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Last winter when the situation on the Eastern Front became serious Hitler took over the Supreme Command of the army.
Now he has assumed special powers because the situation on the German home front also calls for ruthless and speedy action.
This time the attack is obviously directed not only against the workers! The war against Russia has shown the limitations of the German war machine. The Nazis hoped to overcome these weaknesses by making tremendous efforts during the past winter and thus to achieve in their spring offensive what they had failed to do in the autumn fighting. For months now the German press has been presenting a picture of the difficulties which they are encountering in trying to carry out this task. The Nazis are staking everything on one card by ruthlessly mobilising all their resources. They have tried to put the German industrial machine and the available man-power totally at the disposal of their war production.
The new slogan was: "We sink or swim together." But this story about the people being all in one boat has not impressed many of the influential people in the Third Reich. We have in mind the conservative and clerical reactionaries; they are the people from the old ruling class who, although they fostered Nazism, regarded Hitler as a menial, only fit to do their dirty work, never as their superior. Even to-day a large part of the industrial war machine is still in their hands; they occupy leading positions in the army; and the Nazis could not even oust them completely from the higher administration and the judiciary. These people realise that a defeat will mean the end of Hitler and his clique; they are, however, not convinced that their own power will be doomed.
Since this winter has shown clearly that a victory for the Nazis is anything but a certainty these circles are much less willing to co-operate with the Nazis and have tried to stabilise and strengthen their own positions. In German industry there are especially striking examples of this tendency.
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Scarcely two and a half months after ZANGEN, the president of the German "Industriellenverband" (association of industrialists) and general director of the Mannesmann concern, was put in charge of the mobilisation ("Konzentrierung") of the German war economy the "Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung" of 15th March 1942 sounded a triumphant note:
"Industry should determine the details of its own policy."
Under the direction of ZANGEN "Reichsvereinigungen" (national associations) were created, concerning which Dr. VITS, general director of the "Vereinigte Glanzstoffwerke" expressed himself as follows:
"Industry welcomes the `Reichsvereinigungen' (RV), especially because part of the functions which at present are carried out by Government authorities will in future be taken over by the RV ..."
The "Frankfurter Zeitung" wrote on March 22nd, 1942 in a rather aggressive tone: "It is important that good relations between entrepreneur and the State should not suffer just at this time when a certain amount of unwelcome state interference is necessary."
At about the same time the big German armament firms evaded heavier taxation of their war profits. The German "Preiskommissar", the banker FISCHBOECK whose function it was to check up war profits, suddenly decided to hand over this task to the Ministry of Finance. And here again the "Frankfurter Zeitung" of March 27th 1942 had the face to declare openly:
"The entrepreneurs would have preferred from the outset to be taxed rather than to submit to control of their business. Private industry will therefore welcome the decision of Dr. FISCHBOECK. "
The "Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung" was subsequently able to comment on the "pleasant surprise" caused by certain exemption from special war tax, granted to all entrepreneurs who had less than 30,000 Marks profit.
But this victory of industry with its long-term policy brought the Nazi bosses on to the scene. When at the end of March the well-known Nazi FRITZ SAUCKEL took over the post of MANSFELD, who had represented the interests of heavy industry and was by no means a friend of the workers, it became clear that the Nazi dictatorship was planning a blow against Big Business.
The "Frankfurter Zeitung" gave the following warning (and not out of sympathy for the worker!):
"The new style of German economic life consists of the concentrated use of man-power and the continuous shifting of German men and women."
But the Nazi dictators who are now fighting for their very existence are no longer considering long-term policy. They demand immediate and total mobilisation of effort for the decisive struggle with which they are faced. Everything should be staked on this effort. A decree was issued which threatens with the death penalty any industrialist who is guilty of sabotage.
This was the commencement of a series of sharper attacks; the new powers assumed by Hitler are intended to enable these attacks to be carried out with the utmost ruthlessness. This time the attacks are once more
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directed against the "gentlemen", against certain circles in industry, big landowners, high army officers, high officials in the administration and the judiciary, those who, though they are now in the same boat as the Nazis, are already preparing to leave the sinking ship before it is too late.
The fact that the Nazis are determined to take such rigorous measures against the enemy within just at this moment when the world is expecting to see them launch the spring offensive, shows how serious is the situation on the home front.
It has, however, quite another aspect, which should not be overlooked in judging the situation in Germany. It shows the ruthless determination which the real Nazi clique put their plans into operation in spite of all opposition. Just as, in 1934, Hitler did not shrink from murdering ROEHM and his followers when their activities did not suit his purpose, still less will he shrink from the shooting of unreliable generals, officials and "Wirtschaftsfuehrer" should that seem necessary.
Still more important in judging recent events is it to realise that these "middle-class opponents" of Hitler are always inclined to go with him whenever he shows the mailed fist, or, what is more important, when he has successes. The fate of the exponents of this class who tried from time to time to hold Hitler in check and expected to be able to do so, should serve as a warning not to have any faith in this class as an effective opposition to Hitler. HUGENBERG, SELDTE, von FRITSCH, RAUSCHNING and the rest show that nothing is to be expected from this direction. They and Hitler are birds of a feather.
Therefore we cannot hope for revolution from this side. Apart from this, it is to be feared that some of the workers, especially the young workers, will be misled, seeing that the Nazis are now attacking the "capitalist profiteers" and will perhaps expropriate some capitalists and penalise some high officials. All this may be presented to the workers under the guise of National Socialism, "now at last on the march", putting into practice what was promised in 1918, but never kept to.
The situation in the Third Reich is undoubtedly serious. But this is in the main because the Third Reich is preparing for a tremendous effort and in the process comes up against a great number of people for whom it is too much. Should this effort be crowned with success which makes it seem worth while then the faint-hearted and the grumblers will quickly be silenced. To assume that the situation in the Third Reich will lead to a collapse and that no efforts from outside are needed seems to us to be the most dangerous illusion into which opponents of the Third Reich can fall. If, on the other hand, thanks to the increased war effort of the Allies, the Hitler offensive is held in Russia - not to speak of complete failure - then the split which to-day is evident on the home front may rapidly extend and may indeed lead to internal collapse.
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"I was introduced to the manager who bade me a very hearty welcome. Then I went on the hunt for digs. It took me about a week to find a fairly decent room. My landlady was studying theology, so I was in good company. The next day I went to see the workshop I was to be in. I had been promised everything imaginable. I was to become a foreman. The wages seemed adequate. I was presented to my fellow-workers. They greeted my arrival with looks of astonishment and with whispered remarks to each other. For a Swiss is something worth looking at these days. Just look at his shoes! And when he turns up in the morning he doesn't say `Heil Hitler` but just an ordinary `Good Morning' in his German-Swiss dialect, getting the regulationed German greeting for an answer, of course. At least that's what happened for the first three days. Then, one after another, they changed their minds and greeted me with their homely `Greet God'. Before very long there wasn't a single one of them saying `Heil Hitler`. - And then I began to make friends. I was invited out to supper. As I was sitting down to table I heard an undertone: `Isn't that the Beromuenster wireless announcer?' I grew hot under the collar. One never can tell. There followed a cautious sparring on both sides. And in a short time a friendship for life was formed.
From the very first day the Gestapo took a too lively interest in me. I knew well enough of course that I would be watched and spied upon, but I hadn't expected their methods to be so clumsy as they were. Every evening during the first week the Gestapo rang up the hotel, wanting to know if I was still there. I was to give up my passport every night, so they said, and every morning I had the pleasure of claiming its return. - And of course I had to have ration cards. The Swiss rationing scheme had always seemed to me a trifle complicated. But it was nothing compared to the German. I was given coupons and yet more coupons. My pocketbook was stuffed with them to overflowing. All of them coupons for five grammes. I didn't notice that detail until later!
Now, having found lodgings, the next thing was to call on the police. Form after form to fill up. Questions to answer about my Aryan grandmother and about other things which seemed to me no concern of the police, questions which I took the liberty of leaving unanswered. But I came off second best in the end. When my business had been concluded and I was going off with a hearty `Greet God', I paused for a moment just to enquire where I should report before going back home to Switzerland. The official in the department for aliens gave me a funny look and said impudently: `You can't go home at all. We're going to invade Switzerland in a week or two.'
A Czech, to whom I told this story, told me that I had done a very stupid thing in coming to Germany. - I realised that. But I had to be sure, so I wrote to the Consul saying that for the present I couldn't report as my service-book had been taken away from me and that I had been told by the police that I couldn't go back to Switzerland. In a day or two I had from the Consul a somewhat evasive answer. This caused me fresh uneasiness. I was angry with our Swiss authorities who hadn't given us, back in Switzerland, all the information they might have done. Much later I was able to hear from many Swiss that they would never have come to Germany if they had been plainly told that in certain circumstances they would be unable to go back.
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Meanwhile my first pay day arrived. I was handed a long envelope with figures inscribed on it: deductions, taxes, contributions, voluntary subscriptions. Devil take it! My workmates watched me expectantly. They could see my disappointment. They began some grousing on their own account and showed me their wage packets. One man, a married man with a family, got 160 marks a month; there was a single man with 90 marks a month; and somebody else with 120 marks a month. It can't be wondered at that they curse and swear, provided there isn't a spy about. Off I went to the manager who listened to me without moving a muscle until I threatened to give notice on the spot. I demanded my wages as agreed upon, with no deductions. I told him that deductions wouldn't buy me anything. `You can't leave here and you can't give notice. You are subject to the laws of the Reich just like anybody else', he said. And I replied, `I can leave. I'm a free Swiss national. I can go away if I want to.' At this he began to feel a bit uneasy. With labour at a premium here was this Swiss worker threatening to slip through his fingers. So he rang up the `workers representative' who declared that a rise in wages was illegal and that the firm was in the right. Then I had an interview myself with the `workers` representative'. He advised me to give notice in the prescribed manner. No sooner said than done. I sent a letter of resignation to the firm, and another to the Labour Bureau whose confirmation would have to be obtained. In a week's time, when no answer had arrived and the firm refused to accept my resignation, I made up my mind to tackle the gentlemen at the Labour Bureau. A friend accompanied me as a witness.
I found myself once more in a luxuriously furnished office. The official in charge of the case went into a paroxysm of rage when he saw us. He was shabbily dressed. Obviously a Party man who had wormed his way into this petty official's job by backstairs means. `So you're the two Swiss.' Pause. `Do you really think that you possess the same rights here as you do in your filthy country? Here you have no rights. Go away and get them in Switzerland. We didn't ask you to come here. We aren't here to preserve the interests of the workers. The interests of the factory must come first.' We listened patiently and then attempted to interrupt the flow of words. In almost inarticulate rage he shouted at us that the Gestapo would take a hand in the matter. Then he shoved a paper towards me according to which I could leave my place of work. And with that we were dismissed. Then followed yet another scene at the shop. The manager, likewise, threatened me with the Gestapo. I was thoroughly tired of it all now and went to the `law enquiry office of the German Labour Front'. More splendidly equipped offices. In the dark waiting room were sitting people who had come here for justice. A woman came weeping out of the room. We had heard through the door how German `comrades of the people' are treated in the German social state. I told the `legal adviser' that nowhere in Europe had I been treated so disgustingly as in Germany. He did his best to pacify me. He told me that officials' nerves were on edge just now and I must make allowances. He advised me to lodge a complaint at the Labour Bureau.
I followed this up by going to the Labour Court. I was taken before some higher official. He listened to me for a while and then suddenly interrupted me shouting, `Have you seen to-day's paper? No? It says that Switzerland is sending munitions and guns to England. You are a Swiss. You can go to the devil as soon as you like. I'll have nothing to do with a Swiss.'
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Meanwhile I had found another and a better job. I didn't trouble to get a written agreement. In Germany that is a thing of no value whatever. Influential connections is what one must have. Then all possibilities are open to one.
There are many prisoners of war to be seen. They do work on air raid shelters and on drainage schemes. There are men among them who look very sad and no doubt have a wife and children at home. I couldn't help giving them a lowtoned `bonjour, messieurs', which they returned in the same low and confidential voice.
Then there are Poles with their rectangular markings and Jews with the Star of David, and they are treated like dogs. Group by group they are called upon by the authorities to hold themselves in readiness for departure. They are allowed to take with them luggage up to a weight of twenty-five kilogrammes. Then the Gestapo comes and seals the houses after confiscating everything usable. Then the Jews are sent to the East, the old men excepted, and somewhere or another they are put to building roads, without proper clothing and accomodation.
Czechs, whose acquaintance I made, told me about the German invasion and about the present conditions in their beautiful homeland. `They've stolen everything. Columns of lorries took away all the things that made up the wealth of your country.' But the passive resistance offered by the Czech people to-day, of which very little is ever heard in Switzerland, is marvellous. This is a people whose thoughts are ever centred on the hour which will bring them their liberation.
The Alsatians occupy a peculiar position in Germany. I got to know one who had been at Dunkirk and later in a prisoners of war camp in Austria. He never spoke of his experiences. But he never tired of saying that he was a Frenchman and would remain a Frenchman. Like all Alsatians he had been given his freedom, that is to say, he and the rest were allowed, at low rates of pay, to be cogs in the German war machinery.
The Swiss in Germany deserve special mention, both those who have been settled there for years and those who have come into the country recently. One can never be certain with them what kind of people one is dealing with. It can hardly be wondered at that I preferred to associate with Germans, with whom one knew in advance that one's every word had to be carefully weighted in any case. For example, there was a Swiss woman whose acquaintance I made, the mother of ten children, whose great joy it was to have four sons serving at the front. And there were others to whom an `Anschluss' with Germany was quite acceptable.
Nor must we forget the `Association of Swiss National Socialists in Greater Germany', with headquarters at Stuttgart under the control of Major a.D. LEONHARDT and of his rival FRANZ BURRI in Vienna. These two try to outdo each other in their activity and at present are at loggerheads and attack each other in pamphlets. This probably means that they regard each other as rivals for the position of `Gauleiter'. LEONHARDT recently made a speech in a certain large town. The hall was filled by about fifty or sixty Swiss National Socialist youths. LEONHARDT, a typical army officer, let go a torrent of abuse at Switzerland, at the `government of criminals', at the `traitor Guisan'. He informed his hearers of the formation of a Swiss volunteer corps
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to serve on the Eastern front. He stated that he and Lieutenant MANGE would take over the command of this corps and that thousands of Swiss soldiers would immediately desert from the Swiss army as soon as the necessary preliminaries were completed. Then with great enthusiasm: `National Socialists! Swiss! Close your eyes. Then you will hear flowing in your veins the German blood, Germanic blood. The blood of our race! As Swiss we greet the leader of the Pan-German Reich, Adolf Hitler, with a threefold Sieg Heil!' In the discussion an ingenuous Swiss asked what was the major's attitude to Roman, Italian and French Switzerland. His answer was that `these aren't Swiss. Let them do as they like.'
It is a fact that thousands of copies of literature advocating the formation of a Swiss volunteer corps to serve on the Eastern front have passed over the frontier into Switzerland. Whilst the greatest difficulties are placed in my path and in that of other like me who want to get back home, there are people who are for ever crossing and re-crossing the frontier. At the consulate at X I was told quite openly that I would have got my visa long ago if I had seemed more trustworthy in the eyes of the German authorities. It is very strange. Whilst the Germans poke their noses into everything crossing the frontiers, the Swiss authorities think that they for their part need not do so. And so it is that German propaganda material gets across into Switzerland in masses. So it is that up to now probably more than a thousand young Swiss, some of them Nazis, some of them unemployed and some of them adventurers have deserted to the Germans. They are assembled at some base or another, interrogated, given some military training and then sent with the `Waffen SS' to the Eastern front. It is true that many of them are beginning to see the true state of affairs. One only needs to be about a fortnight in Germany to know how things stand. Then, one after another, they go to the consulate and say that they would like to return to Switzerland. But since they crossed the frontier illegally, they have no rights and are treated by the German authorities like emigrants.
'Under the protection of the Swiss embassy' - that is what one's papers say. But in fact we have always had the impression that the `protection' is something of an illusion. There is no doubt that the diplomatic representatives of Switzerland in Germany have no easy task and that they cannot do their job properly in every single case. Nevertheless it must be said they crawl to the Germans and that in consequence little respect is paid to the Swiss in Germany to-day. And it should not be that one gets the impression that all the complicated diplomatic machinery exists for the sole purpose of getting in the military taxes.
Again and again one meets fine types among the Germans, who ask anxiously after the welfare of Switzerland. `If Germany should attack Switzerland, then I will no longer call myself a German', was said to me more than once by influential Germans. `Shoot for all you're worth if they come. You Swiss don't know what a fine thing it is to have a country like yours!`"