Marian Young on Life Under National-Socialism (1935)
by Hadding Scott
THE BLURB promoting the reports in advance, which appeared in the Pittsburgh Press the day before the first installment, portrays what Marian Young wrote as entirely negative, when in reality her reports contained a mixture of positive and negative views. There was complaining from some sectors, after these reports were published, that they were insufficiently negative.
The fundamental sin committed here is that the reports look at Hitler’s policies from the perspective of ordinary Germans, rather than exclusively from the perspective of Jews and other discontents.
The reports contain information about Hitler’s social policies: about how the economy was stimulated, the lives of workers were improved, and marriage and family were promoted.
The National-Socialists of course never called themselves “Nazi.” It seems, however, to have been a matter of journalistic consensus in the anti-German world always to say “Nazi” and never National-Socialist: it is a note of bias that consistently appears in contemporary American reporting on Germany of that period. Even in Marian Young’s relatively objective reports the derogatory term is used so pervasively and so prominently that it would be awkward to change.
From the Pittsburgh Press, 31 March 1935:
What About It, Herr Nazi?
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How Do You and Your Wife And Your Children Like Hitler’s Policies?
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To find out just what the average German thinks about his government Marian Young, a special correspondent for The Press, has visited Leipzig, in the center of a rich German farming area, and has talked with many Germans, old and young.
She reveals that there are many things about Nazism that German women dislike. She tells how German militarism is dunned into the ears of German children. She describes the reactions to Hitlerism of the old man in Germany. Her stories give a new insight into what modern Germany, stripped of its Nazi fanfare and tinsel, is really like.
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IN THE PRESS
The first report in the series ran in the Pittsburgh Press on 1 April 1935 and subsequently was distributed by NEA News Service:
The soldier is cock of the walk in Germany again.
Men civilians remove their hats when eight or ten troops march by. Women step from the curb into the gutter to let them pass. Small boys run up to touch the blood-red swastikas on their arms. Fair, red-cheeked girls beam — occasionally one dares to wave a hand. Students on the steps of the university applaud and cheer loudly.
This is Leipzig. But in Berlin, in other towns and villages, I saw exhibited the same awed and awesome reverence for the military.
Reichsfuehrer Hitler’s earnest young men have donned uniforms of brown, blue, and green — and are goose-stepping to martial music over the freshly dug grave of the Versailles Treaty.
For soldiering is a young man’s business, and German Youth — for years jobless and desperately poor in a war-beaten land — has rushed forward eagerly to embrace the tools of militarism as symbols of reborn power.
To students the new regime provides excitement. It gives them a chance to wear uniforms. To discuss government. To feel grown up. They salute proudly as they walk to classes past the enormous tablet on which is written the names of 1,900 young men who were killed in action. Nineteen hundred from one university. Today’s students are the sons, younger brothers, nephews, and cousins of the men commemorated on the tablet.
When they are not marching or studying, the students lead the kind of life movies of Heidelberg portray. They laugh. They sing. They clank their beer steins and drink to the health of the Fatherland.
Kings Are Cruel
Youth is king, and kings can be cruel. I saw one laughing officer with a healthy-looking, ash blonde girl in his arms, rudely brush aside a tired, middle-aged interpreter in a neat, but not so new suit. To avoid their dancing feet the professional linguist slumped into a vacant chair at our table and gazed blankly at the array of uniforms evident everywhere.
“They needn’t expect me to be impressed,” he said to me when a trooper at the next table rose to salute an officer. “I’ve seen enough already. I have no hopes. But perhaps we can never be worse off than we have been.
“I know a man who lives on 70 pfennigs (28 cents) a day. I know what has happened to the unemployed who used to loiter on the street corners. Now they are all in uniforms — marching right past those street corners.” Not a trace of animation in his face.
Suddenly, he asked me if he might have the butter I had left on my plate. [Fats were rationed in Germany at the time.] Pausing barely long enough to hear my consent, he spread it on one small piece of bread, swallowed quickly and then slumped forward again, watching the dancers with dull eyes.
He belongs to the skeptics. They are the ones that the inner sanctums of the government refer to as “enemies within the gates.” So worn out are they by the past years that the gala uniforms bring no tears of enthusiasm to their eyes. The martial music falls unheeded on their weary ears.
Dull and Colorless
In truth, compared to youth in uniform, the remaining population of Nazi Germany seems dull and colorless indeed. The aged and the middle-aged on the picturesque streets of Leipzig, famous for its 700-year-old semi-annual fair, have had their day.
The eyes of older men in this quiet little trading city with its dimly lighted cathedral of St. Thomas where Bach was the first organist and its enormous, cold, gray Gewandhaus where, 150 years ago, Mendelssohn conducted a symphony orchestra, do not light up as they watch children and young men in uniforms parade the streets. They are too busy earning their daily bread. Often, as in the case of the landlord in whose home I stayed, that task is a difficult one.
He is the head of a family which once had money. Proudly he displayed heirlooms, bits of priceless china and pieces of tapestry that once adorned a large house. Now the treasures are lumped together in corners. There is no room in an apartment for them.
The apartment, during Fair Week at least, is turned over to foreign visitors. The family moves out of its private chambers. A bed is placed in the living room with its purple walls and grand piano. Even the library with its family portraits and wall telephone becomes a bedroom. The porcelain stoves are filled with coal to keep the guests warm and comfortable. But the storerooms and halls where the family sleeps temporarily are unheated.
Far from Berlin
Leipzig is about as far from Berlin with its hotbed of politics as Philadelphia is from Washington. It is surrounded by carefully manicured farming districts, the very backbone of Germany.
Leipzig’s citizens are simple, industrious folk who seem far removed from the hysteria of rearmament conferences and political intrigues. They are the people who are fundamentally responsible for Hitler’s continuing power. It is from them the answer to the question, “But what do Germans actually think of it?” comes.
And the answers, in the main, are optimistic. For one disgruntled intellectual and one unhappy former rich man, there are five to ten men who believe — or think they believe — or are afraid NOT to believe — that Hitlerism is the Reich’s salvation.
The capitalist, represented by the bearded president of a concern that manufactures farm implements, was enthusiastic. “My business, thanks to the new tax law, has increased,” he told me. “In America you put up posters that say “Buy now.” Here, by having no tax on new automobiles and new machinery for the first year and heavy taxes that increase year by year on old machinery, we have forced people to buy.”
New Tax Law
A tall, blond engineer who speaks four languages and who has lived in half a dozen countries, including the United States, echoed what the manufacturer had said.
“The new tax law has increased the farm implement business from 40 to 50 per cent and the output of cars 60 to 70,” he said. “Instead of talk about limiting incomes, each man is urged to make as much as he can, providing, of course, his method of earning doesn’t interfere with the general welfare of the community. The price he sets on his merchandise must be fair. That’s Goerdeler’s job. He’s the price-fixer.”
The engineer, himself, switched our conversation to recent governmental activities that have brought down fire on the heads of Germany’s people.
“Diplomacy is the thing that is one hundred per cent lacking in the present regime. Germans never have learned the art of handling human relationships and statements to the press with kid gloves on their hands. They apparently have no respect for the old adage that you catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar,” he said.
Baker Is Happy
The plump, round-faced little baker who served me afternoon coffee and pastry in the back of his tidy shop meant virtually the same things when he mumbled in broken English, “Other countries don’t understand us.”
But the baker is happy, too. It’s true that he can’t raise the price of bread whenever he feels like it. But he sells more cakes and fancy pastries now than he did a few years ago. His family has three simple meals a day. He figures that Max, his twelve-year-old son, may be able to go to the University in a few years.
The pleasant little baker’s stern-faced, dark-complexioned neighbor who has a cosmetic and postcard shop next door was patriotism personified.
“We made up our mind that Germany is for Germans,” he told me. “Our plans will work, too. You see (this with a nod toward the northwest [sic] where lies Soviet Russia) we believe in God. Religion has not been pushed aside by politics. And we have fine soldiers to protect our faith.”
Soldiers to protect their faith! I saw them as I came out of the postcard shop into the street…. Four out of every six men on the sidewalks wore uniforms!
Women at Home
Frau Nazi’s place is in the home.
Der Reichsfuehrer Adolf Hitler is sending her there — tearing her from her typewriter, her loom, or her desk, and putting her back amidst her pots and pans, her darning needles, and her family dinners.
“Kirche, Kinder, Kueche” — A Hohenzollern war-time slogan intended to show feminine Germany that it should have to do only with “church, children, and the kitchen” — has been revived to keep both married and unmarried women away from jobs that might be filled by men now unemployed.
This, I quickly found by actual observation, has made the lot of the “bachelor girl” in Germany a particularly unhappy one. She is not wanted in industry. Her family hasn’t the means to support her. There are not enough men of marriageable age to go around.
The ones who do manage to find employment are poorly paid. Their salaries are heavily taxed to help swell a governmental fund which is distributed among newly married couples who wish to buy furniture and who are likely to raise strong sons to shoulder arms for Germany.
No Feminine Careers
The recognition feminine executives of America receive at the hands of their associates is an unheard of thing in this charming old town of Leipzig with its historic landmarks and its famous fair.
“You don’t mean to tell me that women are encouraged in their careers,” a fresh-looking little blonde shop girl exclaimed after I had tried to answer some of her intelligent questions about the way an American woman lives. “Your men must hate you. How could they possibly like you when you are holding jobs they should have themselves?” It would take a great deal more than one short conversation to clarify in this girl’s mind the fact that, whether she be single or married, a lady must eat.
A rather dashing mature executive was bitter. “My salary is 280 marks ($112) per month. However, after the bachelor and various other taxes have been deducted, I have left only 175 marks ($70). “I could marry, of course. But I don’t want to marry for support as most German girls are forced to do. I’m not going to marry until I fall in love.
“That’s one of the things that makes me sad. Since the war romance has undergone a steady decline. The thrill of the courtship chase is something our men of this generation know nothing about. How could they? Almost any girl jumps at the chance to marry the first who asks her. She doesn’t dare to be picky and choosey.” [This is consistent with the shortage of men caused by the First World War.]
My charming companion shuddered as she heard the strains of martial music through an open window. If the young men of her own age are called to war, in 20 years she will be alone and old before her time just as many of her mother’s friends, her aunts, and older acquaintances are today as a result of the World War. She is one who has not reconciled herself to the inevitable fate of German women since the time of Bismarck.
A shopkeeper’s neat, gray-haired wife, aged about 45, was more philosophical. Her grandfather was killed in action in the Battle of Nations at Leipzig in 1813. Her father lost his life in the Franco-German War of 1870. Two brothers fell in the blood-stained forest at Verdun. She doesn’t hum, “I did not raise my boy to be a soldier,” when she sees her tall, handsome Storm Trooper son stride from the house. The strains of martial music is in her blood. She has learned the meaning of the word, duty.
“The duty of every German man is to bear arms for his country. The duty of every German woman is to bear sons to bear the arms,” she said. Not sadly. Not bitterly. She accepts and questions not. Younger women, without employment, face the situation as best they can, too. They must do something. Perhaps this is why one finds so many house daughters in Germany.
Prepare for Marriage
We in America feel sorry for the little school girl who is taken into a home to do dishes and make beds for her board and keep. Yet here in Germany the lot of the young woman from a good family who goes to live with another family, ostensibly to learn how to run a different household, is far from pitiable.
“This way, I am preparing myself for marriage with any kind of man,” the merry, laughing, blonde house daughter in the home where I stayed told me. “I do practically all the housework. But, in return, I get my food and room. I am no longer a burden to my own family. The people with whom I live are kind to me. I am happy.”
If the little house daughter does not marry, perhaps she will become a professional housekeeper. Practically all other roads are closed to her.
A few professional women are tolerated, of course. These are the ones like Käthe Kruse, the famous manufacturer of dolls. After all, she employs hundreds. She is an asset to the country. In addition, she is the mother of seven, no one can say that her career has interfered with her duty to her country.
Old Rules Forgotten
Right now, no German woman is told what clothes to wear or what cosmetics she may put on her skin.
“Those rules — not laws — were forgotten along with the decline of various party members who had followed for years and were given some authority in the government when Hitler came to power,” a young woman secretary told me. “Each old follower, you may be sure, had some idea he wishes to perpetrate. And, in the manner of the spoils system, the leader gave him a chance. The follower had his fling. The leader waited politely for a time and then dismissed the rules with a light gesture. Everything is back to normal now.”
Anyway, judging from the shining faces of the women on the streets of Leipzig, a ban on cosmetics wouldn’t have bothered many German women. They use practically no makeup.
The first impression one gets of a healthy-looking Fräulein and her plump mother is their total lack of the artifices American women employ. They don’t need rouge. Their German husbands, brothers, and sweethearts detest lipstick and bright nail polish. Their clear skins are of a freshly scrubbed look.
Love Their Coiffures.
Most of them, however, take great pride in their coiffures. Blond heads are bright and shiny and professionally waved. Their hair styles, even to Katharine Hepburn bangs, follow the same general trend as our own in the United States.
They seem not to take any particular pride in their dress. But of course it is almost impossible to wear smart clothes when one’s own income or the head-of-the-house’s income is so limited. They wear plain silk and woolen dresses that are anything but form-fitting, department store cloth coats with fur collars, and serviceable hats. I saw little jewelry.
A good many girls of grammar and high school age have no daytime clothes problems. During daylight hours they wear the Hitler youth uniforms that consist of blue serge skirts and khaki-colored sports jacket blouses. They, too, are regimented. They, like their brothers and dashing young admirers, are marching to the strains of martial music.
This later installment focuses on the lot of Germany’s working class under Hitler.
The German workman and his family — how are they getting along under the Nazi regime? Has their lot been improved? What do they think of Hitlerism? To find out, Staff Correspondent Marian Young of NEA Service talked with typical members of the German working class in a typical German town — Leipzig. And her report is contained below in the last of three articles presenting the human side of life in present-day Germany.
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Leipzig, Germany. April 6. — The German laborer has put his shoulder to the swastika — and is striving with might and main to keep the Nazi machine going.
He may be low paid (an estimated 95 per cent of German workers earn from $3 to $10 a week). His work may be harder (Germany is rushing her rebuilding program). Government propagandists may hide from him the fearful decline in Germany’s foreign trade (a 284,000,000-mark deficit of exports over imports in 1934).
But with shrewd human understanding, Der Reichsfuehrer has devised other alluring means to win the workman to his banner. And I found the man behind the shovel — blissfully unaware of world-wide threats to boycott their products — shouting in unison: “Heil Hitler!”
For instance, a housing program has provided laborers with homes that are a far cry from poorly ventilated, drab tenement flats where they used to live. The plodding steps of a weary worker quicken as he faces a house in the center of a garden, bright with growing things. His blonde, rosy cheeked wife sings at her dishpan. She knows some day they really will own this house.
“I am so happy here,” the mistress of one of the workman’s homes told me, leading the way from a neat backroom with washtubs and pump into a spacious combination living room, dining room and kitchen. Farther back there is a parlor, used only on special occasions because coal for heating is expensive.
Her home lived up to the German woman’s reputation for neatness. Not a speck of dust on anything. The windows were as clear and shining as her own blue eyes when she talked about the little green and white house.
“For the first time in my life, I have space to store things,” she continued, pointing out a trap door in the ceiling at the top of the fireproof staircase. “And look at the garden plot and the lawn where my children can play!”
The young storm trooper at my side beamed at her words.
“The best thing about the whole project is the infinitesimal amount of money it costs them to live here,” he said, in English, so she couldn’t understand. “They can’t pay because they don’t make much.”
“The government builds the house. When a man and his family move in, they are given four chickens, nine fruit trees and some garden seeds. During the first year, they pay only 7 marks ($2.00) per month for rent, light, and water. In return, they must plant a garden.
“At the beginning of the second year, when the cellar is filled with potatoes, canned fruit, carrots, turnips, and cabbage, the rent is raised to 16 marks 35 pfennigs. But it is never raised again. Instead, with the birth of each child, it decreases 1 mark 75 pfennigs.
“You might call the fee they pay installments rather than rent,” the officer went on. “In from 40 to 50 years, each rent-payer becomes the sole owner of his home. If he dies at the end of this period, the property goes to his heirs.”
Another house I saw was occupied by an unemployed man, his wife, and their two small boys. He pays no rent at all now and receives an unemployment allowance for food and clothing. The rent, however, does not accumulate. As soon as he finds a job, he will begin to pay the regular first year rate.
In the meantime, he must help to build more houses, mix cement for the wide streets that run past them, and be on the lookout for a job. There is little danger that he will slump into the sociological malady that comes from long unemployment and give up hunting for a position. The duty of the officer who paces up and down before the rows of houses is to see that each unemployed tenant conscientiously seeks work.
Those who have jobs are given advantages far beyond the ones usually found in crowded factories. Once a week a symphonic orchestra plays in one plant during lunch. The music is broadcast to other factories. To the working man of many countries, this wouldn’t be much of a treat. To a German, however, with the love of music in his veins, it is.
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“Last summer, for the first time in my life, I went to Berlin,” one tall, dark, Prussian-type carpenter told me. “My company gave me a week’s vacation and paid all my expenses. I never had been there before.”
Never had been to Berlin — a two-hour ride from Leipzig.
Others who have lived all of their lives in the interior are sent to coast towns for vacation at the expense of their employers. Men on the docks are given a chance to see the central sections with their broad expanse of immaculately groomed forests of pine and balsam.
“A real vacation and a change of scenery will win a skeptical workman over to our way of thinking more permanently and certainly much more easily than any number of lectures or printed handouts,” a frank soldier in a blue uniform said. “If we win him by kindness, he gets behind the new regime wholeheartedly. And he stays behind it, too.”
In addition, Hitler’s efforts to make personal contacts with his laborers are in some degree responsible for their feeling of friendliness. It is good to shake the hand of the highest power in the land. Particularly good when the hand is extended to you on the floor of your own factory.
Even the middle class families react favorably to this new-in-Germany idea of personal contact. Those to whom the name Hohenzollern was but a headline across the tip of a newspaper, thrill at the sight of a man from the inner sanctum in Berlin.
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I heard the shout that went up when Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, strode into the Grasse Museum, one of the most spectacular of the Fair buildings. Then a hush fell over the crowd. Natives of the quaint old city literally fell over each other trying to get a better view of him. They had their reward. The dapper little man with the smiling face that slightly resembles a tired Eddie Cantor’s (imagine it!) marched a few steps up a staircase, turned about and, still beaming, saluted.
In the evening of that same day, I saw him, accompanied by his extremely beautiful wife and a retinue of friends and generals, at a concert in the Gewandhaus. They were shown to their box just before the leader of the famous symphony lifted his baton. The audience rose and faced the box. It cheered. It applauded. Publicity Director Goebbels was gracious.
When the concert was over, he stayed in his seat until twenty minutes after the audience had descended the broad, redcarpeted staircases to the lobby below. There, grouped about the stairway, the people waited for him to come down. Finally, preceded by an array of brown, blue, and red uniforms, he appeared. He stopped and saluted. Right hands were raised slightly above shoulder level. A cry of “Heil!” filled the air. He marched out between rows of citizens. The show was over. The quiet, peaceful air that had hung over the music-loving Germans for two hours was charged with electricity.
Outside, a hand organ played martial music.
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Source: National-Socialist Worldview