Third Reich Day by Day: 1928

The failure of the Munich Putsch was the low point in the Nazi Party’s fortunes. However, Hitler’s lenient sentence meant he could rebuild the party relatively quickly. Though the party performed poorly at the elections in the 1920s, the world economic depression in 1929 gave Hitler and his followers a much-needed boost, as the German people saw their economy and standard of living nose-dive, and they began to listen to Hitler’s rantings about Jews, communists and international conspiracies against Germany.

9 January

Nazi Party, Internal Politics

Hitler appoints Goebbels head of propaganda for the entire nation.

Goebbels later became Minister of Propaganda in Hitler’s first cabinet. His ministry was situated in the heart of Berlin across from the Reich Chancellery. After an extensive renovation, he boasted that he was in charge of the smallest but most efficient ministry in the Reich. It consisted of 300 civil servants and 500 other employees. His heads of department were given a free hand and he expected a considerable amount of initiative from them. His top assistants were Otto Dietrich as press officer and Max Amann, head of Eher Verlag, the NSDAP Publishing Company. All aspects of German artistic life came under the Reich Culture Chamber after September 22, 1933. The purpose of this institution was the furtherance of “German culture” and to bring together artists from all fields in a single organization under the control of the Reich. Any artist who had a reputation for being outspoken against the regime or critical of it was prohibited from carrying out their professional career. It was Goebbels who introduced national holidays, such as May Day and the Erntedant, the harvest celebration. These holidays, which became more and more inflated and extensive, offered excellent opportunities for speeches and for showing the people how fortunate they were to be living under National Socialism. With these holidays, Goebbels also created a Nazi tradition, and after a few years it seemed to most Germans that they had been celebrating them all their lives.

The outbreak of war in 1939 started a new chapter in Goebbel’s propaganda programme. The people had to be prepared for war, and that war had to be justified. Therefore, in addition to domestic enemies and the Jews, the injustice of the Treaty of Versailles was expounded, attention was directed towards the “cruel fate” of the pan-Germans in Czechoslovakia and Poland, and the “historical unity” of Austria and Germany was stressed. The propaganda had begun with “Germany Awake” and “The Jews are our Misfortune”, but now the emphasis was placed on “Blood and Soil” and “People without Living Space” and “Guns for Butter”.

Away from his work, Goebbels had a fancy for beautiful women, and he struck up a relationship with a young Czech actress, Linda Baarova. This blossomed into a serious love affair and when his wife Magda heard about it she considered divorce. She approached Hitler to seek his permission, whereupon he intervened. He summoned Goebbels and asked him for an update on the position. Goebbels informed him that he was in love and wanted to marry Baarova. Hitler became extremely agitated and demanded to know how could the German Minister of Propaganda get a divorce? Goebbels asked permission to resign, enabling him to seek a divorce and marry Baarova. He also sought to be made ambassador to Japan. Hitler flew into one of his manic rages: “Those who make history may not have a private life!” Goebbels was unmoved, so Hitler finally agreed on a compromise. He might divorce Magda and remarry should he feel the same way a year later. But he was not allowed to see Baarova during the year. Goebbels gave his word of honour that he would obey. Goebbel’s throne was shaky and many party leaders, among them Himmler, were convinced Goebbels would break his word. Göring and Ribbentrop also wished to usurp his position. As a result of these threats, Goebbels never saw Baarova again.


Politics, Reichstag Elections

The Social Democrats increase their vote from 7.8 million to 9 million, whereas the extreme right-wing German National Party drop from 6.2 million to 4.3 million. The Nazis manage to win only 810,000 votes, giving them only 12 of the 491 seats in the Reichstag. Although a group of National Socialist deputies, among them Strasser and Goebbels, take their place in the House for the first time, closer analysis reveals that the right is suffering in German politics. Ironically, the elections were the best thing that could have happened to Hitler considering the circumstances. As right-wingers lose more and more positions and power through elections, they begin to search for another cause around which to rally. That cause is the Nazi Party.

1929 saw things moving in Hitler’s favour. Germany’s big industry began to support him. Alfred Hugenberg, a millionaire and right-wing politician, was to be a prime mover. Hugenberg owned a huge propaganda empire, which included a chain of newspapers, news agencies and the leading film company in Germany, UFA. It was through this propaganda machine that Hitler managed to gain power (Hugenberg put the resources of his papers at Hitler’s disposal). Following Hugenberg’s lead were other important groups that added their weight to the Nazi cause. The Stahlhelm (Steel Helmet), for example, a militant right-wing nationalist ex-servicemen’s association, had nearly one million members. The Pan-German League, Alberg Voegler, president of the United Steel Corporation and Hjalmar Schacht, president of the German Reichsbank (who was opposed to reparations payments), all lent their support to the Nazi cause. With this favourable climate, the Nazis deduced they could and should hold their rally, which was planned to be held at Nuremburg in August 1929. It was to upstage all spectacles held thus far. In 1927 Nuremburg had completed a war memorial in the form of a statue to commemorate the dead of World War I. Little did the city fathers know it would be used by the Nazis as the centrepiece of their rallies from this time on.