This is the next installment of the Airship President story. Since this story is already written and more or less edited, it's easy for me to upload so there will probably be several parts uploaded before I get something else that's unrelated up on the blog. I hope you enjoy.Click here for Part 1
PART II: GETTING THINGS OFF THE GROUND
The election of Dr. Eckener to the German Presidency on March 13, 1932 marked the end of his major involvement of the Zeppelin Company. On March 20, he resigned his position as President of Luftschiffbau Zeppelin, succeeded by designer Ernst Lehmann. Although he would remain connected to the airship developments, he was no longer in the driver’s seat, though he is credited, and rightfully so, with ensuring the more long term success of the craft.
- Anderson, Dr. Alexander. The Airship: A Century of Sailing the Skies. New York: Colombia University Press: 1989.
ECKENER TAKES OFFICE IN GERMANY
BERLIN, MAR 31- Today, famed Zeppelin pioneer Hugo Eckener was sworn in as the third President of the German Republic. Earlier this month, Eckener was elected by 55% of the vote, beating out Adolf Hitler of the National Socialist Party and Ernst Thälmann of the German Communist Party. The famous airship captain now commands a ship of state facing dire situations that could threaten the infant democracy in that country. Most threatening is the National Socialists, who seek to attack all of their political rivals with their paramilitary organization, the so called “Storm Troopers”. Also, Eckener must find a new chancellor, or risk political alienation from the masses who find Chancellor Heinrich Brüning’s policies very unpopular. Although no official word has come yet, many here in the Reich capital believe that either Joseph Wirth of the Centre Party, or Otto Wels, head of the Social Democrats, will become Eckener’s chancellor.
-“Eckener Takes Office in Germany,” The Washington Post, April 1, 1932.
“Citizens of Germany, today, April 1, 1932, is the start of an era of recovery for our nation. I ask you to work with me, so that together, we will pick up the pieces and make Germany something to truly be proud of. We are a vibrant people, we are an intelligent and cultured people, with so much to offer the world. Ladies and Gentlemen, I say to today that we should stand up and let the world here that Germany is not down trodden, that Germany is not on its last leg! Let us show the people of France and England and America that Germany can overcome any obstacle!
It is my pleasure to introduce to you the men who will help me guide your government to begin the rebuilding. As of today, Otto Wels will serve as Germany’s Chancellor. With him, Joseph Wirth will serve as Defense Minister, and Konrad Adenauer as Foreign Minister.
We have many goals to accomplish, and with your help, we will achieve those goals. May God bless you and keep you, and may He watch over our beloved homeland.”
- Radio Address given from Berlin by President Eckener on April 1, 1932. Reichs Historiches Institue, Berlin.
Eckener, Wels, Wirth and Adenauer had quite a tall order to fill, and fast. The Nazis held almost daily rallies against the new government starting April 3. The SA and the Rotfrontkämpferbund had several street battles that first month, and the Berlin Police seemed unable to control the violence. Hitler decried the election as a farce, as a betrayal of the true voice of the people. It seemed as though things were going to deteriorate. But then Eckener’s government rolled up their sleeves, got a little dirty, and preserved the frail German state. The deciding factor would be a meeting held on April 19, 1932 between Eckener and Wels’ government.
- Liebermann, Dr. William. The Zeppelin President."Chapter 2: The Months of Struggle.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003
April 19, 1932- The street battles between the SA and the Rotfrontkämpferbund became too violent to try and ignore. I called in Otto and Joseph and Konrad, along with Otto Braun, to discuss the situation. I told them flat out that the SA and the Rotfrontkämpferbund had to be banned. The Chancellor told me, “that’s all well and good, and needed, but technically they were banned under Brüning, and look what that’s got us?”
I said to him “Well, what if we brought in the Reichswehr?” And authorized the police forces to crack down on these groups?” Wirth spoke up, saying that my suggestion might be a good course to take. Konrad voiced his concearns, however. “Mr. President, do you think that calling in the army on this is such a good idea? That might just be adding fuel to the fire.”
“Well,” I said to him, “there is a risk of that. However, if we have our military go after the SA and Rotfrontkämpferbund leadership, and let the police know that they Reichswehr will back them if they need it, I believe this may work.”
We discussed the details of this, but that was the most important part. Tomorrow, I am going to decree that all paramilitary organizations are henceforth illegal in Germany, and authorize the Reichswehr to round up all their leaders. We’ll break the backs of these anti-democrats yet.
- From the personal diary of President Hugo Eckener “Personal Documents of President Eckener.” The Zeppelin Institute, Friedrichshafen.
PRESIDENT DECLARES WAR ON PARAMILITARY
BERLIN, APR 20- President Eckener today decreed that all paramilitary groups are to be henceforth considered enemies to the state, and has ordered the Reichswehr to round up the leaders of two prominent paramilitary organizations, the National Socialist “Storm Troopers”, and the Communist “Red Front Fighter’s League”. This is of course in response to all the street fighting between the SA and the RFKF against each other, and the SA attacks against Eckener’s government in Berlin. President Eckener assured the nation that, “while there maybe an initial surge of fighting if some of these groups refuse to surrender quietly, in the long run this is for the best, for free, unadulterated democracy cannot exist where armed vigilantes go around and harass those that oppose their ideology.”
-President Declares War on Paramilitary,” Frankfurter Zeitung, April 21, 1932.
PEACE IN GERMANY?
BERLIN, JULY 12- It has been nearly 3 months since German President Hugo Eckener announced a ban on paramilitary groups that were operating as agents of two of Germany’s most anti-democratic political parties, the National Socialists and the Communists. According to our embassy in Berlin, the Nazis, as the National Socialists are called, are the biggest threat to the stability of Germany. Since the ban, there have been several major confrontations, but the paramilitaries have lost every time. The streets are finally beginning to become peaceful once again. You no longer see the swastika-emblazoned brown uniforms of the SA, with people trying to avoid their gaze. In fact, President Eckener has moved on to other issues, such as getting people back to work. The new “Build for the Future!” Program started by Chancellor Otto Wels was announced about a month ago, and has already had nearly 100,000 people volunteer. The program offers some income in addition to food for workers to come and work on construction projects for the state. Chief among them is the new “Autobahn” highway system, that will, according to Chancellor Wels, be a “truly modern roadway system, with two lanes for each direction of non stop traffic, connecting all the major cities of Germany together.”
-“Peace in Germany?,” The Times (London), July 13, 1932.
SHOTS FIRED AT PRESIDENT!!
NAZIS TO BLAME FOR ATTACK
BERLIN, OCT 1- Early this morning, members of the Nazi party attacked the Presidential motorcade here in the capital. President Eckener, along with Chancellor Wels, were en route to a rally for the upcoming Reichstag elections in the Tiergarten when 10 National Socialists ambushed the vehicles. Since violence has been down all over Germany after what was up till today considered a successful ban on the SA and the RFKF, security was almost nill, and the Nazis achieved total surprise. Several aides to the President and the Chancellor were killed, and both men received wounds from bullets that were fired by the attackers. Eckener is reported as being in fair condition at this point, only receiving wounds in his arm and leg. Wels is currently unconsious, having lost large amounts of blood, and doctors are unsure if he will survive. The Mayor of Berlin has declared a state of emergency, and Defense Minister Joseph Wirth has called out the Reichswehr to maintain order.
-“Shots Fired at President: Nazis to Blame for Attack,” Frankfurter Zeitung, October 1, 1932.
GERMAN CHANCELLOR KILLED BY NAZIS
BERLIN, OCT 2- German authorities reported this morning that Chancellor Otto Wels died from wounds received yesterday during an attack on the Presidential motorcade in Berlin, perpetrated by members of the National Socialist, or Nazi, Party. President Hugo Eckener is recovering in a Berlin hospital, reportedly doing quite well. German Defense Minister Joseph Wirth has ordered the Army to secure Berlin, and has cancelled all public gatherings in the capital until President Eckener is released from the hospital. There are calls for the government to take strong action against the Nazis, but as of yet, none has been forthcoming. Wirth stated that, “I will take no action directly against the Nazis without authorization of the President or the Chancellor.”
This attack comes just over a month before the Reichstag elections, and is clearly meant to destabilize the national government here in Germany. The effect of this attack on the upcoming elections still remains unclear. However, some in the capital believe that this may hurt the Nazis, since Eckener and his government were quite popular, especially with the “Build for the Future” program and the banning of the paramilitaries.
-“German Chancellor Killed by Nazis,” The Washington Post, October 3, 1932.
October 7, 1932- Those barbarians! I..I…words can’t fully express the anger I am feeling at this hour. That they not only attacked myself and my staff, but that they killed poor Otto Wels…my blood boils. And what to do about the situation? Many are calling for the party to be outright banned, that Hitler himself planned the attack (which he very well may have, despite his official statements to the contrary.) But I fear an outright ban may not be the best solution. I’ve been talking with Konrad (who will be taking over as Chancellor after tomorrow’s funeral), and I think that cracking down on the Nazi HQ, maybe raids at Hitler’s home. But no arrests. He and I both think that the people are going to oust the Nazis next month. I have asked that the Reichswehr investigate the attack, to find out just who ordered it.
-- From the personal diary of President Hugo Eckener “Personal Documents of President Eckener.” The Zeppelin Institute, Friedrichshafen.
“My fellow Germans, we have gathered here in this beautiful house of God to bid farewell to a great statesmen, one who believed in Germany’s future, who believed that tomorrow would be better. And today, as we pay our respects and offer our comfort and condolences to his family, I call on all Germans to step up and make sure that his dream of a free, safe, stable, democratic Germany become a reality. We cannot allow the forces of violence, murder, and anarchy to prevail. We cannot, and we will not! Frau Wels, be rest assured, your husbands death will not have been in vain.”
- Radio Address given at Otto Wels funeral, October 8, 1932. Reichs Historiches Institue, Berlin.
NAZIS TROUNCED IN ELECTIONS
BERLIN, NOV 7- In what was obviously a reaction to the brutal attack on President Eckener and the murder of the late Chancellor Wels, voters across the nation have sent the Nazis packing. Dropping from 107 seats to 29, the Nazis have been all but tossed out of the Reichstag on their ear, with the SDP going from 143 seats to 245, and the Centre Party going from 68 seats to 119. President Eckener said that “I am overjoyed with the results of this election. The people have spoken.” Newly sworn in Chancellor Konrad Adenauer stated that “This election marks the triumph of the German Democracy over the forces of tyranny and anarchy that have sought to bring chaos to the Fatherland.”
-“Nazis Trounced in Elections,” Frankfurter Zeitung, November 7, 1932.
GERMANY ARRESTS HITLER
BERLIN, NOV 20- The German military filed a report with President Eckener earlier this week stating to the effect that Adolf Hitler, head of the National Socialist Party, planned the attack on President Eckener that killed Chancellor Otto Wels. Eckener ordered the man’s immediate arrest upon reading the report. Hitler was arrested not far from the Bavarian-Austrian border, attempting to flee the country. It is widely expected that the newly elected Parliament will vote to ban the Nazis once they meet for the first time next month.