Third Reich Day by Day: 1931

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.

15 January

SA, Röhm returns

Röhm returns as chief of staff of the SA, answerable only to the Führer. Hitler is pursuing his personal goal with a vengeance, but the SA is venting its fury. It wants a bloody revolution to sweep away the old order, not legal manoeuvrings, and it wants that revolution now.


Law and Order, Germany

Hitler submits to a government ban on public demonstrations. Stennes, meanwhile, is not placated and continues to fight for economic aid for the SA men in SA group Ost, but it is a losing battle. It is rumoured that Hitler is about to dismiss him. Stennes therefore holds a secret meeting of SA leaders which declares for him and against Hitler. But his men have no funds and cannot sustain a revolt. The party therefore expels them and Göring takes over the Berlin organization with SS men. Goebbels’ role in the affair is not clear; it is possible that as a former radical himself he may have had some sympathy with the SA.

18 September

Personalities, Geli Raubal

Hitler became increasingly possessive and jealous of his niece. So zealously did he guard her that in the end she was little more than a slave to his whims. That summer she announced to Hitler that she planned to continue her voice studies in Vienna. Hitler objected violently and the storm between the two intensified. On September 17, as Hitler boarded his car to drive to Hamburg, Geli called from the window: “Then you won’t let me go to Vienna.” Hitler retorted sharply: “No.” Geli was found dead in her room the next morning, a bullet in her heart, having shot herself with Hitler’s pistol. So great a loss has this been for him, that for two days and nights his friend Gregor Strasser has had to stay with him to prevent the Nazi Party leader from taking his own life.


Nazi Party, Organization

Hitler spends the autumn consolidating the party and revamping the SA in light of the weakness made evident by the Stennes revolt. Hitler knows he needs Röhm, and Röhm knows he needs Hitler. Goebbels and Goring, meanwhile, feeling threatened by Röhm’s position next to Hitler, cleverly acquire some “love letters” which the homosexual Röhm has written. These are then published in the newspapers. Röhm could have been destroyed by events, but he is not. Hitler comes to his rescue with a statement that includes these words; “the SA is not a moral institution for the education of well-to-do-daughters, but an association of rough fighters”.

17-18 October

SA, Rally at Brunswick

On Saturday and Sunday October 17-18, SA-Gruppe Nord, under the leadership of SA-Gruppenführer Victor Lutze, hosts a rally at Brunswick, a town of 100,00 about 64km (40 miles) east of Hanover and about 240km (150 miles) west of Berlin. Some 104,000 members of the SA, SS, NSKK (National Sozialistisches Kraftfahrer Korps - National Socialist Motor Corps) and the Hitler Youth take part in a “token mobilization” of Nazi strength. Brunswick is the only state where the Nazis hold office and are allowed to wear uniform in public. There, just 10 months after Röhm’s return, Hitler receives the salute. The parade takes six hours to pass the podium. He seems to sense that this is the “true beginning” of his awesome power.

It was at this assembly, which followed closely on the heels of the Stennes Putsch, that Hitler gained in public the assurance of the SA rank and file of its unqualified support for his leadership. Despite earlier revolts by certain elements in previous months, it never again wavered from that loyalty, the Röhm bloody weekend not withstanding. Hitler awarded the name Horst Wessel to SA-Standarten 5 Berlin, consecrated the SA Deutschland Erwache standard Danzig, and authorized the creation of 23 other new standards, thus expanding the SA, and recognized the Motor-SA and NSKK. Lutze gained a reputation as a totally loyal party member and Hitler did not forget this act of loyalty in 1934, when he named Lutze to replace the executed Röhm.

In the disturbances that followed the rally two people were killed and some 50 or 60 more wounded.


Espionage, Boxheim Papers

A Nazi group in Hesse under Werner Best, a Rhineland law student who was imprisoned by the French during their occupation of the Ruhr and who subsequently became a legal advisor to the Nazi Party, has drawn up plans to deal with the contingency of a communist revolution in Germany. The so-called Boxheim Papers have been seized by the state and subsequently become known by the name of the house where the meetings were held: Boxheimer Hof. The plans contain a proclamation to be issued by the SA and emergency decrees which a provisional Nazi government would make, including the immediate execution of anyone resisting or failing to cooperate or found with weapons. Private property rights would be suspended, interest debts annulled, work made compulsory without reward, while people would be fed through public kitchens and issued with food ration cards. There would be courts martial under Nazi presidents. The discovery of the documents has resulted in a public scandal and Hitler has been forced to disavow the Boxheim Papers, assuring Rhineland industrialists that he would take power only by legal means.

This scandal did not do any lasting harm to the Nazis’s election hopes. In 1932 there were four separate elections. The first two polls were for the presidency in which Hitler, though losing to Hindenburg, received 30.1 percent of the total vote in the first election and 36.8 percent in the second. The affair also did little to harm Best’s rise: he was made Polie Commissioner of Hesse in 1933 and State Governor in July.