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

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

CHAPTER 2
FROM THE DEATH OF HINDENBURG TO THE FRITSCH CRISIS (August 1934-February 1938)

(i)

QUEM Deus vult perdere, prius dementat, and verily it seemed that the German Generalität had been stricken with both blindness and insanity. That they could actually have believed that, having elevated Hitler, as it were upon their shields, to the first position in the State, they would be able to retain and enjoy their ancient privileges as a Praetorian imperium in imperio, would be inconceivable were it not a fact. That they could imagine that with the liquidation of the SA their last rivals within the Nazi Party were disposed of, is equally amazing. But perhaps most extraordinary of all is that they should have ignored the rude and ruthless warnings of the events of June 30 and July 25, 1934, that they were dealing with a type of criminal mentality which did not play the game according to the accepted rules, but made up its own rules as it went along. Later -- much later -- the Generals were forced to the conclusion that only by the way of assassination could they eliminate the assassins, but in such a contest they were hampered by their amateur status as against the professional experience of Himmler, Kaltenbrunner and 'Gestapo' Müller.

But in August 1934, from their ivory tower, which they believed to be so invulnerable, the Generals looked out upon a sunlit world which seemed to offer the fruits of victory ripe for the picking. If they considered at all the gangster aspect of the Nazi régime, it was to dismiss the consideration with a supercilious shrug and the comforting thought: 'It can't happen here'. Here in their fortress of caste and privilege, they deemed themselves not only secure from all menace, but still holding the keys of power.

And indeed it suited Hitler's book, at the moment, that the Army should be well satisfied. For the Führer and Chancellor realized that, despite the fact that he had attained supreme personal power within the Reich, he had much to do before that position was

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