The Story of Otto Strasser
 
Nemesis? 


 
by Douglas Reed 

             
published: 1940

                 
Unfortunately we could only obtain the first five chapters of this significant book. 

 

Revolution vs. Reaction  by Troy Southgate  by Troy Southgate

Revolutionary Socialist leader

     
OTTO STRASSER

Preface This book is about a German, Otto Strasser; having elbowed myself to the front of the stage in two books, I take the part, in this one, of compère - the man who opens the show, is often seen lurking in the wings while it progresses, and from time to time, between the scenes, comes to the front of the stage to remind you that he is there, that he holds the show together, and that it would not be complete without him. Now that war has come, and the great question which engrossed our thoughts for many years has been answered, new thoughts crowd to the foreground of our minds, and foremost among them, the question, 'What Germany will come of this war?' In the search for the answer to it, Otto Strasser, of whom few people in Britain had heard till war came, becomes a figure of importance.

He may play a great part in answering this question. I say may, because war is less predictable than peace; it is the high-tension cable broken loose, thrashing about in all directions, you never know where, how, or whom it will strike; the switchboard is no longer in control.

Many writers have shown that the events leading to this war, and the war itself, could be exactly foretold: it was their trade, and they were as well able to do this as a doctor is able, from specific symptoms, to foretell the course of some diseases; and Lord Halifax, though he expressed in this phrase the average state of mind of many Britishers, only clothed a fallacy in words that sounded convincing when he once said 'We distrust people who forecast precisely the course of coming events'. This is a useful phrase to justify procrastination and non-exertion, nothing more.

Politics, in peacetime, are an exact science - to those who know politicians. War, 'the pursuit of politics with other means', draws a smoke-screen across the future. But this much I would wager now, at the dawn of 1940: that Germany will not emerge from this war a State ruled in absolute authority by Adolf Hitler and victorious over all enemies. Coming months or the next year or two will bring changes in Germany, and new men will begin to take a hand in the leadership of the Reich. That will not be the end of our troubles - perhaps only their beginning.

Otto Strasser has many qualifications and some chances, if he seizes them. Not many years ago Hitler, enthroned to-day on the lonely peaks of power, was obscure; Otto Strasser to-day is a little-known exile, but before long he may tread the upward path.

After reaching manhood - which for my non-stop generation meant the first outbreak of the present war, in 1914 - I lived longer, at one stretch, in Germany than in any other country, including my own. The study of that strange Jekyll-and-Hyde country, the bane of our times, engrosses me. Some months before the present instalment of the war broke out, feeling that it was certainly coming, I began to think about and read about Otto Strasser, for I believed that when it came that lost legion of the Germans, the exiles, would immediately begin to grow in importance, and among the most important of them was this Otto Strasser. At that time my mind was already browsing on conjecture about the Germany that would succeed Hitler's Germany; but at that time the British public mind did not look so far forward, or this book might have appeared earlier.

When the second outbreak of this war came, his name was, in fact, at once heard, stimulating my interest even more, and an idea became an intention. In evening strolls through subdued, but not blacked-out Paris streets, where shuttered shops showed the way that war, for the third time almost within living memory, had drained the city of its manhood; in quiet meals in Paris restaurants, among elderly gentlemen who wore fine natural tonsures and were accompanied by fur-coated blondes; in long afternoons and evenings of unremitting work in hotel bedrooms I studied and questioned and debated with Otto Strasser, learned of his struggles in the past and his plans for the future.

The result engrossed me and left me with an ungovernable itch to write. Not entirely on account of Otto Strasser's political beliefs and plans; not entirely, even, on account of his personality, though I was happy and stimulated in his company, and got along very well with him, as I often do with individual Germans; but on account of the content of his life, which aroused in me all the instincts of the teller-of-tales and made me impatient for my typewriter.

I lived again, in those Parisian hours, the life of a man of The Other Side; a life far more adventurous than my own, which has not been dull; the life of another man of our raging contemporary times, buffeted by all the winds that blow. A life, to me, far more absorbing than Hitler's life. With and through him, I felt again the pulse of that seething, turbulent Germany that gives us all no rest, of that repellent and fascinating land where I spent many years.

The tale is told in this book. Otto Strasser's adventures and his political thought interest me alike. It is for me a new undertaking to write another man's life and explain another man's mind, for I have so much to say myself. I shall probably have to restrain myself by force from rushing on to the stage from time to time and elbowing the chief player aside. Somebody wrote of an earlier book of mine that my great fault in it was to shake the fist of my personality in the reader's face, and that probably was its chief merit. Nevertheless, short of an apoplexy, I shall achieve some measure of self-effacement this time.

The tale I have to tell is an important one. Hitler has nearly played his part. He long has curdled our blood. He has been like a Silly Symphony Napoleon with a live bomb in his pocket; it was as if the grotesque child of some comic artist's pen had suddenly stepped out of the screen and advanced upon a spellbound audience, firing real bullets from his gun.

A few more melodramatic postures and gestures and harangues, and he will be gone. From the wings already peep the candidates for the succession, chief among them two men: Göring, fat, Falstaffian, Neronic, ruthless, cunning, world-famous; and Otto Strasser, poor, unknown, outlawed, undaunted. They both mean you, just as Austria and Czechoslovakia and Poland meant you. I wrote that in Insanity Fair and Disgrace Abounding, and it has come true. This is just as true.

Your courage, your resolution, your this-and-that, will not help you if your rulers lose the peace. If they do that, your last state will be worse than your first, the going of the man Hitler will not profit you, your sufferings and your sacrifices and courage in this new war will be in vain, even your victory in it will be in vain, the next twenty years will be even worse than the last. The peace-to-come is even more important than the war, and in your own lives you now have seen what it means to lose a peace, or rather, wantonly to throw away a victory, just from dislike of exertion and of a stitch-in-time, from putting your trust in a burglar out of fear of a bogyman.

This is the importance of the tale that is told in this book.

 

Chapter One 

DESERTED VILLAGE 

I homed to England, after many years abroad, in the spring of 1939. I had seen the invasions of Austria and Czecho-Slovakia and, as I came through Poland on my homeward way, clearly saw that that country would be the next victim, and I wrote this in Disgrace Abounding. I knew then, and also wrote, that our inevitable dilemma, the dilemma our foreign policy had made inevitable, now lay close before us: either we must go to war with Germany, or we must capitulate and have the Germans in London. I saw that only a few months would pass before this decision forced itself upon us, and I decided to use that time to look at England, to try and understand the mind of a country that was my own, my native land, and yet was more perplexing to me than any foreign one. I could not begin to understand the slothful scepticism which had defeated every effort to awaken the country to the danger and thus to avert war. I could not understand the fear of exertion which seemed to underlie that state of mind. I could not understand the way the country, on the one hand, passively allowed itself to drift towards an avoidable war, and, on the other hand, permitted an enormous influx of unassimilable aliens whose intention clearly was, when that war came, to burrow into the places vacated by the young men of Britain who would again be sent to fight.

Already, the state of England after the war that loomed ahead was full of menacing shadows, but there seemed as little hope of awakening public opinion to these dangers as there had been of awakening it to the oncoming peril of war itself. The things that were best in England were being buried under an imported, alien way of life and way of thinking that made itself ever more master of literature and the Press, the stage and the films, radio and the menu, art, parliamentary debates - everything.

We were going to war again to keep England's shores inviolate, and at the same time we were opening these shores to an alien influx the like of which they had never seen. Maddest of all, the craziest thing that I ever saw even in the madhouse Insanity Fair, we were about to give these newcomers preferential treatment in our own land over the country's own sons; they were to be put into posts liberated by the young men who went off to war, and at the price of 'joining-up' themselves they could even acquire British citizenship - but the condition of that 'joining-up', set out in black and white, was that they never should be sent to the front! Their lives were to be preserved at all cost, so that they could live in peace and prosperity in England after the war; and simultaneously the lives of young Englishmen were once more to be squandered.

No words are adequate to describe this lunacy. I had seen the thing coming and written this, in Disgrace Abounding, and now it had come. Both the things I had foreseen and feared had come - the war, which would take another British generation off to battle, and the alien influx, which would rot the roots of British life still further. It was a cheerless prospect. At that rate, we should not be better off after the war, whether we won or lost it; but for the new comers, it was heads-we-win and tails-you-lose. I had seen them playing with that coin in Berlin and Vienna.

We seemed to have tied ourselves inseparably to a policy of adding one mistake to another. The state of England did not bode well.

So, in that discontented summer, I set out on a series of English journeys, and shall describe the things I saw in another book. To a patriot in search of his homeland, they were not reassuring; rather, they deepened his fears, and after this war, if the same policy be continued, you will see that they were well-founded. These journeys showed me many things, and led me to strange places, and one of these places, where I made up my mind to write a book about Otto Strasser, was the strangest of all.

Turning things over in my mind, I went along a lonely stretch of coast and suddenly came upon Goldsmith's Deserted Village, a weird, spectral place hidden beneath the cliff until you suddenly encountered it.

A ruined inn; roofless and wall-less houses; gaping and shingle-buried streets; an odd flower poking its head through the débris to show where a garden had been; fragments of ancient wall-paper; rusty grates, where fires once had warmed tired fishermen; a chicken or two pecking about; a solitary, tousle-headed woman, with a bright eye and one tooth in her head, who leaned against a wall and watched me as I came. The most uncanny place, where the crunching of my feet on the shingle took on a disturbing and disquieting sound, although the sun was still high.

I saw the longing for talk lurking like an eager dog in the old woman's eye and greeted her, and she gave me a 'Good-day, master', and told me the story, a simple one. This was a busy fishing village and one night came a great wave, the like of which none had ever seen, and just wrecked the village where it stood; nobody had been killed, but the fishermen all elected to have new houses built by the Government in a safer spot, a mile or so away up on the cliffs and out of sight, and so all had fled - all save she.

She chose, she did not tell me why, to have her house rebuilt where it stood and now she had lived these many years, all alone, in the one sound house in that wrecked hamlet. The bathing was good, and in the summer she had a few lodgers; and follow-my-nose sometimes led an odd motorist to her door, to whom she sold a cup of tea, but that was stopped now, because the authorities thought the little road down from the cliff-top dangerous and had put a bar across it, so that follow-my-nose stopped at the top and never scented the ruined village below. And now the war on top of that, and no holidaymakers. And the blackout on top of that.

The blackout! Among these ruins, her one window had shone yellow of nights, spilled its reflection into the waves that nearly lapped her door. Through that window, she could see the great light at the headland a mile distant, that now in war, as in peace, cast its rolling eye for ever round and round, winking to all who wanted to know, British fishing boat and peeping German submarine alike, 'Here I am, Shingle Head; here I am, Shingle Head; Here I am, Shingle Head ...'

The light had kept her company. But now she might see it no more, of nights. For although all the visitors had gone, and winter was nigh, and she seldom saw a soul, still the blackout man had been down and told her to douse that light. How the Big Light laughed, when the Little Light, its companion those many years, went out! Now she sat all alone, in her little room in the one sound house in the ruined village, surrounded by those brick-and-mortar ghosts, and had blacked-out her little window. She had not gas-proofed her little room; she was not educated enough for that. But how she hated the blackout.

'Do you take lodgers at this time of year?' I said, when she finished.

'Yes, master', she said wonderingly.

'Well, I'm doing nothing for a day or two, so I'll come in, said I, I have a job of thinking to do, anyway.'

It was a strange lodging. 'Well, stap me and Heil Hitler,' I thought, when I surveyed it. It was nearly as damp as a well, but then, it was not much wider than a church door, and I had been in worse, though not in stranger places.

A good place to think. I thought about the war, and what would come after it, leaned against the breakwater, stirred the shingle with my foot, watched the seagulls. And at night we talked, and how we talked.

We agreed that the fishermen were right; the Big Wave had been caused by the county authorities taking too much sand from the foreshore; hadn't we always said that would lead to no good; we talked about the German cook at the hotel up on the cliff, who had yielded to the entreaties of all who knew her not to leave them because of the war; and we agreed that, all things considered, if it had been us we would probably have gone home, no matter how they coaxed us; and the things we said about the blackout! The old lady celebrated the festival of Saint Garrulous; she liked it.

And so did I, but at last I said, 'I'm going now, I'm going to write a book, about England and Germany, and Göring and Otto Strasser, and how this war is going to end, and what will come after it, and I'll probably come and stay with you again about Christmas, so good-bye.'

'Well, I'm sorry you're going, master,' she said, 'you was good company for me. And are you going to write a book, out of your head?'

'I am, I said, 'I'm a slave to the habit. Some people can take books or leave them alone, but I'm not like that. I'm like the alcoholic subject, whose next drink is always going to be his last. I'm always full to bursting with Treppenwitze.'

'What's that?' she asked.

'The joke you think of after the party, when you're going downstairs', I said. 'The things you wish you'd said. But I have the advantage of those tardy jesters - I always go back and work off my jokes, in another book. None can escape me, and here I go.'

'Well, that's interesting,' she said, raking me with her bright but empty eye, 'good-bye, master'.

I felt that eye in the middle of my back as I walked up the cliff path. At the top I turned and waved. She stood at the door of her house, among the skeletons of the homes of her childhood's friends, and the chickens pecked about her feet.

I took train and ship for France, to seek Otto Strasser. The train dawdled. The ship waited for hours before even setting forth, and as all the cabins were monopolized I spent the night walking the deck. The next day, I was in France, revelling in a glass of Dubonnet, a mouthful of mushroom omelet, a half-pint of Clicquot, a marvellous contrecarrée, a morsel of Brie, a coffee, and a Grand Marnier. 0, land of gastronomic perfection, of the art of living.

I strolled awhile about Paris, happy as a sandboy. The streets, for me, were full of the ghosts of the British Army that rolled roaring down from the line in 1918 to celebrate victory. Victory! Holy umbrellas!

I thus took a quick, deep breath of Paris, and then wandered off to Montparnasse in search of Otto Strasser. Eventually I found him in a modest room in a small hotel in a back street.

I had seen men in exile who became kings. I had seen kings who became men in exile. I had seen presidents in palaces and in cheap lodgings. I had seen politicians rise and fall like the bobbing celluloid ball on the water-spray at the shooting galleries. Here was a man who had just missed playing a big part, a man who had called Hitler a fraud when all others were acclaiming him a genius, a man whose time to play a big part again might soon be coming.

I plunged myself into the study of this man, Otto Strasser, and here he is.

Ring up the curtain!

 

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Chapter Two 

SKETCH FOR A PORTRAIT 

The man whose picture is the frontispiece to this book is Otto Strasser. It is the best one I could find. In others, which I rejected, the photographers gave him the glowering glance, the clamped lips affected by all the dictators of our and other times, the mien of the strong-man-candidate-for-the-succession. Otto Strasser may be that, but he does not customarily wear that familiar visage. His habitual expression is one of vigour but also of smiling friendliness, and I do not mean that he smiles and smiles, but his natural disposition is a cheerful and hearty one. He has not the inner hatred of life and of his fellow men which is Hitler's driving instinct and which gives Hitler that suspicion-filled, my-hand-against-every-man's, don't-you-try-to-take-a-rise-out-of-me look.

Strasser is much more of a fighter than Hitler; no man could picture him dissolving into tearful self-commiseration at a setback or at the thought that the ultimate enemy of all men, the Marxist Death, cannot be put in a concentration camp; he revels even in a fight that is going badly, though in his heart is an unrelenting hatred of men who owe him a debt written in blood, and if they come into his power they will pay in the coin they took.

But that is not written in his face, because his inner man is not like this, and for that reason the picture is not good. Twenty-five years of struggle, betrayal, disappointed hopes, embitterment, of unflagging pursuit and narrow escape, have not chiselled hatred in his features, as it is chiselled in the features of men who have reached the highest peaks of power. He remains a merry fellow, who lives hard, loves hard, eats and drinks with enjoyment, carries on his one-man war with gusto, never forgets his revolver, has a long score to settle, loves his country, and likes to laugh.

He is the opposite of everything that Hitler is - Hitler the éclair-eater who preaches the spartan life; Hitler the celibate who preaches big families; Hitler the chauffeur-driven and chauffeur-piloted armchair-sitter who preaches sport and physical exercise; Hitler the non-smoker, non-drinker and non-meat-eater who leads one of the heaviest-eating and heaviest-drinking nations in Europe; Hitler who preaches the fight-to-a-finish and orders unbeaten battleships to scuttle themselves. Hitler, who wrote Mein Kampf, has known little struggle in his life; he was carried in a sedan chair by an Al Capone bodyguard to the summits of power. Strasser has never stopped fighting, since 1914.

I should call him a typical German - not in the sense in which the term is currently used by Britishers who do not know Germany and who have in mind something rather fat, rather coarse, and over-portentous. The term, a typical Englishman, used by people of the same kind in Germany, also has an uncomplimentary significance; English people would be genuinely startled to know that the German often finds in their physiognomy something that reminds him of the Raubtier, the carnivore.

I lived very long in Germany and mean, by a typical German, an inexplicable mixture of good and bad, of staunchness, vigour, industry, thrift, humour, talent; and of brutality, envy and insensitiveness. The Germans, incidentally, have a particularly keen sense of humour, and I often wish that my countrypeople, who almost completely lack this, would learn from them.[1]

A good pointer to the difference between the character of a Strasser and that of a Hitler, who is not typical of any one people but is more unlike the Germans than almost any other race I know, is given by Dr. Hermann Rauschning, once an intimate of Hitler, in his book Hitler Speaks, in reference to Gregor Strasser, Otto's brother.

           Strasser

'In Danzig and in most of Northern Germany, Gregor Strasser had always been more esteemed than Hitler himself. Hitler's nature was incomprehensible to the North German. The big, broad Strasser, on the other hand, a hearty eater and a hearty drinker too, slightly self-indulgent, practical, clear-headed, quick to act, lacking bombast and pathos, with a sound peasant judgment: this was a man we could all understand. I had been present at the last meeting of leaders before our seizure of power, in Weimar, in the autumn of 1932. Gregor Strasser gave the meeting its character. Hitler was lost in a sea of despondency and accusations on the top of the Obersalzberg. The party's position was desperate. Strasser was calm, and with assurance and quiet confidence, succeeded in quenching the feeling that the party was at its last gasp. It was he who led the party. To all practical purposes, Hitler had abdicated.'

Here you have, also, a good picture of Otto Strasser, for the two brothers were much alike. But for intrigues and stiletto-work that outdid the medieval Italian courts and the gang-wars of Chicago, the Strassers, and not Hitler, might have become the leaders of Germany. Germany would then never have known the orgasms of hysterical, mock-patriotic self-pity and self-applause which she knew under Hitler; but she and Europe would probably have been spared war. The time may be coming soon for Otto Strasser to take up his brother's work.

Otto was a good-looking lad and young man, as the pictures of him in his recruit and officer days will show you. Now he is in his middle age, nearly bald, but filled with that unquenchable energy which astonishes all foreigners, and exhausts many, when they deal with Germans. I am no laggard worker; but after hours and hours of discussion and debate and research and comparing notes, I often had to cry halt when Otto Strasser seemingly was just getting into his stride. I like and admire this terrific energy, which also fills Otto Strasser's greatest adversary and rival, Hermann Göring. It is some product of the German climate and the German way of life.

Consider Otto Strasser now, as he goes with a quick stride through obscure Paris streets. Average height; rather bulky, rather stocky; a heavyish, German-looking overcoat; a bow-at-the-back, German-looking hat. You would hardly notice him, yet he may force himself on your notice. In the marionette-theatre that is our world, the unseen hand, Destiny, has of late been tugging gently at the strings of this figure, testing them to feel if they are in good condition.

This man alone, among the men who left Germany, fought! The exiles dispersed to a score of countries. Some subsided quietly into complete oblivion. Others, and particularly the Jewish exiles, began a deafening war of words. None so bold as they - in the press and radio of Paris and London.

But this man took up the fight, a one-man-fight against Hitler. Whatever he is, whether he become powerful or not, he could with truth and justice write a book of his labours and call it Mein Kampf - for this was a Kampf. A fight against fog and frost, against police and passports, against secret pursuers and perjured friends, against gunmen and kidnappers, against poverty and vilification, against poison and bullets.

Whether luck and his own qualities will bring him to the place he strives for, I do not know. When I first met him, he was reading a book about Napoleon, and in a more intimate moment I said to him, I hope you are not developing Napoleonitis?' which made him smile. He often spoke of the new Germany that he would like to build as The Fourth Reich and, again, I wondered; a good new name is better than a revised edition of a discredited old one. And once he told me that his whole, carefully-thought-out and detailed plan for the structure of that new Reich came to him suddenly and vision-like, and, as we are nearly dying of a surfeit of Hitler's visions, I felt dubious.

But the future is his, to make or miss. His past story is so full of effort and courage that it commands respect and deserves its record. If he reaches his mark, it will pass into history, form the stuff of a hundred biographies. If he fails, it is nevertheless a thundering good story.

 

Chapter Three 

THE STARTING GUN 

Otto Strasser's life really began, like those of most male Europeans born around the turn of the century, with the outbreak of war in 1914. Since its adjournment, in 1918, he has had, as the little boy said, two minutes peace each year. He was carried by it into the vortex of those turbulent years which still hold us captive. The aspect, to-day, of the quiet family circle in which he grew up is typical of the lot of that generation. His eldest brother, Gregor, is dead, killed by the man he made, Hitler. His second brother, Paul, is a Benedictine monk, until lately in Belgium; life in Germany was made impossible for him and he was fortunate to escape unscathed. Paul's experience is worth recording. After Hitler's advent to power, he took a party of young Germans on a pilgrimage to Rome, was attacked in the press for this, and on his return arrested at the frontier. Being released, he gave his captors no second chance, but went to Austria, and from there, a little before Hitler's invasion, to Belgium.

Otto himself is an exile, outlaw, hunted these many years from land to land. His youngest brother, born ten years after himself, a lawyer by profession, is an infantry subaltern in Hitler's army. His brother-in-law, the husband of his younger and only sister, is a colonel in that army. Gregor, Paul and Otto all served as officers in the 1914-18 war.

Otto Strasser was born on September 10th, 1897, at Windsheim in Bavaria; nine years earlier, Adolf Hitler was born not far away, at Braunau, just across the Austrian frontier. Yet a world of difference separated these two men. To understand a man, you need to know his roots. No man can trace Hitler's roots. The roots of Otto Strasser were three: a deep German patriotism, an inherited religious feeling, and strong Socialist convictions, partly inherited.

These three things made the grown man. Patriotism was fostered by the country of his birth, that loveliest and noblest countryside in all Germany, the Franconian provinces of Bavaria. Here one fine town neighbours another. Rothenburg, the finest surviving example of a medieval town, with its walls and towers, lay a few miles away; his mother came from Dinkelsbühl, which in beauty vies with Rothenburg, and grew up there in the famous wooden Deutsches Haus, which tourists from all the world come to see, for her father had an inn in that ancestral home of a Bavarian noble family. Otto Strasser's grandfather was another great link with the life of Bavaria, where beer is a second religion, and marvellous beer it is too, for he was a well-to-do peasant and owned a brewery. A fine countryside, this, where Otto Strasser grew up; the foreigner may seek his life long, and fail to account for the contrast between these noble cities, this thriving and well-farmed land, and the things that the State, Germany, does.

The people of these parts are devout Catholics, and the Strassers belonged to them in this as in all else. Here grew the root of his religious feeling.

The third of Otto Strasser's roots, the political root came in a curious way.

Political thought, like the fruits of nature, flourishes in Franconia, which has supplied more famous German politicians than any other German land, among them Stein, Metternich, Baron von Dahlberg, Franz von Sickingen, Ulrich von Hutten and Florian Geyer. Otto Strasser's father was, outwardly, the model of a quiet, diligent, middle-rank civil servant in the judicial service. But in his heart he was a revolutionary Socialist - on a Christian, not a Marxist basis.

His mind, behind his sober, workaday outer man, was discontented with the things his eye saw, in a world of courts and pomp, and he wrote, and published anonymously, as a civil servant must if he wishes to print his thoughts, a book called Der Neue Weg (The New Way) which set forth his political ideas for A New Germany. Nearly all Germans, at that time and for long after, were thinking about that New Germany; not much later, young Adolf Hitler was to start thinking about it, too. The book was published under the pseudonym of Paul Weger - a half-pun on its author's name, Peter Strasser.

The political itch left him no rest, and he afterwards wrote a second book, but his wife caught him at it. She was a typical official's wife, with the passion of the female defending her young for the safe, prosaic existence, with a pension at the end of it, which her husband could look forward to, as a government servant, if he kept his mouth shut and his views to himself. The sounds of loud scolding might have been heard in the home of the Strassers at this time, and the end was that Peter Strasser, a man of peace, gave up his project and locked his manuscript away.

But here was the political germ, which, for all the good Hausfrau's antagonism, presently reappeared in the blood of his sons. Exactly the same dispute repeated itself in the life of Otto Strasser at a later date and led to his divorce from his first wife (his present marriage is his third.) Otto Strasser, unlike his father, emerged victor in this household strife, and parted company from his wife rather than abandon his political convictions. He was the revolutionary Socialist resolute; his father, the revolutionary Socialist frustrated. For these reasons Peter Strasser always took Otto Strasser's part in his later disputes.

I have recorded these things because they explain the man, Otto Strasser, of to-day: a South German homeland, a religious upbringing, an inherited political interest.

The rest, until the starting gun sounded, is almost irrelevant, but not quite. He left school in 1913 and, because his father could not afford to pay more fees than those he was already paying for Gregor at the university and Paul at a grammar school, Otto became an apprentice in a textile factory.

'A terrible year', he says, 'six months in the counting house, six months in the workshops.' In the first he learned only to fill the inkpots (typewriters had not then reached the factory), copy the letters, fetch their food for the clerks and workmen at 10 o'clock, and stick on stamps. And in the second six months, in the factory itself, he learned to pack things up. 'I can make a wonderful parcel to-day and have never forgotten this.' In September 1914 he was to have resumed his studies, for which the fees were now available - but the starting-gun sounded.

Otto Strasser was 16 years and 10 months old. On August 2nd, 1914, he reported himself as a volunteer in Augsburg; Hitler reported on the same day, in Munich. Strasser wanted to be a light cavalryman - those long overcoats, those heavy sabres, those clanking spurs! - but after being locked in a riding school with 300 other volunteers for three days, and forgotten, he broke out and was accepted by the Fourth Artillery Regiment, on six weeks probation, because he was weakly! The six weeks lengthened into five years.

He was a boy of sixteen. This was the most formative period of his life. Though the war only steeled his love of Germany, and his feeling for the German army, he thinks to-day with horror of his experiences as a recruit and young soldier in Imperial Germany. His description of them deepens the eternal perplexity of the foreigner at the duality of the German character, at the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of a people in which the highest military and civic qualities are seen side by side with a bestial brutality.

Strasser was passionately a soldier at heart, but regards the non-commissioned-officers of that day as the most repulsive beings he has known. Among the 300 men in his unit were some 180 students, and the non-commissioned-officers vented their especial spleen on these in ways which left him with an ineradicable loathing of a class of man now best represented among the senior Brown Army commanders.

Let Strasser describe some of these scenes for himself. 'One Saturday afternoon in October 1914, when we were all due for leave in the town, had our best uniforms on and the girls waiting outside, an enormously corpulent sergeant-major had us all on parade and shouted, "Those who speak English or French, parade on the right; those who play the piano, on the left". At that time Turkey had just entered the war and in our innocence we thought that men who could understand the orders, given in French or English, of Turkish officers might be wanted for service with the Orient Army, so most of us rushed to volunteer. Then the sergeant-major, inflating his paunch and regarding us malevolently, said, "So, and now the piano-players can get to work scrubbing the floors, and the conceited intellectuals on the right may spend the afternoon cleaning the closets. The others can go out. Dismiss!" From that day, I never again paraded my intellectual attainments in the army. I went off to the closets, found them stopped-up and in a disgusting condition, and asked the shoemaker-corporal to give me a long piece of strong wire with a hook at the end to help me in cleaning them. While I was doing this, a corporal came up behind me, and said: "What are you doing?" I reported most obediently, "I am cleaning the closets, according to orders". "You conceited intellectual swine, get down on your knees and do it with your hands, like a soldier." I was compelled to lie down full length in this filth and clean it with my bare hands. Since that day I have a hatred of these people which nothing can kill.

They are the SS men of to-day. The SS spirit was born there.'

(The 'SS man' of whom Strasser speaks is the black-uniformed member of the Schutzstaffel, formerly the élite corps of the Brown Army, later used for concentration camp duty, beatings-up, killings, and espionage on the home-front in general.)

'Stables' was sounded at four o'clock in the morning, and the straw had then to be cleaned. Strasser hit on the idea of taking a pitchfork and lifting the straw with it, so that the droppings fell through and the clean straw remained. Again came the corporal, with his abuse of the 'damned intellectuals', and ordered this work, too, to he done with the hands. One such man compelled a young recruit to drink from a spittoon; the lad never got over this, and shot himself.

These things are almost beyond belief, but they happened in Germany, and here you have them from the lips of a German patriot. I knew of them, and many other foreigners knew of them, and saw that this spirit, this scum, would come to the top if Hitler's National Socialism prevailed. It did; and although I do not believe that such things occur in the German Army to-day, they have reappeared, as Otto Strasser says with perfect truth, in another form - the bestialities of the SS and their concentration camps. (I wrote almost exactly the same thing in Insanity Fair.)

Strasser's worst experience was at the hands of a sergeant who particularly hated him, apparently on the same ground, that he was an 'intellectual'.

At the front, in a battery position, in April 1915, this man compelled Strasser to clean his top-boots at four o'clock every morning, first excreting in them so that he should not himself have to go out in the cold. Later, in a reserve position, he put Strasser, though he was a bombardier and had nothing to do with the horses, to cleaning horses so lice-ridden that some of them had to be destroyed. The man on this duty became covered with lice at the first stroke of the brush, with the result that his comrades would not allow him in the dugout and he had to sleep in the open. An officer found Strasser thus, trying to sleep, heard the story, gave orders that he should never he put to this duty again, and gave the sergeant fourteen days field punishment. When he came out, he encountered Strasser and advanced on him, roaring, in the untranslatable and unprintable jargon of the parade-ground terror of those days, 'I'll smear your brains on the wall for this'.

Strasser drew his revolver and was prepared to shoot, whereon the sergeant shouted, 'Now I've got you, you ----', and had him court martialled. But Strasser was acquitted and the sergeant again punished.

This story had a sequel. In January 1918 Strasser was a battery-commander at the front and received a draft, including this man. He told him, quietly, that the old incident was forgotten, but that if he ever caught him mishandling a bombardier he would have him degraded. The battery sergeant-major was given instructions particularly to watch this man, who later was caught at the same trick. He came before a court martial, was degraded, and received five years penal servitude.

Otto Strasser was seventeen years old when these things happened. They are important, in a man who may come to the forefront of affairs - because they explain and give truth to the words he utters to-day: 'Since that time I have an undying hatred of militarism, as opposed to the calling of a soldier, which is something quite different.' They also explain his hatred of Hitlerism, which for him means Germany in the grip of the men who treated him thus in 1914.

In October 1914, fearing that he would not reach the front before the war ended, he volunteered, though a trained artilleryman by now, for transfer to the infantry. At that time the Sixth Bavarian Reserve Infantry Division consisted of four regiments, the 16th, 17th, 20th and 21st. Adolf Hitler was serving in the 16th, as a headquarters orderly, behind the front. Strasser was posted to the 20th, and, just seventeen years old, went into the trenches in Flanders, with British troops, at first the Sikhs, against him, at Wytschaete and Warneton.

More than half the volunteers were students, of Strasser's age or thereabouts. They went into battle like the picture-book heroes, singing Deutschland über Alles, and at Warneton Strasser's company lost seven-tenths of its men. 'The English fire,' he says, 'was deadly.'

There he lay until March 1915. Then his battalion was rushed off towards the Russian front, in night marches so cold and exhausting that the coffee in the water-bottles froze and the men collapsed by the roadside, and the threats of officers, with brandished swords and revolvers, could not move them. They slept like the dead for twenty-four hours in a disused factory - and were rushed back to hold the great British attack at Neuve Chapelle.

In March 1915 Strasser was re-transferred to the artillery, and, after the court martial, sent up to Armentières, where he won the Iron Cross, Second Class, during a British attack in the late summer. By September 1915 he was sergeant; then in May 1916 he was seriously wounded by a shell splinter; on Christmas Eve 1916, as he was preparing to celebrate the festival, he was ordered by telegram to join a newly-formed section, the Third, of the First Bavarian Reserve Artillery Regiment. At Verdun, he was in charge of his battery's telephones; by May 1917 he was a warrant officer; and in October 1917, artillery lieutenant.

Hard fighting; on that muddy Western Front, where the great armies lay locked in each other's grip. Now began his service as a German officer, and to-day his hatred for the non-commissioned-officers of that time is equalled by his admiration for the German Officers' Corps. Here, he found in many things a truer democracy and a finer spirit. Here, he found the calling of a soldier.

His battery commander was Count von Hertling, a nephew of the German Chancellor of the same name about that time. Otto Strasser gives the following example of the spirit he admires:

'No candidate was admitted to the Officers' Corps, that is, to the rank of lieutenant, without the unanimous agreement of all officers in the unit. It was thus like a club, and the rule was most jealously held. Without such a unanimous proposal from the Officers' Corps, the King of Bavaria himself' (Strasser served throughout in the Bavarian Army) 'could not appoint an officer. The then Bavarian War Minister was much annoyed that his son, the ensign Count X, was not made an officer. The colonel of the regiment asked Count von Hertling, the battery commander, why he would not propose him, and Hertling answered "He is incapable, cowardly, of no use to us". A few weeks later came an urgent telegram from the Bavarian War Minister asking why Count X had not been nominated, as His Majesty wished to make him an officer at Christmas. Count von Hertling once more declined to nominate him. Thereupon the colonel called a meeting of all officers in the regiment; he wished to have Count Hertling voted down. The colonel addressed his officers and put his case before them, saying, "After all, gentlemen, this is the son of the War Minister, and after all, again, we have enough stupid officers in the army, one more won't make much difference, and in addition it is the express wish of His Majesty, or at any rate papa says so; it is a great scandal in the court circle at Munich". Answered Count Hertling: "I can certainly understand that Herr Papa is troubled about this, but the lives of the soldiers whom Count X would have under him as an officer are more important than the dissatisfaction in court circles in Munich." A vote was then taken of all the officers present, and with a large majority Count Hertling's attitude was endorsed and that of the colonel rejected. His Majesty the King of Bavaria and his War Minister had no choice but to take the young Count X away and transfer him to a more docile regiment - but the First Bavarian Artillery Regiment was the best in the State, and ranked with the Guards. Count X eventually obtained his lieutenancy in some remote and unsought-after regiment with a very low number - the 46th, or something of that sort.'

That is another illuminating glimpse of a country, Germany, and of a German, Otto Strasser. In the political events that followed the war, the Strassers always stood well with the army, and had friends in its highest ranks. Indeed, after Hitler came to power the Army would have liked to unseat Hitler and put Gregor Strasser in his place; that was one reason for the great clean-up of June 30th, 1934, and for the killing of Gregor Strasser. These threads have never been entirely cut, and may prove important yet.

Now came the last great convulsion of the 1914-18 war, the last great German victory in that war of great German victories but not of victory. Tsarist Russia had collapsed, and Russia was in the throes of the Bolshevist Revolution, the plague-germs of which had been sent there, in the persons of Lenin and his alien throng, by Germany. The German rear was free; all the German weight could be thrown against the West, before the mass of American troops arrived. Ludendorff made his last great throw for Victory. The British Fifth Army took the full shock of the German onslaught. Once more, the German tide set in strongly, flowing towards Paris, that strand so often lapped but never quite reached.

On that famous day, March 21st, 1918, Otto Strasser was in the front line of the attack, south of Saint Quentin. He was artillery liaison officer, with the duty of maintaining communication between the advancing infantry and the guns behind them, and on that day there was first tried a new variation of the method of throwing the infantry forward immediately behind a progressively advancing curtain of fire.

Almost without loss, and helped by fog, the German troops in Strasser's sector, the spearhead of the attack, took the first and second British lines, and found themselves four hundred yards from a British battery. The infantry commander declined to advance farther, and Strasser called for volunteers. Seventeen men responded, and with them he took the battery, shooting the British battery commander in the hip with his revolver and demanding to know from him, as he lay, the position of the next battery. 'I won't tell you,' said this officer. 'So I had him bandaged,' says Strasser, 'but I made his own men carry him off. And then I turned one of the British guns round and silenced a machine-gun nest with it.'

For this and other exploits in those fateful days, including the capture of a British brigade staff, Strasser, who in the meantime had received the Iron Cross, First Class, and the Bavarian Distinguished Service Order, was recommended twice for the Bavarian Max Josef Order. This was the rarest German decoration for valour, more highly coveted even than the Prussian Pour le Mérite which Göring wears, and carried the predicate of nobility with it. Otto Strasser would have been able to call himself Ritter Otto von Strasser, as John Brown may become Sir John Brown, K.C.B. But the German collapse and the disappearance of the Bavarian monarchy ended his hopes of receiving the award.

Those were great days for Otto Strasser. He knew the exhilaration of a big advance, victory seemed to lie behind each new objective, hope was high in him and his men. He has the greatest respect for the British Army, against which he did most of his fighting, and for Britain as a foe; 'When the British once start,' he then wrote, 'they don't let go,' and I think he is right in this: the bulldog simile has actually some truth. The commander of the Graf Spee said the same thing twenty-one years later.

But in that spring, as he pushed forward with his men, the war really seemed to be going well for Germany. Her armies held nearly all Europe; they had crushed Russia; now they were storming Paris-ward again.

That was a spring to inspire a young officer. Ludendorff would win the game yet! What a general, thought Strasser and his comrades. (To-day, Strasser says he is almost horrified to see how Hitler is repeating all Ludendorff's mistakes. Ludendorff conquered one country, vanquished one foe, won one victory after another - so many victories, but not victory. Hitler is doing the same, says Strasser. He has swallowed two countries; he may yet swallow half a dozen more; he may go from victory to victory; but never to Victory.) Looking back on those days, Otto Strasser inclines to think that Ludendorff made a mistake, after the collapse of Russia, in launching the entire remaining strength of Germany against the French and British on the Western Front. Better, he thinks, if Ludendorff had used a part of it to overrun Italy; that victory could have been had fairly cheaply and the impression it would have made would have put Germany in a better position to bargain for a favourable peace.

As to that, none can say, now. But as the summer came, the German advance slowed down, the Americans poured into France in ever greater numbers, and Otto Strasser's heart began to sink. By June 1918 the promises of the German Admiralty to prevent the transport of American troops to France through the use of the submarine, had been proved vain. Half a million Americans were already there, and each month that succeeded would bring a quarter of a million more.

'And what soldiers!' says Otto Strasser. 'I shall never forget the impression that my first encounter with the Americans made on me, on August 25th, 1918. I was defending with my battery and a few infantrymen and machine-gunners a canal-crossing near Soissons. We had been falling back for days before an urgent and superior enemy. We were without proper supplies of munitions or food, we could not get our wounded and sick away. We had no mail, no trustworthy communication with headquarters, or with our flanks. We dug ourselves in at this important bridge to hold up the advancing enemy -- black French Colonial troops -- as long as we could and cover the retreat of the main body. Some hours passed and, to our surprise, we saw no sign of the enemy. With an orderly, I rode carefully across the bridge and into no-man's land, which was a mile broad at that point.

'Suddenly I saw in front of me, about half a mile away, turning a tree-hidden corner in the road, endless marching columns of cheerful, singing troops in fours, brand-new equipment from their boots to their steel helmets. They marched and sang as if in the midst of peace, splendid young fellows. Four years earlier, in the summer of 1914, we had marched off to war looking like that!

'For the first time, as I watched them, fear rose, in me - fear that we should lose the war. What did it avail us that our shells and machine-gun fire mowed down these incautious lads in swathes, just as we were mown down by the British in Flanders in 1914? This human torrent was so mighty, so relentless, that we were bound to drown in it.

'And' -- adds Otto Strasser, and this is important -- no German soldier who had that experience, who with his own eyes saw the contrast between the starved, ragged and exhausted figures of our diminishing army, and the well-nourished, splendidly-equipped, well-trained and well-rested lads of the innumerable American armies, can ever believe in the stupid and venomous fairytale of the "Stab-in-the-back".'

(I say this is important, because Hitler succeeded, through the irresolution and passivity with which the outer world accepted his successive armed coups, in making the Germans ultimately believe that they had never been beaten in the field, but had only lost the war through the 'Stab-in-the-back' of strikers and mutineers at home.)

Thus, hard on the heels of the triumphant spring and the summer of doubt, came the autumn of disillusionment and despair. This was the first of the really bitter periods in Otto Strasser's life.

Here you have the picture, in the words of a man who, unlike Hitler, was in the forefront of the fighting, advance or retreat: 'Wherever the Allies attacked, our High Command defended every scrap of trench at enormous cost in life, then withdrew a mile or two to ease the pressure, and made a new stand. The German guns were worn out, and the supply of new ones could not keep pace with the need. The German artillery lost irreplaceable material. The German battalions mustered less than 500 men, after two or three days fighting they were down to 300 and 200, to the strength of companies. But these men were burnt-out slack. Whole divisions were no stronger than, in 1914, had been a single regiment, sometimes even weaker than that. Reinforcements were made up of half-grown lads and fifty-year-olds, fathers, grandfathers, sick, half-invalided men. The uniforms were made of substitute materials, the boots were of odd pieces of leather held together by cobbler's thread, leather equipment gave way to hempen makeshifts. The food, already bad, diminished even in quantity.'

Germany was beaten. 'I realized by then that there was no hope left,' says Otto Strasser. 'The spirit was one of desperation. Murmurs of mutiny were in the air. The troops were inferior. The game was up.'

Retreat from glory! Strasser fought rearguard actions. His battery was the only one of the division which was not captured; he saved his own guns and three Prussian guns as well. In September he was so ill with sciatica that he could neither walk nor ride, and had to be carried. An inglorious end to that jubilantly undertaken adventure. A sick man on a stretcher returned to a chaotic Germany where a youngster burning with patriotism had left a prosperous and well-found land. As the German revolution approached, Otto Strasser lay in hospital in Munich; in another hospital, at the opposite end of Germany, in Pasewalk, was Adolf Hitler.

On November 6th, 1918, Strasser, a veteran of twenty-one, was allowed out of hospital, on crutches, for the first time. He used this opportunity to pay a quick visit to his parents, now at Deggerndorf. On November 7th he had to return. As he arrived in Munich he heard the roar of a mob. Hundreds of rioters thronged the station and stormed the train, arresting all officers save Strasser, because he was crippled. But they made to tear off the cockade from his cap and his officer's shoulder-straps.

He drew his revolver - this man has been drawing his revolver now for twenty years or more. A soldier came towards him, told him good-humouredly not to be silly, took the revolver away, and told the crowd, 'I know him, he was my officer in the war. He's all right, he's one of the best. Leave him alone'.

Strasser had never seen him before. He was a Soldatenrat, a member of the revolutionary Soldiers', Sailors' and Workmen's Councils, and wore the red armband. He accompanied Strasser to his hotel, and brought him civilian clothes there. Strasser decided to stay in Munich.

This was a very different homecoming from the one the German soldiers had pictured to themselves - the traditional, triumphal homecoming of flower-tossing maidens, cheering crowds, bands, bugles and beer. The race that began with the starting-gun seemed to have finished, but actually it was just getting under way.

 

Chapter Four 

BELATED HOMECOMING 

Otto Strasser, on two crutches, with chaos around him, took stock of his life and surveyed the future. First, he decided to resume those studies interrupted, in 1913, by lack of funds, and, in 1914, by the starting-gun. Now, he was equally short of time and of money. Curtailed courses, three-years-in-one, were available for the men whose education had been stopped by the war, but even this was too long for him. He could only count on his officer's pay as long as he was sick, and resolved to complete that one-year course, somehow, by hook or by crook, in six months. But first, he had to nurse his health, and to that end he went to a modest Bavarian spa, Bad Eibling, and found there, as well as health, politics. Here came about, in a strange way, his first small appearance on a political stage.

Before I describe it, I want again to trace the growth of political thought in this man. In the beginning, it was inherited, this longing for a just social order that burns in so many Germans, from his father, that outwardly calm, inwardly fiery Bavarian state official.

Then, in the war, as an officer, he had to give 'patriotic instruction' to his men. This was ordered by General Ludendorff, who already scented disaster, at the end of 1917 and was intended to 'improve the spirit of the troops'. In dugouts and billets, the men gathered round their officers, who were supposed to dispel their doubts about the war and its results and the things that Germany ostensibly was fighting for, and to convince them that all questions, all doubts, all scruples, found their ultimate answer in the words 'Kaiser', 'Fatherland', 'Patriotism', and the like.

Otto Strasser was himself, in his heart, a Socialist -- a Socialist of a special kind, as I shall presently explain -- and the questions that some of his men put to him, though he turned them aside or stalled them off with patriotic eyewash, rankled and festered in his mind. Some of them, indeed, would put all the professors in the world to rout in their succinctness, in their simple expression of an unanswerable thought, and even in their language. For instance, this retort, when Otto Strasser spoke of The Fatherland:

'Sehen S', Herr Leutnant, i' bin a Taglöhner; i' hab ka' Land; mei' Vater hat ka' Land; also, was haast für mich Vaterland?'

The beauty of this unfortunately is a little lost in translation, but it means: 'Look, Herr Leutnant, I am a day-labourer; I own no land; my father owns no land; so what, for me, is Fatherland?'

And this question, put by a Bavarian private who in civilian life was a textile worker in Augsburg: 'Herr Leutnant, what is Germany to me? I earn my wage, and it is never more, though it can be less. I can earn it anywhere I go in the world. What difference does it make to me if the English capitalist, or the Italian capitalist, or the French capitalist, or the German capitalist pays me my wages. When I am old and used-up they will chuck me out anyway. So what is Germany to me?'

Picture Otto Strasser, in some candle-lit barn, or dugout parrying these questions. This life, these experiences, added to his inheritance, were forming the man who was developing into an anti-international Socialist, or, to use the term which Hitler afterwards misused,' a National Socialist.

This, in the simplest possible analysis, is the deep-lying difference in thought which for years prevented Otto Strasser from joining Hitler, which later led him to break away from Hitler, and is responsible for his subsequent long and undaunted struggle against Hitler - the difference between National Socialism and National Socialism.

For Otto Strasser, Socialism was always the noun, National merely the adjective, and he rightly foresaw disaster in the blurring of that fact. In a long altercation between him and Hitler, once, the issue was joined on this point, and Hitler, the wordy, accused Strasser of humbugging with words. But Strasser answered, again rightly, that this was no question of juggling with words, but of a fact and a truth, and of the things they were or were not working for. As stupid, he argued, to deny that a bath-chair was in fact a chair, or a lieutenant-colonel a colonel; by Hitler's argument, a field-marshal would have been a field. Socialism on a patriotic basis, Strasser wanted; not militarism with the word Socialist tacked on to it to dupe the masses. And that is exactly the issue, to-day as then.

In the officers' mess, Strasser was wont to discuss these encounters with his men, and to argue that the governing classes in Germany were wrong not to put themselves at the head of the Socialist masses, not to guide, instead of trying to repress, the longing for a just social order which was fermenting in the German soul. 'We officers, and not the Jews, should lead the workers,' he argued. This made him politically a little suspect in the Officers' Corps, and he was known as The Red Lieutenant.

But back to Bad Eibling, and Otto Strasser's first appearance in politics. The Republic had been proclaimed in Bavaria. Strasser, at his spa, had to conceal the fact that he was an officer, for the peat-workers from the neighbouring Kolbermoor were violent revolutionaries. The Jewish Communist leader from Munich, Kurt Eisner, came to Bad Eibling for this very reason.

Otto Strasser, now on two sticks, attended the meeting, a large one, held in December 1918. He looked down from the gallery, where he was accompanied by half a dozen men of his own mind, upon the crowded hall, and listened to things which 'made me almost mad with rage'.

Kurt Eisner, with long hair and beard, looked like the caricatures of a Ghetto Jew. He was, in fact, by origins a Polish Jew and spoke defective German; he had not been in the war, but had written for the Socialist Vorwärts. He was, therefore, 'a Socialist'. So was the angry man listening from the gallery. This picture will perhaps show the difference between one Socialist and another Socialist.

'Kurt Eisner spoke with a fearful Galician accent and with typically Jewish gestures. He was as clever in the methods he used with this yokel audience as any trickster at a fair. "They reproach me with being a Prussian", he said, to odd cries of Jawohl, du Saupreusse; "If my mother in her ninth month had come to Munich and I had been born here I should have been a Bavarian. But -- with spreading arms -- wäre ich ein anderer gewesem? Should I have been a different man?" One or two peasants scratched their heads at this and nodded at each other, "Yes, that's right, he's right there". Then he continued: "Secondly, they reproach me with being a Jew." (Odd cries of, Jawohl, du Saujude!) "But was not Christ a Jew? The man who vilifies us Jews, vilifies Christ." This completely flummoxed the peasants, who were devout Catholics, and they shuffled uncomfortably and looked uncertainly at each other and nodded, as if they felt there was a catch in this somewhere, couldn't for the life of them see where, but had better keep on the right side of the Church anyway.

'Then he started. He shouted that Germany was guilty of the war, that the officers had swilled and guzzled while the troops were driven into the enemy's fire. Both his speech and that of a fat cattle-dealer, Gandorfer, who followed him were directed mainly against the officers. "These officers, these Schweinehunde, went whoring and boozing, and you had to die for them."'

This was too much for the red-faced man in the gallery, who shouted repeatedly 'You liar, you liar', so that the chairman of the meeting called up, 'If you want to speak, come down and speak afterwards in the debate'. 'I will', said Strasser, and this was his first public appearance.

He had never spoken before, he was almost incoherent with indignation, he was twenty-one years old, he was sick, and he had a hostile audience. 'I spoke badly, but it took effect,' says Strasser. 'I told them that proportionately the casualties among officers had been three times as high as those among the men. Not the officers enriched themselves, I said, but the war profiteers, like this fat Gandorfer here. Where were you in the war, Herr Eisner? Where were you in the war, Herr Gandorfer? I was at the front; so were you who sit down there. Ask these loudmouthed gentlemen here where they were, and if they only had sixpence a day pay, like us.'

While he was speaking, his hosts inquired who he was, and suddenly Gandorfer sprang up, pushed him aside, and shouted, 'Comrades, now we have unveiled this fellow - he's an officer!' There was tumult in the hall, the peat-workers, who carry knives in their right boots, surged angrily towards the platform. The men on the platform seized Strasser, pushed him to the back door, threw him out and locked it.

These two men, Otto Strasser and Kurt Eisner, both called themselves 'Socialists'. I stress this point, in order to show what very different types of men may be covered by this name.

Soon after, Kurt Eisner was shot in Munich by Count Arco. Thereupon the Red Republic was proclaimed; until then, there had been a Left Coalition Government of Socialists. Independent Socialists, and Communists. Levine, a Russian Jew and emissary from Moscow, was the moving spirit in the Munich Soviet; other Jews in it were Ernst Toller and Erich Mühsam.

The most famous Bavarian soldier, General von Epp, began to recruit men to oust the Red Government in Munich. He had seen colonial service, and in the war was, first, Colonel of the Bavarian Guard and later general officer commanding the Bavarian Alpine Corps, élite troops. He had fled to Ohrdruf in Thuringia and, with one Captain Ernst Röhm as his chief-of-staff, formed the Epp Free Corps, which all patriotic Bavarians tried to join.

In Munich, the Red Government, fearing the attack, arrested hundreds of hostages, chiefly officers, and now a very sinister thing happened, which deserves a much greater place in the history of the Jews in politics than it has received. Among the hostages were twenty-two members of the 'Tulle Society', a small and unimportant body which fostered the cult of old German literature, traditions, folklore, legends, and the like. Anti-Semitism was an integral part of its teaching; so was anti-Christianity. It was an insignificant group without any power or possibility of putting its theories into practice. It had no single politician among its members, only a few old professors and noblemen.

Of all the hundreds of hostages precisely these twenty-two people, including several women, among them Countess Westarp, were taken out and shot by the alien Jewish Government of Munich!

The Epp Free Corps took shape for the expedition against Red Munich. All the figures who later played a big part in the European drama gathered for this smaller one - save Hitler!

Hitler was in Munich. He was still a soldier. He had, as he tells in Mein Kampf, taken that fearsome anti-Bolshevist oath in hospital at Pasewalk. He was already resolved to save the world from Bolshevism. Yet he did not spring to save Munich from Bolshevism. He did not make his way out and join the Epp Free Corps, although he avowedly burned to fight. He was in Munich, and he was a soldier. But the soldiers in Munich were under the orders of the Red Government, the Jewish Government ruled from Moscow. If he was in barracks, he must have been - a Red!

There was much muttering and murmuring among the National Socialist leaders, much shaking of puzzled heads, in later years, about this, but not the hint of an explanation of his doings in Munich at that time ever came from Hitler. This is a complete gap in Mein Kampf. It is one of the darkest things in all his dark history. I would give almost anything I have to know for whom that man really worked, not only then, but at all times later.

Otto Strasser first drew my particular attention to this remarkable episode in Hitler's life. Although I had closely studied these things, I had overlooked it, and I do not think any other writer has noticed its significance or discussed it. Indeed, a man who was up to the neck in the political turmoil of those days, as was Otto Strasser, is needed to put it in its true proportion, and future historians will be indebted to him for this, because it is one of the most important of the things we know, and they are too few, about the man Hitler. Later, when we know more of him, and the double or triple game he always played is clearer to see, it may prove to be the missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle.

It is worth explaining more fully, for this reason. The Red regime in Munich lasted from November 1918 until May 1st, 1919. Hitler, according to his own account in Mein Kampf, was filled with the most violent hatred of the Jewish-Communist revolution in Germany from the moment it broke out, in the first days of November. In the last days of November, cured and discharged from hospital, he reported to his regimental depot - in that very Munich where the Reds were most powerful.

His own battalion was under the orders of the revolutionary 'Soldiers' Council'. This so disgusted him, he says, that by some means he contrived to be sent to a camp at Traunstein, a few miles away. He says that he returned to Munich 'in March'. The Reds were driven out by von Epp and the Prussian troops at the end of April. For about two months, therefore,' Hitler, a serving soldier, was in Munich when the Red regime was at its height, under the rule of a Russian Jew sent from Moscow, when the hostages were being shot.

Good Bavarians who were there at the same time contrived, by hook or by crook, to get out of Munich and make their way to von Epp, returning with him to drive the Reds out. Otto Strasser did this, at the risk of his life and after surmounting many difficulties.

Hitler, who devotes so many pages in his book to windy abuse of the Reds in Moscow and of International Bolshevism in general, stayed quietly in Munich. He says no word of his life in Munich during those two months. He gives no description of the horrors he saw -- he, who later rails for pages at a time about the wholesale massacres in Moscow -- or of conditions in Munich at all.

But, and this is the vital point, he was a soldier, and soldiers who stayed in Munich were under the orders of that Red Government; if they didn't like it, they deserted by night to von Epp, in Thuringia, and Hitler did not do that. He was then - a Red! He probably wore the red arm-band. Presumably, with the rest of the Munich garrison, he took part in the fighting against von Epp's troops.

What other leader of such a party as the National Socialist Party would in a book pass over in silence such a period as this? All Hitler has to say about it is the vague and unintelligible remark that he was 'nearly arrested' three days before the Reds were driven out. From that he calmly passes on to a sentence beginning: 'A few days after the liberation of Munich I was ...' Nothing about his reasons for staying in Munich, nothing about the horrors of a Red regime which he actually knew, nothing about the severe fighting that preceded the liberation of Munich, nothing about the triumphal entry of von Epp's troops.

Every other notable National Socialist leader or Storm Troop commander, in those days, fought with one or other of the Free Corps somewhere in Germany; this was the very thing that gave them a claim to subsequent advancement in the Party. But the Führer himself, the arch anti-Red - was in Munich. He, who was always filled with a religious horror and hatred of the Bolshevists, retained from these months spent under their rule in a city that he regarded as his adopted birthplace no single memory worth putting on paper.

I believe that future historians will need to start their researches into his life in Munich, in the period between March and May 1919, and unless all the tracks have faded they will discover some strange things. Otto Strasser says that for many years afterwards -- until the advent to power placed Hitler on a pedestal elevated above all such doubts, which would have cost the audible doubter his life -- the National Socialist leaders, when they were talking together of this and that, always returned to the question 'What was Adolf doing in Munich in March and April 1919?' and the answer was always a perplexed shrug of the shoulders or shake of the head.

But all the other men concerned in these events acted as they preached. Von Epp and Röhm formed their Free Corps. Gregor Strasser, back from the war, after serious wounds, had already formed a patriotic Free Corps (the Verband Nationalgesinnter Soldaten Niederbayerns) at Landshut.

This immensely popular man, the living embodiment of the German tragedy, who had a rare gift for talking to his men on equal terms, soon had together a troop of 2000 infantrymen, three field batteries, and a 15cm. howitzer battery, with full war equipment and munitions! Such things were possible in that chaotic Germany.

Gregor Strasser was for a time lord of Lower Bavaria, but as he was an apothecary by day, and could only become a Free Corps leader by night, he took a helper, a young man called Heinrich Himmler. Himmler had not been in the war; he was too young. He reached the rank of ensign at home, but never became an officer, and suffered ever afterwards from a sense of military inferiority for this reason, which he strove to compensate through exaggeratedly coarse and loud militarist behaviour. He had vaguely studied agriculture; but his first profession was that of being adjutant to Gregor Strasser. By day, when Gregor Strasser was busy in his chemist's shop, Himmler was a great man.

Gregor Strasser and his miniature army immediately joined von Epp. (Himmler, for some reason, did not.) Otto Strasser abandoned the studies he had just taken up in Munich and with great difficulty contrived to smuggle himself out of Red Munich and join von Epp at Ohrdruf. As von Epp had too many officers, Otto Strasser served as bombardier with a mechanized battery.

The march on Munich began - the Epp Free Corps and a regular Prussian division. In Munich, the Russian Jew Levine ruled. In two days Munich was captured, after fierce fighting. Levine was court martialled and shot. Otto Strasser is entitled to wear on his left arm the golden lion of the Epp Free Corps.

This episode is also important, for students of contemporary history who seek to know what sort of a Socialist Otto Strasser is. Hitler, the anti-internationalist, the anti-Marxist, the anti-Bolshevist, the anti-Jew, the anti-Socialist, was nowhere to be found in those days. Otto Strasser, who is not only a Socialist but an anti-militarist, was dabei, he was there, he fought to turn the Reds out. If you think about these things long enough, and put them in their proper places, and study many other things that Hitler has done, many of your ideas will change.

On May Day 1919 came the triumphal entry into Munich. The Bavarian soldiers had dreamed for four years of such a triumphal homecoming after the war, but instead of that they saw a revolutionary, alien-led mob which spat at every soldier who did not wear a red arm-band and tore off the officers' shoulder-straps.

But on this day, with summer in the air, Munich was a mass of flowers and cheering people. The incoming troops did, after all, get posies for the muzzles of their rifles and for their helmets. Otto Strasser and his comrades recaptured a broken dream; a little late, the dream came true.

 

Chapter Five 

WAY OF A SOCIALIST

 Now came that frenzied, tempestuous, post-war period in Germany, when middle-aged men found their lives in ruins about them, when young men back from the army sought to find a way through chaos to an ordered existence, when lads leaving school looked confusedly, like shepherdless sheep, into a scheme of things that had been shattered to bits and offered no clear way to an assured future. All barriers had been broken down, but so had all conventions and all standards. The regimentation of the masses, which had been far too strict, gave way to a licence that was far too libertine. Youth was the prey of the free foxes in the liberated hen-roost. Chastity was the butt of a literature and a stage that, in the land of Goethe and the Meistersingers, had come predominantly under the influence of alien cheapjacks and exploiters masquerading as great writers and inspired impresarios.

'Glamour' then had its home in Berlin; its victims, girls and lads in their early teens, were openly bought and sold in the temples of sexual perversion which flourished beneath blazing electric signs in the cities. The word 'currency' became a farce, but while the savings of hard-working people vanished overnight, the manipulators, the vultures of the inflation, grew fat; the other day in London I bought for thirty shillings a collection of German banknotes issued in those days, the nominal value of which represented more billions than the vaults of the Bank of England could hold.

One great financial scandal followed another, as profiteer after profiteer and swindler after swindler decided that the time for bankruptcy was ripe. Communists revolted here; reactionaries there; and precarious coalitions of all-good-men maintained a crazy equilibrium in the land.

Amid this turmoil, Otto Strasser, a revolutionary Socialist, began to grope his way towards the future. He affirms, indeed he insists, that he is a revolutionary Socialist, but because so large a proportion of people are incapable of distinguishing between words and things, between real and imitation pearls, between the Church and Christianity, between the bawling of Rule Britannia and patriotism, I hope to explain, as this book goes on, what sort of a man he is.

Misleading to say that Otto Strasser is a revolutionary Socialist if the reader understands by that something different from the thing that Otto Strasser means, or something different from the truth.

For instance, if I were forcibly held down and compelled by violence to take the label of any one political party, I should have to take that of Socialist, but I should feel myself politically as outcast in the company of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, Lord Snowden, and Mr. J. H. Thomas as in that of Mr. Chamberlain or Sir John Simon, as in that of any present leader of the British Socialist Party. I see no party in Britain that answers at all the longing for a better social order that fills me; they all seem to me to be groups representing special interests, without any real ideals, civic sense, or patriotism in the sense of the whole community.

Otto Strasser, as I have told, began to be a revolutionary Socialist by inheritance; he continued his revolutionary Socialism by becoming an exceptionally efficient and courageous officer in the war; he carried his revolutionary Socialism a stage further by joining in the armed liberation of his homeland from an alien regime which at first also claimed the name, Socialist; he later joined the Socialist Party; then Hitler's National Socialist Party; he is now the bitterest enemy of that party, but is also an antagonist of the Socialist Party, of Fascism, and, venomously, of Communism; because he believes that all of these have betrayed, or that none stands for, that which he wants - German Socialism.

So he is a revolutionary Socialist. The thing ought to be simple to understand, but in a world where the peoples have been brought up on catchwords and tags, it is probably difficult. Nevertheless, I hope that this book will ultimately make clear what Otto Strasser wants and what he is, for both these things are of great interest.

When Munich had been liberated, he began, once more, to strive after that coveted university degree, scrambled somehow through his exams, and in July 1919 was admitted to study at Munich University. His race was with time, and when the vacation came he rushed to Berlin to continue his studies there. He was now twenty-two.

His great problem was his daily bread. These were, as I said, the turbulent times. He had no money, and his family could give him none. The inflation was beginning. The mark was already worth but 20 pfennigs, instead of 100. He had to earn money, somehow, to pay his fees and achieve that doctorate.

This part of his life shows the enormous energy and capacity for work of which I have already spoken. It is common among Germans, but Otto Strasser has it in an exceptional degree. He studied from eight o'clock in the morning until midday at the university, and then went to the Reichstag. This sat only in the afternoon and, to earn his fees, he found a post as stenographer in the parliamentary office of the combined Socialist provincial Press; here the reports of the debates were prepared, suitably tinted with pink, the talk-of-the-lobbies summarized, and the whole sent out to the Socialist newspapers in the country.

This work lasted until 6 or 7 o'clock in the evening, which left him an hour for a simple meal at Aschinger's, one of the cheap chain-restaurants operated by that firm in Berlin. After that, from 8 till 10 o'clock, he took unpaid evening classes for workmen, to whom he taught German history and stenography; and after that, again, he had to prepare his next morning's work for the university.

After a year, the evening classes were discontinued, and he filled in the few leisure hours which this left him by studying Japanese at the Oriental Institute in Berlin. His affections might have expected a rest, in view of all this; but even they were not spared; he found time not to neglect them. Indeed, he has driven them unremittingly, all his life, and does not regret it.

All this time Strasser was on two sticks. His hunger, or mania, for work, however, was not satisfied, and the state of affairs at the university led him to organize a League of ex-Service Students to uphold the rights of men whose studies had been interrupted by the war.

The throwing-open-of-all doors had led to the flooding of the universities, and the compressed emergency courses introduced for such men were being swamped by girls, by Jews and by others who had not served. The ex-service man, as is always the way after a war, was being elbowed aside by eager interlopers. Strasser, at the head of his League, succeeded in raising a loud voice and having this evil remedied.

Another evil, at that time, was the plight of the thousands of young men who starved themselves to finish their studies and then could obtain no employment, or who could by no means raise the fees to complete these studies. This became so grave a public scandal that the leading German industrial concerns joined to form a Students Emergency Association, charged to find employment for the masses of desperate young men who were wandering aimlessly about, and the secretary of this body was Dr. Heinrich Brüning - subsequently the Chancellor who fought so hard, but failed, to keep Hitler from power, and who is now also in exile. Strasser worked in close collaboration with him.

I have mentioned these early post-war experiences and experiments of Strasser in organizing his fellows for some cause because, though they were not specifically political, they show the mind and thought of this revolutionary Socialist. They were good undertakings, of benefit to the community.

Now, for the second time, the political impulse, that broke through for the first time in the episode at Bad Eibling, began to push him into the fray. He became a registered member of the German Socialist Party - and immediately found himself in the forefront of the dissensions which racked that party.

Otto Strasser's view then is his view to-day, the view that makes of him an exile and implacable enemy of Hitler, as it finally drove him out of the Socialist Party. He could have had popularity, position and possessions by compromise, but preferred to be adamant, and this commands respect.

He sought everywhere, but found nowhere, a German Socialism; not a State Socialism, which simply meant one big Capitalist and a horde of officials in place of many capitalists; not a thing of international roots and affiliations, alien in its origins and leadership; and certainly not National Socialism as Hitler made it, which was but capitalist-militarism masquerading as a Socialist circus. He has never faltered, that I can find, from his beginnings until his present exile, and he seems to be that rare, if not unique thing, a real National Socialist.

The Socialist Party at that time -- which had committed suicide in the moment of its revolutionary triumph by calling on the regular army and the old ruling classes in general to protect it against the Communists -- had formed an Einwohnerwehr, or Civilian Defence Corps, as an instrument for the Government to use against the Communist danger. The majority of the local branches of the Socialist Party forbade their members to join it, arguing that they wanted nothing to do with 'the officers' and with militarism, since they were internationalists and pacifists. Otto Strasser strongly advocated membership of the Einwohnerwehr, arguing that if the Socialists did not take it under their wing, the reactionaries would, and in his district, that populous quarter of Berlin called Steglitz, he carried the day. Steglitz joined the Einwohnerwehr, and Otto Strasser became the commander of Steglitz's Hundertschaft, the units of the Einwohnerwehr being called by this name of 'Hundreds'.

All this was in the spring of 1920. There followed the first attempt, called the Kapp Putsch, of the old ruling classes in Germany to dethrone the Socialist-Centrist Government, to sweep away all the newcomers who had succeeded to power in Germany, by means of armed force.

The Kapp Putsch was rather like the von Epp march on Munich, save that it had not the same justification; the Government in Berlin was predominantly Socialist, and dithering Socialist at that, but it was non-Communist and anti-Communist, and had no imported Moscovites in it. By way of contrast, the Kappists imported a man of similar type with them as Press Chief - the Hungarian Jew, Anglican Clergyman, British Member of Parliament, convicted traitor, and professional swindler, Trebitsch Lincoln! This sort of man seems to pop up in every shady affair in the history of Europe. Incidentally, Hitler's professed anti-Semitism, as I have often tried to make people understand, is another lie; witness the international string-pulling Jewess who was go-between in his negotiations with British politicians.

The Kapp soldiers ruled Berlin with their machine-guns for a day or two, until the general strike called by the fugitive Berlin Government caused the collapse of their adventure and their ignominious withdrawal, but they never attacked Steglitz, where Otto Strasser and his Socialist Hundertschaft were waiting, armed, to receive them. By now, the officer who had given his men 'patriotic instruction' in the war who had challenged Kurt Eisner in the Red meeting at Bad Eibling, who had helped to drive the Communists out of Munich, was a Socialist Hundertschaftler, standing ready to give combat to the reactionaries. The Kappists preferred not to use force against the Steglitz Hundred; Steglitz, surrounded but not occupied, was left a peaceful Socialist island in Kappist Berlin.

When the Kappists withdrew, the convinced Socialists thought the day of real Socialism had come. The Government, too cowardly and too scared of the reactionaries to carry out its Socialist programme before, now had the power. At Bielefeld, an agreement was signed between the Government, represented by Karl Severing, and the delegates of the Socialists for the dismissal of the Police Minister, Noske, who had been too weak with the reactionaries and had allowed the Kapp Putsch to happen, for the socialization of heavy industry and for the partitioning of the big estates. On the strength of these promises, the Socialist workers laid down their arms.

The Communists and the Independent Socialists, who were near-Communists, did not, and were defeated by the same Kapp soldiers who had seized power in Berlin. And as soon as that was accomplished, the Government disavowed the promises made by Severing.

Otto Strasser, still following without deviation his ideal of a German Socialism, now found himself with enemies on all sides. A bitter critic of the Government's betrayal of its Socialist policy and promises, he incurred the enmity of the party bosses, intent only on keeping their jobs, and at a Socialist meeting in Steglitz was denounced from the platform as 'a police spy'. (The Police Minister and the Police Chief, so illogical was this charge, were both Socialists.)

At the university, however, where he was still struggling after that degree, he was equally unpopular among the students, the majority of whom were what we should to-day call Fascists or Nazis, and was pilloried as the leader of a 'Red Hundred'. Arriving one morning at the university, he found a notice on the board announcing that he had been debarred from further study there 'pending a disciplinary investigation', and on his furious inquiry for the reason was told that his war record was suspect. By producing the official war history of his regiment, and other documents, he was able to reduce the Rector to a state of contrition and to have the insinuation withdrawn with all ceremony in the presence of the entire Students' Corps of the university, in full regalia.

But an uncompromising man was a lonely man in those days, as now. Disgusted with everything, he left the Socialist Party. The second political period in his life came to an end. For five years he stood aloof from parties, and for three years aloof, almost, from politics; complete abstention from them would be an impossibility for this man.

In March 1921, at long last, he took his degree, at Würzburg, and is thus fated to be known to the end of his days as Doctor Otto Strasser. That opened the door to a minor appointment in the Ministry of Food, where he prosaically represented the interest of authority in artificial fertilizers and the cultivation of moors. This lasted two years. Then, one day, Count von Hertling, his commanding officer in the war, visited the Ministry. He had become head of a big industrial concern, saw Otto Strasser, and offered him an important post in it. Strasser gladly accepted. So, until 1923, as he says, 'ich sass brav in meinem Ministerium und in meiner Industriestellung, and habe eigentlich keine Politik getrieben'. 'I sat like a good boy in the Ministry and in my job, and hardly touched politics.'

November 1923 was to alter that, because it brought the Hitler Putsch in Munich and a change in Otto Strasser's views about Hitler; but a digression is necessary to keep the thread of this story unbroken.

Otto Strasser had first met Hitler in the autumn of 1920, at the time of his embitterment with all parties. He was on holiday, visiting his parents in Bavaria, when his brother Gregor invited him to Landeshut, saying that General Ludendorff, a great hero of Otto's from the war, and one Adolf Hitler, then little known, would be present. At this lunch, says Otto Strasser, 'Ludendorff made a great impression on me. Hitler did not. He was too servile to Ludendorff, and behaved himself like a battalion orderly speaking to a general. Ludendorff was like a block of granite; Hitler, like a nervous, half-hysterical spouter. He used the Jews as a common denominator for all political problems. I told Gregor that I did not want to join the party and would prefer to wait; the only thing I liked about it, I said, was the name, National Socialist, und Du ['and you', that is, his brother, Gregor]. Throughout 1921 and 1922, when I was out of politics, I had many disputes with Gregor about Hitler and the Party. I never felt drawn towards it and would not join. Hitler, after that lunch, always spoke of me as an Intellektbestie.'

Intellektbestie is difficult adequately to translate. 'One of those intellectual cranks', perhaps. It is the sort of term a man of inferior merit may use about another whose arguments have irritated and baffled him. Hitler cannot argue; the slightest hint of contradiction or challenge makes him angry and hysterical. His great good fortune, or skill, is that he never had to join in open debate with an adversary, entering Parliament and becoming dictator only when all opposition had been crushed.

But to resume the thread of the story: Gregor Strasser, several months before this lunch, had heard of Hitler, travelled to Munich, found himself in wide agreement with Hitler's views, and thereupon enlisted his little private army bodily in the National Socialist Party as its independent Gau, or regional organization, for Lower Bavaria. Until then, the National Socialist Party existed only in skeleton form in Munich alone; the recruitment of Gregor Strasser's Verband Nationalgesinnter Soldaten Niederbayerns marked its first extension outside Munich.

From left to right: Himmler, Hess, Gregor Strasser, Hitler, Ritter von Epp.

Gregor Strasser became Regional Leader, with Heinrich Himmler, the dreaded Secret Police and SS Chief of today, as his secretary. Gregor Strasser had already seen that he could not indefinitely keep his private army of foot and artillery together; those days cannot be described as piping ones of peace, but the war was nevertheless receding, the times were growing quieter, the men were getting on with their jobs and forgetting to clean their rifles or turn up on parade, and Gregor Strasser thus realized that he must either disband his organization or turn it into something political. The Reds had been driven from Bavaria, anyway; indeed, in all Germany, Bavaria alone was Red-free; everywhere else the Socialists shared power.

In Bavaria, von Epp and his chief-of-staff Ernst Röhm now ruled. After the triumphal eviction of the Reds in May 1919, instead of restoring the legal, exiled Government, they had, against the wish of Berlin and of the Reichswehr regular troops who had helped them, installed a bourgeois government without any Socialists. They wished to use Bavaria as a base from which the rest of Germany could be similarly cleansed.

ERNST RÖHM

Röhm, an energetic soldier of revolutionary mind, was the real ruler of Bavaria; von Epp was a fine soldier, but not a brilliant thinker. Röhm had all the politics and parties of Munich at his fingertips, and employed an army of agents. Among them was the man Adolf Hitler. One day Röhm (to whom all political meetings in Munich had to be reported) said to Hitler, 'I've an announcement here of a meeting of something called the N.S.D.A.P*. (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei). Go along and see what sort of a show it is'.

Mistake by the author, the party was called D.A.P. (Deutsche Arbeiter Partei) at the time of Hitler's first visit.

Here you see how, twenty years ago as I write, the plan or plot was born in an office in Munich that now has let the devil loose on us all again. Von Epp, a remarkably fine figure of a soldier, probably never had an unworthy motive in his life, and simply burned to clean up his country, as he understood cleanliness, and make it a power among nations again. Röhm was a thought too bawdy even for a hardened mind, but by the common judgment of his acquaintances was a good and loyal companion, a brave soldier, and an exceptionally good organizer.

What freakish trick of fate caused him to pick on this epileptic mongrel Hitler, whose virtues are even less than his vices, and he has no vices, this man who cannot prove what he did in Vienna before the war, or even adequately what he did in the war, or what he did in Munich after the war - until Röhm picked on him?

Hitler and Roehm at Nuremberg Party Days 1933

Röhm, sitting at his desk, chose his own executioner in the nondescript fellow standing at attention on the other side of it. More, he chose the man who was to plunge all Europe into war again. More still, he chose the man who, as I am now coming to think, is built entirely of hatreds, but among those hatreds keeps the worst for the people whose destiny he has in his hand. For the strangest passages in the conversations with Hitler which Dr. Hermann Rauschning* reports are those verbal orgasms in which he frequently speaks of 'sacrificing the lives of one or two million Germans', of his determination, in some particular circumstances, 'to sacrifice a new German generation', and so on.

*Virtually every major biography of Adolf Hitler or history of the Third Reich quotes from the memoir of Hermann Rauschning, a former National Socialist Senate President of Danzig. In the book published in Britain as Hitler Speaks (London, 1939) and in America as The Voice of Destruction (New York, 1940) Rauschning presents page after page of what are purported to be Hitler's most intimate views and plans for the future. They are allegedly based on a hundred or so private conversations between the two men.

Now, after more than forty years, a Swiss historian has thoroughly exposed this supposed document of Hitler's madness as completely fraudulent. Wolfgang Haenel presented the results of his research to the annual conference in May 1983 of the Ingolstadt Contemporary History Research Center in West Germany.

Hitler went to the meeting and reported to Röhm (all this information comes from Otto Strasser): 'This is a workman's party. It's something good, the sort of thing we could use, Herr Hauptmann.' Röhm was obsessed with Germany's isolation and defencelessness in the world, with the need for a new army - a secret army. He saw that the old-soldier organizations, like Strasser's Verband and the various Free Corps, deteriorated as the war receded, and he wanted, as did Gregor Strasser, to build a political movement which would reinvigorate them. But his real aim was to create, in the guise of Storm Troopers, a new army under the cloak of that political movement.

Hitler, with his extraordinary instinct, had recognized that the little N.S.D.A.P. was the ideal instrument for the purpose he and his masters had in mind; hence the report, 'We can use this, Herr Hauptmann'. Röhm had already remarked Hitler's talent for propaganda and political agitation, and had chosen him as one of his agents for that reason, and now said to him, in effect, 'Buy the firm out; we can make something of it'.

Röhm's sole condition was the formation of the Storm Troops, the Brown Army. Through this, he counted on remaining the master of the movement. He frequently said: 'All the rest is a matter of indifference to me; I need a well-disciplined private army'.

To this end, he gave Hitler the money to have placards printed, and to buy an obscure little local sporting-sheet, which published racing-tips and football results, called the Völkischer Beobachter. As the man with the money, Hitler was able to throw out the founders of the little party. He never altered its programme, which then already existed, and would never permit any discussion of it - though hardly any of its tenets have been fulfilled by him. The Brown Army was formed, by Röhm; for it Röhm borrowed the brown shirt from one of the Free Corps (Rossbach's) and the swastika from another (Ehrhardt's).

Thus did a soldier of fortune sign his own death warrant and bring disaster on Europe again, that day in Munich twenty years ago as I write. A few other details about this birth of the Hitler Party, culled from Otto Strasser's special knowledge, deserve to be recorded here:

'One of Hitler's innumerable lies, in the legend he has built up, is that he was "the seventh member" of the N.S.D.A.P. At the time when Röhm sent him to report on it, it already had several hundred members. He became the seventh member of the executive committee, in charge of publicity. Nor did he invent "National Socialism". The party was founded by one Harrar and Anton Drexler; they copied it from an Austrian party of the same name, the National Socialist Party, founded by the Sudeten Germans Jung and Knirsch; and they in their turn took the idea from the Czechs. A young Czech labour leader, Klovacs, in about 1892, seceded with the Czech workers from the Socialist Party in pre-war Austria-Hungary because its leadership and methods were "Jewish, international and German", and founded in Bohemia the first "National Socialist Party", whose most famous members were, later, Masaryk and Benesh. The only man in the party who has no conception of real National Socialism is Adolf Hitler.'

All this information is Otto Strasser's. The last sentence is literally his. It is, in my judgment, literally true.

Such were the beginnings of the movement which took root and grew -- to the misfortune of Europe, under the leadership of a professional perjurer -- while Otto Strasser was 'sitting like a good boy in his Ministry and his job and not bothering with politics'. In 1923 came its first attempt to seize power, and one effect of this was to bring Otto Strasser back into politics.

This was the story. By 1923, von Epp and Röhm no longer ruled Bavaria, but had been displaced in favour of a regime

It seems so sad, that Otto Strasser lied to Douglas Reed, or that he simply didn't know as much as he claimed to: How could Strasser or Reed not know the original name of the party? And how could Strasser in 1940 not know that Rauschning's relationship with Hitler could never produce such intimate conversations as were told in the forgeries written in the "Table-talks" of Adolf Hitler as reported by such a non-entity in the Nazi hierarchy as Rauschning?

 

 

Revolutionary Socialist leader

One of the leaders of the revolutionary 'socialist' wing of the NSDAP and younger brother of Gregor Strasser, Otto was born in Windsheim on 10 September 1897. After studying law and following a brief period as a Social Democrat, Otto Strasser joined the Nazi Party in 1925 and helped build up a radical, proletarian wing of the movement in North Germany, together with his older brother and the young Goebbels. Supporting certain strikes of the Social Democratic trade unions and demanding the nationalization of industry as well as the big banks, Strasser also favored an alliance with Bolshevik Russia and the revolutionary 'colored' peoples of the East (China, India, etc.) against the 'declining' West. He stood by the NSDAP's original twenty - five - point program, emphasizing its socialist content which he took seriously. This brought him on a collision course with Hitler, whom he regarded as having betrayed the original ideals of the National Socialist movement. 

In 1926, Otto Strasser was made editor of the Berliner Arbeiterzeitung and the National Socialist Letters, also becoming propaganda chief of the North German wing of the Party. As head of the Kampfverlag (Militant Publishers) in Berlin, he controlled an important outlet for disseminating his anti - capitalist ideology, which increasingly embarrassed Hitler in his own efforts to woo and win over the industrialists. The showdown came on 21 - 22 May 1930 in a confrontation between the two Nazi leaders over the issue of capitalism and socialism. Otto Strasser refused to submit and was expelled from the Party on 4 July 1930. Six weeks later, he formed the break - away Union of Revolutionary National Socialists, known as the Black Front, but it failed to win away Nazi votes from Hitler, even though Otto Strasser claimed a membership of ten thousand. Strasser and some of his followers went into exile in Prague, where they produced a fortnightly paper, Die Deutsche Revolution, which attacked Hitler's dictatorship, but continued to defend the theory of National Socialism. The Strasser left wing of Nazism was no less racist and anti - semitic than its adversaries.

 In his 'Fourteen Theses of the German Revolution', Otto Strasser proclaimed that it was a German duty to develop 'unique racial individuality' and resist the 'cultural predominance of alien Jewry', which in association with 'the supranational powers of freemasonry and political Catholicism, was either compelled by its racial make - up or driven by its wanton will to destroy the life of the German soul'. Nonetheless, as an articulate opponent of Hitler's, Strasser published a stream of books and pamphlets during his exile, attacking the political system of the Third Reich and the Fuhrer's betrayal of Nazi ideals. These works included Die Deutsche Bartholomausnacht (1935), which dealt with the Blood Purge that had taken the lives of Rohm, the SA leaders and his own brother. Further writings such as Wohin treibt Hitler? (1936), Aufbau des Deutschen Sozialismus (1936), Europaische Foderation (1936), Kommt es zum Krieg? (1937), Europa von Morgen (1939), Hitler and I (1940), Germany Tomorrow (1940), The Gangsters around Hitler (1942) and Flight from Terror (1943) contained a vision of European federation, as well as his own reckoning with the past and present. During his exile in Switzerland and Canada, Otto Strasser became an advocate of 'solidarism', a third path between capitalism and communism, which he gave a national - socialist, Christian and decentralized 'Europeanist' colouring. Returning to post - war West Germany, Otto Strasser tried and failed to win public support for these ideas in the 1950s after he had recovered his German citizenship. In other respects, he appeared to have learned nothing from the past, still espousing a vicious, demagogic anti - semitism in his journalistic publications. He died in Munich on 27 August 1974.

Courtesy of: "Who's Who in Nazi Germany" ©1982, Wiederfield and Nicolsa London

[Abbildung]

 

Revolution vs. Reaction
by
Troy Southgate



The following article first appeared in Issue #2 of THE CRUSADER [The Rising Press, 1993, pp.8-9] and whilst it offers a brand of economics which must inevitably operate on a national level (something the NR Faction no longer advocates due to its opposition to all forms of centralised government and neo-statism), it remains important in that it demonstrates that there was clearly a more radical National-Socialist alternative to Hitlerism. Despite their imperfections, there is no getting round the fact that Otto and Gregor Strasser played a vital role in the long-term development of Revolutionary Nationalism.

 

MANY people associate the term "Socialism" with Left-Wing intellectuals, Communists or members of the Labour Party. The sad reality is that the internationalist Left has completely highjacked this word and used it to hide their more sinister motives. "Socialism", for the average Marxist-Leninist, is the description given to the promotion of minorities above the larger community as a whole. Left-Wing organizations are fond to trying to appeal to the working class, or what they patronizingly refer to as "the Proletariat". The ulterior objective behind such ideology is based upon a desire to divide and rule. In other words, whilst these new organizations are offering support to so-called "oppressed minorities", such as homosexuals, Black Power groups and rebellious middle class students, they are in fact creating disunity amongst the various members of society ensuring that they hold the only banner behind which degeneracy and immorality can find a safe haven from the seemingly encroaching rigors of normality. That society is becoming more degenerate, is merely testimony to the fact that Communists are regularly able to rally between two to three thousand protestors at the drop of a hat, as recently happened on a wet Monday evening at an Anti-Nazi League demonstration in London. By adding up all the minorities, social outcasts and anyone else with a chip on their shoulder, these activists can appear to comprise a majority. This is minority rule in its most pure, and ugliest form.

There is simply no disputing the fact that Socialism is an integral part of the Nationalist creed. To separate the very essence of the social sphere from the concept of the nation, is to ignore the basic fact that it is the People who actually comprise the nation itself. Without people there can be no nation, and without a nation there can be no people. On the other hand, it is quite certain that we have absolutely nothing in common with the disgusting legions of the Left, but then, neither do we owe any allegiance to those on the Right. Many so-called Nationalists are content to describe themselves as being "Right of centre", or even as "on the extreme Right-Wing", but it must be stated quite categorically that Nationalism has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Right-Wing politics. To simplify, a Right-Winger is no more Nationalist than his counterpart on the Left. Both Communism and Capitalism are two heads of the same beast.

Revolutionary Nationalists, on the other hand, rather than take a portion of either camp and attempt to form some kind of a ridiculous halfway ideology, are unconcerned with philosophical materialism altogether and reject the middle and both ends of the system in its entirety. Revolutionary Nationalists oppose the Reactionaries and the Reds alike, because we are genuine Social Nationalists.

The doctrine of Social Nationalism was chiefly propagated by Otto and Gregor Strasser, two brothers who joined the National Socialist German Worker's Party (NSDAP) during the 1920's. This organization eventually came to be led by Adolf Hitler, who in his selfish lust for ultimate power came to betray the very ideal of Social Nationalism that had been promoted by the NSDAP from the very beginning. To many so-called Nationalists, criticism of Hitler is viewed as heresy. But nobody can ignore the plain and simple fact that Hitler totally refused to condemn German Capitalists and the Right-Wing Establishment, and even allowed the Party to receive funding from wealthy Jewish financiers in Wall Street. The evidence for this claim can be found in Anthony Sutton's excellent Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler.

The Strasser Brothers, however, who were both extremely active in the NSDAP before the party came to power in 1933, were regularly engaged in a war of ideology with Hitler himself, who refused to advocate the decentralization of State power or offer the normal working people of Germany a stake in both agriculture and industry. Hitler had actually rejected Otto Strasser's The Structure of German Socialism in 1925, preferring to stick with the 25 Points of the NSDAP, considered by many Party members to be outdated. Even without Strasser radical ideas for a new direction beyond both the Left and the Right of the political spectrum, the 25 Points of the NSDAP were still too incompatible with Hitler's reactionary allegiance to his Capitalist financiers, and many of these basic tenets of National Socialist policy were betrayed too. Anyone taking the trouble to examine Point 11 of this manifesto, for example, will discover a forthright condemnation of unearned income.

However, after Hitler ascension to power, usury continued to infect the German banking system and no effort was made to prevent the wealthy bankers from charging huge interest on loans to the people. Indeed, Hitler placed all financial power in the hands of Hjalmar Schact, a freemason with connections in Wall Street. Gregor Strasser, however, had this to say about Capitalism:

The Capitalist system with its exploitation of those who are economically weak, with its robbery of the workers labour power, with its unethical way of appraising human beings by the number of things and the amount of money he possesses, instead of by their internal value and their achievements, must be replaced by a new and just economic system, in a word by German Socialism.

Moving on to Points 13 and 14, the statement of Party principles called for the destruction of the Capitalist system and its replacement by family businesses and workers co-operatives. Once again, Hitler had no time for such economic justice and these two articles of policy were soon forgotten.

Otto Strasser, on the other hand, explained that:
"The alternative to the bankrupt alien solutions of Communism and Capitalism, the idea which we present is the political representation of parties, trades and professions based on our ancient Guild system".

Otto Strasser, who was once described as dauntless man of compelling sincerity and charm by the radical anti-Capitalist A.K. Chesterton, then went on to propose a three-point programme for industry and the workers:

(1) There will come into being, in contradistinction to the extantclass of Capitalist, an estate of managers, which, regardless of wealth or origin, will constitute a functional aristocracy that, thanks to the very methods of its selection, may be said to be made up of captains of industry or commissioned officers of economic life.

(2) The dispossessed class of proletarians will vanish, its place being taken by an estate of fully privileged workers, directly and indirectly participating in and therefore interested in their workshop. They will no longer be objects of the economy, but its subjects.

(3) The relations between State and economic life will be radically altered. The State will not be the night-watchman and policeman of Capitalism, nor will it be a dictator whose bureaucracy cracks the whip that drives the workers to the bench and spurs them to their tasks; but it will be a trustee of the consumers, and as such it will have much influence, but only within and beside the self-determination of the working producers, namely of the management and the staff of workers (consisting in appropriate proportions of clerical and other intellectual workers, on the one hand, and manual operatives, on the other).

In spite of the commonsense ideas of Strasserism, the list of contradictions continues, as a result of the fact that Hitler meekly refused to condemn the Right, gaining control of the NSDAP and eventually leading Germany into an imperialist onslaught against the rest of Europe, suppressing culture and tradition in his fanatical drive towards a Greater Germany. Point 16 promised the destruction of chain stores and supermarkets, and claimed to support small businesses. The reality, on the other hand, was far different as Hitler once again defended the monopolists. Whilst Strasserite stormtroopers picketed the large stores and urged people to support the small traders, Hitler put an instant stop to all such anti-Capitalist activity. Apparently, one large chain store was funding the Southern Branch of the NSDAP itself, and Hitler did not want to alienate his financial backers.

In Point 17, it was explained that there would be an end to the rule of the big landowners, and that there would be a resettlement of the expanded peasantry. During the 1920, over 20% of Germany was owned by fewer than 19,000 people and the peasants were looking to the NSDAP to provide a brighter future in the face of their ever-worsening predicament. Unfortunately, they were to receive little assistance from Hitler.

Although Agricultural Minister Walter Darre appeared to do such to safeguard the role of the peasantry, there was no attempt to redistribute the land. Even when Darre passed the Hereditary Peasant Holdings Act, the draft itself was provided by his deputy, Ferdinand Fried, the secret leader of Otto Strasser Black Front! So what answer did Strasserism provide to combat the unholy alliance of Capitalists, landowners and Hitlerites? Otto Strasser provided a truly just argument to the complexities of agriculture in his Structure for German Socialism:

The object of agriculture is to make sure that the community will be fed. The land available for the use of the community is owned exclusively by the nation, for it was not by any individual but by the community at large that the land was acquired, by battle or by colonization on the part of the community, and by the community it has been defended against enemies. The community as owner puts the land at the disposal of the nation in the form of entails to those able and willing to use them for husbandry and stock-raising. This will be undertaken by self-governing corporations of local peasant-councils. The size of the farms will be limited in accordance with the local qualities of the land: the maximum being determined by the principle that no one may hold in "entail" more land than he is able to farm unaided; and the minimum being determined by the principle that the landowner must have enough land to provide, not only food for self and family, but a superfluity by the disposal of which he will be able to obtain clothing and shelter for his family.

The maximum limitation will result in freeing large quantities of land for settlement by peasants, particularly in Eastern Germany. This peasant settlement is all the more necessary because the existence of an abundance of peasants thus settled on their own farms furnishes the best guarantee for the maintenance of public health and public energy. The landholder who thus receives a farm for "entail" will pledge himself to manage this arm for the best advantage of the community and to use his utmost endeavors to make sure that the land shall be farmed to supply the food of the community. He will therefore have to pay a land tax, a tithe rent, to the community. This will be payable in kind, the amount being fixed in accordance with the area and quality of the land. No other taxes will be payable by the peasant. Should the holder of an "entail" die, the farm will pass to a son able and willing to carry it on. If there are no male children available, the "entail" will revert to the community, and will be allotted by the local peasant-council.

In the event of bad farming, an "entail" will also revert to the community, the decision upon this matter resting with the local self-governing body (peasant-council) in agreement with the state (represented by the circle president). The introduction of "entail" into German agriculture will be in such manifest conformity with German tradition and with the right and necessary ideas of peasant possessor-ship, that neither psychological nor material difficulties are likely to ensue.

The sad motive behind Hitler's blatant refusal to listen to Otto and Gregor Strasser, was power. Whilst Hitler saw power as the objective, the group of people who agreed with the vision of these two brothers, commonly known as the Strasser-Circle, only saw power as the means to implement their Social Nationalist programme. Once again, the common people paid the price for the selfishness of a reactionary. In 1930, things finally came to a head and Otto Strasser began to clash with Hitler on a regular basis. His newspaper, the Arbeitsblatt, which was based in Berlin and which served as the Party's official northern publication, became a constant irritant to Hitler. Finally, in April of the same year, trade unions in Saxony declared a general strike and Otto Strasser announced his total support for the German workers. Meanwhile, the powerful industrialists themselves put pressure on Hitler to condemn the views of Strasser and bring the strike to a halt. Hitler called Otto Strasser to a private meeting at his hotel the following day, where he attempted to bring him into line by ordering him to submit to his authority. During a heated debate, Hitler accused him of promoting "bombastic nonsense" by placing emphasis on the Ideal rather than the Leader.

Strasser was right, of course, but Hitler was only interested in personal power and chose to put himself before the economic freedom of the German people. Otto Strasser went on to rightly accuse Hitler of trying to "strangle the social revolution for the sake of legality and your new collaboration with the bourgeois parties of the Right."

Hitler angrily denied this and tried to condone what modern Capitalists today like to call "free enterprise". He also went on to endorse the Capitalist philosophy that "might is right" and the strong survive, whilst the weakest go to the wall: "The Capitalists have worked their way to the top through their capacity, and on the basis of this selection, which again only proves their right race, they have a right to lead."

This statement alone is testimony to Hitler's allegiance to Capitalism and Big Business, and reveals the unbridgeable gulf that exists between reaction and revolution. Hitler, after failing to come up with any real argument against the genuinely Socialist principles of Otto Strasser, eventually wrote to Goebbels and instructed him to drive Strasser and his supporters from the Party. Otto Strasser remained true to his beliefs and, as a result, was expelled from the NSDAP soon afterwards, setting up a group known as the Union of Revolutionary National Socialists - the forerunner of the Black Front. Otto Strasser was finally interned by the SIS-OSS and became a broken-hearted exile in Canada, where he was forced to live as a non-person until 1955. He eventually managed to return to his beloved Germany, but only after some determined campaigning by the English journalist Douglas Reed.

Gregor Strasser, on the other hand, despite the fact that he had remained loyal to Hitler authority and remained in the party in the hope that Hitler would realize the error of his ways, was murdered in the Prinz Albrechtstrasse Prison during a Hitlerite purge in June 1934, now known as the infamous Night of the Long Knives. Even Hitler was forced to admit some years later, that Gregor Strasser's murder had been a mistake.

Before this essay is brought to a conclusion, it is only fair that Nationalists are assured of Strasserism total incompatibility with Marxism and the Socialism of the Left. Here are a few excerpts from Otto
Strasser's polemic comparison of the two ideologies:

How German Socialism differs from Marxism:

a. The personal initiative of the responsible managers is preserved, but it is incorporated into the needs of the community.

b. Within the systematically planned management of the whole national economy by the State (organically safeguarded by the equal third of influence which the State has in every industrial enterprise) the wholesome rivalry of the individual enterprises is maintained.

c. The treatment of State and economic enterprise, that is to say of official and industrial manager, on equal footing is avoided so is the arbitrary power of the State which deprives the worker of his right.

d. Everyone engaged in an enterprise is, by virtue of his being part-possessor as a citizen, one of the immediate and influential possessors of his enterprise, his workshop, and can exert this possessive right in full measure on the supervisory council of the concern. The form of the factory fellowship, founded upon the legal idea of the fief, and given life by the great self-governing body of the workers and employees councils, on the one hand, the industrial and trades councils, on the other, constitutes the new economic system of German Socialism, which is equally remote from Western Capitalism and Eastern Bolshevism, and nevertheless complies with the requirements of large scale industry.

On a final note, I hope that this short essay on Strasserism has persuaded some of the more misguided supporters of the Hitler regime that genuine Socialism has yet to achieve a practical breakthrough and progress from the purely theoretical stage. It is futile for any Nationalist to look back to Nazi Germany as a worthy example of what is best for our English nation, or even for Europe as a whole. Without completely rejecting the Right-Wing Capitalists, revolutionaries will continue to be betrayed over and over again. Indeed, with Hitlerism on the rise once again in the wake of German reunification, it is hoped that the German people will remember the mistakes of the past. One thing must be made clear, we in National Revolutionary Faction have the determination to stick to our guns and we will never be under the control of the Capitalist Right, and neither will we betray our revolutionary principles.

Recommended reading: (*denotes German language editions only)

Otto Strasser
1. Hitler and I (translated by Douglas Reed)
2. A History in My Time (translated by Douglas Reed)
3. Germany Tomorrow (translated by Douglas Reed)
4. Gregor Strasser (under the pseudonym of Micheal Geismeyer)
5. We Seek Germany (under the pseudonym of D.G.)
6. Whither Hitler? (under the pseudonym of D.G.)
7. Europe Tomorrow (under the pseudonym of D.G.)
8. Structure of German Socialism*
9. The German St. Bartholomew Night*
10. European Federation*
11. The Gangsters Around Hitler (Please note that this book cannot be regarded as an entirely accurate work, due to the fact that it has been doctored by a number of Jewish exiles. This was Otto Strasser last manuscript, and may simply be of interest to the collector, rather than as an example of factual history)

Gregor Strasser
12. Struggle for Germany

Douglas Reed
13. Nemesis (biography of Otto Strasser)
14. Prisoner of Ottawa (biography on Otto Strasser)

 

 

 

 

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