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Notes on German Big Business
and the Rise of Hitler

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by William P. Meyers

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Purpose of these notes

These are not general notes on German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler by Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., Oxford University Press, 1985

These are notes on topics of specific interest to me, though the general topic of the book is included. I have read and written extensively about fascism, National Socialism, and Adolf Hitler. General information that I have already noted elsewhere will not be repeated in these notes.

It has become a truism in the U.S. that Hitler was elected to power, when in fact he was appointed. Likewise that he was simply a tool of German capitalists, which as Turner's work shows, in considerably more detail than most people can stand to wade through, is not true.

I take much interest in how such an evil man could come to power, and what the other political parties and cultural forces were doing that made that possible. I found Turner's description of how the Nazis were actual financed to be of great interest.

I am also notoriously interested in Hitler's personal Roman Catholic faith and his relationships to political Roman Catholicism in Germany and in his home nation of Austria. These are side-topics in Turner's work, but do come up with some frequency.

Finally, I am interested in how the Nazi coalition held together long enough to come to power. That the Nazi party included both a left, socialist wing, and an extreme right wing, plus a kind of cautious, conservative, nationalist bulk in its center, is well known to scholars but seldom discussed by the general public in the U.S.

The notes generally follow the order of the book.

Nazi early years

Hitler hated both the rich and members of the upper middle class, going back to the days of his youth. He saw them as having their positions as a result of privilege. He did not want to change the economic system, but to "clear the way for the rise of a new master elite of character and talent." "He deplored the concentration of capital in huge joint-stock companies, decrying their ruinous effects on the old individualistic Mittelstand of shopkeepers and small, independent manufacturers . . . and the ease with which the idle rich increased their fortunes without personal exertion." [p. 79]

In the Essen speeches in 1926 Hitler did try to appeal to the industrial elite. He concealed from his audience his plans for a drastic transformation of German society. "He omitted from his Essen talks the tirades against Jews," because big business thought anti-semitism was "plebeian." He did not attack export driven businesses. And while he did call for reclaiming the lands lost under the Versailles Treaty, he did not talk of war or expanding to the east. He said he favored private property and enterprise. In other words, he taylored his speeches to his audience, as best as he could. [p. 84-85]

Regarding courting the industrialist Emil Kirdorf, who did become a Nazi, "two aspects of Nazism disturbed Kirdorf: its complacency toward what he perceived as the menace of Catholicism and its anti-Semitism. Hitler allayed his concern on the first count by observing that they could not do battle simultaneously against both Marxism and Catholicism." But by 1927 Kirdorf was more of a former industrialist, his business fortune having declined. He did pay for the printing of Hitler's The Road to Resurgence, a pamphlet, which was taylored to businessmen. [p. 90-92]

"As Kirdorf's memoirs reveal, Nazi socialist rhetoric remained a barrier between the NSDAP and the business community, despite Hitler's efforts to counter it with reassuring words." [94]

Though there were exceptions, Nazi attempts to get donations from business circles were mainly failures during this ear (1927). In Hamburg the Nazis were only able to find "five or six businessment willing even to listen to what Hitler's secretary had to say." In 1928 Kirdorf resigned, angry at the socialist agitation of the party's left wing. [95]


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