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Werner von Fritsch Reflects on the Relationship between the SS and the Wehrmacht (February 1, 1938)

When Hitler revealed his war plans at a secret conference with military leaders on November 5, 1937, at least three of those present were more concerned than enthusiastic. Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath, Army Commander-in-Chief Werner von Fritsch, and Minister of War Werner von Blomberg believed that Germany’s war preparations were dangerously precipitous. Only a few weeks later, Hitler created an opportunity to rid himself of these conservative skeptics and, in doing so, took an important step toward establishing himself in a position of unlimited power for the purpose of preparing for war. The so-called Fritsch-Blomberg Affair, which led to the emasculation of the leadership of the German Wehrmacht in early 1938, was fueled above all by Himmler and Göring, who regarded the scandal as an opportunity to eliminate their most important rivals in the ranks of the military. In January 1938, Hitler used Blomberg’s marriage to a former prostitute to strip him of his position. He then used (false) allegations of homosexuality to eliminate Fritsch as well. On February 4, 1938, during the last cabinet meeting of the Nazi regime, Hitler announced the resignation of Neurath and sixteen high-ranking officers as well as the transfer of 44 others. Moreover, he also announced his personal assumption of control over all military forces in the form of the new High Command of the Wehrmacht [Oberkommando der Wehrmacht or OKW]. One of the greatest beneficiaries was Himmler and his so-called SS Special Assignment Troops [SS Verfügungstruppen], the precursor to the Waffen-SS. In the following account, the former commander-in-chief of the Army reflects, among other things, on the persistent conflict between the Wehrmacht and the SS.

Fritsch’s reflections were originally published in 1949. They appeared in the book Zwischen Wehrmacht und Hitler 1934-1938 [Between the Wehrmacht and Hitler 1934-1938], which was written by Friedrich Hossbach, Hitler’s former military adjutant and the author of the Hossbach Protocol.

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[ . . . ]

On 3 January 1934, I was appointed Commander-in-Chief with effect from 1 February against the Führer's wishes, against Blomberg's wishes, but under the strongest pressure from Field-Marshal von Hindenburg.

I found a heap of ruins, in particular a severe crisis of confidence within the High Command.

Reichenau's and the Party's struggle against me began on the day of my appointment in so far as it had not already begun.

Reichenau's opposition is understandable, for he wanted to take over command of the Army and still does.

The Party sees in me not only the man who opposed the ambitions of the SA but also the man who tried to block the influx of party-political maxims into the Army.

Apart from the fact that the basis of our present Army is National Socialist and must be so, the infiltration of party-political influences into the Army cannot be tolerated since such influences can lead only to fragmentation and dissolution.

The task given me by the Führer when I reported to him on 1 February 1934 was: 'Create an army as strong and united as possible and with the best conceivable training'. I have followed these instructions ever since.

Reichenau's machinations meant that my relationship with Blomberg was continually troubled. Throughout these years I have never succeeded in establishing a relationship with Blomberg based on trust as should have been the case. [ . . . ]

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