December 11, 2016

1931. "Tactics of Hitler: His Self-Assurance a Source of His Power"

"An Ideology Full of Fantasy"
Hitler with Joseph Goebbels and General Werner von Blomberg (left) in Berlin on Remembrance Day, February 24, 1934 (source)
This article is part of a series of news articles on the rise of fascism in the 1920s and early 1930s in Italy and Germany. The articles offer contemporary perspective on how the previously obscure figures Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini were viewed prior to World War II.

From The New York Times, December 13, 1931:

TACTICS OF HITLER

His Self-Assurance a Source of His Power

By PROFESSOR GEORG BERNHARD
BERLIN, Dec. 9 — Adolf Hitler has talked to foreign journalists and, through his adjutant, Rosenberg, also to persons prominent in English politics, as if he already headed the government of Germany. Abroad the impression must have been produced that he is the head of a State within the State. Through his many newspapers in Germany he has been talking in similar tenor for a long time, and he owes his election successes to the immense power of suggestion emanating from his self-assurance of victory. That suggestion needs to be materially furthered, for there never has been a party in Germany to carry on agitation so unscrupulously as Hitler's, which calls itself the National Socialist Workers party, and with the money of heavy industry and a forced levy on the commercial enterprises in provincial towns carries on propaganda for a Bolshevist program.

This agitation is unscrupulous, first of all, as to the personal element. All Jews are swine, un-German and unpatriotic traitors. All Ministers of State are dishonest and ripe for hanging under the "third realm." In every municipal administration those belonging to the National Socialist party are corrupt. The "third realm" holds out to shopkeepers a paradise in which they would be freed from the competition of department and chain stores; to workmen, socialization of all plants; to house owners, liberation from mortgages, and to renters lower house rents.

"Third Realm" Would Halve Interest

One example will stand for many. Before the Reichstag election last year there appeared in a small country place an agitator who told an attentive audience of people oppressed by hard times that within a quarter of a year the National Socialists would govern Germany—then would begin the "third realm." And in that happy realm all interest would be halved, and debts to Jews would not have to be paid at all. A number of prudent agriculturists thereupon betook themselves to the nearest towns, where they raised mortgage loans from Jewish bankers. The latter, cognizant of the National Socialist propaganda, charged the peasants higher interest—12½ per cent.

Last October the communal elections took place in that district and the same agitator reappeared and told the same audience, again attentively listening, that it was simply necessary to make further sacrifices for the "third realm." In a subsequent discussion a participant at the meeting rose to remark: "We are of the opinion that to pay 12½ per cent interest for a year and a half is sacrifice enough." All the other mortgagors applauded. The result was that, though everywhere else in the district the communal elections resulted in National Socialist gains, in the place in question the Hitler party polled only a fourth of the vote cast for it in the Reichstag election.

This story shows how ephemeral are the demagogic promises the National Socialists lightly make in their newspapers and meetings. But it illustrates at the same time how very much sobered the electors will become the longer the fulfillment of the promises is drawn out. This circumstance must be taken into account to understand the tactics employed by Dr. Bruening against the National Socialists in order, for the time being at least, to keep them away from the government.

What chance has Hitler, anyhow, of assuming the government of Germany? There is a fine saying of Montesquieu's that "States can be maintained only by the same means with which they have been founded." That applies to parties as well. Hitler founded his party as the party of revolution. He would emulate Mussolini, and subvert the democratic parliamentary republic. He thus enlisted under his standard part of the German youth and that portion of the revolutionary workers' body that will not recognize the headship of the Moscow International but demands a German national socialism.

On Sept. 14, 1930, Hitler won an immense victory. The number of Reichstag mandates of his party was multiplied almost ten times—rose from 12 to 107. The burgher class was dismayed; the long announced march on Berlin was expected any day. It did not take place. The parliamentary activity of the National Socialist Deputies confined itself to making rows. None the less, in the subsequent elections to State Diets the Hitler party was able to better its Reichstag election vote by gains up to 100 per cent. More and more the middle class, as far as it had not already joined Hitler's following, came to look upon the advent of a National Socialist regime as an inescapable fate. In Harzburg then a "slack front" was founded—a fraternization of Hitler with Hugenberg, leader of the Monarchists' National party. Again there was trembling before an anticipated storm. But no march on Berlin—on the contrary, soon after the Harzburg meeting embittered enmity arose between Hitler's host and Hugenberg's knights. And clearer than ever before it became manifest that Hitler, who had preached an overturn and illegality, exhibited a desire to reach governmental power by legal means, and not even by himself alone but in partnership with the Catholic Centre party.

Hitler's "Delusion of Grandeur"

Negotiations between representatives of Dr. Bruening and the National Socialist leader that took place after Hitler's call on Hindenburg—who had been covered with the lowest insults in Hitler's newspapers—came about through Hitler's efforts. They began with declarations exhibiting delusions of grandeur by Hitler, who already felt himself dictator. An eyewitness thus described to me the result: "Hitler discovered that there existed in the Reich a foreign policy, a Reichswehr, and a bureaucracy. He discovered that there was no possibility of forcibly seizing the reins of government; and, since he realized he could never succeed in winning election by a majority, he started working ever more industriously toward legal joint government with the Centre party." The latter has kept him dangling till now, and one may say that Hitler's chances have become worse with each conference. On this point one must not be deceived either by the tone of the National Socialist newspaper—latterly become specially rough—or by the pretender-like addresses to the world.

The Hitler party does not draw its following from a homogeneous class or mass. In its unscrupulousness it has gathered to itself all the desperate elements among the people. It is composed of declassed members of the privileged class under the empire, members of the trading and the artisan classes, who are struggling hard to exist, and of workmen and employees with revolutionary leanings driven to desperation through prolonged unemployment. Portions of the youth in Germany, especially of the universities, have been attracted by an ideology full of fantasy. And this year there has been an increasing influx of minor officials and academicians hoping for office in the "third realm." Industrialists supplying the National Socialist party with funds support it in the hope of crushing the power of labor unions while drummed-up masses of revolutionary workmen hope that in "their realm" they will be masters of industrial enterprise.

Every legal seizure of power by the National Socialists, and particularly every participation in a coalition government, must either damage the Hitler party or cause its revolutionary members to resort to force. Now in their negotiations with the National Socialists the Centre party and the German People's party pursue different aims. The German People's party thinks it is impossible to keep so large a party permanently from a share in the government, and that therefore it should be forced to take such a share legally, in order thus to detach Hitler, the place hunters and the middle-class elements from the revolutionary wing.
Demonstration against Adolf Hitler organized by the Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold at the Berlin Sportpalast on December 2, 1931 (source)
Sees Party Unmasking Itself

The Chancellor himself seems to take the view that through his negotiations Hitler's craze for power and the ambition of many of his henchmen for office were unmasking their party in the eyes of its adherents, and that if Dr. Bruening's government succeeds in obtaining results in the financial and reparations negotiations, and in maintaining domestic peace, the National Socialist peril will be exorcised without letting the Hitlerites take any hand in the government. Whether this optimistic conception is correct depends not only on the Chancellor succeeding in his international negotiations, but even more on whether France in particular will be reasonable enough to give Germany financial and economic aid in a degree sufficient to restore German economy.

There can be no doubt that mere participation by Hitler in any German government would constitute a grave danger to Germany. Not only is the agitation carried on by his party unscrupulous and brutal in its tenor, but it also moves on a very low level culturally. It asserts that much of that which Germany now honors is Jewish and un-German, and as a result of this fundamental attitude every achievement in the realm of literature and art and in civilization in general is rejected or minimized if its author is suspected of being a Jew or of Jewish descent. The "Germanic" type is the only one tolerated or lauded. The church is vilified because it tolerates the Old Testament as part of the divine revelation.

All this, however, does not prevent Mussolini from being eulogized as a paragon and the ally of the cultural interests of the sorely pressed German population of the South Tyrol which was sacrificed in his behalf. Now that he is seeking favor abroad Hitler is conducting himself most peacefully, but there can be no doubt that his program contemplates war upon France and Moscow with the aid of Italy and England.

Part is Bolshevism

Strange also is national socialism's economic program. In part it is simon-pure bolshevism, at least in its phraseology. In its purport it seeks to classify people according to crafts and professions, and when it refers to socialization it becomes evident upon closer scrutiny that it aims at profit-sharing and complete State autocracy, which threatens the recalcitrant employer with expropriation. Another plan of the platform demands the disruption of "interest slavery," to be accomplished through the issue of such unlimited quantities of currency as are demanded by commercial intercourse instead of basing circulation on gold. It is a combination of the purely inflationalistic notions and theories of Keynes and Fisher. The Hitler agrarian program is wholly bolshevistic in that it proposes to give the small peasants more land while promising to farm workers the division of the big landed estates.

None of the features of the program can be executed if the National Socialists are to govern with other parties. But even for such an emergency, counsel has been provided. In order to take cognizance of the present-day anti-capitalistic trend it is proposed to disperse the big industrial plants and to propagate economic "autarkie." That would not, however, prevent the further practice of demagogy or the vilification of other parties with whom they were cooperating. So long as the present economic misery continues in Germany, exploitation of such aims will enable any party to attain big dimensions. National socialism has become a factor only because of the world crisis and the German depression, and the future of the party's development depends wholly on their duration. Just as soon as this fostering soil becomes exhausted the National Socialist spook will vanish. What will probably remain then will be a small, discontented bourgeois party.