|K. D. Bracher
The Formation of The Third Reich
Source: K. D. Bracher, The German Dictatorship (London, 1971), pp.228-247.
The consolidation of the totalitarian regime, following the establishment of the one-party state in the summer of 1933, brought with it problems bearing on the relationship of party and state, the institutionalisation of domestic Gleichschaltung, the economy, rearmament and foreign policy. On July 6, 1933, before the proclamation of the one-party decree, Hitler told his Reich governors that the task that lay ahead of them was the 'winding-up of the revolution': 'We now must eliminate the last remnants of the democracy . . . The Achievement of outward power must be followed by the inner education of the people.' The next phase involved the consolidation and expansion of autocratic rule, the transition of the revolution 'into the secure bed on evolution.' Therefore, only replaceable specialists were to be gotten rid of. To 'secure position after position,' The National Socialists would have to 'set their sights far ahead and make long-range plans.' Instead of overthrowing existing ideologies and doctrines, what was needed was practical thinking and 'clever and careful' action 1 . The slogan 'the winding-up of the revolution' was adopted for tactical reasons. It was meaningless as far as the radical long-range goals, the ideological content, and the revolutionary character of National Socialist rule were concerned. The barely veiled revolutionary acts of the first power-seizure phase were replaced by the principle of the 'permanent revolution' as the policy tool of totalitarian rule. This is the meaning of the call for evolution and consolidation with which the power seizure was modified and restrained on all levels, with the result that new illusions supplanted the old. Many both inside Germany and abroad continued to see Hitler as a moderate statesman (in contrast to the 'radicals,' especially in the SA leadership) whom reality would steer onto a sensible course. This error led to the fatal mis-judgement of the 'second revolution' ¯ the bloodbath of June 30, 1934, and its consequences. The illusions found expression in sayings such as 'the Leader knows nothing about this', which were meant to deflect any criticism of the regime; then as before, the brutal reality was explained as the regrettable but understandable excesses of lower-ranking chieftains, inevitable in the initial period of so dynamic a policy.
State and Party
Vital to its successful seizure of power was the fact that the National Socialist leadership, through threat and seduction, was able to take over the machinery of state intact. The reluctance with which large portions of the civil service had accepted the democratic Republic was matched by their readiness to co-operate with a new regime that promised to substitute order, stability, efficiency, and 'national values' for the disturbing innovations of a crisis-ridden, 'un-national' parliamentary democracy. The national-authoritarian new order of 1933 derived its precepts, justification, and popularity from the tradition of the authoritarian state, and apparently followed this tradition, even though it might not bring the hoped-for restoration of the monarchy. Many a bystander (including Bruening) who expected the regime to collapse in short order because of its technical incompetence was hoodwinked. The new rulers could rely completely on the efficient functioning of the government machinery on which they were so dependent if: (1) They limited the administrative 'purge' to a democratic minority, many of whom, being appointees, were looked on as irksome outsiders by the closed caste of civil servants (a fact which was cleverly exploited by the very name of the Law for the Restoration of a Professional Civil Service of April 7, 1933); (2) the relationship to the one and only party was regulated in such a way as not to impair the civil service's traditional claim to embody the 'state above parties.'
In the first months, the National Socialist leadership did everything in its power to ward off conflicts, above all those arising out of the violent activities of the SA, through a seemingly workable delimitation and consolidation of the relationship of party and state. Rigid control of the party from above and support of the civil servant's faith in status and order ¯ these were the foundations of the solution offered by the new order of 1933-34 under the slogan 'unity of party and state,' once the 'troublesome' parliaments and political pluralism had been wiped out. The solution was based on Hitler's ideological dictum: 'The party now has become the state. All power rests with the Reich Government.' 2 And even before the promulgation of the one-party law, Minister of the Interior Frick, in a letter to the Reich Governors and state governments (July 11, 1933), declared that the one-party state had been erected 'for all eternity' and that through it 'all power' was vested in the Hitler government, 'in which all vital positions are filled by reliable National Socialists.' The task was 'to provide intellectual and economic underpinnings for the total power incorporated in [the Hitler government].' 3 This meant expansion instead of continued revolution, taut party discipline instead of arbitrary and overbearing acts on the part of commissars, the men who, as executors of the revolution, had played so vital a role in the political co-ordination of the country. Everything was now directed toward protecting the power won against unchecked inroads by the party. Now and later, Wilhelm Frick, who as a not overly loyal civil servant had joined Hitler in 1923, championed not only the tactical line of the moment ¯ the winning-over of the bureaucratic specialists and the regimentation of the revolution ¯ but quite obviously also the self-interest of his office and of a ministerial bureaucracy concerned with self-preservation and co-operation. His objective was a strong civil-service state, and in fact the staff of the ministries multiplied within a few years. That is the explanation for Frick's sharply worded announcement that 'any type of collateral government is incompatible with the authority of the total state.' Soon thereafter (July 17), Goebbels also proclaimed the 'winding-up of the National Socialist revolution' and warned against 'camouflaged Bolshevik elements who talk about a second revolution.' Hitler has 'stopped our revolution at exactly the right moment.
Now that we have possession of the state with all its powers, we no longer have to capture by force positions, which are legally ours.' 4 That most certainly was not an apt summation of the facts. It did not hold true for the legality, which was being claimed, nor did the leadership in the future refrain from intimidation and force. But it did show up the fictitious character of the 'unity of party and state,' a slogan which was meant to resolve the tension between the sovereignty claims of the NSDAP and an indispensable state apparatus, between National Socialist ideology and traditional governmental practices. In a speech at the fifth party congress in Nuremberg, The 'Congress of Victory,' Hitler sought to solve the problem by a sort of division of labour. The turgid phrases of the ceremonial opening address of September 1, 1933 5 , contained the statement that with the abolition of the parliamentary multiparty democracy and the right to public criticism, the NSDAP had become the 'sole representative of state power' insofar as it now was charged with the intensive 'political education of the German people.' Its task was to establish authority, discipline, and the general validity of the leader principle this, according to Hitler's grotesque definition, consisted of the exercise of 'responsible authority downward and authoritarian responsibility upward.' Whatever the specific intent of this may have been, it did mean the inversion of the democratic principle. The party was assigned the function of 'finding and uniting the most capable persons in Germany through a selection conditioned by day-to-day struggle,' to carry out elite training for the leadership hierarchy, to serve as the 'political selection organisation' for the authoritarian regime. That was to be the task for the NSDAP after the seizure of power. The state, on the other hand, was charged with the 'continuation of the historic and developed administration of the governmental agencies within the framework and by virtue of the laws.'
This sort of jurisdictional division into political training on the one hand and administration on the other opened up wide possibilities for a future dualism of party and state, and consequently for the discretionary powers of the Fuehrer. Hitler continued to invoke vague formulas: 'That which can be solved by governmental action will be solved by governmental action, and that which the state by its very nature is not able to solve will be solved by the movement.' 6 A meaningless definition. The National Socialist idea of the state remained as vague as the promised and never realised new National Socialist constitution. The Third Reich remained in a state of permanent improvisation. True, the concept 'movement,' whatever that may have meant at any given moment, was placed above a state relegated to 'administration.' But the vast expansion of the administrative apparatus in the totalitarian Obrigkeitsstaat , which encompassed both the executive and legislative, left the dualism unresolved. The official commentary on the 1933 party congress was able to disguise this tension euphemistically but could not do away with it 'In this polarity between political movement and governmental bureaucracy, the life of the nation will in future find its expression.' 7
Such vague formulas could not define the relationship between party and state. But the National Socialist leadership was of course incapable of defining it, and probably not even interested in any ultimate clarification. Here as in other cases, it was easier and at the same time more effective to let the issue hang fire, to decide on competencies from case to case to demonstrate the superiority of a Fuehrer ruling over both movement and state. The tension also was not really resolved by the apparently definitive Law on the Securing of the Unity of Party and State promulgated on December 1, 1933. To be sure, the law clearly stated that 'after the victory of the National Socialist revolution,' the NSDAP was to be 'the representative of the German state idea and military party organisations ¯ Rudolf Hess as Hitler's deputy and Ernst Roehm as chief of staff of the SA ¯ were taken into the government to symbolise the close connection of party and state.' The party also now dominated numerically in the Cabinet. But at the same time the autonomy of the NSDAP, now an institution of public law subordinate solely to Hitler, was confirmed and the party given its own legal jurisdictional sphere (including the imposition of prison sentences); in exercising this jurisdiction, it could call upon public officials. Party judges thenceforth were 'responsible only to their National Socialist conscience . . . and subordinate only to the Fuerher.' The lapidary formula of unity of party and state as stated in the law did not clearly define the jurisdictional spheres, either. The purpose of the law was to confirm the co-ordination, which offered continued opportunities to the dualism of a dynamic-revolutionary political movement and a regimented authoritarian state order. Amid this tension, the numerous existing personal and institutional conflicts were exacerbated and further complicated by the rise of the SS, with its own bureaucracy and quasi-governmental powers.
Numerous German constitutional lawyers, in a feat of rapid readjustment, tried to fit the reality of the one-party authoritarian state into a systematic theory encompassing all components of the regime. The first one to do so was the flexible, opportunistic Carl Schmitt, the leading professor of international and public law at Berlin University. Once a conservative Catholic, pupil of Erich Kaufmann, and admirer of Hugo Preuss, the author of the Weimar Constitution Schmitt turned his back on his Jewish mentors to champion the Hindenburg-Papen version of authoritarianism. Now his essay Staat, Bewegung, Volk (State, Movement, Nation; 1933) celebrated the trinity of the new system, the 'tripartite of political unity.' Ultimately the National Socialist idea of the civil service was to bring the quad-repartition of Leader, movement, Nation, state 8 . Other young law professors steered a direct course toward the 'total state,' as for example Ernst Forsthoff, in his Der totale Staat (The Total State; 1933). Yet none of the theoretical constructions for the sanctioning of National Socialist rule solved the question of which functions were to be retained by the victorious monopoly party if it was to preserve its separate existence and continue to develop and escape complete absorption by the totalitarian state.
The NSDAP of the 'fighting years: had patterned its structure on that of the state, in line with Hitler's dictum 'that all future institutions of this state must grow out of the movement itself.' 9 Accordingly, separate departments on foreign policy, economics, finance, labour, agriculture, and military affairs were set up and staffed. But the rapid and smooth take over of the governmental apparatus, which played so vital a role in the successful seizure of power, was not accompanied by a merger of the state and party bureaucracies. In their drive for state office, only a few party heads succeeded in taking the hurdles, as for example Darre in his contest with Hugenberg. Generally speaking, the conflict between party and Government continued, and a number of " apparatuses " became involved in costly rivalries. This sort of 'institutional Darwinism' 10 was strikingly exemplified by the coexistence of the Foreign Office under Neurath with the 'unofficial' foreign policy pursued by the offices of Ribbentrop and Rosenberg and Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry. This situation prevailed until Ribbentrop's appointment to the Foreign Ministry in 1938. Of even weightier consequence was the coexistence of Army, the SA party troops, and later the SS.
All these instances involved both organisational and personnel problems; the fight of job- and influence-hungry party officials who saw the state as their booty continued even after the officially mandated unity of party and state. In the realm of military policy, the decision in favour of the state was reached within six months ¯ in the summer of 1934 ¯ when Hitler sacrificed the ambitions of the SA leadership to the Army, although this decision also did not prove to be final. At the same time, the rise of the SS as the political-military elite organisation of the party meant a new rival for the Army. And after consolidating his power, Hitler did not cease to assign central functions to the NSDAP. The tasks of the dictatorial monopoly party which he re-emphasised at the party congress of 1935 included above all the formation of a new elite and the 'creation of a stable, self-perpetuating eternal nucleus of National Socialist teachings,' the control and indoctrination ('education') of the masses, the linking and transmitting of the Leader's will to society and state to achieve co-ordination, and the consolidation and expansion of the new power and elite structure through the ever-present activities of the one party and its all-encompassing organisations.
The party of 1933-34, assigned this position and these tasks, was in the process of a profound transformation. The victory over all opponents and rivals, the rapid growth of membership and party auxiliaries, the personnel changes and the official functions acquired by the NSDAP on the road toward officialdom ¯ all these confronted the 'movement' for the second time since its breakthrough to a mass organisation (1929-30) with the problem of how to carry out its dual function of elite and mass party. Between 1928 and 1932, the membership had grown from 108,000 to almost 1.5 million. Between January 30,1933, and the end of 1934, it increased by almost 200 per cent. The 'old fighters,' now one-third of the membership, we confronted with two-thirds new party recruits 11 .
The enormous change also was reflected in the social composition and background of the membership. The proportion of working-class members, though it still fell far below their share in the population (46 per cent), increased from 28 per cent in 1930 to 32 per cent in 1934, while the percentage of white-collar workers fell off (from 25.6 to 20.6 per cent), although it remained far above their share in the population (12.4 per cent). The number of independent businessmen remained disproportionately high (20 per cent, as compared to their population proportion of 9 per cent). The membership increase of civil servants and teachers was particularly steep (from 8.3 per cent to 13 per cent compared with their 5 per cent representation in the population); they of course were most exposed to direct pressure. Farm membership, on the other hand, declined from 14 per cent to 10.7 per cent (population share, 10 per cent). It should be borne in mind that professional and class differences played a part in the proportion between followers and membership. The relatively small number of farmers in the party says nothing about the tremendous rallying of voters from this sector after the elections of 1929-30. The middle-class structure of the NSDAP became even more apparent in the leadership. White-collar workers predominated, particularly among the Kreisleiter (district chiefs) (37 per cent), followed by civil servants and independent businessmen, while the farmers were found mainly in the many lower-ranking positions. The NSDAP continued to build its image as the 'party of the youth.' More than 37 per cent of its members were under thirty; more than 65 per cent had not yet reached forty; barely 15 per cent were over forty. The average age of the National Socialist elite also was below that of their forty-five-year-old Leader. The growth of the Hitler Youth was enormous, not least through the absorption of the pre-Hitler youth movement; in 1933-34, the membership increased from 108.000 to nearly 3.6 million.
Regional differences persisted both in the numerical strength of the party and in the relationship between old and new party members. Almost analogous to the elections after 1930, the NSDAP registered its relatively largest gains in the party regions of Schleswig-Holstein, southern Hanover, Main-Franconia, and Hesse (as well as in Danzig), and its smallest in Westphalia, Silesia, Pomerania, Baden, Berlin, Munich, and southern Bavaria. After 1923-24, the weight of the movement had shifted northward from its birthplace and the 'capital of the movement' (Bavaria and Munich). Only Central and Upper Franconia, the land of Julius Streicher and the national party congresses, remained a stronghold of the NSDAP after the seizure of power.
The question of which party region showed the greatest membership increase after January 30, 1933, is of still greater interest. Here the lead was held by Main-Franconia, where by the end of 1934, the membership had multiplied more than sevenfold (740 per cent), followed by Cologne-Aachen (458 per cent) and Coblenz-Trier (448 per cent). In a process of rapid adjustment, these predominantly Catholic areas compensated for their initially low membership, while, conversely, the high membership of Schleswig-Holstein increased by a scant 80 per cent, though it continued to lead. The agricultural and middle-class regions retained their large lead over the industrial cities: even now, inroads into the working class were not as easily made as the program and propaganda of the party pretended.
The enormous increase in membership and restructuring of the NSDAP into the sole, official party not only altered the proportion between old and new party members but also made possible the eradication of sources of party strife and rebellion that had survived the bloody purge of June 30, 1934. Almost 20 per cent of the political leaders who had belonged to the NSDAP before 1933 had left by the end of 1934. Significantly, the turnover was greatest in Berlin (more than 50 per cent), followed by Main-Franconia (35 per cent), Hamburg and Duesseldorf (27 per cent each), and other large cities, in which the transition from 'old fighters' to newly discovered 'leaders' was most apparent. The 'old fighters' were either replaced (more than one-fourth) or retired. The reasons for these changes were organisational and political, connected either with the old Left course of the Strasser camp, with socialism, or with the problem of the SA and revolution. At any rate, with the influx of new members, the NSDAP had turned into a mass organisation, which the state leadership was able to steer easily through the course changes of the early period. By the end of 1934, almost 80 per cent of the political leaders were people who had joined the party after 1933; only the Gauleiter corps was still made up of self-assertive, self-confident old fighters. Thenceforth the party became the instrument of totalitarian rule; not political conflict but personal and organisational rivalries marked the further expansion of the NSDAP ¯ the victorious and all-embracing state party and the instrument of change of the Fuehrer state all in one. Only the SS was able to develop and independent position as the avant-garde of the National Socialist Empire, and it too never rebelled against Hitler.
The fact that even in the future the party never achieved clear-cut primacy testifies to the ambiguous character of the National Socialist system. The formula of the party issuing orders to the state was true of the Communist one-party state, which had smashed the old governmental machinery and the traditional elite structure, although even there the future might see a return to dual structures. But in the Third Reich, where traditional and revolutionary elements continued to exist partly fused and partly as rivals, the primacy of the party was established only in specific instances; at times it almost seemed as if the opposite were the case, and often enough it was not even the party and state but rival party bigwigs who found themselves on opposite sides. The party did not issue orders to the state but rather gained quasi-governmental privileges and pushed through the total claims of the system in the social sphere as well by carrying out the extra governmental functions of 'education,' co-ordination and control, and recruitment of youth. 12
The 'state' itself also was divided into different power groups. The claims of the Presidential and Fuehrer dictatorship, of the corporate organisations and of the growing police state were in competition, while the Reich Cabinet lost its leading function and after 1937 no longer even met. The Fuehrer constituted the only definite link between and above the jurisdictional thicket of party agencies and state machinery. The omnipotence of his position rested not least on the ill-defined relationship of party and state; he alone was able to solve the costly jurisdictional conflicts, which were part of the system. Regardless of whether this was an unavoidable dilemma of totalitarian dictatorship of a consciously wielded tool of dictatorial rule, the widespread idea about the better organised and more effective 'order' of totalitarian one-man rule is a myth all too easily believe in crisis-ridden democracies. It is the lie that animates all authoritarian movements, then and now; its matrix is an ideology of order, which vilifies the pluralistic character of modern society, subjugating it to a misanthropic as well as unreal ideal of efficiency modelled on technical perfection and military order.
Army and Second Revolution: The Seizure of Power Completed
By the fall of 1933, national Socialist Gleichschaltung was officially completed on all levels of public life. With the claim to the total incorporation of all citizens, accomplished with the help of the dismal, unresisting capitulation of the German elite, National Socialist doctrine also captured the culture and values of German society. To what extent total rule posturing as a revolutionary 'upheaval' was actually realised than merely externally institutionalised in the social and economic as well as in the intellectual and moral spheres is debatable. There undoubtedly were unconquered areas, and not only with regard to the churches. But by the end of 1933, it appeared that after the complete collapse of the Weimar establishment, the regime was faced with only two possible sources of disquiet: the self-assurance of the Army, which based itself on the legendary authority of Hindenburg, and the latest, persistent tensions among the activists in the NSDAP and above all in the SA, to whom the proclamation about the 'end of the revolution' was addressed. The clash of these two power centres in the brutal events of the summer of 1934 ended the final phase of the seizure of power.
Between 1918 and 1945, the German Army went through four major phases. The first, beginning with the revolutionary situation at the end of World War I and ending with the fall of General von Seeckt in 1926, was marked by an almost forced though wavering co-operation with the Weimar Government: in the ensuring course of events, the gap between military and civilian power, which manifested itself in the crises of 1920 (Kapp Putsch) and 1923, widened. Hinderburg's presidency and the political role of General von Schleicher marked the second phase ¯ from 1926 to the National Socialist take over ¯ which saw the direct participation of the Army command in policy-making and, after 1930, its vital contribution to extra parliamentary crisis governments. The National Socialist regime, on the other hand, in the course of its rearmament policy sought to push the expanded Army back into a more limited, purely military realm and to exclude it from political decision-making. In this third phase, from 1933 to 1938, the Army wavered between the desire to protect itself against National Socialist encroachment and its readiness to make common cause with a regime so assertively military-minded (in contrast to Weimar). The final phase, following the ouster of Generals Blomberg and Fritsch in 1938, was marked by Hitler's increased interference in the Army command structure, which more and more became the tool of National Socialist war and extermination policies and simultaneously was threatened by the rival party army, the SS. The vacillation between acquiescence and resistance showed up the impotence of this proud, tradition-rich power; in the conditions of the totalitarian state, its claim to independence turned out to be an illusion. In fact, the trend toward interference became apparent quite early, even though the Army seemed to be the only power factor outside the reach of Gleichschaltung , and even, so it was thought, seemed to offer the best opportunity for 'inner emigration.' As a matter of fact, the National Socialist take over would probably not have been possible had it not been for the deep gulf and alienation between the Army and the Republic that began with Seeckt's command. The attitude of the military in many ways resembled that of the civil service. In line with his strategy, Hitler initially seemed to respect the Army's desire for separation and independence. This was made easier by his knowledge that in Werner von Blomberg and Walter von Reichenau he had two uncritical supporters in key positions, and that for the rest he could rely on the drawing power of his championship of revision and rearmament, which was as welcome to the military as the suspension of parliamentary democracy was to the civil service. In harmony with Seeckt's above-party ideology, Blomberg on February 1, 1933, in his first proclamation expressed his pleasure that the Army now finally would be able to rid itself of political intrigue and, standing 'above parties,' devote itself to its unique tasks 13 . There began that devotion to the special tasks of military re-organisation and rearmament by which the officer corps thought it could avoid political co-ordination. This was in line with the 'soldier only' attitude maintained by General Werner von Fritsch, the successor to General Kurt von Hammerstein during party intrigues in 1938, up to his ignoble end and alleged suicide during the Polish campaign in 1939. 'We cannot change politics [only] do our duty,' Fritsch told a high-level Army conference after the June, 1934, bloodbath 14 . Given this aloofness, the Army was as little able to cope with the dictatorship as earlier it had been unable to cope with its tasks in the democratic Republic.
Apologists maintain to this day that Hitler's real plans were unknown at that time, that his call for a revision of Versailles had been a legitimate demand, and that at any rate the Army had preserved greater independence than other institutions. In fact, however, at least at the top military level, there could have been little doubt about Hitler's designs for expansion and conquest. Even if one did not put much credence in what he had to say in Mein Kampf , copies of which were now being disseminated by the millions, Hitler had made himself unmistakably clear at his very first meeting with the military leadership. Any possible misgivings about the bellicose expansion plans the Chancellor revealed on February 3, 1933, before the Army and Navy command, only four days after his appointment, were dispelled by his simultaneous promises for the expansion and independence of the armed forces and the national defence in the New State. Seeckt's narrow, one-sided autonomy ideal was too deeply rooted to permit the development of any serious resistance to the new course and the dual National Socialist take over strategy. Almost the only exception was Hammerstein's resignation at the end of 1933, but it had no further consequences. And moreover, there was a widespread feeling that with Hindenburg heading both state and Army, Army political veto could if needed be exercised. But above all, the mutuality of interests with Army regime dedicated to military (and pseudo-military) values continued to grow. Thus, contrary to the legend of an Army 'above politics,' co operation with the new regime, emphatically called for by Blomberg, met with far less resistance than had co operation with the Republic.
This collaborative course with all its delusions and illusions of a presumably equal partnership of Army and National Socialist reached its zenith when Hitler used the differences with the SA leadership seemingly to satisfy the interest of the Army, but in truth to make his monopoly position formally untouchable. The bloody purge of June 30, 1934, and the tacit complicity of the Army, together with Hindenburg's death, presented Hitler with the unique opportunity of realising the idea of the total leader state much more fully than was the case in Italy. What motivated the momentous collaboration of the Army command at this decisive turning point was the belief that the power struggle among the National Socialist leaders would do away with the military rivalry of the SA together with Roehm's power pretensions and assure the Army of the monopoly Hitler had promised. The old tensions between SA and party leadership, exacerbated by the rivalry between SA and Army, came to a head once more in the spring of 1934. It was consciously played up by various quarters, and particularly by Goering and Himmler. The myth of an imminent Roehm putsch against Hitler played a vital part in this. But the fact of the matter is that tolerance of the Army that promoted a conflict. Although Roehm himself repeatedly affirmed his loyalty to Hitler and finally, to calm things down, ordered a general vacation for the SA, the party and SS leadership managed through deceptive manoeuvres to heighten the impression that a second revolution of the SA was in the offing. To this day, it still is unclear how the alarm to the Munich SA and the rumours of an alleged imminent overthrow of the Government came to be circulated.
At any rate, these rumours were used to persuade Hitler, who possibly may still have wavered, to break off a scheduled trip ¯ probably undertaken from camouflage purposes ¯ to Bad Godesberg at 1:00 A.M. on June 30, 1934, and have him appear unexpectedly in Munich three lto 'settle accounts' with the SA leaders, to have Roehm and other SA leaders called out from their beds in Bad Wiessee and have six of them executed summarily that very same day in Munich. Roehm was executed the next day by Theodor Eicke and Michael Lippert, the commandants of the Dachau concentration camp. In addition to the charge of treason, the homosexuality of the victims was offered as justification for their deaths, even though their preferences had been know for years (and moreover homosexuals were among the executioners). More victims were added, also outside of the SA. Among them were such old adversaries of Hitler's as Kahr in Munich, Papen's associates Herbert von Bose and Edgar Jung (who were under Goering's direction in Berlin), and most important, General von Schleicher and his wife, General von Bredow, and Gregor Strasser.
With Roehm and Strasser, Hitler rid himself of his oldest military and political collaborators; with Schleicher, of his predecessor as Chancellor. Papen, the confident overseer of the Hitler Cabinet, who two weeks earlier had criticised the totalitarian trend in a speech in Marburg inspired by his adviser Edgar Jung, was put under house arrest. Later, after the murder of his friends, he gladly exchanged the post of Vice Chancellor for the office of special personal envoy of Hitler and went to Vienna to prepare Austria's annexation. This was typical both of the character of a man who so flaunted his Christianity and of the disastrous role played since 1932 by this irresponsible pacemaker of dictatorship.
The smoothness with which the murders of June 30 were carried out is eloquent proof that no Roehm putsch was imminent. There was no resistance encountered anywhere, not even among the armed elite formations of the SA; many victims unsuspectingly surrendered of their own accord, having faith in their 'Fuehrer' and in the eventual clarification of an obvious mistake. The only shots fired were those of the executioners; often enough the SS commandos were thereby also settling private feuds. The number of victims, officially set at 77, is estimated to have been between 150 and 200.
The main significance of the purge does not lie in the disputed number of its victims but in its methods and in its consequences. The population may have accepted it by saying that the revolution consumes its children, but the fact was that any possible opposition within the party as well as in the national conservative camp was being nipped in the bud. Moreover, the arbitrary power of the Fuehrer was formally turned into a principle. Within a month, Hitler's total dictatorship was further institutionalised when the Army took the oath of loyalty to Hitler personally and tolerated his usurpation of the Presidential Office. These decisive acts rested on the mutuality of interest between Hitler and the Army, which permitted itself to be made an accomplice of Hitler's deeds.
One aspect was the legalisation of the terror, which more clearly than anything else revealed the true nature of the take over and what the future held in store. Hitler quite openly now claimed the 'right' to rid himself of his opponents without either legal investigation or trial. If earlier terror acts, especially by the SA, had been accepted in the belief that they were inevitable albeit temporary by-products of a revolution, murder, carried out by the Government, now became a part and parcel of official policy. Considering the lack of resistance, the Government could not possibly claim to be acting in 'self-defence.' But this was precisely how it justified itself in the formal 'legalisation' of the crimes after the event. This was done with the law of July 3, 1934, which contained only this one terse paragraph 'The measures taken on June 30 and July 1 and 2 to strike down the treasonous attacks are justifiable acts of self-defence by the state.' The law was as grotesque as it was typical: a simple assertion in place of judicial investigation (although in the case of Schleicher's murder an investigation was begun but immediately cut off). By appointing itself judge in its own case, and turning violation of law into law through a pseudo-legal sham law, the Government also forced the courts to sanction the regime, or at least prevented them from instigating any moves against the murderers. The loudly proclaimed 'lawful state of National Socialism' 15 was quite clearly a state of injustice, arbitrary rule, and government by crime.
Thus the internal consequences of this revolution from above go far beyond its power-political aspects. The Government's official condonation of crimes and the elevation of murder to a legal official act were tantamount to the formal erosion of the legal system and its subjugation to the will of a rule who appointed himself 'Supreme Judge of the German people' (speech by Hitler before the Reichstag, July 13, 1934). The legalisation of crime in the name of the state was further underscored by the praise and rewards bestowed on Hitler's accomplices in murder. This was the beginning of the rise of Himmler and his SS, which by decree of July 20, 1934, replaced the SA as an independent organisation and was given the right to organise armed combat troops. Security Service (Sicherheitsdienst, or SD) and SS chieftains who had taken part in the crimes of the week of June 30, among them Sepp Dietrich, Christian Weber, and Emil Maurice, were promoted. Other henchmen were decorated by Himmler on July 4. Murder officially sanctioned and lauded became the norm for the smooth future annihilation of political enemies, Jews, and 'inferiors.' Later Himmler himself ¯ at an SS leader conference at Poznan on October 4, 1943 ¯ specifically made the connection between June 30, 1934, and the policy of annihilation and confirmed the continuity a still widespread tendency to divide National Socialist rule into 'constructive' and 'degenerate' (wartime) periods.
Even after June 30, it was still possible to find intellectual helpers willing to lend their influential names to the brutal rule. Carl Schmitt headed this list. In the Deutsche Juristenzeitung (German Law Journal) of August 1, 1934 (pp. 945-50) he proclaimed the quintessence of his years of undermining the legal state and the arbitrariness of the total state in a cynical article entitle 'The Fuehrer Protects the Law.' Schmitt praised mass murder as the 'justice of the Fuehrer' meting out 'direct justice,' as 'genuine administration of justice' and the 'highest law: of the new order. Thus, more or less clever theories of authoritarianism and dictatorship merged with the crude sanctioning of the National Socialist claim to the total manipulation of society, state, and law. 'The idea of law became simply a word for force.' 16 It also spelled the opportunistic capitulation before the legalisation comedy which Hitler performed on the stage of the Reichstag on July 13, when Goering in his role of President of the Reichstag ended Hitler's two-hour report to the nation with the dictum: 'All of us always approve what the Fuehrer does.' 17 The mechanism of the legalisation ended with the order for the burning 'of all files connected with the acts of the last few days.' 18 The abortive Reichstag fire show trial in the autumn of 1933, apparently did not evoke any desire for a repeat performance. When, after the collapse of the regime, attempts were made to track down specific cases it was found that almost all proofs had been destroyed.
The final stages of the seizure of power were incompatible with even the most generous view of the 'legal revolution.' Its terrorism was revealed also by the broader aspects in which the bloody events took place. The institutional consolidation of the Fuehrer dictatorship brought down the barriers which the partners of January 30, 1933, had thought would protect them against National Socialist autocratic rule. Papen was pushed off the stage, which he had so confidently mounted with Hitler. The last wraps fell off the national revolution, the conservative frame around National Socialism, the aristocratic-authoritarian nationalism surround its plebeian-totaliman was destroyed. Hindenburg, the symbol of this illusion, was eighty-six years old, remote from political reality, and surrounded by advisers beholden to Hitler. Since the Day of Potsdam, he had been nothing more than a respectable front for the dictatorship, his last service in this capacity being the proclamation for a proclamation for a national plebiscite in November, 133. His death brought a timely solution to a number of problems. On his deathbed in Neudeck, where he had been brought at the beginning of June, 1934, Hindenburg lent himself to one final service to the regime which he had so carelessly installed in power: On July 2, Hindenburg, probably at the instigation of his son and Meissner, sent Hitler and Goering a wire of congratulations on their handling of the events of June 30.
The highest sanctioning of the murders introduced a macabre drama, in which the highest offices of the state were merged in the person of the 'Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor' who was above all controls. Even before Hindenburg's death on the morning of August 2, 1934, the Cabinet passed a law ('signed' by the absent Papen) merging the offices of President and Chancellor, thereby once and for all smashing the hopes for a restoration of the monarchy voiced in Hindenburg's disputed last will and testaments. This 'legal' act also resembled a coup d'etat , for it violated the restrictions of the Enabling Act on which the Government continued to base itself. The legality claim thus was shown up once again, however strongly later news and decrees sought to buttress the new construction. A plebiscite was to bring the 'express sanction of the German people,' even though the re-organisation had been designated as 'constitutionally valid' prior to any such vote. This platonic act of approbation was explained by Hitler in the voice of the confirmed democrat: He was 'convinced through and through that all state power must emanate from the people and [be] confirmed by them in free, secret elections.' In explaining his new title, he followed the pseudo-democratic camouflage of his usurpation with the pathetic contention that Hindenburg had given 'the title of Reich President unique significance' 19 and thus it should thenceforth not be used. Hence the usurpation of merging the offices of President and Chancellor: a constitutional somersault, which numerous German legal theorist obediently parroted. The oath of loyalty to the dictator sworn by every German solider on August 2, 1934, the Army's confirmation of its alliance with Hitler, was equally significant. Perhaps not all officers acquiesced in this new course as spinelessly as Blomberg and Reichenau. But together with the satisfaction over rearmament and the dismantling of the SA, Hitler's repeated assurances that the party and the Army were to be the two sole pillars of the National Socialist State proved effective. And so the illusions on which then now broken alliance of the 'national revolution' had been based lived on. The precipitate loyalty oath of the Army also was the result of coup like manipulation. It was administered with dispatch, without benefit of special legislation, merely by command of Blomberg, an order, which unquestionably exceeded his authority. Only eighteen days later, after the plebiscite of August 19, was a law passed sanctioning the coup. The oath was irregular also because existing laws provided for the swearing-in only of new recruits; a new oath by the entire Army would have required a change in the Constitution. But even more serious than these formal violations were the wording and circumstances of the oath. The new text was tailored to Hitler personally, ignoring and allegiance to Constitution, legal institutions, and superiors. And the 'sacred oath' sworn 'before God' was linked up with the duty for 'unconditional obedience'.
This religiously sanctioned formula tied the Army absolutely to Hitler, though in his letter thanking Blomberg dated August 21, Hitler renewed his pledge to preserve the mutual-interest alliance and the relationship of mutual loyalty ushered in by the oath. Hitler for his part took on the obligation 'to defend the existence and the inviolability of the Wehrmacht', and 'to secure the Army as the sole weapons bearer of the nation.' 20 But even after it became obvious that Hitler was ignoring these guarantees ¯ as he also ignored those of the concordat with the Catholic Church ¯ the oath continued to tie the Army to Hitler, a one-sided arrangement with dire consequences that continued to the very last day of the Third Reich. All charges of 'breach of oath' raised against the military resistance movement ignore Hitler's own repeated breaches of his promises, by which he forfeited his claim to loyalty and obedience long before the revolt of July 20, 1944, sought to dissolve this misused relationship.
But ever since June 30, 1934, the National Socialist leadership, and above all Hitler, knew 'what he could ask of the officer corps so long as he took care to avoid a public scandal.' 21 The Army, be accepting the assassination of two generals without protest, by becoming the accomplice of the SS, and finally by rendering the oath on the day of Hindenburg's death, tied itself firmly to the National Socialist regime, 'to which it felt committed in some dark manner.' 22 Without the assistance of the Army, at first through its toleration and later through its active co-operation, the country's rapid and final restructuring into the total leader state could not have come about. While making the military co-responsible for his murders and coups, Hitler at the same time undermined the monopoly he had promised the Army by building up the SS. Barely four years later, the fall of Blomberg and Fritsch, the resignation of Beck, and the continuing rise of the SS were to show which side had profited from the 'second revolution'. To be sure, in the interval, continued rearmament, universal military service, the remilitarization of the Rhineland, and finally the annexation of Austria stilled most doubts and further cemented the Army-Hitler alliance. The road to war made this alliance irrevocable up to the very end; after 1938, only a small minority of the officer corps planned and dared to offer the resistance which, in fatal mis-judgement of the new regime and their own position, they had failed to offer in 1934. The role of the Army in consolidating National Socialist autocracy cannot be overestimated. By comparison, the plebiscite of August 19, 1934, was nothing more than the final farce of the pseudo-legal revolution. The voter was given no genuine choice, either then or in the plebiscites of 1936 and 1938. The vote of August 19 was an act of confirmation without any alternative and without constitutional or political significance. Nonetheless the acclamation was not an unqualified success. Even a new wave of propaganda and psychological coercion, of intimidation and terror, of interference in the electoral process and fraud could not bring the votes up to the 99 per cent to which the plebiscitary acclamations of dictatorial regimes generally aspire. Taking into account the conditions of the elections, a disproportionately high number of no votes were cast, particularly in Hamburg and Berlin, were only 72.6 and 74.2 per cent, respectively, of the qualified voters cast affirmative ballots 23 . Let us keep in mind that in totalitarian 'elections' non-voters and invalid ballots generally should be considered as an opposition voice. As in November Catholics capitulated, following the support given by the church fathers to their concordat partner Hitler, the number of not votes in some Catholic regions increased in 1934 ¯ clear evidence of a beginning disillusionment in that quarter.
Most importantly, in some areas assent to the total Leader State remained significantly below the vote of the preceding 'elections.' November, 1933, had brought 87.8 per cent yes votes, while in August 1934, these totalled only 84.6 per cent: the over-all vote also fell below that of 1933. The falling-off in the yes vote in Schleswig-Holstein, where the NSDAP had scored its greatest result the year before, and as early as 1932 had won an absolute majority, is particularly striking (84.1 and 80.3 per cent in 1933 and 1934, respectively). The smallest 'assent' was won in some boroughs of Berlin (Wilmersdorf, 68.8 per cent), and Aachen (65.7 per cent, as compared to 80.6 per cent in 1933), and in Ahaus in Westphalia (69.9 per cent, as compared to 88.3 per cent in 1933). 'Unfavourable' election returns were also reported from Herford, Bielefeld, Bremerhaven, Luebeck, Iserlohn, Leipzig, Breslau, and rural districts of Muenster and Olpe. This was the last time that traditional electoral patterns were discernible in the resistance of Socialist and Catholic voters, before the totalitarian perfecting of the plebiscitary method resulted in the meaningless monotony of 99-per cent election results. The true feeling about the regime, particularly among the workers, were made evident in the shop-steward elections of April, 1935; the results were not made public, but on the basis of available evidence it seems that frequently no more than 30-40 per cent of a plant voted for the single Nazi slate 24 . At issue here were not the great national acclamations of 1933, 1934, 1936, and 1938 connected with a specific political purpose, but the concrete reality of the system. Yet there can be no doubt that the majority of the population was no longer able or willing to resist the noise of the acclamatory propaganda.
Stronger than any reservations was the pull of power and apparent success, the impression of order an unity, the recollection of the pre democratic authoritarian state, and the belief in the unlimited promises of the regime. And where manipulation failed to bring the desired results, as in the case of the shop-steward elections, facts were shelved and assertions substituted, as, for example, Robert Ley's, that 'far more than 80 per cent of German industrial workers' had voted for National Socialism. Hence, a still-doubting citizen might ask himself, what purpose could be served by a risky opposition at the ballot box? Thus, even under the still imperfect results of 1933 and 1934, the plebiscite was nothing more than one of many methods for the mobilisation and manipulation of the population. It served the same ends as parades, demonstrations, mass rallies to listen to radio broadcasts, and collection campaigns ¯ to create the atmosphere of 'voluntary' compulsion, of manipulated consensus, of the un-political politicisation to distract from the reality of the coercive system.
The Army, seemingly an independent power in the system, also saw this mobilisation as contributing to its strengthening and rearmament. The fact that democracy and free elections were abolished together with the unlamented Weimar Republic after all spoke in favour of the new regime, even though one might have preferred a traditionally authoritarian, conservative monarchy. Thus it should come as no surprise that the notes on a conference in the Defence Ministry in the spring of 1934, at which possible moves against the SA were hinted at, mention that the following point met with great approbation: 'New elections will be so phrased that everyone will have to say yes.' The only thing that will not be changed is the position of the Army.' 25 The history of the German Army since 1918 is a history of self-delusion. What led them into the unequal alliance with Hitler, into war and catastrophe, was not the 'nemesis of power,' as John Wheeler-Bennett asserts in his book by that title (1954), but political ineptitude and un-political arrogance.
As early as August 20, 1934, Hitler was able to proclaim the victorious conclusion of his fifteen-year fight for power: 'Beginning with the highest office of the Reich, through the entire administration down to the leadership of the smallest village, the German Reich today is in the hands of the National Socialist Party.' And in fact what mattered was not so much a taking over of all positions, for this was not invariably the case: there was an astonishing degree of continuity, beginning with non-National Socialists in the Government to the civil service and judiciary to economic and cultural life, and above all in the 'independent' Army. But state and society were nonetheless completely in the hands of the National Socialists, subject to their control and manipulation, serving a regime focused entirely on the one Leader; for the rest, it brought anything but order and security, but rather arbitrariness and frequently internal chaos. Hitler himself tailored his proclamation of August 20 to his dual aspect of the consolidation of power: 'The fight for governmental power has ceased as of this day. But the fight for our precious people continues.' 26 This melodramatic sentence meant nothing more than that only after the last remnants of pre- and non-National Socialist power had been eliminated could the total gathering-in of the nation, the instrumentalisation in the service of Hitlerian goals, be fully realised.
This was also the framework within which the NSDAP was assigned its position and function as the ideological and ruling force above and within the conquered stated. In the summer of 1933, it had become the only existing party and was entrusted with the task of educating a new elite. Rudolf Hess opened the Reich party congress of 1934 by stating that 'the law of totality' was to be the guiding principle of all future National Socialist policy. Hitler ceremoniously recalled the epoch of the 'final consolidation of National Socialist power in Germany.' Since the summer of 1933, he said, they had, fighting a battle, 'broken through and taken one enemy position after the other.' Now, as already a year earlier, he declared 'the National Socialist revolution . . . as revolutionary power process is closed.' Beginning now is the evolution, and since the leadership 'in Germany today has the power to do everything,' its actions in the future 'cannot be inhibited by anything, except through impulses of a tactical, personal, and hence temporary nature.' 27 But herein lay problems. What did the declaration that the 'final' conquest of Germany would be followed by 'the realisation of the National Socialist program directed from above' mean if that program was anything but clear and consistent, while Hitler's aims were directed toward the outside, toward race and Lebensraum policies, toward expansion and hegemony? When Hitler prophesied that " in the next thousand years there will be no revolution in Germany,' this bombastic dictum was in keeping with the slogan of the Thousand-Year Reich of Goering's promise that the next hundred years there probably would not be any election. History did not heed these prophecies. But the wrapping-up of the seizure of power opened up an area in which the consolidation of totalitarian rule could progress and the policy of expansion and domination in Europe, the essence of National Socialism, being. National Socialist power and rule did not rest on a consistent political philosophy or even a detailed master plan. The thinking and conduct of this 'movement' was eclectic and opportunistic, its ideas of power politics vulgarly Machiavellian. And yet it would be a mistake to see the spread and imposition of totalitarian rule as mere improvisation and response to favourable opportunities. Alone the pace of the power seizure, so much more rapid and more completely successful than that in Fascist Italy, bespeaks the purposeful logic of the Nazi power ideology. It was given its inner content by the immovable consistency with which Hitler had clung to his Weltanschauung since his Vienna years: above all, anti-Semitism and anti-Slavism. They formed the basis of the two primary aims toward which the consolidation and application of the power he had won were directed: annihilation of the Jews and eastward expansion.
1. Voelkischer Be , July 6, 1933.
2. Ibid., July 8, 1933.
3. Ibid., Jul 12, 1933.
4. Der Angriff , July 18, 1933.
5. Der Kongress des Sieges (Dresden, 1934), p. 8.
6. Der Parteitag der Freiheit vom 10. bis 16. September 1935 (Munich, 1935), pp. 283 f.
7. Der Kongress des Sieges , p. 7.
8. Der Beamte im Geder Zeit, Wvon Hermann Neess (Berlin, 1936). (300,000 copies of this were distributed by the National Socialist Organization of Civil Servants.) Cf. also Hans Mommsen, Beamtentum im Dritten Reich (Stuttgart, 1966), pp. 21 ff.
9. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (Munich, 1925¯28), p. 673.
10.David Schoenbaum, Hitler's Social Revolution (New York, 1966), p. 206.
11.Wolfgang Schaefer, NSDAP, Entwicklung und Struktur der Staatspartei des Dritten Reiches (Hanover, 1956), pp. 17 ff.
12.Schoenbaum, op. cit., pp. 71 ff., gives somewhat different figures on the basis of material in the Document Centre Berlin (the main archive of the NSDAP), but the picture of the composition is the same. Thus also Robert Pelloux, Le parti national-socialiste et ses rapports avec l'État (Paris, 1936), pp. 35 ff.
13. Voelkischer Beobachter , February 2, 1933.
14.Hermann Foertsch, Schuld und Verhaengnis (Stuttgart, 1951), p. 58. Thus Hans Frank, 'Der deutsche Rechtsstaat Adolf Hitlers,' in Deutsches Recht IV (1934), p. 120.
15.In the eyes of Carl Schmitt, the 'National Socialist state without doubt was an exemplary constitutional state, perhaps even more so than most countries in the world.' For documentation, see Gottfried Dietze, 'Rechtsstaat und Staatsrecht,' in Die moderne Demokratie und ihr Recht , II (Tuebingen, 1966), 37 f.
16.Karl Dietrich Erdmann, Die Zeit der Weltkriege (3rd ed.; Stuttgart, 1963), p. 198.
17. Verhandlungen des Reichstags , CEDLVIII (July 13, 1934), 32.
18.Otto Meissner, Staatssekretaer unter Ebert-Hindenburg-Hitler (Hamburg, 1960), p. 370.
19. Reichsgesetzblatt I , 1934, pp. 747¯51.
20. Voelkischer Beobachter , August 21, 1934, p. 1.
21.Wolfgang Sauer, in K. D. Bracher, W. Sauer, and G. Schulz, Die nationalsozialistische Machtergreifung (2nd ed.; Cologne and Opladen, 1962), p. 965.
22.Hermann Mau, 'Die zweite Revolution,' in Vierteljahreshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte , I (1953), p. 136.
23.Election analyses in Bracher, Sauer, and Schulz, op. cit. , pp. 95 ff., 350 ff.
24.Theodor Eschenburg, 'Dokumentation,' in VfZG, No. 3 (1955), pp. 314 ff.
25.Conference notes of Major Henrici, in Zeugenschrifttum des Instituts fuer Zeitgeschichte (Munich).
26.Gerd Ruehle, Das Dritte Reich (Berlin, 1935), p. 278.
27. Der Kongress zu Nuernberg vom 5.¯6. September 1934 (Munich, 1934), pp. 18, 22¯24.
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