The National Socialist German Workers' Party almost died one
morning in 1919. It numbered only a few dozen grumblers' it had no
organization and no political ideas.
But many among the middle class admired the Nazis' muscular
opposition to the Social Democrats. And the Nazis themes of patriotism and
militarism drew highly emotional responses from people who could not forget
Germany's prewar imperial grandeur.
In the national elections of September 1930, the Nazis garnered
nearly 6.5 million votes and became second only to the Social Democrats as
the most popular party in Germany. In Northeim, where in 1928 Nazi
candidates had received 123 votes, they now polled 1,742, a respectable 28
percent of the total. The nationwide success drew even faster... in just
three years, party membership would rise from about 100,000 to almost a
million, and the number of local branches would increase tenfold. The new
members included working-class people, farmers, and middle-class
professionals. They were both better educated and younger then the Old
Fighters, who had been the backbone of the party during its first decade.
The Nazis now presented themselves as the party of the young, the strong,
and the pure, in opposition to an establishment populated by the elderly,
the weak, and the dissolute.
Hitler was born in a small town in Austria in 1889. As a young boy,
he showed little ambition. After dropping out of high school, he moved to
Vienna to study art, but he was denied the chance to join Vienna academy
of fine arts.
When WWI broke out, Hitler joined Kaiser Wilhelmer's army as a
Corporal. He was not a person of great importance. He was a creature of a
Germany created by WWI, and his behavior was shaped by that war and its
consequences. He had emerged from Austria with many prejudices, including
a powerful prejudice against Jews. Again, he was a product of his times...
for many Austrians and Germans were prejudiced against the Jews.
In Hitler's case the prejudice had become maniacal it was a
dominant force in his private and political personalities. Anti-Semitism
was not a policy for Adolf Hitler--it was religion. And in the Germany of
the 1920s, stunned by defeat, and the ravages of the Versailles treaty, it
was not hard for a leader to convince millions that one element of the
nation's society was responsible for most of the evils heaped upon it.
The fact is that Hitler's anti-Semitism was self-inflicted obstacle
to his political success. The Jews, like other Germans, were shocked by
the discovery that the war had not been fought to a standstill, as they
were led to believe in November 1918, but that Germany had , in fact, been
defeated and was to be treated as a vanquished country. Had Hitler not
embarked on his policy of disestablishing the Jews as Germans, and later of
exterminating them in Europe, he could have counted on their loyalty.
There is no reason to believe anything else.
On the evening of November 8, 1923, Wyuke Vavaruab State
Cinnussuiber Gustav Rutter von Kahr was making a political speech in
Munich's sprawling B'rgerbr'ukeller, some 600 Nazis and right-wing
sympathizers surrounded the beer hall. Hitler burst into the building and
leaped onto a table, brandishing a revolver and firing a shot into the
ceiling. "The National Revolution," he cried, "has begun!"
At that point, informed that fighting had broken out in another
part of the city, Hitler rushed to that scene. His prisoners were allowed
to leave, and they talked about organizing defenses against the Nazi coup.
Hitler was of course furious. And he was far from finished. At
about 11 o'clock on the morning of November 9--the anniversary of the
founding of the German Republic in 1919--3,000 Hitler partisans again
gathered outside the B'rgerbr'ukeller.
To this day, no one knows who fired the first shot. But a shot
rang out, and it was followed by fusillades from both sides. Hermann G'
ring fell wounded in the thigh and both legs. Hitler flattened himself
against the pavement; he was unhurt. General Ludenorff continued to march
stolidly toward the police line, which parted to let him pass through (he
was later arrested, tried and acquitted). Behind him, 16 Nazis and three
policemen lay sprawled dead among the many wounded.
The next year, R'hm and his band joined forces with the fledgling
National Socialist Party in Adolf Hitler's Munich Beer Hall Putsch.
Himmler took part in that uprising, but he played such a minor role that he
escaped arrest. The R'hm-Hitler alliance survived the Putsch, and 'hm's
1,500-man band grew into the Sturmabteilung, the SA, Hitler's brown-shirted
private army, that bullied the Communists and Democrats. Hitler recruited
a handful of men to act as his bodyguards and protect him from Communist
toughs, other rivals, and even the S.A. if it got out of hand. This tiny
group was the embryonic SS.
In 1933, after the Nazi Party had taken power in Germany,
increasing trouble with the SA made a showdown inevitable. As German
Chancellor, the F'hrer could no longer afford to tolerate the disruptive
Brownshirts; under the ambitious R'hm, the SA had grown to be an
organization of three million men, and its unpredictable activities
prevented Hitler from consolidating his shaky control of the Reich. He had
to dispose of the SA to hold the support of his industrial backers, to
satisfy party leaders jealous of the SA's power, and most important, to win
the allegiance of the conservative Army generals. Under pressure from all
sides, and enraged by an SA plot against him that Heydrich had conveniently
uncovered, Hitler turned the SS loose to purge its parent organization.
They were too uncontrollable even for Hitler. They went about
their business of terrorizing Jews with no mercy. But that is not what
bothered Hitler, since the SA was so big, (3 million in 1933) and so out of
control, Hitler sent his trusty comrade Josef Dietrich, commander of a SS
bodyguard regiment to murder the leaders of the SA.
The killings went on for two days and nights and took a tool of
perhaps 200 "enemies o the state." It was quite enough to reduce the SA to
impotence, and it brought the F'hrer immediate returns. The dying
President of the Reich, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, congratulated
Hitler on crushing the troublesome SA, and the Army generals concluding
that Hitler was now their pawn--swore personal loyalty to him.
In April 1933, scarcely three months after Adolf Hitler took power
in Germany, the Nazis issued a degree, ordering the compulsory retirement
of "non-Aryans" from the civil service. This edict, petty in itself, was
the first spark in what was to become the Holocaust, one of the most
ghastly episodes in the modern history of mankind. Before he campaign
against the Jews was halted by the defeat of Germany, something ...
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