Having long been intrigued by lighter-than-air craft (see earlier post on this topic), I picked up a copy of Dr. Eckener’s Dream Machine…Dr Hugo Eckener being the head of the Zeppelin company for many years, and a man who contributed much to the transient success of this transportation mode. Also, I thought the book would be a pleasant vacation from politics. However, that was not to be…
I had been aware that Eckener was anti-Nazi and that he had incurred Hitler’s lasting enmity by refusing use of the company’s Friedrichshafen hanger for a Nazi Party rally. I did not know, though, that his popularity in Germany was so great that he was seriously considered as a Presidential candidate in the 1932 elections…the leaders of the Central Party and the Social Democrats actually approached him to do this. One Berlin banker said:
“I knew all the leading political and commercial leaders of Germany in the early 1930s. Nowhere on the national scene was there a man so competent to assume the leadership of the government as was Hugo Eckener.”
But Eckener was reluctant to run, citing his heavy continuing involvement in zeppelin projects, his lack of desire to become a politician, and the point that he did not want to run against Hindenburg. The latter point seems to have been the determining one, since he indicated he would stand for President if the 85-year-old Hindenburg decided not to run for reelection. But Hindenburg did run, of course, and we all know the consequences.
I don’t know whether Eckener’s desire to avoid running against Hindenburg was due to admiration for the man, or simply to the fact that he might have considered him unbeatable. But imagine…what if Eckener had chosen to run, and what if he had won?
Is there a Hugo Eckener in America today?…Someone who has avoided political involvement but who, if he did decide to become involved, would have a decent prospect of heading off the dark times that seem to loom ahead?