Hermann Rauschning

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Hermann Rauschning
Hermann Rauschning.jpg
3rd President of the Free City of Danzig Senate
In office
June 20, 1933 – November 23, 1934
Preceded byErnst Ziehm
Succeeded byArthur Greiser
Personal details
BornAugust 7, 1887
Thorn, Prussia, Germany
(now Toruń, Poland)
DiedFebruary 8, 1982(1982-02-08) (aged 94)
Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Political partyNational Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP)
Military career
AllegianceGerman Empire
Service/branchImperial German Army
Battles/warsWorld War I

Hermann Adolf Reinhold Rauschning (7 August 1887 – February 8, 1982) was a German conservative reactionary[2] who briefly joined the Nazi movement before breaking with it.[3] He was the President of the Free City of Danzig from 1933 to 1934, during which he led the Senate of the Free City of Danzig. In 1934, he renounced Nazi Party membership and in 1936 emigrated from Germany. He eventually settled in the United States and began openly denouncing Nazism. Rauschning is chiefly known for his book Gespräche mit Hitler (Conversations with Hitler, American title: Voice of Destruction, British title: Hitler Speaks) in which he claimed to have had many meetings and conversations with Adolf Hitler.

Early life[edit]

Rauschning was born in Thorn, German Empire (now Toruń, Poland) to a Prussian Army 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 a lieutenant[4] and was wounded in action.[1] After the war, he settled in the area around the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland), where he owned land.

Political career[edit]

He lived in Posen (now Poznań)[5] and was prominent in its historical society.[4] In 1930, he published a work under the title Die Entdeutschung Westpreußens und Posens (The Degermanisation of West Prussia and Posen). According to Rauschning, Germans in those areas were constantly put under pressure to leave Poland.[4]

In 1932, he moved to a new estate in Warnow (now Warnowo, Poland) and became the leader of the Danzig Land League. Previously affiliated with the German National People's Party, he then joined the Nazi Party as he believed it to offer the only way out of Germany's troubles, including the return of Danzig to Germany.[6] He became the agricultural advisor to the local Gau in January[when?] and in February, leader of the Danziger Landbund, a movement that supported the taking over of the Senate by the Nazis. He became President of the Danzig Teachers' Association in 1932. In 1930, the Nazis in the Danzig popular elections had become the second-strongest force, as the electoral potential of the rural population in Danzig was discovered. Rauschning saw this as a powerful tool to reorganize the Danzig NSDAP. The President of the Senate, Ernst Ziehm, strongly disliked Rauschning. In summer 1932, Rauschning and the local Gauleiter met with Adolf Hitler in Obersalzberg to discuss happenings in Danzig. After 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, starting the Rauschning Senate.

In foreign affairs, Rauschning did not conceal his personal desire to turn neighbouring Poland into a vassal state of Germany.[7] As a conservative nationalist, Rauschning was not typical of Nazi members and the Nazis' violent antisemitism was alien to him.[4] He was a bitter rival of Albert Forster, the future Gauleiter of Danzig.

There has been some debate over the importance of Rauschning to Hitler and the party. One of the reasons cited for Hitler's interest in Rauschning was his citizenship and political leadership in the Free City of Danzig. One of the first questions that Hitler asked Rauschning was "whether Danzig had an extradition agreement with Germany," which drew Hitler’s attention due to the possibility of him being forced to go underground.[8] Hitler feared that the Weimar Republic might move against the party and ban it. Since Danzig retained an independent status under the League of Nations, Hitler apparently felt that the free port "might well offer a useful asylum."[8]

Fall from power[edit]

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. Rauschning found himself in personal danger.[4]

He sold his farming interests and fled to Poland in 1936.[9] He moved on to Switzerland in 1937, France in 1938 and the United Kingdom in 1939. Rauschning joined German émigrés, left-wing Germans opposed his right-wing views and the fact that as a member of the Nazi Party, he had been instrumental in the takeover of Danzig.[4] Rauschning represented "one of the most conservative poles of the emigration" and enjoyed celebrity status through his lectures.[10] He sought to play a leading role in the more conservative émigré German Freedom Party, run by Carl Spiecher, later of the Centre Party, but he fell out with Spiecher, who thought Rauschning was motivated by self-interest, rather than the interest of the party.[4]

Later life[edit]

Between 1938 and 1942, he wrote a number of works in German on the problem of the Nazis that were translated to 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.[4]

In 1941, Rauschning moved to the United States, becoming an American citizen in 1942 and purchasing a farm near Portland, Oregon, where he died in 1982. He remained politically active after the war and opposed the policies of Konrad Adenauer.[4]


Rauschning's writings that were translated into English deal with Nazism, the conservative revolutionaries' relation to it, and their role and 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."[11] Rauschning came "to the bitter conclusion that the Nazi regime represented anything other than the longed-for German revolution."[12]

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"[13] and as the book's title states a nihilistic revolution that destroyed all values and traditions. He believed that the only alternative to Nazism was the restoration of the monarchy.[14] His book went through 17 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.[15] He would reiterate the anti-Christian nature of Nazism in Gespräche mit Hitler.[citation needed]

His success with the publication of his Die Revolution des Nihilismus book (The Revolution of Nihilism) in early 1938 made Rauschning financially able to pursue his German edition of Gespräche mit Hitler (Conversations with Hitler) and the other early versions and translations in 1939 and 1940. The first edition of The Revolution of Nihilism was printed in German under a Zürich, Switzerland, publishing house (Europa), which was "rapidly followed by ever renewed editions."[16] Its English translation was published in 1939 and became "the third best-seller on the non-fiction list."[17]

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.[18]

At the Nuremberg Trials, the Soviet Union presented as evidence (USSR-378) two extracts from The Voice of Destruction.[19] Dr Pelckmann, for the defence, asked for Rauschning to be called as a witness on the matter of the party programme 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,"[20] but Rauschning was not called.

Authenticity of Hitler Speaks[edit]

Criticism by historians[edit]

According to an article by The Spectator, Rauschning had taken immediate "notes made by him at the time" during his years with Hitler, which have been considered "not a mere transcript of the notes, but an attempt to reconstruct the conversations noted."[21]

Although Rauschning had written his book more than six years after his conversations with Hitler, German historian Theodor Schieder remarked that it—

...is not a document in which one can expect to find... stenographic records of sentences or aphorisms spoken by Hitler, despite the fact that it might appear to meet that standard. It is a [work] in which objective and subjective components are mixed and in which alterations in the author's opinions about what he recounts become mingled with what he recounts. It is, however, a [source] of unquestioned value, since it contains views derived from immediate experience.[22]

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

Trevor-Roper stated that Rauschning's account "has been vindicated by the evidence of Hitler's views which has been discovered since its publication and that it is an important source for any biography of Hitler."[26]

In the third edition, published in 2000, he wrote a new preface in which he revised but did 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 Hänel, 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 his biography of Hitler, Ian Kershaw wrote: "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] Historian Richard Steigmann-Gall, in The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, also contends Hitler Speaks to be an overall fake.[29]

Criticism by Holocaust deniers[edit]

The authenticity of the discussions that Rauschning claimed to have had with Hitler between 1932 and 1934, which formed the basis of his book Hitler Speaks,[30] was challenged shortly after Rauschning's death by an obscure Swiss researcher, Wolfgang Hänel. Hänel investigated the memoir and announced his findings at a conference of the negationist association Zeitgeschichtliche Forschungsstelle Ingolstadt (ZFI) in 1983.[31]

The ZFI is a historical revisionist association that, according to one of its leaders, Stephen E. Atkins, is a Holocaust denial institution that is based in Germany.[32] Its conferences and meetings have speakers attempting to trivialize Nazism and denying the guilt for Nazi Germany's part in World War II and other culpable activities by Nazis, in close collaboration with periodicals such as Europa Vorn, Nation und Europa, and Deutschland in Geschichte und Gegenwart, who promoted similar viewpoints and goals.[33] Not long after the ZFI conference in 1983, Mark Weber, from the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), considered the mainstay of the international Holocaust denial movement, published an article condemning the "Rauschning memoir as fraudulent,"[34] which led to the Holocaust denial and neo-Nazi community campaign to deny Rauschning's writings. As director of IHR, Mark Weber has referred to the Holocaust as a "hoax" and was the former news editor of National Vanguard, a neo-Nazi publication of the National Alliance.[35]

The Hänel research was reviewed in the West German newspapers Der Spiegel[36] and Die Zeit in 1985.[37]

In an effort to undercut the accuracy of Rauschning's early account of Hitler's anti-Semitic diatribes to "remove millions of an inferior race that breeds like vermin," Weber wrote:

The Holocaust hoax is a religion. Its underpinnings in the realm of historical fact are nonexistent—no Hitler order, no plan, no budget, no gas chambers, no autopsies of gassed victims, no bones, no ashes, no skulls, no nothing.[38]

Considered one of the first former Nazi insiders to criticize Hitler's plan for world domination and the expulsion of Jews, many of Rauschning's most sceptical adversaries have been led by "revisionist historians gathered around David Irving,"[39] who by 1988 was regarded as a proponent of Holocaust denial. In an unsuccessful 2000 libel case, Irving was discredited after he had falsified historical facts in an effort to advance his theory that the Holocaust never happened,[40] where Judge Charles Gray concluded that Irving was "an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-Semitic and racist and that he associates with right wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism."[41]

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."[42]

Other historians have not been convinced by Hänel′s research. David Redles criticized Hänel′s method, which he said consisted of

point[ing] out similarities in phrasing of quotations from other individuals in Rauschning's other books... and those attributed to Hitler in The 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 Rauschning's attempt at forgery.[43]


  • 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 (US, The Revolution of Nihilism, Warning to the West, Alliance, 1939; UK, Germany's Revolution of Destruction, William Heinemann, 1939)
  • Gespräche mit Hitler, Zürich 1940 (US, The Voice of Destruction, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1940; UK, Hitler Speaks. A Series of Political Conversations with Adolf Hitler on his Real Aims, Thornton Butterworth, 1940; France, Hitler m′a dit; Dutch Hitlers eigen woorden(by Menno ter Braak and Max Nord[44]))
  • Die konservative Revolution : Versuch und Bruch mit Hitler New York, 1941 (US, The Conservative Revolution, Putnam, 1941; UK, Make and Break With the Nazis – Letters on a Conservative Revolution, Secker and Warburg, 1941)
  • Men of Chaos, New York 1952
  • Die Zeit des Deliriums, Zürich 1947 (US: Time of Delirium D. Appleton-Century, 1946)
  • 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


  1. ^ a b Wistrich, Robert Who's Who in Nazi Germany Bonanza (1984) p240
  2. ^ 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 p. 297
  3. ^ Bosworth, R. J. B. Explaining Auschwitz and Hiroshima: History Writing and the Second World War Routledge (1994) p21
  4. ^ 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
  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. ^ a b Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, New York, NY, Bantam Books, Books, 1961, p. 188
  9. ^ Loew, Peter Oliver (2011). Danzig – Biographie einer Stadt (in German). C.H. Beck. p. 205. ISBN 978-3406605871.
  10. ^ Palmier, Jean Michel Weimar in exile: the antifascist emigration in Europe and America Verso (2006) p569
  11. ^ Neaman, Elliot Yale A dubious past: Ernst Jünger and the politics of literature after Nazism University of California Press (1999) p. 71
  12. ^ Bullivant, Keith The Conservative Revolution in Phelan, Anthony (ed) The Weimar dilemma: intellectuals in the Weimar Republic Manchester University press (1985) p. 66
  13. ^ Rauschning, Hermann The Revolution of Nihilism, Warning to the West (1939) p16
  14. ^ Rauschning, Hermann The Revolution of Nihilism, Warning to the West (1939) pp. 170–172
  15. ^ Conway, J.S. Hermann Rauschning as Historian and Opponent of Nazism Canadian Journal of History Vol 8, No 1 (1973) pp. 69–70
  16. ^ Toni Stolper, "Nazi Dynamics," The Saturday Review, Sept. 9, 1939, pp. 3–4.
  17. ^ "Dynamics of Destruction," The New Masses, Oct. 24, 1939, p. 28
  18. ^ Conway, J.S. Hermann Rauschning as Historian and Opponent of Nazism Canadian Journal of History Vol 8, No 1 (1973) pp. 74–76
  19. ^ The Trial of German Major War Criminals by the International Military Tribunal sitting at Nuremberg Vol 7 (1946) p29
  20. ^ "Nuremberg Trial Proceedings Volume 19 p260". Avalon.law.yale.edu. Retrieved 2012-08-31.
  21. ^ R. C. K. Ensor, "Hitler Behind the Scenes," The Spectator, December 15, 1939
  22. ^ Theodor Scheider, "Hermann Rauschning's 'Talks with Hitler' as a source of history," (Hermann Rauschnings Gespräche mit Hitler als Geschichtsquelle), publisher: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 1972, p. 62, part of the Rheinisch-Westfälische Academy of Sciences
  23. ^ That view was 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
  24. ^ "The Mind of Adolf Hitler"
  25. ^ Hitler, Adolf (1973). Bormann, Martin (ed.). Hitler's Table Talk 1941–1944. trans. Cameron, Norman; Stevens, R.H. Preface and Introduction: The Mind of Adolf Hitler by H.R. Trevor-Roper (2nd ed.). London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. xiv. ISBN 0-297-76584-1.p.xiv
  26. ^ Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Harper Torchbooks (Harper & Row Publishers),1964, p. 378
  27. ^ Hitler, Adolf (2000). "Preface". In Bormann, Martin (ed.). Hitler's Table Talk 1941–1944. trans. Cameron, Norman; Stevens, R.H. Preface and Introduction: The Mind of Adolf Hitler by H.R. Trevor-Roper (3rd ed.). London: Enigma. ISBN 1-929631-05-7.
  28. ^ Kershaw, Ian (1998). Hitler, 1889–1936: Hubris (1st ed.). London: Penguin Press. p. xiv. ISBN 0-7139-9047-3.
  29. ^ Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945, Cambridge University Press, p. 29
  30. ^ #HitlerSpeaks1939
  31. ^ Mark Weber, “Swiss Historian Exposes Anti-Hitler Rauschning Memoir as Fraudulent”, The Journal of Historical Review, Fall 1983 (Vol. 4, No. 3), pp. 378–380 [1]
  32. ^ Stephen E. Atkins, Holocaust Denial as an International Movement, ABC-CLIO, 2009, p. 105
  33. ^ Bernd Wagner, ed. Handbuch Rechtsextremismus Netzwerke Parteien Organisationen Ideologiezentren Medien (Manual of Right-Wing Extremism: Networks, Parties, Organizations, Ideological Centers, Media), Reinbek bei Hamburg, 1994, p. 164
  34. ^ Mark Weber, "Swiss Historian Exposes Anti-Hitler Rauschning Memoir as Fraudulent," The Journal of Historical Review, Fall 1983 (Vol. 4, No. 3), pp. 378–380
  35. ^ Institute for Historical Review, Southern Poverty Law Center, [2] [3]
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ 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.
  38. ^ Stephen E. Atkins, Holocaust Denial as an International Movement, Westport, CT, London; UK, Praeger, 2009, p. 170
  39. ^ Milan Hauner, Hitler: A Chronology of his Life and Time, Palgrave Macmillan, 2008, p. 84
  40. ^ Peter Wyden, The Hitler Virus: The Insidious Legacy of Adolf Hitler, New York, NY, Arcade Publishing. 2001, p. 164
  41. ^ "Hitler historian loses libel case," BBC News, April 11, 2000
  42. ^ Bedürftig, Friedemann; Zentner, Christian (1997). The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 1162. ISBN 0-306-80793-9.
  43. ^ Redles, David (2008). Hitler's Millennial Reich: Apocalyptic Belief and the Search for Salvation. NYU Press. p. 195. ISBN 9780814769287.
  44. ^ Dewulf, Jeroen (2010). Spirit of Resistance: Dutch Clandestine Literature During the Nazi Occupation. Camden House. p. 30. ISBN 9781571134936.
  • Rauschning, Hermann (1990) [1930 (Berlin, R. Hobbing)]. Die Entdeutschung Westpreussens und Posens : zehn Jahre polnischer Politik (in German) (Reprint ed.). Verl. für Ganzheitliche Forschung und Kultur. p. 405. ISBN 3-922314-96-1. OCLC 5452961.

External links[edit]

Government offices
Preceded by Danzig Head of State
Succeeded by