Robert Ley on Nazism and business (1936)


In 1936, Robert Ley, the head of the German Workers’ Front, addressed an audience on the relationship between Nazism and business:


“I must dispel the myth that it is unpleasant for a National Socialist to be an owner. People speak of materialism, of owners as materialists! Well, my friend, without material I can’t live, and neither can you. We do not hold material things in contempt. There were once prophets who preached a separation between body, soul and spirit. One cannot separate these three things. If you remove the body, nothing is left of the soul and spirit. If you remove the soul, you have a lifeless, cold being, and if you remove the spirit, you are left with a tragic idiot.

These three things belong together. We do not despise materialism, but want to struggle each day with ourselves so that materialism does not dominate us. God gave us understanding and creative souls to form and use material, to invent, to make new things and discover new things. That is wonderful. To realize these new things, however, we need material resources. To found a firm and create wealth is not contemptible. I must make that clear. What good would all our socialist desires do if there were not people to figure things out, to organise, to build a firm?

One sometimes finds those in business who tell us that business and idealism are in conflict. That is not right. The opposite. I say that a true idealist who does something truly good for humanity must have both feet on the ground, else he is a dreamer and a romantic. All his idealism has no meaning and no value. I do no one any good with it, it is false. I say that in the long run, a sound businessman can found a firm and lead it to success only when he is a true idealist. Everything else is illusion.

No, businessmen and idealists are not enemies, but in the end one and the same. No true idealist lacks good business sense, and no sound company can survive without idealism.”