Myth: Nazis Invented Concentration Camps

KL

Nowadays, just about everyone associates the ominous term “concentration camp” with the Nazi regime and the Third Reich. Consequently, one of the most popular myths about Nazi Germany is that it had invented the idea of a concentration camp (and the corresponding term).

This is simply not true. Although the Nazis used these facilities on the largest scale (by far) in human history (they had up to 755,000 simultaneous internees in 15,000 concentration camps), it did not invent the idea (or even the term for that matter). And were not the first to use it – again by far.

By definition, concentration camp (more accurately, internment camp) is an incarceration facility modeled after a military camp (and thus uses military-style barracks or tents rather than prison-type buildings).

The fundamental difference between a concentration camp and a prison camp is that it is not a penal institution but is used for preventive detention. In other words, the inmate in the prison is sent there by the verdict issued by a criminal trial (i.e. as a punishment for his or her actions that violate the criminal code of the corresponding nation).

The inmate in the concentration camp is interned there because he or she is determined a security risk by the security service (e.g. political police or the military) – not by the courts. Both, however, can be established as (slave) labor camps where inmates are forced to work for the corresponding government.

Consequently, the Soviet GULAG (again contrary to a very popular misconception) was a system (vast network, actually) not of concentration camps, but of prison camps – because technically inmates were sent there not by the Soviet political police (Cheka, GPU, NKVD or GUGB), but by the courts. Kangaroo courts, that’s for sure, but still formally the courts.

The term “concentration camp” was coined not by a German, but by a Spanish general and government official – Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, – a Spanish general who served as the Governor General of the Philippines and Cuba. It was in the latter capacity that in 1897 he has established the “reconcentration camps” (as he called them).

General Weyler (of Prussian descent, believe it or not) was appointed Governor General of Cuba for a very specific purpose – to crush the Cuban rebellion (actually, the Cuban War of Independence) that by that time went on and off for thirty years.

Weyler quickly realized that because rebels were (predictably) supported by the local population that had no desire to be part of a Spanish Empire, he had no other choice but to separate the former from the latter thus denying the insurgents access to vital supplies (and the ability to blend in with the civilians).

This “separation” in practical terms meant deportation of all local populations from rebel-infested and subsequent “reconcentration” in “safe havens” (i.e. internment camps) guarded by loyal Spanish troops.

As this “separation” was vehemently opposed (and resisted whenever possible) by Cuban civilians, it was a war crime (crime against humanity), plain and simple. Nevertheless, by the end of 1897, General Weyler relocated over 300,000 locals into areas nearby large cities in Cuba.

Such massive relocation (especially combined with total lack of concern for the welfare of civilians being deported), obviously, resulted in thousands and thousands of deaths (which for all practical purposes was mass murder).

Although initially this deportation (“evacuation”) of local civilians delivered a heavy blow to the rebels, in the end it did not crush the rebellion. First, the Philippines rebelled – which forced Weyler to move his elite troops from Cuba.

Then, Spanish Prime Minister Antonio Cánovas del Castillo was assassinated in June of 1897. Weyler lost his principal supporter in Spain and was replaced in Cuba by the more conciliatory Ramón Blanco y Erenas who promptly ended “separations”.

Which did not help either as in April of 1898 the Spanish-American war broke out. It (quite predictably) resulted in the destruction of Spanish Atlantic and Pacific fleets and in the independence of both Cuba and the Philippines.

General Weyler went on to become the Minister of War in the Spanish government and died peacefully in Madrid on October 20th, 1930 at a ripe old age of ninety-two. He did not see the Nazi reincarnation of his concentration camp idea (but most likely knew about the Soviet one).

Although Valeriano Weyler invented the term “concentration camp”, he was not the first to put the idea in practice. The first concentration camps were established by the United States government in 1830s (a whole hundred years before Dachau) during the genocide (let’s call a spade a spade) of Native Americans in their conquest of the American version of Lebensraum (which in terms of death toll was no better than Nazi Generalplan Ost).

Actually, it was from the Americans that General Weyler learned about the “separation” anti-guerilla strategy (although they did not yet use the term “concentration camp”).

Despite his eventual defeat, Weyler’ “separation” strategy was deemed by the British valuable enough to be extensively used during the Second Boer War in South Africa.

British strategy was far more brutal than the Spanish one as it was combined with the “Scorched earth” policy (which made it an even more monstrous war crime). It included (but was not limited to) systematic destruction of crops, slaughtering of livestock, burning down of homesteads and farms, the poisoning of wells and salting of fields.

It was also far more extensive than the one employed by the Americans in the “Wild West” and by the Spanish in Cuba. For the first time in history of concentration camps, its system of 45 tented camps built for Boer internees and 64 for black Africans covered the whole nation and the first in which some whole regions had been depopulated. Over 26,000 Boer civilians (mostly women and children) died in those camps.

Nazis were not the first German government to establish concentration camps either. Between 1904 and 1907, the Imperial German Army operated concentration camps such as the Shark Island, Swakopmund and Lüderitz Bay camps in German South-West Africa (now Namibia).

Initially established as a tool to suppress the Herero-Nama rebellion, these camps subsequently were transformed into slave labor camps where the natives were forced to work for German military and settlers.

The mortality rate in these camps was horrible – over 50% (some say up to 75%) of inmates eventually died. The total number of victims is estimated of about 25,000.

The closest thing to Nazi concentration camp system was (unsurprisingly) set up in the Soviet Russia less than a year after the Bolsheviks came to power. The first such camps were established in May of 1918 and on July 23rd, 1918, Leon Trotsky – a commander-in-chief of Soviet Armed Forces (and a Jew) signed an order that stipulated that these camps will be used

to isolate and eliminate class-alien, socially dangerous, disruptive, suspicious, and other disloyal elements, whose deeds and thoughts were not contributing to the strengthening of the dictatorship of the proletariat

Which for all practical purposes meant that these camps were from the very beginning planned as not just internment camps (or even labor camps) but full-fledged death camps – 25 years before Belzec, Treblinka and Sobibor.

By the end of the Civil War in Russia in 1922, there were 315 such camps in existence – already an extensive system. They ultimately became the core of the infamous GULAG where from four to six million inmates perished.

 

Mussolini’s March on Rome

MussoliniContrary to a popular misconception, Benito Mussolini was not a role model for Adolf Hitler. Not even an inspiration (let alone a teacher). They were simply way too different – and so were Italy and Germany.

For starters, Italy was one of the victors in the Great War and a predator (a criminal) in Versailles. Germany was one of the Central Powers who lost the World War I – and a prey (i.e., the victim of international criminals) in Versailles.

Although like Hitler, he did serve in the Great War, was wounded and was promoted to the rank of corporal, he was nowhere near a war hero that Adolf Hitler was.

Interestingly enough, they both dodged the military draft in their native countries, albeit for different reasons. Hitler did not want to serve the Austro-Hungarian monarchy that he deeply hated while Mussolini did not want to serve at all.

But the most fundamental difference was that Il Duce never obtained the absolute power that Hitler got after the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act in March of 1933. Unlike the Weimar Republic, Italy was a monarchy that Mussolini was never able to abolish.

Which ultimately led to his downfall when Italian king Victor Emmanuel III who had no desire to see his country destroyed and occupied by the victorious Allies (which now were the enemies of Italy), simply fired Il Duce and placed him under arrest.

He was rescued by Hitler’s commandos and became the leader of the Italian Social Republic – a puppet regime established by the Germans who occupied Northern Italy.

Which turned out to be a fatal mistake on his part. In late April 1945, in the wake of inevitable occupation of all Italy by advancing Allied troops, Mussolini and his latest mistress Clara Petacci attempted to flee to neutral Switzerland, but were identifies and captured by Italian communist partisans.

They were summarily executed by firing squad on 28 April 1945 near Lake Como. His body was then taken to Milan, where it was hung upside down at a service station to publicly confirm his demise. This humiliation possibly contributed to Hitler’s decision to commit suicide and ordered his body to be cremated.

However, Mussolini came to power in Italy almost 11 years before Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany and was building and then running a totalitarian state in many ways similar to the one that Adolf Hitler wanted to turn Germany into.

Consequently, Hitler closely followed decisions and actions of Benito Mussolini – starting with the events that made Italian king appoint him prime minister of Italy. The youngest prime minister in Italian history.

The (in)famous March on Rome.

Contrary to a popular misconception, the march itself was but a relatively small (albeit a highly visible) part of the putsch that catapulted Mussolini and his Fascist party to power in Italy. They made no secret of their plans – on 24 October 1922, Mussolini openly declared before 60,000 participants of the Fascist Congress in Naples:

Our program is simple: we want to rule Italy

By that time, the Blackshirts (the paramilitary wing of the National Fascist Party) had already occupied the Po Valley (one of the most important industrial and agricultural areas in Europe) and took control of just about all strategic points of the country.

And Mussolini secured the support of the military, the business elite, and the right-wing politicians. Who were fed up with three years of political and social turmoil, had no desire to allow the Reds to take over the country (a very real possibility at that time) and believed (correctly) that Mussolini was exactly what the doctor ordered to remedy both of these vital problems.

Luigi Facta (then-prime minister of Italy) predictably was not happy with the situation (and its development) and on October 26th put together a decree that will declare the martial law and send the Italian army to stop the fascists right then and there.

However, to take effect (i.e., to become legal), the decree had to be co-signed by the monarch. Having had previous conversations with the King about the need for ruthless suppression of fascist violence, he was sure the King would agree.

To his greatest surprise, Victor Emmanuel III did not. He flatly refused to sign the decree and instead… ordered Facta and his government to resign. They obliged (what else could they do?) and three days later asked Mussolini to form a new cabinet, thus making him a new prime minister of Italy.

Apparently, the King agreed with the country elites and the military that Mussolini’s Fascists were not a threat to the country while the Reds definitely were. And because the Blackshirts had already taken control of the whole Po valley and most strategic posts in the country, he justifiably feared that the declaration and enforcement of the martial law would result in a full-fledged civil war – which no one wanted.

Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch was (at least unconsciously) supposed to be a German reincarnation of the March on Rome. However, Bavaria (and Germany) was not Italy; Friedrich Ebert (President of Weimar Republic) was no King Victor Emmanuel, Brownshirts were no Blackshirts and Adolf Hitler was yet no Benito Mussolini.

So Hitler’s putsch failed – and failed miserably. However, for Adolf Hitler it turned out to become a major blessing in disguise as it (and the subsequent trial) transformed him (at that time still a very much regional politician) into a national (and even international) political celebrity.

Thus radically increasing his outreach – and consequently his political power.

 

Descent into the Abyss

Although the free fall of the Weimar republic into hyperinflation began in earnest in late August – early September of 1921, its seeds were planted almost exactly seven years earlier.

To pay for the exorbitant costs of fighting the Great War (which Germany was forced into by Serbia, Russia and France – roughly in that order), Germany had no other choice but to suspended the gold standard (the convertibility of its currency to gold) almost immediately after the outbreak of war.

Unlike France, which imposed its first income tax to pay for the war (a politically risky but financially prudent move), Kaiser Wilhelm II and the German parliament decided unanimously to fund the war entirely by public borrowing (i.e. by taking loans from banks and issuing government bonds).

They hoped (as it turned out, incorrectly) that the German government it would be able to pay off its debt to banks and investors by winning the war, annexing resource-rich industrial territory in the West (France, Belgium, Netherlands) and East (in Russia) and imposing massive reparations on the defeated Allies.

Which was a politically comfortable but financially very risky move. Leading financial experts, such as Hjalmar Schacht (who subsequently implemented highly successful) believed it to be far too risky as it could lead (and did lead) to radical currency devaluation and even to hyperinflation.

The abject failure of this financing strategy did not deter Adolf Hitler from pursuing essentially the same strategy prior to and during World War 2 (and thus driving the Third Reich to near-bankruptcy). Which forced Schacht to resign from his positions of Minister of Economics and President of the Reichsbank.

Imperial Germany (the Second Reich) lost the Great War (by committing astonishing blunders such as the Zimmerman Telegram), lost 14% of its territory (and 12.5% of its population) ceded to other nations under the terms of the outright criminal Treaty of Versailles and was stuck with 132 billion marks (US $442 billion in current money) of reparations to the victorious Allies.

To make thing worse (in fact, much worse), Weimar Republic was stuck with the massive war debt that it could not afford (other than printing money and thus fueling runaway inflation). Not exactly the result Kaiser and his government expected in 1914.

However, Germany was significantly helped by two factors – (1) skilled financial management by Finance Minister Matthias Erzberger and (2) the fact that the Western Front battles took place outside of Germany (in France and Belgium), Germany came out of the war with practically of its industrial infrastructure intact.

Consequently, during the first half of 1921, German mark was relatively stable at roughly 90 marks to the US dollar.

And then all hell broke loose.

On May 5th, 1921, victorious Allies issues the so-called London Schedule of Payments (aptly called the London Ultimatum). According to the terms of this ultimatum, World War I reparations had to be paid only in gold, foreign currency or in kind coal, timber, chemical dyes, pharmaceuticals, livestock, agricultural machines, construction materials, and factory machinery.

Although Germany still possessed formidable industrial capacity, it simply did not have enough of “the above” to pay the required reparations (which was political racketeering, plain and simple).

It did meet the first payment of US$ 250 million when it came due in June of 1921, but after that it had no other choice but to print money on a massive scale to buy the foreign currency needed to meet its reparation obligations.

As the mark sank in international markets, more and more marks were required to buy the foreign currency that was demanded by the Reparations Commission. Foodstuffs were almost eight times more expensive in 1921 as they had been at the end of the war. By the next year they would be over 130 times more expensive. It was the beginning of an economic and social nightmare that will last for three long years.

Nightmare engineered (some said deliberately, although I doubt that it was the case) by the same victorious Allies that already robbed Germany at gunpoint in Versailles two years earlier.

Predictably, it radically strengthened the appeal, popularity and power of radical nationalists that called for immediate liberation of Germany from the shackles of the Treaty of Versailles, righting the wrongs committed by the Allied powers and severely punishing the wrongdoers (both internal and external).

Including the appeal, popularity and power of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party. Who could no longer ignore economic issues that were rapidly becoming not only the most important ones for his audience. But just about the only important ones – at least for the time being.

However, his audience will not be satisfied with just talk. It needed action. It needed someone who will seize power in Germany and solve these damn problems once and for all. It did not want a public speaker – no matter how hypnotic – it needed a political leader. The Führer of the nation.

Hitler – inspired by his now deepest belief (supported by more and more members of his party) that he was the Chosen One, the German Messiah – had exactly the same desire.

However, although by that time he already decided on the general strategy (seize power in Bavaria and then use this semi-autonomous state to come to power in the whole Weimar Republic), did not have a clear vision of the specifics.

Hence, although the authorities in Munich and Berlin considered him a serious political threat, stating that “it’s not impossible that they [i.e. Hitler and his Nazis] will try a putsch here before long, using the mounting inflation as an excuse”, in reality he was not ready to do that yet.

Until October 29th, 1922 when another right-wing, nationalist, populist and fascist leader – in another country – showed him how it could (and very probably should) be done.

Il Duce. Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini.

The Ominous Sign

MEGermany’s descent into the abyss of hyperinflation began with an ominous sign – assassination of Reich Finance Minister Matthias Erzberger on August 26th, 1921. Political murder was almost an everyday thing in Weimar Republic at that time (only the right-wing extremists committed 354 assassinations in 1919-22) but even by those standards murder of a finance minister was way out of the ordinary.

Although prior to his coming to power Adolf Hitler was firmly opposed to political assassinations (he firmly believed that they did more harm than good to those who committed them – and just about always produced no tangible political results), it still influenced his political mentality – and was arguably one of the reasons why after coming to power he ordered his first (and only) political murder – the infamous Night of Long Knives on June 30th, 1934.

Erzberger could have been a competent finance minister but he was a really bad politician. Bad in a sense that the key feature of a competent and successful politician as (still is) the ability to transform enemies into allies.

Unfortunately for him, he did exactly the opposite. By becoming a de-facto one of the political leaders of the Catholic working class (and a radical one at that), he alienated (and subsequently turned into sworn enemies) just about all other influential Catholic groups – landowners, conservatives and even high-ranking clergy.

In addition (as if it was not enough), he deeply enraged the powerful national forces – right-wing parties, the conservatives and the national liberals of the German People’s Party. For them he was one of the “November criminals” (i.e. traitors) as he was one of the German politicians who signed the 11/11 Armistice of 1918.

And when he became the adviser of the Catholic Chancellor of the Reich, Joseph Wirth, who prepared a fresh scheme of taxation designed to impose new burdens upon capital and upon the prosperous landed interests in the summer of 1921, his political enemies (already no strangers to political murder) finally decided that they had enough.

The one who chose (or was chosen) to finally do something to get rid of the troublesome politician and government official for good, was one Manfred von Killinger – a naval officer, Great War veteran, Freikorps leader (he took part in the brutal crushing of Bavarian Soviet Republic), a military writer and a leading member of the Germanenorden – a völkisch secret society in early 20th-century Germany.

The Munich lodge of the Germanenorden subsequently became the Thule society – the founder of DAP. There is no evidence, however, that he and Adolf Hitler knew each other personally at that time (Killinger joined the NSDAP only in 1927).

To carry out the assassination (i.e. execution) of Matthias Erzberger, he hired two experienced killers – Heinrich Tillessen and Heinrich Schulz. Both were former Navy officers (like himself) and members of the disbanded Marinebrigade Ehrhardt (ditto).

They were also members of the much-feared Organization Consul (O.C.) – the ultra-nationalist death squad established by Captain Hermann Ehrhardt after his Freikorps was outlawed by the central government in Berlin. A year later – in June 1922 – O.C. members assassinated another key member of the German government – Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau (considered by them to be a Jewish traitor).

On August 26th, 1921 in Bad Griesbach, a spa in the Black Forest (Baden) they shot and killed Erzberger when he was out for a walk. The assassins were later smuggled into Hungary and were prosecuted only after World War II.

Predictably, the assassination did not change a thing – his successors completed his financial, federal and rail reforms transformed Germany (and not in the way his assassins wanted).

Manfred von Killinger went on to become a prominent Nazi politician – n 1928, he was elected to the Landtag in Saxony, and, in 1932, to the Reichstag. From 1933 to 1935, he was Minister-President (essentially, Reichskommissar) of the Free State of Saxony.

From 1936 on, he was a prominent Nazi diplomat – first s Germany’s first Consul General in San Francisco and then Ambassador to Slovakia and then Romania (where he was an active participant in the Holocaust).

A week after the essentially pro-Soviet King Michael’s Coup of August 23, 1944 did away with the fascist Antonescu regime (and made a crucial contribution to the defeat of Germany in World War 2), Killinger committed suicide to avoid being captured by the advancing Red Army.

 

Hitler’s Views on Economic Issues

Prior to mid-1921, Adolf Hitler did not speak much – privately or publicly – on economic issues (i.e., pretty much ignored them). And for a good reason – actually, for three very good reasons.

First, he knew (i.e. admitted at least to himself) that he did not know squat about economics. In reality, he knew little about just about any subject (except music, art and architecture) – politics (foreign and domestic), social issues, education… you name it.

But unlike with economics, he sincerely (and erroneously) believed that he was an expert on all these issues (or at least knew enough to speak publicly, confidently and authoritatively about them).

Second, he knew that economic issues (except the most primitive and elementary ones) do not resonate with his audience (that knew next to nothing and did not really want to know about “the big economic picture”).

It could easily (and wholeheartedly) relate to the need to right the wrongs of the Treaty of Versailles (and punish the wrongdoers), fight and win the existential war with Bolshevism.

As well as to the need to restore German power and glory and transform it into a global economic, political and military superpower. And, of course, to obtain the necessary Lebensraum in the East to adequately support the (hopefully) fast-growing German population and to make sure that the horrors of the Blockade and hunger of 1917-19 never happen again.

The only economic issue that they will like to hear about (and would even applaud to) was Hitler’s demand – and promise – to eliminate Jews from German economic life.

In other words, to (1) confiscate (considerable) Jewish assets and distribute them among “Aryans” – i.e. Germans; and (2) to fire Jews from lucrative jobs in business, academia, government service, etc. – and give these jobs to Germans.

After Nazis came to power in 1933, they promptly delivered on both promises – it is estimated that about 15% (i.e. one-sixth) of financing for German economic miracle of 1933-38 and for the subsequent war effort came from assets seized from the Jews in Germany and on occupied territories.

Initially Hitler knew little about Marxism (let alone Bolshevism – its Russian incarnation) so he initially framed the existential war in purely racial terms – as the war with the (mythical) “Jewish race”.

However, after he developed a close ideological relationship with Alfred Rosenberg who was a first-hand witness of horrible atrocities and economic devastation committed by the Russian Bolsheviks – and especially after the Polish-Soviet war of 1920 (which almost resulted in invasion and occupation of Germany by the Red Army), Hitler began to reframe this war as the existential war with “Jewish Bolshevism”, considering the latter as a key part of a (mythical) “global Jewish conspiracy”.

Hitler spoke in April and again in June 1920 of Russia being destroyed by the Jews, but it was only in his Rosenheim speech on July 21st that he explicitly married the images of Marxism, Bolshevism, and the Soviet system in Russia to the brutality of Jewish rule, for which he saw Social Democracy (and “red uprisings” of 1919-20) preparing the ground in Germany.

These images appear to have provided the catalyst to the merger of antisemitism and anti-Marxism (anti-Bolshevism) in his ‘worldview’ – an identity which, once forged, never disappeared.

Third, while he firmly believed that he will be able to deliver on all other promises himself (i.e. lead and manage the corresponding “quantum leap” projects), he was well aware that he will not be able to do so in economics (i.e. transform Germany into a global economic superpower).

He had to hire the right professionals and essentially give them cart-blanche to do whatever needs to be done to accomplish these quantum leaps. And that’s exactly what he did after the Enabling Act of March 1933 gave him an absolute power in Germany.

However, it did not mean that Adolf Hitler did not have at least some general views on economic issues. He did. And (not surprisingly), these views were fundamentally nationalist and profoundly socialist. And, of course, the views of a genuine patriot (albeit of a picture-perfect national-sociopath).

Hitler’s economic views and principles (obviously) stemmed from his vision of an ideal, classless, nationalist and genuinely happy society (i.e. the one where every citizen is genuinely happy).

Hitler acknowledge and accepted that genuine happiness required an optimal balance between giving and receiving; between creating aggregate value (financial, functional, emotional and spiritual) and consuming aggregate value; between producing goods and services and consuming them; between serving the society and being served by it.

However, he (correctly) deeply and sincerely believed that for a genuinely happy person giving is more important than receiving; serving than being served; creating aggregate value than consuming it and producing goods and services than consuming me.

A surprisingly Christian view, if you ask me. With three key differences, however. First, while Christians believe that the key to happiness and salvation is serving the whole humanity, Hitler insisted that one must serve exclusively “his people” (i.e. individuals of his/her nationality/”race”).

Second (which is actually related to the first), Adolf Hitler no less sincerely believed that genuine happiness requires not serving individuals of other nations (“races”) but brutally (even destructively) exploiting them, getting the most out of their land, labor and capital in terms of aggregate value and given back next to nothing (ideally, nothing at all).

Combined with the goal of obtaining Lebensraum in the East, this belief resulted in the principle of “predatory colonialism”. “Classic colonialists” (British, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russians) who, although consumed natural and human resources of conquered territories and nations, they also built roads, schools, hospitals, established highly efficient government systems, eliminated horrible practices of cannibalism and human sacrifice, etc.

In other words, they created enormous amounts of aggregate value (hence it is a big question whether they consumed more than they created or the other way around).

Hitler’s “predatory colonialism” was pure consumption (and thus pure destruction – quick and comprehensive). And thus simply stupid as you can not get anything of value from a destroyed land of which there is a very much limited supply in our world.

Third, Hitler’s economic views were inseparable from his fundamental doctrine of an “existential racial war”. Consequently, he viewed every German man (worker, manager, entrepreneur, teacher, scientist, government servant, etc.) as a soldier in this existential (and thus all-important) racial war. And every woman – as his dedicated, committed, loyal and efficient Helferin (“helper”).

On the “home front”, Hitler’s economic views were surprisingly healthy and even noble. With the exception of a “racial war” part, of course; however, if you replace the mythical “racial war” (i.e. “existential war with the Jewish race”) with the very real existential war with Bolshevism, everything will fall into a very noble and harmonious place.

Hitler firmly believed (and subsequently preached) that every German worker must work not only for his employer – his commanding general (in Hitler’s opinion a woman were supposed to stay at home, take care of her husband and raise children) but for his Germany as well. Thus making a contribution not only to the bottom line of his company but also to the all-important victory in the existential racial war.

In other words, in his by no means humble opinion, every German worker was not just a worker, but a very important soldier in the Greater German Army. And thus motivated not only by money (his wages and bonuses) and the noble need to serve his employer, but by even nobler drive – genuine patriotism.

Adolf Hitler firmly believed that every German manager must work not only for his employer – his commanding general (the idea of a female manager was a complete anathema to Hitler) and for his subordinates (his “soldiers”), but for his Germany as well.

Thus making a contribution not only to the bottom line of his company (and well-being of his subordinates) but also to the all-important victory in the existential racial war.

In other words, in Hitler’s opinion, every German manager was not just a manager, but a very important officer in the Greater German Army. And thus motivated not only by money (his wages and bonuses) and the noble need to serve his employer, but by even nobler drive – genuine patriotism.

Hitler firmly believed that every German entrepreneur must start his business (for Hitler, the idea of a female entrepreneur was simply blasphemous) not only to make money, create value by satisfying aggregate needs of its customers and employees and creating jobs for German workers, but to provide a very important service for Germany.

Thus making a contribution not only to the bottom line of his company (and well-being of his customers and employees) but also to the all-important victory in the existential racial war.

In other words, in Hitler’s opinion, every German entrepreneur (business owner) was not just an entrepreneur, but a very important general in the Greater German Army. And thus motivated not only by money (his profits and free cash flows) and the noble need to serve his customers and his employees, but by even nobler drive – genuine patriotism.

Hitler firmly believed that every German investor must invest in the German business (in his opinion, investments in foreign businesses was tantamount to high treason) not only to make money, create value by satisfying aggregate needs of its customers and employees and creating jobs for German workers, but to provide a very important service for Germany.

Thus making a contribution not only to the bottom line of his company (and well-being of his customers and employees) but also to the all-important victory in the existential racial war.

In other words, in Hitler’s opinion, every German investor was not just an investor, but a very important general in the Greater German Army. And thus motivated not only by money (his return-on-investment) and the noble need to serve his customers and his employees, but by even nobler drive – genuine patriotism.

Hence, Adolf Hitler distinguished between two kinds of capital (and thus two kinds of investors) – productive (that invested in real sector with an explicit purpose of creating aggregate value) and parasitic (speculative) that invested for the sole purpose of making money (often “from the thin air”).

He incorrectly associated productive capital with German (“Aryan”) investors and parasitic – with Jewish investors. In reality, there were plenty of Jewish investors who were very much productive investors and a lot of very Aryan investors who were unquestionably parasitic ones.

Hitler firmly believed that every German banker must make loans to German individuals and business (in his opinion, loans to foreign individuals and organizations was tantamount to high treason) not only to make money, create value by satisfying aggregate needs of its debtors and employees and creating jobs for German workers, but to provide a very important service for Germany.

Thus making a contribution not only to the bottom line of his (there was no such thing as a female banker in Hitler’s world) corporate borrowers (and well-being of his individual borrowers) but also to the all-important victory in the existential racial war.

In other words, in Hitler’s opinion, every German banker was not just a banker, but a very important officer in the Greater German Army. And thus motivated not only by money (his interest income) and the noble need to serve his customers and his employees, but by even nobler drive – genuine patriotism.

Consequently, Adolf Hitler (having a fundamentally military mentality and worldview) viewed all German men as soldiers, NCOs, officers and generals (and field marshals) in one German army united by a common purpose – fight and win an existential war with “Jewish Bolshevism” (the latter was perfectly correct, the former – fundamentally wrong).

Which eliminated all class conflict right then and there. This worldview explained why Hitler considered Bolshevism an existential threat – with its ideology of “class struggle” it automatically led to a destructive and murderous civil war (which devastated Russia in 1918-22). And thus was high treason of the worst possible kind.

However, in the fall of 1921 Adolf Hitler had no other choice but to begin speaking on economic issues – because these issues rapidly became not just the most important ones for his audience, but the vital ones. Even the existential ones.

Because Germany was rapidly descending into an abyss. The economic abyss.

 

The Sturmabteilung (2)

SA MarchingHitler called his paramilitaries Sturmabteilung (SA) after the elite (and highly successful) specialized assault troops (“stormtroops”) of Imperial Germany in World War I who used so-called “Hutier infiltration tactics”.

Named after General der Infanterie (three-star general) Oskar von Hutier (who did not invent but extensively and very successfully used this tactics), it used small squads of a few soldiers each to stealthily infiltrate enemy trenches and cleanse them using superior firepower – hand grenades, light machine guns (later in the war MP-18 submachine guns) and flamethrowers. And – when necessary – handguns and combat knives.

Men trained in these methods were known in Germany as Sturmmann (“storm man”, usually translated as “stormtrooper”), formed into companies of Sturmtruppen (“assault troops”, more often and less exactly “storm troops”).

Hitler first used security guards (precursor of SA) in October 1919 – a month after he joined the party and began speaking at DAP meetings on a regular basis. The permanent security unit (then called Ordnertruppen) was established four months later – in February 1920.

It was also when the future SA received their now (in)famous brown uniforms. Brown shirts and trousers were chosen as the SA uniform for purely financial reasons. In 1920 when the first SA units were formed, a large number of these uniforms were cheaply available, having originally been ordered during the war for colonial troops posted to Germany’s former African colonies, but never used.

The unit developed by organizing and formalizing the groups of ex-soldiers and beer hall brawlers who were to protect gatherings of the Nazi Party from disruptions from Social Democrats (SPD) and Communists (KPD) and to disrupt meetings of political opponents.

Ordnertruppen was led by Emil Maurice – a half-Jewish (believe it or not) Hitler’s first personal chauffeur. Subsequently he participated in the Beer Hall Putsch, was incarcerated in Landsberg prison with Adolf Hitler (he even helped the latter with writing Mein Kampf) and then was one of the co-founders of the (in)famous SS – he was SS #2 (SS #1 was Adolf Hitler himself).

Due to his Jewish heritage, and his 1927 brief relationship with Hitler’s half-niece Geli Raubal, he fell out of favor with Hitler and rose in the SS only to the rank of Oberführer (“senior colonel”).

When SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler learned that Maurice “according to his ancestral table, is not of Aryan descent”, he recommended that Maurice be expelled from the organization.

To Himmler’s annoyance, Hitler stood by his old friend (as he always did). In a secret letter written on 31 August 1935, Hitler ordered Himmler to make an exception for Maurice and his brothers, who were informally declared “Honorary Aryans” and allowed to stay in the SS.

In 1936, Maurice became a Reichstag deputy for Leipzig and from 1937 was the chairman of the Munich Chamber of Commerce. From 1940 to 1942, he served in the Luftwaffe as an officer.

After the war he was arrested by the allies, and in 1948, sentenced to four years in a labor camp in a typical “victor’s justice” as he committed no crimes whatsoever. Released in 1951, he acquired a watch shop in Munich and run it after his died in 1972.

Hitler informally gave SA its permanent name in September 1921, although officially it was called “Gymnastic and Sports Division” of the party (Turn- und Sportabteilung), perhaps to avoid trouble with the central government that just about at that time banned all right-wing paramilitary organizations. By that time, it had roughly 300 members.

Maurice became the first Oberster SA-Führer (“Supreme SA Leader”) and bravely led the SA stormtroopers in fights with Communists, Social Democrats and other political opponents of the Nazi party.

However, Hitler soon decided that SA needed more professional military management and so replaced the watchmaker Maurice with 23-year old Hans Ulrich Klintzsch – ex-naval (Marine, actually) lieutenant, decorated war hero (he was awarded the Iron Cross both Second and First Class) and the ex-officer in the Erhardt Brigade – the most efficient and distinguished Freikorps.

Klintzsch was suspected of having a hand in 1922 in the murder of Walter Rathenau – the Reich Foreign Minister, of Jewish background and, as main author of the ‘fulfilment policy’ towards the Versailles Treaty, a detested figure on the extreme Right.

However, given the fact that Adolf Hitler was always firmly opposed to political assassinations (in his opinion, they never produced any valuable result), these suspicions are most likely completely unfounded.

He served in this position until February 1923 when he went back to the German Army and ceded his command of SA to Hermann Göring – another war hero and decorated military officer. Klintzsch ultimately went to serve in the Luftwaffe, where rose to the rank of Oberst (Colonel). He died in 1959 during the wedding of his son Fridthjof.

Under Klintzsch’s leadership, SA members were actively training, preparing for what they saw as practically a civil war at home (i.e. violent combat with their political enemies) evoking the spirit of aggressive camaraderie and blind commitment to the leader (i.e. Adolf Hitler).

Contrary to a very popular misconception, the (in)famous Ernst Röhm was not the first, but the fourth leader of the SA. The basis for this misconception is that the “original” SA was banned by the Bavarian government after the Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923 and thus ceased to exist.

Röhm was an active participant of the putsch and thus was arrested and subsequently tried by the Munich People’s Court in February 1924. He was found guilty of high treason but the sentence was suspended and he was granted a conditional discharge.

Which allowed him to reincarnate the SA under the name Frontbann (he had been given authority by Hitler to rebuild the SA in any way he saw fit). The reincarnation “walked like a duck”, “looked like a duck” and “quacked like a duck” (i.e. SA) as it had the same members and performed the same functions. Frontbann was disbanded in February 1925 after the ban on the SA was lifted and was reformed back into the SA.

 

The Sturmabteilung (1)

SA-LogoAdolf Hitler needed a paramilitary wing for his party for a number of reasons. First and foremost, he needed his own (i.e., loyal only to him personally) paramilitary force to successfully execute the coup without having to rely on Bavarian Army – Reichswehr units, Freikorps and the Civil Guard (their neutrality would be sufficient). The failed Beer Hall putsch proved it beyond the reasonable doubt.

A unique feature of the German political scene (that it owed to a whole series of bloody coups and uprisings – Spartacus uprising, Bavarian Soviet Republic, Kapp Putsch, Ruhr Uprising, etc.) was its acceptance of a high level of political violence. Which by mid-1920 most (if not just about all) Germans considered natural.

Natural and even necessary – Germans (especially Bavarians) sincerely believed that the return to “law, order and normalcy” can be achieved only by violence. Either “from the top” – by violence perpetrated by government forces (police and Reichswehr units) or “from the side” (by Freikorps and other non-government paramilitary units).

This belief, which got surprisingly deep surprisingly fast did not go away after the demise of Weimar Republic. On the contrary, it got even stronger – which explains why most (if not overwhelming majority) of Germans accepted (and even supported) violent suppression of political opponents and persecution of Jews by the Nazis (as well as their brutality on German-occupied territories).

Consequently, it is no surprise that both Left and Right parties (both no strangers to violence) established paramilitary units and used them on every suitable occasions to intimidate, assault (and sometimes even murder) their political opponents, disrupt their meetings (and, of course, protect themselves and their events from their political enemies).

Hence, to survive (let alone succeed) in this highly violent environment, NSDAP had to develop not just similar, but superior paramilitary capabilities.

However, there was another – very personal – reason why Adolf Hitler created a powerful paramilitary wing of his (now his and his alone) political party. A military environment was the only one where he was emotionally comfortable.

And although NSDAP was now his absolute dictatorship, the Führer’s party, it was still a purely civilian outfit. And he desperately (really desperately) needed a military (or at least a paramilitary) one.

And, being fiercely intolerant of any competition, he wanted his paramilitary force to ultimately replace all (very much numerous) right-wing nationalist paramilitaries (which he subsequently did).