Ernst Wilhelm Bohle (28 July 1903 – 9 November 1960) was the leader of the Foreign Organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) from 1933 until 1945.
I was born at Bradford in Yorkshire, and spent the whole of my youth within the British Empire, partly in England and partly in South Africa. It is generally agreed that the impressions we receive during the first sixteen or seventeen years of our lives are particularly lasting in their effects upon our subsequent development. It is but natural, therefore, that my knowledge of Great Britain and the British should be more intimate and deeper than it would be had I acquired it in later life. In like manner, a British boy born and educated in Germany is certain to have a far better understanding of that country, and the national traits of the German people, than one born and bred in England, even though he may have made a profound study of our country and people when grown up.
My reason for thus prefacing the following is that as Head of the Foreign Organisation I have been subjected to a great deal of criticism and my critics have entirely failed to appreciate the significance of the facts indicated.
I would like, therefore, to give a clear and straight forward account of the work done by that Organisation and to put right a few mistaken ideas about it, not by way of parrying the attacks made upon us - for our conscience is quite clear - but rather to explain the profound change that has come over the minds of Germans resident abroad with the transformation that has been effected in the Reich itself.
That transformation has attracted the attention of the whole world for the past five years with the result that - broadly speaking-people are now beginning to understand the new order of things in Germany. It stands to reason that so far-reaching a change in the mother country could not but greatly affect all Germans living beyond its borders and the responsible body guiding the changing trend in the right direction is the Foreign Organisation of the National Socialist Party, of which I am the Head.
On January 30th, 1933, Herr Hitler took over the government of Germany. Everybody knows that this step was much more than a mere change of government. It was the definite assumption of supreme political power.
Anyone who failed to realise that difference at the time has had ample opportunity since then to convince himself that the Leader of the National Socialist Party has not only changed the whole form of government but has entirely transformed every other aspect of public life in Germany. What could be more natural than that the Germans abroad should watch these tremendous developments with an interest unprecedented in its intensity? And, having grasped what has been done at home, they have become as fervent National Socialists as the people in the Reich.
That is nothing surprising; it is, in fact, a natural and logical development. For Germans living abroad are no different from those at home; they belong to each other, and they must know of the happenings in the Reich. After five years of effort in maintaining this contact I am proud to be able to state that perfect harmony between the Reich and its nationals abroad has been established - a harmony that will never be shattered.
Anyone who witnessed the enthusiasm of the 10,000 Germans who came from all parts of the world to attend the Fifth Congress held at Stuttgart in 1937 will endorse this statement.
If it be argued that there are Germans resident in other countries who are still opposed to the Third Reich, the answer is that they are a negligible factor. Their existence is no more important than the fact that in the Reich, too, there are still some people who object to National Socialism.
What is of importance, however, is that the National Socialist views on the values of life and citizenship have now been accepted by the vast majority of Germans within and without the Reich. This fact cannot be questioned by any fair-minded person. The inference is that the German element abroad is, as a matter of course, completely National Socialist minded, and that to be a German is the same thing as being a National Socialist.
Once people realise that the terms "Nazi" and "German" are synonymous the former will no longer be used to designate some exceptional type of German. To ensure this must be one of our principal aims if an honest attempt at a friendly understanding is to be made on both sides.
By way of explanation: if a London paper announces "A German speaks in London," this may be of interest or it may not, but there is nothing sensational in it. If, on the other hand, the heading reads "A Nazi speaks in London," it would probably cause quite a flutter, many English people committing the mistake of thinking of a "Nazi" as something out of the ordinary, mysterious, although a Nazi is ipso facto a German and a German a Nazi.
When an Englishman addresses a Berlin audience, he does so as an Englishman and not as a Conservative, Liberal, Socialist or Independent. The fact that we have only one party in Germany is a characteristic peculiar to ourselves.
And another eloquent illustration: supposing a Reich German goes abroad and says he is not a Nazi; similarly an Italian on his travels says he is not a Fascist, nobody would seriously take them to be representatives of their country.
If these things were properly understood in England as the home of common sense, we might cheerfully look forward to the disappearance of many obstacles tending to keep apart two great nations that have so much in common. And if people would only grasp the fact that Germans in the Reich are National Socialists by conviction, they would realise that Germans abroad must likewise be regarded as National Socialists.
This brings me to the object of the Party's Foreign Organisation in Berlin, which is to unite these National Socialist Germans resident abroad by setting up local and divisional groups to foster and strengthen their love of the homeland, that is their National Socialist homeland, and their feeling of national solidarity.
These National Socialist groups in foreign countries are nothing more than voluntary associations of German citizens who believe in National Socialism as the instrument of their country's salvation and who, by joining these groups, want to show their readiness to contribute their share towards building up the new Germany. They are not members of various political parties, but of the only political movement that exists in present-day Germany, and one that has taken a sure hold of the whole nation.
It is no part of their task to propagate National Socialist ideas among the citizens of other countries. Their only function is to encourage their members to conform to these ideas and ideals as closely as their fellow-citizens in the Reich have done and are doing.
It is downright nonsense, therefore, to talk of the members of our Party abroad as "Nazi agitators" or "agents of the German Secret Police" (to mention only two of the many misleading terms that have been used), whose aim it is to infect foreign nations with what is "Nazi poison."
The truth is that National Socialists abroad are expressly forbidden to interfere in any way with the domestic politics of other countries, and the much maligned Party discipline is perhaps the surest guarantee that this injunction is strictly obeyed. When other countries organise their nationals abroad in clubs, societies, associations and the like, nobody takes exception to it, and no country would consider its security thereby menaced.
The same is claimed for the organisations of German residents abroad being similarly a menace to nobody. Not one instance to the contrary has ever been brought to my notice.
It is more than ridiculous when certain persons and certain newspapers persist in raising the bogy of such a menace. The only result of insinuations of this kind is to disturb the relations between Germany and the country involved. And those disturbances are bound to occur if, for instance, young German women employed in foreign households are denounced as "spies," and if every National Socialist is referred to as a "political agent." The point that matters here is not whether the editors of those papers are pleased or displeased at the thought that German citizens abroad are National Socialists, but that they are National Socialists.
In Germany we do not trouble ourselves about the political views of British subjects residing in our midst. There are thousands and thousands of them, and I assume that they are good Democrats. But it has never occurred to us that they might be a source of danger to the existence of the Third Reich. Nor have we the slightest objection to their gathering together as often as they like in appreciation of the benefits of Democracy. We should be justly entitled, however, to put a stop to their activities if they attempted to impose their Democratic ideas upon us on the ground that they were suitable for our country. And with the same right the British people would be justified in prohibiting the propagation of National Socialist ideas in their own country.
But as nothing of the kind has ever happened, the attempts recently made in certain quarters to arouse feelings of hostility against National Socialists living abroad can only be regarded as acts of interference with the internal affairs of Germany. The ideology of Germans living abroad is nobody's concern but their own, just as the ideology of British residents abroad is exclusively their own affair. To take up any other stand on this question would imply a denial of Germany's equality of status; and we all know that the time for such a denial is definitely past.
It is one of the foremost duties of every government to look after its nationals abroad, to help them and to protect them whenever protection is needed. The British Government has always been a model to all as regards the fulfilment of this duty. That truth is so universally recognised that a passing reference to it is all that is needed here. In like manner, the solidarity shown by the British all over the world has always been exemplary.
The official representatives of the British Government have at all times protected the interests of their fellow nationals abroad in the most admirable fashion. They take every care (and rightly so) that His Majesty's subjects abroad shall remain loyal to their King and Country wherever they are. Every other country conscious of its national responsibilities takes the same view as a matter of course.
Some time ago, a Congress of French residents abroad was held in Paris under the chairmanship of the President of the Republic. It was attended by a large number of Frenchmen from the colonies, mandated territories and foreign countries; and several Cabinet Ministers were among the speakers.
Similarly a Congress of Swiss residents abroad was held at Berne. It was organised by the New Helvetian Society, and its importance was underlined by the fact that M. Motta, the Federal President, delivered one of the addresses on that occasion. Many of those attending the Congress used that opportunity of suggesting that the Secretariat of the Swiss foreign groups should be transformed into a Department of State. The Federal President himself is a member of the Committee of Patrons under whom the Secretariat conducts its activities. In Germany alone the Society has at present 37 principal groups and 31 sub-groups.
It is well known that Fascist Italy has had its Foreign Organisation for the past sixteen years. Poland, too, has a World League of Polish residents abroad, with branches all over the globe. It concerns itself in great detail with all questions that may affect its members in any way. It is presided over by a Cabinet Minister. Congresses attended by Poles from all parts of the world are held at regular intervals, and this League has undoubtedly achieved a great deal in keeping the national spirit alive among Poles in foreign countries.
We Germans do not look upon this as a matter for surprise, and we see nothing sensational in it. And strange to say, all other countries feel the same way. It is regarded as the natural thing to do. But as soon as Germany creates a similar organisation for her nationals abroad, limitless sensational charges are made against her and all sorts of ulterior motives attributed to her.
Thus, in outlining the work of our Foreign Organisation it must be understood that there is nothing out of the ordinary about it. As its Head my position was very clearly defined by the Führer when appointing me. Within the scope of the Foreign Office I am responsible for all questions that concern citizens of the Reich living abroad. The fact that I have nothing whatever to do with non-German nationals - either in my capacity as a member of the National Socialist Party or owing to my connection with the Foreign Office - has been emphasised so often as to require no further reference. All statements to the effect, for instance, that I make it my business to organise the German minorities in foreign countries are pure inventions; and nobody knows this better than the governments of the countries concerned. I am here referring, of course, to those of German origin abroad who are citizens of the countries in which they live.
I should like to state categorically that we neither desire nor expect any special privileges from foreign governments for those of our leading men abroad who are not connected with the diplomatic or consular service. This gives the lie to the rumours which would have it that the Foreign Organisation is thinking of appointing so-called cultural attaches abroad.
Great Britain, too, takes a lively interest in all matters affecting British residents abroad, than which nothing could be more justified. In 1920 a very interesting official report entitled, "Report of the Foreign Office Committee on British Communities Abroad," was presented to Parliament by command of His Majesty. The purpose for which the Committee was appointed was to discuss ways and means whereby His Majesty's Government can:
(1) foster a greater spirit of solidarity among British communities abroad, and
(2) make British ideals more generally known and appreciated by foreign nations.
Anyone who has read this Report, and who is in any way acquainted with the work done by our own Foreign Organisation, can see at a glance that we pursue exactly the same aims. And it should be noted that the Report was drawn up by a Committee appointed by the Foreign Office.
We consider it extremely important [the Report says] that His Majesty's Government should make it known without delay that they take a sympathetic interest in the activities of British communities in foreign countries, and that they are prepared in certain cases to afford practical support.
It is also suggested that British nationals abroad should be induced to register their names with the consular offices competent for their district. It is emphasised that every British child living abroad should be given the opportunity of receiving an English education. The Government is urged to support all associations and societies of British residents abroad that serve to promote British ideals. Stress is also laid on the desirability of establishing British Chambers of Commerce abroad, of organising trade propaganda, of providing English libraries, and of maintaining English schools.
Can the above go by the name of agitation, political or economic espionage? The British Government, and the special associations concerned with British communities abroad, have a perfect right to interest themselves in the affairs of their nationals, provided - of course - that they do not come into conflict with the laws of the countries in question.
Moreover, British residents abroad are perfectly entitled to promote the commercial interests of their country whenever they have a chance of doing so. Similarly, no one can possibly object to our claims to exercise exactly the same rights on behalf of our German communities in foreign countries. This is a birthright, as it were, which we do not wish to relinquish any more than the British people would think of relinquishing theirs.
Cosmopolitan sentiments will never take the place of national sentiment so long as there are different nations. There will always be a British, French and an Italian national sentiment - and there will always be a German national sentiment. Incidentally, the time has passed when people could count on a weaker national sentiment among Germans than among the members of other nations. We Germans of to-day, who are National Socialists, demand the same rights for ourselves as do other nations. We do not ask for special privileges, but we feel equally disinclined to put up with discrimination against us.
No fair-minded person can deny that many countries have derived untold benefits, more especially in the cultural sphere, from the German communities that have existed in their midst for a number of decades. Besides, it cannot be questioned that these Germans are peaceful and respectable citizens who have always abided by the law and for whose presence no country has been the worse.
For this reason, surely, the unfortunate practice of suspecting and reviling Germans in other countries, that has lately been indulged in, should definitely cease.
When the Führer appointed me Head of the Foreign Organisation, numerous foreign papers seized the opportunity of designating me as the head of a widespread system of espionage; and no one was more surprised at the absurd charges levelled against me by a clique of irresponsible journalists than I was myself. These outbursts came to a climax when they called me the" Chief of the Nazintern, "an imaginary organisation whose existence, I suppose, is confined to their own fertile brains. That such wild accusations could be raised is all the more remarkable as the work done by the numerous groups controlled by our Foreign Organisation must have made it plain to everybody that we Germans look upon National Socialism as something which we jealously treasure as our own property.
These false accusations make it extremely difficult for me to achieve an object which I am most anxious to see realised with the aid of our Foreign Organisation, namely to make the German communities the most popular among the foreign residents of each country in which they are domiciled.
We believe, and every reasonable critic will agree with our views, that the well-disciplined German nationals residing abroad constitute a special element of security for the country in which they live because their own country expects them to conduct themselves in a particularly decent and loyal manner whilst abroad, and because the National Socialist Government will hold each of them answerable for any attempt they may make to interfere in the domestic affairs of other nations, and thus impair Germany's chances of living in harmony with them. Moreover, those of our nationals abroad who may become destitute can never become as heavy a charge upon the country's revenue as the citizens of many another country, as we have a well-organised Relief Scheme for such cases, and resort to self-help as much as possible. We never tire of reminding our compatriots abroad that they must have the highest regard for the nationals of other countries. The very reason why we understand and respect other peoples' ways and traditions is that we love our own.
German residents abroad can surely be trusted when they say that they are staunch upholders of the cause of peace, as it is they who stand to lose most - if not everything - in the event of a war breaking out between their home country and their country of residence. It is therefore particularly infamous to represent them as warmongers.
Ever since the dawn of civilisation people have at times left their homeland to settle among strangers. Indeed, this is likely to continue so long as there is peaceful intercourse among nations. Instead of treating these foreign communities with suspicion and distrust, they ought to be regarded - in my opinion - as the best possible emissaries in the cause of international peace. They know the country from which they come and they get to know the country of their adoption. Who could be better qualified than they to create mutual understanding?
British residents in Germany are the welcome guests of the Third Reich, and not one of them-I am sure can honestly say that there is such a thing as anti-British propaganda in our country. It is not usual for German newspapers to slander them or to accuse them of being spies. Nobody molests them, either privately or officially, because of their Democratic principles or because of their faith in the parliamentary system; and I think I may say that we treat our foreign guests with exemplary courtesy.
And even if we should have to arrest one or two on occasion because they happen to be spies, we should never think of generalising from such isolated cases and accusing all British residents in Germany of being spies. We should regard such an attitude as exceedingly unfair and, besides, we have no reason to entertain any apprehension for the security of our National Socialist regime.
There is an English word that has found its way into numerous languages in its original form and that is more appropriate than any other to serve as a basis for approaching all questions connected with our Foreign Organisation and the German communities. That word is "fairness."
It is not fair to reproach German residents abroad for being loyal to the Reich and for being National Socialists.
Nor is it fair to hold them responsible for the establishment of the National Socialist régime in Germany, because that is the regime desired by the German people and they want no other. This is known to every Englishman, however slight his knowledge of German affairs may be.
The form of government that exists in Great Britain is a matter of complete indifference to us; and we should never think of giving advice on this subject to any British nationals, whether living at home or among us. That is their own affair, just as it is exclusively ours to select a regime we consider best suited to ourselves.
Some time ago an article appeared in a London paper entitled, "Germany To-day." That article appealed to me and I would like to cite a few passages in support of my contentions.
Germany's system of government is Germany's affair; Britain's is Britain's. And there is no sound reason why these two Countries, each governed in the manner that its people prefer, should not live side by side in a spirit of friendly co-operation and human understanding. Such a change in their relationships would be immensely beneficial to themselves, and an incalculable contribution to the peace of the world.
That, of course, has always been Germany's view of the problem. It is the only suitable basis for all attempts at removing the endless series of misunderstandings that have unfortunately grown up in the relations between the two countries.
We Germans in foreign countries have declared over and over again that we desire nothing better than permission to assist in bringing about a fair and decent understanding among nations. The groups affiliated to our Foreign Organisation are representatives of the new Germany in the truest sense of the term, and are, therefore, admirably qualified to render most useful work in that domain.
But this can only be done if a stop is put to the practice of discriminating against them merely because they have completely identified themselves with the National Socialist Party.
And to this end I would direct an appeal to the British, and I do so not as an absolute outsider. After all, my whole childhood was spent among British boys and girls, and I was educated with them. During the terrible war years I attended an English grammar school and was the only German boy at the school. These facts, I think, enable me to see both sides of the question.
Anyone who knows Great Britain, the British people, and more especially British history, cannot but admire this great nation with its grit and foresight. Similarly, I think that every Britisher who has had the chance of studying German character and the epic history of Germany will be equally impressed with the imposing spectacle presented by the heroic struggle towards national unity which our people have waged for a thousand years, a struggle made all the more difficult by our geographical position. No power in the world has ever been able permanently to dismember our country, though there has certainly been no lack of effort to do so.
Surely, the time has come for these two great and proud nations to grasp each other's hands in friendship and to try to arrive at a sincere understanding even on matters concerning which their views must necessarily differ. They have so many things in common that these differences-which are part of their national characteristics-ought not to stand in the way of a rapprochement.
The Führer has often expressed a desire for such an understanding; and we Germans have noted with much gratification that his suggestions have been received with an increasing measure of approval on the part of the British people. Our Foreign Organisation will do everything in its power to support any such attempt, because we cherish the hope that German residents in Great Britain will be regarded by our British friends as what they really are - the Messengers of German Goodwill.
These National Socialists do not disseminate hatred and discord, but are anxious to deliver the messages of goodwill emanating from a country whose Leader loves peace because he loves his people and wants to make them happy.
The man who raised one of the world's great nations from the depths of misery and despair and made it great and united again, did not do so as a prelude to another war that would throw sixty-five million people back into the abyss from which he had rescued them.
He stands for the cause of peace - peace for Germany and peace for the world.
We National Socialists from foreign countries do the work that the Führer wants us to do. We are his loyal and devoted followers because we know that by carrying out his instructions we shall ensure the peace and happiness of our own country, and assist in healing the wounds inflicted upon a distracted world that knows no peace.