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Robert Jackson’s Opening Statement at Nuremberg: Robert Ley and The Nazi Battle Against the Working Class

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday I wrote about the opening of the Major War Criminal Trial at Nuremberg. United States Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, serving as the Chief Prosecutor for the American team delivered one of the most compelling opening statements in legal history.

I think that it is a story worth of telling in Jackson’s own words. I have started reading the nine-volume transcript of the trial in between my other reading because it is a wealth of information regarding Hitler’s Nazi regime that too few people today are familiar with or even care about. It happened long ago, the participants, perpetrators, bystanders, and victims are dying off every day. Soon there will be no one alive who lived through those times to sound the warning from history, even as authoritarian regimes take power in nations which either cooperated with, or were the victims of Hitler’s legions and racial policies of occupation.

Likewise, new strains of the old American plague of often violent, and sometimes state supported racism, and anti-Semitism raises its ugly specter throughout the United States.

Tonight I am continuing to post the transcripts from Jackson’s opinion statement. This section deals with Justice Jackson’s description of the Nazi battles against Labor Unions. Tomorrow night I will post his description of the Nazi war against the Churches before moving on the the War against the Jews, and the Nazi crimes in the prosecution of the war.

The war against Labor, which included the political parties associated with it, the Social Democrats and the German Communists were key to completing the Nazi seizure of power and Gleichschaltung (coordination) of all aspects of life in the Nazi State. The Communist Party of Germany had already been suppressed, its leaders banned from the Reichstag, with many taken to Dachau. The Social Democrats would be he last party to resist the Nazi takeover as all other parties had already dissolved themselves prior to the assault on the Labor Unions.

The Nazis fully understood the power of the German Labor movement. It was a general strike by Unions which defeated the Kapp Putsch in 1922. The Nazis would not allow the Unions to stand in their way.

Trade Union leaders were deceived by the words of Hitler. Hitler flew these leaders from all over Germany to take party in a celebration of Labor at Berlin’s Tempelhof airport. Hitler told the leaders and the gathered workers:

“You will see how untrue and unjust is the statement that the revolution is directed against the German workers. On the contrary.” Later in his speech to more than 100,000 workers at the airfield Hitler pronounced the motto, “Honor work and respect the worker!” and promised that May Day would be celebrated in honor of German labor “throughout the centuries.” (William Shirer, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich)

The next day the offices of the Unions were taken over, their funds confiscated, leaders arrested and sent to Concentration Camps, and the Unions themselves dissolved. Two weeks later, the right to collective bargaining was eliminated.

THE NAZI BATTLE AGAINST LABOR

Robert Ley

The defendant Ley between 1932-1945 was: a member of the Nazi Party, Reichsleiter, Nazi Party Organisation Manager, member of the Reichstag, leader of the German Labour Front, a General in the S.A., and Joint Organiser of the Central Inspection for the Care of Foreign Workers. The defendant Ley used the foregoing positions, his personal influence and his intimate connection with the Fuehrer in such a manner that: he promoted the accession to power of the Nazi conspirators and the consolidation of their control over Germany as set forth in Count One of the Indictment; he promoted the preparation for war set forth in Count One of the Indictment; he authorised, directed and participated in the War Crimes set forth in Count Three of the Indictment, and in the Crimes against Humanity set forth in Count Four of the Indictment, including particularly the War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity relating to the abuse of human beings for labour in the conduct of the aggressive wars.

Continuation of Jackson’s Opening Statement

When Hitler came to power there were in Germany three groups of trade unions. The General German Trade Union Confederation (A.D.G.B.) with twenty-eight affiliated unions, and the General Independent Employees Confederation (A.F.A.) with thirteen federated unions together numbered more than 4,500,000 members. The Christian Trade Union had over 1,250,000 members.

The working people of Germany, like the working people of other nations, had little to gain personally by war. While labour is usually brought around to the support of the nation at war, labour by and large is a pacific, though by no means a pacifist force in the world. The working people of Germany had not forgotten in 1933 how heavy the yoke of the war lord can be. It was the working men who had joined with the sailors and soldiers in the revolt of 1918 to the First World War. The Nazis had neither forgiven nor forgotten. The Nazi programme required that this part of the German population not only be stripped of power to resist diversion of its scanty comforts to armament, but also be wheedled or whipped into new and unheard-of sacrifices as a part of the Nazi war preparation. Labour must be cowed, and that meant its organisations and means of cohesion and defence must be destroyed.

The purpose to regiment labour for the Nazi Party was avowed by Ley in a speech to workers on 2nd May, I933, as follows:-

“You may say what else do you want, you have the absolute power. True we have the power, but we do not have the whole people, we do not have you workers 100 per cent, and it is you whom we want; we will not let you be until you stand with us in complete, genuine acknowledgement.” (614-PS)

The first Nazi attack was upon the two larger unions. On 21st April, 1933, an order, not even in the name of the Government, but of the Nazi Party, was issued by the conspirator Robert Ley as “Chief of Staff of the political Organisation of the N.S.D.A.P” applicable to the Trade Union Confederation and the Independent Employees Confederation. It directed seizure of their properties and arrest of their principal leaders. The Party order directed Party organs which we here denounce as criminal associations, the S.A. and S.S., “to be employed for the occupation of the trade union properties, and for the taking into custody of personalities who come into question.” And it directed the taking into “protective custody” of all chairmen and district secretaries and union and branch directors of the labour bank. (392-PS)

These orders were carried out on 2nd May, 1933. All funds of the labour unions, including pension and benefit funds, were seized. Union leaders were sent to concentration camps. A few days later, on 10th May, 1933, Hitler appointed Ley leader of the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront), which succeeded to the confiscated union funds. The German Labour Front, a Nazi controlled labour bureau, was set up under Ley to teach the Nazi philosophy to German workers and to weed out from industrial employment all who were backward in their lessons. (940-PS) “Factory Troops” were organised as an “ideological shock squad within the factory” (1817-PS). The Party order provided that “outside of the German Labour Front, no other Organisation (whether of workers or of employees) is to exist.” On 24th June, 1933, the remaining Christian Trade Unions were seized, pursuant to an order of the Nazi Party, signed by Ley.

On 19th May, 1933, this time by a Government decree, it was provided that “trustees” of labour, appointed by Hitler, should regulate the conditions of all labour contracts, replacing the former process of collective bargaining (405-PS). On 30th November, 1934, a decree “regulating national labour” introduced the Fuehrer principle into industrial relations. It provided that the owners of enterprises should be the “Fuehrers” and the workers should be the followers. The enterprise-fuehrers should “make decisions for employees and labourers in all matters concerning the enterprise” (1861-PS). It was by such bait that the great German industrialists were induced to support the Nazi cause, to their own ultimate ruin.

Not only did the Nazis dominate and regiment German labour, but they forced the youth into the ranks of the labouring people they had thus led into chains. Under a compulsory labour service decree on 26th June, 1935, young men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 were conscripted for labour (1654-PS). Thus was the purpose to subjugate German labour accomplished.

In the words of Ley, the accomplishment consisted “in eliminating the association character of the trade union and employees’ associations, and in its place we have substituted the conception ‘soldiers of work’.” The productive manpower of the German nation was in Nazi control. By these steps the defendants won the battle to liquidate labour unions as potential opposition and were enabled to impose upon the working class the burdens of preparing for aggressive warfare.

Robert Ley, the field marshal of this battle against labour, answered our indictment with suicide. Apparently he knew no better answer.

This still matters. For many years in the United States and Western Europe Labor Unions have been under attack and despite the good that they have done for all workers have been denuded of much of their social, economic, and political power. At one time Unions were a bulwark against the unbridled thirst for political and economic of massive multinational corporations.

Nuremberg reminds us of what happens when free Labor Unions are destroyed.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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The Winner Takes it All: American Christian Greed

Do you remember that there was a time when Conservative Christian Politicians and preachers actually supported working people and the poor? There was a period where this was true, but with the economic affluence and the political influence that we have enjoyed since the end of the Second World War we have left those days far behind.

I mean really, there was a time when preachers were not just lobbying for tax cuts for the rich in the name of the “Prosperity Gospel” or and extolling the wealthy “job creators” over the people who actually produce or serve products. Late last night I had an interaction on Facebook that was discouraging, wealthy preachers defended the most opulent and extravagant excesses of mega-church pastors. It was disheartening, especially one attacked a man who I went to war with, and who since has endured more trying medical issues than most of us will experience in our lives when he challenged the Episcopal Priest. What I read broke my heart.

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My Church History professor at Southwestern Baptist seminary back in 1988 and 1989 Christian attitudes then that is even more appropriate today. He noted that a:

“reason that many Christians are not servants is more honest: it is that we just don’t want to be servants. We live today in a “winner” society. We value the winners, whether it be in sports, business, or wars….The American Dream is success, climbing to the top of the ladder, making it, winning…. In most metro areas, on most weekends, you can go to a conference in some church where a person (for a fee) will tell you how God wants you rich….This obsession with success, money, and power is the American dream carried to its logical conclusion. It is middle-class Americanism, pure and simple. It is more motivated by greed, selfishness, and pride than by Christ. And in the churches, we have bought it. We want to be “at the top”,” not “at the bottom.”…..We coat our Americanism with a thin veneer of Christianity in an attempt to make it more palatable, but God will not have it. Let’s call this version of the American Dream what it is: selfishness, self-righteousness, and sin.” (Young, Doyle L New Life for Your Church Baker Book House, Grand Rapids Michigan 1989 pp.55-56)

I heard Dr. Young speak about this in class. I was a young Army officer, who had just left active duty to go to seminary. We were in the process of a financial meltdown brought about by the Texas oil bust of the late 1980s and my wife’s illness. We were learning what it was like to be poor. We lost almost everything but ourselves and our dogs during that time. We went to churches where the opulence was over the top, where the pastor drove a Porsche, and not a bottom end or used one. We struggled through seminary and made it, with me working two jobs and being in the National Guard. Most of the time we wondered where the money to get the next meal, tank of gas, prescription medicine, tuition payment or books. When I called the TBN prayer line just for prayer during the darkest days I was told be a “prayer warrior” that “it was obvious that I was not in God’s will because otherwise God would be blessing me.” That angered me and hardened my resolve to get through seminary. There were a good number of people who helped us, some because they felt that god wanted them to help us, others just because they  were compassionate souls. This made me very sensitive to social justice and wary of those who get rich off of God’s people.

It wasn’t always this way.

William Jennings Bryan was one of the most influential politicians of his era. He served as Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson, he was a Senator and three time Presidential Candidate. He was also a very conservative Fundamentalist Christian perhaps most famous, or perhaps infamous now as one of the prosecuting attorneys at the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925. In fact I can find that Bryan’s handling of that case played to the basest religious and social hatred of his day and though “defending” “Biblical” ideas ended up making Christians look but small minded, intolerant and hateful. The movie Inherit the Wind, though a fictional account of that trial show how decent Christians can become consumed with hatred in the name of righteousness, little different than other “sincere believers” that are willing to kill in the name of God.

Whether one agrees on certain points of religious doctrine regarding the creation of the earth or the manner of how God created the earth that he espoused one has to admit that of pre-Great Depression politicians he was quite amazing. This was especially true in how he saw through the Godlessness of unbridled Capitalism.  He saw how workers by were devalued by those who saw them as nothing more than a way to increase their wealth. As an American and a Christian look at the body of work and life of a man. Though I find much fault in Bryan and his supporters in the Scopes Trial, I do not throw out the good things that he did and got right.

I think the apex of Bryan’s political thought is encapsulated in his speech at the Democratic National Convention of 1896, what is now called the Cross of Gold Speech.

When one looks at it now it really is timeless. Bryan saw through the charade that was being played out by politicians and the big money Wall Street types that they represented with great verve. It was a speech that one might have heard come from a prophet in the Old Testament.

I am just going to quote a couple of pertinent sections from the speech to trigger your thoughts, for you will not hear this in the vast majority of conservative Christian churches of all denominations which have been infected with the so called “Prosperity Gospel.”  These churches have thrown their support behind ideas that are nothing more than unvarnished, crude materialism of the worst kind. In fact I believe that it is nothing more than the “baptism” of such thought by Christians are among the biggest reasons for the exodus of people from the churches and the rise of the “Nones,” or those with no religious preference.

Bryan said:

“We say to you that you have made the definition of a business man too limited in its application. The man who is employed for wages is as much a business man as his employer; the attorney in a country town is as much a business man as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis; the merchant at the cross-roads store is as much a business man as the merchant of New York; the farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day, who begins in spring and toils all summer, and who by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of the country creates wealth, is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain; the miners who go down a thousand feet into the earth, or climb two thousand feet upon the cliffs, and bring forth from their hiding places the precious metals to be poured into the channels of trade are as much business men as the few financial magnates who, in a back room, corner the money of the world. We come to speak of this broader class of business men.” 

His words are striking in their directness and honesty. They are not only Christian but they are deeply American. He called his Party, which had been as bad as the Republicans during the age of the unregulated Robber Barons who used the Gold Standard to manipulate the markets and eliminate silver as currency to their benefit to be different:

“Upon which side will the Democratic Party fight; upon the side of “the idle holders of idle capital” or upon the side of “the struggling masses”? That is the question which the party must answer first, and then it must be answered by each individual hereafter. The sympathies of the Democratic Party, as shown by the platform, are on the side of the struggling masses, who have ever been the foundation of the Democratic Party.”

He talked about two ideas of government and economics:

“There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

He concluded his speech with this statement.

“Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests, and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

When I hear the Unholy Trinity of Politicians, Pundits and Preachers who extol the virtue of Capital over labor and the worship of wealth as the highest good I wish that there would be some that would remember that the people who actually make things, grow things, fix things and maintain things are not just human capital, but people.

That’s enough for today. Expect some more on this and similar topics soon.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under christian life, economics and financial policy, faith, History, Political Commentary, Religion

The Elevation of Capital Over People: William Jennings Bryan and the Cross of Gold

Remember When Conservative Christian Politicians Supported Working People?

I mean really, not just lobbying for tax cuts and extolling the job “creator” over the one that actually produces products.

William Jennings Bryan was one of the most influential politicians of his era. He served as Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson, he was a Senator and three time Presidential Candidate. He was also a very conservative Fundamentalist Christian perhaps most famous, or perhaps infamous now as one of the prosecuting attorneys at the Scopes “Monkey” Trial of 1925. In fact I can find that Bryan’s handling of that case played to the basest religious and social hatred of his day and though “defending” “Biblical” ideas ended up making Christians look but small minded, intolerant and hateful. The movie Inherit the Wind, though a fictional account of that trial show how decent Christians can become consumed with hatred in the name of righteousness, little different than other “sincere believers” that are willing to kill in the name of God.

Whether one agrees on certain points of religious doctrine regarding the creation of the earth or the manner of how God created the earth that he espoused one has to admit that of pre-Great Depression politicians he was quite amazing. Especially in how he saw through the Godlessness of unbridled Capitalism and the devaluation of workers by valued capital over the people that actually produced anything. As an American and a Christian I have to look at the body of work and life of a man. I don’t have to agree with all that they stood for or did and though I find much fault in Bryan and his supporters in the Scopes Trial I do not throw out the good things that he did and got right.

I think the apex of Bryan’s political thought is encapsulated in his speech at the Democratic National Convention of 1896, what is now called the Cross of Gold Speech.

When one looks at it now it really is timeless. Bryan saw through the charade that was being played out by politicians and the big money Wall Street types that they represented with great verve. It was a speech that one might have heard come from a prophet in the Old Testament.

I am just going to quote a couple of pertinent sections from the speech to trigger the thought of anyone reading this article. I think that they could be spoken today in light of the way that many conservative Christians both Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants, Roman Catholics and those that preach the so called “Prosperity Gospel” have thrown their support behind ideas that are nothing more than unvarnished, crude materialism of the worst kind. In fact I believe that it is nothing more than the “baptism” of such thought by Christians are among the biggest reasons for the exodus of people from the churches and the rise of the “Nones,” or those with no religious preference.

Bryan said:

“We say to you that you have made the definition of a business man too limited in its application. The man who is employed for wages is as much a business man as his employer; the attorney in a country town is as much a business man as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis; the merchant at the cross-roads store is as much a business man as the merchant of New York; the farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day, who begins in spring and toils all summer, and who by the application of brain and muscle to the natural resources of the country creates wealth, is as much a business man as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain; the miners who go down a thousand feet into the earth, or climb two thousand feet upon the cliffs, and bring forth from their hiding places the precious metals to be poured into the channels of trade are as much business men as the few financial magnates who, in a back room, corner the money of the world. We come to speak of this broader class of business men.” 

His words are striking in their directness and honesty. They are not only Christian but they are deeply American. He called his Party, which had been as bad as the Republicans during the age of the unregulated Robber Barons who used the Gold Standard to manipulate the markets and eliminate silver as currency to their benefit to be different:

“Upon which side will the Democratic Party fight; upon the side of “the idle holders of idle capital” or upon the side of “the struggling masses”? That is the question which the party must answer first, and then it must be answered by each individual hereafter. The sympathies of the Democratic Party, as shown by the platform, are on the side of the struggling masses, who have ever been the foundation of the Democratic Party.”

He talked about two ideas of government and economics:

“There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that, if you will only legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them.”

He concluded his speech with this statement.

“Having behind us the producing masses of this nation and the world, supported by the commercial interests, the laboring interests, and the toilers everywhere, we will answer their demand for a gold standard by saying to them: “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.”

When I hear the Unholy Trinity of Politicians, Pundits and Preachers who extol the virtue of Capital over labor and the worship of wealth as the highest good I wish that there would be some that would remember that the people who actually make things, grow things, fix things and maintain things are not just human capital, but people.

That’s enough for the night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

4 Comments

Filed under economics and financial policy, faith, History, Political Commentary, Religion