The Chargé in Germany ( Mayer ) to the Secretary of State

No. 2940

Sir: I have the honor to report briefly on the general internal political situation in Germany prior to the Olympic Games.

[Page 143]

The state of domestic calm which resulted more or less from the concentration of attention on international affairs following the Rhineland occupation has been prolonged by the preparations for the Games. For the Nazis this year’s Olympiad assumes all the importance of a foreign political drive to obtain the favor and approval of the outside world. Discipline has been enjoined by Party leaders on their followers, Dr. Goebbels has exhorted the population to receive the foreign guests in a spirit of hospitality and assistance, currency regulations, and informally even customs restrictions, have been relaxed in the visitors’ favor, and the Berlin police have already begun to put on their best Olympic manners. While incidents will probably occur, it is obviously intended that they shall not be the Nazis’ fault and it may be confidently said that woe will undoubtedly betide the Party enthusiast who yields to the temptation to assault a foreigner for failing to give the Hitler salute.

Behind the façade of political calm the process of National Socialist consolidation has, however, moved relentlessly forward. Unquestionably one of the most important developments in this connection was the appointment of Herr Himmler to be national police chief. Himmler will probably make the radical influences which he represents felt in internal policy later on but at the same time his occupation of such a position of power should also provide a guarantee for continued order inasmuch as enemies of the State and Party discontents may well hesitate to try conclusions with a security organization as efficient and as ruthless as his has proved to be. Even before his recent appointment Himmler appears to have been busy carrying out a “cleansing action” on a wide front. It is now generally known that during the month of May he expelled from the picked troops of the S.S.,7 the Verfugungstruppen, some 250 or 300 men found guilty of drunkenness, immoral conduct or political unreliability. From a well-informed foreign source which has been making a study of the question, it is learned also that a quiet roundup has been in progress of active Communist and Social Democratic elements. It is said that since the beginning of the year some 1,600 persons have been tried on political charges, the majority of those convicted receiving what would appear to be the more or less standard punishment of two years penal servitude. Sentences of death have been sporadically announced and only last week sentence was passed upon Edgar André, once prominent as a Communist leader in Hamburg.

Another example of Himmler’s efficiency may be cited in the extraordinary precautions which, it is reliably stated, are now being taken to ensure Hitler’s safety. These precautions are becoming increasingly evident with each of his public appearances and have [Page 144] reached a point it is said where every town at which he stops has thrown about it a cordon of S.S. men linked to the center of the town by field telephones to enable them to take possession in the event of trouble. Rumors are current that Julius Schreck, the Führer’s chauffeur who was recently given a State funeral, was shot by mistake for Hitler and furthermore, that a band known as the “Röhm avengers” is active, but whether these reports contain sufficient truth to account for present precautions remains for the moment a subject of speculation.

A tendency which is not novel but the accentuation of which has become particularly marked is the subjection of the country to practically a military regime. It has just been announced that all men under 45 years of age who have had any kind of military training and who have left the Army since January 1, 1921, will be required to register themselves with a view to their possibly being called up for duty. In addition to Göring and Blomberg, who are regular members of the Cabinet, General von Fritsch, Admiral Raeder, and now Herr Himmler have access to that body so that the latter may be looked upon more as a council of war than a civil cabinet. Attention may also be called to the series of new laws reported in despatch No. 2937 of July 14, 1936,8 going forward with this pouch, which relate to the protection of military material and the inviolability of official secrecy. Herr Himmler may be expected, moreover, to carry through his idea that one of the functions of the S.S. is to prepare for the mobilization of the “home front.” A qualification to the impression these tendencies create may be added, however, in the explanation that it is perhaps natural for Germans to approach most problems from a military point of view.

The conflict between the Churches and the State remains relatively quiescent owing probably to the imminence of the Olympics and the illness of Church Minister Kerrl. As was expected, the Confessional Evangelical Opposition has received no reply to the strong memorandum on State interference and the de-Christianization of the youth, which it addressed personally to Hitler. A synod was held in Brandenburg in the latter part of June, as forecast in the Embassy’s despatch No. 2863 of June 4, 1936,9 but in view of Herr Kerrl’s illness and the absence of further molestation from the Secret Police it was decided to let well enough alone and to await renewed State aggression before taking any action. The Catholics are suffering considerable embarrassment from the current series of immorality trials which to date have resulted in the conviction of some thirty monks. The Nazi papers let no opportunity pass to emphasize that these practices were called some time ago to the attention of the competent Church authorities who, however, [Page 145] failed to take the proper steps to put an end to them. In Catholic circles there is present a very real fear that one of the rallying cries of this year’s Party Congress may be the dissolution of the Catholic orders or their submission to rigid State control.

In general it may be said that the present state of feeling in the country is exceptionally good. The public are grateful for an interval of comparative political peace and they are undoubtedly impressed by Hitler’s foreign successes as well as by the prospect of the Olympic Games. An authority who has every reason to be critical, having once been a prominent Social Democratic labor official, states it as his opinion that the greater proportion of the workers have been won over to National Socialism, including those who were formally nominally Communists and excepting only a very small minority who were Communists by conviction. He declared that this was particularly so in the case of the large enterprises profiting from rearmament and other State contracts which are able to treat their workers in magnanimous fashion. The pinch, however, was felt by workers in the smaller independent firms operating on a reduced margin of profit which have been forced to scale down real wages in one way or another, the resultant loss to the employees being hardly compensated for by the Socialistic benefits offered by the State “Strength through Joy” organization.

It has been suggested that various sorts of spectacular happenings may be expected to follow the Olympic Games. As surprise is one of the elements of Nazi success, it would be rash to offer any predictions as to what form they may take. In addition to the more actual question of the Catholic orders there is always of course the perpetual problem of the Jews10 upon which the Nazi radicals may once more be tempted to try their teeth, particularly as the Gustloff case11 and the possibility that the murderer may be brought to trial in Switzerland early this fall may offer excuses for re-opening the issue. It is perhaps pertinent to ask whether Hitler may not offer the Party extremists some compensation in internal policy for his repudiation of the National Socialist cause in Austria.

One issue which it has been rumored may be brought forward in the September Party Congress is the need of further “politicizing” the people. There are good grounds for believing that the Party ranks will be opened for the admission of a few new and trusted members, but more important still are reports that every person racially qualified to be a “citizen” will be required, in order to obtain his “certificate of citizenship” or Staatsbürgerbrief (a document not yet introduced but featured prominently in Mein Kampf), to prove his [Page 146] association with National Socialism either through membership in some Party organization or by specific acts. Should this idea be carried out it will be a concrete application of the tendency discussed in the Embassy’s despatch No. 2867 [2869] of June 4, 1936,13 which appears to be seeking to develop the nation along the lines of a “People’s State” rather than a primarily “Party State.”

Respectfully yours,

Ferdinand Lathrop Mayer
  1. Schutzstaffel.
  2. See political report, infra.
  3. Not printed, but see despatch No. 2949 July 21, 1936, from the Chargé in Germany, p. 168.
  4. For correspondence regarding the persecution of Jews, see pp. 192 ff.
  5. Wilhelm Gustloff, Nazi group leader in Switzerland, murdered there on February 4, 1936.
  6. Not printed.