” Lew’s review of “My First Seventy-six Years” by Hjalmar Schacht

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 17, 2013


Hjalmar Schacht was perhaps the most competent person ever in the employ of the Nazis. He was President of the Reichsbank and Economic Minister. In 1938, he fell out with Hitler and was dismissed. Later, he participated in the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, for which he was arrested and sent to a concentration camp.

When the war ended, Schacht was charged at the War Crimes Trials in Nuremberg, at which he was acquitted.

Schacht’s views on a variety of subjects are of great interest, and his descriptions of conditions at Nuremberg will be of great value to me when I get to that section of my novel-in-progress. I am looking forward to inventing conversations between Schacht and my fictional character Berthold Becker, also a defendant at the same trial, in which Berthold will challenge some of Schacht’s actions and particularly what he says he knew (or didn’t know) about the holocaust.

Schacht’s knowledge of the holocaust …

  • when I received the Bill of Indictment at Nuremberg in 1945 … I learnt for the first time of the monstrous crimes committed against humanity, above all the Jews, by Hitler himself and by his orders.


Schacht on the Jews …

  • Hitler promised that the laws relating to foreigners should apply to the Jews … that is that Jews should enjoy the same protection accorded to foreigners … (instead) he caused the Jews to be deprived of all rights and treated as outlaws …

  • One of the most insidiously disruptive statements ever made is that religion is a private matter … religion cannot be a private matter … as exemplified in the church it is the foundation of every state and of every national community … a Christian country cannot permit non-Christians to exercise an influence which would admit of their directly the spiritual and moral life of the community along other than Christian lines … Religion is no private affair … It is the foundation stone of the State

  • It seems to me that anti-Semitism is not based on religious factors even on the assertion that Jews crucified the Saviour … rather it is the fact that, owing to his ability … whenever he resides in a non-Jewish community that the Jew endeavors to insinuate himself into the intellectual and cultural leadership of that community … When, as a result, the legal and medical professions show an unusually high percentage of Jews … When most of the theaters, the press, the concerts were under Jewish management … Then this constitutes the incursion of a foreign element into the spirit of the hostess nation … All of the above-mentioned professions exercise a civilizing influence … a nation whose civilization is rooted in Christianity will therefore always be at pains to preserve Christianity as the basis of the civilization … and to discourage foreign elements in its cultural life … So long as the Jews fail to appreciate this fact they will come up against difficulties, as a history of many nations reveals

  • I have always declared myself in favor of limiting Jewish activity to a certain extent in governmental, legal and cultural matters … based on a certain percentage

  • At the 1938 Reichsbank Christmas party for the office boys … I referred to the events of November 9 (Krystallnacht) … the deliberate burning of Jewish synagogues … the destruction and looting of Jewish businesses … and the ill treatment of Jewish citizens … was such a wanton and outrageous undertaking as to make every decent German blush for shame … I hope none among you had any share in these goings on … If any of you did take part I advise you to get out of the Reischbank as quickly as possible … We have no room in the Reichsbank for people who do not respect the life property and convictions of others … Several party “pundits” were present during the speech

Schacht’s dismissal by Hitler followed soon thereafter …

  • I received a message letting me to come to the chancellery punctually at 9 o’clock the following morning (Jan 20) … scarcely had I entered the big drawing room looking out onto the garden of the old Chancellory … when the Fuhrer came in and the following conversation took place … Hitler: I sent for you, Herr Schacht, to hand you the written notice of dismissal from the office of president of the Reichsbank … You don’t fit in to the general National-Socialist scheme of things … You have refused to allow your staff to submit to political scrutiny by the Party … You have criticized and condemned the events of the 9th November to your employees … Finally Hitler said he was too upset to continue this conversation … I replied I can always come back when you have grown calmer …

Why did Schacht advocate for Hitler to be part of the government, and why did Schacht later join that government?

  • I had met Hitler at Goring’s house … subsequently I went to see Bruning … I urged him to include the NS in his cabinet because I believe that only in this way could one capture and chain the tremendous propagandist force that I had observed in Hitler … the NS must be gradually initiated into the practical duties of government … they must not be allowed to remain in opposition … Bruning would have none of my suggestion

  • the Nazi’s “political economists” (Gottfried Feder and Karl Rower) would spell ruin for German economic policy … I felt it my duty to prevent such a disaster … I therefore gave Hitler to understand that if he came into power I would not refuse to collaborate with him

Repression of the German people under the Nazis

  • Once Hitler took power … any possibility of political propaganda among the German people could be completely ruled out … there was no freedom of assembly, no freedom of speech, no freedom of authorship … it was not even possible to engage in conversation and small intimate circles … Every word uttered in the presence of more than one other person was liable to endanger one’s life



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