The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics, 1918-1945

By John W. Wheeler-Bennett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
THE SCHLEICHER PERIOD (1926-1933)

(i)

IF Hans von Seeckt was the Sorcerer of the Reichswehr, it was reserved for Kurt von Schleicher to play the unsavoury and tragic rôle of the Sorcerer's Apprentice. He was, indeed, the evil genius of the later Weimar Period, symbolizing in himself all the worst traits of the General in politics. Vain he was, and unscrupulous, and unfaithful; with a passion, amounting almost to an obsession, for intrigue, and a marked preference for the devious and the disingenuous; but his ambitions were for power rather than responsibility, for influence rather than position.

Yet, though vain, von Schleicher was not petty. He had grandiose schemes which never got beyond the stage of planning. He dreamed not only of restoring the conservative military caste in Germany but also of reviving that old spirit of comradeship between the soldier and the worker, that spirit of Prussian military-socialism which should unite the Army with the Trade Unions and thereby provide a ready reservoir of man-power upon which the military direction might draw at will. He dreamed, too, of social reforms which should reduce the corrupt abuses which had grown up under the Weimar régime and of bringing back to Germany the old Prussian austerity -- 'the black broth of Sparta' -- which had been preached and practised by Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, and in one of his broadcasts as Chancellor he besought the German youth to fight against what he mystically termed 'der innere Schweinehund'.

But pre-eminently von Schleicher was a master of cross-section contacts and cabal, and the more constructive side of his character was obscured by his overweening predilection for intrigue. It is to be recorded of him that whereas no man owed more to his superiors, the path of his subsequent career was littered with the political corpses of those early patrons. With the exception of Otto Meissner,1 no

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1
Otto Meissner (b. 1880), a Prussia civil servant whose early career had been in the railway administration of the Reichsland ( Alsace-Lorraine), became State Secretary to the President of the Republic on the return of the Government to Berlin after the failure of the Kapp Putsch in March 1920. He continued in

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