May 19, 2017

1930. German Leaders Divided on How to Deal with Rising Nazi Party

Moderates Divided on Opposition to Hitler
Campaigners outside of a polling place in Berlin on the day of the 1932 German federal election, July 31, 1932 (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler in Italy and Germany prior to World War II.

From The New York Times, December 28, 1930:

Middle Party Leaders Favor Forcing Fascists Into Cabinet as Means of Curbing Them
He Prefers to Play Electorate Till Assured of a Strong Majority In Parliament


Berlin, Dec. 26 — Whether German Fascism will be actively represented in the government during the coming year now depends largely on the course of Parliamentary developments after the Reichstag resumes its sessions on Feb. 2 and such an eventuality as a new election.

Adolf Hitler is known to be definitely opposed to having his party enter the government so long as it is only second in rank. He prefers to wait until the movement may have so completely captured the electorate as to assure him a strong majority in Parliament. With 107 Deputies, the party is now the second largest group in the Reichstag, but, aside from a consistent record as noisy obstructionists, the Nazis' only outstanding achievement since their whirlwind election success of Sept. 9 appears to have been an ability to browbeat the government into placing a ban on the Remarque film, "All Quiet on the Western Front."

However, an accumulating volume of sentiment among leaders of the middle parties appears to have prompted a desire to take the poison out of the movement by forcing it to assume active responsibility, while other motives may have accounted for the desire to use the Fascists as an antidote to the Socialists.

Views of Von Seeckt and Schacht

General Hans von Seeckt, who is rapidly acquiring an influential role in German politics, believes the Nazis' participation in the government to be both desirable and indispensable. Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, the former head of the Reichsbank, is also not opposed to having them take a hand. He argues that it is just as impossible to govern against the Socialists as against the equally powerful groups of the extreme Right, who, he adds, did not vote for Hitler's economic policies, but primarily desired to let the world know that the German people were determined not to become a perishing nation.

Nazi sympathizers, however, are convinced that the time has not yet come when the party's leaders can safely accept Cabinet posts, and that their participation in the government in the present Parliamentary situation would measurably weaken the movement. Their contention is that this would force it into a political line-up which would rob it of popularity and definitely prevent the party carrying out its program for revision of the reparations and other treaties.

Increase at Elections Predicted

The movement's momentum, it is argued also in such political and industrial quarters as are not averse to the growth of Fascism, will be greatly enhanced at the next election and any premature attempts to accept portfolios in Chancellor Bruening's Cabinet would decisively paralyze the party's freedom of action.

The Fascists, therefore, are apparently in no immediate hurry and the drift of political and economic events in Germany may be said to be working overtime in their favor.

To General von Seeckt, the militant Nationalist and social spirit which is the propelling force behind the Hitler movement suggests a nucleus for a rallying point of all true Germans. He demands participation of the Nazis in the government in order that it may have the benefit of their youthful reform energies plus the support of those patriotic elements who are actuated by national sentiment, loyal participation in present-day social needs and the will for national defense.

Such a government, says General von Seeckt, would take on the shape of a huge wedge whose point of steel—representing reason—would be driven against the walls of the economic barriers of foreign hostility. The propelling force behind this wedge, the General observes, would recruit itself from all ranks of the German people, and not least from the working masses, who he believes are patriotically German and immune to the "Russian poison."

Continuing, the General says:

"Once this wedge is set in motion it is inevitable that chips will fly in all directions, but they will represent the lukewarm and cowardly formalists and bureaucrats and 'ungermans' and we shall not miss them."

Chancellor Bruening's Attitude

Chancellor Bruening's attitude on the question of official affiliation with the Nazis continues one of several riddles the silent Chancellor has projected into the puzzling currents of German politics. But the situation confronting him when the Reichstag reassembles early in February may bring a swift solution, as the present government's perfunctory relations with the Socialists are gradually reaching the breaking point.

Once they are dissolved it may be safely assumed that the government or that succeeding him is destined to become the active reflection of the recrudescence of Nationalism which set in at the last election.