Industrial workers in Nazi Germany (1938)

An extract from a government report on the condition and mood of industrial workers in Nazi Germany:

“Among industrial workers there are many who do not give a damn about the successes of the Hitler system and have only scorn and contempt for the whole show. Others, however, say: ‘Well, there are a lot of things Adolf does not know about himself and which he does not want’. But one is never quite sure with them whether they mean it seriously or only want to protect their backs.

Naturally, there are also many who have become un-political. In particular, a large number of the skilled workers who were unemployed for a long time are not enthusiastic Nazis. They often complain about the fact that they earn much less now than in say 1929 but, at the end of the day, they always say: ‘It’s all the same to us; at least we have work’.

The further one goes down into the poorer sections the more opposition there is. But even now —although they know there is a labour shortage — they are all scared of losing their jobs. The years of unemployment have not been forgotten.

Those who are still Nazis in the plant are subdued. One has the feeling that many of them only stay in the Party to get an easier life. If discussions occur they usually give in or do not get involved. They make no use whatsoever of the jargon employed at their meetings. The facts speak clearly enough for themselves. The fact that one’s wages continually buy less and less and that the slave driving gets worse and worse every day cannot be denied by even the ‘oldest fighter’. The ‘old fighters’ in particular, have mostly had enough of the Third Reich. But it is still a different matter as far as white collar employees are concerned. Among them, those who have come up in the world through the Party make much of their decorations and titles.

The mood in the plants is one of depression. It’s true that even in the old days work was no fun and was regarded by many as a necessary evil. But in those days one had the feeling: if you don’t like something you can get it off your chest frankly and in public. Perhaps something will be done about it; in any case, it will be a relief. Now one goes into the plant with a heavy heart because one is always afraid of saying a word too many and landing oneself in a spot. There is a dark cloud over one’s whole life.

One even looks forward less to getting home than in the old days because there is no longer any relaxed comradeship with friends and neighbours. Before, one always used to meet like-minded people in the workers, sports and education associations, for a game of chess, or in the People’s House. Now one leaves the factory, runs a few errands, goes home, reads the headlines in the paper, and goes to bed, and next morning the same monotonous cycle begins again.

Those who have their ‘duty’ to perform whether in the SS, SA, Party or Welfare are even worse off. They have to slave away in the evenings as well and moan a lot, particularly if they have been doing heavy physical work during the day. Most of them would gladly give up their posts. But they lack the courage to do so.”