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* “Father Angry,” Adolf Huhnlein & the motorization of Nazi Germany - www.ihfhilm.com

“Father Angry,” Adolf Huhnlein & the motorization of Nazi Germany
by Blaine Taylor

Photo: Formal oil portrait of Nazi NSKK Fuhrer Konrad Huhnlein by Pitthan. (US Army Combat Art Collection.)


Described as “A humorless man who seemed to have absolutely no qualification for his job, as he had no mechanical knowledge at all,” Nazi Motor Corps Leader Adolf Huhnlein “appeared always to be in an ill temper,” according to noted Mercedes-Benz designer Dr. Ferdinand Porsche the Elder.

Added his son and successor, Dr. Ferry Porsche, “He always spoke in a sort of growl and gave the impression of being angry at someone. If he had any sense of humor, he certainly kept it well hidden. I don’t think anyone ever saw him laugh, or even smile. This ferocious attitude earned him the nickname of ‘Papa Bos,’ or ‘Father Angry.’”

Nevertheless, the elder Dr. Porsche conceded that Huhnlein “Was genuinely interested in automobiles and car competition of any kind…not as political weapons, but to help improve military education through the discipline required in motor sports.” Despite the fact that he lacked the requisite technical knowledge of the great racing cars of the period between 1933-39, the NSKK Korpsfuhrer (Corps Leader) was nonetheless in charge of all matters dealing with the sport and even sometimes selecting which drivers raced in what season.

The reason for this was two-fold: first, winning made the Third Reich look superior in the eyes of the outside world, and, second, one of Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s main prewar goals was to change the lackadaisical attitudes of most Germans to cars and motoring in general. His goal was the complete motorization of the Third Reich for war, and he succeeded in large measure because of his selection of former World War I German Army engineer Maj. Huhnlein as the Nazis motoring impresario. It took a tough man to keep in line the Reich’s drivers and gruff team managers like Alfred Neubauer. The crusty Maj. Huhnlein was more than equal to the task and produced impressive results as well. His word was law on when and where speed record-breaking attempts were made and also with the rules governing the sport.

Declared Hitler in 1935, “Without the car, the plane and the loudspeaker, we could never have conquered Germany.”

Indeed, so important did the Fuhrer himself regard the National Socialist Motor Corps that he had two personal aides from its service attached to his suite who were always in attendance: Adjutant Capt. Fritz Wiedemann (1891-1970), with whom he served in the First World War, and liaison officer Brig. Gen. Albert Bormann (1902- ), younger brother of the Secretary to the Fuhrer Martin Bormann (1900-45.)

In addition, Minister of Armaments and War Production Albert Speer (1905-81) began his Nazi career as a driver in the NSKK, and German Ambassador to Fascist Italy Ulrich von Hassell (1881-1944) also served as an honorary member. Finally, the famous German legation secretary in Paris Ernst vom Rath (1909-38), who was assassinated by Jewish Herschel Grynspan who was angry at Nazi excesses, was given a State funeral with full honors due to his NSKK membership and manner of death. The Fuhrer attended, and the event ultimately resulted in the Crystal Night national pogrom against German Jewish synagogues by SA Stormtroopers on the night of Nov. 9-10, 1938.

Adolf Huhnlein was born on Sept. 12, 1881 at Neustadtlein bei Kulmbach, and thus was older than most of the other top Nazi leaders such as Hitler, Hermann Goring and Heinrich Himmler. Following the loss of the First World War by Imperial Germany in 1918, ex-soldier Huhnlein served in the anti-Bolshevik Free Corps lead by Gen. Franz Ritter (Knight) von Epp that crushed the Red revolt in Munich and Bavaria during 1919. He then rejoined the new Weimar Republican Army.

In 1923, Huhnlein became a staff officer in the early SA then led by Goring and took part in the abortive Beer Hall Putsch (Revolt) of Nov. 8-9th. When the Party was reformed in 1925, he became Quartermaster for its entire membership, impressing Hitler with his organizational abilities.

In 1929, Martin Bormann---assistant to Hitler’s private secretary Rudolf Hess---suggested to the Fuhrer that the SA Motor Squadrons lacked proper direction , and that “The Party would greatly benefit from having a nationwide pool of motorized transport to enable rapid mobilization during a show of strength, “ according to John R. Angolia and David Littlejohn. Hitler agreed.

SA Maj. Gen. Huhnlein was named to head the Stormtroops’ Motor Corps, also founding the SA Motor Troops, the Automobile Corps (NSAK) and, in 1931, the Motor Korps (NSKK.)

On Oct. 17-18, 1931, Huhnlein further impressed his Fuhrer by massing 5,000 vehicles from all across the Reich at Brunswick for a Nazi demonstration. He was promoted to lieutenant general, the second highest SA rank, in 1932.

After Hitler became Reich Chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933, NSKK Korpsfuhrer Huhnlein was placed in charge of the entire German motor establishment, encouraging not only racing, but also general automobile production, ownership and—above all---a motoring consciousness on the part of the general population for the first time.

Following the Blood Purge against the top SA leadership cadre of June 30, 1934, the NSKK---like its sister group the SS---was removed from the authority of the Brownshirts and made an independent organization with Huhnlein answerable directly to Hitler alone. During that same year, NSKK membership jumped to a whopping figure of 350,000 men, and they like the other Party formations took part in the annual Congresses at Nuremberg by transporting members and parading on Adolf Hitler Plaza until the last one in 1938.

Along with the SA, SS, and Nazi Flying Corps, the NSKK was an organization to which all German males were compelled to belong at ages 20 ½-21 years of age before going on to join one of the armed services. The driving and mechanical skills thus gained were employed during World War II by these men as motorcycle scouts and messengers, as well as the drivers of staff cars, tanks and trucks that made up the German Blitzkrieg (Lightning War) victories of 1939-42. In 1942, motorcycles were replaced by Dr. Porsche’s Volkswagen (People’s Car) jeep-like vehicle, the Kubelwagen or “bucket car.”

Huhnlein used both the NSKK and the new German Automobile Club (DDAC) to make German young people more “motor-minded.” The organization sponsored both driving schools and car rallies throughout the Reich itself and, after 1938, in German-occupied Austria as well.

By the end of 1938, there were more than 3.2 million cars and trucks on German roads, but still motoring in Nazi Germany lagged behind Western countries. In 1932, every fifth American owned a car and in Great Britain one out of every 27; in the Third Reich, however, the figure was one out of 44. By 1938, the ratio had climbed to one out of 20.

Only after 1945 during the West German “economic miracle” of the Fifties would this situation change radically at last, as Hitler and Huhnlein had envisioned back in 1933. Even before 1933, however, motorized units had largely replaced the horse cavalry in the reborn German Army. By 1937, with rearmament in full swing, the NSKK had managed to train 187,000 German drivers, a truly signal accomplishment on Huhnlein’s part.

The German Motor Sports Badge was instituted by the NSKK on Feb. 18, 1938, with the first awards being presented on Jan. 30, 1939, the sixth anniversary of Hitler’s becoming Reich Chancellor. In 1938, the NSKK rose in membership to 500,000 men.

On Jan. 27, 1939, a Fuhrer Decree created the SA Militia into which all physically fit males at age 18 were to be drafted prior to their obligatory military service. Under this same order, the NSKK was empowered with the task of training all drivers for the Army’s motorized units at its various Motor Sports Schools.

In the spring of 1939, the NSKK also played a major part in the building of the West Wall (or Siegfried Line as it was known by the later Allies during the war) by transporting Organization Todt workers and materials to the construction sites. A similar arrangement was forged with Speer’s new Building Staff that had been commissioned by Hitler to transform the capital of Berlin into the grandiose new Nazi Germania of the future, after Nazi Germany had won the Second World War.

By the time that war broke out, there was a motorized Patrol Service on duty within the Reich and two official publications for the membership, The NSKK Man and German Motoring. More importantly, though, over 200,000 young German men had trained at 21 Motor Sports Schools. Moreover, the group now regulated traffic on German roads and also provided roadside help for accidents and breakdowns. There were also tough penalties for speeding and fatalities caused by drivers, as Hitler believed that they alone—and not pedestrians—were fully responsible.

During the war, the NSKK coordinated an accident reporting service with the German Red Cross, as well as an air raid assistance and salvage operation with the Reich Air Defense League (RLB), plus provided skilled drivers for all Party and State agencies that needed them. As the fortunes of war declined, female German transport drivers were trained, too, and women thus replaced bus and streetcar drivers and conductors on all public transit vehicles within the Reich.

Another wartime NSKK duty was to assist in the rounding up of fugitive prisoners-of-war and captive foreign slave labor. It is significant to note that---like both the SA and the SS after the war---the Allied International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg banned the NSKK as an outlaw organization during 1945-46.

After Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the NSKK provided transport brigades for the German Army, Luftwaffe and OT. Foreign driver recruitment met with some success in occupied Holland, Belgium and France. These volunteers were attached to the Motor Transport Regiments of the Luftwaffe.

The organization also participated in the “resettlement” of racial Germans from the Balkan provinces seized by the Soviets in 1940 to the Nazi General Government of Occupied Poland. A special department was created for this task called the NSKK Commando Racial German Middle Department, which was under joint NSKK/SS control.

By 1940-41, the NSKK was training Hitler Youth members under 18 and all German males between 18-45 in motor and mechanical skills, plus operating motorboat companies on the main river arteries of the Reich as auxiliaries of the Waterways Police.

Had Nazi Germany defeated Russia, the scope and powers of the NSKK within the conquered territories would have been vastly expanded to meet increased demand, but such was not the case.

After the severe German manpower losses on the Eastern Front, Hitler reluctantly allowed Speer to draft anti-Communist Russians and others into an NSKK-inspired Speer Legion of foreign drivers, yet another duplication of effort and services within the overall Armed Forces and its civilian auxiliaries such as the NSKK.

On Oct. 23, 1942, there was created the Driver’s Service Badge for wartime accomplishment, but Korpsfuhrer Huhnlein, 51, did not live to see it. He died of cancer on the prior June 18th, and on June 21, 1942 was given a State funeral in the typical grand Nazi Party style at Munich’s Army Museum, where Hitler placed a memorial wreath in front of the dead Korpsfuhrer’s flag-bedecked coffin. His medals, orders and decorations were displayed on plush pillows held by uniformed NSKK officers.

The very next day, the Fuhrer posthumously honored Huhnlein with the German Order, the Nazi Party’s highest decoration, and also appointed his deputy, Lt. Gen. Erwin Kraus, to succeed him as the second and final Korpsfuhrer of the NSKK.

Unlike his late former chief, Kraus was a trained professional engineer who had been a pilot in the First World War like Goring and Hess. Prior to Huhnlein’s death, he had been Chief of the Technical Training and Equipment Branch of the NSKK. Although he was in complete control of domestic NSKK units and activities, Krause found himself subordinated to Speer organizationally after September 1942, a mere three months following Huhnlein’s demise.

Speer ordered NSKK Maj. Gen. Willi Nagel to undertake a complete reorganization of the group’s military auxiliary formations, and in October 1942 announced that NSKK Transportation Todt, NSKK Motor Transport Brigade Speer (the former NSKK Building Staff Speer) and the Speer Legion would be unified as the newly-created NSKK Transport Group Todt, named after Speer’s own dead predecessor, Dr. Fritz Todt.

Also in 1942, the NSKK was jointly charged with the OT with the completion of the Atlantic Wall fortifications to meet the expected Allied cross-Channel invasion that came on D-Day, June 6, 1944. By then, Korpsfuhrer Kraus had lost much of his power and authority to the ambitious, grasping and determined Albert Speer, who meant to win the war at all costs.

In November 1944, Reichsfuhrer (National Leader) SS Himmler and Propaganda Minister Dr. Josef Goebbels announced the formation of a new Nazi militia, the Volkssturm (or People’s Storm, a civilian-based national defense force to meet the invasions of the Reich from both East and West.) Kraus was now named as VS Inspector General of Transport to provide transit for the troops to the shrinking fighting fronts. Makeshift steel-plated armored cars were made for these civilian warriors, with the NSKK being formed into small units armed with grenades and anti-tank weapons. By the time the Red Army got to Berlin, wags joked that transit from Eastern to Western Fronts could be made by municipal streetcar, and it was true.

© 2017 International Historic Films, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


* “Father Angry,” Adolf Huhnlein & the motorization of Nazi Germany


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