III Publishing

Notes on German Big Business
and the Rise of Hitler
by Henry Ashby Turner

page 4
by William P. Meyers

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Adolf Hitler's Personal Finances

Hitler had been poor as a young adult in Vienna, then as a corporal in the German Army in World War I, and for some time afterwards. In the 1920's, as the Nazi Party leader, money had continued to be of some concern to him.

"Hitler's finances have long remained a source of speculation. He handled his money matters with great secretiveness at the time, and only fragmentary evidence about them has survived. it is clear that he kept his financial affairs sharply separated from those of the NSDAP. He drew no salary as party leader and accepted no money from the central party treasury." [152-153]

This allowed Hitler to "enhance the reputation for selfless asceticism which he so assiduously cultivated. But that arrangement also had a practical side since he was quite obviously an unscrupulous tax evader." [153]

"There is no credible evidence of Hitler's soliciting funds directly from business sources in the 1930s," though his secretary, Rudolf Hess, did ask businessmen for contributions for specific Nazi goals like refurbishing the Brown House (Nazi headquarters). This was in contrast to "the upstart politician of the early 1920s, who would not have scrupled to ask for money from wealthy persons." [153]

Even before 1930 Hitler had started to prosper, renting a large apartment in Munich and buying an "expensive" Mercedes Benz. He had an entourage paid from his personal funds. "The discrepancy between his life-style and the income he reported, which derived solely from royalties from Mein Kampf and other publications, aroused the suspicions of the tax officials, but they never subjected his income tax returns to a searching audit, preferring instead to extract as much revenue from him as they could be disallowing many of the deductions he claimed." Hitler's extra income probably came from donations made to him personally: "The presence on the letterhead of his stationary of the number of his personal checking account in Munich suggests how he went about accomplishing this." [153-154]

After the Nazis made big gains in the 1930 election, Mein Kampf became a best seller, and Hitler's income from royalties of 15,448 marks in 1929 jumped to 45,472 marks in 1930. Hitler also took pay from Nazi newspapers for articles he wrote. He did not receive fees for his speeches, but was reimbursed expenses that probably often exceeded his actual expenses. He also charged foreign correspondents for the right to interview him. [154-155]

Also, starting in 1929 their was deflation in Germany, so the cost of staying in hotels and eating in restaurants while traveling dropped sharply.

Nazi Speeches to Capitalists

Nazis, including Hitler, did give speeches that were exclusively directed at men who owned or managed large businesses. These events became known, and fodder for the Communists and Socialists who sited them as proof the Nazi electoral successes (and later seizure of power) was because they were financed by, and pawns of, capitalists. Turner goes to great length to show that most attendees of the speeches were from smaller businesses or middle-management of large businesses, and that they did not raise signifcant sums of money. So why did they have the events? "Clearly, the Nazis believed something more important than money or new members coudl be gained by cultivating big businessment." Hitler talked about this with Otto Wagener. "Hitler warned him that he underestimated the political power of the men of big business; he had the eeling, Hitler said, that the NSDAP would not be able to attin power if they opposed it. Wagener's [radical anti-business] plans must remain a secret." [183-184]

Anyway, "the oratical efforst of these party spokesmen who sought to reassure the big businessmen in their audiences hardly amounted to a rousing success." [184]

"Hitler's failure to follow up vigorously on the entree he had gained to the business community through his Industry Club speech [of 1932] tends to substantiate the hypothesis that he sought merely to neutralize big business." [217]

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