Hitler and the Third Reich
[First appeared in "The English Review" 63, 1936, pp. 35-41, 147-153, 231-239.]
by Anthony M. Ludovici
The present temper of the German people, unlike that of their kinsmen before
the Great War or under the Republic, is also unlike anything that Europe has
witnessed probably since the Middle Ages.
The visitor to their country who fails to grasp this fact, like the
stay-at-home Englishman whose Press does not enable him to appreciate it,
misses the most fundamental feature in the whole of Nazi Germany.
For something akin to a new religious zeal has spread throughout the land,
making the people wistful, but strangely light-hearted and confident in
their earnestness. It is as if they had been not only raised from the dust,
but also shown a star or ball of fire which will lead them to the fulfillment
of their destiny.
It was to be expected that a great proud nation, broken and humiliated,
would respond with turbulent gratitude to anyone who helped her to recover
her self-esteem and face the world once more without shame. But those who
are inclined to see only thankful exultation over rescued vanity in the
present mood of the German people would sadly misunderstand and therefore
underrate what has happened. For in Germany today there is none of the
truculence of a greedily recovered self-confidence, none of the
self-complacency of a people basking in a light which their sense of
superiority claims. On the contrary, everything is reserved, serene, almost
reticent, as if beneath the inexpressible joy that everyone feels there
stirred the constantly sobering reflection that the defeat, the humiliation
and Fuehrerthe shame of yesterday was a judgement, a penance for the mistakes of
the older generation.
The Führer never loses an opportunity of reminding them of this. But it
is a thought that must form spontaneously in most of their minds, because
their behaviour, even towards strangers and foreigners, bears the stamp of
it. They appear to have reached a level of self-respect from which they
look down with anxious dread upon any impulse, word or action which might
bear an asocial or negative interpretation. Petty deeds of mutual strife,
hostility or exploitation are naturally scorned as infra dignitatem.
Again and again the visitor is impressed by the scrupulous honesty,
consideration, patience and willingness of menials, public servants and the
rank and file of government employees. I could mention scores of instances
of this. The tone of the country seems to be set by the general
consciousness that a great common good is being served, and that those who
depart too conspicuously from the example of impersonal effort set by the
Führer may wreck his prodigious scheme. Thus a mood prevails which makes
certain things -- mean, ill-natured thoughts and actions -- appear unworthy
of a great nation stirred and united by a lofty purpose.
'Not individual gain, but the common good!' This can be read on almost
every hoarding. And it is no empty phrase. It genuinely inspires the mass
of the people, and makes for a wholesome reluctance to indulge in
ill-informed criticism and fault-finding while the gigantic work of
reconstruction is in progress. Indeed, the Führer himself is the very last
to claim infallibility in his function, and with a wisdom surely exceptional
in history repeatedly takes the people into his confidence to remind them
that, if he is to act with courage and a cheerful readiness to shoulder
responsibilities, they must allow him occasionally to make mistakes.
The last great movement of anything like the same importance as National
Socialism was the Reformation. With his teaching, the fire he put into it,
and the music and song he used so skillfully to carry it into the hearts of
the people, Luther swept the country. But he divided Germany and left it
divided. Even the united Empire created by Bismarck, although it integrated
a congeries of petty states whose rulers had often been dominated by mutual
jealousies, left Germany in the grip of parties whose rivalries proved even
more dangerous and disintegrating.
The Nazi movement, however, has united the country as no country has been
united since the Renaissance. It has not merely destroyed the barriers
between the states; it has obliterated the demarcations of factions. There
are no parties today in Germany. Nor should there be in any so-called
If the people naturally look up to their leader more as a saviour than a
statesman, more as a heaven-sent prophet than a politician; if, at the
loudspeakers fixed to almost every pillar and post in the land, they hang on
his words and his voice and are ready to accept and do his bidding; and if
to us in strife-ridden England they appear to be standardized, 'conditioned'
on a scale no free Briton would tolerate, let us in this country remember
two important aspects of this state of affairs:
The first is that over here we cannot pretend to be able to fathom the
depths of the humiliation they suffered after the Great War and therefore
cannot appreciate the extent of their devotion to their rescuer.
The second is that we, too, in this country are standardized and
'conditioned' on a vast and alarming scale. But whereas in Germany the
standardizing and conditioning powers are responsible and ready to answer
for the effects they produce, over here these powers are wholly
irresponsible and, as things are, could not by any conceivable means be made
to answer for what their untrammeled use of publicity enables them to
effect in the moulding of so-called 'public opinion'.
Herr von Ribbentrop assured me that if tomorrow the Führer were to ask the
German people to do without sheets on the beds, they would cheerfully accede
to his request and, to a family, give up this form of comfort.
There seems to me not the slightest doubt that this is true. But before we
call such a request tyranny, and the hearty response to it slavery, let us
be quite sure that we understand the amount of mutual confidence, affection
and respect it implies.
When I was asked by a prominent member of the government, a man who, in his
day, had ruled over one of the smaller nominally autonomous states of the
Empire, to sum up in a line how the Germany of the Third Reich impressed me,
I replied that I could think of nothing like it in recent history and could
compare it only to what I imagined western Europe must have been when our
great Gothic cathedrals were being built.
Nor is there anything factitious or perfunctory in the enthusiasm with
which the people acclaim and welcome the enigmatical figure who has
contrived to strike this deep religious note in their hearts. I witnessed
two public appearances of the Führer. I saw him drive into a vast stadium
at half-past eight in the morning to address 80,000 children of the Hitler
Youth Movement and a few thousand adults; and, an hour or two later, I saw
him arrive at the Lustgarten in the centre of Berlin to address a vast
assembly of working men and specially invited guests of both sexes.
On both occasions something more than ordinary enthusiasm was displayed and
no visitor required to understand the language in order to feel the magic of
Long before the actual appearance of the smart black touring car bearing
the Leader, the ringing cheers of the populace could be heard in the
distance drawing gradually nearer and nearer, until, when the car entered
the arena, the whole gathering of thousands took up the cry and, standing
with right arms raised, shook the May morning with their greetings.
'Sieg!' (Victory) he cried.
'Heil Hitler!' the throng roared in return.
'Sieg!' he cried again.
'Heil Hitler!' came the response once more.
'Sieg!' he cried for the third and last time.
'Heil Hitler!' was thundered back by 100,000 voices.
No sense of humour -- no! But we should be thankful that there are still
occasions, even in modern England, when a sense of humour would be thought
out of place. We still see no humour in the death of a beloved relative or
in a broken heart, or a lost love. And is not possible for the degree of
passion behind the love for a relative or a betrothed to be equaled by the
love for a figure which stands for the salvation of a people's native land,
their pride and their hopes?
I certainly saw no sign of a sense of humour in the reception given to the
Führer on these two occasions. But I witnessed instead something bordering
on the magic, something which, although beyond reason, was anything but
I saw bent old men and women who must have known Bismarck, the Kaiser
William I and the glorious early seventies of last century, and I saw crowds
of educated and uneducated middle-aged people, young men and women and
adolescents, thousands of whom could never have seen the days of the Empire.
But one and all displayed the same passionate affection of children in the
presence of the Führer, and to watch them was to learn what miracles can
still be wrought with the ultra-civilized and often effete populations of
modern Europe if only they are given a lofty purpose.
This is surely the secret of the perpetual hold religions have on men, and
it explains Adolf Hitler's magic influence. To exhort men to commercial and
industrial prosperity is not enough. To stimulate them to make good in
individual enterprise, in profit-making, in self-help, ultimately leaves the
best elements of the nation cold -- not merely cold, but fractious,
restless, mutually negative and given to petty criticism and fault-finding.
In fact, it creates the populace which is typical of modern democratic
politics, and makes possible every kind of large-scale fraud, from a general
election to the vast advertisement hoardings of a city like London.
The religious appeal, however, by giving men a higher, impersonal purpose,
sets humanity at one stroke above the market-place, above considerations of
merely individual gain, with all that these mean in internecine and suicidal
struggle. And to have given his nation such a purpose, to have persuaded
them that such a purpose can be worthwhile, is the secret of the Führer's
magic. To my mind, this constitutes his chief importance to the German
It is perhaps a pure coincidence that this man who, according to his own
admission, moves and acts in state affairs with the somnambulistic certainty
(nachtwandlerische Sicherheit) of a sleep-walker -- that is to say, whose
most important decisions spring from the mysterious strata of the
unconscious -- should have chosen for the badge of his party and his
movement the ancient mystic sign known as the gammadion, fylfot or swastika.
But when we bear in mind that this very badge was once the symbol of a
mysterious cult, and has for countless ages stood as the sign of a
particularly instinctive and deep-seated form of worship, the choice of the
symbol seems particularly apt. For the fact that Germany is today stirred
by a purpose superpersonal and therefore religious is beyond question.
Whether the conspicuous diminution in crime all over the country is to be
ascribed to this religious mood, I cannot pretend to judge. If, however, I
throw my mind back, as I like to do, to the days in western Europe when our
great cathedrals were springing up in almost every large town, I imagine
that they, too, must have been times of a low incidence of crime. For it is
impossible to believe that all that anonymous, impersonal work, which must
in millions of cases have offered no hope of being completed before those
engaged upon it died, could have been performed in any mood which promoted
the negativism of crime.
When, therefore, we learn from Liebermann von Sonnenberg, the head of the
Criminal Investigation Department of the German government, that since 1932
crime in Germany has declined 50 per cent, and in some districts actually as
much as 60 per cent, and that in all Prussian towns of over 50,000
inhabitants murders have declined 32 per cent, robberies by violence 63 per
cent and burglaries 52 per cent, it ought not to surprise us.
To suppose that, in such a mood and with such impersonal strivings, the
German nation can now entertain purely predatory and venal aims would be
wholly to misunderstand the feat Adolf Hitler has performed, and the
metamorphosis his magic has effected.
He has effected this transformation on a foundation of repentance, on the
constant reminder that Germany's defeat and humiliation were a judgement and
a penalty. Those who have been chastened by his appeal, and they represent
over 90 per cent of the German nation, cannot therefore be insincere in
their desire for a relationship of peace and friendship with their
neighbours and particularly with England.
This is not to say, however, that peace and friendship do not impose
certain duties of mutual consideration on the parties concerned. But it
struck me that it is only to that feeling of duty, and not to ideals of
force and violence, that modern Germans now look with hope for the redress
of their wrongs and the relief of their domestic difficulties.
Thus the greatest of the Führer's reforms and most creative of his
innovations, as I hope to show, have aimed at construction and development
at home. And if, in this work, Hitler and his advisers have in the last
three years performed miracles, about which we in this country hear little,
and appear to care less, it is to the rigorous press-censorship now
prevailing over here that we must ascribe both our ignorance and
It is difficult to give an adequate impression of the enormous assistance
afforded to the Führer's various schemes of construction by the spirit he
has contrived to stimulate in the German people.
In a country uninspired by his personal leadership, many of his reforms,
particularly those deriving from his biological revaluation and his wise
attitude towards women, manual labour and agriculture, would undoubtedly
have provoked the likeliest opposition. And if so many of his fundamental
innovations have passed smoothly into the everyday life of the people to
transform their sentiment and outlook, he has to thank the religious mood
with which he first infected his nation.
Nowhere, however, has the change of point of view and life-habits been more
conspicuously displayed than in the movement which led to the so-called
'labour' camps, of which there are now 1,300 for men alone all over Germany.
Designed, on the cultural side, to reduce class cleavage, to whittle down
the marked difference of esteem in which manual and mental work are held
throughout Western civilization, and to promote health and manliness in all
classes, these labour camps are, economically, one of the greatest assets of
the new regime. For by providing the means of concentrating unpaid labour
at all these points in the land where it is most needed, either in order to
develop or reclaim existing wastes, or to help newly settled urbanites to
make good as farmers, market gardeners, fruit-growers, etc., it has given an
impetus to agricultural development which, without it, would have been quite
It is not generally appreciated in England that the problems in the sphere
of agriculture alone which the Führer had to face, and which had actually
been studied by him and his advisers before his party came into power, were
manifold and complicated.
The Treaty of Versailles deprived Germany of 9.5 per cent of her people and
over 13 per cent of her area. Thus the ratio of population to territory was
in any case less favourable than it had been before the war. Over and above
this, however, the land lost on her eastern and western frontiers was of a
very high grade, and therefore made the total decrease of her agricultural
area more than it seemed -- i.e., nearer 30 per cent than 13 per cent in
In addition, about one million of her nationals returned to the Reich from
ceded territories, and, owing to the increasing use and perfection of
labour-saving machinery, ever larger numbers of industrial workers were
being turned out of work every year. So that, failing a wise and drastic
policy calculated to improve the state of agriculture and provide fresh
employment for the workless (numbering 6,000,000 before 1933), it seemed as
if disaster must soon overtake the country.
Two things were clear -- thousands of recently urbanized families must at
all costs be restored to the land, and the arable areas of the Reich must be
A 'back to the land' movement was therefore immediately inaugurated on a
grand scale, while under the slogan that Germany, if she chose, could
conquer a whole new province for herself within her own borders, another
movement was started to improve the quality and yield of existing
agricultural areas, to reclaim millions of acres of existing marsh, heath
and moorland in various parts of the country, and shoals and flats along the
North Sea coast, to regulate the course of small rivers, to plant and grub,
and to transform waste woodland into profitable forests.
In connection with the first movement, an administration known as the
Reichstelle für die Auswahl deutscher Bauernsiedler was soon set up for
selecting desirable people for settlement in rural districts as farmers,
farm labourers and peasants, which, working on the lines of the new
biological revaluation, granted permits, land and sometimes credits only to
the best people from the standpoint of descent, health and capacity.
Thus favour is invariably shown to:
(a) Men who in their family line and blood have long had some close
relationship to the soil and been lately separated from it -- for instance,
farmers who have been recently uprooted or lost their farms through no fault
of their own.
(b) Men who have large families. (Only men over 25 and married are
(c) Men who served in the late war, or who are known to have served in the
SA (Hitler's Sturmabteilung) or the SS (the biological cream of the SA).
(d) Men who have served in the Reichswehr (the post-war German army).
(e) Finally, rural labourers whom adverse conditions have driven from the
I have not the statistics for 1935 at hand, but in 1934 the Office for
Selecting German Settlers on the Land received 15,948 applications of which
11,094 were accepted and provided for, and since the inauguration of the
movement (not reckoning 1935) 67,000 new farmsteads have been established,
covering about 1,827,800 acres. Altogether, up to the end of 1934, about
2,964,000 acres had been secured for settlement purposes.
The government reckons that it takes about five years for these newly
settled farmers and peasants to make good and, during their first years of
endeavour, every kind of assistance is given them provided they display the
right spirit and energy.
Now, in the work of reclaiming the soil for the reception of these new
agricultural workers, and in the task of helping them to make good, the
Reich Labour Service finds its principal functions, and, apart from the
cultural advantages the camps secure for the whole male population, as
described above, it is in these principal functions that they constitute one
of the greatest assets of the new regime.
Briefly stated, the conditions of the service are these:
Every young German must enter the Labour Service between the end of his
seventeenth and the end of his twenty-fifth year; he is enrolled only after
a thorough physical examination and has to serve for six months, after which
his year's military service begins.
Life in the camps is divided between manual labour with spade and hoe, in
which all must take part, strenuous drilling exercises and periods of
leisure given to reading and the study of contemporary events and problems.
The day starts at 5 a.m. in the summer and 6 a.m. in the winter, and ends at
10 p.m. -- the time after supper (7 p.m.) and short intervals during the day
being devoted to rest and leisurely pursuits.
Each camp consists of 152 men, and there are at present about 1,300 camps
for men in Germany. Thus, year in, year out, the country can command the
work of 200,000 young men whose labour is to all extents and purposes
unpaid. Actually, they do receive about 3d a day in pocket money.
A similar organization exists for German girls. But, so far, the service
has not been made compulsory. Nevertheless, such is the impersonal spirit
prevailing in Germany today that, on the present voluntary basis, these
Reich Labour Service girls have come forward in sufficient numbers from all
classes of society to form 500 camps which, like those of the men, provide
unpaid labour devoted to assisting the newly settled peasants and farmers
all over the land.
As to what these men's labour camps have done, let it suffice to say that,
out of an area of 15,437 square miles (about half the size of Portugal) of
swamp land, half has already been reclaimed for agricultural purposes;
hundreds of thousands of acres of waste land and waste woodland, of no use
to the peasants, have already been transformed into profitable forests; and
drainage and irrigation, now being carried out, is expected to double the
value of more than 46,312 square miles of existing agricultural land of poor
It is, in fact, reckoned that the net annual proceeds derived from the work
done by the Labour Service organization have already exceeded 10 per cent of
the cost of the organization. But the full value of what they are now
creating in the form of new agricultural areas, new farmsteads and a new
peasant population will, of course, not be realized for perhaps a generation
I visited several of these men's camps in the Havellndische Luch and
questioned men whom I saw at work. As I had been led to expect, there were
among them representatives of every class of the community, and they all
appeared to be enjoying their labours and flourishing under the discipline
of the camps. They were young enough to relish the hard work and the rough
life as an adventure, and they all looked healthy enough to thrive under
Their camp officers who, without exception, attracted attention by their
unusually fine physique and manly bearing, are men specially picked from the
standpoint of psychophysical standards. They do not separate from their men
at meals or during the hours of leisure, as army and navy officers do, but
have to live every moment of their waking hours with them, setting them an
example of good manners, correct speech and a cultured outlook.
In the women's camps the girls are subjected to much the same camp
discipline, but their work is of course different. They may, if called
upon, help the newly settled farmers and peasants in light work in the
fields, but their principal function is to give the rural families help in
the home as unpaid domestic servants, dairymaids, nursemaids, etc. In this
way, the newly settled farmers who are trying to make good are substantially
assisted at no cost to themselves, and are often able to have the more
skilled work of their wives in the fields, while the voluntary Reich Service
workers look after the home and the children and do the cooking, mending and
Valuable by-products of both the girls' and the men's labour camps are, of
course, the excellent discipline that all these young people have to undergo
at a period in their lives when discipline is most salutary, the breaking
down of class barriers by the mixing of the various social strata in the
camps, and the benefit to all concerned derived from the closer acquaintance
made by the children of middle- and upper-class families with manual labour,
its hardships, its advantages and its immense importance in the economy of
'Work ennobles!' (Arbeit adelt!) -- that is the device of this branch of
the national service. And, thanks to the right spirit and the right values,
and in spite of a world that has too long worshipped only money and the
successful stockbroker and financier, it somehow comes true. It can already
be seen in the faces and manners of the people, and it is evidenced in every
relationship of high and humble in the life of modern Germany.
Meanwhile, promoting and consolidating the 'back to the land' and Reich
Labour Service movements, laws have been passed which make it difficult,
particularly for young rural women, to swell the throng of country folk who
annually try to migrate to the large towns; and a very important series of
laws -- not based on abstract principles or theory, but rooted in peasant
custom -- which came into force in September 1933 and are known as the
Reicherbhofrecht (the Law relating to the Inheritance of Landed Property)
now provide for the hard-working and capable peasant a security in his
holding, which no usurious or other kinds of creditors can defeat
(paragraphs 37-39 of above law). The test appears to be not whether the
creditor has a lien on the land, but (a) whether the present debtor has
defaulted through any fault of his own, and (b) whether the peasant debtor
is a capable, knowledgeable and diligent farmer and has shown that he can
keep his land in a proper state. The general idea inspiring the whole
measure is that land cannot and should not be treated as moveable property,
to be bought and sold in the open market.
It is impossible in the space at my disposal to describe in detail what
this law has done to secure the peasant landowner in this holding, to
regulate the inheritance of land so as to keep it in the hands of worthy
families, and generally to enhance the prestige of conscientious and
painstaking husbandry, but anyone who wishes to study the law in detail can
do so in the excellent handbook on the subject by Otto Baumecker (Handbuch
des gesamten Reichserbhofrechts), the third edition of which was published
in Cologne in 1935.
Great as are the reforms discussed in my last article, and wonderful as is
the tribute their success pays to the inspiration of the Führer, they are,
however, as nothing compared with his innovations in a far more difficult
and pitfall-strewn field -- the field of human biology.
Three influences -- urbanization, industrialism and the negative Socratic
values which began to prevail with the spread of Protestantism, and happened
to be favourable to the two former -- have now, for almost two centuries,
been inclining the people of Europe, and all countries like Europe, to set
their faces ever more and more steadfastly against a biological attitude
towards man. And this has resulted in the tendency of modern civilization
not only to neglect and despise the body but also to exalt as praiseworthy
all those practices which favour the multiplication of biologically inferior
To deal with urbanization first, it must be clear, even to those who are
unfamiliar with the contempt in which boroughs and their inhabitants were
held by the rural populations of the Middle Ages, that the city and town do
not and cannot breed the healthiest, sturdiest and most active members of
the community and cannot, therefore, cultivate a very fastidious taste in
standards of human desirability. The kind of occupation open to the
town-dweller -- quite apart from the air he breathes and the food he tends
to live on -- neither selects nor is calculated to maintain the soundest of
types. Moreover, by withdrawing the human being from a close touch with the
realities of Nature's work and laws, from the everyday and obvious lessons
to be learnt by watching cultivated plants and animals grow, and observing
the conditions essential to their prosperity, town life must in time foster
a fantastic or unrealistic attitude to life and its problems, which of
itself constitutes mental or intellectual unsoundness.
Over and above this, however, in towns and cities, the very roots of human
life tend to wither. In the country there is always some way in which the
child only just past toddlerdom can help in the general impersonal work of
Nature, even if it is only to scare the sparrows from the ripening corn.
Thus children are always welcome and quickly become a further asset to the
house in which they are born. But in towns the child tends to become more
and more a luxury, an undesired by-product of the sexual adaptation of its
parents. The result is that an unnatural relationship begins to grow up
between married couples, and women as a whole incline to neglect and despise
maternal occupations. In fact, society reaches a condition known as
feminism, on the one hand, in which, as even the feminist Havelock Ellis
admits, 'motherhood is without dignity' -- indeed, how could it have dignity
when children are unwanted? -- and, on the other, a condition known as
pornocracy, in which the taste of the harlot, and the outlook of the harlot,
necessarily tend to prevail.
Industrialization, even under the most humane and solicitous factory laws
and regulations, confirms and intensifies most of the worst influences of
urbanization. It cannot help so doing, because, in addition to offering the
urban crowds unhealthy occupations, it has not reached that stage of
enlightenment when it would necessarily regard it as a duty to protect the
character and minds of the so-called proletariat from the besotting and
degrading influence of mere machine-minding, or of performing, year in, year
out, unskilled, repetitive and often merely fragmentary tasks. Besides, the
factory can be adequately served by types which would not have the stamina
or endurance for heavy farm work, and this again exercises with the town a
preferential selection in favour of unsoundness.
On its occupational side, therefore, it undermines the garnered qualities
of a national constitution and character. It lives on the spiritual and
physical capital of the people, without making a single contribution of
value to either from one generation to another. Thus, it creates among a
mass of physically deteriorated, uprooted and traditionless individuals,
already removed from the instructive realities of life by their urban
habits, a standardized type of mind and character, which is steadily
becoming more and more helpless, passive, colourless and servile. It means
that a race is being reared which in character, body and mind is hardly
Turning now to the third influence -- that of Socratic values -- which has
made the two former influences possible, it is difficult for the modern man
of western Europe to appreciate the extent to which he has become saturated,
conditioned and disciplined both in body and mind by the values which tend
to underrate and neglect body standards. If we have ceased to look with
horror on a man or woman who, although under thirty, has false teeth, if we
have ceased to demand an apology from people with foul breath, and if we
imagine that human rubbish and human foulness can give us good laws, good
poetry, good science and good art, it is wholly and exclusively due to
Socrates and his influence.
His exclusive claim to notoriety is that, thanks to his own wretchedly poor
physical endowments in the midst of a population of beauty-venerators, he
found himself forced in self-defence to discover a dialectical method of
excusing every kind of physical disreputability, degeneracy and putrescence.
He argued, after the manner of the fox who had lost his tail, that the
beauty of the body is but a slight affair and that man's greatest
achievement is to set a higher value on the beauty of the soul, and he
declared to Glaucon, 'If there be any merely bodily defect in another, we
will be patient of it and love the same'.
'Merely bodily defect'! -- these three words epitomize the whole savour and
trend of Socratic teaching.
Thus, radiant and flawless health is everywhere rare among human beings,
and wherever Western civilization has spread the minority of the sound are
taxed out of existence and sacrificed in order to preserve, succour and pay
honour to the unsound.
Now, to set one's face against this deeply implanted bias, to invite modern
men, and particularly modern women, in the teeth of their morbid
sentimentality, to change their attitude and to honour and look up to the
sound, to protect the sound from extermination by the unsound, and to resist
their being sacrificed for the latter -- in fact, to assume towards humanity
the very attitude which, to a farmer contemplating his animals and his
crops, is a commonplace of good husbandry is today one of the most difficult
and precarious of undertakings, particularly for the head of a state.
In the lives of the people, Socratic values, by inculcating a contempt for
bodily considerations, leads to all kinds of perverted tastes and unwise
matings -- marriage with cripples, with the hereditarily blind, with the
hereditarily deaf and dumb, the diseased and malformed. Three popular
works, such as Lytton's Pilgrims of the Rhine, George Eliot's Mill on the
Floss and Charlotte Yonge's Pillars of the House, in which diseased or
crippled persons are solemnly held up as marriageable or as objects to be
specially honoured (and there are hundreds of lesser English novels which do
the same), could hardly have been written or read unless a culture had lost
its sanity in mating.
Now, the fact that Adolf Hitler, as soon as he seized the reins of the
government at the beginning of 1933, did not hesitate to grapple with
Socrates and, at least in Germany, to discredit him, is surely one of his
most remarkable achievements.
True, his assault on urbanization and industrialism would have been
imperfect and abortive had he failed to attack the values based on Socratic
teaching which enable both to flourish. But apart from the measures he has
framed to restore a healthy agricultural life to Germany and arrest the
flight to the cities, his daring attack on the traditional 'glory' of
fifth-century Athens should alone have sufficed ultimately to sweep
unhealthy tastes and prejudices from his country.
For today the sound in health and mind are the honoured of the German
nation and, as the guarantors of a desirable posterity, are granted many
privileges. Although to us over here this cannot help seeming slightly odd,
it is, of course, the most elementary wisdom.
Among the principal measures framed to secure a healthier generation, I
would refer to the Law of July 14, 1933, to Prevent the Transmission of
Hereditary Diseases. By means of this law it became possible through
sterilization to prevent men and women suffering from certain hereditary
diseases specified in the law from having progeny. Such diseases are
congenital feeble-mindedness, certain mental diseases such as schizophrenia
and manic depression, hereditary epilepsy, blindness, deaf-mutism and severe
All cases are tried before a eugenics court, consisting of one judge
assisted by two doctors, and their decisions are reached only after a
thorough and conscientious inquiry into each case. In the report for the
year 1934, published on July 3, 1935, we find that in all 84,525 petitions
were filed in the 205 eugenics courts -- i.e., about one case per 771 of the
population. There were 42,903 males and 41,662 females.* Of this number,
64,449 or about 75 per cent were heard before the courts, and sterilization
was ordered in 98.8 [per cent] of the cases -- i.e., 56,244 persons. In
3,692 cases (6.2 per cent) the petitions were rejected, while in 4,563 the
petition was either withdrawn or else referred to a superior eugenics court,
of which twenty-six participated in the ultimate decisions.
Of 8,219 appeals taken against a court order for sterilization, only 377
were allowed. In 438 cases, appeals were made against the rejection of
sterilization petitions ordered by the eugenics court of first instance.
And, of these, 299 heard before the end of 1934 ended in the granting of the
petition in 179 cases, and the reversal of the decision of the first court.
In regard to pregnant women, it has been decided that if a valid court has
ruled that sterilization should take place, the pregnancy may be interrupted
provided that this is done before the sixth month of pregnancy.
The importance of these measures will be appreciated, as Dr Burgdörfer
points out, when it is remembered that according to the last census there
were 2,000,000 sufferers from incurable disease, crippledom and insanity in
the country. The cost of maintaining them was 1,000,000,000 Reichsmarks, or
about 76,000,000 a year -- a burden which is not only useless but also
actively pernicious, seeing that under it the sound cannot have the number
of desirable healthy children they might otherwise give the country. To
continue suffering such a burden and allowing it to increase, as it
inevitably would if it were not dealt with, amounts to sacrificing the sound
for the unsound. And this only a nation that has forgotten the laws of good
husbandry through generations of urbanization could ever tolerate.
A further measure, known as the Law to Protect the Hereditary Health of the
German People (October 18, 1935), provides for the refusal of marriage
certificates to all applicants who fail to reach certain standards of
health. Thus, a marriage certificate must be refused (1) to all parties
suffering from an infectious disease which may affect the other partner or
the children of the marriage; (2) to all parties suffering from a mental
disorder which would make it contrary to public policy for them to marry;
and (3) to all parties affected with a hereditary disease within the scope
of the law of July 14, 1933, described above.
If both of the parties to the proposed marriage are foreigners, or if the
prospective husband is a foreigner, the law does not apply. But if a
foreign woman wishes to marry a German citizen, she must subject herself to
a medical examination and obtain her Ehetauglichkeitszeugnis -- her
certificate of fitness for marriage.
The law makes it compulsory for these certificates to be obtained from the
local bureau of health, and all people contemplating marriage have to
undergo a medical examination before they can obtain their certificates.
But these purely negative measures do not satisfy the present rulers of
Germany, and, side by side with them, they have instituted positive
measures, not merely for encouraging marriage and large families, but also
and above all for giving such encouragement only to desirable and sound
couples. Thus, the unhealthy and pornocratic tendency of town life is
stigmatized and honour is given where it is due -- i.e., to those who are a
guarantee of a desirable coming generation and who, as married couples, are
fit to lead to lead normal lives as parents.
The first measure dealing with this policy, formed part (para. X) of the
Law for the Reduction of Unemployment of June 1, 1933. It provided that all
young couples who desired to marry, and who had not the means to do so,
could obtain from the government a loan to the extent of 1,000 marks in
order to help them set up a home. But other measures have since confirmed
and amplified these provisions, as, for instance, those of July 1933, August
1933 and March 1934.
The conditions under which the loan is granted are, however, severe. The
parties to the marriage contract are required to be of German blood,
hereditarily sound, and free from any disease, infectious or otherwise,
which would make their marriage incompatible with the best public interest.
From August 1933 to March 1935, 400,738 such loans were made, of an average
of 600 marks apiece, and the statistics show not only a sudden increase in
marriages throughout the Reich, but also -- and this was one of the objects
of the measure -- a corresponding decline in unemployment, owing to the
number of posts vacated by the girls concerned. The number of marriages
encouraged under this law were far more numerous in the urban that in the
rural districts, and rose to the level of 12.6 per thousand in towns of more
than 100,000 inhabitants.
The loans carry no interest, but are repayable at the rate of 1 per cent
per month. Thus, a loan of 600 marks is repaid by 100 monthly installments
of 6 marks. If, however, children are born of the marriage, a quarter of
the loan is remitted for each child, and the repayments are suspended for a
year. Of the 400,738 marriages which took place under these conditions,
182,355 children were born by end of March 1935, and a large proportion of
the recovery of the German birthrate may justly be ascribed to these
But these are not the only measures adopted by the government to promote
soundness and good health in the nation. From the health record books of
the Hitler Jugend -- the corps of young Germans constituting the youth
movement in Germany -- to the biological selection of the SA
(Sturmabteilung) known as the SS, all of whose members strike the onlooker
by the splendour of their health, build and looks, no detail is lost sight
of which can transvalue the Socratic values still latent in the people, and
make them honour, seek and favour the sound in mind and body.
The SS men may be encountered in every walk of life, and before the
stranger, familiar with the spectacle of widespread degeneration at home,
has learnt to read the signs or symbols proclaiming their order, his
attention is usually drawn to them by their exceptionally fine condition and
bearing. Our chauffeur on one occasion happened to be a man of this type,
whose biological rank was obviously high, and as I was then unaware of the
significance of the various badges worn in present-day Germany, I commented
to my host on the healthy manly appearance of his servant.
'He belongs to the SS, the biological cream of the SA', replied my host.
And he proceeded to inform me that not only did the young man belong to
[the] highest biological class, but that his wife, too, when he took one,
would require to be the same. In fact, no marriage certificate would be
granted either to him or his fiance unless she could satisfy the relevant
authorities that she came up to his standard.
No sense of humour? Lucky Germany!
ANTHONY M. LUDOVICI
* The total according to these figures should be 84,565 and not 84,525.
But the fault lies with the original German report and not with the present
extract from it. [AML]