|Richard Walther Darré|
29 June 1933 – 23 May 1942
|Preceded by||Alfred Hugenberg|
|Succeeded by||Herbert Backe|
|Born|| 14 July 1895|
Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Died|| 5 September 1953 (aged 58)|
Munich, West Germany
|Birth name||Ricardo Walther Oscar Darre|
|Political party||National Socialist Party|
|Spouse(s)|| Alma Staadt (div.)|
Charlotte Freiin von Vittinghoff-Schell
|Alma mater||University of Halle|
Richard Walther Darré (born Ricardo Walther Oscar Darré, best known as Walther Darre; born July 14, 1895 in Belgrano, Buenos Aires, Argentina; died September 5, 1953 in Munich) was the German Minister of Agriculture (Reichsbauernführer) during the National-Socialist era.
His childhood and early school years were spent in Argentina, before being sent at age 10 to live in Germany.
His father Richard had come to Argentina as the administrator of a large and prominent trading company, which at the time played a major role in trade to and from South America. Richard was a highly-energetic and skilled organizer (character traits later to be seen in the son Walther). He so excelled at the job, helping profits flow into Argentina, that he eventually gained a certain political influence in the country, displacing the hitherto-ascendant British business interests in Argentina. Some have attributed the elder Darre's and other German overseas-businessmen in Argentina in the 1910s, with helping ensure Argentinian neutrality in the First World War.
After his relocation to his ancestral country at age 10, the young Darre slowly came to be excited by Germany. He took interests in a wide variety of things, occasionally finding it hard to concentrate only on schoolwork. By the time he was in High School (Gymnasium -- an upper-level German high school), he was bustling with energy to get out and make his way in the world. In 1911, he attended King's College in Wimbledon, England as an exchange student. He thought fondly of England, and held pro-British views (despite forged wartime documents claiming otherwise).
First World War
On Easter, 1914 -- shortly before he would have graduated from high school -- Darre abruptly left school to enroll in the Kolonialschule at Witzenhausen. His goal was to be a "pioneer", a farmer-settler in one of Germany's then-colonies. (This was a common goal at the time among young Germans).
His plans were disrupted, though, by the outbreak of war in August of 1914. Darre, freshly 19 years old, quickly volunteered for service. He was in the artillery service on the Western Front. For four years he served, seeing action in twelve major battles, as well regularly during the ongoing trench warfare.
The young Darre proved to be politically astute: He realized that the war was ushering in the end of an age. Darre wrote in a letter to his father in the summer of 1918: "I doubt that my generation will ever be able to go back to the way things were! We are heading full-forward towards an uncharted future now. But we soldiers desire simply to be able to get to the point when we can begin to the struggle over the future."
After discharge from the army in late 1918, Darre took his studies at Witzenhausen up anew. However, with Germany's colonies seized after the war, his plans would have to change.
Upon completion of his studies in agriculture in 1920 (diploma in colonial farming), Darre became an apprentice on a farm near Neumarkt in the Rottal region of Bavaria. Soon thereafter, he was given custodianship of a farm estate at Wildeshausen in Oldenburg (Lower Saxony). In this year he married Albertine Staadt.
On Easter of 1922, eight years to the day after he had enrolled in agriculture school, he enrolled at university again (this time at Halle) to further his studies in agriculture. This time he specialized in livestock and the study of the applicability of genetics in agriculture. He graduated in 1925 with a higher-degree in Agronomy.
From Agronomist to Political Organizer
It was in the mid-1920s that Darre began to integrate his interest in agriculture with voelkisch ideas.
He had published a small book, "The Farmer as the Animating Spirit for the Nordic Race" ("Das Bauerntum als Lebensquell der nordischen Rasse" ). In it, Darre argued that the peoples of Nordic racial-stock were threatened with terminal decline: In fact, that they would not have much longer upon this Earth, unless a revival of a healthy and dynamic class of free farmers ("ein gesundes Bauerntum") reemerged. It was Darre's position that voelkisch renewal could only occur amongst a people tied to the soil, which was especially true for the Nordic people.
"I task you with organizing the farmers for our cause; in this you will have a free hand." With these words -- spoken in early 1930 by Adolf Hitler to a then-largely-unknown Walther Darre -- the Blood and Soil experiment of 1930s Germany began. (See here for an examination of the experiment). Darre became chief polcymaker on all agricultural matters in the NSDAP.
The task of uniting the farmers of Germany under the banner of National-Socialism was not easy. They were splintered into a large number of parties, associations, unions, and regionalist organizations. By mid-year, Darre's great organizational zeal had created an effective National-Socialist farmers' organization. Darre penned a revolutionary party program on agricultural policy, titled "The New Nobility: Out of Blood and Soil" ["Neuadel aus Blut und Boden"]. The world economic crisis was caused by artificial, urban, mass-societies, Darre argued in the document, and could only be ultimately solved by back-to-the-land voelkisch policies. His targets of contempt were the Bolshevik state, which was persecuting farmers most of all groups, and the hypercapitalism of the Weimar-Republic itself.
Darre travelled the length and breadth of Germany, preaching his message, and winning converts to the cause. Various farmers' groups were so inspired by the message -- which was not like anything they had hitherto heard -- that they became virtual carbon-copies of the National-Socialist farmers' group, if not joining it outright.
Each election showed increasing support in the countryside for the Darre's ideas.
In 1932, Darre founded a monthly magazine, "German Agro-Politik" (Deutsche Agrarpolitik, from 1939 called "Odal"). In it he continued to advocate his idea for a "new nobility" based on voelkisch and ruralist ideals.
After the National-Socialist government came to power in March 1933, the indefatigable Darre immediately began "sowing the seeds" for his future work as Reich Minister for Agriculture. The farming community united behind Darre.
In June of 1933, Hugenberg, the former Reich Minister of Food, stepped down. Walther Darre took his place as head of the Reich Ministry for Food and Agriculture. On the 13th of September, eight weeks after Darre took office, the "Reichsnährstand" organization was created. It was the organization with which the pro-agrarian policies would be carried out.
"The Hour of the Salvation of the German Farmer is at hand!", it was said.
Through Minister Darre's agrarian reforms, German farmers were finally able to secure fair prices for the food they grew (welcome relief after years of agricultural crisis), without the consumers of the food paying any more than before. The only losers were the self-serving profit-seekers, who were cut out of the process. Sellers were no longer able to artificially manipulate prices for their own advantage, because the state forbade it. Fair prices for farmers became a national priority; no longer would they be a trodden-upon serf class, the lowest strata of society.
Farmers breathed a sight of relief across Germany. No longer would they have to live hand-to-mouth, stalked always by the specter of poverty, endless debt, and foreclosure.
The 'Bauer' Class
Darre spearheaded the creation of the legal category of "Bauer" (farmer). This would become a legally-protected group whose "Erbhof" (hereditary farm) was to be owned by the family in perpetuity, tax-free, with ownership passing from father to son. Only those of German blood and assimilated native-European racial-stocks were permitted to be in this class.
Power was shifting back to the countryside, but this did not mean some kind of move to return to feudalism, with the biggest landholders able to dominate society. This threat was realized by Darre. As such, the largest estates were bought by the state and re-sold to smaller farmers. (No family-estate was to exceed 125 hectares, or 1.25 square kilometers.) These resettlers were usually from nearby cities, and this scheme was the perfect way to accomplish the dreamed back-to-the-countryside campaign.
"Blood and Soil"
In 1936, Darre published a tract titled "Blood and Soil, a Cornerstone of National-Socialism" ("Blut und Boden, ein Grundgedanke des Nationalsozialismus"). He once again argued for the importance of the inherent connection between a People, bound by blood-ties, and the land that this People inhabits. Large-scale campaigns to bring city-children to experience rural and farm life were put into place.
From 1936, Darre and Hermann Goering began a feud over policy. Goering was pushing for more aggressive industrialization, which was in contradiction to Darre's agricultural ideals.
The War Years
The war strained this experiment to the breaking point. The war economy simply didn't allow the Blood and Soil experiment to continue. Darre's ambition to make Wartime Germany self-sufficient in terms of agricultural production was unrealizeable, and his ruralist, agrarian ideals were incompatible with a war-economy.
He resigned his position in mid-1942, and spent the remaining war years in a hunting lodge in the thick forest country (die Schorfheide) of northeastern Brandenburg.
Life After the War
Darre was captured by the American military in April of 1945.
Eventually he was brought before one of the postwar kangaroo courts (see Nuremberg Trials). He was charged with illegally seizing Jewish and Polish farms during the war. On the 14th of April, 1949, Darre was found guilty of "Crimes Against Humanity", "Plundering", and "Membership in a Criminal Organization". The sentence was seven years, but he was only to serve one year.
After release from prison, he lived out his life in the rural resort town of Harzburg in Lower-Saxony, and died in 1953.
Darre is credit by many as being the first ever "Green" politician.