Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hitler's Dead; Nazi Government Finally Holds First Meeting

The German government never met even a single time under Hitler. But under his successor, Grand Admiral Doenitz, the government convened every day during its entire three-week existence. The following is an excerpt from Germania (Simon & Schuster, 2008).

Doenitz was looking at Speer in complete seriousness, as though it hadn’t occurred to him that everything they’d been discussing existed purely within the realm of fantasy. The reality was that all the nitrogen works and electrical power plants were in Allied hands and the Allies had so far shown not the slightest inclination to listen to any suggestions the Doenitz government might make about getting Germany’s industries back in operation.

Doenitz sat at the head of the table, correct and steely-eyed as always. Schwerin von Krosigk, the Chancellor and Foreign Minister, sat to his left while Speer, in charge of the economic portfolio, sat at his right. The other ministers and advisors sat around the table, all of them looking very serious. Doenitz’ government was now ten days old. At its inception, it consisted of the three of them and a geographical realm which, besides northern Germany, included all of Denmark, Norway, Bohemia, Crete, plus fragments of Russia, Latvia, Belgium, France, Greece, Italy, and even the British Channel Islands. Now, there were more than a dozen ministries, several special departments and more than sixty typists, clerks and other staff members. The government’s territorial jurisdiction, on the other hand, barely extended beyond the gates of the Marineschule.
They’d go in each day and have meetings, explore problems, issue orders and try to establish some coherency amid the chaos. But what effect any of it had was hard to say. Whether their orders would be carried out, or, for that matter, even delivered, was largely beyond their control. The all-powerful Allied Control Commission was a bureaucratic hydra which stood in their way, without having any clear plan of its own. From time to time, its members would show up and nose around and issue orders and directives, whose meaning they usually seemed at a loss to explain.

The discussion on fertilizers went on another twenty minutes and then they moved to the next topic on the agenda; churches. The question was whether a portfolio should be added for religious affairs. Dorpmuller the Transportation Minister suggested it might be a good idea, given everything the German people has just gone through, it was necessary that a Christian moral culture be re-instituted in the state.

People bristled at the idea. “Are you suggesting that just because National Socialists weren’t Christian, they weren’t moral?” one of the ministers countered.

“All I’m saying is we need to go back to old, traditional values. For more than a thousand years the Germans have been a Christian people. We need to emphasize that point both to ourselves and to the world. I think it would also be a good idea to embrace contemporary Christian theology of human dignity.”

“Do you have anyone in mind?” asked Doenitz.

“Yes, I do, Grand Admiral. I think Dietrich Bonhoffer would be a perfect candidate. Last I heard he was still alive. We should see if we can locate him.”

While an aide was dispatched to make some calls, the topic changed to banking issues. There wasn’t enough money on hand to pay state employees or to fund purchases of emergency foodstuffs from Sweden. The question boiled down to asking the Allies permission to print an emergency issue of Reichsmarks. They were discussing it when the aide returned to inform them that Pastor Bonhoffer had been executed by the Gestapo two weeks before.

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