Background: This article is taken from the Nazi monthly for propagandists. It discusses the duties of the lowest level Nazi propagandists, the cell and block wardens. A block was to consist of forty to sixty households, a cell included four to eight blocks. These men were the direct contact most people had with the Nazi Party.
The source: Oscar Schweichler, “Aufgaben der Zellen- und Blockleiter” Unser Wille und Weg, 5 (1935), pp. 15-18.
by Oscar Schweichler
Occasionally one hears a block warden or a cell warden complain: “Our duties are too menial — selling tickets and badges and running errands, that’s all!” That’s all? No, those who say that have no proper understanding of their duties. Rightly understood, the duties of a cell or block warden are far more important and far broader. Their primary task is to anchor the party members of their cell or block ever more firmly to the party, and to win those who live in their cell or block more and more to National Socialist thinking.
After the last referendum, in which 38 million voted “yes” and only about 4 million voted “no,” the Führer himself said in his fiery speech that the task was now to win over that last 4 million to National Socialism. It would be wrong to sit around and wait to see what the government would do to achieve that goal. No, each individual National Socialist has the duty to use his all his strength to help. The cell and block wardens are called to the task, and are in an excellent position to do it.
Can there be better or more varied tasks? They offer opportunity for independent and extraordinarily varied activities that are gratifying and satisfying.
This requires that the cell warden, and even more so the block warden, knows very well all the party members and non-party members in his district. He must know about their families and jobs, as well as all other personal relationships. He must know their concerns, whether large or small. He must know their political and social opinions. This all requires a good measure of tact and sensitivity, and cannot of course be learned overnight. The often underestimated activities of selling tickets and badges, as well as errand running, offer good opportunities for this. Showing friendliness and concern to both party members and non-party members, sharing and understanding their joys and sorrows, must and will help to win the confidence of our people’s comrades such that in time they come to see the cell or block leader as a kind of political pastor (Seelsorger). Rudeness and superiority can have not only the opposite effect, they can discredit the party. It is wrong to tell those who joined the party after the seizure of power that the best party members are those who joined earlier. Such discrimination will not anchor them more firmly in the party, but will rather annoy and repel them. The properly treated party member or non-party member will warm up over time. If he occasionally complains about a particular measure or about someone in the party, it will offer an opportunity for education or calming down. Usually, complaints are the result of misunderstanding, or more often of ignorance, gossip or lying propaganda. The political leader who in such cases goes along with the complaint, or for some reason agrees with it, or even adds to it, deserves to be thrown out of the party. That is as if one made the goat the gardener. It can do irreparable harm. It is necessary for the cell or block warden to know the reasons for the government’s various economic measures so that he can deal forthrightly with the fault-finding and false criticisms of party members and non-party members. There is material in the supplement to Will and Way to help [this refers to the speaker information material, which came along with this periodical]. Moreover, it is the duty of the local group warden to regularly provide information during leadership meetings, which often either does not occur, or is done inadequately. Such material is, however, far more important for political education than dry reading of regulations or practicing songs.
If the cell or block warden occasionally meets a party or non-party member who has suffered a presumed or real injustice from some party office or another, he should at least persuade the injured person that he should not make the party or even the Führer responsible for his injury, but rather that it is at most the mistake of an individual, the kind of mistake that is unavoidable even in the best of organizations. A valuable person with injured feelings can easily be lost through improper treatment, or through being left to his own resources, whether the problem was his fault or not.
The cell or block warden whose district includes a poor section is fortunate, particularly if the area includes a number of leftist opponents. Work in these districts is especially rewarding. The average person, assuming he is not hopelessly unteachable, is not hard to win over when he sees that he is being taken seriously. Once won over, he will stay with the party through thick and thin. The political leader from the upper social classes can be particularly effective here. He can show that he has really overcome the old barriers of class and occupation, assuming that he needed to. The class differences were always a particular thorn in the side to the worker. If he sees that the class barriers have really been eliminated, he is half won over. The cell and block warden should prove himself the true comrade of the poor man. Treat him no differently than someone of higher standing. Be concerned about him, talk with him, even if there are some missteps at first. Be concerned with every aspect of his life. He may have been unemployed for years, and may need help finding a job. Help him out with an occasional small gift, perhaps a bit of bacon or some margarine, even some “good butter” or a few eggs, some meat, or some tobacco, all things he hardly knows. Any political leader can occasionally afford to do this. And if he cannot afford it himself, he will surely know someone in his cell or block who can help out. He will be filled with pleasure as he sees the person’s heart soften and be won over for the swastika. Often, the cell or block warden can lend reading material, particularly about National Socialist thinking. But that may not be done in an offensive way. One cannot force anyone to read. It is not hard to tell if a people’s comrade has a strong interest, or at least some interest, in reading. When the book is returned, one can see if the content has been understood and accepted. If one or the other has not been the case, one should not be alarmed, but rather one can attempt to help through discussion, remembering the old proverb “steady drops wear away stone.”
It is a duty of the local group warden to remind his subordinates regularly of the political side of their task. He cannot hammer it into them too often. A cell warden must constantly supervise his block leaders to see if they are up to their jobs. The job cannot be done overnight. Cell and block wardens need time to get to know and to win over the inhabitants of their cells or blocks. The local group leader should choose cell and block wardens who will be around for a long time. The organisation of a local group cannot resemble a bird house, with birds coming and going all the time. A meeting of political leaders should not consist of new faces all the time, with one person not knowing the other. The local group leader must also choose cell and block wardens who have the right personality and seem really able to carry out the tasks we have discussed.
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