The Germany I Saw

A Canadian businessman records his impressions of the Nazi Reich

B. W. KEIGHTLEY July 1 1935

The Germany I Saw

A Canadian businessman records his impressions of the Nazi Reich

B. W. KEIGHTLEY July 1 1935

The Germany I Saw

A Canadian businessman records his impressions of the Nazi Reich


IT’S FAIR TIME, 1935, in Leipzig, and from all over Germany, other European countries, Great Britain and even North America, buyers to the tune of 80,000 are gathered in this old-new South German town to see what the manufacturing skill of Germany has produced during the last year. Now when you pack 80,000 visitors into a city of a quarter of a million, there just can’t be hotels enough to go round; and though the big Hotel Astoria and its lesser rivals are packed to overflowing, thousands of middle-class Leipzig homes are harboring some of the visitors, getting that addition to the family income which is a sort of regular annual velvet for them.

The Hohenzollerns may go and the Nazis come, and many changes happen in the world at large, the old Imperial German flag give place to a new one with the mystic swastika emblem on it, but the Leipzig Fair is 600 years old and goes on without much reference to changes in systems of government.

Every train that arrives in the great Haupt Banhof— reputed locally to be the largest railway station in the world—every plane which arrives at Halle, Leipzig’s tenmile-away airport, is crowded with visitors to this oldest and greatest of industrial fairs.

Spotted around in the narrow old-world Leipzig streets are the thirty-eight exhibition buildings, built and maintained for no other reason than to house the fair twice yearly. It takes a stout heart and strong legs to cover the many miles of leg-work necessary to see the thousands of exhibits, and this is but part of the story. For, three miles out from the centre is a second section of the Leipzig Fair, devoted entirely to machinery, motor cars, cameras, etc.

In London I had seen what Great Britain was doing in industry at the great British Industries Fair, and, desiring to compare with it Germany’s 1935 industrial effort, I had taken plane from the Croydon Airport at ten of a foggy February morning. I had passed into brilliant sunshine over Belgium, changed to a German Luft Hansa plane at Cologne and run into heavy clouds over Germany and risen to a 6,000-foot altitude that brought a heavy frost on to the airplane windows; had flown steadily for hours over a billowing mass of clouds that stretched illimitibly to the horizon, and, dropping down through those clouds at Halle, had arrived, as it were, without warning into the Germany oí which I had read so much during the past two years. Airplane travel has many advantages, but its effects are rather sudden. There is none of the preparation for the change of scene and people which goes with the gradual progress of a railway train. I had to pinch myself mentally in the speeding motor car which took me into Leipzig to realize that here was I in Nazi Germany. All that I had read of the far-reaching changes in Germany during the past few years made me keenly alert to observe what these changes had done to the German scene.

The fair itself offered opportunity to study at first hand how industry in Germany is faring under the Nazis. The Leipzig fair dates back to the twelfth century, and is the

sample fair of Europe, visited by buyers from seventy-two different countries and used by 8,000 exhibitors, of which only ten per cent come from outside Germany. The fair shows twice yearly what is being done in commerce and industry, as well as in the field of invention. It indicates merchandise trends to the buyers and, on the other hand, shows the manufacturer in what direction the buyers’ tastes are heading. It is, of course, an enormous saving to the manufacturer since it saves him the trouble and expense of sending travellers around with heavy sample outfits. It is really the meeting place of demand and supply.

Small Industries

r"PHE MANY thousands of exhibitors in the fair, and their listings in the bulky two-volume catalogue, mark an important difference from business as we know it in North America. German business has no natural tendency in the direction of large manufacturing businesses doing business on a national scale supported by national advertising. It is most at home doing business on a localized scale—a condition which reflects in local brands of foodstuffs, tobaccos, candies, etc., and probably accounts for the small ampunt of national advertising on branded gcxxls as we know it. Germany is a country of thousands of small industries, the owners of which are content to operate on a relatively small scale, and therein may lie one of its sources of strength. The enormous horizontal and vertical trusts, as built up by Hugo Stinnes, were alien to German character. Realization of this by the Nazi Government is evidenced by such measures as preferred taxes to personally conducted and owned companies, loans to employees to aid them in starting businesses of their own. As a policy, the Nazi Government is opposed to trusts and syndicates, particularly to hidden directorates.

I had rather expected to find that the State regimentation which is supposed to have come to pass under the Nazi régime would have tended to stifle private enterprise in Germany. My basis of comparison was my last visit in July, 1929, when Germany was celebrating the tenth anniversary of the founding of its Republic. Really, I found a much greater evidence of private enterprise, existing business reaching out into new fields and offering all kinds of new products, and many hundreds of new businesses starting up.

I know, of course, that Germany has lost a large part of her export market, but internally there is a tremendous surge of business as a result of Government encouragement in every direction. The German dictatorship has so far made no such attempt to regulate the business and manufacturing life of the community, as has taken place in Italy, with its corporate state. A striking example of Government encouragement to industry is the motor-car trade, which has more than doubled its output since Hitler took over the reins of government. Great highways are being built throughout the country, and, to encourage sales of new cars, taxes have been practically abolished, it costing merely a few marks for the current year’s license plates.

The Nazi Government has aimed at a minimum of restrictive legislation in business. Most of the regulations pertain to the import business, which of necessity has to be conducted in accordance with the amount of foreign currency available. Other restrictions look toward the avoidance of overcrowding in certain trades and professions, especially among retailers. The shoestring operator is being discouraged. Regulation of labor includes provisions designed to keep out of the various handicrafts workers who are not fully qualified or well enough trained to perform good professional work.

Everyone seems to be busy in Germany. A dictatorship may have its drawbacks but it at least has power, and this has been used in Germany to see that everyone is occupied in some way. Nowhere did I see a mendicant or a streetcorner loafer. Hitler’s Government is seeing to it that anyone who cannot be given a job by industry is given some sort of occupation by the State. Hitler hopes to see every able-bodied German eventually provided with a job. but until that ideal condition arrives he has grappled with the curse of idleness by organizing unwanted man power into what is known as the Labor Front. This uniformed organization, run under semi-military discipline, is being used to interest, occupy and educate the youth of Germany for whom at present there are no jobs.

One conspicuous example of their activities is the Glider Club. Here young men in their late ’teens and early twenties are taught the theory of aerodynamics, are put into the carpenter shops to build gliders, are taken out and taught to fly them. Thus the population is being made air-minded, and a nucleus of well-trained pilots is provided. Other activities include engineering, road-building, forestry and agriculture. Thus is self-respect being saved for hundreds of thousands of young German citizens. Instead of wasting their time until industry shall be ready to absorb them, they are being trained to play an active and profitable part until such absorption takes place.

The German cities I visited presented a much less dramatic scene than I had expected. After all the stirring things 1 had read about Germany in newspapers and magazines for the past two years, a visit to the country of Hitler appeared to be fraught with some suggestion of danger. At least half of the Canadian friends to whom I mentioned mv intention

before leaving home, shot up disapproving eyebrows, and some of them seemed to think I was crazy to go looking for trouble in that way. I suppose we are apt to build our impressions of a country from the headlines and little snatches of information which come to us in our newspapers and magazines, and overlook the fact that reporters, whether they lxin Germany or at home, are paid to find out and report the exceptional and not the everyday occurrences that go to make up the lives of the mass of people. I recall that when I lived and worked in Chicago, my Canadian friends ustxi to enquire if I wore a bullet-proof vest when 1 went to work there. The newspaper stories that came out of Chicago succeeded in building a picture of a most lawless and dangerous city; actually, my business life in Chicago proceeded along exactly the same lines as it d(x.*s now in Canada. At no time was I ever able to recognize a bandit or a hijacker, and I never saw a blood-stained corpse on the sidewalk.

Regimentation not Apparent

C IMITARIA. during my visit to Germany I could not see ^ the least indication that the daily lives of the great mass of people proceeded along much different lines because they were under a Hitler-Nazi dictatorship, instead of some other form of government. The bulk of people who came under my observation appeared to be going about their daily tasks and living the details of their lives quite as happily as our own people, and in certain details ol those lives somewhat more happily, as I shall relate farther on.

If they were regimented, it didn’t show in any way that 1 could see. They went to work on frxit. on bicycles and in buses and street cars and motor cars, quite as casually as we do in Canada. Work in office and store and factory seemed to be under conditions just about like ours. They ate and talked in restaurants just as we do, and only a few people here and there occasionally raised their right arms to heaven in the much publicized Hitler salute. Certainly, we as foreigners never felt called upon to do likewise.

Nobody seemed to mind. I f any of the thousandsof visitors in Germany salute it is because they feel that way. And, strange to say. there is something in the atmosphere that makes you want to do a little more than merely say “good morning” to a man. They are so excessively polite in a military sort of way. and so many of the railway, airport and hotel officials with whom one comes in contact bow courteously and raise their hands to their caps in a military salute, that it is hard not to fall into some such habit. But it certainly isn’t done from a feeling that you have to conciliate the Nazi régime.

I looked in vain for vast hordes of brown-shirted Schutz-Staffel, blacktunicked Storm Troops, and dangerous looking Steel Helmets. There was, of course, a sprinkling ol them, but most of the Brown Shirts were helping the police out in traffic directional work.

I didn't see a single detachment drilling or marching. Quite a few of the black-tunicked Storm Troopers were to be seen in side cars and motor cars around the Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin, which is Government headquarters, but they didn’t look a particle more formidable than our own provincial traffic police.

Several times while I was dining in various restaurants in Leipzig and Berlin, Nazi Storm Troopers came in making collections for various charities. rattling the coins in a tin box in a manner quite reminiscent of our own taggers in Canada. I watched them closely. On the whole, they received less attention and fewer coins were dropped into their boxes than our own taggers would encounter under similar circumstances in Canada

Somehow, before visiting Germany I had built up an impression that the Nazi regime was being forced down the throats of at least a certain part of a reluctant Germany.

But the contacts I made there certainly suggested that, at least so far as the great majority of average German citizens are concerned, the present Nazi régime is what they wanted and voted for; and now that they have it. they are entirely satisfied with it. After all, more than fiftytwo per cent of the

electorate voted for Hitler in the last election, which was held before he came into power and before any pressure was applied.

The truth of the whole matter, I think, is that the Germans never had any stomach for their Republic and didn't know what to do with it when they got it. It was a synthetic sort of creation, the product of men thrown hurriedly and unexpectedly into power, and it was no mirror of anything that had ever existed in German hearts or minds. The Imperial Government just went to pieces, and it seemed the thing to do to form a Republic. But republics, to have any chance of enduring, must lx; what the mass of the people desire.

There were, prior to the Nazi régime, more than a score of political parties in Germany; and the reason that there were so many with none strong enough to govern, was that none of them offered an acceptable formula to the German V>eople. For three generations prior to the war the Germans were taught to believe that they had a world mission, and after Versailles it no longer seemed to exist. Nothing happened after 1918 to salve their wounded pride or to offer a way out of their valley of humiliation. So it is little wonder that when Hitler came along, with his impassioned appeal to German pride and his promise of restoration of German greatness and, above all, a new German mission, the vast mass of the people should flock to his standard.

German Democracy

I_J1TLER has become almost a religion with them. You will find a picture of him in his various uniforms in almost every store window, restaurant and hotel. There are enormous numbers of postcards on sale, showing him in every conceivable activity, from reviewing the army, navy and air forces, to jxffting the deer and patting the heads of peasant children on his estate in Bavaria. A lot of this is undoubtedly inspired by the Minister of Propaganda and much of it may strike a

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visitor as childish, but I think the Germans ! like it. They simply must have a leader. The very selection of Hitler’s title, Fuehrer, ! meaning “leader,” was a shrewd piece of German psychology.

One rather odd thing I ran across is the manner in which the Hohenzollems are being washed out of public consciousness. I was told that no newspaper or magazine may j refer to them in any way. One of the postcards being sold quite freely shows Germany’s great national heroes—Frederick the Great, Bismarck, Hindenburg and Hitler. No provision had apparently been made for Kaiser Wilhelm. The Crown Prince occupies himself in a minor capacity in the Nazi party, but he is rarely reported in the press and I don’t think anyone regrets his eclipse. Prince August Wilhelm takes an active part also in the Nazi organization, and has been a fiery and popular Nazi orator for many years. I asked almost every German whom I met if there was a chance of a restoration of the Hohenzollem dynasty, and invariably the reply was firmly in the negative.

The official title of the Nazi party is the National Socialist Party, and, never having j read of any of their actions which squared with my ideas of socialism, I enquired about that. The explanation given me was that National Socialism has nothing in common with communism, that is, an equal distribution of wealth to all citizens. Finder National Socialism, private property is strictly maintained. The German interpretation of the word “socialism” would therefore seem to be “equal chances and opportunities for all,” but certainly not equal division of wealth. However, the old class distinction and lines of aristocracy between the common people and the ruling class, as they existed in the old Germany, are definitely negatived by the Nazis. All the way down the line from Hitler himself, who is definitely a man of the people, emphasis is laid on the fact that ability and achievement constitute the only qualifications for positions of authority. The universal one year of service in the j Labor Front is itself designed as a class { leveller.

1 used to think that the Germans were a phlegmatic, unemotional people who took their pleasures sadly, and I rather felt that the arrival of a dictator régime, with regimentation of all citizen activities, would accentuate this. Visits to a few beer gardens and to some of the hundreds of ornate middle-class restaurants, where Germans sip chocolate and nibble rolls from seven p.m. until midnight, shook this idea rather badly, j

Each of these places I visited was thronged j with patrons: every seat taken and people ! waiting for places. And each one had a | superlatively good orchestra, usually playing on a balcony that jutted out over the | main restaurant floor. And they played real \ music too, with verve and abandon. It was >

a pleasant contrast to the monotony of the jazz orchestras at home. I presume that most of the music played consisted of traditional German airs, because the audience knew the words to nearly all, and sang lustily with evident enjoyment and in excellent melody. Numbers of the songs were of that kind that tempt a man to raise a cup and pledge his neighbor in it, regardless of whether said cup holds beer or chocolate. After about fifteen minutes of sitting solemnfaced in the midst of those many hundreds ! of happy, singing Germans, I felt an overI whelming impulse to raise and pledge in my i own cup of chocolate.

Another preconceived notion that received a shock was that people dared not express opinions audibly against the Govern! ment. In the grill of the Hotel Excelsior in I Berlin I ran into a German citizen, now resident in New York, who had come back to Germany to clear up an estate. He had run i into some complications with the immigraI tion officials, as citizens do the world over, and become involved in several yards of red j tape. His criticisms were not on questions ! of high policy but of German officials in I general, and he said just about the same j things, in just the same way and in just as loud a voice, as we do at home when we run into red tape on the part of our own officials.

1 started looking nervously over my shoulder in case lie should be overheard, and finally asked him if lie was not being indiscreet. "No!” he replied in a peculiar combination of Eastside New York English and guttural German accent. ‘‘I’ve been telling them the same things, only worse, for six weeks.”

For some time prior to my visit to Germany 1 had wondered what would be the ultimate end of the Nazi Storm Troopers— that quasi-military organization which helped Hitler ride to power. The need for it appeared to disappear when Hitler gathered all power into his own hands. I found part of the answer in the use which is being made of the various Nazi trooper organizations to I assist the police and to build up the Labor ! Front organization, and the other and larger ! part of the answer appeared when Germany declared for conscription. It seems that the various Nazi military organizations have recently been used to provide some of the troops which were not permitted under the Versailles Treaty. With the coming of conscription, that need for concealment van1 ished. And, since there is now only one party j in Germany, the Nazi party, and that party ! constitutes the Government, with the full j force of the regular army behind it, the j Nazis no longer have need of their own mili; tary unit. Therefore, we may look to see a ; gradual elimination of the brown Nazi unii form from the German scene. The picked men of the organization, drafted a long time ago into the black-uniformed Storm Troop! ers, will probably remain as Hitler’s own bodyguard. But Nazi brown will now give j place to Reichswehr olive green, as the new j conscript army comes into being.

The Aims of the Nazi Regime

, V\7TIAT MORAL did I draw from the ! W things I saw and the things that were told me in Germany? While it is quite true, as I have said, that life in Germany today ! appears to be proceeding along placid enough lines for the bulk of the population and that I most of them are solidly behind Hitler, it is obvious that Germany, under Hitler’s direction, is definitely headed somewhere. Where? What is Germany’s underlying purpose in I throwing overboard the Versailles Treaty 1 and rearming? For what does she intend to use her new armaments, and when?

In order to answer these questions, it appears essentia! to go back to Versailles for the beginning of the answer. I talked to a number of well-informed Englishmen about Germany’s rearmament plans, and none of them expressed any particular resentment or surprise. They seemed to feel that the erstwhile Allies had asked for it. When the Allies defeated Germany they failed to dictate the only kind of peace that Germany could ever understand, the kind that they would have dictated themselves—penalties payable at once, with an Allied army sitting

in Berlin until they were discharged. After that the Allies could have marched away and left them to do as they pleased about rearming; being sure, however, that the !>enalties exacted restrained her power to do it for a period of years.

Had Germany been the victor instead of the vanquished in the last war, and had been faced with the failure to carry out treaty terms with which she had faced the Allies, she would have taken immediate military steps to secure compliance.

The old Imperial German Government would have taken such steps, and most probably the present Nazi Government would do so too.

Trading upon their belief that none of the former Allies’ governments felt politically strong enough to set any barriers in the way, the Nazi Government has moved steadily forward to repair the damage done in Germany’s defeat of 1918, taking shrewd advantage of each development in international relations, gradually repairing their fences, until they deemed the time ripe to throw Versailles overboard entirely.

Actually, I do not believe that there is any sentiment among the German people for war, and I do not believe that Hitler and his associates want it if it can possibly be avoided. But they see Germany’s present position as a humiliating one and one in which the destiny of the people, as they see that destiny, cannot be realized. Hitler has laid down clearly in his book, Mein Kumpf, the programme to which Germany is now committed. One of the first objectives was the restoration of the Saar, and that has already been achieved. Others include the restoration of the German colonies, of the present free port of Danzig and Memel, and the obliteration of the Polish Corridor. The programme works steadily toward a grandiose conception of Mittel Europa—the old pre-war dream come to life again. It means in effect that every country contiguous to Germany which contains a respectable proportion of citizens of German extraction shall be brought into the German confederation.

These objectives have been explained repeatedly to the German people by Hitler, and in the main the people are for the implementation of that programme. A clear realization of that fact affords the true key to each of the various items of news which reach us from Germany with regard to her rearmament. In my opinion, it is a delusion to regard Hitler’s régime as one which is being maintained in Germany by force. I think it is a vain hope that we shall see this régime thrown overboard by any counterrevolution. If Hitler were to vanish from the scene tomorrow, another—an equally strong man, dedicated to the same aims— would take his place. Germany is back into the picture as the central strong nation of Europe and the central fact in any discussion which must cover the future peace or war developments in Europe.

That is the military side of the picture. The business side is equally intriguing. Whatever dangers the growing spirit of nationalism may have for world peace, an immediate by-product is the vast surge of energy which under Government encouragement is being poured into every phase of industry and commerce. National spirit and national pride in achievement are being whipped to fever heat in most European countries; and a renaissance of national spirit is finding expression in new ideas, new products, new processes, and even new ideas in art. The old world is moving ahead rapidly. So rapidly perhaps that the old aphorism about America being the New World may lose its force. We may have to step lively to keep up with the procession.

Germany constitutes an excellent example of this renaissance of national spirit at work.

A people of great achievement and ability, after a period of national discouragement, is back at work with a renewed will to achieve and whatever criticisms we, as a democratic people, may have of her present régime, we must be prepared to cope with it wherever our products meet those of Germany in world markets.