Dodgy Hitler quote du jour

“We must close union offices, confiscate their money and put their leaders in prison. We must reduce workers salaries and take away their right to strike” – Adolf Hitler, May 2, 1933

That got posted as an old high school friend’s Facebook status. I countered with this:

‎”In the present state of affairs I am convinced that we cannot possibly dispense with the trades unions. On the contrary, they are among the most important institutions in the economic life of the nation. Not only are they important in the sphere of social policy but also, and even more so, in the national political sphere. For when the great masses of a nation see their vital needs satisfied through a just trade unionist movement the stamina of the whole nation in its struggle for existence will be enormously reinforced thereby. Before everything else, the trades unions are necessary as building stones for the future economic parliament, which will be made up of chambers representing the various professions and occupations.” -Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter 12.

Look up German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront, DAF), the union that Hitler established after disbanding the independent Weimar unions for corruption (probably the context of the above quote). Until the war, the DAF was actually pretty effective in improving the workers’ lot. It was in charge of the Strength through Joy movement, and Hitler established Germany’s first national Labor Day holiday. It didn’t help the corruption much though; the DAF’s drunken leader Robert Ley enriched himself. He also skimmed off union money to build the first VW plant after Porsche couldn’t bring in the project to sell for under 1000 Marks.

One could make the claim that this was not an independent labor union. It was independent of the private-sector manufacturers though, which created problems at first with those who most believed in the “socialist” aspect of the National Socialists. One could also question whether a public employee union is truly independent when they campaign for the people who will be their management.

Well, then I got curious. You’ll notice that there’s no real citation there, just a date. So I decided to go online to see what I could find. Then I posted this:

A web search does not find it in any of the collection of Hitler quotes; it only come up in the context on the Wisconsin business. In fact, it looks a lot like the Hitler gun control quote that was making the rounds several years back, which was also “too good to be true” (at the time of the alleged quote, Germany was still under Weimar Republic gun control law). I didn’t see it at Snopes yet. So I call BS on the quote, and would suggest that it’s still a sin to bear false witness against Hitler, even if he richly deserved it.

The reply from the other Facebookers involved? Crickets.

The Mikkelsons are plenty liberal, and probably aren’t in a hurry to debunk this, particularly since doing so would require wading through Hitler’s speeches to discover what if anything he was saying on May 2, 1933. There was a sighting of the Loch Ness monster on that day though. And indeed, the former labor unions were disbanded on that date, so Hitler could have said something like this. It’s not consonant with the way he treated labor immediately afterwards, though.  And there’s no citation. So lefties, if you want to throw this quote all over the Net, put up or shut up.

10 Responses to Dodgy Hitler quote du jour

  1. kishnevi says:

    The current Snopes thread is here: http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?p=1423893

    The best line in that thread is probably this one:

    That in and of itself doesn’t make trade unions good or bad. Hitler was probably also against kicking puppies.

  2. Jeffrey Quick says:

    “So while the Nazi’s didn’t ban unions, the only one you could belong to was theirs.”
    As if “you” ever had a choice of which union to belong to. Meanwhile, apparently WP has failed in its usually exemplary job of curtailing comment spam. I wonder if spammers have a union.

  3. Sam Hall says:

    I asked Snopes about that quote after a frustratingly unproductive web search for a possible source. They suspect it’s bogus.

    It’s brilliant disinformation, though.

  4. Steve Rendall says:

    Snopes itself is suspect, but that’s another story. I can’t speak to the legitimacy of the quote, but I know this much: Mein Kampf, finished many years before Hitler began his ascent to power, does not at all reflect Hitler’s views as they were in 1933. Indeed, it was in May of that year that he ordered all but official Nazi unions shut down. You will find this in any history of Hitler’s and the Nazi Party’s rule. So, even if the quote is bogus, and it may be, it reflects with some accuracy his views/actions at the time.

  5. TSVandenberg says:

    Thank you! Finally, someone looking at things objectively! As much as I support the growing movements in this nation, you can’t just take things out of context (or make shit up) and put it in quotes and call it history, as a way of juxtaposing today with the past. It just doesn’t work, and it’s only encouraging ignorance, as you rally people to follow blindly behind your cause. This is a symptom of our broken system. And it is not the solution to defeating it. To the contrary, it’s how you infiltrate and hijack a movement. And it’s something I firmly stand against.

  6. Trade unions outlawed in Germany on May 2, 1933. Doesn’t matter if he said it, he DID it.

    http://historyonthenet.com/Chronology/timelinenazigermany.htm

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  9. Ed Darrell says:

    Westlake has the story:

    It’s consistent with the events of that day — May 2, 1933, the day after Labor Day, the trade unions in Germany were taken over by the government.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gleichschaltung

    The trade union association ADGB (Allgemeiner Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund) was shattered on May 2, 1933 (the day after Labour Day), when SA and NSBO units occupied union facilities and ADGB leaders were imprisoned. Other important associations including trade unions were forced to merge with the German Labor Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront — DAF), to which all workers had to belong.

    Also see here: http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_image.cfm?image_id=1890

    I am skeptical that the quote is accurate, just by the phrasing — but it is certainly accurate in its expression of Adolf HItler’s actions against trade unions at the time.

    Don’t for get Niemöller’s famous poem:

    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    – Pastor Martin Niemöller

    Does that mean that Wisconsin Gov. Walker is a follower of Hitler? No, but it will cause the alarm claxons to sound for anyone with a sense of justice when Walker, or the Ohio Republicans, or Texas GOP, or anyone else, decides to go after the political rights and the powers of their local unions. There is a long history of tyrants, bullies, crooks and megalomaniacs who went after union people and their organizations — and in that history, those working to deny the union rights were almost always in the wrong (I can’t think of any occasion they were right).

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