Joseph Goebbels’ Battle for Berlin: The Beginning (1934)
Translated and with an introduction by Alexander Jacob
Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945) was born in Rheydt, near Düsseldorf, in a Roman Catholic family and studied literature and history at the universities of Bonn, Würzburg, Freiburg and Munich. He obtained his doctorate in philology from the University of Heidelberg in 1921. He became interested in Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist movement from 1924, when Hitler was sentenced to a year’s imprisonment after the failed Beer Hall Putsch of November 1923. Goebbels first worked for the socialist-minded Gregor Strasser, who headed the north-western districts of Germany, as editor of the party newspaper and secretary of the regional party offices. In 1926, When Hitler decided to dissolve the north-western district offices of Gregor Strasser, Goebbels was appointed Gauleiter of Berlin.
Goebbels produced a newspaper for the Berlin Gau called Der Angriff in 1927 and developed his public speaking skills in the several mass meetings organized by the NSDAP. However, the party itself was banned by the Jewish Police Commissioner of Berlin, Dr. Bernhard Weiß, on 5 May, 1927. Weiß was the object of several sharp critiques penned by Goebbels, whom Weiß repeatedly sued and prevented from speaking at National Socialist meetings. The Berlin ban on the party was, however, lifted for the election campaign of May 1928 and Goebbels himself was elected National Socialist representative in the Reichstag. In 1930, Hitler appointed Goebbels propaganda leader of the National Socialist party, a position formerly occupied by Strasser, who left the party that year.
In 1932, Goebbels published an account of the party’s struggles for political victory in the German capital in his Kampf um Berlin, Band I: Der Anfang. This was the first volume of a planned two-volume work. However, a second volume was not published, and when the work appeared in 1934 in the Zentralverlag der NSDAP (Munich: Franz Eher Nachfolger), it continued to be called Kampf um Berlin: Der Anfang. It contained illustrations by ‘Mjölnir’ (Hans Herbert Schweitzer).
Goebbels’ commitment to the National Socialist movement is clearly evident in the concluding remarks of his Introduction to the work:
The one who wrote these pages was involved in a significant and highly responsible way in the course of things. He therefore represents the party in every sense of the word. He only cherishes the hope of recording in this presentation, from the heart, what was placed as a heavy responsibility on it during the five-year long battle. It should be for those who participated in and fought for the glorious rise of the Berlin movement a consolation and incentive, for those who stood aside doubtful and indifferent an admonition and reminder to their conscience, and for those who opposed our victorious march a warning and declaration of war.
Ch.8, Part 1: “Agitation and Persecution”
The victorious course of the young National Socialist movement in the Reich capital had now temporarily received a short and sudden end through the party ban declared by the Police Commissioner. The public effectiveness of the party was prohibited, the organization was smashed, the propaganda crippled, the bands of followers scattered in the winds and every direct contact of the leadership with the party comrades broken off. The prohibition of the party was implemented by the authorities with a bullying severity. It was of course not declared on the grounds of the law of the republic and therefore impossible to penalise individual transgressions with harsh financial and imprisonment penalties. It was based on the Prussian Civil Code dating already from the time of Frederick the Great and was, on well considered grounds, motivated not by political but by penal code arguments. It was imposed by the Police and not by the Ministry and was for that reason easier and less dangerous to circumvent than a political ban that is decreed normally with the threat of severe political penalties.
Already in the ban the Police Commissioner had overstepped his authority in a flagrant manner. He had declared the ban for Berlin and the Margraviate of Brandenburg even though he clearly lacked any authority for that, at least as regards Brandenburg. The Police Commissioner could at best prohibit the party for Berlin; and if, in justifying it, it were said that the party had become guilty of punishable offences, one could in this case—presuming that that corresponded to the facts—rightly speak of a party ban only if the public peace and security were endangered by the continued existence of the party.
But that did not seriously come into question. Our party comrades had been attacked by political opponents and had put up a fight. They had thereby claimed for themselves also the most original right that pertains to a citizen, the right to self-defence. Our people had never been the attackers but always only the attacked. Nowhere could one speak of excesses on our side. We used brute force only to the extent that we defended with it our life and our health.
Besides, nowhere could the evidence be brought forth that the party itself had encouraged such activity or taken responsibility for it; that every party comrade should save his skin where that was necessary was clearly understandable and did not have anything at all to with the party as such. The Police Commissioner was also perhaps fully aware of the tenuousness and indefensibility of his legal argument in the establishment of the ban. We immediately lodged complaints against the ban with the Prefecture and later with the Upper Administrative Court. But the trial was protracted—through the fact that the Police Commissioner constantly sought a delay of the deadline for the procurement of the necessary materials—for years and came to a verdict only when the ban had already long been revoked. The Upper Administrative Court then tried to hide behind a small legal ruling which would apparently have turned out to be devastating for the Police Commissioner since it stated that the deadline had not been maintained and the complainant lacked the necessary standing for a suit. But even the fact that the Police Commissioner was not in a position to make available the necessary materials for the trial was evidence enough that the party ban represented a political act and had little to do with the objective conduct of his office.
In the meanwhile, however, all conceivable chicaneries were effected against us. They sought to fully stop the pubic activity of the party and to rob it too of its last financial means through the destruction of the organization. We still had at that time no party press in Berlin. The propagandistic work of the movement consisted almost exclusively in the organization of mass meetings. One could not, even with the broadest interpretation of the clauses, forbid canvassing for any worldview under any name in the Reich capital. There was always the possibility of convening meetings under assumed names in which people spoke about National Socialism. At first we tried that too, but the Police Commissioner struck back and forbade all meetings on a case by case basis under the provision that they disturbed public peace and safety and were to be seen as the continuation of a forbidden organization.
That was clear arbitrariness but it did not fail to achieve its aim. Therewith it was made impossible to bring into public discussion the concept of National Socialism; the police authorities intervened immediately when there was even the remotest reference to it.
Our next attempt sought to allow our representatives in parliament to speak before the Berlin electorate. On me personally a prohibition of public speaking was soon imposed. In my place an entire series of parliamentary representatives of the party came into action. Mass meetings were convened in which our delegates spoke. There, comments were made on the contemporary questions of politics and naturally the opportunity was not missed to appropriately denounce the persecutory methods of the Berlin police against the NSDAP.
The prohibition of public speaking affected me personally very badly. Indeed, I had no other possibility of maintaining the necessary contact with my party comrades. We still lacked the press with which I could conduct agitations with my pen. All meetings in which I wished to speak were forbidden. If representatives were to appear in our meetings, these too were very often met with express bans at the last minute and the party comrades that had remained faithful were thereby driven into a steadily increasing fury and indignation.
It was not the fact that we were persecuted, but how and with what methods the movement was suppressed and beaten down produced in our ranks a mood of hatred and anger that occasioned great concern. The Police Commissioner apparently derived pleasure in always forbidding our meetings at the last moment, clearly with the transparent intention of removing from the party the possibility of informing the meeting attendees of the ban in time. Most often hundreds and thousands set out and encountered at the meeting venue only closed doors and a tight cordon of police officials.
Therewith it was made easy for numerous informers and provocateurs to instigate the leaderless masses and to incite them to assaults against the police and political dissidents. Often small attack squads separated themselves from the enraged masses that sought their political pleasure by going to the Kurfürstendamm Street and giving vent to their rage by boxing and beating harmless passers-by with a Jewish appearance.
That was naturally presented in the press in the most demagogic manner into an accusation of the party, which was however banned and therefore had no possibility of influencing its masses of followers in any way. The public space resounded with the noise and outcry of the threatened Jewry. They sought to produce the impression in the entire country that pogroms against the Jewish population were organized every evening in Berlin in the midst of the most profound peace, that the NSDAP had established a secret headquarters from which these excesses were organized.
Put an end to these Kurfürstendamm riots!
It must be made impossible that the brutal acts of the National Socialists on the Kurfürstendamm become a customary entertainment of these youths. Berlin West belongs to the most prestigious areas of Berlin, its discrediting by such despicable, base scenes gives Berlin the worst reputation. Now that the preference of the swastika group for the Kurfürstendamm is now sufficiently known to the police it must crack down not merely after riots that have taken place but take precautionary measures beforehand on every day of a National Socialist rowdy meeting.
Thus did the Berliner Zeitung am Mittag write on 13 May 1927.
The blame for these events, insofar as they actually took place, was borne solely by the Police Commissioner. It was in his power to give us the possibility of meeting with our mass of followers and of influencing them in a pacifying manner. But since he removed this from us on every occasion, deliberately or not, he caused precisely those excesses of the political battle that were the necessary consequences of such a procedure.
Perhaps he was also quite glad to see that matters developed in this manner. There were not sufficient grounds to justify the further prohibition of the party to the public. So they sought to create an alibi for themselves. The public had to point a finger at us. The opinion had to consolidated that this party was only a riotous collection of criminal elements and that the authorities only did their duty when they kept them away from every further possibility of life.
The National Socialist movement is centred like no other party on the idea of the Führer. In it, the Führer and his authority are everything. It lies in the hands of the Führer to maintain the party in discipline or to let it sink into anarchy. If one takes away the leaders from the party and thereby destroys the fount of authority that its organization maintains, then one makes the masses leaderless and stupidities are always the consequence. We could no longer influence the masses. The masses became rebellious and one could not in the end complain that they proceeded to bloody excesses.
The ruling system in Germany can in general, and on the whole, be thankful—as absurd as that may sound—to the National Socialist movement that it exists. The rage and indignation against the consequences of the insane reparations policy conducted since 1918 is so great that, if they were not subdued and disciplined by our movement, they would in the shortest time plunge Germany into a bloodbath. The National Socialist agitation has not led our nation into a catastrophe, as the professional catastrophic politicians would repeatedly like people to believe. We have only recognized the catastrophe in the right time and have never made a secret of our opinions on the chaotic situation in Germany. It is not the one who calls a catastrophe a catastrophe who is a catastrophic politician but the one who causes it. And one cannot indeed say that of us. We had never yet participated in any government coalition. We had, as long as the movement existed, stood in the opposition and fought the course of German politics in the most severe and relentless manner. We had predicted from the beginning the consequences that began now to be apparent in ever clearer contours on the political horizon.
Our insights were so natural and compelling that the masses sympathised increasingly with them. So long as we had the onrush of the people against the reparations policy in control and rendered it extremely disciplined at least the danger did not exist that the waves of rage did not batter the ruling government in forms that could no longer be controlled. Without doubt, the National Socialist agitation was, and is, the spokesman for the national adversary. But, so long as it is tolerated, one can control the rage of the populace and thereby ensure that it is expressed in legal and tolerable methods.
If one takes away from the people the representatives and interpreters of their suffering, then one opens the door to anarchy; for, it is not we who declare the most radical and ruthless verdict on the ruling government. More radically and ruthlessly than us do the masses themselves think and also the small man of the people who has not learnt how to mince his words, who speaks his mind, and expresses his increasing rage in increasingly sharper forms.
The National Socialist agitation is in a way a safety outlet for the ruling class. Through this safety outlet the indignation of the masses finds some ventilation. If one blocks it, then rage and hatred will be driven back into the masses themselves and seethe there in uncontrollable swirls.
Political criticism is always oriented towards the failures of the system that is to be criticised. If the mistakes are of a slight sort and if one cannot withhold goodwill from the one who makes them, the criticism will always be conducted in civilised and fair ways. But if the mistakes are of a fundamental sort, if they threaten the very bases of the state system, and if, beyond that, one has reason to suspect that those who commit them are not marked by goodwill at all but, on the contrary, place their own persons above the state and the common good, then the criticism will also become more massive and unrestrained. The radicalism of the agitation stands always in direct proportion to the radicalism that the ruling system is guilty of. If the mistakes made are so disastrous that they threaten finally to plunge the people and the economy, indeed the entire national culture, into ruin, then the opposition can no longer be satisfied with denouncing the symptoms of the disease and demanding their removal, then it must proceed to attack the system itself. It is then radical insofar as it searches out the mistakes to their roots and strives to remove them radically.
Before the prohibition of the party, we had our masses of followers firmly under control. The Police Commissioner had the possibility of supervising in the sharpest manner the party in its organization and propaganda. Every party-political excess could be immediately and directly punished. It had now become different after the party ban. The party itself did not exist any longer, its organization was destroyed, one could no longer make the leaders of the party responsible for what took place in their name, since every possibility of influencing their followers had been taken away from them. I was now a civilian and did not in any way have any intention of assuming the responsibility for the bad concomitant effects of the political battle that the Police Commissioner produced through his repeated chicaneries. In addition, it happened that the Jewish tabloid journals seemed to derive special pleasure in increasingly attacking me personally, when I had no possibilities at all of defending myself against attacks of a political and personal sort, perhaps in the hope of alienating the masses—with whom I had lost all contact—from the movement and from me and to making them therewith vulnerable to the shrewd demagogic blandishments of, especially, Communist agents.
I experienced then for the first time what it means to be the chosen favorite of the Jewish press. There was simply nothing that they did not complain about with regard to me, and everything was, so to speak, dreamed up. Obviously, I did not have the time or the inclination to undertake anything at all against it. The uninitiated person often wonders why National Socialist leaders react so seldom to Jewish slander with legal means. Surely, one can send in corrections to the tabloids, one can sue them for defamation, one can take them to court.
But that is easier said than done. In some Berlin newspaper a lie appears and then makes its rounds through hundreds of provincial newspapers that are dependent on it. Every single provincial newspaper adds its own commentary to it and, if one begins making corrections, there is no end to it. That is precisely what the Jewish press wishes to achieve. For, in the invention of lies, the Jew, whom Schopenhauer indeed characterised as the master of lies, is inexhaustible. Hardly has one corrected a false piece of news today than it is tomorrow surpassed by a new one and, if one proceeds against the second lie, who can prevent such a reptilian press from inventing a third one the day after tomorrow? And then go to court? Are National Socialist leaders there only to drag themselves around to criminal courts against Jewish libellers? In all cases, the state attorneys avoid interventions in our favor stating a lack of public interest. One is directed to private suits. That costs much time and even more money. One would have to spend an entire life and huge sums of money in order to restore one’s reputation before the courts of the republic against Jewish hacks.
Such a trial takes at least half a year, and often much longer. In the meantime, the public has long forgotten the object of the trial; the Jewish hack then simply declares before the judge that he has been the victim of a mistake and gets at most a penalty of fifty to seventy marks for it, and that is naturally gladly compensated to him by the publishers. But the newspaper itself issues on the next day a report about the trial from which the reader must suppose that the Jewish liar was absolutely in the right, that perhaps there must have been something true about the slander, which can readily be concluded from the fact that the court had let the accused off with such a lenient penalty. And thereby the Jewish press has indeed achieved everything that it wanted to achieve. It has first of all discredited and tarnished the honor of the political opponent before the public; it has robbed him of time and money. It makes a triumph out of the defeat in court, and sometimes an insensitive judge, granting the protection of eligible interests, even helps the libeller to go scot-free.
There are no suitable means to counteract personal libel by the Jewish press. A man in public life must be clear of the fact that, when he tackles a criminal politics, the latter very soon defends itself with the cry, “Stop the thief!” and now tries to replace the lack of powerful objective evidence with personal slanders. He must therefore develop a thick skin, must be entirely indifferent to Jewish lies, and above all, in times when he strikes with hard political blows, be cold-blooded and strong-nerved. He must know that every time that he becomes dangerous to the enemy the enemy attacks him personally. Then he will never experience unpleasant surprises. On the contrary! In the end, he is even glad that he is insulted and besmirched by the tabloids, for that is for him, finally, the most infallible proof that he is on the right track and has wounded the enemy in his vulnerable spot.
I was able to reach this stoic point of view only with difficulty. In the early times of my Berlin work I had to suffer extremely under attacks of the press. I took all of it much too seriously and often despaired that there was clearly no possibility of maintaining one’s political honor pure and clean in the political battle. In time that changed fully. Especially the excessive number of press attacks killed in me all sensitivity to them. When I knew or suspected that the press besmirched me personally, I read no Jewish newspaper for weeks and thereby preserved my calm deliberation and cold determination. If one reads the lie-machine some weeks after it is printed, it totally loses all significance. Then one sees how empty and purposeless all this ado is; and above all one gradually obtains thereby also the ability to perceive the true backgrounds of such press campaigns.
Today there are in Germany, in general, only two possibilities of becoming famous: either toady utterly to the Jew, if I may say so, or fight him ruthlessly and with all severity. While the former comes into question only for representatives of democratic civilisation and career-minded intellectual chameleons, we National Socialists have decided on the latter. And this decision should also be carried out with complete logicality. Up to now we have not had to complain about success. In his senseless fear of our massive attacks, the Jew has lost all his composure. When it comes to harshness, he is just a stupid devil. One often exaggerates, especially in the circles of the German intelligentsia, the so-called farsightedness, cleverness and intellectual acumen of the Jew. The Jew always judges clearly only when he is in possession of all instruments of power. If a political opponent accosts him severely and ruthlessly and makes it quite clear that now it is a matter of life and death, then the Jew immediately loses all calmness and sobriety of deliberation. He is— and this perhaps represents the distinguishing mark of his character—infused to the depths of his personality with a feeling of his own inferiority. One could even describe the Jew as the repressed incarnation of the inferiority complex. One therefore does not wound him more deeply than when one recognises him in his essential character. Call him a scoundrel, a rascal, liar, criminal, murderer and killer—that will hardly affect him inwardly. Look at him in the eye for a while and then say to him: ‘You’re just a Jew!’ And you will notice with astonishment how unsure, embarrassed, and self-conscious he immediately becomes.
Herein lies the explanation of the fact that prominent Jews always resort to criminal justice when they are called Jews. It will never occur to a German to complain that he has been called a German, for the German always feels only honor, and never shame, in membership in his ethnos. The Jew complains when he is designated as a Jew because he is convinced in his innermost self that that is something despicable and that there can be no worse insult than to be designated as such.
We have never occupied ourselves much with opposing Jewish libel. We knew that we were being slandered. We adapted ourselves in time to that and did not see our task in the refutation of individual lies but in the undermining of the credibility of Jewish tabloid journalism.
And we succeeded fully in that too in the course of the years. If one lets a lie remain undisturbed, then it will soon fizzle out in its own excessive charge. The Jew nowadays invents in his desperation such outrageous insults and perfidies that even the most credulous educated philistine is no longer taken in by them.
‘They lie! They lie!’ With this battle-cry did we confront the Jewish cannonade of filth. Gradually we withdrew ourselves from the entire libellous heap of individual lies in which one could concretely point to the baseness of the tabloid journals. And from that we concluded: Do not believe anything from them! They lie because they must lie, because they have nothing else to bring forward.
It produces a grotesque effect and is nauseating when a Jewish tabloid professes that its mission is to snoop around the private lives of National Socialist leaders in order to find there some dark facts. A race that for two thousand years has brought upon itself a veritable Atlas-burden of guilt and crime, especially against the German people, really possesses no mandate to venture on the cleansing of public life among decent men. First of all, it is not a matter for debate whether occasionally a National Socialist leader conducted himself in this or that manner. The sole matter of debate is who has led the German nation into its unspeakable misfortune, who paved the way to this misfortune with catch-phrases and hypocritical promises, looked on with folded arms when an entire nation threatened to sink into chaos. When this question has been solved and the guilty have been brought to justice, then one may research where we failed.
We cannot bypass without comment the cowardly lack of character with which the bourgeois press up to the present day bows down without resistance to the shameless journalistic activity of Jewish hack writers. The bourgeois press is otherwise always ready at hand when it is necessary to wipe out a nationalist politician or to denounce so-called excesses of the National Socialist press. Compared to the Jewish tabloid journalism, on the other hand, it is of an incomprehensible, even irresponsible broadmindedness. They are afraid of the publicist-sharpness and ruthlessness of the tabloid journalism. They clearly have no desire to enter into the danger zone. With regard to the Jew, they are filled with an insurmountable inferiority complex and leave no stone unturned to live in peace with him.
If the bourgeois press plucks up courage even once to mention a mild critical word against Jewish libellers that is already a lot. Most often it perseveres in staid indifference and polite silence and withdraws into the safety of the saying, “One who handles filth dirties himself.”