Saturday, 19 November 2016

Common Era 2016: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it*

Richard I. Evans, 2005, The Third Reich in Power, excerpt from Chapter 17 “Division of Spoils”:

…. Hitler made generous subventions to a number of other aristocratic landowners to help them with their debts and keep them conspiring with the ex-Kaiser.

In order to facilitate such generosity, the funds allocated in the state budget for Hitler’s personal disposal increased steadily until they reached the astonishing sum of 24 million Reichsmarks in 1942. Hitler could add to these sums the royalties derived from sales of My Struggle, purchased in bulk by Nazi Party organizations and a virtually compulsory item on the ordinary citizen’s bookshelf. These amounted to 1.2 million Reichsmarks in 1933 alone. From 1937 Hitler also claimed royalties on the use of his portrait on postage stamps, something Hindenburg had never done; one cheque alone handed over by the Minister of Posts was for 50 million Reichsmarks, as Speer, who was present on the occasion, reported later. The annual Adolf Hitler Donation of German Business added a further sum, along with fees and royalties paid every time one of Hitler’s speeches was published in the papers. Hitler also received considerable sums from legacies left to him in the wills of the grateful Nazi dead. When all this was taken into account, it was clear that Hitler had little use for the modest salary of 45,000 Reichsmarks he earned as Reich Chancellor, or for the annual expense allowance of 18,000 Reichsmarks; early on in his Chancellorship, therefore, he publicly renounced both salary and allowance in a propagandistic gesture designed to advertise the spirit of selfless dedication in which he ruled the country. Nevertheless, when the Munich tax office reminded him in 1934 that he had never paid any income tax and now owed them more than 400,000 Reichsmarks in arrears, pressure was brought to bear on the tactless officials and before long they had agreed to write off the whole sum and destroy all the files on Hitler’s tax affairs into the bargain. A grateful Hitler granted the head of the tax office, Ludwig Mirre, a pay supplement of 2,000 Reichsmarks a year for this service, free of tax.

Hitler’s personal position as the Third Reich’s charismatic Leader, effectively above and beyond the law, gave not only him but also others immunity from the normal rules of financial probity. His immediate subordinates owed their position not to any elected body but to Hitler alone; they were accountable to no one but him. The same personal relationships replicated themselves all the way down the political scale, right to the bottom. The result was inevitably a vast and growing network of corruption, as patronage, nepotism, bribery and favours, bought, sold and given, quickly assumed a key role in binding the whole system together. After 1933, the continued loyalty of the Party faithful was purchased by a huge system of personal favours. For the hundreds of thousands of Nazi Party activists who were without employment, this meant in the first place giving them a job. Already in July 1933 Rudolf Hess promised employment to all those who had joined the Party before 30 January 1933. In October the same year, the Reich Office for Unemployment Insurance and Jobs in Berlin centralized the campaign to provide jobs for everyone with a Party membership number under 300,000, all those who had held a position of responsibility in the Party for over a year and anyone who had been in the SA, the SS or the Steel Helmets before 30 January 1933. 

* George Santayana, 1905, The Life of Reason

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