Hans von Tschammer und Osten
Reich Sports Leader
When Herr Hitler asked me, in 1933, to become the Leader of German Sports, the conditions then existing were deplorably bad. On the one hand, there was a people anxious to practise physical exercises, whilst on the other I found a narrow-minded bureaucracy incapable of satisfying that desire by providing the necessary organic foundation. In the course of a century, a kind of sports organisation had developed which looked upon itself as more valuable than the objects it was there to promote. Critics have sometimes asserted that there was no need for us to subject the organisation of German sports to the same process of drastic change that has been applied to our country’s political constitution, its economy, its laws, and all its other activities.
It cannot be the object of these lines to go into all the political considerations that have been at the root of that great change. All I can do is to furnish my readers with a general account of the manner in which it has manifested itself.
I may take it for granted that the previous organisation of German sports is a matter of general knowledge, so that the briefest possible reference to it ought to be sufficient. Since the turn of the century, physical culture had ceased to be an organic unit and had become so much a matter of excessive specialisation that its true purpose was entirely lost sight of. There was a complete lack of uniform direction and proper cohesion. Each branch of sports was organised on lines of its own. There were numerous local clubs, district associations and regional associations devoted to football, hockey, golf, handball, bowling, billiards, swimming, rowing, paddling, hiking, mountaineering, fencing, boxing, wrestling, jumping, running, and so on, and in each case there was a national federation which comprised all of them. For a long time, however, there was no central organisation directing the sporting activities of the country in their entirety.
It is easy to see that so much specialisation combined with the absence of general and uniform direction was bound to produce an adverse effect upon sporting exercise in Germany; and the fact that German sports – despite these drawbacks – had attained a very high degree of efficiency was not the outcome of the work done by the then existing organisation, but of their inherent merits. Even before the close of the War, there were many who predicted that nothing but disaster could result from so misdirected a development, unless the existing drawbacks were abolished; and I wish to point out, in this connection, that great credit is due to the men who succeeded in setting up the first really comprehensive sporting organisation covering the whole country, known as the Reich Committee for Physical Exercises (Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen), which may be described as a forerunner of the now existing Reich Federation for Physical Exercises (Deutscher Reichsbund für Leibesübungen). It gradually acquired the .status of a centrally conducted authority, and its activities soon received the wholehearted support of the Army, the schools, and the municipalities. It was thus able to play an important part in our country’s cultural and political life. The fact that the organisation of the Olympic Games held in Germany in 1936 was universally acknowledged a great success proves that the world at large appreciated the work achieved by the Committee.
And yet, this form of organisation could not completely satisfy us when we started to reshape our political life in accordance with National Socialist principles. What we desired was a peak organisation rigid enough to ensure uniform direction and yet elastic enough to adapt itself to progressive development in the domain of national sports. This was an ideal which the Committee failed to realise. Gymnastics, athletics, and so on, were not merely treated as special types of sporting exercise, but the associations cultivating them were at the same time endeavouring to promote their own ethical standards and their own educational aims. Thus, for instance, the German Gymnastic Federation (Deutsche Turnerschaft), a huge organisation with a membership of more than 1,600,000 representing about 13,000 subsidiary associations and clubs, constituted an educational unit whose principles were fundamentally at variance with those advanced by the greater part of the individual associations. Moreover, the unfortunate division of our people along denominational lines proved a serious handicap to the progress of sports. The largest denominational sports organisations – the Roman Catholic Deutsche Jugendkraft and the Protestant Eichenkreuz – had a combined membership of just. under 1,000,000. When Herr H1tler entrusted me with the task of creating a central sports organisation genuinely representative of the nation as a whole, I did not trouble to ascertain the number of independent associations then existing. At a rough guess, there may have been some 300 of them. If we assume that they had a total membership of about 6,000,000, we can work out, by a simple exercise in mathematics, how many different shades of opinion were represented by them. How much greater could have been the influence of sports and games upon the national health and the standard of physical culture if the money and energy thus spent on the promotion of divergent aims could have been used to strengthen the bonds of union.
When, therefore, a revolutionary change was effected in the organisation of German sports after the advent of the National Socialist Government, it was not intended to enthrone centralisation for its own sake, but rather to raise the biological standards of the whole nation, to safeguard its cultural assets, and to restore social, religious and economic peace. The first practical step was the dissolution of the Marxist associations for physical exercises and the incorporation of their members in the organisation to be newly created. Before there was a real possibility of setting up that body, a great deal of preparatory work had to be accomplished. It was necessary, above all, to break down the barriers that separated those who differed from one another in their spiritual outlook, without damaging the sporting interests that linked them together. Within a year of ceaseless effort it became possible to give effect to the first few measures intended to ensure fruitful co-operation among the various sporting and gymnastic associations. as a preliminary to their final amalgamation. All this had to be done without jeopardising the valuable international connections maintained between German sportsmen and sportsmen abroad. I am happy to say that my endeavours received the willing support not only of the members of the associations concerned, but of the whole German people. When, therefore, the Deutsche Turnerschaft celebrated the 75th anniversary of its foundation at Coburg (Whitsun 1935), I was in a position to give expression to the thoughts which all sportsmen, owing to their National Socialist views, expected to result in their own sphere of activities from the fundamental transformation in all domains of public life. It will always redound to the credit of the executive of the Deutsche Turnerschaft that they voluntarily resolved upon the dissolution of their great organisation and that they enabled their large number of members to join the Reich Federation for Physical Exercises in a body.
Although the Reich Federation has abolished the associations, it has, of course, left intact the “cells” of sporting and gymnastic exercise. All these clubs, of whom there are approximately some 49,000, have retained their individual character without modification. The 1936 Olympic Games showed the efficiency already attained by the Federation.
It goes without saying that 49,000 clubs cannot be centrally administered from Berlin. Such a plan would not only be technically impossible, but equally objectionable from every other point of view. All parts of the country have their specific characteristics, and proper regard has to be paid to them. Thus, the Federation has been made to consist of sixteen regional groups, and each of these comprises a certain number of sub-regional groups, whose duty it is to maintain contact between the national sports executive and the individual clubs. This fourfold sub-division (Reich, regional groups, sub. regional groups, clubs) holds good for every aspect – sporting, educational, and economic – of the organisation.
It is a source of special pride to me that the task entrusted to the organisation of German sports and games has been – and is being – efficiently carried out. I believe that the less we hear of the work done by an organisation, the more efficient it is. When we watch the joyful display on the sports grounds, we ought to be perfectly unaware of the huge efforts without which it could not go on at all. The organisational work done by the Federation is enormous; but it is carried on quietly and “behind the scenes,” as it were, and there is no danger of a “hierarchy of sports organisers” coming into being. One demand, however, will be made upon all these organisers: they must remain in immediate contact with life itself. In order to enable them to do so, the House of German Sports has been built on theReiehssportfeld. It provides accommodation for the executive and its administrative organs. It is surrounded by buildings and grounds where the sporting and athletic life of Berlin manifests itself. Everyone whose duty it is to act in an organising and administrative capacity can watch the games from his office window. He can no longer shut himself off from these realities, but is bound to identify himself with them. Such intimate contact is of very considerable value, and I expect that highly beneficial results will follow from it. The “organising official” must see all that is going on in the sports grounds, but must himself be seen as little as possible.
The new type of gymnastic instructor will be trained on the Reiehssportfeld and in the Reich Academy for Physical Culture. He is to be the representative of the State within the sphere allotted to him. It is in this domain that the aims pursued by National Socialism in office are especially far-reaching. It is realised that the efficient training of youth is of outstanding importance to the country’s manhood. In future, the gymnastic instructors in all categories of schools, from the elementary ones to the universities, will be able to further those great aims. The education to be given to all boys and youths must conform, from the very outset, to the necessities of the State. The gymnastic instructors are the guarantors of the manly strength continually tested and continually augmented. Since the accession to power of National Socialism, the physical education supplied by the State has been supplemented by the voluntary training available within the party and its organisations. When Herr Hitler announced that “the party directs the State,” he did not mean that a condition of vassalage should govern the relations between the two; but he did mean that fruitful collaboration should be established between the organisations already in existence and an organisation of the èlite. By such mutual co-operation the National Socialist party communicates to the State organism the spirit and the èlan of its revolutionary ideas, whilst the State places at the disposal of the party the substance of the public institutions, which those ideas are to permeate.
There is, therefore, a close relationship between the elementary schools (for boys up to 14) and the Jungvolk between the vocational and secondary schools (for boys from 14 to 18) and the Hitler Youth, and between the universities, institutions of university rank, etc., and the S.A., S.S., and P.O. organisations of the party. The Voluntary Labour Service fulfils a similar purpose, as it is not an instrument created for the furtherance of military objects, but is to be a training-ground enabling every German, especially every intellectual worker, to appreciate the value of honest manual labour. Like the schools and the party organisations, the Labour Service is intended to provide practical training in the principles of German Socialism. Education, more especially political education, is to be one of the objects for which the party and the Labour Service exist. Through such a system of political education, every German youth must be enabled to understand the essentials of National Socialist thought and to undergo – co-ordinated with that teaching – a course of physical training capable of developing his body. It will be noticed that physical training is an essential part of the work performed by all educational institutions, and that it cannot be omitted at any stage unless the continuity of the education supplied is to be seriously endangered. It is designed along lines which are identical in all these institutions. It is a means to an end and provides the foundation on which the military training of Germany’s manhood can be safely established.
Such military training naturally constitutes the final addition to the whole edifice. Even though physical culture is overshadowed, in so far as the defence forces are concerned, by the training in purely military subjects, the military authorities are well aware that it will be a great advantage if every young recruit is good at his sports. That circumstance alone will facilitate his military training in the narrower sense of the term. A considerable amount of time is therefore set aside for the physical training of recruits; and even though it is only possible to deal with its principal aspects, no means are omitted that will tend to make them physically strong and mentally alert.
Germany is now governed in accordance with the leadership principle, that is to say the Chancellor – Herr Hitler – does not merely exercise administrative functions, but is in supreme control of the country’s domestic and foreign policy and assumes personal responsibility for everything done by the Government. In addition he is the head of the National Socialist party – a party which, when it first began to struggle for political power, proclaimed the totalitarian principle. Now that it is in possession of such power, it will firmly uphold it. As regards the organisations for the promotion of physical exercises, this principle will therefore have to be applied in its entirety, failing which there would be a danger of a renewal of the dualism between reality and organisation. In my capacity as Reich Sports Leader, I intend to let myself be guided by that principle. I have accordingly made arrangements between the Reich Federation for Physical Exercises and the National Socialist party and its organisations (more especially the Hitler Youth) on the one hand, and the Labour Service and the Army authorities on the other, which will ensure collaboration for all time. In like manner, co-operation has been established between the Reich Federation on the one hand and the schools and their teachers on the other, which will benefit both sides.
National Socialism has replaced complication by simplicity, artificiality by reality. What it proposes to do and has already done in the domain of physical culture, has been set forth above.