was a German
The Conservative Revolutionary movement was a German national conservative movement, prominent in the years following the First World War. The Conservative Revolutionary school of thought advocated a "new" conservatism and nationalism that was specifically German, or Prussian in particular...
who briefly joined the Nazis before breaking with them. In 1934 he renounced Nazi party membership and defected to the United States where he denounced Nazism. Rauschning is chiefly known for his book Gespräche mit Hitler
(Conversations with Hitler) US title Voice of Destruction
, UK title Hitler Speaks
, in which he claimed to have many meetings and conversations with Hitler.
Life and Works
Rauschning was born in Thorn
Toruń is an ancient city in northern Poland, on the Vistula River. Its population is more than 205,934 as of June 2009. Toruń is one of the oldest cities in Poland. The medieval old town of Toruń is the birthplace of the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus....
(Toruń), at the time part of the German Empire
The German Empire refers to Germany during the "Second Reich" period from the unification of Germany and proclamation of Wilhelm I as German Emperor on 18 January 1871, to 1918, when it became a federal republic after defeat in World War I and the abdication of the Emperor, Wilhelm II.The German...
, to a Prussian officer
The Royal Prussian Army was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.The Prussian Army had its roots in the meager mercenary forces of Brandenburg during the Thirty Years' War...
in the province of West Prussia
West Prussia was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773–1824 and 1878–1919/20 which was created out of the earlier Polish province of Royal Prussia...
. He attended the Prussian Cadet Corps institute at Potsdam
Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin city centre....
and in 1911 he obtained a Doctorate from Berlin University. He fought in World War I as an Officer and was wounded. After the war, he settled in the area around Danzig
The Free City of Danzig was a semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939, consisting of the Baltic Sea port of Danzig and surrounding areas....
Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast, at the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay , in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the...
, Poland), where he owned land.
He lived in Posen
Posen may refer to:Places in Europe:* Poznań, Poland * Grand Duchy of Posen, autonomous province of Prussia, 1815–1848* Province of Posen, Prussian province, 1848–1918...
and was prominent in its Historical Society. In 1930 he published a work under the title Die Entdeutschung Westpreußens und Posens
(The de-Germanisation of West Prussion and Posen). According to Rauschning, Germans in these areas were constantly put under pressure to leave Poland.
In 1932 he moved to a new estate in Warnow
Warnowo is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Wolin, within Kamień County, West Pomeranian Voivodeship, in north-western Poland. It lies approximately north-west of Wolin, west of Kamień Pomorski, and north of the regional capital Szczecin.Before 1945 the area was part of Germany...
and became leader of the Danzig Land League. Previously affiliated with the German National People's Party
The German National People's Party was a national conservative party in Germany during the time of the Weimar Republic. Before the rise of the NSDAP it was the main nationalist party in Weimar Germany composed of nationalists, reactionary monarchists, völkisch, and antisemitic elements, and...
, he then joined the Nazi Party believing that they offered the only way out of Germany's troubles, including the incorporation of Danzig into Germany. He became President of the Danzig Teachers' Association in 1932. After Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, the Nazis in Danzig won control of the Free City's government, and Rauschning became the President of the Senate of Danzig on 20 June 1933; that is, head of state of the Free City government. He was an excellent speaker. In foreign matters Rauschning did not conceal that his personal desire was to turn neighbouring Poland into a vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...
of Nazi Germany. As a conservative nationalist Rauschning was not typical of Nazi members, and the Nazis' violent anti-semitism was alien to him. He was a bitter rival of Albert Forster
Albert Maria Forster was a Nazi German politician. Under his administration as the Gauleiter of Danzig-West Prussia during the Second World War, the local non-German population suffered ethnic cleansing, mass murder, and forceful Germanisation...
, the future Gauleiter
A Gauleiter was the party leader of a regional branch of the NSDAP or the head of a Gau or of a Reichsgau.-Creation and Early Usage:...
On 23 November 1934, he resigned from the Senate and the Party. In the April 1935 Danzig elections, he supported "constitutionalist" candidates against the Nazis, and wrote articles supporting co-operation with the Poles, which angered the Nazis, and Rauschning found himself in personal danger.
He sold his farming interests and fled to Switzerland in 1937. He moved to France in 1938 and to the United Kingdom in 1939. Rauschning joined German emigres but his right wing beliefs did not endear him to left-wing Germans, nor the fact that whilst a member of the Nazi Party he had been instrumental in the take over of Danzig. Rauschning represented "one of the most conservative poles of the emigration" and enjoyed celebrity status through his lectures. He sought to play a leading role in the more conservative emigre 'German Freedom Party', run by Carl Spiecker (later of the Centre Party
The German Centre Party was a Catholic political party in Germany during the Kaiserreich and the Weimar Republic. Formed in 1870, it battled the Kulturkampf which the Prussian government launched to reduce the power of the Catholic Church...
), however he fell out with Spiecher who thought Rauschning was motivated by self-interest rather than the interest of the party.
Between 1938 and 1942 he would write a number of works in German addressing the problem of the Nazis which were also published in a number of languages including English. His Gespräche mit Hitler
(Conversations with Hitler) was a huge bestseller but its credibility would later be severely criticised, and it now has no standing as an accurate document on Hitler for historians. However, as anti-Nazi propaganda it was taken seriously by the Nazi regime. At the beginning of the war the French dropped leaflets on the Western Front containing excerpts from Rauschnings writings, but with little response.
In 1941 Rauschning moved to the United States, becoming a US citizen in 1942 and purchasing a farm near Portland, Oregon
Portland is a city located in the Pacific Northwest, near the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers in the U.S. state of Oregon. As of the 2010 Census, it had a population of 583,776, making it the 29th most populous city in the United States...
where he died in 1982. He remained politically active after the war and was opposed to the policies of Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman. He was the chancellor of the West Germany from 1949 to 1963. He is widely recognised as a person who led his country from the ruins of World War II to a powerful and prosperous nation that had forged close relations with old enemies France,...
Rauschning's writings that were translated into English deal with National Socialism and the Conservative Revolutionaries relation to it, and their role/responsibility for Hitler gaining power. By conservative revolution Rauschning meant “the prewar monarchic-Christian revolt against modernity that made a devil’s pact with Hitler during the Weimar period”. Rauschning came “to the bitter conclusion that the Nazi regime represented anything other than the longed-for German revolution”.
In Die Revolution des Nihilismus
(The Revolution of Nihilism) he wrote that "the National Socialism that came to power in 1933 was no longer a nationalist but a revolutionary movement" and, as the books title states, a nihilistic
Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value...
revolution, destroying all values and traditions. He believed that the only alternative to Nazism was the restoration of monarchy. His book went through seventeen printings in the United States. The book was directed at conservatives in Nazi Germany whom he hoped to warn of the true anti-Christian nature of the Nazi revolution. He would reiterate the anti-Christian nature of Nazism in Gespräche mit Hitler
Rauschnings ideas of conservative Christian resistance to Hitler met with increasing scepticism, and were of no interest to Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...
and his doctrine of uncompromising total war
Total war is a war in which a belligerent engages in the complete mobilization of fully available resources and population.In the mid-19th century, "total war" was identified by scholars as a separate class of warfare...
. He fared little better in the US where "extremists, like Henry Morgenthau
Henry Morgenthau, Jr. was the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt. He played a major role in designing and financing the New Deal...
argued for the radical dismemberment of the entire German nation".
At the Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....
the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....
presented as evidence (USSR-378) two extracts from The Voice of Destruction
. Dr Pelckmann, for the defence, asked for Rauschning to be called as a witness on the matter of the party program relating to the solution of the Jewish question and Hitler's "principle to deceive the Germans about his true intentions" so that the prosectution would have to prove that the SS "knew what Hitler actually wanted" but Rauschning was not called.
Authenticity of Hitler Speaks
The authenticity of the discussions Rauschning claims to have had with Hitler between 1932 and 1934, which form the basis of his book Hitler Speaks
, was challenged shortly after Rauschning's death by Swiss researcher Wolfgang Hänel. Hänel investigated the memoir and announced his findings at a conference of the revisionist
Historical revisionism is either the legitimate scholastic re-examination of existing knowledge about a historical event, or the illegitimate distortion of the historical record such that certain events appear in a more or less favourable light. For the former, i.e. the academic pursuit, see...
association Zeitgeschichtliche Forschungsstelle Ingolstadt
The Zeitgeschichtliche Forschungsstelle Ingolstadt e. V. is a historical revisionist association located in Dunsdorf, Bavaria.-Political orientation:The ZFI was founded in 1981 and shaped by Alfred Schickel, Hellmut...
Hänel declared that Gespräche mit Hitler
(the German title of Hitler Speaks
) was a fraud and that the book has no value "except as a document of Allied war propaganda" and concluded that:
- Rauschning's claim to have met with Hitler "more than a hundred times" was a lie
- that the two actually met only four times, and never alone
- words attributed to Hitler were simply invented or plagiarized from many different sources, including the writings of Ernst Jünger
Ernst Jünger was a German writer. In addition to his novels and diaries, he is well known for Storm of Steel, an account of his experience during World War I. Some say he was one of Germany's greatest modern writers and a hero of the conservative revolutionary movement following World War I...
and Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...
; and an
- account of Hitler hearing voices, waking at night with convulsive shrieks and pointing in terror at an empty corner while shouting "There, there, in the corner!" was taken from a short story by French writer Guy de Maupassant
Henri René Albert Guy de Maupassant was a popular 19th-century French writer, considered one of the fathers of the modern short story and one of the form's finest exponents....
Hänel based his book upon a tape-recorded interview that he had led in 1981 with Emery Reves
Emery Reves was a writer, publisher, literary agent and advocate of world federalism.-Youth:Reves was born in Bácsföldvár, Hungary, and educated in Berlin, Zurich and Paris.-Publishing career and Winston Churchill:...
, publisher of the original French edition of Hitler speaks
(which had been entitled Hitler m'a dit
) who had commissioned the book from Rauschning in 1939. In this interview, Reves contended that penniless Rauschning's main reason for agreeing to write Hitler speaks
was the 125,000 Franc
The franc is the name of several currency units, most notably the Swiss franc, still a major world currency today due to the prominence of Swiss financial institutions and the former currency of France, the French franc until the Euro was adopted in 1999...
s advance, and, referring to preliminary talks with Rauschning in 1939 where he had agreed with the author on what themes and personality traits to apply to Hitler, considered it as largely fabrication.
The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich
The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich is a two-volume text edited by Christian Zenter and Friedemann Bedürftig.The Encyclopedia of Third Reich is considered one of the leading source materials for information about Nazi Germany and the reign of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers...
also considers that "The research of the Swiss educator Wolfgang Hänel has made it clear that the 'conversations' were mostly free inventions."
The non-revisionist historian Hugh Trevor-Roper's initial view that the conversations recorded in Hitler Speaks
were authentic also wavered as a result of the Hänel research. Whilst, in the introductory essay he wrote for Hitler's Table Talk
Hitler's Table Talk is the title given to a series of wartime conversations and monologues delivered by Adolf Hitler, which were transcribed from 1941 to 1944...
in 1953 he had said:
"Hitler's own table talk in the crucial years of the Machtergreifung (1932-34), as briefly recorded by Hermann Rauschning, so startled the world (which could not even in 1939 credit him with either such ruthlessness or such ambitions) that it was for long regarded as spurious. It is now, I think, accepted. If any still doubt its genuineness, they will hardly do so after reading the volume now published. For here is the official, authentic record of Hitler's Table-Talk almost exactly ten years after the conversations
recorded by Rauschning".
in the third edition, published in 2000, he wrote a new preface in which he did revise, though not reverse, his opinion of the authenticity of Hitler Speaks
"I would not now endorse so cheerfully the authority of Hermann Rauschning which has been dented by Wolfgang Hanel, but I would not reject it altogether. Rauschning may have yielded at times to journalistic temptations, but he had opportunities to record Hitler's conversations and the general tenor of his record too exactly foretells Hitler's later utterances to be dismissed as fabrication."
In writing his biography of Hitler, Ian Kershaw
Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian of 20th-century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich...
has written "I have on no single occasion cited Hermann Rauschning's Hitler Speaks
, a work now regarded to have so little authenticity that it is best to disregard it altogether."
Richard Steigmann-Gall is Associate Professor of History at Kent State University, and was the Director of the Jewish Studies Program from 2004 to 2010. He received his BA in 1989 and MA in 1992 from the University of Michigan, and his PhD in 1999 from the University of Toronto...
, in The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity
, is another historian contending Hitler speaks
an overall fake.
The Hänel research was reviewed in the West German newspapers Der Spiegel
Der Spiegel is a German weekly news magazine published in Hamburg. It is one of Europe's largest publications of its kind, with a weekly circulation of more than one million.-Overview:...
and Die Zeit
Die Zeit is a German nationwide weekly newspaper that is highly respected for its quality journalism.With a circulation of 488,036 and an estimated readership of slightly above 2 million, it is the most widely read German weekly newspaper...
Other historians have not been convinced by Hänel′s research. David Redles attacked Hänel′s method which consisted of:
'pointing out similarities in phrasing of quotations from other individuals in Rauschning's other books...and those attributed to Hitler in Voice of Destruction [i.e. Hitler Speaks]. If the two are even remotely similar Hänel concludes that the latter must be concoctions. However the similarities, which are mostly slight, could be for a number of reasons....[they] need not stem from forgery'.
Eberhard Jaeckel also concluded that, whilst the work cannot be regarded as a verbatim account, it is a good guide to Hitler's world view from someone who conversed with him.
- "It seems to be our destiny to have to repeat the same mistakes with a berserker's infatuation." The Revolution of Nihilism, pg xiii
- "The mass understood and understands nothing and does not want to understand." Ibid, pg 20.
Works by Hermann Rauschning in English
| US title || UK title ||
| The Voice of Destruction G.P. Putnam's Sons 1940
|| Hitler Speaks. A Series of Political Conversations with Adolf Hitler on his Real Aims Thornton Butterworth 1940
| The Revolution of Nihilism, Warning to the West Alliance Book Corporation 1939
|| Germany's Revolution of Destruction William Heinemann 1939
| The Conservative Revolution G. P. Putnam's Sons 1941
|| Make and Break With the Nazis - Letters on a Conservative Revolution Secker and Warburg 1941
| The Redemption of Democracy, the Coming of the Atlantic Empire Alliance Book Corporation 1941
|| The Beast from the Abyss William Heinemann 1941
| Men of Chaos G. P. Putnam's Sons 1942
|| Makers of Destruction - Meetings and Talks in Revolutionary Germany Eyre & Spottiswoode 1942
| Time of Delirium D. Appleton-Century Co 1946
Works by Hermann Rauschning in German
Gespräche mit Hitler
- Musikgeschichte Danzigs, (Dissertation Univerity of Berlin) Berlin 1911
- Geschichte der Musik und Musikpflege in Danzig. Von den Anfängen bis zur Auflösung der Kirchenkapellen, Danzig 1931
- As editor: Posener Drucke, erster Druck: Nicolaus Coppernicus aus Thorn. Über die Umdrehungen der Himmelskörper. Aus seinen Schriften und Briefen Posen 1923
- Die Entdeutschung Westpreußens und Posens. Zehn Jahre polnische Politik, Berlin 1930. reprinted 1988 with the title Die Abwanderung der deutschen Bevölkerung aus Westpreußen und Posen 1919–1929.
- 10 Monate nationalsozialistische Regierung in Danzig, (speech) Danzig 1934
- Die Revolution des Nihilismus. Kulisse und Wirklichkeit im Dritten Reich, Zürich 1938
- Gespräche mit Hitler, Zürich 1940
- Die konservative Revolution : Versuch und Bruch mit Hitler New York, 1941
- Die Zeit des Deliriums, Zürich 1947
- Deutschland zwischen West und Ost, Stuttgart 1950
- Ist Friede noch möglich? Die Verantwortung der Macht, Heidelberg 1953
- Masken und Metamorphosen des Nihilismus - Der Nihilismus des XX. Jahrhunderts, Frankfurt am Main / Wien 1954
- ...mitten ins Herz: über eine Politik ohne Angst (with H. Fleig, M. Boveri, J.A. v. Rantzau), Berlin 1954
- Die deutsche Einheit und der Weltfriede, Hamburg 1955
- Ruf über die Schwelle. Betrachtungen, Tübingen 1955
- Der saure Weg, Berlin 1958
- Mut zu einer neuen Politik, Berlin 1959
was also translated into French (Hitler m′a dit