British Ambassador to Germany Eric Phipps looking back after two years at the extraordinary successes inside Germany and in the opinion of Germans of Hitler’s first two years—saving Germany from Versailles, from domination by the Allies, from the Great Depression, and from his own “gangsters” in the form of the SA:
Eric Phipps: Diary https://github.com/braddelong/public-files/blob/master/readings/book-phipps-diary.pdf 1935-04-01: ‘Over two years have now elapsed since the electorate of this country, stampeded by the Reichstag fire, voted for the abolition of the Parliamentary régime and the establishment of a National Socialist dictatorship...
During these two years, Adolf Hitler, without losing the loyalty of his old followers to any alarming extent, has won over the great mass of the Opposition to himself and his policy both internal and external. He has achieved this by accomplishing in the opinion of the masses not one but several miracles. In the first place, he has obtained work (or what amounts to work so far as the individual is concerned) for 3 million people. Secondly, he has torn up Part V of the Treaty of Versailles under the very noses of Germany’s former enemies. And thirdly, he has, as it were, liberated Germany from the clutches of his own National Socialist gangsters who threatened at one time to make life a purgatory for all but a privileged caste. The return to more normal conditions during the last six months has indeed been so rapid and so marked that the great bulk of Hitler’s one-time opponents are now, to say the least of it, reconciled to his rule if not to National Socialism.
Furthermore, it is now dawning upon friends and enemies alike that a benevolent despotism has immeasurable advantages over the Parliamentary system in the case of a defeated country. Not only has it an advantage over the travesty of a parliamentary system known as the Weimar Republic but many intelligent Germans are now of opinion that it is preferable to the French and British systems of representative government. It would certainly seem to an unprejudiced observer that a country which is anxious to free itself from the shackles of an oppressive treaty has better prospects if it is prepared to accept a restriction of individual liberty and a concentration of all powers in one hand, provided of course the hand be firm and wise. In the case of Hitler no doubt exists in the German mind that the country’s choice has been fully justified by the history of the last two years….
For years before he came into power Hitler doggedly refused to give any explanation of his mysterious programme for coping with unemployment. Why, he asked should he betray his panacea to his rivals? The mystery is now cleared up and it is evident that Hitler was well-advised to keep his secret to himself. As we now realise, his programme consists not merely of public works of the normal kind but of the very important work of rearming Germany. Today military contracts and contracts for public works are almost indistinguishable. The provision for motor roads which serve equally as military roads is a case in point. In addition the expansion of the army and air force has absorbed large masses of men from the labour market. The simplicity of many of Hitler’s basic ideas savours of genius to the public mind.
In regard to the rearmament of Germany and her return to the field of international politics on an equal footing, neither the Army, the intelligentsia nor the Ministry for Foreign Affairs conceived that the time was ripe for “calling the allied bluff”. Any attempt on Germany’s part to challenge the Versailles Treaty would lead, they firmly believed, to intervention and possibly to the occupation of the Rhineland. Any parliamentary government in this country would have courted disaster in the Reichstag had it embarked on Hitler’s policy of flouting the Treaty.
Even in Hitler’s case the adventure was not devoid of grave personal risk. There was always the chance during the early stages that the signatories of Versailles would pull themselves together and veto German rearmament by the threat of a preventive war. In that case the Hitler régime would have come to an end and Hitler and his chief supporters would have had to choose between suicide and exile. Now that Hitler has put his bold plan into execution his influence is highest in those very quarters where it was at first regarded with most suspicion, namely the Reichswehr Higher Command, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, permanent officialdom and responsible circles generally.
The Germans are not disposed to minimise their difficulties. But they regard Herr Hitler as a prophet and the majority expect with calm obedience that he will find the way to the promised land. He, on his side, is more convinced than ever that fate has chosen him as its instrument just as it chose Frederick the Great65 for the regeneration of the German people. In truth, can we wonder at his conviction? His foreign policy since my arrival at Berlin has been the reverse of that of a “good European”; it has been a crescendo of violence and has hitherto failed to evoke any stronger reaction on the part of the ex-allies than some notes of platonic protest.
Having helped himself, in defiance of the Treaty, on land and in the air, Herr Hitler now suggests, with grim humour, that the British Empire may some day be grateful for the protection of the fleet that he intends to build.66 The size of that fleet at present seems uncertain, but if Herr Hitler adheres to his intention of attaining naval parity with France he will eventually possess a fleet half the size of our own concentrated in an infinitesimal fraction of the waters over which ours is called upon to sail.
So far as I can see, only economics and finance can be expected to counter these proud plans, but economics and finance have in the past proved so elastic as to defy all expert prophecy. Stalin, on the other hand, when he pointed at “that little island” to Mr. Eden on the map, seemed to think that we alone could finally prevent the hegemony of Germany by withholding from her certain raw materials without which she would be unable to continue her present orgy of expenditure on armaments. I do not know whether this course be feasible or not. In any case let us hope that our pacifists at home may at length realise that the rapidly growing monster of German militarism will not be placated by mere cooings, but will only be restrained from recourse to its idolised “ultima ratio” by the knowledge that the Powers who desire peace are also strong enough to enforce it…