Nonetheless, Goerdeler was an even more committed anti-communist. When the Polish-Soviet War broke out in 1920 some dock workers in the isolated German city of Danzig wished to take advantage of the crisis by going on strike in an effort to cripple the Polish economy by shutting off imports. Goerdeler worked to stop this plan from going forward because, as much as he disliked the new Poland, he realized that the Soviets were an even greater threat and a Soviet victory over Poland would be disastrous for Germany. In 1922 he was elected mayor of Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia) and then in 1930 he was elected mayor of Leipzig, earning a reputation as a solid, determined civic official even by authorities of the Weimar Republic which he opposed. In 1931 Goerdeler was appointed Price Commissioner because of his economic expertise when Germany was going through spiraling deflation. Nonetheless, Goerdeler never wavered in his opposition to the Weimar Republic which he described as a proven failure.
Goerdeler worked within the law to minimize the damage of these measures but the Nazis became concerned enough to start keeping a closer eye on him. In 1934 with inflation still problematic, Hitler turned to Goerdeler and reappointed him Price Commissioner in which post he clashed with Nazi authorities over his opposition to devaluing the Reichmark. He also opposed the Nazi policy of making rearmament a priority over importing food and state control of the economy. He argued in favor of free markets and against government corruption but the Nazi Party were obviously not inclined to listen to him. Still, Goerdeler continued to make his case for closer ties with the western countries, cutting military spending, stopping state interference in the economy and the scrapping the laws that targeted Jews and controlled Churches. Naturally, the Nazi rejected his proposals completely and increasingly came to view him as an enemy of the party (which he was). When his term as mayor of Leipzig ended Goerdeler was to be offered the top spot in the financial department of the massive Krupp corporation but Hitler forced the business to drop the idea.
One thing Goerdeler certainly was not though was a revolutionary and even far into the war he seemed convinced that if he could only explain things to Hitler and the Nazi high command they would have to see that he was right and reverse course. He had also spoken to foreign friends before the war and his own civilian and military contacts during the war that he hoped to see the monarchy restored. As it became clear that Hitler could not be reasoned with and would have to be removed from power by force, Goerdeler began to outline his vision for a post-Nazi Germany. He planned to have a constitutional monarchy, in somewhat the same style as Great Britain, with Prince Oskar of Prussia on the throne as the new Kaiser. Some wanted simply a complete restoration of the old German Empire but Goerdeler, though he had once wanted the same, opposed this as impractical and unlikely to be acceptable to the Allied powers. Unfortunately, not everyone agreed with Goerdeler and his circle of friends on this point and the famous Colonel Claus Graf von Stauffenberg was of the opinion that it would be unrealistic to attempt any sort of return to the monarchy and that the Soviets might make better allies than the western nations.
|Goerdeler at his "trial"|
Goerdeler was certain everything would work out but, just prior to the coup attempt, an order went out for his arrest and he had to go into hiding. He had only a radio to listen to in order to know if everything went as planned when the fateful day came. Of course, as we know, it did not. The bomb planted by Graf von Stauffenberg failed to kill Hitler and the attempted coup was easily suppressed by the Berlin garrison. Goerdeler managed to get out of Berlin but was arrested by the Gestapo in East Prussia. His family were sent to a concentration camp and Goerdeler, after a show trial at the People’s Court, was sentenced to death for treason. He was hanged on February 2, 1945 in Berlin, writing in his last letter, “I ask the world to accept our martyrdom as penance for the German people”.