The National Socialist German Workers’ Party almos
t died one morning in1919. It numbered only a few dozen grumblers’ it had no organization
and no political ideas.
But many among the middle class admired the Nazis’ muscular opposition
to the Social Democrats. And the Nazis themes of patriotism and
militarism drew highly emotional responses from people who could not
forget Germany’s prewar imperial grandeur.
In the national elections of September 1930, the Nazis garnered nearly
6.5 million votes and became second only to the Social Democrats as the
most popular party in Germany. In Northeim, where in 1928 Nazi
candidates had received 123 votes, they now polled 1,742, a respectable
28 percent of the total. The nationwide success drew even faster… in
just three years, party membership would rise from about 100,000 to
almost a million, and the number of local branches would increase
tenfold. The new members included working-class people, farmers, and
middle-class professionals. They were both better educated and younger
then the Old Fighters, who had been the backbone of the party during its
first decade. The Nazis now presented themselves as the party of the
young, the strong, and the pure, in opposition to an establishment
populated by the elderly, the weak, and the dissolute.
Hitler was born in a small town in Austria in 1889. As a young boy, he
showed little ambition. After dropping out of high school, he moved to
Vienna to study art, but he was denied the chance to join Vienna
academy of fine arts.
When WWI broke out, Hitler joined Kaiser Wilhelmer’s army as a
Corporal. He was not a person of great importance. He was a creature
of a Germany created by WWI, and his behavior was shaped by that war and
its consequences. He had emerged from Austria with many prejudices,
including a powerful prejudice against Jews. Again, he was a product of
his times… for many Austrians and Germans were prejudiced against the
In Hitler’s case the prejudice had become maniacal it was a dominant
force in his private and political personalities. Anti-Semitism was not
a policy for Adolf Hitler–it was religion. And in the Germany of the
1920s, stunned by defeat, and the ravages of the Versailles treaty, it
was not hard for a leader to convince millions that one element of the
nation’s society was responsible for most of the evils heaped upon it.
The fact is that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was self-inflicted obstacle to
his political success. The Jews, like other Germans, were shocked by
the discovery that the war had not been fought to a standstill, as they
were led to believe in November 1918, but that Germany had , in fact,
been defeated and was to be treated as a vanquished country. Had Hitler
not embarked on his policy of disestablishing the Jews as Germans, and
later of exterminating them in Europe, he could have counted on their
loyalty. There is no reason to believe anything else.
On the evening of November 8, 1923, Wyuke Vavaruab State Cinnussuiber
Gustav Rutter von Kahr was making a political speech in Munich’s
sprawling Brgerbrukeller, some 600 Nazis and right-wing sympathizers
surrounded the beer hall. Hitler burst into the building and leaped
onto a table, brandishing a revolver and firing a shot into the
ceiling. “The National Revolution,” he cried, “has begun!”
At that point, informed that fighting had broken out in another part of
the city, Hitler rushed to that scene. His prisoners were allowed to
leave, and they talked about organizing defenses against the Nazi coup.
Hitler was of course furious. And he was far from finished. At about
11 o’clock on the morning of November 9–the anniversary of the founding
of the German Republic in 1919–3,000 Hitler partisans again gathered
outside the Brgerbrukeller.
To this day, no one knows who fired the first shot. But a shot rang
out, and it was followed by fusillades from both sides. Hermann Gring
fell wounded in the thigh and both legs. Hitler flattened himself
against the pavement; he was unhurt. General Ludenorff continued to
march stolidly toward the police line, which parted to let him pass
through (he was later arrested, tried and acquitted). Behind him, 16
Nazis and three policemen lay sprawled dead among the many wounded.
The next year, Rhm and his band joined forces with the fledgling
National Socialist Party in Adolf Hitler’s Munich Beer Hall Putsch.
Himmler took part in that uprising, but he played such a minor role that
he escaped arrest. The Rhm-Hitler alliance survived the Putsch, and