The Germany I Saw

A penetrating analysis of what Hitlerism has done for, and to, the Nazi homeland

FLOYD S. CHALMERS December 1 1938

The Germany I Saw

A penetrating analysis of what Hitlerism has done for, and to, the Nazi homeland

FLOYD S. CHALMERS December 1 1938

The Germany I Saw


A penetrating analysis of what Hitlerism has done for, and to, the Nazi homeland


Editor, the Financial post

ONE DAY in September I spent a pleasant hour in Berlin with a world-famous German. He has never been active in Nazi leadership, but his name is known in every country. He is a man who holds the respect of the world. He said to me:

"Adolf Hitler is one of the great men of all time. He has given Germany courage and a place in the world. He has made her strong; strong enough to be listened to. He has gotten for Germany things that no previous Chancellor has been able to get for her. He has gotten them by taking them.

“Before Hitler, Germany was treated shamefully by other countries. Not now. Germany is respected because her strength commands respect. The country is united behind Der Fuehrer. He has given us a ¡xilitical system that will ensure our power as a nation for a thousand years.”

I left this enthusiastic supporter of Hitlerism to return to my hotel. Waiting for me there was another German whose name is almost as well known. When we had reached the seclusion of my room, he said to me:

“Germany is nearing the end of her resources. She is living off capital. Discontent is growing among the people. People in Germany are as fickle as mobs are anywhere. Today they cheer Hitler. Tomorrow they will jeer him and follow some new leader. We are heading for Bolshevism, unless the army takes over and sets up a military dictatorship that will bridge the gap for a return to democratic forms.”

Hitler, this man went on. was lost in fantasy. His megalomania had to be fed with increasing adulation, with unending parades and spectacles. “The Nazis must never stop. They must always be performing miracles; keeping people inflamed in order to keep them united. When they can no longer think of new stunts to amuse the people at home, they will turn more and more to foreign diversions. There will be ever-increasing tension. Otherwise Hitler cannot lx certain of public support. But how far can you go in increasing tension without causing the whole machine to break down?”

As he talked, I glanced nervously around the room. For his sake I hope there was no detectograph hidden in the lighting fixture. I did not believe everything lie told me. any more than I swallowed all the pleasant romances spun to me by Nazi propagandists while I was in Germany.

Hitlerism is a complex mixture of fantasy and fact, brute force and idealism in the realms of politics, philosophy and economics. Like Fascism in Italy and the New Deal in Washington, it is not all gl and it is not all evil. What is giKxl is very, very good; what is bad is pretty foul.

Undercover Criticism

SINCE my return to Canada, people have expressed surprise that I heard so much criticism within Germany of the Nazi regime. 1 litler has critics inside his own country. Get two of those critics together in one place and you will not learn anything. But get one of them alone and he will unburden his soul to you. He will tell you about the complete destruction of personal freedom, about the inhumanity of the treatment of minority groups, about the steadily rising cost of living, about the lack of variety in the food. He will grouse about the never-satisfied hunger of all sorts of Party organizations for new taxes and “voluntary” contributions.

Curiously, most Germans who have a complaint to express about one phase or another of life in their new Nazi state, conclude by expressing a few words of earnest tribute to Hitler personally. Der Fuehrer is almost above criticism. He is tlie man who has united Germany. He is the man who tore up the vexatious Versailles treaty. He is the man who removed the War-guilt stain. He is the man who ended unemployment; who has given the Germans not only something to cheer for, but magnificent, even spectacular, opportunities to do their cheering en masse.

Nor is there much criticism of paunchy Goering, Germany’s field marshal. Goering is a War hero. He is a man of the middle class who has risen to the top. He likes to tell —and hear—stories of the type that pass for humor in Germany. He loves to wear medals and to review troops. In brief, he is a German of the Germans. (Hitler is detached from the multitude; a demigod and the personal symbol of a state in revolt against its past).

Most of the criticism is directed at the Party and against the second line of leaders such as Goebbels. Himmler and Von Ribbentrop. People complain that Nazi snoopers spy on everyone, and that Nazi bullies strut the streets like pre-War Potsdam officers.

The criticism is directed, too, at the bureaucrats. There are almost 500,000 new job-holders sitting in Government offices, tying up every simplest transaction in knotted cords of red tajx.

When I left Germany and began to put my notes in

order, I was surprised to discover that I had had more private, intimate conversations with Germans who were critical of some phase or other of the dictatorship than with citizens enthusiastic for the whole show.

Perhaps my experience was unusual. Certainly criticism is undercover and purely conversational. One never sees it in the newspapers. One never hears it over the radio or on the public platform. One unkind word or jest about Hitler and his works is a sufficient passport to a concentration camp.

One day I was having lunch with the editor of a German daily newspaper. To provoke him to speak, I asked him, “Wouldn't you like for one day to be able to say what you really believe?”

“But I do say what I believe.” he countered. "If the Party does something we don’t like. I am free to criticize it.”

This was news to me. “Give me an example,” I said.

Immediately he began to back water. He said, “Of course, we do not criticize very much and never on questions of policy.”

That was an honest admission.

German people seem to accept willingly enough the complete regimentation of all their thinking. They tell you they are happy to pay that price for being a strong and united nation. They cheered I)r. Dietrich, Reich press chief, when he said at Nuremberg that National Socialism, in overcoming individualistic thinking, had overcome “the intellectual fault of a whole epoch.”

There are no back-seat drivers in Germany. Germany is a claque where everyone is disciplined to believe whatever the Nazi leaders want them to believe. And they are well trained. They know just when to cheer and just when to jeer. For instance, a reference in a public address to the annexation of Austria is a signal for loud cheers of “Heil Hitler” and “Sieg Heil“ A reference to Bolshevism always brings a rolling tide of angry protests. Let the speaker mention the word “democracy,” and ironical laughter—accompanied by loud cries of “pfui“—will rend the atmosphere.

In Germany everyone has to agree with Hitler or keep silent. That introduces a problem which puzzled me a bit. I tried to get the answer to it.

“What happens,” I asked, “if Hitler discovers that he has made a mistake? What does he do about it when he changes his mind? Obviously the whole nation has to change its mind. Don’t people find that a little difficult?”

The answer was frank enough.

“Yes, that is a bit of a problem. But do not forget that we control all the agencies of molding public opinion. We control the printing press, the radio, the speaking platform and the films. We can make the people think what Der Fuehrer believes they should think.

“If we are forced to modify a policy or even backtrack on some of our steps, we immediately marshal all propaganda agencies to preach the new doctrine. You would be surprised to know how easy it is to get the nation united behind a new policy.”

This is not cynicism. It is part of the Nazi principle of “follow the leader” wherever he goes. But it makes one think of Hitler’s statement that the people are a big herd of stupid sheep, or of that equally illuminating remark of Dr. Paul Josef Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, that “propaganda should not be in the least respectable.”

“The Beauty of Work”

BY THEIR |X>licy of “sticking together” and obeying orders from above, Germans have achieved much.

On my visit to Germany I found myself every day aroused to a sincere feeling of admiration for the tremendous material accomplishments of Hitler's regime. The new Germany at work is an almost aweinspiring spectacle.

There is no unemployment. Even if one adds together the men who have been put into military and Party-leader uniforms, all the new bureaucrats, all the extra women who have married and gone out of employment, all the workers who have heen literally forced upon employers who did not require their services, there is still a margin of between 2,500,(XXI and 3.000.000 additional men and women employed in new creative jobs, either under the State or in private industry.

German organization starts at the grass roots of life. The State takes boys and girls in hand at about the Wolf Cub stage, and leads them through the various branches of the youth organizations until they are on the threshold of young manhood and young womanhood, physically fit, trained for service to the nation, enthusiasts for their country. No boy or girl in Germany drifts to his ult imate post

in life. I íe is directed to it, and is prepared for its responsibilities.

Before he serves his term in the conscript army, the young man puts in six months in a labor corps. Here he and his fellows serve the State without differences of social or economic status based upon birth, wealth or other special privilege.

The emphasis in Germany upon the dignity of labor the “Beauty of Work”--is an impressive fact to every visitor. The Germans have always been industrious. Now they are industrious with a purpose and under the spil of a great ideal. The I^abor Service combines work with education.

The first principle is service to the community. Thus, young men and women drain marshes, build roads, plant trees and study nursing. “Every young German loves his native soil because he has worked on it,” I heard speakers say at Nuremberg.

It is the task of the Labor Service to educate people to Nazi principles, to give them a love of their nation, to inculcate in youth an appreciation of the moral value of work and respect for manual labor. Nazi leaders boast that “knowledge for knowledge’s síike” no longer ousts physical education and training for character in the schools system. To be strong and healthy is the first law governing youth.

Womanhood is enshrined in Germany, and every girl or woman is inspired to serve the State in some way. While marriage and home and rearing of babies is encouraged, the 11,500,000 German women who pursue business or professional careers have a special section of the German Labor Front to look after their interests. Women’s clubs and social service organizations are interwoven into the far-flung pattern of Nazism under the leadership of a national leader responsible only to Der Fuehrer.

The architectural and material triumphs of the Hitler regime are well known. The country has been covered with fine highways. Community meeting-houses for political organizations have been built all over the land. Fine new buildings have been erected. Spirts fields, theatres, public halls have been placed in strategic spots. Long after Hitler and Hitlerism have passed from the scene, the country will be deriving satisfaction and benefit from the enduring monuments that have been erected in his regime.

An impressive feature of German life is the “Strength through Joy” movement, which ensures cheap travelling, entertainment and sp>rt for everyone, and emphasizes fitness of body and mind.

All these things represent big credits on the right side of the ledger. One cannot calculate the significance of Hitlerism without giving Hitler full marks for such accomplishments.

The youth hostels, the labor camps, the highways, the public buildingsall these things are open to every visitor. The Nazis are enthusiastic guides, and they make certain that the visitor sees the finer side of German life.

The press, the propaganda literature, the lovely photographic displays and the radio give the visitor a one-sided picture. Parades, spectacles and great public gatherings build up an impression of German might, German justice and German idealism.

“Remorselessly Gruel Persecution”

IT IS much more difficult for the visitor to find outward evidences of the factors that have to be written down on the other side of the ledger.

The visitor, for instance, sees little of the remorselessly cruel prsecution of the Jewish people. I saw no Nazi bullies beating up Jewish grandmothers. But I saw offensive signs plastered on the windows of Jewish-owned shops. Every shop was

labelled. Beneath a gold-lettered sign reading, say, “Cecile, Modiste,” one would see white letters nine inches high indicating that the proprietor of the shop was “Rachel Ixwinsky, Jewess.” At the entrance to every little village I passed I saw a sign,

“Jiiden sind nicht hier erwünscht”—“Jews not wanted here.”

I ran into Jewish refugees in Switzerland, France and England. They were the fortunate ones who had a little money or friends abroad to help them escape from the terror of being a Jew in a race-mad State.

No visitor is ever taken to a concentration camp, nor can he get any information as to the number of such camps or their population. The nearest I came to getting facts about them was a reference made by a woman speaker at the Nazi Congress. Quite unaware of the meaning her remark conveyed to at least one foreign visitor, she called ujxrn the women of Germany to redouble their efforts to look after the wives and children of men in concentration camps !

It my own experience is any guide, the Canadian visitor to Germany need anticipate no unpleasantness. The people are generous and courteous to the visitor. The hotels give him a hospitable welcome. The restaurants supply him with good food, well cooked, but not in the variety he could get at home. Prices are higher than in. say, Switzerland or France. Customs officers are tactful, and pay attention more to the visitors’ money than to his baggage. As a matter of fact, they did not bother to count mv money or open my baggage either when I entered Germany or when I left. A camera may be freely used if one avoids taking pictures in fortified areas.

Germany is striving to build up her tourist traffic, making generous concessions in the form of reduced railway fares and travel marks at around forty-five per cent discount. Unfortunate incidents involving embarrassment to tourists are likely to be rare in the future. Germany is beginning to learn from Russia and Italy that tourists can be a rich source of income. She does not want the experience of 1938 repeated, when the slogan of “One State, One Folk, One Leader” was amended by daring Viennese wags to read “One State, One Folk, One Guest.”

Things We Gould Learn

VV/F HAVE a great deal to learn from y y Germany. We could learn from Hitler how to unite a nation, to create a spirit of common purpose and of pride in nationhood. We could learn from Hitler how to put unemployed people to work on things of enduring value.

We could learn from Hitler how to train young men and women for national service; how to replace national indecision with national discipline; how to get direction and control into political life in place of drift and evasion.

The tragedy of Germany is that she has achieved these things under a system of regimentation of the minds and bodies of all the people. Perhaps it is not for us to shed tears over the passing of democracy in Germany. The Germans were hardly ready for democracy when it came after the War.

“We like to be led around by the nose.” more than one person said to me in that country. Germans do indeed fall readily into step behind the leadership of a dictator. But dictatorships die, and dictators also die. Seldom in history has an inflamed zealot at the head of a nation been able to leave behind him an equally able commander. If Hitler’s regime sinks into a slough of inefficiency and corruption, or if Hitler himself passes from the scene, there is no simple way of setting up an alternative leadership. There is no second group of rulers being prepared for leadership. The only way Germany can change its government is by revolution. It may be a bloodless coup d'état, or the streets may run red before a new government comes to power.

I tried to get Germans to discuss the future. Few of them will do so willingly. They deliberately seek to avoid thinking about what will happen when public opinion turns against the Nazis. They lull themselves with the opiate refrain that the Nazi regime will last a thousand years.

One of the shrewdest men in Britain said to me on his return from Germany this year: “It is a miracle that Hitler is still alive. There must be at least 100.000 Ieople in Germany who hate him and all that he stands for to such an extent that any one of them would willingly lay down his life if he felt he could assassinate Der Fuehrer before being shot down by the bullets of the Black Troopers.”

Hitler is well guarded. I do not believe the stories that are whispered to one in Germany that he has twenty or thirty doubles and that he himself seldom appears in public. The man I saw in Germany and whom I heard speaking on several occasions was Adolf Hitler and no double. I am confident of that. But the people themselves never get very close to their leader.

Half an hour before he left his hotel at Nuremberg to drive to some Party function, the streets along the entire route were manned by his personal bodyguard, the S.S. men. each one a hand-picked loyal follower armed to the teeth. The car in which he was driven moved at incredible swiftness along the streets. For half an hour before he passed by, no one was allowed to cross from sidewalk to sidewalk. To facilitate pedestrian movement, bridges were built overhead. The bridges were covered over—top, sides and bottom — with solid planks through which not a ray of daylight entered.

The Monarchists I.ive in Hope

THERE IS an underground movement in Germany for the restoration of the monarchy. Its potential supporters áre the officer class in the permanent army. But the movement is hardly likely to rise to the surface for an indefinite number of years. In the first place, most industrialists, businessmen, intellectual leaders and army officers regard Hitler as necessary to the continued unity of Germany and the strengthening of its place in the world. They accept his romantic dreams and his “surprises” as merely the price they must pay for his successes. In the second place. Hitler has purged his opponents and removed potential enemies from positions of influence. Any groups that could he considered as likely enemies have been skilfully divided; spied upon and held in check. It is as though Mr. King sought to ensure Liberal Party rule in Canada bymaking it a crime to be a Conservative or a C.C.F.

As they play for time, the groups that represent a possible alternative government for Germany are either silent or making a pretense of loyalty to the Nazi movement. One afternoon my wife and I were sitting in the outdoor coffee garden of a German hotel. A majestically dressed and bemedalled Nazi came in and sat down beside us. He smiled pleasantly and eavesdropped with obvious interest upon our conversation. (Needless to say we chose our words carefully.) We did not know who he was and did not attempt to bring him into our conversation, although we felt certain that he wanted us to do SÍ).

After a while he strolled away. An American newspaper correspondent who came along at that moment, said to us, “Do you know who your friend was? It was Prince August Wilhelm, the third son of the Kaiser.”

August Wilhelm and his brothers are all Nazis now. How earnest they are in their devotion to Hitlerism, I cannot say. Here is a little story that may throw some light on the subject. The man who told it to me

wears a Nazi Party button. It is inside tlie ' lapel of his coat. He lias it ready to show to any inquisitive person who might want to know if he had joined the Party. But he does not flaunt it because he is at heart a monarchist and is waiting out the Nazi regime, hoping for a time when the Hohenzollerns can be brought back.

According to his story, there was for a long time a battle between the Nazi chiefs | and the army chiefs as to whether the I soldiers in uniform should give the old ! Prussian army salute or the new Hitler salute. The conflict was resolved by establishing the rule that when a soldier was wearing his cap he should give the army salute, and when his head was bare he should give the Nazi salute.

A drill sergeant was explaining the new regulation to his regiment. He concluded by saying . . and don’t let me catch any of you men with your caps off!”

Monarchists and army chiefs will be anti-Hitler if they ever get their chance to be.

Their chance may not come soon. It is not likely to come until a gradually lowering standard of living or an unfortunate foreign adventure brings disillusionment to the German people. Then the Communists will rise from underground in an effort to produce October revolution in Germany. At that point I would expect the army chiefs and the monarchists to replace Hitler and his lieutenants, seize the Nazi machinery of leadership, and seek to avert the counter revolution by a coup d'état.

Advantages of Rack-Seat Driving

TT WAS an encouraging thing to come *■ back to a country where we have a less terrifying way of changing our government when we come to the decision that the old government is no longer serving the nation usefully.

We in Canada and Britain and the United States believe in a little back-seat driving in public affairs. When Mr. Chamberlain made his explanation to Parliament of the circumstances leading up to the Munich settlement, he was followed by speakers who passionately attacked his good faith, his wisdom, his patriotism and his courage. These attacks came from such a widely assorted group of men as Duff Cooper, Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee, and Harold Nicolson. Some of the attacks were unjust and unrealistic, hut we should all have regarded it as most deplorable if anyone had attempted to prevent Messrs. Duff Cooper, Churchill, Attlee and Nicolson from expressing their views freely. Germany, on the other hand, regards Parliamentary government as “one of the gravest signs of human decay.”

“Thank God,” I said tí) my wife when we left Germany, “we have back-seat | drivers in Canada. They may lx: very annoying to the driver most of the time. : but they ensure that he will not fall asleep | at the wheel. And if he does get reckless, j they can move into the driver’s seat and take over.”

Hitlerism is a kind of prussic acid. Prussic acid (or cyanide) is a very useful commodity. It produces gold and silver from the rocks of the North country. It kills bugs in dwelling houses. It produces rare beauty in photographs. But, used the wrong way, it is the most deadly poison known to man.