Opening address for the United States/Part 3.1

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Opening address for the United States by Robert Houghwout Jackson
3.1 - The Battle Against the Working Class

The Battle Against the Working Class

When Hitler came to power, there were in Germany three groups of trade unions. The General German Trade Union Confederation (ADGB) with twenty-eight affiliated unions, and the General Independent Employees Confederation (AFA) 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 labor is usually brought around to the support of the nation at war, labor 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 workingmen who had joined the sailors and soldiers in the revolt of 1918 to end the First World War. The Nazis had neither forgiven nor forgotten. The Nazi program 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 part of the Nazi war preparation. Labor must be cowed, and that meant its organizations and means of cohesion and defense must be destroyed.

The purpose to regiment labor for the Nazi Party was avowed by Ley in a speech to workers on May 2, 1933, 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 %, and it is [page 130] you whom we want; we will not let you be until you stand with us in complete, genuine acknowledgment. (614-PS).

The first Nazi attack was upon the two larger unions. On April 21, 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 organization of the NSDAP," 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 SA and SS "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 of such unions and branch directors of the labor bank (3922s).

These orders were carried out on May 2, 1933. All funds of the labor unions, including pension and benefit funds, were seized. Union leaders were sent to concentration camps. A few days later, on May 10, 1933, Hitler appointed Ley leader of the German Labor Front (DEUTSCHE ARBEITSFRONT), which succeeded to the confiscated union funds. The German Labor Front, a Nazi-controlled labor 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 (1940-PS). "Factory Troops" were organized as an "ideological shock squad within the factory" (1817-PS). The Party order provided that "outside of the German Labor Front, no other organization (whether of workers or of employees) is to exist." On June 24, 1933 the remaining Christian Trade Unions were seized pursuant to an order of the Nazi Party signed by Ley.

On May 19, 1933, this time by government decree, it was provided that "trustees" of labor, appointed by Hitler, should regulate the conditions of all labor contracts, replacing the former process of collective bargaining (405-PS). On January 20, 1934 a decree "regulating national labor" 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 enterpriser-fuehrers should "make decisions for employees and laborers 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.

[page 131] Not only did the Nazis dominate and regiment German labor, but they forced the youth into the ranks of the laboring people they had thus led into chains. Under a compulsory labor service decree on 26 June, 1935, young men and women between the ages of 18 and 25 were conscripted for labor (see 1654-PS). Thus was the purpose to subjugate German labor accomplished. In the words of Ley, this 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 labor 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 the battle against labor, answered our indictment with suicide. Apparently he knew no better answer.