The five million people who on the 19th of August 1934 voted against approving Hitler’s assumption of power are by no means all members of the illegal organizations in Germanyâ€”though by their courageous protest they gave proof of an enviable independence of spirit.
These organizations include only those few of the three million voters who were willing to sacrifice their private interests to their political convictions. Their membership is not very large, yet on the day of revolt, for which they are preparing, these comparatively few members will be able to induce the greater part of the five million to join their ranks.
What kind of organizations are these? What is their strength in terms of membership, of material and spiritual fighting power?
It is impossible to make any exact statements on these points. The accounts diverge to an extraordinary degree â€” they differ like the fake unemployment statistics given out by the Hitler Government differ from the actual figures. The last proof of the danger of the illegal societies lies in the publication of the law of the Prussian Ministerâ€”President Goering, which the German Federal Government realized six weeks later:
“Whoever by speech or wit, acts against the interests of the German Government, whoever writes, prints or disseminates an illegal pamphlet or publication, is punishable by death or long-term penal servitude.”
HUGE DEATH TOLL
In four months the ordinary courts in Germany have decreed just as many death sentences as in the entire thirteen years of the Republic. These measures prove and proclaim the terrific effort on the part of the dictatorship to crush its political opponents through intimidation and oppression.
Yet the opposition has been suppressed just as little through these measures at it was by the ruthless application of the law in the concentration camps, the Nazi stormtroop barracks and the prisons.
In addition to numerous small illegal organizations, there are at present three large ones in Germany. They are in the order of their size: 1) The Communists; 2) The Young Socialists; 3) The groups which are intimately associated with the former Deutschnationale Volkspartei (German National People’s Party) and who strive for a restoration of the monarchy.
Some particulars about each of these opposition groups follow.
Their exact membership is not known and I cannot vouch for the following figures, though they are approximately correct and at any rate the best available.
“RING” STRONG IN PRUSSIA
Starting with the smallest, the Eagle’s Ring or Weapon Ring is known under several names, and is very strong in the rural districts of Prussia. In includes about 12 to 14,000 members. Its connection with the Bavarian-Catholic clergy should not be underrated. This society has fallen heir to the mythical strength and the organization of the former Feme (vehme) associations. Its membership probably consists to a great extent of people who have been disappointed in their expectations, who rejected the inherent lack of cultur and the social tendencies of the Hitler Government. The head of the Hohenzollern family certainly has no direct relations with these circles, but it can be asserted with equal certainty that the aides of William the Second’s three sons are members of the Potsdam, the East Prussian and the Pommeranian Weapon Ring.
The Young Socialists comprise mostly the ex-members of the smashed Social-Democratic organizations. They are in direct opposition to the leaders of the old Social-Democratic party. Their organization is strongest in Saxonyâ€”always a Red state!â€”and in the Rhineland, and it includes more than 25,000 members. In most large cities they cooperate with the Communists. In their ranks we find young workers, intellectuals, teachers, physicians andâ€”which is most peculiarâ€”many persons belonging to the lower middle classes, also a great many young people. Their organizations are distinguished for their reliability. Since they commit no terroristic acts nor make much propaganda, it is particularly hard for the Federal Secret Service men to penetrate their ranks.
The strongest and for that reason the most injurious organization is the Communist one. It is largest in Hamburg, Berlin and in the Ruhr district and the twenty per cent vote cast in Hamburg against Hitler can be ascribed to a great extent to organized Communist activities.
I estimate the number of Communists in Germany today at more than two million, about 90 to 95,000 of whom are members of the Communist organization. The German Communist party acts independently and ilegally in every respect. It is by no means a section of the third, or Communist Internationale, like the K.P.D. (Communist Party of Germany) used to be, though of course certain private connections between the members of the old and the new party do exist.
Of the three big organizations mentioned this one is the most intensive and by far the most active. Its construction is so strong as to be practically 100 per cent safe.
MANY SPIES IN RANKS
Because of its extensive membership and more especially because of its activity, a great number of spies are hidden within its ranks. Yet this circustance only serves to reinforce the hardness of its members. It is just this same hardness, this firmness of these people who every minute of the day expose themselves to a martyr’s death, which offers the only guarantee of its success.
A few typical examples of the way in which these opponents of the present regime demonstrate their independence and propagate their cause, may serve to clarify my point.
In a space of four months the Hamburg press announced three times that the executive committee of the Wasserkante (waterside) Communist party had collapsed. On the twentieth of June, 1933, the Hamburger Fremdenblatt wrote: “The Communist epidemie has passed forever.”
But that was only a wish-dream.
The Communist national organization consists of groups of five, every member of which knows only the four members of his own group and one of the next one. As a result of this system treason of larger formations is practically out of the question.
The members of the district committee, whose names are known to each member of the entire organization, are either dead or abroad. That fact renders it the more humorous when the press rejoices about the imprisonment of these same people.
The real committee is known only to a select few. Up to the present moment not a single leader of this committee has been caught. Only once in the Ruhr district a group of five was arrested. After a short incarceration they were released, because nothing could be proved against themâ€”it was not known to the police that these very men constituted the committee.
In the early summer, victrola records were sold for twenty pfennigs a piece in the streets of Berlin and Hamburg. On the same day, at exactly the same time, the salesmen took their place. They played the recordsâ€”only a few bars: excerpts from the opera La Traviata. Within a couple of hours all the disks were sold. When the customers came home and played the newly-purchased records on their victrolas, they found to their astonishmentâ€”and sometimes to their dismay!â€”that after ten rotations the Traviata music stopped and a voice spoke: “The Truth about the Reichstag fire.” Then followed an exposure of the real facts of the fire.
In the pages of the North German section of the Voelkischer Beobachter, Hitler’s own organ, handbills were hidden with pictures and text about political murders committed by the Nazis.
Again when the Government Printing Office sent out a hundred thousand circulars, the recipients found anti-Fascist leaflets concealed within them.
Of course these and similar propaganda measures are very hard to organize. Just the same, last April 78 illegal newspapers appeared regularly in 38 German cities; and in October there were 45 opposition papers in 93 cities, most of which publications appeared regularly, though printers, editors, sellers and purchasers alike were constantly subject to arrestâ€”and the terrible consequences thereof.
The following may serve as an example of the type of tricks to which the Nazis stoop to trap their opponents.
In the waiters’ rooms and kitchens of all Hamburg and Cologne restaurants hangs a printed notice urging the employees to watch the conversations of the guests. And it is not from conviction that many of these waiters turn informers. Stark terror often drives them to this infamy.
This kind of spying is taking place among the entire population of Germany; it is pretty well known that many people in Germany have been legally murdered because of one single handbill.
And yet the work goes on. Incessantly. Every day we live heroic efforts take place in Germany.