Germany is also resentful. If there is one common thread among the German people at this time, it’s one of hatred for their government, which they blame for all their troubles: defeat and revolution, Versailles, French occupation, inflation, and now the Crash. The normal left- and right-wing parties offer no solutions or redress for any of the grievances. The Communists only offer more class hatred. They cannot restore the old German values of dignity, security, and respect. They cannot restore Germany’s power. Hitler offers the German people hope.
Hitler himself is amazed with the Nazis’ election results. More optimistic than Goebbels, he expected to gain only 66 seats. Instead he wins 107. The Nationalists lose their power base to Hitler, with their vote total falling from 4.3 million in 1928 to 2.4 million in 1930. Foreign correspondents line up to interview Herr Wolf. The Times of London prints his assurances of goodwill. Lord Rothermere, boss of the Daily Mail, says Hitler’s successes reinforce the defenses against Bolshevism. The American Hearst newspapers publish Hitler’s speeches, also regarding him as a fighter against Communism.
Hitler tells these reporters, his followers, and the potential backers, that his revolutionary days are over. Yes, he intends to eliminate democracy when he takes power. But he will not do so at the barricades or by force.
“It is not parliamentary majorities that mold the fate of nations. We know, however, that in this election democracy must be defeated with the weapons of democracy,” he says before the election. But his more peaceful rhetoric annoys his followers in the Army, and the brownshirted hoodlums of the SA, who dream of personal power and revolution, the more violent, the better.
Shortly after the election, Hitler has to testify in the trial of three young Army lieutenants, named Scheringer, Ludin, and Wendt. These officers stand accused of spreading Nazi propaganda in the Army. They’ve even gone to Ulm to meet with SA leaders to discuss how to convert the Army to Nazism. The Generalstab, however, while endorsing much of the Nazi program, does not approve of their brawling ways and domestic violence. Nor do they want the SA, personified by Rohm and his beer-swilling, semi-literate, homosexual cronies, running an Army whose forebears include Moltke, Blucher, and Gneisenau.
Groener, now defense minister, turns the case from the Reichswehr courts-martial system to the civilian Supreme Court in Leipzig, saying that the three officers’ behavior is an offense against the state as much as the Army.
Hitler is expected to defend these young men, who are represented by Nazi legal chief Hans Frank. On September 25, however, when Hitler testifies, he shows the duplicity and opportunism that are becoming his hallmarks.
On direct examination, Hitler turns his back on the three Nazis and insists that he supports the Army and denies any intention of overthrowing the government. “Every attempt to disintegrate the Army is madness,” Hitler lies. “None of us have any interest in such disintegration. We will see to it that, when we have come to power, out of the present Reichswehr, a great German People’s Army shall arise. There are thousands of young men in the Army of the same opinion.” The presiding judge interrupts to say that Hitler and his followers can only come to power through illegal means. Hitler indignantly denies this.
Then he says that he’ll take power anyway, and once the Nazis are in charge, “Then the November 1918 revolution will be avenged and heads will roll!” Cheers ring through the court. The officers are found guilty, but get only 18 months imprisonment. However, Scheringer, annoyed at being betrayed by his leader, jumps to the Communists when he’s released.
The speech makes Hitler an even bigger story. Putzi Hanfstaengl makes sure the speech gets into newspapers from London to Shanghai. William Randolph Hearst prints three articles by Hitler on the Party’s plans, and the 3,000 Reichmarks yielded enable Hitler to use the Kaiserhof Hotel as his Berlin headquarters when he visits the Reichhauptstadt.
The British Sunday Express asks for and gets an article from Der Fuhrer, and Mr. Wolf spews forth his program, which includes now the return of the Polish Corridor. Hitler also denies Germany started the war and blames the Reich’s problems on Woodrow Wilson.
But Hitler is being canny. He tells Reichswehr officers that they will be politically subservient under a Communist nation. He doesn’t tell them that they will be politically subservient under Nazi rule. He does promise to re-arm Germany in defiance of peace treaties, including tanks, planes, and battleships.
Hitler provides his followers and Germany with what it lacks – theater. Nazi rallies, with their massed flags, bands, Brownshirts, and harsh oratory, gain bigger and bigger audiences. Their uniformed and regimented appearance suggests that only the Nazis can also restore order to the battered Reich. When Hitler “consecrates” Nazi banners on the battered 1923 Munich Putsch flag, a thrill goes through the audience. Hitler may not be Germany’s ruler, but he is the nation’s biggest domestic news.
Hitler is also once again big news overseas. On September 29, 1930, news commentator Lowell Thomas tells his CBS radio listeners that Hitler is “snorting fire.” Referring to Mein Kampf, Thomas says it states “a cardinal policy of his now powerful Germany party is the conquest of Russia. That’s a tall assignment, Adolf. You just ask Napoleon.” The next day, Hindenburg asks for dictatorial powers to push fiscal reform.
On October 13, 1930, some 107 Nazi deputies march into the Reichstag for the opening session, wearing their brown shirts and black boots, defying Parliamentary rules. During the roll call, they each shout, “Present, Heil Hitler!” Outside, Nazi bullyboys attack Jewish stores and businesses. Next day, the very Jewish George Gershwin’s musical “Girl Crazy” opens in New York, and everyone is soon humming, “I Got Rhythm.”
Socialist member Toni Sender is stunned. He later writes, “This was the elite of the ‘Aryan’ race! This noisy, shouting, uniformed gang. I looked at their faces carefully. The more I studied them, the more I was terrified by what I saw: so many men with the faces of criminals and degenerates. What a degradation to sit in the same place as such a gang!”
But the “gang” is popular now. More so than the Reichstag. In 1930 it only sits for 94 days. In 1931, for only 42. In 1932, it sits only 13 days. The austere and secretive Chancellor Heinrich Breuning rules Germany through Weimar Article 43: presidential degrees, rubber-stamped by Hindenburg. Germany is rapidly becoming an authoritarian regime. In March 1931, Breuning muzzles the press, banning more than 100 newspaper editions a month. The Communist newspaper The Red Flag gets banned every third day.
Meanwhile, Nazis dominate the state governments in Anhalt, Brunswick, Mecklenburg, Oldenburg, and Thuringia, where the colorless Wilhelm Frick is head of police.
The Nazis fire socialists, cut bureaucracy, re-impose prayer in schools, and ban seditious books like All Quiet on the Western Front. They also expel “degenerate” art from Weimar’s Schlossmuseum, and even ban an African Lutheran pastor from Togoland – a former German colony – from preaching. All of these are foretastes of Churchill’s “bitter cup.”
The Nazis also gain support through more popular measures. Nazi officials refuse to accept their salaries, saving their taxpayers money. They end unemployment by conscripting labor to dredge canals and ditches. They open hostels for homeless men and give out free food and fuel.
Nazi recruiters go up into factories and down the lines of unemployed to recruit members. They give important jobs to youngsters. Goebbels himself becomes Gauleiter of Berlin at age 28. More than 60 percent of the Nazis in the Reichstag are under the age of 40.
The Communists fight hard to compete with Hitler for votes and power, copying Nazi methods and tactics. The Communist Party’s membership triples between 1928 and 1932, with its vote share rising from 10 to 17 percent. Communist gangs rob stores. Or they demand protection money. In Berlin, working-class districts like Neukolln, Wedding, and Pankow, streets and blocks are divided up between Communists and Nazis. Both sides brawl with each other, provoke each other, and assassinate each other. The beerhall owners support the Nazis, who usually have money to pay.
When Nazis take over a bar on Richardstrasse, the Brownshirts become a local menace, threatening children, shooting at windows, and urinating in public. Communist gunmen fire 20 rounds into the building, killing the publican and wounding three. The murderer flees to the Soviet Union. The Nazis gain from the propaganda.
Meanwhile, Berlin Nazi Party Boss Joseph Goebbels has a busy private life. Soon after the election victory, he meets Magda Quandt, daughter of a professor of oriental languages named Rietschel. Magda, educated in a Belgian convent, speaks three languages. Her mother and father were divorced because professors of oriental languages aren’t paid particularly well. Magda’s mother then marries a rich Jewish businessman, Jakob Friedlander, and proceeds to run through his accounts. Friedlander dumps Magda’s mom before “every coin I earn escapes through the bottomless pockets of this charming but avaricious woman.” Frau Friedlander then marries another wealthy business type, Christian Behrendt, and marital history repeats itself.
With this background, Magda is a bit of a mess, and meets wealthy industrialist Gunther Quandt on a train in 1919, finding him 40, divorced, with two sons, Herbert and Helmut. Magda uses the family charms to woo Gunther, and they marry in January 21. Magda provides Gunther with a son, Harald Quandt. A few months later, Gunther comes home to find Magda in bed with his other son Herbert. Magda somehow convinces Gunther that the relationship is purely to boost Herbert’s morale – the kid is dying of peritonitis. Somehow, that soothes Gunther. But Magda then chases a student musician, and Gunther demands a divorce.
Magda is quick-witted. In a retaliatory plotline straight out of a modern TV soap opera, she whips out proof of Gunther’s vast income tax frauds and uses them as blackmail chips. Gunther pays her off with 50,000 marks (supposedly for furniture) and a monthly income of 4,000 marks as long as she does not re-marry, plus a rent-free seven-room flat in Berlin. Magda then lives the life of a wealthy divorcee with virtually no responsibilities and a wild string of affairs.
Ultimately, to give her something to do by day, or perhaps to meet new lovers, she joins the Berlin branch of the Nazi Party. With her blonde hair and good looks, she quickly gains control of the stationery and the eye of Goebbels. The little doctor transfers her to being “in charge of the private archives” after a junior clerk slides his hand up her skirt. Oddly enough, Goebbels doesn’t chase her either – he teaches her Nazism, and introduces Magda to Hitler in January 1931. Mr. Wolf is impressed by her flattery. After that, Goebbels proposes marriage to Magda. Even though her family and ex-husband are outraged – they call Goebbels a cad and Hitler a crook – she accepts.
Now the little doctor, despite his clubfoot and skirt-chasing, is a man in demand at exclusive parties, because of Magda. Among the party-givers who simply must have the Goebbels couple at their events is Crown Princess Cecilie, whose well-heeled partygoers provide more cash for Goebbels and the Nazis.
But while Magda’s blonde hair and Josef’s smooth tongue charm members of opposite sexes in fancy art-deco salons, the plight of the average German working man continues to worsen. Millions of German men spend their days idling in parks, reading newspapers, scavenging for food, and arguing in benefit offices or hiring halls. Like their American, British, Australian, New Zealander, and Canadian counterparts, ragged jobless Germans learn to stuff newspapers into shoes and coats to stay warm, to pour ketchup into cups of hot water for soup, and to perform menial tasks, like sweeping floors and selling apples. Juvenile malnutrition rises. So do juvenile crime, prostitution, and vandalism.
The phenomenon is worldwide. American and Canadian teenagers, a drain on their starving families, ride the rails as hoboes, looking for casual work, crisscrossing the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, jamming into large cities like Chicago and Montreal.
One such 1931 incident in Alabama involves two white teenage girls, who hop a ride on an Alabama freight train, where they barter their bodies for cash to a group of black boys and men. This incident, which violates every law and social custom in the old South, becomes the Scottsboro Case, in which the six young men, charged and convicted for a crime they did not commit, waste years of their lives in prison and become a cause celebre for the struggling American Civil Rights movement.
As they do in North America, young New Zealanders tramp their nation’s dirt roads, seeking work in mines, gold fields, and farms. Among them are three hungry farm boys, Keith Elliott, Jack Hinton, and Charles Hazlitt Upham.
Back in Germany, austere and chilly German Chancellor Breuning tries to cope. So devoted is he to public service that he refuses to marry. Fearing inflation, he raises taxes, cuts civil service salaries, freezes wages, and tightens unemployment compensation. He reminds his countrymen about “Prussian stoicism.” His countrymen hurl rocks at his passing train. Others write harsh letters to Hindenburg demanding the Reich get a new right-wing government.
In the fall of 1930 Hitler goes to Berlin to deliver speeches on how the “bastardization of great states has begun.” Himmler’s SS guards the Fuhrer from Communist hecklers. After impressing a rally at the Sportspalast, Hitler gives a speech to 5,000 students at Berlin University on December 4. Among the listeners is a young architectural student assistant at the Institute of Technology named Albert Speer. He expects to see Hitler in military uniform and swastika armband, like in the newspapers. Instead Hitler arrives in “a well-fitted blue suit, and looking markedly respectable. Everything about him bore out the note of reasonable modesty,” Speer writes.
Hitler’s speech impresses Speer: “To me there was something engaging about it – all the more so since it ran counter to everything the propaganda of his opponents had led me to expect: a hysterical demagogue, a shrieking and gesticulating fanatic in uniform. He did not allow the bursts of applause to tempt him away from his sober tone,” Speer writes later. The speech sweeps away Speer’s “skepticism, any reservations.” Hitler’s subject is how the heroism of war will exterminate the weak.
A few weeks later, Speer attends a Goebbels speech, and is less impressed with the little doctor’s rhetoric. On the way out, the attendees run into mounted cops, and violence ensues. Speer, who has found Hitler’s speeches comforting and a hope for order and stability, is upset by the police violence. He regards the cops as being “louts on horseback,” and Hitler is the answer to Germany’s many problems. On March 1, 1931, he applies for membership in the Nazi Party, and gets No. 474,481. Next day, Mikhail Gorbachev is born.
Despite his membership, Speer is not doing well as a university assistant, and tries to hang out his shingle as an independent architect. But in Germany in the Great Depression, nobody is hiring builders and architects. With his wife Margret to support, he nearly goes to Afghanistan to work for their progressive king, Nadir Khan, but that falls through when Nadir Khan’s reward for building roads and schools and adopting a written constitution is to fall to an assassin’s bullet. Speer accepts a job with the Nazi Party’s Motorists Association to head the branch in Wannsee, on the grounds that he’s the only Nazi in Wannsee who owns a car. The Wannsee Party boss, Karl Hanke, learning that Speer is an architect, then hires Speer to re-decorate the party’s new offices, a villa in Wannsee.
He does a fine job, and everybody’s happy, but that’s all the work he can get. He packs Margret and their kit, and move back to Mannheim, to open a small architectural office, doing small rebuilding jobs.
In 1930, Mein Kampf sells about 6,000 copies. In 1931, it sells 54,086. Hitler is now on the best-seller lists. On January 1, 1931, the Nazi Party opens its headquarters at the Brown House in Munich, on the Konigsplatz, opposite the Papal Nuncio’s mansion. Behind that is the Fuhrerbau, Hitler’s massive residence when he is in Munich. Two days later, Marshal Joffre, the hero of the Marne, dies in Paris.
The Brown House offers visitors a grand staircase, red leather, swastika banners, smiling greeters, and brownshirted sentries. Hitler has a huge office there, with a bust of Mussolini and a portrait of Frederick the Great that will follow the Fuhrer around until 1945. But Hitler rarely uses the office.
His managerial style is already set: breezing in late in the morning, flipping through the press summaries, giving a few orders, then cakes and linden tea in the building’s café. There he holds forth for an hour to visitors and aides, lecturing on everything from the German judicial system to the development of architecture. Visitors who meet Hitler find him vague in speech and subject matter, except when he discusses military statistics and equipment, which he knows well, or architecture. Listeners who endure his interminable monologues are astonished that he can rattle off the exact placement and size of any room of any building whose blueprints he has ever seen.
The rest of his talk, which goes on into the early hours of the morning, leaves everyone woozy, as he dispenses his views on politics, religion, art, history, actors and actresses, the past, his future, his plans.
On one subject he is firm…his hatred of the Jews. Mention them and he rips into them as a group. When one journalist points out that Germany’s Jewish population includes war heroes, architects, scientists, and Nobel laureates like Einstein, Hitler rages, “Everything they have created has been stolen from us. They should just go and foment their unrest among other peoples. We do not need them.” On the subject of Jews, he turns to fury.
Then he’s back out, often on the road again to deliver speeches and whip up the party.