Schacht is partially named after the American journalist Horace Greeley, a liberal 17th Century American journalist. In 1841 Greeley founded and edited a groundbreaking newspaper—the New York Tribune—which he used as a platform to campaign against tobacco, gambling, alcohol, prostitution, capital punishment, and slavery. Originally a supporter of Abraham Lincoln, he fell out with Abe over the latter’s foot-dragging on the abolition of slavery. A founder of the Liberal Republican Party, he ran for president on that party’s ticket, winning an unprecedented 40% of the popular vote. Greely died in 1872 at the age of 61.
Schacht’s Father—who had immigrated to America, became a citizen, but later returned to Germany—named him after this famous American individualist. He was given a Danish first name at the insistence of his grandparents. As will become clear during the reading of this biographical time-line, Schacht will in no way come to resemble his namesake. They were radically dissimilar personages. Horace Greeley would have never subordinated himself to any man, as Schacht did with Hitler, nor would he have hidden his opinions from anyone with Schacht-like subterfuge. While Greeley was a liberal populist who identified with ’the common man,’ Schacht was a conservative elitist banker opposed to egalitarian principles. It is clear that if the two of them had ever met, they would have despised each other.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: The families of both my parents have lived for centuries in Schleswig-Holstein, which until 1864 belonged to Denmark. My parents were both born as Danish citizens. After the annexation by Germany, my father immigrated to the United States, where three of his older brothers had already emigrated, and he became an American citizen. My two brothers, who were older than I, were born there. Later, my mother’s health prompted my father’s return to Germany. I was educated in Hamburg. I studied at universities in Germany and in Paris, and after receiving my doctor’s degree I was active for 2 years in economic organizations.
Note: As always, these excerpts from trial testimony should not necessarily be mistaken for fact. It should be kept in mind that they are the sometimes-desperate statements of hard-pressed defendants seeking to avoid culpability and shift responsibility from charges that—should they be proved—could possibly be punishable by death.
The source for all items, unless otherwise noted, is the evidence presented to the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at the first Nuremberg Trial, between November 21, 1945 and October 1, 1946.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: Then I began my banking career, and for 13 years I was at the Dresdner Bank, one of the large so-called "D" banks. I then took over the management of a bank of my own, which was later merged with one of the "D" banks, and in 1923 I abandoned my private career, and went into public service as Commissioner for German Currency (Reichswaehrungskommissar). Soon afterwards, I became President of the Reichsbank, and I held that office until 1930, when I resigned.1903: Schacht joins the board of the Dresdner Bank.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: Concerning the incorporation of the Sudetenland, I never thought of any such thing. Of course, Czechoslovakia was a European problem, and it was regrettable that, in that state, which had five and a half million Czechs, two and a half million Slovaks, and about three and a half million Germans, the German element had no means of expression. But just because the Czechoslovakian problem was not a purely German-Czech but also a Slovak-Czech problem, I sought a solution of this problem in such a way—and wished it to be in such a way—that Czechoslovakia should constitute a federated state, similar perhaps to Switzerland: divided into three different, culturally separate, but politically unified areas, which would be a guarantee for the unity of a German-Czech-Slovak state.November 12, 1918: From a resolution passed one day after the Armistice by the Provisional Austrian National Assembly:
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: From 1919 I considered the Anschluss of Austria inevitable and, in the national sense, that is, spiritually and culturally, it was welcome. But that economically the Anschluss of Austria would not be for Germany so much an aggrandizement as a liability, I always knew. But the wish of the Austrian people to belong, to be incorporated into Germany, I took that wish as my own, and said that if here there are six and a half million people who, spontaneously in 1919, and later in innumerable demonstrations, expressed their wish of being incorporated into the brotherhood of Greater Germany, that was an event to which no German could be opposed, but in the interest of Austria must hail with gladness. In that sense, I always favored and respected the wish of Austria to belong to the Reich, and wanted it carried through as soon as external political conditions permitted it.January 10, 1920: Entry into force of the Versailles Peace Treaty and of the Covenant of the League of Nations.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: It surprised me indeed to hear that reproach [that I was an opponent of the Treaty of Versailles] from an American Prosecutor. The lieutenant who spoke is perhaps too young to have experienced it himself, but he should know it from his education; at any rate, for all of us who have lived through that time, it was one of the outstanding events that the Treaty of Versailles was rejected by the United States, and, if I am not wrong, rejected with the resounding approval of the entire American people.
The reasons prompting that action were also my reasons for rejecting the Treaty: it stood in contradiction to the Fourteen Points of Wilson, which had been solemnly agreed upon and, in the field of economics, it contained absurdities which certainly could not work out to the advantage of world economy. But I certainly would not accuse the American people of having been adherents of the Nazi ideology, because they rejected the Treaty . . . .
I have always been proud to belong to a nation which for more than a thousand years has been one of the leading civilized nations of the world. I was proud to belong to a nation which has given to the world men like Luther, Kant, Goethe, Beethoven, to mention only a few. I have always interpreted nationalism as the desire of a nation to be an example to other nations, and to maintain a leading position in the field of spiritual and cultural achievement through high moral standards and intellectual attainment.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: I have taken the liberty of explaining here that, until July 1932, I did not in any way come forward publicly for Hitler or the Party and that, on the contrary, in America for instance, I warned the people against Hitler. At that time, the name Bormann was, of course, unknown to me . . . and Streicher’s paper, Der Stürmer, was just as revolting to me before that time, as afterwards. I did not think that I had anything in common with Herr Streicher. I was never seen publicly with Herr Streicher, or with Mr. [Martin] Bormann, certainly not at that time. It is quite possible that he attended the same Party rallies as I, or that I sat next to him; but, at any rate, in 1933 I was never seen publicly either with Streicher or with Bormann.November 1923: Schacht, after having been rejected for the position of head of the Reichsbank—largely as a result of his dismissal from von Lumm’s service—is appointed currency commissioner for the Weimar Republic. In this capacity, he participates in the introduction of the Rentenmark, a new currency based on property values.
Schacht’s secretary, Fraulein Steffeck, described his work as currency commissioner: “What did he do? He sat on his chair and smoked in his little dark room, which still smelled of old floor cloths. Did he read letters? No, he read no letters. Did he write letters? No, he wrote no letters. He telephoned a great deal: he telephoned in every direction, and to every German or foreign place that had anything to do with money and foreign exchange, as well as with the Reichsbank, and the Finance Minister. And he smoked. We did not eat much during that time. We usually went home late, often by the last suburban train, travelling third class. Apart from that he did nothing.”
From Wilhelm Vocke’s IMT testimony: Reich President Ebert appointed me a member of the Reichsbank Directorate in 1919, and Hitler dismissed me from office on 1 February 1939. Therefore, I was for about 20 years a member of the Reichsbank Directorate, and for 10 of these years I was under Schacht . . . . [I met Schacht] in 1915. I merely made his acquaintance then, but it was not until he became Reichsbank Kommissar and Reichsbank President, that I came to know him better . . . .
[The Reichsbank Directorate had] a disapproving attitude [to the candidature of Schacht as Reichsbank President]. We wanted Helferich as candidate for the presidency of the Reichsbank, because Helferich, in close co-operation with the Reichsbank, had created the Rentenmark and stabilization of currency.
But as reason for our disapproval of Schacht, we mentioned an incident contained in Schacht’s dossier which referred to his activity under Herr von Jung in 1915. According to this, Schacht, who had come from the Dresdner Bank, had rendered assistance to the Dresdner Bank, which von Jung did not consider quite correct, and that was the reason for Schacht’s dismissal at that time.
The Reich Government, however, did not heed the criticism which we made against Schacht, and as Minister Severing told me recently, he followed the proverb, "It is not the worst fruit which is eaten by worms," and Schacht was appointed President.
From Wilhelm Vocke’s IMT testimony: Schacht took up his office in January 1924. He called us all to a meeting in which he spoke very frankly about the situation, and this was the substance of what he said: Well, you disapproved of me for President because I stole silver spoons; but now I am your President, and I hope that we will work together, and we will get to see eye to eye—that was the expression used by Schacht—however, if one or another of you feels that he cannot work with me, well, then he will have to take the consequences, and I will gladly assist him to find another position.
Our relations with Schacht soon became good, and we worked together successfully. It was very good to work with Schacht. We quickly recognized that he was an unrivalled expert in his and our branch, and also in other respects his conduct was beyond reproach. He was clean in his dealings, and there was no nepotism. Neither did he bring with him any men whom he wanted to push. Also, he was a man who, at all times, tolerated controversy and differing opinions; he ever; welcomed them. He had no use for colleagues echo were "yes men."
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: This matter is not quite so harmless as the previous mistake of the Prosecution. In a previous interrogation, I was accused as follows, and the prosecutor, in presenting his charges here, referred to the fact—I quote the prosecutor:
"On 16 April, on the occasion of the Paris conference on reparation payments, Schacht said, ’Germany in general can pay only if the Corridor and Upper Silesia are returned to Germany.’ "
This is the interrogation of 24 August 1945. According to the verbatim record of the interrogation, I answered: "It may be that I said such a thing."
Of course, as far as the wording of a statement, which I had made 10 to 15 years before, I did not recall it. But I did remember that, in connection with the Corridor and Upper Silesia, I had made a remark, and since I had to assume that if the Prosecution submitted this record to me, it would be an accurate stenographic record; for that reason I did not dispute this remark, which I had allegedly made, and said that it might be that I said something to that effect. The Prosecution takes a "maybe" and out of that reconstructed the following sentence: "This quotation was read to Schacht, and he said it was correct."
This assertion by the Prosecution is therefore wrong. I said, "It may be that I said something to that effect," but I did not say that this statement that was submitted to me was correct.
Then, fortunately, in my imprisonment here, I succeeded in getting hold of my book, a book which I wrote about the termination of reparation payments, which was published in 1931, and in which I luckily put down the text of my statement about the matter we are dealing with now. I have the exact text, and I would like to say that this book has been submitted in evidence, and from this text appears what I said verbatim:
"Regarding the problem of German food and food supplies, it is especially important that import of foodstuffs has been decreased," I beg your pardon, "that import will be decreased," I am sorry again; I cannot read this: "that the import of foodstuffs will be decreased and partially made up through home production. Therefore, we cannot let the fact be overlooked that important agricultural surplus territories in the eastern part of Germany have been lost by cession and, that a large territory which was almost exclusively agrarian has been separated from the Reich. Therefore the economic welfare of this territory, East Prussia, is decreasing steadily and the Reich Government must support and subsidize it. Constantly, therefore, suitable measures should be taken to eliminate these injurious conditions, which are hindering considerably Germany’s ability to pay."
This quotation absolutely does not agree with the statement submitted to me in the interrogation, and in no way can we draw the conclusion, in consequence, that I was in favor of a return of these areas. What I demanded was that the separation of these areas be taken into consideration, when Germany’s ability to pay, and the payments were determined. When the prosecutor, in his speech, added: "I would like to point out that this is the same area, over which the war started in September 1939," I believe it is an insinuation which characterizes the prosecutor, rather than me, against whom it was intended.
From Schacht’s pre-trial interrogation:
Q: In other words, at the time of your talks with Hitler, in 1931 and 1932, concerning colonial policy, you did not find him—shall we say—enthusiastic about the possibility?
A: Neither enthusiastic nor very much interested.
Q: But he expressed to you what his views were, alternatively to the possibility of obtaining colonies?
A: No, we did not go into other alternatives.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: I told Hitler we should try to get back a part of the colonies [that] belonged to us, and the administration of which was taken away from us, so that we could work there. I was thinking especially of the African colonies ... but generally, any colonial activity; and of course, at first, I could only limit my colonial desires to our own property. Not I personally called them that. That is what the Treaty of Versailles calls them: "our property" . . . .
[I did] not [mean] only "trade," but "developing the natural resources," or the economic possibilities of the colonies. I considered every kind of expansion within the European continent as sheer folly. I told him [Hitler] it was nonsense to undertake anything toward the East. Only colonial development could be considered . . . . I have explained here that, upon my urgent request, he [Hitler] gave me the order, in summer 1936, to take up these colonial matters.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: The question at issue was whether one was justified in refusing to sign [the Young Plan], since to do so would give rise to the danger of serious new political entanglements; or whether, having signed, one should continue steadily to resist reparations in general, until the occasion arose which would enable them to be put an end to once and for all. I had decided in favor of the second method . . . .
From the very first moment, after the reparations were determined in 1921 or so, I fought against this nonsense with the argument that the carrying out of those reparations would throw the entire world into economic chaos. I fought against it and, as time went by, I did succeed in convincing the people of almost all the countries that this was sheer nonsense. Therefore, in July of 1932, if I am not mistaken, the then Reich Chancellor Papen was in a position to affix his signature to an agreement at Lausanne, which reduced reparations, de jure, to a pending sum of 3,000,000,000, and which, de facto, canceled reparations altogether.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: In two essential points there were differences of opinion between the Government and me; one was the internal finance policy of the Government. With the terrible catastrophe of the lost war and the Diktat of Versailles behind us, it was necessary, in my opinion, to use thrifty and modest methods in German politics. The democratic and socialist governments of that period could not see that point, but carried on an irresponsible financial policy, especially by incurring debts which, in particular, were contracted to a very large extent abroad. It was quite clear that Germany, already heavily burdened with reparation payments, was [in no way] in a position to build up as much foreign currency as was necessary for the payment of these debts. We were not even able to pay the reparations from our own economy.
Therefore I objected to the [contracting] of these debts, in which the various governments of that period indulged, and to which they also encouraged communities and private companies. I objected to this financial policy and continually, abroad and at home, warned against such a policy of incurring foreign debts. The foreign bankers did not listen nor did the German Government. It was during that period that if in Berlin one passed the Adlon Hotel, Unter Den Linden, one could not be sure that a financial agent would not emerge and ask whether one did not need a loan.
Later, I was strongly opposed by these same people, when Germany was forced to discontinue making payments of her debts. But I wish to state here that I have always and on every occasion been against such a policy of debts. That was the one reason. The other reason was in the field of foreign policy. I had not only contributed my part toward the creation of the Young Plan, but in 1929, I also assisted in the setting up of the Young Committee; the so-called Young Plan had resulted in a number of improvements for Germany, which the German Government was now sacrificing step by step during the subsequent negotiations at The Hague. Thus the financial and economic condition of the nation again deteriorated. I revolted against this, and for both these reasons I resigned my office as Reichsbankpraesident in protest, in March 1930.
I [then] went to the small estate that I owned in the country, and lived there as a private citizen. Then, in 1930, I made a trip to the United States. I departed shortly or immediately after the Reichstag elections of September 1930, and went to New York via London. There, I lectured for about two months, on questions that were presented to me by American friends.
From Schacht’s pre-trial interrogation:
Q: Well, now, you had read Mein Kampf, had you not?
Q: And you knew the views of Hitler on the Jewish question. Did you not?
Q: Well, now, during your time as Reich Minister, statutes were passed, were they not, prohibiting all Jewish lawyers, for example, from practicing in the courts?
A: Yes, that is what I said.
Q: Did you agree with that?
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: With the exception of a single occasion, I have never in my life concerned myself with Party politics. Even, at the age of 26, I was offered a sure electoral district in the Reichstag, which I did not accept, since I have never been interested in Party politics. My interest always lay in the field of economics and financial policy but, of course, for public affairs I always had a general interest, arising from a concern for the future of my country and my people.
Therefore, in 1919, I participated in the foundation of the Democratic Party.
May I say a few words here about my background and spiritual upbringing? My father, throughout his life, adhered to democratic ideals. He was a Freemason. He was a cosmopolitan. I had, and I still have, numerous relatives on my mother’s side in Denmark and on my father’s side in the United States, and to this day I am on friendly terms with them. I grew up among these ideas and I have never departed from these basic conceptions of Freemasonry and democracy, and humanitarian and cosmopolitan ideals. Later, I always remained in very close contact with foreign countries. I traveled much and, with the exception of Ireland and Finland, there is no country in Europe which I have not visited. I know Asia down to India, Ceylon, and Burma. I went to North America frequently, and just before the Second World War broke out, I intended to travel to South America.
I want to emphasize this, in order to show that I was never interested in Party politics. Nevertheless, when, in the elections of September 1930, Hitler’s party suddenly and surprisingly obtained 108 seats, I began to take an interest in the phenomenon and, on board ship going to the United States, I read Mein Kampf and, of course, also the Party program. When I arrived on the other side, the first question was what was my opinion about Hitler and the Party, because naturally everyone was talking about this event in Germany. In my first publication at that time—it was an interview—I uttered an unequivocal warning, and said, "If you people abroad do not change your policy towards Germany, then you will soon have very many more adherents of Hitler in Germany than there are now." Throughout that period of 2 months, I spoke about 50 times in public meetings, and I always met with understanding in the question of reparations, the mistakes of the Versailles Treaty, and the economic difficulties of Germany, and I returned with the impression that the whole American attitude, the attitude of the American people toward us, was indeed rather friendly.
From the proceedings in this Court so far, I have not gained the impression that the opinion of the Prosecution concerning the criminal character of the Party program is a uniform one. I am unable to see in the Party program, as such, any sign of criminal intentions.
Federation of all Germans, which always plays a great role, is always claimed, only on the basis of the right for self-determination. A position for Germany in foreign politics is demanded as constituting equality of the German nation with the other nations; that this involved the abolition of the discriminations which were imposed upon the German people by the Versailles Treaty is quite clear.
Land and soil was demanded for the nutrition of our people, and the settlement of our excess population. I cannot see any crime in that, because after land and soil was expressly added, in brackets, the word "colonies." I have always considered that as a demand for colonies, which I myself supported a long time before National Socialism came into existence. Rather strange and, in my opinion, going somewhat beyond the limits, were the points concerning the exclusion of Jews from civil rights but, on the other hand, it was reassuring that the Jews were to be under the protection of the Aliens’ Law, that is, subject to the same laws which applied to foreigners in Germany. I would have wished, and always demanded, that this legal protection should under all circumstances be given to the Jews. Unfortunately, they were not given that protection. For the rest it was emphasized that all citizens should have equal rights and duties. Promotion of popular education was stressed as being beneficial, and also gymnastics and sports were demanded for the improvement of public health. The fight against deliberate political lies was demanded, which Goebbels afterwards conducted very energetically. And, above all, demand was made for the freedom of all religious denominations, and for the principle of positive Christianity.
That is, in essence, the content of the National Socialist Party program, and I cannot see anything criminal in it. It would, indeed, have been quite peculiar if, had this been a criminal Party program, the world had maintained continuous political and cultural contact with Germany for two decades, and with the National Socialists for one decade.
As far as Mein Kampf is concerned, my judgment has always been the same, from the very beginning, as it is today. It is a book written in the worst kind of German, propaganda of a man who was strongly interested in politics, not to say a fanatical, half educated man, which to me Hitler has always been. In Mein Kampf and, in part also in the Party program, there was one point that worried me a great deal, and that was the absolute lack of understanding for all economic problems. The Party program contained a few slogans, such as "Community interests come before private interests," and so on, and then the "breaking up of subjection to financial interests" and similar phrases, which could not possibly signify anything sensible. The same held true for Mein Kampf, which is of no interest from the point of view of economic policy, and consequently had no interest for me.
On the other hand, as regards foreign policy, Mein Kampf contained, in my opinion, a great many mistakes, because it always toyed with the idea that, within the continent of Europe, the living space for Germany ought to be extended. And if, nevertheless, I did co-operate later on with a National Socialist Reich Chancellor, then it was for the very simple reason that expansion of the German space toward the East was, in the book, made specifically dependent upon the approval of the British Government. Therefore, to me, believing that I knew British policy very well, this seemed Utopian, and there was no danger of my taking these theoretical extravagances of Hitler any more seriously than I did. It was clear to me that every territorial change on European territory attempted by force would be impossible for Germany, and would not be approved by the other nations.
Besides that, Mein Kampf had a number of very silly and verbose statements but, on the other hand, it had many a reasonable idea, too; I want to point out that I liked two things especially: first, that anyone who differs with the government in political matters is obliged to state his opinion to the government; and secondly, that, though the democratic or rather parliamentary government ought to be replaced by a Fuehrer government, nevertheless the Führer could only remain if he was sure of the approval of the entire people, in other words, that a Führer also depended on plebiscites of a democratic nature . . . .
With regard to the principle of the dominating Jewish influence in government, legal, and cultural questions, I have always said that I did not consider this influence to be of advantage, either to the German people and Germany, which was a Christian state and based on Christian conceptions, or to the Jews, since it increased the animosity against them. For these reasons I was always in favor of limiting Jewish participation in those fields, not actually according to the population, but nevertheless limiting them to a certain percentage.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: Not on my initiative but by coincidence, I got in touch with the adherents of the National Socialist Party. A friend of mine, a bank director, invited me at the beginning of December 1930, to dine with him at his house, and to meet Hermann Goering there. I did so, and gained no really definite impression from Göring’s statements and conduct. He was, in every respect, reserved, modest, and well-mannered, and he invited me to his house, in order to meet Hitler . . . .
I have already stated that my friend, Bank Director von Stauss, invited me to an evening in his home so that I might meet Göring there. The meeting with Hitler then took place, when Göring asked me to come to his home—that is, Göring’s home—to meet Hitler. The National Socialist Party, at that time, was one of the strongest parties in the Reichstag, with 108 seats, and the National Socialist movement throughout the country was extremely lively. Consequently, I was more or less interested in making the acquaintance of the leading men of this movement, whom up to then, I did not know at all. Herr Göring wished me to meet Hitler, or Hitler to meet me. I was uninformed about the intentions of these two gentlemen at that time. However, I can imagine that it was just as much a matter of interest for these gentlemen to meet Herr Schacht, as it was for me to meet Herr Hitler and Herr Göring . . . .
As far as I was concerned, I was only interested in seeing what kind of people they were. What motives these two gentlemen had are unknown to me, as I have already stated. My collaboration was not given before the July elections of 1932. As I have stated here, the acquaintance was made in January 1931, which was 1.5 years before these elections. Throughout these 1.5 years, no collaboration took place. Until July 1932 I saw Hitler and Göring, each of them, perhaps once, twice, or three times—I cannot recall that in these 1.5 years. But in any case, there is no question of any frequent meetings.
From Confessions of the Old Wizard by Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht: After the many rumors that we had heard about Hitler and the published criticisms we had read about him, we were pleasantly impressed. His appearance was neither pretentious nor affected. Our talk quickly turned to political and economic problems. His skill in exposition was most striking. Everything he said, he stated as incontrovertible truth; nevertheless, his ideas were not unreasonable.
From pre-trial interrogations of Schacht:
Q: Prior to the time that Hitler appointed you as President of the Reichsbank, do you recall a meeting in the home of Göring?
A: Yes. That is a financial meeting. I have been interrogated about that several times already.
Q: Tell me about it?
A: Yes, I will. Hitler had to go to the elections on the 5th of March, if you will remember, and for these elections he wanted money for the campaign. He asked me to procure the money, and I did. Göring called these men together, and I made a speech—not a speech, for Hitler made the speech—then I asked them to write down the amounts and to subscribe for the elections, which they did. They subscribed a total of 3,000,000 marks.
Q: Who were the people who made up that subscription list?
A: I think that all of them were bankers and industrialists, they represented the chemical industry, iron industry, textile industry, all of them.
Q: Representatives of all the industries?
A: All of them, all of the big industries.
Q: Do you recall any of their names?
A: Oh certainly; Krupp was there, the old gentleman Gustav. He arose from his seat, and thanked Hitler, and was very enthusiastic about him at the time. And then there was Schnitzler, I think it was he, and Vogler for the United Steel works." . . . .
Q: When did you become interested in becoming a co-worker of Hitler?
A: I’d say in the years of 1931, 1932
Q: And that was when you saw that he had a mass movement that was likely to take power?
A: Quite, it was growing continually.
Q: And did you publicly record your support for Hitler in those years?
A: I think I made a statement in December, 1930, at a meeting of the Bavarian People’s Party, upon coming back from America, that there was a choice for any future German Government, either to hold against 25 per cent socialists, or against 20 per cent National Socialists.
Q: But what I mean—to make it very brief indeed—did you lend the prestige of your name to help Hitler come to power?
A: I stated publicly that I expected Hitler to come into power, for the first time that I remember, in November, 1932. . . . .
Q: What did he [Hitler] say [at your first meeting with him]?
A: Oh, ideas he expressed before, but it was full of will and spirit . . . .
Q: What was your impression at the end of that evening?
A: I thought that Hitler was a man with whom one could co-operate . . . .
Q: Yes, and at that time you became a supporter, I take it, of...
A: In the course...
Q: Of Hitler’s coming to power?
A: Especially in the course of the years 1931 and 1932 . . . .
Q: But what I mean—to make it very brief—did you lend the prestige of your name to help Hitler come to power?
A: I have publicly stated that I expected Hitler to come to power; for the first time, if I remember, in November 32.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: At the beginning of January, my wife and I dined with Göring and his wife, one evening at their home and, on that occasion, Fritz Thyssen was also invited. It had been planned that Hitler should come also and talk with us. I say again now that Göring’s apartment was extremely modestly and simply styled. We had a plain pea soup, and bacon, and particularly Göring’s first wife made an excellent impression. After supper Hitler appeared, and the ensuing conversation was conducted in such a way that, let us say, 5 per cent of it was contributed by us, and 95 per cent by Hitler. What he said concerned national questions, in which he agreed absolutely with us. No extravagant demands were stated but, on the other hand, the national necessities of Germany were definitely emphasized. In social questions, Hitler expressed a number of good ideas. He was especially intent on avoiding class struggle and, on eliminating strikes, lock-outs, and wage disputes, by decisive intervention of the State in labor relations, and the direction of economic affairs. There was no demand for abolishing private enterprise, but merely for influence in its conduct. It seemed to us, these ideas were quite reasonable and acceptable. Aside from that, he revealed practically no knowledge in the field of economy and financial policy, though on that evening, he did not claim to know anything about these subjects. He merely asked that we as representatives of economy should have understanding for his ideas and give him factual advice. That was the purpose of that evening . . . .
To work with Adolf Hitler was out of the question for me personally, since I was a private citizen and not interested in Party politics and consequently after that conversation I did nothing at all to create for myself any personal relations with the Hitler circles. I simply went back to my farm and I continued to live there as a private citizen. So personally, for myself I did not draw any conclusions but I drew another conclusion. I have already said that naturally I had the future of my country at heart. After that conversation, I repeatedly emphasized to Reich Chancellor Brüning, and implored him, when forming and heading the Cabinet, to include the National Socialists in it, because I believed that, only in this way, the tremendous impetus, the tremendous propagandistic fervor, which I had noticed in Hitler, could be caught and harnessed: by putting the National Socialists to practical government work. One should not leave them in the opposition, where they could only become more dangerous but, one should take them into the government, and see what they could achieve, and whether they would not acquire polish within the government. That was the suggestion, and the very urgent request I made to Brüning, and I might say that, according to my impression, Hitler would, at that time, have been quite ready to do that. Brüning could [in no way] be won over to such a policy and, in consequence, was later crushed . . . .
Before I cooperated with him [Hitler] I wanted to find out whether he demanded that I should become a member of the Party. I was most relieved when he said I need not. I think that is just another reason which will prove that I have never been a member of the Party.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: Before the July elections of 1932, which brought that tremendous success for Hitler, I was never active either publicly or privately on behalf of Hitler, except once, perhaps, or twice. I remember now, it happened once: Hitler sent a Party member to me, who had plans on economic, financial, or currency policies; Hitler may have told him that he should consult me as to whether or not these plans could be put into practice. I might tell the story briefly: It was Gauleiter Roewer of Oldenburg. In Oldenburg, the Nazis had already come to power before 1932, and he was the Minister President there. He wanted to introduce an Oldenburg currency of its own, a consequence of which would have been that Saxony would have introduced its own Saxon currency, Wuerttemberg would have introduced its own currency, and Baden would have had its own currency, and so on. I ridiculed the whole thing at the time, and sent a telegram to Hitler, saying that the economic needs of the German Reich could not be cured by such miracles. If I disregard this case, which might have constituted some sort of private connection, then I may say that neither privately nor publicly, neither in speeches nor in writing, have I at all been concerned with Hitler, or his Party, and in no way have I recommended the Party.
From the affidavit by State Secretary Carl Christian Schmid: When the Brüning Cabinet, which had been arranged by General von Schleicher ... was torpedoed by Schleicher himself, Schacht considered the early appointment of Hitler, as head of the Government, to be unavoidable. He pointed out that the great mass of the German people said ’Yes’ to National Socialism, and that the Left as well as the Center had come to a state of complete passive resignation. The short life of the transition cabinets of Papen and Schleicher was clear to him from the very beginning.
Schacht decisively advocated the co-operation in National Socialism of men experienced in their respective fields, without acceptance of its program as a whole, which he always referred to ironically, later frequently calling it ’a really bestial ideology’ in conversation with me; but he held that the influencing of developments from important inner power positions was an absolute patriotic duty, and he strongly condemned emigration and the resort to easy armchair criticism . . . . .
I recall numerous talks with Dr. Schacht in which he stated that war was an economic impossibility, and simply a crazy idea, as, for instance, when he was in Muelheim at the house of Dr. Fritz Thyssen, who was closely associated with Goering and Hitler before 1933, but was in strong opposition from 1934 on, and also opposed any idea of war as madness . . . .
When Schacht spoke to me, he used to refer ironically to the Himmler-Rosenberg Lebensraum plans against Russia, as an example of the mad presumption of extremist Party circles. Schacht’s special fad was an understanding with England.
From von Papen’s IMT testimony: When I was Chancellor of Germany, in 1932, Schacht came to see me in July or August while I was at home. He said, "Here’s a very intelligent man." It was in the presence of my wife, and I have never forgotten it. He said, "Give him your position. Give it to Hitler. He is the only man who can save Germany."
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: I do not know whether I said that he was the only man who could save Germany, but I did tell him that Hitler would--and must--become Chancellor. But that was in August or July of 1932, after the July elections; and it has nothing to do with Hitler’s nomination, which did not take place until after the Schleicher Cabinet, about which I have been examined here. I do not know whether [it could be considered] aiding Hitler. In the course of my examination here, I have been asked whether I had exerted any influence, in connection with Hitler’s election, or his nomination for the Chancellorship in January 1933. I have given the names of Hindenburg, Meißner, and so forth: that is to say, Hindenburg’s circle. Since the beginning of November 1932, Papen was no longer Chancellor, and thus he had no influence upon these matters at all. I did not talk to Papen at all during those weeks. On the contrary, after the elections of 1932, I said that it was inevitable that a man who had obtained so many votes in the Reichstag must take over the political lead . . . . I did not join Hitler when I saw that he would win, but when I had discovered that he had won.August 29, 1932: From a letter from Schacht to Hitler:
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: I explained to you yesterday already that up to the decisive election of July 1932, I had in no way intervened in the development of the National Socialist movement, but remained completely aloof from it. After that movement achieved its overpowering success in July 1932, of which I spoke yesterday, I foresaw very clearly the development which would now result. According to the principles of the democratic political concept, there was only one possibility, namely, that the leader of that overwhelmingly large party would now have to form a new government. I rejected, from the first, the other theoretical possibility of a military government, and a possibly resulting civil war, as being impossible and incompatible with my principles. Therefore, after I had recognized these facts, I endeavored in everything to gain influence over Hitler and his movement, and the two letters which you have just mentioned were written in that spirit.November 12, 1932: Schacht writes to Hitler:
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: [I was not collecting signatures in support of Hitler] but I participated.November 21, 1932: From Goebbels’ Diary:
From pre-trial interrogations of Schacht:
Q: And you know, or perhaps you don’t, that Goebbels in his diary records with great affection...
Q: ... the help that you gave him at the time?
A: Yes, I know that.
Q: November 1932?
A: From the Kaiserhof to the Chancellery, and back.
Q: That’s right. You have read that?
Q: And you don’t deny that Goebbels was right?
A: I think his impression was that that was correct at that time.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: I would never have expected that this apostle of truth, Goebbels, would once more be mobilized against me here, but it is not my fault if Herr Goebbels made a mistake . . . . I have never claimed that this entry was false. I only claimed that Goebbels got this impression and he was in error about it. In the general way in which Goebbels represents it there, it is wrong; it is not correct. If I would have protested against all the inaccuracies which were printed about me [Note: This entry was published in an early edition of Goebbels Diary], I would never have come to my senses . . . . Permit me to say something to this [that this is not exactly an ordinary excerpt from Goebbels’ diary]. Either you ask me: at any rate, I should not like to have here a two-sided argument if it is only one-sided. I say that the diary of Goebbels is an unusually common piece of writing.
Hitler, in the July elections of 1932, obtained 40 percent of all seats in the Reichstag for his Party. That is an election result which, if I am informed correctly, had never occurred since 1871, when the Reichstag was founded; and to me, as a democrat and a follower of democratic parliamentary government, it was quite inevitable that that man was now to be entrusted with forming a cabinet. I do not know of any alternative at the time. There was only one other possibility, one alternative, and that was a military rule. But the Cabinet of von Papen already had had some special presidential authority, and still could not maintain itself in the face of the Reichstag; and when Herr Schleicher attempted to establish a military regime without the participation of the Nazis, he failed after just a few weeks, because he found himself confronted with the alternative either of starting a civil war or of resigning.
Hindenburg and, at first, Schleicher as well, although at the last moment he acted differently, were always of the opinion that the Armed Forces could not face a civil war; and Hindenburg was certainly not ready to tolerate a civil war. But very unwillingly, he saw himself forced, by necessity, to put the reins of government into the hands of the man who, thanks to his own propaganda and the incapability of all preceding governments, thanks also to the inconsiderate policy of the foreign countries toward Germany, had won the majority of German votes . . . .
I want to state first that Hitler’s power was an accomplished fact in July 1932, when he secured 230 Reichstag seats. Everything else that followed must be viewed as a consequence of that Reichstag election. During that entire period, with the exception of the one interview you mentioned, in which I said that according to democratic principles Hitler must become Reich Chancellor, I can say that I did not write or publicly speak a single word for Hitler . . . .
I have never, in consultations with any of the competent gentlemen, be it Hindenburg, Meißner, or anyone else, contributed towards exerting any influence in favor of Hitler, nor did I participate in any way, in the nomination of Hitler to be Reich Chancellor . . . .
The President of the Reichsbank did not hold a position in the government, but was a high official outside the government. The first time that there was any talk in my presence about this post was on 30 January 1933, when I accidentally ran into Goering in the lobby of the Kaiserhof Hotel, and he said to me, "Ah, there comes our future President of the Reichsbank."
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: Hitler took an oath to the Weimar Constitution when he became Reich Chancellor, to Reich President von Hindenburg. In taking that oath, he swore not only to respect the constitution, but also to observe and fulfill all laws, unless they were lawfully changed ... the Weimar Constitution has never been repealed . . . .
I did not swear an oath of allegiance to a certain Herr Hitler. I swore allegiance to Adolf Hitler as the head of the State of the German people, just as I did not swear allegiance to the Kaiser or to President Ebert or to President Hindenburg, except in their capacity as head of the State; in the same way, I did not swear an oath to Adolf Hitler. The oath of allegiance [that] I did swear to the head of the German State does not apply to the person of the head of the State; it applies to what he represents, the German nation. Perhaps I might add something in this connection. I would never keep an oath of allegiance to a perjurer, and Hitler has turned out to be a hundredfold perjurer . . . .
I will merely state that, due to the collapse of 1918, and the unsatisfactory conditions of the Versailles Treaty, Germany was faced with a severe depression. The democratic parties, which had a firm hold on the regime at that time, were not able to improve the situation; and the other nations did not know what policy to take towards Germany. I do not reproach any one; I merely state facts. Consequently, in this state of depression, Hitler received a larger majority in the Reichstag, than had ever been the case since the formation of the Reich.
Now, I ask the people who, although silent at the time, can tell me now what I should have done; I ask them what they would have done. I have stated that I was against a military regime, that I wanted to avoid a civil war, and that, in keeping with democratic principles, I saw only the one possibility: To allow the man to lead the government once he had come to power. I said further that, from the moment I realized this, I tried to participate in the government, not with the intention of supporting this man in his extremist ideas, but to act as a brake and, if possible, to direct his policies back into normal channels.
From The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler by Robert Payne: Hitler had sworn not to leave the Chancellery in his lifetime, and he now promised that, even if the votes went against him in the elections, he would remain Chancellor. "We have other weapons," he reminded a group of bankers and industrialists who were invited to a meeting in Göring’s house . . . . Now he demanded his fee: 3 million marks, to be paid immediately. Dr. Hjalmar Schacht was given the task of collecting the money, which would be poured into the electoral campaign. Two days later, Göring made clear what those "other weapons" were. He ordered some 40,000 SA and SS men to be enrolled as auxiliaries in the Prussian police force. The terror, which would endure as long as National Socialism, had begun in earnest.[For a full, detailed, source-noted telling of Hitler’s rise to power, Click here.]
From pre-trial interrogations of Schacht:
Q: Prior to the time that Hitler appointed you as President of the Reichsbank, do you recall a meeting in the home of Göring?
A: Yes. That was a financial meeting. I have been interrogated about that several times already.
Q: Tell me about it.
A: Yes, I will. Hitler had to go to the elections on 5 March, if you will remember and, for these elections, he wanted money for the campaign. He asked me to procure the money, and I did. Göring called these men together, and I made a speech—not a speech, for Hitler made the speech—then I asked them to write down the amounts, and to subscribe for the elections, which they did. They subscribed a total of 3 millions, and they allocated the sum among themselves.
Q: Who were the people who made up that subscription list?
A: I think that all of them were bankers and industrialists. They represented the chemical industry, iron industry, textile industry, all of them.
Q: Representatives of all the industries?
A: All of them; all of the big industries.
Q: Do you recall any of their names?
A: Oh certainly; Krupp was there: the old gentleman, Gustav. He arose from his seat and thanked Hitler, and was very enthusiastic about him at the time. And then there was Schnitzler—I think it was he—and Vogler for the United Steel Works.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: In February of 1933, at the time when Hitler was already Reich Chancellor, and the elections of 5 March were to furnish a basis for the shape of the new government, Hitler asked me whether, at the occasion of a meeting which Goering was to call, and which would have the purpose of raising funds for the elections, I would be good enough to take the role of his banker. I had no reason for refusing to do that. The meeting took place on 26 February.
And now the prosecutor has made it appear that, during that meeting, I had solicited election funds. The Prosecution themselves, however, have presented a document, D-203, which apparently is meant to be a record of the election speech made by Hitler on that evening . . . .
That document closes with the following sentence:
"Göring then passed very cleverly to the necessity that other circles, not taking part in this political battle, should at least make the financial sacrifices required."
Therefore, from that report, which was submitted by the Prosecution, it can be seen very clearly that not I, but Göring, pleaded for funds. I only administered these funds later, and, in the affidavit by Schnitzler, Document EC-439, Page 11, the Prosecution have carefully left out these decisive passages, which do not accuse, but exonerate me. I quote the two sentences, therefore, as follows—I am sorry, I have to quote in English, because I have only the English text in front of me:
"At the meeting, Dr. Schacht proposed raising an election fund of—as far as I remember—three million Reichsmarks. The fund was to be distributed between the two ’allies,’ according to their relative strength at the time. Dr. Stein suggested that the Deutsche Volkspartei should be included, which suggestion, if I remember rightly, was accepted. The amounts which the individual firms were to contribute were not discussed."
It can be seen from this that the election fund was not collected only for the Nazi Party, but for the Nazi Party and the national group which was its ally, and to which, for instance, also Herr von Papen and Hugenberg belonged, and which, during that very meeting, was extended to comprise a third group, the German People’s Party. It was, therefore, a collective fund for those parties who went into the election campaign together, and not just a Nazi fund.
From Funk’s IMT testimony: I was at the meeting. Money was not demanded by Göring, but by Schacht. Hitler left the room, then Schacht made a speech asking for money for the election. I was only there as an impartial observer, since I enjoyed a close friendship with the industrialists.
From Schacht’s IMT testimony: Herr Funk is in error ... Göring directed the request for financial aid, and not I.
[Next: Part Two, Click Here.] Written by Walther Johann von Löpp Copyright © 2011-2016 All Rights Reserved Edited by Levi Bookin — Copy Editor European History and Jewish Studies Twitter: @3rdReichStudies E-MAIL
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