Meine Ehre heißt Treue
In a National Socialist context, the phrase Meine Ehre heißt Treue refers to a declaration by Adolf Hitler following the Stennes Revolt, an incident between the Berlin Sturmabteilung (SA) and the SS. In early April 1931, elements of the SA under Walter Stennes attempted to overthrow the head of the Berlin section of the NSDAP. As the section chief, Joseph Goebbels, fled with his staff, a handful of SS under Kurt Daluege were beaten trying to repel the SA. After the incident, Hitler wrote a letter of congratulations to Daluege, stating ... SS-Mann, deine Ehre heißt Treue! ("Man of the SS, your honour is loyalty"). Soon afterwards, Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, made the modified version of this sentence the official motto of the organisation.
Terms related to virtue, such as "honour", "fidelity", "comradeship" or "obedience" were abundantly used in the SS rhetoric. The word "fidelity", used alone, was often a reference to Hitler personally, as in the pledge of allegiance of the SS:
We swear to you, Adolf Hitler, (...) fidelity and bravery. We solemny pledge obedience to the death to you, and to those bestowed by you as leaders (...)
The notion of fidelity did thus not refer to an ideal or an ethic, but to Hitler personally and his delegates, in line with the Führerprinzip of Nazi ideology; "fidelity" was to be understood as blind and absolute obedience.
The identification of "fidelity" to "honour" entailed, in negative, the loss of honour by refusing orders. Hence, "honour" lost its traditional meaning: honour in refusing illegal and criminal orders became an oxymoron, as only a blind obedience was deemed honourable. In the ethos of the SS, it was refusal to commit crimes ordered by a leader that constituted a dishonourable deed. This nazification of vocabulary aimed at obtaining the sort of unconditional obedience that law could not provide, as it required a pledge to traditional ideals of chivalrous virtue.
From 1932, the motto was engraved on belt buckles of the SS.
From 1947, the use of this motto or variations thereof has been proscribed in a number of countries, notably Austria, and Germany, in their laws pertaining to the use of symbols of anti-constitutional organizations, e.g. in Germany, Strafgesetzbuch 86a.
Notes and references
- ...Wir schwören Dir, Adolf Hitler (...) Treue und Tapferkeit. Wir geloben Dir und den von Dir bestimmten Vorgesetzten Gehorsam bis in den Tod...
- Bernd Wegner, Hitlers politische Soldaten ("Tugendideale der SS")