Hitler oath

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The term Hitler oath refers to the oaths of allegiance, or Reichswehreid, sworn by the officers and soldiers of the German Armed Forces as well as civil servants of Nazi Germany between the years 1934 and 1945. The oath pledged personal loyalty to Adolf Hitler in place of loyalty to the constitution of the country.

Background[edit]

On the day before President Paul von Hindenburg's death on August 2, 1934, Hitler's cabinet had enacted a law combining the offices of Chancellor (the head of government) and President (the head of state); Adolf Hitler would henceforth be known as Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Chancellor) and was both head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. The day of the Hindenburg's death, the cabinet ordered a plebiscite for August 19 for the German people to approve the combination of the two offices.

Although the popular view is that Hitler drafted the oath himself and imposed it on the military, the oath was the initiative of Defence Minister General Werner von Blomberg and General Walther von Reichenau, the chief of the Ministerial Office. Indeed, Hitler was surprised by the oath.[1] Before Hitler took office, the military swore the Reichswehreid to the German constitution and president. The intention of Blomberg and Reichenau in having the military swear an oath to Hitler was to create a personal special bond between him and the military, which was intended to tie Hitler more tightly towards the military and away from the NSDAP. Years later, Blomberg admitted that he did not think through the full implications of the oath at the time.[1]

Germany's voters went to the polls and 89.9% voted their approval for Hitler to assume complete power over Germany. The following day, August 20, 1934, the cabinet decreed the "Law On The Allegiance of Civil Servants and Soldiers of the Armed Forces", which superseded the original oaths. Prior to the decree, both members of the armed forces and civil servants had sworn loyalty to "the People and the Fatherland" (Volk und Vaterland); civil servants had additionally sworn to uphold the constitution and laws of Germany. The new law decreed that instead, both members of the armed forces and civil servants would swear an oath to Hitler personally.

Text of the oaths[edit]

Wehrmacht oath[edit]

Reichswehr soldiers swear the Hitler oath in 1934, with hands raised in the traditional schwurhand gesture

Die Vereidigung der Wehrmacht auf Adolf Hitler, 2.8.1934

"Ich schwöre bei Gott diesen heiligen Eid, daß ich dem Führer des Deutschen Reiches und Volkes Adolf Hitler, dem Oberbefehlshaber der Wehrmacht, unbedingten Gehorsam leisten und als tapferer Soldat bereit sein will, jederzeit für diesen Eid mein Leben einzusetzen."

The Wehrmacht Oath of Loyalty to Adolf Hitler, 2 August 1934

"I swear to God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath."

Civil servant oath[edit]

Diensteid der öffentlichen Beamten

Ich schwöre: Ich werde dem Führer des Deutschen Reiches und Volkes Adolf Hitler treu und gehorsam sein, die Gesetze beachten, und meine Amtspflichten gewissenhaft erfüllen, so wahr mir Gott helfe.

Service oath for public servants

I swear: I will be faithful and obedient to the leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, to observe the law, and to conscientiously fulfill my official duties, so help me God!

Public figures who refused to take the oath[edit]

In alphabetic sequence:

  • Karl Barth (Swiss theologian); Consequences: loss of professorship
  • Martin Gauger (probationary judge as a state prosecutor in Wuppertal); Consequences: forced retirement of his position as a state prosecutor
  • Franz Jägerstätter (Austrian conscientious objector); Consequences: execution in 1943; beatified in 2007
  • Josef Mayr-Nusser (from Bozen), after call-up for duty in the Waffen-SS; Consequences: Death penalty, died on the way to the Dachau concentration camp
  • Joseph Ruf (de) („Brother Maurus“ of the Christkönigsgesellschaft (rel.)), Consequences: Death penalty followed by execution
  • Franz Reinisch (Pallottines padre from Austria), after call-up for duty in the German Wehrmacht; Consequences: execution by beheading in 1942

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Kershaw, Ian Hitler Hubris, New York: W.W. Norton, 1998 p 525.