Otto Strasser

 

A lawyer and member of the NSDAP from 1925, Otto Strasser was leader of the Nazi Party in the North until 1930. After his conflict with Hitler over the Party’s ‘socialist’ policy he formed the Black Front, opposing Hitlerism while calling for a 'German form of socialist revolution'. After the outlawing of the Black Front he fled Germany in 1933 to live in exile in Vienna, Prague, Switzerland, France and later in Canada.

 

He returned to West Germany in 1955, where he propagated his socialist views until his death in Munich in 1974.

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Otto Strasser on the Bürgerbräukeller bombing

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An extract from Flight from Terror, by Otto Strasser, published in 1943.

 

For two months after that [the outbreak of the WW2] I remained in Switzerland, seeing in wretched helplessness the great nations of the world facing each other for the showdown, sparring, feinting, grimacing as they waited for an opening. Some people labeled it a "phony war"; I knew it wasn't. I felt like a man who must watch impotently as a sputtering fuse burns closer and closer to a powder keg while others stand about and comment on how little noise the fuse is making. But I was truly thankful for one blessing: my wife and children were in Switzerland, and I was with them. Then, with the characteristic abruptness of all events those days, even that small solace was torn from me.

 

On the evening of November 8 I was listening to European broadcasts, idly turning the dial as I picked up one country after another, when I suddenly became arrested by the unmistakable sound of Adolf Hitler's raucous, browbeating tones. It was a surprise, for no announcement had been made of any speech by the Fuehrer that night, and I left the set tuned in. He was broadcasting from the Burgerbrau Keller in Munich, evidently celebrating the anniversary of his beer-hall putsch of 1923. It was a typical Hitler speech, and when it was over I thought nothing more of it. It wasn't until the following day that I found out I was supposed to have been present at that celebration - very much present!

 

"Last night," the radio announced to me and my startled wife, "a bomb explosion shattered the Burgerbrau Keller where our Fuehrer had just finished speaking! Fortunately indeed, the Fuehrer had left the hall - though it was but nine minutes before the explosion occurred! This base, cowardly attack killed seven loyal Nazis and wounded sixty-three!

 

"Investigation has revealed that the yellow murderers who planned and executed this incredible outrage were Doctor Otto Strasser and a British intelligence officer. The guilt is clearly and indisputably traced to them. Attention, all Germans! These two men, and especially Strasser, must be made to pay for their crime! So anxious is our heartbroken Fuehrer that they atone for the dead that he is offering a reward ..."

 

I could scarcely believe my ears; but that evening, when I was able to buy the daily German papers, I found whole pages filled with my exploits, both actual and imaginary. I was described as the most dangerous criminal in Europe, and a reward amounting to $500,000 was offered for my arrest and surrender to the Gestapo! Half a million dollars! Although this was undoubtedly an out-and-out propaganda trick to whip up flagging German war spirit - as was the Nazi-planned explosion itself [1] - I knew it could have but one unfortunate result for me. Flight again.

 

The very next day Switzerland received a German ultimatum to surrender Otto Strasser - and I was given four hours to get out of the country. There was nothing I could do. Miserably I said good-by to my dear family and took the next plane for Paris. At that moment I felt it was as safe a place as Switzerland, though not nearly so comfortable to live in. Didn't the Maginot Line and the whole French army stand between Hitler and me?

 

For the next six months my existence was one of aniety, wild rumor and restless inactivity, but at least I was still at liberty. During that time, and the years before it, I had witnessed the tragedy of Europe. I had seen bloody oppression in Germany followed by bloody oppression abroad: the march on Vienna, the annexation of the Sudetenland, the violation of Prague, the destruction of Warsaw, the onslaught on Copenhagen, the occupation of Oslo, the burning of Amsterdam, the submission of Brussels.

 

The panic of the incompetent gripped France. Chauvinist politicians, short-sighted generals, treacherous members of Parliament staged the tragi-comedy of the agitation against the "emigrants"; imprisoned the convinced enemies of Hitler, along with Hitler's own Germans, in concentration camps; and celebrated this miserable farce as "a victory over the Fifth Column." I, who for more than ten years had been Hitler's enemy, who for seven years had been hunted from country to country by Himmler's Gestapo and Ribbentrop's foreign agents, was interned as a suspected fifth columnist! On May I4 1940 the French government seized me and put me in the Bufalo Concentration Camp, holding five thousand people, of whom ninety-five per cent were Jews. This had previously been a great sports arena and was located on the northern outskirts of Paris. Like the Yankee Stadium in New York, the arena was surrounded by closed stands, and it was in these stands we spent the night, the days being passed out in the open.

 

Footnote by Otto Strasser:

[1] Hitler and the other big Nazi leaders, contrary to custom, this night suspiciously rushed from the hall upon conclusion of the speeches, thus indicating knowledge of the coming explosion.

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The Gloucestershire Echo  November 25, 1939.  pg.1