George Walford: Power Belongs to the People

In 1936 Goering was instructed by Hitler to build up the German air force:

But where was the money to come from to pay for the air force expansion? Goering went to Dr. Hjalmar Schacht, who was in charge of the Reich’s economic affairs, and asked that bossy and self-confident character for increased subventions. He was told that the German lemon was just about squeezed dry.

“I have taken from the German people just about all they can tolerate giving,” Schacht said, in effect. “I have forbidden them to take money abroad. I have repudiated all foreign loans. I have cut down imports almost to vanishing point. I have put them on austerity rations. All in the cause of providing huge sums for our rearmament. But one can only go so far, and then the people will cry halt. They are being starved of oil to cook with, butter for their bread, meat even for a Sunday dinner. Soon there will be a black market, and then we will have to start shooting people. I simply cannot spare you any more money.”

Not even, Goering asked, if he demonstrated to Schacht that the German people were ready for even further sacrifices than they were already making? “Not even you can perform miracles,” replied Schacht sourly.” (Leonard Mosley, The Reich Marshal, a Biography of Hermann Goering, 1974, p. 203).

After this conversation Goering made his famous or notorious “guns or butter” speech. He did succeed in persuading the German people that they could tolerate greater sacrifices, he got his money and the German air force was enlarged. But the point is, he had to persuade them. Even the Nazis, with their complete control of the state, their determination and their ruthlessness, were not able to enforce their will upon an unto-operative people. Power belongs to the people, even under Nazism.

from Ideological Commentary 11, March 1982.