Fascism in Germany. Robin Blick 1975

Chapter XXVI: Capital and Labour in the Third Reich

At the doors of the factory a new world begins, a new community. A new spirit. Woe to him who would oppose it. (Dr Robert Ley, Head of the German Labour Front)

The Nazi Third Reich was founded and built on the shattered remains of the German labour movement. On 28 February, Hitler outlawed the KPD. There then followed the suppression of the ADGB trade unions on 2 May, the banning of the SPD on 22 June, and the confiscation of the party’s assets on 14 July, the day on which Germany became an official one-party state. [1] In a purely formal sense, the economic and political organisations of the bourgeoisie shared a similar though not identical fate. One by one the old capitalist and agrarian parties voluntarily wound themselves up (having survived long enough to vote unanimously for Hitler’s totalitarian Enabling Act on 23 March), while over a longer time-span, the various regional and national organisations of the employers were ‘coordinated’ into new Nazi bodies set up to regulate the German economy. Hence the demagogic Nazi claim that the ‘people’s community’ of the Third Reich had transcended narrow ‘materialist’ class divergences, that all Germans were brought together under a single ‘corporate’ economic institution – the Labour Front – and organised politically by a single party which was at the same time ‘national’ and ‘socialist’ – the NSDAP. Reality was altogether different.

The Enslavement of German Labour

The Nazis were quite systematic in their attack on the German working class. First they isolated, and then pulverised, the vanguard, the Communist workers. Next came the taming of the reformist movement – a comparatively easy task, since millions of Social Democratic workers shared to varying degrees the constitutional and legalist illusions of their leaders. Reassured that the fight against Hitler would begin as soon as the Nazis dared violate the Weimar Constitution, the SPD workers woke up – too late – to discover that their party had been hamstrung and their rights usurped by this very constitution – namely Article 48. The Nazis had therefore not only exploited the leftism of the Stalinists, their refusal to make common cause with the reformists against Hitler; but with equal skill had played on the constitutional illusions of the reformist leaders and workers. Then came the final death blow, the liquidation of the trade unions. Here the Nazis, working through their ‘left’ agency, the NSBO, used a combination of the stick and the carrot, tempting the ADGB bureaucracy with the illusion of office in the Third Reich, while at the same time intimidating it with SA raids on union property and arrests of leading officials. The threatened general strike never materialised, the finger never pushed the button, and by the evening of 2 May, the last line of defence of the German proletariat lay in ruins. The first goal of the Nazis – and of course, their capitalist allies, namely the atomisation of the working class – had been achieved. From now on there would be only individual acts of defiance which, however heroic, were doomed not only to failure, but to result in the brutal repression of the workers concerned.

But there was no time or cause for the Nazis to bask in the glory of their victory. Atomisation had to be followed by regimentation, by the total mobilisation of the working class, through both coercion and propaganda, on behalf of German imperialism; in the factory, the mine, the mill and the barrack. A bare eight days after the liquidation of the ADGB trade unions, Ley’s German Labour Front was launched at a mass rally in Berlin. The fight for the ‘soul’ as well as the muscle and brain-power of the German worker had begun. On 23 March 1933, in his speech to the newly-elected Reichstag, Hitler declared that one of the most pressing tasks of his government was ‘the winning over to the national state of the German workman’, while on 16 July of the same year, he again insisted that ‘before us there stands the third phase of our struggle, the phase which is decisive for the future... We are faced with the gigantic task of educating the millions who do not as yet in their hearts belong to us.’ Here the Nazis would brook no opposition. At a speech in Erfurt two days later, Hitler stated:

We will educate our youths to that which we wish later to see in them, and if there are people here and there who think that they cannot change their outlook, then we will take their children away from them and train them up into that which is necessary for the German people.

Similar ideas were also expressed by Labour Front chief Ley:

We begin with the child when he is three years old. As soon as he begins to think he gets a little flag put in his hand; then follows the school, the Hitler Youth, the SA, and military training. We don’t let him go; and when adolescence is past, then comes the Labour Front, which takes him again and does not let him go till he dies, whether he likes it or not.

So the Nazi leaders were well aware that it was by no means sufficient to destroy the German worker’s organisations and to vilify his ideals. Here they proved themselves once again to be far more effective counter-revolutionaries than the old nationalist Right, which could offer the German proletariat nothing more radical or dynamic than Schleicher’s ‘social Bonapartism’ or Papen’s ‘social Christianity’. Hitler, Ley and Goebbels understood that with the liquidation of the German labour movement and the outlawing of Marxism, new organisations claiming to represent the German worker had to be created, and a bogus ‘socialist’ and mass-oriented ideology drilled into his consciousness, to render him a passive object in the hands of the employer and the fascist state. This function fell to Ley’s Labour Front. Its founding principles were enunciated by him on 10 June in his article ‘Fundamental Ideas on Corporate Organisation and the German Labour Front’:

The building up of the corporate state will, as a first thing, restore to the natural leader of an enterprise, to the employer, the complete management and thereby also the responsibility. The factory council consists of workers, employees and employers. Nevertheless, it has only an advisory vote. The decision rests with the employer alone. Many employers have for years had to call for the ‘master in the house’. [That is, the workers’ representatives of the old Weimar works’ councils – RB] Now they are once again to be the ‘master in the house’. [2]

However even in a totalitarian state it was one thing to proclaim such a principle, and another to implement it. As yet, the Labour Front was still largely a bureaucratic shell, a vast army of officers without any troops to lead. Ley therefore had to lean on the plebeians, the ‘radicals’ of the NSBO, who had their own ‘lumpen-socialist’ notions of how to run a Nazi ‘trade union’. The NSBO ‘lefts’ were allotted the role of recruiting sergeants for Ley’s Labour Front, since only they had actual contacts in the big plants and other concentrations of workers, even though they could justly claim the support of only a tiny fraction of the proletariat. Partly in order to avoid further and futile persecutions, but also on the orders of the underground KPD, hundreds of thousands of workers swarmed into the NSBO, bringing with them a still smouldering militancy that not even the Nazi terror of the previous four months could quench. There were even instances of NSBO officials being pressurised by their non-Nazi members into sanctioning economic strikes, a development which not only alarmed employers (who had after all backed the Nazis precisely to end such practices) but Ley himself. On 27 June 1933, NSBO chief Muchow issued a circular to all Labour Front units warning of ‘hidden Marxist sabotage’ inside the NSBO. It reported that anti-Nazi resistance amongst the workers was still so strong that SA men were being killed in the streets of Berlin. Of the most recent assassination Muchow said that ‘the murderer was a Marxist trade union member’ and that ‘a few days ago SA men were fired at by Marxists in two other cities of the Reich’. Muchow then quoted a Gestapo report, which claimed that ‘an attempt is being made to bring together all “class-conscious” workers who reject fascism. The aim is to keep trade unions as fighting organisations in spite of National Socialist leadership.’ The ‘trade unions’ in question were of course the NSBO and the Labour Front. [3]

Muchow then issued the following directives to combat Marxist activities in the plants and the Nazi labour organisations:

1. Expulsion of the last leading Marxists from all units of the associations of the German Labour Front.

2. Therefore no softness, no false belief that we can ‘convert’ them, since they hate us from the very bottom of their hearts and because Marxist big-wigs [that is, trade union officials] can never be converted...

4. Close observation and a close check on their private activities, for they carry on propaganda against the state under the cloak of honest citizens.

5. Have close observation in the factories... The following orders are issued:

A: For the German Labour Front:

1. The organisation of the German Labour Front is drawing up a ‘list of outlaws’ which is valid for the entire Reich and in which the names of all these Marxists big-wigs will be included, who have carried on in the past and are still carrying on the most furious secret struggle against National Socialism... Anyone on the ‘list of outlaws’ will not be given work in the future. All organisations which have any vital connection with German industry are being sent this printed list, in order to prevent any of these traitors to the workers from returning to the factories by crooked means and possibly continuing their mutinous activity there.

2. No treasurer (or person holding similar office) in the associations may be a Marxist because these people have the greatest opportunity of forming illegal groups.

3. Public places known to have been frequented by the Social Democrats, Reichsbanner and KPD may no longer be used as meeting places of the local group associations...

C: Instructions for NSBO:

The NSBO is above all the security organ of the entire German Labour Front. It has to protect day and night the great work of our slowly progressing unification of all German workers and prevent any kind of sabotage. This is carried out by... keeping a watch on factories, houses and public places which appear suspicious to us, by means of NSBO patrols drawn from the Gau and district party cell divisions and local group factory wardens.

2. Purge of NSBO. The man who was a Marxist only yesterday and fought openly against us, but today will have nothing more to do with it, must also leave. These are nothing but dangerous disruptive elements who poison morale when it comes to a test of endurance. It would be a definite benefit for the NSBO if quite 100 000 of our most recent members leave our ranks. The Gau factory cell leaders must therefore issue orders to this effect...

4. All positions on factory and employee counsellor councils in Germany must be filled by National Socialists. There must be no longer any factory in which Marxists or ‘Christians’ [that is, former Catholic trade unionists] hold the leading positions. Orders should therefore be given immediately that Communists and Catholic factory or employees’ councils who are still holding office should be dismissed... [4]

From its very inception, therefore, the Labour Front was a gigantic apparatus for policing the working class, for spying on former trade union and political activists, who when apprehended were invariably sacked from their jobs and handed over to the tender cares of the Gestapo. [5] While seeking the aid of the various external security organs of the Third Reich, the Labour Front also developed its own shock force for emergency use against possible acts of rebellion by the workers. This force was the so-called ‘Factory Troop’, whose functions and make-up were laid down as follows:

1. The Factory Troop is the National Socialist backbone of the factory. Its task is to permeate the factory with National Socialist philosophy. The Factory Troop is the carrier of the factory community and incarnates community life within the factory... It is in the forefront in carrying through the tasks of the German Labour Front. It is the living incarnation of these tasks.

2. The SA will promote the building up of the Factory Troop with all means...

3. Officers and men of the SA who are working in the factory and are members of the German Labour Front are to be made members of the Factory Troop. [6]

The formation of the Factory Troop dates from 1936, when following the fiasco of the 1935 factory council elections in which Nazi candidates received so few votes that the results could not be publicised, the regime decided to create an élite of thoroughly reliable fascists in the plants, trained in quelling any disorders that might arise in the course of a labour dispute (strikes were of course outlawed under the Third Reich). Numbering no more than 40 000 party men drawn from the SA and SS, they were drilled in simulated situations of ‘mutiny’ by the workforce. One account which leaked out of Germany via the ‘underground’ told of a mock confrontation in one plant between the factory troop and striking workers who had occupied the entrance to the factory. When asked what he would do in such a crisis, a Factory Trooper replied that he would first attempt to negotiate with the strikers. ‘Terrible! Impossible!’, screamed the instructor:

One lot of you must stand by to protect the machinery. The rest must advance against the crowd in a body. You must shoot without pity. Don’t stop to take care of the dead and wounded; the workers themselves will see to that.

This is what Ley meant when he told a meeting of Factory Leaders (that is, employers) and Trustees (regional Labour Front chiefs) in Cologne on 29 June 1937 that ‘the Factory Troop is the élite of the factory. It is a troop which follows any order. The best men of the factory, those belonging to the troop, have to stand firm if everything else wavers.’ Élite it may have been, but the Factory Troop was not always equal to its task. On the rare occasions when strikes did break out (the bulk of them in the last two years of the prewar period, when the rising demand for labour in the industry temporarily strengthened the bargaining position of the workers, notwithstanding their total lack of trade unions), ‘heavily armed police and Nazi detachments forced the workers to return to work’. [7]

The exiled Social Democrat leader Grzesinski tells of some large firms which had their own private police force and jails, citing the Junkers aircraft works in Dessau which ‘for the period 1933-36 arrested and imprisoned 380 employees’, and the IG Farben Leuna chemical works which ‘maintains a huge prison and its own courts to deal with alleged labour offences’. [8] A serious strike at the Hermann Goering Steel Works in Brunswick in February 1938 precipitated the intervention of a massive strike-breaking force of SA men and Gestapo officials: ‘The workers were forced to line up in the factory yards to witness the execution of five of their comrades accused of leadership in the alleged conspiracy.’ [9]

It would, however, be quite wrong to depict such acts of heroic defiance of the Nazi regime, and the employers whom it protected and enriched, as frequent occurrences. They were not. The Labour Front did a thorough job in assisting the security organs of the Third Reich in stamping out proletarian resistance, and in subordinating the workers to the will of the profit-hungry German industrialists. Anticipating the success of the Labour Front in this sphere, the heavy industrialists’ organ, the Deutsche Bergwerks Zeitung of 17 May 1933, declared:

There is only one way out for Germany: that is by the introduction of a much simpler standard of living on the basis of its own agricultural production. Living conditions must be screwed down. That requires nerves, and the Propaganda Ministry must steel itself. [10]

Not until another six months had passed, however, was Ley ready to promulgate the code for the Organisation of National Labour, which set out the principles and structure of the Nazi ‘works community’. Even when couched in the pseudo-’socialist’ phraseology obligatory in all such pronouncement, the class nature of Ley’s labour law, and its basis in private property, is self-evident, as the following excerpts demonstrate:

1. In each establishment the owner of the undertaking as the leader (Führer) of the establishment and the salaried and wage-earning employees as his followers shall work together for the furtherance of the purposes of the establishment and for the benefit of the nation and the state in general.

2.1 The leader of the establishment shall make decisions for his followers in all matters affecting the establishment in so far as they are governed by this Act.

2.2 He shall promote the welfare of his workers. The latter shall be loyal to him as fellow members of the works community...

5.1 In establishments which as a rule employ at least 20 persons, confidential men shall be appointed from among the followers to advise the leader. Together with him and under his presidency they shall constitute the confidential council of the establishment...

6.1 It shall be the task of the confidential council to consider all measures directed towards the increase of efficiency, the formulation and carrying out of the general conditions of employment (especially establishment rules), the carrying out and practice of industrial safety measures, the strengthening of the ties which bind the various members of the establishment to one another and to the establishment, and the welfare of all members of the community. Further, the said council shall endeavour to settle all disputes within the works community. Its views shall be heard before the penalties are imposed under the establishment rules...

8. A person shall not be appointed as a confidential man unless he has completed his twenty-fifth year, has belonged to the establishment or undertaking for at least one year, and has worked in the same branch or related branches of employment for at least two years. He must be in possession of civic rights, a member of the German Labour Front, characterised by exemplary human qualities, and guaranteed to devote himself unreservedly at all times to the National State...

9.1 Every year in March the leader of the establishment shall draw up a list of confidential men and their substitutes in agreement with the chairman of the National Socialist cell organisation. The followers shall then decide for or against the list by ballot.

14.2 The Labour Trustee may remove a confidential man from office on account of his unsuitability in circumstances or person...

18.1 Labour Trustees shall be appointed for large economic areas... They shall be Reich officials and shall be under the service supervision of the Reich Ministry of Labour...

19.1 The Labour Trustees shall ensure the maintenance of industrial peace. In order to achieve this task, they shall take the following action: 1. They shall supervise the formation and operations of the confidential councils, and give decisions where disputes occur...

20.3 Where the system of spreading the work is adopted, the owner of the undertaking shall be entitled to make a proportionate reduction in the wages or salary of the employees whose hours of work are reduced.

22.1 If any person repeatedly and wilfully contravenes general instructions issued by the Labour Trustees in writing in the performance of his duties, the said person shall be liable to a fine; in particularly serious cases the penalty of imprisonment may be imposed instead of the fine or in addition to it...

26. In every establishment employing as a rule at least 20 salaried and wage-earning employees, establishment rules shall be issued in writing by the leader of the establishment for the followers.

27.1 The following conditions of employment shall be included in the establishment rules:

i. The beginning and ending of the normal daily hours of work and of the breaks.

ii. The times for the payment of remuneration and the nature thereof.

iii. The principles for the calculation of jobbing of bargain work, if work is done on a job or bargain basis in the establishment.

iv. Regulations for the nature, amount and collection of fines if provision is made for them.

v. The grounds on which an employment can be terminated without notice, in cases where this does not rest upon statutory grounds.

vi. The utilisation of remuneration forfeited by the unlawful termination of an employment, in cases where the said forfeiture is prescribed in the establishment rules or contract of employment in pursuance of statutory provisions...

36.1 Gross breaches of the social duties based on the work community shall be dealt with by the honour courts as offences against social honour. Such offences shall be deemed to have been committed in the following cases:

i. When the owner of an undertaking, the leader of an establishment or any other person in a position of supervision abuses his authority in the establishment by maliciously exploiting the labour of any of his followers or wounding their sense of honour.

ii. When a follower endangers industrial peace in the establishment by maliciously provoking other followers and in particular when a confidential man wittingly interferes unduly in the conduct of the establishment or continually and maliciously disturbs the community spirit within the works community.

iii. When a member of the works community repeatedly makes frivolous and unjustifiable complaints or applications to the labour trustees or obstinately disobeys instructions given to him in writing.

iv. When a member of the confidential council reveals without any authority confidential information or technical or business secrets which have become known to him in the performance of his duties and have been specified as confidential matters. [11]

On every basic issue – hiring and firing, hours of work, method of payment, wages, regulations of work, labour discipline, company policy – the decision rested in the hands of the employer, the ‘Leader’. Workers – ‘followers’ – had only duties. Even the ‘confidential councillors’ – trusted Nazis all – were permitted only to advise the Leader. Ley was not exaggerating when he claimed that the Third Reich had restored the natural right of leadership to the employer, that he was once again, invoking the old dictum of Alfred Krupp, ‘master in the house’.

Since National Socialism sought and established for itself a total monopoly of political power, its rule generated oppositional tendencies at every level of society. Old monarchists and various clerical groupings now found themselves excluded from former positions of privilege and influence. But as these oppositional tendencies were directed only at certain aspects of the political superstructure of the Third Reich, and never questioned or challenged its capitalist economic foundations, or its repression of the independent workers’ movement, they caused few problems for the Nazi security apparatus. The vast amount of evidence now available proves beyond all doubt that the main brunt of the Nazi tyranny was borne by the proletariat, and that the various sectors of the repressive machine – SS, SA, Gestapo, SD, etc – were engaged for the most part in hunting down and eliminating working-class enemies of the regime. This can be demonstrated in several ways, firstly by the sheer size of the Hitler terror apparatus, and the scope of its activities.

At the place of work, there was the Factory Troop, 40 000 strong, and trained purely for policing and indoctrinating the labour force. The SS, responsible for larger-scale internal security operations, numbered 238 000. On the eve of the 30 June 1934 purge, the SA had four million men under its command. In the early weeks and months of the Hitler terror, storm-troopers, and not the SS or the regular state police, were the main force employed to crush the resistance of the workers’ movement and staff the first concentration camps. At this time, the SA numbered around one million active members. Then there was the regular police – Ordnungspolizei – who on the eve of the Second World War numbered 150 000. Plain-clothes police accounted for another 25 000, and the Gestapo, the political police charged on 8 March 1933 with ‘the suppression of Bolshevism’, a similar number. Excluding the SA, which after the purge of Röhm ceased to be a factor in German politics, the security forces of the Third Reich numbered on the eve of the war something in the region of half a million men authorised to bear arms or sanction their use. One SS man, policeman or Gestapo official for every 40 or so workers! Under the Weimar Republic, not noted for gentle handling of left-wing militants, the combined forces of security numbered only 138 000.

Yet the Stalinists maintained for a full year after Hitler’s victory that the bloody rule of fascism in Germany was hastening the triumph of the proletarian revolution!

If we turn to the other, overtly non-coercive organisations which buttressed Nazi rule, we can see even more clearly how the victory of National Socialism in 1933 made possible the construction of a system of dictatorship which not only repressed the proletariat ‘from above’ in the classic manner of earlier right-wing regimes, but ‘from below’ and ‘from within’ through the agencies of propaganda, ‘cultural’ and social organisations, all of which were not only firmly bound to the NSDAP, but were penetrated at every level by the state security organs of the SS (the SD) and the Gestapo, as well as the regular police. On 25 March 1934, the NSDAP had a payroll of one million officials in its various social and political organisations. By 1 April 1937, this number had risen to 1 852 000, and was comprised as follows: 700 000 political organisation officials, 767 000 Labour Front, 290 000 Nazi ‘welfare’ organisations employees, 95 000 NSDAP Women’s League officials, 77 000 Nazi war veterans’ league officials, 67 000 employees of the NSDAP teachers’ league. This was of course only the full-time Nazi bureaucracy. Radiating out from these officials was a network of part-time Nazi activists who carried the directives of the party and state into the masses, and relayed back to the top of the machine information concerning the mood of the workers, the make-up and activities of oppositional groups, and the attitude adopted by workers to the policies and actions of the Nazi leadership. So the chain of command reached down from the Führer himself at the summit, through the various party and state organisations to the block Führer and his informants at the base; while the flow of information passed in the opposite direction, upwards from the working-class tenements, the factory floor and the ale houses, through the same channels to the very top. The Nazi apparatus was all-pervading, no worker could escape its tentacles, its constant prying that through the Hitler Youth reached even into the worker’s own family. In Hitler’s Reich one Nazi official (and here we are excluding the SS, SA, police, Gestapo, etc) watched over 32 German citizens – men, women and children. In the Labour Front, which at its peace-time peak had a membership of 25 million, one official supervised the exploitation of approximately 30 workers. The German worker had not only been deprived of his means of self-defence against the employer, but was permanently atomised and held in subjugation by a machine which had at its disposal the largest and most ruthless repressive force in the history of capitalism.

In all, 1.5 million Germans either passed through or died in Hitler’s concentration camps, while at the outbreak of war, 300 000 Germans – the majority of them either Jews or former activists of the workers’ movement – were being held in some form of detention centre. It is all the more necessary to spell out these statistics of repression and resistance in view of the slanders peddled around the workers’ movement by Stalinists especially that the German proletariat not only failed to block Hitler’s road to power, but acquiesced in his rule and gladly shared in the plunder of the Soviet Union and other countries occupied by the Nazis during the war. [12] And this from the tendency which, together with the Social Democrats, actively assisted in the victory of the Nazis! Himmler knew differently. On the day of his appointment (17 June 1936) as joint chief of SS and Police, he declared:

In the course of the last three years various sources have contributed to set up a structure of which only the corner-stone has been lacking. We are a country situated in the heart of Europe with undefended frontiers on every side and surrounded by a world of increasing Bolshevisation. We must therefore reckon that the struggle against the universally destructive force of Bolshevism will be one of the great struggles of human history. It will require the mobilisation of the entire people and just as the Wehrmacht is designed for external defence, I regard it as my task to build up the police, welded into the SS order, as a force for the internal defence of the people. [Emphasis added]

Indeed, not only the SS but the entire system of repression personified by Himmler originated and evolved as a direct response to working-class resistance. In a directive issued on 3 March 1933, Goering instructed the Prussian Police as to how to implement the emergency decree issued by the Hitler cabinet after the Reichstag fire:

It is the aim of this decree that the wider powers which it gives should primarily be used against the Communists, but also against those who work with the Communists and who support or further their criminal objectives, even if indirectly. In order to avoid blunders I must point out that actions taken against members or institutions belonging to parties or organisations other than Communist, anarchist or Social Democrat, can only be upheld under the decree for the Protection of the State of 28 February 1933 if they represent a defence against Communist activity in the widest sense.

Armed with these far-reaching powers, the Prussian police, backed up and often excelled in their anti-Communist zeal by the SA, arrested and jailed some 25 000 labour movement activists and officials in the first two months of the emergency. These figures are all the more remarkable in that they do not include the arrests carried out in Berlin itself, nor the many thousands of unofficial seizures of Socialists and Communists made by the SA, which frequently set up its own improvised jails and torture chambers in disused factory buildings or other empty premises. In Düsseldorf, a stronghold of the KPD, 3818 arrests were reported in March and April 1933, while in the sleepy rural police district of Hildesheim, only 77 arrests were reported over the same period. In the whole of East Prussia, police arrests totalled a mere 421 for the first two weeks of the state of emergency, while, in Berlin, thousands were herded into the SA hell-holes within a matter of hours after the Reichstag fire. Rudolf Diels, then head of the Political Department of the Berlin Police, later recalled that the SA:

... had firm plans for operations in the Communist quarters of the city. In those March days every SA man was ‘on the heels of the enemy’, each knew what he had to do. The SA cleaned up the districts. They knew not only where their enemies lived, they had long ago discovered their hideouts and meeting places... Not only the Communists but anybody who had ever expressed himself against Hitler’s movement was in danger... In those March days the concentration camps around Berlin were set up... Private prisons were set up in various parts of the city. The ‘bunkers’ in the Hedemann and Vosstrasse became hellish torture chambers. The SS Columbia Prison, the worst of these torture chambers, was established. [13]

The systematic hunting and persecution of all working-class opposition to the regime continued without a moment’s respite to the very last days of the Third Reich. Despite the appalling carnage in the SA and SS abattoirs, new layers of workers repeatedly came forward to replace their arrested and often murdered comrades in the anti-Nazi resistance. [14] In the six months between October 1935 and March 1936, 7266 KPD and SPD activists were arrested by the State Police for suspected anti-Nazi views or deeds. Even at the height of Hitler’s military triumphs when, it is generally supposed, working-class opposition was at a minimum, the socialist proletariat remained the main target of the Nazi terror. In October 1941, the largest single group of political arrests were of those suspected of ‘Communism and Marxism’ – 544 – while no fewer than 7729 were arrested for ‘ceasing work’. Despised as well as feared by the majority of workers, and actively resisted by an heroic minority, the SS found few points of support in the urban population of the big industrial centres. It was in the countryside, amongst the thoroughly Nazified peasantry, that the security forces sought both recruits and collaborators for their task of policing the proletariat. Nazi ruralism was not merely a pagan cult, a residue from Germany’s medieval past. It also refracted ideologically the social bases of the Third Reich. Hence the Himmler – Darré doctrine of ‘Blood and Soil’, as enunciated by the SS chief in his treatise The Security Squadron as an Anti-Bolshevik Battle Organisation, published in 1936:

Wherever Adolf Hitler’s peasants stand they will always have the SS at their side, as their most faithful friend, just as we know that wherever Adolf Hitler’s SS stands, it will have at its side the German peasant as its best friend and comrade. That is how it is today, and that is how it will be forever. I know there are some people in Germany who become sick when they see those black coats; we will understand the reason for this and do not expect to be loved by too many... We shall take care that never again in Germany, the heart of Europe, will the Jewish-Bolshevistic revolution of sub-humans be able to be kindled either from within or through emissaries from without. [15]

Crushed by the sheer weight of the Nazi terror machine, denied access to all except a tiny and steadily declining trickle of socialist literature, bombarded from all sides, from dawn till dusk, by an all-pervading barrage of Nazi propaganda, the mass of the German proletariat lapsed into a passive attitude towards the Nazi regime. In the Weimar Republic, it had been able, despite the false policies of the reformists, and after 1923 of the KPD, to exert considerable influence on the conduct of government social and economic policy through its powerful organisations, and by virtue of the positions it retained in the aftermath of the November Revolution. Now all this was gone. As a subjective factor in the life of the Third Reich, the German proletariat had been reduced to zero. It was now ‘represented’ by bodies that were led, and staffed from top to bottom, by Nazis whose main goal was the extirpation of the last vestiges of an independent workers’ movement in Germany. While it could be argued that the bourgeoisie had also been compelled to cede its political prerogatives to the Nazi plebeians (and this was true only to a certain extent), the proletariat had also lost its most fundamental weapon of defence – the right to organise on an economic level against the exploiter of its labour power. However, the employers retained their property, and more than that, now confronted a working class denied the right collectively to negotiate its wages and conditions of work. Truly we can say therefore that German fascism had reduced the proletariat to a state of servitude unprecedented in the entire history of capitalism.

Big Business Prospers

After initial qualms concerning Hitler’s plebeian methods in combating the proletariat, almost the entire German business community rallied with genuine enthusiasm to the economic and social policies of the Third Reich. Here at last, after more than 13 years of Weimar ‘Marxism’, was a government ready – and able – to restore to property its just rights, and real authority to ‘personality’ in the direction of the enterprise. On the morrow of Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor, the old imperialist-oriented bloc between the armed forces and heavy industry was already in evidence with the drafting by Admiral Raeder of the document General Directives for Support Given by the German Navy to the German Armament Industry (31 January 1933):

The effects of the present economic depression have led here and there to the conclusion that there are no prospects of an active participation of the German Armaments Industry abroad, even if the Versailles terms are no longer kept. There is no profit in it and it is therefore not worth promoting. Furthermore the view has been taken that the increasing ‘self-sufficiency’ would in any case make such participation superfluous. However obvious these opinions may seem, formed because the situation is as it is today, I am nevertheless forced to make the following corrective points:

a. The economic crisis and its present effects must perforce be overcome sooner or later. Though equality of rights in war-politics is not fully recognised today, it will, by the assimilation of weapons, be achieved at some period...

b. The consequent estimation of the duties of the German Armaments Industry lie mainly in the Military-Political sphere. It is impossible for this industry to satisfy, militarily and economically, the growing demands made of it by limiting the deliveries to our own armed forces. The capacity must therefore be increased by the delivery of supplies to foreign countries over and above our own requirements...

d) ... It is just when the effort to do away with the restrictions imposed on us has succeeded that the German Navy has an ever-increasing and really vital interest in furthering the German Armaments Industry, and preparing the way for it in every direction in the competitive battle against the rest of the world...

f) I attach particular importance to guaranteeing the continuous support of the Industry concerned by the Navy, even after the present restrictions have been relaxed. If the purchases are not made, confident that something special is being offered them, the industry will not be able to stand up to the competitive battle and therefore will not be able to supply the requirements of the German Navy in case of need. [16]

The reader will recall that Gustav Krupp was among the largest contributors to the Nazi election fund at the meeting of industrialists held at Goering’s official residence on 20 February. Two days later, Krupp sent a memo to Hitler in which he declared that ‘it is also our opinion that only in a politically strong and independent state can economy and business develop and flourish’. [17]

Krupp aspired to the same position of leadership over the German economy that Hitler exercised in the political domain. On 24 March, following the passage of the Enabling Act, Krupp again wrote to Hitler, informing him that his firm considered that after years of political crisis and turmoil, Germany now had ‘the basis for a stable government. Difficulties which arose in the past from constant political fluctuations and which obstructed economic initiative to a high degree, have been eliminated’. A meeting between Hitler and Krupp followed on 1 April, and three days later the Ruhr tycoon wrote to his Führer:

I wish to express my gratitude to you for the audience you granted me on Saturday... I welcomed this opportunity all the more because I am aware now of new and important problems which, as you will understand, I shall be able to handle in my capacity as chairman of the Federation of German Industries only if I am sure of the confidence of the Reich government, and in particular, of your confidence in me.

Numerous industrialists – among them those who had supported the party before its assumption of power – were eagerly financing various Nazi organisations, among them Rosenberg’s Anti-Bolshevik Bureau. Kurt Lüdecke was present at a meeting held in the Kaiserhof towards the end of April to raise funds for Rosenberg’s anti-Communist crusade.

There they were – the élite of leading Gentiles in industry, commerce, finance, agriculture, shipping and banking... I saw... the irony of our readiness to mobilise the very force against which the socialist aims of the Nazi revolution were to have been directed... Here we were... trying to make a revolution with the help of our enemies. [18]

The assembled business leaders ‘listened with close attention’ to Rosenberg’s speech, which they greeted with ‘genuine applause’. Lüdecke, backed up by Schacht and Diehn of the Potash Trust, appealed for cash for Rosenberg’s Jew- and Communist-baiting activities, and ‘right there over a million marks were underwritten’. [19] Schacht was by this time of course safely installed as President of the Reichsbank, his predecessor Luther having declined to underwrite the expansionist and potentially inflationary economic policies desired by Hitler and the leaders of heavy industry. Schacht’s return gladdened the hearts of big business, as did his address to Reichsbank officials on 31 April:

I recognise no National Socialist representatives, I recognise no Stahlhelm representatives, I recognise no other varieties of representatives of the officials... When I speak to you as President of the Reichsbank, I am neither a SA man nor a Stahlhelm man, but a Reichsbank man... Having thus got rid of the ‘party stuff’ I can say all the more frankly that I too, as leader of the Reichsbank, avow from the bottom of my heart my devotion to the leader of the German Reich, Adolf Hitler... To any doubt that may exist concerning the devotion of the Reichsbank to the new Movement I can give you a crushing answer: That everybody in the Directorate is clear on the point that, if this Movement does not win, then chaos will reign here...

Meanwhile Krupp was busily consolidating his new relationship with the rulers of the Third Reich. Following a second conference with Hitler on 28 April, it was announced on 4 May that Krupp had been appointed Führer of German industry. He wasted little time in introducing a Nazi-style regime in the Federation of German Industries, compelling the few remaining Jewish members of its board to resign on 22 May. Krupp also instituted a special political fund for the Nazi Party to which he and fellow industrialists could contribute – the Hitler Spende. The Führer cult was enforced on Krupp’s own work force, who were obliged on pain of dismissal – and worse – to salute their leader in the approved Nazi style whenever Krupp appeared in his plants. Apart from his position as chief of the Federation of German Industries (which, unlike the trade unions, remained ‘uncoordinated’ after the action of 2 May), Krupp also assumed the leadership of the General Economic Council established on 15 July 1933, following the conference between Hitler and his new Economics Minister Kurt Schmitt two days previously. [20] In the words of Schacht, Krupp had become a ‘super-Nazi’.

One of the outcomes of the Schmitt-Hitler meeting of 13 July was that wages policy became the joint prerogative of the Ministry of Economics and the Ministry of Labour. Nazi ‘radicals’ favouring a more lenient policy were debarred from taking any decisions affecting wage rates, and, in the case of Otto Wagener, interned in a concentration camp for six weeks to cool his ‘leftist’ ardour. The wages division of the Labour Ministry (the Minister being Franz Seldte, former Stahlhelm chief and now a fully-blown Nazi) was headed by Dr Werner Mansfeld, former legal adviser to the Ruhr steel employers’ association. This post he held until 1942. Samples of his activities in the early years of Nazi rule include the following wage cuts approved in 1934 by the Labour Trustees responsible for the regions concerned: Frankfurt metal workers: 25 per cent, Leipzig painters: 6.3 per cent, Cologne carpenters: 20 per cent, Karlsruhle builders: 5.6 per cent.

A little earlier, on 1 June, the Hitler regime had launched its drive to revitalise German industry by a programme of public works and aid to private firms willing to expand production. This was the law ‘for the reduction of unemployment’ which, despite its title, had as its central aim the restoration of the chronically low profit margins of Germany’s largest monopolies. It stipulated that the projected one billion RM should be spent ‘only on such works... as are economically worthwhile and which the proprietor could not carry out with his own financial resources in the foreseeable future’. Tax exemptions were granted to firms, equal to the cost of newly-installed plant, if the new equipment was ‘of domestic production’ and purchased between 30 June 1933 and 1 January 1935; that it replaced plant ‘hitherto operative’; and that its installation and use did not lead to a reduction of workers employed. Expansion of the economy, aided not only by Hitler’s public works and rearmaments programme, but the world-wide upturn in trade and industry, could now take place without the employers having to concern themselves with the problem, ever-present under Weimar, of the trade unions exploiting an increased demand for labour by stepping up their claims for higher wages. The fascist system of ‘labour relations’ ensured that a far greater proportion of the product of labour would now accrue to capital in the form of dividends and capital accumulation than had been the case in the 13 years of the ‘social’ German Republic. Hitler aired his own views on economic policy when on 13 July he told a meeting of Gauleiters in Berlin that while the party had been ‘bound to conquer political power rapidly and with one blow, in the economic sphere, other principles of development must carry the day’. In other words, political, but not economic revolution:

Here progress must be made step by step, without any radical breaking up of existing conditions which would endanger the foundations of our economic life. The exploitation of the capacities of the individual has made us great, and only by the same means can our great work of reconstruction be successful.

Hitler’s remarks were directed against unruly elements in the SA which had so extended the scope of their assault on the enemies of the regime as to include businessmen previously unsympathetic to the Nazi cause. Hitler had no intention of permitting these ‘radicals’ (who were in most cases inspired by criminal and not ‘social’ motives when they looted the property of anti-Nazi employers and shopkeepers) to undermine his harmonious relationship with the leaders of big business. They needed him – and he needed them.

Nevertheless it is important to bear in mind that until the liquidation of the Nazi ‘lefts’ in the purge of 30 June 1934, business circles still harboured fears that for all his innate economic conservatism, Hitler might have to yield – if only for tactical reasons – to the strident demands of his ‘radicals’ for firm action against the ‘profiteers’ and ‘stock exchange bandits’. Important government pronouncements on social and economic policy were therefore awaited with some trepidation by the leaders of industry and finance, and it was with evident relief that the bourgeois press (which, unlike that of the workers’ movement, continued to function – in some cases with little or no changes in editorial policy – under Nazi rule) greeted the statement of Economics Minister Schmitt of 14 August: ‘We must see to it that we, through a free market, have an efficient economy capable of competing on the market.’ His definition of ‘German socialism’ held no qualms for the die-hard anti-socialists of the Ruhr and the Berlin Bourse: ‘Everyone in his place gives the uttermost to his people and for the community.’ Krupp and company knew their place – leaders of the economy – and Hitler had put the workers in theirs – humble followers of their employers. The Deutsche Bergwerks Zeitung could barely conceal its joy at Schmitt’s definitions of ‘German socialism’ and Nazi economic policy:

The works must be profitable! A happy word which the National Minister of the Economy spoke... It is a particular pleasure to us that the programme of the Minister corresponds in every way to that which our paper had demanded ever since it existed. What the NSDAP understands by German socialism is nothing else than that everyone in his place gives up his all for his people. In the sign of this German socialism we will conquer. [21]

The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung waxed no less enthusiastic:

The general despondency of the world depression can, in fact, only be overcome when the foundation is once again given to disturbed mankind, one on which it can base a secure calculation. This is the meaning of our new economy, that personal needs are subordinate, but these personal needs have their rights which lie precisely in this subordination. This is the meaning of the economic elbow-room in the Schmitt programme. [22]

Further reassurance as to the intentions of the Nazi regime in economic policy came at the Nuremberg Party Congress in September, when no less an authority than Hitler himself declared that the same principles of leadership and ‘personality’ applied in the factory as they did in the state:

The conception of private property is inseparably connected with the conviction that the capacities of men are different alike in character and in value, and thus, further, that men themselves are different in character and value. But one cannot in one sphere of life accept this difference in value... as giving rise to a moral claim on the result produced by this superiority [that is, wealth] and then go on to deny that difference in another sphere... One cannot in fact proceed to maintain that all alike have the same capacity for politics... while it is denied that everyone in a nation is capable of administering a factory or appointing its administration, yet that they are all capable of administrating the state or of appointing its administration is solemnly certified in the name of democracy... [23]

Those hardest to convince that National Socialism contained no threat to their interests were the bankers and stock-exchange investors. For had not the original Nazi programme of 1920 promised ‘abolition of incomes unearned by work’ and ‘the abolition of the thraldom of interest'? In fact nothing less than the death penalty awaited those judged guilty of the crimes of usury and profiteering. Understandably therefore, Germany’s banking and stock-broking community followed the activities of economic ‘radicals’ like Feder with more than an academic interest. It must have been heartened by Schmitt’s pronouncement of 14 August (from which we have already quoted) in which he said:

Capital is scarce because it does not trust itself anywhere, neither in business undertakings and contracts nor in the capital market itself. Why? Because disquiet prevails on account of the many theoretical discussions on the question of the ‘compulsory reduction of interest’ and God knows what else. If we could really tranquillise the capital market and really make our people believe that an investment in Germany is not imperilled, then the thrifty man and the man with money will be ready to go into the market, and that will automatically bring down interest rates.

And so the debate continued, with the ‘radicals’ (representing for the most part those sections of the party closest to the pauperised small traders, artisans and peasants strangled by the banks) demanding the nationalisation of banking, and the spokesmen of high finance insisting on an orthodox capitalist policy. Thus the Nazi Hamburger Tageblatt screamed: ‘We are going to jump at the throat of international loan capital!’, [24] while the organ of finance capital, the Berliner Börsen Zeitung countered 10 days later:

The owner of capital has only one thing in view – to preserve his capital and to get as high an interest as possible, and this attitude of investors has to be respected by every bank in its credit policy whether it wants to or not. [25]

The issue was finally resolved – needless to say, in favour of big banks – by the official inquiry into the state of German banking held in November 1933. Some weeks before it opened, however, Feder, the exponent of Nazi pseudo-radicalism in the economic sphere (it was he who had drafted the clause in the 1920 party programme calling for the abolition of the ‘thraldom of interest’), was already in full retreat. On 6 September, he declared in Cologne that a ‘strong rank of private bankers has always been the desire of the National Socialists’, and that far from the regime seeking the nationalisation of the banks, the party would ‘have to investigate the question as to the way in which the banks which are subsidised by the state [that is, after the banking crisis in the summer of 1931 – RB] can be re-transferred into private hands’. And giving evidence at the inquiry itself on 23 November, Feder once again had to eat his words of 1920: ‘The National Socialists have never demanded an absolute nationalisation of banking.’ The hearings were completed in five hours, and the policy and rights of the big banks upheld. There was to be no nationalisation of the banks. And of almost equal importance, ‘the representatives of the banks will not leave the industrial Boards of Directors... the private economic initiative is not to be limited but rather to be strengthened’. [26]

The verdict of the Berlin bank inquiry enraged the more extreme of the Nazi ‘radicals’. One of their number, Adolf Wagner, thundered in a speech at Wasserburg on 19 January:

Many things are going on as if the Nazi revolution had never taken place. Cut-throats are still in control of the banks. Under the cover of the slogan ‘No interference with economic life is permitted’, the vermin are now venturing to show themselves once again. National Socialism cannot tolerate these things...

To which Schacht replied forcefully a week later, in a speech delivered at the Kiel Institute for World Economy:

It is senseless to adopt an attitude fundamentally against capital... Loan capital is of service and payment of interest necessary if loan capital is to be employed... Formation of new loan capital requires the most careful handling. The most inappropriate method is the constant abuse of loan capital and the threatening of its owners... The imputation that the National Socialist government... has not yet been even able to stop cut-throats and parasites from making themselves felt in German banking seems to me, with all my understanding of demagogues, a bit too thick... All the same, the Reichsbank has managed to raise the price level of all stocks at fixed interest on the Berlin stock exchange by 13 per cent in the first 12 months of the National Socialist government.

The petit-bourgeois ‘anti-capitalists’ fulminated, but to no effect. It was Schacht, and not they, whom Hitler now needed most.

The last word belonged, fittingly, to Schacht. In tones that presaged the 30 June purge of Röhm’s ‘second revolutionists’, the Reichsbank President declared on 22 February:

I am in the pleasant position that I can declare clearly that any arbitrary measures are far from the thoughts of the government. In spite of all literary gentlemen, and in spite of all schemers, you may rest assured that this government will make no experiments in the financial sphere.

The Nazi regime proved itself zealous not only in the defence but even the restitution of private property. In its first three years, it resorted, either in part or wholly, to private ownership the state’s majority holding in the Flick United Steel Works, the Deutsche Bank and Disconto Gesellschaft (Deli-Bank), the Commerz and Privat Bank, the Silesian iron and steel concern Vereinigte Oberscheische Huttenwerke, the Hamburg-Sudamerikanische Dampferschiffahrts AG, and the Deutsch Schiffs-und-Maschinenbau AG. Such state enterprises as existed functioned in the non-profit-making spheres of railway transport, water, gas, electricity and postal services. State investments in 1938 accounted for a mere 1.6 per cent of all capital holdings in the mining industry, and 0.41 per cent in metals.

With the consolidation of the Labour Front, the old pre-Nazi organisations of big business and the various regional and industrial bodies set up to administer its affairs were formally wound up. But very quickly they reappeared in the guise of Nazi ‘National Economic Chambers’ – often without any substantial change in either their functions or leading personnel. Thus to cite one example, the old Machine Tool Manufacturers Association, the VDW, was ‘coordinated’ in 1934 to become the Fachgruppe Werkzeuge without any change in its leadership. Likewise the Association of Machine Manufacturers underwent the same transformation into another Nazified division of the National Group Industry, the Wirtschaftegruppe Maschinen, with its chairman Lange becoming the director of the new organisation. Two years later, when Goering launched his ‘Four-Year Plan’, Lange served as his plenipotentiary for machine production, and later still, under Minister for Arms Production Albert Speer, as chairman of the committee for machine-tool production. ‘Coordination’ for industrialists such as Lange clearly meant business as usual – under a new name. For trade union leaders such as Leipart and Grassman, it involved the destruction of their organisations and a term inside the jails of the Third Reich.

One of the most pressing tasks the new Nazi regime had to solve was the problem of capital accumulation. This it did by two basic means; firstly, through a programme of public works (road building, land reclamation, etc) and rearmament, and secondly, by the reduction in the real wages of the mass of the workforce, through direct wage-cutting, the erosion of social benefits, pensions, etc, and an increase in various kinds of taxes. Schacht’s novel system of deficit spending involved the establishment of a corporation, at the instigation of the government, by four large industrial undertakings – Siemens, Krupp, Gutehoffningshutte and Rheinstahl. This concern, the Metal Research Company, had no function other than to serve as a holding company for the state’s contracts with private concerns. All suppliers of state orders tendered their bills on the Metall-Forschungs AG, which became known as Mefo-Bills. These bills were as good as cash – better even, since the Reichsbank not only undertook to exchange them for ready cash, but the bills themselves earned their holders four per cent interest per annum. The Third Reich’s prewar arms programme was financed largely through the Mefo-Bill system, which after four years of operation, had pumped an extra 12 milliard RM into the German economy. The device only became inflationary in 1938 when, with the achievement of full employment, the expansion in industrial production slackened off whilst the volume of paper money in circulation continued to increase at its former rate.

Schacht’s financial juggling would have been to little avail if the working class had been permitted, by dint of militant trade union struggle, to share in the increased volume of production through an appreciable rise in its real wages and general living standards. The destruction of the entire workers’ movement, and the establishment of the tyranny of the Labour Front, the SS, Gestapo and the death camps were therefore a precondition for any serious revival of the German economy. Wage rates, hours and other conditions of work, pensions, accident and sickness insurance, unemployment benefit – all had been removed from the zone of negotiation between organised labour and capital, and subjected to the directives of the Nazi state and the interests of big business. Under Brüning and Papen, it will be remembered, wages had been progressively reduced by Presidential decree, until on the eve of the Nazi seizure of power, they averaged around 70 per cent of their pre-Brüning (that is, 1929) levels. What the Nazis did was to take these abysmally low wage levels as the starting point for a new round of wage cutting, rendered all the more easy now that all organised working-class opposition to such a policy had been crushed. [27] The following table indicates the main grades of wage payments in the period between 1928 and 1938, the last full peacetime year.

Pfennigs Per Hour
YearMale SkilledMale UnskilledFemale SkilledFemale Unskilled

The reader might object that after 1934, the wage rates stabilise and then begin to rise slowly. This is of course correct, but it leaves out of account several other vital factors which, together with hourly rates, comprise the real wage of the worker. Firstly it is necessary to give the gross weekly earnings of the worker, which vary according to the hours worked. With the upturn in the economy, short-time working fell off, resulting in a steady increase in gross weekly earnings, as the table indicates:

Amount (in RM)

Now we have to offset against this increase in gross weekly wages the rise in the cost of consumer prices over the same period, the extra deductions from the worker’s wage packet imposed by the new regime, and finally the reductions in living standards brought about by the diminution of other sources of income and material welfare through cuts in social services of various kinds. Firstly there are the prices of consumer goods, which rose from an index of 111.7 in 1933 to 135.4 by 1938. Then looking at the wages bill of the German labour force as a whole, we see the following changes taking place in the six years of Nazi rule between 1933 and 1938:

(Milliard RM)Gross wagesAdditionsDeductionsNet

Whereas in 1932, deductions (taxes, etc) and additions (various benefits, pensions, etc) nearly balanced one another, by 1938, the difference amounted to 9.4 milliard marks. The balance accrued to the state, which in turn employed the funds thus filched from the pay-packets of the workers to finance the rearmament programme. These were the cold statistics of Goering’s slogan ‘guns before butter’. It was inevitable, given the rise in the prices of basic foodstuffs and other consumer items, and the sharp increase in the amount deducted from the worker’s wages, that real wages, as distinct from money wages, should fall, declining from a base of 100 in 1932 to 87 by 1937.

Nazi social policy was no less harsh in its systematic neglect of the basic human needs of a worker and his family. And it is scarcely surprising to find that the Third Reich, with its official ideology of the struggle for survival and the elimination of the ‘weakest’ and ‘biologically inferior’, had no regard for the sick, the maimed, the aged, the handicapped or the bereaved. As one of the pioneers of National Socialist social ‘ethics’, the geneticist Friedrich Lenz, expressed it so clearly:

The naive assumption that all men have equal rights, from a moral point of view, belongs to an individualistic doctrine... There could be no greater fallacy than the belief that human nature abhors war – the exact contrary is true... socialist ideas must be made to bear fruit but in the organically socialistic rather than in the individually-socialistic sense... The state is not there to see that the individual gets his rights, but to serve the race.

Drawing on these barbaric prejudices which were made one of the foundation stones of the social policy of the Third Reich, the 1933-34 study syllabus for the SS and State Police forces declared:

It is an untenable position when the relationship between the efficient and the ineffective in a state assumes an unhealthy form. The nation has to spend a great deal of energy and money in dealing with the feeble-minded, the criminal and the anti-social. If these examples of poor heredity were eliminated, large sums of money would be saved and could be diverted to other, more productive ends. A responsible state leadership should devote all its attention to plans for maintaining and increasing those of sound stock. In primitive societies, the community rids itself of its weaklings. In so-called civilised nations a false attitude of brotherly love... operates in direct opposition to the selective process. [Emphasis added]

Though couched in the language of Himmler’s racial mysticism, this was also a philosophy that directly served the interests of a German big business hungry for capital and none too particular as to where it came from, or who suffered or died in the process of its accumulation. All along the line, the Third Reich slashed pensions and other social payments while stepping up workers’ contributions to various government and party funds. The following are the sums expended on pensions between 1932 and 1937:

In millions of RM
YearSicknessOld ageWidowsSick WidowsOrphansTotal

Over the same period, it should be noted, social insurance payments increased by over 40 per cent – from 3.3 milliard marks in 1932 to 4.7 milliard in 1937.

Likewise with accident insurance. In the period between 1932 and 1937, industrial accidents per 1000 workers increased from 33.9 to 56.5, the bulk of this rise being due, obviously, to a lowering of safety standards and an intensification of the work tempo. The instances on which compensation was paid to the victims of industrial accidents, however, declined over the same period from 3.6 per 1000 workers in 1932 to 3.0 in 1937, while the percentage of accidents compensated fell from 11.0 per cent in 1932 to 5.0 per cent in 1937. In the first seven years of the Third Reich, accidents and illness at work increased 150 per cent from 929 000 cases to 2 253 000, fatal accidents from 217 to 525 (250 per cent up) and occupational diseases from 7000 to 23 000 (more than 300 per cent up). All these increases must be measured against a rise in the total industrial labour force over the same period of only 50 per cent; from 13.5 to 20.8 million.

The Nazi counter-revolution in social and labour policy paid a handsome dividend to big business. In the first year of Hitler’s rule, the wages bill of Krupp AG fell from 69.6 to 67.4 million RM, while the number of workers employed rose by 7762. IG Farben paid out only 1.5 per cent more in wages for a labour force 35 per cent larger. Such savage cuts in real wages reflected the dramatic changes taking place in the distribution of the national product between labour and capital. Investment accounted for a mere nine per cent of national income in 1932, whereas in 1937, this percentage had risen to 23. But investment had only risen because the rate of surplus value had been increased by wage-cutting, the lengthening of the working day, speed-up, etc. In 1932, 59.8 per cent of the national income fell to labour, and 19.1 per cent to owners of capital. In 1937, labour’s share had fallen to 52.2, while that of capital had risen to 28.0. And this was not only the result, but the intention of Nazi economic and social policy. [28]

For years the Nazis had campaigned as defenders of the ‘small man’ against the combined attacks of the giants of big business and organised labour (as indeed do today’s Liberals, though in a different manner). But once installed in office, Hitler proved himself a far more loyal and understanding ally of big business than any government of the Weimar Republic. Organised labour was indeed crushed, but the monopolies went from strength to strength, buying out and bankrupting their smaller rivals and establishing intimate links with the various state agencies responsible for arms contracts and public works undertakings. This ascendency of big business can be demonstrated graphically. The number of bankruptcies increased from 19 164 in 1933 to 28 816 four years later. And this sharp increase occurred during a period of constant and rapid economic expansion. Then in 1937 the Nazi government introduced a law which further accelerated this trend towards monopoly concentration, stipulating that all corporations had to have a paid-up share capital of at least 500 000 RM, whereas previously the lower limit had been 50 000 RM. Unless the corporations in question met this requirement by 1940, their assets would be seized and sold off – at bargain prices we can be sure – to the monopolies. And so we find the average size of the German corporation rising from 2 256 000 RM in 1933 to 3 069 000 RM in the year of the new law, and then to 5 378 000 RM by 1942.

The one-sided, mainly arms-oriented expansion of the German economy under Hitler meant that capital accumulation, both in the private sector and through various fiscal and monetary measures, favoured heavy industry and transport as against the traditional mass supporters of National Socialism, the small-propertied petit-bourgeoisie of town and country. The proportion of total investments accruing to traders and artisans in the Weimar slump year of 1932 was greater than in the Nazi boom year of 1938: [29]

Investment (million RM)
Administration, transport45901705218040509800
Artisan, trade16805506508501000
Total investment906032453985667514 300

Nazi wages and social policy not only made possible the rapid accumulation of new capital, but ensured that in the sectors of production most favoured by the Reich and determined by its imperialist goals, profits rose steadily year by year. Dividends of the joint stock companies soared from 379 RM in 1932-33 to 800 RM by 1936-37. Total profits were of course far higher, since dividends were limited by law to six per cent; a measure expressly designed to facilitate capital accumulation in the form of retained profits.

On the other hand, Nazi wages policy inevitably led to a depression in consumer demand, and this had its repercussions in the sales of firms dependent upon it. Food production, for example, increased hardly at all under Nazi rule (while the calorific and nutritional content of the worker’s diet actually declined). Sales of the industrial trusts however surged ahead:

Sales (millions of RM)
Bavarian Motor Works10.720.723.232.5
IG Farben470.0565.0535.0786.0
United Steel Works105.6193.0220.0

It was therefore with complete justification that a Nazi economic correspondent wrote in 1937:

Most companies have enjoyed huge profits during the last few years on account of measures taken by the National Socialist government. Profits have been high because wages and salaries have remained stationary. [30]

The redistribution of the national income in favour of the largest property owners and employers of labour power, already strongly in evidence in the Weimar Republic and accelerated by the rationalisation movement of 1925-26, continued in the Third Reich unhindered by the radical rhetoric of the Nazi ‘lefts’. Der Reichswart, edited by the old north German ‘National Bolshevik’ von Reventlow raged impotently:

How many comrades believe that capitalist slavery and exploitation have been overcome when on their demonstrations they pass the Stock Exchange building, when they read about the dividends paid by different companies, and when they realise through their own miseries how this criminal commercial spirit ruins everything. [31]

But this ‘criminal commercial spirit’, though it may have been the ruin of Reventlow’s reactionary anti-capitalist utopia, was the backbone of the Third Reich’s economy. Without the giant trusts, there could be neither Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe nor Navy, and all the Nazi leaders without exception knew it. Colonel Georg Thomas, Chief of the War Ministry’s Economic Department, and a close confidant of big business, declared in April 1936:

State ownership of armaments might be justified for Italy. It does not suit Germany. We want to mobilise the full strength of the highly-developed German economy. The more that factories producing peacetime goods can be put onto a wartime footing, the more efficient will be the German war economy. We do not want to abolish the private initiative of the German entrepreneur. The national economy must be in the hands of businessmen. I regard it as essential that the supply of foodstuffs, industry, commerce, raw materials, production, foreign trade, the financial system, transport, and the work of the Labour Ministry should be centralised in one hand in case of emergency.

This ‘one hand’ was not the Nazi Party, least of all its aristocratic dilettantes such as Reventlow. Thomas was arguing in favour of the Reichsbank performing the task of centralising the economy in its preparations for war.

Sitting with Schacht on the Central Committee of the Reichsbank were 15 representatives from the private banks, six from state banks, five agrarians, two representatives of heavy industry, one each from the chemical and electrical industries, two manufacturers, two wholesalers and two state officials, one of whom was a representative of the NSDAP. Since the interests and objectives of finance capital and the Nazis coincided on the main strategic issues of enslaving the working class and preparing for imperialist war, the Hitler government had no motive for intervening, directly and consistently in the running of the German economy. What the Nazi leadership demanded and clung onto was their monopoly of political power. In the words of Hitler himself:

... the new state will not be and does not want to be an entrepreneur. Planned economy must be rejected from the point of view of rearmament. We insist upon free initiative and full responsibility of the entrepreneur in accordance with the general policy of the state.

Even Goebbels’ Der Angriff did not dare demur:

Germany, in contrast to other states, does not want to nationalise the armaments industries because National Socialist economic policy has other means of guaranteeing the correct management in these politically important concerns. [32]

Monopoly concentration relentlessly ground down the small and medium-size firms. The number of corporations fell from 11 690 in 1928 to 5518 in 1938, while those with a share capital of more than five million RM dropped by far less, from 750 to 616. Inevitably, the share of these firms in the total capital owned increased over the same period, from 55.8 per cent in 1928 to 74.6 per cent in 1938. The total number of firms of all types fell by nine per cent in the first five years of Nazi rule, from 362 000 to 320 000. Some sectors of small trade and artisan manufacture were especially hard hit by this trend towards concentration and the Nazi emphasis on heavy industry. The net decrease in the number of handicraft firms in 1936 was 27 875, in 1937, 62 573, and in 1938, 62 942. Only four departments of small trade and handicraft recorded an increase in the number of enterprises as compared with the Weimar Republic. In the period between 1926 and 1939, the number of plumbers per 100 000 of population rose from 16.6 to 16.9, that of electricians from 9.6 to 15.9, house-painters from 30.1 to 33.5 and barbers from 20.7 to 28.4. Elsewhere there were declines: smiths, 20.7 to 16.3, tailors 70.2 to 59.8, shoemakers 35.4 to 26.7, carpenters 16.6 to 13.0, while artisan enterprises between 1933 and 1939 fell in shoemaking by 12.4 per cent, masons by 14.8 per cent, carpenters by 13.8 per cent, paperhangers and upholsterers by 12.8 per cent and house-painters by 11.4 per cent.

The votes – and fists – of these ruined artisans and small traders had helped to place Hitler in power. Now Labour Front chief Robert Ley told them three years later: ‘The independent artisan who cannot compete against the modern factory or trust has no right to exist in the Third Reich. He can become an industrial worker.’ And they could hardly draw solace from the harsh words of their Führer, who told the Reichstag on 21 May 1935:

We National Socialists see in private property a higher mode of human economic development which regulates the administration of rewards in proportion to the differences in achievement... Bolshevism destroys not only private property but also initiative, a zest for responsibility.

Henceforth, increasing numbers of bankrupted artisans would expend their zest in the factories of Krupp, IG Farben and Mannesmann. Yet they could scarcely claim Hitler had betrayed his programme, for in August 1932 he told an Associated Press correspondent, who had inquired of his intentions in economic policy: ‘I would not be so silly as to try to eliminate all large concerns. You cannot build railway engines in a blacksmith’s shop nor ocean liners in a rowing boat shed.’

Big business, however, had to pay a price for its economic supremacy in the Third Reich, for its fabulous profits, for the privilege of being able to exploit a working class denied all legal means of resistance and organisation. It had to sacrifice its old political parties and most of its political leaders. Even formerly influential politicians like von Papen went into eclipse under Hitler’s rigidly centralised rule, while Hugenberg found himself compelled to resign from the Ministry of Economics shortly after his own party, the DNVP, went into liquidation. Unlike under Weimar, there was no room for a complicated and fluid bourgeois party system. Not only were the Nazis not prepared to risk the limited political freedom and debate that would ensue from the existence of more than one party (even if it were of the most reactionary kind), they were determined to exercise the whole state power themselves, and as far as their other goals would permit, to their own material advantage. The state and party bureaucracy, together with those of affiliated Nazi organisations, was necessarily greatly enlarged in order to facilitate its repressive functions over the proletariat. But there was also at work a tendency for the Nazi bureaucracy to grow fat and multiply beyond the limits of what was essential for its ascribed functions. The ‘plebeians’ demanded their reward for years of foot slogging and fighting on the streets, and Hitler could not afford to spurn their claims. Graft and extortion, ‘the jobs for the boys’ and bureaucratic parasitism inevitably accompanied the necessary work of policing the working mass, repressing all dissent and preparing the entire people for barbarism, deprivation and death in imperialist war. Big business periodically complained of the excesses of Nazi bureaucratisation [33] as they ate up a considerable slice of the surplus product of labour that would otherwise have fallen to capital. But it knew in its heart of hearts that a fair bargain had been struck – and kept – by the Nazi plebeians.

Appendix I: Render Unto Hitler...

Although competitors with National Socialism in the sphere of ideology, and fanatically jealous of their centuries-old privileges and organisational independence, the two wings of the Christian faith – with rare exceptions – wasted no time in coming to terms with the Germany of Hitler. In doing so they were carrying to its logical conclusion the hostile attitude the Protestant and Catholic clergy had adopted towards the Weimar Republic from its very inception. Above all, the two hierarchies, fused intimately with the uppermost reaches of the propertied classes and the state bureaucracy, were motivated by their all-pervading fear of proletarian revolution when they opted for the Nazi ‘lesser evil’ in the spring of 1933.

For deep-seated historical and political reasons the Lutherans were better placed to make this adjustment. The Protestant cause had found its political standard-bearer in the ultra-right, monarchist DNVP, while the Catholics had become one of the main supports of the Weimar system through their Centre Party’s participation in the ‘Grand Coalition’ with the Social Democrats. Certainly the Catholic hierarchy had no love for the ‘atheistic’ Republic, born in revolutionary sin, but its opposition necessarily had to be more guarded. Otto Dibelius, General Superintendent of the Lutheran clergy, suffered from no such inhibitions. As early as 1926 he had written that ‘since the mood of the Church is overwhelmingly hostile to the republic the Church’s attitude towards the new state is one of great reserve’. Two years later, Dibelius struck a quite unabashed chauvinist note in his Easter Greeting:

We will all have not only understanding but also full sympathy for the motives which have given rise to the nationalist movement. Despite the ugly sound which has often been attached to the word, I have always regarded myself as an anti-Semite. The fact cannot be concealed that the Jews have played a leading part in all the movements of disintegration in modern civilisations...

The NSDAP stood for what its founding programme termed ‘positive Christianity’. With the upsurge of National Socialism after 1929, a significant section of the Protestant clergy began to reinterpret the Lutheran doctrine in terms amenable to the party’s militant anti-Semitism, chauvinism, militarism and anti-Marxism. The ‘Christian German Movement’ of Pastor Werner rapidly won the approval of the Nazis, and it was with their backing that it contested the 1932 Protestant Church elections. Prussian in origin, the Christian Germans aligned themselves in other parts of Germany with the Thuringian ‘German Christians’ and the equally ultra-right-wing Federation for a German Church. At Hitler’s instigation, these three groups fused to form the ‘Faith Movement of German Christians’ in April 1932, under the new leadership of Pastor Joachim Hossenfelder. The new movement’s manifesto, published in June 1932, contained the following declarations of principle:

We stand on the ground of positive Christianity. We profess our affirmative faith in Christ, fitting our race and being in accordance with the German Lutheran mind and heroic piety... We want to bring the reawakened sense of life to bear in our Church and to fill our Church with vitality. In the fateful struggle for German liberty, and the German future, the Church has turned out to be too weak in leadership. Up to now, the Church has not summoned the faithful to a determined fight against ungodly Marxism and against the Centre Party. We want our Church to fight in the front line in the decisive battle of our nation for life or death... We demand a revision of the political clauses of our Church Treaty and a fight against unreligious and unpatriotic Marxism and its Christian-socialist train-bearers of all shades... The way to the kingdom of heaven is through struggles, the cross and sacrifice, and not through a false peace. We see in race, nationality and nation, orders of life given and entrusted to us by God, to care for the preservation of which is for us God’s law. For these reasons, racial interbreeding has to be opposed... Faith in Christ does not destroy but heightens and sanctifies the race... Mere compassion is ‘charity’ and leads to presumption, paired with a bad conscience, and effeminates a nation. We know something about Christian obligation and charity towards the helpless, but we also demand the protection of the nation from the unfit and the inferior... We see a great danger to our nationality in the Jewish mission. It promises to allow foreign blood into our nation. It has no right to exist side by side with the foreign mission. We object to the Jewish mission in Germany so long as the Jews have citizenship and so long as there is the danger of racial mixture and bastardisation... marriages between Jews and Germans must be prohibited.

Once in power, the Nazis did everything they could to encourage support for their regime amongst the religious sections of the population, especially the petit-bourgeoisie, by stressing their devotion to Christian ideals and their determination to root out the Godless Marxists. On 1 February 1933, Hitler declared:

The National Government will support and defend the foundation on which the strength of our nation is built. It will seek firmly to protect Christianity as the basis of our whole morality, and the family as the nucleus of the life of our people and our community.

Bernard Rust, the new Nazi Prussian Education Minister, assumed a similarly traditionalist pose when he made an appeal for Christian unity against the common Marxist foe:

For 150 years, during the wars of religion, we were, as a people, almost destroyed. Today we find ourselves in a bitter struggle for our existence against Bolshevism. I appeal to Christians, of both denominations, to join us against this enemy in defence of their living faith, their values and their customs.

The fanatical Jew-baiter and pogrom-monger Julius Streicher was not averse to employing biblical terms in his campaign for the anti-Jewish boycott day on 1 April 1933. Addressing a rally of 80 000 Nazi supporters in Berlin on 31 March, he roared:

I prophesy to you that the day is at hand when humanity will at last be freed from the eternal Jew, who for thousands of years has wandered through the continent as mass murderer and murderer of Christ. Golgotha shall be avenged and the Jew himself is on the way to Golgotha.

Streicher also struck an unbecoming Puritanical pose in the same speech, demanding that German women should ‘solemnly swear’ that they would ‘abandon lipstick, rouge, and other Jewish usage and become entirely teutonic, and never frequent dance halls where nigger dances are in vogue’. Such diatribes evidently did nothing to dissuade the ultra-nationalist Lutherans from supporting the new regime.

Quite the contrary. On 3 April, Dibelius issued a Statement (later broadcast to the USA) justifying the anti-Jewish boycott and the regime’s brutal repression of its left-wing opponents:

The revolution of 1918 was a violent revolution. Bloodshed and atrocities of all kinds were the order of the day. The new revolution is of quite a different nature. It has been brought about by the lawful decision of the German people. As its first great task the new government has set about saving Germany from Bolshevism... The old governments hoped to be able to bring the German Communists up to national loyalty by restraining their propaganda and their newspapers to the least possible extent. Experience has shown that this method failed. The Bolshevist propaganda prepared a new revolution. With increasing uneasiness we waited for the decisive battle between Western civilisation and Bolshevism, which had to be fought on German soil. Now it has come in a way different from what was thought possible. It was won without street riots and bloodshed [sic!]. By drastic methods the new government eliminated the Communist agitators and their confederates from public life... All Communist leaders have been imprisoned... Not one word in the hair-raising reports on the cruel and bloody treatment of Communists is true. On the basis of such false reports world Jewry has started an agitation against Germany in several countries.

And so, concluded Dibelius, the anti-Jewish boycott was merely a means of self-defence against this campaign of anti-German lies and slander.

Two days later, on 5 April, the German Christians’ conference issued a call for the foundation of a new, ‘national’ evangelical Church. Its creed was to be based on the following four principles:

1. God has made men German, Germanism is the gift of God.

2. God wished I should fight for my Germanism.

3. Towards a state which furthers the powers of darkness the believer has the right to revolution.

4. All Protestants who marry members of an alien race are to be expelled from the Church.

A conference organiser, Pastor Wieneke, told the assembled men of God: ‘Were Christ to appear on earth again he would be the leader of a war upon Marxism and internationalism.’ In the elections to the governing bodies of the Prussian Protestant Church on 17 April, the Nazi ‘German Christian’ faction won 40 per cent of the votes. The ‘positive Christians’ were gaining ground. In May, the Bishop of Mecklenburg, Rendforff, announced his support for the NSDAP:

It is the great popular movement that alone can save our people and country from falling into the abyss, and under the leadership of the Führer Adolf Hitler, sent to us by God, it is achieving in its struggle for Germany’s freedom and revival of what has been the goal of our desires and of our own struggle for 20 years.

After a slower start, the Roman Catholics were by this time eagerly making their peace with those they had only a few months previously been denouncing as pagans. In his speech to the Reichstag on 23 March, Hitler had made the pointed remark that ‘the national government attaches utmost importance to the cultivation and maintenance of the friendliest relations with the Holy see’. What Hitler had in mind of course was a concordat between Berlin and Rome, in which in return for limited concessions on religious education and other secondary matters, the Vatican would withdraw its support from all Catholic political and trade union organisations, even to the point of ensuring that they went into voluntary liquidation. The delicate negotiations for this deal were entrusted on the Nazi side to von Papen, and for the Vatican, Secretary of State Cardinal Pacelli. Papen later recalled that during the course of these negotiations he met the Pope, Pius XI, who remarked ‘how pleased he was that the German government now had at its head a man uncompromisingly opposed to Communism and Russian nihilism in all its forms...’ [34] On 23 March, the Catholic Centre Party voted unanimously for Hitler’s Enabling Act, and heard Hitler drop his hint about improving relations with the Vatican. At once relations between the hierarchy and the Nazi regime began to thaw. The Fulda Bishops conference, currently in session, was requested by Cardinal Bertram to declare itself in favour of the new government, even if in cautious terms. This change of line was now justified, he argued, by Hitler’s declarations that his policies would be based on Christian doctrine. Bans on Catholics belonging to Nazi organisations were quickly lifted, while uniformed Nazis were permitted to attend church services in military formation and battle regalia. By now, with the negotiations for the long-sought-after Concordat well under way, the Catholic leaders were vying with the Lutherans in devotion to the Führer, ‘the authority appointed from above’ as the general secretary of the Catholic Journeymen’s Association described the Nazi leader. On 14 July, von Papen was able to report to the Hitler cabinet that agreement had been reached with the Vatican on the terms of a Concordat, terms so favourable to the Nazis that the minutes of the cabinet meeting recorded that the Hitler – Pius XI deal meant that the Catholic Church in Germany ‘withdrew from activity in associations and parties, for example, also abandoned the Christian trade unions. This too the Reich Chancellor would not have considered possible even a few months ago...’ With the Concordat, promulgated officially on 22 July, the hierarchy adopted one by one the strategic goals of the Nazi regime – the elimination of Marxism, rearmament, the crusade for ‘living space’ and even the propagation of the National Socialist ‘master race’ ideology. Vicar General Steinemann told a meeting of Catholic youth:

What we have all longed and striven for has become reality: we have one Reich and one Führer, and this leader we will follow faithfully and conscientiously... We know that he who stands at the head is given us by God as our leader.

This same Steinemann became a centre of controversy when the Völkischer Beobachter published a photograph of the Bishop giving the Nazi salute to a march past of the Catholic youth. Criticism was voiced of his conduct in a New York German-American paper, to which he replied: ‘The future will some day gratefully acknowledge that Germany, situated in the heart of Europe, has created a bulwark against Bolshevism and thereby saved the West from the Red Tide.’ Not only the Nazi programme, but its turn of speech were adopted by the more fanatically fascist members of the priesthood. ‘Jesus is our Führer’ and ‘Heil Bishop’ became customary slogans and forms of greeting. And while the Lutherans had been first in the field with their defence of Germanic ‘racial purity’, the Catholic Church soon caught up. Archbishop Gröber’s handbook on doctrinal questions contained the following entry on ‘race’:

Every people bears itself the responsibility for its successful existence, and the intake of an entirely foreign blood will always represent a risk for a nationality that has proven its historical worth. Hence, no people may be denied the right to maintain undisturbed their previous racial stock and to enact safeguards for this purpose. The Christian religion merely demands that the means used do not offend against the moral law and natural justice.

The fact that Christ himself was a Jew was dealt with in summary fashion. A Regensberg Canon instructed Catholic teachers to emphasise to their pupils that the Old Testament could not have been the product of the ‘Jewish mentality’: ‘The greatest miracle of the Bible is that the true religion could hold its own and maintain itself against the voice of the Semitic blood.’

Such oppositional activities as were carried out by the two churches in Germany against the Nazi regime were, except in rare cases, a reaction to Nazi encroachments on their own privileges. The destruction of the workers’ movement (including the Catholic trade unions), the murder and persecution of Communists and Socialists, the hounding, baiting and eventual mass extermination of the Jews did not elicit a single public protest from either the Catholic or Lutheran Church leaderships. To the very end, the peddlers of the ‘opium of the people’ functioned as servants of the fascist dictatorship. For as their leaders had instructed them when Hitler took power in 1933, in the struggle against atheistic Bolshevism, Hitler was acting as the chosen instrument of God. In the words of von Papen:

The kind Lord has blessed Germany by giving it in times of deep distress a leader who will lead it, through all crises and moments of danger with the sure instinct of the statesman into a happy future... Here in the heart of an overwhelmingly Catholic province I express the urgent request to my Catholic fellow citizens to reward this generous recognition of the Christian basis of the Third Reich offered by the Führer with the fullest confidence in the future... Let us in this hour say to the Führer of the new Germany that we believe in him and his work. [35]

Appendix II: The Fall of the Plebeians

The thirtieth of June 1934 put a brutal end to the hopes of those Nazi ‘radicals’ who still yearned for the original petit-bourgeois anti-capitalist utopia of the National Socialist pioneers. In one of his wartime conversations Hitler let slip the remark that it was:

... one of National Socialism’s merits that it knew how to stop the revolution at the proper moment. It’s very nice to see the people arise, but one must be a realist and go no further than phrases... I've not forgotten the difficulties I had to overcome in 1933 and 1934. Revolution opens a sluice-gate, and it’s often impossible to curb the masses one has let loose. [36]

In fact the struggle against the so-called ‘second’ revolution began almost from the first days of the Nazi takeover. Repeated warnings were issued to SA commanders and their men to direct their terrorist activities exclusively against the regime’s left-wing opponents, though often without much success. The brown-shirted plebeians certainly had no love for the Marxists – and this term covered militants of both workers’ parties and the ADGB trade unions – but they had little reason to be kindly disposed towards the bourgeoisie either. There were clashes between SA formations and the monarchist Stahlhelm, while storm-troopers on the rampage looted ‘gentile’ as well as Jewish stores, molested bourgeois politicians and generally made themselves a thorough nuisance to the very class that had called in Hitler to restore law and order to capitalist Germany. Before the owners of big property could breathe easily once more, the Nazi leaders had to accomplish the transition from the plebeian counter-revolution ‘from below’ to a regime which while still relying for its internal stability on broad support amongst the petit-bourgeois masses, drew closer to the form of government envisaged by the bourgeoisie in the immediate pre-Hitler period: namely the Bonapartism of Papen and Schleicher.

But there is the world of difference between the Bonapartism which precedes the fascist coup and rests upon a temporary equilibrium between a mass fascist movement still to seize power and a proletariat as yet undefeated, and the form of rule consolidated by Hitler in the period following the purge of June 1934. That difference is, of course, primarily the definitive defeat of the proletariat, the crushing of all its organisations, and its being held in a state of permanent subjection by the terror apparatus of the fascist regime. In the words of Trotsky:

Just as Bonapartism begins by combining the parliamentary regime with fascism [that is, the regimes of Papen and Schleicher in Germany – RB], so triumphant fascism finds itself forced not only to enter into a bloc with the Bonapartists [the first Hitler cabinet of ‘National Concentration’ contained but three Nazis, the remaining Ministers being old monarchists – RB], but what is more, to draw closer internally to the Bonapartist system. The prolonged domination of finance capital by means of reactionary social demagogy and petit-bourgeois terror is impossible. Having arrived in power, the fascist chiefs are forced to muzzle the masses who follow them by means of the state apparatus. By the same token, they lose the support of the broad masses of the petit-bourgeoisie. A small part of it is assimilated by the bureaucratic apparatus [with what financial cost to the bourgeoisie we have already seen – RB]. Another sinks into indifference. But while losing its social mass base [it would be more accurate here to say ‘contracting’ rather than ‘losing’ – RB], by resting upon the bureaucratic apparatus and oscillating between the classes, fascism is regenerated into Bonapartism. [37]

The sequence of events and political crises culminating in the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ of 30 June 1934 demonstrates concretely the validity of this analysis. Many were the attempts made by the Nazi plebeians to carve out an independent position for themselves under the Third Reich. Nazi small businessmen – artisans, shopkeepers, etc – banded together on 3 May to found the ‘National Socialist Fighting League of the Industrial Middle Class’. It pressed the middle-class case for a petit-bourgeois ‘guild socialism’, a reactionary ‘anti-capitalism’ involving state protection for small concerns, preferential contracts, etc, and discrimination against the monopolies. Seen by big business as the thin end of a radical Nazi wedge, the Fighting League (headed by Adrian von Renteln) wound itself up in August. Far more serious was the challenge of Röhm, who though not so concerned with social and economic questions, drew his support from that layer in the petit-bourgeois and lumpen-proletarian masses which felt itself cheated by Hitler’s alliance with the enemies of the ‘second revolution’ – namely big business and the banks.

Standing behind Röhm was his ever-growing army of Brown Shirts, which in the hectic period of the struggle against the ‘Reds’ had usurped many of the functions of the regular state security forces. Hitler had no intention of surrendering power either to the old bourgeois and agrarian élites, or to Röhm’s rowdy plebeians. No sooner had the workers’ movement been crushed than he began – gently at first – to apply the brakes. On 6 July, he told party officials:

... the revolution is not a permanent state of affairs, and it must not be allowed to develop into such a state... We must therefore not dismiss a businessman if he is a good businessman, even if he is not yet a National Socialist... History will not judge us according to whether we have removed and imprisoned the largest number of economists but according to whether we have succeeded in providing work...

On 17 July, Goebbels took up this theme, warning against ‘camouflaged Bolshevik elements who talk about a second revolution’. The national revolution had now been ‘wound up’, he declared ominously. Hitler had ‘stopped our revolution at exactly the right moment’. The right moment for the leaders of industry, certainly, but not for Röhm and his power and plunder-hungry parvenus.

The main bone of contention between Hitler and Röhm was the latter’s attitude towards the Reichswehr, which the SA chief-of-staff sought to ‘colonise’ by subordinating the army to his own Storm Troop command. Röhm cared little for political programmes, and even less for economic ones, but he was not averse to indulging in pseudo-socialist demagogy as a means of exerting extra pressure on Hitler and his bourgeois and Reichswehr allies. In November 1933, he told a meeting of 15 000 SA officials that despite ‘voices in the bourgeois camp’ who were saying that the SA had ‘lost any reason for existence’, the struggle against ‘reactionaries’ would continue. Here was an open split in the Nazi High Command, for two months earlier, Hitler had gone out of his way at the Nuremberg Party Congress to praise the old Army leaders, without whose support in the early days of the regime, Hitler declared, National Socialism would never have conquered. Throughout the winter and spring of 1934, the inner-party conflict deepened, with Röhm becoming progressively estranged not only from Hitler, but also Goering and Himmler, whose SS élite were being groomed to replace Röhm’s rowdies as the praetorian guard of the Third Reich. The account of the last weeks and days preceding the purge of 30 June has been told so many times it needs no repetition save to stress that more was at stake in the liquidation of the SA ‘radicals’ than the independence and prestige of the army. Several factions combined to crush Röhm. Lüdecke speaks of two main groups, ‘the Hindenburg faction, which included Papen, Neurath and Blomberg, and was based on the landed aristocracy and the Reichswehr [thus comprising two subgroups]... and the Goering – Thyssen – Schacht group, guarding the interests of heavy industry and the banks, with the police and the Stahlhelm as instruments of power...’. [38] Otto Strasser broadly concurs with this analysis: ‘The Gregor Strasser and Röhm front was formed in opposition to the Hindenburg, Hugenberg, Papen and Goering front, which was in alliance with the industrialists.’ [39] Röhm was in effect broken by the same combination of forces that had brought down the final three governments of the Weimar Republic. The army, the agrarians and industry decided in the early summer of 1934 that the time had come to put an end to the SA threat, and with it all talk of the ‘second revolution’ and the implementation of the ‘socialist’ planks of the Nazi platform.

On 4 June, Röhm sent four SA men into Krupp’s Essen plant, where they held up production while they harangued workers on the need to fight for the ‘second revolution’. Gustav Krupp was furious, and told Hitler what he thought of Röhm’s rabble-rousing. Hindenburg had already informed Hitler – on 28 May – that an end had to be put to the activities of the SA ‘radicals’, who to the President must have seemed little better than Bolsheviks. Hitler then paid a visit to his old mentor in Rome, where Mussolini advised him to restrain somewhat the radical actions and speeches of the left wing of the NSDAP. He even went so far as to suggest that Hitler might ‘dissolve the SA’. [40]

The day following Hitler’s return to Munich, von Papen made his well-known speech at Marburg University, voicing more openly than ever before the fears of the monarchist right about the dangers of a ‘second revolution’. It was not clear, said Papen:

... where such a second wave is to lead. There is much talk of the coming socialisation. Have we gone through the anti-Marxist revolution in order to carry out a Marxist programme? ... No people can afford to indulge in a permanent revolt from below if it would endure in history. At some time the movement must come to a stop and a solid social structure arise.

In other words, the time had come to put an end to the plebeian chapter of the Nazi counter-revolution. It was now necessary to pass on to ‘Thermidor’, to purge the ‘brown Jacobins’ whose useful functions had long since been exhausted. Others of Papen’s class thought so too. On 21 June, Hitler was summoned to Hindenburg at the President’s East Prussian Neudeck Estate. The story of what ensued is well told by Otto Strasser, who learned of the Hitler-Hindenburg confrontation through his contacts in the NSDAP:

Hitler was accompanied by Goebbels, by Hoffman the photographer and by Herr Schreck, the leader of the SS. These three represented the radical wing of the party in South Germany. They were received on the steps by two men in general’s uniform: Blomberg, the Minister of War, and Goering. Adolf was stupefied. ‘Having been informed of events by Vice Chancellor von Papen’, General Blomberg said with great dignity, ‘President Hindenburg summoned General Goering in his capacity of chief of police and myself to Neudeck. Our instructions are to consult with you on the measures to be taken to ensure internal peace. If a complete relaxation of tension does not immediately take place... martial law will be proclaimed. The President, being ill, deeply regrets being unable to receive you.’ Hitler and his companions were dumbfounded. Adolf was the first to speak: ‘But it is absolutely essential that I see the President...’ Blomberg went away and returned a few minutes later. ‘Please follow me’, he said to Hitler. ‘These gentlemen from Munich [sic!] can wait.’ Marshal Hindenburg, in Blomberg’s presence, briefly repeated to Adolf what Blomberg had already told him. The audience lasted exactly four minutes...’ [41]

That was Röhm’s death sentence, pronounced by the ‘reaction’ his plebeians despised. On 29 June, Hitler visited Krupp at Essen (using as his pretext the wedding of the local Nazi Gauleiter, Terboven), where, it seems almost certain, they discussed once again the necessity of crushing the SA ‘lefts’. Krupp had the support of Goering in pressing this demand:

A momentary armistice was not enough for them. They insisted on finishing with these men of the ‘second revolution’, and they wanted immediate action. Krupp threatened to withdraw if the ‘National Bolsheviks’ were not silenced. [42]

The ‘immediate action’ all bourgeois – Junker Germany craved came the next day, when picked SS squads gunned down Röhm and his closest supporters. But the purge was not directed exclusively against the Nazi ‘left’. General Schleicher also died, as did two members of von Papen’s private staff. Fascism was, as Trotsky pointed out in the aftermath of the purge, compelled to draw close to the old Bonapartism, but was determined not to merge with it, least of all to permit the old leaders to insert themselves into the vacuum created by the annihilation of the ‘plebeians’. Himmler’s SS, and not the monarchists or even the army leaders, were to be the custodians of the Third Reich.

Nevertheless, the big bourgeoisie had good reason to congratulate itself on the outcome of the ‘Night of the Long Knives’. The defence of private property was now at last in trusted hands:

The economy especially welcomed the seizure of power by the Nazis because it needs peace, order and security to carry out its tasks. When Hindenburg made common cause with Hitler... then the economy, for the first time for a long while, felt firm ground underfoot. That would again be in doubt if the former parties of ambitious groups and cliques were permitted to resume their struggles for power. The economy has been saved from this danger by this swift action. It will show its gratitude. [43]


1. ‘Whoever undertakes to maintain the organisational structure of another political party [that is, other than the NSDAP] or to form a new political party will be punished with penal servitude of up to three years or with imprisonment of from six months to three years, if the deed is not subject to a greater penalty according. to other regulations.’

2. Völkischer Beobachter, 10 June 1933. It seems Ley recognised the identity between fascism, National Socialism and corporatism. Each are different expressions for the same thing – a system which excludes all forms of independent workers’ organisations, and which therefore requires their destruction before such a system can be erected. Thus it was in Italy, Germany and Spain, and, more recently, in Chile. Let Workers Press take note: there was no room in Ley’s corporate state for Leipart. Nor will there be in a corporatist Britain room for Jack Jones, Hugh Scanlon et al, even though should this disaster overwhelm the workers’ movement, they will have to bear the main responsibility for it.

3. ‘Special Circular on the Securing of the Associations of the German Labour Front Against Hidden Marxist Sabotage’, 2336-PS.

4. ‘Special Circular on the Securing of the Associations of the German Labour Front Against Hidden Marxist Sabotage’, 2336-PS.

5. Persecution of former trade union militants was unrelenting. The following is a Nuremberg police report on the reasons for the arrest on 3 August 1935 of Josef Simon, an SPD City Counsellor between 1908 and 1930, and an active trade unionist in the Weimar Republic: ‘In view of the decisive role which Simon played in the international trade unions and in regard to his connection with the international Marxist leaders and central agencies, which he continued after the national recovery, he was placed under protective custody on 3 May 1933, and was kept, until 25 January 1934, in the Dachau concentration camp... Even after this date he played an active part in the illegal continuation of the SPD. He took part in meetings which aimed at the illegal continuation of the SPD and propagation of illegal Marxist printed matter in Germany. Through this radical attitude which is hostile to the state, Simon directly endangers public security and order.’ Before Simon’s release on 20 December 1935, he was made to sign a declaration: ‘I have been informed that I shall be released from protective custody, and that I have to expect to be taken into protective custody again in case that I should behave in a manner inimical to the state, or if I should be active in this sense... I have been informed that I have to report in person at Police Station Ziedelstein, competent for my residence, on every second day of the week at the same hour.’ (2331-PS)

6. Agreement between the Labour Front and the SA, October 1936, NSDAP Year Book for 1938.

7. A Grzesinski, Inside Germany (New York, 1939), p 189.

8. Grzesinski, Inside Germany, p 190.

9. Grzesinski, Inside Germany, p 190.

10. Deutsche Bergwerks Zeitung, 17 May 1933.

11. German Law for the Organisation of National Labour, 16 January 1934, emphasis added.

12. Foremost amongst British Stalinists who peddled this chauvinist, anti-working-class filth was Palme Dutt, who in his private journal Labour Monthly of March 1945 wrote: ‘For the mass of German people, whose typical guilt was slavish “non-political” submission to authority, to share in the loot and become accomplices in crime, evidence from the occupied regions shows how far demoralisation had gone after 12 years of Nazism... Here softness and immunity will not avail... Here the hard path of retribution must teach the lesson... It is also necessary that the German nation shall have to pay the price for fascism, and that price shall be engraven on the memory of the German people... From the fate of Germany every people in the world can learn that the nation which surrenders to fascism touches poison.’ Ironically, Dutt employs here some of the very concepts of National Socialism – ‘nation’, ‘softness’, and ‘retribution’ – which Hitler set up against the Marxist conception of historical development. And all in the name of ‘anti-fascism’.

13. R Diels, Lucifer ante Portas (Stuttgart, 1950), p 222.

14. Evidence that the majority of workers never succumbed to National Socialism can be found in the most varied accounts of life in the Third Reich. A former member of Hitler’s ‘inner circle’, Ernst Hanfstängl, relates how the workers of ‘red’ Wedding reacted when a Nazi film unit shot a scene depicting a street battle between SA men and Communists for a film about Horst Wessel, the Nazi ‘martyr’: ‘It turned out to be too realistic for words... The trouble was that most of the inhabitants of Wedding were as Communist as ever and when they heard a crowd of supers [extras] bawling their old battle cries, really thought that the counter- [that is, anti-Nazi] revolution had started. They poured out of their houses, beat up our SA film heroes, threw-flower pots from the windows, assaulted the police and generally had a field day... There was blood everywhere, police helmets rolling in the gutter and confusion everywhere...’ (E Hanfstängl, Hitler: The Missing Years (London, 1937), p 233) The diaries of the aristocratic oppositionist von Hassell, which date from the later years of the Third Reich, speak of a ‘murderous hatred against Ley [which] prevailed among the workers at the Bavarian Motor Works’. An official of the firm told Hassell that ‘in his business there were hardly any Nazis, no SA men and no SS men’ (The von Hassell Diaries (London, 1948), p 40). The renegade Social Democrat August Winnig bore out this account, informing Hassell shortly after the outbreak of war that ‘according to his observations the overwhelming majority of workers are quite opposed to National Socialism. Again and again he had observed that active party members among the workers were avoided by the others; managers told him they had to arrange for these people to work separately.’ (The von Hassell Diaries, p 79) With the steady decline in unemployment and a constant demand for skilled and semi-skilled labour, pressure began to build up amongst groups of workers for higher wages. This even took the form of strike actions on several notable occasions. In June 1936, 262 vehicle workers at the Russelheim Opel works struck for more pay. The strike was brutally broken after only 17 minutes by the arrest of seven leaders and the dismissal and blacklisting of 36 more. Nevertheless in April 1937, workers at the Alte Union Plant in Berlin successfully blocked a threatened pay cut by a sharp strike. Early the next year (and with unemployment now down from its 1932 peak of seven million to 0.5 million) fresh industrial unrest erupted in Lower Saxony, where workers digging the canal for the Hermann Goering Steel Works at Salzgitter refused to accept the rate of 52 pfennigs an hour for the job. The Labour Trustee reported that such defiance, unparalleled in the history of the Third Reich, meant that ‘the future cannot be faced without measures of violence’. The Gestapo’s answer was to weed out industrial militants – mainly former members of the two workers’ parties – and send them to build defence installations on the Franco-German frontier. Amazingly some workers continued to fight openly against the regime, even staging strikes during the war – in the Ruhr coal mines and the ports of Hamburg and Dortmund.

15. The same principles operated within the Waffen-SS, established in 1940 to function as a security force in the territories of Nazi-occupied Europe. In accordance with a directive issued on 6 August 1940 by Hitler, army commanders were told that the Waffen-SS would include ‘in its ranks only men of the best German blood’ and that ‘proud of its impeccable purity, such a body will never fraternise with the proletariat and with the underworld world that would like to undermine the Idea inspiring us’.

16. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6, pp 830-31, emphasis added.

17. Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Volume 6, p 1085.

18. K Lüdecke, I Knew Hitler (New York, 1937), p 623.

19. Lüdecke, I Knew Hitler, p 623.

20. The announcement of the formation of the General Economic Council ran as follows: ‘In order to utilise the experience of practical economy for the tasks of the Reich government, the Reich Chancellor nominates as General Council of Economy members who are to be at the disposal of the Reich government in regard to all economic questions. The General Economic Council meets by special invitation. Reich Chancellor has made the following appointments to the new generalrat for the time being: Herbert Backe, Domain Bailiff, Berlin, Professor Dr Carl Bosch (Heidelberg) [and IG Farben], Eugen Bohringer, Director of the Maximillianheutte, Director General August Diehn, German Potash Combine, Banker August von Finck, Munich, Dr Albert Hackelsberger, Factory Owner, Offlingen-Baden, Burgomaster von Krogmann, Hamburg, Dr Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, Essen, Prussian State Counsellor Dr Robert Ley, leader of the Labour Front, Dr Carl Luer, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Trustee of Labour, Frankfurt, Prussian Staatsrat, Friedrich Reinhart, Bank Director, Berlin, Dr Hermann Reischle, leader of agricultural trade and agricultural cooperatives, Berlin, Baron Kurt von Schröder, President of the Cologne Chamber of Commerce, Karl Friedrich von Siemens, Berlin, Prussian Staatsrat Dr Fritz Thyssen, Mulheim/Ruhr, General Director Dr Albert Vögler, Dortmund.’ Carl Bosch took his appointment to the Council as a good omen for German capitalism, for he told a representative of the US chemical firm Du Pont on 11 July 1933 that while ‘in the beginning Hitler did not consult industrial leaders, in more recent weeks he has shown his stability by curbing the more extreme elements of the Party and by bringing the industrial leaders into consultation’. He justified his participation in the Nazi regime by declaring that ‘just now it is a question of fascism or Bolshevism, and industry must support the present government to prevent further chaos’.

21. Deutsche Bergwerks Zeitung, 15 August 1933.

22. Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 15 August 1933.

23. We can also see in this speech the core of the contradictory relationship between big business and the Nazis. Hitler upheld – often by terror – the rights of ‘personality’ in economics, but demanded in return that the bourgeoisie cede to him and his parvenu followers the same untrammelled right to lead the state. Hitler denied quite explicitly – and this is just the argument one would expect from the leader of a mass movement based on the oppressed petit-bourgeoisie – that great wealth and economic power were in and of themselves any proof of ability to guide the affairs of state. The selection of political leaders, he insisted, proceeded on the basis of different principles: ‘Since the new formations of our society had developed out of economic functions, the capacity for leadership could in no way be presumed to be necessarily identifiable with the social position of the individual German, that is to say, that men drawn from lower economic classes might be well-fitted to lead the people just as on the other hand members of the highest social classes, especially represented economic or financial interests, would have to be rejected. The inborn talent necessary for our purpose – that alone must be decisive; our task was to discover these men out of all the different towns, callings and classes. This was in truth a socialistic action... If the word “socialism” is to have any meaning at all, then that meaning can only be that with iron justice... on each man should be placed that share in the maintenance of the people as a whole which corresponds with his inborn talent and his value.’ The property-owner and exploiter, frightened out of his wits by the threat of proletarian revolution and therefore by his own imminent expropriation cedes the political power to the armed plebeians and with it a share in the increased spoils accruing from the intensified exploitation of the working class, that is, the inevitable consequence of fascist rule. The rise to power of the parvenu was, therefore, not based on any mythical inborn talent, but arose out of sheer necessity on the part of the big bourgeoisie, and a profound dislocation in the political and social equilibrium of the petit-bourgeoisie.

24. Hamburger Tageblatt, 12 November 1933.

25. Berliner Börsen Zeitung, 22 November 1933.

26. Deutsche Bergwerks Zeitung, 1 December 1933.

27. The Nazis wasted little time in scrapping the industrial arbitration machinery established by the Weimar Republic (machinery which the Stalinists had described as thoroughly fascist!) and replacing it with ‘social honour’ courts. These pronounced on disputes between workers and employers in Nazi parlance, followers and leaders. In 1935, a total of 205 employers appeared before them to face various charges of malpractice in relation to the Nazi labour code. Nearly all were small firms, and only in nine cases did the court punish the employer to the extent of withdrawing his right to employ labour. In contrast, in the year 1929 alone, 400 000 cases of wrongful dismissal came before the labour courts of the Weimar Republic. Third Period Stalinism never tired of telling reformist workers that there was no difference ‘in principle’ between a fascist and a bourgeois-democratic Germany. Life was now teaching them otherwise.

28. Not all firms or branches of production benefitted equally as a result of Nazi rule. While heavy industry rapidly attained its former output levels, and then far surpassed them, concerns producing for the consumer market were slower to recover, since the economic revival was based largely on large-scale public works and rearmaments. Thus from an index of 35 in 1932, the production of means of production increased to 152 by June 1939, while that of consumer goods, although beginning at the far higher level of 78, only reached 113 by the latter date. Arms expenditure as a percentage of the gross national product rose from 3.4 in the first year of Nazi rule to 18.1 by 1938, while as a percentage of total government expenditure, the increase was from 8.7 per cent to 42.7 per cent.

29. New capital issues, private and government bond and stocks, amounted to a mere 214 million RM in 1932. The first year of Nazi rule saw this sum increase to 1311 million, then to 2901 million in 1934, 2180 million in 1935, and 3217 million in 1936, 3788 million in 1937 and 8605 million in 1938. In France and Britain, Germany’s two main imperialist and economic rivals in Europe, capital issues displayed no such upward movement. In France, they declined from 31 510 million francs in 1930 to 16 791 million in 1938, while in Britain, over the same period, they fell erratically from £234.7 million to £130.7 million.

30. Der Zeitspiegel, no 37, 1937. Five years of Nazi rule also had a salutary effect on the share prices of the leading companies. The following were the increases in quotations on the stock exchange between 31 January 1933 and 31 January 1938: Reichsbank: 154.75 to 209.95, Deutsche Bank: 72.75 to 127, Dresdner: 61.75 to 114.25, Commerz und Privat: 53.5 to 122, IG Farben: 103 to 161, AEG: 29.1 to 118.25, Schuckert: 85.6 to 179, Siemens: 127 to 212, United Steel: 33.25 to 113.25, Hamburg-America Lines: 17.5 to 82, Norddeutsche Lloyd: 17.8 to 82.1.

31. Der Reichswart, February 1935.

32. Der Angriff, 1 December 1936.

33. The Reichsbank organ Deutsche Volkswirt reported in its issue of 17 May 1935 on the growth of one department of the Nazi bureaucracy since the formation of the Hitler government: ‘A central organisation... which came into existence shortly after the seizure of power, and at that time managed to exist on a budget of 380 000 RM, now, with practically the same sphere of work, expends 1.7 million RM. One of its branches in 1932-33, when it had a membership of 20 000 had a payroll of 40 000 RM. In 1934-35, with a membership of 54 000 it had a payroll of 219 000 RM.’ This was the price of maintaining – in the manner to which many of them were unaccustomed – Hitler’s plebeian army. Only the term ‘plebeian’ must be qualified when applied to the upper reaches of the Nazi leadership. Daniel Lerner’s study, The Nazi Elite, based on a sample of one in 10 taken from the 1934 NSDAP Führerlexikon, provides a clear statistical picture of the class and occupational background of the Nazis who dominated the Third Reich’s political affairs. Of the 159 Nazis sampled, not one was an industrial worker, or indeed was born of an industrial worker father. Of Lerner’s random sample, 27.7 per cent of Nazi leaders were civil servants by occupation, 27.0 per cent professional, 18.9 per cent business, 7.5 per cent communications, 5.0 per cent farmers and 6.9 per cent NSDAP officials. No less than 60.4 per cent had attended university, while only five per cent ended their education at grade school. Hardly the sample one would expect from a ‘socialist workers’ party'!

34. F von Papen, Memoirs (London, 1952), p 279.

35. F von Papen, Speech in Essen, 2 November 1933.

36. Hitler’s Secret Conversations (New York, 1953), p 272.

37. LD Trotsky, ‘Bonapartism and Fascism’ (15 July 1934), The Struggle Against Fascism In Germany (New York, 1971), p 44.

38. Lüdecke, I Knew Hitler, p 761.

39. O Strasser, Hitler and I (London, 1940), p 177.

40. Strasser, Hitler and I, p 181.

41. Strasser, Hitler and I, p 186.

42. Strasser, Hitler and I, p 189.

43. Deutsche Bergwerks Zeitung, 8 July 1934.