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from Schacht's office of Plenipotentiary of the War Economy, Keitel pointed out that
“According to the will of the Fuehrer, the economic leadership puts the increase of our armed might knowingly ahead of other requirements of the state. It is the task of all members of the Reich Defense Council to utilize the national property, made available, primarily for this purpose and economically in the framework of the entire situation, and request only such funds and raw materials which serve absolutely and exclusively the Reich Defense.
(EC-406) The singleness of purpose with which Schacht and the other conspirators were gearing the German economy for war is strikingly shown by the Top Secret minutes of the meeting of ministers dated 30 May 1936. This, it will be recalled, was little more than 10 weeks after German troops had occupied the Rhineland. At this meeting, Schacht pointed out that "it must be attempted to produce those raw materials within Germany which are economically favorable; for other raw materials ready reserves for the case of mobilization"; and also that "certain raw materials for war must be stocked.” Continuing the discussion, Goering emphasized that “all measures are to be considered from the standpoint of an assured waging of war.” Thereafter, Schacht advocated the introduction of price supervision and agreed that first priority should be given to the "specially urgent petroleum question" (1301-PS).
By Top Secret letter dated 31 August 1936, Schacht was advised by General von Blomberg that Hitler had ordered that “the setting up of all air force units has to be completed on 1 April 1937”. This accelerated program entailed the expenditure of large additional funds which Schacht and the Minister of Finance were called upon to supply. The sense of urgency with which Hitler pressed the completion of the German air force patently signified that the waging of war was a certainty (1301-PS).
Shortly after the receipt of this letter, and on 4 September 1936, Schacht attended a secret cabinet meeting where Goering stated:
"The Fuehrer and Reichskanzler has given a memorandum
“The Colonel General reads the memorandum
“If war should break out tomorrow we would be forced to take measures from which we might possibly still shy away at the present moment. They are, therefore, to be taken."
“All measures have to be taken just as if we were actually
in the stage of immiment danger of war.” (EC-416). There was no room for surmise in these utterances; Hitler was definitely and irrevocably committed to waging aggressive war. If Schacht ever had any doubts concerning Hitler's firm resolve to carry out the program of aggressive war outlined in Mein Kampf; if, contrary to his statements to Mr. Messersmith and Ambassador Dodd, Schacht actually doubted in 1934 that the Nazis, whom he was faithfully serving, would inevitably plunge Europe into war; and if, despite the pressing sense of immediacy that had pervaded the Nazi war economy from the very outset, he had entertained lingering doubts concerning Hitler's plans for armed aggression, all such doubts must have been removed by the clear and unequivocal pronouncements in the abovementioned eventful meetings of 1936 in which he participated.
Yet, despite his knowledge of Hitler's plans to wage aggressive war, despite the fact that he had grave technical doubts about the ability of the Reichsbank to finance further armaments through additional short term credits, and despite the fact that some directors of the Reichsbank had opposed further “mefo" financing, Schacht pledged another 3 billion Reichsmarks by the “mefo" bill method for further financing of armaments in March 1937 (EC-438).
The Hossbach notes, dated 10 November 1937, on the important conference of 5 November 1937 in the Reichskanzlei, reveal a further crystallization of Hitler's program of absorption and conquest in Europe (386-PS). Definite plans were laid for the early acquisition of Austria and Czechoslovakia, and for their exploitation in preparation for further military operations. So far as appears, Schacht was not present at this particular meeting. But his awareness of what occurred at the meeting is shown by the fact that he told Ambassador Bullitt on 23 November 1937, that
"Hitler was determined to have Austria eventually attached to Germany and to obtain at least autonomy for the Germans of Bohemia. At the present moment he was not vitally con
cerned about the Polish Corridor, and in his [Schacht's] opinion it might be possible to maintain the Corridor provided Danzig were permitted to join East Prussia, and provided some sort of a bridge could be built across the Corridor uniting Danzig and East Prussia with Germany."
(L-151). Although Schacht apparently sought to convey the impression to Ambassador Bullitt that he desired to stay Hitler's hand but was powerless to do so, it is clear that he was actually in complete sympathy with Hitler's objectives. Despite the mounting tension which followed his conversation with Ambassador Bullitt, Schacht remained as President of the Reichsbank, and in that capacity established, in advance of the invasion of Austria, the rate of exchange between Marks and Austrian Schillings which was to prevail after the absorption of Austria (EC-421).
Moreover, under his direction, the Austrian National Bank was merged into the Reichsbank (Reichsgesetzblatt, 1938, I, 254). His speech of 21 March 1938, to the employees of the former Austrian National Bank on the occasion of its obliteration as an independent institution, betrayed his true feelings. After inveighing against “the dictates of Versailles and St. Germain”, Schacht stated:
"Thank God, these things could after all not hinder the great German people on their way, for Adolf Hitler has created a communion of German will and German thought, he bolstered it up with the newly strengthened Wehrmacht and he then finally gave the external form to the inner union between Germany and Austria."
"One person says he would have done it maybe in one way, but the remarkable thing is that they did not do it (hilarity), that IT WAS ONLY DONE BY OUR ADOLF HITLER (Long continued applause) and if there is still something left to be improved, then those grumblers should try to bring about those improvements from the German Reich and within the German community, but not to disturb it from without. (Lively agreement)”.
"I ask you to raise your hands and to repeat after me:
You have taken this pledge. A scoundrel he who breaks it.
To our Fuehrer a triple 'Sieg heil'.” (EC-297-A) Schacht was likewise enthusiastic about the acquisition of the Sudetenland, and filled with pride over the contribution his credit policy as head of the Reichsbank had made thereto (EC-611).
In January 1939, when Hitler was ruthlessly exploiting his successes in Austria and the Sudetenland in preparation for his next aggressive move, Schacht again referred, with pride, to the fact that the Wehrmacht which he had helped create by his ingenious and risky methods had made possible Hitler's successes. Thus, he said:
"From the beginning the Reichsbank has been aware of the fact that a successful foreign policy can be attained only by the reconstruction of the German armed forces.
It (the Reichsbank therefore assumed to a very great extent the responsibility to finance the rearmament in spite of the inherent dangers to the currency. The justification thereof was the necessity-which pushed all other considerations into the background—to carry through the armament at once, out of nothing and furthermore under camouflage, which made a respect-commanding foreign policy possible.” (EC
369) The foregoing proof establishes, it seems clear, that Schacht knew of Hitler's plans for aggressive war, and wilfully created the means whereby those plans could be executed. But apart from this direct proof, it is submitted that to a man in Schacht's position, the events of the period clearly bespoke Hitler's intentions. Schacht was a key figure in the Nazi Government during the period of the Nazi agitation in Austria, the introduction of conscription, the march into the Rhineland, the conquest of Austria, and the acquisition of the Sudetenland by a show of force.
During this period, the Reich debt trebled under the stress of mounting armaments (EC-419), and all the resources of Germany were being strained to the very limit for armament. It was a period in which the burning European foreign policy issue was the satisfaction of Germany's repeated demands for additional territory. Hitler, committed to a policy of expansion, was laying the greatest stress upon utmost speed in preparation for war.
Certainly in this setting, Schacht did not proceed in ignorance of the fact that he was assisting Hitler and Nazi Germany along the road towards armed aggression.
E. SCHACHT'S LOSS OF POWER DID NOT IMPLY DISAGREEMENT WITH THE CONSPIRATORS' PROGRAM OF AGGRESSIVE WAR.
(1) His resignation as Minister of Economics and General Plenipotentiary for War Economy. In November 1937, Schacht resigned his offices as Minister of Economics and General Plenipotentiary for War Economy. At the same time, he accepted appointment as Minister without Portfolio, and continued as President of the Reichsbank. It is submitted that the evidence shows that Schacht's resignations were merely the outgrowth of a clash between two power-seeking individuals, Goering and Schacht, over methods of creating a war economy and over who should have final authority to direct the completion of the task. So far as appears, Schacht was in full accord with the other conspirators upon the desirability of providing Hitler with the means by which he eventually could carry out his planned aggressions.
The basic differences between Schacht and Goering date from a period shortly after Goering became head of the Four-Year Plan · Office. The latter office was created by Hitler in September 1936,
and in connection therewith, Goering was "given far reaching powers to issue directives to all the highest offices of the State and Party”. Goering conceived of his function as head of the Four-Year Plan Office "within four years to put the entire economy in a state of readiness for war” (EC-408).
Schacht was in agreement with the "aim and idea" of the FourYear Plan. He promised Goering his complete support and cooperation, and urged that Goering draw upon Schacht's long experience in economic affairs. Thus, in Schacht's letter of 5 August 1937, to Goering, he said:
“The aim and the idea of the Four Year Plan were and remain entirely correct and necessary! It stands, essentially, for the application of increased energy to the efforts already undertaken by my ministry since 1934 with the results shown in the above statistics. As you will remember, I welcomed it when your energy, my dear Prime Minister, was recruited by the Fuehrer for these tasks, and from the very beginning I gave you my most loyal support and cooperation, with the particular plea that I be given a hearing from time to time, since I believed that my more than thirty years of experience in economic life, half of them in public service, could be of
value to you." (EC-497) Goering, however, failed to avail himself of Schacht's offer of his services. “I can only regret,” said Schacht in the aforemen