Storm Troops Left in Lurch by Dictator

The Pittsburgh Press/July 1, 1934

Hitler Deserts Own Followers To Play Ball With War Veterans, Junkers

Nazi Chief Desperate

Power Wavering, Chancellor Joins Factions He Tried To Exterminate

Adolf Hitler has deserted his own Nazi Storm Troops.

In a desperate effort to retain his shaky seat of power, he has left the men who put him where he is today in the lurch. The chancellor now is playing ball with the very crowd his Brown Shirts had sworn to exterminate—the Steel Helmets and their Junker allies.

The showdown came yesterday with dramatic suddenness.

For months the Storm Troops and their leaders—who include Hitler’s chief lieutenants—have been trying to get him to disband the Steel Helmets, organization of 5,000,000 German war veterans. They wanted the ex-soldiers incorporated in their own ranks.

But until a few hours ago, Hitler had refused to make a definite decision. The Steel Helmets had the support of the Reichswehr (the army), the wealthy industrialists and the Junker land-owners. Last, but not least, they had the very potent backing of President Von Hindenburg, Vice Chancellor Von Papen and the other non-Nazi members of the government.

This constituted formidable opposition for even such a dictator as Hitler, who has no Parliament to worry about. To have done as his Nazi followers urged might have provoked open rebellion. And just now, Herr Hitler wants no revolution on his hands. His government rests on too light a foundation for that.

So when the decision was forced upon him yesterday, the Chancellor turned against his own followers. Every responsible leader of the Storm Troops was arrested. Seven promptly were executed. Others are said to have committed “suicide.”

The government thereupon announced that the Storm Troops would be given a month’s vacation and then “reorganized.” But if the reorganization ever takes place, and many observers are not so sure that it will, it is likely that the Steel Helmets and their friends will have something to say about it.

Steel Helmets Strongest In Land

For just now, the Steel Helmets are the most powerful body of citizens in Germany. The armed forces of the nation, and most of the money are behind them. And the only force they needed to fear—the Storm Troops—has been removed from the picture by Hitler’s about face.

It is too early to say whether Hitler has even temporarily strengthened his position by his swift and ruthless action of yesterday. Certainly, in the long run, he has not done so. The Storm Troops put him in power 18 months ago and have kept him there ever since. Now that they are “out,” he is at the mercy of a faction that does not share his views, that frequently has opposed his policies.

1923 About Face Recalled

This is not the first time Herr Hitler has abandoned his own followers. In 1923, when his Munich “beer revolt” came to its ill-fated end, the Chancellor did the same thing. As the Reichswehr troops opened fire upon his followers, he jumped into an auto and fled to the Austrian frontier.

Many Nazi followers will compare what happened yesterday with what occurred 11 years ago. And when they do, it is not likely to increase their loyalty or affection for the Fuehrer—the German name for leader.

The Steel Helmets—or the Staelheim, to give it its German name—was formed in 1918 after the close of the World War. It is composed of officers and men who had served at the front.

They are mature men whose outlook is naturally conservative. And the officers, with few exceptions, are members of the old aristocracy, who yearn for the return of the monarchy.

The Reichwehr’s officers are men of the same Junker background and viewpoint. Many of them are also members of the Steel Helmets. And they, too, are mostly aristocrats. In the Fourth German Cavalry Regiment, all but one of the officers is of noble birth.

As for the soldiers, their opinions are determined for them by their officers. The strict discipline in the German army sees to that. Besides, most of the rank and file are drawn from the middle classes, and their outlook naturally would be conservative.

Nazis Are Youngsters

The Nazi storm troopers are of an entirely different class. Most of them are youngsters who love to parade about in uniform, who are fond of displaying their authority. With few exceptions, they are drawn from the poorer classes. Their viewpoint—after the starvation years of Germany’s post-war era—is radical or semi-radical.

The Storm Troops have always felt that they should be the one and only organization in the Third Reich. There is no doubt but that Hitler shared this viewpoint for a long time.

A few weeks ago, the feud between the two organizations flared into the open. Labor Minister Seldte went to Hamburg to address a Steel Helmet rally. On his way back, he was hissed and stoned by Storm Troopers. Whereupon, Seldte promptly went to Hitler and demanded a showdown. The Chancellor, he said bluntly, had to choose between the two organizations.

But Hitler temporized. Even the sensational speech of Vice-Chancellor Franz Von Papen a few days later—in which the Vice-Chancellor warned the Hitlerites to slow down and indirectly urged the curbing of the Storm Troops—had no immediate effect. Neither did the intervention of President Von Hindenburg in Von Papen’s behalf, when Nazi subordinates tried to suppress the speech.

But yesterday, when Hitler found out that his chief lieutenants were plotting to disband by force all units of the Steel Helmets throughout Germany, he no longer could put off a decision. He had to decide between the conservatives whom he has always disliked privately and the radicals he always has upheld.

He chose to side with the conservatives. Whether he sealed his own doom in doing so, is a question time alone will decide.

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