'Seizure of Power'
1932 November 5 One day before the election, Goebbels tells his diary:
Last attack. Desperate drive of the Party against defeat. We succeed in obtaining ten thousand marks at the very last moment. These are to be thrown into the campaign on Saturday afternoon. We have done all possible. Now let Fate decide. 11932 November 6 The 8th Reichstag election of the Weimar Republic fails to break the parliamentary deadlock. A very low turnout at the polls, combined with marginal gains by the Communists and the DNVP, cause the NSDAP to lose 2 million voters and 34 seats, retaining 186 seats. 11,737,021 Germans vote Nazi, which is 33.09% of the total. The electoral results are no cause for victory, as Goebbels tells his diary: "A somber mood prevails in the Gau of Berlin. There is widespread despair among the voters."
A new situation has arisen through the elections of November the 6th, and at the same time a new opportunity for a consolidation of all nationalist elements. The Reich President has instructed me to find out, by conversations with the leaders of the individual parties concerned, whether and how far they are ready to support the carrying out of the political and economic program on which the Reich Government has embarked. Although the National Socialist press has been writing that it is a naive attempt for Reich Chancellor von Papen to try to confer with personalities representing the nationalist concentration, and that there can only be one answer, "No negotiations with Papen," I would consider it neglecting my duties, and I would be unable to justify it to my own conscience, if I did not approach you in the spirit of the order given to me.
I am quite aware from the papers that you are maintaining your demands to be entrusted with the Chancellor's Office, and I am equally aware of the continued existence of the reasons for the decision of August the 13th. I need not assure you again that I myself do not claim any personal consideration at all. All the same, I am of the opinion that the leader of so great a national movement, whose merits for people and country I have always recognized in spite of necessary criticism, should not refuse to enter into discussions on the situation and the decisions required with the presently leading and responsible German statesman. We must attempt to forget the bitterness of the elections and to place the cause of the country which we are mutually serving above all other considerations. 6
This plan, surprisingly enough, provided for the transformation of professional armies into armies with a short period of service, for according to the opinion presented by the French representative at that time only armies with a short period of service could be considered defensive armies, while standing armies consisting of professional soldiers would have an offensive character. This point of view on the part of France was completely new, and was not only exactly the opposite of France's previous point of view, but it was also a change from the provisions laid down in the Versailles Treaty for the disarmament of Germany. This meant for Germany—at whom it was obviously aimed—the elimination of its standing army of 100,000 men. In addition, by this new plan, France let it be seen that she herself did not want to disarm. 71932 November 17 Chancellor von Papen, after admitting to Hindenburg that he has been unable to build a ruling coalition, resigns. 8
You have declared that you will only place your movement at the disposal of a government, of which you, the leader of the Party, are the head. If I consider your proposal, I must demand that such a Cabinet should have a majority in the Reichstag. Accordingly, I ask you, as the leader of the largest party, to ascertain, if and on what conditions, you could obtain a secure workable majority in the Reichstag on a definite program. 151932 November 24 During the course of yet another Hitler-Hindenburg meeting, Hitler, who has not come forward with a plan for a majority government, is offered the office of Vice-Chancellor. Hitler remains adamant that he is entitled to nothing less than the chancellorship. Hindenburg refuses: "You know that I favor the idea of a presidential cabinet. By a presidential cabinet I mean a cabinet that is not led by a party leader, but by a man standing above parties, and that this man is a person enjoying my special confidence." Later, he will defend his refusal to give in to Hitler's demands by explaining that "a presidential cabinet led by Hitler would necessarily develop into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extreme aggravation of the conflicts within the German people." 1
The attempt to include the Nazi movement into the Presidential Cabinet of Hindenburg had twice failed. Hitler equally refuses to form a majority government. On the other hand, he is exercising a tremendous amount of opposition and is trying to have all my decrees rescinded by the Reichstag. If therefore, there is no possibility to form a parliamentary government or to include Hitler in our Government without making him Chancellor, then a state of emergency has arisen which requires extraordinary measures.
Therefore, I proposed a recess of Parliament for several months and immediate preparation of a constitutional reform bill later to be presented to the Reichstag or to a national assembly. This proposal involved a violation of the Constitution. I emphasized that I knew how the great soldier and statesman cherished the sacredness of his oath, but my conscience led me to believe that a violation of the Constitution seemed to be justified in view of the extraordinary situation, for which the German Constitution provided no remedy.
Then Herr von Schleicher spoke. He said: "Field Marshal, I have a plan which will make it unnecessary for you to break your oath to the Constitution, if you are willing to put the Government into my hands. I hope that I will be able to obtain a parliamentary majority in the Reichstag by splitting the National Socialist Party."
During the discussion of this plan, I said that it was doubtful to me whether a splitting of the Party which had sworn loyalty to Hitler could be achieved. I reminded the Field Marshal of the fact that he should free himself of weak parliamentary majorities through a basic reform. However, the proposals were thrown overboard through the solution offered by Schleicher. 23
[He had found] that comradely tone, which those assembled knew, and which completely convinced them. Now he was their friend, their comrade, their leader who had visibly for each one again freed the way out of the completely muddled situation [that] Strasser had presented, convincing them emotionally and intellectually. As he spoke, Strasser sank with his dark prophecy ever more into a shadowy distance, although those present in consideration and under the impact of what he had said had come with considerable reservations . . . . Increasingly persuasive to his audience and inexorably drawing them under his spell, he [Hitler] triumphed and proved to his wavering, but upright and indispensable fighters in this toughest test of the movement, that he was the master, and Strasser the journeyman . . . . So he had remained the outright victor also in this last and most serious attack, directed at the substance of the movement from within its own ranks . . . . The old bond with him was again sealed by those present, with a handshake. 331932 December 9 During a 2 a.m.-to-dawn strategy session at the Kaiserhof: Hitler, Goebbels, Röhm, and Himmler decide on a plan to completely eradicate any memory of Gregor Strasser still remaining in the party's organization. Rudolf Hess will be put at the head of a new Political Central Commission, replacing Strasser's two Reich Inspectorates. Hitler himself will take control of the political organization, with Robert Ley as chief of staff. Prominent Strasser supporters are to be purged from their party posts. And in seven party meetings in the next nine days—a "loyalty tour"—Hitler will be soliciting oaths of loyalty from party leaders throughout Germany. Göring, Ley, and Goebbels make similar tours on Hitler's behalf. 34
The Gauleiters and Deputies burst into a spontaneous ovation for the Leader. All shake hands with him, promising to carry on until the very end and not to renounce the great Idea, come what may. Strasser now is completely isolated, a dead man. A small circle of us remain with the Leader, who is quite cheerful and elated again. The feeling that the whole Party is standing by him with a loyalty never hitherto displayed has raised his spirits and invigorated him. 351932 December 11 At the Conference for the Reduction and Limitation of Armaments, agreement is reached between Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the US on the question of Equality of Rights and Security. A joint declaration of principles states "that one of the principles that should guide the conference on disarmament should be to grant Germany and the other powers, disarmed by treaty, equality of rights in a system that would provide security for all nations, and that the principle should itself be embodied in a convention containing the conclusions of the Disarmament Conference." 36
At first the Disarmament Conference accomplished nothing; but later there resulted the so-called Five-Power Declaration in December 1932, which had been suggested by England. This declaration recognized Germany's claim to equal rights and to the elimination of those provisions of the Versailles Treaty which discriminated against Germany. After this declaration, which was made by the war powers and later by the Disarmament Conference or the Council of the League of Nations itself, Germany's equal rights were recognized for all time. Therefore, Germany could assert her right to renounce Part V of the Versailles Treaty by referring to the obligation of general disarmament undertaken by the signatory powers. This Five-Power Declaration provided the necessary condition for Germany's taking part in the deliberations of the Disarmament Conference once more. 371932 December 14 The chairman of the Reich Association of German Industry, Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, addressing a group of industry leaders, said: "The world economic situation, in the money market and above all the raw-material market, shows signs of an improvement; the low point seems definitely past." 38
The basis of the political organization is loyalty. In it is revealed as the most noble expression of emotion (Gefuhlsausdruck), the recognition of the necessity of obedience as the premise for the construction of every human community. Loyalty in obedience can never be replaced by formal technical measures and institutions, of whatever sort. The aim of the political organization is the enabling of the widest possible dissemination of the knowledge seen as necessary for the maintenance of the life of the nation, as well as the will that serves it. The final aim is thereby the mobilization (Erfassung) of the nation for this idea. The victory of the National Socialist idea is the goal of our struggle, the organization of our party, a means to attaining this goal. 401932 December 16 Former Reich Chancellor Franz von Papen speaks at the Berlin Herrenklub before a crowd of 300. After defending the actions of his own recently-fallen government, he soundly criticizes the cabinet of his successor, Chancellor von Schleicher. Further, he suggests that Hitler's NSDAP should be brought into the government.
Indubitably a better mood and increased confidence have made their appearance. More and more voices in industry and economic life are speaking of increasing employment and a growing market . . . . The iron industry can register an improvement; the domestic market is reviving somewhat and the foreign market is also becoming steadier. The same is true of the machine and textile industries. 511933 January 1 Hypnotist Erik Hanussen predicts Hitler will come to power on January 30, 1933. His prediction is widely ridiculed in the German press.
The way to the goal is still blocked,
The right helpers not yet gathered,
But in three days—from three countries,
Through the bank everything will change!
And then on the day before the end of the month,
You [Hitler] stand at your goal and a turning point!
No eagle could carry you on your path,
The termites had to gnaw your way!
To the ground falls what was rotten and withered.
It already creaks in the beams! 52
Hitler was in his most benign mood. It took us right back to the twenties when we had first met him. The conductor that evening had been Hans Knappertsbusch and Hitler had not liked his tempi and interpretation, and was expatiating on the subject. He could really do so with good sense, and would hum or whistle many of the passages, the words of which he knew by heart, in order to show what they meant.Hitler, perhaps buoyed up by Hanussen's prediction, tells Hanfstaengl: "This year belongs to us. I will guarantee you that in writing." 53
Then Hitler made a long speech in which he said, if he were made Chancellor, it would be necessary for him to be the head of the Government, but that supporters of Papen's could go into his Government as ministers, if they were willing to go along with him in his policy of changing many things. The changes he outlined at this time included elimination of the Social Democrats, Communists, and Jews from leading positions in Germany, and the restoration of order in public life. Papen and Hitler reached agreement in principle, so that many of the points which had brought them in conflict could be eliminated, and they could find a way to get together. 56Though no agreement is reached, both sides commit to a further meeting and break for lunch. When the story of this meeting appears in the Tagliche Rundschau newspaper, Hitler and von Papen claim that they were merely discussing "the possibility of a great national political unity front," nothing more. 57
Papen fiercely against Schleicher. Determined to get rid of him. Has the ear of Hindenburg, in whose house he is still living. Arrangements with us prepared. Either the Chancellorship or the powerful ministries. Defence and the Interior. That's still to be heard about. Schleicher does not have the order for the dissolution. He's on the downward path. Very mistrustful. Now much depends on Lippe. 591933 January 10-11 During the late-night and early-morning hours, Hitler and von Papen meet in Ribbentrop's home in Dahlem, a suburb of Berlin. When von Papen admits that Hindenburg still will not consider a Hitler chancellorship, the Nazi Fuehrer abruptly ends the meeting, declaring that all further talks are suspended pending the results of the upcoming election in the tiny German state of Lippe. 60
General von Schleicher showed himself to be exceptionally optimistic with regard to the state of affairs in the Reich, of which he talked in very lively terms, particularly as regards its economic and political prospects. I remember clearly the words he used in this connection: He said he was engaged in building up a cross-connection through the trade-union movements and hoped in this way to find a new and practicable political platform which would provide a peaceful and healthy development; Hitler was no longer a problem, the question was solved, his movement presented no political danger, it was yesterday's concern. He added—I cannot vouch for the exact wording, but this is the sense—that an attempt at a possible collaboration (with Hitler) had come under discussion, but that the National Socialists had demanded the Reichswehr Ministry, apparently aware that he could not let them have it. 681933 January 16 Chancellor von Schleicher, just as had von Papen, presents his cabinet with a plan to convince Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag, but postpone elections, thereby enabling his government to retain power. Though the scheme is clearly unconstitutional, no one in the cabinet comes out against it. The plans biggest drawback is that when von Papen had proposed the very same idea to save his own chancellorship, von Schleicher, who had been the Defense Minister at the time, had objected that civil war would result, and that the Reichswehr would be unable to ensure public order. Now he must convince Reich President von Hindenburg to do for him what he had denied von Papen. This will not be easy. Of all his chancellors, von Papen had been Hindenburg's favorite, and he is still the Reich Presidents unofficial advisor. 69
After the electoral victory at Lippe—a success whose importance it is not possible to over-estimate—the advisers of the Old Gentleman approached me once more. A meeting was arranged at Ribbentrop's house with Hindenburg's son and Herr von Papen. At this meeting I gave an unequivocal description of my reading of the political situation, and declared without mincing words that every week of hesitation was a week irretrievably wasted. The situation, I said, could be saved only by an amalgamation of all parties, omitting, of course, those fragmentary bourgeois parties which were of no importance and which, in any case, would not join us. Such an amalgamation, I added, could be successfully assured only with myself as Reichs Chancellor. 741932 January 19 Hitler and von Papen meet with industrialist Fritz Thyssen to submit their proposal on the composition of the "Government of National Concentration." 75
Everywhere armored cars and machine guns. The police have occupied the windows and roofs across the street and are waiting to see what will happen. Outside, in front of the Karl Liebknecht House, stands the SA, and in the side streets the Commune is fuming in impotent rage. The SA is marching. It has victoriously conquered this Red domain. The Bülowplatz is ours. The Communist Party has suffered a terrible defeat . . . . This day is a proud, heroic victory for the SA.Surrounded by a heavily armed police cordon, protected by armored cars and machine guns—that was their heroic victory. But when they became a government party, such victories would really begin; armed with the state power, they would frighten the 'Commune' back into its dark streets and win over large masses of workers. With this almost effortless victory of the Bülowplatz, they must have made an impression on the Reichswehr leadership. 78
I would like to tell about one episode which happened in my house in Dahlem when the question arose whether Hitler was to become Reich Chancellor or not. I know that at that time, I believe, he was offered the Vice Chancellorship and I heard with what enormous strength and conviction—if you like, also brutality and hardness—he could state his opinion when he believed that obstacles might appear which could lead to the rehabilitation and rescue of his people. 80Göring later told his version of the "rather lengthy conversation" with Oskar von Hindenburg:
I declared to the son that he should tell his father that, one way or another, von Schleicher would lead to shipwreck. I explained to him the new basic conditions for forming a new government, and how I had heard of the Field Marshal's willingness to entrust Hitler with the Chancellorship, thereby regarding the Party as a main basis for a future government majority, if Adolf Hitler were also able to succeed on this occasion in drawing in the German Nationalists [DNVP], and the Stahlhelm—for he wanted to see a definite national basis . . . . I told von Hindenburg's son that he could tell his father that I would undoubtedly bring that about, and the Fuehrer gave me orders to undertake negotiations during the coming week with these parties on the one hand, and with the Reich President on the other. 81Otto Meissner later recalled: "In the taxi on the way back, Oskar von Hindenburg was extremely silent, and the only remark which he made was that it could not be helped—the Nazis had to be taken into the government. My impression was that Hitler had succeeded in getting him under his spell." 82
I have never seen Hitler in such a state. I proposed to him and Göring that I should see Papen alone that evening and explain the whole situation to him. In the evening I saw Papen, and convinced him eventually that the only thing that made sense was Hitler's Chancellorship, and that he must do what he can to bring this about. Papen declared that the matter of Hugenberg was of secondary importance, and that he was now absolutely in favor of Hitler becoming Chancellor; this was the decisive change in Papen's attitude . . . . This recognition by Papen is, I believe, the turning-point. 88Frau von Ribbentrop wrote: "Joachim proposes link-up with Hugenberg for a national front. Hitler declares that he has said all there is to say to the field marshal, and does not know what to add. Joachim persuades Hitler that this last attempt should be made, and that the situation is by no means hopeless." 89
The instructions given me by von Hindenburg were as follows: Proposal for the formation of a government under the leadership of Hitler, with the utmost restriction of National Socialist influence and within the framework of the Constitution. I should like to add that it was quite unusual for the Reich President to ask any person to form a government which would not be headed by the person himself. In the normal course of events Hindenburg should, of course, have entrusted Hitler himself with the formation of a government; and he entrusted me with this task because he wished to minimize Hitler's influence in the government as far as possible . . . .
The safeguarding measures which I introduced at the request of the Reich President were the following:
1) A very small number of National Socialist ministers in the new cabinet; only 3 out of 11, including Hitler.
2) The decisive economic departments of the cabinet to be placed in the hands of non-National Socialists.
3) Experts to be put into the ministry posts as far as possible.
4) Joint reports of Reich Chancellor Hitler and Vice Chancellor von Papen to Hindenburg in order to minimize the personal influence of Hitler on Hindenburg.
5) I tried to form a parliamentary bloc as a counterbalance against the political effects of the National Socialist Party. 91
This is surely Goering's finest hour. And rightly so. He has diplomatically and skillfully prepared the ground for the Führer in nerve-racking negotiations for months or even years. His prudence, strong nerves and above all his firmness of character and loyalty to the Führer have been genuine, strong and admirable. His face was turned to stone when, in the very thick of the fight, his beloved wife was torn from his side by cruel death. But he did not flinch for a second. Seriously and firmly he went on his way again, an unshakably devoted shieldbearer to the Führer . . . . This upright soldier with the heart of a child has always remained true to himself; and now he stands before his leader and brings him the greatest piece of news of his life. For a long time we say nothing; and then we rise and solemnly shake each other's hands. 93Fresh nut cakes, made by Magda Goebbels, are consumed in the ensuing celebration, which is cut short when rumors of a last minute Reichswehr coup reach their ears. 94
My immediate counteraction to this planned [military] putsch was to send for the Commander of the Berlin S.A., Count von Helldorf, and through him to alert the whole SA of Berlin. At the same time I instructed Major Wecke of the Police, whom I knew I could trust, to prepare for a sudden seizure of the Wilhelmstrasse by six police battalions . . . . Finally, I instructed General von Blomberg to proceed at once, on arrival in Berlin at 8 a.m. on 30 January direct to the Old Gentleman to be sworn in, and thus to be in a position, as Commander-in-Chief of the Reichswehr [sic], to suppress any possible attempts at a coup d'état. 951933 January 29 Hindenburg gets wind of the false rumors of an impending Army coup in favor of von Schleicher, spread by von Papen and others. Werner von Blomberg, who had been serving on the German delegation of the World Disarmament Conference in Geneva, had received word from President Hindenburg directing him to make his way to Berlin, but without letting von Schleicher know he wass coming. As soon as von Blomberg arrives, on the morning of the next day, Hindenburg names him Reich Minister of Defense. 96
At about half-past ten the members of the proposed Cabinet met in my house and walked across the garden to the Presidential palace, where we waited in Meissner's office. Hitler immediately renewed his complaints about not being appointed Commissioner for Prussia. He felt that this severely restricted his power. I told him . . . the Prussian appointment could be left until later. To this, Hitler replied that if his powers were to be thus limited, he must insist on new Reichstag elections.
This produced a completely new situation and the debate became heated. Hugenberg, in particular, objected to the idea, and Hitler tried to pacify him by stating that he would make no changes in the Cabinet, whatever the result might be . . . . By this time it was long past eleven o'clock, the time that had been appointed for our interview with the President, and Meissner asked me to end our discussion, as Hindenburg was not prepared to wait any longer. We had had such a sudden clash of opinions that I was afraid our new coalition would break up before it was born.
The First Hitler Cabinet:
Adolf Hitler (NSDAP) - Chancellor
Franz von Papen - Vice Chancellor
Konstantin Freiherr von Neurath - Minister of Foreign Affairs
Wilhelm Frick (NSDAP) - Minister of the Interior
Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk - Minister of Finance
Alfred Hugenberg (DNVP) - Minister of Economics and Food
Franz Seldte - Minister of Labor
Franz Gürtner (DNVP) - Minister of Justice
Werner von Blomberg - Minister of Defense
Paul Freiherr Eltz von Rübenach - Minister of Posts and Transport
Hermann Göring (NSDAP) - Minister without Portfolio 98
Hitler is Reich Chancellor! And what a cabinet!!! One such as we did not dare to dream of in July. Hitler, Hugenberg, Seldte, Papen!!! A large part of my German hopes are attached to each. National Socialist drive, German National reason, the non-political Stahlhelm, and—not forgotten by us—Papen. It is so unimaginably wonderful . . . . What an achievement by Hindenburg!Others are less enthusiastic, such as SPD Reichstag deputy Julius Leber, who is beaten up by a band of SA men during this long night's celebration. When the police are called, they ignore Leber's Reichstag immunity and throw him in a cell, where he writes:
What will this government do? We know their aims. Nobody knows what their next measures will be. The dangers are enormous. But the firmness of German workers is unshakeable. We don't fear these men. We are determined to take up the struggle. 99One of the SA insurgents who had rebelled along with Stennes wrote: "Everyone felt the same—that things will get better. Although realistically there was no reason for them to believe things would improve, they believed it. They had hope again. It was remarkable. I don't think that Germany will ever again find another man who could inspire as much hope, trust and love as Hitler did at that moment."
The cabinet is called after Adolf Hitler. But the cabinet is really Alfred Hugenberg's. Adolf Hitler may speak; Alfred Hugenberg will act. With the construction of this government, the last veil has fallen. National Socialism has openly showed itself as that which we always took it for, the high-capitalist nationalist party of the Right. National Capitalism is the true firm!The Communists issue a prescient proclamation: "Shameless wage robbery and boundless terror of the brown murderous plague smash the last pitiful rights of the working class. Unrestrained course towards imperialist war. All this lies directly ahead. 101
Some of the uncanny feeling of that night remains with me even today. The crashing tread of the feet, the sombre pomp of the red and black flags, the flickering light from the torches on the faces and the songs with melodies that were at once aggressive and sentimental.
For hours the columns marched by. Again and again amongst them we saw groups of boys and girls scarcely older than ourselves . . . . At one point somebody suddenly leaped from the ranks of the marchers and struck a man who had been standing only a few paces away from us. Perhaps he had made a hostile remark.
I saw him fall to the ground with blood streaming down his face and I heard him cry out. Our parents hurriedly drew us away from the scuffle, but they had not been able to stop us seeing the man bleeding. The image of him haunted me for days.
The horror it inspired in me was almost imperceptibly spiced with an intoxicating joy. "We want to die for the flag," the torch-bearers had sung . . . . I was overcome with a burning desire to belong to these people for whom it was a matter of death and life . . . . I wanted to escape from my childish, narrow life and I wanted to attach myself to something that was great and fundamental. 103
By appointing Hitler Chancellor of the Reich you have handed over our sacred German Fatherland to one of the greatest demagogues of all time. I prophesy to you that this evil man will plunge our Reich into the abyss and will inflict immeasurable woe on our nation. Future generations will curse you in your grave for this action. 104
Written by Walther Johann von Löpp
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