SS Leadership Guide: Discipline
by Alfred Kotz
30 August 2004
Once I observed the building of a bridge for a prolonged time. At the beginning everything looked like chaos until, taking a closer look, I could indeed recognize an inner order. The harmony of numerous and diverse forces became visible. Promoted by goal-conscious work, the form of the finished work gradually became apparent. Many eyes gazed at the man who directed the industrious hands. He did that in a measured and certain manner. The others executed his orders in the same measured, certain manner.
Measure and position of the industriousness of the throng were not abitrary. The utilization of men and material corresponded from the beginning of the work to the plan the director carried with him. He did not deviate from his plan and he watched to make sure no one else deviated from his instruction, either from misunderstanding or from stubborness.
He already knew the extent and effect of the means entrusted to him. He knew the exact path and purpose. He knew: Here, at this place, no other, the first piling must stand, and over there, at a precisely calculated and determined point, not an inch more to the left or to the right, the other shore must be reached. The blueprints were like an inalterable law for him, which he was subservient to. He knew perfectly well that the existence or non-existence of his work depended on he himself following the plan entrusted to him. For the others it was just as obvious they had to follow the instructions of the director, otherwise the success of the whole would be disturbed, delayed or even prevented.
In his reverence for the workers, who placed stone onto stone in their colorful work, defying the oppressive weight of the heavy iron railings with a "heave," the observer did not at first think about the person whose orders were being followed. The man from whose mind sprang the idea to connect the shores at this spot had transcended time and space. The man could even be long dead; perhaps his own time had not been ripe for such a farsighted idea. Or he could be inconspicuously standing among us.
He first notices that the creative idea is the start of the new work when the purpose flows into a goal, namely when idea and fulfillment start to become a unity. As a ring forms a circle, so is the circular sequence of creation: the first consideration, the firm intention, the systematic execution and the great success, which finally imperceptibly bonds again with the origin, hence with the idea.
Now I still see the throng on front of me. Soon the bridge will stand; the purpose of the work will be achieved. The conception of the person who had thought far beyond his time is fulfilled, who had foreseen the development of the stretches on land on both sides or who had wanted to give the necessary connection to what had already become. The goal was to serve the prosperity of the entire folk with the new construction. The purpose was the bridge and the means to this purpose were the men and material that served him. The idea nears its realization. The goal appears before us.
Our bridge will be even more to us than a finished picture that we can look at and admire. To this bridge belong from now on all those who will one day step upon it, even those for whom the mail-truck delivers a letter to the other side. To this bridge also belong above all and for all time all who helped to build it. That includes not just their mere work, their behavior toward each other, and their behavior toward subordinates and superiors. These relationships are even more, they are even more important than the pilings and the new path, for people do not sink into the grave upon completion of this one task, rather they live on as active parts of the folk and they will participate in many more works. Again and again, the gears must mesh. We carry the values of our time into the future if the harmony of thought and execution, of idea and realization crown work after work.
Today every German knows the necessity of this inner harmony. He knows the individual means nothing; the folk means everything in our life. The right attitude toward our work is also a relationship to the whole, to folk and fatherland. We understand our world-view best in that we say that National Socialism is service for folk and fatherland.
What held together and drove on the individual helpers during the bridge construction, whether they belonged to a column who "together" moved the iron railings, whether they were burnishers or carpenters or the men in the swinging cranes or the draftsmen in the office, what determined their bearing? Wages? It didn't have to be craftsmen whose wages had to be paid! We can think of work service men or soldiers in their place. The success would have been the same. What then would have caused these men to behave the way they certainly would have? Fear of punishment?
Naturally, the worker must receive his wages, and indeed his just wages. But in his business he does not think first of all about his wages, rather about his work, which thus becomes even more precious than if it were merely the effort needed for wages. The man, whether worker or soldier, devotes not just his spirit and talent, not just the strength of his hands to his duty, rather also a piece of his heart. We must never forget that. We learn to generally recognize what we owe to our fellow men. We also learn to think more justly about many whom we may for whatever reason not otherwise find particularly sympathetic. The folk is not the encapsulated selection of those who make no mistakes, rather to the existence of a folk also belongs inseparably to those who require improvement. Let us not ignore the fact that even the person whom we personally find less pleasant also has his good points.
Does the soldier fulfill the task we give him out of fear of punishment? Certainly, that may happen as an exception. In the case of genuine soldiers, however, who have genuine leaders, the most powerful drives emerge from a strength of disposition. These soldiers don't even have any thought about laws of punishment.
Every day new glorious monuments to the higher advancement of German men are created by men and women who loyally and lovingly work for Germany, and by the heroes who devote their life to their loyalty to the fatherland. The inner law of a German order receives its stamp from the strengths of the hands, of the spirit and of the hearts at the same time.
Not wages, not fear of punishment should bind a man to his place, rather a higher insight, the connection of all moral forces to a common goal which already flows into our concept of Germany. Everything that makes it possible to direct this river, to tap its forces and transform them into use, we call discipline.
It is worthwhile for every responsibility-conscious, genuine leader to once discuss this topic with his following, even if it turns out he can still learn a lot from his subordinates. Upon closer examination it will be determined that the German man already stands on a higher level. He often practices discipline without even knowing it. It comes from his kind, from his blood. He seldom gives a name to this kind of discipline, for he has a fine feeling for what must be. He knows what he should do, and he also knows whether others behave properly toward him. Everything that is false has an effect that is injurious and destructive. It wounds the soul, whose parts are: the feeling for right and justice, the joy of creating, consideration of the next fellow and trust in the leadership. Germany's most precious possession is the soul of its sons. What would Germany be if it no longer possesses the thankfulness and devotion of its sons? The spoiled son is a lost son. Greater Germany, however, needs all of its sons; it cannot spare anyone. But it must not allow the soul of one to be smashed by injustice or to become rotten. Given its great tasks, Germany needs men who are great in their belief, great in their accomplishment and great in their love and loyalty.
In this respect all of us are responsible for the other. Standing next to each other binds us. Leadership of every kind obligates us. Make a test by asking your subordinate what he understands by discipline. He will answer you: "obedience!" or "keeping one's mouth shut" or "standing at attention"! You will not often hear this in the answer: "trust - concern - insight - consideration - thankfulness!"
Also ask one who must command and observe whether he first -- or even at all -- mentions his duty toward his subordinates. Often you will notice that the realization from our example of the bridge construction is still missing, namely that only the harmonious interaction of all forces will achieve a goal, the path to which is prepared by the discipline of all participants.
Under discipline we must also understand a duality. The discipline of the external kind regulates the direct relationship of the individual to another or to the whole. Discipline of the inner kind appears to find its termination in the individual's life and not directly relate to the environment. It binds and forces strength from the way of thinking. It protects against the pricks of the insufficient and petty that we meet. It leads to a higher being; it protects against becoming flat.
Discipline is authority downward and obedient upward, but both bind through a mutual trust and through loyalty. You can solicit authority, but the basic element, the strength of a strong soul, must be given to you. If your industriousness produces a better ability, if your loyalty produces a better consistency, if your example gives support to the weaker, then you will not need to fight for authority. It follows from this that the person who fights for authority does not have it at all. He can only be a despot, on whom his following is dependent. And if they must hold their tongue about his big-shot behavior and scolding, then that is not a result of discipline, rather fear or cunning. Such a rule, however -- it is not authority -- has feet of clay. Superiority is only earned through hard work on one's own spirit and character, not through puffery and noise. Stand in front of your men with a quiet superiority of inner strength and you will see that you find recognition, even if you yourself remain modest. Command and demand what you must demand, but demand with responsibility for the men entrusted to you and for moderation and goal. The other will then obey, and he will be obedient with the knowledge of his participation in the path and goal. He accepts you with his joy and his trust.
That does not mean that you should be timid. A man always wants to be treated like a man. Consideration often stems from comfort, becomes a weakness and finally leads to inferiority. A powerful example, on the other hand, pulls along the following. Don't view it as a tragedy if they occasionally curse you behind your back. That is often just a leftover bad habit, although it can also be a release. You yourself should never curse about your men! What must be said, say to their face! All of us should fundamentally in general accustom ourselves to only saying something about a person what he could hear himself.
If you limit yourself to command and instruction from a distance because you cannot stand your men's sweat, if you pass along your own duties toward your subordinates to another officer, then you are a shirker from German demand. Unfortunately, looking from the top down one often cannot see the inadequate leader, but looking from the bottom up he is quickly spotted and his authority is finished. The harder it gets the more intense the observation. If one is close to death, one places greater demands on the short existence, and the man becomes sensitive to anything that is somehow false and disturbs the goal. He does not close his eyes from the view upward. Nor should he. At any rate, what he sees there should enthuse, not repel, him. We have often
seen that he feels, even from a single word directed at him, the world in which the decent fellow is at home. That pleases him and promotes his good effort. He will separate himself from everything else or even despise it.
Manly discipline obtains in soldiery such a strong expression of self-evidence that we soldiers require no proof for it. To be a German soldier has always meant to be a man of discipline. To be a leader of German soldiers does not mean rule, rather to be able to control, first oneself, and that the more so the higher the rank.
It is clear that the unprecedented successes of our Wehrmacht are not based just on the effect of our guns. Rather they stem just as much from the character training of each and every bearer of arms, from the firm will of each and every soldier and the deeply ingrained form of their soldiery. The trust of the enlisted man in his officer, the trust of all members of the Wehrmacht in its leadership is so strong that the hardest sacrifices are willingly made and the worst deprivations are endured without a murmur, because each is firmly convinced that they are unavoidable. Manly discipline, trust, insight, the obedience of German warriors, thorough mastery of the weapons, of the equipment and the motors made it possible that all decisive movement on all fronts of the war could be executed with lightning speed. The Führer could count on his soldiers just as the soldiers could count on their Führer.
Behind the front stands the homeland. One is inconceivable without the other. Millions of men and women work for the front day and night. How could the unprecedented successes of the great fighting unit be conceivable, if the foundation was not uniform! Without discipline in the work place, without consideration for one another in heavy traffic, without mutual aid in the home, without a solid foundation in the family we Germans would no longer be a folk. Being a folk means constantly practicing discipline. Just imagine what would happen if everybody would do and not do the things he is motivated to do by noble drives, above all affirmation of order! We experienced an example of that before Adolf Hitler created a folk by leading the masses to enthusiastic, affirmative discipline.
Offenses against discipline are in most cases also offenses against laws. The more serious the time, the more serious such offenses must be viewed. They are the start of lack of desire and negligence. They deserve attention right at the start. Every problem must be attacked at the roots so that it does not sprout weeds. That means the source must be found so that it can be eliminated before it produces bad consequences.
The good example is discipline's best helper. Under no circumstances should a leader hence let himself go. He must know his men's morale, which he must assume himself if necessary. On the one hand, that is not always pleasant, but on the other hand it creates the trust that firmly binds leader and follower. Only when he is able
to rise above doubt, to preserve his joy for service and to look with full confidence to his superior will the discipline of the individual evolve into corps spirit and unit loyalty. As the soldier is rightly proud of his regiment, so is the worker proud of his company. There is always something wrong somewhere if a soldier dislikes service. Likewise, a bad condition must exist if a worker does not like to go to his company. If he likes spending time at his work place, there's a good relationship between the company's head and the worker.
Every folk comrade has the right to the development of his personality as long as this does not hinder the requirements of the whole. This makes it necessary for everybody to maintain discipline in his own life. this also means that he does not allow himself to become paralyzed by a disappointment. The greater the hope and expectation, the more painfully do reverses hamper the man storming ahead. He must again and again orient himself on the realization: Whoever has talent receives tasks. For the warrior for the idea of Adolf Hitler, the reformation of all Germans often doesn't proceed fast enough. Failures hit him hard, much harder than they do somebody who never participated in this struggle. We said it already, but in our struggle for perfection we must accept people as they are with their strengths and weaknesses. Next to the clean, knightly, modest man stand many people who base their behavior toward others solely according to the power relationships within their circle or other "connections." Aside from the splendid, powerful and heroic, we here and there also meet the blemishes and insufficiencies. Whoever is receptive to the silent nobility of the soul will always be driven into the middle of the fight. His measure is different than that of those who leisurely follow. His eye is keen for the desired goal, but he also sees through more quickly than most the colorful cloaks of pettiness and worthlessness.
What subordinate hasn't occasionally discovered his superior had a weakness? This situation must motivate everyone who has something to say to combat his own selfishness and laziness and to practice justice and care for his fellow men, especially for his subordinates.
We furthermore wish to live with the blissful knowledge that our action and inaction are a duty toward providence, and that it is hence part of the development that leads upward. We will take strength from this wellspring, even if a person who had been an example for us fails.
There is truth in the expression that discipline also means standing at attention. Standing at attention in front of his superior is self-evidence for a soldier. May it become a custom for all Germans for each to also, silently and always at the right time, stand at attention before himself. The result would be an increasing sureness in command, but also in obedience, which is real manly virtue, because it emerges from within, because it is the expression of an enlightened and firm character.
All of us live for only a short time. But we participate in eternity, if we fill our span with loyalty and devotion to folk and fatherland. Our goal is the Reich of a heroic, German nation. A bridge is built from the present to the shore of the future. The formation of this future depends on us. We are obligated to it, whether we serve with the weapon in our hand or with our quiet work in the homeland. The harmonic interaction of all motions promises fulfillment and the bond of the many to the one inseperable whole is our discipline.