Tuesday, June 13, 2017

17 Narrow Misses with Hitler

I've read two more chapters of Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer since I last posted. Figured I needed to just say a few words and move on. Previous posts are at the bottom.

Chapter 18 is called, "Hindenburg's Stick," and chapter 19 is called, "The Race with Catastrophe." In these chapters, Hitler seems to advance. Then he faces defeat. Then he inches forward again.

1. I grew up thinking badly of most Germans at the time of Hitler, but it's clear that Hitler did not command majority support in the early 1930s. There were political zig zags and multiple exit ramps when Hitler might have been shown the way off the freeway.

1932 was a bad year for Germany. Much worse would follow, but it was all set in motion during this sad year. The players all played the hands they had. They danced with the devil, thinking they could control him, thinking that they had the power to stop him at a time of their choosing.

At the beginning of 1932, Heinrich Brüning was Chancellor. Paul von Hindenburg was President with Kurt von Schleicher as his close advisor. This would effectively be the last year of the Weimer Republic, German's brief experiment with democracy until after WW2. By the end of 1934, Hindenburg would be dead of lung cancer, Schleicher would be murdered, and Brüning would have left the country to save his own life.

2. You would have thought that with Germany's debt dismissed, the nation would have settled down. But you have two sides who are unwilling to compromise, both of whom want the other dead. One of them is going to win. The other side is going to end up dead. In this case the Communists were the other side.

Missteps. They dissolve the parliament on June 2, 1932, thinking some sort of autocratic control would enable them to establish stability. But the parliament would never return.

Goebbels and Goring try to control Hitler. "He must never be allowed to attend conferences alone" (466).

Papen becomes the Chancellor. He imposes unpopular economic measures to stabilize the economy. Probably a political mistake that would again keep Hitler on the autobahn. In the elections of these years, "the majority was against Hitler, but it was for nothing at all" (477). He would eventually rise not because the people wanted him but because they didn't want anyone else more.

Meanwhile Hitler's people were preparing for the great mass murder, the moment when they would kill their enemies.

Hitler's people are defeated again and he is chastised by Hindenburg. If you ask me, these repeated elections that parliamentary systems have at almost any time often contribute to great instability.

3. Chapter 20, "The Race with Catastrophe," begins with the incredible debt that Hitler and his party had accumulated. They needed to win just so that they could forgive all their own debt.

A good deal of this chapter dealt with a rival of Hitler's within the National Socialist party, Gregor Strasser. In late 1932, the majority of the party expected to lose more and more and had lost faith in the Fuhrer. Here is another moment it seems to me where Germany missed an exit ramp. Strasser seemed almost more popular that Hitler within the Nazi party in late November and December of 1932.

But Strasser resigned and went on vacation on December 7. He gave up the fight. How many catastrophes in history have been the result of people resigning rather than sticking it out in difficult times?

It reflected very poorly on Hitler for a moment, but by morning Hitler had turned it around. Strasser was the loser. Strasser was the betrayer. Instead of undermining Hitler, Hitler solidified his hold on the Nazi party. Hitler set up a central commission over the party, and his private secretary Rudolf Hess emerges as a leader.

But on December 11, the current Chancellor, Schleichter, effectively secured for Germany its ability to rearm. Riding a wave of approval, he easily sets up a government. Papen's economic initiatives were suspended. Hitler is depressed. "This was the darkest Christmas Hitler had had in years" (510).

Previously on Hitler:

No comments: