Tuesday, August 08, 2017

22 Getting His Nazis in Line

"Hitler Versus National Socialism" is the title of chapter 25 of Konrad Heiden's 1944 book, Der Fuehrer.  See the bottom for previous posts.

1. "Up till then the National Socialists had 'behaved like fools, overthrowing everything' -- and stolen and blackmailed in the process... This must stop; and such methods were no longer needed because the party had already won uncontested power: 'The party has now become the state'" (651).

After the power of Hitler was secured, some of his strongest and most forceful allies, because of their extremism, became liabilities. Rudolf Hess had predicted this phase: "to attain the goal the Leader would 'trample his closest friends'" (631).

"At the height of his victory, the victor retreated in many places, seemingly of his own free will, changed his plans, disappointed his own followers, adapted himself to necessity. And the secret of political victory is contained in this Hegelian necessity: to know what one wants, and to want what the people want, but do not yet know" (653).

2. What were these reversals of course? One was a kind of temporary reconciliation with religion. To many of Hitler's followers, "only faith in their fatherland had retained any meaning, their own nation had become God" (631). Some insisted that German religion must free itself from Jewish Biblical tradition. In 1922, Hitler had called the Old Testament, "Satan's Bible." Hitler had once been convinced that Jesus himself was not a Jew but the son of a Greek soldier in the Roman army.

Yet some Nazi's thought that Hitler still had some sentiment for the Catholic church. For the Catholic Church's part, it increasingly withdrew from politics, hoping to keep its spiritual power intact. "Step by step, the Catholic Church abandoned political resistance to National Socialism" (633).

The Catholic Church and Hitler reach an agreement. German clergy would be forbidden to engage in political activity, and the Church would be taken under the "Protection" of National Socialism. "Many German Catholics felt more humiliated than protected by this treaty," the Concordat. But at least the Church would keep cloisters, schools, hospitals, and clergy.

There was some initial resistance in mid-1933. At first the Catholic Church refused to agree that non-Aryans were not German. At first the Protestant church elected someone abhorrent to the Nazis--a man who ran a home for the mentally ill. Hitler thought these should be exterminated for the purity of the race.

But by July a Nazi was in charge and swastika flags were raised over the Protestant churches of Germany.

Yet when Hindenberg protested the way Goring was treating the Protestant Church in Prussia, Hitler had him back off. "To the pious Christians it seemed a victory that the Holy Scriptures and writings of the reformers would remain the foundation of the Protestant faith" (648).

Hitler seemed to know just when to retreat. "As a born politician, he had recognized the decisive instant between stubborn persistance and inevitable retreat more clearly than had his co-workers" (648). Of course he would eventually have his way.

As this flood of victory was taking place, "it still seemed uncertain how far National Socialism would go in the breaking of resistance... Hitler himself was not clear how far he could go and how far he wanted to go" (638). He zig-zagged and felt his way around, back and forth, here a little, there a little.

3. Hitler had a sense that at some point revolution would have to stop and they would have to rule. Goebbels was already speaking of a "third Reich," after the Holy Roman Empire and the Bismarck Empire.

So after having had so much "socialist" rhetoric, Hitler would keep capitalism intact for the moment. So many had wanted a "second revolution," one that would be economic in nature.

Competency now seemed more important than loyalty to those who put him in control. "A businessman must not be deposed if he is a good businessman but not yet a National Socialist; and especially if the National Socialist who is put in his place understands nothing of economic affairs" (650). So much for the socialist revolution.

Hitler believed in private property for the true German. He changed the meaning of the words. Socialism for him meant that one man's property would be equal in importance and dignity to another's. What was held in common was the common good, and having some businesses was for the common good.

Most of all, he was lost if he did not make the workers workers again. Hitler rebuffed the armed bohemians in the name of competency and then he betrayed the middle class to keep the loyalty of the workers. "With all the strength of his changeable nature, Hitler led the campaign for the economic age he had so despised" (649).

"The important thing is not programs and ideas," Hitler now said, "but daily bread for seventy million people" (650).

4. Hitler was far more interested in shaping the Weltanschauung or "worldview" of the people. He wanted to shape a common mental attitude among the people, a commitment to the German ideal, the German race, and the German nation. Others could handle the details.

And of course there were the Hitler youth. He aimed to uproot the youth and tear them away from their families. "And so we shall take the children away from you and educate them to be what is necessary for the German people" (644). His opponents would eventually pass away, "and after you will come the youth which knows nothing else."

Previously on Hitler:

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