Angeln in the period of National Socialism
Schleswig-Holstein – stronghold of the National Socialists
Street fighting and disorder
The Weimar Republic was also on shaky foundations in Schleswig-Holstein. The initial years were overshadowed by the Treaty of Versailles, hyperinflation in 1923 and the repercussions of the redrawing of the border in 1920. After a period of political and social stabilisation up to 1928, the effects of the global economic crisis were clearly felt in Schleswig-Holstein after 1929. The political dissatisfaction was played out above all on the streets. The political opponents from the left- and right-wing camps frequently engaged in street battles. From 1928 to 1933, they claimed the lives of nearly 50 persons.
Rise to success
In 1925, Hinrich Lohse (1896–1964) founded the Schleswig-Holstein NSDAP in Neumünster. A short time later, Lohse was appointed “Gauleiter” (district leader) of the “Nordmark” by Hitler and “Oberpräsident” (president) of the province in 1933. He remained in those positions up to 1945. In the early days, the number of members was modest. In the wake of targeted agitation up to the end of the 1920s, this changed. The NSDAP’s propaganda fell on fruitful ground, above all among the rural population.
In the Reichstag election in summer 1932, the NSDAP won 51% of the votes. In other words, the National Socialists were elected in Schleswig-Holstein by an absolute majority – sadly, a bigger majority than in any other province of the German Empire at that time. Almost a year later, the NSDAP’s share of the votes in Schleswig-Holstein increased further in the Reichstag election in March 1933.
NSDAP shares of votes in the Reichstag election on 5 March 1933
= more than 70%
= more than 60%
= more than 50%
= less than 50%
Marketing of the ideology
In rural areas, the differing ownership structures played a major role in the NSDAP’s success. In contrast to the Marsh and eastern hilly region, the people on the Geest were poorer and their situation was exacerbated by the economic crisis. Moreover, the National Socialists drew on folklore and the Low German language to disseminate their ideology. In addition, the NSDAP promoted itself effectively in public. For example, it moved through towns and villages in marches, torchlight processions and with inflammatory speakers. It presented itself as the party that could restore peace and order to the social and political chaos of the Weimar Republic and overcome the economic crisis.
01) The photo (about 1930) shows a march of the National Socialists’ SA (Sturmabteilung – literally “Storm Detachment”) in Schleswig. The uniformed supporters of the NSDAP are marching in formation with drums and flags. Passers-by, including children, are joining the march. A policeman accompanies the procession.
02) In the Reichstag election in March 1933, more than 70% of the votes were cast for the NSDAP in the districts Südtondern and Flensburg-Land. They were the NSDAP’s stronghold in 1933 – closely followed by the districts on the Geest Ridge and the west coast. The cities of Flensburg, Kiel, Lübeck, Neumünster, Altona and Wandsbek were notable exceptions, along with the eastern hilly areas of Schleswig-Holstein. The NSDAP did not fare so well in the elections in those cities and regions.
The NSDAP in Angeln
Later success of the NSDAP
In the region of Angeln, the NSDAP won broad-based support relatively late. However, in the election in March 1933, the NSDAP then achieved its best results in Schleswig-Holstein in the districts of Südtondern und Flensburg-Land. Unlike in the Marsh and Geest regions, the economy of Angeln had remained mixed. This meant that the region’s farmers continued to engage in dairy farming, animal husbandry and growing cereals. By contrast, other parts of Schleswig-Holstein relied solely on pig farming or cabbage growing. The latter specialist farmers suffered far more in the global economic crisis than the farmers in Angeln.
A further reason was the social structure. The eastern uplands of Schleswig-Holstein and Angeln had a long tradition of estates. The estate owners, who also often set the tone in political life, for a long time considered that they were well represented by other national-conservative parties.
To begin with, the local associations of the NSDAP in Südtondern and Flensburg-Land were weak in terms of numbers. They were also less structured than comparable local associations. This changed in the wake of the huge success in the southern parts of the province from 1930 onwards. The NSDAP’s propaganda work focused on the northernmost part of Schleswig-Holstein, highlighting the border question in particular.
NSDAP’s shares of the votes in the Reichstag elections in Angeln
Ostersturm – “Volk will zu Volk” (One People, One Nation)
In 1933, the spokesman of the NSDAP Schleswig-Holstein for border questions, Pastor Johann Leopold Peperkorn (1890 – 1967), rekindled the conflict between Denmark and the German Reich. He believed that the northern part of Schleswig should become part of the Reich. He received strong backing from by Wilhelm Sievers (1896 – 1966), the chairman of the “Schleswig-Holstein Bund” and mayor of Flensburg. Radical German nationalist groupings demanding that the border be redrawn were formed. The situation escalated up to Easter in 1933 with marches and meetings at the German-Danish border. This gave rise to the name “Ostersturm” (Easter Storm). In the end, intervention from Berlin blocked the efforts of the Schleswig-Holstein NSDAP. The NS regime did not want a dispute with Denmark.
01) In Flensburg, the National Socialists were already using modern forms of campaigning in 1929. The truck is adorned with slogans and symbols of the NSDAP. They address a broad audience. With the slogan “Arbeiter der Stirn und der Faust” (Workers of the Head and Fist), they aim to address thinking workers (Stirn) and craftsmen (Faust). Despite the efforts of the National Socialists, the number of those voting for the NSDAP in the March election in Flensburg in 1993 was comparatively low at 48.5%.
225,000 forced labourers in Schleswig-Holstein
Daily life during World War II
The region of Angeln remained largely unscathed by the direct effects of the war. However, the conscription of able-bodied men for military service was quickly felt. In the later years of the war, adolescents and even girls from the age of 15 were called up for military tasks such as air defence. The lack of male workers was acutely felt in farming. Women frequently took on management and physical tasks even though this was in contradiction to the image of women in Nazi propaganda.
Forced labour in Flensburg
The missing workers had to be replaced especially in the armaments industry and in basic services. In Flensburg, there was clearly a need for forced labourers. Almost 3,550 persons were forced to work in a variety of economic sectors during World War II. Up to 1944, almost one half of the 225,000 forced labourers in Schleswig-Holstein had to work on the farms. Other types of work were already carried out in Flensburg from 1939. The forced labourers were mainly used in the city to build garrisons and barracks. The city’s transport sector and utilities also had to be covered. In the Flensburg shipyard, the number of employed persons rose from 145 to 2,500 workers from 1934 to 1943. Most of them were forced labourers.
From 1940, POW camps began to be built. It was, however, only after the influx of Soviet prisoners of war and forced labourers that they were consistently expanded. The camp for Eastern workers in Flensburg was the largest prison during the war. More than 1,200 persons were imprisoned in 12 barracks on Eckernförder Landstrasse.
In view of the rural structures and almost non-existence armaments industry in the region of Angeln, there were no bombing raids. Flensburg was the exception. On 19 May 1943, Flensburg was bombed by US aircraft. As the attacks targeted the city’s shipyard and energy utilities, the old inner city of Flensburg was virtually unscathed. By contrast, the region’s capital Kiel was subjected to carpet bombing and large parts of it were destroyed. A large number of civilians died in the raids.
01) The photo shows a shop window display in Flensburg in 1942. “Ein Wille: Sieg” (One Will: Victory) propagates the direction of the Nazis. The shop window is designed to persuade young men to enrol voluntarily for the “Waffen-SS”, which is considered an elite unit. In the foreground, an assault rifle can be seen, and further to the back, a gas mask. The window is decked with photos of heroes and propaganda posters for the target group.
02/03) The discrimination based on racial ideology is shown in the example of the two patches, which always had to be worn. The “P” had to be shown by all Polish forced labourers. “OST” stood for all “Eastern workers” who were abducted from the Soviet Union.
Flensburg, capital of Germany
On 30 April 1945, Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) committed suicide. In his “political will” he had appointed Admiral Karl Dönitz (1891–1980) to succeed him as president and commander-in-chief of the German armed forces. In the following days, the caretaker government fled to Flensburg-Mürwik and the Naval Academy and the surrounding region of Angeln. Flensburg effectively became the provisional capital of Germany for three weeks.
Between the announcement of Hitler’s suicide on 1 May and the arrest of his successor Dönitz on 23 May, Flensburg and Angeln were key venues of the collapsing “Third Reich”. Despite the unconditional surrender on 8 May, the Allies were initially not sure how to deal with the “imperial government”.
In the final days of the war, trains with prisoners from the Neuengamme concentration camp reached the city. The prisoners were accommodated on “Rheinfels”, a ship moored in the port, under unhuman conditions. In the immediate vicinity, three sailors were condemned to death for sabotage on board the destroyer “Paul Jacoby” and executed on naval shooting range at Tremmeruper Weg on 5 May. The “mobile military courts” also had a devastating effect. Without direct orders, they carried out on-the-spot executions of people that were unable to prove their identity. In Grundhof, one man lost his life as a result of this arbitrariness on 22 May.
The Allies curtailed the misdeeds of the Dönitz government only gradually. Dönitz and his ministers were finally arrested on 23 May in the Naval Academy. The response of the people in Schleswig-Holstein was mixed – ranging from relief to mourning for relatives and fear of the Allies. Nevertheless, the Nazi regime was supported by almost the entire population up to the end.
“The High Command of the Armed Forces announces: All weapons have been silent on all fronts since midnight. On the order of the Grand Admiral, the Armed Forces have ceased fighting, which has become hopeless. (…) We have transmitted the last communiqué of the Armed Forces in this war. (…)”
Shortened quotation: Extract from the final report of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, read by Klaus Kahlenberg, announcer on the radio station in Flensburg, 9 May 1945
Numerous thugs and senior figures of National Socialism fled to Schleswig-Holstein along the so-called “northern ratline”. The government gathered above all in the region of Angeln and the city of Flensburg. Members included the ex-armaments minister Albert Speer (1905–1981), who took up residence in Schloss Glücksburg in line with his position, and the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, General Alfred Jodl (1890 – 1946), who – like Dönitz – was housed in the Mürwik Naval Academy.
The leaders of the SS (Schutzstaffel) also fled to Schleswig-Holstein. The head of the SS Heinrich Himmler (1900–1945) initially escaped arrest by hiding on farms in Ellgaard near Esgrus, Hüholz near Ausacker and in Kollerup near Grossolt. The former commander of the Auschwitz concentration camp Rudolf Höss (1890–1947) – not to be confused with Rudolf Hess – stayed on a farm in Gottrupel near Flensburg under a false identity. Using the alias Fritz Lang, Höss worked as a farmhand and remained undiscovered up to March 1946.
01) In the backyard of the current police building in Flensburg, Karl Dönitz (right), behind him Alfred Jodl (left) and Albert Speer (middle) are taken away by British soldiers. This marks the end of the bizarre “Dönitz Government” in the “Special Territory” of Flensburg-Mürwik on 23 May 1945, two weeks after the unconditional capitulation.