This edited interview of Adolf Hitler by George Sylvester Viereck took place in 1923. It was republished in Liberty magazine in July 1932
“When I take charge of Germany, I shall end tribute abroad and Bolshevism at home.”
Adolf Hitler drained his cup as if it contained not tea, but the lifeblood of Bolshevism.
“Bolshevism,” the chief of the Brown Shirts, the Fascists of Germany, continued, gazing at me balefully, “is our greatest menace. Kill Bolshevism in Germany and you restore 70 million people to power. France owes her strength not to her armies but to the forces of Bolshevism and dissension in our midst.
“The Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of St Germain are kept alive by Bolshevism in Germany. The Peace Treaty and Bolshevism are two heads of one monster. We must decapitate both.”
When Adolf Hitler announced this programme, the advent of the Third Empire which he proclaims seemed still at the end of the rainbow. Then came election after election. Each time the power of Hitler grew. While unable to dislodge Hindenburg from the presidency, Hitler today heads the largest party in Germany. Unless Hindenburg assumes dictatorial measures, or some unexpected development completely upsets all present calculations, Hitler’s party will organise the Reichstag and dominate the government. Hitler’s fight was not against Hindenburg but against Chancellor Bruening. It is doubtful if Bruening’s successor can sustain himself without the support of the National Socialists.
Many who voted for Hindenburg were at heart with Hitler, but some deep-rooted sense of loyalty impelled them nevertheless to cast their vote for the old field marshal. Unless overnight a new leader arises, there is no one in Germany, with the exception of Hindenburg, who could defeat Hitler – and Hindenburg is 85! Time and the recalcitrance of the French fight for Hitler, unless some blunder on his own part, or dissension within the ranks of the party, deprives him of his opportunity to play the part of Germany’s Mussolini.
The first German Empire came to an end when Napoleon forced the Austrian emperor to surrender his imperial crown. The second empire came to an end when William II, on the advice of Hindenburg, sought refuge in Holland. The third empire is emerging slowly but surely, although it may dispense with sceptres and crowns.
I met Hitler not in his headquarters, the Brown House in Munich, but in a private home – the dwelling of a former admiral of the German Navy. We discussed the fate of Germany over the teacups.
“Why,” I asked Hitler, “do you call yourself a National Socialist, since your party programme is the very antithesis of that commonly accredited to socialism?”
“Socialism,” he retorted, putting down his cup of tea, pugnaciously, “is the science of dealing with the common weal. Communism is not Socialism. Marxism is not Socialism. The Marxians have stolen the term and confused its meaning. I shall take Socialism away from the Socialists.
“Socialism is an ancient Aryan, Germanic institution. Our German ancestors held certain lands in common. They cultivated the idea of the common weal. Marxism has no right to disguise itself as socialism. Socialism, unlike Marxism, does not repudiate private property. Unlike Marxism, it involves no negation of personality, and unlike Marxism, it is patriotic.
“We might have called ourselves the Liberal Party. We chose to call ourselves the National Socialists. We are not internationalists. Our socialism is national. We demand the fulfilment of the just claims of the productive classes by the state on the basis of race solidarity. To us state and race are one.”
Hitler himself is not a purely Germanic type. His dark hair betrays some alpine ancestor. For years he refused to be photographed. That was part of his strategy – to be known only to his friends so that, in the hour of crisis, he could appear here, there, and everywhere without detection. Today he could no longer pass unrecognised through the obscurest hamlet in Germany. His appearance contrasts strangely with the aggressiveness of his opinions. No milder mannered reformer ever scuttled ship of state or cut political throat.
“What,” I continued my cross-examination, “are the fundamental planks of your platform?”
“We believe in a healthy mind in a healthy body. The body politic must be sound if the soul is to be healthy. Moral and physical health are synonymous.” “Mussolini,” I interjected, “said the same to me.” Hitler beamed.
“The slums,” he added, “are responsible for nine-tenths, alcohol for one-tenth, of all human depravity. No healthy man is a Marxian. Healthy men recognise the value of personality. We contend against the forces of disaster and degeneration. Bavaria is comparatively healthy because it is not completely industrialised. However, all Germany, including Bavaria, is condemned to intensive industrialism by the smallness of our territory. If we wish to save Germany we must see to it that our farmers remain faithful to the land. To do so, they must have room to breathe and room to work.”
“Where will you find the room to work?”
“We must retain our colonies and we must expand eastward. There was a time when we could have shared world dominion with England. Now we can stretch our cramped limbs only toward the east. The Baltic is necessarily a German lake.”
“Is it not,” I asked, “possible for Germany to reconquer the world economically without extending her territory?”
Hitler shook his head earnestly.
“Economic imperialism, like military imperialism, depends upon power. There can be no world trade on a large scale without world power. Our people have not learned to think in terms of world power and world trade. However, Germany cannot extend commercially or territorially until she regains what she has lost and until she finds herself.
“We are in the position of a man whose house has been burned down. He must have a roof over his head before he can indulge in more ambitious plans. We had succeeded in creating an emergency shelter that keeps out the rain. We were not prepared for hailstones. However, misfortunes hailed down upon us. Germany has been living in a veritable blizzard of national, moral, and economic catastrophes.
“Our demoralised party system is a symptom of our disaster. Parliamentary majorities fluctuate with the mood of the moment. Parliamentary government unbars the gate to Bolshevism.”
“Unlike some German militarists, you do not favour an alliance with Soviet Russia?”
Hitler evaded a direct reply to this question. He evaded it again recently when Liberty asked him to reply to Trotsky’s statement that his assumption of power in Germany would involve a life-and-death struggle between Europe, led by Germany, and Soviet Russia.
“It may not suit Hitler to attack Bolshevism in Russia. He may even look upon an alliance with Bolshevism as his last card, if he is in danger of losing the game. If, he intimated on one occasion, capitalism refuses to recognise that the National Socialists are the last bulwark of private property, if capital impedes their struggle, Germany may be compelled to throw herself into the enticing arms of the siren Soviet Russia. But he is determined not to permit Bolshevism to take root in Germany.”
He responded warily in the past to the advances of Chancellor Bruening and others who wished to form a united political front. It is unlikely that now, in view of the steady increase in the vote of the National Socialists, Hitler will be in the mood to compromise on any essential principle with other parties.
“The political combinations upon which a united front depend,” Hitler remarked to me, “are too unstable. They render almost impossible a clearly defined policy. I see everywhere the zigzag course of compromise and concession. Our constructive forces are checked by the tyranny of numbers. We make the mistake of applying arithmetic and the mechanics of the economic world to the living state. We are threatened by ever increasing numbers and ever diminishing ideals. Mere numbers are unimportant.”
“But suppose France retaliates against you by once more invading your soil? She invaded the Ruhr once before. She may invade it again.”
“It does not matter,” Hitler, thoroughly aroused, retorted, “how many square miles the enemy may occupy if the national spirit is aroused. Ten million free Germans, ready to perish so that their country may live, are more potent than 50 million whose will power is paralysed and whose race consciousness is infected by aliens.
“We want a greater Germany uniting all German tribes. But our salvation can start in the smallest corner. Even if we had only 10 acres of land and were determined to defend them with our lives, the 10 acres would become the focus of regeneration. Our workers have two souls: one is German, the other is Marxian. We must arouse the German soul. We must uproot the canker of Marxism. Marxism and Germanism are antitheses.
“In my scheme of the German state, there will be no room for the alien, no use for the wastrel, for the usurer or speculator, or anyone incapable of productive work.”
The cords on Hitler’s forehead stood out threateningly. His voice filled the room. There was a noise at the door. His followers, who always remain within call, like a bodyguard, reminded the leader of his duty to address a meeting.
Hitler gulped down his tea and rose.