Hitler and His Generals: The Hidden Crisis, January-June 1938

By Harold C. Deutsch | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
Echoes and Sequelae

Though known only to a restricted audience in Germany, the trial of Werner von Fritsch had taken its place in history. The dexterity and verve of Goering, the timorousness of Brauchitsch and Raeder, and the inertia of Fritsch himself had decreed that the larger issues entangled with the affair would be skirted in the trial. Only here and there were hints of what might have eventuated if, instead of tiptoeing around them, the parties concerned had come to grips with these essentials.

With such exceptions as the queries raised by Goltz after Schmidt's confession, those well-wishers of Fritsch present had confined themselves to dealing with the case constructed against him. Others had, however, from the first thought of counterattack. Since becoming aware of a Fritsch crisis, they had pursued this aim with every argument at their command and in every quarter where there seemed promise of support. Unfortunately they had been caught wholly unprepared and in the most critical period -- the week before February 4 -- had to concentrate on circumventing the decree of silence issued by Hitler, on seeking allies, and on developing communication among those willing to help.

These efforts had prevented a complete victory for the forces arrayed against Fritsch. Hitler had been obliged to grant him an opportunity for legal vindication and to yield on the nature of the court to sit as a fact-finding body.1 He had appointed himself the ultimate judicial authority, had contrived every conceivable handicap for the defense, and had tolerated or himself perpetrated

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1
Fritsch's court-martial was a "special court" in the sense of having power only to determine his guilt or innocence, not to take punitive action.

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