Hitler: A Side We Never See
[I get periodic complaints that some of the material I post here is too long, and yes, I am aware that American attention spans are very short and many of us, especially young White people who went to public schools, are no longer sufficiently literate or mentally disciplined to read a block of type for content. It quite literally hurts their head. But I'm sorry, some things are just too damned good not to be circulated. Screw that attention span to the sticking point and try to get through this one and internalize it. - HAC]
It seems we owe Hitler for many of our "labor" comforts we enjoy today. i.e. a 40 hour week, overtime, holiday pay and so on. Never learned this in school, did you?
The substantial tariffs imposed on the sale of German goods abroad had sharply curtailed the nation's ability to export her products. Under obligation to pay gigantic sums to their conquerors, the Germans had paid out billions upon billions. Then, bled dry, they were forced to seek recourse to enormous loans from abroad, from the United States in particular.
This indebtedness had completed their destruction and, in 1929, precipitated Germany into a terrifying financial crisis.
Yet the Reich wasn't a factory of 100 or 200 workers, but a nation of 65 million citizens crushed under the imposed burdens of the Treaty of Versailles, by industrial stagnation, by frightful unemployment, and by a gut-wrenching misery shared by the entire people.
To accomplish his great goal, he (Hitler) would need to reestablish the equilibrium of the social classes within the context of a regenerated community, free his nation from foreign hegemony, and restructure its geographic unity.
In the eyes of the capitalists, money was the sole active element in the flourishing of a country's economy. To Hitler's way of thinking, that conception was radically wrong: capital, on the contrary, was only an instrument. Work was the essential element: man's endeavor, man's honor, blood, muscles and soul.
Hitler wanted not just to put an end to the class struggle, but to reestablish the priority of the human being, in justice and respect, as the principal factor in production.
"The people," Hitler declared, "were not put here on earth for the sake of the economy, and the economy doesn't exist for the sake of capital. On the contrary, capital is meant to serve the economy, and the economy in turn to serve the people."
Stresemann, even as he was dying, was the only Weimar leader who had seriously attempted to pry away the foreign talons from the flesh of the German people. No politician had ever spoken of the rights of workers with such faith and such force, or had laid out in such clear terms the social plan he pledged to carry out on behalf of the common people.
Hitler regarded labor as the true source of national wealth.
Hitler's tremendous social achievement in putting Germany's six million unemployed back to work is seldom acknowledged today. Although it was much more than a transitory achievement, "democratic" historians routinely dismiss it in just a few lines. Since 1945, not a single objective scholarly study has been devoted to this highly significant, indeed unprecedented, historical phenomenon.
Similarly neglected is the body of sweeping reforms that dramatically changed the condition of the worker in Germany. Factories were transformed from gloomy caverns to spacious and healthy work centers, with natural lighting, surrounded by gardens and playing fields. Hundreds of thousands of attractive houses were built for working class families. A policy of several weeks of paid vacation was introduced, along with week and holiday trips by land and sea. A wide-ranging program of physical and cultural education for young workers was established, with the world's best system of technical training. The Third Reich's social security and workers' health insurance system was the world's most modern and complete.
This remarkable record of social achievement is routinely hushed up today because it is embarrasses those who uphold the orthodox view of the Third Reich. Otherwise, readers might begin to think that perhaps Hitler was the greatest social builder of the twentieth century.
Because Hitler's program of social reform was a crucially important - indeed, essential -- part of his life work, a realization of this fact might induce people to view Hitler with new eyes. Not surprisingly, therefore, all this is passed over in silence. Most historians insist on treating Hitler and the Third Reich simplistically, as part of a Manichaean morality play of good versus evil.
Nevertheless, restoring work and bread to millions of unemployed who had been living in misery for years; restructuring industrial life; conceiving and establishing an organization for the effective defense and betterment of the nation's millions of wage earners; creating a new bureaucracy and judicial system that guaranteed the civic rights of each member of the national community, while simultaneously holding each person to his or her responsibilities as a German citizen: this organic body of reforms was part of a single, comprehensive plan, which Hitler had conceived and worked out years earlier.
Generous loans, amortizable in ten years, were granted to newly married couples so they could buy their own homes. At the birth of each child, a fourth of the debt was cancelled. Four children, at the normal rate of a new arrival every two and a half years, sufficed to cancel the entire loan debt.
Equally effective social measures were taken in behalf of farmers, who had the lowest incomes. In 1933 alone 17,611 new farm houses were built, each of them surrounded by a parcel of land one thousand square meters in size. Within three years, Hitler would build 91,000 such farmhouses. The rental for such dwellings could not legally exceed a modest share of the farmer's income. This unprecedented endowment of land and housing was only one feature of a revolution that soon dramatically improved the living standards of the Reich's rural population.
Under Hitler, every factory employee had the legal right to paid vacation. Previously, paid vacations had not normally exceed four or five days, and nearly half of the younger workers had no vacation time at all. If anything, Hitler favored younger workers; the youngest workers received more generous vacations. This was humane and made sense: a young person has more need of rest and fresh air to develop his maturing strength and vigor. Thus, they enjoyed a full 18 days of paid vacation per year
Hitler introduced the standard forty-hour work week in Europe. As for overtime work, it was now compensated, as nowhere else in the continent at the time, at an increased pay rate. And with the eight-hour work day now the norm, overtime work became more readily available.
In another innovation, work breaks were made longer: two hours each day, allowing greater opportunity for workers to relax, and to make use of the playing fields that large industries were now required to provide.
Whereas a worker's right to job security had been virtually non-existent, now an employee could no longer be dismissed at the sole discretion of the employer. Hitler saw to it that workers' rights were spelled out and enforced. Henceforth, an employer had to give four weeks notice before firing an employee, who then had up to two months to appeal the dismissal. Dismissals could also be annulled by the "Courts of Social Honor" (Ehrengerichte).
By the end of 1933, the first effects of Hitler's revolution in the workplace were being felt. Germany had already come a long way from the time when grimy bathrooms and squalid courtyards were the sole sanitary and recreational facilities available to workers.
Factories and shops, large and small, were altered or transformed to conform to the strictest standards of cleanliness and hygiene: interiors, so often dark and stifling, were opened up to light; playing fields were constructed; rest areas where workers could unbend during break, were set aside; employee cafeterias and respectable locker rooms were opened. The larger industrial establishments, in addition to providing the normally required conventional sports facilities, were obliged to put in swimming pools!
In just three years, these achievements would reach unimagined heights: more than two thousand factories refitted and beautified; 23,000 work premises modernized; 800 buildings designed exclusively for meetings; 1,200 playing fields; 13,000 sanitary facilities; 17,000 cafeterias.
To provide affordable vacations for German workers on a hitherto unprecedented scale, Hitler established the "Strength through Joy" program. As a result, hundreds of thousands of workers were now able to make relaxing vacation trips on land and sea each summer. Magnificent cruise ships were built, and special trains brought vacationers to the mountains and the seashore. In just a few years, Germany's working-class tourists would log a distance equivalent to 54 times the circumference of the earth! And thanks to generous state subsidies, the cost to workers of these popular vacation excursions was nearly insignificant.
Hitler created the National Labor Service not only to alleviate unemployment, but to bring together, in absolute equality, and in the same uniform, both the sons of millionaires and the sons of the poorest families for several months' common labor and living.
All performed the same work, all were subject to the same discipline; they enjoyed the same pleasures and benefited from the same physical and moral development. At the same construction sites and in the same barracks, Germans became conscious of what they had in common, grew to understand one another, and discarded their old prejudices of class and caste.
After a hitch in the National Labor Service, a young worker knew that the rich man's son was not a pampered monster, while the young lad of wealthy family knew that the worker's son had no less honor than a nobleman or an heir to riches; they had lived and worked together as comrades. Social hatred was vanishing, and a socially united people was being born.
To enable the German public to express its opinion on the occasion of important events of social, national, or international significance, Hitler provided the people a new means of approving or rejecting his own actions as Chancellor: the plebiscite.
The articles of the "Plebiscite Law" were brief and clear:
The Reich government may ask the people whether or not it approves of a measure planned by or taken by the government. This may also apply to a law. A measure submitted to plebiscite will be considered as established when it receives a simple majority of the votes. This will apply as well to a law modifying the Constitution. If the people approves the measure in question, it will be applied in conformity with article III of the Law for Overcoming the Distress of the People and the Reich. The Reich Interior Ministry is authorized to take all legal and administrative measures necessary to carry out this law. - Berlin, July 14, 1933.
The ballot was secret, and the voter was not constrained. No one could have prevented a German from voting no if he wished.
And, in fact, a certain number did vote no in every plebiscite. Millions of others could just as easily have done the same. However, the percentage of "No" votes remained remarkably low - usually under ten percent. In the Saar region, where the plebiscite of January 1935 was supervised from start to finish by the Allies, the result was the same as in the rest of the Reich: more than 90 percent voted "Yes" to unification with Hitler's Germany!
Hitler had no fear of such secret ballot plebiscites because the German people invariably supported him.