After we had laid down our arms, in November 1918, a policy was adopted which in all human probability was bound to lead gradually to our complete subjugation. Analogous examples from history show that those nations which lay down their arms without being absolutely forced to do so subsequently prefer to submit to the greatest humiliations and exactions rather than try to change their fate by resorting to arms again.
That is intelligible on purely human grounds. A shrewd conqueror will always enforce his exactions on the conquered only by stages, as far as that is possible. Then he may expect that a people who have lost all strength of character – which is always the case with every nation that voluntarily submits to the threats of an opponent – will not find in any of these acts of oppression, if one be enforced apart from the other, sufficient grounds for taking up arms again. The more numerous the extortions thus passively accepted so much the less will resistance appear justified in the eyes of other people, if the vanquished nation should end by revolting against the last act of oppression in a long series. And that is specially so if the nation has already patiently and silently accepted impositions which were much more exacting.
The fall of Carthage is a terrible example of the slow agony of a people which ended in destruction and which was the fault of the people themselves.
In his Three Articles of Faith Clausewitz expressed this idea admirably and gave it a definite form when he said: "The stigma of shame incurred by a cowardly submission can never be effaced. The drop of poison which thus enters the blood of a nation will be transmitted to posterity. It will undermine and paralyse the strength of later generations." But, on the contrary, he added: "Even the loss of its liberty after a sanguinary and honourable struggle assures the resurgence of the nation and is the vital nucleus from which one day a new tree can draw firm roots.
Naturally a nation which has lost all sense of honour and all strength of character will not feel the force of such a doctrine. But any nation that takes it to heart will never fall very low. Only those who forget it or do not wish to acknowledge it will collapse. Hence those responsible for a cowardly submission cannot be expected suddenly to take thought with themselves, for the purpose of changing their former conduct and directing it in the way pointed out by human reason and experience. On the contrary, they will repudiate such a doctrine, until the people either become permanently habituated to the yoke of slavery or the better elements of the nation push their way into the foreground and forcibly take power away from the hands of an infamous and corrupt regime. In the first case those who hold power will be pleased with the state of affairs, because the conquerors often entrust them with the task of supervising the slaves. And these utterly characterless beings then exercise that power to the detriment of their own people, more cruelly than the most cruel-hearted stranger that might be nominated by the enemy himself.
The events which happened subsequent to 1918 in Germany prove how the hope of securing the clemency of the victor by making a voluntary submission had the most disastrous influence on the political views and conduct of the broad masses. I say the broad masses explicitly, because I cannot persuade myself that the things which were done or left undone by the leaders of the people are to be attributed to a similar disastrous illusion. Seeing that the direction of our historical destiny after the war was now openly controlled by the Jews, it is impossible to admit that a defective knowledge of the state of affairs was the sole cause of our misfortunes. On the contrary, the conclusion that must be drawn from the facts is that our people were intentionally driven to ruin. If we examine it from this point of view we shall find that the direction of the nation’s foreign policy was not so foolish as it appeared; for on scrutinizing the matter closely we see clearly that this conduct was a procedure which had been calmly calculated, shrewdly defined and logically carried out in the service of the Jewish idea and the Jewish endeavour to secure the mastery of the world.
From 1806 to 1813 Prussia was in a state of collapse. But that period sufficed to renew the vital energies of the nation and inspire it once more with a resolute determination to fight. An equal period of time has passed over our heads from 1918 until to-day, and no advantage has been derived from it. On the contrary, the vital strength of our State has been steadily sapped.
Seven years after November 1918 the Locarno Treaty was signed.
Thus the development which took place was what I have indicated above. Once the shameful Armistice had been signed our people were unable to pluck up sufficient courage and energy to call a halt suddenly to the conduct of our adversary as the oppressive measures were being constantly renewed. The enemy was too shrewd to put forward all his demands at once. He confined his duress always to those exactions which, in his opinion and that of our German Government, could be submitted to for the moment: so that in this way they did not risk causing an explosion of public feeling. But according as the single impositions were increasingly subscribed to and tolerated it appeared less justifiable to do now in the case of one sole imposition or act of duress what had not been previously done in the case of so many others, namely, to oppose it. That is the ‘drop of poison’ of which Clausewitz speaks. Once this lack of character is manifested the resultant condition becomes steadily aggravated and weighs like an evil inheritance on all future decisions. It may become as a leaden weight around the nation’s neck, which cannot be shaken off but which forces it to drag out its existence in slavery.
Thus, in Germany, edicts for disarmament and oppression and economic plunder followed one after the other, making us politically helpless. The result of all this was to create that mood which made so many look upon the Dawes Plan as a blessing and the Locarno Treaty as a success. From a higher point of view we may speak of one sole blessing in the midst of so much misery. This blessing is that, though men may be fooled, Heaven can’t be bribed. For Heaven withheld its blessing. Since that time Misery and Anxiety have been the constant companions of our people, and Distress is the one Ally that has remained loyal to us. In this case also Destiny has made no exceptions. It has given us our deserts. Since we did not know how to value honour any more, it has taught us to value the liberty to seek for bread. Now that the nation has learned to cry for bread, it may one day learn to pray for freedom.
The collapse of our nation in the years following 1918 was bitter and manifest. And yet that was the time chosen to persecute us in the most malicious way our enemies could devise, so that what happened afterwards could have been foretold by anybody then. The government to which our people submitted was as hopelessly incompetent as it was conceited, and this was especially shown in repudiating those who gave any warning that disturbed or displeased. Then we saw – and to-day also – the greatest parliamentary nincompoops, really common saddlers and glove-makers – not merely by trade, for that would signify very little – suddenly raised to the rank of statesmen and sermonizing to humble mortals from that pedestal. It did not matter, and it still does not matter, that such a ‘statesman’, after having displayed his talents for six months or so as a mere windbag, is shown up for what he is and becomes the object of public raillery and sarcasm. It does not matter that he has given the most evident proof of complete incompetency. No. That does not matter at all. On the contrary, the less real service the parliamentary statesmen of this Republic render the country, the more savagely they persecute all who expect that parliamentary deputies should show some positive results of their activities. And they persecute everybody who dares to point to the failure of these activities and predict similar failures for the future. If one finally succeeds in nailing down one of these parliamentarians to hard facts, so that this political artist can no longer deny the real failure of his whole action and its results, then he will find thousands of grounds for excuse, but will in no way admit that he himself is the chief cause of the evil.
In the winter of 1922–23, at the latest, it ought to have been generally recognized that, even after the conclusion of peace, France was still endeavouring with iron consistency to attain those ends which had been originally envisaged as the final purpose of the War. For nobody could think of believing that for four and a half years France continued to pour out the not abundant supply of her national blood in the most decisive struggle throughout all her history in order subsequently to obtain compensation through reparations for the damages sustained. Even Alsace and Lorraine, taken by themselves, would not account for the energy with which the French conducted the War, if Alsace-Lorraine were not already considered as a part of the really vast programme which French foreign policy had envisaged for the future. The aim of that programme was: Disintegration of Germany into a collection of small states. It was for this that Chauvinist France waged war; and in doing so she was in reality selling her people to be the serfs of the international Jew.
French war aims would have been obtained through the World War if, as was originally hoped in Paris, the struggle had been carried out on German soil. Let us imagine the bloody battles of the World War not as having taken place on the Somme, in Flanders, in Artois, in front of Warsaw, Nizhni-Novogorod, Kowno, and Riga but in Germany, in the Ruhr or on the Maine, on the Elbe, in front of Hanover, Leipzig, Nürnberg, etc. If such happened, then we must admit that the destruction of Germany might have been accomplished. It is very much open to question if our young federal State could have borne the hard struggle for four and a half years, as it was borne by a France that had been centralized for centuries, with the whole national imagination focused on Paris. If this titanic conflict between the nations developed outside the frontiers of our fatherland, not only is all the merit due to the immortal service rendered by our old army but it was also very fortunate for the future of Germany. I am fully convinced that if things had taken a different course there would no longer be a German Reich to-day but only ‘German States’. And that is the only reason why the blood which was shed by our friends and brothers in the War was at least not shed in vain.
The course which events took was otherwise. In November 1918 Germany did indeed collapse with lightning suddenness. But when the catastrophe took place at home the armies under the Commander-in-Chief were still deep in the enemy’s country. At that time France’s first preoccupation was not the dismemberment of Germany but the problem of how to get the German armies out of France and Belgium as quickly as possible. And so, in order to put an end to the War, the first thing that had to be done by the Paris Government was to disarm the German armies and push them back into Germany if possible. Until this was done the French could not devote their attention to carrying out their own particular and original war aims. As far as concerned England, the War was really won when Germany was destroyed as a colonial and commercial Power and was reduced to the rank of a second-class State. It was not in England’s interest to wipe out the German State altogether. In fact, on many grounds it was desirable for her to have a future rival against France in Europe. Therefore French policy was forced to carry on by peaceful means the work for which the War had opened the way; and Clemenceau’s statement, that for him Peace was merely a continuation of the War, thus acquired an enhanced significance.
Persistently and on every opportunity that arose, the effort to dislocate the framework of the Reich was to have been carried on. By perpetually sending new notes that demanded disarmament, on the one hand, and by the imposition of economic levies which, on the other hand, could be carried out as the process of disarmament progressed, it was hoped in Paris that the framework of the Reich would gradually fall to pieces. The more the Germans lost their sense of national honour the more could economic pressure and continued economic distress be effective as factors of political destruction. Such a policy of political oppression and economic exploitation, carried out for ten or twenty years, must in the long run steadily ruin the most compact national body and, under certain circumstances, dismember it. Then the French war aims would have been definitely attained.
By the winter of 1922–23 the intentions of the French must already have been known for a long time back. There remained only two possible ways of confronting the situation. If the German national body showed itself sufficiently tough-skinned, it might gradually blunt the will of the French or it might do – once and for all – what was bound to become inevitable one day: that is to say, under the provocation of some particularly brutal act of oppression it could put the helm of the German ship of state to roundabout and ram the enemy. That would naturally involve a life-and-death-struggle. And the prospect of coming through the struggle alive depended on whether France could be so far isolated that in this second battle Germany would not have to fight against the whole world but in defence of Germany against a France that was persistently disturbing the peace of the world.
I insist on this point, and I am profoundly convinced of it, namely, that this second alternative will one day be chosen and will have to be chosen and carried out in one way or another. I shall never believe that France will of herself alter her intentions towards us, because, in the last analysis, they are only the expression of the French instinct for self-preservation. Were I a Frenchman and were the greatness of France so dear to me as that of Germany actually is, in the final reckoning I could not and would not act otherwise than a Clemenceau. The French nation, which is slowly dying out, not so much through depopulation as through the progressive disappearance of the best elements of the race, can continue to play an important role in the world only if Germany be destroyed. French policy may make a thousand detours on the march towards its fixed goal, but the destruction of Germany is the end which it always has in view as the fulfilment of the most profound yearning and ultimate intentions of the French. Now it is a mistake to believe that if the will on one side should remain only passive and intent on its own self-preservation it can hold out permanently against another will which is not less forceful but is active. As long as the eternal conflict between France and Germany is waged only in the form of a German defence against the French attack, that conflict can never be decided; and from century to century Germany will lose one position after another. If we study the changes that have taken place, from the twelfth century up to our day, in the frontiers within which the German language is spoken, we can hardly hope for a successful issue to result from the acceptance and development of a line of conduct which has hitherto been so detrimental for us.
Only when the Germans have taken all this fully into account will they cease from allowing the national will-to-life to wear itself out in merely passive defence, but they will rally together for a last decisive contest with France. And in this contest the essential objective of the German nation will be fought for. Only then will it be possible to put an end to the eternal Franco-German conflict which has hitherto proved so sterile. Of course it is here presumed that Germany sees in the suppression of France nothing more than a means which will make it possible for our people finally to expand in another quarter. To-day there are eighty million Germans in Europe. And our foreign policy will be recognized as rightly conducted only when, after barely a hundred years, there will be 250 million Germans living on this Continent, not packed together as the coolies in the factories of another Continent but as tillers of the soil and workers whose labour will be a mutual assurance for their existence.
In December 1922 the situation between Germany and France assumed a particularly threatening aspect. France had new and vast oppressive measures in view and needed sanctions for her conduct. Political pressure had to precede the economic plunder, and the French believed that only by making a violent attack against the central nervous system of German life would they be able to make our ‘recalcitrant’ people bow to their galling yoke. By the occupation of the Ruhr District, it was hoped in France that not only would the moral backbone of Germany be broken finally but that we should be reduced to such a grave economic condition that we should be forced, for weal or woe, to subscribe to the heaviest possible obligations.
It was a question of bending and breaking Germany. At first Germany bent and subsequently broke in pieces completely.
Through the occupation of the Ruhr, Fate once more reached out its hand to the German people and bade them arise. For what at first appeared as a heavy stroke of misfortune was found, on closer examination, to contain extremely encouraging possibilities of bringing Germany’s sufferings to an end.
As regards foreign politics, the action of France in occupying the Ruhr really estranged England for the first time in quite a profound way. Indeed it estranged not merely British diplomatic circles, which had concluded the French alliance and had upheld it from motives of calm and objective calculation, but it also estranged large sections of the English nation. The English business world in particular scarcely concealed the displeasure it felt at this incredible forward step in strengthening the power of France on the Continent. From the military standpoint alone France now assumed a position in Europe such as Germany herself had not held previously. Moreover, France thus obtained control over economic resources which practically gave her a monopoly that consolidated her political and commercial strength against all competition. The most important iron and coal mines of Europe were now united in the hand of one nation which, in contrast to Germany, had hitherto defended her vital interests in an active and resolute fashion and whose military efficiency in the Great War was still fresh in the memories of the whole world. The French occupation of the Ruhr coal field deprived England of all the successes she had gained in the War. And the victors were now Marshal Foch and the France he represented, no longer the calm and painstaking British statesmen.
In Italy also the attitude towards France, which had not been very favourable since the end of the War, now became positively hostile. The great historic moment had come when the Allies of yesterday might become the enemies of to-morrow. If things happened otherwise and if the Allies did not suddenly come into conflict with one another, as in the Second Balkan War, that was due to the fact that Germany had no Enver Pasha but merely a Cuno as Chancellor of the Reich.
Nevertheless, the French invasion of the Ruhr opened up great possibilities for the future not only in Germany’s foreign politics but also in her internal politics. A considerable section of our people who, thanks to the persistent influence of a mendacious Press, had looked upon France as the champion of progress and liberty, were suddenly cured of this illusion. In 1914 the dream of international solidarity suddenly vanished from the brain of our German working class. They were brought back into the world of everlasting struggle, where one creature feeds on the other and where the death of the weaker implies the life of the stronger. The same thing happened in the spring of 1923.
When the French put their threats into effect and penetrated, at first hesitatingly and cautiously, into the coal-basin of Lower Germany the hour of destiny had struck for Germany. It was a great and decisive moment. If at that moment our people had changed not only their frame of mind but also their conduct the German Ruhr District could have been made for France what Moscow turned out to be for Napoleon. Indeed, there were only two possibilities: either to leave this move also to take its course and do nothing or to turn to the German people in that region of sweltering forges and flaming furnaces. An effort might have been made to set their wills afire with determination to put an end to this persistent disgrace and to face a momentary terror rather than submit to a terror that was endless.
Cuno, who was then Chancellor of the Reich, can claim the immortal merit of having discovered a third way; and our German bourgeois political parties merit the still more glorious honour of having admired him and collaborated with him.
Here I shall deal with the second way as briefly as possible.
By occupying the Ruhr France committed a glaring violation of the Versailles Treaty. Her action brought her into conflict with several of the guarantor Powers, especially with England and Italy. She could no longer hope that those States would back her up in her egotistic act of brigandage. She could count only on her own forces to reap anything like a positive result from that adventure, for such it was at the start. For a German National Government there was only one possible way left open. And this was the way which honour prescribed. Certainly at the beginning we could not have opposed France with an active armed resistance. But it should have been clearly recognized that any negotiations which did not have the argument of force to back them up would turn out futile and ridiculous. If it were not possible to organize an active resistance, then it was absurd to take up the standpoint: "We shall not enter into any negotiations." But it was still more absurd finally to enter into negotiations without having organized the necessary force as a support.
Not that it was possible for us by military means to prevent the occupation of the Ruhr. Only a madman could have recommended such a decision. But under the impression produced by the action which France had taken, and during the time that it was being carried out, measures could have been, and should have been, undertaken without any regard to the Versailles Treaty, which France herself had violated, to provide those military resources which would serve as a collateral argument to back up the negotiations later on. For it was quite clear from the beginning that the fate of this district occupied by the French would one day be decided at some conference table or other. But it also must have been quite to everybody that even the best negotiators could have little success as long as the ground on which they themselves stood and the chair on which they sat were not under the armed protection of their own people. A weak pigmy cannot contend against athletes, and a negotiator without any armed defence at his back must always bow in obeisance when a Brennus throws the sword into the scales on the enemy’s side, unless an equally strong sword can be thrown into the scales at the other end and thus maintain the balance. It was really distressing to have to observe the comedy of negotiations which, ever since 1918, regularly preceded each arbitrary dictate that the enemy imposed upon us. We offered a sorry spectacle to the eyes of the whole world when we were invited, for the sake of derision, to attend conference tables simply to be presented with decisions and programmes which had already been drawn up and passed a long time before, and which we were permitted to discuss, but from the beginning had to be considered as unalterable. It is true that in scarcely a single instance were our negotiators men of more than mediocre abilities. For the most part they justified only too well the insolent observation made by Lloyd George when he sarcastically remarked, in the presence of a former Chancellor of the Reich, Herr Simon, that the Germans were not able to choose men of intelligence as their leaders and representatives. But in face of the resolute determination and the power which the enemy held in his hands, on the one side, and the lamentable impotence of Germany on the other, even a body of geniuses could have obtained only very little for Germany.
In the spring of 1923, however, anyone who might have thought of seizing the opportunity of the French invasion of the Ruhr to reconstruct the military power of Germany would first have had to restore to the nation its moral weapons, to reinforce its will-power, and to extirpate those who had destroyed this most valuable element of national strength.
Just as in 1918 we had to pay with our blood for the failure to crush the Marxist serpent underfoot once and for all in 1914 and 1915, now we have to suffer retribution for the fact that in the spring of 1923 we did not seize the opportunity then offered us for finally wiping out the handiwork done by the Marxists who betrayed their country and were responsible for the murder of our people.
Any idea of opposing French aggression with an efficacious resistance was only pure folly as long as the fight had not been taken up against those forces which, five years previously, had broken the German resistance on the battlefields by the influences which they exercised at home. Only bourgeois minds could have arrived at the incredible belief that Marxism had probably become quite a different thing now and that the canaille of ringleaders in 1918, who callously used the bodies of our two million dead as stepping-stones on which they climbed into the various Government positions, would now, in the year 1923, suddenly show themselves ready to pay their tribute to the national conscience. It was veritably a piece of incredible folly to expect that those traitors would suddenly appear as the champions of German freedom. They had no intention of doing it. Just as a hyena will not leave its carrion, a Marxist will not give up indulging in the betrayal of his country. It is out of the question to put forward the stupid retort here, that so many of the workers gave their blood for Germany. German workers, yes, but no longer international Marxists. If the German working class, in 1914, consisted of real Marxists the War would have ended within three weeks. Germany would have collapsed before the first soldier had put a foot beyond the frontiers. No. The fact that the German people carried on the War proved that the Marxist folly had not yet been able to penetrate deeply. But as the War was prolonged German soldiers and workers gradually fell back into the hands of the Marxist leaders, and the number of those who thus relapsed became lost to their country. At the beginning of the War, or even during the War, if twelve or fifteen thousand of these Jews who were corrupting the nation had been forced to submit to poison-gas, just as hundreds of thousands of our best German workers from every social stratum and from every trade and calling had to face it in the field, then the millions of sacrifices made at the front would not have been in vain. On the contrary: If twelve thousand of these malefactors had been eliminated in proper time probably the lives of a million decent men, who would be of value to Germany in the future, might have been saved. But it was in accordance with bourgeois ‘statesmanship’ to hand over, without the twitch of an eyelid, millions of human beings to be slaughtered on the battlefields, while they looked upon ten or twelve thousand public traitors, profiteers, usurers and swindlers, as the dearest and most sacred national treasure and proclaimed their persons to be inviolable. Indeed it would be hard to say what is the most outstanding feature of these bourgeois circles: mental debility, moral weakness and cowardice, or a mere down-at-heel mentality. It is a class that is certainly doomed to go under but, unhappily, it drags down the whole nation with it into the abyss.
The situation in 1923 was quite similar to that of 1918. No matter what form of resistance was decided upon, the first prerequisite for taking action was the elimination of the Marxist poison from the body of the nation. And I was convinced that the first task then of a really National Government was to seek and find those forces that were determined to wage a war of destruction against Marxism and to give these forces a free hand. It was their duty not to bow down before the fetish of ‘order and tranquillity’ at a moment when the enemy from outside was dealing the Fatherland a death-blow and when high treason was lurking behind every street corner at home. No. A really National Government ought then to have welcomed disorder and unrest if this turmoil would afford an opportunity of finally settling with the Marxists, who are the mortal enemies of our people. If this precaution were neglected, then it was sheer folly to think of resisting, no matter what form that resistance might take.
Of course, such a settlement of accounts with the Marxists as would be of real historical importance could not be effected along lines laid down by some secret council or according to some plan concocted by the shrivelled mind of some cabinet minister. It would have to be in accordance with the eternal laws of life on this Earth which are and will remain those of a ceaseless struggle for existence. It must always be remembered that in many instances a hardy and healthy nation has emerged from the ordeal of the most bloody civil wars, while from peace conditions which had been artificially maintained there often resulted a state of national putrescence that reeked to the skies. The fate of a nation cannot be changed in kid gloves. And so in the year 1923 brutal action should have been taken to stamp out the vipers that battened on the body of the nation. If this were done, then the first prerequisite for an active opposition would have been fulfilled.
At that time I often talked myself hoarse in trying to make it clear, at least to the so-called national circles, what was then at stake and that by repeating the errors committed in 1914 and the following years we must necessarily come to the same kind of catastrophe as in 1918. I frequently implored of them to let Fate have a free hand and to make it possible for our Movement to settle with the Marxists. But I preached to deaf ears. They all thought they knew better, including the Chief of the Defence Force, until finally they found themselves forced to subscribe to the vilest capitulation that history records.
I then became profoundly convinced that the German bourgeoisie had come to the end of its mission and was not capable of fulfilling any further function. And then also I recognized the fact that all the bourgeois parties had been fighting Marxism merely from the spirit of competition without sincerely wishing to destroy it. For a long time they had been accustomed to assist in the destruction of their country, and their one great care was to secure good seats at the funeral banquet. It was for this alone that they kept on ‘fighting’.
At that time – I admit it openly – I conceived a profound admiration for the great man beyond the Alps, whose ardent love for his people inspired him not to bargain with Italy’s internal enemies but to use all possible ways and means in an effort to wipe them out. What places Mussolini in the ranks of the world’s great men is his decision not to share Italy with the Marxists but to redeem his country from Marxism by destroying internationalism.
What miserable pigmies our sham statesmen in Germany appear by comparison with him. And how nauseating it is to witness the conceit and effrontery of these nonentities in criticizing a man who is a thousand times greater than them. And how painful it is to think that this takes place in a country which could point to a Bismarck as its leader as recently as fifty years ago.
The attitude adopted by the bourgeoisie in 1923 and the way in which they dealt kindly with Marxism decided from the outset the fate of any attempt at active resistance in the Ruhr. With that deadly enemy in our own ranks it was sheer folly to think of fighting France. The most that could then be done was to stage a sham fight in order to satisfy the German national element to some extent, to tranquillize the ‘boiling state of the public mind’, or dope it, which was what was really intended. Had they really believed in what they did, they ought to have recognized that the strength of a nation lies, first of all, not in its arms but in its will, and that before conquering the external enemy the enemy at home would have to be eliminated. If not, then disaster must result if victory be not achieved on the very first day of the fight. The shadow of one defeat is sufficient to break up the resistance of a nation that has not been liberated from its internal enemies, and give the adversary a decisive victory.
In the spring of 1923 all this might have been predicted. It is useless to ask whether it was then possible to count on a military success against France. For if the result of the German action in regard to the French invasion of the Ruhr had been only the destruction of Marxism at home, success would have been on our side. Once liberated from the deadly enemies of her present and future existence, Germany would possess forces which no power in the world could strangle again. On the day when Marxism is broken in Germany the chains that bind Germany will be smashed for ever. For never in our history have we been conquered by the strength of our outside enemies but only through our own failings and the enemy in our own camp.
Since it was not able to decide on such heroic action at that time, the Government could have chosen the first way: namely, to allow things to take their course and do nothing at all.
But at that great moment Heaven made Germany a present of a great man. This was Herr Cuno. He was neither a statesman nor a politician by profession, still less a politician by birth. But he belonged to that type of politician who is merely used for liquidating some definite question. Apart from that, he had business experience. It was a curse for Germany that, in the practice of politics, this business man looked upon politics also as a business undertaking and regulated his conduct accordingly.
"France occupies the Ruhr. What is there in the Ruhr? Coal. And so France occupies the Ruhr for the sake of its coal?" What could come more naturally to the mind of Herr Cuno than the idea of a strike, which would prevent the French from obtaining any coal? And therefore, in the opinion of Herr Cuno, one day or other they would certainly have to get out of the Ruhr again if the occupation did not prove to be a paying business. Such were approximately the lines along which that outstanding national statesman reasoned. At Stuttgart and other places he spoke to ‘his people’ and this people became lost in admiration for him. Of course they needed the Marxists for the strike, because the workers would have to be the first to go on strike. Now, in the brain of a bourgeois statesman such as Cuno, a Marxist and a worker are one and the same thing. Therefore it was necessary to bring the worker into line with all the other Germans in a united front. One should have seen how the countenances of these party politicians beamed with the light of their moth-eaten bourgeois culture when the great genius spoke the word of revelation to them. Here was a nationalist and also a man of genius. At last they had discovered what they had so long sought. For now the abyss between Marxism and themselves could be bridged over. And thus it became possible for the pseudo-nationalist to ape the German manner and adopt nationalist phraseology in reaching out the ingenuous hand of friendship to the internationalist traitors of their country. The traitor readily grasped that hand, because, just as Herr Cuno had need of the Marxist chiefs for his ‘united front’, the Marxist chiefs needed Herr Cuno’s money. So that both parties mutually benefited by the transaction. Cuno obtained his united front, constituted of nationalist charlatans and international swindlers. And now, with the help of the money paid to them by the State, these people were able to pursue their glorious mission, which was to destroy the national economic system. It was an immortal thought, that of saving a nation by means of a general strike in which the strikers were paid by the State. It was a command that could be enthusiastically obeyed by the most indifferent of loafers.
Everybody knows that prayers will not make a nation free. But that it is possible to liberate a nation by giving up work has yet to be proved by historical experience. Instead of promoting a paid general strike at that time, and making this the basis of his ‘united front’, if Herr Cuno had demanded two hours more work from every German, then the swindle of the ‘united front’ would have been disposed of within three days. Nations do not obtain their freedom by refusing to work but by making sacrifices.
Anyhow, the so-called passive resistance could not last long. Nobody but a man entirely ignorant of war could imagine that an army of occupation might be frightened and driven out by such ridiculous means. And yet this could have been the only purpose of an action for which the country had to pay out milliards and which contributed seriously to devaluate the national currency.
Of course the French were able to make themselves almost at home in the Ruhr basin the moment they saw that such ridiculous measures were being adopted against them. They had received the prescription directly from ourselves of the best way to bring a recalcitrant civil population to a sense of reason if its conduct implied a serious danger for the officials which the army of occupation had placed in authority. Nine years previously we wiped out with lightning rapidity bands of Belgian francs-tireurs and made the civil population clearly understand the seriousness of the situation, when the activities of these bands threatened grave danger for the German army. In like manner if the passive resistance of the Ruhr became really dangerous for the French, the armies of occupation would have needed no more than eight days to bring the whole piece of childish nonsense to a gruesome end. For we must always go back to the original question in all this business: What were we to do if the passive resistance came to the point where it really got on the nerves of our opponents and they proceeded to suppress it with force and bloodshed? Would we still continue to resist? If so, then, for weal or woe, we would have to submit to a severe and bloody persecution. And in that case we should be faced with the same situation as would have faced us in the case of an active resistance. In other words, we should have to fight. Therefore the so-called passive resistance would be logical only if supported by the determination to come out and wage an open fight in case of necessity or adopt a kind of guerilla warfare. Generally speaking, one undertakes such a struggle when there is a possibility of success. The moment a besieged fortress is taken by assault there is no practical alternative left to the defenders except to surrender, if instead of probable death they are assured that their lives will be spared. Let the garrison of a citadel which has been completely encircled by the enemy once lose all hope of being delivered by their friends, then the strength of the defence collapses totally.
That is why passive resistance in the Ruhr, when one considers the final consequences which it might and must necessarily have if it were to turn out really successful, had no practical meaning unless an active front had been organized to support it. Then one might have demanded immense efforts from our people. If each of these Westphalians in the Ruhr could have been assured that the home country had mobilized an army of eighty or a hundred divisions to support them, the French would have found themselves treading on thorns. Surely a greater number of courageous men could be found to sacrifice themselves for a successful enterprise than for an enterprise that was manifestly futile.
This was the classic occasion that induced us National Socialists to take up a resolute stand against the so-called national word of command. And that is what we did. During those months I was attacked by people whose patriotism was a mixture of stupidity and humbug and who took part in the general hue and cry because of the pleasant sensation they felt at being suddenly enabled to show themselves as nationalists, without running any danger thereby. In my estimation, this despicable ‘united front’ was one of the most ridiculous things that could be imagined. And events proved that I was right.
As soon as the Trades Unions had nearly filled their
treasuries with Cuno’s contributions, and the moment had come when it would
be necessary to transform the passive resistance from a mere inert defence
into active aggression, the Red hyenas suddenly broke out of the national
sheepfold and returned to be what they always had been. Without sounding
any drums or trumpets, Herr Cuno returned to his ships. Germany was richer
by one experience and poorer by the loss of one great hope.
Up to midsummer of that year several officers, who certainly were not the least brave and honourable of their kind, had not really believed that the course of things could take a turn that was so humiliating. They had all hoped that – if not openly, then at least secretly – the necessary measures would be taken to make this insolent French invasion a turning-point in German history. In our ranks also there were many who counted at least on the intervention of the Reichswehr. That conviction was so ardent that it decisively influenced the conduct and especially the training of innumerable young men.
But when the disgraceful collapse set in and the most humiliating kind of capitulation was made, indignation against such a betrayal of our unhappy country broke out into a blaze. Millions of German money had been spent in vain and thousands of young Germans had been sacrificed, who were foolish enough to trust in the promises made by the rulers of the Reich. Millions of people now became clearly convinced that Germany could be saved only if the whole prevailing system were destroyed root and branch.
There never had been a more propitious moment for such
a solution. On the one side an act of high treason had been committed against
the country, openly and shamelessly. On the other side a nation found itself
delivered over to die slowly of hunger. Since the State itself had trodden
down all the precepts of faith and loyalty, made a mockery of the rights
of its citizens, rendered the sacrifices of millions of its most loyal
sons fruitless and robbed other millions of their last penny, such a State
could no longer expect anything but hatred from its subjects. This hatred
against those who had ruined the people and the country was bound to find
an outlet in one form or another. In this connection I shall quote here
the concluding sentence of a speech which I delivered at the great court
trial that took place in the spring of 1924.
"The judges of this State may tranquilly condemn us
for our conduct at that time, but History, the goddess of a higher truth
and a better legal code, will smile as she tears up this verdict and will
acquit us all of the crime for which this verdict demands punishment."
But History will then also summon before its own tribunal those who, invested with power to-day, have trampled on law and justice, condemning our people to misery and ruin, and who, in the hour of their country’s misfortune, took more account of their own ego than of the life of the community.
Here I shall not relate the course of events which led to November 8th, 1923, and closed with that date. I shall not do so because I cannot see that this would serve any beneficial purpose in the future and also because no good could come of opening old sores that have been just only closed. Moreover, it would be out of place to talk about the guilt of men who perhaps in the depths of their hearts have as much love for their people as I myself, and who merely did not follow the same road as I took or failed to recognize it as the right one to take.
In the face of the great misfortune which has befallen our fatherland and affects all us, I must abstain from offending and perhaps disuniting those men who must at some future date form one great united front which will be made up of true and loyal Germans and which will have to withstand the common front presented by the enemy of our people. For I know that a time will come when those who then treated us as enemies will venerate the men who trod the bitter way of death for the sake of their people.
I have dedicated the first volume of this book to our eighteen fallen heroes. Here at the end of this second volume let me again bring those men to the memory of the adherents and champions of our ideals, as heroes who, in the full consciousness of what they were doing, sacrificed their lives for us all. We must never fail to recall those names in order to encourage the weak and wavering among us when duty calls, that duty which they fulfilled with absolute faith, even to its extreme consequences. Together with those, and as one of the best of all, I should like to mention the name of a man who devoted his life to reawakening his and our people, through his writing and his ideas and finally through positive action. I mean: