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

No. 1430

Sir: I have the honor to report that on October 24 the Reich Chancellor issued an important decree defining the status and purposes of the Labor Front. A copy and translation are transmitted herewith.55

The Labor Front has been actually in existence for a number of months, as its formation and activities had been authorized in the Law of January 20, 1934, for the regulation of national labor (see despatch No. 464 of January 26). The new decree, nevertheless, confirms this, prescribes that all manual or intellectual workers shall be members of the Labor Front, and, in addition, makes the latter a separate division of the National Socialist Party similar to the Political Organization of the S.S. The last mentioned step should tend to enhance the prestige of the Labor Front and strengthen its organization. Dr. Ley becomes its chief, although he is not mentioned by name.

The duties of the Labor Front, in addition to the fulfillment of those prescribed under the Law of January 20, are set forth in rather general terms, namely, to insure industrial peace through furthering [Page 264] the just interests of employer and workman and reconciling these interests when they conflict. This would seem to imply that the officials of the Labor Front will relieve the “Treuhänder,” or Trustees of Labor set up by the Law of January 20, of much work. In other words, that they will endeavor by conciliation to obviate the necessity of a definite decision by the “Treuhänder.” In addition, two definite activities are assigned to it; the support of the “Strength through Happiness” organization, which provides recreation for workmen, and the direction of professional training, evidently that of skilled workers. Just how this will be accomplished is not defined.

Paragraph one of Section 9 is important, for it provides that property belonging to the former trade unions and employers’ organizations shall be taken over by the Labor Front, evidently without compensation. Shortly after the seizure of power by the Nazis, the trade unions were dissolved and union property (cash, buildings, etc.) was seized. The employers now share the same fate. Just what assets will be taken is not stated, but probably they include cash and other property (offices, hospitals, and other welfare institutions, etc.) the amount of which is considerable. If such an assumption is correct, this should materially increase the wealth of Dr. Ley’s organization.

On December 1 of last year, the employers determined to dissolve their associations. The period of time allowed for this, however, has not entirely elapsed and consequently the new decree will deprive them of property which otherwise they might have saved.

It is reported, on what appears to be reliable authority, that the employers were taken completely by surprise and that even Dr. Sehacht56 was unaware that such a decree would be enacted. Otherwise he would in all probability have expressed his disapproval. It is stated that Dr. Ley submitted the measure secretly to Hitler, who signed it alone and without consulting his ministers. The seizure of the property of the employers’ associations tends to confirm accounts of Dr. Ley’s radical leanings. He cannot by this action have popularized himself with the more conservative business men, including Dr. Sehacht.

The enactment of the new decree was celebrated on October 30 by mass meetings throughout Germany. An enormous assembly of over 350 thousand persons met on the Palace Square in Berlin, where it was addressed by Dr. Ley. It is asserted that virtual compulsion was resorted to in order to assure the attendance of the workmen.

At a press conference, held several days ago, Dr. Ley declared that the Labor Front would be completely organized by January 1, 1935. The new decree will be clarified and explained by subsequent orders. [Page 265] Ley also stated that the workmen’s contributions to the Labor Front would be increased. The money, nevertheless, would be spent for far better purposes than those of the Marxist labor unions. They will be contributions to carry on the struggle, to advance political ideals and explain the Nazi philosophy of life. The Labor Front will use them to arouse hitherto dormant energies of the people.

Whether the workman will be pleased to make increased contributions at a time when wages are stationary and the cost of living is tending to rise is open to doubt.

Respectfully yours,

William E. Dodd
  1. Not printed.
  2. Hjalmar Sehacht, German Minister for Economic Affairs.