Source of the text: How Hitler Consolidated Power in Germany and Launched A Social Revolution by general Leon Degrellé
„We have the power. Now our gigantic work begins.“
Those were Hitler’s words on the night of January 30, 1933, as cheering crowds surged past him, for five long hours, beneath the windows of the Chancellery in Berlin.
His political struggle had lasted 14 years. He himself was 43, that is, physically and intellectually at the peak of his powers. He had won over millions of Germans and organized them into Germany’s largest and most dynamic political party, a party girded by a human rampart of hundreds of thousands of storm troopers, three fourths of them members of the working class. He had been extremely shrewd. All but toying with his adversaries, Hitler had, one after another, vanquished them all.
Standing there at the window, his arm raised to the delirious throng, he must have known a feeling of triumph. But he seemed almost torpid, absorbed, as if lost in another world.
It was a world far removed from the delirium in the street, a world of 65 million citizens who loved him or hated him, but all of whom, from that night on, had become his responsibility. And as he knew – as almost all Germans knew at the of January 1933 – that this was a crushing, an almost desperate responsibility.
Seventy years later, few people understand the crisis Germany faced at that time. Today, it’s easy to assume that Germans have always been well-fed and even plump. But the Germans Hitler inherited were virtual skeletons.
During the preceding years, a score of „democratic“ governments had come and gone, often in utter confusion. Instead of alleviating the people’s misery, they had increased it, due to their own instability: it was impossible for them to pursue any given plan for more than a year or two. Germany had arrived at a dead end. In just a few years there had been 224,000 suicides – a horrifying figure, bespeaking a state of misery even more horrifying.
By the beginning of 1933, the misery of the German people was virtually universal. At least six million unemployed and hungry workers roamed aimlessly through the streets, receiving a pitiful unemployment benefit of less than 42 marks per month. Many of those out of work had families to feed, so that altogether some 20 million Germans, a third of the country’s population, were reduced to trying to survive on about 40 pfennigs per person per day.
Unemployment benefits, moreover, were limited to a period of six months. After that came only the meager misery allowance dispensed by the welfare offices.
Notwithstanding the gross inadequacy of this assistance, by trying to save the six million unemployed from total destruction, even for just six months, both the state and local branches of the German government saw themselves brought to ruin: in 1932 alone such aid had swallowed up four billion marks, 57 percent of the total tax revenues of the federal government and the regional states. A good many German municipalities were bankrupt.
Those still lucky enough to have some kind of job were not much better off. Workers and employees had taken a cut of 25 percent in their wages and salaries. Twenty-one percent of them were earning between 100 and 250 marks per month; 69.2 percent of them, in January of 1933, were being paid less than 1,200 marks annually. No more than about 100,000 Germans, it was estimated, were able to live without financial worries.
During the three years before Hitler came to power, total earnings had fallen by more than half, from 23 billion marks to 11 billion. The average per capita income had dropped from 1,187 marks in 1929 to 627 marks, a scarcely tolerable level, in 1932. By January 1933, when Hitler took office, 90 percent of the German people were destitute.
No one escaped the strangling effects of the unemployment. The intellectuals were hit as hard as the working class. Of the 135,000 university graduates, 60 percent were without jobs. Only a tiny minority was receiving unemployment benefits.
„The others,“ wrote one foreign observer, Marcel Laloire (in his book New Germany), „are dependent on their parents or are sleeping in flophouses. In the daytime they can be seen on the boulevards of Berlin wearing signs on their backs to the effect that they will accept any kind of work.“
But there was no longer any kind of work.
The same drastic fall-off had hit Germany’s cottage industry, which comprised some four million workers. Its turnover had declined 55 percent, with total sales plunging from 22 billion to 10 billion marks.
Hardest hit of all were construction workers; 90 percent of them were unemployed.
Farmers, too, had been ruined, crushed by losses amounting to 12 billion marks. Many had been forced to mortgage their homes and their land. In 1932 just the interest on the loans they had incurred due to the crash was equivalent to 20 percent of the value of the agricultural production of the entire country. Those who were no longer able to meet the interest payments saw their farms auctioned off in legal proceedings: in the years 1931-1932, 17,157 farms – with a combined total area of 462,485 hectares – were liquidated in this way.
The „democracy“ of Germany’s „Weimar Republic“ (1918 – 1933) had proven utterly ineffective in addressing such flagrant wrongs as this impoverishment of millions of farm workers, even though they were the nation’s most stable and hardest working citizens. Plundered, dispossessed, abandoned: small wonder they heeded Hitler’s call.
Their situation on January 30, 1933, was tragic. Like the rest of Germany’s working class, they had been betrayed by their political leaders, reduced to the alternatives of miserable wages, paltry and uncertain benefit payments, or the outright humiliation of begging.
Germany’s industries, once renowned everywhere in the world, were no longer prosperous, despite the millions of marks in gratuities that the financial magnates felt obliged to pour into the coffers of the parties in power before each election in order to secure their cooperation. For 14 years the well-blinkered conservatives and Christian democrats of the political center had been feeding at the trough just as greedily as their adversaries of the left.
Nor did the bribing of the political parties make them any more capable of coping with the exactions ordered by the Treaty of Versailles. France, in 1923, had effectively seized Germany by the throat with her occupation of the Ruhr industrial region, and in six months had brought the Weimar government to pitiable capitulation. But then, disunited, despising one another, how could these political birds of passage have offered resistance? In just a few months in 1923, seven German governments came and went in swift succession. They had no choice but to submit to the humiliation of Allied control, as well as to the separatist intrigues fomented by Poincaré’s paid agents.
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.
The big industrialists, for all their fat bribes to the politicians, now found themselves impotent: their factories empty, their workers now living as virtual vagrants, haggard of face, in the dismal nearby working-class districts.
Thousands of German factories lay silent, their smokestacks like a forest of dead trees. Many had gone under. Those which survived were operating on a limited basis. Germany’s gross industrial production had fallen by half: from seven billion marks in 1920 to three and a half billion in 1932.
The automobile industry provides a perfect example. Germany’s production in 1932 was proportionately only one twelfth that of the United States, and only one fourth that of France: 682,376 cars in Germany (one for each 100 inhabitants) as against 1,855,174 cars in France, even though the latter’s population was 20 million less than Germany’s.
Germany had experienced a similar collapse in exports. Her trade surplus had fallen from 2.872 billion marks in 1931 to only 667 millions in 1932 – nearly a 75 percent drop.
Overwhelmed by the cessation of payments and the number of current accounts in the red, even Germany’s central bank was disintegrating. Harried by demands for repayment of the foreign loans, on the day of Hitler’s accession to power the Reichsbank had in all only 83 million marks in foreign currency, 64 million of which had already been committed for disbursement on the following day.
The astronomical foreign debt, an amount exceeding that of the country’s total exports for three years, was like a lead weight on the back of every German. And there was no possibility of turning to Germany’s domestic financial resources for a solution: banking activities had come virtually to a standstill. That left only taxes.
Unfortunately, tax revenues had also fallen sharply. From nine billion marks in 1930, total revenue from taxes had fallen to 7.8 billion in 1931, and then to 6.65 billion in 1932 (with unemployment payments alone taking four billion of that amount).
The financial debt burden of regional and local authorities, amounting to billions, had likewise accumulated at a fearful pace. Beset as they were by millions of citizens in need, the municipalities alone owed 6.542 billion in 1928, an amount that had increased to 11.295 billion by 1932. Of this total, 1.668 billion was owed in short-term loans.
Any hope of paying off these deficits with new taxes was no longer even imaginable. Taxes had already been increased 45 percent from 1925 to 1931. During the years 1931-1932, under Chancellor Brüning, a Germany of unemployed workers and industrialists with half-dead factories had been hit with 23 „emergency“ decrees. This multiple overtaxing, moreover, had proven to be completely useless, as the „International Bank of Payments“ had clearly foreseen. The agency confirmed in a statement that the tax burden in Germany was already so enormous that it could not be further increased.
And so, in one pan of the financial scales: 19 billion in foreign debt plus the same amount in domestic debt. In the other, the Reichsbank’s 83 million marks in foreign currency. It was as if the average German, owing his banker a debt of 6,000 marks, had less than 14 marks in his pocket to pay it.
One inevitable consequence of this ever-increasing misery and uncertainty about the future was an abrupt decline in the birthrate. When your household savings are wiped out, and when you fear even greater calamities in the days ahead, you do not risk adding to the number of your dependents.
In those days the birth rate was a reliable barometer of a country’s prosperity. A child is a joy, unless you have nothing but a crust of bread to put in its little hand. And that’s just the way it was with hundreds of thousands of German families in 1932.
In 1905, during the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the birthrate had been 33.4 per one thousand. In 1921 it was only 25.9, and in 1924 it was down to 15.1. By the of 1932, it had fallen to just 14.7 per one thousand.
It reached that figure, moreover, thanks only to the higher birth rate in rural areas. In the fifty largest cities of the Reich, there were more deaths than births. In 45 percent of working-class families, there were no births at all in the latter years. The fall in the birthrate was most pronounced in Berlin, which had less than one child per family and only 9.1 births per one thousand. Deaths exceeded the number of new births by 60 percent.
In contrast to the birthrate, politicians were flourishing as never before – about the only thing in Germany that was in those disastrous times. From 1919 to 1932, Germany had seen no less than 23 governments come and go, averaging a new one about every seven months. As any sensible person realizes, such constant upheaval in a country’s political leadership negates its power and authority. No one would imagine that any effective work could be carried out in a typical industrial enterprise if the board of directors, the management, management methods, and key personnel were all replaced every eight months. Failure would be certain.
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.
The many cabinet ministers who followed each other in swift succession for thirteen years – due to petty parliamentary squabbles, partisan demands, and personal ambitions – were unable to achieve anything other than the certain collapse of their chaotic regime of rival parties.
Germany’s situation was further aggravated by the unrestrained competition of the 25 regional states, which split up governmental authority into units often in direct opposition to Berlin, thereby incessantly sabotaging what limited power the central Reich government had at that time.
Even at the beginning of the First World War (1914-1918), the German Reich included four distinct kingdoms (Prussia, Bavaria, Wurttemberg and Saxony), each with its own sovereign, army, flag, titles of nobility, and Great Cross in particolored enamel. In addition, there were six grand duchies, five duchies, seven principalities, and three free cities.
Each regional state had its own separate government with parliament, prime minister and cabinet. Altogether they presented a lineup of 59 ministers who, added to the eleven Reich ministers and the 42 senators of the Free Cities, gave the Germans a collection of 112 ministers, each of whom viewed the other with a jaundiced eye at best.
In addition, there were between two and three thousand deputies – representing dozens of rival political parties – in the legislatures of the Reich, the 22 states and the three Free Cities.
In the Reichstag elections of November 1932 – held just months before Hitler become Chancellor – there were no less than 37 different political parties competing, with a total of 7,000 candidates (14 of them by proxy), all of them frantically seeking a piece of the parliamentary pie. It was most strange: the more discredited the party system became, the more democratic champions there were to be seen gesturing and jostling in their eagerness to climb aboard the gravy train.
Honest, dishonest, or piratical, these 112 cabinet ministers and thousands of legislative deputies had converted Germany into a country that was ungovernable. It is incontestable that, by January of 1933, the „system“ politicians had become completely discredited. Their successors would inherit a country in economic, social and political ruins.
Today, more than half a century later, in an era when so many are living in abundance, it is hard to believe that the Germany of January 1933 had fallen so low. But for anyone who studies the archives and the relevant documents of that time, there can be no doubt. Not a single figure cited here is invented. By January 1933, Germany was down and bleeding to death.
All the previous chancellors who had undertaken to get Germany back on her feet – including Brüning, Papen and Shleiher – had failed. Only a genius or, as some believed, a madman, could revive a nation that had fallen into such a state of complete disarray.
When President Franklin Roosevelt was called upon at that same time to resolve a similar crisis in the United States, he had at his disposal immense reserves of gold. Hitler, standing silently at the chancellery window on that evening of January 30, 1933, knew that, on the contrary, his nation’s treasury was empty. No great benefactor would appear to help him out. The elderly Reich President, Paul von Hindenburg, had given him a work sheet of appalling figures of indebtedness.
Hitler knew that he would be starting from zero. From less than zero. But he was also confident of his strength of will to create Germany anew – politically, socially, financially, and economically. Now legally and officially in power, he was sure that he could quickly convert that cipher into a Germany more powerful than ever before.
„It will be the pride of my life,“ Hitler said upon becoming Chancellor, „if I can say at the end of my days that I won back the German worker and restored him to his rightful place in the Reich.“ He meant that he intended not merely to put men back to work, but to make sure that the worker acquired not just rights, but prestige as well, within the national community.
The objective, then, was far greater than merely sing six million unemployed back to work. It was to achieve a total revolution.
„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.“
The Social Revolution
It took several years for a stable social structure to emerge from the French Revolution. The Soviets needed even more time: five years after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, hundreds of thousands of Russians were still dying of hunger and disease. In Germany, by contrast, the great machinery was in motion within months, with organization and accomplishment quickly meshing together.
The single task of constructing a national highway system that was without parallel in the world might have occupied a government for years. First, the problem had to be studied and assessed. Then, with due consideration for the needs of the population and the economy, the highway system had to be carefully planned it all its particulars.
As usual, Hitler had been remarkably farsighted. The concrete highways would be 24 meters in width. They would be spanned by hundreds of bridges and overpasses. To make sure that the entire Autobahn network would be in harmony with the landscape, a great deal of natural rock would be utilized. The artistically planned roadways would come together and diverge as if they were large-scale works of art. The necessary service stations and motor inns would be thoughtfully integrated into the overall scheme, each facility built in harmony with the local landscape and architectural style.
The original plan called for 7,000 kilometers of roadway. This projection would later be increased to 10,000, and then, after Austria was reunited with Germany, to 11,000 kilometers.
The financial boldness equalled the technical vision. These expressways were toll free, which seemed foolhardy to conservative financiers. But the savings in time and labor, and the dramatic increase in traffic, brought increased tax revenues, notably from gasoline.
Germany was thus building for herself not only a vast highway network, but an avenue to economic prosperity.
These greatly expanded transport facilities encouraged the development of hundreds of new business enterprises along the new expressways. By eliminating congestion on secondary roads, the new highways stimulated travel by hundreds of thousands of tourists, and with it increased tourism commerce.
Even the wages paid out to the men who built the Reichsautobahn network brought considerable indirect benefits. First, they allowed a drastic cut in payments of unemployment benefits, or 25 percent of the total paid in wages. Second, the many workers employed in constructing the expressways – 100,000, and later 150,000 – spent much of the additional 75 percent, which in turn generated increased tax revenues.
Hitler’s plan to build thousands of low-cost homes also demanded a vast mobilization of manpower. He had envisioned housing that would be attractive, cozy, and affordable for millions of ordinary German working-class families. He had no intention of continuing to tolerate, as his predecessors had, cramped, ugly „rabbit warren“ housing for the German people. The great barracks-like housing projects on the outskirts of factory towns, packed with cramped families, disgusted him.
The greater part of the houses he would build were single story, detached dwellings, with small yards where children could romp, wives could grow vegetable and flower gardens, while the bread-winners could read their newspapers in peace after the day’s work. These single-family homes were built to conform to the architectural styles of the various German regions, retaining as much as possible the charming local variants.
Wherever there was no practical alternative to building large apartment complexes, Hitler saw to it that the individual apartments were spacious, airy and enhanced by surrounding lawns and gardens where the children could play safely.
The new housing was, of course, built in conformity with the highest standards of public health, a consideration notoriously neglected in previous working-class projects.
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.
Even before the year 1933 had ended, Hitler had succeeded in building 202,119 housing units. Within four years he would provide the German people with nearly a million and a half (1,458,128) new dwellings!
Moreover, workers would no longer be exploited as they had been. A month’s rent for a worker could not exceed 26 marks, or about an eighth of the average wage then. Employees with more substantial salaries paid monthly rents of up to 45 marks maximum.
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 owment of land and housing was only one feature of a revolution that soon dramatically improved the living standards of the Reich’s rural population.
The great work of national construction rolled along. An additional 100,000 workers quickly found employment in repairing the nation’s secondary roads. Many more were hired to work on canals, dams, drainage and irrigation projects, helping to make fertile some of nation’s most barren regions.
Everywhere industry was hiring again, with some firms – like Krupp, IG Farben and the large automobile manufacturers – taking on new workers on a very large scale. As the country became more prosperous, car sales increased by more than 80,000 units in 1933 alone. Employment in the auto industry doubled. Germany was gearing up for full production, with private industry leading the way.
The new government lavished every assistance on the private sector, the chief factor in employment as well as production. Hitler almost immediately made available 500 million marks in credits to private business.
This start-up assistance given to German industry would repay itself many times over. Soon enough, another two billion marks would be loaned to the most enterprising companies. Nearly half would go into new wages and salaries, saving the treasury an estimated three hundred million marks in unemployment benefits. Added to the hundreds of millions in tax receipts spurred by the business recovery, the state quickly recovered its investment, and more.
Hitler’s entire economic policy would be based on the following equation: risk large sums to undertake great public works and to spur the renewal and modernization of industry, then later recover the billions invested through invisible and painless tax revenues. It didn’t take long for Germany to see the results of Hitler’s recovery formula.
Economic recovery, as important as it was, nevertheless wasn’t Hitler’s only objective. As he strived to restore full employment, Hitler never lost sight of his goal of creating a organization powerful enough to stand up to capitalist owners and managers, who had shown little concern for the health and welfare of the entire national community.
One of the first labor reforms to benefit the German workers was the establishment of annual paid vacation. The Socialist French Popular Front, in 1936, would make a show of having invented the concept of paid vacation, and stingily at that, only one week per year. But Adolf Hitler originated the idea, and two or three times as generously, from the first month of his coming to power in 1933.
Every factory employee from then on would have the legal right to a paid vacation. Until then, in Germany paid holidays where they applied at all did not exceed four or five days, and nearly half the younger workers had no leave entitlement at all. Hitler, on the other hand, favored the younger workers. Vacations were not handed out blindly, and the youngest workers were granted time off more generously. It was a humane action; a young person has more need of rest and fresh air for the development of his strength and vigor just coming into maturity. Basic vacation time was twelve days, and then from age 25 on it went up to 18 days. After ten years with the company, workers got 21 days, three times what the French socialists would grant the workers of their country in 1936.
These figures may have been surpassed in the more than half a century since then, but in 1933 they far exceeded European norms. As for overtime hours, they no longer were paid, as they were everywhere else in Europe at that time, at just the regular hourly rate. The work day itself had been reduced to a tolerable norm of eight hours, since the forty-hour week as well, in Europe, was first initiated by Hitler. And beyond that legal limit, each additional hour had to be paid at a considerably increased rate. As another innovation, work breaks were made longer; two hours every day in order to let the worker relax and to make use of the playing fields that the large industries were required to provide.
Dismissal of an employee was no longer left as before the sole discretion of the employer. In that era, workers’ rights to job security were non-existent. Hitler saw to it that those rights were strictly spelled out. The employer had to announce any dismissal four weeks in advance. The employee then had a period of up to two months in which to lodge a protest. The dismissal could also be annulled by the Honor of Work Tribunal. What was the Honor of Work Tribunal? Also called the Tribunal of Social Honor, it was the third of the three great elements or layers of protection and defense that were to the benefit of every German worker. The first was the Council of Trust. The second was the Labor Commission.
The Council of Trust was charged with attending to the establishment and the development of a real community spirit between management and labor. „In any business enterprise“, the Reich law stated, „the employer and head of the enterprise, the employees and workers, personnel of the enterprise, shall work jointly towards the goal of the enterprise and the common good of the nation.“
Neither would any longer be the victim of the other-not the worker facing the arbitrariness of the employer nor the employer facing the blackmail of strikes for political purposes. Article 35 of the Reich labor law stated that: „Every member of an Aryan enterprise community shall assume the responsibilities required by his position in the said common enterprise.“ In other words, at the head of the company or the enterprise would be a living, breathing executive in charge, not a moneybags with unconditional power. „The interest of the community may require that an incapable or unworthy employer be relieved of his duties“
The employer would no longer be inaccessible and all-powerful, authoritatively determining the conditions of hiring and firing his staff. He, too, would be subject to the workshop regulations, which he would have to respect, exactly as the least of his employees. The law conferred honor and responsibility on the employer only insofar as he merited it.
Every business enterprise of 20 or more persons was to have its „Council of Trust“. The two to ten members of this council would be chosen from among the staff by the head of the enterprise. The ordinance of application of 10 March 1934 of the above law further stated: „The staff shall be called upon to decide for or against the established list in a secret vote, and all salaried employees, including apprentices of 21 years of age or older, will take part in the vote. Voting shall be done by putting a number before the names of the candidates in order of preference, or by striking out certain names.“
In contrast to the business councils of the preceding régime, the Council of Trust was no longer an instrument of class, but one of teamwork of the classes, composed of delegates of the staff as well as the head of the enterprise. The one could no longer act without the other. Compelled to coordinate their interests, though formerly rivals, they would now cooperate to establish by mutual consent the regulations which were to determine working conditions.
Every 30th of April, on the eve of the great national labor holiday, council duties ceased and the councils were renewed, pruning out conservatism or petrifaction and cutting short the arrogance of dignitaries who might have thought themselves beyond criticism.
It was up to the enterprise itself to pay a salary to members of the Council of Trust, just as if they were employed in the work area, and „to assume all costs resulting from the regular fulfillment of the duties of the Council“.
The second agency that would ensure the orderly development of the new German social system was the institution of the „Workers’ Commissioners“. They would essentially be conciliators and arbitrators. When gears were grinding, they were the ones who would have to apply the grease. They would see to it that the Councils of trust were functioning harmoniously to ensure that regulations of a given business enterprise were being carried out to the letter.
They were divided among 13 large districts covering the territory of the Reich. As arbitrators they were not dependent upon either owners or workers. They had total independence in the field. They were appointed by the state, which represented both the interests of everyone in the enterprise and the interests of society at large.
In order that their decisions should never be unfounded or arbitrary, they had to rely on the advice of a „Consulting Council of Experts“ which consisted of 18 members selected from various sections of the economy in a representation of sorts of the interests of each territorial district.
To ensure still further the objectivity of their arbitration decisions, a third agency was superimposed on the Councils of Trust and the 13 Commissioners, the Tribunal of Social Honor.
Thus from 1933 on, the German worker had a system of justice at his disposal that was created especially for him and would adjudicate all grave infractions of the social duties based on the idea of the Aryan enterprise community. Examples of these violations of social honor are cases where the employer, abusing his power, displayed ill will towards his staff or impugned the honor of his subordinates, cases where staff members threatened work harmony by spiteful agitation; the publication by members of the Council of confidential information regarding the enterprise which they became cognizant of in the course of discharging their duties. Thirteen „Tribunes of Social Honor“ were established, corresponding with the thirteen commissions.
The presiding judge was not a fanatic; he was a career judge who rose above disputes. Meanwhile the enterprise involved was not left out of the proceedings; the judge was seconded by two assistant judges, one representing the management, another a member of the Council of Trust.
This tribunal, the same as any other court of law, had the means of enforcing its decisions. But there were nuances. Decisions could be limited in mild cases to a remonstrance. They could also hit the guilty party with fines of up to 10,000 marks. Other very special sanctions were provided for that were precisely adapted to the social circumstances; change of employment, dismissal of the head of the enterprise or his agent who had failed in his duty. In case of a contested decision, the legal dispute could always be taken up to a Supreme Court seated in Berlin-a fourth level of protection.
This was only the end of 1933, and already the first effects could be felt. The factories and shops large and small were reformed or transformed in conformity with the strictest standards of cleanliness and hygiene; the interior areas, so often dilapidated, opened to light; playing fields constructed; rest areas made available where one could converse at one’s ease and relax during rest periods; employee cafeterias; proper dressing rooms.
With time, that is to say in three years, those achievements would take on dimensions never before imagined; more than 2,000 factories refitted and beautified; 23,000 work premises modernized; 800 buildings designed exclusively for meetings; 1,200 playing fields; 13,000 sanitary facilities with running water; 17,000 cafeterias. Eight hundred departmental inspectors and 17,300 local inspectors would foster and closely and continuously supervise these renovations and installations.
The large industrial establishments moreover had been given the obligation of preparing areas not only suitable for sports activities of all minds, but provided with swimming pools as well. Germany had come a long way from the sinks for washing one’s face and the dead tired workers, grown old before their time, crammed into squalid courtyards during work breaks.
In order to ensure the natural development of the working class, physical education courses were instituted for the younger workers; 8,000 such were organized. Technical training would be equally emphasized, with the creation of hundreds of work schools, technical courses and examinations of professional competence, and competitive examinations for the best workers for which large prizes were awarded.
To rejuvenate young and old alike, Hitler ordered that a gigantic vacation organization for workers be set up. Hundreds of thousands of workers would be able every summer to relax on and at the sea. Magnificent cruise ships would be built. Special trains would carry vacationers to the mountains and to the seashore. The locomotives that hauled the innumerable worker-tourists in just a few years of travel in Germany would log a distance equivalent to fifty-four times around the world!
The cost of these popular excursions was nearly insignificant, thanks to greatly reduced rates authorized by the Reichsbank.
The National Labor Service
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.
From the first months of 1933, his accomplishments were public fact, for all to see. Before end of the year, unemployment in Germany had fallen from more than 6,000,000 to 3,374,000. Thus, 2,627,000 jobs had been created since the previous February, when Hitler began his „gigantic task!“ A simple question: Who in Europe ever achieved similar results in so short a time?
Not without reason were the swastika banners waving proudly throughout the working-class districts where, just a year ago, they had been unceremoniously torn down.