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Into the Darkness : An Uncensored Report from Inside the Third Reich at War 

by Lothrop Stoddard

1940

 

Chapter 23: Out of the Shadow

Returning from wartime Europe to America is a journey from darkness into light. Not until the war­torn Old World has sunk well below the ocean’s horizon do you breathe freely once more.

I came out of Europe the way I went in ­ via the Brenner Pass and Italy. It was essentially the reverse process to my entrance four months previous. The great difference was that, instead of mid­autumn, it was now the coldest winter in many years. I left Berlin on an evening of Arctic chill. The record cold wave was at its height. Frozen switches, iced signals, clogged steam­pipes, and a defective electric generator so disrupted the schedule of the usually smooth­ running Berlin­ Rome Express that the trip was marked by extreme discomfort and interminable delay.

Once over the Brenner, things went better. The great cold was left behind the mighty barrier of the Alps; so was the worst of that grim atmosphere of war whose depressing influence you do not fully realize until it no longer envelops you. When I finally stepped from my train at Genoa, my port of embarkation, I was greeted by a mild sea breeze. The salty tang of it was a foretaste of my ocean path towards home.

Genoa is the port of embarkation now for nearly all Americans returning homeward. Our neutrality law forbids American ships from touching at French or British ports, so Northern Italy is the nearest neutral exit from both Western and Central Europe. Accordingly, the United States Lines has instituted a regular service between Genoa and New York, and when I embarked on the Washington I found myself among compatriots who had been sojourning all the way from Britain to Russia and the Balkans.

This gave me a fine chance to compare notes with fellow­ Americans from many European lands, especially from England and France, about which countries I was most curious. The resident in wartime Germany is hermetically sealed from contacts across the battle­lines. So rigid is the veil of censorship that, in Germany, one gets only a vague and obviously distorted idea of the “other side.” Now, for the first time, I could discover how Englishmen and Frenchmen were talking and feeling. And I learned this, not from foreign propagandists, but from my own people.

Aboard the Washington every aspect of material living was balm to my strictly rationed self, from the superabundant food to cherished trifles like finding miniature cakes of soap in my bathroom and being handed paper clips of matches with each purchase of cigarettes. There are so many genial aspects of American life which we thoughtlessly take for granted until we are suddenly deprived of them and are plunged into alien surroundings where we have to fuss and plan and almost fight to get the bare necessities of existence. Even more deeply satisfying is the sense that you are among your own kind who are not worried and harassed and ulcerated by nationalistic hatreds. Yes,  it was great to be in the American atmosphere once more.

The End

———————————-
Chapter 2: Berlin Blackout
Chapter 3: Getting on with the Job
Chapter 4: Junketing Through Germany
Chapter 5: This Detested War
Chapter 6: Vienna and Bratislava
Chapter 7: Iron Rations
Chapter 8: A Berlin Lady Goes to Market
Chapter 9: The Battle of the Land
Chapter 10: The Labor Front
Chapter 11: The Army of the Spade
Chapter 12: Hitler Youth
Chapter 13: Women of the Third Reich
Chapter 14: Behind the Winter­Help
Chapter 15: Socialized Health
Chapter 16: In a Eugenics Court
Chapter 17: I See Hitler
Chapter 18: Mid­Winter Berlin
Chapter 19: Berlin to Budapest
Chapter 20: The Party
Chapter 21: The Totalitarian State
Chapter 22: Closed Doors
Chapter 23: Out of the Shadow

 ———————————-


PDF of this post (click to download or view): Into the Darkness – Chap 23
 PDF of complete book (click to download or view): Into the Darkness – All Chapters – Ver 1
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Version 4: Nov 28, 2014. Added PDF file (Ver 2) of complete book (Ver 1).
Version 3: Nov 27, 2014 – Added PDF of post.
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Version 1: Published May 11 2013 – Text and some pics added.
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Into the Darkness : An Uncensored Report from Inside the Third Reich at War 

by Lothrop Stoddard

Stoddard

1940

 

Chapter 22: Closed Doors

The foreign correspondent in wartime Germany often feels as though he were living in a vast wizard’s castle not especially well furnished and with many inconveniences. But he is hospitably received and well treated. Furthermore, the house ­rules are clearly explained to him by the guest ­warden who has him in charge. Over most of the premises he is free to roam at will.

But, as he ranges its interminable corridors, he discovers certain closed doors. Some of them are locked and bear notices strictly forbidding entrance. The correspondent knows that any attempt to break in will, at the very least, mean prompt expulsion from the castle. He will have committed a flagrant breach of those house­ rules to which he has agreed. Other doors, though shut, are not locked. If he peeks inside, his action will be regarded with disfavor and he may become suspect. Still other doors may be opened to him on special request, but the rooms within will be so shuttered and his inspection will be so carefully supervised that he will probably get a very imperfect glimpse of what is there. Finally, the guest­ wardens will tell him about certain rooms which he is not allowed to enter, though the correspondent will have his doubts concerning the accuracy of such accounts.

Under these circumstances the correspondent will naturally not get a complete picture of this wizard’s castle and its contents, though if he is observant and industrious he may see and hear quite a few things not intended for his eyes and ears. He will also piece out his fragmentary knowledge by chats with fellow­ guests and by snatches of gossip picked up or overheard from the servants. If he stays long enough, he will acquire a fairly clear idea of what it is all about, though there are a few mysteries that he presumably will never be able to unravel.

The undertone of wartime Germany was grim. This was most evident in Berlin and reached its climax at its official heart, in and about the Wilhelmstrasse. At night, especially, the effect was eery. I know it well, for I lived just around the corner and often traversed the famous thoroughfare in the late hours. After nightfall the west side of the interminably ­long block between Vossstrasse and Unter den Linden is closed to foot traffic. Red lights gave warning, backed by police and military guards in front of the Chancery, the Fuehrer’s residence, and other official buildings, including the Foreign Office. The east side, where walking was permitted, was also guarded. As I walked warily in the blackout, I would often glimpse the looming figure of a gigantic Schupo standing motionless as a statue in some recessed doorway. Across the street, sentries paced their beats with heavy, rhythmic tread. For the rest, silence, save when a pair met. Then I might catch an interchange of deep guttural salutations. Two or three small blue lights, spaced at intervals, indicated the entrance to Ministries. Closed motor­cars might be seen entering or leaving the Residence by its semi­circular drive. Despite the stringent blackout, an occasional ray of light from curtained windows revealed intense activity going on far into the night.

The whole atmosphere of the place was uncannily mysterious. I sensed that, like every passer­by, I was intently watched by many pairs of hidden eyes. This I proved the first time I stopped for a moment to bend down and tie a shoe­lace. Instantly, a beam of light from a powerful electric torch shot out from across the way, to see what I was up to. I purposely tried the same trick on subsequent occasions, with the same result. This sense of intent surveillance was hardly pleasant. I was glad to turn the corner onto the “Linden” and slip into my hotel.

The doors most tightly barred to us correspondents were the military and naval zones. This was natural, and nobody could legitimately complain about what every nation does in wartime. During my entire stay in Germany no correspondent was allowed to get anywhere near the West ­Wall, which is not a “wall” but what military men call a “position in depth” ­ a fortified zone extending back many miles from the frontier.

The other implacably closed door was that into the German­ occupied area known as the Governement ­General of Poland. Toward the close of the September Blitzkrieg campaign, a large party of journalists were taken to Poland on a tour of observation which had its climax with Hitler’s triumphant entry into Warsaw. Then the portals were slammed shut and triple ­barred. One American special correspondent, Kenneth Collings, did defy the rules and brought out an exciting story; but he had a very rough time of it and nearly got shot as a spy. Also he had to get out of Germany immediately thereafter.

Berlin buzzed with rumors about conditions in Poland, but I never talked with anyone who had actually been in Poland except Dr. Junod, the Red Cross official already mentioned, and a German whom I met casually on the train from Berlin to Vienna in the Christmas season. My chat with him was too brief to get much information, but he did show me a whole sheaf of special permits he needed there as manager of a factory which had been taken over by the Germans. They revealed an incredibly regimented life. He needed a permit (Ausweis) to be on the streets after 8.00 P.M.; to drive a car at all, and another to drive at night; also at least a dozen others, some of these being to get raw materials and shipping privileges. Jokingly, I asked him whether he didn’t need an Ausweis to kiss his wife. He laughed and said: “Not yet, but it may come to that!” Some of the rumors around Berlin were very lurid. One of the most persistent which went the journalistic rounds was that the Nazis were systematically killing off all troublesome Poles; that Gestapo and S.S. men went from village to village, rounding up those denounced by resident secret agents and machine ­gunning them into a common grave which the victims had been previously forced to dig. I mention this, not to assert its credibility, but to present a picture of the rumor and gossip which are passed around when authentic news is unobtainable. The general impression among foreign journalists in Berlin was that rough work was going on in Poland. If that was an unjust inference, it’s the Nazis’ own fault for keeping out reliable neutral observers who could have written objective, unbiased accounts.

So much for locked doors. Now for those, normally shut, but which you might enter under special circumstances. Outstanding in this category is the Protectorate of Bohemia ­Moravia. You need a special card to go there. I obtained one but never used it because I couldn’t take the time to make such a trip worth while. Any journalist who arrives in Prague chaperoned by the German authorities doesn’t see or learn much. He is thereby suspect, and no patriotic Czech will dare come near him. Even when you have proper introductions you must proceed cautiously in making your contacts, chiefly so as not to betray those you want to meet. And that means quite a long stay.

I got a certain amount of first­hand information from foreigners who had been there and on whom I could rely. Naturally, I cannot disclose their identity. They told me that the German army and regular civil functionaries had behaved fairly well and wanted to reconcile the Czech population by tactful treatment. Most of the troubles which occurred were due to the Party, especially to young local Nazis, many of whom grossly abused their authority. I was told that the student riots of late October were repressed with excessive severity and much cruelty. The number formally executed was probably not greatly in excess of that officially announced, but many were so badly beaten up by the S.S. that they died in consequence, while the number of those deported to concentration camps in Germany was very great.

I was likewise informed that the suppressed hatred of the Czechs,  especially toward the local Germans, was gruesome; that even the Czech women kept carving knives sharp to stick into the bellies of Teutonic neighbors if the right time ever came. My informants had heard that large quantities of small ­arms and machine­ guns were safely hidden in various parts of the Protectorate, making possible effective guerilla warfare, should the German armies be defeated at the front and the Reich show signs of cracking. However, the Czechs are a disciplined people, too canny to rise prematurely and thereby expose themselves to the terrible vengeance they know would be in store. Hence, though the Protectorate may be a potentially eruptive volcano, the fires are well banked and little should immediately take place.

Most interesting among the closed doors through which one may take a peek are those labeled Unrest and Jews. I have already remarked that, while militant discontent with the Nazi regime undoubtedly exists in Germany, it is probably not as widespread as is often alleged by exiles. Organized unrest has burrowed so deeply underground that foreigners know almost nothing tangible about it. A few long ­resident journalists seem to have direct contacts, but of course they cannot write on the subject; neither do they give out much specific information. This is wise, both for their own sakes and to avoid all possibility of implicating “inside” informants.

The most reliable information I got at first­hand on the condition of the Jews was from two Jewish families to which I bore introductions. One was formerly wealthy, the other had been well­ off. Both were living in reduced circumstances. Their properties were impounded and managed by quasi public institutions, though they received enough from the incomes to manage decently. At one of these homes I was surprised to meet “Aryans” of standing who expressed no apprehension in consequence of having kept up friendly relations with my hosts.

I was told that, while the situation of the 20,000 Jews still in Berlin was a hard and distressful one, there had been no organized violence against them since the great synagogue­ burning riots of November, 1938. Jews were occasionally beaten up or otherwise mistreated; several instances had occurred after the Munich attempt on Hitler’s life. But my informants said they thought such acts were due to the initiative of Party subordinates rather than to official policy.

The most difficult aspect of their existence arose from the continual limitations and discriminations which they suffered. The majority of stores, shops, and restaurants have entrance signs which read: Jews Not Wanted, or Jews Not Allowed to Enter. These prohibitions are widely enforced; so it is difficult for Jews to shop or get a meal away from home. They are, however, allowed to register with local tradesmen and legally to enter within certain hours. Jews are given regular food cards, but no clothing cards were issued to them while I was in Berlin.

All Jews must carry about with them a special identity­ card which must be produced whenever required by anyone authorized to demand it. They are not supposed to go to the central portions of the city, and I never saw one on the Wilhelmstrasse, Unter den Linden, or adjacent sections. Jews may not legally be out of their houses after 8.00 P.M.; nor can they go to ordinary places of amusement at any time.

The Jews naturally find such a life intolerable and long to emigrate. But that is most difficult because they can take almost no money or property with them, and other countries will not receive them lest they become public charges. Their greatest fear seemed to be that they might be deported to the Jewish “reservation” in southern Poland which the German Government is contemplating.

The average German seems disinclined to talk much to the foreign visitor about this oppressed minority. However, I gathered that the general public does not approve of the violence and cruelty which Jews have suffered. But I also got the impression that, while the average German condemned such methods, he was not unwilling to see the Jews go and would not wish them back again. I personally remember how widespread anti­Semitism was under the Empire, and I encountered it in far more noticeable form when I was in Germany during the inflation period of 1923. The Nazis therefore seem to have had a popular predisposition to work on when they preached their extreme anti­Semitic doctrines.

The prevailing attitude toward the Jews in present­ day Germany reminds me strongly of the attitude toward the Christian Greeks and Armenians in Turkey when I was there shortly after the World War. The Turks were then in a fanatically nationalistic mood; and, rightly or wrongly, they had made up their minds that the resident Greeks and Armenians were unas­similable elements which must be expelled if they were to realize their goal of a 100 per cent Turkish Nation­ State. To accomplish this, they were willing to suffer temporary economic difficulties of a serious kind. In traveling through Asia Minor I came to towns and villages where business was at a standstill, houses stood half­ finished, and fruit lay rotting on the ground, because Greek or Armenian traders, jobbers, and artisans had been driven out and there were no Turks competent to replace them. When I got to Ankara, the new Turkish capital in the heart of the Anatolian plateau, I took the matter up with Mustapha Kemal and other Nationalist leaders. In all cases, their answer was substantially the same.

Here was their line of argument:

We know what we are now undergoing, and what bad repercussions our policy may have on world public opinion. But we feel it is a vital national task. We believe that the Greeks and Armenians are aggressively alien elements, who monopolize many aspects of our national life. The more they prosper, the more harmful they become. By suddenly driving them out, we may have to suffer economically for ten, twenty, or even thirty years, until we have produced from our own people competent artisans and business men. What is that in the life of a nation? Under the circumstances, it is a price we are ready to pay.

In Nationalist Turkey, the determination to eliminate the Greeks and Armenians was motivated mainly by political and economic considerations. In Nazi Germany, the resolve to eliminate the Jews is further exacerbated by theories of race. The upshot, in Nazi circles, is a most uncompromising attitude. If this is not oftener expressed, the reason is because they feel that the issue is already decided in principle and that elimination of the Jews will be completed within a relatively short space of time. So, ordinarily, the subject does not arise. But it crops up at unexpected moments. For­ instance, I have been stunned at a luncheon or dinner with Nazis, where the Jewish question had not been even mentioned, to have somebody raise his glass and casually give the toast: Sterben Juden! ­ “May the Jews Die!

Can Germany hold out? That is the query endlessly debated whenever foreign observers chat together in wartime Germany. It’s a fascinating topic because it probably holds the key to the vital riddle of who will win the war. Germany lost the last war chiefly through the strangling effects of the Allied blockade which starved both the German people and German industry to the point of general collapse. If the new blockade works equally well, Germany is doomed. But if history does not repeat itself, then Germany may at the very least keep its present supremacy over Central and Eastern Europe. And that, in turn, spells a qualified German victory.

This isn’t news. It is a simple statement of fact known to every well­ informed person. I certainly realized its importance when I went to Germany to study the situation. And throughout the months spent there I did my best to get the answer. Among other things, I hobnobbed with the best ­informed neutral observers I could find ­ resident journalists from various countries,  diplomats, long ­established professional and business men. Many of these foreign residents were specialists with a wealth of technical information.

From what those men told me, plus my own studies and observations, I learned a lot. But I didn’t get the conclusive answer I sought. The evidence was usually fragmentary and often contradictory, while the experts differed violently among themselves. Some said that Germany’s situation was getting desperate and its outlook almost hopeless; others maintained that Germany could last indefinitely and had virtually won the game. Between the two extremes lay intermediate viewpoints. So I left Germany somewhat in the mood of Omar Khayyam who came out by the same door wherein he went.

However, though unable to offer an assured Yes or No to the riddle of German war­ prospects, I think it is possible to state the elements of the problem and fairly summarize the evidence. By setting forth what is definitely known and what can logically be inferred from the known facts, we will be in better position to draw reasonable conclusions and interpret the meaning of current happenings as they take place.

Ever since Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Germany has been rearming at an ever­ quickening tempo. The result has been the most tremendous piling up of war material that the world has ever seen. But even this huge rearmament program is only part of the story. Germany’s whole national life has been systematically put on a war footing. The Nazis frankly call it Wehrwirtschaft ­ a military economy.

An outstanding feature of war economics is secrecy. As far as possible, outsiders must be kept from finding out what goes on. So, from the start, any disclosure of information affecting the national interest has in Germany been deemed an act of treason, punishable by death. Thus every phase of German preparedness, military or otherwise, has been shrouded in mystery.

Under these circumstances we see how hard it is to get the facts. Such statistics as have been published are notoriously partial and unreliable. Take the available figures on German imports during recent years. It is an open secret that vast quantities of strategic raw materials and essential foodstuffs have been bought abroad for direct army account and have never been reported in official trade tables. It is likewise known that a large proportion of regular imports have gone into special reserves; but how much has never been disclosed.

Of course, since the start of the war no figures whatever have been published, so the mystery steadily deepens. That is the main reason why even the best ­informed foreign residents in Germany come to such widely differing conclusions on German ability to carry on the war against the strangling effects of the British blockade.

Although we are thus faced with many unknown or partly known factors, it seems nevertheless possible to reach conclusions which will hit somewhere near the truth. Under these limitations, I shall try to analyze Germany’s war situation. The analysis naturally falls under four main heads: (1) military; (2) industrial raw materials; (3) foodstuffs; (4) national psychology, usually termed morale.

It is on the military factor that foreign observers in Germany are in closest agreement. Nearly all of them are convinced that the German army is highly efficient and splendidly equipped. They likewise were agreed while I was there that so long as Germany continued to wage a defensive war on one front, the West Wall appeared to be impregnable to direct attack. That does not mean that the Allies could not drive in deep salients by sacrificing enough men and metal.

Incidentally, while I was in Germany, its full manpower had obviously not yet been mobilized. Everywhere I went, I noted great numbers of fit individuals who were not in uniform. Also, the munitions plants ran full blast throughout the quiet winter months ­ a fact I learned from unimpeachable information. This continuous piling up of munitions was a significant indication that reserves of essential raw materials remained ample. Bearing in mind the rapidity with which war material becomes obsolete, the munitions industry would have been unlikely to carry on at that rate if there had been any immediate danger of vital raw­ material shortages. Unless, of course, those munitions were earmarked for quick use on a major scale.

This brings us to one sharp difference of opinion I encountered on the military situation. Some foreign residents thought that Germany was strong enough to risk a great Western offensive in the spring or summer of 1940, either directly at the French Maginot Line or down through Holland and Belgium. That is certainly what high Nazis implied when they boasted confidently of their ability to wage a short war culminating in complete victory. However, most foreign observers told me they thought the odds were distinctly against the success of such a venture, especially in the war’s first year. Such an offensive, the most tremendous military operation ever undertaken, would entail not only prodigious loss of life but an equally prodigious consumption of war material. These objectors did not think Germany as yet possessed the economic reserves, especially of oil and steel, to carry through a complete Western offensive to a successful conclusion. At best, it would mean a supreme gamble, with speedy collapse as the penalty for failure. They therefore concluded that, unless Germany was economically in such bad shape that she could not hold out long even on the defensive, the High Command would be unlikely to risk everything on a single thunder stroke.

The obvious conclusion to be drawn from these conflicting viewpoints was that, if Germany launched a Western offensive in the current year, it would indicate either great strength or great weakness.

All this emphasizes the vital importance of the second factor ­ industrial raw materials. The tragedy of Finland dramatically shows that the finest army is helpless without abundant supplies of every kind. In the same way, the German army would soon be defeated if its sinews of war should be cut.

So far as industrial plant and equipment are concerned, Germany seems amply able to supply its armies, maintain its civilian population above the destitution ­line, and do a considerable amount of foreign trade. An important part of Hitler’s gigantic preparedness program has been the systematic development of heavy industry, which is far ahead of what it was in the last war. By including Austria and Czechoslovakia, to say nothing of occupied Poland, we find that Greater Germany’s plant capacity is approximately 50 per cent greater than in 1913.

Factories, however, can no more run without raw materials than armies can fight without supplies. And modern industry needs a wide variety of materials drawn literally from the ends of the earth. Foremost on the list stand coal, iron, and oil.

Germany has plenty of coal within her borders, while the seizure of Poland’s rich coalfields, gives her a good surplus for export. But iron is a grave problem, while oil is undoubtedly her greatest weakness.

Germany lost her only high ­grade iron mines when she ceded Alsace ­Lorraine to France at the close of the last war. Recently the Reich has been developing various low­ grade iron deposits as part of its famous Four Year Plan for industrial self­ sufficiency. Collectively known as the Hermann Goering Works, these enterprises are economically wasteful; but since they are frankly a war measure, costs are a minor matter. These new works are just getting into full production. Details are a State secret, though it is believed their output will be considerable. Still, they cannot supply more than a portion of Germany’s needs, and their product needs mixing with high­ grade ores to yield the best steel. A domestic source of high­ grade ore exists in Austria, but the field is too small to be of major importance.

The German Government is combing the country for scrap. During my stay in Berlin I often saw workmen removing iron railings even from the fronts of private homes, while the public was told to turn over every bit of old metal to official junk collectors. This does not prove that Germany is today faced with a crucial iron shortage. It does mean, however, that the Government is looking ahead and is taking no chances.

There can be scant doubt that the Reich has built up large reserves of iron, as of other vital raw materials. Trade statistics show that, during the three years before the war, imports of iron ore increased notably, while imports of scrap and pig iron jumped 300 per cent. Furthermore, as already remarked, there is the likelihood of large purchases made abroad for direct official account which would not appear on the commercial records. The chances are, therefore, that Germany began the war with enough iron on hand to meet its needs for a considerable time.

Still, Mars, the War God, has a voracious appetite for iron, while German industry, running at top speed, requires much iron and steel for replacements. This is especially true of the overworked German railways. Shortly before the war broke out, a large construction program was started to remedy acute shortages of locomotives and rolling­ stock, and it is unlikely that this was entirely shelved.

Where is Germany to find the necessary iron supplies for all this? Under the most optimistic estimates, the Reich cannot cover more than half its needs from domestic sources. The balance must come from abroad.

With the British blockade barring the ocean lanes, the only accessible large ­scale foreign source is Sweden. Even before the war, Sweden’s extensive high ­grade iron mines furnished Germany with nearly half of its imported iron ore. Obviously, this vital source of supply must at all costs be maintained. When I was in Germany, officials clearly intimated that Germany would unquestionably go to any lengths if Sweden stopped or notably lessened the flow of iron ore upon which German industry and the German war ­machine so largely depend. This is a major factor in Germany’s invasion of Scandinavia which began as these pages are being written.

Perhaps, in the long run, Russia can help cover the Reich’s iron deficit, if German technicians succeed in putting Russia on an efficiency basis, as is reported they are now doing. However, that is what Germans call “future music,” presumably some two years away. Meanwhile, it is interesting to note that Germany still gets iron from Luxemburg. Even more interesting are reports that some iron from French Lorraine finds it way to the Reich, in exchange for German coke which the French iron mines need for effective operation. This contraband trade apparently runs through neutral Belgium and is winked at by both sides. Though the French Government has denied these reports, they are not improbable. Such exchanges occurred in the last war, and are an historical commonplace. Even across the hottest battle­ lines, barter usually occurs when the mutual benefits are sufficiently apparent.

Germany’s iron and steel problem, though serious, does not seem to be insoluble. Anyhow, an acute shortage is unlikely to develop in the immediate future.

We now come to the crucial problem of oil, the weakest spot in Germany’s industrial armor. I understand that the Reich’s normal peacetime consumption of motor fuel averages between five and six million tons. During the past few years Germany has made herculean efforts to reduce her dependence upon foreign supplies. From elaborate borings under Government subsidy, oil fields were discovered which stepped up production of domestic natural crude by at least 300 per cent. Germany likewise produces large amounts of benzol, a byproduct of coke. Most important of all, new chemical processes have made possible large­scale extraction of oil from Germany’s extensive deposits of lignite, or brown coal. It is estimated that, from these combined sources, Germany at the start of the war was producing motor fuels to an annual total of something like three million tons ­ about half her peacetime needs.

Germany is now at war, and if her war machine were operating at full capacity, oil consumption would be stepped up to at least twelve million tons per annum.

But, until the invasion of Scandinavia at least, the oil ­devouring Blitzkrieg occurred only at the start and ceased when the brief Polish campaign was over. Thenceforth, the war became a Sitzkrieg, which took very little oil. Meanwhile the most rigid economies have been practiced. Private automobiles no longer run; buses and trucks operate on a mixture containing some 30 per cent of potato alcohol, while a vast fleet of laid ­up merchant ships burns no liquid fuel whatever. It is reliably estimated that, under such circumstances, Germany’s oil consumption ran below the normal peacetime level.

But this strange sit ­down war could not go on indefinitely, so Germany might at any moment be faced with oil consumption on a tremendous scale. Is Germany prepared to meet the strain? The Reich has undoubtedly accumulated large oil reserves. For years her imports have notably exceeded current needs, bearing in mind her domestic output. In 1936, imports totaled 4,200,000 tons; in 1937, 4,300,000; in 1938 they rose to nearly 5,000,000, and for the first half of 1939 they ran over 2,700,000 tons, indicating that some 5,500,000 would have been imported if war had not broken out in September.

Those are the official trade figures, which do not exclude the possibility of further imports on direct official account. However, it is improbable that these could have been very large. Oil is harder to conceal and store than most other materials. While in Germany I heard rumors of vast hidden pools, but I am inclined to disbelieve them.

Whatever the size of the Reich’s oil reserves, the blockade dealt a heavy blow by cutting off imports from North and South America, which averaged 80 per cent of the total. It is interesting to note that, in 1938, Rumania supplied Germany with only 700,000 tons of oil, while Russia contributed the insignificant item of 33,000 tons. Yet it is precisely on those two countries that Germany must rely if she is to avoid an oil famine that would probably be fatal.

Rumania, of itself, can hardly solve the problem. The Rumanian oil fields are on the decline. In 1938, Rumanian oil exports to all countries were less than 5,000,000 tons, and those exports were allocated by definite agreements not merely with Germany but with Britain, France, Italy, and Balkan countries as well. Despite much strong ­arm diplomacy, Germany has as yet been unable to get Rumania to grant the Reich more than its agreed allotment of 1,200,000 tons. Incidentally, very little Rumanian oil reached Germany during the severe winter months when the Danube was frozen and barge navigation became impossible.

Should Germany invade and conquer Rumania, its oil fields would be at the Reich’s disposal. Such an invasion, however, even though successful, might on balance do Germany more harm than good. Oil wells and refineries would presumably be destroyed long before the German armies could seize them, and it is estimated that it would take a year to get the wells into production again, while refineries might take longer still. Besides, the whole Balkan region might be plunged into war, which is the last thing Germany wants at the present time, since she would thereby lose a major source of foodstuffs and raw materials, at least for a considerable period.

The key to Germany’s oil dilemma seems to lie in Russia. The Soviet’s Caspian oil fields centering around Baku are among the richest in the world, with an average yield of thirty million tons. Most of this is consumed in Russia itself, but there is a large surplus, much of which might be shipped to Germany. The chief difficulty is transportation, either across the Black Sea and up the Danube, or by rail overland a vast distance and at great expense. There is also the possibility that Anglo­ French fleets and armies, allied to the Turks, may cut the Black Sea route, and even destroy or capture the Caspian oil fields themselves. That would indeed be a body ­blow to German hopes. In that case, their only feasible Russian source would be the Polish oil fields of the Russian­ occupied zone, whose annual output is a scant 500,000 tons.

Germany faces other problems in raw materials, though none so serious as that of oil. Russia can furnish manganese ore in abundance ­ given time. Copper, lead, chrome, and bauxite (the basis of aluminum) are suppliable from Central Europe and the Balkans. Ample zinc has been acquired with conquered Poland. Nickel, tin, and some rare alloys have been irrevocably cut off by the Allied blockade, except the nickel mines of northern Finland; but it is well­ nigh certain that Germany anticipated those contingencies by storing amounts sufficient for her probable needs. A rubber shortage is largely averted by German synthetic buna.

Thus, unless the German war­ machine stalls for lack of oil, it looks as though the Reich could weather the blockade, so far as industrial war materials are concerned, until communications with Russia are perfected and its huge eastern neighbor gets into fuller production a year or two hence. Naturally, this implies that Russo ­German relations continue on their present footing. Should Stalin abandon his pro-­German policy, the entire situation would change and Germany’s raw­ material prospects would become dark indeed.

Now for the food factor. We have already covered that phase so fully in preceding pages that little more need here be said. Reliable information indicates that the almost unprecedented cold of the past winter has damaged or spoiled a considerable proportion of the Reich’s stored supplies of potatoes, cabbage, and other vegetables. That is a serious blow. Besides upsetting the schedule of food ­rationing for human beings, it will make far more difficult the maintenance of the Reich’s vast pig population, which is fed largely on a potato and sugar­beet diet. If a large percentage of Germany’s pigs has to be slaughtered, that will in turn worsen the fat situation, which is Germany’s most acute dietary problem.

We now reach the fourth and final factor in our analysis of Germany’s war situation and prospects. This is the element of morale. It is the most difficult of them all to assess, because national psychology lies in the realm of the “imponderables” which can be neither statistically weighed nor numerically tabulated. With so many unknown or uncertain quantities to deal with, the best we can do would seem to be the drawing up of a sort of balance ­sheet, listing the respective assets and liabilities.

To outward seeming, the Third Reich is as formidably prepared psychologically as it is in arms. For seven long years, Adolf Hitler and Paul Joseph Goebbels, acknowledged masters of propaganda, have systematically forged a naturally disciplined people into an amazingly responsive psychic unison. The result has been that, behind the world’s mightiest military machine, we discern an even more formidable psychic mechanism ­ an entire people, 80,000,000 strong, welded into a living juggernaut of Mars, wherein each individual has his designated place and functions as a regimented unit in a complex synthesis such as perhaps only Germans can devise and run. Human history has probably never seen its equal ­ and its efficiency has already been dramatically proven. No one can have studied wartime Germany at first­hand without being deeply impressed. Yet mature reflection suggests that so prodigious and intensive an effort cannot be without its price. That price is psychic strain. The German people have been toughened and hardened by a generation of adversity. In the last seven years they have been psychologically trained down fine, like a boxer preparing for a championship bout or a football squad for the big game of the season. The question is, Are they absolutely “in the pink,” or are they a bit over trained? As I watched the average German’s dull reflexes, I could not help wondering whether I did not behold a people physically still vigorous but spiritually tired.

What the answer is, I do not know. Probably the future alone can tell. Personally, I think that German morale is strong ­ but brittle. To vary the simile a bit, I believe it is like a rubber band, which can be stretched a long way without showing a sign of weakness ­ and then snaps! To show what I mean, let’s see what happened in the last war. Down to its very end, German psychology was extraordinary. To avoid any appearance of partiality, let me quote a British writer who studied this very matter during those crucial years.

Says Harold Nicolson:

I remember how, in the last war, the magnificent morale of the German people as a whole rendered it difficult for us at any given moment accurately to assess the state of German public opinion. A special branch of our Foreign Office was created for the sole purpose of ascertaining the true conditions within Germany. This branch interviewed neutral visitors, scanned every organ of the German press, analyzed the letters from home that were found on dead or captured Germans.  Not only did these letters contain no hints of any weakening in the national will, but the women who wrote to their men at the front very rarely complained of the fierce ordeal to which they were being subjected. It was only when the final crash occurred that we learned how terrible the conditions had really been.

Throughout those four ghastly years the morale of the German people was superb. Their trust in their leaders remained, unto the very last moment, unshaken; their obedience to their government was uniform; no word escaped them of the sufferings which they were being made to endure.

And Mr. Nicolson concludes:

It will be the same during this war. I am not among those who believe in some sudden uprising of the German people. It is not the width and depth of German morale which we can question. What we can question is its duration.

I substantially agree with this British commentator as to the existence of a definite and sudden breaking­ point in German morale, though I think it as yet far away. Where I disagree with him is in his conclusion. Mr. Nicolson believes that history will surely repeat itself; that if the Germans are confronted with a hopeless situation, they will throw up the sponge and surrender unconditionally, as they did in 1918. This may, of course, occur. Yet, from my stay in Germany, I envisage a more terrifying possibility.

As I traveled through Germany, I frequently saw a slogan painted on factory dead­walls. It read: Wir Kapitulieren Nie! The English whereof is: “No Surrender!” In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler asserts that Germany’s collapse in the last war was due to a “stab in the back” struck by Communists, pacifists, and others “unworthy the name of German.” This historic version has been hammered home until it is devoutly believed by all Nazis, including virtually the whole rising generation. They are systematically taught that Germany is unbeatable. Yet they are also taught that if, by some almost inconceivable mischance, Germany goes down, everything else should go down too, because life thereafter would simply not be worth while.

This catastrophic doctrine can be best explained to American readers as “The Policy of Samson.” To Germans, it might be more intelligible as “The Spirit of Hagen the Grim.” Let me explain what I mean, first by an episode from my own experience, and then from a sally into Teutonic folklore.

In that depressing German summer of 1923 I met a group of men who gave themselves the seemingly paradoxical title of “National Bolshevists.” They looked most unlikely candidates for the part, because they were typical Prussian army officers, monocles and all. Yet they were dead in earnest. Here, in substance, is what they told me, referring to the “passive resistance” campaign then being waged against the French invasion of the Ruhr:

We know what France wants ­ to smash the Reich. And France may succeed. But even though the Reich vanishes, the German people remains. And the Germans would then collectively become a modern Samson; unable to free himself, yet strong enough to disrupt and destroy. Should this modern Samson bring down the temple of Europe, he will bury all European nations beneath its ruins.

I have not forgotten that conversation with desperate men. Neither do I forget the Niebelungenlied, probably the clearest revelation of the primitive Teutonic folk­soul. Richard Wagner has immortalized it in his Ring operas, which Adolf Hitler has proclaimed the supreme musical expression of Germanic genius. Now, in the Niebelungenlied, the “front­stage” hero is Siegfried the Glorious. But there is another outstanding figure, equally symbolic. This is Hagen the Grim. Hagen it is who, from fanatic loyalty, kills Siegfried and ultimately precipitates that general destruction termed Goetterdaemmerung ­ “The Twilight of the Gods.” Whether, in the last extremity, the German people will, or can, loose a general orgy of destruction, I do not know. But I think that it is possible. I certainly gleaned some dread undertones during my stay in the Third Reich. Two of the highest Nazis I interviewed hinted plainly that if Germany found herself with her back to the wall, they would not hesitate to precipitate general chaos.

However, despite this furor Teutonicus, there would seem to be some method in the madness. Most Germans are unwilling to admit even the possibility of defeat. Those who do, couple it with remarks which amount to some such phrase as:

If we don’t win, there will be no victor.

What that means is about as follows:

If this war is fought to the bitter end, all Europe will be plunged into chaotic ruin. Then, with everybody down in the ditch together, we Germans, with our innate sense of organization and discipline, willingness to work hard, and knack of pulling together, can lift ourselves out of the ditch quicker than anyone else.

The moral whereof was, of course, that, no matter what might immediately happen, the Germans were bound to win in the long run.

Thus, ‘twould seem, hope springs eternal in the Hagen breast!

 
———————————-
 
 
Chapter 2: Berlin Blackout
Chapter 3: Getting on with the Job
Chapter 4: Junketing Through Germany
Chapter 5: This Detested War
Chapter 6: Vienna and Bratislava
Chapter 7: Iron Rations
Chapter 8: A Berlin Lady Goes to Market
Chapter 9: The Battle of the Land
Chapter 10: The Labor Front
Chapter 11: The Army of the Spade
Chapter 12: Hitler Youth
Chapter 13: Women of the Third Reich
Chapter 14: Behind the Winter­Help
Chapter 15: Socialized Health
Chapter 16: In a Eugenics Court
Chapter 17: I See Hitler
Chapter 18: Mid­Winter Berlin
Chapter 19: Berlin to Budapest
Chapter 20: The Party
Chapter 21: The Totalitarian State
Chapter 22: Closed Doors
Chapter 23: Out of the Shadow
 

 ———————————-

 
 
 

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Into the Darkness : An Uncensored Report from Inside the Third Reich at War 

by Lothrop Stoddard

Stoddard

1940

 

Chapter 21: The Totalitarian State

We have just surveyed the Party. in the light of what we there saw, we can now more intelligently examine its relation to the State. Furthermore, we may observe the relations of both State and Party to certain aspects of German life not previously discussed, such as Law, Crime, Finance, Business, and Religion.

Before so doing, however, I will venture a few words of caution. Much of what I am about to say is so strange and so repellent to our mode of thought that the reader will very likely find himself in a sort of Alice­ in­ Wonderland realm of ideas, wherein almost everything seems upside ­down from his point of view. He will therefore be tempted to dismiss the whole business as either hypocritical camouflage or arrant nonsense.

That, however, would be a shortsighted attitude.

After months of intensive study and innumerable conversations with representative Nazis, high and low in the Party scale, I am convinced that the “Old Guard,” at any rate, are for the most part, fanatical zealots. If the Nazi thesis were a dialectic screen hiding mere lust for power and self, it would never have converted so large a portion of the traditionally honest, idealistic German people. If the Nazi leaders were just a band of cynical adventurers, with tongue in cheek and wholly “on the make,” it would be far easier to deal with them. Yet, whatever may be their aims, they are quite unscrupulous in their methods. Hitler has proclaimed, times without number, that the end justifies the means, and his disciples consistently follow that frank gospel. The Nazis are thorough going propagandists ­ the cleverest I have ever come up against. They have evolved a propaganda system which is all­ pervasive, and at its head stands Dr. Goebbels, generally recognized as the greatest master of the subtle art that our epoch has produced. Nazi spokesmen will paint verbal pictures for you which may sound alluring. When I listened to them, I kept firmly in the back of my mind the thought that I must take nothing for granted. I knew in advance that the speakers would not hesitate to overstress or suppress, and that the upshot might be something which, though literally true, would be a partial and distorted one.

However, just because they do not hesitate to present matters in propagandist fashion, we should not jump to the conclusion that there is nothing solid behind the presentation. There is clever intelligence in the Party, and lots of painstaking thought has been devoted to elaborating its program and perfecting the ideas upon which the program is based. National Socialism is not a mere farrago of nonsense; somehow it hangs together ­ provided you accept its premises. That’s the trouble with most argumentation. People ignore or slide over premises and then wrangle bitterly over conclusions.

With this little caveat, or admonition, let us proceed.

Nazi political theory stems from an intimate union of four distinct elements, each of which is conceived by them in a special (and, to us, highly unfamiliar) sense. They are: Folk, State, Party, and Leader. We have already mentioned two of these basic factors: the Gemeinschaft, the organic unity of a people founded on community of blood; and the Fuehrerprinzip, the principle of Supreme Leadership, incarnated in Adolf Hitler.

In Nazi eyes, the Gemeinschaft concept is best expressed by the word Volksgemeinschaft; literally, Folk­ Community. Note the difference between this and our idea of a nation. To us, a nation means the sum total of all persons now living in the territory of a sovereign State who owe allegiance to it. The Nazi Folk or People differs from the traditional nation both in time and in space. Having a racial basis, its living members are links in a vital chain which includes both the dead and the unborn. Furthermore, all its blood­ brothers are organically members, even though they live far from the political center of the Folk. Thus, persons of German blood throughout the world are presumed to have a sort of mystic tie with the Third Reich, no matter what their technical citizenship. On the other hand, resident Jews are not, and cannot become, full ­fledged Reich citizens. They are merely Reich subjects.

As for the Party, it is officially deemed as;

the incorporation of the German conception of the State and is indissolubly bound up with the State.

But note also this:

The Party does not owe its position to the State; it exists in its own right. Actually the present State existed ideally in the Party before it was established in fact.

Lastly, the Party is itself incarnated and sublimated in the person of its supreme Fuehrer.

To Americans, these are, of course, strange concepts. To show the extent to which Nazi thinking differs from ours, take the title I have given this Chapter. To my mind, The Totalitarian State is the best way to characterize for American readers a regime which controls, commands, and directs everybody and everything within its supreme authority. But Nazis don’t like the term, and Dr. Erich Schinnerer, a specialist on Nazi jurisprudence, registers his objection as follows:

The relation between People and State shows how false it is to characterize the National Socialist State as a totalitarian State. A State which itself works for an end and is not an end in itself cannot in any sense be called a totalitarian State, in which the center of gravity has been shifted to the disadvantage of the individual. In such case the defenseless individual is confronted by an all ­powerful State. But the National Socialist State exists to serve the People and therefore each member. Each German is a member of the whole and therewith called upon to co­operate in the life of the State. The term, totality, properly applies to the National Socialist Weltanschauung, which is embodied in the whole people and activates every branch of national existence.

How are we going to reconcile such assertions with self­ evident facts? As I see the matter, it is just one more instance of what I have repeatedly pointed out in these pages: the wide discrepancy between theory and practice in the Third Reich. And the reason for that is clear. National Socialism is a revolution which is still in the emergency stage. Even though this emergency may have been largely self­ made, it nevertheless exists. Unless conditions become easier, we may expect a continued regime of practical martial law, with most of the fine theories put away in moth­balls.

Anyhow, the Third Reich is a completely co­ordinated and utterly unified State, wherein every trace of the old Federalism which existed under the Empire and persisted in modified form under the Weimar Republic has been swept away. The Federal States have been abolished. In their place are Gauen, or provinces, which designedly cut across State lines with the avowed intention of making the inhabitants forget their historic local attachments. That was what the French revolutionists did when they abolished the provinces of royal France and cut the country up into Departments. This was done so arbitrarily that the French Departments have never developed much vitality. The Nazis claim that they have avoided this mistake by laying out each Province as a logical region based on a combination of history, geography, economics, culture, and common sense.

Dr. Wilhelm Frick, Minister of the Interior, is responsible for the transformation of Germany’s internal administrative set­up which has taken place under the Nazi regime. Dr. Frick is much older than his colleagues, though he does not look his 63 years with his lithe, spare body, and alert attitude. Furthermore, he has behind him a long career in the Government service dating back to the Empire. The administrative remolding of Germany is thus in experienced hands. His motto is that of all Nazis: One Folk, One Reich, One Fuehrer! The logical application of the basic principles just discussed is perhaps most evident in the field of jurisprudence, especially on its criminal side. All legal differences between different parts of Germany were promptly abolished and a uniform procedure established. Far more important was the change in the spirit and character of the law itself.

That profound change is well explained by its author, Dr. Franz Guertner, Minister of Justice, who says:

National Socialism looks upon the community of the nation as an organization which has its own rights and duties, and whose interests come before those of the individual. When we speak of the nation, we do not confine ourselves to the generation to which we happen to belong, but extend that term so as to comprise the sum­ total of the generations which have preceded us and those that will come after us. This view has found expression in the National Socialist doctrine: Gemeinnutz vor Eigennutz, ­ The Common Weal before individual advantage. It dominates National Socialist policy, and its natural corollary is that the rights of the individual must be subordinated to those of the community. The protection enjoyed by individuals is not based on the assumption that their particular rights are sacrosanct and inviolable, but rather on the fact that all of them are regarded as valuable members of the national community, and therefore deserve protection. … National Socialist ideas on justice thus differ fundamentally from those which prevailed under the preceding regime.

Some Nazi ideas of justice do, indeed, seem to “differ fundamentally,” not only from those in Germany under the Weimar Republic but from those today in force elsewhere. In the world at large, the accepted idea is that legal codes have two basic functions: to regulate human relations and to protect the individual citizen against arbitrary official action. The first is embodied in civil and criminal law, the second in bills of rights. Both of these Nazi jurisprudence throws into the discard. Any act deemed deserving of punishment may be dealt with under the “unwritten law,” described as “the healthy sense of justice of the German people.” The penalty is meted out “by analogy” with those in the existing code. The aim is to replace the former concept: “No punishment except through law,” with the novel dictum: “No crime without its punishment.” Also, punishment may be retroactive. This has been especially common in political cases, where persons have been condemned by Nazi courts for acts done under the Weimar Republic which were not then illegal. Likewise, the definition of treason has been greatly expanded, and such cases are dealt with by the dread “People’s Tribunal,” whose proceedings are secret and whose judgments are usually the death penalty. In the Third Reich, political offenses are deemed the greatest crimes, and are dealt with most severely. No safeguards exist in such cases for the individual citizen. The Nazi concept that the collectivity must at all costs be safeguarded here attains its logical conclusion.

In the sphere of ordinary criminal law, Nazi justice, however severe, has undoubtedly got noteworthy results. Under the Weimar Republic, crime was widespread. Old American residents of Berlin have told me about the conditions which then prevailed. Burglaries, holdups, and petty thieving were common. The poorer quarters of Berlin were unsafe for well­ dressed pedestrians at night.

Today, Berlin is one of the safest cities in the world for even the most prosperous ­appearing person. The general blackout makes no difference. I remember how Dr. Froelich laughed when I asked him about this.

You bet our streets are safe,” he said. “And I’ll tell you why. Any holdup or robbery during the blackout hours is punished with death. The case comes before a special court, and two hours after a verdict of guilty, the offender’s head is off on the guillotine!

Scanning the papers for local items during my residence in Berlin, I found that statement was no exaggeration. During my entire stay, I caught only a few instances of holdup cases, mostly bag ­snatchings at subway entrances by young hoodlums who were caught in every instance save one. Holdup cases seem to be given a fair trial, judging by a case I read about which concerned a drunken man who accosted passers­by and ordered them to hand over their money. The first “victim” laughingly pushed the wavering inebriate aside, thinking it a bad joke. The second person accosted, a woman, screamed, and brought a policeman promptly to the scene. At the trial, a specialist on alcoholism reported that the culprit was too drunk to realize what he was doing. So he got off with a prison sentence instead of losing his head.

One reason why there is so little wartime crime is that, the very first day war broke out, the Government started a general round­ up of all persons with noteworthy criminal records, who were thereupon removed from circulation in concentration ­camps for the duration of the war. This was merely an extension of the indeterminate detention of habitual offenders which Himmler referred to when I interviewed him. The Nazis see no reason why society should be plagued by persons who have demonstrated their chronic inability to avoid committing offenses. And they stay in concentration ­camps for life, unless the camp authorities are convinced that they are reformed. The Nazis are robust pragmatists.

Nazi achievements in finance and industry are generally regarded as deep, dark mysteries abroad. To me, the answer is very simple: An absolute dictatorship over an industrious, resourceful people. That is the basis of everything that has happened. Let’s see how it has worked out in detail.

First, how did they get the money for a colossal rearmament program, coupled with other expenditures on an equally lavish scale? Easy enough. “Money,” in the sense of a national currency as distinguished from actual gold and silver, is anything a Government says it is­ so long as the people will accept it as such. The Nazi Government said the Reichsmark was the sole legal tender, and the policeman on the corner stood ready to enforce that decree in every case. There was no alternative, because no German could legally export his marks and turn them into foreign currencies; neither could he hoard dollars or pounds sterling, because whatever foreign currency he held must be promptly turned into the treasury in exchange for marks at the official rate. Anyone trying to dodge those rules flirted with the death penalty.

The only way the rules could have been nullified would have been a general popular refusal to accept the official tokens in ordinary transactions. That would have spelled rebellion; and this in turn could have occurred only through a general breakdown of confidence, not merely in the value of the currency but also in the whole Nazi regime.

An important factor which has predisposed Germans to retain confidence in the Reichsmark is their general monetary attitude. The terrible inflation of 1923 which reduced the value of the old mark to zero, destroyed in German minds faith in money. Henceforth they regarded the currency as a token of value ­ what economists term “the right of action” whereby desirable property of all kinds can be obtained.

Of all this the Nazi rulers were well aware. They knew that the one thing which would immediately shake public confidence would be to start the printing­ presses and turn out a flood of money, thereby precipitating a currency inflation similar to that of 1923, which remained a horror in German minds.

The Nazis foresaw another danger as soon as their huge spending program got fairly under way. This was a credit inflation. If the economic law of supply and demand were allowed free play, prices would go sky ­high, and the Reichsmark’s purchasing­ power would drastically decline. So they clamped on a complete price­ system. In previous Chapters we saw how wages, salaries,  goods, and materials are kept in line, and how everybody knows in advance just about how much they will take in and pay out. So money and prices were both kept stable in relation to each other.

How did the Nazis actually finance their ambitious projects with neither currency nor price inflation? They did it in a number of ways. Fluid capital was regimented and either invested according to orders or diverted into Government loans. Profits were skimmed off by drastic taxation. Above all, consumption was kept down and living standards were lowered by what I have called a process of reverse inflation. I have described the way Germans can find fewer and fewer desirable things to buy with their money except life’s bare necessities.

The upshot has been that the German people have themselves financed astounding expenditures by literally taking it out of their own hides. But a heavy price has naturally had to be paid, and this price has become rapidly heavier, especially in the last two years. By 1938, evidence accumulated that the furious pace of Nazi Wehrwirtschaft (really War ­Economy) was running into the economic law of diminishing returns and was likewise entailing serious physical and psychological over strain in every class of society. We saw this in our surveys of the peasantry, the industrial workers, women, and youth. We can observe the same symptoms when we view another important figure, the business man.

How the Nazis regard business and have fitted it into their co­-ordinated scheme is authoritatively set forth by Dr. Wilhelm Bauer, one of the head officials in this field. He says:

The basis for all Government intervention in business in Germany is to be found in the National ­Socialist conception of the relation between business and the State. According to our theory, business is subordinated to the State. Formerly, it was believed that the fate of the State and of the nation lay in business, for it was said that business was of such great importance and so powerful that it controlled the State and determined State policies. In the National­ Socialist State the relation between business and State is just the contrary. Today the State or State policy controls or rules business. …

This means that the State is not concerned with economic conditions as long as they do not conflict with the welfare of the nation. The principle of private initiative has been maintained. However, where it seems necessary to bring business into line with the welfare of the nation, the State will not hesitate to intervene and direct business into the desired channels. In Germany, contrary to the usual belief, we have no ‘planned economy,’ but rather a ‘directed’ economy if I may use such an expression.

A “directed economy” seems to me a good phrase which well describes the way things have gone with business in the Third Reich. Unlike Communists, Nazis are not obsessed by dogma; neither are they enamored of logic. Their aim is maximum efficiency for their cause, and they will not hesitate to do seemingly inconsistent things if they think this best calculated to get what they are after. They have no theoretical objection to private business, and they realize it will not function without profits. But only such business as benefits the State by being privately run is allowed to remain in private hands. As for dividends, they are limited to about 6 per cent. Taxation plus price­ controls make it hard for any business to pay more than that. However, when a business does manage to jump those hurdles, excess profits are either siphoned off into Government loans or reinvested as officialdom directs. Meanwhile the average business man is so regimented and so increasingly enmeshed in minute regulations and general red­ tape that he feels himself virtually a cog in a machine. This trend has been greatly accentuated since the beginning of the war. Like everyone else, the business man is “in the army now.” Business men obviously do not like either their present status or the economic trend, which moves towards an ever ­increasing degree of socialization. But they feel helpless and are cagey in expressing themselves. None of those I talked to would say very much. Here is a sort of composite report on those conversations:

German business, though closely controlled, still gives room for private initiative and profit making. Controlled capitalism best expresses what now exists in the Third Reich. That, however, probably represents an advanced stage of a trend which is world wide, since orthodox capitalism seems everywhere in rapid decline. One good feature in Germany is that class ­antagonism has been greatly reduced; employers and workers both have their rights, and are kept up to their respective duties and responsibilities. The war is especially deplorable from the business aspect. If long continued, it must involve a rapid sinking of living ­standards which will entail the gravest economic consequences. However, a total collapse of the economic structure is unlikely, because in Germany today everything is closely co­ordinated. The outlook for private business is thus not bright.

It is a noteworthy fact that I sensed much more latent discontent in business circles than I did among workers and peasants. Fritz Thyssen’s flight from the Reich and his open breach with the Nazi regime may be symptomatic of what other big business leaders inwardly feel.

However, I think it unlikely that they will follow Thyssen’s example. Most business men presumably share the belief, so general in Germany today, that defeat in this war would spell the subjugation and ruin of their country. Furthermore, they believe that defeat would be followed by either Communism or chaos; and from both eventualities they have everything to lose. The impasse between the Government and the church is inherently the most serious in German life today. It cuts very deep, involving as it does a clash between two sharply contrasted ideals. It far transcends ordinary policies. Among extremists in both camps it arouses intense emotion and provokes attitudes which seemingly cannot be reconciled.

Unfortunately I have little to say on this important subject, because I had neither the time nor the opportunity to investigate it properly. To be sure, I have read background literature, but to attempt a discussion of the problem on that alone would not fall within the purpose of this book.

There are, however, a few highlights on the struggle between the Government and the church which I should like to mention. To begin with, like other aspects of the Third Reich, little of the struggle appears on the surface. The churches are open and are well ­filled, with no overt hindrance on attendance or services. The official attitude is that succinctly expressed by Herr Himmler in the interview he accorded me:

We never interfere with matters of religious dogma.

Indeed, when you try to discuss the religious question with Nazis, they are apt to wave it aside as an annoying issue precipitated by a few incomprehensible fanatics. The average Nazi seems to be neither anti-­religious nor anticlerical; he thinks that the Church has its place in his scheme of things. But, like everything else, it should fit into the co­ordinated pattern of the Third Reich. Whoever dissents from or opposes that must be broken! That explains the intense anger of most Nazis toward Pastor Niemoeller. He took direct issue with the whole Nazi regime, including the Fuehrer himself; and when at first he was lightly dealt with, he became still more vehement instead of falling silent. The cup of his offending ran over when he received widespread support from bitter opponents of the Third Reich in many foreign lands.

That’s as far as you get with Nazis on the Church question. And non ­Nazis don’t usually like to discuss the subject. If they are not religious persons, it annoys them almost as much as it does members of the Party. If they have strong religious convictions, it is for them a topic both personally painful and possibly risky to discuss with a stranger.

 
———————————-
 
 
Chapter 2: Berlin Blackout
Chapter 3: Getting on with the Job
Chapter 4: Junketing Through Germany
Chapter 5: This Detested War
Chapter 6: Vienna and Bratislava
Chapter 7: Iron Rations
Chapter 8: A Berlin Lady Goes to Market
Chapter 9: The Battle of the Land
Chapter 10: The Labor Front
Chapter 11: The Army of the Spade
Chapter 12: Hitler Youth
Chapter 13: Women of the Third Reich
Chapter 14: Behind the Winter­Help
Chapter 15: Socialized Health
Chapter 16: In a Eugenics Court
Chapter 17: I See Hitler
Chapter 18: Mid­Winter Berlin
Chapter 19: Berlin to Budapest
Chapter 20: The Party
Chapter 21: The Totalitarian State
Chapter 22: Closed Doors
Chapter 23: Out of the Shadow
 

 ———————————-

 
 

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Into the Darkness : An Uncensored Report from Inside the Third Reich at War 

by Lothrop Stoddard

Stoddard

1940

 

Chapter 20: The Party

The Party.” That is the commonest phrase in Germany today. It denotes that all­ powerful organization, NSDAP (National­ Socialist­ German­ Workers­ Party) which dominates, energizes, and directs the Third Reich.

Just what is the Party, and what are its relations with the Nation, the State Administration, and those numberless organizations characteristic of German life? That was one of the first questions I put when I got to Germany. Knowing as I did the range of official literature, I supposed I would be promptly handed a neat manual setting forth the whole subject in the meticulous Teutonic way. What was my amazement when the Propaganda Ministry informed me that no such manual existed, the reason alleged being that the system was more or less fluid and that changes were continually taking place.

Accordingly, I had to piece the current picture together, bit by bit. You never can be sure, at first glance, what is “Party” and what isn’t. For instance, I at first took it for granted that all the Brown ­Shirt S.A. and Black uniformed S.S. men I saw were Party members. Presently I learned that this was not true; that many of them were candidates, qualifying themselves for membership by meritorious service. As for the organizations,  some are “Party,” others “State,” still others are intermediate, while one or two, like the National Labor Service (Arbeitsdienst), were started by the Party but are now under State control. It was all very confusing. Indeed, I frankly admit that even now I haven’t got a wholly clear idea of the scheme in all its complex details.

The reason for this seeming confusion appears to be that National Socialism, though a revolutionary movement, evolved as a regular political party with a complete organization of its own, until, by the time it came to power, it had become virtually a State within a State. Instead of merging itself with the State, or vice versa, this separate organization has been maintained. Of course, all branches of the State are headed by prominent Party men, and their higher subordinates are usually Party members. Indeed, a man may simultaneously hold a State and a Party office. But, in such cases, both the offices and their functions are kept consciously distinct from each other.

When Nazis try to explain to you the interactions of State and Party, they usually say that the Party is like an electric motor running a lot of machinery. This motor is the great energizer. It revolves very rapidly and tries to make the machine go at top speed. The machine, however, tends to run at a regulated tempo, toning down in practice the motor’s dynamic urge. The Party urges ever: “Faster! Faster!” The officials of the State Administration, however, charged as they are with actual responsibilities and faced with practical problems, act as a machine “governor,” keeping progress within realistic bounds.

Dr. Robert Ley, head of the Labor Front, occupies the post of Organization ­Leader for the entire Party, and on this exalted phase of his activities his views were enlightening.

Dr Robert Ley

Dr. Robert Ley

Dr. Ley,” I asked him in an interview,

for a long time I’ve been studying the various organizations you direct. I think I’ve learned considerable about them, yet I know I haven’t got the whole picture. Will you explain to me briefly the basic principles underlying all of them? And will you also explain their relations to both the Party and the State?

It was late afternoon. We were sitting in a cozy reception ­room adjacent to the Doctor’s study, in the restful atmosphere of tea, cakes, and sandwiches. For some moments, Dr. Ley sipped his tea reflectively.

Let’s see how I’d best put it,” he said finally. “As to our basic ideas, they are very simple. First of all, the principle of natural leadership. By this we mean the proved leader who by sheer merit has fought his way up from below to supreme command. This is best exemplified by Adolf Hitler, our Fuehrer, whom we believe to be an inspired genius.

By this time Dr. Ley had fairly warmed to his subject. His gray eyes shone with enthusiasm.

Our second principle,” he went on, “is absolute loyalty and obedience. So long as a plan is under discussion, it is carefully weighed from every angle. Once debate is closed and a decision is made, everyone gets behind it one hundred per cent. But behind both those principles is a third which is even more fundamental. This is what we call the Gemeinschaft ­ the organic unity of a people, founded on identity of blood. Germany is fortunate in being racially united. That is the ultimate secret of our harmonious strength.

Thanks for the explanation,” said I. “Now would you mind going on and telling me how, on those foundations, you have built up the various organizations you direct, and how they stand to the Party and to the State?

Before I do that,” Dr. Ley answered, “let me make clear what the Party and the State mean to each other. The National Socialist Party, as others have doubtless told you, may be likened to a motor which supplies the energy by which an elaborate machine is run. To change the simile, we may also compare the Party to the advance­ guard of a column of marching troops. Its duty is to pioneer, investigate, make everything safe. The State, on the other hand, is the main body which occupies the ground won and puts everything in final order. One of the outstanding features of the Third Reich is that the Party can, and does, make all sorts of experiments which would be impossible for State officials, tied down as they are by legal regulations and red tape.

Would you mind making that a bit more specific?” I ventured.

All right,” he said. “Take me, for example. I’m not a State official. I’m purely a Party leader whose duty it is to prepare such experiments and set them going. Within my field, I have almost boundless freedom of action. For instance, when the Fuehrer ordered me to put through the People’s Automobile (Volkswagen) Plan, I got the large sums needed. Of course I am held rigidly responsible for results. If I botched a job, I’d immediately be called to account. But so long as things go right, I don’t have to waste my time explaining to all sorts of people just what I’m doing. With us, it’s efficiency that counts.

Do your experiments always succeed?” I asked.

Not always,” Dr. Ley admitted. “And when, after a full and fair trial, they are found to be impracticable, we frankly give them up. Sometimes, again, we find an idea to be theoretically sound but, for one reason or another, premature. In that case we lay the idea aside, to be tried again under more favorable circumstances.  But when an experiment has proved sound and workable, the Party presently hands it over to the State; which then, as it were, anchors it firmly into the national life by giving it permanent legal status.

That’s what has actually happened with the institution we call Arbeitsdienst ­ the universal labor service required of young men and women. It started as a social experiment run by the Party. Now, having proved itself out, it is a regular State matter.

Which means,” I suggested, “that the Party is thereby free to take up still other social experiments?

Exactly,” he nodded. “And we have so many measures, not merely for bettering life materially but for enriching it as well. We believe the more work we give men to do, the more enjoyment we must give them too. This applies to all grades of persons, with recreation furnished them according to their abilities and tastes. It is not a leveling process ­ rather is it a grading process, putting people in their right places.

To each man according to his abilities?” I remarked.

Absolutely,” said Dr. Ley. “We are always on the lookout for ability; especially capacity for leadership (Leitungsfaehigkeit). That precious quality confers upon an individual the right to an agreeable life, a fine mansion, and many other good things. But the instant he shows himself unworthy of his position, he loses them all and is cast aside. National Socialism plays no favorites. While princes and rich men have not been deprived of their titles and wealth, none of them have any prescriptive right to prominence in the Third Reich. If a prince in the Party (and we have them) shows capacity for leadership, he goes ahead. Otherwise, he stays in the background.

 

So much for this exposition of Party principles, from its organizational director ­ to be taken with the usual grain of salt between theory and practice. Now a few words as to the growth and character of Party membership, as gathered from various official spokesmen.

Down to January 30, 1933, the lists were open to all persons who cared to join. Up to that time the Party was fighting for its very life and every recruit was welcome. On that epochal date, the triumph of National Socialism became virtually assured. At the moment, its membership totaled approximately 1,600,000. These veterans, who joined while success was still doubtful and helped put it across, still enjoy a certain prestige faintly reminiscent of the “Old Bolsheviks” in Soviet Russia. The Nazi “Old Guard” hold most of the leading posts and are generally regarded as most trustworthy. This explains why one sees relatively few aristocratic types in the upper ranks of the Party today, because not many joined up before 1933.

Although a rush to get on the band­wagon began at once, the Party welcomed new members until the following May, when its ranks had swelled to 3,200,000 ­ just 100 per cent. The lists were then closed to individual joiners, but were still held open to members of certain nationalistic organizations like the Stahlhelm until 1936, when the Party had 4,400,000 adherents. Thenceforth, accessions were rigidly scrutinized. In fact, applications were discouraged; the Party sought the man, rather than the man the Party. The rule now is that membership is earned only after two or three years’ faithful service in some form or other. It takes an outstanding act of merit in Party eyes for a man or woman to be admitted in lesser time. Much of the unpaid work of the country, such as volunteer service in NSV (previously mentioned), Winter­ Help drives, or food­ card distribution, is done with this in mind. Exceptionally distinguished activity is required for such persons to rise high in the Party organization. Able technicians may soon land good jobs, but that is different from getting into the directing upper crust. I was told that less stringent rules had been in force for candidates from Sudetenland and Poland after the acquisition of those regions, and that the total membership now approximates 6,000,000. After all, that is not a very large figure in comparison with the 80,000,000 Germans who inhabit the Greater Reich. The Party is thus still fairly exclusive, though if we add the families of members, the Nazi bloc probably numbers close to 20,000,000.

Theoretically, any young man or woman of unmixed “Aryan” blood is eligible when they come of age, and it is from the ranks of youth that the Party strives to recruit its membership. However, even here candidates must have an unblemished record, from a Party standpoint, in the Hitler Youth, and must be vouched for by their local Party Group. Formal admission takes the form of a solemn oath taken in front of the swastika flag, with the right arm upraised in the Nazi salute. The oath consists of a pledge of unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler and the Party, after which the neophyte subscribes to a long list of commandments, the first one being: The Fuehrer is always right.

From the rising generation, the Party thus selects for membership those young men and women best conditioned for its purposes. And from this already selected group is recruited the Schutz Staffeln (Defense Detachments), commonly known as the S.S. This is the Party’s private army. Originally it was a relatively small elite section of the Brown­ Shirt Storm Troopers. But after the Party assumed power the S.A. men were assigned mainly to routine patriotic duties such as collecting for the Winter­ Help. The S.S., on the contrary, became the Party’s mainstay in upholding its all ­pervading influence and authority. I was unable to learn its precise numbers, but I understand its present strength to be at least 200,000, organized into regiments, brigades, and divisions, just like the regular army itself.

Berlin, Kaserne der LSSAH, Vergatterung

LSSAH guard detail, Berlin 1938

Furthermore, the S.S. serves as a training school for both the ordinary police force (Schutz Polizei) and the Political Secret Police ­ the dread Gestapo. All three allied organizations are headed by Heinrich Himmler, who built them up to their present efficiency and thus wields a power in the Reich presumably second only to that of the Fuehrer himself.

The typical S.S. man is tall and blond, young or in the prime of life, with fine physique enhanced by careful athletic training. As Nora Wain aptly puts it, he has “the daily ­dozen ­followed­ by­ a­ cold­ shower look.” As he strides along in his well ­tailored black uniform with its symbolic death’s ­head insignia, he is clearly cock­o’­ the ­walk ­ and he knows it. It is interesting to observe how civilians instinctively give him the right ­of ­way on the sidewalks or in subway trains.

These S.S. may in many ways be compared to the Janissary Corps of the Old Ottoman Empire. To begin with they are picked men ­ picked for fanatical loyalty to the Party, for health and strength, and for unmixed “Aryan” blood. Before attaining full membership in the corps they undergo rigorous training, Spartan in character, which is best characterized by Nietzsche’s famous dictum: Be hard! Well­ poised hardness both to self and to others is their outstanding attitude. When discussing with foreign residents some harsh or ruthless aspect of the Nazi regime, they would often say: “That’s the S.S. mentality coming out.” As might be expected, the S.S. have a strong esprit de corps. Their pride in themselves and their organization is unmistakable. Every aspect of their private lives must conform to strict standards and is carefully supervised. For instance, when they marry (as they are supposed to do in conformity with the Nazi eugenic program), the bride must be equally “Aryan,” must pass exacting physical tests, and is expected to attend special courses in domestic and ideological training. The pair are thus deemed well­ fitted to play the role required of them and to produce plenty of children for that biological aristocracy which is destined to be the natural rulers of the Third Reich. In return, S.S. families are well taken care of. Two of the best housing developments I was shown in the Berlin suburbs were for S.S. households.

I understand that the Gestapo, or Secret Police, are equally well disciplined and looked after, but of course they are invisible to ordinary view. I recall an amusing instance on this point. Some time after my arrival in Berlin I was chatting with a high Nazi acquaintance, who asked me casually:

By the way, how many Gestapos have you seen since you got here?

None ­ that I could recognize,” was my reply.

He laughed heartily.

A good answer,” he said.

And you never will ­ unless they want you to.

Well, there was one Gestapo that I did want to see the Big Chief of them all ­ Heinrich Himmler himself. But I was told that seeing him was almost as difficult as getting an audience with the Fuehrer, because he systematically shuns publicity and is therefore journalistically one of Germany’s most inaccessible personalities. Naturally, that made me all the more eager to interview him. I finally did, the very day before I left Berlin. It was one of those by­products from my enhanced popularity which I encountered when I returned from Budapest, and which was undoubtedly due to my having strictly kept my word regarding the Hitler audience. Journalistically, this was a clear “scoop,” for I was told by the Propaganda Ministry that mine was the first interview Himmler had ever given a foreign correspondent.

Like so many of my experiences in Nazi Germany, the whole affair was quite different from what I had imagined. Off­hand, you would say that the redoubtable Himmler’s headquarters would have a mysterious or even a sinister atmosphere. But it didn’t. It is a stately old building, made over into offices. You need a special pass to enter, but I went with an official, so there was no delay. Ascending to the second story by a broad stone stairway, we were quickly shown the Chiefs quarters, and passed through a suite of offices, light, airy, and tastefully businesslike.  There, young men and women were busy with typewriters and filing­cabinets. If the men had not been in uniform, I might have imagined myself about to meet a big corporation executive. Certainly, there was no “police” atmosphere about the place, secret or otherwise; no obvious plainclothes­men, gimlet­ eyed sleuths, or other “properties” of a similar nature.

When I finally entered the inner sanctum I was met by a brisk­ stepping individual of medium height who greeted me pleasantly and offered me a seat on a well­ upholstered sofa. Heinrich Himmler is a South German type, with close­cut dark hair, a Bavarian accent, and dark blue eyes which look searchingly at you from behind rimless glasses. He is only forty years of age­ extraordinarily young for the man who heads the whole police force of the Reich, commands the entire S.S., and has charge of the vast resettlement program whereby hundreds of thousands of Germans from the Baltic States, Russia, and Northern Italy are coming back willy­ nilly to their racial and cultural Fatherland.

H Himmler

Heinrich Himmler

Those are certainly three big jobs for one individual. How he does it all is hard to understand. But you get at least an inkling when you meet and talk with him. The longer you are in his presence, the more you become conscious of dynamic energy ­ restrained and unspectacular, yet persistent and efficient to the last degree.

Also you begin to glimpse what lies behind his matter ­of ­fact exterior. At first he impresses you as a rather strenuous bureaucrat. But as he discusses his police duties, you notice that his mouth sets in a thin line while his eyes take on a steely glint. Then you realize how formidable he must be professionally.

It was this aspect of his activities that I first broached.

I certainly am glad to meet one of whom I have heard so much,” was my opening remark. “Perhaps you know that, in America, we hear rather terrible things about the Gestapo. Indeed,” I added with a smile, “it is sometimes compared to the Russian Cheka, with you yourself, Excellency, as a second Dzherzhinski!

Himmler took this in good part. He laughed easily.

I’m sure our police organization isn’t half as black as it’s painted abroad,” was his reply. “We certainly do our best to combat crime of every sort, and our criminal statistics imply that we are fairly successful. Frankly, we believe that habitual offenders should not be at large to plague society, so we keep them locked up. Why, for instance, should a sex­ offender who has been sentenced three or four times be again set free, to bring lasting sorrow to another decent home? We send all such persons to a detention­ camp and keep them there. But I assure you that their surroundings aren’t bad. In fact, I know they are better fed, clothed, and lodged than the miners of South Wales. Ever seen one of our concentration­ camps?

No,” I answered, “I wasn’t able to get permission.

Too bad I didn’t know about it,” said Himmler. “There you’d see the sort of social scum we have shut away from society for its own good.

That was all very fine, but I felt that Himmler was hedging a bit. So I proceeded:

You refer there to criminals in the general sense of the term. But how about political offenders ­ say, old­ fashioned liberals? Is any political opposition tolerated?

What a person thinks is none of our concern,” shot back Himmler quickly. “But when he acts upon his thoughts, perhaps to the point of starting a conspiracy, then we take action. We believe in extinguishing a fire while it is still small. It saves trouble and averts much damage. Besides,” he continued, “there isn’t any need for political opposition with us. If a man sees something he thinks is wrong, let him come straight to us and talk the matter over. Let him even write me personally. Such letters always reach me. We welcome new ideas and are only too glad to correct mistakes.

Let me give you an example. Suppose somebody sees traffic on a busy corner badly handled. In other countries he could write a scathing letter to the newspapers saying how stupidly and badly the police run things. A hundred thousand people who may never have even seen that corner might get all excited, and the prestige of both the police and the State itself might suffer in consequence. With us, all that man has to do is to write us, and I assure you the matter will be quickly righted.

Feeling this traffic simile was a bit ingenuous, I tried to lead him back to the point he knew I had in mind. I nodded sympathetically and said,

That sounds reasonable. But how about a political matter? For instance, take a man like Pastor Niemoeller?

I felt that ought to bring some reaction, because the Pastor is poison ­ivy to most Nazis. Only a few days before, one fairly prominent member of the Party had grown red in the face at the mention of Niemoeller’s name and had hissed:

The dirty traitor! If I had my way, I’d order him put up against a wall and shot!

Himmler took it more calmly. He merely raised a deprecating hand, replying:

Please understand, it was a political controversy which got him into trouble. We never interfere with matters of religious dogma.

Then, after a moment’s pause, he added:

If foreign attacks upon us in this affair would cease, perhaps he could be more leniently dealt with.

It was clear that Himmler didn’t wish to discuss the subject further. His eyes narrowed slightly and a frown appeared above the bridge of his nose. Seeing there was nothing more to be gained on that line, I took another tack.

Tell me something about the basis of your S.S. organization?” was my next question.

The Schutz­Staffel,” answered Himmler blandly,

represents the best and soundest young manhood of our race. It is founded on the ideals of self­ sacrifice, loyalty, discipline, and all ­round excellence. Besides being soldiers, the S.S. has many cultural sides. For instance, we have our own porcelain factory, make our own furniture, and do much scholarly research. When you leave me, I shall have you taken to the barracks of the Leibstandart here in Berlin, the elite regiment which guards the Fuehrer. There you will see the type of young manhood of which the S.S. is so justly proud.

And now, Excellency,” I went on,

a few words, if you will, about your resettlement policy?

That policy,” replied Himmler,

can best be expressed in the words of our Fuehrer: ‘To give lasting peace to our eastern borders.’ For centuries, that region and others in Eastern Europe have been chronically disturbed by jarring minorities hopelessly mixed up with one another. What we are now trying to do is to separate these quarreling elements in just, constructive fashion. We have voluntarily withdrawn our German minorities from places like the Baltic States, and we shall do the same in Northern Italy. We are even marking out a place for the Jews where they may live quietly unto themselves. Between us and the Poles we seek to fashion a proper racial boundary. Of course, we are going about it slowly ­ you can’t move multitudes of people with their livestock and personal belongings like pawns on a chessboard. But that is the objective we ultimately hope to attain.

Himmler talked further about his resettlement policies, carefully avoiding the tragic aspects that they involve. He then returned briefly to the subject of his S.S. At that point, a smart young aide entered and saluted.

The motor is ready, sir,” he announced.

To see the Life­ Guards,” explained Himmler.

I certainly want you to get a glimpse of my men before you leave.

So saying, the redoubtable head of the Gestapo gave me a muscular handshake and wished me a pleasant homeward journey.

It was a wretched day in late January, cold as Greenland and with swirling spits of snow to thicken the blanket already on the ground. As Himmler’s car reached the suburbs, it swerved and swayed ticklishly in hard ­packed snow­ ruts. However, the S.S. man at the wheel was a splendid driver and got us to our destination safely and with celerity.

Hitler’s Life­ Guards occupy the former Prussian Military Cadet School. The buildings are old, though well kept up. The one exception is the swimming­ hall, a magnificent new building with a pool so large that I judged nearly a thousand men could bathe together without too much crowding. The Commandant ­ a hard bitten old soldier, small, wiry, and dark­ complexioned, in striking contrast to his young subordinates who were all blonds of gigantic size ­ proudly told me how it happened to be built.

It seems that the Fuehrer came out one day to see how his Life­ Guards were housed. At that time, the swimming ­hall was an old structure capable of accommodating only one company at a time. Hitler looked it over and frowned. “This is no fit place for my Leib­standart to bathe,” he announced. “Bring me pencil and paper!” Then and there he sketched out his idea of what the new swimming ­hall should be. And on those lines it was actually built.

Such is the “Party” and such are the men who control its destinies. What are we to think of this amazing organization and of its aggressively dynamic creed which so uncompromisingly challenges our world and its ideas? One thing seems certain: The National Socialist upheaval that has created the Third Reich goes far deeper than the Fascist regime in Italy, and is perhaps a more defiant breach with the historic past than ever the Communism of Soviet Russia. This the Nazis themselves claim with no uncertain voice. Listen to what Otto Dietrich, one of their outstanding spokesmen, has to say on this point:

The National Socialist revolution is a totalitarian revolution…. It embraces and revolutionizes not only our culture but our whole thought and the concepts underlying it ­ in other words, our very manner of thinking. Hence it becomes the starting point, the condition, and the impelling force of all our actions. … We are crossing the threshold of a new era. National Socialism is more than a renascence. It does not signify the return to an old and antiquated world. On the contrary, it constitutes the bridge to a new world!

Outside of Germany, most persons seem inclined to think that the “new world” envisioned by the Nazis would not be a very desirable abode. However, that does not alter the fact that we are here confronted by a revolution of the most radical kind, and that its leaders are revolutionists from the ground up. Furthermore, though most of them are still relatively young in years, they are all veterans hardened by prolonged adversity and scarred from many battles. They are the logical outcome of the quarter ­century of hectic national life which we have already discussed. In my opinion, therefore, both they and their movement may be deemed normal by­products of an abnormal situation.

To give one instance of the grim school wherein they were fashioned, let me cite an episode from my own experience. In mid­summer of the year 1923, I sat in my room at the Hotel Adlon, discussing with a German the deplorable position to which his country had then been reduced. I had just come to Berlin from a trip through the Rhineland and the Ruhr, where I had watched the passive ­resistance campaign against the French invaders, seen the black troops, and studied other aspects of that tragic affair. Now, largely in consequence of that desperate maneuver, the Mark was slipping fast to perdition, national bankruptcy was at hand, and utter ruin loomed in the offing.

As my guest discussed the seemingly hopeless situation, he was visibly in agony. Sweat stood out on his forehead. Suddenly, his mood changed utterly. Flinging back his head, he burst into truly blood­curdling laughter, best described by the German phrase galgenhumor ­ gallows ­humor. Still shaking with his macabre mirth, he leaned forward and tapped me on the knee.

Millions of us have already died, on the battlefield and from the British hunger blockade,” he chuckled. “Perhaps millions more of us will perish, and we shall surely be ruined. No one can tell what trials await us, and the world will do little to assuage our agony. But, no matter what happens, it will be mainly the weak and soft who will perish. Soon, the good ­natured, easy ­going, pot­bellied German will be no more. Dr. Stoddard, let me make you a prophecy. If this goes on, in about fifteen years you will see a New Germany, so lean, so hard, so ruthless, that she can take on all comers ­ and beat them!

The desperate spirit of the cornered man I talked to on a long ­gone summer day typifies merely one phase of the bitter schooling which made Germany’s present rulers what they are. In post­war Britain, a phrase was coined to depict their English counterparts. That phrase was: The Lost Generation. But if that were true of the war­ scarred youth of Britain, how infinitely truer was it of German youth! Well, those war­ youngsters are now in the saddle. So what we see in Germany is ­ the lost generation come to power.

From the moment I first looked at those rulers of the Third Reich, I felt there was something about them which, from my American viewpoint, was ­ queer. As I analyzed them, I realized that it was a sort of twisted cynicism combined with a hard ruthlessness. And when I listened to their life ­stories, I saw it could scarcely be otherwise. Most of them had entered the war as volunteers when they were mere boys. One, I recall, was only fifteen at the time; others were not much older. These burningly patriotic lads went through the hell of a losing war, culminating in crushing defeat. Then their abased spirits were given a savage tonic by joining the Free Corps formed to combat the attempt at a “Spartakist” revolution. Joyously, they killed Communists for a while. After that, some of them tried to go to college or into business; but few of them could adapt themselves to the life of the Weimar Republic which they hated and despised. Some of them went abroad, adventuring; the rest sulked and brooded until their ears heard a sudden trumpet­ call. It was Nazidom’s brazen clarion: Deutschland, Erwache!Germany, Awake!” They listened to Adolf Hitler’s oratory which stressed all the longings of their embittered hearts ­ and they fell under his hypnotic spell. Into the ranks of the Storm­ Troops they went, with additional years of fighting as they killed more Communists and “mastered the streets.” Then, at last, victory ­ and undisputed power. Such, in a nutshell, are the Nazis, as I analyzed them. The rest, only war’s awesome arbitrament can decide.

 
———————————-
 
 
Chapter 2: Berlin Blackout
Chapter 3: Getting on with the Job
Chapter 4: Junketing Through Germany
Chapter 5: This Detested War
Chapter 6: Vienna and Bratislava
Chapter 7: Iron Rations
Chapter 8: A Berlin Lady Goes to Market
Chapter 9: The Battle of the Land
Chapter 10: The Labor Front
Chapter 11: The Army of the Spade
Chapter 12: Hitler Youth
Chapter 13: Women of the Third Reich
Chapter 14: Behind the Winter­Help
Chapter 15: Socialized Health
Chapter 16: In a Eugenics Court
Chapter 17: I See Hitler
Chapter 18: Mid­Winter Berlin
Chapter 19: Berlin to Budapest
Chapter 20: The Party
Chapter 21: The Totalitarian State
Chapter 22: Closed Doors
Chapter 23: Out of the Shadow
 

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Into the Darkness : An Uncensored Report from Inside the Third Reich at War 

by Lothrop Stoddard

Stoddard

1940

 

Chapter 19: Berlin to Budapest

The best night train in Germany rolled into the Friedrichstrasse Station. At least, it ought to be the best, because it’s the only all­ sleeping­ car train in the Fatherland, and it runs between Berlin and Vienna, the two metropolitan cities of the Third Reich.

It was three days before Christmas. I had been warned that the holiday traffic would be heavy, so I had engaged my berth nearly a fortnight in advance. I had also been positively assured when I bought my ticket that there would be a dining­ car on that de luxe train, so I had eaten nothing since lunch. As meals in Germany don’t stand by you very well these days, I was good and hungry.

The best night train in Germany was half an hour late, though it was made up in the Berlin yards and had stopped at only two stations before reaching mine. Meanwhile I had stood on the darkened platform and watched the crowds storming the outgoing trains. Never before had I realized so fully the shortage of Germany’s rolling­ stock. The railway authorities were quite incapable of handling the holiday traffic. When the day ­coach section to Vienna ahead of mine arrived, it was like an aggravated subway rush. The coaches, already well­ filled from previous stations, were jammed to overflowing. I pitied that close­ packed mass of humanity, condemned to stand up all night, and thanked my lucky stars that my train took only those whose passages were booked.

At length I climbed aboard my sleeper, found my compartment, deposited my hand luggage, and sought the porter to ask my way to the diner. He shook his head sadly.

There isn’t any on tonight, sir,” he answered.

What?” I stormed. “But they assured me!

I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t have a diner aboard.

Well, then,” I said, clinging to a last hope, “haven’t you anything in your buffet?

Nothing to eat, sir; only beer and liquors.

Well, what can I do?” I asked in desperation.

There’s one more stop in Berlin, sir. You may be able to get something on the platform if you’re quick.

The train was just drawing into that station, so I dashed down the steps and made for the dimly lighted little buffet. Only packaged goods to be seen! I bought two small boxes of crackers and made a flying leap for the train which was about to get under way. Those crackers, washed down with two bottles of beer, constituted my dinner.

A traveler must needs be somewhat of a philosopher, so I proceeded to look on the bright side. My car was relatively new, my compartment comfortable and clean, while hunger is a good sauce even for crackers. Midway in my reflections I was disturbed by raucous voices in the corridor. I opened the door and found several angry men and women gesticulating with the conductor. I presently gathered that one of the sleeping cars had broken down when the train was made up and had not been replaced; so some thirty passengers with perfectly good tickets had no place to sleep. This reconciled me to my lost dinner like nothing else.

I turned in early; the bed was excellent and the car well sprung; I slept long and well. There is an old saying that he who sleeps dines, but I disproved it when I awoke from my slumbers next morning hungry as a wolf. The best night train in Germany was over two hours late, so I knew I would miss my connection for Budapest. That, however, was a minor detail beside the question of food. Rather hopelessly, I asked the porter.

Oh, yes, sir,” he answered brightly.

We switched one on early this morning. Last car in the rear.

Electrified, I lightly trod a long series of cars until I reached the diner. Of course, I knew in advance that I would get nothing more than rolls, butter, and imitation coffee. Still, after two months in Germany, that didn’t faze me. Blithely I took out my food ­cards; and, since I was a bit ahead of the game, I recklessly tore off a double allowance of butter. About this time the waiter came up. He looked at my pile of coupons and shook his head.

Sorry, sir,” he announced, “but we have no butter ­ and no rolls either; just sliced bread.

All right,” I sighed, “bring me some honey or a bit of jam.

Sorry, sir,” came the reply, “you’re a bit late, so the honey and jam are also out.

My famous breakfast thus whittled down to three slices of dry bread dipped in the Ersatz mixture which German wits have dubbed West­ Wall Coffee because it is “untakeable“! The best night train in Germany pulled into Vienna nearly three hours late. I had a seven ­hour lay­over before the next train for Budapest, Hungary, left at six o’clock that evening. The day was cold and foggy, and I was cold and hungry. I knew Vienna well of old, and had been there a short time before, so I took a long walk to get a bit of exercise and finally dropped into a little place I remembered to get an early lunch.

An hour before train ­time I ambled over to the station. That was certainly a good hunch, as events were to prove! First of all, I had to deposit my Reichsmarks before leaving Germany; and that took some time because I had to wait in line. The real trouble, however, developed when I turned in my ticket at the gate. In the waiting­ room beyond, I glimpsed a tight­ packed crowd of people.

What’s the matter?” I asked the ticket­ taker.

Passport control,” he answered shortly.

But I thought that was done at the frontier,” I said in dismay.

It’s done this way here,” he barked. “Move on! Don’t block the gate.

With a bag in one hand and my typewriter in the other, I charged the rear of that crowd and wormed my way into the press. Craning my neck, I glimpsed two officials examining passports behind a long table. Just two of them to handle that mob! And how leisurely they were about it! Slowly they scanned each passport thrust into their faces by frenzied hands, making copious notes and asking questions from time to time. Dismayed at this deliberation, I glanced at the station clock and saw it was a quarter before six. Gradually I forged to the front, and one of the officials took my passport, scanned it, and gave it his O.K. With four minutes to spare, I hastened to the train and found a compartment. Leaning out of the window, I hailed the conductor.

How long will the train be delayed for all those folks back there in the control room?” I queried.

He looked at me severely. “We leave at six sharp,” was his crisp reply.

Sure enough, on the hour, he blew his whistle and the train started, with unfortunates running vainly down the platform in its wake. I hate to think of the number left behind, forced to spend a night in a strange town, perhaps with insufficient funds, and very likely with families anxiously wondering what had happened to them, since no private telegrams can be sent across the border.

This train was fast and kept to schedule. It is only about fifty miles from Vienna to the Hungarian frontier, and the interval was occupied by inspections from various officials examining your luggage, checking up on your money, and giving your passport the once­ over a second time.

Until we reached the border, of course, the windows were kept tightly curtained. Then the train stopped, started, stopped once more. Cautiously I peeked past a corner of the curtain. We were in a brilliantly lighted station bearing the big neon sign Hegyeshalom. On the platform stood policemen and railway officials in strange uniforms. Through the uncurtained windows of the station I could see a restaurant with counters laden with foodstuffs. I was in Hungary ­ a land of peace and plenty! Standing up in my compartment, I gave three loud Ellyens! Which is Magyar for Hooray! To enter Hungary from wartime Germany is literally to pass from darkness into light. The sense of this grew upon me with every kilometer the train made toward Budapest, the Hungarian capital.

First and foremost, a meal in the dining car which, accustomed as I had become to German fare, seemed a dinner fit for the gods: a big basket heaped with crisp, all ­wheat bread, butter ad lib., a meat entree with sour­ cream gravy, and so on down to a cup of good strong coffee. Such viands may not sound startling to American readers ­ but just you live a couple of months in wartime Germany, and you’ll understand.

Another wonder was the approach to Budapest ­ a great city twinkling and sparkling with lights. To one fresh from blacked­ out Germany, it seemed like fairyland. Then the taxi drive through brilliantly ­illuminated streets thronged with Christmas shoppers lingering before windows filled with tempting displays ­ it seemed just too good to be true. A sound night’s rest in an excellent hotel, followed by a breakfast memorable for such unheard­ of delicacies as orange ­juice, eggs, and coffee with whipped cream completed my sense of liberation.

At first sight, therefore, neutral Hungary seemed as peaceful and normal as America. But of course I realized that Hungary does not enjoy our blessed isolation, set as it is squarely in the midst of war ­torn Europe. How far had its everyday life been affected by the storm raging just beyond its borders, and what were its prospects for the near future? Those were the two questions I set out to investigate as I sallied forth from my hotel next morning and walked down a majestic promenade beside the broad river Danube to keep my first appointment.

I was glad to be in Hungary, not merely to get a vacation but also for professional reasons. Hungary is the key nation in the whole Central European small ­state constellation, while Budapest is an ideal vantage­ point from which to survey the entire mid­ European situation, including both Germany and Italy. Since Hungary is neutral, you can meet all sorts of foreigners, including both sets of belligerents, and get their respective points of view.

During my ten days’ stay I met and talked with a considerable number of important personalities, Hungarian and foreign, including the Prime Minister, Count Teleky; the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Count Csaky; ex­Premier Bethlen; Tibor Eckhard, an important Parliamentary leader; and other men prominent in Hungarian national life. Count Csaky was the only one among those mentioned whom I had not known in former days, and since the Magyars are warmhearted folk who have the knack of easily resuming interrupted friendships, it was pleasant as well as rewarding.

One of the most charming qualities of the Magyars is their informality. This applies to all classes, and is due mainly to the fact that the whole spirit of the country is profoundly aristocratic. The Magyars consider themselves to be a master­ race, innately superior to their Balkan neighbors. This may not be so agreeable for the neighbors, but it does promote good social relations and national solidarity among themselves, and is pleasant for foreign visitors. I never saw a Magyar with an inferiority complex. Nobleman or taxi driver, they respect themselves and one another, with neither condescension nor servility. That is one advantage of an aristocratic society, where each one knows just where he stands in the social scale. Hungary is thus almost exempt from those plagues of other lands ­ the vulgar ostentation of plutocrats and the ostentatious vulgarity of proletarians.

The apex of the Hungarian social pyramid is the aristocracy. It is a real aristocracy, and it effectively runs the country. This ruling class is not confined to the titled nobility; it includes likewise the very numerous gentry. Those two groups have a strong sense of mutual cohesion, best exemplified by the way they habitually address one another in the familiar second­ person singular ­ the Magyar equivalent of the German Du.

Though Hungary was outwardly normal, I found it inwardly nervous, as was natural when one considers its ticklish international situation. All the personalities with whom I conferred chatted freely but asked me not to quote them directly.

One thing they all agreed on ­ the Magyars are thoroughly at peace among themselves. Imminent dangers from abroad have united an instinctively patriotic people. Domestic politics stand adjourned, and the existing Government appears to have not only popular support but also popular confidence in its ability to guide the nation safely and to further its best interests. Although the Hungarian army was on a war­ footing while I was there, there had been no general mobilization. In the capital itself I saw relatively few soldiers. The bulk of the troops were massed to the north and east, along the most immediately­ threatened frontiers. This absence of soldiers from the capital was, in itself, strong evidence of the domestic calm which prevails. Everyone assured me that the local Nazi movement, formerly so strong as to be dangerous, had greatly lessened since the beginning of the war, and that its leaders were discredited.

Hungary is an agricultural country, producing in abundance all the staple foodstuffs with large surpluses for export. Imported foodstuffs, however, were becoming scarce. This was chiefly due to foreign exchange difficulties. The Hungarian currency was still steady, but wartime expenses were a heavy burden on the treasury, and a prudent Government was taking no chances. So imports of all kinds were being curtailed. This hit the average citizen in such matters as coffee and clothing. The Hungarians are great coffee­ drinkers, and any sudden deprivation of this cherished beverage would be keenly felt. The Government was therefore rationing coffee in indirect ways, chiefly by putting on a stiff war ­tax and limiting sales. When I was there, you could get a cup of coffee, but at twice the former price. The Government had likewise forbidden the importation or manufacture of pure wool cloth. This, however, hit only the richer people who could afford all­ wool clothing.

The re­-exportation of imported articles was forbidden, and this ban was strictly enforced. People told me gleefully about one recent instance. It seems that a group of visiting German business men loaded themselves down with all sorts of things forbidden in the Fatherland, from Brazilian coffee to American shaving creams and toothpastes. At the border, the Hungarian customs officials spotted the loot and promptly confiscated it! This little incident brings up one of the burning questions which agitate the Hungarian people ­ their relations with Germany. In normal times, the economic ties between Hungary and the Reich are not only close but mutually beneficial. Germany, especially since the annexation of adjacent Austria, offers the best natural market for Hungarian foodstuffs and other raw materials, while Germany is able to supply Hungary with manufactured articles on unusually favorable terms.

But today, conditions are not normal. German industry has been so disrupted by the war that it can no longer supply Hungary with the quantity and quality of manufactured goods desired along many lines. On the other hand, German needs for Hungarian produce grows by leaps and bounds. This wide gap between demand and supply has caused growing economic tension between the two nations, with important political implications. The Hungarians have no intention of allowing themselves to fall wholly into Germany’s economic sphere. They know that, should this happen, they would soon be sucked dry by wartime Germany’s pressing economic needs, with no commensurate benefit to themselves. That is what has happened to the German protectorate of Bohemia ­Moravia, and what may happen with Slovakia. The canny Magyars do not want to follow suit.

However, Hungary is in no position to take too stiff an attitude towards its giant neighbor. So long as Germany can obtain considerable quantities of food and industrial raw materials from Hungary under existing arrangements, it is to the interest of the Germans to have Hungary remain neutral and peaceful. The more normal Hungarian life is, the better its economic system will function and the more it will produce. But Germany demands a large share of the resultant surplus, even though the Reich cannot momentarily pay for it by a full exchange of goods. The Hungarians know that they must meet the Germans halfway or risk most unpleasant consequences. So they continue to sell largely to the Reich, despite the fact that it means a further increase of German debit balances. They feel that a disguised tribute is worth the price, so long as it is kept within bounds. As one Hungarian statesman remarked to me candidly:

We know it means piling up more blocked Marks; but ­ better get Marks than soldiers!

None of the Hungarians I talked to seemed to me pro­ German. But neither did any of them sound pro­ Ally. England was strongly criticized for the way she was even then holding up goods destined for Hungary on ships stopped by the British naval blockade. They all wanted to keep out of the war if it were humanly possible, and expressed no strong ideological preferences. Mainly, they thought the outcome of the war highly uncertain, with complete victory unlikely for either Germany or the Allies.

One eminent personage ­ remember I am under obligation to give no obvious clues as to identity ­ expressed this viewpoint as follows:

The chances are that the military stalemate in the West indicates that this war will end in a draw. But such a peace may be only a truce, followed by another war in the not­ distant future. It may be twenty or thirty years before our poor old continent can find a genuine settlement. There are so many problems to be solved ­ for instance, the problem of Russia, which has recently become even more complicated. Britain does not seem to realize that eighty million Germans in the heart of Europe must be given some hope of an adequate future. Until they get it, they will make continual trouble, even though the Allies win the war and Germany is carved up.

The greatest ultimate danger in this war, should it be unduly prolonged, is the degradation of the German standard of living to the full Russian level. In that case, we might see those two peoples really get together permanently ­ which would be a frightful danger for Western civilization. But few Englishmen visualize this, and even fewer Frenchmen. The French, in particular, seem to want to ‘finish up Germany’ ­ which is, of course, impossible.

The only prominent person I talked with who thought an Allied victory almost certain was equally pessimistic about the ultimate consequences. The reason for his pessimism was that he thought the Germans would hold out so long that victors and vanquished alike would be ruined and sink into common anarchy.

Another political leader gave me some interesting sidelights on Hitler and his foreign policy. This man had first become acquainted with the future Fuehrer at the very start of his political career. Hitler at that time appeared to my informant to be a fanatically intense, simple­minded man, limited in education and outlook. His chief criticism of Hitler was that, though the Fuehrer has since learned the technique of politics to a marvelous degree, he has not acquired a commensurate understanding of the larger aspects of what he does. According to my informant, Hitler made his great mistake when he got his agreement with Stalin, and then invaded Poland. If he had used the Russian agreement as an instrument of diplomatic pressure, the Poles would soon have had to do everything Hitler wanted, and there need have been no war.

What interests Hungarians most intensely in the field of foreign affairs is their relations with their Central European neighbors. In the peace treaties which followed the Great War, Hungary lost large slices of territory to Czechoslovakia, Jugoslavia, and Rumania; and of the inhabitants of those lost lands at least 3,000,000 were Magyars. To get back the lost blood­ brothers has been the absorbing passion of this supremely patriotic folk. They did so in large part, as far as their claims against Czechoslovakia were concerned, when that country was conquered by the Germans and Hungary was awarded a share. Hungary has, for the time being, soft ­pedaled claims against Jugoslavia, because both countries now want peace in Central Europe for various reasons.  Hungary’s chief goal is to recover the Magyars of mountainous Transylvania, which she lost to Rumania. That remains a burning issue in all Magyar hearts. One of the most powerful organizations in Hungary today is the Revisionist League, staffed entirely by Transylvanian exiles who work continually to bring about the reunion of at least 1,500,000 Magyars with their homeland. I conferred at length on this question with Dr. Andre Fall, the head of the League, and his colleagues.

There can be no doubt that Hungary would go to any lengths in order to recover Transylvania, if the opportunity ever presents itself, and its statesmen watch with lynx eyes each move on the diplomatic chessboard with this in mind. However, for the moment, they feel that this issue must be subordinated to the general situation, especially the danger from Russia which, they believe, menaces not only Hungary but the rest of the small nations of Central Europe, including Rumania itself.

It is the specter of Russia which haunts Hungarian minds. I could seldom talk politics in Budapest without having that grim topic bob up. Most Hungarians believe that Stalin has his eyes on Central Europe and plans to strike for its domination. Some think the attack will come soon. And it is generally agreed that such a Russian onslaught would set all Central Europe in flames.

Fear of Russia is nothing new for the Magyars. Before the Great War, Czarist Russia set itself up as the Big Brother to the Slav peoples of Central Europe and the Balkans, and the ultimate goal of that policy was a great “Pan­ Slav” federation with Russia as its natural head. But that would have spelled the destruction of Hungary. The Magyar race, brave, energetic, but not very numerous, stands midway down the Danube valley, thereby separating the Slavs of the north and east from those to the west and south. Should the Pan ­Slav ideal ever be realized, the Magyars would be practically obliterated.

When Russia went Bolshevik during the Great War, Pan ­Slavism gave place to the Communist policy of World Revolution. That, however, didn’t end the feud between Russians and Magyars. Indeed, war­ torn Hungary was presently overrun by Bolshevik agents who put over a local Communist revolution headed by the notorious Bela Kun. This Communist regime was soon overthrown by Admiral Horthy who formed a conservative government that has ruled Hungary ever since. That was a body­ blow to Soviet Russia which has never been forgotten. Moscow regards conservative Hungary and its aristocratic rulers as a bulwark of reaction, and would like nothing better than to encompass its overthrow.

So long as Russia was shut away from Central Europe by a strong Polish buffer state, Hungary had little to fear from Moscow. But the partition of Poland between Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany at the beginning of the present war gave the Soviets a common frontier with Hungary. This was an ominous change for the Magyars. To be sure, the new frontier ran along the crest of the rugged Carpathian Mountains, and was thus easy to defend. But further eastward the Carpathians become Rumanian. There we touch the thorny question which not only embroils Rumania and Hungary, but prevents them from combining effectively against the Russian peril which menaces them both.

Hungarian leaders with whom I talked admitted that this inability of Hungary and Rumania to pursue a common policy against possible Russian aggression might ultimately be fatal to both of them. But such an understanding was impossible without a prior settlement of the Transylvanian question in a sense favorable to Hungarian aspirations. As one eminent personage frankly put it to me:

No Hungarian Government could openly aid Rumania unless Transylvania were first ceded. The people would tear any statesman to pieces who did that. A benevolent neutrality would be the utmost we could risk.

Russia has had a bone to pick with Rumania ever since the latter seized the province of Bessarabia while Russia was in the throes of revolution. Russia has never reconciled herself to Bessarabia’s loss and would undoubtedly like to get it back again. Some of my Magyar informants did not think that Russia would make war on Rumania merely to recover this province. An invasion of Bessarabia would therefore imply the first step toward the larger goal of Balkan domination.

Few Hungarians thought that Rumania could long defend itself against Russia single ­handed. They had a poor opinion of the Rumanian army and considered the internal situation most unstable. As one personage put it:

Just now, everything in Rumania depends on one man ­ King Carol. Should he disappear, anything might happen.

Furthermore, there seemed good reason for believing that, the instant Russia struck from the east, Bulgaria would strike from the south to recover her lost province of Dobrudja, likewise taken by Rumania as a war prize. Should Rumania collapse suddenly, like Poland, Russian armies might rapidly occupy Transylvania, a natural fortress from which they would dominate the Danube valley.

That is the supreme peril which threatens Hungary. And the Magyars assured me that, to avert that danger, they are ready to fight even against the longest odds. If Russia should stop short with Bessarabia, Hungary might not move. But the instant Russian troops went further, the Hungarian army would strike to occupy Transylvania. At the start, at least, this would spell war against Rumania rather than against Russia. But the Magyars would regard this as a preventive occupation to forestall a Russian invasion. If Hungary should sit still, it would soon be at Russia’s mercy, because its present eastern frontier is an arbitrary line drawn across open country which could not be defended against a powerful opponent.

Should Hungary occupy Transylvania under those circumstances,  imagine the diplomatic tangle which would ensue! Britain and France have given Rumania a guarantee treaty similar to the one they gave Poland. They side stepped Stalin’s occupation of eastern Poland because they didn’t then want to fight Russia. But could they ignore a direct Russian attack upon Rumania? And if they did declare war on Russia, what would they do when Hungary committed an act of war against Rumania ­ in order the better to fight Russia ­ against whom Britain and France had at least technically begun hostilities? At first sight it might look as though Hungary would be courting almost certain destruction to fling itself single ­handed at the Russian colossus. The Magyars, however, feel they would not stand alone. They believe Mussolini could not tolerate Russian domination of the Balkans and Central Europe. Therefore Hungary counts upon Italian aid. Indeed, I was informed from what seemed to be a reliable source that, even then, a large number of Italian planes and pilots were discreetly tucked away “somewhere in Hungary,” ready for eventualities.

If Mussolini did what the Magyars expect him to do, we glimpse another amazing diplomatic tangle. Here we would have Hungary, Italy, Britain, and France, all fighting Russia. What would be the relations of this singular quartette amongst themselves? Remember that Hungary would be also fighting Rumania in defiance of an Anglo­ French guarantee, while Italy would be at least nominally on good terms with Germany, her Axis partner but the Anglo ­French arch­enemy.

Such were the diplomatic and military crossword puzzles with which my Magyar informants were busying themselves, those crisp winter days of my sojourn in Budapest. They were keen analysts, yet, somehow or other, I personally didn’t believe that Stalin was going to put on the big show they were expecting ­ at least, not for some time. The main reason for my skepticism was that I had come straight from Germany. And two months of intensive study and observation there had made me certain of one thing ­ Germany didn’t want to see the war spread to Central Europe and the Balkans. Why not? Because that’s where Germany eats.

Most of the food and a large part of the raw materials which Germany can import overland come from precisely those regions. So long as the nations there are at peace, their economic life is fairly normal, and they thus have large surpluses for the German market. But the instant war breaks out there, exports to Germany stop. And it wouldn’t help the Germans much if their armies overran the whole region, because it would be so devastated in the process that even German efficiency would need a year or two to get things running again as well as they run today.

That being the situation, can we imagine Germany standing by and letting Russia start something which, to the Reich, would be an unmitigated disaster? We know that Berlin and Moscow have a pretty definite understanding. It is almost inconceivable that the German Government cannot exert enough pressure upon Stalin to prevent him from carrying out a policy which, for Germany, might prove fatal.

Those, at any rate, were the arguments I put up to Hungarian friends and acquaintances in the closing days of December, 1939. And, as I write these lines the following spring, they seem to be still valid. That, however, does not mean that Hungary can be sure of maintaining her neutrality, set as she is on the mid­ European crossroads, with all its latent dangers. Small wonder that my Budapest friends tended to be nervous. The longer I tarried in that charming capital, the more I got the feeling that its peaceful and extremely congenial existence might be shattered almost any day.

Yet, for the moment, everyday life ran smoothly, and people made the most of it in the pleasure ­loving Magyar way. On New Year’s Eve, when all Budapest turns out for a grand jollification, I foregathered with newspaper colleagues at their favorite eating­ place to celebrate.

It was an unpretentious place on the outside, but it had an inner room, the walls decorated with Magyar rural scenes done by local artists; enlivened by a gypsy orchestra. And how those Tziganes could play! The Old Year’s final hours passed all too swiftly with good food, fine wine, witty talk, and much jollity. When the midnight hour struck, a chimney sweep appeared with his traditional broom made of small twigs, and each of us broke off a piece for good luck. After him came another man bearing in his arms a sucking pig. To assure good fortune in the coming year, everybody tried to touch the little animal, and if possible to pull its curly tail.

My friends and I then left for a promenade along avenues crowded with revelers, equipped with tin horns and rattles, wearing paper caps over their ordinary headgear, bedecked with badges, and waving streamers mostly in the national colors ­ red, white, and green.

There was plenty of inebriation, but it was all good ­natured. Everyone was having a royal good time, and the weather helped ­ crisp, but not too cold, and with a light powdering of snow which gave just the right seasonal touch.

We ended up in an Espresso Bar. These characteristically Budapest institutions are small coffee shops where the delectable drink is made by driving live steam through pulverized coffee, which is then served in small cups. The process extracts every bit of aroma and makes a beverage strong enough to take your head off. However, it goes well after a big evening. One of our party, a young man from the Revisionist League, apparently needed it; for when we entered the place he announced in stentorian tones that he was a Transylvanian. Whereupon all hands, including the waitresses, applauded loudly and laughingly shouted: Ellyen! New Year’s Eve marked the close as well as the climax to my Budapest interlude. Shortly after noon of New Year’s Day found me in a train­ compartment, Vienna ­bound. I own to a regretful pang as I recrossed the frontier; left behind me gay, friendly, neutral Hungary; and entered war’s shadow once more.

Incidentally, I re­entered Germany equipped with sundry eatables ­ sausages, smoked and spiced; a precious kilo of butter; and a bottle of the best baratsk, apricot brandy, which is a Hungarian specialty. Those luxuries were to help out a bit in Berlin. But, for my immediate needs, I took along several large ham sandwiches.  I wasn’t going to go foodless a second time on “the best night train in Germany,” with which I was to connect that same evening at Vienna. However, the laugh was on me. This time, the famous express had a dining­ car!

 
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Chapter 2: Berlin Blackout
Chapter 3: Getting on with the Job
Chapter 4: Junketing Through Germany
Chapter 5: This Detested War
Chapter 6: Vienna and Bratislava
Chapter 7: Iron Rations
Chapter 8: A Berlin Lady Goes to Market
Chapter 9: The Battle of the Land
Chapter 10: The Labor Front
Chapter 11: The Army of the Spade
Chapter 12: Hitler Youth
Chapter 13: Women of the Third Reich
Chapter 14: Behind the Winter­Help
Chapter 15: Socialized Health
Chapter 16: In a Eugenics Court
Chapter 17: I See Hitler
Chapter 18: Mid­Winter Berlin
Chapter 19: Berlin to Budapest
Chapter 20: The Party
Chapter 21: The Totalitarian State
Chapter 22: Closed Doors
Chapter 23: Out of the Shadow
 

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PDF of this post (click to download or view): Into the Darkness – Chap 19
 
 
 
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Version 2: Wed, Feb 5, 2014. Added Chapter links.
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Into the Darkness : An Uncensored Report from Inside the Third Reich at War 

by Lothrop Stoddard

Stoddard

1940

 

Chapter 18: Mid-Winter Berlin

As the initial weeks of my stay in Germany grew into months, the damp chill of autumn deepened into the damp cold of winter ­ the first winter of the Second Great War. The shortest days of the year drew nigh, and in North Germany they are short indeed. Even at high noon the sun stood low in the heavens ­ a sun that gave scant light or warmth. Often the sun was hidden by clouds. When the cloud­ veil was thick, it was almost like twilight, fading presently into the long winter night with its inevitable blackout.

Slowly yet inexorably, war’s impoverishing grip drew ever tighter, producing cumulative shortage and scarcity. Its constricting presence could be literally felt. Thanks to the efficient rationing system already described, you didn’t notice it much in the bare necessities of life, but it did hit all comforts and luxuries. Here, uncertainties and disappointments were the order of the day, symbolized by that dread word Ausverkauft ­ “sold out.Ausverkauft; how often you saw that sign! It was a mental hazard that dogged your footsteps at every turn. You found a brand of cigarettes that fairly suited your American taste. Forbidden to buy more than one package at a time, you couldn’t lay in a stock. All at once, that brand was no longer on sale anywhere, and you were told that it was off the market ­ permanently ausverkauft. You hit upon a cigar that suited your fancy.

Impossible to buy a box, while your daily ration of five cigars in October dropped to three in December and to two per day when I left Berlin. Also, the chances were that long before then, that brand could be had no more. Suppose a few friends were scheduled to drop into your room for a chat. You went around the corner to buy a bottle of brandy for the occasion. Temporarily ausverkauft. Same with schnapps. All you could buy that day in the liquor line was an imitation vodka, made in Germany. And I may add that in mid­ January, when the cold was at its worst, hard liquors vanished completely from the market.

One of the most annoying aspects of the situation was the deceptive appearance of the stores. They all kept up a good front. The windows were filled with attractive displays. But go in and try to buy any of it! Like as not, you would be told that those were only Muster ­ display ­samples which were not for sale. The shops had been ordered to keep their windows full of goods even when stocks were almost bare, so as to create a prosperous atmosphere that would bolster morale. It was highly instructive to watch how the big department stores found goods to cover their counters. They did, but when you looked closely, you found that much of the stuff on sale consisted of things seldom wanted or of obviously poor quality. Quick “sellers” were chronically short, especially during the Christmas shopping season. I remember going into AWAG, formerly Wertheim’s, Berlin’s biggest department store, to buy a few toys for the children of a family I knew well in Berlin. It was at least a fortnight before Christmas, yet I found that everything I had in mind had long since been sold out.

Now these occurrences were not real hardships. They were merely annoyances. But multiply them many times a day, in conjunction with such matters as scratched ­out dishes on restaurant or hotel menus, shortages of taxicabs, and the constant dread that you might lose or wear out some article of clothing which could not be replaced, and you found yourself in a chronic state of irritation which wore on the nerves. Most of the foreigners I met, with the exception of a few old hands who were thoroughly “salted,” told me that their dispositions were being slowly but surely ruined. This was especially true of Americans,  who were apt to be cross and jumpy after a few months’ stay in Germany.

All this applies particularly to foreigners. We have already pointed out that the Germans, long toughened and hardened by misfortune, are not affected to anything like the same extent. But they, too, felt the grim undertow which was sucking down their living­ standards. No class was exempt. Indeed, war’s leveling process hit the poor less obviously than it did the rich and well­ to ­do. I would go into homes displaying every evidence of wealth and comfort. At first sight, nothing had changed. But those families could no longer entertain much because they could buy only a few luxuries beyond their food ­rations; they could not bring out their fine linen and napery because they had no extra soap to wash them with when soiled; they had to use the subway or walk because their fine motor­cars had been either commandeered by the government or laid up for lack of gasoline. And didn’t they hate this sort of thing! It was in such homes that I heard the bitterest complaints.

The Christmas season was especially revealing. It showed how slim is the margin the German people now has for good cheer. Yuletide is especially dear to German hearts. Even the very poor strain themselves to make a real celebration, particularly for the children. I have already described how the Government did its bit by allowing men to purchase a Christmas necktie and women a pair of stockings without recourse to their clothing cards. Other official relaxations were a slight raising of the food rations, or the month of December, and a special food bonus or Christmas week. This munificent release worked out, per person, at about one­ eighth of a pound of butter, the same amount of Ersatz honey, one extra egg, and a little chocolate cake and candy! Lastly, there was a temporary increase in the sugar ration and permission to buy certain flavoring extracts and spices. Since the regular bread­ flour ration was already ample, German housewives were able to bake their traditional Christmas cakes and marzipan ­ in moderation. Boughten sweets, however, were scarce. There was a cake and candy shop near my hotel, and I noted the daily queue of persons waiting eagerly to enter for the short period in which that shop was open for business. When the daily stock had been sold out, the shop closed for the day.

I did not witness the actual Christmas celebration in Germany, because I spent the holiday season in Hungary. But I was in Berlin until December 22nd, so I saw all the preparations. They were rather pathetic. In the department stores, crowds of shoppers would mill about the counters, looking for Christmas gifts. Most of the stuff on sale was clearly unsuitable for that purpose. Nevertheless, the most unlikely articles were bought, for want of something better. Everybody seemed to have money enough. The trouble was that their Reichsmarks simply couldn’t connect with what they were after. That typifies what goes on in Germany all the time. It’s a sort of reverse inflation. Money doesn’t increase notably in quantity, but what you can buy with it dwindles away.

That is the reason why Germans tend to spend so much on amusements of all kinds. Despite the blackout and curtailed transportation, moving ­picture houses, theaters, and the opera are filled to capacity. The same is true of cafes, bars, and night­ clubs, where Germans throng to drown their sorrows according to their pocket­books in beer, schnapps, or champagne. The Germans today drink much more than they normally do, so the night­life is stridently hilarious. I saw a good deal of drunkenness; and I may add that when the German sets out to do some serious drinking, he makes a good job of it. Seldom does he acquire a fighting jag. Usually he just gets maudlin until he sinks either to the floor or into the gutter, as chance directs.

One of the drawbacks to a big time in Berlin is that you must quit early unless you are near home. Otherwise you will find no return transportation. The subways and most trams stop at 1.00 A.M., and buses retire even earlier, while there are virtually no taxis. I recall one poignant occasion when I forgot the schedule. I emerged from a night­club in a driving rain, three miles from my hotel and with not the faintest idea how to get there on foot. Of course there were no taxis, since a chauffeur whom the police discovers parking or cruising near any resort of pleasure loses his license. The friend who had brought me thither stuck by me as we roamed the wet streets in search of a conveyance. At last a taxicab hove in sight, and my companion brought it to a halt by yelling:

Here’s a foreigner! An American! He has a legal right to ride!

After a hard day’s work, I did not always feel like spending the evening writing in my room. The same was true of other foreign journalists living in downtown hotels or who had night work in downtown offices. Some months before my arrival in Berlin, the Propaganda Ministry had tried to help the foreign press corps by having special privileges extended to a certain restaurant called the Taverne with the idea of making it the evening rendezvous for newspapermen. One could get certain foods like egg dishes, unobtainable elsewhere, while taxis were allowed to stand outside. Also, the place was furnished with a number of regular “Ladies” whom the journalists nicknamed “Himmler’s Gals,” because they were supposed to be Gestapo (political secret police) agents waiting to vamp the unwary and extract information from them. However, the Taverne prostitutes, the high prices and the noise soon got on the nerves of the North European and American correspondents.

The Propaganda Ministry, heeding our complaints, soon found a new place for us which was eminently satisfactory. This was a private dining ­room in the Auslands Club, a really distinguished organization on Leipziger Platz. Here the food was excellent, the service quick, and prices surprisingly moderate, considering what you got for your money. Accordingly, we Americans, together with the best of the North European correspondents,  made our quarters a real club of our own, dining there frequently and spending the evenings in conversation. On dark, cold winter nights, I cannot describe how grateful I was for that snug haven.

In many ways the life of the foreign press corps in Berlin is a hard one, professionally as well as personally. I cannot praise too highly my American colleagues, who do fine work on the most difficult and also the most thankless assignment in Europe today. I have already described the technical side of our professional existence and the generally good relations existing between foreign journalists and the officials with whom they have regularly to do. The only time those relations threatened to become strained was when the Russo­Finnish War broke out. Red Russia’s invasion of Finland raised stormy echoes in the foreign press corps, and the German Government’s attitude in the matter did not tend to calm us. Since this is a good instance of Nazi propaganda methods, towards both foreigners and its own people, it seems worth describing in some detail.

The Government’s basic standpoint was that it sat on the sidelines watching objectively a matter which was not its concern. At first, it did its best to play down the affair. During the diplomatic crisis which preceded the war, and even after fighting had actually started, the Government spokesmen in our daily press conferences refused to take things seriously and foretold a peaceful settlement. German newspapers either tucked brief items in inconspicuous corners or printed nothing at all. Only when the war was well under way did they make even a partial attempt to present the news.

In its attempt to mold German public opinion, it was revealing to see how the official thesis evolved from day to day. First we were told that Soviet Russia sought merely to safeguard its outlet to the Baltic Sea, and that the Finnish Government was very foolish in refusing to grant Moscow’s moderate demands. We were also told that those demands were fully justified by geography, history, strategy, and what ­have­ you. Next came an assertion that Russia was trying to throw off the shackles imposed upon her after the Great War by unjust treaties that constituted an “Eastern Versailles.” If Finland rashly attempted to perpetuate this intolerable Diktat, she must suffer the logical consequences of her folly. The final link in this chain of reasoning brought England into the picture. The newspapers at first hinted and then openly stated that British diplomacy was chiefly, if not entirely, responsible for Finland’s stubborn resistance to Russian pressure.

Well, if you heard only that side, and if you either forgot or didn’t know what had happened in the past, perhaps the German official thesis might have seemed reasonable. Otherwise it sounded pretty thin. When you mentioned the matter to well­informed Germans who weren’t officials, they would shrug deprecatingly and then make a more understandable explanation.

What do you expect us to do?” they would ask. “What can we do, under the circumstances? Here we are in a life ­and­ death struggle with Britain and France. Do you want us to offend Russia and perhaps find ourselves as we were in the last war ­ nipped between two fronts?

So, most Germans seemed inclined to think that their Government was making the best of a bad business. But, in private conversation, intelligent Germans admitted that it was a bad business. And they displayed no love for Soviet Russia, either. Make no mistake about that.

The foreign residents in Berlin were practically solid in their sympathy for Finland and their condemnation of the Soviets. The Americans, especially, were furious. One of the ways in which we gave vent to our feelings was by raising our glasses to the toast: Skoal Finland! whenever we took a drink. We newspapermen were especially fond of doing this in the Kaiserhof bar. You will remember that the Hotel Kaiserhof is the Nazi social stronghold, and at the cocktail hour its bar, a large room with many tables, is apt to be filled with big guns of the Party. We journalists would often slip in there for a drink and a chat after our afternoon press conference at the Propaganda Ministry just across the Wilhelmsplatz from the hotel. We were thus sure of a distinguished audience when we raised our glasses and gave our defiant toast. We had our answer all ready, in case any Nazi remonstrated, by pointing out that the German Government had officially emphasized entire objectivity to the Russo­ Finnish conflict, and that therefore it was no breach of etiquette on our part to show where our sympathies lay. The Nazis must have realized this; because, aside from a few heavy stares, no objection was ever made. Indeed, I imagine that such demonstrations by the press representatives of many neutral nations may have given some of our Nazi hearers a sense of moral isolation which could not have been agreeable.

The most interesting vantage­point from which to watch both official and foreign attitudes was at the daily press conferences at the Foreign Office, which I have already described. Whenever the Finnish question arose, as it often did, the usually cordial atmosphere would grow a bit tense. Of course, impeccable politeness prevailed on both sides. But the press queries were sharply searching, while official answers frequently had an acid flavor.

I certainly didn’t envy the Government spokesman, those days. Usually, he was Dr. Braun von Stumm, an able man, though with a temper of his own. He needed all his ability, for he had to keep a somewhat tortuous official record straight, and dodge or parry questions shot at him by clever, quick­witted men and women on a highly delicate topic. And he visibly showed the strain he was under. As the questions piled in, he would redden, and I could see him squirm, mentally as well as physically. On more than one occasion, those days, he reminded me of the bull in a Spanish corrida, pricked by the barbed darts flung at him by agile banderilleros. When he thought the matter had gone far enough, he was apt to announce brusquely that the Russo­ Finnish topic had been fully covered for the day, and that we should shift our queries to other matters.

One other outstanding aspect of Berlin life should be included in the picture. This was the great cold. On top of an unusually inclement autumn, it started in about mid ­December. From then on, one cold wave after another rolled over us, fresh from the Russian steppes. Morning after morning, it would be below zero, Fahrenheit. With a rise of only a few degrees during the short winter day, the cold hung steady and tightened its grip. Since it was a damp cold, its penetrating quality was far greater than our winter weather.

Those cold waves covered all Europe. I found even lower temperatures in Hungary, though with a drier air, and I watched the mighty Danube river fill with ice floes during the Christmas season until it was frozen solid by New Year’s Day.

The severest blow which the hard winter dealt Europe was an almost complete stoppage of inland water transportation. We in America make comparatively little use of our rivers. Europe, on the contrary, is covered with an interlocking system of navigable rivers and canals on which much of the slow freight is moved by barges. By the turn of the year, that entire system was frozen up, so water­borne freight movements were paralyzed. That threw a prodigious burden on railway lines already overworked or on motor trucks strictly rationed for gasoline.

Nowhere were winter’s blows harder to parry than in Berlin, one of the world’s great metropolitan centers with a population exceeding four million souls. Even in normal times this implies an elaborate supply system, much of it by water. For instance, I was informed that 40 per cent of Berlin’s coal ordinarily comes by barge. The sudden crisis precipitated when the great cold began in mid ­December was rendered all the more serious by the fact that three months’ strict food and fuel rationing had made it impossible for the thrifty and forehanded to lay up any stocks.

Great credit is due the Government for the way it handled the situation. Truly heroic efforts were made, and disaster was averted. Yet widespread suffering was inevitable. Living as I did in one of Berlin’s leading hotels, I personally experienced little of all this. The Adlon continued to be well heated, and I saw no perceptible difference in the quality of my food. But, when I returned to Berlin immediately after New Year’s, I heard sad tales on every hand of ill ­heated houses or apartments and skimpy domestic menus. Even potatoes and cabbages grew scarce, because they froze on the way to market and were spoiled. Train schedules were cut to the bone. When I left Germany at the end of January by that famous flyer, the Berlin­ Rome Express, my journey was full of unpleasant incidents. I felt I was getting out just in time, and what I learned afterwards amply justified my foreboding.

An amusing aspect of the wintry scene was the enormous overshoes issued to policemen on post before public buildings. I presume they were stuffed with felt, straw, or some other cold­ resistant material. Anyhow, the Schupos waddled along their short beats like mammoth ducks, and seemed somewhat self­ conscious when passers­by glanced at their foot­ gear.

Berliners did not wholly lose their proverbial wit and caustic sense of humor. Curses at the weather were often interlarded with jests. The best joke I heard was uttered by the coatroom man at the Auslands Club. When I came there to dine one bitter December night, I gave him my opinion of the weather in the shape of a loud “Brrrh!” Quick as a flash, he replied, with a sly wink:

Yeah. The first export out of Russia!

To tell the truth, I was a bit fed­ up with this wartime Berlin life. Much of my hardest work was still ahead of me, and I had a long time to go before I could get through. I needed a break, and I could think of no better place than Budapest, Hungary; a city of which I have always been fond, and where I have old friends. So, three days before Christmas, I left Berlin for the holidays in a land where I could escape from blackouts, food ­rations, etcetera, at least for a short time.

 
———————————-
 
 
Chapter 2: Berlin Blackout
Chapter 3: Getting on with the Job
Chapter 4: Junketing Through Germany
Chapter 5: This Detested War
Chapter 6: Vienna and Bratislava
Chapter 7: Iron Rations
Chapter 8: A Berlin Lady Goes to Market
Chapter 9: The Battle of the Land
Chapter 10: The Labor Front
Chapter 11: The Army of the Spade
Chapter 12: Hitler Youth
Chapter 13: Women of the Third Reich
Chapter 14: Behind the Winter­Help
Chapter 15: Socialized Health
Chapter 16: In a Eugenics Court
Chapter 17: I See Hitler
Chapter 18: Mid­Winter Berlin
Chapter 19: Berlin to Budapest
Chapter 20: The Party
Chapter 21: The Totalitarian State
Chapter 22: Closed Doors
Chapter 23: Out of the Shadow
 

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Into the Darkness : An Uncensored Report from Inside the Third Reich at War 

by Lothrop Stoddard

Stoddard

1940

 

Chapter 17: I See Hitler

To meet and talk with Adolf Hitler, “Der Fuehrer” of the Third Reich, was naturally an outstanding item in my professional program when I went to Germany. I have already recounted how, my very first evening in Berlin, I met Herr Hewel, one of Hitler’s confidential men. I did not fail to discuss the matter with him, but his reaction was not encouraging. For a long time past, he said, the Fuehrer had been seeing very few foreigners except diplomats in his official capacity as Chancellor of the Reich. Since the outbreak of war, no non­official foreigner had been received; nor was such an audience then in contemplation. However, Herr Hewel expressed interest in my plans and promised to see what could be done.

The officials of the Foreign Office and the Propaganda Ministry with whom I had introductory talks during the next few days were equally dubious. They flatly told me that, while an audience was remotely possible, an interview was out of the question. Let me explain that, in journalistic parlance, the two terms have a widely different meaning. An interview is granted with the express understanding that much of what is said will be permitted publication in the press, though certain remarks made during the conversation may be withheld as being “off the record.” In an audience, on the contrary, everything said is “off the record” unless specific permission to publish certain remarks is granted. But there was no chance that such an exception would be made to me, because, when the current war broke out, a rule was adopted that any audience with the Fuehrer which might be given was with the clear proviso that no word spoken by him should be quoted. That logically excluded newspapermen, since for them an unquotable audience would have no professional meaning.

It looked as though I was up against a stone wall, but when I analyzed those conversations, I thought I saw a possible way through. Just one American writer had seen Hitler in the preceding two years. He was Albert Whiting Fox, well known for his magazine and press feature articles. After three months of diligent effort, Fox had seen Hitler shortly before the war. And, from what was told me, I gathered that Fox succeeded mainly because his purpose was to present a picture of Hitler the Man and his surroundings, rather than to get a statement of the Fuehrer’s views on politics or other controversial matters.

The Nazi officials liked that idea, because they favored anything which would present the human side of their Leader to the outer world. More than one of his close associates expressed regret to me that the foreign public knew and thought of him only in his official capacity ­ occasionally declaiming over the radio, but otherwise an aloof, mysterious figure whom his enemies depicted as sinister, even inhuman. Indeed, these informants went on to say that they would have long since accorded reputable foreign writers and journalists permission to make first­hand studies of Hitler and his environment but for the opposition of the Fuehrer himself. It seems that Hitler dislikes having his intimate personality and private life thus publicized. He feels it would be undignified, and prefers being known to the outer world for what he officially says and does.

Realizing how these officials felt, I concentrated along that line. I pointed out that, though I had come to Germany as a journalist, I was there also with the intention of gathering material for a book and for lectures to the American public. In those latter capacities,  the ban on quoting Hitler’s remarks were to me relatively immaterial. An audience would serve almost as well, if I were permitted to describe the circumstances and portray the man himself as I saw him. It is to these arguments that I ascribe chiefly the audience which, after two months, was granted me. Indeed, this audience, the only one granted a non­official foreigner since the beginning of the war, was given me explicitly in my capacity, not as a journalist, but as a writer of books and public speaker.

The memorable day was Tuesday, December 19, 1939. Shortly before one o’clock in the afternoon, a shining limousine drew up in front of the Hotel Adlon and a handsome young officer in dove­gray Foreign Office uniform ushered me to the waiting car. Driving down the Wilhelmstrasse, the car slowed before the Chancery and blew a peculiar note on its horn. Like most public buildings erected under the Third Reich, the new Chancery is severely plain on the outside, with a high doorway flush with the wall and normally always closed. In response to the summons, however, the halves of the entrance opened immediately, and the car drove slowly inside.

What a contrast to the plain exterior! I found myself in a large paved courtyard. Opposite the gate was a broad flight of stone steps flanked by two impressive gray stone figures. The flight led up to an entrance. On the steps stood several lackeys in blue ­and­ silver liveries, while near the entrance doorway was a knot of high officers in regulation gray­green uniforms. Through the entrance I glimpsed a foyer ablaze with electric light from crystal chandeliers.

Emerging from my car, I walked up the steps, to bows and salutes, and entered the foyer, where more lackeys took charge of my hat and overcoat. I was here greeted by a high official with whom I walked through the foyer into a magnificent hall, without windows but electrically lighted from above. This lofty hall, done in light ­red marble inlaid with elaborate patterns, reminded me somehow of an ancient Egyptian temple.

At its further end, more steps led up to an enormously long gallery of mirrors lighted by numerous sconces on the left ­hand wall. Since this gallery was set at a slight angle, the effect upon me was of intense brilliance; much more so than a straight perspective would have afforded.

About half­way down the long gallery I observed a door on the right­hand side, before which stood a pair of lackeys. Through this door I passed, to find myself in a large room which, I was told, was the ante­chamber to the Fuehrer’s study. In it were about a dozen high officers to whom I was introduced and with some of whom I chatted for some moments.

The whole build­up thus far had been so magnificent and the attendant psychic atmosphere so impressive that by this time I really did not know what to expect. I had the feeling that I was being ushered into the presence of a Roman Emperor or even an Oriental Potentate. The absurd thought crossed my mind that I might find Der Fuehrer seated on a throne surrounded by flaming swastikas.

At that moment I was bidden to the Presence. Turning left, I passed through double doors and entered another large room. To my right hand, near the doorway, was an upholstered sofa and several chairs. At the far end of the room was a flat ­topped desk from behind which a figure rose as I entered and came towards me. I saw a man of medium height, clad in a plain officer’s tunic with no decorations save the Iron Cross, black trousers, and regulation military boots. Walking up to where I had halted near the doorway, he gave me a firm handshake and a pleasant smile. It was the Fuehrer.

For an instant I was taken aback by the astounding contrast between this simple, natural greeting and the heavy magnificence through which I had just passed. Pulling myself together, I expressed in my best German my appreciation of the honor that was being shown me, calling him Excellency, as foreigners are supposed to do. Hitler smiled again at my little speech, motioned to the sofa, and said:

Won’t you sit down?“,

himself taking the nearest chair about a yard away from me. My German evidently made a good impression, for he complimented me upon my accent, from which he inferred that I had been to Germany before. I assured him that he was correct, but went on to say that this was my first view of the Third Reich. To which he replied, with a slight shake of the head:

A pity you couldn’t have seen it in peacetime.

The conversation of about twenty minutes which followed these preliminaries naturally cannot be repeated, because I had given my word to that effect. Hitler, however, told me no deep, dark secrets. ­ Heads of States don’t do that sort of thing with foreign visitors. I think it is no breach of my agreement to say that much of his talk dealt neither with the war nor politics but with great rebuilding plans which the war had constrained him temporarily to lay aside. His regretful interest in those matters seemed to show that he still had them very much in mind.

Even more interesting than what Hitler said was his whole manner and appearance. Here I was, in private audience with the Master of Greater Germany, and able to study him at close range. Needless to say, I watched intently his every move and listened with equal intent­ness to his voice. Let me try to depict as clearly as possible what I observed.

There are certain details of Hitler’s appearance which one cannot surmise from photographs. His complexion is medium, with blond ­brown hair of neutral shade which shows no signs of gray. His eyes are very dark­ blue. Incidentally, he no longer wears a cartoonist’s mustache. It is now the usual “tooth­brush” type, in both size and length. As already remarked, his uniform is severely plain and seemingly of stock materials.

In ordinary conversation, Hitler’s voice is clear and well­ modulated. Throughout the audience he spoke somewhat rapidly, yet never hurriedly, and in an even tone. Only occasionally did I detect a trace of his native Austro-­Bavarian accent. The audience was not a monologue. Although naturally he did most of the talking, Hitler gave me plenty of chances to ask questions and put in my say. He did not at any time sharply raise his voice. Only when discussing the war did it become vibrant with emotion; and then he dropped his voice almost to an intense whisper. He made practically no gestures, sitting for the most part quietly, with one hand resting on the arm of his chair and the other lying relaxed in his lap.

Hitler’s whole appearance was that of a man in good health. He certainly did not look a day older than his fifty years. His color was good, his skin clear and un­wrinkled, his body fit and not over­weight. He showed no visible signs of nervous strain, such as pouched eyes, haggard lines, or twitching physical reactions. On the contrary, appearance, voice, and manner combined to give an impression of calmness and poise. I am well aware that this description tallies neither with current ideas nor with reports of other persons who have seen and talked with him. Very likely those reports are just as true as mine, since Hitler is said to be a man of many moods. Perhaps I saw him on one of his good days; perhaps, he intended to make a particular impression upon me. All I can do is to describe accurately what I myself saw and heard.

Three other persons were present during this audience. First of all, there was Herr Schmidt, the official interpreter, present at all meetings of the Fuehrer with foreigners and reputed to be master of many languages. This time his services were not needed, so Herr Schmidt sat quietly beside me on the sofa without uttering a word the entire time. Equally silent were the other two, who sat in chairs some little distance away. They were Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop and Herr Hewel, who had done much to bring the audience about. Hitler terminated the conversation by rising, shaking hands again, and wishing me success in the balance of my stay in Germany. He then turned back to his desk, whither von Ribbentrop had already gone and where two other men were standing. At some point during the interview a photograph had been taken of Hitler and myself in conversation. So unobtrusively was this done that I was not aware of it at the moment. The first thing I knew about it was when a copy was presented to me with the Fuehrer’s compliments as a souvenir of the occasion. Since it was given me with the express understanding that it was not for publication, I cannot reproduce it here, as I should like to have done. I regret this, for it shows an interesting pose and would have helped greatly to visualize what I have attempted to describe.

From this audience emerge two outstanding contrasts. First, as already indicated, that between the magnificently staged approach and the simple, undramatic, almost matter ­of­ fact meeting with the man himself. Very likely this contrast was also deliberate staging. Anyhow, it made a striking effect.

The second notable contrast which occurred to me was that of this audience with Hitler and one I had years ago with his fellow­ dictator, Mussolini. The two audiences were complete opposites. There isn’t much stage­ setting in reaching Mussolini at the Palazzo Venezia. The dramatic build­up really begins when you go through a little ante­chamber door and find yourself in an immense room, darkened by half ­closed blinds, and with no furniture except a desk and a couple of chairs at the far end of the room. From behind that desk rises Mussolini, just like Hitler, but there the resemblance abruptly ends; for, instead of coming to meet you, you have to walk all the way across the room to him.

However, from the very start, you feel that Mussolini is intensely human. You get the fact that he is interested in you as a person. Also you sense that he is trying to sell you, not only his ideas but also himself. He wants to win your interest and admiration, and to attain that he employs the arts of a finished actor ­ uses his big, compelling eyes; thrusts out his chin; aims to semi-­hypnotize you. It’s all very intriguing. Perhaps, to an Anglo­Saxon, it’s a bit too obvious. But it flatters your ego, just the same.

Nothing like that with Hitler. Though always pleasant and courteous, he makes no obvious attempt to impress or win you. When he talks, his eyes get a far­away look, and he sometimes bows his head, speaking abstractedly, almost as though to himself. Whatever he may be to his friends and intimates, I came away feeling that, however interested Hitler may be in people collectively, he is not interested in the average individual, as such. Of course, that is a personal impression. After all, I was just a foreign journalist who meant nothing to him or his scheme of things, and whom he had seen only on the advice of subordinates. But the same was true of Mussolini, who had shown a personal interest.

Another factor: personal charm. Mussolini has it. At least, he turns it on even in casual audiences. I felt his magnetic aura when I was two yards away from him. I didn’t get any such psychic reaction from Hitler neither did I get any emotional “lift” from his conversation. This was perhaps the most surprising thing in my whole audience with him, because all that had been told me pointed to the exact opposite. My very first evening in Berlin, Herr Hewel had descanted to me on the inspirational value of personal contact with the Fuehrer, and all who were closely connected with him spoke in the same way. Dr. Ley, for instance, described at great length the need of continuous personal contact with Hitler, not only for specific advice but even more to drink in and be inspired by the constant creative emanations from the Fuehrer’s constructive genius. For instance, Ley said that Hitler had once said to him:

If you wait until I summon you about something, then it is already too late.

As a matter of fact, the Nazi inner circle foregathers with Hitler almost every day, especially at lunch time. The mid­day pause in Berlin’s official life is admittedly timed to this in time luncheon­ period.

Now I do not attempt to explain this seeming contradiction between my personal impression and that of all privileged Nazis.  At first, I thought their statements on this matter was a sort of “Party Line.” Yet the idea was expressed in so many diverse ways and with such differences in detail that I am inclined to think they really meant what they said. It’s just one of those mysteries that you run into so often in present­day Germany. Like the Third Reich which he has created, what you first see in Hitler by no means indicates all that lies behind.

One last aspect connected with this audience ­ its rigid confidentiality. Long before I saw Hitler, I had had to give my word of honor that everything he might say when I saw him would be kept scrupulously “off the record.” As the time for the audience approached, everybody concerned said to me in substance:

You know, by recommending you, we have in a sense vouched for you. If there should be any misunderstanding on your part, it would be ­ most embarrassing for us.

I was given to understand that the Fuehrer felt strongly on the matter.

The climax to all this came when I returned to the Adlon after my audience and found a message from Herr von Ribbentrop, stating that he would like to see me later that same afternoon. At the hour appointed he received me and wasted no time getting to the point.

You understand, of course, Dr. Stoddard,” said he, “that today’s interview with the Fuehrer must not be quoted in any way.

I was slightly nettled. “Mr. Minister,” I answered, “long before this audience, I informed your subordinates and the officials at the Propaganda Ministry of my journalistic experience and my reliability for keeping a confidence and keeping my given word. I assume your subordinates have informed you favorably.

Of course, of course,” replied von Ribbentrop hurriedly.

But,” even this is not the whole story. Three days after my audience with Hitler I left for a Christmas holiday at Budapest, Hungary. Magyar newspaper colleagues of mine in Berlin had telephoned their editors I was coming, and naturally the audience had made me “news.” So two editors of leading Budapest papers promptly gave me a fine luncheon, after which they proceeded to interview me with the introductory remark:

Now let’s hear all about your interview with Hitler.

Gentlemen,” I had to tell them, “before I say another word, please understand that it was not an interview but an audience, and that everything said was very much ‘off the record.’ You must give me your word that, in whatever I say, you will publish this statement textually. If you agree, I will tell you what the Fuehrer looked like and under what circumstances I saw him.

They agreed, and, like good Magyar gentlemen, they did just what they promised. Their press accounts were, of course, promptly transmitted to Berlin. I knew nothing about it till I got back ten days later. Then I did, because officials met me with unusual cordiality.

What nice statements you made in Budapest,” was the general refrain.

Thenceforth, all doors seemed to be open to me. In my last month in Berlin I got my most important interviews. Which would seem to indicate that, in Germany as elsewhere, keeping faith is a good thing at least for a journalist to do.

 
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Chapter 2: Berlin Blackout
Chapter 3: Getting on with the Job
Chapter 4: Junketing Through Germany
Chapter 5: This Detested War
Chapter 6: Vienna and Bratislava
Chapter 7: Iron Rations
Chapter 8: A Berlin Lady Goes to Market
Chapter 9: The Battle of the Land
Chapter 10: The Labor Front
Chapter 11: The Army of the Spade
Chapter 12: Hitler Youth
Chapter 13: Women of the Third Reich
Chapter 14: Behind the Winter­Help
Chapter 15: Socialized Health
Chapter 16: In a Eugenics Court
Chapter 17: I See Hitler
Chapter 18: Mid­Winter Berlin
Chapter 19: Berlin to Budapest
Chapter 20: The Party
Chapter 21: The Totalitarian State
Chapter 22: Closed Doors
Chapter 23: Out of the Shadow
 

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PDF of this post (click to download or view):  Into the Darkness – Chap 17
 
 
 
Version History
 
Version 3: Nov 27, 2014 – Added PDF of post.
 
 
 
Version 2: Wed, Feb 5, 2014. Added Chapter links.
 
Version 1: Published Jan 30, 2014.

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