Hermann Rauschning

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Hermann Rauschning
Hermann Rauschning.gif
3rd President of the Free City of Danzig Senate
In office
June 20, 1933 – November 23, 1934
Preceded by Ernst Ziehm
Succeeded by Arthur Greiser
Personal details
Born August 7, 1887
Thorn, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire, now Toruń, Poland
Died February 8, 1982(1982-02-08) (aged 94)
Portland, Oregon, United States
Political party National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP)

Hermann Rauschning (7 August 1887 – February 8, 1982) was a German Conservative Revolutionary[1] who briefly joined the Nazis before breaking with them.[2] In 1934 he renounced Nazi party membership and in 1936 emigrated from Germany (eventually settling in United States) and began openly denouncing Nazism. Rauschning is chiefly known for his book Gespräche mit Hitler (Conversations with Hitler) US title Voice of Destruction, UK title Hitler Speaks, in which he claimed to have had many meetings and conversations with Hitler.

Life and Works[edit]

Rauschning was born in Thorn (Toruń), at the time part of the German Empire, to a Prussian officer in the province of West Prussia. He attended the Prussian Cadet Corps institute at Potsdam and in 1911 he obtained a Doctorate from Berlin University. He fought in World War I as an officer[3] and was wounded in action.[4] After the war, he settled in the area around Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland), where he owned land.

He lived in Posen[5] and was prominent in its Historical Society.[3] In 1930 he published a work under the title Die Entdeutschung Westpreußens und Posens (The de-Germanisation of West Prussia and Posen). According to Rauschning, Germans in these areas were constantly put under pressure to leave Poland.[3]

In 1932 he moved to a new estate in Warnow and became leader of the Danzig Land League. Previously affiliated with the German National People's Party, he then joined the Nazi Party believing that they offered the only way out of Germany's troubles, including the incorporation of Danzig into Germany.[6] He became President of the Danzig Teachers' Association in 1932. After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, the Nazis in Danzig won control of the Free City's government, and Rauschning became the President of the Senate of Danzig on 20 June 1933; that is, head of state of the Free City government. He was an excellent public speaker.[citation needed] In foreign matters Rauschning did not conceal that his personal desire was to turn neighbouring Poland into a vassal of Nazi Germany.[7] As a conservative nationalist Rauschning was not typical of Nazi members, and the Nazis' violent anti-Semitism was alien to him.[3] He was a bitter rival of Albert Forster, the future Gauleiter of Danzig.

On 23 November 1934, he resigned from the Senate and the Party. In the April 1935 Danzig elections, he supported "constitutionalist" candidates against the Nazis, and wrote articles supporting co-operation with the Poles, which angered the Nazis, and Rauschning found himself in personal danger.[3]

He sold his farming interests and fled to Poland in 1936.[8] He moved on to Switzerland in 1937, to France in 1938, and to the United Kingdom in 1939. Rauschning joined German emigres but his right-wing beliefs did not endear him to left-wing Germans, nor the fact that while a member of the Nazi Party he had been instrumental in the take over of Danzig.[3] Rauschning represented "one of the most conservative poles of the emigration" and enjoyed celebrity status through his lectures.[9] He sought to play a leading role in the more conservative emigre 'German Freedom Party', run by Carl Spiecher (later of the Centre Party), however he fell out with Spiecher who thought Rauschning was motivated by self-interest rather than the interest of the party.[3]

Between 1938 and 1942, he wrote a number of works in German addressing the problem of the Nazis which were also published in a number of languages including English. His Gespräche mit Hitler (Conversations with Hitler) was a huge bestseller but its credibility would later be severely criticised, and it now has no standing as an accurate document on Hitler for historians. However, as anti-Nazi propaganda it was taken seriously by the Nazi regime. At the beginning of the war the French dropped leaflets on the Western Front containing excerpts from Rauschnings writings, but with little response.[3]

In 1941 Rauschning moved to the United States, becoming a US citizen in 1942 and purchasing a farm near Portland, Oregon where he died in 1982. He remained politically active after the war and was opposed to the policies of Konrad Adenauer.[3]

Writings[edit]

Rauschning's writings that were translated into English deal with National Socialism and the Conservative Revolutionaries' relation to it, and their role/responsibility for Hitler gaining power. By conservative revolution Rauschning meant “the prewar monarchic-Christian revolt against modernity that made a devil’s pact with Hitler during the Weimar period”.[10] Rauschning came “to the bitter conclusion that the Nazi regime represented anything other than the longed-for German revolution”.[11]

In Die Revolution des Nihilismus (The Revolution of Nihilism) he wrote that "the National Socialism that came to power in 1933 was no longer a nationalist but a revolutionary movement"[12] and, as the books title states, a nihilistic revolution, destroying all values and traditions. He believed that the only alternative to Nazism was the restoration of monarchy.[13] His book went through seventeen printings in the United States[citation needed]. The book was directed at conservatives in Nazi Germany whom he hoped to warn of the alleged anti-Christian nature of the Nazi revolution.[14] He would reiterate the anti-Christian nature of Nazism in Gespräche mit Hitler.[citation needed]

Rauschning's ideas of conservative Christian resistance to Hitler met with increasing scepticism, and were of no interest to Winston Churchill and his doctrine of uncompromising total war.[15] He fared little better in the US where "extremists, like Henry Morgenthau argued for the radical dismemberment of the entire German nation".[16]

At the Nuremberg Trials the Soviet Union presented as evidence (USSR-378) two extracts from The Voice of Destruction.[17] Dr Pelckmann, for the defence, asked for Rauschning to be called as a witness on the matter of the party program relating to the solution of the Jewish question and Hitler's "principle to deceive the Germans about his true intentions" so that the prosecution would have to prove that the SS "knew what Hitler actually wanted"[18] but Rauschning was not called.

Authenticity of Hitler Speaks[edit]

The authenticity of the discussions Rauschning claims to have had with Hitler between 1932 and 1934, which form the basis of his book Hitler Speaks,[19] was challenged shortly after Rauschning's death by Swiss researcher Wolfgang Hänel. Hänel investigated the memoir and announced his findings at a conference of the revisionist association Zeitgeschichtliche Forschungsstelle Ingolstadt[20] in 1983.[citation needed]

Hänel declared that Gespräche mit Hitler (the German title of Hitler Speaks) was a fraud and that the book has no value "except as a document of Allied war propaganda"[page needed] and concluded that:

  • Rauschning's claim to have met with Hitler "more than a hundred times" was a lie[page needed]
  • that the two actually met only four times, and never alone[page needed]
  • words attributed to Hitler were simply invented or plagiarized from many different sources, including the writings of Ernst Jünger and Friedrich Nietzsche; and an
  • account of Hitler hearing voices, waking at night with convulsive shrieks and pointing in terror at an empty corner while shouting "There, there, in the corner!" was taken from a short story by French writer Guy de Maupassant (Le Horla).[page needed]

Hänel based his book upon a tape-recorded interview that he had led in 1981 with Emery Reves, Jewish publisher of the original French edition of Hitler speaks (which had been entitled Hitler m'a dit) who had commissioned the book from Rauschning in 1939. In this interview, Reves contended that penniless Rauschning's main reason for agreeing to write Hitler speaks was the 125,000 francs advance, and, referring to preliminary talks with Rauschning in 1939 where he had agreed with the author on what themes and personality traits to apply to Hitler, considered it as largely fabrication.

The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich also considers that "The research of the Swiss educator Wolfgang Hänel has made it clear that the 'conversations' were mostly free inventions."[21]

The non-revisionist historian Hugh Trevor-Roper's initial view that the conversations recorded in Hitler Speaks were authentic[22] also wavered as a result of the Hänel research. For example, in the introductory essay[23] he wrote for Hitler's Table Talk in 1953[24] he had said:

"Hitler's own table talk in the crucial years of the Machtergreifung (1932–34), as briefly recorded by Hermann Rauschning, so startled the world (which could not even in 1939 credit him with either such ruthlessness or such ambitions) that it was for long regarded as spurious. It is now, I think, accepted. If any still doubt its genuineness, they will hardly do so after reading the volume now published. For here is the official, authentic record of Hitler's Table-Talk almost exactly ten years after the conversations recorded by Rauschning".[25]

in the third edition, published in 2000,[26] he wrote a new preface in which he did revise, though not reverse, his opinion of the authenticity of Hitler Speaks:

"I would not now endorse so cheerfully the authority of Hermann Rauschning which has been dented by Wolfgang Hanel, but I would not reject it altogether. Rauschning may have yielded at times to journalistic temptations, but he had opportunities to record Hitler's conversations and the general tenor of his record too exactly foretells Hitler's later utterances to be dismissed as fabrication."[27]

In writing his biography of Hitler, Ian Kershaw has written "I have on no single occasion cited Hermann Rauschning's Hitler Speaks, a work now regarded to have so little authenticity that it is best to disregard it altogether."[28][29]

Richard Steigmann-Gall, in The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, is another historian contending Hitler speaks an overall fake.[30]

The Hänel research was reviewed in the West German newspapers Der Spiegel[31] and Die Zeit in 1985.[32]

Other historians have not been convinced by Hänel′s research. David Redles attacked Hänel′s method which consisted of:

'pointing out similarities in phrasing of quotations from other individuals in Rauschning's other books...and those attributed to Hitler in Voice of Destruction [i.e. Hitler Speaks]. If the two are even remotely similar Hänel concludes that the latter must be concoctions. However the similarities, which are mostly slight, could be for a number of reasons....[they] need not stem from forgery'.[33]

Eberhard Jaeckel also concluded that, whilst the work cannot be regarded as a verbatim account, it is a good guide to Hitler's world view from someone who conversed with him.[34]

Quotations[edit]

  • "It seems to be our destiny to have to repeat the same mistakes with a berserker's infatuation." The Revolution of Nihilism, pg xiii
  • "The mass understood and understands nothing and does not want to understand." Ibid, pg 20.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Stern,Fritz Richard The politics of cultural despair: a study in the rise of the Germanic ideology University of California Press reprint edition (1974)note to p297
  2. ^ Bosworth, R. J. B. Explaining Auschwitz and Hiroshima: History Writing and the Second World War Routledge (1994) p21
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Andrzejewski,Marek Hermann Rauschning. Biographische Skizze (Hermannn Rauschning biographical sketch) in Gornig Gilbert (ed.), German-Polish meeting on science and culture, Societas Physicae Experimentalis, Series of Gdansk Scientific Society, Volume 5, 2001, pp. 170–185
  4. ^ Wistrich, Robert Who's Who in Nazi Germany Bonanza (1984) p240
  5. ^ Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, last printed edition 2006, vol. 22 p. 578
  6. ^ Brockhaus Enzyklopädie, recent printed edition 2006, Vol. 22 page 578
  7. ^ Gdańska polityka Józefa Becka, Bogdan Dopierała,page 86, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 1967
  8. ^ Loew, Peter Oliver (2011). Danzig – Biographie einer Stadt (in German). C.H. Beck. p. 205. ISBN 3406605877. 
  9. ^ Palmier, Jean Michel Weimar in exile: the antifascist emigration in Europe and America Verso (2006) p569
  10. ^ Neaman, Elliot Yale A dubious past: Ernst Jünger and the politics of literature after Nazism University of California Press (1999) p71
  11. ^ Bullivant, Keith The Conservative Revolution in Phelan, Anthony (ed) The Weimar dilemma: intellectuals in the Weimar Republic Manchester University press (1985) p66
  12. ^ Rauschning, Hermann The Revolution of Nihilism, Warning to the West (1939) p16
  13. ^ Rauschning, Hermann The Revolution of Nihilism, Warning to the West (1939) p170-172
  14. ^ Conway, J.S. Hermann Rauschning as Historian and Opponent of Nazism Canadian Journal of History Vol 8, No 1 (1973) p69-70
  15. ^ Conway, J.S. Hermann Rauschning as Historian and Opponent of Nazism Canadian Journal of History Vol 8, No 1 (1973) p74-76
  16. ^ Conway, J.S. Hermann Rauschning as Historian and Opponent of Nazism Canadian Journal of History Vol 8, No 1 (1973) p77
  17. ^ The Trial of German Major War Criminals by the International Military Tribunal sitting at Nuremberg Vol 7 (1946) p29
  18. ^ "Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 19 p260". Avalon.law.yale.edu. Retrieved 2012-08-31. 
  19. ^ #HitlerSpeaks1939
  20. ^ Ingolstadt Research Institute for Contemporary Historical Research
  21. ^ Bedürftig, Friedemann; Zentner, Christian (1997). The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 1162. ISBN 0-306-80793-9. 
  22. ^ A view held by some other notable historians of the period in the 35 years following the end of World War II including Alan Bullock, Joachim Fest, and Robert Payne
  23. ^ entitled: The Mind of Adolf Hitler
  24. ^ which was not revised when the 2nd Edition was published in 1973
  25. ^ #TableTalk1973 "Introduction" p.xiv
  26. ^ in which the introductory essay was still reproduced.
  27. ^ #TableTalk2000 "Preface"
  28. ^ He does not say why this should be so
  29. ^ #Kershaw page xiv
  30. ^ Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945, Cambridge University Press, p. 29
  31. ^ Malanowski, Wolfgang (1985-09-09). "Zitat, Zitat, Zitat, und nichts weiter (Quote, quote, quote, and nothing more)" (Online archive of press articles). Spiegelwissen (in German) (SPIEGEL-Verlag Rudolf Augstein). Spiegel Online. pp. 92–99. der Spiegel 37/1985. Retrieved June 2, 2009. 
  32. ^ Janßen, Karl-Heinz (1985-07-19). "Kümmerliche Notizen. Rauschnings "Gespräche mit Hitler" – wie ein Schweizer Lehrer nach 45 Jahren einen Schwindel auffliegen ließ" (Online article) (in German). Zeitverlag Gerd Bucerius. Zeit Online. Retrieved Aug 29, 2011. 
  33. ^ David Redles Hitler's millennial Reich: apocalyptic belief and the search for salvation, page 195
  34. ^ Ibid., page 196

Works by Hermann Rauschning in English[edit]

US title UK title
The Voice of Destruction G.P. Putnam's Sons 1940 Hitler Speaks. A Series of Political Conversations with Adolf Hitler on his Real Aims Thornton Butterworth 1940
The Revolution of Nihilism, Warning to the West Alliance Book Corporation 1939 Germany's Revolution of Destruction William Heinemann 1939
The Conservative Revolution G. P. Putnam's Sons 1941 Make and Break With the Nazis – Letters on a Conservative Revolution Secker and Warburg 1941
The Redemption of Democracy, the Coming of the Atlantic Empire Alliance Book Corporation 1941 The Beast from the Abyss William Heinemann 1941
Men of Chaos G. P. Putnam's Sons 1942 Makers of Destruction – Meetings and Talks in Revolutionary Germany Eyre & Spottiswoode 1942
Time of Delirium D. Appleton-Century Co 1946

also[edit]

  • trans. E. W. Dickes (1940). Hitler's Aims In War And Peace [extract from Germany's Revolution of Destruction]. London: William Heinemann. 
  • Hitler wants the world : a series of articles by the "man who knows Hitlers̕ mind,". London: Argus. 1941. 

Works by Hermann Rauschning in German[edit]

  • Musikgeschichte Danzigs, (Dissertation University of Berlin) Berlin 1911
  • Geschichte der Musik und Musikpflege in Danzig. Von den Anfängen bis zur Auflösung der Kirchenkapellen, Danzig 1931
  • As editor: Posener Drucke, erster Druck: Nicolaus Coppernicus aus Thorn. Über die Umdrehungen der Himmelskörper. Aus seinen Schriften und Briefen Posen 1923
  • Die Entdeutschung Westpreußens und Posens. Zehn Jahre polnische Politik, Berlin 1930. reprinted 1988 with the title Die Abwanderung der deutschen Bevölkerung aus Westpreußen und Posen 1919–1929.
  • 10 Monate nationalsozialistische Regierung in Danzig, (speech) Danzig 1934
  • Die Revolution des Nihilismus. Kulisse und Wirklichkeit im Dritten Reich, Zürich 1938
  • Gespräche mit Hitler, Zürich 1940
  • Die konservative Revolution : Versuch und Bruch mit Hitler New York, 1941
  • Die Zeit des Deliriums, Zürich 1947
  • Deutschland zwischen West und Ost, Stuttgart 1950
  • Ist Friede noch möglich? Die Verantwortung der Macht, Heidelberg 1953
  • Masken und Metamorphosen des Nihilismus – Der Nihilismus des XX. Jahrhunderts, Frankfurt am Main / Wien 1954
  • ...mitten ins Herz: über eine Politik ohne Angst (with H. Fleig, M. Boveri, J.A. v. Rantzau), Berlin 1954
  • Die deutsche Einheit und der Weltfriede, Hamburg 1955
  • Ruf über die Schwelle. Betrachtungen, Tübingen 1955
  • Der saure Weg, Berlin 1958
  • Mut zu einer neuen Politik, Berlin 1959

Gespräche mit Hitler was also translated into French (Hitler m′a dit).

References[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by
Ernst Ziehm
Danzig Head of State
1933–1934
Succeeded by
Arthur Greiser