The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Q. Had the Party come to power in a legal way, in your
opinion?

A. Of course the Party had come to power entirely legally
because the Party had been called upon by the Reich
President according to the Constitution and, according to
the principles in force, the Party should have been called
upon much earlier than that. The Party gained strength and
came to power only by way of normal elections and the
election law then valid.

Q. What measures were now taken to strengthen this power
after Hitler's appointment?

A. It was understood by all of us that as soon as we had
once come into power we must keep that power under all
circumstances. We did not want power and governmental
authority for power's sake, but we needed power and
governmental authority in order to make Germany free and
great. We did not want to leave this any longer to chance,
elections and Parliamentary majorities, but we wanted to
carry out the task to which we considered ourselves called.

In order to consolidate this power now, it was necessary to
reorganise the political relationships of power. That was
carried out in such a manner that, shortly after the seizure
of governmental authority in the Reich and in Prussia, the
other States followed automatically and more or less strong
National Socialist Governments were formed everywhere.

Secondly, the so-called political officials, who according
to the Reich Constitution could be recalled at any time -
that is, could be dismissed - would naturally have to be
replaced now according to custom by people from the
strongest Party - as is everywhere customary.

As far as our coming into power legally is concerned, I
should like to emphasise two points in particular.

(1) In the years 1925 to 1932 not less than thirty
Reichstag, Landtag and presidential elections took place in
Germany. The very fact that 37 Parties had candidates in one
Reichstag election alone, gives a clear picture of how it
happened that one strong coalition formed the so-called
Government majority and another strong grouping the
Opposition, each with an entirely different point of view.
Just think of an Opposition formed in common by Communists

                                                   [Page 73]

and National Socialists, for example, and the fact that one
small Party which had eight representatives altogether was
now the index of the balance of power and in two readings of
a law, especially of a decisive law - every law had to have
three readings - voted against the Government, and then, on
the assurance of sufficient political and material
advantages, forced the law through for the Government at its
third, decisive reading. This may give a picture of the
conditions.

The second point which I want to underline, especially in
regard to the legality of our coming to power, is the
following.

Had the democratic election system of England or the United
States of America existed in Germany, then the National
Socialist German Workers' Party would, at the end of 1939,
have legally possessed all seats in the Reichstag without
exception, for in every electoral district in Germany at
that time, or at the beginning of 1932 at the latest, in
every one - I emphasise this once more - the N.S.D.A.P. was
the strongest Party. With an electoral system like that of
Great Britain or the United States, all these weaker Parties
would have failed to gain any seats, and from this time on
we would have had only National Socialists in the Reich, in
a perfectly legal way, according to the democratic
principles of these two greatest democracies.

For the further seizure of power, main political offices
were now likewise filled with new appointments, as is the
case in other countries when there has been a shift of power
among the political Parties. Besides the Ministers there
were mainly - I take Prussia as an example - the heads of
provinces, the official heads of administrative districts,
the police commissioners, county heads. In addition there
was a certain further grade - I believe ministerial
directors were considered political officials, and so also
were district attorneys. This on the whole describes the
group of offices which were filled anew when a shift in
political power took place and had previously been bargained
out among the Parties having the majority. It did not go so
far as in other countries - there was a change of office
holders, but only of the most important posts.

In spite of that we did very little in this direction at
first. First of all, I requested Herr von Papen to turn over
to me the position of Prussian "Minister President," since
he, as he had no Party behind him, could not very well
undertake this reshuffling, whereas I - that is, one of us -
could do so. We agreed at once. Thereupon I filled some, a
relatively small part, of the offices of the highest
administrative officials of Prussian provinces with National
Socialists. At the same time I generously allowed Social
Democrats to remain in these posts for many weeks. I filled
a few important provincial offices with leading Catholic
persons who were much closer to the Centre Party than to us.
But slowly, in the course of time, these offices, in so far
as they were key presidential positions, were, of course,
filled with National Socialists - it could hardly be
otherwise in the further course of the changeover, since
these offices at the same time corresponded to those of the
political Gau. Even until the very end district heads
remained in part National Socialists, in part, however,
simply officials. The same was true of the county heads
(Landrate). In the case of police commissioners, I should
like to emphasise for the information of the Tribunal that
the police commissioners at first had nothing to do with the
Gestapo. A police commissioner in the bigger cities had the
same function as a county head in the country, in part at
least. These police commissioners had always been selected
by the largest Parties until the seizure of power. Thus I
found Social Democrats in these positions who could not,
with the best of intentions, remain, as they had always been
our opponents up to that date. That would have been absurd.
I filled these offices of police commissioners partly with
National Socialists but partly with people who had nothing
to do with the Party.

I remember that to the most important police office in the
whole German Reich, the one in Berlin, I appointed Admiral
von Levetzow (retired), who was

                                                   [Page 74]

not a member of the Party. In some of these offices I put
former S.A. leaders.

For the purpose of consolidation of power, which seemed very
important not only to me but to all of us, because that was
to form the basic condition for our further work, there
followed a still stronger influence in the Reich Cabinet.
New National Socialists received positions as Ministers. New
Ministries were created. In addition came a number of new
basic laws.

It was indeed clear to everyone - there could be no doubt in
the mind of anybody who had concerned himself with German
conditions, either abroad or, especially, in Germany-that we
would finish off the Communist Party as quickly as possible.
It was an absolutely necessary consequence that it should be
prohibited. We were convinced that if the Communist Party,
which was the strongest next to us, had succeeded in coming
to power it would certainly not have taken any National
Socialists into its Cabinet or tolerated them elsewhere. We
were aware that we would have been eliminated in an entirely
different manner.

A further point in the consolidation of power was to
eliminate to a certain extent the Reichstag as a Parliament,
at least for a period of time during the reorganisation,
because of its increased influence until then. This took
place through the fact that we had an absolute majority in
the Reichstag after the new election. In some cases we
suggested to the former Parties that they dissolve
themselves, because they no longer had any purpose, and
those which would not dissolve themselves were dissolved by
us. I was speaking of the Communist Party and the Social
Democratic Party. Beyond that, we wanted finally to fulfil
an old, old longing of the German people and now not only
appear to have the structure of a Reich, but, finally,
really become a unified German Reich. This outer purpose was
served by firmly establishing the Reich idea and the Reich's
power throughout the countless provinces. If it had been
difficult for a fervent German patriot to get along with a
heap of petty princes before the First World War, it was
even worse with those who took their places, for in the
place of one small will there now appeared the various Party-
bound offices.

In the Reich there was a majority based on one thing; in
Prussia, on another, in Bavaria, on yet another; and in
Hesse, on something quite different. It was impossible in
this manner to establish Reich sovereignty and a Reich which
could be great again.

Therefore I suggested to the Fuehrer to dissolve and get rid
of the State Parliaments as a matter of principle. In
Prussia I therewith began the elimination of State
Parliaments, which I considered entirely superfluous, for
the simple reason that the principle "Reich sovereignty
overrules State" was already in force. I saw no reason why
so many different authorities should exist which, with their
unnecessary frictions and discussions, merely hindered
constructive work. Yet, however much I wanted to see and
make the Reich structurally unified, I and the Fuehrer
always supported, above all, the idea that within the German
States and provinces (Gaue) cultural life should remain many-
sided and bound to local traditions; that is to say, all the
old centres of culture, which, as is well known, had formed
around Munich, Dresden, Weimar and so on, should continue to
exist in this direction and to be supported.

For the further consolidation of power those laws were
created which would first of all eliminate any further
obstacle to progress; that is to say, on the basis of
paragraph 48, the law did away with the so-called freedoms.
The conception of these freedoms is a matter of controversy.
The "Law for the Protection of People and State" was
created, a law which was most urgently needed. In the past
years much had been prohibited which could have constituted
or simulated patriotic activity, yet it had been permissible
to defame senselessly the German people, Germany's history,
the German State and those symbols and

                                                   [Page 75]
                                                            
objects
which are, after all, very holy things to a patriot; these
had not been protected in any way.

It is a matter of course that in connection with the concept
of "Co-ordination" which arose at this time, very many
unnecessary and excessive things were done, for after the
seizure of power the whole movement developed along
revolutionary lines. Even if this was not in the sense of
revolutions as they had been known in history until then,
such as the French Revolution, or the great Bolshevist
Revolution - that is to say, not in the sense of great
fights and bloody changes, revolutionary tribunals that
executed people by the hundreds of thousands - still it was
carried through with a strong revolutionary aim in the
direction of unity of State, Party and National Socialism as
the basis of leadership and of ideology.

This "Co-ordination" which I have just mentioned, then, took
place by degrees; but, as I have said, when there are such
strong political transformations some people will always go
beyond the goal. Personally, I did not consider it necessary
that every organisation should now become National Socialist
or that - if I am to express myself quite drastically -
every club or similar organisation should be compelled to
have a National Socialist chairman. But in decisive
political matters, and in matters of principle, our ideas
and our ideology had to be recognised more and more, for
that was the basic condition for a reorganisation, an
establishment, and a strengthening of the Reich.

An additional strengthening, which occurred only after the
death of Reich President von Hindenburg in 1934, was the
consolidation of the Head of the State and the Reich
Chancellor in one person. To this I should like to add that,
on this occasion, I had a long conversation with the Milner.
Right from the beginning we discussed whether Hitler would
and should take over the position of the Head of the State,
and whether I should take over the Chancellorship. In view
of the Fuehrer's temperament and attitude it was unthinkable
that he, sitting on a throne above the political clouds so
to speak, should appear only as the Head of the State. He
was definitely a political leader and hence a leader of the
Government. Also, the thought of putting in some other
person as a puppet Head of the State was one which we
considered unworthy of the situation.

The Fuehrer told me then, that the simplest thing to do
would be to take as example the United States of America,
where the Head of the State is at the same time also the
Head of the Government. Thus, following the example of the
United States, we united the position of the Head of the
State and the head of the Government, under the name of
"Fuehrer of the German people and Reich Chancellor of the
German Reich."

That he, thereby, automatically became also the Commander-in-
Chief of the German Armed Forces followed as a matter of
course, according to the Constitution, and also according to
the previous Constitution, just as is also the case in other
nations.

Those are in broad lines - if I may disregard a number of
other developments which probably will have to be mentioned
later in my testimony, as, for instance, the establishment
of police power - the basic elements of the consolidation of
power.

In conclusion, I wish to say: (1) It is correct that I - and
I can speak only for myself - did everything which was at
all within my personal power to strengthen the National
Socialist movement, and to increase it, and have worked
unceasingly to bring it to power under all circumstances and
as the one and only power. (2) I did everything in order to
secure the Fuehrer the place as Reich Chancellor which
rightfully belonged to him. (3) When I look back, I believe
I did not fail to do anything in order to consolidate our
power to such an extent that it would not have to yield to
the coincidences of the political game or to violent
undertakings, but would rather, in the further course of
reorganisation,

                                                   [Page 76]

become the only factor of power which would lead the Reich
and lead it, as we hoped, to a great development.



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