«Germany speaks [Heft 1, April 1940] [Seite: - 1 -] Impressions from the Navy The crews of the big German battleships are by no means pro-Hitler. ...»
[I S K (Militant Socialist International) [12, Brunswick Square,
W.G. Eichler] London W. C. 1]
Germany speaks [Heft 1,
- 1 -]
Impressions from the Navy
The crews of the big German battleships are by no means pro-Hitler. On the Uboats, which can almost be regarded as an arm of the Nazi Party, the fanatical Nazis
dominate, but on the big ships they have remained a small minority. It is interesting to know that before the outbreak of war the prospects of promotion in the High Fleet were excellent for all young people with technical talent, even if they had been under political arrest or in concentration camps for considerable periods. Such men were never allowed to join the crew of any U-boat.
The political rivalry which exists between the crews of the U-boats and the big battleships extends far into the ranks of the officers corps, although different reasons are responsible for it in these quarters.
The officers at the High Fleet still represent the old type of political conservatives.
They are much less popular and far less certain of a career than the U-boat officers, who are usually members of the Nazi Party. Professional and political rivalries are bound up with each other and the officer of the High Fleet is often at a disadvantage. The traditional banquets in feudal style which are known from the last war are still held for the officers' corps of the High Fleet, whilst the crew on the ships which so often lie idle, are subject to the same, largely non-sensical drill.
In spite of all this, however, a certain anti-Hitler feeling goes right through the crew and officers' corps of the High Fleet (although it would be an illusion to over-estimate its significance). A case has been reported from Hamburg in which a U-boat man greeted a sailor from a cruiser in a public house with "Heil Hitler". The sailor replied with an unrepeatable swear word, and was consequently denounced by the U-boat man. Crossexamined by an officer of his ship he said that he had acted under the influence of drink. In violation of the disciplinary code he was not punished.
In a public house in Bremen a free fight broke out between two sailors from a ship of the High Seas Fleet and a few U-boat men who had been showing off in a very provocative manner.
For these reasons the Naval authorities have given orders that the crews of the two different naval units should be kept apart as much as possible. There are special canteens and special places of amusement for the crews of the U-boats, who are given all kinds ofprivileges similar to those enjoyed by the permanent special patrol troops of the Western Front.
But it is unlikely that this strict segregation will be maintained for very long. On the Western Front, too, the patrol troops, the Nazis' special preserve, will lose their importance as soon as fighting starts on a larger scale. Actually, the position of privilege which the Nazis have occupied on the U-boats, is already being undermined, because the Hitler Youth and the Stormtroop Departments attached to the Navy can no longer satisfy the mass demand for recruits. As early as December last year, the big battleships were combed through in search of suitable men who write to be selected for six weeks training courses for U-boat service.
In a number of cases men have been transferred to service on the U-boats, who had held responsible positions in the Socialist Youth Movement right up to 1933, and who have remained loyal to their convictions up to the present day. Others were transferred who had never been members of any Nazi organisation. Amongst the new recruits there is no enthusiasm at all. Some of them have sent photos of themselves to their relatives at home as "Last greetings" accompanied by very depressed letters.
Although these symptoms have no immediate political significance, their military importance is considerable: a shortage of enthusiastic recruits for
the special Nazi elite troops is becoming apparent and they, more than anything else, are the indispensable conditions for the successful acts of bravado which have been carried out in the past.
From the Works Councils of the Republic to the Nazi Works Councils
The following incident has been reported from Berlin:
An old workman in a Berlin workshop, in his excitement over a conflict with his foreman, formulated the difference between the present Nazi Works Council and the earlier one as follows: "That's the position - in the past we threatened you with the Works Council, now you threaten us with it!"
A minor Catastrophe for the Works Leader
In our workshop no daily roll-call is held. We have not even a weekly or monthly factory meeting. All we have is a kind of Annual General Meeting. Our Works Director is over-burdened with works. Of course, you must not suspect him of regarding these meetings as highly inconvenient obligations. That would not be fair to him as a member of the Nazi Party! Anyhow, at the end of the business year he did call a factory meeting.
But he did not take sufficient care to ensure that it went according to plan.
The meeting was held in the hall of a public house. When I entered the hall, vivid pictures of similar scenes at meetings held during the time of the Weimar Republic came into my memory. The room was full of smoke; the workers were sitting by long rows of tables - I noticed almost all the same old faces. Everyone had his glass of beer in front of him - some were already drinking their third or fourth glass. How often had I seen similar scenes in the years of economic crisis? The workers could not really afford to drink beer then, nor can they afford it now. But the misery of their existence must be drowned in alcohol.
Only the platform looked quite different. There was the works director and his deputies, the whole management staff, the Labour Front officials and the leader of the factory shock brigades.
The works leader gave a survey of the past business year and thanked everybody for their sacrifice and co-operation. Silence. He said that he expected the same for the coming year, which would require much greater efforts. A few "hear, hear"s. Then the Labour Front official rose to speak. But nobody listened. They all knew what he had to say. Then the works leader asked for comment. A few Nazi block stewards had assured their colleagues before the meeting that they would voice complaints about some of the worst evils. This assurance had been given in a small circle. But in view of the presence of all their superiors they did not dare to come forward. They preferred to remain silent.
But the audience was becoming more and more restive. An old colleague got up and said: "Let's face facts. What we need is an increase in wages. It is no good talking around this point. If there was a will to help us, the way would be found. But I had better sit down now, otherwise I shall end up in a place where no one wants to be."
General applause. Many more wanted to speak. One asked the Leader a few questions:
"You spoke of the successes and gains of the last year. Gains - I assume that means more money! But none of us present here have seen any of it. (Great applause) Where has this money gone to, may I ask?" The question was ruled out of order by the platform. Laughter in the hall. Another man got up and said: "I have only a very modest request to make, namely I wanted to be treated as a human being." When some one else mentioned a technical matter which wanted putting right, the director replied that this would be taken in hand and he would make a note straight away. Several men then shouted: "Not necessary! The note is still there from last year."
At this juncture the works leader thought he had to take things in hand, he stated that he was the leader of the firm and that the workers were the followers who had the duty to follow. With these words he declared the meeting closed.
For a long time the events that had taken place at this meeting formed the topic of conversation amongst the workers. The Nazi shop stewards were thanked in due course for their "courageous behaviour". They did not feel too easy about it at all. Those who had spoken at the meeting were the heroes of the day. We had noticed quite well that most of the people present, though keeping quiet, had followed the course of the meeting with undisguised pleasure.
I did not speak either. The time was not ripe yet. But the soil is already being prepared. One of the workers said to his colleagues in an interval at work: "Things will not become better for us until those can speak who are compelled to be silent at the present time."
Communal Listening in the Factory If important Nazi speeches are broadcast during working hours for which the workers are paid, nobody minds much if he has to listen. But most people get very annoyed when they have to attend a "communal listening" outside their working time. But they have to stay to "show their interest". If, however, a broadcast falls in a period between the end of one shift and the beginning of another, everybody from the first shift rushes home as quickly as possible. At home most of them switch their wirelesses on, even if they do not want to listen at all. For otherwise some one might denounce them for not having paid due tribute to the speech. Of course, if one listens to foreign station, one behaves in exactly the opposite way.
Those who are in the factory at the time of broadcasting, assemble at the place fixed for the "communal listening". It is usually some odd corner or other. In our workshop it is a department where work can most easily be suspended. Seating accommodation is only available in so far as goods are lying about which can be used for the purpose. The most favourite places are those nearest to the door. If there are any wagons standing about many people like to climb on them. Recently a man thought of lying down to be more comfortable, and at once his example was followed by many others. We soon noticed how quiet they became up there. Of course, this did not escape the attention of some workshop spies either. They went to wake up the sleeping colleagues.
Very few of those who listen to these broadcasts show any sign of interest. Only when the speaker puts across a good joke is there any response at all. In our big works I have never heard any real applause. Personal contact with the audience means everything to the Nazi speaker who depends on the tricks of mass propaganda. Without it his speech has no effect.
The stormy applause, which comes through the wireless, sounds strange to the listeners in the workshop. Some get fun out of trying to find out whether the applause is "spontaneous", or whether the claque causes it directly or in response to a deliberate pause made by the speaker.
Since communal listening usually takes place at times of great political tension, those who received some political training in the working class movement in pre-Nazi years, try to analyse the speech. It may indicate certain trends in the political and military situation and hint at likely developments of the future. It has become more and more customary to pay attention not so much to what is being said as the way in which it is said, and also what is not said in the speech. All this forms the subject of discussion among those with a political understanding. In this way, the communal listening becomes most profitable for the enemies of the Nazi Regime.
Sabotage One morning three driving-belts were found cut in a workshop at the Felten und Guilleaume Works in the Muelheim district of Cologne. Sabotage being suspected an enquiry was held, but the affair remained a mystery.
Two workers were arrested for alleged sabotage in a smaller Cologne factory which is now since the outbreak of war turned over completely to the production of barbed wire for army requirements and is therefore subject to especially strict disciplinary measures.
An attentive study of the German daily Press shows that cases of arson are on the increase, and it is admitted that they include cases of plain sabotage. How greatly concerned the Nazi authorities are at the possibility of sabotage can be seen from the Ministry report No. 52, 1939 containing Himmler's circular of December 21st, 1939.
This document calls for more efficient precautions against fire and for greater care in guarding against the sabotage of stored materials and for a constant supervision of the building in order to prevent a recurrence of the cases "of damage to factories due to negligence or even to deliberate sabotage" which have lately been on the increase.
There follows an interesting case of sabotage taken from the German Press itself:
"Br. was formerly employed in a mine in this district. During the time from August to October of last year it was found that the machinery was being damaged by someone putting a wooden prop under the conveyor belt or by some similar means, the result being a stoppage of the entire system for some little time. The work of transport had to be suspended in the sections affected. One day the culprit was caught in the act. It was the above-mentioned defendant, who sought to excuse himself in court by saying that his only reason for damaging the conveyer belt was that he hoped to get a short breathing-space from work, as for certain reasons he was unable to get his proper rest at home. The accused confessed to having damaged the conveyor belt on four occasions
- on the final occasion he was interrupted before he could achieve his purpose." ("Nationalzeitung", Essen, March 1st, 1940).