had got stuck in routine. For instance,
there was this country
"If we had that country," said the Führer,
"we should solve all our difficulties. I have no use for Schacht or Krosigk; all they do, day in, day out, is to tell me their
HITLER ON THE UNITED STATES
In June, 1933, I was present at a dinner-table conversation in Hitler's flat
in which he gave expression to this view. Later, however, I had frequent
occasions to hear the same view expressed. One of the guests suggested that it
might be of decisive importance for
"Whose friendship?" Hitler brusquely interposed. "The friendship of the Jewish jobbers and moneybags or that of the American people?"
He expressed his contempt of the present government of the
"This is the last disgusting death-rattle of a corrupt and outworn
system which is a blot on the history of this people. Since the Civil War, in
which the Southern States were conquered, against all historical logic and
sound sense, the Americans have been in a condition of political and popular
decay. In that war, it was not the Southern States, but the American people
themselves who were conquered. In the spurious blossoming of economic progress
and power politics,
good society and to represent the old families, rules the country under the fiction of a democracy which has never before been so nakedly exposed as a mass of corruption and legal venality. The beginnings of a great new social order based on the principle of slavery and inequality were destroyed by that war, and with them also the embryo of a future truly great America that would not have been ruled by a corrupt caste of tradesmen, but by a real Herren-class that would have swept away all the falsities of liberty and equality."
That word "equality" seemed to lash him into a fury. "Equality of whom?" he shouted. "Of the descendants of old Spanish ruling families and of Swedish settlers with the degenerate masses from Poland, Bohemia, Hungary, with all the scum of East Baltic and Balkan Jewry? But I am firmly convinced that in a certain section of the American middle class and the farmers, the sound fighting spirit of colonial days has not been extinguished. We must awaken that spirit. It has not yet been destroyed. The wholesome aversion for the Negroes and the colored races in general, including the Jews, the existence of popular justice, the naïveté of the average American, but also the skepticism of certain intellectual circles who have found their wisdom vain; scholars who have studied immigration and gained an insight, by means of intelligence tests, into the inequality of the races—all these strains are an assurance that the sound elements of the United States will one day awaken as they have awakened in Germany. National Socialism alone is destined to liberate the American people from their ruling clique and give them back the means of becoming a great nation."
Hitler had grown animated. All other conversation died away.
"I shall," he continued, "undertake this task simultaneously
with the restoration of
"In what sense, my Führer?" asked Goebbels.
"Have you forgotten that the declaration of German as the national language was lost by only one voice in Congress? The German component of the American people will be the source of its political and mental resurrection. The American people is not yet a nation in the ethnographical sense; it is a conglomerate of disparate elements. But it is the raw material of a nation. And the Yankees have failed to create a nation from it! They have instead kept their noses in their money-bags. Today this is being avenged. Their difficulties will become insuperable."
"Do you mean," I asked, "that the German-American,
rejuvenated by National Socialism, will be called to lead a new
"That is exactly what I mean," Hitler returned. "We shall
soon have an
"Shall we not very greatly complicate our own struggle in
Hitler became excited.
"Will you understand, sir, that our struggle against
versal basis of life in the world. Or else we shall be destroyed in our struggle against a peace-treaty which has in reality never existed, and proved on the very first day of its ratification that the conquerors had accidentally been taken for the conquered, and vice versa."
"Nothing will be easier than to produce a bloody revolution in
Hitler's guest, with whom I was not intimately acquainted, remained silent, visibly confounded. Hitler observed this and seemed irritated by it.
"It is a mistake to assume that it was a danger to us in the last war," Hitler remarked crossly. "Compared with the British and French, the Americans behaved like clumsy boys. They ran straight into the line of fire, like young rabbits. The American is no soldier. The inferiority and decadence of this allegedly new world is evident in its military inefficiency."
"Nevertheless," Hitler's guest repeated, "I should like to be allowed to express a most humble warning that the Americans ought not to be underestimated as an enemy."
"Who says anything of underestimation?" Hitler exclaimed angrily,
as he rose to lead the way from the table. "I guarantee, gentlemen, that at the right moment a new
"We have the means of awakening this nation in good
time," he added after a pause. "There
will be no new
Only to those who were initiated were the aims and methods of Hitler at that time quite clear. This was by no means the case even with all the leading party members. It was part of Hitler's political shrewdness that he should have discussed his current plans in detail only with a particularly intimate circle, and allowed very few to gain an insight into the wider ramifications of his ideas. Before his seizure of power, the reason for this was largely that his immediate associates, who were of an essentially narrow, lower-middle class mentality, had not the imagination to accept without fear these new ideas which so far exceeded the bounds of a "sensible" nationalism and socialism. The "realists" of the party were already rather scornful of Hitler as a visionary and a crank. That it was these very "crank" ideas of Hitler's which made it possible for him to go his own unusual and eventually self-justifying way was at that time evident to very few.
In all these very nearly insane plans, Hitler thought of the new weapon he was at that time in the process of building up quite inconspicuously, but with great firmness of purpose, against the resistance of the "experts." I refer neither to aircraft nor to tanks, but to that "psychological weapon" of which Hitler had already spoken some time in 1932, a weapon which he already envisaged with great clarity and completeness. In this connection, too, I recall a conversation at Hitler's dinner-table in the summer of 1933, when the Führer was still communicative; a time in which the bourgeois Cabinet
AT THE DINNER TABLE 73
members were publicly turning up their noses at the Cabinet sittings which under the new Chancellor had declined into folk oratory or crystal-gazing rhetoric.
The conversation dealt with the importance of internal unrest as a weapon.
The Ukrainian problem was the topic of the day in the inner party circles. It
was believed at that time that the question of
Hanfstängel elucidated his master's ideas to me as
he saw them. In particular he thought it would be quite easy to provoke revolt
in the Ukrainian part of
Every state, they reminded me, could by suitable methods be so split from within that little strength was required to break it down. Everywhere there were groups that desired independence, whether national or economic, or merely political. The scramble for fodder and distorted ambition—these
were the unfailing means to a revolutionary weapon by which the enemy was struck from the rear. Finally, there were the businessmen, whose profits were their all-in-all. There was no patriotism that could hold out against all temptations. Besides, one could always dress these things up. It was really by no means difficult to find patriotic slogans that would cover all such enterprises and would at the same time win over men who were glad to salve their sensitive consciences with some such balsam. And ultimately it was all a question of money and organization.
I expressed doubts. It seemed to me the real object behind it all must soon
become apparent. Besides, such enterprises cost huge sums which
Hitler's personal photographer, Hofmann, Baldur von Schirach's father-in-law, here began to laugh at me rather contemptuously, remarking that those days had been finished by Hitler. And as for money, for this purpose there would always be money. It was true that these conspiracy methods grew costlier as one moved further westward. But that was the only difference. They would succeed everywhere. He guaranteed that. Besides, there were rich people in every country who would themselves find the necessary funds.
Well, I said, somewhat nettled by Hofmann's cocksure manner, no one would
ever convince me that this was possible in
sibility of an internal conspiracy. Their very arrogance would prevent them from believing it. They could not imagine that a weapon would be used against them, a Herren-race, which only they themselves had a right to use! And I seemed to have forgotten the ease with which the English reacted to the slogan, "Business as usual."
"Democracy has no convictions," Hanfstängel proclaimed. "Genuine convictions, I mean, for which people would be willing to stake their lives. That is Hitler's fundamental discovery, and it forms the starting-point for his great and daring policies, which will always prove to be right. Fear and personal advantage will in every case, sooner or later, lead to capitulation. In every country there are all the people we shall need to set in motion any desired movement in any level of society or education. Once a beginning has been made, the rest will follow of its own accord. Lack of conviction always results in defeatism: resistance is useless.
"But much is also to be achieved by means of certain convictions with the help of fanatical eccentrics. Sport and religion and love affairs can be used to provide support within the enemy country. From such vantage points, public opinion will then be influenced. It is on public opinion that democracy depends, and public opinion is our greatest help. We shall always be stronger than the democracies in being able to guide their public opinion according to our wish. The money spent for this purpose is certainly not spent in vain. It does not matter if, on this account, we must do with a few army divisions less. The democracies cannot defend themselves against such attacks; that is in the nature of the matter, for otherwise they would have to become authoritarian themselves. Dictatorships, however, are protected against such weapons, and need not fear similar attacks. This creates such an inequality that
even considerable differences in military strength are neutralized by it."
In the conviction that the natural powers of resistance and the sound instincts
of the democratic nations were being greatly underestimated, I replied that I
could well believe that young, unsettled nations, such as those in the east of
"Our only enemies are the democracies," Hanfstängel said with a laugh. "And do you know why? For the very reason that they are weaker. One must always choose a weaker opponent. That is the secret of success."
And with this piece of cheap wit the conversation ended. It was not until later that I realized this was not a joke. It was, on the contrary, the expression of the very simple and effective tactics used by Hitler.
SHORTLY AFTER THE Reichstag fire, Hitler asked me for a report on the
The complacency with which this close circle of the initiated discussed the deed was shattering. Gratified laughter, cynical jokes, boasting—these were the sentiments expressed by the "conspirators." Göring described how "his boys" had entered the Reichstag building by a subterranean passage from the President's Palace, and how they had only a few minutes at their disposal and were nearly discovered. He regretted that the "whole shack" had not burnt down. They had been so hurried that they could not "make a proper job of it." Göring,
who had taken the leading part in the conversation, closed with the significant words:
"I have no conscience. My conscience is Adolf Hitler."
There is nothing more extraordinary than that this enormous crime, the
perpetrators of which gradually became known in the widest circles, should not
have been sharply condemned, even in middle-class quarters. Many people
actually condoned this coup. Still more extraordinary is the fact that
the incendiary himself has actually enjoyed a certain amount of sympathy in
foreign countries, even till quite recently. It is true that Göring has always presented a contrast to Hitler. In
intimate circles, he has not hesitated to use the coarsest expressions about
"that womanish fool." But in decisive crises, he has always stood
beside and behind Hitler. It was he who ordered the Reichstag building to be
burnt at Hitler's command. He took the responsibility upon himself, just as he
did that of the murders on
We were summoned into Hitler's presence. The conversation was a brief one.
It began with conditions in
"I have been advised against accepting the post of Reich
Chancellor under the conditions advanced by the old gentleman [von Hindenburg]," Hitler said. He added scornfully, "As though I had the time to wait till everything falls into my lap of its own accord!"
He started up from his seat behind the desk and prowled restlessly up and down the small room in which in those days he received visitors.
"I know what I'm doing," he went on. "I have unlocked the door for you. It is now the business of the party to go forward to a complete victory."
The first step, he told us, was to create a real power out of the initial victory of National Socialism, which was still hedged about with restrictions.
"The reactionary forces believe they have me on the lead. They will set as many traps for me as they can. I know that they hope I will achieve my own ruin by mismanagement. . . . But we shall not wait for them to act. Our great opportunity lies in acting before they do. And we have no scruples. I have no bourgeois hesitations! I expect each one of us to become one of a single family of conspirators. I have had to accept harsh conditions. I shall observe them as long as I am forced to do so."
Hitler then began to discuss the Reichstag fire. He asked whether we had seen it yet, and we replied that we had not.
"Go and look at it," he said. "It is the beacon of a new era in the history of the world."
It certainly provided him with a weapon against the opposition.
"I have sown fear and apprehension in the hearts of those old women Hugenberg and company [the bourgeois Nationalist ministers of Hitler's first Cabinet]. They're quite prepared
to believe I instigated it. They take me for the Old Nick himself. And it's a good thing they do."
Hitler mocked at the involved and technical speeches and objections of his ministerial colleagues. He shocked them intentionally in his own speeches. It caused him exquisite amusement to see how indignant they were with him, and how superior they considered themselves.
"They regard me as an uneducated barbarian," he exclaimed jubilantly. "Yes, we are barbarians! We want to be barbarians! It is an honorable title. We shall rejuvenate the world! This world is near its end. It is our mission to cause unrest."
He then launched into a verbose exposition of what he called an "historical necessity." Barbarian forces, he claimed, must break into decadent civilizations in order to snatch the torch of life from their dying fires. Then he began to speak of the treatment of Communists and Socialists.
"These people thought I would handle them with kid gloves, that I would be satisfied with speeches," he scoffed. "We are not in a position to dally with humane feelings, nor can I undertake tedious investigations into anyone's good-will or innocence. We must shake off all sentimentality and be hard. Some day, when I order war, I shall not be in a position to hesitate because of the ten million young men I shall be sending to their death. It is preposterous," he continued, growing indignant, "to expect me to look only for the real criminals among the Communists. It is just like the cowardly, inconsistent bourgeoisie to pacify their consciences with legal proceedings. There is only one legal right, the nation's right to live."
Without giving us a chance to say a word in reply, Hitler
plunged into a dissertation on the incompetent politics of the bourgeoisie and the Socialists.
"I have no choice," he exclaimed. "I must do things that cannot be measured with the yardstick of bourgeois squeamishness. This Reichstag fire gives me the opportunity to intervene. And I shall intervene."
He then explained further that he must shock the middle class in order to rouse their fear of the designs of the Communists and their dread of his own severity.
"The world can only be ruled by fear."
Hitler dismissed us. His adjutant Bruckner had
entered. Time was getting on. That afternoon a National Socialist school for
leaders was to be inaugurated in a former Social-Democratic school, and Hitler
had promised to attend. The interrupted conversation, however, had a kind of
sequel later in the autumn. Complaints as to the horrors of the concentration
camps had begun to reach Hitler. I remember a particular instance in
In those days the routine excuse was that a revolution was taking place in
dealt out then and later by the S.S. and the
I happened to be present when Hitler's attention was called to the
The occasion was my first experience of Hitler's paroxysms of rage and abuse. He behaved like a combination of a spoilt child and an hysterical woman. He scolded in high, shrill tones, stamped his feet, and banged his fist on tables and walls. He foamed at the mouth, panting and stammering in uncontrolled fury: "I won't have it! Get rid of all of them! Traitors!" He was an alarming sight, his hair disheveled, his eyes fixed, and his face distorted and purple. I feared that he would collapse, or have an apoplectic fit.
Suddenly it was all over. He walked up and down the room, clearing his throat, and brushing his hair back. He looked round apprehensively and suspiciously, with searching glances at us. I had the impression that he wanted to see if anyone was laughing. And I must admit that a desire to laugh, perhaps largely as a nervous reaction to the tension, rose within me.
"Preposterous," Hitler began in a hoarse voice. "Haven't you ever seen a crowd collecting to watch a street brawl? Brutality is respected. Brutality and physical strength. The
plain man in the street respects nothing but brutal strength and ruthlessness—women, too, for that matter, women and children. The people need wholesome fear. They want to fear something. They want someone to frighten them and make them shudderingly submissive. Haven't you seen everywhere that after boxing-matches, the beaten ones are the first to join the party as new members? Why babble about brutality and be indignant about tortures? The masses want that. They need something that will give them a thrill of horror."
After a pause, he continued in his former tone:
"I forbid you to change anything. By all means, punish one or two men, so that these German Nationalist donkeys may sleep easy. But I don't want the concentration camps transformed into penitentiary institutions. Terror is the most effective political instrument. I shall not permit myself to be robbed of it simply because a lot of stupid, bourgeois molly-coddles choose to be offended by it. It is my duty to make use of every means of training the German people to severity, and to prepare them for war."
Hitler paced the room excitedly.
"My behavior in wartime will be no different. The most horrible warfare is the kindest. I shall spread terror by the surprise employment of all my measures. The important thing is the sudden shock of an overwhelming fear of death. Why should I use different measures against my internal political opponents? These so-called atrocities spare me a hundred thousand individual actions against disobedience and discontent. People will think twice before opposing us when they hear what to expect in the camps."
No one ventured to put any questions.
"I don't want to hear anything more about this," Hitler said in conclusion. "It's your business to see that no evidence
about such cases leaks out. I cannot allow such absurd trifles to break in on my work. Anybody who is such a poltroon that he can't bear the thought of someone near-by having to suffer pain had better join a sewing-circle, but not my party comrades."
IS HITLER UNFEELING towards the pain suffered by others. Is he cruel and revengeful? Today there can hardly be a doubt as to the answer, but a few years ago, everyone who had the opportunity of hearing Hitler's remarkable statements in intimate circles, could not but ask himself this question. Every conversation, however unimportant, seemed to show that this man was filled with an immeasurable hatred. Hatred of what? It was not easy to say. Almost anything might suddenly inflame his wrath and his hatred. He seemed always to feel the need of something to hate. But equally, the transition from anger to sentimentality or enthusiasm might be quite sudden.
In May, 1933, elections took place in
There were literally coffee and cakes, "just like mother's," Streuselkuchen and Napfkuchen (German teacake specialities). And Hitler was the Hausfrau. He was in a gay
mood, and almost amiable. A few hours earlier he
had given Forster and myself a rough outline of his
eastern policy. All sentimentality would have to be renounced, and all
pretenses given up. The National Socialists did not find it necessary, like the
It was necessary, Hitler impressed upon us, to be astute. German aims were
not to be attained in a few days or weeks. We must avoid anything that might
give the world cause for suspicion. There was a choice between only two kinds
of action: one might pretend or one might be quite sincere in one's aims. He
himself was determined to make any treaty that would ease the position of
It was along these lines that Hitler spoke first to Forster and myself, then in a short speech to the other Danzigers. After the speech, we had the coffee and cakes.
The conversation carried on by Hitler over the coffee was less statesman-like.
He had just instituted his currency barrier against independent
he took up this struggle, which he regarded as in any case nearly concluded. Flaming hatred burned in his every word—hatred and contempt.
Meanwhile, he urged us to help ourselves to cakes. The Danzigers sitting near him listened uncomprehendingly. He continued to outline his future Austrian policy:
"We must not deceive ourselves. There is no longer an
He regarded it as his special task to train
task, but he would accomplish it. It would not be
Hitler hinted at his intentions, and made it clear that everything was ready
for a coup in
"I shall put the screw on this man Dollfuss!" Hitler shouted. "He dares to contradict me! But wait, gentlemen! You will see them before long crawling on their knees to me. But," with icy coldness, "I shall have them put to death as traitors."
Hatred—personal hatred—rang out in his words, revenge for early years of poverty, for disappointed hopes, for a life of deprivation and humiliation. For some time there was an embarrassed silence. Hitler urged his guests to eat, like a hospitable peasant woman. Young S.S. men brought in fresh dishes of cakes and filled up our cups.
Hitler had mentioned the Viennese Jews, and began to discuss the Jewish
question. The Jews, he said, laughing, were
her way in peace. If the democracies did not
withdraw their boycott, he would take from the German Jews as much of their
property as would cover the damage done to
"We'll show them how fast they'll have to stop their anti-German propaganda!
The Jews will yet make
Everybody laughed. Hitler went on to say that there must, of course, come a time when there would be nothing left to take from the Jews. But then he would still hold their lives in the palm of his hand: their precious Jewish lives. The company burst out laughing again.
"Streicher," Hitler continued, laughing himself, "has suggested that in the next war they should be driven ahead of our attacking defense lines. They would be the best protection for our soldiers. I shall consider the suggestion."
The party shouted with laughter at this "witticism," and Hitler,
stimulated by his success, went into detail on the measures he would take to
expropriate the Jews slowly, but relentlessly, and to drive them out of
"Everything we plan will be carried out," he snapped. "I shall not permit anyone to talk me out of it."
What followed covered essentially the measures actually taken in 1938. Truly, everything had been planned and considered long beforehand. It was anything but merely the rabid response to an unhappy murder.
At that time (1933), after the first pogrom, Hitler was compelled slightly to water down his attacks on the Jews. But for that very reason he seemed to think it important not to allow anti-Semitism to slacken. I have since heard Hitler many times express his views about the Jews. I shall return to the subject in a later chapter. Here I wish only to
draw a picture of the extraordinary contrast between the peaceful, typically petit bourgeois coffee-table, with party members from the provinces, as it were, and the talk of the host, the Chancellor of the great German people: talk that revolved round death, revolt, jail, murder, robbery. No word of enthusiasm, of intellectual encouragement, or of interest in the personal affairs of his individual guests.
"What do I care about personal happiness or personal affairs?" Hitler had, on one occasion, cried impatiently. "Do as you like, do as you please!"
Envy, primitive rage and the craving for power: this was the wisdom that Hitler gave his followers along their political path.
HITLER KNEW VERY well that the ordinary person cannot live on hate and revenge alone. This man, who was quite consciously making use of the worst human instincts, knew the weaknesses and desires of his people very thoroughly.
"Don't marry till I am in power," he used to advise his lieutenants, the Gauleiter, the Reich leaders and others who looked upon their posts as secure and permanent jobs, and expressed a wish to live prosperous, comfortable lives.
"Occupy positions," was Hitler's slogan as soon as he came to power. To seize everything available in the way of jobs was the rule everywhere. "Gather ye roses while ye may," sang from below the croaking voice of the bibulous Dr. Ley, leader of the Labor Front. "Enjoy life and enrich yourselves," came the jovial order from above.
"We are no spoil-sports. Fires need fuel," was the whisper going round the corridors outside Hitler's offices. "Building up one's own position," was the motto of the first few months after the seizure of power.
"I give my men every freedom," Hitler said, in the course of a dinner-table conversation. "Do anything you like, but don't be caught at it!"
It was Hitler himself that egged on his men quite inten-
tionally to make the most of their opportunities. They needed no second bidding. It was then that I heard the curious expression: "planned corruption." Certainly this corruption was planned, and not merely condoned. There were people who hoped this would quickly bring about the downfall of National Socialism. But Hitler knew he had to let his men "get something out of it." Instead of the "night of long knives," they obtained middle-class positions; instead of a genuine revolution, they at least reaped the advantages of one: jobs for careerists.
It is nothing new for a revolution to help its sons to enrich themselves,
The Führer, however, waived his claims to the Chancellor's salary, thus setting a good example. He could well afford to do so. Overnight he had become the richest publisher in the world, worth millions, and the most widely read author—read under compulsion. He could afford to complain about Göring's excesses and extravagance. He complained demonstratively, thereby reassuring opinion in certain quarters. Hitler was "most unhappy" about Göring's recent development, Forster told me at that time. "We must keep
strictly to our promise that there should be no
salaries over a thousand marks a month." It was all very well for Forster to
talk. He had five separate posts. His income amounted to about a dozen times
the stipulated sum. Eventually he became the owner of extensive house property
Matters were no different in
Hitler expressed his views on this state of things with his usual candor. It was by no means a situation that he had perforce to tolerate because it was too strong for him. On the contrary. I had just attended a so-called "Führer conference" in the former Prussian Upper House, in which Hitler had developed the political program of the immediate future. It was not a very informative speech. Afterwards, however, I had occasion to hear him speak in a closer circle.
He was being reproached, he said angrily in his guttural voice, for having instituted unwarrantable prosecutions for corruption against the former rulers and their accomplices, while his own men were filling their pockets.
"I have answered the fools who venture to use such language to me," he said. "I have asked them to tell me how I
could otherwise meet the justified desires of my
party comrades for some recompense for their years of inhuman struggle. I have
asked them whether they would prefer me to let my
"It is necessary to throw them into a fright now and again. I owe that
to my party comrades," he added after a pause. "They have a right to
demand it. After all, my party comrades have also fought to rid themselves of
their personal difficulties. Preposterous not to admit it
frankly. It is a duty of friendship that I should see that they all have
a livelihood. My old fighting comrades have earned it. In making
Growing angry, he began to shout.
"Are we to pull their cart out of the mud, only to be sent home with
empty hands? They would like that, wouldn't they? How can I hold the power
unless I have every post occupied by my men? They ought to be glad we
don't shoot them, as they do in
This was something very close to controlled, planned corruption. But Hitler had more in his mind than this. He knew that there is nothing so binding as crimes committed in company. I found out later how the party, to make certain of unreliable members, forced them to commit punishable acts
in its interests in order to keep them under complete control. The same principle underlay the sharing out of the long-desired spoils. The "inner conspiracy" of the party élite was thus a circle of those who were all in the secret. Everyone was in the power of everyone else, and no one was any longer his own master. This was the desired result of the slogan: "Enrich yourselves."
It is of interest to note that well-founded rumors were already spreading to
the effect that each of the leading party members, and everyone else who was
able to, was placing money abroad in order to ensure himself against all
eventualities. Besides the money, there was usually also deposited in a bank
safe or with a solicitor a dossier of incriminating material, the publication
of which might have disastrous results for a number of important personages of
the National Socialist movement. These dossiers were intended as a sure
protection for the possessor against intervention by the party or the civil
authorities. In other words, sheer gangster methods were used by the leading
party members without exception to secure, not only their own futures
after the downfall of the regime, but also their present lives and positions.
It is difficult to conceive the extent of the universal, unparalleled and
uncontrolled corruption that had so suddenly broken out in
A Gauleiter (whose name I do not wish to mention because he is one of the naturally decent party members, and may therefore in a coming downfall of the regime still play an important part) told me quite frankly that he had no choice but to make use of the same methods. If he did not, he would very soon not only be deprived of his position, but above all instantly murdered. He gave me the friendly advice to acquire incriminating evidence about my opponents, for instance,
Gauleiter Forster. The moment I had this in my hands, I might regard my position as assured. Without it, I was eternally condemned to a subordinate position. Incriminating material and property abroad—these alone made one invulnerable. He, at any rate, had both, and he was planning to send his wife abroad, as she could best watch his interests there.
This friend of mine has, in fact, contrary to all expectations, been able to hold a position bitterly disputed for years.
PROFESSION OF CYNICISM
The remarkable feature of these early self-revelations is the quite candid cynicism with which the position was discussed in party circles. I must return to a dinner-table conversation in Hitler's home during this same early summer of 1933. The conversation opened with a reference by Goebbels to the National Socialist humorous journal, Die Brennessel (The Stinging Nettle). Goebbels mentioned some caricatures on the so-called Zwickelerlass, that extraordinary decree promulgated by the then Chancellor von Papen, who had assumed responsibility for the maintenance of public decency by instructions as to the kinds of bathing-suits it was permissible to wear. Goebbels made some sharp comments about the antedeluvian moral conceptions of the reactionaries, and their spurious Germandom. He castigated their attempts to stigmatize short hair in women and the use of make-up as un-German. It was high time, he said, to stop the pettifogging activities of these people, who confused National Socialism with provincialism, and diluted the spirit of battle with the tracts of religious sisterhoods.
"I can imagine our
in order to make German girls wear their hair in long plaits and to stop their smoking!"
Hitler, who had up till then sat in morose silence, now joined in the conversation, and soon talked himself into a rage.
"I detest this prudery and moral snooping," he cried. "It has
nothing to do with our struggle. These are the stale notions of reactionary old
women like Hugenberg, who can only imagine a national
rejuvenation by means of virtuous customs and severity. 'League of Virtue' and
'Christian-German table-companions,' 'replacing the material losses of the
nation by spiritual gains'—I can't remember all their empty patriotic rubbish.
Our uprising has nothing to do with bourgeois morals. We are an uprising
of the strength of our nation. The strength of its loins, if
you like, as well. I shall not spoil the fun for any of my lads. If I
demand the supreme effort from them, then I must also give them the right to
carouse as they please, not as it suits a lot of church-going old women.
Heaven knows my boys are no angels, and they are not expected to be. They are
sturdy yeomen, and must remain so. I have no use for hypocrites and
virtue-peddlers. I am not interested in their private lives any more than I
will permit any snooping about my own private life. The party has nothing to do
with revivalist meetings or nonsensical talk about moral renewal from the
spirit and the history of our people. We are after something entirely
different. Let that old goat, Hugenberg, go to the
I have since heard this opinion expressed many times by members of all sections of the party, down to the pettiest official. The teachings of Hitler had a prompt effect. In Dan-
zig at that time, we were compelled to accept a few nasty cases of assault and violence, but they were child's play to what went on daily in the Reich. The road to destruction was paved, not with good, but with thoroughly evil intentions. There spread through the party a cynicism which only shortly before would have been inconceivable. There were two things everyone in the party, big or small, strove for: apart from the collection of loot and the enjoyment of unrestrained license, immunity for the past and security for the future. The universal aim was to have a share in everything, to take no risks, to keep one's head above water, and above all not to sink down again into the anonymous, powerless mass. The lobbies were all crowded with job-hunters. Quite openly they made their demands. "The Führer said so," they would announce naively. "All the old fighters are to have jobs and bread. We haven't fought to go empty-handed."
Someone asked me for the post of councilor of state. He was not interested in the post itself or the salary, but the pension. He wanted security for all time. What sorry fighters they were! Wretched little petits bourgeois whose fear of the future flickered in their eyes!
"I won't get down again!" one of them screamed at me angrily. "Perhaps you can wait. You're not sitting on a bed of glowing coals! No job, man, no job! If I have to go through that again, I'll turn to crime. I'll stay on top no matter what it costs me. We can't get on top twice running!"
Small men and criminals—these were the "old guard" of Hitler. They were all trying to consolidate their positions, and they were all able to refer to the Führer. No one, up to those in the highest posts, quite trusted the peace. No one believed much in the millennium of the National Socialist era. An eminent bank president admitted to me openly that hav-
ing risked his skin once in a world war, he had no intention of doing so again, or, indeed, of risking anything. He would do as all the others did. He would not expose himself. He had no desire to make personal sacrifices.
It was an evil competition in cynicism. The old upper classes wanted to remain
on top. Bared of any shame or dignity, they clung to their positions, followed
all the party doings they were told to follow—anything not to lose their
positions. The greatest blame for the men's rapid loss of courage must be
placed on the women. Unwilling to give up their luxurious cars, to be turned
out of their palatial residences, they dinned into the men's ears the thought
of the future, and of their children's future. The new social classes, on the
other hand, pushed upwards ruthlessly, by every means. Never before has there
been such corruption, such lack of stamina, in
MONEY IS NO OBJECT
Apart from this, money was no object.
"There is plenty of money, as much as we want. But they don't want to spend it!" Gauleiter Forster shouted at me as early as the autumn of 1933.
This was on the occasion of my expressing certain doubts as to the possibility of carrying through the "plans for the creation of employment," which included the erection of new theaters and swimming-pools, and extravagant improvements in city-streets and hygiene services. None of these desperadoes had the slightest conception of the value of money,
least of all Hitler himself. In the first place, they did not even know the difference between currency and capital. On the basis of their master's primitive ideas, they had concocted a money theory, the central plank of which was that you could "create" as much money as you liked as long as prices were fixed.
In consequence, I became engaged in a stubborn dispute with the party, which Hitler had to arbitrate. His decision was as might have been expected. But were his notions really so primitive? I began to suspect something quite different, namely, that Hitler quite consciously and intentionally planned to destroy the economic power of certain classes of society. The harshness with which he refused any attempt at an open devaluation was in marked contrast to the ease with which he not only tolerated, but actually encouraged, concealed inflation. Hitler regarded the new policy of expenditure and concealed inflation as a most effective means of redistributing wealth and changing the personnel of the ruling class. It is possible that the connection was not quite clear to him, but with the instinctive peasant cunning peculiar to him, he evidently sensed the right thing.
Hitler distrusts everyone who tries to explain political economy to him. He believes that the intention is to dupe him, and he makes no secret of his contempt for this branch of science. He does not understand it, but he feels that an essentially simple matter has been made needlessly complex. He is convinced that labor, money and capital are related in a manner to be ascertained by practice alone; if the speculators and Jews are excluded, then a sort of economic perpetuum mobile remains. Ultimately the thing to do was to make people believe in you, whether by suggestion or by force.
"For pity's sake," an officer of the ministry advised me as
I was on my way to see Hitler, "don't suggest devaluation or any complicated investigations into the means of creating employment."
I found Hitler impatient and hostile. He had been informed of my business with him. Already at that early period, he disliked hearing anything not calculated to strengthen his own convictions.
"I sent Köhler to you to
Köhler was an alleged expert in economics.
"I have seen him," I replied, "but we didn't agree." "Why not?" asked Hitler.
I tried to explain to Hitler that throughout our discussion, this so-called
economist had failed to understand that
Hitler's face darkened.
"Inflation! What do you mean by inflation? Don't talk to me about inflation. All you need is to keep the confidence of the population. Everything else is nonsense."
I attempted to explain to him the method of meeting the balance of payment
"Details don't interest me. Don't make absurd difficulties for Forster. If he wants to build, then in heaven's name, find the money. It must be found. Understand?"
"Forster knows what he's doing," he added in a calmer
tone. "We must get the unemployed off the streets. The quicker we do it, the more effective it will be. We cannot afford the luxury of a long wait. The whole of the responsibility rests on Forster. The party must therefore see to it that something is done. Don't make difficulties for him—help him instead."
I replied that I was doing all I could, but we had to make regular statements of the backing available for our currency. There was a Pole on the board of directors of our issuing bank.
"When must you produce your statement?" Hitler asked. I told him.
"And you can't help yourself?" he cried, turning on me. "I shall give instructions that before the required date you are to be provided with the bills of exchange you need. You can return them again later. You don't need forty per cent backing. You can go down to twenty, or even ten."
That, I tried to say, would be open
"Fraud!" Hitler broke in. "What do you mean by fraud? What do you mean by backing? Confidence. The people have confidence in us even without backing. We are their guarantee, not money or bills of exchange. Our word is valid, not bank rules! Bills of exchange or money can be valueless tomorrow. Do you understand? We are the guarantee. Don't raise stupid objections. Are you going to be a realist in politics, or a theoretician? You recoil before unconventionality? I shall take the responsibility. Do you consider my word of less value than your absurd rules?"
Hitler paused a moment.
"Now don't make any further difficulties," he presently went on more calmly. "The money is here. There will always be money. As long as the German people work, I am not
afraid. Talk to Funk," he advised me. "He is very clear-headed. Don't let anyone impose on you."
His tone became friendlier. "Why do you make things so difficult for yourself?" he asked. "You stumble over threads. Where should we be if we had formal scruples? I simply disregard these things. I am prepared to commit perjury half-a-dozen times a day! What difference would it make?"
He was growing more excited again. I did not know what to reply. What, indeed, could I have replied?
"Don't falter over trifles!" exclaimed the Führer. "Follow my example!"
He sensed my inner resistance, and became very friendly. He stopped pacing the room and continued:
"What choice have we? Is an easy conscience
more precious to you than the rise of a new
Lammers entered the room. Hitler had again talked far beyond the allotted time. I was dismissed. Outside in the great lobby, acquaintances were waiting, among them Count Schwerin-Krosigk, the Finance Minister. He knew my troubles. The subject had not yet been exhausted by this interview with Hitler. A year later it was to be a contributing cause of my resignation.
AFTER LEAVING THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS
"These people want war. Let them have it—but only when it suits me."
I replied that we had certainly heard indignant cries of C'est
la guerre! in the lobbies and corridors of
"They don't dream of making war. Goebbels has reported to me already. A pretty crew they are! They'll never act. They'll just protest. And they will always be too late."
Hitler asked if I had anything to report of my impressions. I replied that
cult. I could not see that resignation from the League
had been absolutely necessary. Surely continued membership would have afforded
us many opportunities of educating and influencing foreign opinion. With an
active political program in which were included some of the aims of the League
itself, such as the minorities principle, the strong,
strategic position of the Reich must soon have led us to numerous successes.
The newly elected South African President of the League, for example, had
spoken with a good deal of understanding of the national discipline now
instituted by certain nations. I had gained the impression that the sympathies
which the new
"What sort of chap is Simon?" Hitler broke in. "Is it true he's a Jew?"
I replied that I had never heard anything of the kind about the British Foreign Secretary.
"I've been told he's a Jew, and wants to destroy
This seemed to me extremely unlikely, I said. I had, on the contrary, gained
the impression that Sir John was the very man who wanted to clear up relations
"And what about Boncour?" Hitler inquired. Goebbels had already brought back a description of him. "What sort of man is he? I understand he has flowing hair and poses as a radical."
He gave me no opportunity to reply, but went on at once.
"These people will not prevent
Nevertheless, I persisted, we should now have to pass through a most critical period. I took the liberty, on the strength of the past summer's experiences, to urge the need for the strictest discipline in all party organizations. Only if
all "incidents" were avoided could we hope to escape danger. Without a doubt our resignation from the League was in-creasing the risks for German rearmament, and awakening premature suspicion of our new national policy.
Hitler got up and paced the room in silence for some minutes. Then, without looking at me, he embarked upon self-justifying monologue.
"I had to do it. A liberating deed was necessary—one that should be
universally comprehensible. I had to tear the German people out of this
clinging network of dependence, vain talk and false conceptions in order to restore
our liberty of action. I am not merely an opportunist. Perhaps the difficulties
have for the moment been increased. But that is counterbalanced by the
increased confidence this deed has won me among the German people. They would
not have approved of our going on like a debating society, doing what the
I did not know what to reply. It might be a novel, fool-hardy policy, but it had the advantage of being emphatic, with the emphasis of simple, elemental decisions. It was on such simple decisions, easily understood by everyone, that Hitler's long series of internal and external successes rested. He seemed to know instinctively the proper psychological
moment at which to produce them. But just as one was pre-pared to admit that the party Führer was unquestionably right in his judgment, his inordinate loquacity would again cause one to doubt the sanity of the man. I know that many of his visitors have come away from an interview with him in a similar state of perplexity.
Forgetting time and place, Hitler continued to talk, leaping from one subject to the next, with neither commas nor full stops, discursiveness personified.
"The era of democracy is over, inexorably finished," he exclaimed.
"We have been drawn into a movement which will carry us along with it
whether we like it or not. If we resist, we shall be annihilated. If we stand
aside, we shall die off. It is a choice between taking action or being destroyed. Democracy is no longer the suitable
political medium for the great decisions of the coming years. It is the happy
"It is my historical achievement to have recognized this. My policy only seems dangerous; it is not really so. Success will be mine because I have fathomed the weaknesses, including Marxism, of all the spurious great men of democracy and liberalism. We shall triumph by the same inexorable logic of fact in our foreign policy as in our home policy. I shall attain my purpose without a struggle, by legal means, just as I have come to power—simply because the inner logic of events demanded it, because there was no other power left in Germany that could have saved us from chaos. The opposition to us is dismally helpless, incapable of acting because it has lost every vestige of an inner law of action. The secret of National So-
cialist success is its recognition of the irrevocable passing of the bourgeoisie and their political ideas."
He paused for a moment, then continued.
"Democracy is a poison which disintegrates the body of the nation, and
its action is the more deadly the more naturally strong and healthy the nation
it infects. In the course of time, the old democracies have become more or less
immune from this poison, and might have gone on vegetating under its influence
for another decade or so. But for
The German people, he resumed, had had to be rescued from all dangerous and contaminating contact with this political pestilence, democracy. They would have perished otherwise.
"Today we do not yet know what the end will be. We are only at the beginning. But we desire revolution. We shall not retreat. Fully conscious of what I was doing, I burnt all bridges in my foreign policy. I will compel the German people, who are hesitating before their destiny, to walk the road to greatness. I can attain my purpose only through world revolution. For the German people, there is no other way. Relentlessly they must be driven to their greatness, or they will fall back into timid renunciation."
Under the feeble governments of the last years, he continued,
"In new geological ages, the whole structure of the earth is changed by gigantic avalanches, piling up new mountains and creating canyons, plains and oceans. So also will the entire
European social order be uprooted in mighty
eruptions and collapses. In such times of world upheaval, it is a law of
elementary self-preservation to be hard as the primeval rock, lest one be
overwhelmed and buried. The only hope for
Only by accepting the inner law of the new world order, he contended, could the German people become the world people who would give their name to the coming era.
Hitler grew calmer as he spoke, and added with a certain degree of modesty that National Socialism had perhaps given its name to the great German upheaval more or less by accident. The leading role of National Socialism, which could never more be struck from the historical register of the nation, was due to its timely and accurate recognition of this great world transformation, into the cosmic maelstrom of which all of us were being drawn.
After this vast survey, Hitler returned to the more prosaic problems of
every day. He accepted unreservedly my view that
"I am willing to sign anything. I will do anything to facilitate the success of my policy. I am prepared to guarantee all frontiers and to make non-aggression pacts and friendly alliances with anybody. It would be sheer stupidity to refuse to make use of such measures merely because one might possibly be driven into a position where a solemn promise would have to be broken. There has never been a sworn treaty which has
not sooner or later been broken or become untenable. There is no such thing as an everlasting treaty. Anyone whose con-science is so tender that he will not sign a treaty unless he can feel sure he can keep it in all and any circumstances is a fool. Why should one not please others and facilitate matters for oneself by signing pacts if the others believe that something is thereby accomplished or regulated? Why should I not make an agreement in good faith today and unhesitatingly break it tomorrow if the future of the German people demands it?
"I shall make any treaty I require," Hitler repeated. "It
will never prevent me from doing at any time what I regard as necessary for
This view of treaties leaving me speechless, Hitler began to announce his
Polish policy. After asking me to persuade Marshal Pilsudski
to come and see him, he expressed his willingness to sign a pact, however
Hitler seemed to dislike being reminded of his special disciple's foolish estimate of the position. He changed the subject at once, and began again to paint a picture of vast perspectives. He hinted that mistakes like that made by Forster in a
moment of warm enthusiasm were reparable. But no one would ever attain a conception of the greatness of our task by reasoning alone; it had to be felt and experienced. He had no objection to such enthusiastic impulses, since they showed him who were the true revolutionaries.
"The Germans are ponderous and slothful. They lack the revolutionary temperament. National Socialism is the first genuinely revolutionary movement of the Germans—not Marxism, not the men of '48, not the miserable little Weimar Republicans. I like my comrades to yearn for the impossible."
He returned to the question of the League. It was corrupt and rotten, like everything in the democracies. There would be no resistance there. At best they were just a lot of officials, worried about their maintenance rights. Incidentally he would now more than ever speak the language of the League. He would not find it difficult.
"And my party comrades will not fail to understand me when they hear me speak of universal peace, disarmament and mutual security pacts!"