Nehru’s account of Hitler’s Germany in 1933 and the Nazi view on the role of women

This is the third part of Jawaharlal Nehru’s account of “The Nazi Triumph in Germany” contained in a letter he wrote to his daughter on July 31, 1933, which is published in 'Glimpses of World History'

Nehru’s account of Hitler’s Germany in 1933 and the Nazi view on the role of women

Mridula Mukherjee

Continuing our discussion on the rise of Fascism and Nazism in Europe, we bring to you this week the third part of Jawaharlal Nehru’s account of “The Nazi Triumph in Germany” contained in a letter he wrote to his daughter on July 31, 1933, which is published in Glimpses of World History.

It would serve no purpose to give a list of the atrocities that have taken place in Germany since the Nazis came to power, and that still take place behind the scenes. There have been savage beatings and tortures and shooting and murder on a vast scale, both men and women being victims. Enormous numbers of people have been put in gaols and concentration camps, and are said to be treated very badly there.

The Nazis proclaim that it is a war of extermination against Marxism and the Marxists and indeed the entire ‘Left’. Jews must also be eliminated from all posts and professions. Thousands of Jewish professors, teachers, musicians, lawyers, judges, doctors, and nurses, have been turned out. Jewish shopkeepers have been boycotted and Jewish workers dismissed from factories. There has been a wholesale destruction of books that the Nazis do not approve of, public burnings taking place. Newspapers have been ruthlessly suppressed for the slightest difference of opinion or criticism. No news of the Terror is allowed to be published, and even a whisper of it is punished heavily.

All organizations and parties, other than the Nazi Party, of course, have been suppressed. The Communist Party went first, then the Social Democratic, later the Catholic Centre Party, and lastly even the Nazis’ allies, the Nationalists. The mighty German trade unions, representing the labour and savings and sacrifices of generations of workers, were broken up and all their funds and properties confiscated. Only one party, one organization, was to remain — the Nazi Party. Education, the theatre, art, science — everything is being given the Nazi stamp…. Children are taught that Hitler is a second Jesus, but greater than the first.

The Nazi Government does not favour too much extension of education among the people, and especially among women. Indeed, woman’s place, according to the Hitlerite, is the home and kitchen, and her chief job is to provide children to fight and die for the State.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels, another Nazi leader, who is Minister for “Public Enlightenment and Propaganda”, has said that “woman’s place is in the family; her proper task is to provide her country and her people with children.... The liberation of women is a danger to the State. She must leave to man the things that belong to man.” Behind all this barbarism and brutality and fire and thunder lay the privation and hunger of the dispossessed middle classes. It was really a fight for jobs and bread. Jewish doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, etc., were turned out because the “Aryan” Germans had not been able to compete with them and looked hungrily at their success and wanted their jobs. Jewish shops were closed because they were successful rivals….

There is undoubtedly a very real enthusiasm for Hitler among large numbers of Germans, apart from the vast majority of the workers. If the figures of the last election are taken as a guide, he has 52 per cent of the population behind him, and this 52 per cent is terrorizing the remaining 48 per cent, or part of it. With 52 per cent, or perhaps more now, Hitler is very popular.

People who go to Germany talk of a strange psychological atmosphere there, as of a religious revival. Germans feel that the long years of humiliation and suppression, caused by the Treaty of Versailles, are past, and they can breathe freely again.

But the other half, or thereabouts, of Germany feels very differently. The German working class is dominated by an intense hatred and fury, hidden and controlled by fear of the terrible reprisals of the Nazis…. Of all that has taken place during the last few months in Germany, not the least amazing has been the complete collapse of the great Social Democratic Party without the slightest effort to resist.

This was the oldest, the biggest, and the most highly organized party of the working class in Europe. It was the backbone of the Second Inter- national. And yet it submitted tamely and with hardly a protest — though protests alone would have been singularly futile — to every insult and indignity and finally to extinction…. The Communist Party tried to resist and called for a general strike. They were not supported by the Social Democratic leaders, and the strike fizzled out…

The working class was by far the greatest sufferer from the Brown Terror. World opinion was, however, more agitated by the treatment of the Jews. Europe is partly used to class warfare, and sympathy always goes along class lines. But the attack on the Jews was a racial attack, something of the kind that used to occur in the Middle Ages or, in recent times, unofficially, in backward countries like Tsarist Russia. The official persecution of a whole race shocked Europe and America.

To add to the shock, the German Jews had among their number many world-famed men, brilliant scientists, doctors, lawyers, musicians, and writers, headed by the great name of Albert Einstein. These people considered Germany their home, and they were looked upon everywhere as Germans. Any country would have felt honoured to own them, but the Nazis, in their mad racial obsession, hunted them out, and a mighty outcry rose against this all over the world. Then the Nazis instituted a boycott of Jewish shops and professional men, and yet, strangely enough, they would not allow these Jews as a rule to leave Germany….

But Jewry, although it is scattered all over the world and can call no nation its own, is not so helpless as not to be able to retaliate. It controls a great deal of business and finance and, quietly and without much fuss, it proclaimed a boycott of German goods. And not only that, but something more, as a resolution, passed in May 1933, at a New York conference, declared.

It was resolved “to boycott all goods, materials, or products manufactured, raised or improved in Germany, or any part thereof; all German shipping, freight, and traffic services, as well as all German health, pleasure, and other resorts, and generally to abstain from any act which would in any manner lend material support to the present regime in Germany.”

(Selected and edited by Mridula Mukherjee, former Professor of History at JNU and former Director of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library)

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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