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Gareth Jones

IF this aeroplane should crash then the whole history of Europe would be changed. For a few feet away sits Adolf Hitler, Chancellor of Germany and leader of the most volcanic nationalist awakening which the world has seen.

Six thousand feet beneath us, hidden by a sea of rolling white clouds, is the land which he has roused to a frenzy. We are rushing along at a speed of 142 miles per hour from Berlin to Frankfurt-on-Main, where Hitler is to begin his lightning election campaign.

The occupants of the aeroplane are, indeed, a mass of human dynamite. I can see Hitler studying the map and then reading a number of blue reports. He does not look impressive. When his car arrived on the airfield about half an hour ago and he stepped out, a slight figure in a shapeless black hat, wearing a light mackintosh, and when he raised his arm flabbily to greet those who had assembled to see him, I was mystified.

How had this ordinary-looking man succeeded in becoming deified by fourteen million people? He was more natural and less of a poseur than I had expected; there was something boyish about him as he saw a new motorcar and immediately displayed a great interest in it. He shook hands with the Nazi chiefs and with those others of us who were to fly with him in the famous “Richthofen,” the fastest and most powerful three-motored aeroplane in Germany. His handshake was firm, but his large, outstanding eyes seemed emotionless as he greeted me. Standing around in the snow were members of his bodyguard in their black uniform with silver brocade. On their hats there is a silver skull and crossbones, the cavities of the eyes in the skull being bright red.

I was introduced to these, the elite of the Nazi troops, and then to a plump, laughing man, Captain Bauer, Hitler’s pilot, the war-time flying hero. We then entered the great aeroplane and now we sit far above the clouds.

Behind Hitler sits a little man who laughs all the time. He has a narrow Iberian head and brown eyes which twinkle with wit and intelligence. He looks like the dark, small, narrow-headed, sharp Welsh type which is so often found in the Glamorgan valleys. This is Dr. Goebbels, a Rhinelander, the brains of the Nationalist-Socialist Party and, after Hitler, its most emotional speaker. His is a name to remember, for he will play a big part in the future. To Hitler’s left sits a massive, fair-haired man beside whom Hitler looks dwarf-like. This is Hitler’s adjutant. The others in the aeroplane are secretaries, and there are five members of Hitler’s bodyguard in their black and silver uniforms with red swastika badges. The only two non-Nazis are another newspaper correspondent and myself and we are the first foreign observers to be invited by Hitler, since he became Chancellor, to accompany him on a flight.

Next to me sits a scarred, well-built member of the bodyguard, who has a sense of humour and keeps ragging another member who is sleeping. He has already offered me two boiled eggs, two bags of chocolate, an apple and biscuits. There is nothing hard and Prussian about my fellow-passengers. They could not be more friendly and polite, even if I were a red-hot Nazi myself.

The chief of the bodyguard is now drinking to my health in soda water and grinning. He shows me his silver badge which he wears on his breast and which shows that he has been a follower of Hitler for thirteen years. He is obviously proud of his uniform and points out his photograph to me in a weekly illustrated newspaper.

The clouds underneath have now cleared, and we can see the Elbe winding below. Hitler is now asleep. The sun is shining upon the engine to the left. I take up a Nazi newspaper and I read:

“To-morrow night Goebbels and Prince August Wilhelm are speaking in the Sport Palace in Berlin.” Prince August Wilhelm, the son of the Kaiser! What relations are there, I wonder, between the Monarchists and Hitler? I recall an item of information which I picked up in Berlin. The Kaiserin had come to Berlin to win over Hitler. A meeting was arranged in a salon. Hitler kept the Empress waiting in the drawing room twenty minutes while he chatted in the corridor outside. At last they met, but the Empress failed in her mission, and Hitler is not yet converted to Monarchism.

Another item is: “Fifty thousand people hear Dr. Goebbels in Hanover.” I look at the vivacious little man and see that he is reading Wilson’s Fourteen Points. His smile has disappeared, and his chin is determined. He looks as if he were burning to avenge what the Nazis call the betrayal of 1918. I recall the Nazi slogan: “Retribution.”

A notice, “ In Memoriam,” which I next read in the Nazi paper then gives a clue to the emotion which has been let loose in Germany. Beneath the photograph, surrounded by a thick black line, of a handsome young boy in a Nazi uniform I read:

“The father of this Storm Troop man, Gerhard Schiemminger, was one of the two million who fell for Germany. The wife he left behind bravely went along her path of duty and educated her son to be a sincere, honourable German citizen in the decadent post-war days of confusion and vice. But Gerhard, who gave all his energy for the freeing of Germany, was yesterday struck dead by a murderous Bolshevik bullet.”

This throws a light upon the political passions in Germany. I look again at Hitler. He and his followers feel that the hundreds of Nazis, such as this young boy, who have died in street battles must be avenged, and they will be ruthless in crushing Communist opposition.

Hitler is now turning and smiling to his adjutant. He looks mild. Can this be the ruthless enemy of Bolshevism? It puzzles me.

We are now descending, however. Frankfurt is beneath us. A crowd is gathered below. Thousands of faces look up at us. We make a smooth landing. Nazi leaders, some in brown, some in black and silver, all with a red swastika armband, await their chief. Hitler steps out of the aeroplane. But he is now a man spiritually transformed. His eyes have a certain fixed purpose. Here is a different Hitler.

There are two Hitlers - the natural boyish Hitler, and the Hitler who is inspired by a tremendous national force, a great Hitler. It is the second Hitler who has stirred Germany to an awakening.

 February 28th, 1933.

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