The Ambassador in Germany (Sackett) to the Secretary of State

No. 2070

Sir: With reference to section 7 of despatch No. 2000 of October 24, 1932,47 I have the honor to report that a brief statement to the press by Nazi headquarters last week, to the effect that Gregor Strasser, one of Hitler’s right-hand men, had been granted leave of absence for three weeks, had the effect of a political sensation for it showed that the tension between Hitler and Strasser, which the party was trying hard to conceal, had developed into an open conflict.

At about the same time announcement was made that Deputy Feder, one of the economic experts of the Nazi Party, asked Hitler for a leave of absence because he was dissatisfied with certain administrative changes in the party. While Feder’s action seems to have been prompted by somewhat different motives, it is nevertheless equally significant of the discord among the Nazi leaders. What is taking place in the Nazi Party now is a palace revolution rather than an open revolt by the rank and file.

It is no mere coincidence that the conflict in the Nazi Party came to a head at about the same time that the party was struggling with the problem of either supporting a motion to adjourn the Reichstag, thus enabling Chancellor Von Schleicher to carry on without another dissolution of the Reichstag, or of facing the electorate again in two months.

The recent negotiations between the Nazis and Chancellor Von Schleicher showed that there was a strong divergence of views among the Nazi leaders on the question of participation in government. A group headed by Captain Goering, the Nazi President of the Reichstag, and Dr. Goebbels, the Berlin Nazi leader and Strasser’s most bitter rival, is opposed to cooperation in government on any basis except with Hitler as Chancellor, while Strasser is the recognized head of a small group of leaders opposed to Hitler’s “all or nothing” policy.

Strasser, who no longer believes in the possibility of a purely Nazi dictatorship, has been striving to pave the way to his party’s participation [Page 322] in government on a coalition basis in the Reich and Prussia, in which event he was slated for the post of Prussian Minister-President. However, under pressure of an influential group in the party, Hitler agreed to drop Strasser’s candidacy for this post in favor of Captain Goering, and this seems to be the immediate cause of the conflict.

It was Strasser who conducted the negotiations with Chancellor Von Schleicher early this month which resulted in an invitation by the Chancellor to Hitler to come to Berlin for a conference. This conference, it will be recalled, never took place because Strasser’s rivals, Goering and Goebbels, succeeded in keeping Hitler away from Berlin (see despatch No. 2063 of December 5, 1932).

It is understood that before going on leave Strasser sent a letter to Hitler complaining that he was not receiving sufficient support in the party. He relinquished the various offices which he held in the party. However, he retained his Reichstag seat and did not resign from the party, and considerable significance is being attached to this fact.

Strasser is a seasoned politician, with recognized talent as an organizer and vote getter. He was one of Hitler’s closest and ablest collaborators and held a position analogous to that of National Chairman in control of the party machine. He has been in the party since 1921, taking an active part in the Hitler Putsch in 1923. It was he who held the party together—or what remained of it—after the illfated Putsch, while Hitler was serving a term in a fortress.

He belongs to that group of Nazi leaders who realize that if the Nazis should get into power they could not well ignore the wishes and needs of the bulk of their following, namely, the former middle-classes which have now become economically dislocated. He is an anti-capitalist with a socialistic philosophy that is not easily definable. While there was still hope that the Nazis might succeed in setting up The Third Reich, it was understood that Strasser was to become the German Stalin while Hitler was to play a decorative role something like that of Kalinin.

Secessionists from political parties in Germany have usually ended in obscurity without being able to do serious damage to the parent party. This was true of the Stennes revolt in the Nazi Party (see despatch No. 849 of April 8, 1931)49 as well as of the secession of the Treviranus groups from the Nationalist Party (see despatch No. 5136 of December 9, 1929)49 and of the various secessions from the Social-Democratic and Communist Parties. In each case the party machine invariably proved strong enough to weather the storm, and [Page 323] until the contrary is proven Hitler must be presumed to have his party machine firmly in hand.

Following the Stennes revolt, Hitler himself took command of the storm detachments, appointing Captain Roehm, who achieved a measure of notoriety (see despatch No. 1969 of October 6, 1932),50 as his chief of staff charged with the actual work. Similarly, Hitler has now taken over Strasser’s functions, designating as his deputy Dr. Ley, the militant editor of the Nazi official organ in Cologne who several months ago also achieved some notoriety by beating up the veteran Social-Democratic leader, Wels, and the Police Commissioner of Cologne, for which he was sentenced to a term of three months in prison.

The Nazi press, for obvious reasons, treats the latest developments in the party in a light vein. That Hitler and the other party leaders take the matter seriously may be inferred from the fact that after adjournment of the Reichstag last week the Nazi deputies gave the “Fuehrer” individually and collectively a declaration of loyalty. Similar declarations were transmitted by subordinate leaders from all parts of the Reich.

The Nazi movement, as recent elections have shown, is now on the decline, and Strasser’s action has doubtless served to stress this unpleasant fact which Nazi journals and speakers have been trying so hard to explain away. While it would be premature to expect at this time an open split in the Nazi Party as a direct result of Strasser’s break with Hitler, the indications are that it may have more serious and far-reaching consequences than similar conflicts which took place during the Nazi boom.

Respectfully yours,

Frederic M. Sackett
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