Now-editorial Notes

The last will and testament of the late President Paul von Hindenburg is a remarkable document. Toward the end it looks very much like a “doctored,” Hitlerized document. It was suddenly sprung on the German people a few days before the elections of Hitler as Reichsfuehrer and Chancellor. The testament was handed to Hitler by Colonel von Papen, who had recently criticized the Nazi regime of which he was the Vice-Chancellor, who was humiliated by the Nazis during the bloody week-end of Nazi “purging,” and who has now been appointed special envoy to Vienna, to straighten out the mess created by the Nazi assassination of Chancellor Dollfuss during the unsuccessful attempt of German-directed Nazis to overthrow the Austrian government.

The Hindenburg testament begins with the concluding chapter of his Memoirs written in 1919 and published in 1921. The will is addressed “to the German People and its Chancellor.” The concluding chapter of his Memoirs in 1919 ended thus:

“In this faith, I lay down my pen and put my whole confidence in you—the youth of Germany.”

The rest of the testament is dated May 11, 1933, a few weeks before the Hitler blood bath.

The old General made it clear in his will that he had never been in sympathy with the democratic and parliamentary form of government that followed the Kaiser’s abdication. He was a monarchist at heart to the end. He remained a militarist to the end. He reminded the German people in this Testament that “the army must always and at all times remain the instrument of the supreme leadership of the state.”

Regarding foreign relations, von Hindenburg wrote: “In foreign politics the German people had to endure a Calvary. It was burdened with a terrible treaty (the Treaty of Versailles) which in its progressive enforcement threatened to bring our nation to collapse. For a long time surrounding nations failed to understand that Germany must live, not only for its own sake, but as the banner-bearer of Western culture, also for the sake of all Europe.”

This is alleged to have been written by President vol. Hindenburg in May, 1933, almost a year and a half after the Nazi reign of terror had instituted its ruthless crusade against the intellectuals who had made Germany a cultural center in Europe. The old Field Marshal must have believed, if his last testament is genuine, that Hitler’s attitude toward the advancement of Western culture had at last convinced the surrounding nations “that Germany must live, not only for its own sake, but as the standard bearer of Western culture, also for the sake of Europe.”

It is hardly conceivable that even in his dotage, President von Hindenburg could make such a ridiculous statement. This is the part of the Hindenburg that seems to have been doctored.

This absurd passage is followed by thanks to Providence for permitting him to see in the evening of his life “the hour of recovery,” and by thanks to all those who “in unselfish love of the Fatherland have cooperated in the work of Germany’s resurgence.” Then comes his approval of Hitler:

“My Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, and his movement have taken a decisive stride of historical importance towards a great goal of leading the German people to inner unity regardless of differences of rank and class.”

It is possible that President von Hindenburg did not know in May, 1933, that his Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, had during his period in office intensified the irritation between Germany and the surrounding nations, and alienated the sympathy of even those nations that had been very friendly to Germany, that Hitler had outraged the feelings of decent and liberty-loving people throughout the world by his terroristic methods directed against the banner-bearers of culture, and that instead of “leading the German people to inner unity regardless of rank and class,” he had indulged in savage persecutions of German Jews, German Catholics, German Protestants, German workmen, German pacifists. That Hitler has isolated Germany, leading it to economic ruin and to moral degradation.

Either von Hindenburg did not know throughout the period of Hitler’s reign what was going on in Germany, or his latest testament was Hitlerized after his death.

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