The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Last-Modified: 1997/08/21

Soon after the seizure of power (mid-April 1933),
Reichsleiter Robert Ley was directed by Hitler to smash the
independent unions. Reichsleiter Ley, in his speech to the
Nurnberg Party Congress of 1936, declared:

     "*** My Fuehrer! When you, my Fuehrer, ordered me in
     mid-April 1933 to take over the trade unions, I could
     not understand why you gave this order to me since I
     could not see any connection between my task as
     Organizational Leader of the Party and my new task.
     Very soon, however, your decision, my Fuehrer, became
     clear to me and I recognized that the organizational
     measures of the Party could only come to full fruition
     when supplemented by the organization of the people,
     that is to say, by the mobilization of the energies of
     the people and by their concentration and alignment. If
     the Part represents the concentration of the Political
     Leaders of the people -- as you, my Fuehrer, have told
     us again and again -- then the people is the retinue
     and must be organized and trained according to the same
     principles. Leader and retinue, elite and community at
     large -- these were the clear directives for my work.
     These were the consequences:
     "(1) My tasks as Organizational Leader of the Party and
     as the leader of the German Labor Front were a
     completely homogeneous task: in other words, in
     everything I did-I acted as Reich Organization Leader
     of the NSDAP.
     "(2) The German Labor Front was an institution of the
     Party and was led by it.
     "(3) The German Labor Front had to be organized
     regionally and professional according to the same
     principles as the Party.
     "That is why trade union and employer associations had
     to be smashed unrelentingly, and the basis of
     construction was formed, as in the Party, by the cell
     and the local section [Ortsgruppe].
                                                   [Page 73]
     "National Socialism has conquered the factory. Factory
     troops [Die Werkschar] are the National Socialist shock
     troops within the factory, and their motto is:

In furtherance of the Nazi policy to destroy the independent
trade unions of Germany, Ley issued a Party directive on 21
April 1933 outlining what was termed a "coordination action"
scheduled for 2 May 1933 against the General German Trade
Union Federation and the General Independent Employee
Federation (392-PS). This directive ordered the SA and the
SS to occupy trade union premises, seize trade union funds,
and take into protective custody the higher union leaders.

Pertinent portions of-Ley's order provide:
     "On Tuesday, 2 May 1933, the coordination action of the
     free trade unions begins.
     "The essential part of the action is to be directed
     against the General German Trade Union Federation and
     the General Independent Employees Federation.
     "Anything beyond that which is dependent upon the free
     trade unions is left to the discretion of the
     Gauleiter's judgment.
     "The Gauleiter are responsible for the execution of the
     coordination action in the individual areas. Supporters
     of the action should be members of the National
     Socialist Factory Cell Organizations ***.
     "SA as well as SS are to be employed for the occupation
     of trade union properties and for taking into
     protective custody of personalities who come into
     "The Gauleiter is to proceed with his measures on a
     basis of the closest understanding with competent gau
     or regional factory cells directors.

     "In the Reich, the following will be occupied:
     The directing offices of the unions;
     The trade union houses and offices of the fur trade
     The Party houses of the Socialist Democratic Party of
     Germany in so far as trade unions are involved there;
     The branches and paying offices of the Bank for
     Workers, Employees and Officials, Inc.'
     The district committees of the General German Trade
     Union Federation and of the General Independent
     Employees Federation.
                                                   [Page 74]
     The local committees of the General German Trade Union
     Federation and of the General Independent Employees
     "The following are to be taken into protective custody:
     All trade union chairmen; The district secretaries and
     branch directors of the Bank for Workers, Employees and
     Officials, Inc.
     "Exceptions are granted only with the permission of the
     "It is understood that this action is to proceed in a
     strongly disciplined fashion. The Gauleiter are
     responsible in this respect. They are to hold the
     direction of the action firmly in hand.
                                               "Heil Hitler!
                         '(signed) Dr. Robert Ley." (392-PS)
Ley's order for the dissolution of the independent trade
unions was carried out as planned and directed. Trade union
premises all over Germany were occupied by the SA and the
unions dissolved. On 2 May 1933, the official NSDAP Press
Service reported that the National Socialist Factory Cells
Organization (NSBO) had "eliminated the old leadership" of
"Free Trade Unions" and taken over their leadership (2224-

     "National Socialism, which today has assumed leadership
     of the German working class, can no longer bear the
     responsibility for leaving the men and women of the
     German working class, the members of the largest trade
     organization in the world, the German Trade Union
     Movement, in the hands of a people who do not know a
     fatherland that is called Germany. Because of that, the
     National Socialist Factory Cell Organization (NSBO) has
     taken over the leadership of the trade unions. The NSBO
     has eliminated the old leadership of the trade unions
     of the General German Trade Unions League and of the
     General Independent Employees' Federation ***.

     "On 2 May 1933, the National Socialist Factory Cell
     Organization (NSBO) took over the leadership of all
     trade unions; all trade union buildings were occupied
     and most stringent control has been organized over
     financial and personnel matters of the organization."
This assault on the independent unions directed by Ley in
his capacity as Reichsleiter in charge of Party
Organization, assisted

                                                   [Page 75]
by the Gauleiter and Party Formations, included the seizure
of trade union funds and property. In a speech on 11
September 1937 to the 5th Annual Session of the German Labor
Front (1678-PS), Ley admitted the confiscation of trade
union funds.

     "Once I said to the Fuehrer: 'My Fuehrer, actually I am
     standing with one foot in jail, for today I am still
     the trustee of the comrades "Leipart" and "Imbusch,"
     and should they some day a me to return their money,
     then it will be found that I have spent it, either by
     building things, or otherwise. But they shall never
     again find their property in the condition in which
     they handed it over to me. Therefore I would have to be

     "The Fuehrer laughed then and remarked that apparently
     I felt extremely well in this condition.

     "it was very difficult for us all. Today we laugh about
     it." (1678-PS)

The plan of the Nazi conspirators to eliminate the Free
Trade Unions was advanced by the enactment on 19 May 1933 of
a law which abolished collective bargaining between workers
and employers and replaced it with a regulation of working
conditions by Labor Trustees appointed by Hitler (405-PS).
After providing in Section 1 for the appointment by Hitler
of trustees of labor, the law provides, in Section 2:

     "Until a new revision of the social constitution, the
     trustees are to regulate the conditions for the
     conclusion of labor contracts. This practice is to be
     legally binding for all persons and replaces the system
     found on combinations of workers, of individual
     employers or of combinations of employers ***." (405-

Having destroyed the independent unions and collective
bargaining, the next step of the Nazi conspirators was to
Nazify industrial relations. The Law of 20 January 1934,
entitled "Law Regulating National Labor," imposed the
Leadership Principle 'upon industrial enterprisers (1861-
PS). Section I, paragraph 1, provided that the enterpriser
should be the leader of the plant and the workers would
"constitute his followers." Section 1, paragraph 2 reads as
     "The Leader of the plant makes the decisions for the
     employees and laborers in all matters concerning the
     enterprise, as far as they are regulated by this law.
     "He is responsible for the well-being of the employees
     and -laborers. The employees and laborers owe him
                                                   [Page 76]
     according to the principles of the factory community."

The trade unions having been dissolved and the Leadership
Principle superimposed upon the relationship of management
and labor, the members of the Leadership Corps joined in and
directed measures designed to replace the independent unions
by the German Labor Front, the DAF, an affiliated Party
organization. On the very day the Nazi conspirators seized
and dissolved the Free Trade Unions, 2 May 1933, they
publicly proclaimed that a "united front of German workers"
would be formed with Hitler as honorary patron at a workers'
congress of 10 May 1933 (2224-PS). A release of the Nazi
Party Press Agency stated:

     "The National Socialist Party Press Agency is informed
     that a great workers' congress will take place on
     Wednesday, 10 May, in the Russian House of Lords in
     Berlin. The United Front of German workers will be
     formed there. Adolf Hitler will be asked to assume the
     position of Honorary Patron." (2224-PS)

The action committee, which supervised the smashing of the
unions under Reichsleiter Ley, met with Hitler and reported
that the independent unions had been effectively dissolved.
The Fuehrer then consented to be Honorary Patron at the
Great Workers' Congress. (2224-PS)

The Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party was not only employed
in measures taken to dissolve the independent unions, but
certain of its members were given important and directive
positions within the German Labor Front, the Nazi
Organization which replaced the free trade unions. On 10 May
1933, Hitler appointed Ley Leader of the German Labor Front
(DAF) (1940-PS). By the same edict, Hitler appointed
Gauleiter Forster as Leader of the Employees' Associations,
and Schumann, Leader of the Nazi Factory Cell Organization
(NSBO), as Leader of the Workers' Associations. The Hitler
edict stated:

     "The Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, has issued the following
     "I appoint the Chief of Staff of the Political
     Organization of the NSDAP, Dr. Robert Ley, as leader of
     the German Labor Front.
     "I appoint Gauleiter Forster, Danzig, as leader of the
     Employees' Associations.
     "I appoint the leader of the National Socialist Factory
     Cell Organizations (NSBO), Schumann, as leader of the
                                             "Berlin, 10 May
                                   "Adolf Hitler." (1940-PS)

                                                   [Page 77]
The Nazi conspirators employed the German Labor Front (DAF)
a an instrument for propagandizing its millions of
compulsory members with Nazi ideology. The control of the
Leadership corps over the German Labor Front was assured not
only by the designation of Reichsleiter Ley as head of the
DAF, but by the employment of a large number of Politischen
Leiter (political leaders) charged with disseminating Nazi
ideology to the large membership of the DAF. These facts are
apparent from pages 185-187 of the Organization Book of the
NSDAP (2271-PS):

     "The National Socialist Factory Cells Organization
     [NSBO], is a union of the political leaders
     [Politischen Leiter] of the NSDAP in the German Labor
     "The NSBO is the carrier of the organization of the
     German Labor Front.
     "The duties and responsibilities of the NSBO have
     passed over to the DAF.
     "The political leaders who have been transferred from
     the NSBO to the German Labor Front guarantee the
     ideological education of the DAF in the spirit of the
     National Socialistic idea." (2271-PS)

The foregoing evidence fixes upon the Leadership Corps of
the Nazi Party responsibility for participation in the
measures leading to the destruction of the independent trade
unions and to Nazi Party control over the productive
capacity of the German Labor Movement. Not only were these
actions directed by Ley in his capacity as Reichsleiter, but
they were supervised on a regional basis by the Gauleiter as
district representatives of the Leadership Corps. Moreover,
the German Labor Front (DAF) which replaced the dissolved
trade unions was an affiliated organization of the NSDAP
and, as such, remained under the control of the Leadership
Corps and was employed by it to nazify the labor population
of Germany.

(f) Plunder of Art Treasures. The Leadership Corps of the
NSDAP is also responsible for the plundering of art
treasures by Reichsleiter Rosenberg's Einsatzstab Rosenberg,
the activities of which are discussed in full in Chapter

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