How the Brown Terror of the Nazis took control of Germany
Continuing our discussion of the decline of democratic forces and the rise of fascism and Nazism in interwar Europe, this week we bring you part two of Jawaharlal Nehru’s account of “The Nazi Triumph in Germany” in a letter he wrote to his daughter on July 31, 1933. He points out that “Nazi assault troops were let loose all over Germany, and they began a reign of violence and terror, incredibly savage and brutal. It was one of a kind. »
“Behind all this lies an extraordinary philosophy of violence. Not only was violence praised and encouraged, but it was considered man’s highest duty. A famous German philosopher, Oswald Spengler, is a representative of this philosophy…. “Man should be like the lion, never tolerating an equal in his den, and not like the gentle cow, living in herds and driven hither and thither. For such a man, war is, of course, the supreme occupation and joy”.
Oswald Spengler is one of the most learned men of the time; the books he wrote surprise with the enormous amount of knowledge they contain. And all that vast learning led him to these staggering and detestable conclusions. I quoted it because it helps to understand the mentality of Hitlerism and explains the cruelty and brutality of the Nazi regime.
Of course, you shouldn’t imagine that all Nazis think this way. But the leaders and the aggressive elements certainly think so, and they set the tone. It might be more accurate to say that the average Nazi didn’t think at all. He felt awakened by his own misery and national humiliation (the French occupation of the Ruhr was bitterly felt in Germany) and angry at things as they were.
Hitler is a powerful orator, and he played on the emotions of his vast audience and blamed everything on Marxists and Jews. If Germany was mistreated by France or other foreign countries, it became a reason for more people to join the Nazis, because the Nazis would protect Germany’s honor. If the economic crisis worsened, recruits flocked…
Despite the growth of the Nazis, both workers’ parties – the Social Democratic and the Communist – were strong, and each had millions of supporters to the last, but they could not cooperate even in the face of common opposition. hazard. The Communists remembered with bitterness the persecutions they had suffered from the Social Democrats when they were in power, from 1918 onwards, and how, at each moment of crisis, they, the Social Democrats, had sided with the reactionary groups.
The Social Democratic Party, on the other hand, like the British Labor Party, with which it was associated in the Second International, was a wealthy and widespread organization with much patronage at its disposal, and it did not like to take the slightest risk to endanger his safety. and post. She was very afraid to do anything against the law, or to engage in what is called direct action. He devoted most of his energy to fighting the Communists. And yet, these two parties were in a way Marxists.
Germany thus became an armed camp of balanced forces, and there were frequent riots and murders, especially by the Nazis of communist workers. Sometimes the workers fought back. Hitler was remarkably successful in keeping a motley crew together, the various elements of which had little in common with each other. It was a curious alliance of the petty bourgeoisie with the big industrialists on one side and the wealthier peasantry on the other. The industrialists supported Hitler and gave him money because he cursed socialism and seemed to be the only bulwark against an advancing Marxism or communism. The poorer middle and peasant classes and even some workers were attracted by the anti-capitalist slogans.
On January 30, 1933, former President Hindenburg (he was then 86 years old) appointed Hitler Chancellor, which is the highest executive office in Germany, corresponding to the Prime Minister. There was an alliance between the Nazis and the Nationalists, but very soon it was clear that the Nazis were in charge and no one else mattered. A general election gave the Nazis, along with their Nationalist allies, just a simple majority in the Reichstag.
Even if they hadn’t won that majority, it wouldn’t matter much, because the Nazis arrested their opponents in parliament and put them in jail. All the communist members were thus dismissed, as well as a large part of the social democrats. At this time, the Reichstag building caught fire and was set on fire. The Nazis said it was the work of the Communists and a plot to undermine the state. The Communists strenuously denied, and in fact accused the Nazi leaders of causing the fire to find an excuse to attack them.
So began the Nazi or Brown Terror throughout Germany. For starters, parliament was dissolved (although the Nazis had a majority there) and all power was vested in Hitler and his cabinet. They could make laws or do whatever they wanted. The Constitution of the Weimar Republic is thus abrogated and all forms of democracy are openly despised. Germany was a kind of federation; this too ended and all power was concentrated in Berlin. Everywhere dictators were appointed who were answerable only to the dictator immediately above them. Hitler was, of course, the chief dictator.
While these changes were taking place, Nazi stormtroopers were unleashed all over Germany, and they began an incredibly savage and brutal reign of violence and terror. It was one of a kind. There have been terrors before. Red terrors and white terrors, but they always took place when a dominant country or group was fighting for its life in a civil war. The Terror was a reaction of terrible danger and constant fear. The Nazis had no such danger to face, nor any reason to be afraid. They controlled the government and there was no armed opposition or resistance against them. The Brown Terror was therefore not the result of passion and fear, but a deliberate, cold-blooded and incredibly brutal suppression of all those who did not align themselves with the Nazis.
(Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former professor of history at JNU and former director of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library).