In the United States politics has evolved into this sort of blood sport with people separating themselves by party. Once put into groups there are members of those groups who follow the various party leaders almost without question. I’m convinced that some people, if their party leadership said jump off a bridge, it would be helpful to our cause, there would be a few people doing exactly as ordered.
It is getting close to these “cults of personality” that have been discussed before in an older post you can find by clicking the words cult of personality. I am not saying we are Nazi Germany, but do we have the potential?
When we rally behind politicians because they are “the hope” or the one who will “make us great again” for no other reason than we like the buzz word, or worse, just hate that other person running for office so much we will go with anything to make sure they don’t win that we might be repeating some mid-20th century history.
Now for our applicable bit of History.
On June 29, 1934, the Chief of the German General Staff, (General Ludwig Beck) met with Adolf Hitler. Beck had recently taken this position, and had sought it out, because he had concerns about the man in question.
Remember that Hitler had been a Corporal (and not a good one) in World War I, which had ended in 1918. Doing the math that is only 16 years, and in 1924 Hitler had spent 9 months in prison.
Doing another bit of math, as we continue to watch people rise to prominence in the United States over night, at very young ages and inexperience levels, Hitler was born in 1889. That makes him 45 years of age at this point. Yet, 17 months prior to this meeting in 1934 Hitler had been appointed, not elected, as Chancellor of all of Germany by the elderly, and known to be senile President Paul von Hindenburg.
General Beck had requested his current assignment because as part of his job he would have to know what Hitler’s real plans for Germany were. He had a concern that the young leader would want to re-arm Germany that had disbanded most of its military after World War I, and then launch a war of expansion. Hitler denied these claims, but Beck wasn’t so sure. In that meeting, he warned Hitler that any war started by Germany would quickly become multi-front and that their beloved country would not survive.
There is a military lesson there. Never try to fight a war on more than one front. It never goes well. The US has a policy that we should be ready to do so, but in my opinion as a veteran, we should fight fewer wars. We should also never fight two at once. Sorry for the digression, back to my point.
After the meeting, General Beck returned to his office where that same afternoon he received a phone call from Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. The admiral had been a highly productive and especially talented spy in World War I. During that phone call Canaris expressed to the General that he held many of the same concerns about Hitler.
That information dump from Canaris had another, far more dangerous bit of information. If word leaked out that this was known, surely both of them would have been in danger. Canaris knew, and shared with General Beck, that Hitler was preparing to wipe out (sometimes with deadly action) anyone opposed to his Nazi regime, and intentions to take complete control of Germany.
First on the hit list were General Kurt von Schleicher, Hitler’s predecessor as Chancellor. Second was General Kurt von Bredow who was Schleicher’s friend and assistant.
General Beck was concerned. He was so against such action that at great personal risk he warned Schleicher who said he wasn’t worry.
At noon, June 30, 1934, the very next day after all this took place 5 men walked into Schleicher’s home, found him in his study hard at work, and shot him to death. The noise cause his wife to burst into the room to see what was going on, and she was also gunned down.
General Bredow was notified of this murder two hours later. He was concerned and told the man he was meeting with that “Schleicher was the only man who could save Germany.”
Bredow was in his home a little after 5pm that same day. Two men rang the bell, Bredow came to the door and was shot to death.
With this action, Hitler had set in motion a plan to annihilate anyone who opposed him. But this was about to become more political.
General Werner von Blomberg ordered that Schleicher and Bredow were to be regarded as traitors. He further ordered that no General or Admiral was to attend their funeral. These orders, of course, originated with nonother than Adolf Hitler.
In an act of opposition, General Beck and Admiral Canaris went to the funeral. Not only did they go, but they went in full uniform and participated. They were stopped at the gates to the cemetery by SS officers who were loyal to Hitler. So, the control freak was going to get what he wanted, one way or the other.
On August 2, 1934, the 87-year-old President Paul Ludwig von Hindenburg died. Prior to his death, Hitler had obtained a Political Testament from the man that Adolf should replace him. Recall that Hindenburg was known to be senile. Senility is a legitimate concern in political leaders, something the world should take pay attention to, and prevent. Looking at the members of the House and Senate in the United States, one can ask the question how many suffer from such issues.
Moments after Hindenburg’s deal Hitler declared himself the fuhrer (supreme leader).
Hitler’s next act was to order all of Germany’s Generals and Admirals to assemble. He made them swear an oath, not to Germany, but to Hitler. This same oath was then repeated by the military all over Germany:
“I swear by God the holy oath, that I will render to Adolf Hitler, Fuhrer of the German nation and people, supreme commander of the armed forces, unconditional obedience, and I am ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath.”
Kind of frightening words if you think about it. Yet how many political parties are now demanding allegiance on every single issue in their platform. If you don’t agree leave the party is the general mantra these days.
Next up Hitler wasn’t done removing opposition. He had two more generals on his radar. First was General Werner von Blomberg, and the General Werner von Fritch. These two were to be the handy work of Hermann Goering. This time they weren’t killed, they were politically destroyed. Someone found dirt (of a sexual nature involving prostitutes) and used it to force them to “retire for health reasons.”
So, you see, Hitler new the game. Kill those you must to show you can, then destroy other opposition’s reputations. Whatever it takes to get to the top. Next time we have a campaign season, watch the number of negative ads and see if this one still takes place.
At this point the world had started to take note of Germany’s Generals having some kind of health epidemic. They also realized that Hitler had seized control of Germany with only a few shots being fired.
The moral of this story is several things.
First, appearances matter to the rest of the world. Our political leadership needs to know this, and realized their actions matter.
Second, blindly following a political leader because a large party of people said so, might not be a great idea. It is ok to question people of your own party, respectfully, and even disagree. Blindly following, well, is a really bad idea.
Third, could Hitler have been stopped by General Beck? Perhaps his spy friend? I think so. Had either one gone public, or just shot the man, the world might have been saved and 10s of millions of lives spared. The holocaust might not have happened.
Finally, these lessons show us we must question our leaders. We must hold them to their word. When they say things like “I will protect this group of citizens from that other evil group,” all of these things matter. Divisiveness is bad. The thought that we shouldn’t question a leader, even one we voted for, is ludicrous. The fact that citizens will cut friends from their life, or call each other names, or even get into fights for the mere act of giving or attending a speech…just silly.
We need to come together as a nation, learn from history, and move forward as a nation that can, and will lead the world into an era of peace.
As a P.S. to this post. I was researching this time in history for an idea I had for an Historic Thriller novel. If you are a history buff, like fiction novels, and want to know more about the WWII actions in the Pacific theatre, you may enjoy my book China Bones. It can be found on Amazon (click on the words China Bones).