Background: The annual Nuremberg party rallies are well known. However, the Nazis also held mini-versions of the Nuremberg rally at the Gau level. The following essay was published in the Nazi monthly for propagandists outlines goals for these rallies, which were to focus more on inspiring participants to carry on their work at the local level. The GPA has an account of the 1936 Gau rally in Niedersachsen.
The source: “Gau-Tage,” Unser Wille und Weg, 5 (1935), pp. 267-271.
It is hardly necessary to provide a long explanation of the need for Gau rallies here. He who stands in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the many branches of the movement, who faces constant new tasks and works to achieve parts of goals, has a physical need to see how his work during the year fits into the bigger picture. All the work at the local level was and is done knowing that another activist is doing the same thing in a neighboring place, a third somewhere else, and so on. Furthermore, one needs to know that other branches are doing the same thing as is done in one’s own local group, which can help one’s own work through good examples. Work is not an end in itself just as the movement is not an end in itself, but rather its purpose is to increase the nation’s strength. One feels or reads that there is a large, invisible, and active camaraderie working together in the same direction, but at least once a year a visible expression is called for. One cannot say that the Reich Party Rally is sufficient. The opposite is true.
The Gau rally and the Reich Party Rally are complementary concentrations of strength that are both necessary to keep the party moving. Their results are by no means the same. The Reich Party Rally brings the party leadership and its followers together. It is a political mobilization whose lines go vertically from top to bottom and from bottom to top. A Gau rally has a broader impact. Its purpose is not political mobilization, but rather to be a political parade. The Reich Party Rally is characterized by a focus an major things, whereas a Gau rally must focus horizontally on matters within its boundaries. The broad impact of a Gau rally comes from bringing together all the organizations and their leaders within the Gau’s borders who face the same tasks and difficulties. A Gau rally makes visible the concept of a political front by manifesting its collective strength.
The more special meetings of a Gau rally result in an exchange of experiences of a community working together, the more successful they are. The Gauleiter of Hessen-Nassau has recognized the fundamental differences between the movement’s two largest gatherings. Future Gau rallies will work to systematically deepen this by taking account of the organizational differences. That means, firstly, reducing the big event, which is certainly possible, in favor of meetings of smaller groups. It also means special meetings for speakers of party organizations to help them apply the broad guidelines from the Reichsleitung to concrete local conditions within the Gau. The center of the discussions must be local experiences and tasks, while the broader work of the respective organizations should be addressed only in introductory remarks. Grand phrases and common rhetorical phrases suitable for mass meetings should be banned in such meetings. Minutes of such meetings can provide an annual record of inner growth and pass on to later generations the experiences of this era, who will view our era almost as the movement’s old fighters today look back on the years 1925-1928. Regardless of whether or not the Reichsleitung is able to provide equal numbers of Reichsleiter for each Gau rally, the main speeches at the special meetings of each Gau rally must be recorded and collected. They provide a valuable overall picture of what is happening, and the individual records of the discussion can have an instructive and educational echo. It is, therefore, necessary to send out a memorandum several weeks before a Gau rally outlining specific themes to be discussed, and to have well-qualified party members prepare for these over the year.
Long-term evaluation of the contents of special meetings will automatically enrich them.
The heads of the special meetings along with their most experienced colleagues should lay out concrete annual goals that can be presented to the main gathering of all political leaders and leaders of party organizations in the Gau. Each subordinate leader can take these confidential goals home with him as a positive result of the rally. To keep the political organization young, it is the duty of leaders in the Hitler Youth and the Jungvolk to participate in these special meetings. It would also be good for all HJ members who will join the party on 9 November to participate regardless of whether or not they will leave the HJ or remain in it, assuming that their superiors or others in leadership testify to the reliability of their character and worldview. The Gau rally should provide every opportunity to rejuvenate the political organization as a way of showing that the party holds to the foundations of the struggle before 1933. The relationship with the HJ deserves particular attention. First, the HJ today has broad and demanding work that makes great demands on its subordinate leaders, and second, the HJ must proportionally provide the most leadership material to the army, which in some places surely cannot be immediately replaced by newcomers. Now that the labor service has become obligatory, it needs the organizational and propaganda experiences of the party. A similar policy as that proposed for the HJ would certainly be better than cooperation only on paper. The connection between party and Labor Service should find expression not only in a march of the formations involved, but also in a form that is appropriate to the Labor Service as an intellectual concept.
If each Gau rally participant receives such a broad assignment, which is reinforced by the Reich Party Rally, the rest of a Gau rally can take a more relaxed course. One might even go so far as to avoid marches lasting for hours, replacing them with groups of a hundred selected from the best members who will carry the flags. Being named to such a group must be a particular honor, a reward for outstanding behavior in the group, providing encouragement for watching comrades and resulting in enthusiasm rather than exhaustion. This is another difference from the Reich Party Rally, where the mass effect must obviously remain.
The mass movement coming and going requires serious review. For the Gau rally just as much as for the Reich Party Rally or 1 May, we cannot take for granted that we have participants who even with the best of will, whether because of occupational demands, age, or lack of practice, are able to march in their formations for hours on end.
Finally, the active formations should march past an honor tribunal of uniformed members of all those organizations whose efforts alone are to thank for the victory of the National Socialist revolution, if one wants them to participate in the Gau rally at all.
Given the growth in the movement’s administrative apparatus, the Gau department heads should no longer all address a central mass meeting. That was often the practice before the takeover of power, and was of value for the participants as well as the department heads. People will appreciate brief reports of the results and goals of the special meetings from department heads, particularly if the speakers avoid phrases like: “you must, you should, you have to!, My department is the most...” The party’s gathered functionaries can benefit at least once a year from an overview of the ’s activities of a modern Gauleitung, if for no other reason than that it increases cooperation between the individual departments.
Finally, in the midst of the enormous work of the party’s formations at mass meetings and perhaps also marches, one should consider the spectators, who unfortunately are often ignored. Those past subordinate leaders who have worked untiringly for years for the movement have a right to one or two places of honor for their family members, for a wife, parents, or grown children. There should be seats of honor for people’s comrades who have sacrificed quietly for years, giving up what they had once been used to, or whose families have suffered. The party surely does not run the risk of seeming soft or sentimental if it honors these quiet and major sacrifices once a year. Do not raise organizational obstacles and so on. Remember, too, that today we often do not only have men in the seats of honor who have doubtless earned the honor through service to the party, but that also there are those who deserve the party’s honor because of their particular achievements. However, the honor that these men have earned for good reasons at party gatherings should not be automatically extended to their relatives, who often were not, and may still not be, interested in the movement. It cannot be a matter of indifference to National Socialists whether the places of honor at central party events are filled with the spirit of tradition, or whether they display what we combat in opposing the proliferation of titles. We have to be consistent here. We have to make room not only for paramount guests from public life, but also for those who quietly endured privation for many years. Otherwise we have no right to call for the abolition of titles like “Mrs. Director,” “Mrs. Major,” etc.
Before the takeover of power, Gau rallies were major displays by the party. Aside from Weimar and Nuremberg, they were the only experience most National Socialists had of the party’s organizational strength. We are part of a movement bubbling with life, and should be filled with enthusiasm and joy, and be closely bound to the people. We all have the duty, each in his own way, to be sure that the Gau rally of the NSDAP does not become an occasion for amusement that could be had just as cheaply anywhere else, but with a discount on tickets.
We have become too much of a mass movement not to pay attention here. Gau rallies are pilgrimages of our faith. They should be the starting point for necessary new offensives of our worldview.
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