The Weimar Republic and the Birth of Nazism
Born on 20 April 1889, in Braunau Austria, Adolf Hitler grew up in a variety of border towns where his father was a Customs Official. Upon Alois Hitler's death in 1903, \Mrs. Hitler and her two surviving children, Adolf and Paula (who was feeble-minded) moved to Linz where Adolf began to indulge a wasteful and dissolute lifestyle. Flunking out of high school, \ he finally persuaded his mother to let him move to Vienna to pursue a career in "art." The death of his mother in 1909 freed Hitler from any family ties and he lived a lazy and unproductive bohemian life in Vienna before moving to Munich in 1913. Practically no documents survive from these first 24 years of his life. Only the coming of the First World War changed this picture.
Enthusiastic about the war, Hitler, then living in Germany, enlisted in a Bavarian regiment and served four years at the front. Twice wounded, and awarded the Iron Cross First Class for bravery under fire, he was severely gassed in the last great British attack of 1918. The earliest authentic documents that have survived are his letters from the front. The following is a typical example and already it shows that for Hitler, the Great War had become a seminal experience.
Dear Herr Assessor
I am happy to learn that my last postcard has reached you, and I also thank you sincerely for your kind reply. I had written you a long letter, but it seems that I must repeat everything. First of all, I would like to inform you, dear Herr Assessor, that I was awarded the Iron Cross on 2 December. Thank God there were more than enough chances to earn it. Our regiment was not, as we thought, attached to the reserves, but as early as 29 October  we went into battle first thing in the morning and for the last three months we have been giving them more than they bargained for both as attackers and defenders. After a glorious journey down the Rhine, we arrived in Lille on 23 October. We could see the war even from Belgium. Louvain was a heap of ash and rubble. As far as Dourmey our journey went fairly well and peacefully but then we had nothing but trouble. In some places the rails had been pried loose despite the closest watch. And then we came across an ever greater number of blown-up bridges and smashed railway engines. Although our train was moving at a snail's pace, we kept grinding to a halt more and more often. From the distance we could hear the monotonous roar of our heavy mortars. Towards evening we arrived in a fairly badly damaged suburb of Lille. We got off the train and then lounged about our piled arms. Shortly before midnight, we at long last marched into the town along an endless, monotonous road with low factory buildings on either side, and an endless row of sooty and smoke-blackened tenements. The paving is in a terrible condition and filthy. There are no civilians about after 9 p.m., but all the more soldiers. We almost put our lives at risk as we squeezed past the supply and munition columns on our way to the inner gates. Central Lille proper is slightly better. But here, too, it's all dirty if you scratch under the surface. I was reminded of Germany time and again. We spent the night in the courtyard of the Stock Exchange. The pompous building has been left unfinished. Since we had to bed down with all our gear—we were on alert—and since it was freezing cold on the cobble-stones I did not sleep a wink. Next day we changed our quarters. This time we were put into a very large glass building. There was no lack of air, quite the opposite as only the iron framework had been left standing. The blast of German shells had shattered the glass into a million fragments. During the day we did a little training, visited the town and admired the huge army machine that had left its stamp on the whole of Lille and now rolled past our astonished eyes in gigantic columns. At night we all sang, many of us for the last time. During our third night, at 2 a.m., the alarm was sounded and at 3 a.m. we all marched out in formation. No one knew precisely what was happening, but we all believed it was a kind of drill. It was a very dark night. We had been marching for less than 20 minutes when we were ordered off the road so that the supply columns, the cavalry, etc., could get past. At long last there was room for us again. Finally it was morning. We were a long way from Lille. The roar of the guns had gradually grown stronger. Like a giant snake our column inched forwards. At 9 a.m. we rested for two hours in a park, and then on again until 8 p.m. The regiment split up into companies, every one of which was taking cover from aircraft. At 9 p.m. we were handed our rations. I couldn't sleep, alas.
There was a dead horse four paces in front of my sleeping-bag. It looked as if it had been dead for two weeks at least. The beast was half decomposed. Just behind us a German howitzer battery fired two shells over our heads into the dark night every 15 minutes. They kept screaming and whistling through the air, followed by two dull thuds in the far distance. Every one of us listened out for them. We had never heard anything like it before. And while we lay pressed one against the other whispering and looking up into the starry sky, the distant noise drew closer and closer, and the individual thuds of the guns came faster and faster until finally they merged into one continuous roar. Each one of us could feel his blood pound in his veins. We were told the English were making one of their nocturnal attacks. Unsure of what was really going on, we all waited anxiously for the next move. Then everything died down until finally the hellish din stopped completely, except for our own battery which kept spitting its iron salutes into the night every 15 minutes.
In the morning we discovered a huge crater. After much effort, we put the dead horse to rest in it. We were just trying to make ourselves at home, when the alarm was sounded at 10 a.m. 15 minutes later we moved off. After a great deal of toing and froing we ended up in a wretched farmhouse and camped there. I was on guard that night. At 1 a.m. another alarm, and at 3 a.m. we marched out again, having first been issued with fresh ammunition. While we were waiting for orders, Major Graf Zech rode past; tomorrow we attack the English. At last! All of us rejoiced. The major then walked to the head of the column. At 6 a.m. we joined up with the other companies and at 7 a.m. the fun started in earnest. We crossed the woods to our right in columns, and reached a clearing. In front of us four guns had been dug in. Behind them were large foxholes in which we took up position and waited. Now the first shrapnel started to roar over our heads, bursting on the edge of the wood, and cutting down trees like wisps of straw. We looked on curiously. We didn't yet sense the danger, and so none of us was afraid. Every one of us was waiting for orders to advance. Then things went sour on us. We were told there were casualties. Five or six khaki-clad figures on the left made all of us shout with joy. Six captured Englishmen and a machine-gun! We looked at their escorts. They were walking proudly behind their prisoners, and all we could do was wait, for we could see next to nothing in the foggy witches' caldron that spread out in front of us. At last came orders to advance. We fanned out and raced across a field towards a small farm. To either side of us shells kept bursting and English bullets kept whistling by. But we paid no heed. For ten minutes we stayed put, and then we were ordered forward once more. I was right out in front, way ahead of most of the platoon. Suddenly I heard that file-leader Stower had been wounded. Oh dear, I thought, that's a fine start! Because we had no cover, we simply had to press on. Our captain was in the lead now. Then men started to fall all around me. The English had turned their machine-guns on us. We flung ourselves down and crawled through a gulley.
Every so often we had to stop because someone had been wounded, and couldn't go on and had to be lifted out. And so we crawled on until the gulley stopped and then it was the open field for us once again. Some 15 to 20 meters beyond was a large pond. One after the other we dived in, took cover, and got our breath back. But we couldn't stay there forever. And so out and on to a wood some 100 meters in front of us. Here we all reassembled. It looked as if we had been pared down a lot. We were now led by a mere vice-sergeant, Schmidt, a magnificent hunk of a man. We crawled to the edge of the wood. There was a constant howling and roaring overhead, with tree-trunks and branches flying in pieces through the air. Then shells burst into the wood once again and threw up showers of stone, earth and sand, tore up the heaviest trees by their roots and smothered everything in a horrible, greeny-yellow, stinking vapor. We couldn't lie there for ever, and if we had to get it, far better to get it outside. Then our major appeared.
On we went again. I leapt and ran as best I could across meadows and turnip fields, jumped across ditches, negotiated wire entanglements and hedges, and then I heard a shout right in front: "All of you, in here!" A long trench stretched out before me; a moment later I had jumped in and countless others all round me were doing likewise. By my side were Würtembergers, beneath me dead and wounded Englishmen. The Würtembergers had taken the trench by storm. Now I realized why I had had so soft a landing. Trenches 240—280 meters to the left of us were still held by the English and so was the road to Becelaire to our right. A hail of steel whistled across our trench. At 10 a.m., our own guns began to reply at last. 1-2-3-5 etc. Again and again one of our shells landed in the English trench. They poured out like ants from an antheap, and then we attacked. We crossed the fields at lightning speed and after many bloody hand-to-hand skirmishes we cleared the lot of them out of their trenches. Many came out with their hands up. Those who did not surrender were mowed down. And so we cleared up trench after trench. Finally we reached the main road. A plantation stretched to either side of us. In we went, and chased them out in droves. And so we reached the other edge of the plantation and the open road. To the left a few farms were still held by the enemy, and we came under blistering fire. Comrades collapsed all round me. Then our madcap major arrived, smoking quite unconcernedly. With him was his adjutant, Lt Pyloty. The major quickly surveyed our position and ordered us to assemble on either side of the road and then to attack. We ourselves had no officers left and hardly any non-commissioned officers. And so every one of us who was worth his salt raced back to get reinforcements. When I returned for the second time with a band of dispersed Würtembergers, I found the major lying on the ground with his chest torn wide open, and a heap of bodies all round him. The only officer left was his adjutant. We were boiling with rage. "Lieutenant, lead us into the attack," all of us yelled. And so on we went to the left of the wood, for we couldn't possibly make it on the road. 4 times we advanced only to be thrown back. Of my entire lot, only one other was left and at last he fell as well. Then a bullet tore off my right sleeve but by a miracle I myself was saved. At 2 p.m. we advanced for the 5th time and this time we took the edge of the wood and the farmsteads beyond. At 5 p.m. we re-assembled and dug in a hundred meters in front of the road. And so we fought on for 3 days until finally we got the better of the English. On the evening of the 4th day we marched back to Osterwick, where we could take stock of our losses. In 4 days, our regiment had shrunk from 32 thousand to 600. We were left with only 3 officers. 4 companies had to be dissolved. But we were all proud of having beaten the English. Ever since we have been right in the front lines. In Messines I was recommended for the Iron Cross and again in Wyschaete, the 2nd time with four others, by Lt-Col Engelhardt, our regimental commander. On 2 December I received it at last. I am now a staff runner. It's slightly less dirty work but all the more dangerous. In Wyschaete alone 3 of us 8 were killed on the first day of the attack and one was badly wounded. That time we were saved by our decoration. For when the list of recommendations for the "Cross" was being discussed, 4 company leaders came into the tent, or rather into the dug-out. Because there was not enough room, we had to step outside. We had been waiting there for less than 5 minutes when a shell hit the dug-out, wounding Lt-Col Engelhardt badly and killing or wounding the rest of the staff. It was the worst moment of my life. All of us worshipped Lt-Col Engelhardt.
I must close now and beg you, dear Herr Assessor, to forgive my poor hand. I am very nervous right now. Day after day we are under heavy artillery fire from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and that is bound to ruin even the strongest of nerves. For the two parcels you were kind enough to send me sincerest thanks to you and your esteemed wife. I often think of Munich, and each one of us has only one wish: that he might soon get a chance to even scores with that crew, to get at them no matter what the cost, and that those of us who are lucky enough to return to the fatherland will find it a purer place, less riddled with foreign influences, so that the daily sacrifices and sufferings of hundreds of thousands of us and the torrent of blood that keeps flowing here day after day against an international world of enemies, will not only help to smash Germany's foes outside but that our inner internationalism, too, will collapse. This would be worth much more than any gain in territory. Austria will fare as I have always said she will. Once more my sincerest thanks and respectful regards to your dear mother and wife,
Yours most sincerely, Adolf Hitler.ˇ
In a recent publication, the editors print the following poem, claiming that it was written by Adolf in 1918. A large number of scholars have challenged this attribution, and it may very well be a forgery. But the editor has included it here, with due warnings, because whether or not Hitler wrote it, the poem certainly captures the deep sentimental feelings about front line comrades which Hitler always treasured. To him, the Great War was a seminal experience.ˇ
You served for us all,
And so for you we prepared
Your graves where German oaks give shade.
These oaks, signs of peace, strength and life
Are the most beautiful possible symbols
To adorn your graves.
In this German forest, where the German spirit breathes,
In this quite grove, where you rest in peace,
Here thousands will honor you for a thousand years.
And when we walk deep into this forest,
Approaching the site of your graves,
Our steps falter
As we hear you call out to us all.
Thus will you go on living forever,
long after your bodies decay.
Transferred to Munich from the Pasewalk hospital on November 21, 1918, Hitler lived through the brief Soviet Revolution in Munich. No documents have been found about what he was doing during this period, although in Mein Kampf he claimed that he was hiding because his name was on the "wanted list" of the Munich Communists. Next to the war experience, Anti-Bolshevism was the chief characteristic of National Socialism.
After Munich was "recaptured" from the Soviets by a group of Free Corps vigilantes, supported with secret funds from the German Army, Hitler re-surfaced. His name appears as a "confidential agent" in a list compiled by the Bavarian Captain Karl Mayr, who under the command of a professional army officer Ernst Röhm, was seeking to form a circle of reliable officers, soldiers and journalists to indoctrinate the demobilized troops. Hitler was brought to Mayr's attention by his friend, Professor Karl Alexander von Müller, the distinguished Munich historian, who offered a series of lectures to explain to the soldiers what had happened in recent German history.
After the conclusion of one lecture, and the lively discussion which followed, as I was leaving the hall which was rapidly emptying, I came across a small group which held my attention. They seemed to be spell-bound by a man in their middle, who was incessantly speaking to them in a unique guttural voice and with growing passion. I had the remarkable impression that their excitement was his work, and at the same time their excitement in turn encouraged him. I saw a pale, thin face, under a most unsoldierly dangling strand of hair, with a shortly clipped mustache and remarkably large, light blue eyes which gleamed with fanatic coldness. After the next lecture, I waited to see if he would speak up in the discussion, but as before he did not do so, [but waited until after the period was over to talk to the small group which gathered]. Later on I said to my old classmate [Mayr]: "Do you know that you have a man with immense natural oratorical gifts in your group? He seems to just go on and on talking, once he gets engaged in the fray." "Where does he sit?" [Mayr replied]. I indicated the place. "So," he returned, "that is Hitler, from the List Regiment."
Soon Hitler revealed a remarkable ability in public speaing, and beginning on August 20, 1919, participated in a series of "retreats" offered by the Army for returning soldiers.The chief speaker of this "Educational Squad" was impressed by his talent.
My talks were marvelously enlarged upon by Corporal Hitler of the 2nd Infantry Regiment's Educational Squad, who seized upon individual points from the various lectures in a most flamboyant and easily understandable fashion, in order to make them clear to the people
The response from individual participants was equally favorable. ˇ
"All's well that ends well," I'll say here, for I am surprised and delighted by the successes which our Educational Squad has achieved in these five days. The lion's share of the success no doubt belongs to Herr Hitler and Herr Beyschlag, who were able, by their splendid speeches, to attract the attention, and the interest of the company.... In particular, Herr Hitler, if I may put it this way, is the born popular speaker, and by his fanaticism and his crowd-appeal, he clearly attracts the attention of the audience and compels it to share his trend of thought. For my own person, I spent most of my time in the canteen, or taking walks in the neighborhood and watching various athletic contests.
Concerning the activities of the Educational Squad during out five-day stay with the Bendt Company, the results can only be described as entirely satisfactory, since the men followed the various lectures with great interest, especially those of Herr Beyschlag and Herr Hitler. The latter in particular revealed himself as an outstanding and flamboyant orator and captured the attention of the entire audience for his presentation. Once, e could not end his talk in the allotted time, and he asked the men if they wanted to come back later, after their duties were finished, to hear the end. And everyone agreed at once. You could see clearly that the interest of these soldiers had been awakened, and that is in itself a remarkable triumph.
In the course of these talks, Hitler began to center on a special topic—the role of the Jews. This was not a part of the programmed course.
Following a very good, clear, and flamboyant lecture by Corporal Hitler on Capitalism, in which he brought up the Jewish question—indeed he had to bring up this point—there was some conflict among the staff about the nature and style of this talk, and some questioned whether one of the teachers should express his own opinions in such a clear and undisguised fashion, or should such opinions be presented only indirectly. They pointed out that the Educational Squad had been set up as [an official army unit] and was on active military duty. If now the Jewish question were to be raised so bluntly, \and presented from the "Germanic" [i.e. traditional anti-Semitic] point of view, this discussion could easily provide an excuse for Jews to denounce our whole program as simply Jew-hatred. I therefore was forced to order that in the treatment of this question, the utmost caution should be exercised and that clear references to the influence of foreign races upon the German people should, if possible, be avoided.
Despite this order, however, a number of the participants left the course primarily influenced by the alleged role of Jews in Germany's defeat. One of them wrote to the direců\tor of the program, asking for an official clarification of the army's position on the Jewish question. In turn, Captain Mayr asked Adolf Hitler to answer the letter.
What follows is Hitler's reply. It is his first surviving political writing.
16 September 1919 Report of Adolf Hitler to Captain Karl Mayr
If the threat with which Jewry faces our people has given rise to undeniable hostility on the part of a large section of our people, the cause of this hostility must not be sought in the clear recognition that Jewry as such is deliberately or unwittingly having a pernicious effect on our nation, but mostly in personal intercourse, in the poor impression the Jew makes as an individual. As a result, anti-Semitism far too readily assumes a purely emotional character. But this is not the correct response. Anti-Semitism as a political movement may not and cannot be molded by emotional factors but only by recognition of facts. Now the facts are:
To begin with, the Jews are unquestionably a race, not a religious community. And the Jew himself never describes himself as a Jewish German, a Jewish Pole or a Jewish American, but always as a German, Polish or American Jew. Never has the Jew absorbed more from the alien people in whose midst he lives than their language. And no more than a German who is forced to use the French language in France, the Italian language in Italy, and the Chinese language in China, thereby becomes a Frenchman, an Italian, let alone a Chinaman, no more can we call a Jew who happens to live amongst us and who is therefore forced to use German, a Gerůman. And even the Mosaic faith, however great its importance for the preservation of that race, cannot be the sole criterion for deciding who is a Jew and who is not. There is hardly a race in the world whose members all belong to a single religion.
Through inbreeding for thousands of years, often in very small circles, the Jew has been able to preserve his race and his racial characteristics much more successfully than most of the numerous people among whom he lives. As a result we have living in our midst a non-German, alien race, unwilling and indeed unable to shed its racial characteristics, its particular feelings, thoughts and ambitions, and nevertheless enjoying the same political rights as we ourselves do. And since even the Jew's feelings are limited to the material sphere, his thoughts and ambitions are bound to be so even more strongly. The dance around the golden calf becomes a ruthless struggle for all those goods that WE feel deep down are not the highest and not the only ones worth striving for on this earth.
The work of an individual is no longer determined by his character, by the importance of his achievement for the community, but solely by the size of his fortune, his wealth. The greatness of the nation is no longer measured by the sum of its moral and spiritual resources, but only by its material goods. All this results in that mental attitude and that quest for money and the power to protect it which allows the Jew to become so unscrupulous in his choice of means, so merciless in their use for his own ends. In autocratic states he cringes before the "majesty" of the princes and misuses their favors to become a leech on their people.
In a democracy, he vies for the favors of the masses, grovels before the "majesty of the people," but only recognizes the majesty of money. He saps the prince's character by Byzantine flattery; national pride and the strength of the nation by ridicule and shameless seduction to vice. His chosen weapon is public opinion as falsified by the press. His power is the power of the money he accumulates so easily and endlessly in the form of interest and with which he imposes upon the nation a yoke that is the more pernicious in that its glitter disguises its dire consequences. Everything that makes a people strive for greater things, be it religion, socialism or democracy, merely serves the Jew as a means to the satisfaction of his greed and thirst for power. The result of his works is racial tuberculosis of the nation.
And this has the following consequences: purely emotional anti-Semitism finds its final expression in the form of pogroms [i.e. acts of physical violence against individual Jews and Jewish communities]. Rational anti-Semitism, by contrast, must lead to a systematic and legal struggle against, and eradication of what privileges the Jews enjoy over other foreigners living among us (Alien Laws). Its final objective, however, must be the total removal of all Jews from our midst. Both objectives can only be achieved by a government of national strength, never by a government of national impotence.
The German republic owes its birth not to the united will of our peoples, but to the underhanded exploitation of a series of circumstances that, taken together, expressed themselves in deep dissatisfaction. These circumstances, however, arose independently of the political structure and are at work even today. Indeed, more so than ever before. Hence a large part of our people have come to recognize that it is not by changing the structure of the state as such that our position can be improved, but only by the rebirth of the nation's moral and spiritual forces.
And this rebirth cannot be prepared by the leadership of an irresponsible majority influenced by party dogmas or by the internationalist catch-phrases and slogans of an irresponsible press, but only by determined acts on the part of nationally-minded leaders with an inner sense of responsibility.
This very fact serves to deprive the Republic of the inner support of the spiritual forces any nation needs very badly. Hence the present leaders of the nation are forced to seek the support of those who alone have benefited and continue to benefit from changing the form of the German state, and who for that very reason became the driving force of the Revolution—the Jews. Disregarding the Jewish threat, which is undoubtedly recognized even by the present-day leaders (as witness various statements by prominent personalities), these men are forced to accept Jewish favors for their private advantage and to repay these favors. And the repayment does not merely involve satisfying every possible Jewish demand, but above all prevents the struggle of the duped people against their deceivers, by sabotaging the anti-Semitic movement.
Yours truly, Adolf Hitler
On 3 October 1919, while serving as an agent for the army, Hitler attended a meeting of a small organization founded by Karl Harrer and Anton Drexler. It was called the German Workers' Party [Deutsche Arbeiterpartei = DAP], and represented an attempt to unite worker-class discontent with national patriotism. The guidelines of the party show the basic principles of this group to which Hitler, and his Army bosses, became attracted.
What is the German Workers' Party?ˇ
The DAP is a socialist organization, composed of all Volk comrades engaged in mental or physical work. [Volksgenossen, literally "a comrade of the people." In German the word Volk
means "people" or "nation" but also carries a biological or familial connotation. Thus it is sometimes translated as "racial comrade, " but this editor believes this is too strong, and so he has consistently left untranslated the German "Volk," and the adjective "völkisch." Readers can thus make their own decision about what speakers mean by the phrase.] It may only be guided by German leaders who put aside all selfish goals and allow national needs to be the highůest concern of the program.
What does the German Workers' Party offer the worker?ˇ
The DAP seeks the ennoblement of the German worker. Skilled resident workers have the right to be considered members of the middle class. A sharp distinction beůtween workers and proletarians should be made. An international agreement with the trade unions of other countries must stabilize wages, making it impossible for the working class of a particular country to engage in sharp bargaining. In the future, the competitive position of an individual country shall be determined not by the lowest wages but by the diligence and efficiency of its workers. In this way the causes of friction among the various countries will be avoided. Big business provides food and employment and is therefore to be protected, as long as it does not relentlessly exploit the worker, making it impossible for him to lead a worthwhile life. The DAP believes that the socialization of German economic life signals the collapse of the German economy. By controlling socialized businesses, our enemies would be in the best possible position to collect efficiently the war indemnities which have been imposed on us, and to do so at the expense of the workers. Therefore, the German worker should have not socialization but profit-sharing. Profit sharing can be made possible by founding work cooperatives in the cities, and in the country, farm cooperatives among the agricultural workers, to protect land and soil.
Who is the DAP fighting against?ˇ
The DAP is fighting with all its strength against usury and the forcing up of prices. Against all those who create no values, who make high profits without any mental or physical work. We fight against the drones in the state; these are mostly Jews; they live a good life, they reap where they have not sown. They control and rule us with their money. For these drones, Germany and her entire people are just objects of speculation; their party slogans are much the same. All talk, no action. The DAP honors the principle: he who will not work shall not eat. We fight for justice, true freedom, and happiness. No dictatorship of the proletariat! Equal justice for all. No rule of bayonets! Everyone shall feel himself to be a free German. There is no happiness in phrases and empty speeches at meetings, demonstrations, and elections. Our striving is toward the free happiness of good work, the full pot, and prospering children.
To what extent is the DAP politically active?ˇ
The DAP opposes any threat to the unity of the Reich, but rejects the predominance of any one single state. We want to be governed only by Germans; foreigners and Jews govern us only in their own interest or in the interest of a foreign country. With the people and with the government they make deals, not politics. The Foreign Office should consist of German representatives from all the states participating in the federation, representatives elected by the peoples of the federated states. Our party advocates an international law for the press of all countries. By punishing the intentional reporting of false news, his law will prevent the kind of incitement of peoples to aggression which occurred during the World War. The highest principles of justice and truth must again be made valid in today's world.
How does the DAP think the costs of the war can be paid?ˇ
Our guiding star is this: war is a disaster for a country and disaster means suffering. For this reason no one had any right to gather riches at home while our soldiers fought abroad. Regardless of earnings before the war, we consider 10,000 Marks to be the highest permissible annual earnings during the war; the rest is to be delivered to the central government, which will use it to pay war costs. Furthermore, property owners must be called upon to help cover the war costs, and any estates which are little encumbered are to be forced to take up compulsory mortgages.ˇ
In late 1919, on orders of Captain Mayr, Hitler joined the DAP. His letter seeking admission is significant.
I herewith request admission to the German Workers' Party. I am 30 years old, and served from 1914 to 1918 as a soldier on the front, and was decorated with the Iron Cross, First Class. My profession is salesman, \but I would like to become a recruiting officer; people tell me that I am gifted in this line....
Within a month, Hitler began to appear in public as a DAP orator. The outline for his first public speech has survived. It gives a good insight into the ideas Hitler was pursuing.
13 November 1919 Outline of Adolf Hitler's Speech in Eberbraükeller, Munich
Brest Litovsk and Versailles Length of speech: 15-20 minutes
Peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk [the German dictated peace which ended the war with Russia]
Spartakist uprising in Berlin
The Jews Liebknecht, Luxemburg and Radek
Who signed the shameful conditions of the armistice? The Jew Erzberger
Punishment blows for the Jew Erzberger
Who were the leaders of the bloody Soviet Government in Bavaria? The Jew Mühlsam, the Jew Landauer, the Jew Levien, the Jew Leviné, the Russian Jew Axelroad. Eisner too was a Jew.
The workers starve, but 3,000 kilograms of white flour for the Jewish community in Munich.
Karl Liebknecht was the founder of German socialism; Rosa Luxumberg was the leader of the radical Spartakists in 1919, and Karl Radek was Lenin's agent in the early days of the Republic. Liebknecht was not Jewish, and Matthias Erzberger was the devoted Catholic and member of the Center Party!
The Jewish radicals mentioned were active in the Bavarian Soviet Republic of 1919.
129 persons attended this talk, which, despite Hitler's intentions, lasted 90 minutes, and the DAP collected 14.25 RM (about $2.00) in donations. The press reports, however, were glowing.
In a most clever fashion, the speaker compared the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which the bulk of the German press was now condemning as a shameful and dictated peace, with the Treaty of Versailles, which the same papers were praising, in lying and idiotic fashion, as a peace based upon reconciliation. The picture which Herr Hitler painted for his attentive audience about these two peace treaties blatantly differentiated them from each other, and agitated greatly many hearts. Supportive cries interrupted his presentation and indicated the audience's agreement with the speaker's extremely flamboyant exposition. [Hitler] received enthusiastic applause when he characterized the German Republic as the "Allies' Republic," whose freedom consisted of permitting all sorts of exploiters, usurers, profiteers and black market scoundrels to extort most vilely our people without any fear of punishment. At the end, waves of applause, often bursting up again in enthusiasm, expressed gratitude for the splendid presentation by Herr Hitler.
The meeting was attended by both civilians and military men, and people of every class and political affiliation were also present. [The Bavarian Political Police reported 300 present]
At 7:30, Herr Hitler opened the meeting and began his lecture entitled: "Germany Stands Before Her Deepest Degradation!"
Again and again the Entente [Britain, France and Italy], presents new peace terms for our signature. From English newspapers we gather that the day set for the signing of the peace is Christmas day. Incessantly we are challenged by fateful assaults. First of all, if the terms of the peace must be adhered to (which are at present little more than speculations), then our position will be unbearable. If whole sections of the world mobilize for war, it is impossible to lay the blame on a single nation. In the past, English diplomats consciously have tried to disunite every nation in order to be able later to turn a profit. The seizure of our colonies is an irreplaceable loss. We are forced to purchase our raw materials from the Allied Powers and indeed at such an expense that we shall be totally excluded from competition in the world market. From our position, the enemies fall into two groups: the first group has real military interests in fighting us, the second group consists of those who through diplomatic tricks would be prepared to help destroy our state. In France, hatred against the Germans has been preached in the schools, and the same happened in Italy against Austria. Hatred has to be preached for fifty years before it finally erupted. France has tried for centuries to push her boundaries to the Rhine. A Frenchman who made a study-tour of Germany in 1907 wrote a work about his impressions: he highly praises the organization and the advancement of the proletariat [as a means of weakening Germany].
England, for centuries a world power, has a world monopoly. Only after the English first sent their own trading ships out into the world, did we succeed in making ourselves independent of them and were able to compete with them. Germany in recent years has managed to set her foot upon every part of the world and was about to achieve the height of world power. This is why England was encouraged to wage war against us. And then America! As a land of money she too had to take part in the war, in order not to lose her mortgaged wealth. It was America, too, who earned the lion's share of the spoils after the war. And now we can look forward to nothing. The revolution has shaken the foundation of the [German] State to its deepest core. Thievery, murder, and manslaughter are weekly occurrences. Incompetents sit in the government, making promises, but accomplishing nothing. It is necessary at the next election to consider therefore everything, and not to forget that today the Jews alone conduct business and are not afraid to incite a war among brothers by agitation and active rebellion. My motto is:
GERMANY BELONGS TO THE GERMANS!
7 January 1920 Bavarian Political Police Report on Hitler Speech in Münchener-Kindl-Keller
The greatest villain is not the Jew, but rather those who put themselves at the disposal of Jews (Applause). We fight against Jews because they stand in the way of the real fight against Capitalism. To a great extent, we have brought this great distress upon ourselves. Even today, when the whole world is arrayed against us, we continue to fight each other at home. In whose interest is it that we engage in this civil war? We know very well!
[Hitler] thanked his opponents who were present in large numbers, for their quiet behavior and stressed that "we too will not attack you from the rear." Then he clearly spelled out what the DAP wants to accomplish. Everywhere there is distress, suffering, starvation etc. Everyone is asking himself, how long can this go on, and what are the officials doing about it. Nothing! Because this administration is too cowardly to tell the people the truth (lively shouts and applause). We hear only the constant refrain: work harder! They forget to add, however, that those who work longer or harder do not thereby help themselves, but only our enemies! That Peace Treaty is giving birth only to new and awful sufferings. Week by week billions in new paper money is being printed, and the value of the Mark is constantly falling. Once upon a time, our civil servants were famous for their reliability and honesty. But today? How can we expect honor from a class of men whose leader is called Herr "Erzberger?" (stormy applauseˇ). The Democratic Party has recently announced that it does not appear to be feasible to continue in the government if Herr Erzberger stays in office. They really should have said: we find it incomprehensible that this gentlemen is not yet locked up in a prison (lively applause). Through his evil example, corruption has grown immense. In the case of a simple hoarder the government exercises amazing energy in taking away his two eggs. But it is not the fault of the hoarder that his name is only Hummelberger or something similar and not Isidor Bach [a Jewish name] (stormy applause and cries) New government bureaus are constantly being opened, but less and less is being accomplished. Discontented workers are told, why don't you emigrate to Russia if you want work. Wouldn't it have been better if the Eastern Jews had stayed in Russia, if there was such a shortage of laborers (lively applause). Only think of what a wonderful thing it would be if all of these Jews emigrated (applause—cries of Down with the Jewish press! Kick the Jews out). Yes, first kick out the guilty ones—the Jews—and then we can really clean up the country ourselves (lively applause). Fines imposed upon those guilty of racketeering and usury are not sufficient (cries of "Whip them! String 'em up!). How are we going to protect our fellow creatures from this lecherous crew? (String 'em up!) Doubtlessly, we Germans are good theoreticians, but not good practical people. We must learn once again that our existence is integrally linked with the well-being of our whole Volk. Our people are always seeking universal solidarity of all nations, but fail to hope for one thing: the solidarity of our own people (applause). This must be said to all internationally-minded workers: Whoever relies upon another always ends up deserted! (stormy applause). Today people are seeking pleasure, and dance about, in order to forget their sufferings. It is no coincidence that repeatedly new pleasures are found. They are trying to enervate us through art (applause). So one side cries: you should work harder; the other says: enjoy yourselves! Our political parties have the task of enlightening our people about these things. But nothing like that happens! These parties today are useless. Parties are good only to make promises (here he makes references to the Communists). One promises us heaven itself (Shocking!). Look at the Conservatives (great disturbance in the hall).
Now, Hitler read the program of the German Worker's Party, and individual points often received abundant applause. During the reading of the program, there was frequent heckling from the opposition, and responding cries of "Kick 'em out." Often a huge tumult ensued and I thought that fighting would break out at any moment [Hitler continued talking, saying] if we do not appear in public so often these days it is not because of cowardice but because of a shortage of money. Our party calls for the uniting of all creative groups. Our motto is FIGHT. We will continue on our way imperturbably until we reach our goal (long-lasting and stormy applause).
Hitler had rapidly risen to a leadership position in the tiny party. In February 1920, he and one of the original founders, Anton Drexler, decided to reorganize the group. They called themselves the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiter Parteiˇ = NSDAP), and together they drafted the 25 points of an official Party Platform. This was the program Hitler read out at the 24 February meeting described above.
The program of the German Workers' Party is designed to be of limited duration. Once the aims announced in it have been achieved, the leaders have no intention of establishing new ones for the purpose of artificially increasing the discontent of the masses, merely in order to ensure the continued existence of the Party.
1. We demand the union of all Germans—on the basis of the right of national self-determination—in a Greater Germany.
2. We demand equality of rights for the German people with all other nations, and the abrogation of the peace treaties of Versailles and Saint-Germain [the Austrian treaty].
3. We demand land and soil (colonies) for the nourishment of our people and for the settlement of our excess population.
4. Only members of the German Volk can be citizens of the State. Only those of German blood, regardless of their religion, may be considered a Volk comrade. Accordingly, no Jew can be a Volk comrade.
5. Non-citizens shall live in Germany only as guests and must be subject to laws for aliens.
6. The right to participate in decisions for leadership in government and for making laws shall be enjoyed only by citizens. We demand, therefore, that every public office, no matter what kind, whether in the Federal Government, or in the state and local governments, shall be staffed only by citizens. We oppose the corrupting parliamentary system of filling offices only according to the needs of the party and without regard for character or ability.
7. We demand that the State pledge itself to assure the productivity and livelihood of citizens above all others. If it is not possible to support the entire population, members of foreign nations (non-citizens) are to be expelled.
8.All further immigration of non-German must be prevented. We demand that all non-Germans who have entered Germany after 2 August 1914 be required to leave the Reich immediately,
9.All citizens must possess equal rights and duties.
10. It must be the primary duty of every citizen to work mentally or physically. The activities of the individual may not conflict with the interests of the general public but must be carried on within the framework of the whole and for the good of all.
WE THEREFORE DEMAND
11. Abolition of income unearned by labor or effort;
BREAKING THE BONDAGE OF INTEREST
12.Considering the enormous sacrifices of property and blood which every war demands from a people, personal enrichment because of war has to be seen as a crime against the people. We therefore demand complete confiscation of all war profits.
13. We demand nationalization of all (previously) incorporated companies (trusts).
14. We demand profit-sharing in big business.
15. We demand a generous extension of old-age insurance.
16. We demand the creation and maintenance of a sound middle class; immediate communalization of the great department stores and their leasing to small businessmen at low rents; most favorable consideration to small businessmen in all government purchasing and contracting, whether national, state, or local.
17. We demand land reform suited to our national needs, creation of a law providing for expropriation without compensation of land for common purposes, abolition of taxes on land and prevention of all speculation [in land prices].
18. We demand a relentless fight against those whose activities harm the common good. Traitors, usurers, profiteers, and so forth, are to be punished with death, regardless of religion or race.
19.We demand the substitution of a German Common Law for Roman Law. Roman Law serves a materialistic world order.
20. In order to make it possible for every able and industrious German to obtain a higher education, and thereby to achieve a leading position, the state must take charge of a thorough extension of our entire national educational system. The curricula of all schools must be adapted to the demands of practical life. The school must impress an understanding of the state [civics] very early, at the very beginning of rational thought in the child. We demand the education of gifted children of poor parents at the cost of the State, regardless of the parents' status or profession.
21. The State must improve public health through protection of mother and child, prevention of child labor; by imposing a physical fitness program by means of establishing legal obligations in gymnastics and sports, and by supporting all organizations concerned with the physical training of youth.
22. We demand the abolition of mercenary troops [i.e. the salaried professional army], and the creation of a people's army.
23. We demand legal measures against deliberate political lying and its dissemination in the press. To facilitate the creation of a German national press we demand:
a. that all editors of, and contributors to newspapers appearing in the German language must be Volk comrades.
b. that non-German newspapers may appear only with the express permission of the State, and they must not be printed in the German language;
c. that non-Germans shall be prohibited by law from investing in or influencing German newspapers, and be punished for violating such a law by the closing of the publishing house and the immediate deportation of the non-Germans involved.... Newspapers which conflict with the common good are to be forbidden. We demand legal measures against any tendency in art and literature which has a subversive influence on the life of our people, and the closing down of any meetings or organizations which do not conform to these demands.
24. We demand freedom for all religious denominations within the State, provided they do not threaten the State's existence, or offend the ethical and moral feelings of the Germanic race.
The Party as such subscribes to a positive Christianity, but does not commit itself to any particular denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialist spirit within us and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our Volk can only come about from within, on the basis of the principle:
THE COMMON INTEREST
25. In order to carry out these policies we demand: ,creation of a strong central authority in the Reich. The central parliament must have unlimited authority over the entire Reich and all its organizations. The formation of chambers according to occupation and profession to carry out in the individual states the basic law enacted by the Reich. The leaders of the party pledge that they will relentlessly seek the implementation of these points, if necessary at the cost of their lives.
The meeting began at seven-thirty and ended at about a quarter to eleven. The speaker delivered a pronouncement on Jewry. He announced that no matter where one looked, there were Jews. All of Germany was being ruled by Jews. It was a scandal that the German workers—both those who worked by their hands and those who used brainpower—were being incited by the Jews. Naturally, because the Jew always has money in his hand. And there are Jews who sit in the government offices and encourage and carry out black-marketeering. And when his pockets are again full, then he manipulates the workers against each other, so that he can once again seize control, and we poor Germans let all this happen to us without a murmur. He then spoke about Russia, where despite the fact that they have fought for their freedom in the past two years, [the workers] are now worse off than before. They now once again have to work twelve hours a day. Unless some great change takes place in Germany, we will have to go through the same thing as the Russians, and who will be responsible for bringing this about? Only the Jew. Therefore Germans should unite and fight against the Jews. For they are gobbling up even our smallest crumbs. He then explained the twenty-five points.
The closing words of the speaker were: "We will carry out this war against the Jews until the last of them are removed from the German Reich, even if it requires a Putsch, and, what's more, even if it requires a REVOLUTION."
11 June 1920 Bavarian Political Police and Army Report on Hitler Speech, Bürgerbräukeller
After some introductory words by the presiding officer, Anton Drexler, Herr Hitler delivered a two-hour talk on the fight after the elections: [He said] this administration has had 18 months in which to secure the support of the masses. But they have accomplished nothing; for 18 months they have lied to the people. Had they told the truth, the people today would be in a better mood. Instead, they have muddled on. ...
Just as international capitalism (particularly Jewish firms) continue to plunder Germany [through the Versailles Treaty], so at home we are being plundered by usurers, black-market gangsters, and industrial war-profiteers. And our administration in Berlin has not undertaken even one serious step against these people. Instead, they proceed to form committees, and produce legislation which then is not enforced, so that instead of hanging the profiteers who are threatening the very life of the German Volk, they in fact protect them! For the fines the law prescribes against illegal profiteering are so ridiculously small that if they are ever imposed on the usurers, they pay them gladly out of their inflated profits! And who is the chief manipulator who turns political parties against each other, and who directly and indirectly uses these profiteers and black-market criminals for his own purpose? Always and only our oriental syphilitic [Jewish] guests, who bleed Germany dry in this time of economic distress, and who play off stupid Germans against each other and teach them to hate each other, only so that our country will remain in an uproar and thus allow them to pursue their petty affairs.
We have been criticized for not participating in the election campaigns this year. We refused to do so out of ethical as well as financial reasons. ... We consider the party struggles which are currently being played—namely, "Middle Class join us!" or "Proletariat come to us!"—to be a great misfortune for Germany, and more\over we lack the money needed to present our propaganda and ideas clearly before the masses, as such an election campaign really requires. Yet the extremely large attendance at today's rally shows that broad circles of the population are interested in our ideas; despite the fact that the elections were over yesterday, tonight our meeting is filled with visitors. Our party refuses to engage in a party fight against other parties, rather we aim at a higher goal, namely the well-being of our Fatherland. In the next election, however, our party will participate. For gradually the German people must come to see and develop sufficient political awareness to understand that the party struggles of German Volk comrades—be they from the Right or the Left—is a senseless, idiotic crime, because in Germany's present desperate situation, the real issue we face is one of life or death. And by continuing these election fights, we only make it easier for our enemies to exploit us all the more.
The masses must first get to know themselves what they want, and then pass on that information to the men in the weak seats [i.e. the Reichstag]. A broad education of the Volk is the way to achieve success; the international exploitation by capitalism must be fought, as well as the tyranny of international indebtedness. Our current debt of 300 billion Marks requires 15 billion Marks interest, which must be squeezed out of the Volk. Strikes, which are the sole weapons available for workers to show their economic might, have now been turned into a political swindle (applause). Our legislatures must stop making our currency worthless. Instead of improving the means for supporting our existence, they produce more shreds of paper [money]. They have mortgaged our factories to the Entente's capital. How is our enormous public debt to be paid? They have taken away our valuable coal producing area; at the same time they borrow more money from North America, in the amount of 1,300 billion Marks, which will gobble up 65 billion a year in interest payments. Yet they tell us: we live in a free country! The popular parties do nothing about this, and don't want to do anything.
The speaker then went on at great length about the Jews, and their race, and declared the sharpest war on them (applause). He requested that all workers—whether they work with their hands or with their minds—join together. Everyone must act like Germans! And love his neighbor as if he were his brother. To be "National" means to love your own Volk, and to be proud of your Volk. He demonstrated this pride by many cultural examples; he praised Frederick the Great, Ludwig I and Ludwig II [Kings of Bavaria], and various artistic monuments. ... Every accomplishment, be it by a worker or a prince, should be recognized, if it deserves to be. We oppose dissipation of worker's strength; each should fill the position which properly is his. Without exception, all must work, otherwise he is a scoundrel, even if he wears a monocle! Whoever bears love in his heart for his Volk should hold himself aloof from party-strife. We want to become free citizens of the world, instead of slaves of the world! Either freedom for a Volk is valuable—in which case everyone has the obligation to work at gaining and preserving this freedom—or else freedom is not very important—but then people should stop complaining that they are treated like slaves.
All real workers, who inwardly belong with us, must admit that we are not incorrect. Jewish attacks will be thwarted by our thick Germanic skulls. Out of love for our German Volk—even in its misfortune—we will persevere and believe in its future. Our salvation comes not from above, but out of the innermost spirit of the German Volk.
Highly honored Herr Major:
With great interest I read in your letter about the attention with which you have followed our Movement. Your opinion that our rallies are not attended by enough representatives from the industrial workers is, however, only partially correct. We do not underestimate the difficulties of attracting at once to our ranks those workers who have for decades been organized [in trade unions and socialist groups]. The hypothesis to attract them was, however, the idea of holding large mass rallies which would give us an effective propaganda weapon to gain the great masses. For the worker, as a child of the people, pays attention to a Movement only when it demands his attention. But precisely to guarantee peaceful and effective rallies required us to turn to certain groups of the Middle Class who, we knew, thought and felt inwardly "national" and who were politically homeless, because of the miserable state of our parties at present. Thus our rallies from the beginning had a very mixed appearance. Next to the civil servant sat a machine mechanic; next to the doctor, a restaurant cook etc. But that was also the goal of our party, to become not a class-oriented organization, but a Movement of the Volk – Volksbewegung --
And in forming local organizations, we have followed a similar assumption, namely to find in each locality some strong personality who would be able successfully to carry on our Movement. We could not really engage in extensive experiments, since the means at our disposal were very small. Practically speaking, the local Munich organization was forced to undertake, and support from its own resources, all the other local groups; we were not really in a situation to consider multiple new foundations. We also do not put much stock in bragging about the largest possible number of local organizations; rather we are interested in seeing that every new group becomes, in the shortest possible time, not only bursting with energy, but also a decisive influence in the locale.
Concerning the Jewish question, our position has been irrevocably determined. It does not depend upon an emotional experience (sentimental anti-Semitism), but rests rather upon an objective recognition of fact. To this point, the following applies: The Jew releases the ferment of decomposition (see Mommsen), and is the single cause, whether for good or ill, of the spiritual breakdown of all those races on earth, into which he wormed his way as a parasite. All his activities are purposely and racially determined. Although I cannot reproach a tubercular bacillus for his activities, which means death for the human it inhabits but life itself for the bacillus, in order to protect my own personal existence, I am nevertheless forced, and rightfully so, to wage a war against tuberculosis by destroying its cause. For thousands of years, the Jew has become and is,effectively, a racial tuberculosis of nations. To fight him requires that he be removed. Only after this removal can the fight against the Jewish spirit and the spirit of Mammon be undertaken.
24 September 1920 German Army Report on Hitler Speech, Münchener-Kindl-Keller
[Out of the disastrous foreign and domestic situation of Germany today Hitler said] there are the following solutions:
1) a political revolution; but we have seen how pitiful such successes are in the German revolution.
2) an economic revolution; Russia is an example of this type. They will be as unable to screw back the economic life of that country as they are to advance it to a new stage. Everything of this sort must evolve gradually.
3) a revolution in the way people think; this is the one which must be undertaken. Love for the Fatherland and nationalist feelings must be formed already in children. Just as everyone shares in the guilt of past events, so must everyone work together to set things right again. The middle class (as Hitler described them) must abandon its narrow class feelings, just as the proletariat must give up its pride of being the masses. No longer can we continue with the class-consciousness of today. For [Hitler], the highest class of Germans are those who love their Fatherland and are active in working for its rebirth and recovery. Even ditch-diggers can belong to this elite. The lower classes, on the contrary, consist of those who work against this recovery, and to this group belongs even millionaires, if they refuse to do anything for the German cause. Thus all groups should abandon their past pretensions and unite, the bourgeoisie as well as the workers (at this point someone cried out "and the Jews?" to which Hitler replied to great applause: "I don't even count them as Germans.") But there must still come a revolution in the organization of the State; it is intolerable that aliens conduct the affairs of our State. Only Germans should determine our policies. And the worker, especially his children, should receive better education, so that he too will learn about his national heroes, and not refuse, despite his good salary, to attend the theaters etc.
During the war, the 2 1/2 million who fell on the front for the Fatherland, or were crippled by the fighting, were only during their duty. But today, everyone has an obligation to be active in the unification of all Germans in Europe, and thus we can attain our freedom once more from the chains of slavery which bind us now (stormy applause).
He summoned everyone to be active as apostles; he himself was shortly to travel to Austria where he would speak. Those artificial boundaries too must disappear.
26 October 1920 Bavarian Political Police Report on Hitler Speech,Münchener-Kindl-Keller
After reporting on the horrible conditions he had found in Austria during his recent visit, Hitler launched into the main part of his speech, entitled "The People's Well-being and the Nationalist Way of Thinking."
In a truly Völkisch State, a willing acceptance of responsibility and a national stubbornness must be fundamental principles. What, for example, is the government doing about the diesel-motors and the 800,000 milk cows which are to be turned over [for reparations]? They go whining off about them to Paris or London, instead of flatly giving out the proper answer: "We won't deliver them!" (stormy applauseˇ), and then the next day inform the whole people, in millions of handbills, about what they have done and announce they are placing the whole affair in the hands of the people (lively applause). We must say to the Entente: "OK, send in your [Reparations] Commissioners to wreak their devastation, but be careful that they emerge still in one piece." We need some national pride again. But who can the nation be proud of these days? Of [President] Ebert, perhaps? (laughterˇ) Of the Government? We are in far more need of a national will. We must not always be saying to ourselves: We can't do this or that. We must simply do it. In order to smash this disgraceful peace treaty, we must regard every means as justified (loud applauseˇ. First, a nationalist mood in the country must be revived, and then the economic prosperity of the nation will return. We must have blind faith in our future, in our recovery.
Now Hitler turned to deal with the Right and the Left. The Nationalists on the Right lack a social conscience; the Socialists on the Left a national feeling. To the Right he appeals: If you want to be truly nationalist, then come down among your Volk, and put away all your class snobbery. To the Left he cries: You who proclaim solidarity with the whole world, first show your solidarity with your own Volk comrades, be Germans first and foremost! Do they look like heroes, these men who want to smash the whole world and yet crawl before foreigners for fear they might not like something they see here? (applause). You who are real revolutionaries, come over to us and fight with us for our whole Volk (loud applause). Your place is not over there, with the procurers of international capital, but with us, your own Volk (stormy applause)
Then Hitler turned to contemplate the future of Germany, to the youth of Germany, and, in particular, with warm words for their intellectual leaders, the German students. Your place is with us, with your Volk. You who are still young, and still have the fire of enthusiasm in your veins, come over to us, join our fighting party, which pursues its aims ruthlessly, with every means, even with force! (loud applause) We are a one-class party, a party of honest creative labor. Our strength does not lie in the “Internationale” (the Communist hymn), but in our own abilities, and that is in our own Volk (long-lasting and stormy applause)
In the summer of 1921, however, Hitler's tactics came under fire from members of his own part, especially from groups operating at a distance from Munich. They demanded local autonomy and criticized the growing role of Adolf Hitler. In reply, Hitler sent out the following letter.
On the 11th of this month, I found myself compelled to inform the Chairman, and through him the Executive Committee of the National Socialist German Workers' Party of my resignation from the party. I would like to explain the reasons which prompted me to take this step. In so far as I understand the matter, the National Socialist German Workers' Party was first founded as a revolutionary nationalist Movement.
Accordingly, it stood on extreme Völkisch principles and rejected outright any parliamentary approach, in fact rejected completely the very form of today's parliamentarianism. In the form of its organization, it wanted to be created, expanded and led in a manner distinct from all the other so-called "national" movements, so that it could become the most efficient weapon to carry out the fight of our Volk against the devastation caused by Jewish-international domination. But ultimately, the Movement is a socially-minded, or better stated, a socialist party.
According to our by-laws, the headquarters of the Movement is in Munich, and must remain in Munich. Once and for all.
Its program was sworn to as irrevocable and sacrosanct before an assembly of more than a thousand persons, and developed in more than a hundred mass rallies as principles written in granite.
Up to the present, the party has obligated itself before the people to preserve absolute honor within our ranks, to guarantee an unflinching obedience to our principles, to fight with the sharpest methods against any weakening of our program, to expose in the ranks of our Movement all hypocrites or enemies in disguise, and rutlessly expel them. I have submitted my resignation from the Movement because these principles have now been deserted....
After giving elaboration of attempts to unite the party with other Völkisch groups in order to participate in elections, Hitler concludes:
Yesterday, the presiding officer of the party [Drexler] through the mediation of Dietrich Eckart, submitted an offer of negotiations over these points, and so I herewith submit the terms, the full acceptance of which will determine my return to the Movement.
1) Immediate convocation of a plenipotentiary general assembly within 8 days, counting from today's date, with the following agenda: All members of the executive committee submit their resignations, and in the new elections to the same I will demand the post of presiding officer, with dictatorial powers to create an ad-hoc committee which will carry out a ruthless purge of all foreign elements which have wormed their way into the party. This ad-hoc committee will consist of three persons.
2) Irrevocable reassertion of the principle that the headquarters of the Movement is Munich, and will forever remain here. And finally, until the Movement grows to such size as will permit the creation of its own administration, the Munich local will provide the leadership.
3) Any further changes in the name or the program will be avoided, or for at least 6 years. Members who actively continue in this direction trying to bring about changes, will be expelled from the Movement.
4) Any further attempt to bring about a so-called Agreement between the National Socialist German Workers' Party and the falsely-labeled German National Socialist Party must for the future cease. Our party will never accept agreements with any group which wants to work with us, but we demand that they join us fully. Any compensation by us is completely out of the question.
5) All negotiations of this sort must in future have my personal approval; I reserve for myself the right to designate our representatives to such negotiations.
6) The forthcoming Party-Day in Linz is useless and we will not participate in it.
I do not present these demands because I am power-hungry, but rather because recent events have convinced me more than ever that without an iron-hand at the leadership, this party, even without a change in its name, will within a short time cease to be what it is supposed to be: a National Socialist German Workers' Party, not some vague West Land Union!
On 29 July 1921 at the Hofbräuhaus, the general meeting of the NSDAP (554 dues-paying members in attendance) accepted Hitler's terms. Clearly he was too valuable an asset in the appeal and growth of the party. Hereafter Hitler was fully in charge of the party, its tactics and its program.
The headquarters of the National Socialist German Workers' Association is in Munich. The leadership of the Party as such will be combined with the leadership of the Munich branch so long as the Association does not have sufficient funds flowing in from the individual branches to finance a leadership for the Party itself. Since the Munich branch is the mother-group of the whole movement, generous use will be made of its income as before in order to promote the movement as a whole.
The association is subdivided into local branches which are subordinate to the main headquarters. These will be combined to form Gau organizations and the Gaue to form state organizations as required. [Gau is an old German word for what we in America call Counties. It now becomes the basic unit of the Nazi party, and the head of each Gau held the title of Gauleiter = Gau leade. Like the word Volk, the editor will not translate this word in the documents that follow.]
In order to facilitate a decisive leadership of the Movement, the First Chairman is made responsible for the leadership of the movement as a whole. The leadership of the individual branches is the responsibility of the chairmen of the local branches. The First Chairman of the movement as a whole is its legal representative. In his absence, the Second Chairman will deputize for him.
The Party headquarters section consists of (1) the committee to be legally elected by the membership meeting and composed of the first and second chairmen, the first and second treasurers, and the first and second secretaries; (2) the subordinate committees. Since the real responsibility for the leadership of the association lies in the hands of the first chairman, his position must be regarded as standing above the committee. He is responsible solely to the membership meeting.
Hitler used this authority to put his leading supporters into key positions. Hermann Esser became chief of propaganda, and Max Amann, Hitler's former army sergeant, became the business manager of the party. Shortly after this victory, Hitler issued a circular in which he spelled out his radical aims for the Movement.
The “Ninth of November ˇ [the start of the German Revolution, proclamation of the Republic] meant above all the complete collapse, not of party life in itself but of bourgeois party life, of that mixture of goodwill, harmless naivety, theoretical knowledge and utter lack of instinct. The Völkisch movement also, just like the bourgeois national parties, utterly failed in its main task of winning the broad masses for the national cause. Responsibility for the collapse lies with the bourgeoisie. The Völkischˇ
were not capable of drawing the practical conclusions from correct theoretical judgments, especially in the Jewish question. In this way, the German Völkisch movement developed a pattern similar to that of the 1880s and 1890s. As in those days, its leadership gradually fell into the hands of highly honorable but fantastically naēve men of learning, professors, district councillors, schoolmasters and lawyers—in short a bourgeois, idealistic and refined class. It lacked the warm breath of the nation's youthful vigor. The impetuous force of headstrong fire-eaters was rejected as demagogy. The new movement was therefore a nationalist movement but no longer a movement of the Volk. ... There reappeared in the new movement the distressing characteristics of our bourgeois parties, lacking any uniform discipline or form....
This utter failure in all the matters mentioned led to the founding of the NSDAP. The new Völkisch movement with a firm social base, an appeal to the broad masses, welded together in an iron-hard organization, instilled with blind obedience, and inspired by a brutal will, a party of struggle and action. ... If this new kind of movement is to become great and important, its aims must be propagated with fanatical ardor and the total energy of its few supporters must be placed at the service of its propaganda as there is nothing there yet to organize.
Although Hitler had insisted upon the subordination of all branches to the central Munich offices, he was in fact in no position to force such uniformity. Partially to compensate for that, Hitler began paying increased attention to the para-military group which had been founded earlier as a sort of veterans organization—the Sturmabteilung= SA, the Storm Troops. The first announcement in the party's own newspaper seemed relatively harmless.
3 August 1921 Article in the [Nazi] Völkischer Beobachter
The NSDAP has created its own gymnastic and sports section within the framework of its organization. It is intended to bind our young party members together to form an organization of iron, so that it may put its strength at the disposal of the whole movement to act as a battering-ram. It is intended to uphold the idea of the importance of the military for a free people. It is intended to provide protection for the propaganda activity of the leaders. But above all it is intended to develop in the hearts of our young supporters a tremendous desire for action, to drive home to them and burn into them the fact that history does not make men, but men history, and that he who allows himself to be put in the chains of slavery without any resistance deserves the yoke of slavery. But the SA will also encourage mutual loyalty and cheerful obedience to the leadership.
As a member of the storm troop of the NSDAP, I pledge myself to the storm flag: to be always ready to stake life and limb in the struggle for the aims of the movement; to give absolute military obedience to my military superiors and leaders; to bear myself honorably in and out of service; to be always a good comrade towards other comrades.
14 September 1921 Report in the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten [Liberal]
The meeting [of the conservative Bavarian League], which was well attended, came to a premature end owing to an attack systematically planned by the National Socialists. National Socialist youths had early on taken seats near the speakers' platform, and numerous National Socialists were distributed as well throughout the hall. When Hitler, the leader of the National Socialists, appeared in the hall, he was greeted by his followers with demonstrative applause. His arrival gave the cue for the violence that followed. The former editor of the Völkischer Beobachter, Esser, climbed on a chair and declared that Bavaria owed the situation it was in to the Jews. Ballerstedt [leader of the Bavarian League] had always avoided the Jewish question. The National Socialists therefore saw themselves "forced" to stop Ballerstedt from speaking and let Hitler speak instead. Hitler's followers, bent on turning this into a National Socialist meeting, thereupon occupied the platform. But a large section of the meeting protested and demanded that Ballerstedt should speak. He had pushed his way through to the platform, but could not begin because the National Socialists were all the time shouting, "Hitler!" The uproar grew even worse when someone tried to prevent the fight, which was feared by switching off the electricity. When the lights came on again, Ballerstedt declared that anybody who tried to disturb the meeting would be charged with disturbing the peace. After this the young people on the platform, many of them hardly in their teens, surrounded him, beat him up and pushed him down the platform steps.
Ballerstedt received a head injury which bled badly. As the audience were naturally growing more and more excited, three members of the state police appeared in the hall. A [plain-clothes] detective declared the meeting dissolved. A fairly strong group of state police then cleared the hall; this operation went smoothly without further incident after an announcement that the admissions charge would be refunded.
As the tenor of his meetings became ever more provocative, Hitler began using men from these formations to keep order in the hall, and prevent hecklers from disrupting his talk. In an early use of the SA in this capacity, or a rally in the Hofbräuhaus, Hitler was quite blunt in his comments:
Today, for the first time, you must demonstrate your loyalty to the Movement by hook or by crook. None of us will be driven out of the hall tonight, unless we are carried out among the dead! Should any man deport himself in a cowardly fashion, I personally will strip off his armband and tear off his insignias. Always remember, that an attack, after even the slightest provocation, is the best defense.
That night, fights did break out, but the SA group ousted the hecklers. Hitler was jubilant, and praised the men in a meeting a few days later. The myth of the SA was being born.
9 November 1921 Bavarian Political Police Report on Hitler Speech to the SA, Adelmann Restaurant
Comrades: We have won a battle. You have withstood your baptism by fire, in spite of the fact that our numbers were relatively small. But you have been formed not only to protect our meetings, but to become fighters for our cause. You must protect the speaker; it is all too easy for someone to shoot me down at any time with three bullets. But that makes no difference to me, for I know the cause for which I die, and I am not afraid (applause). The Jews know what is at stake now. The growing inflation of prices, the depreciation of our money will lead eventually to a collapse, indeed it may be closer than we think. Thus it is all the more important for us to be ready; the game's afoot.
For us, there are only two possibilities: either we remain German, or else we fall under Jewish terrorism. This last possibility must not happen! Even though we are small in numbers, we still have power. A well-organized group can defeat a stronger foe.... At the beginning, at our founding, we did not despair; yet we had only 7 men. And today? Today we have become a mass movement, and in two years we will have at least 30,000 members. All of you can take pride in having participated from the start; hereafter you will be considered the veterans, and new ones will appear to suffer alongside you. But the affair last Friday lasted far too long. You should have been able to have cleared the hall in 5 minutes. You must begin working in tight groups, moving from table to table, and throwing out the rascals one by one. And don't get discouraged if you suffer some wounds. Everyone who enters a fight must expect some of those....If you remain firm, and recruit ever more younger members, we will emerge in triumph over the Jews (applause and cries of "Heil")
30 November 1921 Bavarian Political Police Report on Hitler Speech before an SA group, Liebherr Restaurant
[Hitler] then began to speak and specifically over the purpose of the Storm Troops. It must be especially noted that Hitler wants to use these groups principally to disrupt the meetings of his opponents. To accomplish this during the rallies, the SA members are to distribute themselves throughout the hall, and through heckling cries demand that the speaker bring up the Jewish question and thus reveal his stand on this issue. Hitler will then use whatever is said for the party's own propaganda purposes during the next elections. Hitler then added: Recently, people have been calling the National Socialist German Workers' Party "a barbaric and brutal gang which shrinks from no methods." This pleases me immensely, for I see in it a guarantee that my attempts and my party will become feared, and at the same time, well-known. Today in Munich alone, he party numbers 4,500 members, not counting scattered local groups. I believe that through the work of the SA, through the disruptions they bring to other rallies, many other Volk comrades will in the future come to understand our program, and thereby I count on a huge growth in membership. With great glee, Hitler announced that the Champion Boxer, Haymann, was now a member of the Storm Troopers, and beginning next week will give instruction in boxing two to three times a week to members of the SA. Hitler's plan is to form by next spring a cadre of 60-80 trained boxers, and to have overall at least 500 members of the Storm Troops, so that opposing parties will quake with fear as soon as they hear Hitler's Boxing and Storm Troopers approach.
Hitler opened the rally with an account of recent police action against the Nazi newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, and against him.
When we founded the Movement, we knew that all of this would sooner or later occur. They first tried to ignore us; when that didn't help, they tried slander; and then brutal violence. But to no avail! We replied: a Movement which can be ignored is not of much value; one which falls victim to slander is also valueless; and one which allows itself to be beaten to its knees is absolutely worthless. We are the first German Movement which has created a protective military unit [the SA] to oppose the military units hired by the Jews [i.e. the police]. They have now endured their baptism of fire and have often fought for us, even when—with only 50 men, some with bleeding heads—they cleared the hall of nearly 400 foot-soldiers of Jewish Marxism. Victory does not depend on numbers, but on unbending will-power.
Today, let them do what they will—insult us, praise us, terrorize us—no matter!; everything will only serve us well. And those innocents who have been led astray will sooner or later no longer fight for their employers, when that see that it only earns them bloody noses and broken bones!
For these people, there is no IDEA for which they would fight. In the German Revolution [of 1918/19], ideas were only extra baggage! We, however, know why we are fighting: for the preservation of our race, for the preservation of our holy German fatherland. Wherever Germans have migrated—to the West, the East or the South—there are the graves of hundreds of thousands who were ready to shed their blood for these same ideas. The men ruling in Germany today don't recognize this concept. They hire mercenary soldiers who fight for them, and as a result, they will necessary be destroyed. They don't know how to honor past heroism, and so cannot call forth new heroism today.
We do not promise you a fatherland flowing with milk and honey. We say rather: even if our enemies should give us such nourishment, it would taste awful if we were SLAVES. We would rather starve and be FREE.
One hundred years ago [against Napoleon], he German people rose in rebellion—not under the motto of fighting for "Law and Order," but in order to fight for its freedom, for an idea. From one tip of Germany [in Northeast Prussia], an all-consuming flame was lit which spread over the entire country. We too are planting a banner, and when the German people rise up again, then the Storm Troops of the National Socialist German Workers' Party will march at the head of this Volk, in our crusade for the holy Fatherland.
In this speech, Hitler explicitly compares his SA to the volunteers of 1812 who rose up in para-military groups. To critics in the regular army, they insisted that while not trained militarily, they would drive the French out of the German States by the “storm of their indignation.” Hence they were called, “Storm Troopers.”
16 December 1922 Bavarian Political Police Report on Hitler Speech to an SA group, Munich Hofbräuhaus ˇ
The SA was born out of necessity. In order to protect our meetings and our speakers, we formed the Strike Force which stands here tonight and gives witness that in Munich no one any longer dares to try to break up our meetings. Now, they are trying to use the most vulgar kind of lies against us. They commit the lowest kind of slander when they charge that our SA men receive 10, 000 Marks each. No one dies for money, nor does money cause anyone to fight. Idealism, love for our holy fatherland, and the general well-being of our community are the forces which motivate our Storm Troopers, not dirty paper notes. Note well this slander! Let each of you keep a note-book and write out these vile accusations so that none of us will ever forget them. We will not allow ourselves to be disarmed. If we are to protect our meetings, we must have the means with which to do so.
In Göppingen, our SA troops were fired upon, even as they were orderly retiring. Such terror, which the Jews paid for, will not prompt us to surrender our weapons. The time will come when Russian Bolshevism will begin swinging in their last fight. Therefore we can and must not stand by inactive but rather must be ready to place our own lives on the line. When the final decisive live-or-die battle is upon us, we want to be able to say only one thing: Heaven is above us; the ground is beneath us; the enemy lies before us. For it is true, as Schiller wrote: "If you do not risk your life, then you cannot win your life."
So now, stand fast, stand ready! He who deserts his flag in an emergency is a traitor! He who will not obey should leave now. But all who stay with us must know what is demanded of them: Loyalty, even to death; the Führer promises the same loyalty until death.
By now Hitler had become an accomplished and popular speaker, and in August 1922, he scheduled his first outdoor mass rally. An eyewitness recalled the occasion. It was a troublesome period. Following the brutal assassination of Foreign Minister Emil Rathenau by a fanatic right-wing organization, but not a Nazi group, the German Reichstag had passed a series of strong measures for the protection of the Republic. Included in these laws were provisions for the federal government to assume powers in local states if these latter failed to stop radical movements. Hitler strongly attacked these laws as a violation of free speech.
Kurt Lüdecke's Account of Hitler's Speech on the Königsplatz in Munich, 16 August 1922
This was the greatest mass demonstration Munich had ever seen. It was one of incalculable historical importance, or on that day a little-known figure stepped into the light as a recognized public speaker of extraordinary power. This was a man who until then had been snubbed by the higher-ups in the patriotic societies. Now, because of his growing local importance and for the sake of a united front, he had been invited to appear as one of two speakers on a program in which all were taking part.
Adolf Hitler was scheduled to speak last. I needed no clairvoyance to see that here was a man who knew how to seize his opportunity. Red placards announced in huge black letters that he was to appear. Many who read them had never even heard his name. Here were inflammatory slogans: "Versailles: Germany's Ruin," "Republic of the People or Jewish State?" "International Solidarity: A Jewish World Swindle!" "Down with the November Criminals" "The National Socialist Movement Must Conquer." And every one of his placards ended with the blunt phrase: "Jews not admitted."
It was a bright summer day.... The "Patriotic Societies" had assembled without bands and without flags, but when the Nazis marched into the Königsplatz with banners flying, their bands playing stirring German marches, they were greeted with tremendous cheers. An excited, expectant crowd was now filling the beautiful square to the last inch and overflowing into surrounding streets. There were well over a hundred thousand....
Reventlow had seen to it that we were near the speakers' stand. I was close enough to see Hitler's face, watch every change in his expression, hear every word he said. When the man stepped forward on the platform, there was almost no applause. He stood silent for a moment. Then he began to speak, quietly and ingratiatingly at first. Before long, his voice had risen to a hoarse shriek that gave an extraordinary effect of an intensity of feeling. There were many high-pitched, rasping notes—Reventlow had told me that his throat had been affected by war-gas—but despite its strident tone, his diction had a distinctly Austrian turn, softer and pleasanter than the German. Critically I studied this slight, pale man, his dark hair parted on one side and falling again and again over his sweating brow. Threatening and beseeching, with small, pleading hands and flaming, steel-blue eyes, he had the look of a fanatic.
Presently my critical faculty was swept away. Leaning from the tribune as if he were trying to impel his inner self into the consciousness of all these thousands, he was holding the masses, and me with them, under a hypnotic spell by the sheer force of his conviction. He urged the revival of German honor and manhood with a blast of words that seemed to cleanse. "Bavaria is now the most German land in Germany!" he shouted, to roaring applause. Then, plunging into sarcasm, he indicted the leaders in Berlin as "November Criminals," daring to put into words thoughts that Germans were now almost afraid to think and certainly to voice.
It was clear that Hitler was feeling the exaltation of the emotional response now surging up toward him from his thousands of hearers. His voice rising to passionate climaxes, he finished his speech with an anthem of hate rising against the "Novemberlings" and a pledge of undying love for the Fatherland. "Germany must be free!" was his final defiant slogan. Then two last words that were like the sting of a lash—"Deutschland Erwache!" Germany Wake Up! There was thunderous applause. Then the masses took a solemn oath to "Save Germany in Bavaria from Bolshevism."
I do not know how to describe the emotions that swept over me as I heard this man. His words were like a scourge. When he spoke of the disgrace of Germany, I felt ready to spring on any enemy. His appeal to German manhood was like a call to arms, the gospel he preached a sacred truth. He seemed another Luther. I forgot everything but the man; \then, glancing around, I saw that his magnetism was holding these thousands as one.
Of course, I was ripe for this experience. I was a man of thirty-two, weary of disgust and disillusionment, a wanderer seeking a cause, a patriot without a channel for his patriotism, a yearner after the heroic without a hero. The intense will of the man, the passion of his sincerity seemed to flow from him into me. I experienced an exaltation that could be likened only to religious conversion.
I felt sure that no one who had heard Hitler that afternoon could doubt that he was the man of destiny, the vitalizing force in the future of Germany. The masses who had streamed into the Königsplatz with a stern sense of national humiliation seemed to be going forth renewed.
The band struck up, the thousands began to move away. I knew my search was ended. I had found myself, my leader, and my cause.
The police report of this same meeting is less poetic.
16 August 1922 Bavarian Police Report on Hitler Speech on the Königsplatz, Munich ˇ
According to [Hitler's] opinion, the Republic-Protection law is uniquely and solely directed against the Right, and in particular against the most German state—Bavaria. It is an outright lie to claim that the Federal Government is threatened; no one here is even thinking of using violence to change the constitution. The so-called Protection law has only one purpose, to undermine free public discussions and destroy decent German opinion. They want to subject Bavaria to the Berlin stock market, so that we too become enslaved by Eastern Jewry and thus the German people will be lead to a situation similar to Russia today. It is a further lie to maintain that Bavaria endangers the unity of the Reich. Bavaria has demonstrated a hundred thousand times over her loyalty to the Reich, not only on paper, but with our hearts' blood.
Now if Germany is to be saved from destruction, we must make an end to compromises. The people demand Emergency Measures, not against political ideologies, but rather against international plunderers and usurers. Insults and violence against the German Volk must from now on be answered in kind. The speaker closed: With a solemn oath, we pledge our loyalty to the Reich; with a solemn oath, we vow to do everything to defeat Bolshevism; we pledge ourselves loyal to the Black-White-Red flag, and for our Bavaria!
In early October 1922, Benito Mussolini issued an ultimatum to the Italian government, threatening a march on Rome unless he were given power. The King agreed, and the first Fascist government was installed in office. At once, Hitler saw similar opportunities for his own party.
Hitler demanded the creation of a national Government in Germany along Fascist lines. A national government of this kind in Germany could only survive if it achieved immediate success; great success in the area of the economy, however, could not be gained rapidly. And in the political area, there was only one possibility of achieving a powerful growth for Germany: the Anschluß [union] of Austria with Germany. Precondition for this Anschluß is agreement from England and Italy. Hitler then continued: Germany must now get in step with Italy, which has experienced a national rebirth and so has a great future ahead. To achieve this, it is necessary for Germany to give a clear and binding renunciation of [support for] the Germans in South Tyrol [a German-speaking area taken from Austria and given to Italy in 1919]....
Hitler believes that Germany's renunciation of the South Tyrol—German enthusiasm for this area, he says, is only a Jewish trick—will accomplish the union of German-Austria with Germany, and permit the reintroduction of German military conscription....
The police official approached Hitler after the meeting to ask a few questions. Hitler first took up the question of leadership. Here he developed the point of view that only the Führer [Leader] is answerable to the masses. Commissions, committees, and other groups can only hinder, never advance the Movement. Everyone who wants to actively co-operate is welcome in the Movement, but he must submit himself to being carefully scrutinized. Often people of various backgrounds came to him and offered themselves as leadership material. He would always treat them with great reserve and ask: "Well, what have you accomplished up to now?", for the only measure of leadership is past action. Former officers frequently offer themselves as instructors for his SA, but he prefers to appoint young ambitious men, who possess drive and idealism. A few days ago an Italian told him in passing that the [Italian] unions told Mussolini they would make no trouble for him, but benevolently support him. Hitler closed the conversation as follows: "So must it be with us. We must have the courage to act. There is no victory without a fight!"
Hitler also was generous in granting interviews to members of the press, especially foreign reporters.
Here are the views [Hitler] expounded to me:
1. His movement is a union of Hand and Brain workers to oppose Marxism.
2. The present abuse of capital must be done away with, if Bolshevism is to be put down.
3. He believes in reducing the reparation to a possible sum, but then to pay it with all the energy of the German nation. Only by paying reparations can Germany regain its good name in the world.
4. A "National Government" can alone carry a task like this through. There must be universal service for reparations. Two million men must give two years to it.
5. The printing of paper money must be stopped. This is the worst crime of the present government.
6. The National Government of the future must neither be encumbered with prewar or war personalities. It must be entirely free from any responsibility for Germany's disaster.
7. Parliament and parliamentarianism must go. No one can govern with it in Germany today. Only a dictatorship can bring Germany to its feet.
8. It is much better for America and England that the decisive struggle between our civilization and Marxism be fought out on German soil rather than on American or English soil. If we (America) do not help German Nationalism, Bolshevism will conquer Germany. Then there will be no more reparations and Russia and German Bolshevism, out of motives of self-preservation must attack the western nations.
9. Hitler wants an understanding with France. He realizes the military absurdity of launching a war of revenge.
10. Monarchy is an absurdity. The German royal families ruined their cause by running away. The whole monarchic question is of fifth or sixth importance. The people can decide the question of monarchy or republic after a National Government has come into power.
30 December 1922 Notes by Eduard Scharrer of a Conversation with Adolf Hitler
The Jewish question is to be solved following the example of Frederick the Great, who invited the Jews in when he could usefully employ them, and removed them when they became damaging. The Jews must be removed from the political life of our country, since they certainly damage it. Because of their racially inherited characteristics, they are unsuited to rule and have no talent at organizing. They are born to destroy whatever exists; they are the spirit that constantly denies, although they sometimes inadvertently produce good things in the process. In place of a philosophy of idealism, they set up the grossest kind of materialism; in place of the Volk's soul, they substitute mathematics [i.e. democratic majorities]. They possess no culture, and do not have their own art.
Only Jewish minds could have given birth to Marxism, which robs the masses of intelligence and idealistic strivings, and makes them pliable tools in the hands of the Jewish leadership. The Jews want to carve up nations into castes, which has in the past always led to the destruction of peoples. They want to do away with the German elites so as to substitute in their place groups made up entirely of Jewish elements. In Berlin alone, 85% of the doctors are Jewish. Through this division into castes, the Jews want to insure that the German spirit will never renew itself, that the most qualified people will not emerge from the masses to become leaders, a process which alone keeps the Volk alive in good health. The Jews rank mechanical ability higher than the creative genius.
A solution for the Jewish question must come. If it is solved reasonably, it will be best for both sides. But if it is not solved reasonably, there are only two possibilities: either the German Volk will degenerate to the level of the Armenians or the Levantines, or a bloody struggle will break out. One can't blame the Jews for being what their race makes them be; but at the same time, one can't expect Germans to accept being ruled over by Jewry, which has neither the ability nor the right to rule Aryan peoples.
Struggle against Jewry is one of the National Socialist Party's main points in propagandizing the masses. This motto cannot be abandoned, because through it the masses will be shown the enemy who is their deadly foe, and taught to react accordingly.
Hitler's radical position gradually became more and more appealing to many Germans because of the disastrous inflation crisis which the Republic seemed unable to master. The next few documents examine some of the issues behind these developments.
The early years of the Weimar Republic were plagued by an apparently unstoppable inflation. Although contemporary Germans were quick to blame this development on the victorious Allies, the Treaty of Versailles, or big industrialists and speculators (including, many alleged, Jews), recent historians have challenged this view, insist that what happened in Germany after the war was not the result of "bad men" following selfish goals, but was produced by a lack of policy. The monetary theories accepted at the time would have required the new German government to ruthlessly balance its budgets and thus block all economic expansion in order to prevent prices from rising. In the tenuous and revolutionary mood of post-war Germany, no politician could advocate such policies, which would certainly have resulted in political upheaval. So the Republican Government did nothing, and the inflation took over. Curiously, these revisionist historians point out, by not adopting the deflationary (and orthodox) viewpoint, Germany maintained a high-level of production, preserved high employment and, since wages generally kept pace with the inflation, the bulk of the working population was not unduly hurt. But upper middle-class officials and those living on fixed income were deeply affected by the
The following selection is the conclusion of the best economic study of the German Inflation.
Karsten Laursen and JŅrgen Pedersen, The German Inflation 1918-1923 (Stockholm, 1964),
The German inflation took place because the sacrifices called for by policies based on the prevalent monetary theory were unbearable.... Further the inflation was much to be preferred to the subsequent instability ... which occurred when a policy of safeguarding the gold parity of the currency was carried out during 1929-1932. The political system broke down, and the market economy was greatly limited and distorted.... In 1919, as the economic system was left to itself, it was a matter of chance what happened to it. In our analysis we have tried to account for the changes ... and have reached the conclusion that in terms of the general welfare [of Germans] the result was on the whole favorable in comparison with the development in countries which, immediately after the war, carried on an anti-inflationary policy by means of restrictive credit and fiscal policy.
The reason is that a high level of employment was maintained in Germany whereas more or less severe depression prevailed in those countries that chose to combat inflation. The result was not only that total production in Germany was high relatively to that of other countries, but that distribution [of wealth] was more egalitarian. During the inflation, two groups—neither of them very numerous—suffered heavily, that is a) holders of debt instruments or owners of tenement houses, who because of age or otherwise were unable to go into business or enter the labor market, and b) high officials in private enterprises or (especially) in government, who because of age were unable to shift to other occupations.
By contrast, the initial owners of real capital (except tenement houses) gained greatly as debtors [by paying off their mortgages and loans with depreciated currency]. Gainers, too, were the large number of people who in pre-war and inter-war society ... had no hope of earning a living either by self-employment or by offering their services on the labor market. This "reserve army" ... consisted roughly of one-fourth of the adult population, willing to exchange effort for money income if possible.... [Previously] these groups had to live on precarious doles handed out by public authorities, or on private charity. The opportunity offered to this large group was the principal egalitarian aspect of the German inflation. The fall in infant mortality and the increased enrollment in secondary schools was due, perhaps solely to the redistribution of income.
Contrary to the prevalent belief of the period and until this day, it cannot be proved that the inflationary process even in its extreme phase had any large effect on productivity. It is true that everybody tried to exchange money income into "real goods" as quickly as possible, but as wage earners, because of their precarious income in any case, would have spent their wages anyway on consumption goods, the savings of that group were not affected. The entrepreneurial group, on the other hand, did invest everything left over from consumption in their business, establishing new firms, enlarging and renewing old plants and equipment, so that at the end of the inflation, the German economy was supplied with a larger and more modern capital equipment than ever before. It is probably true that some members of the entrepreneurial group did indulge in "conspicuous consumption" such as ostentatious residences, but this is a minor item in comparison with the incentive to productive investment which the inflation gave.
In brief, while the countries adopting a deflationary policy after the war wore down their real capital, investment was at a high level in Germany....
What has been said ... does not mean that conditions would not have been more favorable in the absence of inflation. In fact, the beneficial effects were not due to inflation, but to the high level of employment which coincided with it. If the latter could have been maintained without inflation, conditions would have been still better. However we have tried to establish that in the German case this ideal could only have been attained if the authorities and the bulk of the people had realized that if employment is to be maintained, money wages do not determine real wages and ... therefore should be controlled either by the authorities or by the labor-market organizations ... and that total demand should be controlled by credit and fiscal policies so as to maintain full employment and avoid excess demand. If this insight had prevailed, there would neither have been any German hyper-inflation, nor any deflation or depression in other countries, and the course of history might have been changed radically for the better.
Reduced to its briefest terms this, then, is the lesson that could be learned from the German hyper-inflation and subsequent experience:
a) Inflation, although undesirable from many viewpoints, does not even in its most extreme form, have such devastating effects on production and human welfare as has generally been believed.
b) Hyper-inflation is not likely to develop except in extreme crisis or when the trade unions are both strong and unenlightened.
c) If employment is to be maintained, inflation could only be prevented by a combination of wage control and an effective credit and fiscal policy.
d) If a control of wages is not possible, inflation should be tolerated, because the sacrifice of employment opportunities necessary to curb it would reduce production more than would inflation.
Such conclusions seem persuasive, and yet somehow unsatisfying. Certainly both the short- and long-term consequences of the great inflation in Germany centered more on its impact on individuals, rather than on abstract theories of productivity, wage structures, and "reserve armies of the unemployed." The following two documents throw light on some of the intangibles which economists often miss. They come from a contest for the best essay on "Why I became a Nazi," and were assembled by the Sociologist Theodore Abel in 1934.
In 1876 when I first saw the light of day, I was born into a times which promised a carefree future for me and my brothers and sisters, for only a few years before the foundation stone for Germany's greatness had been laid in victorious wars. My father and grandfather were famous organ builders here in Berlin; and it was expected that I as the eldest son would enter into my father's inheritance. After difficult years of study, and after I had been apprenticed to other firms both within German and abroad, I took over the company in the year 1911.
Thanks to my collected experience and a staff of industrious workers, the company prospered as never before. Then, like a bolt of lighting from a blue sky, the world war suddenly appeared. Foreign countries were envious of the growth of our prosperity. Above all, our flourishing commerce was a thorn in their eye. Like all other German men, after a short military training period, I too marched into battle in 1915, shortly before Christmas. [After battles in Russia and then northern Italy, he was again sent to Russia in the fall of 1918.] It was here that the scarcely believable news reached me about the shameful armistice.
Naturally, I too was sick and tired of the war and yearned to go home, but I sensed even then that something frightful awaited us. Arriving home on the third day of Christmas 1918, I saw only starving and defeated faces, I saw a Volk that had no interest in anything anymore, but were indifferent to whatever would and must happen; they only wanted to get enough to eat and to have peace and quiet. I too was concerned above all else with getting my business in order once again. This was all the more difficult since during the long years of the war no one had taken care of the shop. After much effort, nevertheless, I succeeded in securing some new orders. But all my hopes were in vain. The inflation put a sudden end to all my efforts. Hunger and bankruptcies moved in with us once again. I cursed a government which could permit such sufferings, for I was convinced that it was not necessary at all for us to have an inflation of such magnitude. Still it achieved its real aim: the middle class, who despite the war still had some property, was now finally destroyed. That middle class which had always been the chief enemy of Marxism even when it lacked even the slightest chance of ever being victorious in that fight.
In Germany conditions had really become disastrous. One administration followed another; Germany's wealth was squandered away, our currency lost all value, and paper marks carried figures in the billions. Usurers and blood-suckers gained control over the Volk in German land, while the front soldiers who had offered their blood for Germany were slandered as idiots and murders.... People could only despair of the future!
Perhaps the best treatment of the social aspect of the Inflation is found in a brilliant study by Alex de Jonge.
"The Inflation" from Weimar Chronicle: Prelude to Hitler
Hyperinflation created social chaos on an extraordinary scale. As soon as one was paid, one rushed off to the shops and bought absolutely anything in exchange for paper about to become worthless. If a woman had the misfortune to have a husband working away from home and sending money through the post, the money was virtually without value by the time it arrived. Workers were paid once, then twice, then five times a week with an ever-depreciating currency. By November 1923 real wages were down 25 percent compared with 1913, and envelopes were not big enough to accommodate all the stamps needed to mail them; the excess stamps were stuck to separate sheets affixed to the letter. Normal commercial transactions became virtually impossible. One luckless author received a sizable advance on a work only to find that within a week it was just enough to pay the postage on the manuscript. By late 1923 it was not unusual to find 100,000 mark notes in the gutter, tossed there by contemptuous beggars at a time when $50 could buy a row of houses in Berlin's smartest street.
A Berlin couple who were about to celebrate their golden wedding received an official letter advising them that the mayor, in accordance with Prussian custom, would call and present them with a donation of money. Next morning the mayor, accompanied by several aldermen in picturesque robes, arrived at the aged couple's house, and solemnly handed over in the name of the Prussian State 1,000,000,000,000 Marks, or one-half English penny.
The banks were flourishing, however. They found it necessary to build annexes and would regularly advertise for more staff, especially bookkeepers "good with zeroes." Alex Swan knew a girl who worked in a bank in Bonn. She told him that it eventually became impossible to count out the enormous number of notes required for a "modest" withdrawal, and the banks had to reconcile themselves to issuing banknotes by their weight. By the autumn of 1923 the currency had virtually broken down. Cities and even individual business would print their own notes, secured by food stocks, or even the objects the money was printed on. Notes were issued on leather, porcelain, even lace, with the idea that the object itself was guarantee of the value of the "coin." It was a view of the relationship between monetary and real value that took one back five-hundred-years. Germany had become a barter society; the Middle Ages had returned. Shoe factories would pay their workers in bonds for shoes, which were negotiable. Theaters carried signs advertising the cheapest seats for two eggs, the most expensive for a few ounces of butter which was the most negotiable of all commodities. It was so precious that the very rich used to take a traveling butter dish with them when they put up at Berlin's smartest hotel. A pound of butter attained "fantastic value." It could purchase a pair of boots, trousers made to measure, a portrait, a semester's schooling, or even love. A young girl stayed out late one night while her parents waited up anxiously. When she came in at four in the morning, her mother prevented her father from taking a strap to her by showing him the pound of butter that she had "earned." Boots were also highly negotiable: "The immense paper value of a pair of boots renders it hazardous for the traveler to leave them outside the door of his bedroom at his hotel [to be shined overnight].
Thieves grew more enterprising still in their search for a hedge against inflation. "Even the mailboxes are plundered for the sake of the stamps attached to the letters. Door handles and metal facings are torn from doors; telephone and telegraph wires are stolen wholesale and the lead removed from roofs. In Berlin all metal statues were removed from public places because they constituted too great a temptation to an ever-increasing number of thieves. One of the consequences of the soaring crime rate was a shortage of prison accommodation. Criminals given short sentences were released and told to reapply for admission to prison in due course.
It was always possible that one might discover an unexpected source of wealth. A Munich newspaperman was going through his attic when he came upon a set of partly gold dentures, once the property of his grandmother, long since dead. He was able to live royally upon the proceeds of the sale for several weeks.
The period threw up other anomalies. Rents on old houses were fixed by law, while those on new ones were exorbitantly high. As a result in many parts of Germany housing was literally rationed. If one were fortunate enough to live in old rented property, one lived virtually free. The landlord, however, suffered dreadfully: to repair a window might cost him the equivalent of a whole month's rent. Thus yet another of the traditional modes of safe investment, renting property, proved a disaster. Hitherto well-to-do middle class families found it necessary to take in lodgers to make ends meet. The practice was so widespread that not to do so attracted unfavorable attention suggesting that one was a profiteer. Pearl S. Buck records the case of one family where the woman of the house reluctantly confessed to her husband that they would have to have a lodger. He greeted the news not with anger, but with a sigh of relief: the neighbors had begun to talk. Real property lost its value like everything else. Pearl Buck notes the case of a couple selling their house in order to marry their daughter in some kind of style. More telling is a famous song of inflation:
We are drinking away our grandma's little capital
And her first and second mortgage too.
As noted in the famous and highly intelligent paper, the Weltbühne, the song picked out the difference between the "old" generation of grandparents who had scraped and saved carefully in order to acquire the security of a house, and the "new generation" for whom there could be no security any more, who "raided capital" or what was left of it, and were prepared to go to any lengths to enjoy themselves. Where their parents' lives had been structured with certainties, the only certainty that they possessed was that saving was a form of madness....
Along with rents, rail fares were also fixed and did not go up in proportion to inflation. Consequently, travel appeared absurdly cheap. Alec Swan recalls crossing Germany in the greatest style for a handful of copper coins. Yet even this was beyond the means of most Germans. A German train in 1923 would consist of several first-class carriages occupied entirely by comfortable foreigners, and a series of run-down third-class carriages crammed to bursting with impoverished and wretched Germans.
Although the shops were full of food, no one could afford it except foreigners. Germans often had to be content with food not normally thought of as fit for human consumption. In Hamburg there were riots when it was discovered that the local canning factory was using cats and rats for its preserved meats. Sausage factories also made much use of cat and horsemeat. Moreover, as we shall see, some of the most famous mass murderers of the age used to preserve and sell the meat of their victims in a combination of savagery and an almost sexual obsession with food that mythologizes much of the darkness and the violence that were latent in the mood of Weimar.
If 1923 was a bad year for the Germans, it was an annus mirabilis for foreigners. Inflation restored the sinking morale of the Allied army of occupation [in the Rhineland and Ruhr]; small wonder when every private found himself a rich man overnight. In Cologne an English girl took lessons from the ˇprima donna of the opera for sixpence a lesson. When she insisted that in future she pay a shilling, the ˇprima donnaˇ wept with delight. Shopping became a way of life: "All through that autumn and winter whenever we felt hipped, we went out and bought something. It was a relaxation limited at home in England, unlimited in the Rhineland."
Germany was suddenly infested with foreigners. It has been suggested that the English actually sent their unemployed out and put them up in hotels in Germany because it was cheaper than paying out the dole. Alec Swan stayed with his family in a pension in Bonn. They had moved to Germany because life was so much cheaper there. ...
To find oneself suddenly wealthy in the midst of tremendous hardship proved rather unsettling. Inflation corrupted foreigners almost as much as the Germans. The English in Cologne could think of nothing else: They talked with sparkling eyes and a heightened color, in the banks, in streets, the shops, the restaurants, any public place, with Germans standing around gazing at them. Scruples were on the whole overwhelmed by the sudden onslaught of wealth and purchasing power beyond one's dreams. As Alex Swan put it: You felt yourself superior to the others, and at the same time your realized that it was not quite justified. When we went to Bellingshausen, which was a sort of wine place near Königswinter [outside Bonn], we would start drinking in the afternoon. I would always order champagne and my Dutch friend would shake his head in disapproval. We'd have two ice buckets: he with some Rhine wine and me with German champagne. It was really rather ridiculous for a chap of my age to drink champagne on his own. Being as wealthy as that was an extraordinary feeling, although there were many things you couldn't get in Germany. It was impossible to buy a decent hat, for instance. But you could have any food you wanted if you could pay for it. I haven't eaten anything like as well as that in my life. I used to go to the Königshalle (that was the big cafŹ in Bonn) at eleven o'clock in the morning for a “Frühschoppen” [brunch] and a Bergmann's Stückchen, a large piece of toast with fresh shrimps and mayonnaise. For a German that would have been quite impossible.
I paid two million marks for a glass of beer. You changed as little money as you could every day. No, one did not feel guilty, one felt it was perfectly normal, a gift from the gods. Of course there was hatred in the air, and I dare say a lot of resentment against foreigners, but we never noticed it. They were still beaten, you see, a bit under and occupied. My mother did buy meat for three or four German families....
On another occasion, Swan, all of twenty-two at the time, took the head of the Leipzig book fair out for a meal and looked on incredulously as the elderly and eminent bookseller cast dignity to the winds and started to eat as if he had not had a meal in months. Stories of money changing and currency speculation are legion. Bureaux de change were to be found in every shop, apartment block, hairdresser's, tobacconist's. An Englishman named Sandford Griffith remembers having to visit a number of cities in the Ruhr which had their own local currencies. He stopped at a dealers to change some money, but when he produced a one-pound note, the dealer was so overcome by such wealth that he simply waved a hand at his stock of currency and invited the astonished Englishman to help himself. Foreigners acquired antiques and objects de valeur at rock-bottom prices. A favorite trick was to buy in the morning with a down payment, saying that one would fetch the rest of the money from the bank. By waiting until the next exchange rate had come out at noon before changing one's money into marks, an extra profit could be made on the amount that the mark had fallen since the day before.
The German population responded to the foreign onslaught with a double pricing system. Shops would mark their prices up for foreigners. It would cost a tourist 200 marks to visit Potsdam, when it cost a German 25. Some shops simply began to decline to sell to foreigners at all. In Berlin, a Schlemmsteuer or tax on gluttony, was appended to all meals taken in luxury restaurants.
Foreign embassies were also major beneficiaries of inflation, giving lavish banquets for virtually nothing. Indeed the Weltbühne noted with great resentment the presence of foreign legations of nations so insignificant that they would never hitherto have dreamed of being represented in Germany. The spectacle of foreigners of all nations, living grotesquely well and eating beyond their fill in the middle of an impoverished and starving Germany did not encourage the Germans to rally to the causes of pacifism and internationalism. The apparent reason for their inflation was there for all to see, occupying the Ruhr.
The surface manifestations of inflation were unnerving enough, but its effect upon behavior, values and morals were to reach very deep indeed, persisting for years after the stabilization of the mark, right up to the moment when Hitler came to power. The middle class—civil servants, professional men, academics—which had stood for stability, social respectability, cultural continuity, and constituted a conservative and restraining influence was wiped out. A French author met a threadbare and dignified old couple in spotless but well worn prewar clothes in a cafŹ. They ordered two clear soups and one beer, eating as if they were famished. He struck up a conversation with the man who spoke excellent French and had known Paris before the war. "Monsiuer," the man replied, when asked his profession, "I used to be a retired professor, but we are beggars now."
There was a general feeling that an old and decent society was being destroyed. If the year 1918 had removed that society's political traditions and its national pride, 1923 was disposing of its financial substructure. In response, people grew either listless or hysterical. A German woman told Pearl Buck that a whole generation simply lost its taste for life—a taste that would only be restored to them by the Nazis. Family bonds melted away. A friend of Swan, a most respectable German whose father was a civil servant on the railways, simply left home and roamed the country with a band. It was a typical 1923 case history. Young men born between 1900 and 1905 who had grown up expecting to inherit a place in the sun from their well-to-do parents suddenly found they had nothing. From imperial officer to bank clerk became a "normal" progression. Such disinherited young men naturally gravitated toward the illegal right-wing organizations and other extremist groups. Inflation had destroyed all savings, self-assurance, a belief in the value of hard work, morality and sheer human decency. Young people felt that they had no prospects and no hope. All around them they could see nothing but worried faces. "When they are crying even a gay laughter seems impossible ... and all around it was the same ... quite different from the days of revolution when we had hoped things would be better."
Traditional middle-class morality disappeared overnight. People of good family co-habited and had illegitimate children. The impossibility of making a marriage economically secure apparently led to disappearance of marůiage itself. Germany in 1923 was a hundred years away from those stable middle-class values that Thomas Mann depicted in The Magic Mountain set in a period scarcely ten years before. Pearl Buck wrote that "Love was old-fashioned, sex was modern." It was the Nazis who restored the 'right to love' in their propaganda.
Paradoxically, the inflation that destroyed traditional German values was also largely responsible for the creation of that new, decadent and dissolute generation that put Berlin on the cosmopolitan pleasure-seeker's map, and has kept it or its image there ever since. It was no coincidence that 1923 was the year that the Hotel Adlon first hired gigolos, professional male dancers, to entertain lady clients at so much per dance. It was also a period when prostitution boomed. A Frenchman accustomed enough to the spectacle of Montmartre was unable to believe his eyes when he beheld the open corruption of Berlin's Friedrichstraße. Klaus Mann remembers: Some of them looked like fierce Amazons strutting in high boots made of green glossy leather. One of them brandished a supple cane and leered at me as I passed by. "Good evening, madame" I said. She whispered in my ear: "Want to be my slave? Costs only six billion and a cigarette. A bargain. Come along, honey."
Some of those who looked most handsome and elegant were actually boys in disguise. It seemed incredible considering the sovereign grace with which they displayed their saucy coats and hats. I wondered if they might be wearing little silks under their exquisite gowns: must look funny I thought, a boy's body with pink lace-trimmed skirt. Commercial sex in Berlin was not well-organized and was considered by connoisseurs to be inferior to that of Budapest, which had the best red-light district in Europe. But in Berlin there was no longer any clear-cut distinction between the red-light district and the rest of town, between professional and amateur. The booted Amazons were street-walkers who jostled for business in competition with school children. … Stefan Zweig gives us another glimpse of inflationary Berlin"
“Along the entire Kurfürstendamm powdered and rouged young men sauntered, and they were not all professionals; every schoolboy wanted to earn some money, and in the dimly lit bars one might see government officials and men of the world of finance tenderly courting drunken sailors without shame.... At the pervert balls of Berlin, hundreds of men dressed as women, and hundreds of women as men danced under the benevolent eyes of the police.... Young girls bragged proudly of their perversion. To be sixteen and still under suspicion of virginity would have been considered a disgrace in any school in Berlin at the time. ˇ
Another visitor was struck by what he referred to as Berlin's "pathological" mood: “Nowhere in Europe was the disease of sex so violent as in Germany. A sense of decency and hypocrisy made the rest of Europe suppress or hide its more uncommon manifestations. But the Germans, with their vitality and their lack of a sense of form, let their emotions run riot. Sex was one of the few pleasures left to them....”
In the East End of Berlin there was a large Diele (dancing cafŹ), in which from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. you could watch shopkeepers, clerks and policemen of mature age dance together. They treated one another with an affectionate mateyness; the evening brought them their only recreation among congenial people. Politically most of them were conservative; with the exception of sex they subscribed to all the conventions of their case. In fact, they almost represented the normal element of German sex lifeˇ
There was another well-known Diele frequented almost entirely by foreigners of both sexes. The entertainment was provided by native boys between 14 and 18. Often a boy would depart with one of the guests and return alone a couple of hours later. Most of the boys looked undernourished.... Many of them had to spend the rest of the night in a railway station, a public park, or under the arch of a bridge. ˇ The strange undercurrent of moral ambiguity and aimlessness was absolutely characteristic of Weimar Berlin. Sometimes it declared itself with more exuberance:
“There was a new Kurfürstendamm society whose parties were more elaborate and select than those of the good old sharks of 1920 and who felt themselves entitled to an ever craser display of snobbish cynicism. At one such affair I attended in February 1924 the walls were festooned with maxims such as: "Love is the foolish overestimation of the minimal difference between one sexual object and another." The girls hired to serve drinks went about almost naked except for transparent panties embroidered with a silk fig leaf. They were not like the "bunnies" in modern American nightclubs, there just for the looks, but could be freely handle —that had been included in their pay ˇ
Inflation made Germany break with her past by wiping out the local equivalent of the Forsytes [John Galsworthy's archetypal middle-class professional family]. It also reinforced the postwar generation's appetite for invention, innovation and compulsive pleasure seeking, while making them bitterly aware of their own rootlessness. It is not surprising that cocaine was very much in vogue in those years. The drug was peddled openly in restaurants by the hat-check girls, and formed an integral part of the social life of Berlin.
Inflation was also taken as evidence that the old order was morally and practically bankrupt. Capitalism had failed to guarantee the security of its citizens. It had benefited speculators, hustlers, con-men and factory owners. It had spawned Hugo Stinnes [who had used the inflation to buy more than 1500 businesses], but had done nothing for the common good. The need for an alternative system appeared universally self-evident, and until one came along the thing to do was to enjoy oneself, drink away grandma's capital, or exchange one's clothes for cocaine: a dinner jacket got you four grams, a [tuxedo] eight.
Inflation and the despair that it created also acted as the catalyst of aggression. It was at this time that anti-Semitism began to appear in Berlin. An attractive German lady remembers walking through a prosperous suburb with a Jewish friend when someone called to her in the street, "Why do you go around with a Jew? Get yourself a good German man." On one sense she found it understandable. The ordinary German was very slow to adjust to the special situation of inflation, and in 1923 anyone who was not very quick on their feet soon went under. Jews were better at economic survival in such situations than were other Germans—so much so, she says, that by the end of inflation they had become terribly conspicuous. All the expensive restaurants, all the best theater seats, appeared to be filled by Jews who had survived or even improved their positions.
One can imagine that Germans who had lost their own status might have resented the spectacle. One old conservative I spoke to added a second reason for the rise of anti-Semitism in a Prussian society which had traditionally been quite free of it. The arguments advanced are his own, and tell us something of his prejudices. He believes that the Weimar Republic was too liberal with regard to immigration from the East, admitting thousands of Jews from Galicia and the old "pale of settlement" [the area in which all Russian Jews were forced to live], persons who, in his words, were "Asiatics, not Jews." They found themselves in a strange anonymous town, free of all the ethical restraints imposed by life in a small community where their families had lived for several generations. They tended therefore to abandon all morality as they stepped out of their own homes, morality being strictly a family affair. They would sail as close to the wind as the law would allow, for they had no good will, no neighborly esteem to lose. The gentleman in question is convinced that their mode of doing business during the inflation did a great deal to create or aggravate more generalized anti-Semitic feelings.
Yet precisely these immigrants were to prove a mainstay of the republic. An old Berlin Jew who had spent some time in prewar Auschwitz told me that it was just these Eastern Jews who offered the most active and effective resistance to National Socialism. They were activists where native Berliners, Jews and Gentile alike, were more inclined to remain on the sidelines.
Certainly the period saw a rise in pro-National Socialist feelings. The first Nazi that Professor Reiff knew personally was a schoolboy in his last year [of high school]. The young man's father, a small civil servant, had just lost everything through inflation, and as a result his son joined the party. Pearl Buck records the views of an anti-monarchical businessman worried by inflation, who said of the Nazis: "They are still young men and act foolishly, but they will grow
For many people, who felt that they had lost all zest for a life rendered colorless by war and poverty, who could see that they lived in a world in which the [speculator] won and decent folk lost, a new ideology combining patriotism and socialist anti-capitalism seemed to be the only viable alternative to a totally unacceptable state of financial chaos and capitalist “laissez-faireˇ
The shock of inflation had made people mistrustful of the past, immensely suspicious of the present, and pathetically ready to have hopes for the future. It was perfectly clear to them that new solutions were needed, equally clear that until such solutions should appear they could put their trust in nothing except the validity of their own sensations. The mood of the inflationary period is summed up by Stefan Zweig. It is a mood that endured well beyond inflation itself to become the mood of the Weimar age, a blend of pleasure-seeking, sexual and political extremism, and a yearning for strange gods.
“It was an epoch of high ecstasy and ugly scheming, a singular mixture of unrest and fanaticism. Every extravagant idea that was not subject to regulation reaped a golden harvest: theosophy, occultism, yogism and Paracelcism. Anything that gave hope of newer and greater thrills, anything in the way of narcotics, morphine, cocaine, heroin found a tremendous market: on the stage. It was indeed a time for the revaluation of all (devalued) values.”
The mood of 1923 persisted long after inflation ended, which is why the manner of its ending is offered here as a postscript, for nothing was restored but the currency. Restoration of confidence was only possible when passive resistance in the Ruhr ended in the autumn of 1923. At the same time, the Reichsbank appointed Hjalmar Schacht to deal with inflation. He was an extremely able man with a clear grasp of essentials. He realized that his main problem was to restore confidence both within and without Germany, and to try to prevent people from spending money as soon as it came into their hands. He established a new currency, based on the notional sum total of Germany's agricultural wealth, the Roggen-Mark (rye mark). This had the effect of restoring psychological confidence in the currency. He combined the move with a gigantic bear trap laid by the Reichsbank to catch the speculators who would regularly build up huge short positions in marks, in the almost certain expectation that the mark would continue to fall against the dollar; i.e. they sold marks they hadn't got, knowing that they could buy them for a fraction of their present value when the time came to meet the demand. When the mark stopped falling, thanks to the Reichsbank's engineering, they had to rush to close their positions, and were forced to buy marks which had actually begun to go up. Many speculators lost the entire fortunes which they had built up over the year.
Schacht's measures sufficed to stop the rot, but in the period between the ordnance declaring the new currency and the appearance of the first notes, there was an interim of pure chaos in which, as the British Ambassador Lord d'Abernon noted: "four kinds of paper money and five kinds of stable value currency were in use. On November 20 1923, 1 dollar = 4.2 gold marks = 4.2 trillion paper marks. But by December the currency was stable." The last November issue of the weekly Berliner Illustrierter Zeitung cost a billion marks, the first December issue 20 pfennigs. Confidence seemed to have been restored overnight. Germany could breathe again.
There were those, however, who could not accept that the old certainties were lost, as this sad little postscript will prove. In the old days the highest denomination printed had been the brown thousand-mark note, which had a prestigious, almost magic significance. Many people among the older generation found it impossible to accept that its value was now gone forever. The notes were seen as the symbol of the golden age of stability before inflation, and it was the touching hope of many that one day they would be restored to full value. In the meantime they were hoarded and even collected. They could be bought in the Munich flea market for five marks a million. That there was still a demand for them at all is proof of the belief that one day the Reichsbank would honor its pledge and exchange paper for gold. Weimar's electoral system of proportional representation encouraged the proliferation of small political parties, of which there were many. But without a doubt, the strangest and saddest party of them all was the "Party for the Revalution of the Thousand-Mark Note."
This next document is a poignant statement of how insidious the inflation worked upon the middle class. It does not contain flashy corruption or titillating sex, but is all the more moving.
It is a fictional account, in which Zweig adopts the persona of an art dealer paying a call on a valued customer of the past. It is 1923.
Stefan Zweig, "The Invisible Collection: A Short Tale" Vößische Zeitung, 31 May 1925
The connoisseur of whom I was in search lived on the second floor of one of those jerry-built houses which were run up in such numbers by speculators during the 'sixties of the last century. The first floor was occupied by a master-tailor. On the second landing to the left was the name plate of the manager of the local post-office, while the porcelain shield on the right-hand door bore the name of my quarry. I had run him to earth! My ring was promptly answered by a very old, white-haired woman wearing a black lace cap. I handed her my card and asked whether the master was at home. With an air of suspicion she glanced at me, at the card, and then back at my face once more. In this godforsaken little town a visit from an inhabitant of the metropolis was a disturbing event. However, in as friendly a tone as she could muster, she asked me to be good enough to wait a minute or two in the hall and vanished through a doorway. I heard whispering, and then a loud, hearty, masculine voice: "Herr Rackner from Berlin, you say, the famous dealer in antiquities? Of course I shall be delighted to see him." Thereupon the old woman reappeared and invited me to enter.
I took off my overcoat and followed her. In the middle of the cheaply furnished room was a man standing up to receive me. Old but hale, he had a bushy moustache and was wearing a semi-military, frogged smoking-jacket. In the most cordial way, he held out both hands towards me. But though this gesture was spontaneous and in no way forced, it was in strange contrast with the stiffness of his attitude. He did not advance to meet me, so that I was compelled (I must confess I was a trifle piqued) to walk right up to him before I could shake. Then I noticed that his hand, too, did not seek mine, but was waiting for mine to clasp it. At length I guessed what was amiss. He was blind.
Ever since I was a child, I have been uncomfortable in the presence of the blind. It embarrasses me, produces in me a sense of bewilderment and shame to encounter anyone, who is thoroughly alive, and yet has not the full use of his senses. I feel as if I were taking an unfair advantage, and I was keenly conscious of this sensation as I glanced into the fixed and sightless orbs beneath the bristling white eyebrows. The blind man, \however, did not leave me time to dwell upon this discomfort, he exclaimed, laughing with boisterous delight:
"A red-letter day, indeed! Seems almost a miracle that one of the big men of Berlin should drop in as you have done. There's need for us provincials to be careful, you know, when a noted dealer such as yourself is on the war-path. We've a saying in this part of the world: 'Shut your doors and button up your pockets if there are gypsies about!’ I can guess why you've taken the trouble to call. Business doesn't thrive, I've gathered. No buyers or very few, so people are looking up their old customers. I'm afraid you'll draw a blank. We pensioners are glad enough to find there's still some dry bread for dinner. I've been a collector in my time, but now I'm out of the game. My buying days are over."
I hastened to tell him he was under a misapprehension, that I had not called with any thought of effecting sales. Happening to be in the neighborhood I felt loath to miss the chance of paying my respects to a long-standing customer who was at the same time one of the most famous among German collectors. Hardly had the phrases passed my lips when a remarkable change took place in the old man's expression. He stood stiffly in the middle of the room, but his face lighted up and his whole aspect was suffused with pride. He turned in the direction where he fancied his wife to be and nodded as if to say, "D'you hear that?" Then turning back to me, he resumed—having dropped the brusque, drill-sergeant tone he had previously used, and speaking in a gentle, nay almost tender voice:
"How charming of you ... I should be sorry, however, if your visit were to result in nothing more than your making the personal acquaintanceship of an old duffer like myself. At any rate, I've something worthwhile for you to see—more worthwhile than you could find in Berlin, in the Albertina at Vienna, or even in the Louvre (God's curse on Paris!) A man who has been a diligent collector for fifty years, with taste to guide him, gets hold of treasures that are not to be picked up at every street-corner. Lisbeth, give me the key of the cupboard, please!"
Now a strange thing happened. His wife, who had been listening with a pleasant smile, was startled. She raised her hands towards me, clasped them imploringly, and shook her head. What these gestures signified was a puzzle to me. Next she went up to her husband and touched his shoulder, saying:
"Franz, dear, you have forgotten to ask our visitor whether he may not have another appointment; and, anyhow, it is almost dinner-time—I am sorry," she went on, looking to me, "that we have not enough in the house for an unexpected guest. No doubt you will dine at the inn. If you will take a cup of coffee with us afterwards, my daughter Anna Maria, will be here, and she is much better acquainted than I am with the contents of the portfolios."
Once more she glanced piteously at me. It was plain that she wanted me to refuse the proposal to examine the collection there and then. Taking my cue, I said that in fact I had a luncheon engagement at the Golden Stag, but should be only too delighted to return at three, when there would be plenty of time to examine anything Herr Kronfeld wanted to show me. I was not leaving before six o'clock. The veteran was a pettish as a child deprived of a favorite toy.
"Of course," he growled. "I know you mandarins from Berlin have extensive claims on your time. Still, I really think you will do well to spare me a few hours. It is not merely two or three prints I want to show you, but the contents of twenty-seven portfolios, one for each master, and all of them full to bursting. However, if you come at three sharp, I dare say we can get through by six." The wife saw me out. In the entrance hall, before she opened the front door, she whispered: "Do you mind if Anna Maria comes to see you at the hotel before your return? It will be better for various reasons which I cannot explain just now."
"Of course, of course, a great pleasure. Really, I am dining alone, and your daughter can come along directly after you have finished your own meal."
An hour later, when I had removed myself from the dining–room to the parlor of the Golden Stag, Anna Maria Kronfeld arrived. An old maid, wizened and diffident, plainly dressed, she contemplated me with embarrassment. I did my best to put her at her ease and expressed my readiness to go back with her at once, if her father was impatient, thought it was short of the appointed hour. At this, she reddened, grew even more confused, and then stammered a request for a little talk before we set out. "Please sit down," I answered. "I am entirely at your service."
She found it difficult to begin. Her hands and her lips trembled. At length: "My mother sent me. We have to ask a favor of you. Directly when you get back, Father will want to show you his collection; and the collection . . . the collection. Well, there's very little of it left!"
She panted, almost sobbed, and went on breathlessly: "I must be frank. ... You know what troublesome times we are passing through, and I am sure you will understand. Soon after the war broke out, my father became completely blind. His sight had already been failing. Agitation, perhaps, contributed. Though he was over seventy, he wanted to go to the front, remembering the fight in which he had taken part so long ago [during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870]. Naturally there was no use for his services. Then, when the advance of our armies was checked, he took the matter very much to heart, and the doctor thought that may have precipitated the oncoming blindness. In other respects, as you will have noticed, he is vigorous. Down to 1914 he could take long walks, and go out shooting. Since the failure of his eyes, his only pleasure is in his collection. He looks at it every day. 'Looks at it,' I say, though he sees nothing. Each afternoon he has the portfolios on the table, and fingers the prints one by one, in the order which many years have rendered so familiar. Nothing else interests him. He makes me read reports of auctions; and the higher the prices, the more enthusiastic does he become.
"There's the dreadful feature of the situation. Father knows nothing about the inflation; that we are ruined; that his monthly pension would not provide us with a food for even one day. Then we have others to support. My sister's husband was killed at Verdun, and they have four children. These money troubles have been kept from him. We cut down expenses as much as we can, but it is impossible to make ends meet. We began to sell things, trinkets and so on, without interfering with his beloved collection. There was very little to sell, since Father had always spent whatever he could scrape together upon woodcuts, copper-plate engravings, and the like. The collector's mania! Well, at length it was a question whether we were to touch the collection of let him starve. We didn't ask permission. What would have been the use? He hasn't the ghost of a notion how hard food is to come by, at any price; has never heard that Germany was defeated and surrendered Alsace-Lorraine. We don't read him items of that sort from the newspaper!"
"The first piece we sold was a very valuable one, a Rembrandt etching, and the dealer paid us a high price, a good many thousand marks. We thought it would last us for years! But you know how money was melting away, in 1922 and 1923. After we had provided for our immediate needs, we put the rest in a bank. In two months, it was gone! We had to sell another engraving, and then another. That was during the worst days of inflation, and each time the dealer delayed settlement until the price was not worth a tenth or a hundredth of what he had promised to pay. We tried auction rooms, and were cheated there too, though the bids were raised by millions. The million or billion-mark notes were waste-paper by the time we got them home. The collection was scattered to provide daily bread, and little of that."
"That was why Mother was so much alarmed when you turned up today. Once the portfolios are opened, our pious fraud will be disclosed. He knows each item by touch. You see, every print we disposed of was immediately replaced by a sheet of blank bond paper of the same size and thickness so that he would notice no difference when he handled it. Feeling them one by one, and counting them, he derives almost as much pleasure as if he could actually see them. He never tries to show them to anyone here, where there is no connoisseur, no one worthy to look at them; but he loves each of them so ardently that I think his heart would break if he knew that they had been sold off. The last time he asked someone to look at them, it was the curator of the copper-plate engravings in Dresden, who died years ago."
"I beseech you"—her voice broke—"not to shatter his illusion, not to undermine his faith, that the treasures he will describe to you are there for the seeing. He would not survive the knowledge of their loss. Perhaps we have wronged him, yet what could we do? One must live. Orphaned children are more valuable than old prints! Besides, it has been life and happiness to him to spend three hours every afternoon going through his imaginary collection, and talking to each specimen as if it were a friend. Today may be the most enthralling experience since his sight failed. How he has longed for the chance of exhibiting his treasures to an expert! If you would only lend yourself to this deception . . .!"
In my cold recital, I cannot convey to you how poignant was this appeal. I have seen many a sordid transaction in my business career; have had to look on supinely while persons ruined by inflation have been diddled out of cherished heirlooms, which they were compelled to sacrifice for a crust of bread. But my heart has not been utterly calloused, and this tale touched me to the quick. I need hardly tell you that I promised to play along. We went to her house together. On the way I was grieved (though not surprised) to learn for what preposterously small amounts these ignorant though kind-hearted women had parted with prints, many of which were extremely valuable and some of them unique. This confirmed my resolve to give all the help in my power. As we mounted the stairs we heard a jovial shout: "Come in! Come in!" With the keen hearing of the blind, he had recognized the footsteps for which he had been eagerly waiting.
"Franz usually takes a siesta after lunch, but excitement kept him awake today," said the old woman with a smile as she let us in. A glance at her daughter showed her that all was well. The stack of portfolios was on the table. The blind collector seized me by the arm and thrust me into a chair, which was placed ready for me. "Let's begin at once. There's a lot to see, and time presses. The first portfolio contains Dürers. Nearly a full set, and you'll think each cut finer than the others. Magnificent specimens. Judge for yourself." He opened the portfolio as he spoke, saying: "We start with the Apocalypse series, for course."
Then, tenderly, delicately (as one handles fragile and precious objects), he picked up the first of the blank sheets of bond-paper and held it admiringly before my sighted eyes and his blind ones. So enthusiastic was his gaze that it was difficult to believe he could not see. Though I knew it to be fancy, I found it difficult to doubt that there was a glow of recognition in the wrinkled face.
"Have you ever come across a finer print? How sharp the impression. Every detail crystal-clear. I compared mine with the one in Dresden; a good one, no doubt, but 'fuzzy' in contrast with the specimen you are looking at."
I shuddered as the unsuspecting enthusiast extolled the blank sheet of paper; my flesh crept when he placed a fingernail on the exact spot where the alleged imprints had been made by long-dead collectors. It was as ghostly as if the disembodied spirits of the men he named had risen from the tomb. My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth —until once more I caught sight of the distraught countenances of Kronfeld's wife and daughter. Then I pulled myself together and resumed my role. With forced heartiness, I exclaimed: "Certainly you are right. This specimen is peerless." He swelled with triumph. "But that's nothing," he went on. "Look at these two, the Melancholia, and the illuminated print of The Passion. The latter, beyond question, has no equal. The freshness of the tints! Your colleagues in Berlin and the custodians of public galleries would turn green with envy at the sight."
I will not bore you with details. Thus it went on, a paean, for more than two hours, as he ransacked portfolio after portfolio. An eerie business to watch the handling of these two or three hundred blanks, to chime in at appropriate moments with praise of merits which, for the blind collector were so eminently real that again and again (and this was my salvation) his faith re-kindled my own. ... The more I praised, \the more gratified he became, until at last he said exultantly to the two women:
"Here's a man who knows what's what! You have been inclined to grumble at my 'squandering' money upon the collection. It's true that for half a century and more, I denied myself beer, wine, tobacco, traveling, visits to the theater, books, devoting all I could spare to these purchases you have despised. Well, Herr Rackner confirms my judgment. When I am dead and gone, you'll be richer than anyone in the town, as wealthy as the wealthiest folk in Dresden, and you'll have good reason for congratulating yourself on my 'craziness.' But so long as I'm alive, the collection must be kept together. After I've been boxed and buried, this expert or another will help you to sell. You'll have to, since my pension dies with me."
As he spoke, his fingers caressed the despoiled portfolios. It was horrible and touching. Not for years, not since 1914, had I witnessed an expression of such unmitigated happiness on the face of a German. His wife and daughter watched with tear-dimmed eyes, yet ecstatically, like those women of old who—frightened and rapturous—found the stone rolled away and the sepulcher empty in the garden outside the walls of Jerusalem. But the man could not have enough of my appreciation. He went on from portfolio to portfolio, from 'print' to 'print' to 'print,' drinking in my words, until, worn out, I was glad when the lying blanks were replaced in their cases and room was made to serve coffee on the table.
My host, far from being tired, looked rejuvenated. He had story after story to tell concerning the way he had chanced upon his multivarious treasures, wanting, in this connection, to take out each relevant piece once more. He grew peevish when I insisted, when his wife and daughter insisted, that I should miss my train if he delayed me any longer.... In the end, he was reconciled to my going, and we said good-bye. His voice mellowed; he took both my hands in his and fondled them with the tactile appreciation of the blind: "You visit has give me immense pleasure," he said with a quaver in his voice. "What a joy to have been able at long last to show my collection to one competent to appreciate it. I can do something to prove my gratitude, to make your visit to a blind old man worthwhile. A codicil to my will shall stipulate that your firm, whose probity everyone knows, will be entrusted with the auctioning of my collection."
He laid a hand lovingly upon the pile of worthless portfolios. "Promise me they shall have a handsome catalogue. I could ask no better monument."
I glanced at the two women, who were exercising the utmost control, fearful lest the sound of their trembling should reach his keen ears. I promised the impossible, and he pressed my hand in response. Wife and daughter accompanied me to the door. They did not venture to speak, but tears were flowing down their cheeks. I myself was little better. An art dealer, I had come in search of bargains. Instead, as events turned out, I had been a sort of angel of mercy, lying like a trooper in order to assist in a fraud which kept an old man happy. Ashamed of lying, I was glad that I had lied. At any rate, I had aroused an ecstasy which seems foreign to this period of sorrow and gloom.
As I stepped forth into the street, I heard a window open, and my name called. Though the old fellow could not see me, he knew in which direction I should walk, and his sightless eyes were turned thither. He leaned out so far that his anxious relatives put their arms around him lest he should fall. Waving a handkerchief, he shouted: "A pleasant journey to you, Herr Rackner!" His voice rang like a boy's. Never shall I forget that cheerful face, which contrasted so grimly with the careůworn aspect of the passersby in the street. The illusion I had helped to sustain made life seem good to me.Was it not Goethe who said: "Collectors are happy creatures?"
The really horrendous aspect of the inflation had begun on 10 January 1923, when the French and Belgian Governments, claiming that Germany had fallen behind in the payment of reparations, sent army units into the Ruhr industrial area of Germany. The German government protested, but decided on passive resistance—German workers in the Ruhr were encouraged to refuse to work. Hitler immediately seized upon this new opportunity.
26 February 1923 Bavarian Political Police Report on Hitler Speech, Munich Löwen\bräu\keller
The Ruhr occupation was not undertaken because of non-fulfillment of reparations, but because France's main goal is to dissolve Germany. The entire traditional policy of France aims at this goal. In Paris, no one thinks that France will voluntarily evacuate the Saar, the Ruhr, and the Rhineland, even after the 15 years [prescribed in the Versailles Treaty] is over. Their political moves will not be broken by our economic resistance, but only by political resistance, which in the end means to take up arms (applause). Our empty protests will not weaken the French government, and in fact they can't, because the French government has the full support of its people. We have thus lost the Ruhr because we allowed ourselves to be disarmed, and because the German Volk has spiritually lost a willingness and obligation to defend itself. We can conduct active resistance to the French only when the Volk has a will to do so; in such a case, the weapons to carry it out would suddenly appear.
If Germany is to recover, first of all, our Government and Parliament must become "National." Today in Germany there are still 13 million people who do not want to be German [Hitler refers here to the Socialist and Communist voters]. Above all else, we have to win these people back to the fundamental principles of our Volk and make them Germans once more. Should this happen, Germany would not be lost!
How did it come about that a Volk which had conducted such a heroic fight [in the war] should suddenly loose its national orientation? Because the moral contamination of the Jews systematically infected our front-line soldiers and the people at home, it happened that we left our traditional leaders in the lurch and embraced such a trickster as [Woodrow] Wilson....
Hitler then treated the themes of art, literature and the cinema. Concerning the latter, he judged recent films most harshly, for they contaminate the Volk with their garbage! Hitler also took on Capitalism, which plundered the worker by demanding excessively long working hours. He described at length the life of a miner, and showed that it was primarily the responsibility of Jewish big-business that had caused Marxism to grow so firmly in these communities. In very telling fashion, Hitler described the new Germany, as it would apply to workers, who wanted to be treated not as mere numbers, but like free men! Capital must become the handmaiden of the State, and not the master. No one takes up weapons because they have received money; men fight and die only for ideas! Since 1813, Germany has not been built upon economic factors but upon the battle field of Waterloo. Today also, Germany must recover by freeing herself from Versailles, not by economic measures, such as Herr Stinnes has suggested.
Hitler then identified one point from the party platform: Education for a national will. The preconditions for such an undertaking are naturally that the social relations of the workers become such that if they are called upon to fight in battlefields, they would be convinced that by so doing they were fighting for their own homeland, and for a better future.... In this context, Hitler mentioned the fall of the Roman Empire, which was first manifested in signs of moral decomposition and carousing etc; these are also appearing in our own midst.We cannot place all-too-great hopes in the youth of the country, if grown-ups do not give good examples. How can a child develop national pride if he does not even know the work of our great poets? In Goethe, Schiller, Schopenhauer resides a part of Germany's greatness....
Hitler then illuminated the distress faced by university students, and mentioned that in the party's program it was the responsibility of the State to insure that every qualified young person, no matter what his background, should have the right to attend a university. If only Jewish doctors, lawyers, etc, were driven out of their posts, which they didn't deserve in the first place, then there would be ample room for our German intellectuals. Everything awaits the strong man who will save Germany. But already I hear objections: Would even he be able to accomplish everything? Yes, if the will is there, he can pull it off—but naturally not through negotiations and elections to decide if people are ready to fight or not.
Our Movement has had to combat two extremes: Spartakist men on the one hand, and [young intellectuals] on the other. Both groups are idealists. Only the first group has been mislead by the Jews. The other group—university students—is made of people willing to sacrifice their lives in order to improve the conditions of the workers. Should the workers receive a guarantee that they will be able to live in a free, socialist Germany—but by that we mean something quite different from the Marxist version—then they too would be willing to risk their lives for this ideal. On that day, the bells will ring out: "Storm, storm, storm rings the steeple bells," and a free Germany will arise to shake off its chains of slavery.
Professor Karl Alexander von Müller, who had first "discovered" Hitler kept notes of a rally in which he watched Hitler's remarkable performance.
On the 28th, 6,000 SA men instead of 5,000 lined up on the Marsfeld. The previous evening HItler had dashed in his car from one meeting to another. In the Löwenbräu Keller I heard him speak in public for the first time. How often had I attended public meetings in this hall! But neither during the [First World] war nor during the revolution had I been met on entering by so hot a breath of hypnotic mass excitement. It was not only the special tension of these weeks, of this day. "Their own battle songs, their own flags, their own symbols, their own salute," I noted down, "military-like stewards, a forest of bright red flags with black swastika on white ground, a strange mixture of the military and the revolutionary, of nationalist and socialist—in the audience also: mainly of the depressed middle class of every level—will it be welded together again here?" For hours, endless booming military music; for hours, short speeches by subordinate leaders. When was he coming? Had something unexpected happened? Nobody can describe the fever that spread in this atmosphere. Suddenly there was a movement at the back entrance. Words of command. The speaker on the platform stopped in mid-sentence. Everybody jumped up, saluting. And right through the shouting crowds and the streaming flags the one they were waiting for came with his followers, walking quickly to the platform, his right arm raised stiffly. He passed by me quite close and I saw this was a different person from the man I had met now and then in private houses; his gaunt, pale features contorted as if by inward rage, cold flames darting from his protruding eyes, which seemed to be searching out foes to be conquered. Did the crowd give him this mysterious power? Did it emanate from him to them? "Fanatical, hysterical romanticism with a brutal core of willpower," I wrote down in my notebook. "The declining middle class may be carrying this man, but he is not of them; he assuredly comes from totally different depths of darkness. Is he simply using them as a
Is there still a racial problem in this "modern world?" The yellow race is denied permission to settle in America. But this peril, comparatively speaking, is not nearly so great as the peril which today stretches its hand over the entire world—the Jewish peril. Many people do not regard the Jews as a race, but is there another people that is as determined to perpetuate its race anywhere in the world as the Jews? As a matter of fact, the Jew can never become a German. If he wanted to become a German he would have to give up being a Jew. That he cannot do. The Jew cannot become a German at heart for a number of reasons: first, because of his blood; second, because of his character; third, because of his will; and fourth, because of his actions. His actions remain Jewish and he works for the "greater idea" of the Jewish people. Since that is so and cannot be otherwise, the mere existence of the Jew is a colossal lie. The Jew is a past master at lying, for his existence as such in the organism of other peoples is only possible because of falsehood. This already was the opinion of the great Arthur Schopenhauer. The Jew lies to the other peoples when he pretends to be German, French, or the like.
What are the aims of the Jews? They aim to expand their invisible state as a supreme tyranny over the whole world. The Jew is therefore a destroyer of nations. In order to realize his domination over peoples politically and morally, he subjugates them. Politically he accomplishes his aims through the propagation of the principles of democracy and the doctrine of Marxism, which makes the proletarian a terrorist in domestic matters and a pacifist in foreign policy. From the ethical point of view the Jew destroys the peoples in respect to religious and moral considerations. Anyone who is willing to see that can see it; and no one can help the person who refuses to see it. The Jew, voluntarily or involuntarily, consciously or unconsciously, undermines the foundation on which alone a nation can exist.
Thus the following question comes up: are we still in a position to resist an enemy who is our deadly foe? The prime consideration is whether we want to save Germany. If so, then we must first save her from her destroyer. I confess, it is a severe struggle that must be fought out on this score. We National Socialists, however, occupy an extreme position in this regard. We know only one people for which we fight, and that is our own Volk. We may be inhuman, but if we save Germany we will have achieved the greatest thing on earth. We may be wrong, but if we save Germany, we will have righted the greatest wrong on earth. We may be immoral, but if we save our people, morality will have been given a new lease on life.
It is said that we are only making a lot of noise about anti-Semitism. Yes, indeed, we want to stir up a storm. The people must not sleep; they should know that a storm is gathering. We have therefore laid down the principles in our program that only Germans can be citizens of the state. We could tolerate Jews only as guests, providing they did us no harm. But they are harmful.
Hitler's increasingly acerbic comments about the Jews were more than rhetorical flourishes. They apparently reflected his own deep obsession on this subject. An interesting confirmation
of this comes from an observer who described Hitler's behavior at a private party in Munich.
Hitler had sent word to his hostess that he had to attend an important meeting and would not arrive until late; I think it was about eleven o'clock. He came nonetheless attired in a respectable blue suit and carrying an extravagantly large bouquet of roses, which he presented to his hostess as he kissed her hand. While he was being introduced, he wore the expression of a public prosecutor at an execution. I remember being struck by his voice when he thanked the lady of the house for tea or cakes, of which, incidentally, he ate an amazing quantity. It was a remarkably emotional voice, and yet it made an impression of harshness rather than of conviviality or intimacy. However, he said hardly anything but sat there in silence for about an hour; he seemed to be tired. Not until the hostess was rash enough to let fall a remark about the Jews, whom she jestingly defended, did he begin to speak and then he spoke without stopping. After a while he thrust back his chair and stood up, still speaking, or rather yelling, in a powerful penetrating voice such as I have never heard from anyone else. A child woke up in the next room and began to cry. After he had for more than half-an-hour delivered quite a witty but very one-sided oration on the Jews, he suddenly broke off, went up to his hostess, begged to be excused and kissed her hand as he took his leave. The rest of the company, whom he seemed not to like, were only vouchsafed a curt bow from the doorway.
Hitler ended a lengthy speech in the Sängerhalle with the following restatement of his political program: Majority resolutions of a parliament cannot save us; only the value of a unique personality can do that. As Führer of the National Socialist Party, I see my task as assuming full responsibility. We do not rely upon committees and majorities. We are aware that our path will be thronged with thorns. National Socialists demand from their leader that he renounce all vanity and expressions of personal admiration; he must not worry about what the majority of people want him to do, but must carry out whatever his conscience before God and man tells him is necessary. Unlike other parties, we did not write a party platform designed to enlarge the number of [parliamentary] mandates without regard to the well-being and even at the expense of the individual and the whole nation. That is not the creative path taken by the great lawgivers such as Christ, Solon, etc., but is the way pursued by little men who worry so much about their parliamentary dignity. Thus, in our program we did not make promises. Instead we insisted:
1) You are a German. You should treasure your fatherland higher than anything else in the world. Your first responsibility in this world is to be a good German. You must not beg for the rights of your Volk, but demand them. Heaven blesses only those who use their fists to secure their rights.
2) Citizenship rights belong only to those who are worthy and have German blood. German citizenship must become the powerful cement which binds together everything German throughout the world.
3) Our State should not be the plaything of financial interests, but rather should offer to all its citizens the opportunity to maintain themselves honorably in this world. We demand that the State be freed from all unworthy interest payments and compulsory obligations.
4) The State must see to it that property and real estate speculation cease. Property belongs only to those who have built. The Reich exists in order to protect its Volk, its race. In our State, the press, art, and literature will not be free, but handmaidens of the State in order to educate the people to a sense of honor and decency. We want this state to be based upon true Christianity. To be a Christian does not mean a cowardly turning of the other cheek, but a struggle for justice and a fighter against all injustice.
19 August 1923 Interview with Hitler by a Reporter for the New York World
Democracy is a joke. It has ruined Germany and the Coalition Cabinet can only add further to the destruction. There are only two possibilities—either its reign will be smashed by the Soviet hammer, or it will be swept away by an organized minority of Nationalists. With fanatic determination we Fascists must pursue our goal. History has always been made by an organized minority which seized power for the benefit of the majority.
If America is for Americans, Germany is for Germans. We are enemies of all foreign oppressors. That is why we can never work with the Communists, who are international Jews. What Germany needs is a revolution—not reform. The printing presses must stop [printing money]; officialdom must be reduced to a minimum. This can only be effected by a Government not bound by republican slogans. This Government must rule by force.
October 1923 Interview of Hitler by George S.Viereck for The American Monthly
We might have called ourselves the Liberty Party. We chose to call ourselves National Socialists. We are not Internationalists. Our Socialism is national. We demand the fulfillment of the just demands of the productive classes by the state on the basis of race solidarity. To us state and race are one.
Asked to elucidate his program further, he said: We believe in the ancient adage of "a healthy mind in a healthy body." The body politic must be sound if the soul is to be healthy. This is no less true of the individual. Moral and physical health are synonymous. The slums are responsible for nine-tenths, alcohol for one-tenth of all human depravity. No healthy man is a Marxist, for being healthy, he recognizes the value of personality.
We contend against the forces of disease and degeneration. Bavaria is comparatively healthy,, because it is not completely industrialized. All Germany, including Bavaria, is condemned to intensive industrialism by the smallness of our territory. If we wish to save Germany, we must see to it that our farmers remain faithful to the land. To do so, they must have room to breathe and room to work. We must regain our colonies and we must expand eastward. There was a time when we could have shared the world with England. Now, we can stretch our cramped limbs only towards the East. The Baltic is necessarily a German lake.... However we cannot expand commercially or territorially, we cannot regain what we have lost, until we find ourselves. We are in the position of a man whose house has burned down. He must have a roof over his head before he can indulge in more ambitious plans. We have succeeded in creating at least an emergency shelter to keep out the rain. We were not prepared for hailstorms. However, misfortunes hailed down upon us. Germany has been living in a veritable blizzard of national, moral, and economic catastrophes. Two years of democracy have lost us Silesia, the Rhine and the Ruhr.
Our demoralized party system is a symptom of our disease. What can the present government do? Nothing. It has no permanent support anywhere. Parliamentary majorities fluctuate with the mood of the moment. Parliamentary government is the spawn of hell. It opens the gate to Bolshevism. Bolshevism, Hitler emphatically continued, is our greatest menace. Kill Bolshevism in Germany and you restore seventy million people to power. France owes her [present] strength not to her armies, but to the forces of Bolshevism in our midst. The Treaty of Versailles and the Treaty of St. Germain are kept alive by Bolshevism in Germany. The Peace Treaty and Bolshevism are two heads of one monster. We must decapitate both....
Our German workers, Hitler said, have two souls. One is German, the other is Marxian. We must arouse the German soul. We must root out the taint of Marxism. Marxism and Germanism, like German and Jew, are antipodes. Here Hitler outlined his case against the Jews.... The Jew, Hitler asserts, is destructive by nature. Unable to lead a national existence of his own, his presence in the modern state provides the ferment of decomposition.
[What would you do with the Jew?" Viereck asked.] We would disfranchise him. [But if he is born in Germany? Viereck returned]. Birth in itself is no sufficient qualification for citizenship. Citizenship depends upon a clear recognition of the duties implied in its rights. The Jews are not German. They are an alien people in our midst, and manifest themselves as such....
The fact that a man is decent is no reason why we should not eliminate him. Our hand grenades [in the war] made no discrimination between decent Englishmen and others. Decent Jews will realize that it is necessary for us to protect the integrity of our race. I look upon the Jews, Hitler continued, as you look upon the Japanese. Both are an alien race. Both are an ancient people. Both have an ancient culture. Nevertheless, you [in the USA] do not admit the Japanese to citizenship. Yet, the Japanese, unlike the Jews, are not a destructive force. They have ruined no state. They are not carriers of Bolshevism.... They constitute no problem.
Mixed breeds lack vitality. We would forbid mixed marriages hereafter. We would treat the off-spring of mixed marriages according to their desert. If they were patriots, we would accept them, although we would not encourage intermarriage with them. The issue that confronts us is one between Jew and Aryan. The mixed breed dies; it is a valueless product. Rome fell, when it ceased to keep its race pure. In literature, in the movies, in science, the influence of the Jew is destructive. We are like a consumptive, who does not realize that he is doomed unless he expels the microbes from his lungs. Nations, like individuals, are apt to dance most wildly when they are nearest the abyss. Hence, I say, we need violent correctives, strong medicine, maybe amputation.
Now, more than ever, we must differentiate between elements that make for weakness and elements that make for strength. Incidentally, no deed of violence against Jews is on record in Bavaria. Not even the windows of a single Jew were smashed by my followers. No one, not even the Jews, can deny our honesty of purpose. We wish to purge ourselves from the Jews not because they are Jews, but because they are a disturbing influence. We wish to reserve citizenship and a voice in the council of our nation only to those who are of pure German blood.
Our slogan is "Germany for the Germans." Foreigners, whether Jews or not, will be permitted to live in Germany only by sufferance....
20 October 1923 Report on Hitler Speech in Nürnberg,, in the Fränkische Kurrier
[At about 10:00] the speaker began: after four and a half years of despair, we can now see a glimmer of hope of freeing ourselves from slavery and shame. The great service of the National Socialist Movement is that it has united German men and women from all walks of life into a community, who can and will become a true Volk community [Volksgemeinschaft]. The Movement calls itself "National," not because it embraces a particular form for the state, but rather out of love for the Volk; likewise, it identifies itself as "Social," because it wants a society without mutual antagonism. The enemies of the party consider "National" and "Social" as mutually contradictory concepts, because they do not properly understand the words. Moreover they understand by "dictatorship" something quite different from us in the National Socialist Party; we mean by it a "Germanic" revolution, which restores the body and soul of our Volk. Our people should have freedom, but not licentiousness; our Movement will not be satisfied with superficial aspects, but rather it wants to attack with an ax the very root of the evil. The Movement is not stupid reaction, which only wants to restore the good old days, but rather we want to give to the Volk, and especially also to the workers, what they deserve. Hundreds of thousands of German workers have already given to our party their trust, and the Party believes that in the future, with these calloused workers' hands, which have been won back for Mother Germania still greater service can be achieved than can be accomplished by 10 rah-rah [Right-Wing] patriots. A truly German popular uprising is possible only when the cry for Freedom works its way into the very least worker's flat and echoes back from it! Germany's salvation rests closely tied up with the position taken by its working population. The day on which the fight for German freedom begins in serious will be either the end of our party, or the beginning of a new step in the history of the German people.
By early November 1923, \the political and economic conditions in Bavaria (and much of Germany) were chaotic. In Munich, Minister President [Governor] Kahr had declared a state of emergency and suspended the elected State Parliament. He began negotiations with a number of anti-Republican forces, but seemed prepared to wait for the right moment to declare Bavarian independence and restore the monarchy.
Having fired the enthusiasm and expectations of his followers up to fever pitch, Hitler could not wait because he suspected the economic crisis would not last forever. With the appointment of Schacht there were signs that the national government was getting ready to move on the hyper-inflation. Once conditions returned to normal, Hitler knew he would have lost his opportunity possibly forever. He decided, therefore, to manipulate the situation so that Kahr and his co-conspirators, General von Lossow (Reichswehr commander of the Bavarian District) and Colonel von Seisser (head of the Bavarian Landespolizei [paramilitary State Police) would be forced to join him. For the evening of 8 November, these three leaders had scheduled a public meeting in the Bürgerbräukeller, a big Munich beer cellar, in order to protest the growth of Bolshevism in Germany. Kahr was to speak and all the leading citizens of Munich were to be present. Hitler secretly surrounded the hall with some six hundred armed SA men, bursting in and interrupting Kahr's speech, to announce "the beginning of a national revolution." The historian Professor von Müller was at the meeting.
Herr von Kahr had spoken for half an hour. Then there was movement at the entrance as if people were wanting to push their way in. Despite several warnings, the disturbance did not die
Eventually, steel helmets came into sight. From this moment on, the view from my seat was rather obscured. People stood on chairs so that I didn't see Hitler until he had come fairly near along the main gangway; just before he turned to the platform, I saw him emerge between two armed soldiers in steel helmets who carried pistols next to their heads, pointing at the ceiling. They turned towards the platform, Hitler climbed on to a chair on my left. The hall was still restless, and then Hitler made a sign to the man on his right, who fired a shot at the ceiling. Thereupon Hitler called out (I cannot recollect the exact order of his words): "The national revolution has broken out. The hall is surrounded." Maybe he mentioned the exact number, I am not sure. He asked the gentlemen Kahr, Lossow, Seisser to come out and guaranteed their personal freedom. The gentlemen did not move. The General State Commissioner [Kahr] had stepped back and stood opposite Hitler, looking at him calmly. Then Hitler went towards the platform. What happened I could not see exactly; I heard him talk to the gentlemen and I heard the words: Everything would be over in ten minutes if the gentlemen would go out with him. To my surprise the three gentlemen went out with him immediately....
Hitler took Kahr, Lossow and Seisser into a back room where his nearly hysterical behavior added to the melodrama but did not succeed in persuading the Bavarian leaders to join him. Obviously Hitler was improvising as he went along. As the following document indicates, Kahr even refused to be browbeaten when Hitler threatened violence.
After the three gentlemen had entered the room, Adolf Hitler called out: "No one leaves the room alive without my permission." At the door a member of the bodyguard walked up and down continually, holding a pistol. Then Hitler turned to Excellency von Kahr with the statement: "The Reich Government has been formed, the Bavarian Government has been overthrown. Bavaria is the springboard for the Reich Government. There must be a Reich governor in Bavaria. Pöhner [the Police chief of Munich and sympathetic to the Nazis] is to become Minister-President with dictatorial powers. You will be Reich Governor. Reich Government—Hitler; national army—Ludendorff; Lossow—army minister; Seisser—police minister.
"I know this step is a difficult one for you, gentlemen, but the step must be taken, it must be made easier for the other gentlemen to make the leap. Everybody must take up the post which he is allotted. If he does not, then he has no right to exist. You must fight with me, achieve victory with me, or die with me. If things go wrong, I have four bullets in my pistol, three for my colleagues if they desert me, the last bullet for myself." While saying this, he put the pistol which he had been holding all the time to his head. While he was speaking to Excellency von Kahr, he noticed Major Hunglinger [General Seisser’s aide] in the room and motioned with his hand for him to leave.
Kahr declared to Herr Hitler: "You can arrest me, you can have me shot, you can shoot me yourself. Whether I live or die is unimportant." Whereupon Hitler turned to Colonel von Seisser who accused him of not keeping his promise [not to attempt a putsch.] Hitler replied: "Yes, that's true, but I did it in the interests of the fatherland. Forgive me."
Herr von Lossow tried to say something to the other two gentlemen. But this was prevented by a shout: "You gentlemen are not allowed to talk to one another." Lossow then stepped back to the window, disgusted with the proceedings. While looking out between the curtains, he noticed in front of every window a group of armed men, some of whom looked into the room with their guns at the ready. Hitler, who clearly saw the unpleasant impression this made, waved them away with his hand. Excellency von Lossow asked: "What is Ludendorff's attitude to the affair?" Hitler replied: "Ludendorff is ready and will soon be fetched." Hitler then left the room. He got no answer during this time, either from Herr von Kahr or from the other gentlemen....
Hitler was now in a bind. Ludendorff his trump card, had not arrived, but Hitler could not retreat, since he had staked his prestige on success and his supporters expected much of him. He returned to the restless crowd imprisoned in the beerhall. Professor von Muller gives an insightful picture of the scene that followed.
The general mood—I can of course only judge from my surroundings, but I think that this represented the general feeling in the hall—was still against the whole business. One heard: "Theatrical!" "South America!" "Mexico!" That was the prevailing mood. The change came only during Hitler's second speech when he entered about ten minutes later, went to the platform and made a short speech. It was a rhetorical masterpiece. In fact, in a few sentences it totally transformed the mood of the audience. I have rarely experienced anything like it. When he stepped on to the platform the disturbance was so great that he could not be heard, and he fired a shot. I can still see the gesture. He got the Browning out of his back pocket and I think it was on this occasion that the remark about the machine gun was made. When things did not become quiet, he shouted angrily at the audience: "If you are not quiet, I shall have a machine gun put up on the gallery." In fact he had come in to say that his prediction of everything being over in ten minutes had not come true. But he said it in such a way that he finally went out with the permission of the audience to say to Kahr that the whole assembly would be behind him if he were to join. It was a complete reversal. One could hear it being said that the whole thing had been arranged, that it was a phoney performance. I did not share this opinion because Kahr's attitude seemed to contradict it. Seeing him at close quarters, one got the impression of confusion, of great dismay....
When Ludendorff arrived, he claimed he had been surprised by the affair and helped persuade Kahr, who, after much hesitation finally agreed.
Ludendorff then entered the room in a hat and coat and, without asking any questions, with obvious excitement and with a trembling voice, declared: "Gentlemen I am just as surprised as you are. But the step has been taken; it is a question of the fatherland and the great national and Völkisch cause, and I can only advise you, go with us and do the same." ...
Shortly after Ludendorff, Pöhner entered the room. Hitler, Ludendorff and Weber [leader if a paramilitary group called Oberland] now began a process of urgent persuasion. Excellency von Kahr, in particular, was besieged on all sides. Moved by the feelings previously described, Lossow at last gave Ludendorff the consent he wanted with the dry comment, "All right." After some hesitation. Colonel von Seisser also nodded his agreement. Then Hitler, Ludendorff, and Dr Weber, with Pöhner also, worked on Excellency von Kahr with coaxing and pleading. Lossow and Seisser were asked to take part in the coaxing, but neither replied. ... Hitler could no longer go back, whatever the position of Kahr, Lossow, and Seisser might prove to be. Hitler kept bringing this out with statements like: "The deed has been done, there is no going back. It has already passed into history."
After long urging, Kahr declared: "I am ready to take over the destiny of Bavaria as the representative of the monarchy." Hitler insisted that this statement should be made in the hall. Herr von Kahr replied that after the way in which he had been led out of the hall he refused to go back into the hall. He wanted to avoid any public fraternizing. But Hitler insisted with the words: "You will be carried shoulder high. You will see what jubilation will greet you: the people will kneel before you." Kahr replied: "I can do without that." They then went into the hall.
Back in the hall, the men put on a show of solidarity, but Professor von Müller, for one, noticed the tension.
An hour after Hitler's first appearance the three gentlemen came back into the hall with Hitler and Ludendorff. They were enthusiastically received. On the platform Kahr began to speak first without being requested to and gave the speech which was printed word for word in the papers. Ludendorff too, in my opinion, spoke without being requested to, whereas Lossow and Seisser only spoke after repeated requests—I can't remember the words, but only the gestures—on Hitler's part. If I am to depict the impression made by the gentlemen on the platform, I would say that Kahr was completely unmoved. His face was like a mask all evening. He was not pale or agitated; he was very serious, but spoke very composedly. I got the impression that there was a melancholy look about his eyes. But that is perhaps being subjective. Hitler on the other hand, during this scene was radiant with joy. One had the feeling that he was delighted to have succeeded in persuading Kahr to collaborate. There was in his demeanor, I would say, a kind of childlike joy, a very frank expression which I shall never forget. Excellency Ludendorff by comparison was extremely grave; when he came in he was pale with suppressed emotion. His appearance as well as his words were those of a man who knew it was a matter of life and death, probably death rather than life. I shall never forget his expression. It was such that when I heard in town on the following day the rumor that he had been killed, I said to myself: That's what he looked like last night. Lossow's expression was very different; there was something detached, relaxed about his whole attitude. I don't want to make a party point but, if I am to describe it, it struck me that he made a slightly ironical fox face. A certain impenetrable smile never left his features. Seisser was pale and upset. He was the only one who gave the impression of personal agitation, of external agitation. His words were merely a variant of Lossow's. The report in the papers of the words of these two gentlemen was not correct: it was somewhat touched up.
But Hitler's triumph was premature. A few hours earlier, Ernst Röhm, the head of the Munich SA, had occupied Army headquarters in Munich where he was received with sympathy by the junior officers. But the Reichswehr's senior officers remained loyal to the Republic, and when General Lossow returned to his headquarters following his release, he immediately ordered military reinforcements to the Bavarian capital, where they surrounded the building which Röhm had occupied. Upon his release, Kahr too revoked his agreement with Hitler, saying he had been forced to make it at gunpoint. A little after midnight, it was clear to all in the Bürgerbräukeller that there would be no March on Berlin.
Nevertheless, Hitler decided to march through downtown Munich (across the river from the Bürgerbräukeller) to reach Röhm, in the forlorn hope of winning sufficient support among the population to force Kahr, Lossow and Seisser to join them. Hitler and Ludendorff were to lead the procession.
The column of National Socialists about 2,000 strong, nearly all armed, moved on through the Zweibrückenstraße, across the Marienplatz towards the Theatinerstraße. Here it split up, the majority going down the Perusastraße to the Residenz, the rest going on along the Theatinerstraße.
The police stationed in the Residenz tried to cordon it off as well as the Theatinerstraße by the Preysingstraße. Numerous civilians hurried on ahead of the actual column in Residenzstraße and pushed aside the police barricade. The ceaseless shouts of "Stop! Don't go on!" by the state police were not obeyed. Since there was the danger of a break-through here, a police section, originally in the Theatinerstraße, hurried round the Feldherrenhalle [War Memorial] to give support. They were received with fixed bayonets, guns with the safety catches off, and raised pistols. Several police officers were spat upon, and pistols with the safety catches off were stuck in their chests. The police used rubber truncheons and rifle butts and tried to push back the crowd with rifles held horizontally. Their barricade had already been broken several times. Suddenly, a National Socialist fired a pistol at a police officer from close quarters. The shot went past his head and killed Sergeant Hollweg standing behind him. Even before it was possible to give an order, the comrades of the sergeant who had been shot opened fire as the Hitler lot did, and a short gun battle ensued during which the police were also shot at from the Preysingpalais and from the house which contains the Cafe Rottenhofer. After no more than thirty seconds the Hitler lot fled, some back to the Maximilienstraße, some to the Odeonsplatz. General Ludendorff apparently went on towards the Odeonsplatz. There he was seen in the company of a Hitler officer by a police officer barring the Briennerstraße, who went up to General Ludendorff and said to him: 'Excellency, I must take you into custody.' General Ludendorff replied: 'You have your orders. I'll come with you.' Both gentlemen were then accompanied into the Residenz.
The beerhall putsch had failed. Hitler and the other key leaders were arrested; Göring, badly wounded in the thigh, was smuggled into Austria where he was kept alive by liberal dosages of morphine. The 55,000 member-strong NSDAP was banned by government decree, and on 26 February 1924, Hitler, Ludendorff, Pöhner, Röhm, and the leaders of the Kampfbund were put on trial for high treason in Munich, The chief witnesses for the prosecution were their former co-conspirators, the conservative nationalist leaders, Kahr, Lossow and Seisser. as the chief witnesses for the prosecution. It looked indeed as if Hitler had been correct in one aspect of his prophecy: the NSDAP seemed to be ended.
From the beginning of the trial, however, Hitler used his remarkable oratorical skills to put himself into the forefront, although in fact he had initially played only a minor part. In his two hour opening statement, he delivered a rousing speech which ended by putting the Republic, not himself on trial!
[As the Putsch ended], I wanted to hear nothing more of this lying and libelous world, but in the course of the next few days, during the second week [of my arrest], as the campaign of lies which was being waged against us [by the Bavarian government] continued, and as one after another was arrested and brought to Landsberg prison, honest men whom I knew to be absolutely innocent, but whose sole crime was that they belonged to our Movement, men who knew nothing whatsoever about the events, but who were arrested because they shared our philosophy and the government was afraid that they would speak up in public, I came to a decision. I would defend myself before this court and fight to my last breath. Thus I have come into this room, not in order to explain things away, or lie about my responsibility; no indeed! In fact, I protest that Oberstleutnant Kriebel has declared that he bears responsibility for what happened. Indeed, he had no responsibility for it at all. I alone bear the responsibility. I alone, when all is said and done, wanted to carry out the deed. The other gentlemen on trial here only negotiated with me at the end. I am convinced that I sought nothing bad. I bear the responsibility, and I will shoulder all the consequences. But one thing I must say: I am not a crook, and I do not feel like a criminal. On the contrary! ...
If I stand here before the court [accused of being] a revolutionary, it is precisely because I am against revolution and against crimes. I do not consider myself guilty. I admit all the factual aspects of the charge. But I cannot plead that I am guilt of high treason; for there can be no high treason against that treason to the Fatherland committed in 1918 [by the Republican Revolution].
It is impossible to prove that I began to commit high treason during the events of 8 and 9 November , for the important points are my attitude and my whole activities which went on months before. Treason cannot arise from a single act, but in the preliminary conversations and planning for this act. If I really committed high treason thereby, I am astonished that the men with whom I planned all this [i.e. the Bavarian politicians], are not sitting in the dock beside me. I cannot plead guilty, since I am aware that the Prosecuting Attorney is legally obligated to charge everyone who discussed with us, and planned to carry out those acts; I mean Messrs von Berchem, von Aufsaß, Kahr, Lossow, and Seißer and others. I must consider it an oversight that the Prosecuting Attorney has not charged these gentlemen too. And as I stated before, admit all the facts, disputing only the guilt, so long as my companions here in the dock are not increased by the presence of the gentlemen who wanted to the same things as we, and who in conversations with us planned to do the same thing—all of which I will be glad to tell the court, in the absence of the public! So long as these gentlemen do not stand here beside me, I reject the charge of high treason.
Hitler plays with the difference between Hochverrat (high treason) which is an offense against the government, and Landesverrat (treason against the Fatherland) which consists of military betrayal to the enemy. The latter, of course, is far more serious.
I do not feel like a traitor, but as a good German, who wanted only the best for his people.
The trial stretched on for 34 days. Hitler masterfully played his part. He cross-examined witnesses, challenged documents, and frequently delivered long monologues. Defenders of the Republic were appalled at the attitude adopted by the Court.
A trial in name only, in essence a nationalistic propaganda meeting; a trial in which the accused were not cross-examined, in which jurisprudence yielded throughout to party political considerations; a trial in fact conducted for much of the time entirely by the accused and the defense; witnesses, representatives of the state authorities and foreign sovereign states were exposed, without protection, to all possible forms of abuse.
At the conclusion of this travesty, Hitler ended his case in a brilliant summarizing speech.
The action on 8/9 November did not miscarry. I would have considered it a failure if even one mother had come to me and said, "Herr Hitler, you have my child on your conscience; my child too fell that day." But I assure you most solemnly: no mother ever said that to me. On the contrary, ten, hundreds, and ten thousand [men and women] have come, and have joined our ranks. An event which has not occurred in Germany since 1918 happened on that day: joyfully, young men went forth to death, to a death which one day will be hailed like the saying on the Obelisk: "They too died for the liberation of the Fatherland." That is the most obvious sign of the success of that 8 November: for afterwards, the German people were not more depressed, but rather a wave of young Germany rose up, and joining together everywhere, and in powerful organizations, announced their new-found will. Thus we see in this 8 November a great triumph, not only did it not produce depression, but it became the means for our Volk to become terribly enthusiastic to an extreme degree, and therefore I now believe that one day the hour will come when these masses who today bear our Swastika, and walk the streets carrying our swastika banners, will unite themselves with the very units which opposed us on 8 November. I thus believe that the blood which flowed on that day is not doomed to divide us forever.
When I learned, on the third day [of my arrest], that it was the Green Police [i.e. the riot-control police of Munich] a feeling of joy welled up within my soul; at least it had not been the German army which had shot us down! I rejoiced that it was not the German army, which had befouled itself. Instead, the German army remained as it had been, and with certain exceptions, we could still express the conviction that one day the hour would come in which the German army, officers and men, would stand on our side, and the old Quartermaster-General of the World War [Ludendorff] could rejoin this military unit
PRESIDING JUDGE: Herr Hitler, your remark about befouling—meaning the State Police—is out of order.
HITLER: The army which we have been building grows and grows, from day to day, from hour to hour, faster than ever, and in these very days we can express the proud hope that in the near future these wild groups will become battalions, and the battalions will grow to be regiments, and the regiments to be divisions, and the old colors of the Empire will be picked up out of the slime, and our old flags will whip in the wind, and reconciliation will be attained, just as on the day of the last judgment! And we ourselves will be ready and willing to join in that reconciliation.
And then, my Lords, then out of our graves, our bones will appeal to that higher court which rules over all of us. For you, my Lords, will not speak the final judgment in this case; that judgment will be up to "History," the goddess of the highest court, which will speak over our graves and over yours. And when we appear before that court, I know its verdict in advance. It will not ask us: "Did you commit high treason?" for in the eyes of history, the Quartermaster-General of the World War, and his officers, who desired only the best, are considered to be only Germans who wanted to fight to defend their fatherland.
You may speak your verdict of "guilty" a thousand times over, but "History," the goddess of a higher truth and a higher court, will one day laughingly tear up the charges of the Prosecution, and will laughingly tear up the verdict of this court, for she declares us to be innocent!
Hitler was found guilty of high treason, and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment at Landsberg Fortress. The temporary ban on the NSDAP was made permanent. It looked as if the Republic had been saved. Most observers believed that Adolf Hitler and his small group of fanatics would disappear from German history.