Portrait of America: Survey Graphic in the ThirtiesHomeIntroductionEditor's NotesArticlesFurther Reading
Sound and Fury in Germany

Alice Hamilton, M.D.

Professor of Industrial Medicine, Harvard Medical School

November 1933

1 2 3 4 5 6

Most of the social workers we met could only deplore the effect of the Revolution and look forward with dread to what the future would bring, but I was surprised to meet one who was a convinced convert to Hitlerism. She wasăstill is, I believeăin charge of the women's department in the office for the unemployed in a large industrial city which has suffered terribly from the depression. She said:

In this city the Nazi movement is very welcome. The Communists were such an affliction. We social workers had endless trouble with them, for they wanted evervthing to fail, even the work we were doing for the unemployed. The Communist girls who cooked in our school would sabotage and spoil the food, although it was going to the frec lunches for their own class. They wanted everything to fail because it came from a capitalistic society. Now the Communist leaders are in camps and the followers are turning to the Nazis. After all, it was only misery that made them Communists. We are to be a united Germany now. On May 1 it was so joyful, all of us marched together, employers and employes, officials of the city, the higher with the lower, laborers with white-collar men, for the first time in their lives. You see, it is not as in America, we are not really democratic. Up to now we have always had a wide separation of the classes and it is the great achievement of Hitler's party to do away with classes and make all Germans equal.

In contrast, let me quote a physician who had just read Goebbels' declaration in Hamburg that from now on all Germans who are not Nazis are to be treated as second-class citizens, with no voice in the government and with inferior rights. He said:

More and more, as winter comes on and hunger is as bad as ever, they will divide us into two classes as Russia did, and will take from those that are not Nazis to give to those that are. People say, "If Hitler fails there will be Bolshevism," but I say if he succeeds there will be Bolshevism, for that is what we are getting now by degrees. They are not irrtelligent enough to have a real econornic~program. When they say they will abolish capitalism they do not know they are speaking of a system, they mean only that they will take from some of the rich and give to some of the poor, from the well-to-do of other parties to the poor of their party.

When we were in Germany it was still possible for Hitler's followers to say that they saw in his movement the only hope for a real socialism. An ex-officer in Koenigsberg and a landed proprietor of East Prussia both told me that they had joined the Nazi party because they were disillusioned by the half-way measures of the Republic and were convinced that the National Socialists were at once truly national and truly socialistic. A young man, a recent graduate from the university, spoke with fervor on this subject:

Hitler has from the first preached the brotherhood of man, the breaking away from class distinctions. That is his greatest contribution. The Nazi Party is socialistic in that it places the common good above the individual, in that it is against the liberalism and laissezfaire of capitalism, but it is not Marxist beeause it is against class warfare. The German Nationalist Party is capitalistic and has always played behind thc curtain in the former governments, the socalled socialistic. What the union of German industrialists wanted always went. Now we shall have real socialism, German socialism, all for one and one for all. Hitler promises land to the peasants and relief from their mortgages and debts. He promises to protect the little shopkeeper from the competitiori of the department stores, he is for the people.

The fuhrer uncouples his train

Ley at Geneva for the workers

Hitler and the kings of industry,
finance, land and big shops

Cartoons from other foreign papers
reproduced in the French weekly, Lu

There was indeed much to encourage this belief in the speeches that were made by Hitler and his commissars, especially afier the first Congress of Leaders which was held in Berlin on June 17 and 18. The Congress, which was not open to the public, must have been very inspiring for the leaders emerged from it filled with a new zeal for the Revolution and the announcements they made caused joy to their followers but to most of our friends only deep foreboding, even terror. Goering said, "What has happened is nothing to what is to come." Rust said, "We have heard the overture, now the opera begins." The Leaders' Congress had formulated a five-plank platform which was published in the papers on June 19. The first plank called for the principle of "absolute totality" to be carried out by the abolition of Marxism and the absorption of all other parties; in the second, all internationalism was to be driven out of Germany, including not only Marxism but Capitalism, Jewry and Masonic lodges; third, the cleft must be closed between different classes and different religions; fourth, the capitalistic-liberalistic system must be abolished; fifth, the democratic-parliamentary system must go.

This was more categorical than any official announcement since the Revolution and it was a strong confirmation of the socialistic bent of the Nazis. And yet, some three weeks later, on July 11, came Hitler's proclamation that the Revolution was over and Goering's threats against those who thought to carry on as if it still continued. The management of industry was in the hands of a committee of men like Thyssen and Krupp von Bohlen, and though the conservative Hugenberg had had to resign from the Cabinet, his successor was also a representative of big business. The much heralded socialization of the land has been entrusted to the Junkers of Pomerania and East Prussia.

What the convinced Socialists in Hitler's following think of all this we cannot possibly learn, but to outsiders it looks as if the great Revolution were mostly sound and fury; the mountains have travailed and a little mouse has been born.

To Corresponding Photo Essay


Kay Davis, University of Virginia, © 2001-2003