Peasants and Jews: Anti-Semitism and Rural Politics in Northwest Germany

Chapter 5: Disintegration (1925-1930)

In this chapter, I continue my focus on the county of Bremervörde, which was the epicenter of the rural crisis of the winter of 1927/28 and efforts to reconstitute rural politics and interest representation. I will pay particular attention to two individuals at the center of these events, Heinrich Borgardt (the liberal editor of the county newspaper) and Christian Meyer (a war veteran turned political activist). I also focus on two regions within the Free State of Oldenburg: the sub-counties of Oldenburg and Jeverland. The Landvolk were particularly strong in the former, but could gain no traction in the later. My GIS allows me to drill down into village political culture and understand competition between the competing anti-Semitic parties and postulate why the Nazis emerged victorious within the racist bloc.

My spatial and statistical analysis focuses on the elections of 1928 and 1930.

In this chapter, I analyse the disintegration of German Nationalist hegemony in the villages along the North Sea coast after December 1924. In January of the following year, the DNVP entered into a Grand Coalition and was rewarded with the Finance and Economics ministries. Although the DNVP’s entry into government brought short-term benefits to its rural constituents, its participation in government discredited it as an anti-Republican force and left it exposed to its enemies to the Right. The currency stabilization ushered in by the Dawes Plan resulted in a credit constriction, followed in 1927 by harvest failure. With both structural and natural crises at hand, neither the DNVP nor the Landbund were able to provide relief. One result was the growth of the violent, anti-republican Landvolkbewegung. Another was the fracturing German Nationalist hegemony. Despairing of the DNVP’s chances and angered by the increasingly fascistic course of the DNVP, Landbund functionaries formed a new party, the Christian-National Peasants and Landvolk Party (the CNBLP), which advocated continued cooperation with the Republican government. The German Racist Peoples Party transformed itself in the Völkisch-National-Block while the reconstituted NSDAP emerged as a powerful force on the Lüneburg Heide and the Oldenburg Geest.
Wolfram Pyta and Shelley Baranowski have already laid out the general outline of rural politics for the 1920s and 1930s, as traditional rural élites lost out to new, dynamic forces, while Jeremy Noakes provides an excellent outline of the dynamics of the growth of Nazism in Lower Saxony. A recent monograph by Barry Jaekisch clearly lays out the conflicts among racist factions at the national level. The German secondary literature on my study area in this period is extremely rich, most notably that undertaken by Herbert Reyer, Dietmar von Reeken, and Dirk Stegmann. Using my GIS, I am able do what these authors cannot dot: locate and statistically analyse the fracturing of the rural electorate and demonstrate how and why the Nazis emerged as the dominant force in the northwest German countryside by 1930.