Background: Walter Tießler was an early Nazi who held a variety of positions in the propaganda apparatus before and after the Nazis took power. In this essay, published in the party’s monthly for political leaders, he discusses his experiences as speaker in the early years of the movement, using them to argue for the continuing importance of public speaking.
The source: Walter Tießler, “Redner formen die Volksseele “ Der Hoheitsträger 3 (January 1939), pp. 25-26.
Speakers Form the People’s Soul
When we consider our speaker system today, we always hear concerns about finding new speakers. One hears the same thing nearly everywhere: relatively few party members are interested in becoming speakers. In part, this is because there was a period when speakers were not treated as well, or their rhetorical abilities and efforts not esteemed as much, as one really should have been able to assume they would be. More than that, however, some party members could be suitable speakers, but lack the courage, the opportunity, or the persistence to become a good speaker. If I am to discuss my own battle experiences in several meetings, I should not neglect the first time I ever spoke in my life.
I, too, was once one of those party members who did not think he could speak. Thus, during the election campaign in May 1924 in my county I always invited a discussion speaker from our Gau capital to speak. One day this discussion speaker could not come. It was a meeting of the Bürgerblock leading up to the local election. The Bürgerblock was a coalition of the bourgeois parties, ranging from the German National Party to the Democratic Party. I did not want to speak, but only listen to what was going on. After the speaker of the evening, a Jew, had finished, a young Social Democrat who worked in my factory as a gardener took the floor and spoke from his heart about the reasons he had become a Social Democrat. He described the conditions of his family: poverty, misery, and hopelessness. As he truly spoke from his heart, members of the German National Party and the Stahlhelm yelled: “don’t get all worked up, little man,” and made other jokes about him.
That really angered me, and without thinking about it much I wrote my name on a sheet of paper and brought it to the front table. Only after I had turned it in did it dawn on me that I would have to give a speech! I was the next discussion speaker.
As I recall my first speech, it went something like this: a young, thin chap with trembling lips passionately and angrily attacked the representatives of the so-called “Bourgeois Block,” and blamed their heartlessness and lack of understanding for the fact that there were Marxists. The result was surprising. Before that, the German Nationalists, and the Stahlhelm in particular, had considered me an ally, while the Social Democrats and communists had seen me as one of their greatest enemies. Now, I suddenly attacked my “comrades” so energetically, and said they were responsible for the success of Marxism. Both inwardly and outwardly, my “comrades” drew back from me, while I got some applause from the SPD and the KPD. This applause gave me the courage to speak during discussions myself rather than request a discussion speaker. Although there were a lot of “ahs” and similar things at the beginning, things got better with time.
Nearly all of the party’s fighting speakers had similar experiences. We did not begin as “good speakers,” but got better only with time. No one today, therefore, should be negatively influenced by others when he begins speaking. Do not lose courage, but work hard at it, and one will find the path to becoming a good speaker.
My next example, which also took place at an enemy meeting, shows how confident a speaker can become over the course of time. It was two or three years later. The so-called “Communist Opposition” was holding meetings all over Germany. In our Gau capital, the Jew Professor Schwarz spoke for the “Communist Opposition.” I sat inconspicuously in one of the back rows with my younger brother. After the Jew Schwarz had finished speaking, representatives of the various Marxists groups proceeded to wash their dirty laundry in public. The atmosphere got more tense and heated. The district leader of the KPD spoke, rejecting in particular the Jew Schwarz’s charge that the KPD and the NSDAP were allies! This district leader was my particular foe in political combat, since he not only appeared as a discussion speaker at various of my meetings, but these meetings also often ended in brawls. In the heat of battle, L. said among other things that one could tell from the Jew Schwarz’s appearance that his ancestors had been Galician horse traders! I shouted “Bravo!” and started clapping, and the whole KPD joined in! As L. left the platform, delighted at the applause, Schwarz said to him: “I’d like to point out to you that you owe that applause to the National Socialist who started it.” L. answered: “No National Socialist would dare show up here!” Since it was my turn to speak, I walked to behind the chair where L. was sitting. I moved his chair aside a bit and said “Excuse me, please!” He looked up at me in annoyance. After I had gone a few steps further, he yelled: “That’s the Nazi! Kill the dog!” The KPD began bellowing that I had to be killed. I knew that only calmness could rescue me. I walked through the howling crowd up to the front table and asked the Jew Schwarz if I should speak or not, yelling to be understood. Schwarz, who thought I might be able to help him out, since the KPD was his enemy, bellowed like a lion that one should listen to an opponent!
I began my remarks by saying: “I stand here as a National Socialist!” That was all I could get out, since the yelling began again. I turned to Schwarz and asked if he wanted things to calm down or not. He said I had only myself to blame. I pointed out to him that he would be the first to get his nose punched. That got him to really try to calm things down. I knew that if I attached the KPD, Schwarz would not be able to save me, so I said that I had asked to speak only because Schwarz had lied when he said that the NSDAP and the KPD were allies! I could only agree with my people’s comrade L. that we were not allies. If Schwarz reproached L. because I applauded him, it was only because, despite our political differences, a German stood by a German when L.’s German blood spoke. I then said that just as we had joined together against the Jew Schwarz in this meeting, I hoped that one day all workers in Germany would take a stand against the Jews. I managed, without anyone’s help, to leave the meeting in one piece.
These experiences as discussion speakers, which we old fighting speakers had countless times, put great demands on us. Not only did we always face a far more numerous foe, but we also knew that these meetings would usually end in some sort of a brawl, which made constant demands on our state of mind. This came to expression not only in examples like those I mention above, but also in the fact that that we had to pay careful attention to every word in these opponents’ meetings to see if there was anything we could use for our purposes. This was particularly true as the opposing speaker reached his conclusion and we attempted to ruin his effectiveness through our heckling.
Today’s speakers do not have such experiences. But our fighting speakers face new tasks, if in other areas. During the period of struggle, for example, it was easy to find material for a speech that would captivate the individual people’s comrades and keep them constantly attentive and enthusiastic. The government of the time gave us enough material to fill up our meetings all by itself. Today, however, it is our task to support constructive work through our speeches and to uncover the opponent who today does not give discussion speeches, bur rather works through whispering subversion.
But it is still a time of struggle. The opposing worldview is the same as before, which the Führer referred to at the last Reich party rally, although our enemy is now fighting against our people particularly from abroad. As the NSDAP once had to deal with the parties in the Reich, the Reich now had to deal with foreign countries. This will be easier because of the successes of the National Socialist leadership. Nonetheless, we must see as one of our most honorable tasks dealing with this area, and to educate people’s comrades in positive ways about potentially unpopular matters! We can show if we really know something about speaking, and can do something. This part of our efforts will make our work ever a more valuable and indispensable support for our people’s government.
We speakers are the eternal molders of the German people’s soul, and remain what we were from our first days as fighting speakers: the faithful bearers of the National Socialist idea!
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