Schacht’s recollection of the event is harsher, telling Nuremberg War Crimes Trials interrogators a decade later that “After Hitler had made his speech, the old Krupp answered Hitler and expressed the unanimous feeling of the industrialists in support of Hitler.”
Hitler takes his seat, and the paunchy Goering takes over. He moves to the point a little more swiftly than the rambling Mr. Wolf. The Nazi Party needs money. “The sacrifice asked for will be so much easier to bear I industry realizes that the election of March 5 will surely be the last one for the next 10 years, possibly the next 100 years,” Goering says.
Schacht follows. He’s even blunter, “Und nun, mein Herren, an die Kasse!” In English, that would be rendered, “And now, gentlemen, pony up!”
Krupp rises again as senior man. He pledges 1 million marks. The other 24 schlotbarone come up with a further 2 million marks. That will fill the Party coffers.
More importantly, the party of Frontkämpfer and disgruntled workers and peasants now has the firm backing of Germany’s richest industrial barons. Mr. Wolf has again committed a crass act of betrayal, this time selling out his own members, most of whom are the working- and middle-class. From now on the Nazi Party and Third Reich will work to benefit the industrial barons, to the point of scouring Europe for sklavenarbeiter (slave laborers) to work in ghastly conditions in factories and concentration camps, feeding a war machine of unparalleled aggression and fattening the pockets of the nation’s rulers.
With money in the cashbox, the Nazis turn on the propaganda machine, spewing out election material by printing press and radio. It is a new style of campaign, in which Goebbels presents Hitler as the man who is rebuilding Germany and crushing the Marxists. That can be seen on any street, where Brownshirts are beating Communists senseless and wrecking their offices and homes.
Hitler takes to the air to campaign, benefiting from the Weimar government’s subsidies of Lufthansa, the national airline.
The airline itself is an important part of the new German regime. The logical man to hold the newly-created post of Air Commissioner is Maj. Gen. Helmut Wilberg, a 53-year-old veteran airman, who is familiar with civil and military aviation issues, technical developments, the Lipetsk bases and experiments, and Germany’s military and civilian airmen.
He doesn’t get the job. Wilberg has Jewish blood. Instead, Hermann Goering gains the position.
But while Goering is a flying ace, war hero, and salesman, he has no technical or engineering experience. Nor does he know much about economics or history. He does still have a morphine addiction, slavish loyalty to Hitler, and a heavy appetite for both food and work. He stays up until 2 a.m. working on government folders, then bolts down a huge meal of beer, sandwiches, and cake, before turning for what’s left of the night in his silk nightgown with puffed sleeves.
To organize his growing empire, Goering taps his former World War aide, Karl Bodenschatz, and promotes the former captain to general, appointing him as Adjutant. Fortunately for the Reich, Bodenschatz is fairly competent, and the two of them whip the Reich’s 300 flying and glider clubs into the German Air Sport Association. Now air training is centralized. To run this operation, Goering hires another crony, Bruno Loerzer, a wartime fighter ace with 41 kills and peacetime cigar salesman. Loerzer’s war record and Blue Max impress the Reich’s young fliers.
And appointed as State Secretary for Air is the energetic 41-year-old Erhard Milch, the man who has built Lufthansa’s lengthy and efficient air routes that connect the Reich with London, Madrid, Moscow, Athens, and Barcelona. By 1932, Lufthansa’s Ju 52 airliners are flying 6.5 million miles of service, with a 93 percent on-time record.
Cold-voiced, friendless, cherub-faced, hard-driving, Milch conceals a fatal secret in the Third Reich – his father Anton is a Jewish pharmacist, a long-serving Navy sailor and World War veteran. Milch has to find a way to make himself an “Aryan.”
Until then, this unholy alliance works to continue the secret construction of a German air force. The Reich now has Lipetsk-trained pilots and aircrews, 1,500 private pilots, 15,000 glider pilots, and hundreds of airfields. Lufthansa works to improve the Reich’s ground-to-air communications and weather forecasting efforts – Goering’s titles include Head of the Reich Meteorological Service – and airframe production.
Bayerischer Flugzeugwerke, debilitated by the Wall Street crash, gets an infusion of money from an Italian financier named Castiglioni, which re-energizes the moribund company and designer Willi Messerschmidt, who gets busy working on a two-seat trainer called the Bf 108, and its successor, a fighter called the Bf 109.
Goering turns the Air Inspectorate of the Defense Ministry into the separate Reich Air Ministry, and whistles up architects to build a monumental structure to house it. The Air Ministry takes away control of all aviation assets from other civilian outfits, the Army – and from Admiral Erich Raeder’s Navy, which annoys the sailors. Even the Navy’s own flight test station at Travemunde is handed over to Goering. The corpulent former captain explains this by bellowing, “Everything that flies belongs to me!”
On February 22, Goering swears 25,000 Brownshirts, 15,000 SS guards, and 10,000 Stahlhelm (the Nationalist Party’s bullyboys) in as active duty police reserves. The new cops don’t get uniforms, just white armbands. They are paid three marks daily, enjoy free transport, and can live on the plunder they take from their victims. Goering now has his own private 50,000-man police force. For all intents and purposes, the police state is created, with the criminals serving as police.
The newly-empowered cops promptly start breaking into opposition and trade union offices, destroying property and documents. Goering’s goons storm into Social Democratic rallies, breaking them up and breaking arms, heads, and legs. The democratic parties can’t legally complain, not even when a Brownshirt shoots the Social Democratic mayor of Stassfurt. Frightened of the chaos and bloodshed that might result if they attempt an armed uprising, the democratic parties stick to legal complaints.
Next, Goering reorganizes the Prussian Police’s version of the Special Branch, creating the Secret State Police Department. This outfit is to start compiling dossiers on the regime’s political enemies, including those in the regime. It is the beginning of one of the most feared police organizations in history: the Geheime Staatspolizei, better known to its victims as the Gestapo.
Facing the wave of Nazi propaganda and an army of police thugs, Hindenburg falls into despair. Aged 84 and nearly senile, he doesn’t know what to do about the mess, so he blames Papen.
Britain’s ambassador, Sir Horace Rumbold, fires off a detailed telegram to London, analyzing the situation in Prussia. Right and left are divided, angry, and fighting. The Reichswehr and Prussian Police are trying to keep them separate, but to little avail. Since Hitler’s takeover, 50 people have died in the violence.
On February 15, another turning point in history takes place that nobody will recall later. President-Elect Franklin D. Roosevelt visits Miami wile cruising on his friend Vincent Astor’s yacht. He delivers welcoming remarks at Bayfront Park. In the audience is an Italian immigrant and resident of Paterson, New Jersey, 33-year-old Giuseppe Zangara. Since the age of six, he has had a mortal hatred for the rich. Having cleared Ellis Island, he is now an unemployed bricklayer with stomach problems. He takes what money he has, and goes to Miami, seeking relief in the warm air from his pain.
However, there are neither jobs nor treatment nor winners at the dog tracks in Florida, so Zangara decides the remedy is the usual one for nutters and fanatics: assassination of the president. Learning that Roosevelt is coming to town, he purchases a five-shot .32-caliber revolver from a Miami Avenue pawnshop.
The newspapers give FDR’s itinerary in detail, and Zangara meets the boat at the dock. However, he can’t get close enough for an open shot. So he goes to Bayfront Park. There, FDR speaks from a microphone from the rear seat of an open car, next to Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak. Zangara edges in. FDR is done in two minutes. The newsreel guys want more of FDR speaking for footage, and ask him to rise and repeat his words for the camera. “I’m sorry,” says Roosevelt. “I just can’t do it.”
At that moment, Zangara is 25 feet from the car. He mounts a chair to get a good view of the president-elect. The chair starts to wobble, Zangara pulls his gun, and opens fire. A woman grabs his arm. The five shots miss Roosevelt. They hit Cermak, Mrs. Joseph Gill, wife of the president of Florida Power & Light, crease the head of New York detective William Sinnott, nick the scalp of a Miami resident, and pierce the hand of a visitor from New Jersey.
Roosevelt stays calm. “I heard what I thought was a firecracker, then several more,” he says later. “The man talking with me was pulled back, and the chauffeur started the car. I looked around and saw Mayor Cermak doubled up, and Mrs. Gill collapsing. Mrs. Gill was at the foot of the bandstand steps. As soon as she was hit, she must have got up and started down the steps. She was slumped over at the bottom.”
FDR tells his driver to stop, and the Secret Service detail countermands the order, telling the driver to hit the gas and head for a hospital. “I saw Mayor Cermak being carried,” Roosevelt says later. “I motioned to have him put in the back of the car, which would be the first out. He was alive, but I didn’t think he was going to last. I put my left arm around him and my hand on his pulse, but couldn’t find any pulse.”
FDR orders the driver to hurry to the nearest hospital, and en route Cermak rallies. “Tony, keep quiet, don’t move,” Roosevelt tells the wounded mayor. “It won’t hurt if you keep quiet.”
Cermak is the most seriously injured of the five hit, and hovers near death. The police descend on Zangara, who makes no effort to flee. Taken to the 19th floor of Miami’s high-rise City Hall, the angry bricklayer tells his story. No, there is no grand plot. Yes, he did this alone. He has been in Miami for three months. He hates all kings and presidents. He has no animus against FDR as a person, but as a president, “President – always the same bunch.”
Roosevelt changes his plans and stays with Cermak in hospital to ensure that his condition stabilizes. Unfortunately, Cermak takes a turn for the worse. Zangara goes to trial five days after the shooting and pleads guilty to four counts of attempted murder. The defense tries an insanity defense, but Zangara refuses. After Cermak dies, Zangara goes back to trial, on a charge of murder. He again pleads a defiant guilty, and is executed on March 20. As he is strapped into Florida’s electric hair, he yells, “Lousy capitalists! All capitalists lousy bunch of crooks!”
Roosevelt goes on to his inauguration on March 4. Incredibly, he is untouched by Zangara’s fusillade. Had he stayed a moment or two longer, Zangara might have killed or crippled him, placing the future of America and democracy in the hands of Roosevelt’s running mate and vice president-elect, the colorless, conservative, unimaginative, and reactionary “Cactus Jack” John Nance Garner. Of such minutiae is history often made.
On February 24, the League of Nations finally takes action on Japan’s aggression in China. With the report on Japan’s grab of Manchuria read into the record at Geneva, the member nations vote 42 to one to condemn the Japanese invasion. Japan votes no. When the vote tally is announced, Baron Yosuke Matsuoka leads his delegation out of the chamber and the League of Nations. Woodrow Wilson’s great world forum, designed to arbitrate political issues by the light of reason and objectivity, has begun to fail.
The same day, Frick warns the southern German states to follow the policies enacted in Prussia or else. Blomberg tells local Reichswehr commanders to support the Nazis rather than state governments in case of any riots or disturbances.
With the net closing, the Communists hold their last big rally in the Berlin Sportpalast. Instead of watching Max Schmeling box, hordes of Berliners see Communist Party leader Ernst Thaelmann call for a united anti-Fascist front, alliance with the Social Democrats on Communist terms, and a general strike. The Communists, all the way up to Moscow, firmly believe that the Nazi state is merely a step towards Bolshevik revolution in Germany.
The Brownshirts react by raiding the Liebknecht House (again) alongside Berlin police, and claim to find firearms and seditious materials. However, the SA men never make their discoveries public. Or explain how they missed them the last time.
On February 25, another one of the ephemeral characters who wanders onto the world stage for a few moments, to cause chaos with long reverberations, does just that.