In the autumn of his first year as Chancellor Adolf Hitler issued what was at once an order and an announcement, "This winter no one must starve or freeze in Germany."
Lots of people scarcely took the words for sober earnest, they saw no possibility of them being made good. Indeed how should this state of things be realised; the burdens and deprivations of the late War still weighed heavily on all the world; never had it been possible hitherto that people should neither starve nor freeze to death in winter!
One might safely say that such an ideal never would have been practicable, had not a man directed affairs in Germany who knew how to bring into the sphere of practical politics that simple Christian charity one to another which the churches have been preaching throughout the ages.
Hitler's motto had long been "Love your neighbour more than yourself. Be ready, always, for the least of your own, to sacrifice your belongings and your life." It is known, of course, that Hitler accepts no income from his Chancellorship, but directs that this money should go towards the relief of unemployment. It may not equally well be known that during the winter 1933-34, when the sales of his book Mein Kampf had reached the peak, the whole of this increment was also ear-marked for the poor.
The Germans have a special gift for organisation. Hence it seemed eminently practical to organise the "Winter Relief Work" (Winterhilfswerk) by means of the Party machine. It was extraordinary to see how everybody took advantage of this to bring his own, personal sacrifice and exertions into line with the Führer's design and behest. No fewer than one and a half million people of position and influence threw themselves whole-heartedly into this great effort, to say nothing of the rank and file who also did their utmost, and of those who willingly gave their mite.
The scope of this, the biggest philanthropic effort ever made at one time by one people, was so all-embracing, that, enlisting as it did the co-operation of great and small alike, it would require three times as much space at our command, merely to outline it. Some idea of it, however, we must endeavour to convey for three reasons, first, to combat the often repeated gibe that Adolf Hitler has no constructive ability, no sizeable plans; second, to show – if it really should need showing – how and why it is that he holds the trust and love of the German people as a whole; and, thirdly, to claim for him that he lost no time at all after coming to power, in proceeding to make good the promises of his Party programme.
(Since the bulk of this book is, after all, to be limited, it may be that but little space will remain for even the slightest sketch of what more – in a dozen directions – Adolf Hitler has already done under this third heading. Every one of the social enterprises he has undertaken for the amelioration of living conditions and lack-of-outlook in Germany, would require a chapter in itself.)
In no smallest village in Germany, nay, in no poorest cot was something not done, something not spared, to aid this nation-wide work. It was generally estimated that some three hundred million marks were devoted to it in this way. Possibly this estimate is too low. Not, by any means, that the Winterhilfsarbeit (Winter-aid-work) could merely be appraised in terms of money. Nor could it be measured in terms of material comfort. Its value for the union and solidarity of the reawakened German spirit was above all these.
Given, then, this fount of money, let us very briefly enumerate the numerous channels into which its flow was directed.
Adolf Hitler called upon everyone who had a job of any sort, big or small, to set aside weekly or monthly some small saving for the poor. It was a request, not an order, for Hitler knew well enough that very many, people were in no position to spare a single pfennig (fifth part of a penny). All who possibly could, came forward with their "bit" for the "Battle with Hunger and Cold." The directors of the whole enterprise set it an excellent example, and the rank and file willingly proved their Socialism in response.
Every Sunday during that whole winter hundreds and thousands of collectors were to be seen selling tags in the street to the same end.
Through this source alone enormous sums were gathered in, and very often other results came from these tag days. Case after case occurred of their leading to employment for the unemployed. For instance, in the Harz Mountains in Thuringia there are little towns whose inhabitants live by glass blowing. At this time unemployment was rife among them. So the directors of the Winter-Aid thought it a good thing to have tags made of glass, and gave this welcome order throughout the district. it resulted in months of work for three thousand poor glass workers in Thuringia.
The whole "brain wave" was so much appreciated by the public that when these glass tags appeared upon the streets there was a rush for them. In three days over twenty-five million were sold out! Could any better proof be adduced than this of how truly National Socialism concerns itself with the needs of even the smallest of the German workers?
Dr. Goebbels, one of the most genial and versatile of the men round Hitler, did not fail to bring his bright wits to bear upon the problems of the Winter-Aid. He it was who conceived the idea of the "Eintopfgericht" – the One-Pot-Dinner. Every German, especially everyone blessed with a decent share of this world's goods, was invited throughout the winter on the first Sunday of every month to restrict his main meal to extremely modest (financial) limits, to not more than about 6d., but to give over to a collector, who would call for it next day, the money which would otherwise have been laid out to furnish the table in the ordinary way. It was as if an Englishman saved what he would have spent on his "cut-from-the-joint and two vegs." (to say nothing of sweets and coffee), and gave it away and contented himself with – what shall we say? – one good old plate of hash or soup instead, and nothing but that soup.
All the restaurants and hotels were advised to offer on their menus for that first Sunday, nothing but this one-dish-dinner, but to charge for it according to usual table d'hâte or à la carte meals. The difference, of course, was to be handed over for the Winter-Aid. The success of this original idea was enormous. Like one man the whole people took it up. The venerable President himself ate a one-dish dinner on the first Sunday of every month.
During the winter over twenty million marks came to hand this way. Again, in this instance, the good of it was not confined to mere material things. The poor saw the Better-off willingly depriving themselves to help them, and the impression it made was of the best for the conception of "national-socialism." Dr. Goebbels hit on the happy slogan: "Don't spend: deny yourself." This went even further. When a rich man gets up from a well-spread table, and gives something to the poor, it is good, but it is not a sacrifice. The sacrifice comes in when a man contents himself with a poor meal instead of a better one, for the sake of giving something away to the man who never feeds well.
Then again – here was a splendid notion! Very often during that winter there was to be heard a cheerful bugling in the streets, and there was to be seen a truckload of soldiers slowly tooling by, blowing for all they were worth. What was this ? Why – rummage collecting for the needy. Whenever a hand waved, or a door opened, or someone beckoned from window or corner, the truck hastened up, a couple of men leaped down and ran to obey the summons.
Most people had something they could do without for the Winter-Aid. Here it was an old sofa, – quickly handled and bestowed, – here a sewing machine – swung up atop – here chairs needing mending, here a bundle of clothes, here oddments for repairs of all sorts, here crockery, here spare pots or pans – up and down the streets went the truck, fanfaronading everywhere, and loading up cheerfully and dexterously like a furniture van!
Then workrooms were opened for necessitous girls and women, where these second-hand things could be made over, in return for groceries and shoes.
The happiest Christmas Germany had celebrated for many a long year was the first Christmas of Hitler's Chancellorship. It was the first Christmas after these so-called heathen Nazis had come to power. Up to this time Christmas in Germany had largely been a purely family affair. The tens of thousands of those who had no family, no relatives, no home, perhaps, merely looked on from afar.
Such a thing as this had to be put a stop to in the National Socialist State. On Christmas Eve the Party set up, at its own expense, great Christmas trees before many of the church doors, and in many of the open spaces in the cities. These were all aglitter with frost, and burning candles. Tables were spread beneath them. And bands played the immemorial hymns and carols of the season. Speeches were made calling upon those who were keeping up the feast at home, to remember their poorest brethren without, and to show them the good comradeship and brotherliness which was the very essence of National Socialism. This exhortation closed everywhere with the carol "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht."
Then came the crush – the rush – the stampede to the tables where hundreds of good folk forced their way to lay their gifts and offerings and contributions and goodies for the poor. Mountains of these things piled up until there wasn't an inch of room left to bestow a single gift more. Even the ground under the table and all round was cluttered with presents. When the donors had really done, and were ready to go back home again, these things were distributed to the lonely and the hungry and the friendless who gladly came forward to receive them. In ways like this National Socialism sought to prove itself not merely a political creed but a practical befriending of the people.
The Winter-Aid was signally supported by peasants, tradespeople and all sorts of industries, whose carts and wagons were daily to be seen in long rows at the doors of the offices of the Organisation, unloading goods and comestibles for the poor. No end of vouchers were issued by means of which the poor could obtain the necessaries of existence without having to expend money. So far as statistics can give any idea of what this amounted to – and statistics take no account of the Christmas presents – the following figures tell their own tale:
Coals – about 2,600,000 tons, worth 50,000,000 marks.
Potatoes – 12,500,000 cwt.
Vegetables & Flour – 1,100,000 cwt.
Bread – 60,000 cwt.
Tinned Goods – 300,000 tins.
Milk – 1,000,000 litres.
Shoes – 180,000 pairs.
Cloth – 250,000 metres.
Garments – 1,000,000
Wood – 300,000 cwt.
Vouchers – 400,000 marks.
Cash – 75,000,000 marks, part of it from the One-Dish Dinner source.
The foodstuffs were not always distributed uncooked, but prepared in common kitchens, so that for the equivalent of an English twopence a hungry man could come by a real good meal. In Munich alone (pop. 750,000) that winter daily portions were served from fifteen great communal kitchens to no less than three thousand poor people. Seventeen millions of unemployed, casual labourers, widows and orphans were supported through these efforts of the people as a whole.
It was a tough struggle to do it. But it was the wish of the Führer that this great work should be put in hand, that no one in Germany should starve or freeze, and everyone rejoiced to help in its fulfillment. While everywhere else in Europe the melancholy spectacle was only too often to be witnessed of hunger marchers parading the streets, of the workless and the despairing losing all patience and breaking out into strife and bitter class hatred, in Germany at least Adolf Hitler had united everyone in an unparalleled gesture of fraternal charity.
MOTHER AND CHILD
The winter passed. But the gigantic machinery of its Aid work remained, and Hitler, who could know no rest until he had given every possible demonstration of what National Socialism meant translated into terms of every-day life – Hitler looked round for the next immediate use to which it could be put.
He was already grappling with the problem of unemployment, and now he turned from the consideration of the father of the family, to that of the mother. This matter of maternity and infant welfare had long been comprised in the Party programme under the heading "It is the duty of the State to ensure the health of the people through due care bestowed upon mothers and children."
So work was immediately set on foot to relieve the terrible burdens weighing so heavily upon the poorer families of the land, and especially upon the toiling housewives. The War and its long subsequent list of privations and bitter hardships had told on this most helpless and defenceless portion, of the community as heavily as on every other. This new movement in aid of womankind was at once a recognition of the bravery and suffering of the women of the terrible years gone by, and a beacon of hope for the nameless regiment of brave and struggling women of the present time.
First of all the "Mother-and-Child" Movement undertakes to unearth hidden and secret misery (in order to relieve it), to explore special areas of distress and to do away with red tape and mistaken economies. The whole thing is to turn upon the personal and individual touch. First the mother of the family is to be supported and helped and then every one of those dependent upon her. The Mother-and-Child work sets itself very few limits.
Needless to say, here again the scope of the enterprise is so wide only the briefest description of it can be given.
The greatest I necessity – that of nourishment – calls for the first attention. Better food is to be provided, and sufficient milk for the children. Then comes the question of clothing and adequate laundry facilities. Women with big families swarming round them all day are to receive daily outside help.
The work of the "Arbeitsplatzhilfe" – roughly translated "The Job Finding Agency " – concerns itself largely with placing out the elder children of these numerous broods in suitable posts as soon as they are fit to earn, and help themselves. The hitherto earning mothers of these families are to be, enabled at once to leave factory or business and return home where their duty and their most important work obviously lies. The man it is who must be enabled to go out and work and keep the home.
Through the "Wohnungshilfe" (Dwelling-house Aid), a mighty attempt is to be made to sweep away the slums and miserable areas in great cities. Either such dwellings as already exist are to be improved and repaired, or entirely pulled down and rebuilt. Property owners who allow their houses to fall into bad condition are to be called to account for it. The unsocial attitude of those who decline to let where there are children is to be sharply corrected.
The Mother-and-Child Aid looks to it that poor families should have at least what furniture is barely necessary, especially beds. A special activity has been set on foot all through Germany whose slogan is "To each child his own bed." And these beds are collected from charitable donors in the same way as similar collections were made from house to house in the winter by the truckloads of trumpet-blowing soldiers.
Another branch of this work is to provide at least four weeks' country holiday or convalescence for mothers who stand in special need of rest and recuperation. The children are meantime to be cared for in kindergarten. For that short space, at least, the mother is to be wholly free. The home, during the interval, is to be kept going by means of in the "Frauenarbeitsdienst" – the organisation which provides women's work of this kind for just these purposes, so that the husband and father can go on having his meals as usual, without universal domestic upset, just because the main prop and stay of it all – the wife and mother – has had to go away.
Then there are schools for mothers; many of these are run by doctors who make it their business to impart all sorts of essential information about food and health in general to these poor women. They can always resort to medical advice without fear or hesitation, since nothing is more important to a nation than its mothers, its children and its health.
All these measures, these undertakings, these departures and these immediate practicalities spring from the text laid down in Mein Kampf, the text is ruthlessly worked out in the life story of the Führer himself, "Social work must be tackled from below, not from above."
"We hold it to be the prime duty of the State to see that the citizen can secure means of livelihood."
Here, once more, we have one of the most important statements of Party undertakings. Hitler has held it of primary importance to combat unemployment by every permissible means devisable by ingenuity and ardent purpose.
This nation-wide struggle postulates immense governmental preparations. It is not one to be tackled piecemeal and by temporary measures. The whole reconstruction is to be built up after Hitler's own scheme and recommendations, schemes which embrace every sphere of industry, of private and public life. Not a struggle merely, but indeed, a mighty campaign against unemployment has been launched in Germany. It is hoped at last to obtain the victory over decades-long miser' and ever-recurring industrial crises. Every man in the country must bear his part in this gigantic enterprise. The victory means nothing less than a stable recovery of industry. A strong State is the guarantor of steady business. Every possible means has been co-ordinated to this end.
The State has provided the sinews of war for this struggle, but the German people themselves have also subscribed many millions of marks for the promotion of national industry. In 1933 the Government, set aside 4.3 milliards (4,3000,000,000 R.M.), in 1934 about 5 milliards to finance schemes of work for the unemployed.
Vast plans were put in hand for the making of canals, for the building of power plants. Nearly all the greater rivers of Germany were harnessed to some productive purpose. By the expenditure of one hundred million marks, one million workmen could be kept employed for an entire month. The work on the Weser, and on the Dortmund-Ems Canal will keep twenty thousand men in work for four years Another gigantic canal, begun in 1933 will provide work for 1,510,000 days. In the same district between Hannover and Magdeburg one hundred and ten square miles will be brought into cultivation which have hitherto been mere waste or swamp.
In order to secure more land for husbandry in Schleswig-Holstein, two great darns are to be constructed across the Eider River. The work will last three years. Thousands will thereby support themselves, and a plain of 225 square miles will be reclaimed. The enterprise can well be compared with that of Signor Mussolini on the Pontine~ Marshes.
The German Government offers to meet 40 per cent of the cost to everyone who builds a house or who proposes to carry out reparations and improvements. The result of this step is scarcely to be believed. The building trade, hitherto at a very low ebb, has looked up and gone ahead surprisingly. And consequently so have all the allied industries. Factories are at work day and night. In the spring of 1934 in many large German cities not a single skilled man in the building trade was out of work. This flourishing state of affairs repercussed on the machine industry and gave work to again another ten thousand men.
Hitler, himself an ardent motor mechanic, has found the way for a vast revival in the motor-car industry by reducing the tax. The number of cars on the road doubled in 1933. One can judge of the cheerful position of affairs in this direction from the assurances made by motor-car manufacturers that they are in a position to deliver the goods at once.
The most important attack on unemployment, however, was delivered when the building of immense new arterial roads was planned on the direct initiative of the Chancellor. This constitutes the biggest thing ever done yet in this direction. From four to five thousand miles of auto-roads are projected to be built in six directions right across the country. Two will run from north to south, one from Kiel via Hamburg, Bremen, the Schwarzwald to Basle, the other from East Prussia via Berlin and Munich to the Alps. Three of these great roads will run from east to west, one from Frankfurt-Oder, and the other from Breslau to the Rheinland, and one from Saarbrücken to Salzburg. This last one is to be called the Nibelungen Road. The sixth of the whole series will run from Hamburg to Breslau. All these roads will be built on the most modern lines.
They will be practically all on one grade and in no way interrupted by crossings. Other roads will be carried over by bridges. The entire plan will require many years to carry out. The Government has earmarked over two milliards of marks a year towards it. Whole armies of men find employment on it. The project is a proud one, for it not only resembles the great engineering feats of the Romans, but promises to change the face of the entire country for coming generations. (The interstate road system in the United States was patterned after the German model and set into motion by the German-hating Eisenhower in 1955. RF)
These are the ideas of young leaders confided to the might and craft of young workers to carry out, all working together to reduce – and ultimately to extinguish – the hideous curse of Unemployment in Germany.
The idea of the Work Camp (which was originally envisaged on volunteer lines, students alone being obliged to attend), also proposed fruitful means of combating unemployment. Over five thousand camps, mostly situated in the country, keep going three hundred thousand young people between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five. Many of them put in no more than half a year of work-service, and are then free to take employment elsewhere. They go forth, furnished with certificates, often to places awaiting them. Very possibly this volunteer service will develop later into an obligation. Plans are ready in course of construction whereby such an army of workers can be employed for twenty years. The produce so raised will value two milliards of marks a year, and at least five thousand new peasant homesteads will be created.
Naturally the work done in these camps is of a supplementary order and is not allowed to compete in the open market with work turned out under ordinary conditions outside. Nor is such work undertaken which could as well be performed by private enterprise. It is the aim and object of these camps to promote facilities for other people, i.e. by the reclamation or improvement of waste land upon which settlements can be founded. The making of new roads, of course, opened up new ground for such a purpose. The settlement building itself is never undertaken by camp workers. The latter confine themselves to forestry, projects of land reclamation from the sea, canals, irrigation and particularly all undertakings which have for their aim the prevention of catastrophic happenings, forest fires, burst dykes, floods and so forth.
All this has proved of great practical utility. The young people in the Work Camps are well trained in the use of their various tools and implements, spades, pikes, shovels, etc., and can be quickly mustered and detailed for a job. Once on the occasion of a huge landslide on the Saale, a serious disaster was only averted by the immediate mobilisation of young navies from the nearest Work Camp, who immediately set to work to set things to rights. Many a village has been saved from extinction by fire by the exertions of such organised workers, and immense consequent misery avoided.
The campers themselves are willing and devoted enough. Each man knows that his work benefits the community at large, and that he is therefore carrying out the fundamental principles of National Socialism. Hitler's worthy pronouncement, "There is only one nobility, the nobility of work," sustains these labourers through the heat and the toil of the longest day.
Life in a Labour Camp is not in the least modelled on the military plan. The workers rise at five in summer, and at six in winter. Half an hour's exercise or sport precedes tubbing and breakfast. Then comes parade and the hoisting of the camp flag for the day. This resembles the Hooked Cross Flag only instead of the hooked cross in the white circle it displays a spade and a couple of ears of wheat. The whole is symbolic and recalls Frederick the Great's fine saying: "He who toils to make two ears of wheat grow where there was only one before, does more for his country than a general who wins a redoubtable victory."
After this parade the workers betake themselves to their various employments; the volunteers down tools at the end of a seven-hours' spell. Then comes a wash, and the midday meal eaten, naturally, in common. The food is good and everyone can have as much as he requires. An hour and a half's "knock-off" ensues. The afternoon is taken up by a couple of hours of sport, and an hour's instruction in civics. The evening is passed in singing songs, and in reading aloud, etc, etc. Two or three evenings a week each man can call his own up to ten o'clock. Tattoo is at ten: everyone must then be in quarters.
The Work Camp brings all classes together. The student is set just the same jobs as any one else. The hope is that thirty years hence there will be no more intellectuals, or officials in Germany who have not passed through the school of manual work side by side with the everyday workman.