Labour Front : Nazi Germany

Labour Front : Nazi Germany

On 2nd May, 1933, Adolf Hitler ordered the Sturm Abteilung (SA) to arrest Germany's trade union leaders. He then gave Robert Ley the task of forming the Labour Front (DAF), the only union organization allowed in the Third Reich.

A pay freeze was introduced in 1933 and this was rigorously enforced by the Labour Front. Wages were now decided by the Labour Front and compulsory deductions made for income tax, and for its Strength through Joy programme.

The Labour Front also issued work-books that recorded the worker's employment record and no one could be employed without one.

Primary Sources

(1) William Shirer, was an American journalist working in Nazi Germany during the 1930s.

Despite his harassed life, the businessman made good profits. The businessman was also cheered by the way the workers had been put in their place under Hitler. There were no more unreasonable wage demands. Actually, wages were reduced a little despite a 25 per cent rise in the cost of living. And above all, there were no costly strikes. In fact, there were no strikes at all. The Law Regulating National Labour of January 20, 1934, known as the Charter of Labour, had put the worker in his place and raised the employer to his old position of absolute master - subject, of course, to interference by the all-powerful State.

(2) A member of the Labour Front was interviewed in 1938.

I hate the treatment of the Jews. I think it is a bad side of the movement and I will have nothing to do with it. I did not join the party to do that sort of thing. I joined the party because I thought and still think that Hitler did the greatest Christian work for twenty-five years. I saw seven million men rotting in the streets - often I was there too, and no one, not even the Churches, seemed to care that it was a wicked thing that children of God should be thus to rot. Then Hitler came and he took all those men off the streets and gave them health and security and work at least for the time being. Wasn't that a Christian act?

(3) The Manchester Guardian (5th January, 1939)

Three years ago Hitler ordered his leading motor engineers to design a small cheap car suitable for the use of members of the Labour Front.

The main part in the production of an exceptionally exacting design has been played by Herr Porsche, who has been responsible for some of the finest racing cars built in Germany. An enormous factory is being erected at utmost speed by thousands of workmen, and manufacture will begin this year, though even in the absence of further political crises it remains uncertain whether any large numbers of cars will be delivered within twelve months.

Considering that real wages are still low in Germany, a scheme for furnishing all members of the Labour Front with private motor-cars is definitely audacious, but if German press reports are trustworthy the plan is at least feasible, for it is stated that upwards of 200,000 cars have already been ordered. The finances of the totalitarian States continue to perplex economists, and no British authority has succeeded in solving the £ s. d. of this ambitious enterprise. It is, of course, obvious that if a dictator who periodically or continuously demands great sacrifices from his subjects desires to keep them contented he could hit no on more promising palliative than to provide a motor-car for every family, even if the scheme would exert a boomerang effect in time of war, when all fuel would be absorbed by the Air Force and a mechanised army.

(4) Fritz Thyssen, I Paid Hitler (1941)

In order to allay discontent, Hitler conceived of a new idea. Every German shall own his car. He asked industry to devise a popular car model to be built at such a low price that millions could buy it. The Volkswagen (People's Car) has been talked of for the past five years and has never been seen on the market. "These cars will be built for the new highways," said the party propagandists; "an entire family will be able to ride in one of them at 100 kilometers (60 miles) an hour." The party leaders say that the highways were built for the People's Car. But the People's Car is one of the most bizarre ideas the Nazis ever had. Germany is not the United states. Wages are low. Gasoline is expensive. German workers never dreamed of buying a car. They cannot afford the upkeep; to them it is a luxury.

Dr. Ley, the stammering drunkard who is the chief of the German Labor Front. He controls the four to five hundred million marks paid in every year by the German workers as dues to the Labor Front. I do not say that he puts all this money into his own pocket. But the figure has certainly turned his head.

He had an automobile factory built for the production of the People's Car. On this occasion he invented a brand new form of knavery. The future buyers of the People's Car were invited to buy it in advance, by making predelivery installments. This is the reverse of the credit installment system. The system shows genius. Ley pocketed about a hundred million marks when the war came because the People's Car factory now had to produce tanks and motorcycles for the army.