Third Reich Day by Day: 1929

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.

6 January

Personalities, Himmler

Berchtold takes the new title of Reichsführer-SS as commander, although his power has been undermined by having his SS subordinate to the SA. Berchtold tries to keep the SS as independent as possible from the manoeuvring of the SA and also from party officials, but this becomes more difficult when the SA increases its numbers still further. Berchtold then resigns.


Erhard Heiden, Berchtold’s deputy, was appointed Reichsführer-SS. Himmler’s organizing ability had not gone unnoticed and he was appointed Deputy SS Leader. Heiden held the post until Hitler gave Himmler the appointment. Himmler retained his personal rank of SS-Oberführer, as Reichsführer-SS was not a personal rank at this time but rather a title as leader of the SS organization. He was born in Landshut on October 7, 1900, Bavaria, into a solid, respectable middle-class family. His father was a headmaster who was conservative in outlook and staunchly monarchist. Heinrich was named after his godfather, Prince Heinrich of Bavaria, to whom his father was tutor. As well as being a sickly child, he had to endure the discomfiture of attending his father’s school. He welcomed the outbreak of war in 1914 enthusiastically, but it was not until January 1918 that he was able to report for duty as an officer cadet in the 11th Bavarian Infantry Regiment. But on December 17, 1918, after the war had ended, he was discharged and returned to school in Landshut. He attended the München Technical High School where he studied for a degree in agriculture. He became embroiled in right-wing politics, first joining the Freikorps Oberland and then the Reichskriegsflagge. He joined the NSDAP in August 1923 and during the Munich Putsch carried the imperial war flag and led the column as it marched through the streets of the city. The Putsch ended in a fiasco, the rank and file surrendered their weapons, identified themselves to the police and returned home, while the leaders were arrested. He returned to Landshut where he sold advertising space in the Völkischer Beobachter. He acted as general secretary to Gregor Strasser who, in February 1925, agreed to disband his National Socialist Freedom Movement and assimilate it into the reformed NSDAP. Himmler now found himself a local party official with command over the tiny SS in his district. Strasser was appointed Reich propaganda leader of the NSDAP in September 1926, and Himmler accompanied him to party headquarters as his secretary. However his party career still allowed him time to run a chicken smallholding, where he carried out breeding experiments. He married Margarete Bodern, the daughter of a German landowner from Conerzewo, west Prussia, on the July 3, 1928. She was known as Marge and was eight years older than Himmler. She specialized in homeopathy and herbs, and when he met her in 1927 he became fascinated by her work and fell for her charms. It was in fact her money that enabled the setting up of the smallholding.

When the Nazis came to power Himmler had the power to indulge his fantasies. The castle of Wewelsburg was rebuilt at immense expense as a shrine to a Germanic civilization. Here, the Hold Order of the SS was founded and from 1934 held ceremonies several times a year. Karl Wolff, Himmler’s adjutant, ushered each SS leader into a monastic cell, where he steeped himself in Germanic mysticism surrounded by treasures from ancient Germany. Beneath their mock medieval coats of arms the leading 12 high SS officers were assigned places around an Arthurian table. Himmler started a ceramics works in Dachau concentration camp, which produced fine porcelain as well as earthenware. A Damascus smithy was also established. Himmler concerned himself with the perfecting of a future German élite through the SS. Not only would they be of guaranteed Aryan stock, but they would be encouraged to form the new race through the Lebensborn network of maternity homes (which ensured that the children of SS men and Aryan women were cared for).

The SS at the beginning of 1929 numbered 280 men, but it was still a part of the SA. Himmler began gradually to assert the separation of the SS from the SA, bringing in biological criteria and the concept of racial purity into new recruitment plans to trawl through the large number of applications from ex-Freikorps and unemployed bourgeois volunteers. The army, which perceived Röhm and his SA as a rival, took a favourable view to the SS as a force. This, combined with Himmler’s considerable organizational skills, provided him with a personal power base.


Personalities, Hitler

Hitler at Nuremberg in 1929. This would be a pivotal year for the Nazis, with the World Slump dealing Weimar a fatal blow.
Hitler at Nuremberg in 1929. This would be a pivotal year for the Nazis, with the World Slump dealing Weimar a fatal blow.

Early in September Hitler moves from his monastic room to one of the most fashionable quarters of Munich. Here, he rents a luxurious nine-roomed apartment covering the entire second floor of 16 Prinzregentplatz. He brings along Frau Reichert, his landlady from the Thierschstrasse, and her mother Frau Dachs, together with his niece, Geli Raubal. He installs Geli in her own room while she pursues her medical studies in Munich. They are occasionally seen together in public at the theatre or at his favourite table in the garden of the Café Heck, where he often holds court late in the afternoon. There is vicious gossip in Munich that Hitler should stop cavorting with Geli or marry her. It is likely that Hitler’s relationship with her at this time is platonic, for he obviously adores her and, according to many of his intimates, intends to marry her. Heinrick Hoffmann, however, holds a different view, especially after Hitler told him: “I love Geli and could marry her. But you know my views. I am determined to remain a bachelor.”