The Harzburg Front of 1931
The Harzburg Front was an attempt by wealthy right wing nationalists in Weimar Germany to join together to use their influence and power persuade the President, Paul von Hindenburg, to remove Chancellor Heinrich Brűning from office. The Harzburg Front met in October 1931 in the small spa town of Bad Harzburg in Brunswick where a Nazi, Dietrich Klagges, had recently been elected State Minister of the Interior.
Many wealthy nationalists in Weimar Germany were becoming increasingly convinced that Brűning was adopting more and more socialistic principles to his policy making. The word “Bolshevism” was frequently banded around by such men. They believed that Brűning was not only being un-German but was also potentially pushing Germany towards an economy based around ideas that were far removed from capitalism.
Despite the economic woes of the 1920’s, Weimar Germany still had some extremely wealthy men leading its businesses. Men such as Alfred Hugenberg, Fritz Thyssen and Franz Seldte – all members of the Harzburg Front – had the money that they believed could buy enormous political influence and even remove senior Weimar politicians from office. However, there were some notable absentees from the meeting –Gustav Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach, head of the industrial giant Krupp Works being one of them. At this time he had no love of the Nazi Party as he saw it as a destabilising force within Germany.
Adolf Hitler, along with senior Nazis such as Goering, Himmler and Roehm, was invited to attend the meeting that was held on October 11th 1931. His Nazi Party was the fastest growing political party in Weimar Germany and many of the wealthy who attended the meeting shared his strong nationalistic views.
The meeting at Harzburg also attracted senior military figures, representatives of the Prussian Junkers and right wing nationalists from the Pan-German League as well as industrialists. Alfred Hugenberg was thought of as the most senior person at Harzburg: not only was he very wealthy but he was also thought of as Weimar’s leading nationalist. Also present at the meeting was the President of the Reichsbank, Hjalmar Schacht. He made a speech that was very well received as it condemned the Young Plan and Brűning’s economic policies. Schacht said exactly what those there wanted to hear and coming from one of Germany’s most respected economists, they assumed that was he said had to be true.
When Hugenberg spoke he warned those who had gathered at Bad Harzburg that Germany had to be saved from the “Bolshevik peril” that in his view was propelling Germany towards bankruptcy. He demanded the dismissal of Brűning and the holding of new elections. When Hitler addressed the meeting, he repeated a lot of what Hugenberg had already said and concluded that Weimar had now reached a choice between Bolshevism or nationalistic pride.
Those at the meeting assumed that their wealth somehow brought them political influence. They assumed that President Hindenburg would agree to their demand that Brűning should be dismissed. But in this they were wrong. Those at the meeting failed to get what they wanted for two reasons. First, Hitler had no desire to be linked up with Hugenberg as he believed, probably correctly, that Hugenberg wanted to use the Nazi’s popularity with the voting public for his own purposes with him at the helm in the forthcoming presidential election. Therefore the hoped-for alliance of right-wing nationalists never occurred as Hitler now believed that the Nazi Party alone could spearhead a nationalist right wing movement. A second reason ironically involved another of Weimar’s very wealthy industrialists – Gustav Krupp. He was a friend of President Hindenburg and had spent a great deal of time trying to persuade the ageing President not to replace Brűning with Hitler and for a while he was successful. Hitler’s association with the Harzburg Front meant that while Krupp had influence over Hindenburg, all its demands were ignored. Once Hitler had been appointed Chancellor however, Krupp changed his tune and become a very vocal supporter of the new Chancellor and made generous donations to the Nazi Party.