The importance of “The Berlin Diar#es,” just published, lies not in the volume’s so-called revelations of Germany’s future war plans, as the advance newspaper reports represented, but in the provision of authentic documentary material supporting the charge that Hindenburg surrendered Germany to Hitler to protect from slander his own name and the names of his friends and to shield from inevitable Parliamentary inquiry the manner in which he had acquired the East Prussian estate of Neudeck.
It was for saying just such things that the Dutch government, merely to oblige Hindenburg, put Heinz Liepmann, author of “Murderâ€”Made in Germany,” in jail. But the evidence of the man who wrote “The Berlin Diaries” cannot be so easily impeached or controverted, for he was a member of the German Ministry of War, high in the confidence of General Kurt von Schleicher (last of the pre-Hitler Chancellors), and an interested spectator in the series of fevered negotiations conducted by the Nazis, through von Papen and Goering, for the right to govern Germany in return for nothing less than the quashing of the Parliamentary indictment of the Junkers of East Prussia, who led by Oldenburg, lavished the funds of Germany on the estates of themselves and their allies.
There is a brief passing note in this book telling how the Nazis, to win the neutrality if not the friendliness of General von Blomberg, commander of the East Prussian Reichswehr, presented him with an estate. The real identity of the author, called “General X,” is concealed, in the words of the editor, Dr. Helmut Klotz, “by concentrating the actual experiences and observations of several (and equally reliable) persons into the one person and, in the second place, by temporal or spatial displacement of accessory circumstances.” The American edition appears with a foreword by Edgar Ansel Mowrer, formerly Berlin correspondent of the Chicago Daily News. It is published by William Morrow & Co.
BRIEF, HECTIC MONTHS
The range of the diary is only eight months, from May 30, 1932, to January 30, 1933, from about the fall of the Bruening Cabinet, through the brief and tumultuous life of the indecisive von Schleicher’s Cabinet, to the summoning of Hitler, on his pledge not to disturb the East Relief Fund, and to smash the Reichstag inquiry. Besides supporting the worst of the Communist aspersions on Hindenburg, “The Berlin Diaries” makes plain the reason Hindenburg gave Hitler the accolade of power almost at the moment that the first great decline of Nazi electoral influence became apparent. The Field Marshal and his son, Oskar, in whose name Neudeck was deeded to save inheritance taxes, hated and feared the Nazis and despised Hitler and his entourage and secretly hoped they would blow themselves up by some rash and unconsidered motion, but both hated and feared the Parliamentary inquiry more. This book makes it plain that Schleicher could have avoided the worst had he either played politics with Hindenburg, or shown that firmness in his office to which “General X” was always steeling him.
“General X” renders a curious service to Hindenburg. We who have thought of the old general as a flat-footed dunderhead useful for decorative purposes see projected in these pages a man of decision who knew what he wanted and realized the dangers involved. It was he who summed up the perils of Hitlerism. The diary entry of November 24, 1932 reads:
“The alarm has passed over and Hindenburg has sent the ‘Dictator’ home again. A bitter pill for Hitler: ‘I feel that I could not answer for my action to the German people if I, its President, were to appoint as my plenipotentiary representative the leader of a party which has again and again emphasized its exclusiveness. I fear that a Presidential Cabinet led by Herr Hitler would inevitably develop into a party dictatorship with the evil result of intensifying still more the dissensions within the German nation, and I cannot answer to my oath and my conscience for taking such a step.’ “
THEN WHAT HAPPENED
Almost a month later there is a stormy session between Hindenburg and Schleicher, on the Reichstag Commission’s proposal that the government no longer pay over from the relief fund money for large estates which did not give up a part of their acreage for small holdings. Hindenburg calls it criminal Bolshevism and demands Schleicher kill the commission. Schleicher answers he cannot do so in the face of his oath to the Constitution and in the face of the abuses in connection with the distribution of the state moneys. When Schleicher finally refuses to disband the commission, Hindenburg retorts: “If Hitler were Chancellor he would give me a different answer.” On January 25 Goering calls on Hindenburg to assure him “that the National Socialists were prepared to prevent the vote being taken on the “Bolshevist’ motion in the commission of inquiry if Schleicher were dismissed and Hitler appointed as Chancellor.” On that day Hindenburg shows Goering to the door. Three days later Schleicher resigns and two days later, January 30, 1933â€”the great day for the Nazisâ€”Hitler is named Chancellor. We know of course what has happened since to the Reichstag and all its commissions and members.
The following paragraph, from the January 13 entry, gives us a notion of the manner in which the funds of Germany were used for “the right people.”
“The scandal of the East Relief Fund mounts and mounts…. One man declares himself bankrupt four times and is put on his feet four times; the fifth time the property is put up to auction and his ten-year-old daughter buys it for a song…. Another goes bankrupt, gets his dole from the fund, buys a luxurious motor car with it, drives down to the Riviera, blows the lot, returns without a penny and is put on his feet again. All with the state’s money. And such and similar cases there are in dozens.”