The Nazi Rallys at Nuremberg
Once a year, early in September, all eyes in Germany are turned to Nuremberg. The world at large takes an ever greater interest in this city as the years go by. It is here where the National Socialist Party holds its annual rallys. These are gatherings entirely different to similar events in the parliamentary democracies. The difference is not only to be found in the huge assemblies of the SA and SS men, the corps of political leaders, the Hitler Youth and the Labour Service but, at each gathering, the Führer lays down his programme of work for the coming year. The names given to these annual rallys are also characteristic. "The Victory of Faith", the "Triumph of Will", were the first two after the assumption of power. Early this year, the Führer had already assigned the title of "Rally of Peace" to the 1939 gathering.
I will endeavour to describe the impressions gained when in September 1937 I was given the opportunity of attending that rally.
As I sped towards the old city of Nuremberg, I tried to remember it as I had seen it many years ago, a perfect specimen of mediaeval Germany surrounded by its old walls and towers. How would the venerable city take to playing its part as the
There is a new Nuremberg, for Nuremberg is today, as it was in the middle ages, an important manufacturing centre; but it lies outside the city walls, and not even the railway has been allowed to enter and to spoil the old town. On leaving the station, the old walls are facing you looking like an illustration from Grimm's fairy tales. On the day of my arrival the battlements were decorated with the long red banners with a white disc and the black swastika in the centre, which Hitler designed for his party and which is now the flag of Germany. Beautiful in colour, the long banners draped the old grey walls, in perfect harmony, and they seemed pleased with this new decoration. It was of good omen, that the new revolution was so closely knit with the past of the German people and was not a garish and vulgar twentieth century invention. Hitler had not only chosen Nuremberg as the Mecca of the Nazi party because its people had been faithful to him in the early days of the movement, but also because he wanted to associate the revolution indelibly in the German mind with the past.
Walking through the streets of Nuremberg I saw only two varieties of decoration. The green branches of the pine, and the long red banners hung everywhere. Those who saw the decoration of Bond Street at the time of the Coronation will get some idea of the general effect.
The streets were crowded with people, and with the men of the S.A. in their brown uniforms, and the S.S. in their black uniforms, who had special charge of the crowd. No soldiers and hardly any police were visible anywhere. I was amused to read in an English newspaper from their special correspondent at Nuremberg that the streets were swarming with soldiers.
It so happened that I was so fortunate as to step out of the station just when the Führer was expected to pass by on his arrival. Both sides of the street were lined with a jolly crowd joking and laughing with the S.S. men in their black uniform, to whom had been given the task of holding them back. They stood about a yard apart with a leather band held between them to form the barrier, and with no weapon of any kind except a small dagger. There could be no question that it was a joyous crowd looking well fed. One day I mentioned to a working woman in this country that under the Nazi regime the German people were only allowed a quarter of a pound of butter a week each. She stared at me in astonishment and said "I have not eaten butter for years, I cannot afford it".
Presently as I stood waiting, some open cars went by containing Nazi officials who were duly cheered. Then there was a long pause which was broken by the passage of a motor bicycle belonging to the police, with a yellow flag which passed by to see that the road was clear, and then we heard the roar of "Heils!" in the distance coming nearer and nearer. The excitement of the crowd was infectious, at last I was to see the Führer, the man who held Germany in the hollow of his hand and commanded respect in Europe. His solitary open car
I had read in our newspapers that Hitler never dared to move outside unless he was surrounded by an armed guard. Not only was he alone, but the S.S. men lining the street had no weapon to protect him.
But what of Hitler himself? I saw him many times afterwards talking with the officers of the S.S. and S.A. and speaking in the stadium, and tried to compare him with other great men I have seen in my life, men of strong personality as all such men must be. No man cares less for the display of power. When he received the march past of the S.A. and S.S. men in the old market square, he was dressed in a brown shirt, riding breeches and black riding boots without hat or coat. We are used to a display of gorgeousness on the part of generals riding on a charger wearing a magnificent uniform and covered with medals. Hitler's uniform did not differ from that worn by his S.A. men, and his only decoration was the decoration for valour - the Iron Cross of the First Class. It seemed inconceivable that this man in the brown shirt talking with his officers was the master of Germany.
His face is familiar to all of us from his photographs but they do not do him justice. I have never seen one that I liked; he eludes the camera which does not register what is most of interest in his face and expression. He is different to any man I have ever seen before. A flame seems to burn within that slim figure and to look out of his eyes. There is nothing of the fanatic in his expression, but a look of superhuman energy and intensity of purpose; the face of a man specially endowed with the capacity for power; his very simplicity and absence of ostentation strengthens the impression. Bonaparte for all his genius was a vulgar soul and clothed himself in Imperial robes and troubled himself about the details and the etiquette of a court. Such trivialities are impossible for Hitler. Studying his face we can understand those quick decisions which have astonished his followers and electrified Europe; decisions carried out with a surprising rapidity and efficiency. Like Bonaparte he is always in advance of other people and therefore takes them by surprise. Bonaparte had a habit much disliked by the opposing generals of arriving with his army twenty four hours before it was possible for the army to be there; if Hitler had the vulgar ambition for military conquest, he would be the most dangerous man in Europe to-day, because he would outmanoeuvre the generals, just as he has outmanoeuvred the diplomatists by the simplicity and directness of his approach to all questions; but he belongs to a new age in which such conquests are an anachronism, though the diplomatists of Europe living still in the past have not yet realised that fact, and therefore pile up armaments which compel Germany to do the same in self-defence.
I have not yet begun to tell what I saw in Nuremberg and the impression it made upon me, but in truth there is only one man in Nuremberg amid all these crowds - the Führer.
Everywhere one met with friendly faces and a charming welcome. The Germans are probably the only people in Europe who really like us, and admire us probably much more than we deserve. It is because of that very liking that when irritated by the attacks in our press, and by our public men, they at last turn on us and give us some of our own back again. Attlee speaking in the House of Commons calls Hitler a gangster, and a German newspaper accuses Baldwin of bawling like a street urchin. It is all very childish and stupid. As I have said, they like and admire us, and I defy anyone not to like them. We feel at home with them as we can never feel with a Frenchman or an Italian. I myself am a Scotsman, and it is perhaps truer to say that the Scotsman and the German always get on well together.
The three things which impressed me most during my stay in Nuremberg were the torchlight procession, winding through the streets, the long red banners glowing in the light from the torches; the meeting of the Politische Leiter in the great stadium at night; and the parade of the boys of the labour camps.
This is the part of the Nazi organisation which has attracted most attention in this country. Started on a voluntary basis before Hitler came into power, he at once realised its importance in training the youth of Germany to the idea of citizenship taught by the Nazi party, and its significance as symbolising the whole Nazi conception of the State.
At about 19 years of age every boy in Germany, whether he be rich or poor, "Cook's son, Duke's son, Son of a belted Earl", spends six months in a Labour camp with spade and pick reclaiming the waste soil of Germany to make it fit for cultivation, draining the land, improving the forests, planting trees, and doing all that is needed to develop the natural resources of Germany. They all live and work together, and so that there shall be no distinction between rich and poor, they are all limited to the same amount of pocket money, and like the English school boy the hamper from home is shared with everybody.
The fundamental ideas of National Socialism are all expressed in this organisation. The dignity of Labour, even of the roughest kind, if undertaken in the service of the Reich; the wiping out of the distinction between the bourgeoisie and the workman; and the union of the German people as members one with another. Incidentally it is giving Germany the most physically fit youth in the world.
Every year contingents are sent from every part of Germany to be received by Hitler in the great stadium at Nuremberg; they are all in a uniform of their own
Later in the day I saw some of these boys, brown and sturdy, marching back to camp, singing as they went. The streets were lined with people laughing, cheering and throwing flowers and packets of sweets. As I watched them I could not help thinking of the pale-faced, underfed and underdeveloped boy in our great cities, loafing at a street comer with a fag in his mouth. These German boys, though doubtless full of fun on occasions, have serious faces, inspired by an ideal of service to their fatherland, and ready if necessary to die in her defence. The Führer is their hero.
My last vivid memory is of what took place at the meeting at night in the stadium when Hitler addressed the Politische Leiter. We were sitting in darkness, when
In one part of the stadium was a tragic little group, Austrians, exiled from their land because of their political beliefs, who greeted Hitler with cries of "Österreich grüßt den Führer''. One day standing in the street, I found myself next to an Austrian lady. Among the laughing crowds she was silent, her eyes filled with tears. She turned to me and said in English, "I have never seen the Führer before - I think my heart is breaking".