Werner Willikens

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Werner Willikens (born 8 February 1893 in Vienenburg - died 25 October 1961 in Wolfenbüttel) was a German politician with the Nazi Party. His phrase "working towards the Fuehrer", as used in a 1934 speech, has become a well used 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] After Adolf Hitler came to power Willikens was appointed as a State Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry.[4]

Working Towards the Fuehrer[edit]

Ian Kershaw has argued that a speech made by Willikens in 1934, and 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".[5] Indeed such was Kershaw's use of Willikens' phrase that his tribute book even bore this as a title.[6] The speech itself was made in Berlin on 21 February 1934 to representatives of the regional agriculture ministries.[7]


  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. ^ Donald Bloxham, Tony Kushner, Antony Robin Jeremy Kushner, The Holocaust: Critical Historical Approaches, Manchester University Press ND, 2005, p. 127
  5. ^ Ian Kershaw, Moshé Lewin, Stalinism and Nazism: Dictatorships in Comparison, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pp. 104-6
  6. ^ Anthony McElligott, Tim Kirk, Ian Kershaw, Working Towards the Führer: Essays in Honour of Sir Ian Kershaw, Manchester University Press, 2003
  7. ^ Ian Kershaw, Hitler 1889-1936: Hubris, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 529