HITLER was very near suicide twice. Both times he decided to go on living at the last moment. Possibly he lost his nerve. The first time was on occasion of the Munich beer-cellar riot in 1923. He had faithfully promised his party members not to survive should the riot fail. The riot was a failure but Hitler survived the defeat. He had had the opportunity of falling victim, like some of his partisans, to the bullets of the “Reichswehr” that quelled the riot. He preferred to seek “complete cover”—that is to say, to throw himself on the ground during the confusion and to escape—for the time being anyway.
The second time was just before the National-Socialists came into power during the winter of 1932-1933. At that time the party was in a complete state of dissolution. The man second in power in the party, Gregor Strasser, was negotiating with the leaders of the trade-unions and with the “Reichskanzler” (Chancellor of the State), General von Schleicher, then in office. The party was on the verge of splitting into a socialist and a radical-national wing. Had not some politicians, who were interested in the life of the National-Socialist. Party, as such, intervened for their own political purposes by pulling strings in the background, the complete dissolution of the party would only have been a matter of some weeks.
Josef Goebbels gave a hint in his diary notes—which he published under the title of “From the Kaiserhof to the Reichskanzlei” (Chancellery of the State)—that in those days Hitler was playing with the idea of committing suicide. He was always carrying a loaded gun. But at that time too he did not consider it expedient to quit the scene of those terrestrial entanglements for good.
Just as the National-Socialists reacted in both these past crises the leaders and coleaders of the party will react in the last crisis—the inevitable breakdown to come. There is no question whatsoever but that Hitler intends to kill himself in that case. The only questions are—will he be able to summon enough courage to do that and which form he will choose?
However, should his nerve forsake him when the time comes, his accomplices will see to it that he does not fall into the hands of the Allies or the German opposition. As to that possibility none of the leading National-Socialists, always prepared as they are for a “case of events,” have been without a thoroughly tested, painless poison that works quickly. As a matter of fact the public in general has a wrong picture of the leading National-Socialists’ positiveness of victory. During the so-called “fight for power,” all these people were constantly on the verge of financial and political bankruptcy. Hitler’s titanic will to win was always fighting a deep undercurrent of pessimism. Often quite suddenly a presentiment would break through prompting him that National-Socialism with its aims would break down and that Germany once more would have to go through the darkest of days. It is, for instance, net widely known that one of his reasons for accepting the call to the Chancellery of State in 1933 under actually humiliating conditions for the National-Socialist party was due to Hitler's conviction he would have no more than 10 years to live. Whether this conviction was conveyed to him by physicians, astrologers, fortune-telling gypsies or his own subconsciousness is irrelevant in view of the fact that the leader of the National-Socialist party himself never got rid of the feeling that sooner or later everything would end in a big “Twilight of the Gods”—a world incendiary that would devour the old world, cleaning and atoning for a rotten age of miasmas and humbug and freeing a new world for fresh seeds. Richard Wagner’s “Twilight of the Gods” was Hitler’s favorite opera. He used to hum the motives of the “Ring of the Nibelung” when only half listening to an official report that bored him.
It is a comforting thought that Hitler adjudged himself only 10 years to achieve this “Twilight of the Gods.” These 10 years have passed and the feeling he is at the end of his career with no more time left must be a heavy physical load for a hysterical nature like Hitler’s and must lead him to make mistakes he otherwise might have avoided. Because of that Hitler probably becomes the weakest point in the German situation just as for years he was the strongest; for previously he had the force to integrate the indeed numerous contradicting tendencies of the so-called German unity.
HITLER will perish with the mixture of cynical realism and theatrical romanticism singularly characteristic of this man. He knows there will be no sanctuary for him in a “Holland” as there was for Emperor William II. He will either take his own life, fall at the head of a suicide fighting squad or he will perish at the hands of his intimate followers. Unfortunately, therefore, he will suffer a spectacular death that may lay the foundation of a future legend unless something occurs—something very probable—namely, that he utterly loses his mental balance, already unstable, and becomes mad in the clinical sense of the word. If one may believe reports from Germany Hitler has already approached the borderline of downright insanity to a serious degree. Maybe he has already passed that borderline. The remark of a leading German officer that Hitler did not maintain the iron calm and icy deportment during last winter’s catastrophe in Russia that the leader of an army should preserve even in defeat has become known. For him who knows Hitler personally that means he must have suffered attacks of fury and weeping and nervous breakdowns—the kind he has been known to suffer in former years and which have marked him as an unstable and half-mad man.
What will happen if Hitler loses his mind? Or if the faith in his leadership has been utterly destroyed?
A few months ago the question of whether Hitler was still alive at all and whether or not the responsible elements in Germany—the Army, the Junkers, the big manufacturers and state officials—were governing with a fake Hitler, could be seriously discussed.
To what extent Hitler is still in the driver’s seat is a justifiable question. The power which he undoubtedly wielded during the last eight years has certainly weakened. He will have been eliminated from the military sector after the defeats of the last two years and with that will have declined to a mere figurehead. An interesting remark made by the German radio confirms this. On the other hand it cannot be denied that he is still alive and functions in public on certain occasions. But to what extent is he a figurehead and not a leader politically?
Now the decisive point is reached. What will be the reaction of the National-Socialist Party to the inevitably impending breakdown? How will Hitler’s knights—Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, and the conjurer of public opinion, Josef Goebbels, react?
The National-Socialist Party, to all appearance such a hard and fast unit, was not only sailing constantly on the verge of bankruptcy during the years of its “fight for power,” but also had to overcome the constant danger of internal cleavage. Two very dangerous personalities—men with strongly marked aims and their own followers—were eliminated from the Party at a comparatively early date. One was the Socialist or anyway anti-capitalist Gregor Strasser, whose influence in the party for a time was stronger than Hitler’s. The second was Captain Roehm, the radical, hater of the Prussian “Junkers” (landed aristocrats). Instead of rebuilding on old Prussian traditions led by the Junkers, he wished to create a new kind of Jacobin revolutionary army of the people.
Strasser and Roehm were murdered by their own party members during the well-known bloody purge of June 30, 1934. Goering, Himmler and Goebbels remained alive—each one with his own tendencies, each one with his own very dangerous weapons.
During the coming crisis these three men will in all probability try to seize the leadership, remove Hitler, or make use of his still remaining prestige for their own purposes. Just as Roehm in 1934 tried, or at least intended to try, to get Hitler in his power and to sanction his radical second revolution with Hitler as symbol, Hitler will become the “prisoner” of one of them.
To start with there is Heinrich Himmler, the most dangerous of the lot, chief of the Gestapo and the SS troops. This man is a curious mixture of a radical nihilist and a German Philistine, with the typical attributes of a petty bourgeois. At first sight everybody is induced to misjudge him because of his absolutely insignificant face. The man is an expert on revolutionary literature and has made deep studies of the technique of revolution and coup d’état with a frenzy only people with small one-sided minds are capable of. Together with his collaborators he has developed a scientific system of terrorism. Revolution, counterrevolution, coup d’état are not impromptus born on the spur of the moment. They have become vastly premeditated enterprises comparable to the conquest of trenches during the last war—actions minutely planned, prepared, and rehearsed in advance.
THIS man Himmler, who is a radical cynic, a sort of modern Machiavelii, today controls the largest and most complete source of power in Germany—the police, the secret police and the counterrevolutionary skeleton army of the SS. Due to the experience gathered during modern revolutions—in particular during the Russian revolution—the SS have been organized for the sole purpose of extinguishing, at the outset, mass revolutions and coup d’états of other organized forces—above all those of the German regular Army.
But Himmler controls more than the sources of power mentioned above. He also controls a great number of leading personalities about whom he has carefully gathered personal data. For years “material” has been collected regarding every important party member, leading officer and official. This enables the secret police to get hold of and do away with any person as soon as he or she arouses suspicion. Every individual, so to speak, is in prison or has one foot in the grave all the time and knows the secret police “know something about him or her.”
This system of blackmail, used as a method for nation-wide discipline, is efficacious to a degree inconceivable in free countries like Canada, Great Britain or the United States. One must have experienced such oppression personally to realize how it cripples every activity.
Himmler developed this system of omnipresent, latent terrorism in the belief that sooner or later every revolution has to make a stand against resurgent forces of the Old Order. The revolution of nihilism— the so-called National-Socialist revolution—will also have to face that necessity. More important than this is the maintenance of national discipline, the task of preventing the collapse of the German morale during the war; the iron control of the beaten and satellite nations and of their own German nation. This control has grown to such proportions that one can speak of theatres of war in the heart of Serbia, Czechoslovakia, France, Poland and even of a theatre of war in the heart of Germany.
Heinrich Himmler is the man who will wish to continue the war to the very last. He will not shrink from using the most cruel means and the deadliest weapons—gas warfare, for example. He will not hesitate to arrest and annihilate rival forces within the party if he can prolong Germany’s power to resist. He will certainly not shrink from putting to death generals, officials or whomsoever he suspects of defeatism. He will not even shrink from doing away with Hitler if Hitler becomes weak and pessimistic, ready to resign and to sacrifice himself as he often proposed to do in the past. There can be no doubt that Hitler himself is in constant fear of Himmler and his secret checkup. Most certainly all visitors with whom Hitler discusses his plans have to be approved by Himmler. The more Hitler’s authority and his personal power, so dependent on imponderables, decline and diminish, the more powerful Himmler, who controls everything in the background, becomes. Consequently it is very probable that during the last phase of the war, Himmler instead of Hitler will play the part of dictator. He will go on endeavoring to annihilate all elements that show signs of wanting to capitulate until his own organization falls to pieces and the Army or other opposing groups do away with him. Himmler will be murdered.
Goering Cowardly, Cruel
HERMANN GOERING is one of those who fear Himmler and is constantly on his guard. For a long time Goering was considered to be a comparatively moderate and reasonable man even by the Allies. He was generally characterized as a jolly good fellow (bon vivant), an old air ace, a good shot—all in all a wellbred man with whom it would be possible to compromise. That was misleading for the dominant characteristics of the man, his inborn cruelty and brutality, his cynical lack of scruples and his caddish cowardice were overlooked. This cowardice made him incapable of successfully opposing Hitler’s radical socialist policy at a time when he clearly realized the risks of this policy and was in a position to put a stop to it.
Goering always considered himself the National-Socialist’s “man of destiny.” It was no secret he despised Hitler at heart and considered him a pace-maker for his own glory. But like so many desperados he became lazy and a lover of luxury—so much so that he was no longer capable of great energy and lost the will power necessary for the taking of risks to uphold his position. Goering most certainly would be ready for a compromise in order to bring the war to a quick end. It is probable that he is closely behind some of the peace feelers of recent years. He would be open to any negotiations that guaranteed him his personal position. Undoubtedly he will, even today, nourish the illusion that his popularity in Germany and abroad is great enough for him to be the proper mediator. He actually possesses real power. He controls the Air Force and public economy. Although both these fields have become rather fictitious, powerful ties still exist between him and many leading personalities.
But this Goering lacks two things—courage in battle and boldness in civil life. He lives in constant fear of Himmler and his secret agents who have their spies among his very aides-de-camp and servants. It is one thing to raise one’s spirits with the help of a bottle of brandy or some drugs and then fly with a squadron for the thrill of a bit of man-hunting, but it is another thing to be in constant readiness to meet a cruel, ever-present political enemy who, during 24 hours of the day, might appear at any moment with a gun or poison. Consequently it is quite possible that one day Goering will choose to fall in a heroic encounter with the British-American Air Force. The time has passed for Goering to try a coup d’état or a negotiated peace because he would no longer be able to succeed. He has not enough initiative left to contrive the latter.
But how about the credit accounts abroad that all the National-Socialists have established? Will not one or the other of them try to make use of that money and retire cheerfully and pleased with himself to a life of leisure as a sort of “hero off duty”?
No such end is in store for any of the Nazi leaders. The country does not exist that will allow these men to complacently enjoy their booty. None of them will succeed in escaping from Germany. It will not do to consider Rudolph Hess, for example, the first of a long series of cowardly leaders that one day will drop from heaven. Hess most probably came with a mission and not as a fugitive. Before other leading National-Socialists will be able to get away in a plane they will very likely be killed by the followers “in charge” of them. For every one of these Gauleiters and Reichsleiters, these so-called leaders, is in reality being led. He depends on the team of his followers who are not only controlled by him but who also control him and have a hold on him as an accessory to some illegality.
The more this crisis in Germany develops the more the National-Socialists will take on the character of a mighty gang involved with numerous small gangs with the typical dependency of the leaders upon the lead. This gangsterism, once the force of National-Socialism, may easily turn out to be the cause of a sudden catastrophe. National-Socialist Germany is not ruled by leaders. The so-called principle of leadership does not exist. The reverse exists—namely, accomplice and fellow-conspirators. The authority of the whole German system will crumble suddenly if these gangsters fall out or should outside forces break them up in the way a police force breaks up a gang of criminals.
Goebbels a Radical
HOWEVER, there is one man whose personality in itself to a certain extent represents power—Josef Goebbels. He is the only true intellectual among the hierarchy of National-Socialist leaders. Goebbels, apart from his Gau (province), Berlin, has no material power at his disposal, no requisites like machine guns, cannons and tanks. He is chief of the Reich’s propaganda. Propaganda can only be considered an apparatus of power as long as the masses are taken in. That means as long as the genius of propaganda remains creative and the masses remain receptive. Consequently, more depends on Goebbels’ personality than on the other instruments of power; and this personality is more dependent on the readiness of the masses to follow him than are the other Nazi leaders. He depends more on his followers than the other Nazi leaders depend on their gangs. However, this man Goebbels, in a diabolic sense, has something of a creative mind. He manages to take possession of the spirit of the masses and he forges out of this spirit the psychological weapons with which he then holds sway over them. His gift of intuition to feel what the massive have at heart and hope for has not yet been exhausted nor has his ability to extract congruous motives for propaganda from their respective frames of mind diminished. A whole sphere of propaganda has not yet been broken into—namely, the possibility of arousing exaltation through radical socialistic slogans.
Goebbels is a Jacobin. He is a Jacobin by temperament and sagacity. It is due to the particular character of German Socialism that he has become a National-Socialist and not a Trotskyist. Goebbels was always a defender of the second—the Socialist phase—of the National-Socialist revolution. One of his most important ideas is that such a second phase is bound to come. One should not underestimate his propaganda against the alliance of western Plutocracy and eastern Bolshevism. These he describes as reactionary forces fighting the true world revolution—National-Socialism. Goebbels is the spokesman of a revolution so radical that by comparison the Russian Bolshevik government appears to be a conservative power. The effort to inflame the masses in Germany and in other European countries to a last explosion might succeed temporarily. Goebbels, at an early stage, expected to play his leading part when the world revolution had reached a phase in which the union of all radical elements of all nations would seem to be the only way out of universal destruction.
Hitler shrank from trying to rescue Germany from political and military catastrophe by proclaiming a radical socialist revolution. Goering and Himmler would consider this a senseless beginning. For Goebbels it will mean the great climax of his career.
Seen from abroad such an enterprise appears to be nonsensical and only hastening Germany’s decomposition. Seen from inside Germany there exist hopes and possibilities for the leaders there to split or cripple the Allied front by some unexpected move. Should they not find themselves successful in offering a negotiated peace then they might create confusion by a radical revolution. They will find partisans for both beginnings among important Army and other members of the regime.
Thus it is quite possible Goebbels will fall during the disorders of a last assault of the German masses for he cannot be victorious. But it may also come to a war between the three groups—to chaos, to a fight of all against all too fantastic for any imagination to visualize in advance. One cannot conceive the end of National-Socialism without also expecting the end of all the other organized forces in Germany, that is to say, the dissolution of the Army, the Government, the State and the economic organizations.
No Orderly Surrender
THE German surrender will hardly take place in an orderly fashion, as was the case in the last war when the Army capitulated. The cessation of organized resistance will not only be preceded by a kind of civil war among the various party groups but also very likely by fighting between the National-Socialists and their opponents—between SS groups and the regular Army.
Last but not least, the National-Socialists will find that their bitterest enemy is growing up within their own ranks. The weak points of the organization not only consist of too great a centralization and a number of huge apparatus that mechanize production to the debit of personal initiative and the possibilities of regeneration but above all they consist of the principle of continuous equalization. This principle forced many members of the opposition who were not truly assimilated into the organizations of the party.
The worst catastrophe of all, however, will be of a more moral nature. National-Socialism was, to predominant extent, recruited from the ranks of the lower-middle-class. This class of people had suffered most from the inflation that came as a result of the last war and they had hoped National-Socialism was going to build up a more secure world for them. However, instead of finding security and prosperity these middle-class citizens found themselves compelled to become “fighters.” It is the same conflict that arose with Fascism when Mussolini undertook to conjure a nation of heroes out of an easy-going happy-go-lucky people of benevolent temperament.
The mass of the National-Socialist party members are not “fighters.” They are peaceful citizens anxiously concerned about their positions and their income. They are not real rebels. Accordingly, just a reverse will happen to what happened in 1932-1933 when the numbers of the National-Socialists rapidly augmented. At that time there was a panicky rush of people from all sides and parties to become members of the National-Socialist party in order to acquire safety and advantages for themselves. Now, they will soon turn their backs on the party and everybody will try to withdraw. Everybody will try to prove that he or she never was a party member at heart but always secretly belonged to the opposition.
When terrorism begins to lose power a sudden change will take place in the souls of men that will lead to a breakdown of public morale never experienced before. All organized resistance will suddenly cease in Germany.
There seems no doubt that even the SS troops are infiltrated not only with these opportunists seeking security but with others as well. Peaceful civilians, patriotic nationals and former Communists have conspired to enter the SS so as to be right in the centre of the formation when the decisive moment comes to overthrow the regime. Thus there may be a repetition in the dangerous and important ranks of the SS of what will happen in Germany as a whole. War of all against all—a sudden outbreak of chaos.
However one should not overestimate the possibility of such a development—above all, not for the immediate future. There are still today factors of discipline opposing the factors of destruction. The greater the distress in Germany grows the more inexorable will become the tendencies that may lead the whole nation to unshakeably unite; to become a unity in which the differences between National-Socialism, Socialism, and Democracy will be unimportant.