Background: This is an essay by Dr. Robert Ley, a leading Nazi, from a 1936 illustrated Nazi coffee table book on Adolf Hitler. Ley presents a picture of delighted German workers happy with all the Führer has given them. Historians find, however, that although Hitler was undoubtedly popular, German workers were not nearly as delighted as Ley suggests.
The source: Robert Ley, “Der Führer and das deutsche Arbeiter,” Adolf Hitler. Bilder aus dem Leben des Führers (Hamburg: Cigaretten/Bilderdienst Hamburg/Bahrenfeld, 1936, pp. 56-261.
The Führer and the German Worker
The change that has transformed the German people since National Socialism took power is clearest in the attitude of the worker to the new German state and in the stateís attitude toward work and the worker.
The workers as a class began to form at a time when liberalism dominated European thinking. Liberalism saw labor as something unpleasant, almost demeaning. Its highest ideal was to live from the work of others. The most desirable goal was no longer to join in building the future of oneís people and to take pleasure in it,but rather to cease unpleasant labor as rapidly as possible and to live as a retiree or coupon-clipper, at best earning money from property or commerce. Such a view naturally leads to a denigration of labor, with the scale of labor looking something like this: At the top, the unemployed class, then those who work in finance or commerce, then the professions, finally physical workers.
The latter was the dirtiest and most demeaning that could happen to a person, and he who had the misfortune to earn his living with his own hands was kept out of the “better circles.” He was “impossible.” How deep this liberal view had poisoned the healthy people is proven by the fact that even the worker who labored daily felt himself inferior, and saved every penny he could so that his son could become something “better,” perhaps a craftsman, and that the son then used his savings to send his son to the Gymnasium [the elite German high schools] or at least to high school, if Latin and mathematics were too difficult for the lad. And the father did this not so that his son could have life a bit easier or that he could enter life better prepared, but rather so that his son could be “better” than his father.
Do you understand how foolish such thinking is? The foolishness was systematically supported by Marxism, which transformed the liberal arrogance toward German working men into an inferiority complex on the part of the workers, who were given the feeling that they were disinherited proletarians who should hate their “betters.”
This class spirit and hatred was a damned crime coming from liberal roots and developed by Marxism!
Seduced by Marxism, workers believed they could better their situation by refusing to work. Under liberal foolishness, they broad circles of the “educated” preferred to starve rather than do physical work. The good German phrase “Work is no disgrace” was transformed into “Work is a disgrace.” The owners saw workers as dirty slaves. The workers took revenge by viewing those who provided work as bloodsuckers and drones and treated them accordingly. Neither side noticed that their attitudes would ruin the nation in short order, for both led to destruction. Neither the gold, the green, or the red internationales knew anything about a fatherland named Germany.
This is where Adolf Hitlerís unique work begins. He recognized that nothing could happen with those who were prosperous or those who were not or with employers or employees, and that Marxism could not be eliminated without first eliminating the arrogant and reactionary liberalism and giving the people a new and yet old attitude. The people heard his brief and clear words. At first they were few, but them more and more until finally they included all those who had suffered a miserable century of darkness. The scales fell from their eyes and they saw new light. In this new light all that had seemed opposing, all the seemingly unbridgeable differences, all the apparent deadly enemies, faded away. This is what the Führer said:
This was no mere theory. In 1933, German workers, seduced by Marxism or reactionary and foolish liberals, were skeptical as to whether National Socialism really was serious about its worldview. That changed quickly, and today the German worker is the strongest supporter of the Führer, who released him from his proletarian existence and finally gave labor back the honor that liberalism and Marxism had together taken from it. It was what they had longed for in the depths of their hearts to be respected for their work as much as anyone else, with status dependent only on the quality of work.
As this became clear, the German workers placed themselves as a man at the side of the first worker of the Reich. The liberal owners also came to understand National Socialist thinking. In the third year of the National Socialist Reich, this new labor ethic finds its expression in the final structure of the German Workers’ Front, which includes all productive German people from the general director of the factory to the apprentice. Now there are only German working people and German factories. The past is dead. The nobility of labor is recognized in Germany.
This happened only because everyone in the German people learned a new way of thinking and a new way of looking at the world, namely National Socialism. The Führer once said: “He who wishes to be a true socialist must himself have suffered.” Productive Germans know that the Führer himself was a worker for long years and learned from experience how tiring it is to work in the sun from morning to night, or in wind and rain, in frost or heat. Only such a man could develop National Socialism. He knew what it meant when he spoke of the honor of labor, and the masses knew it. This is the mysterious bond between the Führer and German workers. He freed them from slavery and gave them back their honor as free people. National Socialism today is firmly rooted in the workers. It makes perfect sense that on 1 May, the national holiday of the German people, the Führer receives the delegates of German workers in the Reich Chancellery, and through them all productive Germans. They come from every district in the Reich in planes and trains, and they stay in the best hotels of the capital, invited by the nation. They bring the Führer the gifts of German working men, the greetings of their comrades, and assurances of their loyalty, their love and their faith. They see him eye to eye before they go with him to the powerful mass meeting on the Day of German Labor.
There may still be many things that need to be improved, there may still be problems, difficulties from need and ignorance may still exist, disappointments may still occur, the material situation of the working class may still not have improved, selfishness and rudeness may show up in places, there still may be those who do not accept the new gospel of the dignity of labor. But these are only minor problems. They do not bother the workers, for the principle is and will remain firm, the principle of the dignity of labor. This is the only way to understand the activity of the German Workers’ Front. Who concerned himself with creating good workplaces before? Today the “Beauty in Labor Office” sees to it that productive people work in worthy surroundings, not in dirty workplaces. The Kraft durch Freude organization provides German workers with vacations and relaxation. They travel to the mountains and the beach, and have the chance, often for the first time, to explore their beautiful fatherland. They travel in their own ships to the magical southern seas and countries, or to the splendid beauty of the north. Each German citizen today enjoys the wonderful achievements of German theater and German music, the best German orchestras, the best German operas, theaters and films. Citizens listen to the radio, and play any kind of sport they wish. These new activities result not in dissipation, distraction and carnal pleasure, rather in genuine pleasure in physical activity, nature and culture. He who works hard should be able to enjoy life too, so that he better appreciates his people. The specter of unemployment no longer haunts the nation. Millions have already found work again, and those who still have not are cared for by the entire nation. Labor representatives see to it that the rights of workers and their honor are not violated, and the factory manager is as responsible for his employees and they are responsible with him for the success of the plant in which they together work. This shows clearly the difference between National Socialism and the past: the past knew only one person in charge and a lot of underlings. There were members of boards of directors, of administrative councils, of parties and unions and workers federations, of social charities and strike committees. Today we have one Führer for the whole nation, and under him the leaders of particular occupations or groups. Earlier, “one sat above the others,” but they all sat; they had no goal and no direction. Today they have a direction and a goal: all have joined the march behind one Führer.
The language also shows how much things have changed.
Everyone knows that there is only one man to thank, Adolf Hitler, the creator of National Socialism, who put the common good above the individual good, who replaced class struggle of “above and below” and “right and left” with a new message of the honor of labor and of service to the people. The National Socialist Labor Service will see to it that this teaching that makes the German worker the bearer of the state never vanishes. It is seeing to it that every German citizen, whatever his occupation may be, first works with his hands for the good of the nation.
The Führer drove arrogance and contempt, envy and hate of labor and possessions, from Germany. He gave the people a sense of pride and honor in labor, and an obligation of service to all. The German worker today is happy to be a free man in a free country. He is the leading worker of the world. Coming centuries will envy him. From the depths of his heart, he thanks the man who gave all this to him: the Führer.
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