Although Hitler had been found guilty of high treason and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment at Landsberg Fortress, his bravado throughout the trial had won him many admirers, and he entered prison as a sort of Volk Hero. Here, at least, was a politician who was willing to risk everything for his convictions.
During his eight months and twenty days in Landsberg, Hitler reflected upon what had gone wrong with his plans and made two resolutions: he would never again depend upon the nationalist/všlkisch allies for support, and he would henceforth pursue only the path of legality. His party in shambles, and his own financial position precarious, Hitler was persuaded by his old army sergeant and publisher, Max Amann, that he could make a lot of money if he wrote a book detailing the "inside story" of the Beerhall Putsch, revealing the complicity of the Bavarian officials, and naming names! Thus was born, Mein Kampf.
And he occupied his hours in prison dictating his thoughts to his faithful secretary Rudolf Hess. In its final form, it became not a journalistic exposŽ, but a rambling account of Hitler's opinions on a variety of subjects.
Hitler was released from prison on 20 December 1924, as part of a Bavarian Christmas Amnesty. But he was placed on a kind of political probationwhich included a prohibition on public speaking in many of the German states. So his first actions was to whip the finished manuscript into some publishable form. Volume I appeared in July 1925 and ran through numerous editions. The following selections give both the flavor of the book, and indicate the new principles upon which Hitler was henceforth going to proceed.
Given the importance of Anti-Semitism in the book it is fitting that our first selection is on that subject.
Today it is difficult, if not impossible, for me to say when the word "Jew" first gave me ground for special thoughts. At home I do not remember having heard the word during my father's lifetime. I believe that the old gentleman would have regarded any special emphasis on this term as cultural backwardness. In the course of his life he had arrived at more or less cosmopolitan views which, despite his pronounced national sentiments, not only remained intact, but also affected me to some extent.... Not until my fourteenth or fifteenth year did I begin to come across the word "Jew" with any frequency, partly in connection with political discussions. This filled me with a mild distaste, and I could not rid myself of an unpleasant feeling that always came over me whenever religious quarrels occurred in my presence. There were few Jews in Linz. In the course of the centuries their outward appearance had become Europeanized and had taken on a human look; in fact, I even took them for Germans! The absurdity of this idea did not dawn on me because I saw no distinguishing feature but the strange religion. The fact that they had, as I believed, been persecuted on this account sometimes almost turned my distaste at unfavorable remarks about them into horror. Thus far I did not so much as suspect the existence of an organized opposition to the Jews. Then I came to Vienna.
Preoccupied by the abundance of my impressions in the architectural field, oppressed by the hardship of my own lot, I gained at first no insight into the inner stratification of the people in this gigantic city. Notwithstanding that Vienna in those days counted nearly two hundred thousand Jews among its two million inhabitants, I did not see them. In the first few weeks my eyes and my senses were not equal to the flood of values and ideas. Not until calm gradually returned and the agitated picture began to clear did I look around me more carefully in my new world, and then, among other things I encountered the Jewish question.
I cannot maintain that the way in which I became acquainted with them struck me as particularly pleasant. For the Jew was still characterized for me by nothing but his religion, and therefore, on grounds of human tolerance, I maintained my rejection of religious attacks in this case as in others. Consequently, the tone, particularly that of the Viennese anti-Semitic press, seemed to me unworthy of the cultural tradition of a great nation. I was oppressed by the memory of certain occurrences in the Middle Ages, which I should not have liked to see repeated....
My views with regard to anti-Semitism succumbed to the passage of time, and this was my greatest transforation of all. It cost me the greatest inner soul struggles, and only after months of battle between my reason and my sentiments did my reason begin to emerge victorious. Two years later, my sentiment had followed my reason, and from then on became its most loyal guardian and sentinel.
At the time of this bitter struggle between spiritual education and cold reason, the visual instruction of the Vienna streets had performed invaluable services. There came a time when I no longer, as in the first days, wandered blindly through the mighty city; now with open eyes I saw not only buildings but also the people.
Once, as I was strolling through the Inner City, I suddenly encountered an apparition in a black caftan and black hair locks. Is this a Jew? was my first thought. For to be sure, they had not looked like this in Linz. I observed the man furtively and cautiously, but the longer I stared at this foreign face, scrutinizing feature for feature, the more my first question assumed a new form: Is this a German?
As always in such cases, I now began to try to relieve all my doubts by books. For a few Hellers I bought the first anti-Semitic pamphlets of my life. Unfortunately, they all proceeded from the supposition that in principle the reader knew or even understood the Jewish question to a certain degree. Besides, the tone for the most part was such that doubts again arose in me, due in part to the dull and amazingly unscientific arguments favoring the thesis. I relapsed for weeks at a time, once even for months. The whole thing seemed to me so monstrous, the accusations so boundless that tormented by the fear of doing injustice, I again became anxious and uncertain. Yet I could no longer very well doubt that the objects of my study were not Germans of a special religion, but a people in themselves; for since I had begun to concern myself with this question and to take cognizance of the Jews, Vienna appeared to me in a different light than before. Wherever I went, I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity. Particularly people which even outwardly had lost all resemblance to Germans.
And whatever doubts I may still have nourished were finally dispelled by the attitude of a portion of the Jews themselves. Among them there was a great movement, quite extensive in Vienna, which came out sharply in confirmation of the national character of the Jews: this was Zionism. It looked, to be sure, as though only a part of the Jews approved this viewpoint, while the great majority condemned and inwardly rejected such a formulation. But when examined more closely, this appearance dissolved itself into an unsavory vapor of pretexts advanced for mere reason of expediency, not to say lies. For the so-called liberal Jews did not reject the Zionists as non-Jews, but only as Jews with an impractical, perhaps even dangerous way of publicly avowing their Jewishness. Intrinsically, they remained unalteróably of one piece.
In a short time, this apparent struggle between Zionists and liberal Jews disgusted me; for it was false through and through, founded on lies and scarcely in keeping with the moral elevation and purity always claimed by this people. The cleanliness of this people, moral and otherwise, I must say, is a point in itself. By their very exterior you could tell that these were no lovers of water, and to your distress, you often knew it with your eyes closed. Later I often grew sick to my stomach from the smell of these caftan-wearers. Added to this, there was their unclean dress and their generally unheroic appearance.
All this could scarcely be called very attractive; but it became positively repulsive when, in addition to their physical uncleanliness, you discovered the moral stains on this Ňchosen people.Ó In a short time I was made more thoughtful than ever by my slowly rising insight into the type of activity carried on by the Jews in certain fields. Was there any form of filth or profligacy, particularly in cultural life, without at least one Jew involved in it? If you cut even cautiously into such an abscess, you found, like a maggot in a rotting body, often dazzled by the sudden light—a kike!
What had to be reckoned heavily against the Jews in my eyes was when I became acquainted with their activity in the press, art, literature, and the theater. All the unctuous reassurances helped little or nothing. It sufficed to look at a billboard, to study the names of the men behind the horrible trash they advertised, to make you hard for a long time to come. This was pestilence, spiritual pestilence, worse than the Black Death of olden times, and people were being infected with it! It goes without saying that the lower the intellectual level of one of these art manufacturers, the more unlimited his fertility will be, and the scoundrel ends up like a garbage collector, splashing his filth in the face of humanity. And bear in mind that there is no limit to their number; bear in mind that for one Goethe, Nature easily can foist on the world ten thousands of these scribblers, who poison men's souls like germ-carriers of the worse sort, on their fellow men.
It was terrible, but not to be overlooked, that precisely the Jew, in tremendous numbers, seemed chosen by Nature for this shameful calling. I now began to examine carefully the names of all the creators of unclean products in public artistic life. The result was less and less favorable for my previous attitude toward the Jews. Regardless how my sentiment might resist, my reason was forced to draw its conclusions. The fact that nine-tenths of all literary filth, artistic trash, and theatrical idiocy can be set to the account of a people, constituting hardly one-hundreth of all the country's inhabitants, could simply not be talked away; it was the plain truth....
My development was accelerated by insights which I gained into a number of other things. I am referring to the general view of ethics and morals which was quite openly exhibited by a large part of the Jews, and the practical application of which could be seen. Here again the streets provided an object lesson of a sort which was sometimes positively evil.
The relation of the Jews to prostitution, and, even more, to the white-slave traffic, could be studied in Vienna as perhaps in no other city of Western Europe, with the possible exception of the southern French ports. If you walked at night through the streets and alleys of the Jewish sector of Vienna, at every step you witnessed proceedings which remained concealed from the majority of the German people until the War gave the soldiers on the eastern front occasion to see similar things, or, better expressed, forced them to see them.
When thus for the first time I recognized the Jew as the cold-hearted shameless, and calculating director of this revolting vice-traffic in the scum of the big city, a cold shudder ran down my back. But then a flame flared up within me. I no longer avoided discussion; no, now I sought it. When I learned to look for the Jew in all branches of cultural and artistic life and its various manifestations, I suddenly encountered him in a place where I would least have expected to find him. When I recognized the Jew as the leader of Social Democracy [Marxism], the scales dropped from my eyes. A long soul struggle had reached its conclusion.... I gradually became aware that the Social Democratic [i.e. Marxist] press was directed predominately by Jews; yet I did not attribute any special significance to this circumstance, since conditions were exactly the same in the other papers. Yet one fact seemed conspicuous: there was not one paper with Jews working on it which could have been regarded as truly national, according to my education and way of thinking.
I swallowed my disgust and tried to read this type of Marxist press production, but my revulsion became so unlimited in so doing that I endeavored to become more closely acquainted with the men who manufactured these compendiums of knavery. From the publisher down, they were all Jews. I took all the Social Democratic pamphlets I could lay hands on and sought the names of their authors: Jews. I noted the names of the leaders: by far the greatest part were likewise members of the "chosen people," whether they were representatives in the Parliament or trade-union secretaries, the heads of organizations or street agitators. It was always the same gruesome picture. The names of the Austerlitzes, Davids, Adlers, Ellenbogens, etc., will remain forever graven in my memory. One thing had grown clear to me: the party with whose petty representatives I had been carrying on the most violent struggle for months was, as to leadership, almost exclusively in the hands of a foreign people; for, to my deep and joyful satisfaction, I had at last come to the conclusion that the Jew was no German. Only now did I become thoroughly acquainted with the seducer of our people....
I began to make myself familiar with the founders of [Marxism], in order to study the foundations of the Movement. If I reached my goal more quickly than at first I had perhaps ventured to believe, it was thanks to my newly acquired, though at that time not very profound, knowledge of the Jewish question. This alone enabled me to draw a practical comparison between the reality and the theoretical flim-flam of the founding fathers of Social Democracy, since it taught me to understand the language of the Jewish people, who speak in order to conceal or at least to veil their thoughts; their real aim is not therefore to be found in the lines themselves, but slumbers well-concealed between them.
For me this was the time of the greatest spiritual uóheaval I have ever had to go through. I had ceased to be a weak-kneed cosmopolitan and became an anti-Semite. Just once more—and this was the last time—fearful, oppressive thoughts came to me in profound anguish. When over long periods of human history I scrutinized the activity of the Jewish people, suddenly there rose up in me the fearful question whether inscrutable DESTINY— perhaps for reasons unknown to us poor mortals, did not, with eternal and immutable resolve, desire the final victory of this little nation. Was it possible that the earth had been promised as a reward to this people, which lives only for this earth? Have we an objective right to struggle for our self-preservation, or is this justified only subjectively within ourselves?
As I delved more deeply into the teachings of Marxism and thus in tranquil clarity submitted the deeds of the Jewish people to contemplation, Fate itself gave me the answer. The Jewish doctrine of Marxism rejects the aristocratic principle of Nature and replaces the eternal privilege of power and strength by the mass of numbers and their dead weight. Thus it denies the value of personality in man, contests the significance of nationality and race, and thereby withdraws from humanity the premise of its existence and its culture. As a foundation of the universe, this doctrine would bring about the end of any order intellectually conceivable to man. And as, in the greatest of all recognizable organisms, the result of an application of such law could only be chaos, on earth it could only be destructive for the inhabitants of this planet.
If with the help of his Marxist creed, he Jew is victorious over the other peoples of the world, his crown will be the funeral wreath of humanity and this planet will, as it did thousands of years ago, move through the ether devoid of men. Eternal Nature inexorably avenges the infringement of her commands.
Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: BY DEFENDING MYSELF AGAINST THE JEW, I AM FIGHTING FOR THE WORK OF THE LORD.
Hitler's autobiographical account has been challenged by a number of historians, who point out that there is no evidence to support his claim that he became an anti-Semite in Vienna. Supporting the validity of this challenge is the fact that there is no mention of hatred for Jews in any of Hitler's pre-war letters or in the postcards which he sent from the front. Nor do any of the ŇmemoirsÓ of HitlerŐs wartime colleagues offer any evidence of his anti-Semitism. Indeed, the first signs of Hitler's rabid Anti-Semitism come only after the loss of the war.
But in addition to being an anti-Semitic party, Hitler claimed that National Socialism represented a true alternative to liberal democracy and the whole heritage of West European traditions from which it sprang. Hitler called his Movement "Všlkisch" —an untranslatable adjective meaning of, by, and for the Volk, which can mean people, nation, race, kin. It always has a quasi-biological flavor. Here is Hitler's "clarification of the concept Všlkisch as well as its relation to his Movement.
Selections from Mein Kampf
The concept "Všlkisch" seems as vaguely defined, open to as many interpretations and as unlimited in practical application as, for instance, the word "religious," and it is very hard to conceive of anything absolutely precise under this designation, either in the sense of intellectual comprehension or of practical effects. The designation "religious" only becomes tangibly conceivable in the moment when it becomes connected with a definitely outlined form of its practice.... [Only in a fixed faith-community will people experience it as] the liberation of his individual thought and action.... By helping to raise man above the level of bestial vegetation, faith contributes in reality to the securing and safeguarding of his existence. Take away from present-day mankind its education-based, religious-dogmatic principles—or practically speaking, ethical-moral principles—by abolishing this religious education, but without replacing it by an equivalent, and the result will be a grave shock to the foundations of their existence. We may therefore state that not only does man live in order to serve higher ideals, but that, conversely, these higher ideas also provide the premise for his existence. Thus the circle closes.
Of course, even the general designation "religious" includes various basic ideas or convictions, for example, he immortality of the soul, the eternity of its existence, the existence of a higher being, etc. But all these ideas, regardless how convincing they may be for an individual, are submitted to the critical examination of this individual and hence to a fluctuating affirmation or negation until his emotional understanding or knowledge assumes the binding force of an unconquerable faith. Thus, this fighting factor clears the way, opens the way for recognition of basic religious views. Without this clearly defined faith, religiosity (with all its unclarity and multiplicity of form) would not only be worthless for human life, but would probably contribute to general disintegration.
The situation with the word "Všlkisch" is similar. In it, too, there lie various basic realizations. Though of extreme importance, they are, however, so unclearly defined in form that they rise above the value of a more or less acceptable opinion only if they are fitted into the framework of a political party as basic elements.... Every philosophy of life, even it if is a thousand times correct and of highest benefit to humanity, will remain without significance for the practical shaping of a people's life, as long as its principles have not become the banner of a fighting movement which for its part in turn will be a party as long as its activity has not yet found completion in the victory of its ideas, and its dogmas have not yet become the new state principles of a Volk community ....
The Všlkisch philosophy finds the importance of mankind in its basic racial elements. In the state it sees on principle only a means to an end, and construes its end as the preservation of the racial existence of man. Thus, it by no means believes in an equality of the races, but along with their differences, it recognizes their higher or lesser value and feels itself obligated, through this knowledge, to promote the victory of the better and stronger, and demand the subordination of the inferior and weaker, in accordance with the eternal will that dominates this universe. Thus, in principle, it serves the basic aristocratic idea of Nature and believes in the validity of this law down to the last individual. It sees not only the different value of the races, but also the different value of individuals. From the mass it extracts the importance of the individual personality, and thus, in contrast to disorganizing Marxism, it has an organizing effect. It believes in the necessity of an idealization of humanity, in which alone it sees the premise for the existence of humanity. But it cannot grant the right to existence even to an ethical idea, if this idea represents a danger for the racial life of the bearers of a higher ethics; for in a bastardized and niggerized world, all the concepts of the humanly beautiful and sublime, as well as all ideas of an idealized future of our humanity, would be lost forever.
Human culture and civilization on this continent are inseparably bound up with the presence of the Aryan. If he dies out or declines, the dark veils of an age without culture will again descend on this globe. The undermining of the existence of human culture by the destruction of its bearer seems, in the eyes of a Všlkisch philosophy, the most execrable crime. Anyone who dares to lay hands on the highest image of the Lord commits sacrilege against the benevolent creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise.
And so the Všlkisch philosophy of life corresponds to the innermost will of Nature, since it restores that free play of forces which must lead to a continuous mutual higher breeding, until at last the best of humanity, having achieved possession of this earth, will have a free path for activity in domains which will lie partly above it and partly outside it. We all sense that in the distant future, humanity must be faced by problems which only a highest race, turned into a highest Volk and supported by the means and resources of an entire globe, will be equipped to overcome.
It is self-evident that so general a statement of the meaningful content of a Všlkisch philosophy can be interpreted in thousands of ways. And actually we find hardly a one of our newer political formations which does not base itself in one way or another on this world view. And, by its very existence in the face of so many others, it shows the difference of its conceptions. And so the Marxist world view, led by a unified top organization, is faced by only a hodge-podge of views which even as ideas are not very impressive, in the face of their solid, hostile front. Victories are not gained by such feeble weapons! Not until the internationalist world view—politically led by organized Marxism—is confronted by a Všlkisch world view, organized and led with equal unity, will success, supposing the fighting energy to be equal on both sides, fall to the side of eternal truth.
A philosophy can only be organizationally comprehended on the basis of a definite formulation of that philosophy, and what dogmas represent for religious faith, party principles are for a political party in the making. Hence an instrument must be created for the Všlkisch world view, which enables it to fight, just as the Marxist party organization creates a free path for internationalism.
This is the goal pursued by the National Socialist German Workers' Party.... In other words, from the basic ideas of a general Všlkisch world conception, the National Socialist German Workers' Party takes over the essential fundamental traits, and from them, with due consideration of practical reality, the times, and the available human material as well as its weaknesses, forms a political creed which, in turn, by the strict organizational integration of large human masses thus made possible, creates the precondition for the victorious struggle of this world view.
The first obligation of a new Movement, standing on the ground of a Všlkisch world view, is to make sure that its conception of the nature and purpose of the State attains a uniform and clear character.... The State is a means to an end. Its end lies in the preservation and advancement of a community of physically and psychically homogeneous creatures. This preservation itself comprises first of all existence as a race and thereby permits the free development of all the forces dormant in this race.... States which do not serve this purpose are misbegotten, monstrosities in fact. The fact of their existence changes this no more than the success of a gang of bandits can justify robbery.
We National Socialists, as champions of a new philosophy of life, must never base ourselves on so-called "accepted facts"— and false ones at that! ... We must distinguish in the sharpest way between the State as a vessel and the race as its content. This vessel has meaning only if it can preserve and protect the content; otherwise it is useless.
Thus the highest purpose of a Všlkisch State is concern for the preservation of those original racial elements which bestow culture and create the beauty and dignity of a higher mankind. We, as Aryans, can conceive of the State only as the living organism of a Volk, which not only assures the preservation of this nationality, but by the development of its spiritual and ideal abilities leads to the highest freedom..... From this, we National Socialists derive a standard for the evaluation of a state: ... A State can be designated as exemplary if it is not only compatible with the living conditions of the Volk it is intended to represent, but if in practice it keeps this Volkness alive by its own very existence—quite regardless of the importance of this state formation within the framework of the outside world. For the function of the State is not to create abilities, but only to open the road for those forces which are present. And, conversely, a State can be designated as bad if, despite a high cultural level, it dooms the bearer of this culture in his racial composition.
For thus it destroys to all intents and purposes the premise for the survival of this culture, which the State did not create but which is the fruit of the culture-creating Volkness safeguarded by a living integration through the State....
Anyone who speaks of a mission of the German Volk on earth must know that it can exist only in the formation of a State which sees its highest task in the preservation and promotion of the most noble elements of our Volkness, indeed of all mankind, which still remains intact.
In this way, for the first time the State achieves a lofty inner goal. Compared to the absurd catchwords about safeguarding law and order, thus laying a peaceable groundwork for mutual swindles, the task of preserving and advancing the highest humanity, given to this earth by the benevolence of the Almighty, seems a truly high mission. From a dead mechanism which can only claim to exist for its own sake, there must be formed a living organism with the exclusive aim of serving this higher idea. The German Reich as a State must embrace all Germans and has the task, not only of assembling and preserving the most valuable stocks of basic racial elements in this people, but slowly and surely of raising them to a dominant position.
In general, Nature herself usually makes certain corrective decisions with regard to the racial purity of earthly creatures. She has little love for bastards. Especially the first products of such cross-breeding, say in the third, fourth, and fifth generation, suffer bitterly. Not only is the value of the originally highest element of the cross-breeding taken from them, but with their lack of blood unity they lack also unity of will-power and determination to live. In all critical moments in which the racially unified being makes correct, that is unified decisions, the racially divided one will become uncertain, that is he will arrive at half measures. Taken together, this means not only a certain inferiority of the racially divided being, compared with the racially unified one, but in practice also the possibility of a more rapid decline. In innumerable cases where race holds up, the bastard breaks down.
In this, we must see the correction of Nature. But often she goes even further. She limits the possibility of propagation. Thereby she prevents the fertility of continued crossings altogether and thus causes them to die out. If, for example, an individual specimen of a certain race were to enter into a union with a racially lower specimen, the result would at first be a lowering of the standard in itself; but, in addition, there would be a weakening of the offspring as compared to [one raised in] the environment that had remained racially unmixed.... Every racial crossing leads inevitably sooner or later to the decline of the hybrid product as long as the higher element of this crossing is itself still existent in any kind of racial unity.
The danger for the hybrid product is eliminated only at the moment when the last higher racial element is bastardized. This is a basis for a natural, even though slow, process of regeneration, which gradually eliminates racial poisonings as long as a basic stock of racially pure elements is still present and a further bastardization does not take place. Such a process can begin of its own accord in creatures with a strong racial instinct, who have only been thrown off the track of normal, racially pure reproduction by special circumstances or some special compulsion. As soon as this condition or compulsion is ended, the part which has still remained pure will at once strive again for mating among equals, thus calling a halt to further mixture. The results of bastardization spontaneously receded to the background, unless their number has increased so infinitely that serious resistance on the part of those who have remained racially pure is out of the question.
Man, once he has lost his instinct and fails to recognize the obligation imposed upon him by Nature, is on the whole not justified in hoping for such a correction on the part of Nature as long as he has not replaced his lost instinct by perceptive knowledge; this knowledge must then perform the required work of compensation. Yet the danger is very great that the man who has once grown blind will keep tearing down the racial barriers more and more, until at length even the last remnant of his best part is lost. Then in reality there remains nothing but a unified mash, such as the famous world reformers of our days idealize; but in a short time it would expel all ideals from this world. Indeed: a great herd could be formed in this way; a herd beast can be brewed from all sorts of ingredients, but a man who will be a culture-bearer, or even better, a culture-founder and culture-creator, never arises from such a mixture.
The mission of humanity could then be looked upon as finished. Anyone who does not want the earth to move toward this condition must convert himself to the conception that it is the function above all of the Germanic states first and foremost to call a fundamental halt to any further bastardization. Our present generation of notorious weaklings will obviously cry out against this, and moan and complain about assaults on the holiest human rights. No, there is only one holiest human right, and this right is at the same time the holiest obligation, to wit: to see to it that the blood is preserved pure and, by preserving the best humanity, to create the possibility of a nobler development of those beings.
A Všlkisch State must therefore begin by raising marriage from the level of continuous defilement of the race, and give it the consecration of an institution which is called upon to produce images of the Lord and not monstrosities halfway between man and ape.
The protests against this on so-called humane grounds is particularly ill-suited to an era which on the one hand gives every depraved degenerate the possibility of propagating, but which burdens the products themselves, as well as their contemporaries, with untold suffering, while on the other hand every drugstore and our very street peddlers offer the means for the prevention of births for sale even to the healthiest parents. In this present-day state of law and order, this brave, bourgeois-national society, the prevention of the procreative faculty in sufferers from syphilis, tuberculosis, hereditary diseases, cripples, and cretins is a crime, while the actual suppression of the procreative faculty in millions of the very best people is not regarded as anything bad and does not offend against the morals of this hypocritical society, but is rather a benefit to its short-sighted mental laziness. For otherwise, these people would at least be forced to rack their brains about providing a basis for the sustenance and preservation of those belongings who, as healthy bearers of our nationality, should one day serve the same function with regard to the coming generation....
It would be more in keeping with the intention of the noblest man who ever lived in this world if our two Christian churches, instead of annoying Negroes with missions which they neither desire nor understand, would kindly, but in all seriousness, teach our European humanity that where parents are not healthy, it is a deed pleasing to God to take pity on a poor little healthy orphan child and give him father and mother, than themselves to give birth to a sick child who will only bring unhappiness and suffering on himself and the rest of the world.
The Všlkisch State must make up for what everyone else today has neglected in this field.
It must set race in the center of all life. It must take care to keep it pure. It must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. It must see to it that only the healthy beget children; that there is only one disgrace: despite one's own sickness and deficiencies, to bring children into the world, and one highest honor: to renounce doing so. And conversely it must be considered reprehensible: to withhold healthy children from the Volk.
Here the State must act as the guardian of a millennial future in the face of which the wishes and the selfishness of the individual must appear as nothing and submit. It must put the most modern medical means in the service of this knowledge. It must declare unfit for propagation all who are in any way visibly sick or who have inherited a disease and can therefore pass it on, and put this into actual practice. Conversely, it must take care that the fertility of the healthy woman is not limited by the financial irresponsibility of a state regime which turns the blessing of children into a curse for the parents. It must put an end to that lazy, nay criminal, indifference with which the social premises for a large family are treated today, and must instead feel itself to be the highest guardian of this most precious blessing of a Volk. Its concern belongs more to the child than to the adult....
A prevention of the faculty and opportunity to procreate on the part of the physically degenerate and mentally sick, over a period of only six hundred years, would not only free humanity from an immeasurable misfortune, but would lead to a recovery which today seems scarcely conceivable. If the fertility of the healthiest bearers of the Volkness is thus consciously and systematically promoted, the result will be a race which at least will have eliminated the germs of our present physical and hence spiritual decay. For once a people and a state have started on this path, attention will automatically be directed on increasing the racially most valuable nucleus of the people and its fertility, in order ultimately to let the entire nationality partake of the blessing of a highly bred racial stock....
Of course, the miserable army of our present-day shopkeepers will never understand this. They will laugh at it or shrug their crooked shoulders and moan forth their eternal excuse: "That would be very nice in itself, but it can't be done!" True, it can no longer be done with you; your world isn't fit for it! You know but one concern: your personal life, and one God: your money! But we are not addressing ourselves to you; we are appealing to the great army of those who are so poor that their personal life cannot mean the highest happiness in this world; to those who do not see the ruling principle of their existence in gold, but in other gods. Above all, we appeal to the mighty army of our German youth. They are growing up at a great turning point and the evils brought about by the inertia and indifference of their fathers will force them into a struggle. Some day, the German youth will either be the builder of a new Všlkisch State, or they will be the last witness of total collapse, the end of the bourgeois world.
The most interesting portion of the book, however, was Hitler's discussion of his approach to politics and especially his propaganda techniques. Here too, he insisted that he had begun to learn these lessons while living in Vienna. He described why the Austrian Pan-German party, to which Hitler had been attracted, had never developed its full potential. In fact, Hitler had learned these lessons in the failure of the Beerhall Putsch, and he was determined never again to rely on any other organization except his own. So the question became, how to build a mass party.
Final Selections from Mein Kampf
As soon as it sold its soul to parliament, [the Pan-Germans] attracted parliamentarians instead of leaders and fighters. Thus it sank to the level of the ordinary political parties of the day and lost the strength to oppose a catastrophic destiny with the defiance of martyrdom. Instead of fighting, it now learned to make speeches and "negotiate." And in a short time the new "parliamentarian" found it a more attractive, because less dangerous, duty to fight for the new philosophy with the "spiritual" weapons of parliamentary eloquence, than to risk his own life, if necessary, by throwing himself into a struggle whose issue was uncertain and which in any case could bring him no profit.
Once they had members in parliament, he supporters outside began to hope and wait for miracles which, of course, did not occur and could not occur. For this reason they soon became impatient, for even what they heard from their own deputies was by no means up to the expectations of the voters. This was perfectly natural, since the hostile press took good care not to give the people any faithful picture of the work of the Pan-German deputies.
The more the new representatives of the people developed a taste for the somewhat gentler variety of "revolutionary" struggle in parliament and the provincial Assemblies, the less prepared they were to return to the more dangerous work of enlightening the broad masses of the people.
The mass meeting, the only way to exert a truly effective, because personal, influence on large sections of the people and thus possibly to win them over, was thrust more and more into the background. Once the platform of parliament was definitely substituted for the beer table of the meeting hall, and from this forum speeches were poured, not into the people, but on the heads of their so-called "elected representatives," the Pan-German movement ceased to be a movement of the people and in a short time dwindled into an academic discussion club and not to be taken any more seriously.
Consequently, the bad impression transmitted by the press was in no way corrected by personal agitation at meetings by the individual gentlemen, with the result that finally the word Pan-German itself began to have a very bad sound in the ears of the broad masses. For let it be said to all our present-day fops and knights of the pen: the greatest revolutions in this world have never been directed by a goose-quill! No, to the pen it has always been reserved to provide their theoretical foundations. But the power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has, from time immemorial, been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone.
Particularly the broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech. And all great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or by the firebrand of the world hurled among the masses; they are not the lemonade-like outpourings of literary aesthetes and drawing-room heroes. Only a storm of hot passion can turn the destinies of peoples, and he alone can arouse passion who bears it within himself. Passion alone gives its chosen one the words which like hammer blows can open the gates to the heart of a people. But the man whom passion fails and whose lips are sealed—he has not been chosen by Heaven to proclaim its will.
Therefore, let the writer remain by his ink-well, engaging in "theoretical" activity, if his intelligence and ability are equal to it; for leadership he is neither born nor chosen. A movement with great aims must therefore be anxiously on its guard not to lose contact with the broad masses. It must examine every question primarily from this standpoint and make its decisions accordingly. It must, furthermore, avoid everything which might diminish or even weaken its ability to move the masses, not for "demagogic" reasons, but in the simple knowledge that without the mighty force of the mass of a people, no great idea, however lofty and noble it may be, can be realized....
The function of propaganda does not lie in scientific training an individual, but in calling the masses' attention to certain facts, processes, necessities, etc., whose significance is thus for the first time placed within their field of vision. The whole art consists in doing this so skillfully that everyone will be convinced that the fact is real, the process necessary, the necessity correct, etc. But since propaganda is not and cannot be the necessity in itself, since its function, like the poster, consists in attracting the attention of the crowd, and not in educating those who are already educated or who are striving after education and knowledge, its effect for the most part must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect.
All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Consequently, the greater the mass it is intended to reach, the lower its purely intellectual level will have to be. But if, as in the propaganda for sticking out during a war, the aim is to influence a whole Volk, we must avoid excessive intellectual demands on our public, and too much caution cannot be exerted in this direction. The more modest its intellectual ballast, the more exclusively it takes into consideration the emotions of the masses, the more effective it will be. And this is the best proof of the soundness or unsoundness of a propaganda campaign, and not success in pleasing a few scholars or young aesthetes.
The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the great masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form, the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the broad masses. The fact that our bright boys do not understand this, merely shows how mentally lazy and conceited they are.
Once we understand how necessary it is for propaganda to be adjusted to the broad mass, the following rule results: It is a mistake to make propaganda many-sided, like scientific instruction, for instance. The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogans. As soon as you sacrifice this slogan and try to be many-sided, the effect will piddle away, for the crowd can neither digest nor retain the material offered. In this way the result is weakened and in the end entirely cancelled out....
What, for example, would we say about a poster that was supposed to advertise a new soap and that described other soaps as "good?" We would only shake our heads. Exactly the same applies to political advertising. The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for. Its task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy, and then set it before the masses with academic fairness; its task is to serve our own right, always and unflinchingly....
The people in their overwhelming majority are so feminine by nature and attitude that sober reasoning determines their thoughts and actions far less than emotion and feeling. And this sentiment is not complicated, but very simple and all of a piece. It does not have multiple shadings; it has a positive and a negative; love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie, never half this way and half that way, never partially, or that kind of thing...
The nationalization of the broad masses can never be achieved by half-measures, by weakly emphasizing a so-called objective standpoint, but only by a ruthless and fanatically one-sided orientation toward the goal to be achieved. That is to say, a people cannot be made "national" in the sense understood by our present-day bourgeoisie, meaning with so and so many limitations, but only nationalistic with the entire vehemence that is inherent in the extreme. Poison is countered only by an antidote, and only the shallowness of a bourgeois mind can regard the middle course as the road to heaven.
The broad masses of the Volk consist neither of professors nor of diplomats. The scantiness of the abstract knowledge they possess directs their sentiments more to the world of feeling. That is where their positive or negative attitude lies. It is receptive only to an expression of force in one of these two directions and never to a half-measure hovering between the two. Their emotional attitude at the same time conditions their extraordinary stability. Faith is harder to shake than knowledge, love succumbs less to change than does respect, hate is more enduring than aversion, and the impetus to the mightiest upheavals on this earth has at all times consisted less in a scientific knowledge dominating the masses than in a fanaticism which inspired them and sometimes in a hysteria which drove them forward. Anyone who wants to win the broad masses must know the key that opens the door to their heart. Its name is not objectivity (read weakness), but will and power.
The soul of the Volk can only be won if along with carrying on a positive struggle for our own aims, we destroy the opponent of these aims. The people at all times see the proof of their own right in ruthless attack on a foe, and to them renouncing the destruction of the adversary seems like uncertainty with regard to their own right, if not a sign of their own un-right. The broad masses are only a piece of Nature and their sentiment does not understand the mutual handshake between two people who claim that they want the opposite things. What the Volk desires is the victory of the stronger and the destruction of the weak, or his unconditional subjection....
Here again it is not seldom a question of overcoming prejudices which are not based on reason, but, for the most part unconsciously, are supported only by sentiment. To overcome this barrier of instinctive aversion, of emotional hatred, of prejudiced rejections, is a thousand times harder than to correct a faulty or erroneous scientific opinion. False concepts and poor knowledge can be eliminated by instruction, he resistance of the emotions never. Here only an appeal to these mysterious powers themselves can be effective; and the writer can hardly ever accomplish this, but almost exclusively the orator....This should surprise no one. Go to a theater performance and witness a play at three o'clock in the afternoon and the same play with the same actors at night, and you will be amazed at the difference in effect and impression.
... There are halls which leave people cold for reasons that are hard to discern, but which somehow pose the most violent resistance to any creation of mood.... In all these cases we have to do with an encroachment upon man's freedom of will. This applies most, of course, to meetings attended by people with a contrary attitude of will, who must now be won over to a new will. In the morning and even during the day, People's will power seems to struggle with the greatest energy against an attempt to force upon them a strange will and a strange opinion. At night, however, they succumb more easily to the dominating force of a stronger will. For, in truth, every such meeting represents a wrestling bout between two opposing forces.... The same purpose, after all, is served by the artificially made, and yet mysterious twilight in Catholic churches, the burning lamps, incense, music, etc....
Important as the Movement's literature may be, it will in our present position be more important for the equal and uniform training of the upper and lower leaders than for the winning of the hostile masses. Only in the rarest cases will a convinced Social Democrat or a fanatical Communist condescend to acquire a National Socialist pamphlet, let alone a book, to read it and from it gain an insight into our conception of life or to study the critique on his own. Even a newspaper will be read but very seldom if it does not bear his own party's stamp. Besides, this would be of little use; for the general aspect of a single copy of a newspaper is so chopped up and so divided in its effect that looking at it once cannot be expected to have any influence on the reader. We may and must expect no one, for whom pennies count, to subscribe steadily to an opposing newspaper merely from the urge for objective enlightenment. Scarcely one out of ten thousand will do this. Only a man who has already been won to the Movement will steadily read the party organ, and he will read it as a running news service of his Movement.
The case is quite different with the "spoken" leaflet [i.e. flyers and broadsheets]! The man in the street will far sooner take it into his hands, especially if he gets it for nothing, and all the more if the headlines plastically treat a topic which at the moment is in everyone's mouth. By a more or less thorough perusal, it may be possible by such a leaflet to call his attention to new viewpoints and attitudes, even in fact to a new movement. But even this, in the most favorable case, will provide only a slight impetus, never an accomplished fact. For the leaflet, too, can only suggest or point to something, and its effect will only appear in combination with a subsequent more thorough going instruction and enlightenment of its readers. And this is and remains the mass meeting. The mass meeting is also necessary for the reason that in it the individual, who at first, while becoming a supporter of a young movement, feels lonely and easily succumbs to the fear of being alone, for the first time gets the picture of a larger community, which in most people has a strengthening, encouraging effect. The same man, within a company or a battalion, surrounded by all his comrades, would set out on an attack with a lighter heart than if left entirely on his own. In the crowd he always feels somewhat sheltered, even if a thousand reasons actually argue against it. But the community of the great demonstrations not only strengthens the individual, it also unites and helps to create an esprit de corps.
The man who is exposed to grave tribulations, as the first advocate of a new doctrine in his factory or workshop, absolutely needs the strengthening which lies in the conviction of being a member and fighter in a great comprehensive body. And he obtains an impression of this body for the first time in a mass demonstration. When from his little workshop or big factory, in which he feels very small, he steps for the first time into a mass meeting and has thousands and thousands of people of the same opinions around him; when, as a seeker, he is swept away by three or four thousand others into the mighty effect of suggestive intoxication and enthusiasm, when the visible success and agreement of thousands confirm to him the rightness of the new doctrine and for the first time arouse doubt in the truth of his previous conviction—then he himself has succumbed to the magic influence of what we designate as "mass suggestion." The will, the longing, and also the power of thousands are accumulated in every individual. The man who enters such a meeting doubting and wavering leaves it inwardly reinforced: he has become a link in the community.
The National Socialist Movement must never forget this....
In reforming the NSDAP after his release from prison, Hitler found a new audience. It was no longer concentrated primarily in Bavaria, and it came from a younger group, many uprooted by the post-war inflation and economic dislocation and now cut off from normal ties of family and jobs. To these young people, alienation was now a source of pride. From this group came a new set of leaders who ousted the older všlkisch leaders whose political style had been shaped by the pre-war years. The impact of this new generation is well described in the post-war memoirs of Dr. Albert Krebs, who became the Nazi Gauleiter in Hamburg.
Characteristic of this period was the steady disappearance of all leaders and subordinate leaders (with the exception of a few parliamentary deputies) whose views and methods of struggle were still rooted in prewar days. Their places were taken by the young men of what was known as the front generation of 25-35 years old. The importance of this changing of the guard can hardly be overemphasized. The openness of the feeling and judgment of these young men, their unweakened power of faith, their sheer physical energy and pugnacity lent the Party an impetus, which the bourgeois parties above all could not match. Only rarely can the attack of youth be parried with the wire entanglement of grey-haired experience or the barbed-wire barricades of bitter scepticism. For the youth of the twenties these were nothing but a new provocation to their defiance and revolutionary enthusiasm. The quickest to feel it were those Všlkisch groups and parties whose leadership represented conservative, or rather reactionóary, views taken over from the past. Within only two short years they no longer had any political role whatsoever, even though such of them as the ŇGerman Všlkisch League of Defense and DefianceÓ had at one time several hunódred thousand followers. Even in Hamburg, where the development of the NSDAP progressed rather slowly, the Všlkisch Freedom Party was already after one year in total disintegration. "Without young people," one of their representatives confessed to me, "nothing can be organized, not even the distribution of leaflets.Ó
Many of the new recruits were veterans who had been unable to integrate themselves into the civilian life of the Republic. One from Bad Harzburg described his 'conversion' for the local historian.
For me this was the start of a completely new life. There was only one thing in the world for me and that was service in the movement. All my thoughts were centered on the movement. I could talk only politics. I was no longer aware of anything else. At the time I was a promising athlete; I was very keen on sport, and it was going to be my career. But I had to give this up too. My only interest was agitation and propaganda .
A party full of such enthusiasts would face immense problems of discipline. Not surprisingly, local Party organizations during these early years more closely resembled street gangs than conventional political parties. The Munich office did not take the lead in appointing local leaders. That task was left to fierce competition, and even local Nazi big-wigs were constantly required to re-prove himself to his followers by continued drive and radicalism. No doubt this competition contributed substantially to the dynamic appeal of the NSDAP, but it also facilitated the growth of serious internal conflict. The following account is by a successful practitioner of this "Social-Darwinist" Ňsurvival of the fittestÓ approach to party administration.
When in the year 1914 our magnificent army went to war, leadership was conferred by rank.... But as the years went by, and the period of the great material scarcities arrived, with their incredible spiritual and physical demands, the only real leader, so far as his troops were concerned, was the man who proved himself in a crisis. The thing that then counted in an officer was not his uniform but the example he set people and his readiness to die for them. Here in blood, pain and mud was born National Socialism, to which similar laws later applied, though under apparently quite different conditions. But basically in the movement it is only the true man, not the official, who is leader.
This explains why there was very often tension in the Party. The movement wanted to see men at the top who understood how to master conflict and opposition and who would yield to no one. If the leadership appeared to fall short, they were soon discontented and, because their obedience had been voluntarily given, there was risk of serious disturbance. The falling short might not even be real, only suspected; but still, if some individual had personal designs and spread accusations in the attempt to secure a following, serious damage could be done.
The quieter things were, the greater was this continual threat of internal unrest in the still immature party; the revolutionary spirits wanted to find an outlet, and as soon as the external enemy was less active or less under attack, they turned their energy inwards. This hidden process, constantly at work within the movement, was the death of many a local branch in the early period and more than one Gauleiter fell victim to it. The leader of an area grew in the struggle and learned his lessons both from his opponents and from his own troop.
Hitler appears to have believed that true leaders emerge through a process of survival of the fittest. The next document is most instructive in this regard. In 1921, Gustav Seifert had founded a Hanover branch of the NSDAP. In 1925, after the re-founding of the party, he wrote to Hitler asking to be re-appointed Gauleiter. This was the reply he received.
You know from your earlier activity as a branch leader of the National Socialist German Workers' Party that Herr Hitler takes the view on principle that it is not the job of the Party leadership to "appoint" Party leaders. Herr Hitler is today more than ever convinced that the most effective fighter in the National Socialist movement is the man who wins respect for himself as leader through his own achievements. You yourself say in your letter that almost all the members follow you. Then why don't you take over the leadership of the branch?
Although Hitler admired ruthlessness in the pursuit of power, he also showed a remarkable tendency to remain loyal to early associates even when they proved themselves incompetent and corrupt. This fact was known by all the leaders of the party, who exploited it to their own benefit.
There is no way to dispute the sincerity of Paul Goebbels' conversion to Hitler's more pragmatic and less ideological approach to National Socialism, but it is also clear that Goebbels benefitted immensely from that decision. By the end of October 1926, Hitler had appointed the 29 year old editor to be the new Nazi Gauleiter of Berlin. Only on very rare occasions did Hitler intervene personally in such appointments. Here, he had come to recognize Goebbels ability and was anxious to conciliate him after the unpleasant disputes over the Working Committee. Goebbels, in turn, had accepted the failure of the Strasser group and had come to admire Hitler without reservation. He accepted the new post with alacrity, even though it was not going to be an easy post. As the largest city in Germany, Berlin posed a number of difficult problems, not least because of the hopeless divisions then existing within the NSDAP groups there. The following reports were written by a leading figure in the Berlin NSDAP.
The internal party situation has not been good this month. The state of affairs which has developed in our Gau reached such a climax this time that a complete disruption of the Berlin organization seemed likely. The tragedy of the Gau has been that it has never had a proper leader. particularly necessary in this city of millions. With all respect to the first Gauleiter, Comrade Dr Schlange, who has worn himself out, he never succeeded in establishing a clear line in the Gau. He lacked the gift of oratory and his work was paralyzed by much unjust hostility... There began slowly to develop in the Gau an opposition which strongly criticized the bad state of affairs.... This opposition was partly justified, but it was unruly rather than positive or objective, and when Comrade Dr Schlange transferred the management of the Gau to the deputy Gauleiter, Comrade Schmiedicke, it spread further and further. This comrade was even less capable of the determination required to master the confused situation. The result was that the opposition gathered fresh strength...The fighting efficiency of the Party sank to nil. Only a very few branches in the Gau—Neukšlln and Spandau—looked at things dispassionately and persevered patiently, partly on their own responsibility. The unity of both these branches was preserved by the complete isolation of their membership from the details of the personal intrigues, which went on in the meetings of the branch leaders. These two branches have an especial significance in that both, particularly Neukšlln, are situated in the largest centers of Marxism.
When it proved impossible to establish order in the general chaos and when the local opposition groups went so far as to ignore all the decisions of the deputy Gauleiter, negotiations were started with the Reich party leadership in Munich with the request for a new Gauleiter. We received at length the news that Comrade Dr Goebbels would probably become the future Gauleiter of Berlin. A genuine sigh of relief went up from the disorganized Gau, proving how much all the comrades had felt the lack of a real leader. An official statement has not yet been made, but all Berlin comrades confidently hope that Comrade Dr Goebbels will definitely come....
Unfortunately, the Goebbels' diaries covering his early and important years in Berlin have not yet been found. But a number of other sources indicate that Goebbels rapidly succeeded in turning the energy and violence of Party activists outward, against political opponents especially the Communists, instead of against other Nazis. It was a difficult and bloody struggle, but both the new Gauleiter, and his radical followers loved it.
On the 11th of this month the Party held a public mass meeting in the Pharus [Beer] Halls in Wedding, the real working class quarter, with the subject: "The Collapse of the Bourgeois Class State." Comrade Dr Goebbels was the speaker. It was quite clear to us what that meant. It had to be visibly shown that National Socialism is determined to reach the workers. We succeeded once before in getting a foothold in Wedding. There were huge crowds at the meeting. More than 1,000 people filled the hall whose political composition was four-fifths SA to one-fifth KPD. But the latter had gathered their main forces in the street.
When the meeting was opened by Comrade Daluege, the SA leader, there were, as was to be expected. provocative shouts of '"Point of order!". After the KPD members had been told that we, not they, decided points of order, and that they would have the right to ask questions after the talk by Comrade Dr Goebbels, the first scuffling broke out. Peace seemed to be restored until there was renewed heckling. When the chairman announced that the hecklers would be sent out if the interruptions continued, the KPD worked themselves into a frenzy. Meanwhile, the SA had gradually surrounded the center of the disturbance, and the Communists, sensing the danger, suddenly became aggressive. What followed all happened within three or four minutes. Within seconds both sides had picked up chairs, beer mugs, even tables, and a savage fight began. The Communists were gradually pushed under the gallery which we had taken care to occupy and soon chairs and glasses came hurtling down from there also. The fight was quickly decided: the KPD left with 85 wounded, more or less: that is to say, they could not get down the stairs as fast as they had calmly and 'innocently' climbed them. On our side we counted 3 badly wounded and about 10-12 slightly. When the police appeared the fight was already over. Marxist terrorism had been bloodily suppressed .. .
Ironically, while local units of the party acted with full independent and in frequent conflict with other party organizations, Hitler had established himself as the unchallenged leader. His personal leadership provided the principle cohesive force within the Party. This fact was recognized even by Gregor Strasser, the principle opponent of Hitler's arbitrary rule.
9 January 1927 Article by Gregor Strasser, in The National Socialist for Saxony
The tremendous superiority which the NSDAP has as a fighting instrument compared with all the other formations which instinctively pursue the same aim of German liberty and the rebirth of the German people, is due to the fact that we have the outstanding leader, who holds not only supreme power but also the love of his followers—a much stronger binding force.
"Duke and vassal!" In this ancient German relationship of leader and follower, fully comprehensible only to the German mentality and spirit, lies the essence of the structure of the NSDAP, the driving force of this aggressive power, the conviction of victory!
Heil Hitler! This is our first salute in the new year as it was the last one in the old year: Heil Hitler! In this salute lies the pride in the success of the past year which in all the Volk of our beloved fatherland saw the powerful, irresistible progress of the National Socialist idea! In thousands of public meetings, members' evenings, in many hundreds of mass meetings the idea of National Socialism, the name of Adolf Hitler, was hurled among the masses of the German people and a hush fell on the ranks of this enslaved, exploited, starved people. An awareness of this glowing will for the struggle, the struggle to preserve the German people, the struggle for that people's freedom, freedom both within and without—for the one is worthless and impossible without the other —an awareness of those metallic accents of a brutal harshness which call things by their real names and challenges those things to a struggle, a relentless struggle giving no quarter....
Friends, a new year lies before us. Let us join hands in a silent vow to struggle in the new year with redoubled, with threefold vigor, each one at his post, for the victory of National Socialism, that is for the inward and outward freeing of the German people, to struggle without wavering, without flinching, in selfless devotion and true comradeship. And then, friends, raise your right arm and cry out with me proudly, eager for the struggle, and loyal unto death, 'Heil Hitler'.
The annual general meeting illustrated the Party's pride in its rejection of democratic procedures in favor of the leader-principle
2-3 September 1928 Minutes of Annual General Meeting of the NSDAP
Above all, Hitler notes the gradual penetration of the whole movement with the basic concepts of our ideas. He stresses primarily the gradual consolidation of the leadership principle [Fźhrerprinzip]. The movement can be proud of the fact that it is the only one based on a logical foundation. This was necessary in order to make up for our numerical minority by a maximum degree of inner discipline, stability, fighting power, in short, energy....
The disintegration spreads slowly but surely; there is hardly any serious resistance. But anti-Semitism grows as an idea. What was hardly there ten years ago is there today: the Jewish question has been brought to people's notice, it will not disappear any more and we shall make sure that it becomes an international world question; we shall not let it rest until the question has been solved. We think we shall live to see that day (enthusiastic applause)....
The chairman of the meeting, Gregor Strasser, expresses the mood of the meeting very well by remarking that any other party would now say that they had heard the reports of the chairman, whereas we National Socialists have heard the speech of the leader. And there is the same difference between the chairman of the old parties and the leader of the movement as there is between the report of a chairman of a party and the speech we have just heard.
The party business is now quickly dealt with according to the regulations. First, "the election of the statutory executive committee." To the amusement of the audience, Strasser proposes NSDAP member Hitler as Chairman. He notes that he has been unanimously elected by a show of hands ˙ (laughter). In the place of Comrade Schneider, who has been transferred by his employer away from the city, Comrade City Councillor Fiehler is elected Secretary in the same way. Also Reich Treasurer Comrade Schwarz, who had "resigned." is elected as first Treasurer, whereupon Strasser declares the acceptance of the election by the persons nominated.
But the appeal of the NSDAP was not primarily a question of ideology or its organization. Its biggest appeal was its rhetoric, and the accompanying activity, marches, mass rallies. Constant agitation, and even violence distinguished this party. The flavor of Nazi agitation during these critical days can be seen in two newspaper reports from Eutin, a small insignificant town of about 40,000 located outside Lźbeck in the province of Scheswig-Holstein.
13 February 1926 Article in the Anzeiger fźr das Fźrstentum Lźbeck
On 7 February a Discussion Evening of the NSDAP took place. A party member spoke on the topic of parliamentarianism or Všlkisch dictatorship. He declared that the Weimar Constitution was nothing more than a refined, well-thought out work designed to guarantee the irresponsibility of the so-called leadership of the people. For according to this Constitution, who really bore the responsibility for actions? ... By law Members of the Reichstag are immune from prosecution, which means they can never be called to account for their actions! ...
If something goes wrong in political life, ... inevitably it is the people who suffer the most, while the so-called "responsible" ministers are only punished with a "vote of no confidence," and are replaced by other "irresponsible" party functionaries. The Weimar Constitution guarantees this rule by mediocrities, by those whom the people commonly refer to simply as "slimeballs."...
But perhaps some may say, the Reich President, who gives the charge to the chancellor to form a cabinet, bears the responsibility! To us it is a matter of deep shame, that our old, revered Hindenburg protects the administrative mire of this capitalistic, parliamentary, democratic swamp with his own good name and permits the real wire-pullers to work their ruthless policies while hiding cowardly and irresponsibly behind him. The Všlkisch concept of a dictatorship demands, on the contrary, the total elimination of this parliamentary System, born out of Jewish parentage, because no reform can ever make it work better since it is essentially un-German and full of deceit. The speaker demanded fully responsible leadership, inspired with a truly German and not Jewish spirit, in all influential positions, a true Všlkisch awareness, and a Všlkisch sense of responsibility in all men who work with their hands or with their brains.... The local party leader then spoke about the true causes for our disastrous situation at present.
1. our complete enslavement to international financial capitalism É and
2. the wretched class-hatred which rips out people into two halves.
He lashed the capitalistic swamp of parliamentarianism in all its appearances, and pointed out the way to break the slavery of interest payments. Germany's liberation from this slavery will only be possible if we can win back once more the masses who today no longer believe in their own Volk identity, and yet who today despair over their own social conditions, if we can win them back to a unified Volk community. The goal of National Socialism remains majestic and clear: Freedom for our Fatherland, for a new Third German Reich!
And as before, Hitler's own speeches were of central importance in focusing the appeal. His appearance in Eutin was typical of hundreds of appearances during these years.
5 May 1926 Article on Hitler's Eutin Speech in Anzeiger fźr des Fźrstentum Lźbeck
The following report comes from official sources: On Sunday, 9 May 1926, in the Schlo§ Hotel in Eutin, there took place a public mass rally of the National Socialist German Workers' Party. A large number of the Movement's followers from all parts of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg gathered here in order to hear their Fźhrer, since his appearance in Prussia and in the Hanseatic cities is still prohibited. Greeted with tumultuous cheering and shouts of "Heil," Adolf Hitler began his two and a half-hour presentation before a group more than a thousand strong, who sat absorbed in deep silence, without a single interruption, throughout his speech, only to erupt at its termination into a seemingly endless storm of applause. In his remarks Adolf Hitler said the following:
German Volk comrades! In November 1918 when the Revolution broke out, the Leftist leaders expected and promised an era of good times, of beauty and dignity for our German Volk, and declared war upon Capitalism which itself wanted to rule this free people. They held out the promise of Bread, Freedom, and Honor. Who, however, is satisfied with the situation today? Neither those on the Right, nor those on the Left. Admittedly, many are too lazy or too cowardly to even admit their dissatisfaction. We'll not talk about those people. And even less do we want to discuss those snatchers, a small gang of persons who prey upon the existing distress in order to exploit it to their own interest. 1918 did not come up to the expectations of the Left. Bread! Today, it's a rather scarce commodity, and unemployment is growing everywhere.... In 1918, day dreamers thought that the right to an eight-hour day had been assured. Today many consider themselves lucky if they are allowed to work eight hours in the week! They have neither bread nor work. Some of their fellow workers, for example those on the railroads, must work till exhaustion each day, sometimes for more than 12 hours. And meanwhile, others are crying for work! What a pitiful situation!
They assured us we would have Freedom! Indeed, the authority of the State was said to serve only that the Volk could fulfill its highest potential! Instead, we find ourselves ruled by foreign hands, bound to the spirit of a foreign Diktat
[Treaty of Versailles], and all the noisy speeches in the Reichstag mean only one thing: they are trying to find ways to fulfill the demands of these foreigners, without destroying ourselves, without starving ourselves to death. Our way of life now stands in service to foreigners. This is our Freedom! This is our Honor! If we really wanted to preserve our honor we should have held fast to our old State, but what do we see, for example, in the recent question about our flag! To the amazement of the rest of the world, we have changed our flag just like we would change our dirty underwear! True, we decided to adopt two flags—one Black-Red-Yellow, and one Black-White -Red with a Red-Yellow stripe in the upper corner! What does the world say to that? It laughs, and makes jokes at our expense. For more than 120 years, for example, France has had a red-white-and-blue flag; whether it was a republic, an empire, or again a republic, or again an empire, and then again a republic, it still stood true to its own flag. This flag is the true symbol of the Volk, not the form of government the State adopted. If the flag remains, honor remains. Should those who carry the flag be struck down dead, the honor of the flag is not lessened. The flag cannot be soiled by any enemy, only by those who carry it. That is what has happened with us. If our Republic changes its flag so easily, can anyone seriously wonder why the Republic seems to represent so little honor. Today Honor and Reputation are dismissed as old-fashioned ideas! But who can live without honor, without reputation. Only slaves, who exist only in order to work for others. Bread, Freedom, and Honor are all missing in our country today; we can no longer call ourselves a sovereign State (tumultuous applause).
Our Volk has become fragmented. One group thinks in international terms; another in national-monarchical concepts. The latter expect a great future for our country. But November 1918 showed clearly that national thinking was not deeply rooted in broad circles of our Volk. Meanwhile, our present State is a State of Negation. The internationalist-thinking group dreams of world solidarity, about the destruction of all bourgeois power. But it is a dream, a fantasy which they pursue. Our enemies threaten us militarily more than ever before; stronger than ever is the power of Capitalism, the true International Spirit! The world of finance, international finance, holds all the trump cards in the world today, in spite of 70 years of domestic campaigns against capitalism. Thus both camps have failed to reach their goals. Why has the Right not succeeded in helping true nationalism come to power? Some say it is because the lower classes are scoundrels, incapable of true national thinking. If this were true, we should abandon politics once and for all, for if 16 million of our Volk are scoundrels, then the German Volk is doomed to destruction.
No, such an explanation is cheap, and is indeed unconscionably frivolous. Whose fault is it that these 16 million cannot think along nationalistic lines? True personal characteristics come from birth: whoever is naturally courageous, is always courageous. Whoever reveals a talent in cowardice, stays so forever... Such attributes cannot be acquired. And the real test of behavior is always in the field, in the face of the enemy. And this test 16 million German workers passed with flying colors! Today in every corner of our land they are erecting monuments to our unknown soldiers, to those who anonymously yet loyally fulfilled their duty to the end. We should erect our largest monuments to the common German soldier, to the little man who knew very little indeed about his Fatherland, who had received very little from his Fatherland except misery and labor, and yet he did his duty! It is true, we all have to work, but the better placed, after they are finished with their work, have relaxation, blessings, and enjoyment, and the well-off have spiritual enrichment, education, museums. The worker gets his wages, sometimes not: but in the background there always lurks misery, hunger, impoverished dwellings. And this German Man from the working class fought valiantly for 4 long years! How can they be called scoundrels?
The German Volk is rich in virtues, richer than any other nation on earth (stormy applause) But our feelings of nationalism have not been what they should. Our Volk can be ruled as if we were children, easy to destroy, easy to mislead.... Whoever would criticize the lower classes, should first ask himself whether he is not partially responsible. Have we done everything that we could? The Right in particular has incurred a heavy guilt in this respect. They insist: we are Nationalists. Socialism is international; the two cannot go together, like fire and water. What a superficial conclusion that is. In 1800, how was German nationalism created? In those days, the only ties were with one's own state, that is with the ruling dynasty of one's own little land.... Only the intellectuals were able to look beyond the boundary markers of the dynastic states. Ideas of national unification were only just beginning, only starting. And in 1848 the first timid steps were taken, to make out of the 36 or 40 different Fatherlands a single genuine Fatherland. They did not realize then that only Destiny, only fighting, can unite a country. Then finally the gigantic one appeared [i.e. Bismarck], who with his powerful hands completed the unification. With this new Empire came a new concept of the State. And who represented this concept of nationalism? The Bourgeoisie, the propertied classes, but it was not shared with the rest of the German people. These possessors of the material and spiritual goods of the country were confronted with the difficult task of rearranging the whole way of life of our Volk; they had to repress the individual states, in order to elevate the Reich. And this difficult labor, which had to be carried out in a period of troublesome economic struggles, was not brought to a successful conclusion. That is the cause of our present weakness. The population grew. We had to export either people or goods, and in order to feed our increased numbers had either to conquer new farm lands or industrialize the country. We chose the latter.
Thereby came into existence a fourth Estate, the so-called proletariat.... If you want to evaluate the proletariat, you must begin by ignoring certain obvious externals, such as their clothes or their dwellings. Today some people say with disgust: "how common the workers look?" Does that make them bad human material? No! Was it inferior workers who trudged from their farms to the city with only a bundle on their back? Our emigrants to America made that country great. Emigrants are courageous individuals, who trust in their own powers. In similar fashion, the land East of the Elbe was once won for the Fatherland by just such emigrants. People who were filled with the idea of doing something. Thus, our great cities became filled with the best kind of human material.
But in the cities, according to Hitler, the workers became overworked by capitalists, exploited by financial criminals, and despised by the frightened middle class who thought that the well-being of industry depended upon the destruction of the talents and abilities of the workers. What nonsense! If the proletariat is ground down, the economy will be destroyed as well. But the burghers continued to stress only the economy, which must not be made to suffer. They called the workers "degenerate people" and rejected with narrow-minded conviction their demands, only to be forced to give in to them later on. So the workers, with their justifiable demands, stood isolated and alone. They lacked leaders. And in this situation, leaders for this worthy Volk community of workers arose, not from the thoughtless burghers, but from the Jews who promised them help, and actually did help the workers a little. The Jew thought to himself, here is an army of millions; whoever leads that army, can apply its strength against whomever he wants, if only he knows how to bring it off. The workers, he thought, have little intelligence, for they must give all their time to working! So he played upon the trust of the workers, in order to direct their strength against the bourgeoisie. The workers should help the Jew destroy the national economy.
Think for a moment about the foreign situation. The world was already divided up when the German Reich became one. Its economic competition was everywhere viewed as a painful threat. All of this placed a heavy burden upon the Reich.... It was necessary to spread the concept of nationalism among the masses of the people.... But the upper classes were too tied to their material and intellectual possessions. One can only be truly free, if he has nothing to loose and everything to win; that alone makes one invincible.... An idea, if it is to become invincible, must become anchored in the broad masses who have nothing to loose and everything to win. The spirit of nationalism, like Christianity, can grow strong and become victorious only when it finds support in the widest masses. In those years, precisely this support was lacking, and thus the national idea fell. The millions in the lower classes were not won over, there was no rearing of a broadly nationalized mass of the Volk. Woe to the nation that does not concern itself with these lower classes! ...
Out of these thoughts, six years ago, our young National Socialist Movement was founded. Its single concept was: how can Germany be lifted up high again? In the first place, this requires power-political Willpower and men with iron hearts, who will stand up against the shame which has been attached to the German name. And these forces must be supported by a real Personality who constructs anew and prevents decay. Remember that once upon a time, it was one man, one head, who created this German Reich. Secondly, a new political faith and an excess of will-power must correct that which has previously been falsely done and led us to destruction. This is the faith in social justice and the will to national freedom—which are not contradictions, but opposites which are reconciled in the concept of National Socialism. Germany can free itself from its yoke of slavery only when the 16 millions of the Left become fanatic nationalists and the 14 millions of the Right turn into ardent supporters of social justice. And when this State appears—and Germany must become National Socialist or else it will be destroyed—then its symbol with be the Swastika in its flag. The red field, the color of iron-willed social justice, the white, our sacred national enthusiasm, and the swastika itself as a symbol of work. We believe that this flag will one day wave over Germany, when that new Reich, for which we fight and struggle, for which we will endure even the most extreme and extensive suffering, has come into existence. And to this end, our Volk needs an excessive amount of will-power and dedication: for when a State is being destroyed through an excess of cowardice and wickedness, it can only be saved by an overdose of heroism and loyalty! (tumultuous, never-ending applause).
Tirelessly, Hitler moved from town to town delivering speeches almost around the clock. Here are some characteristic excerpts.
That which paralyzed the German people in 1918 and later gnawed to its very marrow was the poison of a doctrine which had been active forty years previously, but had continued to gnaw now far more effectively than ever before. The doctrine was Marxism, the doctrine which denies the value of the great leader, and proposes class warfare....
Marxism necessarily must become a movement of people who, engaged in nothing but physical labor, do not have the ability to think clearly or as a result of their work have become hostile to mental labor. It is a gigantic organization of working animals without spiritual leadership. Marxism, therefore, must become class warfare, and thereby it becomes what its founders wanted it to be: an instrument in the service of a race striving for world domination, and deadly opposed to true socialism. It is the weapon needed by the Jew of the international Stock Exchange in order to conquer this world. Deep are the impressions which this doctrine has made on our people. The idea of authority has been overthrown; freedom of action and the creative opportunities of the individual are restricted; the genius of leadership is shackled, which paralyzes any free development. In place of all this, there is set the democratic principle of decision by the majority, which always signifies the victory of the lower, the more inferior, the weaker, and above all of the cowardy and irresponsible. The individual is smothered by the mass....
:We see that in mankind individual giants continuously tower over the rest. There are always certain nations which proceed in advance of all the others, nations which in the eternal struggle with nature are able to discover her secrets and to make them available for the rest of humanity. These nations are thereby able to open the gates for other people. By means of this eternal struggle, individual nations are sifted out....
Force determines the way of life. Right exists only when it is created and protected by power and force. It bespeaks the greatness of a Volk if it can find the strength to raise itself upward. But when a people dances Negro dances and listens only to jazz music, then we need not be surprised if it should perish, and seek out parliamentary monstrosities. He who does not honor his past is not worthy of a better future. A people must be taught to struggle. Struggle must be brought to the realization of a people.
The idea of struggle is as old as life itself, for life is only preserved because other living things perish through struggle.... In this struggle, the stronger, the more able win, while the less able, the weak lose. Struggle is the father of all things. Only through struggle has man raised himself above the animal world. Even today it is not by the principles of humanity that man lives or is able to preserve himself above the animal world, but solely by means of the most brutal struggle. As it is with the individuals so it is in the destiny of nations. Only by struggle are the strong able to raise themselves above the weak. And every people that loses out in this eternally shifting struggle has, according to the laws of nature, received its just dessert. A Weltanschauung [way of looking at the world] that denies the idea of struggle is contrary to nature and will lead a Volk that is guided by it to destruction. The road that must be traveled by a Volk which wishes to develop itself still higher is not the road of comfort and ease, but the road of relentless struggle. For if you do not fight for life, then life will never be won.
The first fundamental of any rational Weltanschauung is the fact that on earth and in the universe force alone is decisive. Whatever goal man has reached is due to his originality plus his brutality.... There will never be a solution to the German problem until we return to the three fundamental principles which control the existence of every nation: the concept of struggle, the purity of blood, and the ingenuity of the individual.
The impact of these speeches and meetings can be traced in the following documents. The first is a letter home to her parents by an unknown woman written just prior to the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923
22 October 1923 Letter from Anna, an Eyewitness to Hitler's Oratory
My dear ones:
I have learned through Hermann that Father is ardently interested in the Hitler Movement; and therefore there is something I'd like to pass on to you, for during the past week I attended an evening lecture [at which Hitler spoke] .... I don't want to tell you what was said by Hitler and the other officers; I assume that you can read about that in the [local newspaper]. I would much rather tell you about the mood, more correctly, the enthusiasm and deep conviction that dwells in all the adherents of the Všlkisch Movement. Above all, they consider Hitler the only man who has not yet abused their trust, and therefore they regard him as the only man that they can trust unconditionally. A Dr. (I don't remember his name) begged all the members to subordinate themselves to their Fźhrer because he desired only what is best for them; he pointedly suggested to the older members that they ought to think back and try to recall whether Hitler had ever promised too much, whether everything had not always turned out just as had predicted. And even though he (the speaker) often did not see eye to eye with Hitler, he always told himself: Our Fźhrer is more clever and wiser than you—subordinate yourself to him! Then it is a great mistake to think that it is so difficult for an individual to subordinate himself, to learn to obey.
Hitler spoke on this evening only to members—not to the public—and therefore the entire speech had a different tone. I have never heard any other speaker (and I have, after all, heard very many) who was so able to penetrate into the soul of the individual, who spoke with such a sense of righteousness about those confused German brothers and sisters who even today know no Fatherland. To show them the way to the Fatherland, to teach them to love the Fatherland is the principal, and at the same time, the most difficult task. I believe there is no man on German soil that can do more to awaken in all of us this love of our homeland and loyalty to our Fatherland. His past efforts certainly have not been in vain, for the number of his followers is as great as their faith in him. Unmatched rejoicing breaks out when he enters the hall, and he has to wait a long time until the shouting dies down. I only wish that the good people of [her home town] could experience such an hour as this, in order to be shaken out of the apathy and indifference in which they currently wallow. They are always blabbing so about the high cost of living and such things, that most of them forget that nothing at all will change if they fail to support these men who sincerely concern themselves with the possibilities of the future of the German people. Victory for the Swastika is a real life or death matter in these days, for such a victory would decisively determine a better future for us all. For my part, I have the firmest faith that our good German people will succeed in sweeping away that crew which since the revolution [of 1918/19] have brought us ever deeper into misery and confusion.
Invited to a mass rally in Nźrnberg celebrating the release from jail of a popular Right-Wing para-military leader who had been sentenced for slander, Anna gives a good description of the typical ceremonies surrounding Nazi meetings.
The hall was very nicely decorated with the old [Reich] black-white-red flag, and the individual units [of the anti-Republican para-military groups] threaded their way through the audience and the rows of chairs like a gray-green snake.... A Captain Gšring directed a few pithy words to the assembled people, urging them all to unite around the Fźhrer in complete loyalty—that inheritance from our forefathers—since the Fźhrer desires only our best efforts. With him, through thick and thin!
[The recently freed Lieutenant Ro§bach then spoke.] His words were directed to the military units before him, calling on them to examine their dedication. Were they ready and willing to fight, and were they ready and willing to die if necessary. A single, loud, and solemn "Yes" sounded and one felt that this was not the frivolous enthusiasm of a 1914, but rather that all knew full well what to expect from this battle. I am proud that I have participated in this moment in which such conviction and such resolution prevailed to help the recovery of our homeland from its sad situation.
The high point of the evening was not reached until Hitler stepped to the podium. His appearance was greeted with an endless series of "öHeilsÓ and in a few words, he spoke from his heart into the hearts of all. You cannot imagine how silent it becomes as soon as this man speaks; it is as if all of the thousand listeners are no longer able to breathe. When he angrily condemns the deeds of those who have ruled our people since the revolution and those who now prevent him and his followers from settling accounts with those November bigwigs [the Revolutionaries of 1918], cheers ring through the hall for minutes on end. There is no silence until he waves his hands repeatedly to indicate that he wants to continue speaking. We should organize ourselves, he added, only if we have the courage to sacrifice ourselves and fight for our people and our Fatherland. Adolf Hitler is so firmly convinced of the correctness of his nationalistic views that he automatically communicates this conviction to his listeners. God grant that, as trailbreaker to better times, he will be able to gather many more of our brothers and sisters under the Swastika. After all, every class is represented. Workers and lower-ranking civil servants, officers and storm troopers, students and old pensioners all sit together, and all are in agreement with the great concept embodied in the person of Adolf Hitler. It is often said that when ten Germans come together, eleven political parties are represented. Here, however, I have never heard anyone say that Hitler should do this, or that he should have done that. Sometimes it almost seems to me as if Hitler used a magic charm in order to win the unconditional confidence of old and young alike. When one considers, however, that the common man, suffering from the spiritual malaise that goes hand in hand with economic misery, seeks stability and finds it in the one man who will not disappoint him, then one understands the jubilation that is evoked by his very appearance.
I think that all of you, and especially Father, now have a little insight into what I am experiencing.
The second document is a diary entry by Luise Solmitz, a retired school teacher whose enthusiasm about a Hitler rally in Hamburg is all the more remarkable because she was married to a Jew.
The April sun shone hot like in summer and turned everything into a picture of gay expectation. There was immaculate order and discipline, although the police left the whole square to the party stewards and stood on the sidelines. Nobody spoke of "Hitler," always just "the Fźhrer," "the Fźhrer says," "the Fźhrer wants," and what he said and wanted seemed right and good. The hours passed, the sun shone, expectations rose. In the background, at the edge of the track there were columns of carriers, like ammunition carriers. What they contained were crates of beer. Airplanes above us. Testing of the loudspeakers, buzzing of the movie cameras. It was nearly 3 p.m. "The Fźhrer is coming!" A ripple went through the crowds. Around the speaker's platform one could see hands raised in the Hitler salute. A speaker opened the meeting, abused the "System." Nobody listened to him. A second speaker welcomed Hitler and made way for the man who had drawn 120,000 people of all classes and ages.
There stood Hitler in a simple black coat looking over the crowd, waiting—a forest of Swastika pennants floated up, the jubilation of this moment was given vent in a roaring salute. Main theme of his talk: Out of parties shall grow a nation, the German nation. He censured the "System." ("I want to know what there is left to be ruined in this state!"). "On the way here, Socialists confronted me with a poster: 'Turn back, Adolf Hitler.' Thirteen years ago I was a simple unknown soldier. I went my way. I never turned back. Nor shall I turn back now." Otherwise he made no personal attacks, nor any promises, vague or definite. His voice was hoarse after all his speaking during the previous days. When the speech was over, there was roaring enthusiasm and applause. Hitler saluted, gave his thanks, the Horst Wessel Song sounded out across the course. Hitler was helped into his coat. Then he went—How many look up to him with touching faith! as their helper, their savior, their deliverer from unbearable distress—to him who rescues the Prussian prince, the scholar, the clergyman, the farmer, the worker, the unemployed, who retrieves them all from the various parties, back into the Volk.
Who today is really behind Adolf Hitler? It is a splendidly organized, ever-growing, battle-ready and battle-proven party, which recognizes only one leader: their fanatically beloved Hitler. Every one of us knows that this man will triumph; every one of us knows that he will never be untrue to us.... We are proud to call ourselves Workers and German Socialists.... I assure you, it is not a question for us of gaining more seats in the Reichstag or such rubbish. We are interested in the souls of our German workers and farmers. Therefore ten fanatical fighters are more important to us than 1000 luke-warm voters, who will evaporate at the first opportunity. When you get a moment for silent reflection, ask yourself this question: where do you belong? To the man who has raised himself from the masses by his own powers, who knows what he wants, who is a whole man, a Fźhrer, and who in addition has the tremendous advantage of being a divinely inspired orator! ...
And who are the supporters of Adolf Hitler? Workers, simple workers who have found their way back to the Fatherland in spite of the bitter situation. Here in Berlin, we are robustly advancing. Every four weeks we hold two mass rallies, attended by thousands of people. I would like you to compare by a personal visit the differences apparent, out of hand, between the tea parties sponsored by the other [Right-Wing and anti-Republican] organizations and the mass meetings of the National Socialists. If you would be true to your political principles, you should sign up with us today.Long live the NSDAP! Long live our Fźhrer Adolf Hitler! Long live our sacred and future Greater Germany.
In 1933, a young American Sociologist Theodore Abel was studying in Germany when the Nazis came to power. He was impressed by the dynamism of the new Movement, and fascinated by the degree of dedication which party members demonstrated. In order to get more information on this, he conceived a unique plan. In 1934 he ran advertisements in a number of German newspapers, offering a large reward for the best essay on "Why I became a Nazi." The contestants were asked to describe the events which brought them to join the party, and their experiences in the struggle for power. More than 600 individuals responded. The Abel collection of essays, preserved at the Hoover Institute for War and Peace, at Stanford University, is a unique source in which we can study the "appeal of National Socialism" in these early years. The following documents are my translations of some of these essays.
Born on March 31, 1896, he was 38 years old when he wrote this essay. Drafted into the Army in 1915, when he was 19 years old, he served till the end of the war. Afterwards, he attended an engineering school in Berlin, and was hired by a series of construction companies, the last of them being in Duisburg. He supported the DNVP or Conservative Party.
During these years I often discussed politics with a friend who was a member of the German Všlkische Freedom Movement [the cover name for the NSDAP after the Putsch of 1923]. When Hitler was freed from prison and came to Essen for the first time to speak, I and a group of Duisburgers went to hear him at the Saalbau in Essen. The clear examples which Hitler employed in his speech, and his frankness impressed me, as did the energy which was manifested during the entire rally. I heard so much that was basically new that I needed time to digest it all. From that point on, I visited almost every National Socialist rally and made their viewpoint my own.
In 1928 my professional activity as construction chief of a large company brought me into contact with the pork-barrel tactics of the parliamentary parties, particularly those in the municipal councils, and it became clear to me that the German Nationals [the Conservatives] too were heavily involved, and I gradually saw that the German Nationals did not understand the economic situation and had not freed themselves from a totally false conception of factory workers. Thus I believed it necessary to join the [Nazi] party in order to try to win over many of my associates for the Adolf Hitler Movement. At the end of 1928 I registered with local headquarters.
Gradually it became clear to me that the parliamentary parties pursued all possible goals except those which were in the best interest of Germany and the German people. I saw that at best these parties only defended the interest of one group against another group, and in this struggle, only the Communists seemed to possess the energy and force to give sufficient strength to their demands, since they took to the streets, and prevailed there with brutal violence. Except for the NSDAP, there was no one else to oppose them, no one else who had the will, the means to make a stand against Marxism. People thought that this could safely be left up to the police. The middle-class parties, \from German National to the Center [Catholic], were constitutionally incapable of getting any real resistance to Marxism off the ground. [What happened at] the frequent public meetings with experienced speakers now shook people awake. By the beginning of 1929 it was difficult to fill any hall, because fights, started by organized Marxist hordes, had become so common. The police, who were always present in sufficient numbers, would then intervene, not to drive out the disruptive elements, but arbitrarily swinging their nightsticks on the heads of everyone around, and thus created the very opposite of what the Socialist Police Chief Severing had in mind. People who had previously been politically neutral, now began to see that they were being ruled by Socialists. The Social Democrats continued to believe that they could prevail by increasing the pay of the workers and civil servants, nationalizing industries with the help of foreign capital, and thus driving opponents out onto the streets. The number of unemployed became ever greater, while the unemployment benefits were constantly being decreased. I was long ago convinced that these numerous elections and changes in government would not end the crisis. We needed a complete revolution in all areas of public life.
Born on April 30, 1900, he was 34 years old when he wrote this essay. Son of a Catholic School Teacher, he too entered a teacher's college, graduating in 1922, but could not get a job. He then worked as a common laborer in the Schlossfabrik Herminghaus in Velbert.
Dinslaken - Nordrhein July 31, 1934
In my own person I experienced constant contradiction. By the petty bourgeois Germans, cut off by their class pride and class prejudice from the common people, I was looked down upon as only a worker. By the workers, because I had been educated, I was considered a Reactionary. The German National Peoples Party [the Conservatives] thought they could use me as their tool, in order to accomplish their capitalistic goals. And I immediately ran into difficulties when I presented the "pure socialist" point of view, namely that the German blue collar worker also had a right to be viewed as equally worthy German citizens and entitled to a just wage for his services. ... In this period of contradictions I visited numerous Socialist and Communist rallies. There I constantly ran up against the concept of class warfare, but I was pleased by their insistence that the workers of Germany also had a right to be recognized for their contribution to the nation. As a result, I announced my intention of resigning from the DNVP ... but refused to join any other party, for in all of them, no matter which ones, I saw remnants of class-conflict ideas....
He became a Nazi party member in 1922, and shortly afterwards a leading member of his local group in the town of Delmenhorst, a heavily Communist area in Oldenburg.
Since resistance in Delmenhorst itself was too strong, based as it was upon terror, and we had no terror with which to oppose it, we began to organize in the surrounding little villages, in preparation for our final assault on Delmenhorst proper. In time, I succeeded in erecting five strongholds around Delmenhorst, and eventually founded one in Delmenhorst itself, and even expanded beyond the limits of the county. Actually, and yet understandable from the National Socialist point of view, almost all of the recruits who joined us in these early years were either artisans or farmers. The so-called middle-class and intellectuals simply stood aloof, because materialistic and egotistical as they are, they saw no advantage for themselves in joining us, who at the most could only demand sacrifices from them. Thus in the fight for the soul of the German workers, a similar fight was going on to awaken the German souls of the middle-class and to inflame them with the idea of a Volk Community, and Volk Unity. We succeeded in this to a large extent by 1929, at the time of the Plebiscite against the Young Plan, where in spite of their reservations, the Steel Helmets [the veterans' organization] were forced to join us, and where the leading citizens began to breathe finally the air of National Socialism and flocked to us, joining in the ranks of the People's Community. The roadblocks in Oldenburg were overcome.˙
In 1929, he was appointed as teacher in the town of Rees, near Dźsseldorf, a 100% Catholic area and hereafter he spent his time fighting the Center Party and the Catholic Church Leadership.
In this fight, we National Socialists had to face a partiularly difficult enemy, who constantly tried to use Religion as a cover with which to work against us. Our task was to make it clear and open that WE were the real defenders of religion, since we had sworn a war to the death against the enemies of religion and the nation, and were carrying out that war even now, and secondly we had to open the eyes of the populace to the machinations of the Center Party politicians, who had not avoided making alliances even with the enemies of Christianity and the nation, and promised to go through thick and thin with them. Only gradually did the thought dawn upon the lower Rhenish population that Catholicism and the politics of the Center Party were two quite different things. As a public speaker, I rejoiced whenever I could talk on the theme: "Why I, as a Catholic teacher, am a National Socialist." Slowly people came to the real recognition that National Socialism was no enemy of religion, but only an enemy of the class-consciousness and inferiority complex of Center Party politicians. The best memories I have of these days of struggle were those rallies in which I succeeded as speaker, in the presence of clergymen from the Center Party, in representing the National Socialist point of view and to convert some of the Center Party members to Nazism, or at least to make them think a little more about it.
On 15 January 1934, he was named Regional Director of the Dinslaken Schools.
Mźlheim a.d.Ruhr 30 July 1934
Born on 12 July 1893, the writer was 41 years old when he submitted this essay. He and his brother both volunteered in 1914. He never saw his brother again.
The war became ever more brutal and horrible. For us soldiers, officers as well as men, there only remained the task of meeting obligations to our people by a harsh fulfilling of our duties. Until the very end of the war, the spirit and comradeship of all on the front, without distinction of rank, was, with only minor exceptions, exemplary. The front line witnessed the birth of National Socialism! In the face of the rolling fire, how meaningless seemed our earlier lives, and the selfish interest of individuals, heir backgrounds, titles, ranks and positions. Blood and shared experiences had turned all of us, those with hungry stomachs, shaking hands, agitated with shattered nerves, into a living protective wall around Germany. In the summer of 1915 I was promoted to reserve officer. From 1917 on I commanded my own company. My constant goal was to remain open and comradely toward my soldiers. Many examples of loyalty during the fighting, and the comradely attachment of the soldiers assigned to me clearly attracted my attention. It would lead us too far afield if I were to describe even a small part of my war experiences, which proved to me time and again that often the poorest German man could, quietly and unnoticed by all, perform acts of impressive heroism. How else can one explain the ability of the German army to last for four years against an enemy who was always materially much stronger than we. The leadership and soldiers of the German army from 1914 till 1918 deserve more praise than we can ever give. The politicians of the pre-war and war years, on the contrary, seemed to me despicable.
One small incident during the war, however, I would like to mention. I'm writing now about the year 1918. In the spring of that year I was wounded for the second time and was in Bad Kissingen (Bavaria) for treatment of my stomach which had been troubled by trench food. Without any influence from any other source, an insight suddenly came into my life, which was decisive for my later development as a Nazi. I became an anti-Semite! Daily I witnessed the following scene: The Spa promenade, with two rows of benches. On one row was a sign, 'only for military personnel.' On the other row, 'Only for guests of the spa.' In reality, the following picture emerged. [In the one row] miserable, undernourished, shot-up soldiers, in their old, deloused uniforms. Many of them so weak from their wounds and privations that they sat there like vegetables, semi-conscious and silent. The miserable hospital food was so bad that a healthy person could barely have existed on it, and it was insufficient for a badly wounded soldier. In the other row, the guests were chattering, constantly eating fruit or cake, the ladies in elegant robes, high-fashion boots popular at the time, diamonds on their hands and around their fat necks, with arrogant, un-German conduct quite in compatible with those hard times, laughing and joking indecently. The gentlemen of this "select society," were well-nourished, mornings they carried their own sack of white flour to the bakers, and were eternally occupied with business. Stock quotations were flying through the air. The Berlin Daily News was the main topic of conversation, and was eagerly awaited each evening. In short, a better or more accurate contrast between two essentially and categorically competing ways of life could scarcely be created. It worked on me like bloody derision! These spa guests were—and I am not exaggerating—at least 85% Jewish, of all varieties, but alike in their conduct and activities. I could have screamed aloud. To these internationally oriented, conspiratorial parasites of our nation, the fate of Germany seemed a matter of no importance. For us front soldiers in Bad Kissingen the presence of these Jews became a new psychological burden, which daily grew more burdensome. I stress explicitly that up to that point, I was in no way anti-Semitic or influenced by anti-Semitic propaganda, lthough I had always had a barely conscious racial aversion to Jews.
Returning from the war, he attempted to regain his old job as salesman, but the company was bankrupt. He wandered from place to place, picking up odd jobs here and there, finally securing a position in Bremen.
All the wholesalers were mainly junk-yard Jews, with centralized offices in Berlin. Profiteering and corruption on a grand scale. The Jews and the white profiteers became rich, feasted and lived off the well-being of the nation, just as if they were in the "promised land." Newspapers stirred up hatred against anything that promised a national awakening. Germany appeared lost. The returning front soldier could only seek with resignation some way of protecting his family from destruction and starvation. Shoulder to shoulder in this fight the German housewife and mother took her place with her destiny-ridden man. Strikes and uprisings everywhere. Germany's fate seemed sealed. A temporary rallying turns into Inflation, the greatest fraud of all times perpetrated upon an industrious, frugal, and decent nation.
A world turned upside down. Hard work was punished; profiteers grew rich. Whorehouses spring up everywhere; the sewers of vulgarity spew open. The frontsoldier and the decent part of the populace wage a nearly hopeless war against this plague. Parliamentarianism celebrates an orgy. More than 35 parties and splinter-parties emerge to confuse the people, a true political witches sabbath! The German people, reared non-politically, runs about chasing different mirages, sick in body and soul. Already by this time, Adolf Hitler had begun his gigantic crusade, but we knew nothing about it. All news of it was suppressed by the well-known tactics of silence on the part of the Jewish-influenced press. And that's called democracy and freedom.
He again lost his position, and with wife and baby moved to Mźlheim, the home of his parents-in-law.
Here lived a sturdy, good middle-class, but the bulk of the population were definitely workers. Unemployment was already large and constantly growing. The people's distress and despair was immense, for they had already lived through [French] occupation [in 1923] and a number of communist uprisings. Scarcely a week passed without a large parade of hungry people being dispersed from the streets by police whips. Constant tension. One administration followed another [in Berlin]. Mass rallies of Marxists! The Middle-Class hopelessly split into small and smaller parties. Program after program is thrown into the air. But nowhere could any single clear direction be found. To find even good advice in this witches' temple of contradictory platforms was clearly impossible. The people were split into interest groups, into opinion groups, into classes, into estates. We had become the football of alien elements and foreign states. But gradually through it all penetrated word of the growth of National Socialism. At first mocked, the people were too politically deceived by the artificial teachings of class prejudice, on the one side, and class hatred on the other, to take this National Socialism serious. But more and more the great revolutionary goals and explanations of Adolf Hitler began to be recognized, and the people began to listen.˙
Born in 1913 she and her sister lost their father in the war, killed on 15 August 1915. Early on they were attracted to the Nazis, largely because of SA parades which they liked to attend. Marlene was 20 years old when she writes this essay.
And then came the day of our greatest experience . The Fźhrer visited Kassel, Adolf Hitler wanted to speak to us. Feverish excitement pulsated in everyone, and joy shone from the faces of party comrades. For days, we carried entrance tickets around with us [so as not to lose them], and could scarcely wait for the longed-for day to arrive. And when the day dawned, nothing more on this earth seemed to matter. The Fźhrer was supposed to speak only in the evening, but the rally grounds opened at 3:00 p.m, and at 12:30, we were already standing at the gates waiting. We were not the first ones, either, and a wall of people already stretched before us. And we all waited, waited with the patience of angels. And it didn't matter to us that we were almost crushed to death by the press of the masses of people; we were not alone in this, and no harsh words were spoken. Everyone showed only great joy, or at least the best of spirits. When the doors were opened, we all ran for good seats. All three of us—Mother had come along —were lucky, finding places from which we could see and hear well, although we were not seated together. And then came waiting and more waiting. By evening, the hall was jammed packed, the air became even more stuffy, more and more people fainted, but spirits improved! We finished our homework, talked with people sitting near us, ate the food we had brought along, sang the old fighting songs, until the time came for [Gauleiter] Freisler to open the rally at 8:00. [Apparently there were speeches, but she does not mention them.] By 10:00, anticipation had reached its high-point. The Fźhrer must be arriving at any moment. Everyone was standing on the chairs.
And then all at once, cries of jubilation and cheers rang out loudly, and endless "Sieg Heils." Many stood with tears in their eyes; to many old people, the chance to see and hear the Fźhrer fulfilled the dream of a lifetime. Near me sat a 70-year-old granny, who was deaf and could no longer hear, but she wanted to see the Fźhrer—nothing more. As he began to speak his rolling and warm-sounding words, a deep silence fell over the room. Never in our lives has an event moved us so deeply as this first speech by the Fźhrer. And how the words flew— devastatingly critical and accusatory, praising and arousing, stirring up everyone, even the doubters in our midst. Impressively, he spoke to the masses and yet his words reached every individual and drew each to his side. His words, pregnant with destiny, lodged themselves permanently in our hearts. Repeatedly, enthusiastic cheers rent the silence, and these cheers were rapidly transmitted to the thousands who stood outside the hall listening on outside loud-speakers. And suddenly it came to an end. The Horst Wessel Song burst forth. We now could see only mounds of flowers [thrown at the platform], but the man with the plain brown uniform, with a face that showed unconquerable will, and the small, expressive hands, was gone.
I no longer know how we got home. I remember only that we could not fall asleep that night for a long long time, for the experience had been too great! Many prayers must have ascended to heaven that night, to protect and guide the Fźhrer. . . .
Having served throughout the war as an officer, he returned home to discover that his whole world had changed.
Returning home, we no longer found an honest German people, but a mob stirred up by its lowest instincts. Whatever virtues had once been found among Germans seemed to have sunk once and for all into a muddy flood. Painfully, we saw everything beautiful and noble crushed into the dirt and spat upon. Promiscuity, shamelessness, and corruption were enthroned. German women seemed to have forgotten their good German ways. German men seemed no longer to recognize their German sense of honor and honesty. Jewish scribblers and the Jewish press could have their fling with impunity, dragging everything into the dirt. They stopped not even before our most sacred feelings and dared to mock the public representations of our crucified Lord. While Jewish big-time operators and criminals wallowed in feasts, and traitors floated in champagne, the poorest of the poor starved and suffered the most dire need.
In politics the situation was stripped bare so that anyone who wanted could see it for what it was—lies and deception. Nothing was undertaken concerning the well-being or ills of the people, but only out of the interest of the parties, for whose sake people were willing to betray their own people to the enemy. I felt like a stranger among my own people, and sought some refuge so that I would not despair. É
In 1926, I was taken by an SA man who was a friend of mine to a rally of the NSDAP. At once I remarked that here everything was quite different, quite new. Here no one spoke of classes or estates, here the distress of the whole nation was discussed, here was the same spirit which had flourished in the trenches. Here they spoke of the Fatherland, the nation, the German way of life, and a social consciousness. I became convinced: here you will find what you are seeking. É When later I saw the Fźhrer and heard him speak for the first time, his impact on me was overpowering. Here, one felt, spoke a man who also felt deeply in his heart that which he uttered, for it arose out of passionate love for his people. Unpretentious and emphatic, like his own being, were his words—and yet so powerful. Everyone followed his thoughts expectantly, and whoever once heard him would have to become his follower, that is if he thought and acted in a German, Všlkisch, and social manner.
I became a member of the NSDAP.
Born on 4 May 1896, in Holzheim, near Strassburg, in Alsace, at the war's outbreak, she writes, "as I watched the trains rolling toward the Western Front, it awakened one wish: Oh if only I were a boy, and could fight for my beloved homeland." After the war Alsace passed to France, and as a refugee, she eventually settled in Darmstadt, where subsequently, she married a policeman. She was 38 years old when she submitted this essay.
In 1926, I participated in a Christmas festival sponsored by the Union of Displaced People from Alsace-Lorraine. I met other refugees, many of whom talked about politics. Although I enjoyed all the daily events, I particularly looked forward to the evening discussions. One evening I met a colleague who was an out and out National Socialist. I sat before the man, eating up every word that came out of his mouth, just as I used to do when grandma was telling her stories. I could have listened to him all night long. Often from inside me I could hear a voice saying: "Yes that's right, I've always thought so too." After this hour, I finally knew, after much searching and head-scratching, where I belonged. And it was terribly easy for me to join, since I had always been a Nazi, without knowing it. For Adolf Hitler needed people who were prepared to engage in fighting Marxism, and it was clear to me that my goal could be reached and my wishes fulfilled by willingly bleeding and dying for the sacred ideas of our beloved Fźhrer. It was as if a fire had suddenly broken out within me, and I sensed that you can't learn about National Socialism, you had to experience it. For the second time in my life, just as at the outbreak of the war, I regretted that I was not a man.
At that moment, a vow sprang to my lips, that I would dedicate my entire strength, even as a woman, to this party and this Fźhrer, and engage with them step by step. At home, I explained all that had happened to my husband, who agreed with everything, and promised me that he too would support Fźhrer and Fatherland. At that point I declared war on everyone who opposed us. Proudly I wore the Swastika pin. From 1927 on, as often as opportunity presented itself, I attended the Movement's rallies, bought newspapers and magazines to inform myself about politics, in order to be able to educate others. The work I carried out for the Party was petty but important. No salesman, no agent, no peddler, or anyone who came to our door remained unaware of my politics. Sometimes food on the stove boiled over while I was arguing with them, but that didn't hurt anyone, and I must be about my work. Since my husband was with the police, and had to hide in secret his own efforts, I had to do twice as much proselytizing. É
In my town a women's organization was founded in October 1929, which I joined at once, receiving card number 27. The greater part of our SA and party comrades were unemployed. Their needs grew even greater, and the women's club became one of the most important within the Movement. We did much to soften the economic distress, and everyone gladly shared whatever they had. So this period of need helped transform us into a real band of comrades.
In order to express publicly my unity with the SA and the Movement, I had the idea of sewing a brown blouse for myself, and two of my friends joined me in doing the same. So I wore a brown blouse around Darmstadt, from morning to night. One day as I was shopping in the market, somóone yelled "Hey." The enemy was fuming with anger that even women were now getting into uniforms. Two Communist women followed me, yelling insults, including such things as "Hitler Person," "Hitler whore," and "Hitler Pig." They added other shameless words which I don't want to set down here, but will leave unmentioned. I was forced to take refuge in a passing trolley. On this particular day, I had to pay the tuition for my son's school year at the city hall, but when I arrived there I found I was being followed by a horde of these sub-humans. When I came out of the office, these bohunks blocked my way, so that I had to retrace my steps and go out a back door. When I got home, I found that they had spat all over the back of the blouse, and this happened very often. But I became all the harder about such things, for I saw and heard daily that my SA brothers were day by day suffering far worse things that I. É
In December 1929 she officially joined the party in her maiden name, so as not to alert officials who might make difficulties for her husband. By law, policemen could not join the Nazi party. But her public manifestations of support for the NSDAP made her husband a target of abuse within the department. She insists that an official letter was sent to all officials in Darmstadt, warning them that they could be held responsible for the political activities of their spouses, and citing her by name.
In July 1931 the morning mail brought a blue envelope for my husband—a court-ordered fine, because of my political activities. But even that could not slow down my fanatical fight. In protest, I sewed a 12 foot wide Swastika banner, which I hung from the front of the house on all appropriate occasions, complete with outdoor transparent lanterns decorated with Swastikas, which greatly disturbed the Red Minister of the Interior, Leuschner, who happened to live on our street. For me, it was a satisfying reply to their punishment of my husband. Ours was the first Swastika flown by an active policeman in all of Hesse. I also had my boy, who was 12 years old, join the Hitler Youth ... so that the gentlemen in the government would not think that they had damaged me by taking measures against my husband. [When the government transferred him to the village of Viernheim, outside of Darmstadt], I replied that I welcomed it as an opportunity to make converts in a new area.
Actually, this transfer depressed the whole family very much, because as I mentioned earlier, I had already been driven out of my hometown by the French, and Darmstadt had become for us a second homeland. But the harshness of this transfer of my husband was softened somewhat by the solemn promise of Gauleiter Peter Gemeinder that this injustice would, one day, be rectified. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter the Gauleiter died, and I experienced one of the worst days of my life. Peter Gemeinder was a strongly believing Catholic, but the Church refused to give him a funeral Mass because he was a fighter for the Third Reich and belonged to the NSDAP. I stood at the grave with three others from our Women's Organization. Since I myself am a Catholic, I think I ought to add here that we Catholics were under tremendous pressure from the Church. As I stood there, I thought that if the Clergy did not stop acting in such an uncanonical spirit, I would have to leave the Church. It was a great spiritual struggle for me. But I did not lose my faith, even though the external forms of our Church had already gone away from me. This sacrifice, too, had to be made.
Born 16 May 1907, he was 26 years old when he wrote this essay. His father had once run a large furniture business, which went broke shortly before the war, forcing him to work in the Krupp factories to support his seven children. He was declared unfit for the war, but his presence at home did not seem to help the family fortunes.
[From the earliest years] one thing remains clearly in my memory, that during these war years the house had become very filthy. 1917/18 brought a great shortage of food. We children would enviously look out the windows every noon at neighbors who were accustomed to dragging a stool out onto their front steps and there eat their meal before our greedy eyes. In the meantime I had entered middle school, which lay at a great distance from our apartment. From the few Marks which father brought home now, he had to struggle to find money for the street car. Women were more and more in evidence on the streets, \in all professions, even as driver and conductor of the trams. Their inexperience [causing accidents] frequently forced me and my fellow students to continue on our way home on foot, and then mostly on an empty stomach. As money became scarcer, I took to walking the 45 minute stretch between home and school bare-footed to save shoe leather. But I never complained, not least of all because it would have upset my hard-working parents too much. A victory of our troops would bring us a holiday from school, and that helped me forget all the other things. Oh happy youth of today, may you never experienced the terrible seriousness of the situation at the end of the war. É As food supplies dwindled, and our bodies became weakened, the flu epidemic broke out, and terribly attacked my hometown. The starving little bodies could not put up any resistance to the illness, which spared no one, even in my home. One after the other were laid low in the sick bed. Horrible days in my memory! The church [funeral] bells rang day after day. Songs of the grave! It was a miracle that none of my immediate family died, even though we received visitors who had been told that one of my sisters had died.
Upon finishing school he is accepted as a trainee in the Duisburg Municipal Government, where he began his steady climb up the bureaucratic ladder.
In my job, I was completely uninterested in politics. So it happened that I am incapable today of recalling any of the great events of post-war Germany. Even the Fźhrer's attempted uprising of 1923 does not ring a bell. But instinctively I always sought out some comradeship, which has always been the basis upon which a true Volk Community can be built. What was more natural than after a long day's work in the bad air of the office, I should find relaxation in some sport. Swimming had been my favorite activity since childhood, but more and more soccer began to draw me by its appeal. King Soccer ruled the masses. I could have joined a swim club, but my parents had blocked all other opportunities for sports. And they were not to be dissuaded from this laughable prejudice of the 19th century. What frightful things could happen to boys playing sports! I might break a leg or something! These were the objecóions my parents made É and I could not get their permission to participate. But one day, I tricked my way into membership with the Duisburg Soccer Club. Forbidden fruit, as is well known, always tastes the best. Soon soccer became my greatest joy, because of its strong prohibition. For a long time I had been spending every spare pfennig I could afford on soccer items. I would open up my treasure chest at the window on Sunday morning, when everyone else was sleeping. Then I'd climb out the window, gathering with a few other chaps and walk in the country for awhile, because usually there was still plenty of time before the game began. Had I remained longer at home, however, they would certainly have found some way of "locking me up." Thus this morning disappearance act was the only solution. Later on, the filthy soccer clothes would be washed at a friend's house, so that no one at home could find out about my dodges.
In the meantime, I tried everything which might wear down my parents' opposition, but it took years before they changed their mind. One day they read in the newspaper that their son, appearing in a tournament before 25,000 people, had played extremely well, and even the old man could not help but brag about it outside of the house. So the impossible became possible, even without me asking for it. My father even attended a game! Later, he became a great fan and kept fully abreast of all soccer doings. É
On my soccer team, I found the most hearty spirit of comradeship, and the higher I rose—I began in the farm leagues and ended as a starter on the major Duisburg team—the more I perceived how wonderful it was to participate, in the very fullness of my best years, on a team which functioned with such harmony and tight bonds so that the individual completely dedicated himself to the interest of the team! No one knew each other's religion; no one inquired about your job. We all felt only as teammates of each other. Within the circle of this team, I passed the best years of my youth.
Only one thing was missing from these years [I now see], that I was completely cut off from all other events going on in my beloved Fatherland. And the newspapers cooperated in this, by bringing out pages and pages of reports only about sports, which was all that we ever read. Not unintentionally, sports were so over-exaggerated in the press, that German kids would never think of sticking their noses into anything dealing with political events in the Reich. In this, they were following the old saying: "Drink up plenty, and eat your fill; keep your mouth shut about politics." And I too would have continued along in this hardening of the arteries, had not my personal circumstances suddenly changed.
After 2 years at the School for Administrators, I passed the official "Secretary Exam," and received a promotion in the Duisburg bureaucracy. At the same time, I did not at all neglect my sports, for I needed it all the more as a relief from my intellectual pursuits. During the soccer off-season, I engaged in all kinds of light athletics, and my success here offered me much satisfaction. Many prizes, in the form of trophies letters, and citations remind me of the wonderful contests. My superior abilities in soccer and light athletics also allowed me an opportunity to visit many beautiful villages and towns in the area surround Duisburg. All of this occurred in a spirit of magnificent comradeship and left its mark on my soul.
In 1929 he went as an "exchange official" to the city of Kiel, where friendless, the 22 year-old athlete-official threw himself even more into soccer.
In my free time I joined the "Holstein" Sport Club of Kiel. Although never before had politics been the topic of conversation in the teams I had been associated with, in Kiel politics was unavoidable [unemployment in the shipyards and docks of this area ran as high as 80-90%]. Here I was pleased to meet and get to know numerous players who were National Socialists. In itself this was not surprising, for a large percentage of the soccer players were also students at Kiel University, and it is well known that in our country's history, college students have always played an important role during national uprisings, and at times even assumed a leadership role. Here on the "Holstein" team for the first time in my life I came into contact with SA Men, whose fanatical faith in Adolf Hitler and readiness to sacrifice themselves and everything they had without reservation in his cause, filled me with awe. These men possessed something which I had never before found among other groups in Germany. In their companionship I found what I was seeking. Here I experienced my inner conversion to National Socialism.
Born on 26 September 1911, his father died the same year, and two years later he lost his grandmother who had taken in the family. His mother worked in a mill, and placed him in a foster home. His first memories were of the post-war years. He was 23 years old when he wrote this essay.
At seven years of age, I lived through the Revolution. These years have stuck in my memory. Mostly we received our warm meal from the communal "war kitchen" [set up as a welfare measure in 1917]. Otherwise our dining table was very sparse; turnips, were usually served, but no meat or potatoes all week long. It became common to expect six to seven hour lines stretching in front of the diary store, just in order to receive a few ounces of animal fat. Many times I accompanied my mother on her "shopping," which we mainly spent waiting in lines. Later we had to carry billions of marks with us—the craziness of the Inflation. All of these experiences worked their way into my youthful soul....
He is early on attracted to Adolf Hitler, forms a club in his school, and has his mother sew Swastika arm-bands for the "little Hitlers."
Finally came the year 1929, and I reached the long desired goal, my 18th birthday. I became a member of the NSDAP, and received the Number 151,910, One often hears the question why it was that the young people of Germany so spontaneously rallied to Hitler. But the experiences of war, revolution, and inflation makes it only too understandable. We were not spared anything. We knew and felt the worries in our house. The shadow of economic distress never left our table, and frightened us into silence. We were rudely pushed out of our childhood, and shown no path to follow. The struggle for life engaged us too early. Misery, shame, hatred, lies, and civil war imprinted themselves on our souls, and contributed to making us mature too soon. So we searched, and found Adolf Hitler. What attracted us like a magnate was precisely the fact that he only made demands of us, promising us nothing. He demanded of every person a total commitment to his Movement and therefore to Germany. He demanded sacrifice of possessions and free time, he demanded discipline and responsibility, blind faith in the Fźhrer and in the truth of an idea. All of these virtues were scorned in Republican Germany, but became for us principles beyond discussion. So we young people became a community of sworn fighters for our faith, fighters for a better future.
The Role of the Storm Troopers (SA)
During these years, the main burden of Party activity often fell on the SA which comprised most of the fit and active members of the Party. Unlike the political organization, Hitler took his time about refounding the SA. It was officially reconstituted only in the autumn of 1926 under a former Free Corps leader, Franz von Pfeffer. From the outset, Hitler faced a serious problem. Dedicated to a legal course, he wanted to ensure the SA did not become a military-style formation, such as before 1923, or an undisciplined group of revolutionary conspirators. He knew that the Government was looking for any excuse to ban his Party, and in his first orders to the new SA, on 1 November 1926, Hitler emphasized that he considered the organization to be purely a propaganda weapon and defensive unit.
To conclude our discussions about the program of your re-organization, I would like to sum up briefly my main instructions.
The training of the SA must be carried out, not on a military basis, but in accordance with the needs of the Party. In so far as the members undergo physical training, the main emphasis must be, not on military drill, but far more on sports activities. Boxing and Ju-Jitsu have always seemed to me far more important than ineffective, because only incomplete, shooting practice. Physical training must implant in the individual the conviction of his superiority and give him that self-assurance which lies only in confidence in one's own strength; furthermore, it should give him those athletic skills which serve as a weapon for the defense of the movement.
The organization of the SA as well as its clothing and equipment must accordingly be carried out, not on the model of the old army, but in a way appropriate to its task. In order right from the start to prevent the SA from acquiring any secretive character, its clothing must be recognizable to everybody, and the size of its membership must define the path which assists the movement, one which is known to the public. It must not meet in secret but should march in the open air and thereby be channeled into activities which conclusively destroy all legends of a 'secret organization'. To provide a mental diversion from any temptation to satisfy its activism by petty conspiracies, it must from the very beginning be initiated into the great idea of the movement and be trained in the task of representing this idea to such a degree that the horizon is widened right from the start and the individual SA man does not see his mission in the elimination of some crook or other, whether big or small, but in helping to build a new National Socialist Všlkisch state. Thereby the struggle against the present state will be raised above the atmosphere of petty acts of revenge and conspiracy to the greatness of an ideological war of extermination against Marxism, its constructions and its string pullers.
What we need is not a hundred or two hundred daring conspirators, but a hundred thousand and hundreds of thousands more fanatical fighters for our Weltanschauung. We must not work in secret conclaves but in huge mass marches, and neither by dagger nor poison nor pistol can the path be cleared for the movement, but only by conquering the street. We have to teach Marxism that National Socialism is the future master of the streets, just as it will one day be master of the State.
[signed] ADOLF HITLER I hereby bring this letter to the notice of the leaders as a directive.
Impressive rallies and marches, the splendid organized enthusiasm of the SA, did not occur by accident. They required hard work, often carried out in the midst of a thousand other requirements. Joseph Goebbels has left us a fascinating picture of the frenzied life of a Nazi organizers during these years.
A day of triumph. It began on Saturday. In the afternoon Hannah visited me. Then into work. The office was in a murderous uproar. In and out Speakers were missing for some of our rallies. Finally Wagner and Heinz arrived. Off to the meeting hall. Things looked only partially good there. I spoke from 8:30 to 11, and then sat around with Kube for a long time. He's a real loud-mouth, but rather lovable at the same time. Then back home. Sunday morning, off to the airport. There a magnificent military show [of the SA] unfurled. Von Pfeffer took the review, with marching bands, and the press of the crowd. We quickly traveled back to Berlin, and then drove out to meet the parade, catching up with it in Lichterfelde. It seemed endless. What wonderful boys! Immeasurable jubilation. At the City Hall in Steglitz the crowd —ten-thousand strong—bared their heads and sang Deutschland źber alles.
A frenzy of jubilation. A telegram of congratulations was read from Hitler. Onto the Sportspalast. Because the hall was already full, the police closed all the entrances. 15,000 people. Music and speeches. Kube, Reventlow, Heinz, Wagner and I spoke. The enthusiasm seemed endless. Outside on the street, a battle broke out with Communists. 23 were wounded, three seriously. Hopefully, these latter will survive. In the hall, the news produced tremendous outrage. Finally, I was able to get them in hand, and everything proceeded according to schedule. Deutschland źber alles.
End of the meeting! Outside the streets were black with people. They sang and screamed and roared and celebrated. This struggle! How the heart leaps up with joy. I visited one of the wounded victims. Frightful! But I can accept this responsibility too. We drive off. Stones are thrown at our car. Boos and whistling [the usual method for showing displeasure/disgust in Germany]. Love and hate side by side. Later I spend a few quiet hours among friends. How tired I am. Off to home through the cold night.
Today, Monday, we received glowing notices in the press. All except the Jewish publications are entirely on our side. Immediately back to work. We are marching forward! Hurrah! The press reports about yesterday run column after column, mostly favorable, and some positively splendid. The entire Scherl press [a national syndicate of newspapers] is on our side. But in the main, by this evening, it will be up to so-called public opinion to decide. I very anxiously await the results. The police offer only rotten and lame excuses [for not protecting the Nazis from the Communist attack].
Yesterday morning I had a long talk with [Pfeffer] the Head of the SA. We parted in full agreement, indeed almost with affection. The results: he recognizes the serious mistakes, which have been made here in Berlin. In future, the SA leaders must only be appointed with the approval of the local Gauleiter. SA man Jahn can remain at his post because he is innocent, but he has shown through his remarkably stupid letter that he can no longer be considered as a possible leader. Stennes is once again energetically cooperating. Pfeffer thinks that the Chief [i.e. Hitler] finds it very difficult to make serious personnel decisions. He may be right. But on the other hand, here is a unique opportunity for Hitler to rein in some of the most prominent trouble-makers. The strong will always prevail over the common sort, see the case of Dr. Strasser. As I hear, Dr. Strasser hates me from the bottom of his heart. It is really an exciting feeling to be hated by such a poisonous jelly-fish. Gregor Strasser, or so it appears, is more inclined to sign a truce. I too have noted the same inclination. ... All the prominent persons at Munich headquarters are Bavarians. For us Prussians that is rather unbearable.
Yesterday morning work and troubles. I have to write a lot because next week I am traveling to the Palatinate and must prepare my columns in advance. Reichstag. Debate over parliamentarianism. The swan song of democracy. "It can't go on like this." At least everyone agrees on that. But we are the only ones who draw the proper conclusions. I am to speak [tomorrow] in the afternoon. Yesterday evening a meeting of the South-Eastern and Lichtenberg Sections [of the Berlin NSDAP]. Thriving mental activity everywhere. Afterwards an upsetting debate with Mr. Hoffmann about education for young people. He assigns us some quite false tasks. We are supposed to teach his son about the evils of alcohol, because he himself can't do it! [Tomorrow] evening a great rally in the New World, on the forthcoming new Parisian Diktat.
The political situation is quite serious. Everything pushes toward some decision, just like in 1923. That's all quite fine with me. Hitler is coming to Berlin at the end of next week. This will give me a fine opportunity to discuss many issues with him. Many organizations need desperately to be reorganized. A 2nd Chairman, a General Secretary, Propaganda Division. Yesterday I spoke with Buch and Lohse about these things. They all share my opinion: the Chief doesn't pay enough attention to these minor questions. Hence most of them remain unsolved. He must appoint someone to represent him in each of the Party's departments. We must break out from our primitive "family-style" organization. And finally, each "prominent" at headquarters should look around and select some specific task for themselves. Mine will be: Propaganda and Popular Enlightenment. All cultural concerns. I love that area and I will be happy working there.
Yesterday morning I dictated a lot of material and worked away. At noon, off to the Reichstag. An endless chain of speeches. It was evening by the time I was on. I spoke well about some issues of high politics. The Chair treated me with un-heard of partisanship. This slimy Herr von Kardorff. The house was all ears. Afterwards off to the New World [for a rally]. Filled to overflowing. Kube spoke first and then me. Kube told some good jokes and really warmed up this huge crowd. I was in fantastic form. At the end, the entire assembly roared their determination to overcome despair and pessimism. Outside the crowd was out of control. Shouts, cries of joy, almost shaking my hand off. Today is Saturday, the end of a week filled with work. What a feeling of having fulfilled my duty. It is wonderful even though I am completely hoarse. Politically, however, things are going from bad to worse. Yesterday a long talk with Strasser, who sharply criticizes the head of the SA. As always, the Chief is still not available, and refuses to make any decisions. Even his visit to Berlin has once again been put off.
Afternoon worked on my new book, "Knorke" [A Berlin expression meaning "stupendous" or "great"]. In the evening a May Day celebration in Kreuzberg. It was not particularly impressive. Discussion about the Hitler Youth with Sa§ and Gadewoltz. The head of the Hitler Youth, Gruber, must be removed. A Saxon simply can't be the national leader of anything. And then too, we must all pay a lot more attention to the youth. But first they should be organized and formed according to new goals. [Tomorrow] night I will speak in Neukšlln on parliamentarianism. Tonight, again, there were bloody incidents. Barricade fights are going on in Wedding and Neukšlln [the working-class sections of Berlin], 9 are reported dead, 100 badly wounded, 1,000 arrested. Street fights everywhere, and signs of open civil war. The KPD [Communist party] has pulled out all the stops. This afternoon there was a great tumult in the Reichstag. The KPD demanded a debate over these incidents. They beat up Reichstag Member Kźnstler. At the end, the Communists stood and sang the International˙
The chair adjourned the session for half an hour. From Wedding there comes news again of street fighting. And this is supposed to be a properly and well anchored republic! It makes one want to howl in rage. And it won't get any better until these swindlers are shown our teeth! When will our day come? ˙
The struggle in Berlin rages on. Last night again bloody confrontations in Wedding and Neukšlln . So much for the oft-praised "authority of the State". It's all a fraud, an illusion. Last night's discussion-evening in Neukšlln was on parliamentarianism. Lasted till 12 midnight. It was most interesting. I took the opportunity to really lay into the reactionaries. Sat up late and returning in the car I wrote a sharp essay against the idea of a "Unity Front" [i.e. Nazi and conservatives]. Worked till two in the morning and felt myself wonderfully renewed and blessed. Today Schwarz comes from Munich in order to control the Women's Organization. I'm eagerly awaiting the results. Tonight there will be a large rally in Friedrichshain. Captain Gšring and I will speak.
In the evening I visited Stennes. He is at heart a skeptic and thus robs our people of their courage. One doesn't quite know what he is all about. Yesterday I spoke with Strasser about this very thing. He too condemns the whole SA mess. I also debated Holtz about the Steel Helmets. I think all these reserve officers are too weak. Holtz had to admit that I was probably right. With Stennes I discussed the possibility of violently seizing power. Up to now, this idea has been put aside because all the leading figures were too bourgeois. They have no ideas, no organization, no courage, and no [unreadable word]. I sense the same thing in Stennes. None of them want a real revolution, only a Putsch. This makes the whole undertaking hopeless. They are always complaining about the lack of money, in order to cover up their real lack of courage and ideas. If we were only to swing into action, then everything would be different. We debated long into the night, but at the end we were only talking at each other, not to each other. Stennes can recruit, discipline and organize his SA, but the goals he should leave to politicians. Soldiers don't understand anything about such things. Soldiers are politically mostly children. That comes out of their training. Late home, dead tired. ...
In the evening, to meeting of the [Berlin] Gau. Hitler's Memorandum against the Steel Helmets was read, followed by agitated debate over the Steel Helmets. Everyone sharply opposed the compromise policy advocated by the Všlkische Beobachter. I took pains to quiet the anger of the group. But it is a good sign that our socialist revolution still stands guard. Against the "Officers Clique." I too am on the side of the radicals, and I too am not happy about much that is going on. But one must get to Hitler. That is the best way to handle things. ...
I am reading All Quiet on the Western Front, a vulgar but destructive book. The war memoirs of a draftee. Nothing more. In two years time, no one will even mention this book. But today it has done its work in the hearts of millions. The book is a huge success. That is why it is so very dangerous.
This evening Dźrr and I saw our first "talking" movie, an American film, Singing Fool. I was greatly surprised at how fast the technology of sound films has advanced. The future lies here, and we are wrong to reject anything just because it is made in America. We must move in this direction! Take it over! The content of this film was the worst kind of sentimental New York Kitsch. But in spite of that: we must recognize that this is the future and explore the potentials of this medium. The evening newspapers report that a bomb went off in the Reichstag. A lot of damage. They claim to have found a glue stick with a swastika on it. So we are supposed to be the guilty party. The System will no doubt again fall upon us. An obliging prohibition? We are not afraid. This Monday my vacation from the office comes to an end. Work begins again in full measure. Into it!
In the evening, rally at the New World. Jammed packed. 5,000 people. I was greeted with endless jubilation. Was in first class form. I spoke for two hours and afterwards was little better than a corpse. The assembly was deeply moved and filled with revolutionary excitement. One sees how everything is in ferment. The interrupting cries often burst out from a crowd drastically swept off their feet. The ending was overwhelming. The SA sang [their new marching song] "Raise the Flag!" Everyone stood and sang along. The entire evening ended in a mass pledge to revolution. We left, through a jubilant crowd of people. The SA departed, with flags flying, defiance in their faces, determination and dedication in their fists. The Movement is once more on the march. We can confidently enter the autumn. I go right home, overly tired. Sleep, sleep! Erika was at the rally, she reached out her hand to me as I left. Today, Saturday, I am in great spirits. Last night's successes stirs my blood. This afternoon I will go with Erika to Grumsin. I am happy about that. Renew my strength for the next week. Then let the dance begin!
What days yesterday and today were! Yesterday, at noon traveled to Breslau. Slept the sleep of the dead all the way. Arrive and met the local leader, a decent enough man. As never before, the KPD has been conducting there a bloody and terror-laden campaign of hatred against me. "Scoundrel, rascal, murderer!" Those are some of their milder names for me. The hall was closed by the police as completely filled by 7:30. Outside more than a thousand people stood around. I was just about to begin speaking when a telegram was handed me: "Munich, 10 September. Adolf Hitler has just been killed in an accident. Your presence in Munich is urgently required. Alfred Rosenberg." The world went grey before my eyes. I lost all my senses. A convulsive fit shook my body. I saw only chaos before me. I stood alone in the midst of total strangers, groping in a horrible isolation. And I felt a pressure upon my soul that even now has not gone away. When the telegram was read to the assembly, \they were shocked. Outside! I had to get outside. The walls seemed to be falling on me. Once out I tried to telephone Munich, an intolerable half-hour delay in getting through. I live through an eternity of horror. Munich: my heart stood still. "We saw Hitler only a half-hour ago. It's only a dirty trick!" For some reason I could not even rejoice. I stood there, as if I were insane. For another half-hour we talked to people at the Post Office. The telegram was indeed forged. Back into the hall, women have fainted. Men were crying like children. I remained frozen numb as ice. And then the saving message was read out. A storm of rejoicing! I spoke for two hours. In the most dreadful torment of soul! It was my greatest oratorical success. In spite of my inner depression, my concentration soared to its greatest height. But then I was dead. In the distance I was aware of excitement and jubilant cries of ŇHeil.Ó Into the hotel, but I could not sleep a wink the entire night. For the first time I am truly aware of what Hitler means to me and to the movement: He is everything! Everything! I can't even bear to think more about the incident. This morning, I got up as if I had been broken on the wheel! To Berlin There had been a battle in Schšneberg. We have some serious injuries. The men who bombed [the Reichstag] have been found, members of the radical farmers organization. ... Ignoring scruples, our enemies continue to blame us for complicity. We bombard the press and the wire services with releases. But it won't help at all. Once again the Jew has triumphed. But perhaps it will turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory. I am working under furious pressure. The shock of yesterday still is lodged in my bones. If I could only sleep, sleep! Tonight, a meeting of the leadership. I am so tired!
From today, the Angriff [GoebbelsŐ own newspaper, Attack] appears twice a week. Visited the wife of a high Berlin police official. She reports on the political attitude of the Schupo [the riot police]. Very favorable to us. A large percentage of the officers especially are on our side. In the afternoon I worked at home. In the evening late, traveled to Kausdorf in order to speak an hour before a well-attended local meeting. Traveled home with SA Man Horst Wessel.
A wonderful fellow: student, speaker, SA leader, living in the Fischerkiez [the oldest medóieval part of Berlin] and every evening he must defend himself against the Red Terror there. Together we stop by the local SA Beerhall, "At the Sign of the Elector." This is old old Berlin! Today, in large part, a battleground of depravity. I have a great respect for our SA men, who day by day, carry out their duties to the Movement, and in the evening run the danger of losing their health or even their lives. Outside it is now a lovely fall Sunday. This afternoon I am speaking before an SA rally in Spandau.˙
But for all Hitler's and Goebbels' insistence on the legality of the SA, many young Germans were attracted to it not because of its "propaganda" role. Again, the following documents come from the Abel collection. of essays.
Born on 5 May 1899 as the son of a German teacher in Moscow, he lived through two revolutions in Russia, moving to Germany with his family in 1923. He was 35 when he wrote this essay.
During the Presidential elections of 1925, I was a supporter of Hindenburg, and generally considered myself a member of the Right. One day I found myself in a street fight with Communists, who had suddenly, in broad daylight, attacked a group of Bismarck Youth [the Conservative organization for boys]. No one else on the street seemed to care. But as I jumped in with a loud cry, attacking the biggest of the bullies, a few other citizens came to my help, until the police appeared. By that time, I had become shocked by the familiar, senseless, awful hate I saw staring back at me out of the eyes of these young Communists. I was suddenly aware that the dangers, which I had twice before fled, were once again present, in the middle of my beautiful, lovely Berlin. I decided I had to become politically active.
A few days later, I saw an unusual parade: a large body of men, perhaps 800 strong, in brown uniforms which I had never seen before, marching and singing along a broad, beautiful street. Young men, with numerous flags, glaring red with a black swastika in a white circle. That symbol too I had never seen. I asked several people if they knew anything about this group, but in vain. None knew either the organization or the name of the group. Several days later, in the rooms of the Russian National Student Club, where I often attended lectures and discussions, I learned from a former officer that this group was a Sturmbann, an organization founded in Berlin to replace the National Socialist German Workers' Party, the Hitler Party, which had originated in Munich but had been banned. Later on in that same club, I received from a fellow Russian a general outline of the details of Bavaria and Hitler. I was fascinated; my entire interest was awaókened. On the next day I made an appointment with the then NSDAP Gauleiter of Berlin, Dr. Schlange, and after an hour's conversation I knew enough that I decided to attend the next monthly meeting of my local cell. Greedily I lapped up the new teachings, but even more I was captivated by the reports about the street fighting and riots with the Comómunists! After a few months, that is in March 1925, I was as hooked with the mysterious power of Hitler's personality as my new friends had been. At that time, we had neither seen nor heard Hitler, but in spite of that—and this went without saying—we were simply bewitched. There was never any doubt or discussion about his words, his ideas, his commands. Without even noticing it, I was gradually completely taken up with our small organization. Two, and three times, and then four times in the week, there was the "Party"—rallies, discussions, lectures, and all of had to appear, for we were too small a group, and the assembly rooms had to be filled! My section for example, was 8-men strong, and Berlin had 4.5 million people.
In October 1925, I joined the Party. Beforehand, I had become naturalized so that I was now "officially" German. That was a hard winter for me. In the beginning of 1926, a new Gauleiter was sent to Berlin, Dr. Goebbels, a famous man already from the newspapers. Anxiously we awaited this Rhinelander, for we had generally heard about his activities in the Ruhr area. We didn't have to wait long, for suddenly such a new and rapid tempo was introduced [in Berlin] that today I am amazed that I survived it at all. And what a speaker he was! I had heard so much about Hitler's ability as a speaker that I had become convinced of it, but after the first speech by Dr. G. I could not conceive of any speaker who could possibly be better.
But shortly thereafter, in April 1926, came the great day for me, where I could see and hear the Fźhrer of the Party, surrounded by the glorious and mighty power of his words and personality. Prussia had forbidden Hitler from speaking in public, and so the news that Hitler was speaking in nearby Schwerin (Mecklenburg) made us happy and excited. Our whole group travelled there together. My heart pounding with curiosity and anticipation, I awaited the appearance of our Hitler from my seat in the crowded auditorium. A storm of jubilation rising from afar, from the street and moving into the lobby, announced the coming of the Fźhrer. And then suddenly the auditorium went wild, as he strode resolutely and quietly, in his rain coat and without a hat, to the rostrum. É
When the speech came to an end, I could not see out of my eyes anymore. There were too many tears; my throat was all tight from crying. A liberating scream of the purest enthusiasm discharged the unbearable tension, as the auditorium rocked with applause. I looked around discreetly and noticed that others, men and women and young fellows, were as deeply moved as I. They also wiped tears from their eyes. Deafened and with a sense of enormous joy, I stormed into the street. At last I was no longer alone. Around me were people who felt the same as I, who were looking at each other in joyful rapture, as if we were now all one family, one brotherhood, a new, firm, and happy community where everyone could read in the others' eyes a solemn pledge of loyalty, yes even the most sacredoath. And this experience I had again and again during the course of the following years, and my feelings became ever stronger and deeper.
Unsigned Autobiographical Essay
It is 9 October 1926. The first National Socialist Freedom Day of the Mark Brandenburg in Potsdam. Six hundred brown shirts under the command of SA leader Kurt Daluege, we are marching along the old army route once followed by General Lźtzow into Potsdam. A field prayer service was held before the sacred house in which the remains of the great Soldier-King Frederick William I and of his great son, Old Fritz [Frederick the Great], are resting. We would rather have gone into the old garrison church and would have bowed our heads at the sight of the old flags of the Brandenburg regiments, praying for their blessing on our struggle. But the edict of the [Lutheran] Church authorities barred us from entry.
That night in the festival hall of the dirigible port, Dr. Goebbels, the drummer of the Ruhr area, spoke to us. His speech made the meeting into a church service. The hall is no longer on the sands of Brandenburg, but a cathedral in the plains of Flanders [i.e. on the site of the battlefields of World War I]. Young war volunteers now are the parishioners who are crowding closer and closer to the altar...Dr. Goebbels no longer speaks as a party man, but as a Fźhrer who has returned from the fire of the first front lines to inspire new reserves and lead them into battle....
September 29-30, 1928: Dr. Goebbels speaks in the Sportspalast of the problem of the prewar period: the unknown worker, the worker of hand and brain. And the backbone of the war effort, the unknown soldier. ... Both grew into the symbol of our time, the unknown stormtrooper, who fights and bleeds according to his inner law, without being forced to. These are the legions of the freedom fighters, the future of our nation. Their antagonist is the symbol of the state of today, the policy of Gustav Stresemann [the Foreign Minister]. ... The coming revolution will smash one of the two. In our camp is Germany. Let us march forward over the graves.
Georg Zeidler Autobiographical Essay
What drew me to the Všlkisch, and later to the National Socialist Movement, was not anything of which I was clearly conscious. My feelings told me: what they want is right, they are putting into words things which you have always sensed to be right and good. It is only if we become fanatics, and put our country above everything ... that we will amount to something again.
We old National Socialists did not join the Storm Troops [SA] from any rational consideration, or after much contemplation. It was our feelings that led us to Hitler. What we felt, what our hearts compelled us to think was this:—Hitler, you're our man. You talk like a human being who's been at the front, who's been through the same mess we were, and not in some soft berth, but like us an unknown soldier. You are pleading with all your being, with all your burning heart, for us Germans. You want what is best for Germany not because it will benefit you personally: no! It is because you can do no other, because this is the way you must act out of your most profound convictions, as a man of decency and of honor. He who once looked into Hitler's eyes, he who once heard him, will never get away from him again.
Unsigned Autobiographical Essay
[Upon meeting his college roommate at a rally in 1929]. We looked at each other in amazement, each saying to the other: Why didn't you tell me sooner you were a "Hitler." It was not so easy in those days. The school had forbidden it and many were a little afraid. Now we were both delighted and, at the next party meeting, ... I became a stormtrooper. There were only twelve of us. It was embarrassing for me at school to go to my daily SA service. I had to wear a coat over the uniform and put the cap in my pocket....
Soon we had a rally É with SPD and Communists filling the hall [to interrupt the speakers], and I experienced one of the first meeting-hall battles. But everything went well. The second battle came out a lot better. Strasser was supposed to come É instead all hell broke loose. There was not one of us who did not get it with a chair or a beer stein. Our Sturmfźhrer got it the worst; he had a couple of stab wounds. Then we had a big demonstration in Munich which was something new for me. People insulted us, even spat out in front of us. The women were the worst. They even dared to grab us by the brown shirts. In some streets there were brawls; and something happened to my foot. On the way home we were full of joy, having gotten off as well as we did. Our slogan through cities and villages was always "Germany wake up!"
Then came a big meeting where a DDP [German Democratic Party] representative spoke. É We went there too, of course. We only wanted to break it up, which we succeeded in doing. Our local leader really would have liked to speak there, but they would not let him. In a short while, chairs and steins, etc., began to fly and a huge battle developed in the beer garden. The police attacked us with drawn sabers and several of us were severely injured, including a Hitler Youth member. The whole town was in an uproar. They were going to storm our party hangout but we were prepared with mallets and the like. É Then [the Stormtroopers] were outlawed, but we went right on serving the cause.
Heinrich Wilmskštter Autobiographical Essay
He was born on March 3, 1908, making him 26 years old at the time of the writing of the essay.
Oberhausen-Styrum July 29, 1934
My father died in February 1920, and for me, as a 12 year old [and the oldest of 6 children], a new phase of my life began. More than ever, I had to give mother a hand, and had no longer time for playing with my school friends and other things.... At Easter 1920, our family of 10 persons sat in the house without a single slice of bread, since my mother had been unable to go out shopping. In the neighboring street a barricade had been erected and the whole area groaned with Communist militiamen, stupid asses of world history, who could not demonstrate their heroic courage by any other method except to pass the time by firing off their guns, thus making all pedestrian traffic impossible. I could go on and on about this incident, but don't want to depart from my principal theme, but I mention it to establish the reasons for my unconquerable aversion for all these Communists
At the end of my 14th year, as the oldest son, I was forced to leave school, despite my previous plans, in order to learn my father's trade [farmer]. Times got worse and worse; money lost its value, and from all sides we heard promises, which were never fulfilled. During my first years of physical labor as an apprentice [at a large farm], I did not have time for things not connected with my work. But soon I was approached with the suggestion that I ought to join some club. Naturally a "red" one, for in those days that went without saying. I rejected this suggestion strongly, but shortly discovered that among the few apprentices and workers employed in this horticultural establishment I was totally isolated. They tried to bring me around with spiteful comments, and even practical jokes. I was too proud to report these to the boss; with the arrogance of youth, I thought I could handle it all myself. For support, I then joined the youth group of the DNVP [the Conservative Party]. But when I started wearing the black/white/red cockade in my buttonhole [the colors of the old Imperial German flag] to work, the harassing broke out stronger than ever, and could not remain hidden from the boss any longer. Despite the fact that he was not a Social Democrat or a Communist, but a Catholic, the boss forbade me to wear this sign of "Rah-rah patriots" as he called them. Of course he also added stuff about dumb kids who don't know anything. But I refused to be converted and remained what I was. Although I didn't have much time to participate actively in politics, I was pleased to feel that I was part of a right-wing national party.
During the numerous elections, which took place on Sundays (and thus during my free time), I stood at polling places wearing sandwich-board posters edged in black/white/red, and handed out my party's flyers. It was of course understandable that during these occasions, fights would frequently break out with supporters of other parties. With youthful fanaticism, I dismissed all the unpleasant aspects of this work. I was involved for years in all this, without ever being clear about what exactly my own feelings were. My political education had been limited to learning more or less what my father had taught me, and I had not bothered to examine the truth or error in my own thoughts.... But gradually I began to see that in the electioneering, only a few, and they were always the same ones, were sent to stand outside the polls [where the fist fights broke out], while others, and these were usually the loudmouths, were assigned to desk jobs (as they were called). Most of these were sons from rich families, whose fathers held distinguished positions.
Although I noted all this, I still accepted it as the way things were, and that it was useless to try to change them. So I continued my membership in the [Conservative] Party. At the conclusion of my apprenticeship, I took over my family's farm. The economic situation, after a period of apparent prosperity [1924-1929] , now deteriorated more and more. Each political party placed the blame on the other. Chaos became the order of the day. No one knew what should be done. Daily, I had the opportunity of seeing fanatical groups distributing persuasive flyers representing various political points of view. For the first time I learned something more about the NSDAP. If [the Nazis] had come up in any discussion at DNVP meetings, they were dismissed as mindless utopians. But one of the laborers employed on my father's farm had participated in the November 1923 revolt of the NSDAP, and told me more than I could ever find in the newspapers. Without intending it, he aroused my sympathy. Still, out a sense of tradition, I remained what I was.
In 1928, I came of age to vote for the first time, and for weeks before the election I fought a war with my conscience. I considered my vote very seriously, but again tradition won out and I voted for the DNVP. And in the next election as well, I gave my vote to this party. But more and more I was aware of an emptiness in the political views of the DNVP. In particular, I balked at the fact that with only a few exceptions, the "Youth Leaders" of the DNVP were old men, for whom, despite my best intentions, I could not display any enthusiasm. More and more, the activities of our youth group was limited to living through tedious speeches at our rallies, and then singing more or less loudly "Deutschland, Deutschland źber alles." I was so bored by all this that in the fall of 1929 I quit the party. When I told my mother about it, she considered me the black sheep of the family.
Still, I was determined never again to join a political organization, no matter how attractive they sounded. Then came the September elections of 1930. Like most people, I visited many rallies, among others one by the NSDAP. The speaker that evening, a well-known National Socialist from the Ruhr, launched such a savage attack upon all the political parties that he unmasked them all, from the Left to the Right. This became too much for the police officer dispatched to oversee the meeting, who was naturally a Socialist, that he ordered the building closed, without having the slightest grounds for doing so. This attempt to stifle free expression aroused me so much that as the rally ended, I abruptly decided to join the NSDAP. At first I had to keep this fact secret from my family.
The difference between the NSDAP and the DNVP to which I had formerly belonged became very clear to me right away. An entirely different spirit reigned here. When I reported for my first SA service, and addressed my Sturmfźhrer˙ as "Mister," he gave me an answer which I would not want to repeat here. But I was so pleased by it that I was convinced I was now in the right outfit. I soon noticed however, that my step now brought with it a number of unpleasant side effects. At once people began to advise my fiancee, with whom I had been going out for some time, to leave me, or persuade me to resign from the party. When this didn't work, they spread the word that I was a Nazi, a murderer of workers. Whoever remembers those days know what results that would have. Within a short time, this economic sabotage became painfully obvious. Even before the election—I joined the party on August 27—I could see the first "successes" scored against me. But that didn't bother me too much. On the contrary, when I compared my situation with many of comrades [unemployed SA men], I still had grounds to be quite satisfied.
The election [of 1930] produced for us an unexpected triumph [the Nazis gained 107 seats in the Reichstag], but it also had another result. The terror in the streets increased from day to day. They had found out that they could not silence us by ignoring us. But no matter what the enemy tried, they had little success. Very rarely did they manage to get one or the other stormtrooper to want to quit. And in those cases, they were men who had joined for some reason or the other and not fanatical enthusiasm for our ideas. I liked it better every day. Now I really got to know the spirit of true comradeship. Many people I would once have rejected as inferior I found serving in the ranks, and I learned to appreciate their worth. I learned in practice the truth that birth and estate mean nothing and merit everything. I soon became accustomed to the many propaganda rallies where we had to serve as protective squads, the marches and demonstrations which led us through the streets of our hometown or neighboring towns, and the howling of the enemies and the quiet enthusiasm of our adherents. I could no longer imagine a life without them. I became so used to it in fact that I more and more lost contact with my old friends. They had become strangers to me and no longer understood me either. They thought that I would in time come back to spending convivial evenings with them as I once used to do every night and considered it odd that all of a sudden I had no time for these pleasures any more. As they gradually learned that I was too busy for them, I lost all contacts with them. Thus I dropped all my friends of earlier years and knew only one thing, the NSDAP and its goals. My wife—by now it was 1931 and I had gotten married meanwhile—out of fear for my safety often anxiously tried to persuade me to quit at least the SA. It was in vain. I had gotten so deeply into it that I simply could not break away.
I took part in the great SA rally of October 1931 in Braunschweig [where more than 100,000 SA and SS men paraded past Hitler] and came back more fanatical than ever. I had seen the size of the movement, its coiled power, and nothing could wean me away. I never missed an SA service and could not have forgiven myself if I had ever neglected my duty once I knew it.
Meanwhile, the year 1932 arrived and one election chased after the other, Presidential, Reichstag, State elections, God know what else. The pressures upon us became immense and unbearable, but every election helped us grow stronger. Ever more comrades joined. The pressure of the enemy increased but so did our strength. I had become the flag-bearer of my Sturm and felt so richly rewarded that I would not have wanted to exchange places with anyone. Often, when something special was going on, the Sturm assembled in my house. I had become known locally as "Nazi-Wilmskštter".... Our buildings were searched and we were watched every step of the way.... The Communists were lying in wait to catch me when I came home late, and I took to returning by devious routes. My wife cried whenever I left, begging me to think of our child. I did think of him. I wanted to give him a better fatherland than my father had been able to leave me. I had sworn an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, and I was determined to stick to that oath.
It seems appropriate that the final word in this chapter on the appeal of National Socialism should go to Joseph Goebbels. His diaries reveal, perhaps better than any other source, the growing confidence which now spread through Nazi ranks.
19 October 1929 Goebbels Diary Entry
The Reds are agitating in their most blood-thirsty fashion against our parade, scheduled for Sunday. The maddest rumors float around. I am supposed to be murdered. Some even say I have already been assassinated.... Then arrives the news that the Berlin Police Chief has banned all parades on Sunday. Thus our great rally in Wedding is off. Great sorrow here! But who knows what good might come of it. Perhaps its only result would have been the banning of the party. In stormy haste all the arrangements are canceled. The Sportspalast
announcements however remain. It will now be turned into a mass demonstration.
20 October 1929 Goebbels Diary Entry
Yesterday morning Amann and He§ came by. The Chief [Hitler] is in Berlin. We discuss plans for the new [daily] newspaper. É Then off to the Chief. He is sitting and composing posters. The Plebiscite [against the Young Plan] is going very poorly. The administration is quick to jump upon any minor illegalities, because they know that their very existence is at stake. The DNVP is doing far too little indeed. Hugenberg will have to cough up some more money so that we can go on working. Hitler is in a good state of mind about the party. He praises extravagantly our activities in Berlin. Thank God the government prohibited public parades. Otherwise it might well have come to serious pitched battles and that would have led to a prohibition of the party. Thus we avoid that evil, can portray ourselves as martyrs, and loose no prestige at all. At dinner serious disagreement between the Chief and SA Leader [Pfeffer]. The SA has grown very arrogant, runs up debts, sets up a whole warehouse for itself, and nothing comes of it all. What can you expect from officers. Afternoon, with the Chief and Amann in Wilhelmshalle CafŹ. We spoke about my work as the future head of Propaganda for the party. The Party will give me a house in Munich, to which I will travel every 14 days and stay three days in Munich. They will create a flawlessly functioning office there for me, centralize all our propaganda, and give it a united style. I will also be expected to give more speeches then in Bavaria. That is indeed necessary. Berlin will remain pretty much what it is. In this way, I can have more opportunity to have contacts with the Chief concerning the progress of our Berlin daily. The Chief told many stories and we all laughed ourselves to death. In spite of all our suffering. One must be able to laugh now and then or else one can't bear life. He departs. Auf Wiedersehen! I give a speech in Zehlendorf to an overflowinghall. Today is Sunday. Outside it is raining in sheets. Thank God that the parade was canceled. The dear God is indeed good. Will the Sportspalast be filled this afternoon. Disturbing questions. If yes, then we would have won all down the line.
21 October 1929 Goebbels Diary Entry
We have succeeded! Yesterday, by 3 pm the Sportspalast was crammed full of people. Bursting with enthusiasm. Kube spoke well. Mossakoski less well. I was able to pull everything together. The conclusion was fabulous. For more than a mile we traveled through celebrating crowds packed with people. Only one incident with the police. The Reds remain very much in the background. Thus we have won our [self-proclaimed] National Socialist Week in Berlin.
22 November 1929 Goebbels Diary Entry
On Wednesday morning off to Munich, with Himmler. I discuss with him the conditions for our future cooperation in the propaganda department. He is a small, precise man. Good natured, but somewhat fickle. A typical Strasser product. But things will work out. In the evening Munich. Chief and Geli [HitlerŐs niece from his half-sister Angela Raubal] pick me up. We are all happy to see each other. I quickly made myself presentable in the hotel room, and then we're off. The Chief accompanied me to the BźrgerbrŠu. Filled to overflowing. Everyone was there. ... Then off to the Circus, which was only half-full, and finally to the LšwenbrŠu, which also is overflowing. Hitler was very disappointed in the Circus crowd. Other halls had the same experience, some overflowing, others half empty. Half a victory, half a defeat! Afterwards with Mrs. Raubal and Geli. They like me a lot. Long discussion with Amann and the Publisher, Mźller [who have come up with a new plan for the Berlin newspaper. It will now be printed in Munich].É Later with Hitler and Amann. Hitler explains his plan. It sounds now quite different from the one Amann had explained. Printing Press in Berlin, Hitler will be the publisher, I will be the sole responsible and chief editor. We will exchange only some pages with the [Munich-published] Všlkische Beobachter: Advantages: We gain a favorable influence on the whole [Nazi] press, and gradually we will win everything. Berlin will set the tone. Hitler assures me that I have his complete and unrestricted confidence. I think that I have earned it. I am not unaware of his many failings: he is too weak and works too little. But on the other hand, he has instincts, and can handle people; he is a genius at tactics and above all has the Will to Power. But I fear, he is too involved with the ladies. In spite of all, I like him a lot.
In the evening, go with Gšring and Dr. Hanfstaengl [the American-born and Harvard-educated ŇadvisorÓ to Hitler] to the German Theater. The clown Grock is once again a source of much humor. We laugh ourselves sick! I was filled with happiness. Later with Hanfstaengl in his villa. Spend the late evening around his warm stove. Hanfstaengl is smart and intellectual. Strongly critical of Hitler because he holds onto Rosenberg, whom Hanfstaengl hates, claiming that in 1923-24 he betrayed Hitler with his movement.
But I think Hanfstaengl is unfair in his hatred. Nevertheless, he is a well-read man, and his acquaintance is well worth having. While we discussed foreign Gšring lay on the sofa snoring. Back to the house, dead tired into bed. But I lay away thinking for a long time. How many bad things have I been hearing about Hitler these days! Still I believe in him. I believe in him. They are all unfair to him. Genius has the right to be different and to live differently than other people. Everywhere I dampen down the hostility and contradict it. I will continue to do so. The Hitler myth must remain, like a rock of bronze.
Significantly, Goebbels is still placing all his hopes on the personality and talent of Hitler. Neither realize that their greatest opportunity has just arrived, the world Depression!