The First May Day Under Nazi Rule

“In 1933 Adolf Hitler, with the full support and assistance of powerful monopoly capitalists, seized power in Germany. On April 24, Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda and Popular Enlightenment, issued a May Day Manifesto which was carried on the front page of every newspaper in Germany. Addressed ‘to the whole German people,’ it announced that May 1st had been made ‘the festival day of national labor’ and called for a celebration in which ‘Germans of all classes’ would ‘clasp hands’ and ‘in solid formation march into the new future.’ Class was a thing of the past, ‘since Marxism is smashed.’…

The London Times praised Hitler and the Nazis for having ended ‘the glorification of class-warfare and made May Day an occasion for the abolition of class differences and for the unification of workers and employers in the Fascist model.’ What it did not tell its readers was that despite the Nazi terror, the illegal Communist Party of Germany (KPD) held demonstrations on May 1, 1933, at which the red flag was displayed in Berlin, Chemnitz, Dresden, Halle, Hamburg, Leipzig, Sachsen, Thüringen, and Wittenberg. In Berlin workers raised the cry ‘Freedom for Thaelmann’ (the Communist leader who was facing death in a Nazi concentration camp), ‘The KPD lives,’ . . .

On the very next day after May Day, Hitler signed legislation outlawing the free trade unions in Germany with their membership of 4,000,000, and seized their assets of over 180,000,000 marks. All union leaders who could be seized were taken into custody. Dr. Herbert Ley, president of the Prussian State Council, gave the following reason for the action against the free trade unions: ‘Marxism today is playing dead, but is not yet altogether abolished. It is therefore necessary to deprive it of its last strength.’ The New York Times noted that the action came one day after ‘the May Day wooing of German labor.’”

 – Philip S. Foner, “May Day: A Short History of the International Workers’ Holiday”

Advertisements

Comments are closed.