Werner Willikens

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Werner Willikens (8 February 1893 in Vienenburg – 25 October 1961 in Wolfenbüttel) was a German politician with the Nazi Party. His phrase "working towards the Fuehrer", which he used in a 1934 speech, has become a common description of Nazi bureaucracy in the literature.


Willikens enrolled in the German Imperial Army in 1912 and served in World War I as a battery commander.[1]

An early Nazi Party member, he was farmer by profession and organised the first training course for Nazi farmers in 1926.[1] Willikens was a member of the Reichstag, first being elected in 1928 and retaining his seat until the fall of the Third Reich.[2] In 1930 he was appointed deputy chairman of Agrarpolitischer Apparat, Agricultural Affairs Bureau of the NSDAP and also chaired the Agrarian League.[3] His appointment to the national executive of the Reichslandbund in 1930 was the first time that the highly conservative group - up to that point firmly linked to the German National People's Party - had given a position of influence to a Nazi.[4] After Adolf Hitler came to power Willikens was appointed as a State Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry.[5]

Ian Kershaw has argued that a speech made by Willikens in 1934, in particular his use of the phrase "working towards the Fuehrer", was important in laying the framework for the Holocaust. Kershaw argued that the speech recognised the aloofness of Hitler's charismatic leadership and thus encouraged officials to second-guess Hitler's wishes and act accordingly. Kershaw suggests that Adolf Eichmann's rise from minor functionary to a leading role in the SS was built on this principle of working towards the Fuehrer".[6] Indeed, such was Kershaw's use of Willikens' phrase that his tribute book even bore it as a title.[7] The speech itself was made in Berlin on 21 February 1934 to representatives of the regional agriculture ministries.[8]


  1. ^ a b Detlef Mühlberger, Hitler's Voice: The Völkischer Beobachter, 1920-1933. Organisation & Development of the Nazi Party, Volume 1, Peter Lang, 2004, p. 252
  2. ^ Datenbank der deutschen Parlamentsabgeordneten
  3. ^ Mühlberger, Hitler's Voice, p. 349
  4. ^ Richard Bessel & E.J. Feuchtwanger, Social Change and Political Development in Weimar Germany, Croom Helm, 1981, ISBN 085664921X, p. 151
  5. ^ Donald Bloxham, Tony Kushner, Antony Robin Jeremy Kushner, The Holocaust: Critical Historical Approaches, Manchester University Press ND, 2005, p. 127
  6. ^ Ian Kershaw, Moshé Lewin, Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 104-6
  7. ^ Anthony McElligott, Tim Kirk, Ian Kershaw, Working Towards the Führer: Essays in Honour of Sir Ian Kershaw, Manchester University Press, 2003
  8. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 529