On November 8, Adolf Hitler received the Spanish-Catalan journalist Eugeni Xammar for one of his rare interviews for foreigners and gave him an insight into the time after his planned takeover of government. A few hours later he tried to seize power with a coup.
At the beginning of the 1920s, Berlin was an exciting place for foreign journalists. Political unrest from right and left, inflation that pushed the Mark into previously unknown abysses, misery, suffering and poverty on the one hand, an almost hysterical lust for life of many people who wanted to dance away the gray everyday life on the other – every observer really had to tear for it to come to the Spree to report to his readers from here.
The same happened to the young Spanish-Catalan journalist Eugeni Xammar, who came to the German capital in autumn 1922 as a reporter, mainly for the Catalan newspaper “La Veu de Catalunya”. His insightful articles from this period were published in the book The Snake Egg. Reports from Germany in the Inflation Years 1922-1924″ by Heinrich von Berenberg in German.
But Xammar was one of those journalists who knew that Berlin wasn’t the same as the rest of Germany, so he traveled extensively around the rest of the country. In the autumn of 1923 he also looked around Munich, where separatists had spread, the right wing were in power and were openly opposed to the Reich government. In November 1923, exactly on the morning of the 8th, he arrived once again in Munich. On that day he had an interview appointment with a man who had attracted attention in recent months in Munich and Bavaria with major events and radical speeches: Adolf Hitler.
Xammar was curious and wanted to get to know this power-seeking leader of the small but agile National Socialist Workers’ Party of Germany (NSDAP). He asked for an interview appointment and was accepted. That was rather unusual, since Hitler very rarely granted such appointments to foreign journalists. In the case of Eugeni Xammar, whom Hitler did not know personally, this had nothing to do with him as a person. The reason was his nationality, because Xammar was Spanish. And Spain was very popular with the National Socialists at the time, because there had been a military coup in the country almost two months earlier. Hitler saw a potential ally in the new dictator General Miguel Primo de Rivera. And in his mind, every Spanish journalist had to be automatically loyal to the government.
Hitler received Xammar, who subsequently wrote two articles from this interview, and his colleague Josep Pla in an office in the building of the Völkischer Beobachter, the Nazi party newspaper. He wore a raincoat with an embroidered swastika on the sleeve, kept his cap on during the conversation, and greeted his guests with a military heel-kick. All the people who came into the room during the interview, in which things were obviously going on like in a dovecote, also gave a military salute, Xammar later stated, visibly irritated.
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The Spaniard described the atmosphere as the editorial staff of the Völkischer Beobachter is a reactionary battlefield, not very different from a revolutionary battlefield. The same chaos reigns, the same comings and goings, one experiences the same picturesque things, the same useless feverishness.
The conversation did not develop into an interview in the traditional sense. As almost always on comparable occasions, Hitler used it for a lecture and forbade intervening questions. Right at the beginning he went into the origins of the two journalists and used this introduction to come to his xenophobic politics. “Spaniards, what? Two Spaniards. Very nice, very nice, two Spaniards. All doors are open to the Spaniards in Bavaria. They are the only foreigners who can say that about themselves. We have very little sympathy for all other foreigners. We don’t need them and we don’t want them and thank God there are hardly any left in Munich.”
The two journalists didn’t even try to interrupt Hitler’s torrent of words and deliberately let him talk. He got straight to one of his main themes: the hated Jews. Most foreigners are Jews with foreign passports. In Munich, a few months earlier, it was hardly possible to walk safely through the city if you looked like a foreigner. “The youth were very excited and often beaten. They wouldn’t have gotten away with their noses,” Hitler told his counterpart. “However, if you had said after the first punch that you were Spanish, no one would have given you a second.”
Hitler laughed as if he’d made a funny joke, and Xammar and his colleague laughed along. They recognized that Hitler was now really gaining momentum and did not want to stop him. He was no slouch. The “Jewish question” was a political and social “cancer,” he said, and the goal had not yet been reached. But fortunately such ulcers are not incurable. “You can cut them out. If we want Germany to live, we have to destroy the Jews.”
The best thing would be to kill all the Jews, but unfortunately that was not possible because then the whole world would attack Germany, said Hitler. And he assured that he had examined the problem from all sides. Therefore he had come to the conclusion that the Jews could only be expelled from Germany. However, one should not make the mistake of sparing Jews who have converted to other religions – all Jews must get out of Germany.
Hitler also commented on domestic political issues, such as the relationship between the Nazis and the Communists. “We have nothing against the communists. We have the best relations with this party. The communist workers are not impure Germans because communism in Germany is not unnatural. We are counting on the communists for victory.” At the same time, he was also a determined supporter of an alliance with Russia, although it was the task of the German government to liberate Russia from its Marxist rulers, Hitler said, referring to those in power in the Soviet Union Bolsheviks. On November 8, 1923, Hitler also predicted a war with France.
The date is interesting, because at the time when he was giving the interview, Hitler, in his delusions of grandeur, assumed that he would soon rule Germany. A few hours after he had received the Spanish journalists, he committed his famous putsch, which, however, was carried out so amateurishly and was hopeless from the outset that it failed miserably. After a short escape, Hitler was arrested and sentenced to prison, from which he was released early. He took the shot from this failure that he could only come to power through legal means.
The judgment Xammar formed at that meeting could not have been clearer. He described Hitler as the dumbest person he had ever met. But unlike many of his journalistic contemporaries, the Spaniard did not underestimate this man even at this early stage. Although he was a fool, he was “full of energy, vitality and energy”, an “excessive, unstoppable fool. A mighty, great fool, destined for a glorious career (of which he believes even more than we do).”
When Xammar published his two articles about the conversation about three weeks later, Hitler was already in prison. For the journalist, the first text in La Veu de Catalunya had an aftermath that showed that Hitler was not wrong in his hopes of having an ally in the new Spanish ruler: the passages about the extermination of the Jews were deleted by the Spanish censors and their author had to change employers. However, they were published a few days later in the newspaper La Publicitat. They probably escaped censorship at this point.