The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germ

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germ

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:35 pm

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
by William L. Shirer
© 1959, 1960 by William L. Shirer




Table of Contents:

o 5. THE ROAD TO POWER: 1925-31
• Book Three: THE ROAD TO WAR
o 9. THE FIRST STEPS: 1934-37
o 31. Goetterdaemmerung: THE LAST DAYS OF THE THIRD REICH
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:36 pm

Inside Cover

Here for the first time is the complete story of Hitler's empire, one of the most important stories ever told, written by one of the men best equipped to write it.

No other powerful empire ever bequeathed to historians such mountains of evidence about its rise and fall as the Third Reich. The Allied demand for unconditional surrender produced, when the bitter war was over and before the Nazis could destroy their files, an almost hour-to-hour record of the nightmare empire built by Adolf Hitler. This record included the testimony of Nazi leaders and of concentration-camp inmates, the diaries of officials, transcripts of secret conferences, army orders, private letters, all the vast paper work behind a conspiracy to conquer the world.

William L. Shirer, who had watched and reported on the Nazis since 1925, spent five and a half years sifting this massive documentation. Out of it, and out of his own on-the-spot reporting of Germany and Europe over nearly four decades, he has written what may well be the definitive history of one of the greatest, and most frightening chapters in the history of mankind.

Here is the story of Hitler himself, his love affairs, his imprisonment, his passion for the arts of war, his suicide, and the maniacal fury which led him to destroy the country he claimed to love so much. Here is the record of the German General Staff, the concentration camps, the brutal terror of anti-Semitism, the degrading of the German people, and the little-known resistance plots against the Nazis. Here are new and sensational details about the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939, the frame-up of [illegible] German generals, the shabby efforts to appease Hitler, the reasons for Germany's failure to invade England, Hitler's secret speeches to his generals, a plot to kidnap the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and hundreds of other inside stories of the war. This is a [illegible] book, both for those who remember the horrors of Hitler's Reich and for those who are curious now to learn more about the background of the world's present tension.


I have often felt a bitter sorrow at the thought of the German people, which is so estimable in the individual and so wretched in the generality ...

Hitler was the fate of Germany and this fate could not be stayed.
-- FIELD MARSHAL WALTHER VON BRAUCHITSCH, Commander in Chief of the German Army, 1938-41

A thousand years will pass and the guilt of Germany will not be erased.
-- HANS FRANK, Governor General of Poland, before he was hanged at Nuremberg

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:36 pm


THOUGH I LIVED and worked in the Third Reich during the first half of its brief life, watching at first hand Adolf Hitler consolidate his power as dictator of this great but baffling nation and then lead it off to war and conquest, this personal experience would not have led me to attempt to write this book had there not occurred at the end of World War II an event unique in history.

This was the capture of most of the confidential archives of the German government and all its branches, including those of the Foreign Office, the Army and Navy, the National Socialist Party and Heinrich Himmler's secret police. Never before, I believe, has such a vast treasure fallen into the hands of contemporary historians. Hitherto the archives of a great state, even when it was defeated in war and its government overthrown by revolution, as happened to Germany and Russia in 1918, were preserved by it, and only those documents which served the interests of the subsequent ruling regime were ultimately published.

The swift collapse of the Third Reich in the spring of 1945 resulted in the surrender not only of a vast bulk of its secret papers but of other priceless material such as private diaries, highly secret speeches, conference reports and correspondence, and even transcripts of telephone conversations of the Nazi leaders tapped by a special office set up by Hermann Goering in the Air Ministry.

General Franz Halder, for instance, kept a voluminous diary, jotted down in Gabelsberger shorthand not only from day to day but from hour to hour during the day. It is a unique source of concise information for the period between August 14, 1939, and September 24, 1942, when he was Chief of the Army General Staff and in daily contact with Hitler and the other leaders of Nazi Germany. It is the most revealing of the German diaries, but there are others of great value, including those of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda and close party associate of Hitler, and of General Alfred Jodl, Chief of Operations of the High Command of the Armed Forces (OKW). There are diaries of the OKW itself and of the Naval High Command. Indeed the sixty thousand files of the German Naval Archives, which were captured at Schloss Tambach near Coburg, contain practically all the signals, ships' logs, diaries, memoranda, etc., of the German Navy from April 1945, when they were found, back to 1868, when the modern German Navy was founded.

The 485 tons of records of the German Foreign Office, captured by the U.S. First Army in various castles and mines in the Harz Mountains just as they were about to be burned on orders from Berlin, cover not only the period of the Third Reich but go back through the Weimar Republic to the beginning of the Second Reich of Bismarck. For many years after the war tons of Nazi documents lay sealed in a large U.S. Army warehouse in Alexandria, Virginia, our government showing no interest in even opening the packing cases to see what of historical interest might lie within them. Finally in 1955, ten years after their capture, thanks to the initiative of the American Historical Association and the generosity of a couple of private foundations, the Alexandria papers were opened and a pitifully small group of scholars, with an inadequate staff and equipment, went to work to sift through them and photograph them before the government, which was in a great hurry in the matter, returned them to Germany. They proved a rich find.

So did such documents as the partial stenographic record of fifty-one "Fuehrer Conferences" on the daily military situation as seen and discussed at Hitler's headquarters, and the fuller text of the Nazi warlord's table talk with his old party cronies and secretaries during the war; the first of these was rescued from the charred remains of some of Hitler's papers at Berchtesgaden by an intelligence officer of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division, and the second was found among Martin Bormann's papers.

Hundreds of thousands of captured Nazi documents were hurriedly assembled at Nuremberg as evidence in the trial of the major Nazi war criminals. While covering the first part of that trial I collected stacks of mimeographed copies and later the forty-two published volumes of testimony and documents, supplemented by ten volumes of English translations of many important papers. The text of other documents published in a fifteen-volume series on the twelve subsequent Nuremberg trials was also of value, though many papers and much testimony were omitted.

Finally, in addition to this unprecedented store of documents, there are the records of the exhaustive interrogation of German military officers and party and government officials and their subsequent testimony under oath at the various postwar trials, which provide material the like of which was never available, I believe, from such sources after previous wars.

I have not read, of course, all of this staggering amount of documentation -- it would be far beyond the power of a single individual. But I have worked my way through a considerable part of it, slowed down, as all toilers in this rich vineyard must be, by the lack of any suitable indexes. It is quite remarkable how little those of us who were stationed in Germany during the Nazi time, journalists and diplomats, really knew of what was going on behind the facade of the Third Reich. A totalitarian dictatorship, by its very nature, works in great secrecy and knows how to preserve that secrecy from the prying eyes of outsiders. It was easy enough to record and describe the bare, exciting and often revolting events in the Third Reich: Hitler's accession to power, the Reichstag fire, the Roehm Blood Purge, the Anschluss with Austria, the surrender of Chamberlain at Munich, the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the attacks on Poland, Scandinavia, the West, the Balkans and Russia, the horrors of the Nazi occupation and of the concentration camps and the liquidation of the Jews. But the fateful decisions secretly made, the intrigues, the treachery, the motives and the aberrations which led up to them, the parts played by the principal actors behind the scenes, the extent of the terror they exercised and their technique of organizing it -- all this and much more remained largely hidden from us until the secret German papers turned up.

Some may think that it is much too early to try to write a history of the Third Reich, that such a task should be left to a later generation of writers to whom time has given perspective. I found this view especially prevalent in France when I went to do some research there. Nothing more recent than the Napoleonic era, I was told, should be tackled by writers of history.

There is much merit in this view. Most historians have waited fifty years or a hundred, or more, before attempting to write an account of a country, an empire, an era. But was this not principally because it took that long for the pertinent documents to come to light and furnish them with the authentic material they needed? And though perspective was gained, was not something lost because the authors necessarily lacked a personal acquaintance with the life and the atmosphere of the times and with the historical figures about which they wrote?

In the case of the Third Reich, and it is a unique case, almost all of the documentary material became available at its fall, and it has been enriched by the testimony of all the surviving leaders, military and civilian, in some instances before their death by execution. With such incomparable sources so soon available and with the memory of life in Nazi Germany and of the appearance and behavior and nature of the men who ruled it, Adolf Hitler above all, still fresh in my mind and bones, I decided, at any rate, to make an attempt to set down the history of the rise and fall of the Third Reich.

"I lived through the whole war," Thucydides remarks in his History of the Peloponnesian War, one of the greatest works of history ever written, "being of an age to comprehend events and giving my attention to them in order to know the exact truth about them."

I found it extremely difficult and not always possible to learn the exact truth about Hitler's Germany. The avalanche of documentary material helped one further along the road to truth than would have seemed possible twenty years ago, but its very vastness could often be confusing. And in all human records and testimony there are bound to be baffling contradictions.

No doubt my own prejudices, which inevitably spring from my experience and make-up, creep through the pages of this book from time to time. I detest totalitarian dictatorships in principle and came to loathe this one the more I lived through it and watched its ugly assault upon the human spirit. Nevertheless, in this book I have tried to be severely objective, letting the facts speak for themselves and noting the source for each. No incidents, scenes or quotations stem from the imagination; all are based on documents, the testimony of eyewitnesses or my own personal observation. In the half-dozen or so occasions in which there is some speculation, where the facts are missing, this is plainly labeled as such.

My interpretations, I have no doubt, will be disputed by many. That is inevitable, since no man's opinions are infallible. Those that I have ventured here in order to add clarity and depth to this narrative are merely the best I could come by from the evidence and from what knowledge and experience I have had.

Adolf Hitler is probably the last of the great adventurer-conquerors in the tradition of Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon, and the Third Reich the last of the empires which set out on the path taken earlier by France, Rome and Macedonia. The curtain was rung down on that phase of history, at least, by the sudden invention of the hydrogen bomb, of the ballistic missile and of rockets that can be aimed to hit the moon.

In our new age of terrifying, lethal gadgets, which supplanted so swiftly the old one, the first great aggressive war, if it should come, will be launched by suicidal little madmen pressing an electronic button. Such a war will not last long and none will ever follow it. There will be no conquerors and no conquests, but only the charred bones of the dead on an uninhabited planet.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:40 pm

Part 1 of 2



ON THE VERY EVE of the birth of the Third Reich a feverish tension gripped Berlin. The Weimar Republic, it seemed obvious to almost everyone, was about to expire. For more than a year it had been fast crumbling. General Kurt von Schleicher, who like his immediate predecessor, Franz von Papen, cared little for the Republic and less for its democracy, and who, also like him, had ruled as Chancellor by presidential decree without recourse to Parliament, had come to the end of his rope after fifty-seven days in office.

On Saturday, January 28, 1933, he had been abruptly dismissed by the aging President of the Republic, Field Marshal von Hindenburg. Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialists, the largest political party in Germany, was demanding for himself the chancellorship of the democratic Republic he had sworn to destroy.

The wildest rumors of what might happen were rife in the capital that fateful winter weekend, and the most alarming of them, as it happened, were not without some foundation. There were reports that Schleicher, in collusion with General Kurt von Hammerstein, the Commander in Chief of the Army, was preparing a putsch with the support of the Potsdam garrison for the purpose of arresting the President and establishing a military dictatorship. There was talk of a Nazi putsch. The Berlin storm troopers, aided by Nazi sympathizers in the police, were to seize the Wilhelmstrasse, where the President's Palace and most of the government ministries were located. There was talk also of a general strike. On Sunday, January 29, a hundred thousand workers crowded into the Lustgarten in the center of Berlin to demonstrate their opposition to making Hitler Chancellor. One of their leaders attempted to get in touch with General von Hammerstein to propose joint action by the Army and organized labor should Hitler be named to head a new government. [1] Once before, at the time of the Kapp putsch in 1920, a general strike had saved the Republic after the government had fled the capital.

Throughout most of the night from Sunday to Monday Hitler paced up and down his room in the Kaiserhof hotel on the Reichskanzlerplatz, just down the street from the Chancellery. [2] Despite his nervousness he was supremely confident that his hour had struck. For nearly a month he had been secretly negotiating with Papen and the other leaders of the conservative Right. He had had to compromise. He could not have a purely Nazi government. But he could be Chancellor of a coalition government whose members, eight out of eleven of whom were not Nazis, agreed with him on the abolition of the democratic Weimar regime. Only the aged, dour President had seemed to stand in his way.
As recently as January 26, two days before the advent of this crucial weekend, the grizzly old Field Marshal had told General von Hammerstein that he had "no intention whatsoever of making that Austrian corporal either Minister of Defense or Chancellor of the Reich." [3]

Yet under the influence of his son, Major Oskar von Hindenburg, of Otto von Meissner, the State Secretary to the President, of Papen and other members of the palace camarilla, the President was finally weakening. He was eighty-six and fading into senility. On the afternoon of Sunday, January 29, while Hitler was having coffee and cakes with Goebbels and other aides, Hermann Goering, President of the Reichstag and second to Hitler in the Nazi Party, burst in and informed them categorically that on the morrow Hitler would be named Chancellor. [4]

Shortly before noon on Monday, January 30, 1933, Hitler drove over to the Chancellery for an interview with Hindenburg that was to prove fateful for himself, for Germany and for the rest of the world.
From a window in the Kaiserhof, Goebbels, Roehm and other Nazi chiefs kept an anxious watch on the door of the Chancellery, where the Fuehrer would shortly be coming out. "We would see from his face whether he had succeeded or not," Goebbels noted. For even then they were not quite sure. "Our hearts are torn back and forth between doubt, hope, joy and discouragement," Goebbels jotted down in his diary. "We have been disappointed too often for us to believe wholeheartedly in the great miracle." [5]

A few moments later they witnessed the miracle. The man with the Charlie Chaplin mustache, who had been a down-and-out tramp in Vienna in his youth, an unknown soldier of World War I, a derelict in Munich in the first grim postwar days, the somewhat comical leader of the Beer Hall Putsch, this spellbinder who was not even German but Austrian, and who was only forty-three years old, had just been administered the oath as Chancellor of the German Reich.

He drove the hundred yards to the Kaiserhof and was soon with his old cronies, Goebbels, Goering, Roehm and the other Brownshirts who had helped him along the rocky, brawling path to power.
"He says nothing, and all of us say nothing," Goebbels recorded, "but his eyes are full of tears." [6]

That evening from dusk until far past midnight the delirious Nazi storm troopers marched in a massive torchlight parade to celebrate the victory. By the tens of thousands, they emerged in disciplined columns from the depths of the Tiergarten, passed under the triumphal arch of the Brandenburg Gate and down the Wilhelmstrasse, their bands blaring the old martial airs to the thunderous beating of the drums, their voices bawling the new Horst Wessel song and other tunes that were as old as Germany, their jack boots beating a mighty rhythm on the pavement, their torches held high and forming a ribbon of flame that illuminated the night and kindled the hurrahs of the onlookers massed on the sidewalks. From a window in the palace Hindenburg looked down upon the marching throng, beating time to the military marches with his cane, apparently pleased that at last he had picked a Chancellor who could arouse the people in a traditionally German way. Whether the old man, in his dotage, had any inkling of what he had unleashed that day is doubtful. A story, probably apocryphal, soon spread over Berlin that in the midst of the parade he had turned to an old general and said, "I didn't know we had taken so many Russian prisoners."

A stone's throw down the Wilhelmstrasse Adolf Hitler stood at an open window of the Chancellery, beside himself with excitement and joy, dancing up and down, jerking his arm up continually in the Nazi salute, smiling and laughing until his eyes were again full of tears.

One foreign observer watched the proceedings that evening with different feelings. "The river of fire flowed past the French Embassy," Andre Francois-Poncet, the ambassador, wrote, "whence, with heavy heart and filled with foreboding, I watched its luminous wake." [7]

Tired but happy, Goebbels arrived home that night at 3 A.M. Scribbling in his diary before retiring, he wrote: "It is almost like a dream ... a fairy tale ... The new Reich has been born. Fourteen years of work have been crowned with victory. The German revolution has begun!" [8]


The Third Reich which was born on January 30, 1933, Hitler boasted, would endure for a thousand years, [9] and in Nazi parlance it was often referred to as the "Thousand-Year Reich." It lasted twelve years and four months, but in that flicker of time, as history goes, it caused an eruption on this earth more violent and shattering than any previously experienced, raising the German people to heights of power they had not known in more than a millennium, making them at one time the masters of Europe from the Atlantic to the Volga, from the North Cape to the Mediterranean, and then plunging them to the depths of destruction and desolation at the end of a world war which their nation had cold-bloodedly provoked and during which it instituted a reign of terror over the conquered peoples which, in its calculated butchery of human life and the human spirit, outdid all the savage oppressions of the previous ages.

The man who founded the Third Reich, who ruled it ruthlessly and often with uncommon shrewdness, who led it to such dizzy heights and to such a sorry end, was a person of undoubted, if evil, genius. It is true that he found in the German people, as a mysterious Providence and centuries of experience had molded them up to that time, a natural instrument which he was able to shape to his own sinister ends. But without Adolf Hitler, who was possessed of a demonic personality, a granite will, uncanny instincts, a cold ruthlessness, a remarkable intellect, a soaring imagination and -- until toward the end, when, drunk with power and success, he overreached himself -- an amazing capacity to size up people and situations, there almost certainly would never have been a Third Reich.

"It is one of the great examples," as Friedrich Meinecke, the eminent German historian, said, "of the singular and incalculable power of personality in historical life." [10]

To some Germans and, no doubt, to most foreigners it appeared that a charlatan had come to power in Berlin. To the majority of Germans Hitler had -- or would shortly assume -- the aura of a truly charismatic leader. They were to follow him blindly, as if he possessed a divine judgment, for the next twelve tempestuous years.


Considering his origins and his early life, it would be difficult to imagine a more unlikely figure to succeed to the mantle of Bismarck, the Hohenzollern emperors and President Hindenburg than this singular Austrian of peasant stock who was born at half past six on the evening of April 20, 1889, in the Gasthof zum Pommer, a modest inn in the town of Braunau am Inn, across the border from Bavaria.

The place of Birth on the Austro-German frontier was to prove significant, for early in his life, as a mere youth, Hitler became obsessed with the idea that there should be no border between these two German-speaking peoples and that they both belonged in the same Reich. So strong and enduring were his feelings that at thirty-five, when he sat in a German prison dictating the book that would become the blueprint for the Third Reich, his very first lines were concerned with the symbolic significance of his birthplace. Mein Kampf begins with these words:

Today it seems to me providential that fate should have chosen Braunau am Inn as my birthplace. For this little town lies on the boundary between two German states which we of the younger generation at least have made it our life-work to reunite by every means at our disposal. . . . This little city on the border seems to me the symbol of a great mission. [11]

Adolf Hitler was the third son of the third marriage of a minor Austrian customs official who had been born an illegitimate child and who for the first thirty-nine years of his life bore his mother's name, Schicklgruber. The name Hitler appears in the maternal as well as the paternal line. Both Hitler's grandmother on his mother's side and his grandfather on his father's side were named Hitler, or rather variants of it, for the family name was variously written as Hiedler, Huetler, Huettler and Hitler. Adolf's mother was his father's second cousin, and an episcopal dispensation had to be obtained for the marriage.

The forebears of the future German Fuehrer, on both sides, dwelt for generations in the Waldviertel, a district in Lower Austria between the Danube and the borders of Bohemia and Moravia.
In my own Vienna days I sometimes passed through it on my way to Prague or to Germany. It is a hilly, wooded country of peasant villages and small farms, and though only some fifty miles from Vienna it has a somewhat remote and impoverished air, as if the main currents of Austrian life had passed it by. The inhabitants tend to be dour, like the Czech peasants just to the north of them. Intermarriage is common, as in the case of Hitler's parents, and illegitimacy is frequent.

On the mother's side there was a certain stability. For four generations Klara PoelzI's family remained on peasant holding Number 37 in the village of Spital. [12] The story of Hitler's paternal ancestors is quite different. The spelling of the family name, as we have seen, changes; the place of residence also. There is a spirit of restlessness among the Hitlers, an urge to move from one village to the next, from one job to another, to avoid firm human ties and to follow a certain bohemian life in relations with women.

Johann Georg Hiedler, Adolf's grandfather, was a wandering miller, plying his trade in one village after another in Lower Austria. Five months after his first marriage, in 1824, a son was born, but the child and the mother did not survive. Eighteen years later, while working in Duerenthal, he married a forty-seven-year-old peasant woman from the village of Strones, Maria Anna Schicklgruber. Five years before the marriage, on June 7, 1837, Maria had had an illegitimate son whom she named Alois and who became Adolf Hitler's father. It is most probable that the father of Alois was Johann Hiedler, though conclusive evidence is lacking. At any rate Johann eventually married the woman, but contrary to the usual custom in such cases he did not trouble himself with legitimizing the son after the marriage. The child grew up as Alois SchickIgruber.

Anna died in 1847, whereupon Johann Hiedier vanished for thirty years, only to reappear at the age of eighty-four in the town of Weitra in the Waldviertel, the spelling of his name now changed to Hitler, to testify before a notary in the presence of three witnesses that he was the father of Alois SchickIgruber. Why the old man waited so long to take this step, or why he finally took it, is not known from the available records. According to Heiden, Alois later confided to a friend that it was done to help him obtain a share of an inheritance from an uncle, a brother of the miller, who had raised the youth in his own household. [13] At any rate, this tardy recognition was made on June 6, 1876, and on November 23 the parish priest at Doellersheim, to whose office the notarized statement had been forwarded, scratched out the name of Alois SchickIgruber in the baptismal registry and wrote in its place that of Alois Hitler.

From that time on Adolf's father was legally known as Alois Hitler, and the name passed on naturally to his son. It was only during the 1930s that enterprising journalists in Vienna, delving into the parish archives, discovered the facts about Hitler's ancestry and, disregarding old Johann Georg Hiedler's belated attempt to do right by a bastard son, tried to fasten on the Nazi leader the name of Adolf Schicklgruber.

There are many weird twists of fate in the strange life of Adolf Hitler, but none more odd than this one which took place thirteen years before his birth. Had the eighty-four-year-old wandering miller not made his unexpected reappearance to recognize the paternity of his thirty-nine-year-old son nearly thirty years after the death of the mother, Adolf Hitler would have been born Adolf Schicklgruber. There may not be much or anything in a name, but I have heard Germans speculate whether Hitler could have become the master of Germany had he been known to the world as Schicklgruber. It has a slightly comic sound as it rolls off the tongue of a South German. Can one imagine the frenzied German masses acclaiming a Schicklgruber with their thunderous "Heils"? "Heil Schicklgruber!"? Not only was "Heil Hitler!" used as a Wagnerian, paganlike chant by the multitude in the mystic pageantry of the massive Nazi rallies, but it became the obligatory form of greeting between Germans during the Third Reich, even on the telephone, where it replaced the conventional "Hello." "Heil Schicklgruber!"? It is a little difficult to imagine. [i]

Since the parents of Alois apparently never lived together, even after they were married, the future father of Adolf Hitler grew up with his uncle, who though a brother of Johann Georg Hiedler spelled his name differently, being known as Johann von Nepomuk Huetler. In view of the undying hatred which the Nazi Fuehrer would develop from youth on for the Czechs, whose nation he ultimately destroyed, the Christian name is worthy of passing mention. Johann von Nepomuk was the national saint of the Czech people and some historians have seen in a Hitler's being given this name an indication of Czech blood in the family.

Alois Schicklgruber first learned the trade of shoemaker in the village of Spital, but being restless, like his father, he soon set out to make his fortune in Vienna. At eighteen he joined the border police in the Austrian customs service near Salzburg, and on being promoted to the customs service itself nine years later he married Anna Glasl-Hoerer, the adopted daughter of a customs official. She brought him a small dowry and increased social status, as such things went in the old Austro-Hungarian petty bureaucracy. But the marriage was not a happy one. She was fourteen years older than he, of failing health, and she remained childless. After sixteen years they were separated and three years later, in 1883, she died.

Before the separation Alois, now legally known as Hitler, had taken up with a young hotel cook, Franziska Matzelsberger, who bore him a son, named Alois, in 1882. One month after the death of his wife he married the cook and three months later she gave birth to a daughter, Angela. The second marriage did not last long. Within a year Franziska was dead of tuberculosis. Six months later Alois Hitler married for the third and last time.

The new bride, Klara Poelzl, who would shortly become the mother of Adolf Hitler, was twenty-five, her husband forty-eight, and they had long known each other. Klara came from Spital, the ancestral village of the Hitlers. Her grandfather had been Johann von Nepomuk Huetler, with whom his nephew, Alois Schicklgruber-Hitler, had grown up. Thus Alois and Klara were second cousins and they found it necessary, as we have seen, to apply for episcopal dispensation to permit the marriage.

It was a union which the customs official had first contemplated years before when he had taken Klara into his childless home as a foster daughter during his first marriage. The child had lived for years with the Schicklgrubers in Braunau, and as the first wife ailed Alois seems to have given thought to marrying Klara as soon as his wife died. His legitimation and his coming into an inheritance from the uncle who was Klara's grandfather occurred when the young girl was sixteen, just old enough to legally marry. But, as we have seen, the wife lingered on after the separation, and, perhaps because Alois in the meantime took up with the cook Franziska Matzelsberger, Klara, at the age of twenty, left the household and went to Vienna, where she obtained employment as a household servant.

She returned four years later to keep house for her cousin; Franziska too, in the last months of her life, had moved out of her husband's home. Alois Hitler and Klara Poelzl were married on January 7, 1885, and some four months and ten days later their first child, Gustav, was born. He died in infancy, as did the second child, Ida, born in 1886. Adolf was the third child of this third marriage. A younger brother, Edmund, born in 1894, lived only six years. The fifth and last child, Paula, born in 1896, lived to survive her famous brother.

Adolf's half-brother, Alois, and his half-sister, Angela, the children of Franziska Matzelsberger, also lived to grow up. Angela, a handsome young woman, married a revenue official named Raubal and after his death worked in Vienna as a housekeeper and for a time, if Heiden's information is correct, as a cook in a Jewish charity kitchen. [14] In 1928 Hitler brought her to Berchtesgaden as his housekeeper, and thereafter one heard a great deal in Nazi circles of the wondrous Viennese pastries and desserts she baked for him and for which he had such a ravenous appetite. She left him in 1936 to marry a professor of architecture in Dresden, and Hitler, by then Chancellor and dictator, was resentful of her departure and declined to send a wedding present. She was the only person in the family with whom, in his later years, he seems to have been close -- with one exception. Angela had a daughter, Geli Raubal, an attractive young blond woman with whom, as we shall see, Hitler had the only truly deep love affair of his life.

Adolf Hitler never liked to hear mention of his half-brother. Alois Matzelsberger, later legitimized as Alois Hitler, became a waiter, and for many years his life was full of difficulties with the law. Heiden records that at eighteen the young man was sentenced to five months in jail for theft and at twenty served another sentence of eight months on the same charge. He eventually moved to Germany, only to become embroiled in further troubles. In 1924, while Adolf Hitler was languishing in prison for having staged a political revolt in Munich, Alois Hitler was sentenced to six months in prison by a Hamburg court for bigamy. Thereafter, Heiden recounts, he moved on to England, where he quickly established a family and then deserted it. [15]

The coming to power of the National Socialists brought better times to Alois Hitler. He opened a Bierstube -- a small beerhouse -- in a suburb of Berlin, moving it shortly before the war to the Wittenbergplatz in the capital's fashionable West End. It was much frequented by Nazi officials and during the early part of the war when food was scarce it inevitably had a plentiful supply. I used to drop in occasionally at that time. Alois was then nearing sixty, a portly, simple, good-natured man with little physical resemblance to his famous half-brother and in fact indistinguishable from dozens of other little pub keepers one had seen in Germany and Austria. Business was good and, whatever his past, he was now obviously enjoying the prosperous life. He had only one fear: that his half-brother, in a moment of disgust or rage, might revoke his license. Sometimes there was talk in the little beerhouse that the Chancellor and Fuehrer of the Reich regretted this reminder of the humble nature of the Hitler family. Alois himself, I remember, refused to be drawn into any talk whatsoever about his half-brother -- a wise precaution but frustrating to those of us who were trying to learn all we could about the background of the man who by that time had already set out to conquer Europe.

Except in Mein Kampf, where the sparse biographical material is often misleading and the omissions monumental, Hitler rarely discussed -- or permitted discussion of in his presence -- his family background and early life. We have seen what the family background was. What was the early life?


The year his father retired from the customs service at the age of fifty-eight, the six-year-old Adolf entered the public school in the village of Fischlham, a short distance southwest of Linz. This was in 1895. For the next four or five years the restless old pensioner moved from one village to another in the vicinity of Linz. By the time the son was fifteen he could remember seven changes of address and five different schools. For two years he attended classes at the Benedictine monastery at Lambach, near which his father had purchased a farm. There he sang in the choir, took singing lessons and, according to his own account, [16] dreamed of one day taking holy orders. Finally the retired customs official settled down for good in the village of Leonding, on the southern outskirts of Linz, where the family occupied a modest house and garden.

At the age of eleven, Adolf was sent to the high school at Linz. This represented a financial sacrifice for the father and indicated an ambition that the son should follow in his father's footsteps and become a civil servant. That, however, was the last thing the youth would dream of.

"Then barely eleven years old," Hitler later recounted, [17] "I was forced into opposition (to my father) for the first time.... I did not want to become a civil servant."

The story of the bitter, unrelenting struggle of the boy, not yet in his teens, against a hardened and, as he said, domineering father is one of the few biographical items which Hitler sets down in great detail and with apparent sincerity and truth in Mein Kampf. The conflict aroused the first manifestation of that fierce, unbending will which later would carry him so far despite seemingly insuperable obstacles and handicaps and which, confounding all those who stood in his way, was to put an indelible stamp on Germany and Europe.

I did not want to become a civil servant, no, and again no. All attempts on my father's part to inspire me with love or pleasure in this profession by stories from his own life accomplished the exact opposite. I . . . grew sick to my stomach at the thought of sitting in an office, deprived of my liberty; ceasing to be master of my own time and being compelled to force the content of my whole life into paper forms that had to be filled out. . . .

One day it became clear to me that I would become a painter, an artist ... My father was struck speechless.

"Painter? Artist?"

He doubted my sanity, or perhaps he thought he had heard wrong or misunderstood me. But when he was clear on the subject, and particularly after he felt the seriousness of my intention, he opposed it with all the determination of his nature. . . .

"Artist! No! Never as long as I live!" ... My father would never depart from his "Never!" And I intensified my "Nevertheless!" [18]

One consequence of this encounter, Hitler later explained, was that he stopped studying in school. "I thought that once my father saw how little progress I was making at high school he would let me devote myself to my dream, whether he liked it or not." [19]

This, written thirty-four years later, may be partly an excuse for his failure at school. His marks in grade school had been uniformly good. But at the Linz high school they were so poor that in the end, without obtaining the customary certificate, he was forced to transfer to the state high school at Steyr, some distance from Linz. He remained there but a short time and left before graduating.

Hitler's scholastic failure rankled in him in later life, when he heaped ridicule on the academic "gentry," their degrees and diplomas and their pedagogical airs. Even in the last three or four years of his life, at Supreme Army Headquarters, where he allowed himself to be overwhelmed with details of military strategy, tactics and command, he would take an evening off to reminisce with his old party cronies on the stupidity of the teachers he had had in his youth. Some of these meanderings of this mad genius, now the Supreme Warlord personally directing his vast armies from the Volga to the English Channel, have been preserved.

When I think of the men who were my teachers, I realize that most of them were slightly mad. The men who could be regarded as good teachers were exceptional. It's tragic to think that such people have the power to bar a young man's way. -- March 3, 1942. [20]


I have the most unpleasant recollections of the teachers who taught me. Their external appearance exuded uncleanliness; their collars were unkempt ... They were the product of a proletariat denuded of all personal independence of thought, distinguished by unparalleled ignorance and most admirably fitted to become the pillars of an effete system of government which, thank God, is now a thing of the past. -- April 12, 1942. [21]


When I recall my teachers at school, I realize that half of them were abnormal .... We pupils of old Austria were brought up to respect old people and women. But on our professors we had no mercy; they were our natural enemies. The majority of them were somewhat mentally deranged, and quite a few ended their days as honest-to-God lunatics! ... I was in particular bad odor with the teachers. I showed not the slightest aptitude for foreign languages -- though I might have, had not the teacher been a congenital idiot. I could not bear the sight of him. -- August 29, 1942. [22]


Our teachers were absolute tyrants. They had no sympathy with youth; their one object was to stuff our brains and turn us into erudite apes like themselves. If any pupil showed the slightest trace of originality, they persecuted him relentlessly, and the only model pupils whom I have ever got to know have all been failures in after-life. -- September 7, 1942. [23]

To his dying day, it is obvious, Hitler never forgave his teachers for the poor marks they had given him -- nor could he forget. But he could distort to a point of grotesqueness.

The impression he made on his teachers, recollected after he had become a world figure, has been briefly recorded. One of the few instructors Hitler seems to have liked was Professor Theodor Gissinger, who strove to teach him science. Gissinger later recalled, "As far as I was concerned, Hitler left neither a favorable nor an unfavorable impression in Linz. He was by no means a leader of the class. He was slender and erect, his face pallid and very thin, almost like that of a consumptive, his gaze unusually open, his eyes brilliant." [24]

Professor Eduard Huemer, apparently the "congenital idiot" mentioned by Hitler above -- for he taught French -- came to Munich in 1923 to testify for his former pupil, who was then being tried for treason as the result of the Beer Hall Putsch. Though he lauded Hitler's aims and said that he wished from the bottom of his heart to see him fulfill his ideals, he gave the following thumbnail portrait of the young high-school student:

Hitler was certainly gifted, although only for particular subjects, but he lacked self-control and, to say the least, he was considered argumentive, autocratic, self-opinionated and bad-tempered, and unable to submit to school discipline. Nor was he industrious; otherwise he would have achieved much better results, gifted as he was. [25]

There was one teacher at the Linz high school who exercised a strong and, as it turned out, a fateful influence on the young Adolf Hitler. This was a history teacher, Dr. Leopold Poetsch, who came from the southern German-language border region where it meets that of the South Slavs and whose experience with the racial struggle there had made him a fanatical German nationalist. Before coming to Linz he had taught at Marburg, which later, when the area was transferred to Yugoslavia after the First World War, became Maribor.

Though Dr. Poetsch had given his pupil marks of only "fair" in history, he was the only one of Hitler's teachers to receive a warm tribute in Mein Kampf. Hitler readily admitted his debt to this man.

It was perhaps decisive for my whole later life that good fortune gave me a history teacher who understood, as few others did, this principle ... -- of retaining the essential and forgetting the nonessential ... In my teacher. Dr. Leopold Poetsch of the high school in Linz, this requirement was fulfilled in a truly ideal manner. An old gentleman, kind but at the same time firm, he was able not only to hold our attention by his dazzling eloquence but to carry us away with him. Even today I think back with genuine emotion on this gray-haired man who, by the fire of his words, sometimes made us forget the present; who, as if by magic, transported us into times past and, out of the millennium mists of time, transformed dry historical facts into vivid reality. There we sat, often aflame with enthusiasm, sometimes even moved to tears . . . He used our budding national fanaticism as a means of educating us, frequently appealing to our sense of national honor.

This teacher made history my favorite subject.

And indeed, though he had no such intention, it was then that I became a young revolutionary.

Some thirty-five years later, in 1938, while touring Austria in triumph after he had forced its annexation to the Third Reich, Chancellor Hitler stopped off at Klagenfurt to see his old teacher, then in retirement. He was delighted to find that the old gentleman had been a member of the underground Nazi S.S., which had been outlawed during Austria's independence. He conversed with him alone for an hour and later confided to members of his party, "You cannot imagine how much I owe to that old man." [27]

Alois Hitler died of a lung hemorrhage on January 3, 1903, at the age of sixty-five. He was stricken while taking a morning walk and died a few moments later in a nearby inn in the arms of a neighbor. When his thirteen-year-old son saw the body of his father he broke down and wept. [28]

His mother, who was then forty-two, moved to a modest apartment in Urfahr, a suburb of Linz, where she tried to keep herself and her two surviving children, Adolf and Paula, on the meager savings and pension left her. She felt obligated, as Hitler remarks in Mein Kampf, to continue his education in accordance with his father's wishes -- "in other words," as he puts it, "to have me study for the civil servant's career." But though the young widow was indulgent to her son, and he seems to have loved her dearly, he was "more than ever determined absolutely," he says, "not to undertake this career." And so, despite a tender love between mother and son, there was friction and Adolf continued to neglect his studies.

"Then suddenly an illness came to my help and in a few weeks decided my future and the eternal domestic quarrel." [29]

The lung ailment which Hitler suffered as he was nearing sixteen necessitated his dropping out of school for at least a year. He was sent for a time to the family village of Spital, where he recuperated at the home of his mother's sister, Theresa Schmidt, a peasant woman. On his recovery he returned briefly to the state high school at Steyr. His last report, dated September 16, 1905, shows marks of "adequate" in German, chemistry, physics, geometry and geometrical drawing. In geography and history he was "satisfactory"; in free-hand drawing, "excellent." He felt so excited at the prospect of leaving school for good that for the first and last time in his life he got drunk. As he remembered it in later years he was picked up at dawn, lying on a country road outside of Steyr, by a milkmaid and helped back to town, swearing he would never do it again. [ii] In this matter, at least, he was as good as his word, for he became a teetotaler, a nonsmoker and a vegetarian to boot, at first out of necessity as a penniless vagabond in Vienna and Munich, and later out of conviction.


The next two or three years Hitler often described as the happiest days of his life. [iii] While his mother suggested -- and other relatives urged -- that he go to work and learn a trade he contented himself with dreaming of his future as an artist and with idling away the pleasant days along the Danube. He never forgot the "downy softness" of those years from sixteen to nineteen when as a "mother's darling" he enjoyed the "hollowness of a comfortable life." [30] Though the ailing widow found it difficult to make ends meet on her meager income, young Adolf declined to help out by getting a job. The idea of earning even his own living by any kind of regular employment was repulsive to him and was to remain so throughout his life.

What apparently made those last years of approaching manhood so happy for Hitler was the freedom from having to work, which gave him the freedom to brood, to dream, to spend his days roaming the city streets or the countryside declaiming to his companion what was wrong with the world and how to right it, and his evenings curled up with a book or standing in the rear of the opera house in Linz or Vienna listening enraptured to the mystic, pagan works of Richard Wagner.

A boyhood friend later remembered him as a pale, sickly, lanky youth who, though usually shy and reticent, was capable of sudden bursts of hysterical anger against those who disagreed with him. For four years he fancied himself deeply in love with a handsome blond maiden named Stefanie, and though he often gazed at her longingly as she strolled up and down the Landstrasse in Linz with her mother he never made the slightest effort to meet her, preferring to keep her, like so many other objects, in the shadowy world of his soaring fantasies. Indeed, in the countless love poems which he wrote to her but never sent (one of them was entitled "Hymn to the Beloved") and which he insisted on reading to his patient young friend, August Kubizek, [iv] she became a damsel out of Die Walkuerie, clad in a dark-blue flowing velvet gown, riding a white steed over the flowering meadows. [31]

Although Hitler was determined to become an artist, preferably a painter or at least an architect, he was already obsessed with politics at the age of sixteen. By then he had developed a violent hatred for the Hapsburg monarchy and all the non-German races in the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire over which it ruled, and an equally violent love for everything German. At sixteen he had become what he was to remain till his dying breath: a fanatical German nationalist.

He appears to have had little of the carefree spirit of youth despite all the loafing. The world's problems weighed down on him. Kubizek later recalled, "He saw everywhere only obstacles and hostility ... He was always up against something and at odds with the world ... I never saw him take anything lightly ..." [32]

It was at this period that the young man who could not stand school became a voracious reader, subscribing to the Library of Adult Education in Linz and joining the Museum Society, whose books he borrowed in large numbers. His young friend remembered him as always surrounded by books, of which his favorites were works on German history and German mythology. [33]

Since Linz was a provincial town, it was not long before Vienna, the glittering baroque capital of the empire, began to beckon a youth of such ambition and imagination. In 1906, just after his seventeenth birthday, Hitler set out with funds provided by his mother and other relations to spend two months in the great metropolis .. Though it was later to become the scene of his bitterest years when, at times, he literally lived in the gutter, Vienna on this first visit enthralled him. He roamed the streets for days, filled with excitement at the sight of the imposing buildings along the Ring and in a continual state of ecstasy at what he saw in the museums, the opera house, the theaters.

He also inquired about entering the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, and a year later, in October 1907, he was back in the capital to take the entrance examination as the first practical step in fulfilling his dream of becoming a painter. He was eighteen and full of high hopes, but they were dashed. An entry in the academy's classification list tells the story.

The following took the test with insufficient results, or were not admitted ... Adolf Hitler, Braunau a. Inn, April 20, 1889, German, Catholic. Father civil servant. 4 classes in High School. Few Heads. Test drawing unsatisfactory. [34]

Hitler tried again the following year and this time his drawings were so poor that he was not admitted to the test. For the ambitious young man this was, as he later wrote, a bolt from the blue. He had been absolutely convinced that he would be successful. According to his own account in Mein Kampf, Hitler requested an explanation from the rector of the academy.

That gentleman assured me that the drawings I had submitted incontrovertibly showed my unfitness for painting, and that my ability obviously lay in the field of architecture; for me, he said, the Academy's School of Painting was out of the question, the place for me was at the School of Architecture. [35]

The young Adolf was inclined to agree but quickly realized to his sorrow that his failure to graduate from high school might well block his entry into the architectural school.

In the meantime his mother was dying of cancer of the breast and he returned to Linz. Since Adolf's departure from school Klara Hitler and her relatives had supported the young man for three years, and they could see nothing to show for it. On December 21, 1908, as the town began to assume its festive Christmas garb, Adolf Hitler's mother died, and two days later she was buried at Leonding beside her husband. To the nineteen-year-old youth

it was a dreadful blow . . . I had honored my father, but my mother I had loved ... [Her] death put a sudden end to all my highflown plans ... Poverty and hard reality compelled me to take a quick decision . . . I was faced with the problem of somehow making my own living. [36]

Somehow! He had no trade. He had always disdained manual labor. He had never tried to earn a cent. But he was undaunted. Bidding his relatives farewell, he declared that he would never return until he had made good.

With a suitcase full of clothes and underwear in my hand and an indomitable will in my heart, I set out for Vienna. I too hoped to wrest from fate what my father had accomplished fifty years before; I too hoped to become "something" -- but in no case a civil servant. [37]
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:41 pm

Part 2 of 2


The next four years, between 1909 and 1913, turned out to be a time of utter misery and destitution for the conquering young man from Linz. In these last fleeting years before the fall of the Hapsburgs and the end of the city as the capital of an empire of fifty-two million people in the heart of Europe, Vienna had a gaiety and charm that were unique among the capitals of the world. Not only in its architecture, its sculpture, its music, but in the lighthearted, pleasure-loving, cultivated spirit of its people, it breathed an atmosphere of the baroque and the rococo that no other city of the West knew.

Set along the blue Danube beneath the wooded hills of the Wienerwald, which were studded with yellow-green vineyards, it was a place of natural beauty that captivated the visitor and made the Viennese believe that Providence had been especially kind to them. Music filled the air, the towering music of gifted native sons, the greatest Europe had known. Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, and, in the last Indian-summer years, the gay, haunting waltzes of Vienna's own beloved Johann Strauss. To a people so blessed and so imprinted with the baroque style of living, life itself was something of a dream and the good folk of the city passed the pleasant days and nights of their lives waltzing and wining, in light talk in the congenial coffeehouses, listening to music and viewing the make-believe of theater and opera and operetta, in flirting and making love, abandoning a large part of their lives to pleasure and to dreams.

To be sure, an empire had to be governed, an army and navy manned, communications maintained, business transacted and labor done. But few in Vienna worked overtime -- or even full time -- at such things.

There was a seamy side, of course. This city, like all others, had its poor: ill-fed, ill-clothed and living in hovels. But as the greatest industrial center in Central Europe as well as the capital of the empire, Vienna was prosperous, and this prosperity spread among the people and sifted down. The great mass of the lower middle class controlled the city politically; labor was organizing not only trade unions but a powerful political party of its own, the Social Democrats. There was a ferment in the life of the city, now grown to a population of two million. Democracy was forcing out the ancient autocracy of the Hapsburgs, education and culture were opening up to the masses so that by the time Hitler came to Vienna in 1909 there was opportunity for a penniless young man either to get a higher education or to earn a fairly decent living and, as one of a million wage earners, to live under the civilizing spell which the capital cast over its inhabitants. Was not his only friend, Kubizek, as poor and as obscure as himself, already making a name for himself in the Academy of Music?

But the young Adolf did not pursue his ambition to enter the School of Architecture. It was still open for him despite his lack of a high-school diploma -- young men who showed "special talent" were admitted without such a certificate -- but so far as is known he made no application. Nor was he interested in learning a trade or in taking any kind of regular employment. Instead he preferred to putter about at odd jobs: shoveling snow, beating carpets, carrying bags outside the West Railroad Station, occasionally for a few days working as a building laborer. In November 1909, less than a year after he arrived in Vienna to "forestall fate," he was forced to abandon a furnished room in the Simon Denk Gasse, and for the next four years he lived in flophouses or in the almost equally miserable quarters of the men's hostel at 27 Meldemannstrasse in the Twentieth District of Vienna, near the Danube, staving off hunger by frequenting the charity soup kitchens of the city.

No wonder that nearly two decades later he could write:

To me Vienna, the city which to so many is the epitome of innocent pleasure, a festive playground for merrymakers, represents, I am sorry to say, merely the living memory of the saddest period of my life.

Even today this city can arouse in me nothing but dismal thoughts. For me the name of this Phaeacial city represents five years of hardship and misery. Five years in which I was forced to earn a living, first as a day laborer, then as a small painter; a truly meager living which never sufficed to appease even my daily hunger. [38]

Always, he says of these times, there was hunger.

Hunger was then my faithful bodyguard; he never left me for a moment and partook of all I had ... My life was a continual struggle with this pitiless friend. [39]

It never, however, drove him to the extremity of trying to find a regular job. As he makes clear in Mein Kampf, he had the petty bourgeoisie's gnawing fear of sliding back into the ranks of the proletariat, of the manual laborers -- a fear he was later to exploit in building up the National Socialist Party on the broad foundation of the hitherto leaderless, ill-paid, neglected white-collar class, whose millions nourished the illusion that they were at least socially better off than the "workers."

Although Hitler says he eked out at least part of a living as "a small painter," he gives no details of this work in his autobiography except to remark that in the years 1909 and 1910 he had so far improved his position that he no longer had to work as a common laborer.

"By this time," he says, "I was working independently as a small draftsman and painter of water colors." [40]

This is somewhat misleading, as is so much else of a biographical nature in Mein Kampf. Though the evidence of those who knew him at the time appears to be scarcely more trustworthy, enough of it has been pieced together to give a picture that is probably more accurate and certainly more complete. [v]

That Adolf Hitler was never a house painter, as his political opponents taunted him with having been, is fairly certain. At least there is no evidence that he ever followed such a trade. What he did was draw or paint crude little pictures of Vienna, usually of some well-known landmark such as St. Stephen's Cathedral, the opera house, the Burgtheater, the Palace of Schoenbrunn or the Roman ruins in Schoenbrunn Park. According to his acquaintances he copied them from older works; apparently he could not draw from nature. They are rather stilted and lifeless, like a beginning architect's rough and careless sketches, and the human figures he sometimes added are so bad as to remind one of a comic strip. I find a note of my own made once after going through a portfolio of Hitler's original sketches: "Few faces. Crude. One almost ghoulish face." To Heiden, "they stand like tiny stuffed sacks outside the high, solemn palaces." [41]

Probably hundreds of these pitiful pieces were sold by Hitler to the petty traders to ornament a wall, to dealers who used them to fill empty picture frames on display and to furniture makers who sometimes tacked them to the backs of cheap sofas and chairs after a fashion in Vienna in those days. Hitler could also be more commercial. He often drew posters for shopkeepers advertising such products as Teddy's Perspiration Powder, and there was one, perhaps turned out to make a little money at Christmas time, depicting Santa Claus selling brightly colored candles, and another showing St. Stephen's Gothic spire, which Hitler never tired of copying, rising out of a mountain of soap cakes.

This was the extent of Hitler's "artistic" achievement, yet to the end of his life he considered himself an "artist."

Bohemian he certainly looked in those vagabond years in Vienna. Those who knew him then remembered later his long black shabby overcoat, which hung down to his ankles and resembled a caftan and which had been given him by a Hungarian Jewish old-clothes dealer, a fellow inmate of the dreary men's hostel who had befriended him. They remembered his greasy black derby, which he wore the year round; his matted hair, brushed down over his forehead as in later years and, in the back, hanging disheveled over his soiled collar, for he rarely appeared to have had a haircut or a shave and the sides of his face and his chin were usually covered with the black stubble of an incipient beard. If one can believe Hanisch, who later became something of an artist, Hitler resembled "an apparition such as rarely occurs among Christians." [42]

Unlike some of the shipwrecked young men with whom he lived, he had none of the vices of youth. He neither smoked nor drank. He had nothing to do with women -- not, so far as can be learned, because of any abnormality but simply because of an ingrained shyness.

"I believe," Hitler remarked afterward in Mein Kampf, in one of his rare flashes of humor, "that those who knew me in those days took me for an eccentric." [43]

They remembered, as had his teachers, the strong, staring eyes that dominated the face and expressed something embedded in the personality that did not jibe with the miserable existence of the unwashed tramp. And they recalled that the young man, for all his laziness when it came to physical labor, was a voracious reader, spending much of his days and evenings devouring books.

At that time I read enormously and thoroughly. All the free time my work left me was employed in my studies. In this way I forged in a few years' time the foundations of a knowledge from which I still draw nourishment today. [44]

In Mein Kampf Hitler discourses at length on the art of reading.

By "reading," to be sure, I mean perhaps something different than the average member of our so-called "intelligentsia."

I know people who "read" enormously ... yet whom I would not describe as "well-read." True, they possess a mass of "knowledge," but their brain is unable to organize and register the material they have taken in ... On the other hand, a man who possesses the art of correct reading will ... instinctively and immediately perceive everything which in his opinion is worth permanently remembering, either because it is suited to his purpose or generally worth knowing ... The art of reading, as of learning, is this: ... to retain the essential, to forget the nonessential. [vi] ... Only this kind of reading has meaning and purpose . . . Viewed in this light, my Vienna period was especially fertile and valuable. [45]

Valuable for what? Hitler's answer is that from his reading and from his life among the poor and disinherited of Vienna he learned all that he needed to know in later life.

Vienna was and remained for me the hardest, though most thorough, school of my life. I had set foot in this town while still half a boy and I left it a man, grown quiet and grave.

In this period there took shape within me a world picture and a philosophy which became the granite foundation of all my acts. In addition to what I then created, I have had to learn little; and I have had to alter nothing. [46]

What, then, had he learned in the school of those hard knocks which Vienna had so generously provided? What were the ideas which he acquired there from his reading and his experience and which, as he says, would remain essentially unaltered to the end? That they were mostly shallow and shabby, often grotesque and preposterous, and poisoned by outlandish prejudices will become obvious on the most cursory examination. That they are important to this history, as they were to the world, is equally obvious, for they were to form part of the foundation for the Third Reich which this bookish vagrant was soon to build.


They were, with one exception, not original but picked up, raw, from the churning maelstrom of Austrian politics and life in the first years of the twentieth century. The Danube monarchy was dying of indigestion. For centuries a minority of German-Austrians had ruled over the polyglot empire of a dozen nationalities and stamped their language and their culture on it. But since 1848 their hold had been weakening. The minorities could not be digested. Austria was not a melting pot. In the 1860s the Italians had broken away and in 1867 the Hungarians had won equality with the Germans under a so-called Dual Monarchy. Now, as the twentieth century began, the various Slav peoples -- the Czechs, the Slovaks, the Serbs, the Croats and the others -- were demanding equality and at least national autonomy. Austrian politics had become dominated by the bitter quarrel of the nationalities.

But this was not all. There was social revolt too and this often transcended the racial struggle. The disenfranchised lower classes were demanding the ballot, and the workers were insisting on the right to organize trade unions and to strike -- not only for higher wages and better working conditions but to gain their democratic political ends. Indeed a general strike had finally brought universal manhood suffrage and with this the end of political dominance by the Austrian Germans, who numbered but a third of the population of the Austrian half of the empire.

To these developments Hitler, the fanatical young German-Austrian nationalist from Linz, was bitterly opposed. To him the empire was sinking into a "foul morass." It could be saved only if the master race, the Germans, reasserted their old absolute authority. The non-German races, especially the Slavs and above all the Czechs, were an inferior people. It was up to the Germans to rule them with an iron hand. The Parliament must be abolished and an end put to all the democratic "nonsense."

Though he took no part in politics, Hitler followed avidly the activities of the three major political parties of old Austria: the Social Democrats, the Christian Socialists and the Pan-German Nationalists. And there now began to sprout in the mind of this unkempt frequenter of the soup kitchens a political shrewdness which enabled him to see with amazing clarity the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary political movements and which, as it matured, would make him the master politician of Germany.

At first contact he developed a furious hatred for the party of the Social Democrats. "What most repelled me," he says, "was its hostile attitude toward the struggle for the preservation of Germanism [and] its disgraceful courting of the Slavic 'comrade' . . . In a few months I obtained what might have otherwise required decades: an understanding of a pestilential whore, [vii] cloaking herself as social virtue and brotherly love." [47]

And yet he was already intelligent enough to quench his feelings of rage against this party of the working class in order to examine carefully the reasons for its popular success. He concluded that there were several reasons, and years later he was to remember them and utilize them in building up the National Socialist Party of Germany.

One day, he recounts in Mein Kampf, he witnessed a mass demonstration of Viennese workers. "For nearly two hours I stood there watching with bated breath the gigantic human dragon slowly winding by. In oppressed anxiety I finally left the place and sauntered homeward." [48]

At home he began to read the Social Democratic press, examine the speeches of its leaders, study its organization, reflect on its psychology and political techniques and ponder the results. He came to three conclusions which explained to him the success of the Social Democrats: They knew how to create a mass movement, without which any political party was useless; they had learned the art of propaganda among the masses; and, finally, they knew the value of using what he calls "spiritual and physical terror."

This third lesson, though it was surely based on faulty observation and compounded of his own immense prejudices, intrigued the young Hitler. Within ten years he would put it to good use for his own ends.

I understood the infamous spiritual terror which this movement exerts, particularly on the bourgeoisie, which is neither morally nor mentally equal to such attacks; at a given sign it unleashes a veritable barrage of lies and slanders against whatever adversary seems most dangerous, until the nerves of the attacked persons break down ... This is a tactic based on precise calculation of all human weaknesses, and its result will lead to success with almost mathematical certainty ...

I achieved an equal understanding of the importance of physical terror toward the individual and the masses ... For while in the ranks of their supporters the victory achieved seems a triumph of the justice of their own cause, the defeated adversary in most cases despairs of the success of any further resistance. [49]

No more precise analysis of Nazi tactics, as Hitler was eventually to develop them, was ever written.

There were two political parties which strongly attracted the fledgling Hitler in Vienna, and to both of them he applied his growing power of shrewd, cold analysis. His first allegiance, he says, was to the Pan-German Nationalist Party founded by Georg Ritter von Schoenerer, who came from the same region near Spital in Lower Austria as had Hitler's family. The Pan-Germans at that time were engaged in a last-ditch struggle for German supremacy in the multinational empire. And though Hitler thought that Schoenerer was a "profound thinker" and enthusiastically embraced his basic program of violent nationalism, anti-Semitism, antisocialism, union with Germany and opposition to the Hapsburgs and the Holy See, he quickly sized up the causes for the party's failure:

"This movement's inadequate appreciation of the importance of the social problem cost it the truly militant mass of the people; its entry into Parliament took away its mighty impetus and burdened it with all the weaknesses peculiar to this institution; the struggle against the Catholic Church . . . robbed it of countless of the best elements that the nation can call its own." [50]

Though Hitler was to forget it when he came to power in Germany, one of the lessons of his Vienna years which he stresses at great length in Mein Kampf is the futility of a political party's trying to oppose the churches. "Regardless of how much room for criticism there was in any religious denomination," he says, in explaining why Schoenerer's Losvon-Rom (Away from Rome) movement was a tactical error, "a political party must never for a moment lose sight of the fact that in all previous historical experience a purely political party has never succeeded in producing a religious reformation." [51]

But it was the failure of the Pan-Germans to arouse the masses, their inability to even understand the psychology of the common people, that to Hitler constituted their biggest mistake. It is obvious from his recapitulation of the ideas that began to form in his mind when he was not much past the age of twenty-one that to him this was the cardinal error. He was not to repeat it when he founded his own political movement.

There was another mistake of the Pan-Germans which Hitler was not to make. That was the failure to win over the support of at least some of the powerful, established institutions of the nation -- if not the Church, then the Army, say, or the cabinet or the head of state. Unless a political movement gained such backing, the young man saw, it would be difficult if not impossible for it to assume power. This support was precisely what Hitler had the shrewdness to arrange for in the crucial January days of 1933 in Berlin and what alone made it possible for him and his National Socialist Party to take over the rule of a great nation.

There was one political leader in Vienna in Hitler's time who understood this, as well as the necessity of building a party on the foundation of the masses. This was Dr. Karl Lueger, the burgomaster of Vienna and leader of the Christian Social Party, who more than any other became Hitler's political mentor, though the two never met. Hitler always regarded him as "the greatest German mayor of all times . . . a statesman greater than all the so-called 'diplomats' of the time . . . If Dr. Karl Lueger had lived in Germany he would have been ranked among the great minds of our people." [52]

There was, to be sure, little resemblance between Hitler as he later became and this big, bluff, genial idol of the Viennese lower middle classes. It is true that Lueger became the most powerful politician in Austria as the head of a party which was drawn from the disgruntled petty bourgeoisie and which made political capital, as Hitler later did, out of a raucous anti-Semitism. But Lueger, who had risen from modest circumstances and worked his way through the university, was a man of considerable intellectual attainments, and his opponents, including the Jews, readily conceded that he was at heart a decent, chivalrous, generous and tolerant man. Stefan Zweig, the eminent Austrian Jewish writer, who was growing up in Vienna at this time, has testified that Lueger never allowed his official anti-Semitism to stop him from being helpful and friendly to the Jews. "His city administration," Zweig recounted, "was perfectly just and even typically democratic ... The Jews who had trembled at this triumph of the anti-Semitic party continued to live with the same rights and esteem as always." [53]

This the young Hitler did not like. He thought Lueger was far too tolerant and did not appreciate the racial problem of the Jews. He resented the mayor's failure to embrace Pan-Germanism and was skeptical of his Roman Catholic clericalism and his loyalty to the Hapsburgs. Had not the old Emperor Franz-Josef twice refused to sanction Lueger's election as burgomaster?

But in the end Hitler was forced to acknowledge the genius of this man who knew how to win the support of the masses, who understood modern social problems and the importance of propaganda and oratory in swaying the multitude. Hitler could not help but admire the way Lueger dealt with the powerful Church -- "his policy was fashioned with infinite shrewdness." And, finally, Lueger "was quick to make use of all available means for winning the support of long-established institutions, so as to be able to derive the greatest possible advantage for his movement from those old sources of power." [54]

Here in a nutshell were the ideas and techniques which Hitler was later to use in constructing his own political party and in leading it to power in Germany. His originality lay in his being the only politician of the Right to apply them to the German scene after the First World War. It was then that the Nazi movement, alone among the nationalist and conservative parties, gained a great mass following and, having achieved this, won over the support of the Army, the President of the Republic and the associations of big business -- three "long-established institutions" of great power, which led to the chancellorship of Germany. The lessons learned in Vienna proved useful indeed.

Dr. Karl Lueger had been a brilliant orator, but the Pan-German Party had lacked effective public speakers. Hitler took notice of this and in Mein Kampf makes much of the importance of oratory in politics.

The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone.

The broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech. All great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or by the firebrand of the word hurled among the masses; they are not the lemonade-like outpourings of the literary aesthetes and drawing-room heroes. [55]

Though refraining from actual participation in Austrian party politics, young Hitler already was beginning to practice his oratory on the audiences which he found in Vienna's flophouses, soup kitchens and on its street corners. It was to develop into a talent (as this author, who later was to listen to scores of his most important speeches, can testify) more formidable than any other in the Germany between the wars, and it was to contribute in a large measure to his astounding success.


And finally in Hitler's Vienna experience there were the Jews. In Linz, he says, there had been few Jews. "At home I do not remember having heard the word during my father's lifetime." At high school there was a Jewish boy -- "but we didn't give the matter any thought ... I even took them [the Jews] for Germans." [56]

According to Hitler's boyhood friend, this is not the truth. "When I first met Adolf Hitler," says August Kubizek, recalling their days together in Linz, "his anti-Semitism was already pronounced . . . Hitler was already a confirmed anti-Semite when he went to Vienna. And although his experiences in Vienna might have deepened this feeling, they certainly did not give birth to it." [57]

"Then," says Hitler, "I came to Vienna."

Preoccupied by the abundance of my impressions ... oppressed by the hardship of my own lot, I gained at first no insight into the inner stratification of the people in this gigantic city. Notwithstanding that Vienna in those days counted nearly two hundred thousand Jews among its two million inhabitants, I did not see them ... The Jew was still characterized for me by nothing but his religion, and therefore on grounds of human tolerance I maintained my rejection of religious attacks in this case as in others. Consequently the tone of the Viennese anti-Semitic press seemed to me unworthy of the cultural tradition of a great nation. [58]

One day, Hitler recounts, he went strolling through the Inner City. "I suddenly encountered an apparition in a black caftan and black side-locks. Is this a Jew? was my first thought. For, to be sure, they had not looked like that in Linz. I observed the man furtively and cautiously, but the longer I stared at this foreign face, scrutinizing feature for feature, the more my first question assumed a new form: Is this a German?" [59]

Hitler's answer may be readily guessed. He claims, though, that before answering he decided "to try to relieve my doubts by books." He buried himself in anti-Semitic literature, which had a large sale in Vienna at the time. Then he took to the streets to observe the "phenomenon" more closely. "Wherever I went," he says, "I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity ... Later I often grew sick to the stomach from the smell of these caftan-wearers." [60]

Next, he says, he discovered the "moral stain on this 'chosen people' ... Was there any form of filth or profligacy, particularly in cultural life, without at least one Jew involved in it? If you cut even cautiously into such an abscess, you found, like a maggot in a rotting body, often dazzled by the sudden light -- a kike!" The Jews were largely responsible, he says he found, for prostitution and the white-slave traffic. "When for the first time," he relates, "I recognized the Jew as the cold-hearted, shameless and calculating director of this revolting vice traffic in the scum of the big city, a cold shudder ran down my back." [61]

There is a great deal of morbid sexuality in Hitler's ravings about the Jews. This was characteristic of Vienna's anti-Semitic press of the time, as it later was to be of the obscene Nuremberg weekly Der Stuermer, published by one of Hitler's favorite cronies, Julius Streicher, Nazi boss of Franconia, a noted pervert and one of the most unsavory characters in the Third Reich. Mein Kampf is sprinkled with lurid allusions to uncouth Jews seducing innocent Christian girls and thus adulterating their blood. Hitler can write of the "nightmare vision of the seduction of hundreds of thousands of girls by repulsive, crooked-legged Jew bastards." As Rudolf Olden has pointed out, one of the roots of Hitler's anti-Semitism may have been his tortured sexual envy. Though he was in his early twenties, so far as is known he had no relations of any kind with women during his sojourn in Vienna.

"Gradually," Hitler relates, "I began to hate them ... For me this was the time of the greatest spiritual upheaval I have ever had to go through. I had ceased to be a weak-kneed cosmopolitan and become an anti-Semite." [62]

He was to remain a blind and fanatical one to the bitter end; his last testament, written a few hours before his death, would contain a final blast against the Jews as responsible for the war which he had started and which was now finishing him and the Third Reich. This burning hatred, which was to infect so many Germans in that empire, would lead ultimately to a massacre so horrible and on such a scale as to leave an ugly scar on civilization that will surely last as long as man on earth.


In the spring of 1913, Hitler left Vienna for good and went to live in Germany, where his heart, he says, had always been. He was twenty-four and to everyone except himself he must have seemed a total failure. He had not become a painter, nor an architect. He had become nothing, so far as anyone could see, but a vagabond -- an eccentric, bookish one, to be sure. He had no friends, no family, no job, no home. He had, however, one thing: an unquenchable confidence in himself and a deep, burning sense of mission.

Probably he left Austria to escape military service. [viii] This was not because he was a coward but because he loathed the idea of serving in the ranks with Jews, Slavs and other minority races of the empire. In Mein Kampf Hitler states that he went to Munich in the spring of 1912, but this is an error. A police register lists him as living in Vienna until May 1913.

His own stated reasons for leaving Austria are quite grandiose.

My inner revulsion toward the Hapsburg State steadily grew ... I was repelled by the conglomeration of races which the capital showed me, repelled by this whole mixture of Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, Ruthenians, Serbs, and Croats, and everywhere the eternal mushroom of humanity -- Jews, and more Jews. To me the giant city seemed the embodiment of racial desecration ... The longer I lived in this city the more my hatred grew for the foreign mixture of peoples which had begun to corrode this old site of German culture ... For all these reasons a longing rose stronger and stronger in me to go at last whither since my childhood secret desires and secret love had drawn me. [63]

His destiny in that land he loved so dearly was to be such as not even he, in his wildest dreams, could have then imagined. He was, and would remain until shortly before he became Chancellor, technically a foreigner, an Austrian, in the German Reich. It is only as an Austrian who came of age in the last decade before the collapse of the Hapsburg Empire, who failed to take root in its civilized capital, who embraced all the preposterous prejudices and hates then rife among its German-speaking extremists and who failed to grasp what was decent and honest and honorable in the vast majority of his fellow citizens, were they Czechs or Jews or Germans, poor or well off, artists or artisans, that Hitler can be understood. It is doubtful if any German from the north, from the Rhineland in the west, from East Prussia or even from Bavaria in the south could have had in his blood and mind out of any possible experience exactly the mixture of ingredients which propelled Adolf Hitler to the heights he eventually reached. To be sure, there was added a liberal touch of unpredictable genius.

But in the spring of 1913 his genius had not yet shown. In Munich, as in Vienna, he remained penniless, friendless and without a regular job. And then in the summer of 1914 the war came, snatching him, like millions of others, into its grim clutches. On August 3 he petitioned King Ludwig III of Bavaria for permission to volunteer in a Bavarian regiment and it was granted.

This was the heaven-sent opportunity. Now the young vagabond could satisfy not only his passion to serve his beloved adopted country in what he says he believed was a fight for its existence -- "to be or not to be" -- but he could escape from all the failures and frustrations of his personal life.

"To me," he wrote in Mein Kampf, "those hours came as a deliverance from the distress that had weighed upon me during the days of my youth. I am not ashamed to say that, carried away by the enthusiasm of the moment, I sank down on my knees and thanked Heaven out of the fullness of my heart for granting me the good fortune of being permitted to live in such a time . . . For me, as for every German, there now began the most memorable period of my life. Compared to the events of this gigantic struggle all the past fell away into oblivion." [64]

For Hitler the past, with all its shabbiness, loneliness and disappointments, was to remain in the shadows, though it shaped his mind and character forever afterward. The war, which now would bring death to so many millions, brought for him, at twenty-five, a new start in life.



i. Hitler himself seems to have recognized this. In his youth he confided to the only boyhood friend he had that nothing had ever pleased him as much as his father's change of names. He told August Kubizek that the name Schicklgruber "seemed to him so uncouth, so boorish, apart from being so clumsy and unpractical. He found 'Hiedler' ... too soft; but 'Hitler' sounded nice and was easy to remember." (August Kubizek, The Young Hitler I Knew, p. 40.)

ii. He told this story of himself in one of his reminiscing moods on the evening of January 8-9, 1942, at Supreme Headquarters. (Hitler's Secret Conversations, p. 160.)

iii. "These were the happiest days of my life and seemed to me almost a dream ... (Mein Kampf, p. 18.) In a letter dated August 4, 1933, six months after he became Chancellor, Hitler wrote his boyhood friend, August Kubizek: "I should be very glad . . . to revive once more with you those memories of the best years of my life." (Kubizek, The Young Hitler I Knew, p. 273.)

iv. Kubizek, who appears to have been the only friend Hitler ever had in his youth, has given in his book, The Young Hitler I Knew, an interesting picture of his companion in the last four years before, at the age of nineteen, he skidded down to the life of a vagabond in Vienna -- a portrait, incidentally, that not only fills a biographical gap in the life of the German Fuehrer but corrects somewhat the hitherto prevalent impressions of his early character. Kubizek was as unlike Hitler as can be imagined. He had a happy home in Linz, learned his father's trade as an upholsterer, worked diligently at it while studying music, was graduated with honors from the Vienna Conservatory of Music and began a promising professional career as a conductor and composer which was shattered by the First World War.

v. See Das Ende des Hitler-Mythos, by Josef Greiner, who was personally acquainted with Hitler during part of his Vienna days. See also Hitler the Pawn, by Rudolf Olden; Olden's book includes statements from Reinhold Hanisch, a Sudeten tramp who for a time was a roommate of Hitler's in the men's hostel and who hawked some of his paintings. Konrad Heiden, in Der Fuehrer, also quotes material from Hanisch, including the court records of a lawsuit which Hitler brought against the tramp for cheating him out of a share of a painting which Hanisch allegedly sold for him.

vi. The italics are Hitler's.

vii. The word was cut out in the second and all subsequent editions of Mein Kampf, and the noun "pestilence" substituted.

viii. Since 1910, when he was twenty-one, he had been subject to military service. According to Heiden the Austrian authorities could not put their finger on him while he was in Vienna. They finally located him in Munich and ordered him to report for examination in Linz. Josef Greiner, in his Das Ende des Hitler-Mythos, publishes some of the correspondence between Hitler and the Austrian military authorities in which Hitler denies that he went to Germany to avoid Austrian military service. On the ground that he lacked funds, he requested to be allowed to take his examination in Salzburg because of its nearness to Munich. He was examined there on February 5, 1914, and found unfit for military or even auxiliary service on account of poor health -- apparently he still had a lung ailment. His failure to report for military service until the authorities finally located him at the age of twenty-four must have bothered Hitler when his star rose in Germany. Greiner confirms a story that was current in anti-Nazi circles when I was in Berlin that when the German troops occupied Austria in 1938 Hitler ordered the Gestapo to find the official papers relating to his military service. The records in Linz were searched in vain -- to Hitler's mounting fury. They had been removed by a member of the local government, who, after the war, showed them to Greiner.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:43 pm

Part 1 of 2


ON THE DARK AUTUMN Sunday of November 10, 1918, Adolf Hitler experienced what out of the depths of his hatred and frustration he called the greatest villainy of the century. [ i] A pastor had come bearing unbelievable news for the wounded soldiers in the military hospital at Pasewalk, a small Pomeranian town northeast of Berlin, where Hitler was recovering from temporary blindness suffered in a British gas attack a month before near Ypres.

That Sunday morning, the pastor informed them, the Kaiser had abdicated and fled to Holland. The day before a republic had been proclaimed in Berlin. On the morrow, November 11, an armistice would be signed at Compiegne in France. The war had been lost. Germany was at the mercy of the victorious Allies. The pastor began to sob.

"I could stand it no longer," Hitler says in recounting the scene. "Everything went black again before my eyes; I tottered and groped my way back to the ward, threw myself on my bunk, and dug my burning head into my blanket and pillow ... So it had all been in vain. In vain all the sacrifices and privations; ... in vain the hours in which, with mortal fear clutching at our hearts, we nevertheless did our duty; in vain the death of two millions who died ... Had they died for this? ... Did all this happen only so that a gang of wretched criminals could lay hands on the Fatherland?" [1]

For the first time since he had stood at his mother's grave, he says, he broke down and wept. "I could not help it." Like millions of his fellow countrymen then and forever after, he could not accept the blunt and shattering fact that Germany had been defeated on the battlefield and had lost the war.

Like millions of other Germans, too, Hitler had been a brave and courageous soldier. Later he would be accused by some political opponents of having been a coward in combat, but it must be said, in fairness, that there is no shred of evidence in his record for such a charge. As a dispatch runner in the First Company of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment, he arrived at the front toward the end of October 1914 after scarcely three months of training, and his unit was decimated in four days of hard fighting at the first Battle of Ypres, where the British halted the German drive to the Channel. According to a letter Hitler wrote his Munich landlord, a tailor named Popp, his regiment was reduced in four days of combat from 3,500 to 600 men; only thirty officers survived, and four companies had to be dissolved.

During the war he was wounded twice, the first time on October 7, 1916, in the Battle of the Somme, when he was hit in the leg. After hospitalization in Germany he returned to the List Regiment -- it was named after its original commander -- in March 1917 and, now promoted to corporal, fought in the Battle of Arras and the third Battle of Ypres during that summer. His regiment was in the thick of the fighting during the last all-out German offensive in the spring and summer of 1918. On the night of October 13 he was caught in a heavy British gas attack on a hill south of Werwick during the last Battle of Ypres. "I stumbled back with burning eyes," he relates, "taking with me my last report of the war. A few hours later, my eyes had turned into glowing coals; it had grown dark around me." [2]

He was twice decorated for bravery. In December 1914 he was awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class, and in August 1918 he received the Iron Cross, First Class, which was rarely given to a common soldier in the old Imperial Army. One comrade in his unit testified that he won the coveted decoration for having captured fifteen Englishmen single-handed; another said it was Frenchmen. The official history of the List Regiment contains no word of any such exploit; it is silent about the individual feats of many members who received decorations. Whatever the reason, there is no doubt that Corporal Hitler earned the Iron Cross, First Class. He wore it proudly to the end of his life.

And yet, as soldiers go, he was a peculiar fellow, as more than one of his comrades remarked. No letters or presents from home came to him, as they did to the others. He never asked for leave; he had not even a combat soldier's interest in women. He never grumbled, as did the bravest of men, about the filth, the lice, the mud, the stench, of the front line. He was the impassioned warrior, deadly serious at all times about the war's aims and Germany's manifest destiny.

"We all cursed him and found him intolerable," one of the men in his company later recalled. "There was this white crow among us that didn't go along with us when we damned the war to hell." [3] Another man described him as sitting "in the corner of our mess holding his head between his hands, in deep contemplation. Suddenly he would leap up and, running about excitedly, say that in spite of our big guns victory would be denied us, for the invisible foes of the German people were a greater danger than the biggest cannon of the enemy." [4] Whereupon he would launch into a vitriolic attack on these "invisible foes" -- the Jews and the Marxists.
Had he not learned in Vienna that they were the source of all evil?

And indeed had he not seen this for himself in the German homeland while convalescing from his leg wound in the middle of the war? After his discharge from the hospital at Beelitz, near Berlin, he had visited the capital and then gone on to Munich. Everywhere he found "scoundrels" cursing the war and wishing for its quick end. Slackers abounded, and who were they but Jews? "The offices," he found, "were filled with Jews. Nearly every clerk was a Jew and nearly every Jew was a clerk ... In the year 1916-17 nearly the whole production was under control of Jewish finance . . . The Jew robbed the whole nation and pressed it beneath his domination ... I saw with horror a catastrophe approaching ... " [5] Hitler could not bear what he saw and was glad, he says, to return to the front.

He could bear even less the disaster which befell his beloved Fatherland in November 1918. To him, as to almost all Germans, it was "monstrous" and undeserved. The German Army had not been defeated in the field. It had been stabbed in the back by the traitors at home.

Thus emerged for Hitler, as for so many Germans, a fanatical belief in the legend of the "stab in the back" which, more than anything else, was to undermine the Weimar Republic and pave the way for Hitler's ultimate triumph. The legend was fraudulent. General Ludendorff, the actual leader of the High Command, had insisted on September 28, 1918, on an armistice "at once," and his nominal superior, Field Marshal von Hindenburg, had supported him.
At a meeting of the Crown Council in Berlin on October 2 presided over by Kaiser Wilhelm II, Hindenburg had reiterated the High Command's demand for an immediate truce. "The Army," he said, "cannot wait forty-eight hours." In a letter written on the same day Hindenburg flatly stated that the military situation made it imperative "to stop the fighting." No mention was made of any "stab in the back." Only later did Germany's great war hero subscribe to the myth. In a hearing before the Committee of Inquiry of the National Assembly on November 18, 1919, a year after the war's end, Hindenburg declared, "As an English general has very truly said, the German Army was 'stabbed in the back.'" [ii]

In point of fact, the civilian government headed by Prince Max of Baden, which had not been told of the worsening military situation by the High Command until the end of September, held out for several weeks against Ludendorff's demand for an armistice.

One had to live in Germany between the wars to realize how widespread was the acceptance of this incredible legend by the German people. The facts which exposed its deceit lay all around. The Germans of the Right would not face them. The culprits, they never ceased to bellow, were the "November criminals" -- an expression which Hitler hammered into the consciousness of the people. It mattered not at all that the German Army, shrewdly and cowardly, had maneuvered the republican government into signing the armistice which the military leaders had insisted upon, and that it thereafter had advised the government to accept the Peace Treaty of Versailles. Nor did it seem to count that the Social Democratic Party had accepted power in 1918 only reluctantly and only to preserve the nation from utter chaos which threatened to lead to Bolshevism. It was not responsible for the German collapse. The blame for that rested on the old order, which had held the power. [iii] But millions of Germans refused to concede this. They had to find scapegoats for the defeat and for their humiliation and misery. They easily convinced themselves that they had found them in the "November criminals" who had signed the surrender and established democratic government in the place of the old autocracy. The gullibility of the Germans is a subject which Hitler often harps on in Mein Kampf. He was shortly to take full advantage of it.

When the pastor had left the hospital in Pasewalk that evening of November 10, 1918, "there followed terrible days and even worse nights" for Adolf Hitler. "I knew," he says, "that all was lost. Only fools, liars and criminals could hope for mercy from the enemy. In these nights hatred grew in me, hatred for those responsible for this deed ... Miserable and degenerate criminals! The more I tried to achieve clarity on the monstrous event in this hour, the more the shame of indignation and disgrace burned my brow. What was all the pain in my eyes compared to this misery?"

And then: "My own fate became known to me. I decided to go into politics." [6]

As it turned out, this was a fateful decision for Hitler and for the world.


The prospects for a political career in Germany for this thirty-year-old Austrian without friends or funds, without a job, with no trade or profession or any previous record of regular employment, with no experience whatsoever in politics, were less than promising, and at first, for a brief moment, Hitler realized it. "For days," he says, "I wondered what could be done, but the end of every meditation was the sober realization that I, nameless as I was, did not possess the least basis for any useful action." [7]

He had returned to Munich at the end of November 1918, to find his adopted city scarcely recognizable. Revolution had broken out here too. The Wittelsbach King had also abdicated. Bavaria was in the hands of the Social Democrats, who had set up a Bavarian "People's State" under Kurt Eisner, a popular Jewish writer who had been born in Berlin. On November 7, Eisner, a familiar figure in Munich with his great gray beard, his pince-nez, his enormous black hat and his diminutive size, had traipsed through the streets at the head of a few hundred men and, without a shot being fired, had occupied the seat of parliament and government and proclaimed a republic. Three months later he was assassinated by a young right-wing officer, Count Anton Arco-Valley. The workers thereupon set up a soviet republic, but this was short-lived. On May 1, 1919, Regular Army troops dispatched from Berlin and Bavarian "free corps" (Freikorps) volunteers entered Munich and overthrew the Communist regime, massacring several hundred persons, including many non-Communists, in revenge for the shooting of a dozen hostages by the soviet. Though a moderate Social Democratic government under Johannes Hoffmann was nominally restored for the time being, the real power in Bavarian politics passed to the Right.

What was the Right in Bavaria at this chaotic time? It was the Regular Army, the Reichswehr; it was the monarchists, who wished the Wittelbachs back. It was a mass of conservatives who despised the democratic Republic established in Berlin; and as time went on it was above all the great mob of demobilized soldiers for whom the bottom had fallen out of the world in 1918, uprooted men who could not find jobs or their way back to the peaceful society they had left in 1914, men grown tough and violent through war who could not shake themselves from ingrained habit and who, as Hitler, who for a while was one of them, would later say, "became revolutionaries who favored revolution for its own sake and desired to see revolution established as a permanent condition."

Armed free-corps bands sprang up all over Germany and were secretly equipped by the Reichswehr. At first they were mainly used to fight the Poles and the Balts on the disputed eastern frontiers, but soon they were backing plots for the overthrow of the republican regime.
In March 1920, one of them, the notorious Ehrhardt Brigade, led by a freebooter, Captain Ehrhardt, occupied Berlin and enabled Dr. Wolfgang Kapp, [iv] a mediocre politician of the extreme Right, to proclaim himself Chancellor. The Regular Army, under General von Seeckt, had stood by while the President of the Republic and the government fled in disarray to western Germany. Only a general strike by the trade unions restored the republican government.

In Munich at the same time a different kind of military coup d'etat was more successful. On March 14, 1920, the Reichswehr overthrew the Hoffmann Socialist government and installed a right-wing regime under Gustav von Kahr. And now the Bavarian capital became a magnet for all those forces in Germany which were determined to overthrow the Republic, set up an authoritarian regime and repudiate the Diktat of Versailles. Here the condottieri of the free corps, including the members of the Ehrhardt Brigade, found a refuge and a welcome. Here General Ludendorff settled, along with a host of other disgruntled, discharged Army officers. [v] Here were plotted the political murders, among them that of Matthias Erzberger, the moderate Catholic politician who had had the courage to sign the armistice when the generals backed out; and of Walther Rathenau, the brilliant, cultured Foreign Minister, whom the extremists hated for being a Jew and for carrying out the national government's policy of trying to fulfill at least some of the provisions of the Versailles Treaty.

It was in this fertile field in Munich that Adolf Hitler got his start.


When he had come back to Munich at the end of November 1918, he had found that his battalion was in the hands of the "Soldiers' Councils." This was so repellent to him, he says, that he decided "at once to leave as soon as possible." He spent the winter doing guard duty at a prisoner-of-war camp at Traunstein, near the Austrian border. He was back in Munich in the spring. In Mein Kampf he relates that he incurred the "disapproval" of the left-wing government and claims that he avoided arrest only by the feat of aiming his carbine at three "scoundrels" who had come to fetch him. Immediately after the Communist regime was overthrown Hitler began what he terms his "first more or less political activity." This consisted of giving information to the commission of inquiry set up by the 2nd Infantry Regiment to investigate those who shared responsibility for the brief soviet regime in Munich.

Apparently Hitler's service on this occasion was considered valuable enough to lead the Army to give him further employment. He was assigned to a job in the Press and News Bureau of the Political Department of the Army's district command. The German Army, contrary to its traditions, was now deep in politics
, especially in Bavaria, where at last it had established a government to its liking. To further its conservative views it gave the soldiers courses of "political instruction," in one of which Adolf Hitler was an attentive pupil. One day, according to his own story, he intervened during a lecture in which someone had said a good word for the Jews. His anti-Semitic harangue apparently so pleased his superior officers that he was soon posted to a Munich regiment as an educational officer, a Bildungsoffizier, whose main task was to combat dangerous ideas -- pacifism, socialism, democracy; such was the Army's conception of its role in the democratic Republic it had sworn to serve.

This was an important break for Hitler, the first recognition he had won in the field of politics he was now trying to enter. Above all, it gave him a chance to try out his oratorical abilities -- the first prerequisite, as he had always maintained, of a successful politician. "All at once," he says, "I was offered an opportunity of speaking before a larger audience; and the thing that I had always presumed from pure feeling without knowing it was now corroborated: I could 'speak.''' The discovery pleased him greatly even if it came as no great surprise. He had been afraid that his voice might have been permanently weakened by the gassing he had suffered at the front. Now he found it had recovered sufficiently to enable him to make himself heard "at least in every corner of the small squad rooms." [8] This was the beginning of a talent that was to make him easily the most effective orator in Germany, with a magic power, after he took to radio, to sway millions by his voice.

One day in September 1919, Hitler received orders from the Army's Political Department to have a look at a tiny political group in Munich which called itself the German Workers' Party. The military were suspicious of workers' parties, since they were predominantly Socialist or Communist, but this one, it was believed, might be different. Hitler says it was "entirely unknown" to him. And yet he knew one of the men who was scheduled to speak at the party's meeting which he had been assigned to investigate.

A few weeks before, in one of his Army educational courses, he had heard a lecture by Gottfried Feder, a construction engineer and a crank in the field of economics, who had become obsessed with the idea that "speculative" capital, as opposed to "creative" and "productive" capital, was the root of much of Germany's economic trouble. He was for abolishing the first kind and in 1917 had formed an organization to achieve this purpose: the German Fighting League for the Breaking of Interest Slavery. Hitler, ignorant of economics, was much impressed by Feder's lecture. He saw in Feder's appeal for the "breaking of interest slavery" one of the "essential premises for the foundation of a new party." In Feder's lecture, he says, "I sensed a powerful slogan for this coming struggle." [9]

But at first he did not sense any importance in the German Workers' Party. He went to its meeting because he was ordered to, and, after sitting through what he thought was a dull session of some twenty-five persons gathered in a murky room in the Sterneckerbrau beer cellar, he was not impressed. It was "a new organization like so many others. This was a time," he says, "in which anyone who was not satisfied with developments ... felt called upon to found a new party. Everywhere these organizations sprang out of the ground, only to vanish silently after a time. I judged the German Workers' Party no differently." [10] After Feder had finished speaking Hitler was about to leave, when a "professor" sprang up, questioned the soundness of Feder's arguments and then proposed that Bavaria should break away from Prussia and found a South German nation with Austria. This was a popular notion in Munich at the time, but its expression aroused Hitler to a fury and he rose to give "the learned gentleman," as he later recounted, a piece of his mind. This apparently was so violent that, according to Hitler, the "professor" left the hall "like a wet poodle," while the rest of the audience looked at the unknown young speaker "with astonished faces." One man -- Hitler says he did not catch his name -- came leaping after him and pressed a little booklet into his hands.

This man was Anton Drexler, a locksmith by trade, who may be said to have been the actual founder of National Socialism.
A sickly, bespectacled man, lacking a formal education, with an independent but narrow and confused mind, a poor writer and a worse speaker, Drexler was then employed in the Munich railroad shops. On March 7, 1918, he had set up a "Committee of Independent Workmen" to combat the Marxism of the free trade unions and to agitate for a "just" peace for Germany. Actually, it was a branch of a larger movement established in North Germany as the Association for the Promotion of Peace on Working-Class Lines (the country was then and would continue to be until 1933 full of countless pressure groups with highfalutin titles).

Drexler never recruited more than forty members, and in January 1919 he merged his committee with a similar group, the Political Workers' Circle, led by a newspaper reporter, one Karl Harrer. The new organization, which numbered less than a hundred, was called the German Workers' Party and Harrer was its first chairman. Hitler, who has little to say in Mein Kampf of some of his early comrades whose names are now forgotten, pays Harrer the tribute of being "honest" and "certainly widely educated" but regrets that he lacked the "oratorical gift." Perhaps Harrer's chief claim to fleeting fame is that he stubbornly maintained that Hitler was a poor speaker, a judgment which riled the Nazi leader ever after, as he makes plain in his autobiography. At any rate, Drexler seems to have been the chief driving force in this small, unknown German Workers' Party.

The next morning Hitler turned to a perusal of the booklet which Drexler had thrust into his hands.
He describes the scene at length in Mein Kampf. It was 5 A.M. Hitler had awakened and, as he says was his custom, was reclining on his cot in the barracks of the 2nd Infantry Regiment watching the mice nibble at the bread crumbs which he invariably scattered on the floor the night before. "I had known so much poverty in my life," he muses, "that I was well able to imagine the hunger and hence also the pleasure of the little creatures." He remembered the little pamphlet and began to read it. It was entitled "My Political Awakening." To Hitler's surprise, it reflected a good many ideas which he himself had acquired over the years. Drexler's principal aim was to build a political party which would be based on the masses of the working class but which, unlike the Social Democrats, would be strongly nationalist. Drexler had been a member of the patriotic Fatherland Front but had soon become disillusioned with its middle-class spirit which seemed to have no contact at all with the masses. In Vienna, as we have seen, Hitler had learned to scorn the bourgeoisie for the same reason -- its utter lack of concern with the working-class families and their social problems. Drexler's ideas, then, definitely interested him.

Later that day Hitler was astonished to receive a postcard saying that he had been accepted in the German Workers' Party. "I didn't know whether to be angry or to laugh," he remembered later. "I had no intention of joining a ready-made party, but wanted to found one of my own. What they asked of me was presumptuous and out of the question." [11] He was about to say so in a letter when "curiosity won out" and he decided to go to a committee meeting to which he had been invited and explain in person his reasons for not joining "this absurd little organization."

The tavern in which the meeting was to take place was the Alte Rosenbad in the Herrenstrasse, a very run-down place ... I went through the ill-lit dining room in which not a soul was sitting, opened the door to the back room, and there I was face to face with the Committee. In the dim light of a grimy gas lamp four young people sat at a table, among them the author of the little pamphlet, who at once greeted me most joyfully and bade me welcome as a new member of the German Workers' Party.

Really, I was somewhat taken aback. The minutes of the last meeting were read and the secretary given a vote of confidence. Next came the treasury report -- all in all the association possessed seven marks and fifty pfennigs -- for which the treasurer received a vote of confidence. This too was entered in the minutes. Then the first chairman read the answers to a letter from Kiel, one from Duesseldorf, and one from Berlin and everyone expressed approval. Next a report was given on the incoming mail ...

Terrible, terrible! This was club life of the worst manner and sort. Was I to join this organization? [12]

Yet there was something about these shabby men in the ill-lit back room that attracted him: "the longing for a new movement which should be more than a party in the previous sense of the word." That evening he returned to the barracks to "face the hardest question of my life: should I join?" Reason, he admits, told him to decline. And yet ... The very unimportance of the organization would give a young man of energy and ideas an opportunity "for real personal activity." Hitler thought over what he could "bring to this task."

That I was poor and without means seemed to me the most bearable part of it, but it was harder that I was numbered among the nameless, that I was one of the millions whom chance permits to live or summons out of existence without even their closest neighbors condescending to take any notice of it. In addition, there was the difficulty which inevitably arose from my lack of schooling.

After two days of agonized pondering and reflection, I finally came to the conviction that I had to take this step.

It was the most decisive resolve of my life. From here there was and could be no turning back. [13]

Adolf Hitler was then and there enrolled as the seventh member of the committee of the German Workers' Party.


There were two members of this insignificant party who deserve mention at this point; both were to prove important in the rise of Hitler. Captain Ernst Roehm, on the staff of the Army's District Command VII in Munich, had joined the party before Hitler. He was a stocky, bull-necked, piggish-eyed, scar-faced professional soldier -- the upper part of his nose had been shot away in 1914 -- with a flair for politics and a natural ability as an organizer. Like Hitler he was possessed of a burning hatred for the democratic Republic and the "November criminals" he held responsible for it. His aim was to re-create a strong nationalist Germany and he believed with Hitler that this could be done only by a party based on the lower classes, from which he himself, unlike most Regular Army officers, had come. A tough, ruthless, driving man -- albeit, like so many of the early Nazis, a homosexual -- he helped to organize the first Nazi strong-arm squads which grew into the S.A., the army of storm troopers which he commanded until his execution by Hitler in 1934. Roehm not only brought into the budding party large numbers of ex-servicemen and freecorps volunteers, who formed the backbone of the organization in its early years, but, as an officer of the Army, which controlled Bavaria, he obtained for Hitler and his movement the protection and sometimes the support of the authorities. Without this help, Hitler probably could never have got a real start in his campaign to incite the people to overthrow the Republic. Certainly he could not have got away with his methods of terror and intimidation without the tolerance of the Bavarian government and police.

Dietrich Eckart, twenty-one years older than Hitler, was often called the spiritual founder of National Socialism. A witty journalist, a mediocre poet and dramatist, he had translated Ibsen's Peer Gynt and written a number of unproduced plays. In Berlin for a time he had led, like Hitler in Vienna, the bohemian vagrant's life, become a drunkard, taken to morphine and, according to Heiden, been confined to a mental institution, where he was finally able to stage his dramas, using the inmates as actors. He had returned to his native Bavaria at the war's end and held forth before a circle of admirers at the Brennessel wine cellar in Schwabling, the artists' quarter in Munich, preaching Aryan superiority and calling for the elimination of the Jews and the downfall of the "swine" in Berlin.

"We need a fellow at the head," Heiden, who was a working newspaperman in Munich at the time, quotes Eckart as declaiming to the habitues of the Brennessel wine cellar in 1919, "who can stand the sound of a machine gun. The rabble need to get fear into their pants. We can't use an officer, because the people don't respect them any more. The best would be a worker who knows how to talk . . . He doesn't need much brains ... He must be a bachelor, then we'll get the women." [14]

What more natural than that the hard-drinking poet [vi] should find in Adolf Hitler the very man he was looking for? He became a close adviser to the rising young man in the German Workers' Party, lending him books, helping to improve his German -- both written and spoken -- and introducing him to his wide circle of friends, which included not only certain wealthy persons who were induced to contribute to the party's funds and Hitler's living but such future aides as Rudolf Hess and Alfred Rosenberg.
Hitler's admiration for Eckart never flagged, and the last sentence of Mein Kampf is an expression of gratitude to this erratic mentor: He was, says Hitler in concluding his book, "one of the best, who devoted his life to the awakening of our people, in his writings and his thoughts and finally in his deeds." [15]


Such was the weird assortment of misfits who founded National Socialism, who unknowingly began to shape a movement which in thirteen years would sweep the country, the strongest in Europe, and bring to Germany its Third Reich. The confused locksmith Drexler provided the kernel, the drunken poet Eckart some of the "spiritual" foundation, the economic crank Feder what passed as an ideology, the homosexual Roehm the support of the Army and the war veterans, but it was now the former tramp, Adolf Hitler, not quite thirty-one and utterly unknown, who took the lead in building up what had been no more than a back-room debating society into what would soon become a formidable political party.

All the ideas which had been bubbling in his mind since the lonesome days of hunger in Vienna now found an outlet, and an inner energy which had not been observable in his make-up burst forth. He prodded his timid committee into organizing bigger meetings. He personally typed out and distributed invitations. Later he recalled how once, after he had distributed eighty of these, "we sat waiting for the masses who were expected to appear. An hour late, the 'chairman' had to open the 'meeting.' We were again seven, the old seven." [16] But he was not to be discouraged. He increased the number of invitations by having them mimeographed. He collected a few marks to insert a notice of a meeting in a local newspaper. "The success," he says, "was positively amazing. One hundred and eleven people were present." Hitler was to make his first "public" speech, following the main address by a "Munich professor." Harrer, nominal head of the party, objected. "This gentleman, who was certainly otherwise honest," Hitler relates, "just happened to be convinced that I might be capable of doing certain things, but not of speaking. I spoke for thirty minutes, and what before I had simply felt within me, without in any way knowing it, was now proved by reality: I could speak!" [17] Hitler claims the audience was "electrified" by his oratory and its enthusiasm proved by donations of three hundred marks, which temporarily relieved the party of its financial worries.

At the start of 1920, Hitler took over the party's propaganda, an activity to which he had given much thought since he had observed its importance in the Socialist and Christian Social parties in Vienna. He began immediately to organize by far the biggest meeting ever dreamt of by the pitifully small party. It was to be held on February 24, 1920, in the Festsaal of the famous Hofbrauhaus, with a seating capacity of nearly two thousand. Hitler's fellow committeemen thought he was crazy. Harrer resigned in protest and was replaced by Drexler, who remained skeptical. [vii] Hitler emphasizes that he personally conducted the preparations. Indeed the event loomed so large for him that he concludes the first volume of Mein Kampf with a description of it, because, he explains, it was the occasion when "the party burst the narrow bonds of a small club and for the first time exerted a determining influence on the mightiest factor of our time: public opinion."

Hitler was not even scheduled as the main speaker. This role was reserved for a certain Dr. Johannes Dingfelder, a homeopathic physician, a crackpot who contributed articles on economics to the newspapers under the pseudonym of "Germanus Agricola," and who was soon to be forgotten. His speech was greeted with silence; then Hitler began to speak. As he describes the scene:

There was a hail of shouts, there were violent clashes in the hall, a handful of the most faithful war comrades and other supporters battled with the disturbers ... Communists and Socialists ... and only little by little were able to restore order. I was able to go on speaking. After half an hour the applause slowly began to drown out the screaming and shouting ... When after nearly four hours the hall began to empty I knew that now the principles of the movement which could no longer be forgotten were moving out among the German people. [18]

In the course of his speech Hitler had enunciated for the first time the twenty-five points of the program of the German Workers' Party. They had been hastily drawn up by Drexler, Feder and Hitler. Most of the heckling at Hitler had really been directed against parts of the program which he read out, but he nevertheless considered all the points as having been adopted and they became the official program of the Nazi Party when its name was altered on April 1, 1920, to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Indeed, for tactical reasons Hitler in 1926 declared them "unalterable."

They are certainly a hodgepodge, a catchall for the workers, the lower middle class and the peasants, and most of them were forgotten by the time the party came to power. A good many writers on Germany have ridiculed them, and the Nazi leader himself was later to be embarrassed when reminded of some of them. Yet, as in the case of the main principles laid down in Mein Kampf, the most important of them were carried out by the Third Reich, with consequences disastrous to millions of people, inside and outside of Germany.

The very first point in the program demanded the union of all Germans in a Greater Germany. Was this not exactly what Chancellor Hitler would insist on and get when he annexed Austria and its six million Germans, when he took the Sudetenland with its three million Germans? And was it not his demand for the return of German Danzig and the other areas in Poland inhabited predominantly by Germans which led to the German attack on Poland and brought on World War II? And cannot it be added that it was one of the world's misfortunes that so many in the interwar years either ignored or laughed off the Nazi aims which Hitler had taken the pains to put down in writing? Surely the anti-Semitic points of the program promulgated in the Munich beer hall on the evening of February 24, 1920, constituted a dire warning. The Jews were to be denied office and even citizenship in Germany and excluded from the press. All who had entered the Reich after August 2, 1914, were to be expelled.

A good many paragraphs of the party program were obviously merely a demagogic appeal to the mood of the lower classes at a time when they were in bad straits and were sympathetic to radical and even socialist slogans. Point 11, for example, demanded abolition of incomes unearned by work; Point 12, the nationalization of trusts; Point 13, the sharing with the state of profits from large industry; Point 14, the abolishing of land rents and speculation in land. Point 18 demanded the death penalty for traitors, usurers and profiteers, and Point 16, calling for the maintenance of "a sound middle class," insisted on the communalization of department stores and their lease at cheap rates to small traders. These demands had been put in at the insistence of Drexler and Feder, who apparently really believed in the "socialism" of National Socialism. They were the ideas which Hitler was to find embarrassing when the big industrialists and landlords began to pour money into the party coffers, and of course nothing was ever done about them.

There were, finally, two points of the program which Hitler would carry out as soon as he became Chancellor. Point 2 demanded the abrogation of the treaties of Versailles and St. Germain. The last point, number 25, insisted on "the creation of a strong central power of the State." This, like Points 1 and 2 demanding the union of all Germans in the Reich and the abolition of the peace treaties, was put into the program at Hitler's insistence and it showed how even then, when his party was hardly known outside Munich, he was casting his eyes on further horizons even at the risk of losing popular support in his own bailiwick.

Separatism was very strong in Bavaria at the time and the Bavarians, constantly at odds with the central government in Berlin, were demanding less, not more, centralization, so that Bavaria could rule itself. In fact, this was what it was doing at the moment; Berlin's writ had very little authority in the states. Hitler was looking ahead for power not only in Bavaria but eventually in the Reich, and to hold and exercise that power a dictatorial regime such as he already envisaged needed to constitute itself as a strong centralized authority, doing away with the semiautonomous states which under the Weimar Republic, as under the Hohenzollern Empire, enjoyed their own parliaments and governments. One of his first acts after January 30, 1933, was to swiftly carry out this final point in the party's program which so few had noticed or taken seriously. No one could say he had not given ample warning, in writing, from the very beginning.

Inflammatory oratory and a radical, catchall program, important as they were for a fledgling party out to attract attention and recruit mass support, were not enough, and Hitler now turned his attention to providing more -- much more. The first signs of his peculiar genius began to appear and make themselves felt. What the masses needed, he thought, were not only ideas -- a few simple ideas, that is, that he could ceaselessly hammer through their skulls -- but symbols that would win their faith, pageantry and color that would arouse them, and acts of violence and terror, which if successful, would attract adherents (were not most Germans drawn to the strong?) and give them a sense of power over the weak.

In Vienna, as we have seen, he was intrigued by what he called the "infamous spiritual and physical terror" which he thought was employed by the Social Democrats against their political opponents. [viii] Now he turned it to good purpose in his own anti-Socialist party.
At first ex-servicemen were assigned to the meetings to silence hecklers and, if necessary, toss them out. In the summer of 1920, soon after the party had added "National Socialist" to the name of the "German Workers' Party" and became the National Socialist German Workers' Party, or N.S.D.A.P., as it was now to be familiarly known, Hitler organized a bunch of roughneck war veterans into "strong-arm" squads, Ordnertruppe, under the command of Emil Maurice, an ex-convict and watchmaker. On October 5, 1921, after camouflaging themselves for a short time as the "Gymnastic and Sports Division" of the party to escape suppression by the Berlin government, they were officially named the Sturmabteilung, from which the name S.A. came. The storm troopers, outfitted in brown uniforms, were recruited largely from the freebooters of the free corps and placed under the command of Johann Ulrich Klintzich, an aide of the notorious Captain Ehrhardt, who had recently been released from imprisonment in connection with the murder of Erzberger.

These uniformed rowdies, not content to keep order at Nazi meetings, soon took to breaking up those of the other parties. Once in 1921 Hitler personally led his storm troopers in an attack on a meeting which was to be addressed by a Bavarian federalist by the name of Ballerstedt, who received a beating. For this Hitler was sentenced to three months in jail, one of which he served. This was his first experience in jail and he emerged from it somewhat of a martyr and more popular than ever. "It's all right," Hitler boasted to the police. "We got what we wanted. Ballerstedt did not speak." As Hitler had told an audience some months before, "The National Socialist Movement will in the future ruthlessly prevent -- if necessary by force -- all meetings or lectures that are likely to distract the minds of our fellow countrymen." [19]

In the summer of 1920 Hitler, the frustrated artist but now becoming the master propagandist, came up with an inspiration which can only be described as a stroke of genius. What the party lacked, he saw, was an emblem, a flag, a symbol, which would express what the new organization stood for and appeal to the imagination of the masses, who, as Hitler reasoned, must have some striking banner to follow and to fight under. After much thought and innumerable attempts at various designs he hit upon a flag with a red background and in the middle a white disk on which was imprinted a black swastika. The hooked cross -- the hakenkreuz -- of the swastika, borrowed though it was from more ancient times, was to become a mighty and frightening symbol of the Nazi Party and ultimately of Nazi Germany. Whence Hitler got the idea of using it for both the flag and the insignia of the party he does not say in a lengthy dissertation on the subject in Mein Kampf.

The hakenkreuz is as old, almost, as man on the planet. It has been found in the ruins of Troy and of Egypt and China. I myself have seen it in ancient Hindu and Buddhist relics in India. In more recent times it showed up as an official emblem in such Baltic states as Estonia and Finland, where the men of the German free corps saw it during the fighting of 1918-19. The Ehrhardt Brigade had it painted on their steel helmets when they entered Berlin during the Kapp putsch in 1920. Hitler had undoubtedly seen it in Austria in the emblems of one or the other anti-Semitic parties and perhaps he was struck by it when the Ehrhardt Brigade came to Munich. He says that numerous designs suggested to him by party members invariably included a swastika and that a "dentist from Sternberg" actually delivered a design for a flag that "was not bad at all and quite close to my own."

For the colors Hitler had of course rejected the black, red and gold of the hated Weimar Republic. He declined to adopt the old imperial flag of red, white and black, but he liked its colors not only because, he says, they form "the most brilliant harmony in existence," but because they were the colors of a Germany for which he had fought. But they had to be given a new form, and so a swastika was added.

Hitler reveled in his unique creation. "A symbol it really is!" he exclaims in Mein Kampf. "In red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalist idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for the victory of the Aryan man." [20]

Soon the swastika armband was devised for the uniforms of the storm troopers and the party members, and two years later Hitler designed the Nazi standards which would be carried in the massive parades and would adorn the stages of the mass meetings. Taken from old Roman designs, they consisted of a black metal swastika on top with a silver wreath surmounted by an eagle, and, below, the initials NSDAP on a metal rectangle from which hung cords with fringe and tassels, a square swastika flag with "Deutschland Erwache! (Germany Awake!)" emblazoned on it.

This may not have been "art," but it was propaganda of the highest order. The Nazis now had a symbol which no other party could match. The hooked cross seemed to possess some mystic power of its own, to beckon to action in a new direction the insecure lower middle classes which had been floundering in the uncertainty of the first chaotic postwar years. They began to flock under its banner.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:44 pm

Part 2 of 2


In the summer of 1921 the rising young agitator who had shown such surprising talents not only as an orator but as an organizer and a propagandist took over the undisputed leadership of the party. In doing so, he gave his fellow workers a first taste of the ruthlessness and tactical shrewdness with which he was to gain so much success in more important crises later on.

Early in the summer Hitler had gone to Berlin to get in touch with North German nationalist elements and to speak at the National Club, which was their spiritual headquarters. He wanted to assess the possibilities of carrying his own movement beyond the Bavarian borders into the rest of Germany. Perhaps he could make some useful alliances for that purpose. While he was away the other members of the committee of the Nazi Party decided the moment was opportune to challenge his leadership. He had become too dictatorial for them. They proposed some alliances themselves with similarly minded groups in South Germany, especially with the "German Socialist Party" which a notorious Jew-baiter, Julius Streicher, a bitter enemy and a rival of Hitler, was building up in Nuremberg. The committee members were sure that if these groups, with their ambitious leaders, could be merged with the Nazis, Hitler would be reduced in size.

Sensing the threat to his position, Hitler hurried back to Munich to quell the intrigues of these "foolish lunatics," as he called them in Mein Kampf. He offered to resign from the party. This was more than the party could afford, as the other members of the committee quickly realized. Hitler was not only their most powerful speaker but their best organizer and propagandist. Moreover, it was he who was now bringing in most of the organization's funds -- from collections at the mass meetings at which he spoke and from other sources as well, including the Army. If he left, the budding Nazi Party would surely go to pieces. The committee refused to accept his resignation. Hitler, reassured of the strength of his position, now forced a complete capitulation on the other leaders. He demanded dictatorial powers for himself as the party's sole leader, the abolition of the committee itself and an end to intrigues with other groups such as Streicher's.

This was too much for the other committee members. Led by the party's founder, Anton Drexler, they drew up an indictment of the would-be dictator and circulated it as a pamphlet. It was the most drastic accusation Hitler was ever confronted with from the ranks of his own party -- from those, that is, who had firsthand knowledge of his character and how he operated.

A lust for power and personal ambition have caused Herr Adolf Hitler to return to his post after his six weeks' stay in Berlin, of which the purpose has not yet been disclosed. He regards the time as ripe for bringing disunion and schism into our ranks by means of shadowy people behind him, and thus to further the interests of the Jews and their friends. It grows more and more clear that his purpose is simply to use the National Socialist party as a springboard for his own immoral purposes, and to seize the leadership in order to force the Party onto a different track at the psychological moment. This is most clearly shown by an ultimatum which he sent to the Party leaders a few days ago, in which he demands, among other things, that he shall have a sole and absolute dictatorship of the Party, and that the Committee, including the locksmith Anton Drexler, the founder and leader of the Party, should retire....

And how does he carry on his campaign? Like a Jew. He twists every fact ... National Socialists! Make up your minds about such characters! Make no mistake. Hitler is a demagogue ... He believes himself capable . . . of filling you up with all kinds of tales that are anything but the truth. [21]

Although weakened by a silly anti-Semitism (Hitler acting like a Jew!), the charges were substantially true, but publicizing them did not get the rebels as far as might be supposed. Hitler promptly brought a libel suit against the authors of the pamphlet, and Drexler himself, at a public meeting, was forced to repudiate it. In two special meetings of the party Hitler dictated his peace terms. The statutes were changed to abolish the committee and give him dictatorial powers as president. The humiliated Drexler was booted upstairs as honorary president, and he soon passed out of the picture. [ix] As Heiden says, it was the victory of the Cavaliers over the Roundheads of the party. But it was more than that. Then and there, in July 1921, was established the "leadership principle" which was to be the law first of the Nazi Party and then of the Third Reich. The "Fuehrer" had arrived on the German scene.

The "leader" now set to work to reorganize the party. The gloomy taproom in the back of the Sterneckerbrau, which to Hitler was more of "a funeral vault than an office," was given up and new offices in another tavern in the Corneliusstrasse occupied. These were lighter and roomier. An old Adler typewriter was purchased on the installment plan, and a safe, filing cabinets, furniture, a telephone and a full-time paid secretary were gradually acquired.

Money was beginning to come in. Nearly a year before, in December of 1920, the party had acquired a run-down newspaper badly in debt, the Voelkischer Beobachter, an anti-Semitic gossip sheet which appeared twice a week. Exactly where the sixty thousand marks for its purchase came from was a secret which Hitler kept well, but it is known that Eckart and Roehm persuaded Major General Ritter von Epp, Roehm's commanding officer in the Reichswehr and himself a member of the party, to raise the sum. Most likely it came from Army secret funds. At the beginning of 1923 the Voelkischer Beobachter became a daily, thus giving Hitler the prerequisite of all German political parties, a daily newspaper in which to preach the party's gospels. Running a daily political journal required additional money, and this now came from what must have seemed to some of the more proletarian roughnecks of the party like strange sources. Frau Helene Bechstein, wife of the wealthy piano manufacturer, was one. From their first meeting she took a liking to the young firebrand, inviting him to stay at the Bechstein home when he was in Berlin, arranging parties in which he could meet the affluent, and donating sizable sums to the movement. Part of the money to finance the new daily came from a Frau Gertrud von Seidlitz, a BaIt, who owned stock in some prosperous Finnish paper mills.

In March 1923, a Harvard graduate, Ernst (Putzi) Hanfstaengl, whose mother was American and whose cultivated and wealthy family owned an art-publishing business in Munich, loaned the party one thousand dollars against a mortgage on the Voelkischer Beobachter.
[x] This was a fabulous sum in marks in those inflationary days and was of immense help to the party and its newspaper. But the friendship of the Hanfstaengls extended beyond monetary help. It was one of the first respectable families of means in Munich to open its doors to the brawling young politician. Putzi became a good friend of Hitler, who eventually made him chief of the Foreign Press Department of the party. An eccentric, gangling man, whose sardonic wit somewhat compensated for his shallow mind, Hanfstaengl was a virtuoso at the piano and on many an evening, even after his friend came to power in Berlin, he would excuse himself from the company of those of us who might be with him to answer a hasty summons from the Fuehrer. It was said that his piano-playing -- he pounded the instrument furiously -- and his clowning soothed Hitler and even cheered him up after a tiring day. Later this strange but genial Harvard man, like some other early cronies of Hitler, would have to flee the country for his life. [xi]


Most of the men who were to become Hitler's closest subordinates were now in the party or would shortly enter it. Rudolf Hess joined in 1920. Son of a German wholesale merchant domiciled in Egypt, Hess had spent the first fourteen years of his life in that country and had then come to the Rhineland for his education. During the war he served for a time in the List Regiment with Hitler -- though they did not become acquainted then -- and after being twice wounded became a flyer. He enrolled in the University of Munich after the war as a student of economics but seems to have spent much of his time distributing anti-Semitic pamphlets and fighting with the various armed bands then at loose in Bavaria. He was in the thick of the firing when the soviet regime in Munich was overthrown on May 1, 1919, and was wounded in the leg. One evening a year later he went to hear Hitler speak, was carried away by his eloquence and joined the party, and soon he became a close friend, a devoted follower and secretary of the leader. It was he who introduced Hitler to the geopolitical ideas of General Karl Haushofer, then a professor of geopolitics at the university.

Hess had stirred Hitler with a prize-winning essay which he wrote for a thesis, entitled "How Must the Man Be Constituted Who Will Lead Germany Back to Her Old Heights?"

Where all authority has vanished, only a man of the people can establish authority ... The deeper the dictator was originally rooted in the broad masses, the better he understands how to treat them psychologically, the less the workers will distrust him, the more supporters he will win among these most energetic ranks of the people. He himself has nothing in common with the mass; like every great man he is all personality ... When necessity commands, he does not shrink before bloodshed. Great questions are always decided by blood and iron . . . In order to reach his goal, he is prepared to trample on his closest friends ... The lawgiver proceeds with terrible hardness ... As the need arises, he can trample them [the people] with the boots of a grenadier ... [22]

No wonder Hitler took to the young man. This was a portrait perhaps not of the leader as he was at the moment but of the leader he wanted to become -- and did. For all his solemnity and studiousness, Hess remained a man of limited intelligence, always receptive to crackpot ideas, which he could adopt with great fanaticism. Until nearly the end, he would be one of Hitler's most loyal and trusted followers and one of the few who was not bitten by consuming personal ambition.

Alfred Rosenberg, although he was often hailed as the "intellectual leader" of the Nazi Party and indeed its "philosopher," was also a man of mediocre intelligence. Rosenberg may with some truth be put down as a Russian. Like a good many Russian "intellectuals," he was of Baltic German stock. The son of a shoemaker, he was born January 12, 1893, at Reval (now Tallinn) in Estonia, which had been a part of the Czarist Empire since 1721. He chose to study not in Germany but in Russia and received a diploma in architecture from the University of Moscow in 1917. He lived in Moscow through the days of the Bolshevik revolution and it may be that, as some of his enemies in the Nazi Party later said, he flirted with the idea of becoming a young Bolshevik revolutionary. In February 1918, however, he returned to Reval, volunteered for service in the German Army when it reached the city, was turned down as a "Russian" and finally, at the end of 1918, made his way to Munich, where he first became active in White Russian emigre circles.

Rosenberg then met Dietrich Eckart and through him Hitler, and joined the party at the end of 1919. It was inevitable that a man who had, actually received a diploma in architecture would impress the man who had failed even to get into a school of architecture. Hitler was also impressed by Rosenberg's "learning," and he liked the young BaIt's hatred of the Jews and the Bolsheviks. Shortly before Eckart died, toward the end of 1923, Hitler made Rosenberg editor of the Voelkischer Beobachter, and for many years he continued to prop up this utterly muddled man, this confused and shallow "philosopher," as the intellectual mentor of the Nazi movement and as one of its chief authorities on foreign policy.

Like Rudolf Hess, Hermann Goering had also come to Munich some time after the war ostensibly to study economics at the university, and he too had come under the personal spell of Adolf Hitler. One of the nation's great war heroes, the last commander of the famed Richthofen Fighter Squadron, holder of the Pour le Merite, the highest war decoration in Germany, he found it even more difficult than most war veterans to return to the humdrum existence of peacetime civilian life. He became a transport pilot in Denmark for a time and later in Sweden. One day he flew Count Eric von Rosen to the latter's estate some distance from Stockholm and while stopping over as a guest fell in love with Countess Rosen's sister, Carin von Kantzow, nee Baroness Fock, one of Sweden's beauties. Some difficulties arose. Carin von Kantzow was epileptic and was married and the mother of an eight-year-old son. But she was able to have the marriage dissolved and marry the gallant young flyer. Possessed of considerable means, she went with her new husband to Munich, where they lived in some splendor and he dabbled in studies at the university.

But not for long. He met Hitler in 1921, joined the party, contributed generously to its treasury (and to Hitler personally), threw his restless energy into helping Roehm organize the storm troopers and a year later, in 1922, was made commander of the S.A.

A swarm of lesser-known and, for the most part, more unsavory in dividuals joined the circle around the party dictator. Max Amann, Hitler's first sergeant in the List Regiment, a tough, uncouth character but an able organizer, was named business manager of the party and the Voelkischer Beobachter and quickly brought order into the finances of both. As his personal bodyguard Hitler chose Ulrich Graf, an amateur wrestler, a butcher's apprentice and a renowned brawler. As his "court photographer," the only man who for years was permitted to photograph him, Hitler had the lame Heinrich Hoffmann, whose loyalty was doglike and profitable, making him in the end a millionaire. Another favorite brawler was Christian Weber, a horse dealer, a former bouncer in a Munich dive and a lusty beer drinker. Close to Hitler in these days was Hermann Esser, whose oratory rivaled the leader's and whose Jew-baiting articles in the Voelkischer Beobachter were a leading feature of the party newspaper. He made no secret that for a time he lived well off the generosity of some of his mistresses. A notorious blackmailer, resorting to threats to "expose" even his own party comrades who crossed him, Esser became so repulsive to some of the older and more decent men in the movement that they demanded his expulsion. "I know Esser is a scoundrel," Hitler retorted in public, "but I shall hold on to him as long as he can be of use to me." [23] This was to be his attitude toward almost all of his close collaborators, no matter how murky their past -- or indeed their present. Murderers, pimps, homosexual perverts, drug addicts or just plain rowdies were all the same to him if they served his purposes.

He stood Julius Streicher, for example, almost to the end. This depraved sadist, who started life as an elementary-school teacher, was one of the most disreputable men around Hitler from 1922 until 1939, when his star finally faded. A famous fornicator, as he boasted, who blackmailed even the husbands of women who were his mistresses, he made his fame and fortune as a blindly fanatical anti-Semite. His notorious weekly, Der Stuermer, thrived on lurid tales of Jewish sexual crimes and Jewish "ritual murders"; its obscenity was nauseating, even to many Nazis. Streicher was also a noted pornographist. He became known as the "uncrowned King of Franconia" with the center of his power in Nuremberg, where his word was law and where no one who crossed him or displeased him was safe from prison and torture. Until I faced him slumped in the dock at Nuremberg, on trial for his life as a war criminal, I never saw him without a whip in his hand or in his belt, and he laughingly boasted of the countless lashings he had meted out.

Such were the men whom Hitler gathered around him in the early years for his drive to become dictator of a nation which had given the world a Luther, a Kant, a Goethe and a Schiller, a Bach, a Beethoven and a Brahms.


On April 1, 1920, the day the German Workers' Party became the National Socialist German Workers' Party -- from which the abbreviated name "Nazi" emerged -- Hitler left the Army for good. Henceforth he would devote all of his time to the Nazi Party, from which neither then nor later did he accept any salary.

How, then, it might be asked, did Hitler live? His fellow party workers themselves sometimes wondered. In the indictment which the rebel members of the party committee drew up in July 1921, the question was bluntly posed: "If any member asks him how he lives and what was his former profession, he always becomes angry and excited. Up to now no answer has been supplied to these questions. So his conscience cannot be clean, especially as his excessive intercourse with ladies, to whom he often describes himself as 'King of Munich,' costs a great deal of money."

Hitler answered the question during the subsequent libel action which he brought against the authors of the pamphlet. To the question of the court as to exactly how he lived, he replied, "If I speak for the National Socialist Party I take no money for myself. But I also speak for other organizations . . . and then of course I accept a fee. I also have my midday meal with various party comrades in turn. I am further assisted to a modest extent by a few party comrades." [24]

Probably this was very close to the truth. Such' well-heeled friends as Dietrich Eckart, Goering and Hanfstaengl undoubtedly "lent" him money to pay his rent, purchase clothes and buy a meal. His wants were certainly modest. Until 1929 he occupied a two-room flat in a lower-middle-class district in the Thierschstrasse near the River Isar. In the winter he wore an old trench coat -- it later became familiar to everyone in Germany from numerous photographs. In the summer he often appeared in shorts, the Lederhosen which most Bavarians donned in seasonable weather. In 1923 Eckart and Esser stumbled upon the Platterhof, an inn near Berchtesgaden, as a summer retreat for Hitler and his friends. Hitler fell in love with the lovely mountain country; it was here that he later built the spacious villa, Berghof, which would be his home and where he would spend much of his time until the war years.

There was, however, little time for rest and recreation in the stormy years between 1921 and 1923. There was a party to build and to keep control of in the face of jealous rivals as unscrupulous as himself. The N.S.D.A.P. was but one of several right-wing movements in Bavaria struggling for public attention and support, and beyond, in the rest of Germany, there were many others.

There was a dizzy succession of events and of constantly changing situations for a politician to watch, to evaluate and to take advantage of. In April 1921 the Allies had presented Germany the bill for reparations, a whopping 132 billion gold marks -- 33 billion dollars -- which the Germans howled they could not possibly pay. The mark, normally valued at four to the dollar, had begun to fall; by the summer of 1921 it had dropped to seventy-five, a year later to four hundred, to the dollar. Erzberger had been murdered in August 1921. In June 1922, there was an attempt to assassinate Philipp Scheidemann, the Socialist who had proclaimed the Republic. The same month, June 24, Foreign Minister Rathenau was shot dead in the street. In all three cases the assassins had been men of the extreme Right. The shaky national government in Berlin finally answered the challenge with a special Law for the Protection of the Republic, which imposed severe penalties for political terrorism. Berlin demanded the dissolution of the innumerable armed leagues and the end of political gangsterism. The Bavarian government, even under the moderate Count Lerchenfeld, who had replaced the extremist Kahr in 1921, was finding it difficult to go along with the national regime in Berlin. When it attempted to enforce the law against terrorism, the Bavarian Rightists, of whom Hitler was now one of the acknowledged young leaders, organized a conspiracy to overthrow Lerchenfeld and march on Berlin to bring down the Republic.

The fledgling democratic Weimar Republic was in deep trouble, its very existence constantly threatened not only from the extreme Right but from the extreme Left.



i. The expression appeared in the first German edition of Mein Kampf, but was changed to "revolution" in all subsequent editions.

ii. The attribution of the myth to an English general was hardly factual. Wheeler- Bennett, in Wooden Titan: Hindenburg, has explained that, ironically, two British generals did have something to do -- inadvertently -- with the perpetration of the false legend. "The first was Maj.-Gen. Sir Frederick Maurice, whose book The Last Four Months, published in 1919, was grossly misrepresented by reviewers in the German press as proving that the German Army had been betrayed by the Socialists on the Home Front and not been defeated in the field." The General denied this interpretation in the German press, but to no avail. Ludendorff made use of the reviews to convince Hindenburg. "The other officer," says Wheeler-Bennett, "was Maj.-Gen. Malcolm, head of the British Military Mission in Berlin. Ludendorff was dining with the General one evening, and with his usual turgid eloquence was expatiating on how the High Command had always suffered lack of support from the Civilian Government and how the Revolution had betrayed the Army. In an effort to crystallize the meaning of Ludendorff's verbosity into a single sentence, General Malcolm asked him: 'Do you mean, General, that you were stabbed in the back?' Ludendorff's eyes lit up and he leapt upon the phrase like a dog on a bone. 'Stabbed in the back?' he repeated. 'Yes, that's it exactly. We were stabbed in the back.'''

iii. A few generals were courageous enough to say so. On August 23, 1924, the Frankfurter Zeitung published an article by General Freiherr von Schoenaich analyzing the reasons for Germany's defeat. He came to "the irresistible conclusion that we owe our ruin to the supremacy of our military authorities over civilian authorities ... In fact, German militarism simply committed suicide." (Quoted by Telford Taylor in Sword and Swastika, p. 16.)

iv. Kapp was born in New York on July 24, 1868.

v. At the war's end Ludendorff fled to Sweden disguised in false whiskers and blue spectacles. He returned to Germany in February 1919, writing his wife: "It would be the greatest stupidity for the revolutionaries to allow us all to remain alive. Why, if ever 1 come to power again there will be no pardon. Then with an easy conscience, I would have Ebert, Scheidemann and Co. hanged, and watch them dangle." (Margaritte Ludendorff, Als ich Ludendorffs Frau war, p. 229.) Ebert was the first President and Scheidemann the first Chancellor of the Weimar Republic. Ludendorff, though second-in-command to Hindenburg, had been the virtual dictator of Germany for the last two years of the war.

vi. Eckart died of overdrinking in December 1923.

vii. Harrer also was opposed to Hitler's violent anti-Semitism and believed that Hitler was alienating the working-class masses. These were the real reasons why he resigned.

viii. See above, pp. 22-23.

ix. He left the party in 1923 but served as Vice-President of the Bavarian Diet from 1924 to 1928. In 1930 he became reconciled with Hitler, but he never returned to active politics. The fate of all discoverers, as Heiden observed, overtook Drexler.

x. In his memoirs, Unheard Witness, Hanfstaengl says that he was first steered to Hitler by an American. This was Captain Truman Smith, then an assistant military attache at the American Embassy in Berlin. In November 1922 Smith was sent by the embassy to Munich to check on an obscure political agitator by the name of Adolf Hitler and his newly founded National Socialist Labor Party. For a young professional American Army officer, Captain Smith had a remarkable bent for political analysis. In one week in Munich, November 15-22, he managed to see Ludendorff, Crown Prince Rupprecht and a dozen political leaders in Bavaria, most of whom told him that Hitler was a rising star and his movement a rapidly growing political force. Smith lost no time in attending an outdoor Nazi rally at which Hitler spoke. "Never saw such a sight in my life!" he scribbled in his diary immediately afterward. "Met Hitler," he wrote, "and he promises to talk to me Monday and explain his aims." On the Monday, Smith made his way to Hitler's residence -- "a little bare bedroom on the second floor of a run-down house," as he described it -- and had a long talk with the future dictator, who was scarcely known outside Munich. "A marvelous demagogue!" the assistant U.S. military attache began his diary that evening. "Have rarely listened to such a logical and fanatical man." The date was November 22, 1922.

Just before leaving for Berlin that evening Smith saw Hanfstaengl, told him of his meeting with Hitler and advised him to take a look at the man. The Nazi leader was to address a rally that evening and Captain Smith turned over his press ticket to Hanfstaengl. The latter, like so many others, was overwhelmed by Hitler's oratory, sought him out after the meeting and quickly became a convert to Nazism.

Back in Berlin, which at that time took little notice of Hitler, Captain Smith wrote a lengthy report which the embassy dispatched to Washington on November 25, 1922. Considering when it was written, it is a remarkable document.

The most active political force in Bavaria at the present time [Smith wrote] is the National Socialist Labor Party. Less a political party than a popular movement, it must be considered as the Bavarian counterpart to the Italian fascisti ... It has recently acquired a political influence quite disproportionate to its actual numerical strength ....

Adolf Hitler from the very first has been the dominating force in the movement, and the personality of this man has undoubtedly been one of the most important factors contributing to its success ... His ability to influence a popular assembly is uncanny. In private conversation he disclosed himself as a forceful and logical speaker, which, when tempered with a fanatical earnestness, made a very deep impression on a neutral listener.

Colonel Smith, who later served as American military attache in Berlin during the early years of the Nazi regime, kindly placed his diary and notes of his trip to Munich at the disposal of this writer. They have been invaluable in the preparation of this chapter.

[xi] Hanfstaengl spent part of World War II in Washington, ostensibly as an interned enemy alien but actually as an "adviser" to the United States government on Nazi Germany. This final role of his life, which seemed so ludicrous to Americans who knew him and Nazi Germany, must have amused him.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:47 pm

Part 1 of 2


To MOST MEN in the victorious Allied lands of the West, the proclamation of the Republic in Berlin on November 9, 1918, had appeared to mark the dawn of a new day for the German people and their nation. Woodrow Wilson, in the exchange of notes which led to the armistice, had pressed for the abolition of the Hohenzollern militarist autocracy, and the Germans had seemingly obliged him, although reluctantly. The Kaiser had been forced to abdicate and to flee; the monarchy was dissolved, all the dynasties in Germany were quickly done away with, and republican government was proclaimed.

But proclaimed by accident! On the afternoon of November 9, the so-called Majority Social Democrats under the leadership of Friedrich Ebert and Philipp Scheidemann met in the Reichstag in Berlin following the resignation of the Chancellor, Prince Max of Baden. They were sorely puzzled as to what to do. Prince Max had just announced the abdication of the Kaiser. 'Ebert, a saddler by trade, thought that one of Wilhelm's sons -- anyone except the dissolute Crown Prince -- might succeed him, for he favored a constitutional monarchy on the British pattern. Ebert, though he led the Socialists, abhorred social revolution. "I hate it like sin," he had once declared.

But revolution was in the air in Berlin. The capital was paralyzed by a general strike. Down the broad Unter den Linden, a few blocks from the Reichstag, the Spartacists, led by the Left Socialists Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, were preparing from their citadel in the Kaiser's palace to proclaim a soviet republic. When word of this reached the Socialists in the Reichstag they were consternated. Something had to be done at once to forestall the Spartacists. Scheidemann thought of something. Without consulting his comrades he dashed to the window overlooking the Koenigsplatz, where a great throng had gathered, stuck his head out and on his own, as if the idea had just popped into his head, proclaimed the Republic! The saddle maker Ebert was furious. He had hoped, somehow, to save the Hohenzollern monarchy.

Thus was the German Republic born, as if by a fluke. If the Socialists themselves were not staunch republicans it could hardly be expected that the conservatives would be. But the latter had abdicated their responsibility. They and the Army leaders, Ludendorff and Hindenburg, had pushed political power into the hands of the reluctant Social Democrats. In doing so they managed also to place on the shoulders of these democratic working-class leaders apparent responsibility for signing the surrender and ultimately the peace treaty, thus laying on them the blame for Germany's defeat and for whatever suffering a lost war and a dictated peace might bring upon the German people. This was a shabby trick, one which the merest child would be expected to see through, but in Germany it worked. It doomed the Republic from the start.

Perhaps it need not have. In November 1918 the Social Democrats, holding absolute power, might have quickly laid the foundation for a lasting democratic Republic. But to have done so they would have had to suppress permanently, or at least curb permanently, the forces which had propped up the Hohenzollern Empire and which would not loyally accept a democratic Germany: the feudal Junker landlords and other upper castes, the magnates who ruled over the great industrial cartels, the roving condottieri of the free corps, the ranking officials of the imperial civil service and, above all, the military caste and the members of the General Staff. They would have had to break up many of the great estates, which were wasteful and uneconomic, and the industrial monopolies and cartels, and clean out the bureaucracy, the judiciary, the police, the universities and the Army of all who would not loyally and honestly serve the new democratic regime.

This the Social Democrats, who were mostly well-meaning trade-unionists with the same habit of bowing to old, established authority which was ingrained in Germans of other classes, could not bring themselves to do. Instead they began by abdicating their authority to the force which had always been dominant in modern Germany, the Army. For though it had been defeated on the battlefield the Army still had hopes of maintaining itself at home and of defeating the revolution. To achieve these ends it moved swiftly and boldly.

On the night of November 9, 1918, a few hours after the Republic had been "proclaimed," a telephone rang in the study of Ebert in the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. It was a very special telephone, for it was linked with Supreme Headquarters at Spa by a private and secret line. Ebert was alone. He picked up the telephone. "Groener speaking," a voice said. The former saddle maker, still bewildered by the day's events which had suddenly thrust into his unwilling hands whatever political power remained in a crumbling Germany, was impressed. General Wilhelm Groener was the successor of Ludendorff as First Quartermaster General. Earlier on that very day at Spa it was he who, when Field Marshal von Hindenburg faltered, had bluntly informed the Kaiser that he no longer commanded the loyalty of his troops and must go -- a brave act for which the military caste never forgave him. Ebert and Groener had developed a bond of mutual respect since 1916, when the General, then in charge of war production, had worked closely with the Socialist leader. Early in November -- a few days before -- they had conferred in Berlin on how to save the monarchy and the Fatherland.

Now at the Fatherland's lowest moment a secret telephone line brought them together. Then and there the Socialist leader and the second-in-command of the German Army made a pact which, though it would not be publicly known for many years, was to determine the nation's fate. Ebert agreed to put down anarchy and Bolshevism and maintain the Army in all its tradition. Groener thereupon pledged the support of the Army in helping the new government establish itself and carry out its aims.

"Will the Field Marshal (Hindenburg) retain the command?" Ebert asked.

General Groener replied that he would.

"Convey to the Field Marshal the thanks of the government," Ebert replied. [1]

The German Army was saved, but the Republic, on the very day of its birth, was lost. The generals, with the honorable exception of Groener himself and but few others, would never serve it loyally. In the end, led by Hindenburg, they betrayed it to the Nazis.

At the moment, to be sure, the specter of what had just happened in Russia haunted the minds of Ebert and his fellow Socialists. They did not want to become the German Kerenskys. They did not want to be supplanted by the Bolshevists. Everywhere in Germany the Soldiers' and Workers' Councils were springing up and assuming power, as they had done in Russia. It was these groups which on November 10 elected a Council of People's Representatives, with Ebert at its head, to govern Germany for the time being. In December the first Soviet Congress of Germany met in Berlin. Composed of delegates from the Soldiers' and Workers' Councils throughout the country, it demanded the dismissal of Hindenburg, the abolition of the Regular Army and the substitution of a civil guard whose officers would be elected by the men and which would be under the supreme authority of the Council.

This was too much for Hindenburg and Groener. They declined to recognize the authority of the Soviet Congress. Ebert himself did nothing to carry out its demands. But the Army, fighting for its life, demanded more positive action from the government it had agreed to support. Two days before Christmas the People's Marine Division, now under the control of the Communist Spartacists, occupied the Wilhelmstrasse, broke into the Chancellery and cut its telephone wires. The secret line to Army headquarters, however, continued to function and over it Ebert appealed for help. The Army promised liberation by the Potsdam garrison, but before it could arrive the mutinous sailors retired to their quarters in the stables of the imperial palace, which the Spartacists still held.

The Spartacists, with Karl Liebkneeht and Rosa Luxemburg, the two most effective agitators in Germany, at their head, continued to push for a soviet republic. Their armed power in Berlin was mounting. On Christmas Eve the Marine Division had easily repulsed an attempt by regular troops from Potsdam to dislodge it from the imperial stables. Hindenburg and Groener pressed Ebert to honor the pact between them and suppress the Bolshevists. This the Socialist leader was only too glad to do. Two days after Christmas he appointed Gustav Noske as Minister of National Defense, and from this appointment events proceeded with a logic which all who knew the new Minister might have expected.

Noske was a master butcher by trade who had worked his way up in the trade-union movement and the Social Democratic Party, becoming a member of the Reichstag in 1906, where he became recognized as the party's expert on military affairs. He also became recognized as a strong nationalist and as a strong man. Prince Max of Baden had picked him to put down the naval mutiny at Kiel in the first days of November and he had put it down. A stocky, square-jawed man of great physical strength and energy, though of abbreviated intelligence -- typical, his enemies said, of his trade -- Noske announced on his appointment as Defense Minister that "someone must be the bloodhound."

Early in January 1919 he struck. Between January 10 and 17 -- "Bloody Week," as it was called in Berlin for a time -- regular and freecorps troops under the direction of Noske and the command of General von Luettwitz [i] crushed the Spartacists. Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were captured and murdered by officers of the Guard Cavalry Division.


As soon as the fighting in Berlin was over, elections were held throughout Germany for the National Assembly, which was to draw up the new constitution. The voting, which took place on January 19, 1919, revealed that the middle and upper classes had regained some of their courage in the little more than two months which had elapsed since the "revolution." The Social Democrats (the Majority and Independent Socialists), who had governed alone because no other group would share the burden, received 13,800,000 votes out of 30,000,000 cast and won 185 out of 421 seats in the Assembly, but this was considerably less than a majority. Obviously the new Germany was not going to be built by the working class alone. Two middle-class parties, the Center, representing the political movement of the Roman Catholic Church, and the Democratic Party, born of a fusion in December of the old Progressive Party and the left wing of the National Liberals, polled 11,500,000 votes between them and obtained 166 seats in the Assembly. Both parties professed support for a moderate, democratic Republic, though there was considerable sentiment for an eventual restoration of the monarchy.

The Conservatives, some of whose leaders had gone into hiding in November and others who, like Count von Westarp, had appealed to Ebert for protection, showed that though reduced in numbers they were far from extinguished. Rechristened the German National People's Party, they polled over three million votes and elected 44 deputies; their right-wing allies, the National Liberals, who had changed their name to the German People's Party, received nearly a million and a half votes and won 19 seats. Though decidedly in the minority, the two conservative parties had won enough seats in the Assembly to be vocal. Indeed, no sooner had the Assembly met in Weimar on February 6, 1919, than the leaders of these two groups sprang up to defend the name of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the way he and his generals had conducted the war. Gustav Stresemann, the head of the People's Party, had not yet experienced what later seemed to many to be a change of heart and mind. In 1919 he was still known as the man who had been the Supreme Command's mouthpiece in the Reichstag -- "Ludendorff's young man," as he was called -- a violent supporter of the policy of annexation, a fanatic for unrestricted submarine warfare.

The constitution which emerged from the Assembly after six months of debate -- it was passed on July 31, 1919, and ratified by the President on August 31 -- was, on paper, the most liberal and democratic document of its kind the twentieth century had seen, mechanically well-nigh perfect, full of ingenious and admirable devices which seemed to guarantee the working of an almost flawless democracy. The idea of cabinet government was borrowed from England and France, of a strong popular President from the United States, of the referendum from Switzerland. An elaborate and complicated system of proportional representation and voting by lists was established in order to prevent the wasting of votes and give small minorities a right to be represented in Parliament. [ii]

The wording of the Weimar Constitution was sweet and eloquent to the ear of any democratically minded man. The people were declared sovereign: "Political power emanates from the people." Men and women were given the vote at the age of twenty. "All Germans are equal before the law ... Personal liberty is inviolable ... Every German has a right ... to express his opinion freely ... All Germans have the right to form associations or societies ... All inhabitants of the Reich enjoy complete liberty of belief and conscience ... " No man in the world would be more free than a German, no government more democratic and liberal than his. On paper, at least.


Before the drafting of the Weimar Constitution was finished an inevitable event occurred which cast a spell of doom over it and the Republic which it was to establish. This was the drawing up of the Treaty of Versailles. During the first chaotic and riotous days of the peace and even after the deliberations of the National Assembly got under way in Weimar the German people seemed to give little thought to the consequences of their defeat. Or if they did, they appeared to be smugly confident that having, as the Allies urged, got rid of the Hohenzollerns, squelched the Bolshevists and set about forming a democratic, republican government, they were entitled to a just peace based not on their having lost the war but on President Wilson's celebrated Fourteen Points.

German memories did not appear to stretch back as far as one year, to March 3, 1918, when the then victorious German Supreme Command had imposed on a defeated Russia at Brest Litovsk a peace treaty which to a British historian, writing two decades after the passions of war had cooled, was a "humiliation without precedent or equal in modem history.'' [2] It deprived Russia of a territory nearly as large as Austria-Hungary and Turkey combined, with 56,000,000 inhabitants, or 32 per cent of her whole population; a third of her railway mileage, 73 per cent of her total iron ore, 89 per cent of her total coal production; and more than 5,000 factories and industrial plants. Moreover, Russia was obliged to pay Germany an indemnity of six billion marks.

The day of reckoning arrived for the Germans in the late spring of 1919. The terms of the Versailles Treaty, laid down by the Allies without negotiation with Germany, were published in Berlin on May 7. They came as a staggering blow to a people who had insisted on deluding themselves to the last moment. Angry mass meetings were organized throughout the country to protest against the treaty and to demand that Germany refuse to sign it. Scheidemann, who had become Chancellor during the Weimar Assembly, cried, "May the hand wither that signs this treaty!" On May 8 Ebert, who had become Provisional President, and the government publicly branded the terms as "unrealizable and unbearable." The next day the German delegation at Versailles wrote the un bending Clemence au that such a treaty was "intolerable for any nation."

What was so intolerable about it? It restored Alsace-Lorraine to France, a parcel of territory to Belgium, a similar parcel in Schleswig to Denmark -- after a plebiscite -- which Bismarck had taken from the Danes in the previous century after defeating them in war. It gave back to the Poles the lands, some of them only after a plebiscite, which the Germans had taken during the partition of Poland. This was one of the stipulations which infuriated the Germans the most, not only because they resented separating East Prussia from the Fatherland by a corridor which gave Poland access to the sea, but because they despised the Poles, whom they considered an inferior race. Scarcely less infuriating to the Germans was that the treaty forced them to accept responsibility for starting the war and demanded that they turn over to the Allies Kaiser Wilhelm II and some eight hundred other "war criminals."

Reparations were to be fixed later, but a first payment of five billion dollars in gold marks was to be paid between 1919 and 1921, and certain deliveries in kind -- coal, ships, lumber, cattle, etc. -- were to be made in lieu of cash reparations.

But what hurt most was that Versailles virtually disarmed Germany [iii] and thus, for the time being anyway, barred the way to German hegemony in Europe. And yet the hated Treaty of Versailles, unlike that which Germany had imposed on Russia, left the Reich geographically and economically largely intact and preserved her political unity and her potential strength as a great nation.

The provisional government at Weimar, with the exception of Erzberger, who urged acceptance of the treaty on the grounds that its terms could be easily evaded, was strongly against accepting the Versailles Diktat, as it was now being called. Behind the government stood the overwhelming majority of citizens, from right to left.

And the Army? If the treaty were rejected, could the Army resist an inevitable Allied attack from the west? Ebert put it up to the Supreme Command, which had now moved its headquarters to Kolberg in Pomerania. On June 17 Field Marshal von Hindenburg, prodded by General Groener, who saw that German military resistance would be futile, replied:

In the event of a resumption of hostilities we can reconquer the province of Posen [in Poland] and defend our frontiers in the east. In the west, however, we can scarcely count upon being able to withstand a serious offensive on the part of the enemy in view of the numerical superiority of the Entente and their ability to outflank us on both wings.

The success of the operation as a whole is therefore very doubtful, but as a soldier I cannot help feeling that it were better to perish honorably than accept a disgraceful peace.

The concluding words of the revered Commander in Chief were in the best German military tradition but their sincerity may be judged by knowledge of the fact which the German people were unaware of -- that Hindenburg had agreed with Groener that to try to resist the Allies now would not only be hopeless but might result in the destruction of the cherished officer corps of the Army and indeed of Germany itself.

The Allies were now demanding a definite answer from Germany. On June 16, the day previous to Hindenburg's written answer to Ebert, they had given the Germans an ultimatum: Either the treaty must be accepted by June 24 or the armistice agreement would be terminated and the Allied powers would "take such steps as they think necessary to enforce their terms."

Once again Ebert appealed to Groener. If the Supreme Command thought there was the slightest possibility of successful military resistance to the Allies, Ebert promised to try to secure the rejection of the treaty by the Assembly. But he must have an answer immediately. The last day of the ultimatum, June 24, had arrived. The cabinet was meeting at 4:30 P.M. to make its final decision. Once more Hindenburg and Groener conferred. "You know as well as I do that armed resistance is impossible," the aging, worn Field Marshal said. But once again, as at Spa on November 9, 1918, when he could not bring himself to tell the Kaiser the final truth and left the unpleasant duty to Groener, he declined to tell the truth to the Provisional President of the Republic. "You can give the answer to the President as well as I can," he said to Groener. [3] And again the courageous General took the final responsibility which belonged to the Field Marshal, though he must have known that it would eventually make doubly sure his being made a scapegoat for the officer corps. He telephoned the Supreme Command's view to the President.

Relieved at having the Army's leaders take the responsibility -- a fact that was soon forgotten in Germany -- the National Assembly approved the signing of the peace treaty by a large majority and its decision was communicated to Clemence au a bare nineteen minutes before the Allied ultimatum ran out. Four days later, on June 28, 1919, the treaty of peace was signed in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.


From that day on Germany became a house divided. The conservatives would accept neither the treaty of peace nor the Republic which had ratified it. Nor, in the long run, would the Army -- General Groener excepted -- though it had sworn to support the new democratic regime and had itself made the final decision to sign at Versailles. Despite the November "revolution," the conservatives still held the economic power. They owned the industries, the large estates and most of the country's capital. Their wealth could be used, and was, to subsidize political parties and a political press that would strive from now on to undermine the Republic.

The Army began to circumvent the military restrictions of the peace treaty before the ink on it was scarcely dry. And thanks to the timidity and shortsightedness of the Socialist leaders, the officer corps managed not only to maintain the Army in its old Prussian traditions, as we have seen, but to become the real center of political power in the new Germany. The Army did not, until the last days of the short-lived Republic, stake its fortunes on anyone political movement. But under General Hans von Seeckt, the brilliant creator of the 100,000-man Reichswehr, the Army, small as it was in numbers, became a state within a state, exerting an increasing influence on the nation's foreign and domestic policies until a point was reached where the Republic's continued existence depended on the will of the officer corps.

As a state within a state it maintained its independence of the national government. Under the Weimar Constitution the Army could have been subordinated to the cabinet and Parliament, as the military establishments of the other Western democracies were. But it was not. Nor was the officer corps purged of its monarchist, antirepublican frame of mind. A few Socialist leaders such as Scheidemann and Grzesinski urged "democratizing" the armed forces. They saw the danger of handing the Army back to the officers of the old authoritarian, imperialist tradition. But they were successfully opposed not only by the generals but by their fellow Socialists, led by the Minister of Defense, Noske. This proletarian minister of the Republic openly boasted that he wanted to revive "the proud soldier memories of the World War." The failure of the duly elected government to build a new Army that would be faithful to its own democratic spirit and subordinate to the cabinet and the Reichstag was a fatal mistake for the Republic, as time would tell.

The failure to clean out "the judiciary was another. The administrators of the law became one of the centers of the counterrevolution, perverting justice for reactionary political ends. "It is impossible to escape the conclusion," the historian Franz L. Neumann declared, "that political justice is the blackest page in the life of the German Republic." [4] After the Kapp putsch in 1920 the government charged 705 persons with high treason; only one, the police president of Berlin, received a sentence -- five years of "honorary confinement." When the state of Prussia withdrew his pension the Supreme Court ordered it restored. A German court in December 1926 awarded General von Luettwitz, the military leader of the Kapp putsch, back payment of his pension to cover the period when he was a rebel against the government and also the five years that he was a fugitive from justice in Hungary.

Yet hundreds of German liberals were sentenced to long prison terms on charges of treason because they revealed or denounced in the press or by speech the Army's constant violations of the Versailles Treaty. The treason laws were ruthlessly applied to the supporters of the Republic; those on the Right who tried to overthrow it, as Adolf Hitler was soon to learn, got off either free or with the lightest of sentences. Even the assassins, if they were of the Right and their victims democrats, were leniently treated by the courts or, as often happened, helped to escape from the custody of the courts by Army officers and right-wing extremists.

And so the mild Socialists, aided by the democrats and the Catholic Centrists, were left to carry on the Republic, which tottered from its birth. They bore the hatred, the abuse and sometimes the bullets of their opponents, who grew in number and in resolve. "In the heart of the people," cried Oswald Spengler, who had skyrocketed to fame with his book The Decline of the West, "the Weimar Constitution is already doomed." Down in Bavaria the young firebrand Adolf Hitler grasped the strength of the new nationalist, antidemocratic, antirepublican tide. He began to ride it.

He was greatly aided by the course of events, two in particular: the fall of the mark and the French occupation of the Ruhr. The mark, as we have seen, had begun to slide in 1921, when it dropped to 75 to the dollar; the next year it fell to 400 and by the beginning of 1923 to 7,000. Already in the fall of 1922 the German government had asked the Allies to grant a moratorium on reparation payments. This the French government of Poincare had bluntly refused. When Germany defaulted in deliveries of timber, the hardheaded French Premier, who had been the wartime President of France, ordered French troops to occupy the Ruhr. The industrial heart of Germany, which, after the loss of Upper Silesia to Poland, furnished the Reich with four fifths of its coal and steel production, was cut off from the rest of the country.

This paralyzing blow to Germany's economy united the people momentarily as they had not been united since 1914. The workers of the Ruhr declared a general strike and received financial support from the government in Berlin, which called for a campaign of passive resistance. With the help of the Army, sabotage and guerrilla warfare were organized. The French countered with arrests, deportations and even death sentences. But not a wheel in the Ruhr turned.

The strangulation of Germany's economy hastened the final plunge of the mark. On the occupation of the Ruhr in January 1923, it fell to 18,000 to the dollar; by July 1 it had dropped to 160,000; by August 1 to a million. By November, when Hitler thought his hour had struck, it took four billion marks to buy a dollar, and thereafter the figures became trillions. German currency had become utterly worthless. Purchasing power of salaries and wages was reduced to zero. The life savings of the middle classes and the working classes were wiped out. But something even more important was destroyed: the faith of the people in the economic structure of German society. What good were the standards and practices of such a society, which encouraged savings and investment and solemnly promised a safe return from them and then defaulted? Was this not a fraud upon the people?

And was not the democratic Republic, which had surrendered to the enemy and accepted the burden of reparations, to blame for the disaster? Unfortunately for its survival, the Republic did bear a responsibility. The inflation could have been halted by merely balancing the budget-a difficult but not impossible feat. Adequate taxation might have achieved this, but the new government did not dare to tax adequately. After all, the cost of the war -- 164 billion marks -- had been met not even in part by direct taxation but 93 billions of it by war loans, 29 billions out of Treasury bills and the rest by increasing the issue of paper money. Instead of drastically raising taxes on those who could pay, the republican government actually reduced them in 1921.

From then on, goaded by the big industrialists and landlords, who stood to gain though the masses of the people were financially ruined, the government deliberately let the mark tumble in order to free the State of its public debts, to escape from paying reparations and to sabotage the French in the Ruhr. Moreover, the destruction of the currency enabled German heavy industry to wipe out its indebtedness by refunding its obligations in worthless marks. The General Staff, disguised as the "Truppenamt" (Office of Troops) to evade the peace treaty which supposedly had outlawed it, took notice that the fall of the mark wiped out the war debts and thus left Germany financially unencumbered for a new war.

The masses of the people, however, did not realize how much the industrial tycoons, the Army and the State were benefiting from the ruin of the currency. All they knew was that a large bank account could not buy a straggly bunch of carrots, a half peck of potatoes, a few ounces of sugar, a pound of flour. They knew that as individuals they were bankrupt. And they knew hunger when it gnawed at them, as it did daily. In their misery and hopelessness they made the Republic the scapegoat for all that had happened.

Such times were heaven-sent for Adolf Hitler.


"The government calmly goes on printing these scraps of paper because, if it stopped, that would be the end of the government," he cried. "Because once the printing presses stopped -- and that is the prerequisite for the stabilization of the mark -- the swindle would at once be brought to light ... Believe me, our misery will increase. The scoundrel will get by. The reason: because the State itself has become the biggest swindler and crook. A robbers' state! ... If the horrified people notice that they can starve on billions, they must arrive at this conclusion: we will no longer submit to a State which is built on the swindling idea of the majority. We want a dictatorship ... " [5]

No doubt the hardships and uncertainties of the wanton inflation were driving millions of Germans toward that conclusion and Hitler was ready to lead them on. In fact, he had begun to believe that the chaotic conditions of 1923 had created an opportunity to overthrow the Republic which might not recur. But certain difficulties lay in his way if he were himself to lead the counterrevolution, and he was not much interested in it unless he was.

In the first place, the Nazi Party, though it was growing daily in numbers, was far from being even the most important political movement in Bavaria, and outside that state it was unknown. How could such a small party overthrow the Republic? Hitler, who was not easily discouraged by odds against him, thought he saw a way. He might unite under his leadership all the antirepublican, nationalist forces in Bavaria. Then with the support of the Bavarian government, the armed leagues and the Reichswehr stationed in Bavaria, he might lead a march on Berlin -- as Mussolini had marched on Rome the year before -- and bring the Weimar Republic down. Obviously Mussolini's easy success had given him food for thought.

The French occupation of the Ruhr, though it brought a renewal of German hatred for the traditional enemy and thus revived the spirit of nationalism, complicated Hitler's task. It began to unify the German people behind the republican government in Berlin which had chosen to defy France. This was the last thing Hitler wanted. His aim was to do away with the Republic. France could be taken care of after Germany had had its nationalist revolution and established a dictatorship. Against a strong current of public opinion Hitler dared to take an unpopular line: "No - not down with France, but down with the traitors of the Fatherland, down with the November criminals! That must be our slogan." [6]

All through the first months of 1923 Hitler dedicated himself to making the slogan effective. In February, due largely to the organizational talents of Roehm, four of the armed "patriotic leagues" of Bavaria joined with the Nazis to form the so-called Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Vaterlaendischen Kampfverbaende (Working Union of the Fatherland Fighting Leagues) under the political leadership of Hitler. In September an even stronger group was established under the name of the Deutscher Kampfbund (German Fighting Union), with Hitler one of a triumvirate of leaders. This organization sprang from a great mass meeting held at Nuremberg on September 2 to celebrate the anniversary of the German defeat of France at Sedan in 1870. Most of the fascist-minded groups in southern Germany were represented and Hitler received something of an ovation after a violent speech against the national government. The objectives of the new Kampfbund were openly stated: overthrow of the Republic and the tearing up of the Treaty of Versailles.

At the Nuremberg meeting Hitler had stood in the reviewing stand next to General Ludendorff during a parade of the demonstrators. This was not by accident. For some time the young Nazi chief had been cultivating the war hero, who had lent his famous name to the makers of the Kapp putsch in Berlin and who, since he continued to encourage counterrevolution from the Right, might be tempted to back an action which was beginning to germinate in Hitler's mind. The old General had no political sense; living now outside Munich, he did not disguise his contempt for Bavarians, for Crown Prince Rupprecht, the Bavarian pre tender, and for the Catholic Church in this most Catholic of all states in Germany. All this Hitler knew, but it suited his purposes. He did not want Ludendorff as the political leader of the nationalist counterrevolution, a role which it was known the war hero was ambitious to assume. Hitler insisted on that role for himself. But Ludendorff's name, his renown in the officer corps and among the conservatives throughout Germany would be an asset to a provincial politician still largely unknown outside Bavaria. Hitler began to include Ludendorff in his plans.


In the fall of 1923 the German Republic and the state of Bavaria reached a point of crisis. On September 26, Gustav Stresemann, the Chancellor, announced the end of passive resistance in the Ruhr and the resumption of German reparation payments. This former mouthpiece of Hindenburg and Ludendorff, a staunch conservative and, at heart, a monarchist, had come to the conclusion that if Germany were to be saved, united and made strong again it must, at least for the time being, accept the Republic, come to terms with the Allies and obtain a period of tranquillity in which to regain its economic strength. To drift any further would only end in civil war and perhaps in the final destruction of the nation.

The abandonment of resistance to the French in the Ruhr and the resumption of the burden of reparations touched off an outburst of anger and hysteria among the German nationalists, and the Communists, who also had been growing in strength, joined them in bitter denunciation of the Republic. Stresemann was faced with serious revolt from both extreme Right and extreme Left. He had anticipated it by having President Ebert declare a state of emergency on the very day he announced the change of policy on the Ruhr and reparations. From September 26, 1923, until February 1924, executive power in Germany under the Emergency Act was placed in the hands of the Minister of Defense, Otto Gessler, and of the Commander of the Army, General von Seeckt. In reality this made the General and his Army virtual dictators of the Reich.

Bavaria was in no mood to accept such a solution. The Bavarian cabinet of Eugen von Knilling proclaimed its own state of emergency on September 26 and named the right-wing monarchist and former premier Gustav von Kahr as State Commissioner with dictatorial powers. In Berlin it was feared that Bavaria might secede from the Reich, restore the Wittelsbach monarchy and perhaps form a South German union with Austria. A meeting of the cabinet was hastily summoned by President Ebert, and General von Seeckt was invited to attend. Ebert wanted to know where the Army stood. Seeckt bluntly told him. "The Army, Mr. President, stands behind me." [7]

The icy words pronounced by the monocled, poker-faced Prussian Commander in Chief did not, as might have been expected, dismay the German President or his Chancellor. They had already recognized the Army's position as a state within the State and subject only to itself. Three years before, as we have seen, when the Kapp forces had occupied Berlin and a similar appeal had been made to Seeckt, the Army had stood not behind the Republic but behind the General. The only question now, in 1923, was where Seeckt stood.

Fortunately for the Republic he now chose to stand behind it, not because he believed in republican, democratic principles but because he saw that for the moment the support of the existing regime was necessary for the preservation of the Army, itself threatened by revolt in Bavaria and in the north, and for saving Germany from a disastrous civil war. Seeckt knew that some of the leading officers of the Army division in Munich were siding with the Bavarian separatists. He knew of a conspiracy of the "Black Reichswehr" under Major Buchrucker, a former General Staff officer, to occupy Berlin and turn the republican government out. He now moved with cool precision and absolute determination, to set the Army right and end the threat of civil war.

On the night of September 30, 1923, "Black Reichswehr" troops under the command of Major Buchrucker seized three forts to the east of Berlin. Seeckt ordered regular forces to besiege them, and after two days Buchrucker surrendered. He was tried for high treason and actually sentenced to ten years of fortress detention. The "Black Reichswehr," which had been set up by Seeckt himself under the cover name of Arbeitskommandos (Labor Commandos) to provide secret reinforcements for the 100,000- man Reichswehr, was dissolved. [iv]

Seeckt next turned his attention to the threats of Communist uprisings in Saxony, Thuringia, Hamburg and the Ruhr. In suppressing the Left the loyalty of the Army could be taken for granted. In Saxony the Socialist-Communist government was arrested by the local Reichswehr commander and a Reich Commissioner appointed to rule. In Hamburg and in the other areas the Communists were quickly and severely squelched. It now seemed to Berlin that the relatively easy suppression of the Bolshevists had robbed the conspirators in Bavaria of the pretext that they were really acting to save the Republic from Communism, and that they would now recognize the authority of the national government. But it did not turn out that way.

Bavaria remained defiant of Berlin. It was now under the dictatorial control of a triumvirate: Kahr, the State Commissioner, General Otto von Lossow, commander of the Reichswehr in Bavaria, and Colonel Hans von Seisser, the head of the state police. Kahr refused to recognize that President Ebert's proclamation of a state of emergency in Germany had any application in Bavaria. He declined to carry out any orders from Berlin. When the national government demanded the suppression of Hitler's newspaper, the Voelkischer Beobachter, because of its vitriolic attacks on the Republic in general and on Seeckt, Stresemann and Gessler in particular, Kahr contemptuously refused.

A second order from Berlin to arrest three notorious leaders of some of the armed bands in Bavaria, Captain Heiss, Captain Ehrhardt (the "hero" of the Kapp putsch) and Lieutenant Rossbach (a homosexual friend of Roehm), was also ignored by Kahr. Seeckt, his patience strained, ordered General von Lossow to suppress the Nazi newspaper and arrest the three free-corps men. The General, himself a Bavarian and a confused and weak officer who had been taken in by Hitler's eloquence and Kahr's persuasiveness, hesitated to obey. On October 24 Seeckt sacked him and appointed General Kress von Kressenstein in his place. Kahr, however, would not take such dictation from Berlin. He declared that Lossow would retain the command of the Reichswehr in Bavaria and defying not only Seeckt but the constitution, forced the officers and the men of the Army to take a special oath of allegiance to the Bavarian government.

This, to Berlin, was not only political but military rebellion, and General von Seeckt was now determined to put down both. [8]

He issued a plain warning to the Bavarian triumvirate and to Hitler and the armed leagues that any rebellion on their part would be opposed by force. But for the Nazi leader it was too late to draw back. His rabid followers were demanding action. Lieutenant Wilhelm Brueckner, one of his S.A. commanders, urged him to strike at once. "The day is coming," he warned, "when I won't be able to hold the men back. If nothing happens now, they'll run away from us."

Hitler realized too that if Stresemann gained much more time and began to succeed in his endeavor to restore tranquillity in the country, his own opportunity would be lost. He pleaded with Kahr and Lossow to march on Berlin before Berlin marched on Munich. And his suspicion grew that either the triumvirate was losing heart or that it was planning a separatist coup without him for the purpose of detaching Bavaria from the Reich. To this, Hitler, with his fanatical ideas for a strong, nationalist, unified Reich, was unalterably opposed.

Kahr, Lossow and Seisser were beginning to lose heart after Seeckt's warning. They were not interested in a futile gesture that might destroy them. On November 6 they informed the Kampfbund, of which Hitler was the leading political figure, that they would not be hurried into precipitate action and that they alone would decide when and how to act. This was a signal to Hitler that he must seize the initiative himself. He did not possess the backing to carry out a putsch alone. He would have to have the support of the Bavarian state, the Army and the police -- this was a lesson he had learned in his beggarly Vienna days. Somehow he would have to put Kahr, Lossow and Seisser in a position where they would have to act with him and from which there would be no turning back. Boldness, even recklessness, was called for, and that Hitler now proved he had. He decided to kidnap the triumvirate and force them to use their power at his bidding.

The idea had first been proposed to Hitler by two refugees from Russia, Rosenberg and Scheubner-Richter. The latter, who had ennobled himself with his wife's name and called himself Max Erwin von Scheubner- Richter, was a dubious character who, like Rosenberg, had spent most of his life in the Russian Baltic provinces and after the war made his way with other refugees from the Soviet Union to Munich, where he joined the Nazi Party and became one of Hitler's close confidants.

On November 4, Germany's Memorial Day (Totengedenktag) would be observed by a military parade in the heart of Munich, and it had been announced in the press that not only the popular Crown Prince Rupprecht but Kahr, Lossow and Seisser would take the salute of the troops from a stand in a narrow street leading from the Feldhermhalle. Scheubner- Richter and Rosenberg proposed to Hitler that a few hundred storm troopers, transported by trucks, should converge on the little street before the parading troops arrived and seal it off with machine guns. Hitler would then mount the tribune, proclaim the revolution and at pistol point prevail upon the notables to join it and help him lead it. The plan appealed to Hitler and he enthusiastically endorsed it. But, on the appointed day, when Rosenberg arrived early on the scene for purposes of reconnaissance he discovered to his dismay that the narrow street was fully protected by a large body of well-armed police. The plot, indeed the "revolution," had to be abandoned.

Actually it was merely postponed. A second plan was concocted, one that could not be balked by the presence of a band of strategically located police. On the night of November 10-11, the S.A. and the other armed bands of the Kampfbund would be concentrated on the Froettmaninger Heath, just north of Munich, and on the morning of the eleventh, the anniversary of the hated, shameful armistice, would march into the city, seize strategic points, proclaim the national revolution and present the hesitant Kahr, Lossow and Seisser with a fait accompli.

At this point a not very important public announcement induced Hitler to drop that plan and improvise a new one. A brief notice appeared in the press that, at the request of some business organizations in Munich, Kahr would address a meeting at the Buergerbraukeller, a large beer hall on the southeastern outskirts of the city. The date was November 8, in the evening. The subject of the Commissioner's speech, the notice said, would be the program of the Bavarian government. General von Lossow, Colonel von Seisser and other notables would be present.

Two considerations led Hitler to a rash decision. The first was that he suspected Kahr might use the meeting to announce the proclamation of Bavarian independence and the restoration of the Wittelsbachs to the Bavarian throne. All day long on November 8 Hitler tried in vain to see Kahr, who put him off until the ninth. This only increased the Nazi leader's suspicions. He must forestall Kahr. Also, and this was the second consideration, the Buergerbraukeller meeting provided the opportunity which had been missed on November 4: the chance to rope in all three members of the triumvirate and at the point of a pistol force them to join the Nazis in carrying out the revolution. Hitler decided to act at once. Plans for the November 10 mobilization were called off; the storm troops were hastily alerted for duty at the big beer hall.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:47 pm

Part 2 of 2


About a quarter to nine on the evening of November 8, 1923, after Kahr had been speaking for half an hour to some three thousand thirsty burghers, seated at rough hewn tables and quaffing their beer out of stone mugs in the Bavarian fashion, S.A. troops surrounded the Buergerbraukeller and Hitler pushed forward into the hall. While some of his men were mounting a machine gun in the entrance, Hitler jumped up on a table and to attract attention fired a revolver shot toward the ceiling. Kahr paused in his discourse. The audience turned around to see what was the cause of the disturbance. Hitler, with the help of Hess and of Ulrich Graf, the former butcher, amateur wrestler and brawler and now the leader's bodyguard, made his way to the platform. A police major tried to stop him, but Hitler pointed his pistol at him and pushed on. Kahr, according to one eyewitness, had now become "pale and confused." He stepped back from the rostrum and Hitler took his place.

"The National Revolution has begun!" Hitler shouted. "This building is occupied by six hundred heavily armed men. No one may leave the hall. Unless there is immediate quiet I shall have a machine gun posted in the gallery. The Bavarian and Reich governments have been removed and a provisional national government formed. The barracks of the Reichswehr and police are occupied. The Army and the police are marching on the city under the swastika banner."

This last was false; it was pure bluff. But in the confusion no one knew for sure. Hitler's revolver was real. It had gone off. The storm troopers with their rifles and machine guns were real. Hitler now ordered Kahr, Lossow and Seisser to follow him to a nearby private room off stage. Prodded by storm troopers, the three highest officials of Bavaria did Hitler's bidding while the crowd looked on in amazement.

But with growing resentment too. Many businessmen still regarded Hitler as something of an upstart. One of them shouted to the police, "Don't be cowards as in 1918. Shoot!" But the police, with their own chiefs so docile and the S.A. taking over the hall, did not budge. Hitler had arranged for a Nazi spy at police headquarters, Wilhelm Frick, to telephone the police on duty at the beer hall not to interfere but merely to report. The crowd began to grow so sullen that Goering felt it necessary to step to the rostrum and quiet them. "There is nothing to fear," he cried. "We have the friendliest intentions. For that matter, you've no cause to grumble, you've got your beer!" And he informed them that in the next room a new government was being formed.

It was, at the point of Adolf Hitler's revolver. Once he had herded his prisoners into the adjoining room, Hitler told them, "No one leaves this room alive without my permission." He then informed them they would all have key jobs either in the Bavarian government or in the Reich government which he was forming with Ludendorff. With Ludendorff? Earlier in the evening Hitler had dispatched Scheubner-Richter to Ludwigshoehe to fetch the renowned General, who knew nothing of the Nazi conspiracy, to the beerhouse at once.

The three prisoners at first refused even to speak to Hitler. He continued to harangue them. Each of them must join him in proclaiming the revolution and the new governments; each must take the post he, Hitler, assigned them, or "he has no right to exist." Kahr was to be the Regent of Bavaria; Lossow, Minister of the National Army; Seisser, Minister of the Reich Police. None of the three was impressed at the prospect of such high office. They did not answer.

Their continued silence unnerved Hitler. Finally he waved his gun at them. "I have four shots in my pistol! Three for my collaborators, if they abandon me. The last bullet for myself!" Pointing the weapon to his forehead, he cried, "If I am not victorious by tomorrow afternoon, 1 shall be a dead man!"

Kahr was not a very bright individual but he had physical courage. "Herr Hitler," he answered, "you can have me shot or shoot me yourself. Whether I die or not is no matter."

Seisser also spoke up. He reproached Hitler for breaking his word of honor not to make a putsch against the police.

"Yes, I did," Hitler replied. "Forgive me, but I had to for the sake of the Fatherland."

General von Lossow disdainfully maintained silence. But when Kahr started to whisper to him, Hitler snapped, "Halt! No talking without my permission!"

He was getting nowhere with his own talk. Not one of the three men who held the power of the Bavarian state in their hands had agreed to join him, even at pistol point. The putsch wasn't going according to plan. Then Hitler acted on a sudden impulse. Without a further word, he dashed back into the hall, mounted the tribune, faced the sullen crowd and announced that the members of the triumvirate in the next room had joined him in forming a new national government.

"The Bavarian Ministry," he shouted, "is removed .... The government of the November criminals and the Reich President are declared to be removed. A new national government will be named this very day here in Munich. A German National Army will be formed immediately ... I propose that, until accounts have been finally settled with the November criminals, the direction of policy in the National Government be taken over by me. Ludendorff will take over the leadership of the German National Army ... The task of the provisional German National Government is to organize the march on that sinful Babel, Berlin, and save the German people ... Tomorrow will find either a National Government in Germany or us dead!"

Not for the first time and certainly not for the last, Hitler had told a masterful lie, and it worked. When the gathering heard that Kahr, General von Lossow and Police Chief von Seisser had joined Hitler its mood abruptly changed. There were loud cheers, and the sound of them impressed the three men still locked up in the little side room.

Scheubner-Richter now produced General Ludendorff, as if out of a hat. The war hero was furious with Hitler for pulling such a complete surprise on him, and when, once closeted in the side room, he learned that the former corporal and not he was to be the dictator of Germany his resentment was compounded. He spoke scarcely a word to the brash young man. But Hitler did not mind so long as Ludendorff lent his famous name to the desperate undertaking and won over the three recalcitrant Bavarian leaders who thus far had failed to respond to his own exhortations and threats. This Ludendorff proceeded to do. It was now a question of a great national cause, he said, and he advised the gentlemen to co-operate. Awed by the attention of the generalissimo, the trio appeared to give in, though later Lossow denied that he had agreed to place himself under Ludendorff's command. For a few minutes Kahr fussed over the question of restoring the Wittelsbach monarchy, which was so dear to him. Finally he said he would co-operate as the "King's deputy."

Ludendorff's timely arrival had saved Hitler. Overjoyed at this lucky break, he led the others back to the platform, where each made a brief speech and swore loyalty to each other and to the new regime. The crowd leaped on chairs and tables in a delirium of enthusiasm. Hitler beamed with joy. "He had a childlike, frank expression of happiness that I shall never forget," an eminent historian who was present later declared. [9]

Again mounting the rostrum, Hitler spoke his final word to the gathering:

I want now to fulfill the vow which I made to myself five years ago when I was a blind cripple in the military hospital: to know neither rest nor peace until the November criminals had been overthrown, until on the ruins of the wretched Germany of today there should have arisen once more a Germany of power and greatness, of freedom and splendor.

This meeting began to break up. At the exits Hess, aided by storm troopers, detained a number of Bavarian cabinet members and other notables who were trying to slip out with the throng. Hitler kept his eye on Kahr, Lossow and Seisser. Then news came of a clash between storm troopers of one of the fighting leagues, the Bund Oberland, and regular troops at the Army Engineers' barracks. Hitler decided to drive to the scene and settle the matter personally, leaving the beer hall in charge of Ludendorff.

This turned out to be a fatal error. Lossow was the first to slip away. He informed Ludendorff he must hurry to his office at Army headquarters to give the necessary orders. When Scheubner-Richter objected, Ludendorff rejoined stiffly, "I forbid you to doubt the word of a German officer." Kahr and Seisser vanished too.


Hitler, in high spirits, returned to the Buergerbrau to find that the birds had flown the coop. This was the first blow of the evening and it stunned him. He had confidently expected to find his "ministers" busy at their new tasks while Ludendorff and Lossow worked out plans for the march on Berlin. But almost nothing was being done. Not even Munich was being occupied by the revolutionary forces. Roehm, at the head of a detachment of storm troopers from another fighting league, the Reichskriegsflagge, had seized Army headquarters at the War Ministry in the Schoenfeldstrasse but no other strategic centers were occupied, not even tht" telegraph office, over whose wires news of the coup went out to Berlin and orders came back, from General von Seeckt to the Army in Bavaria, to suppress the putsch.

Though there were some defections among the junior officers and some of the troops, whose sympathies were with Hitler and Roehm, the higher officers, led by General von Danner, commander of the Munich garrison, not only were prepared to carry out Seeckt's command but were bitterly resentful of the treatment meted out to General von Lossow. In the Army's code a civilian who pointed a revolver at a general deserved to be smitten by an officer's side arms. From headquarters at the 19th Infantry barracks, where Lossow had joined Danner, messages went out to outlying garrisons to rush reinforcements to the city. By dawn Regular Army troops had drawn a cordon around Roehm's forces in the War Ministry.

Before this action Hitler and Ludendorff joined Roehm at the ministry for a time, to take stock of the situation. Roehm was shocked to find that no one besides himself had taken military action and occupied the key centers. Hitler tried desperately to re-establish contact with Lossow, Kahr and Seisser. Messengers were dispatched to the 19th Infantry barracks in the name of Ludendorff but they did not return. Poehner, the former Munich police chief and now one of Hitler's supporters, was sent with Major Huehnlein and a band of the S.A. troopers to occupy police headquarters. They were promptly arrested there.

And what of Gustav von Kahr, the head of the Bavarian government? After leaving the Buergerbraukeller he had quickly recovered his senses and his courage. Not wishing to take any more chances on being made a prisoner of Hitler and his rowdies, Kahr moved the government to Regensburg. But not before he had ordered placards posted throughout Munich carrying the following proclamation:

The deception and perfidy of ambitious comrades have converted a demonstration in the interests of national reawakening into a scene of disgusting violence. The declarations extorted from myself, General von Lossow and Colonel Seisser at the point of the revolver are null and void. The National Socialist German Workers' Party, as well as the fighting leagues Oberland and Reichskriegsflagge, are dissolved.

-- VON KAHR General State Commissioner

The triumph which earlier in the evening had seemed to Hitler so near and so easily won was rapidly fading with the night. The basis for a successful political revolution on which he had always insisted -- the support of existing institutions such as the Army, the police, the political group in power -- was now crumbling. Not even Ludendorff's magic name, it was now clear, had won over the armed forces of the state. Hitler suggested that perhaps the situation could be retrieved if he and the General withdrew to the countryside near Rosenheim and rallied the peasants behind the armed bands for an assault on Munich, but Ludendorff promptly rejected the idea.

Or perhaps there was another way out which at least would avert disaster. On first hearing of the putsch, Crown Prince Rupprecht, a bitter personal enemy of Ludendorff, had issued a brief statement calling for its prompt suppression. Now Hitler decided to appeal to the Prince to intercede with Lossow and Kahr and obtain an honorable, peaceful settlement. A Lieutenant Neunzert, a friend of Hitler and of Rupprecht, was hurried off at dawn to the Wittelsbach castle near Berchtesgaden on the delicate mission. Unable to find an automobile, he had to wait for a train and did not arrive at his destination until noon, at which hour events were taking a turn not foreseen by Hitler nor dreamt of as possible by Ludendorff.

Hitler had planned a putsch, not a civil war. Despite his feverish state of excitement he was in sufficient control of himself to realize that he lacked the strength to overcome the police and the Army. He had wanted to make a revolution with the armed forces, not against them. Bloodthirsty though he had been in his recent speeches and during the hours he held the Bavarian triumvirs at gunpoint, he shrank from the idea of men united in their hatred of the Republic shedding the blood of each other.

So did Ludendorff. He would, as he had told his wife, string up President Ebert "and Co." and gladly watch them dangle from the gallows. But he did not wish to kill policemen and soldiers who, in Munich at least, believed with him in the national counterrevolution.

To the wavering young Nazi leader Ludendorff now proposed a plan of his own that might still bring them victory and yet avoid bloodshed. German soldiers, even German police -- who were mostly ex-soldiers -- would never dare, he was sure, to fire on the legendary commander who had led them to great victories on both the Eastern and the Western fronts. He and Hitler would march with their followers to the center of the city and take it over. Not only would the police and the Army not dare to oppose him, he was certain; they would join him and fight under his orders. Though somewhat skeptical, Hitler agreed. There seemed no other way out. The Crown Prince, he noted, had not replied to his plea for mediation.


Toward eleven o'clock on the morning of November 9, the anniversary of the proclamation of the German Republic, Hitler and Ludendorff led a column of some three thousand storm troopers out of the gardens of the Buergerbraukeller and headed for the center of Munich. Beside them in the front rank marched Goering, commander of the SA., Scheubner- Richter, Rosenberg, Ulrich Graf, Hitler's bodyguard, and half a dozen other Nazi officials and leaders of the Kampfbund. A swastika flag and a banner of the Bund Oberland were unfurled at the head of the column. Not far behind the first ranks a truck chugged along, loaded with machine guns and machine gunners. The storm troopers carried carbines, slung over their shoulders, some with fixed bayonets. Hitler brandished his revolver. Not a very formidable armed force, but Ludendorff, who had commanded millions of Germany's finest troops, apparently thought it sufficient for his purposes.

A few hundred yards north of the beer cellar the rebels met their first obstacle. On the Ludwig Bridge, which leads over the River Isar toward the center of the city, stood a detachment of armed police barring the route. Goering sprang forward and, addressing the police commander, threatened to shoot a number of hostages he said he had in the rear of his column if the police fired on his men. During the night Hess and others had rounded up a number of hostages, including two cabinet members, for just such a contingency. Whether Goering was bluffing or not, the police commander apparently believed he was not and let the column file over the bridge unmolested.

At the Marienplatz the Nazi column encountered a large crowd which was listening to an exhortation of Julius Streicher, the Jew-baiter from Nuremberg, who had rushed to Munich at the first news of the putsch. Not wishing to be left out of the revolution, he cut short his speech and joined the rebels, jumping into step immediately behind Hitler.

Shortly after noon the marchers neared their objective, the War Ministry, where Roehm and his storm troopers were surrounded by soldiers of the Reichswehr. Neither besiegers nor besieged had yet fired a shot. Roehm and his men were all ex-soldiers and they had many wartime comrades on the other side of the barbed wire. Neither side had any heart for killing.

To reach the War Ministry and free Roehm, Hitler and Ludendorff now led their column through the narrow Residenzstrasse, which, just beyond the Feldherrnhalle, opens out into the spacious Odeonsplatz. At the end of the gullylike street a detachment of police about one hundred strong, armed with carbines, blocked the way. They were in a strategic spot and this time they did not give way.

But once again the Nazis tried to talk their way through. One of them, the faithful bodyguard Ulrich Graf, stepped forward and cried out to the police officer in charge, "Don't shoot! His Excellency Ludendorff is com ing!" Even at this crucial, perilous moment, a German revolutionary, even an old amateur wrestler and professional bouncer, remembered to give a gentleman his proper title. Hitler added another cry. "Surrender! Surrender!" he called out. But the unknown police officer did not surrender. Apparently Ludendorff's name had no magic sound for him; this was the police, not the Army.

Which side fired first was never established. Each put the blame on the other. One onlooker later testified that Hitler fired the first shot with his revolver. Another thought that Streicher did, and more than one Nazi later told this author that it was this deed which, more than any other, endeared him so long to Hitler. [v]

At any rate a shot was fired and in the next instant a volley of shots rang out from both sides, spelling in that instant the doom of Hitler's hopes. Scheubner-Richter fell, mortally wounded. Goering went down with a serious wound in his thigh. Within sixty seconds the firing stopped, but the street was already littered with fallen bodies -- sixteen Nazis and three police dead or dying, many more wounded and the rest, including Hitler, clutching the pavement to save their lives.

There was one exception, and had his example been followed, the day might have had a different ending. Ludendorff did not fling himself to the ground. Standing erect and proud in the best soldierly tradition, with his adjutant, Major Streck, at his side, he marched calmly on between the muzzles of the police rifles until he reached the Odeonsplatz. He must have seemed a lonely and bizarre figure. Not one Nazi followed him. Not even the supreme leader, Adolf Hitler.

The future Chancellor of the Third Reich was the first to scamper to safety. He had locked his left arm with the right arm of Scheubner-Richter (a curious but perhaps revealing gesture) as the column approached the police cordon, and when the latter fell he pulled Hitler down to the pavement with him. Perhaps Hitler thought he had been wounded; he suffered sharp pains which, it was found later, came from a dislocated shoulder. But the fact remains that according to the testimony of one of his own Nazi followers in the column, the physician Dr. Walther Schulz, which was supported by several other witnesses, Hitler "was the first to get up and turn back," leaving his dead and wounded comrades lying in the street. He was hustled into a waiting motorcar and spirited off to the country home of the Hanfstaengls at Uffing, where Putzi's wife and sister nursed him and where, two days later, he was arrested.

Ludendorff was arrested on the spot. He was contemptuous of the rebels who had not had the courage to march on with him, and so bitter against the Army for not coming over to his side that he declared hence- forth he would not recognize a German officer nor ever again wear an officer's uniform. The wounded Goering was given first aid by the Jewish proprietor of a nearby bank into which he had been carried and then smuggled across the frontier into Austria by his wife and taken to a hospital in Innsbruck. Hess also fled to Austria. Roehm surrendered at the War Ministry two hours after the collapse before the Feldherrnhalle. Within a few days all the rebel leaders except Goering and Hess were rounded up and jailed. The Nazi putsch had ended in a fiasco. The party was dissolved. National Socialism, to all appearances, was dead. Its dictatorial leader, who had run away at the first hail of bullets, seemed utterly discredited, his meteoric political career at an end.


As things turned out, that career was merely interrupted, and not for long. Hitler was shrewd enough to see that his trial, far from finishing him, would provide a new platform from which he could not only discredit the compromised authorities who had arrested him but -- and this was more important -- for the first time make his name known far beyond the confines of Bavaria and indeed of Germany itself. He was well aware that correspondents of the world press as well as of the leading German newspapers were flocking to Munich to cover the trial, which began on February 26, 1924, before a special court sitting in the old Infantry School in the B1utenburgstrasse. By the time it had ended twenty-four days later Hitler had transformed defeat into triumph, made Kahr, Lossow and Seisser share his guilt in the public mind to their ruin, impressed the German people with his eloquence and the fervor of his nationalism, and emblazoned his name on the front pages of the world.

Although Ludendorff was easily the most famous of the ten prisoners in the dock, Hitler at once grabbed the limelight for himself. From beginning to end he dominated the courtroom. Franz Guertner, the Bavarian Minister of Justice and an old friend and protector of the Nazi leader, had seen to it that the judiciary would be complacent and lenient. Hitler was allowed to interrupt as often as he pleased, cross-examine witnesses at will and speak on his own behalf at any time and at any length -- his opening statement consumed four hours, but it was only the first of many long harangues.

He did not intend to make the mistake of those who, when tried for complicity in the Kapp putsch, had pleaded, as he later said, that "they knew nothing, had intended nothing, wished nothing. That was what destroyed the bourgeois world-that they had not the courage to stand by their act ... to step before the judge and say, 'Yes, that was what we wanted to do; we wanted to destroy the State.'"

Now before the judges and the representatives of the world press in Munich, Hitler proclaimed proudly, "I alone bear the responsibility. But 1 am not a criminal because of that. If today I stand here as a revolutionary, it is as a revolutionary against the revolution. There is no such thing as high treason against the traitors of 1918."

If there were, then the three men who headed the government, the Army and the police in Bavaria and who had conspired with him against the national government were equally guilty and should be in the dock beside him instead of in the witness stand as his chief accusers. Shrewdly he turned the tables on the uneasy, guilt-ridden triumvirs:

One thing was certain, Lossow, Kahr and Seisser had the same goal that we had-to get rid of the Reich government . . . If our enterprise was actually high treason, then during the whole period Lossow, Kahr and Seisser must have been committing high treason along with us, for during all these weeks we talked of nothing but the aims of which we now stand accused.

The three men could scarcely deny this, for it was true. Kahr and Seisser were no match for Hitler's barbs. Only General von Lossow defended himself defiantly. "I was no unemployed komitadji," he reminded the court. "I occupied a high position in the State." And the General poured all the scorn of an old Army officer on his former corporal, this unemployed upstart, whose overpowering ambition had led him to try to dictate to the Army and the State. How far this unscrupulous demagogue had come, he exclaimed, from the days, not so far distant, when he had been willing to be merely "the drummer" in a patriotic movement!

A drummer merely? Hitler knew how to answer that:

How petty are the thoughts of small men! Believe me, I do not regard the acquisition of a minister's portfolio as a thing worth striving for. I do not hold it worthy of a great man to endeavor to go down in history just by becoming a minister. One might be in danger of being buried beside other ministers. My aim from the first was a thousand times higher than becoming a minister. I wanted to become the destroyer of Marxism. I am going to achieve this task, and if I do, the title of Minister will be an absurdity so far as I am concerned.

He invoked the example of Wagner.

When I stood for the first time at the grave of Richard Wagner my heart overflowed with pride in a man who had forbidden any such inscription as "Here lies Privy Councilor, Music Director, His Excellency Baron Richard von Wagner." I was proud that this man and so many others in German history were content to give their names to history without titles. It was not from modesty that I wanted to be a drummer in those days. That was the highest aspiration -- the rest is nothing.

He had been accused of wanting to jump from drummer to dictator. He would not deny it. Fate had decreed it.

The man who is born to be a dictator is not compelled. He wills it. He is not driven forward, but drives himself. There is nothing immodest about this. Is it immodest for a worker to drive himself toward heavy labor? Is it presumptuous of a man with the high forehead of a thinker to ponder through the nights till he gives the world an invention? The man who feels called upon to govern a people has no right to say, "If you want me or summon me, I will co-operate." No! It is his duty to step forward.

Though he might be in the dock facing a long prison sentence for high treason against his country, his confidence in himself, in the call to "govern a people," was undiminished. While in prison awaiting trial, he had already analyzed the reasons for the failure of the putsch and had vowed that he would not commit the same mistakes in the future. Recalling his thoughts thirteen years later after he had achieved his goal, he told his old followers, assembled at the Buergerbraukeller to celebrate the anniversary of the putsch, "I can calmly say that it was the rashest decision of my life. When I think back on it today, I grow dizzy ... If today you saw one of our squads from the year 1923 marching by, you would ask, 'What workhouse have they escaped from?' ... But fate meant well with us. It did not permit an action to succeed which, if it had succeeded, would in the end have inevitably crashed as a result of the movement's inner immaturity in those days and its deficient organizational and intellectual foundation ... We recognized that it is not enough to overthrow the old State, but that the new State must previously have been built up and be ready to one's hand ... In 1933 it was no longer a question of overthrowing a State by an act of violence; meanwhile the new State had been built up and all that remained to do was to destroy the last remnants of the old State -- and that took but a few hours."

How to build the new Nazi State was already in his mind as he fenced with the judges and his prosecutors during the trial. For one thing, he would have to have the German Army with him, not against him, the next time. In his dosing address he played on the idea of reconciliation with the armed forces. There was no word of reproach for the Army.

I believe that the hour will come when the masses, who today stand in the· street with our swastika banner, will unite with those who fired upon them ... When I learned that it was the Green police which fired, I was happy that it was not the Reichswehr which had stained the record; the Reichswehr stands as untarnished as before. One day the hour will come when the Reichswehr will stand at our side, officers and men.

It was an accurate prediction, but here the presiding judge intervened. "Herr Hitler, you say that the Green police was stained. That I cannot permit."

The accused paid not the slightest attention to the admonition. In a peroration that held the audience in the courtroom spellbound Hitler spoke his final words:

The army we have formed is growing from day to day ... I nourish the proud hope that one day the hour will come when these rough companies will grow to battalions, the battalions to regiments, the regiments to divisions, that the old cockade will be taken from the mud, that the old flags will wave again, that there will be a reconciliation at the last great divine judgment which we are prepared to face.

He turned his burning eyes directly on the judges.

For it is not you, gentlemen, who pass judgment on us. That judgment is spoken by the eternal court of history. What judgment you will hand down I know. But that court will not ask us, "Did you commit high treason or did you not?" That court will judge us, the Quartermaster General of the old Army [Ludendorff], his officers and soldiers, as Germans who wanted only the good of their own people and Fatherland, who wanted to fight and die. You may pronounce us guilty a thousand times over, but the goddess of the eternal court of history will smile and tear to tatters the brief of the state prosecutor and the sentence of this court. For she acquits us. [10]

The sentences, if not the verdicts, of the actual judges were, as Konrad Heiden wrote, not so far from the judgment of history. Ludendorff was acquitted. Hitler and the other accused were found guilty. But in the face of the law -- Article 81 of the German Penal Code -- which declared that "whosoever attempts to alter by force the Constitution of the German Reich or of any German state shall be punished by lifelong imprisonment," Hitler was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in the old fortress of Landsberg. Even then the lay judges protested the severity of the sentence, but they were assured by the presiding judge that the prisoner would be eligible for parole after he had served six months. Efforts of the police to get Hitler deported as a foreigner -- he still held Austrian citizenship -- came to nothing. The sentences were imposed on April I, 1924. A little less than nine months later, on December 20, Hitler was released from prison, free to resume his fight to overthrow the democratic state. The consequences of committing high treason, if you were a man of the extreme Right, were not unduly heavy, despite the law, and a good many antirepublicans took notice of it.

The putsch, even though it was a fiasco, made Hitler a national figure and, in the eyes of many, a patriot and a hero. Nazi propaganda soon transformed it into one of the great legends of the movement. Each year, even after he came to power, even after World War II broke out, Hitler returned on the evening of November 8 to the beer hall in Munich to address his Old Guard comrades -- the alte Kaempfer, as they were called -- who had followed the leader to what seemed then such a grotesque disaster. In 1935 Hitler, the Chancellor, had the bodies of the sixteen Nazis who had fallen in the brief encounter dug up and placed in vaults in the Feldherrnhalle, which became a national shrine. Of them Hitler said, in dedicating the memorial, "They now pass into German immortality. Here they stand for Germany and keep guard over our people. Here they lie as true witnesses to our movement." He did not add, and no German seemed to recall, that they were also the men whom Hitler had abandoned to their dying when he had picked himself up from the pavement and ran away.

That summer of 1924 in the old fortress at Landsberg, high above the River Lech, Adolf Hitler, who was treated as an honored guest, with a room of his own and a splendid view, cleared out the visitors who flocked to pay him homage and bring him gifts, summoned the faithful Rudolf Hess, who had finally returned to Munich and received a sentence, and began to dictate to him chapter after chapter of a book. [vi]



i. A year later General Freiherr Walther von Luettwitz, a reactionary officer of the old school, would show how loyal he was to the Republic in general and to Noske in particular when he led free-corps troops in the capture of Berlin in support of the Kapp putsch. Ebert, Noske and the other members of the government were forced to flee at five in the morning of March 13, 1920. General von Seeckt, Chief of Staff of the Army and nominally subordinate to Noske, the Minister of Defense, had refused to allow the Army to defend the Republic against Luettwitz and Kapp. "This night has shown the bankruptcy of all my policy," Noske cried out. "My faith in the Officer Corps is shattered. You have all deserted me." (Quoted by Wheeler- Bennett in The Nemesis of Power, p. 77.)

ii. There were flaws, to be sure, and in the end some of them proved disastrous. The system of proportional representation and voting by list may have prevented the wasting of votes, but it also resulted in the multiplication of small splinter parties which eventually made a stable majority in the Reichstag impossible and led to frequent changes in government. In the national elections of 1930 some twenty-eight parties were listed.

The Republic might have been given greater stability had some of the ideas of Professor Hugo Preuss, the principal drafter of the constitution, not been rejected. He proposed at Weimar that Germany be made into a centralized state and that Prussia and the other single states be dissolved and transformed into provinces. But the Assembly turned his proposals down.

Finally, Article 48 of the constitution conferred upon the President dictatorial powers during an emergency. The use made of this clause by Chancellors Bruening, von Papen and von Schleicher under President Hindenburg enabled them to govern without approval of the Reichstag and thus, even before the advent of Hitler. brought an end to democratic parliamentary government in Germany.

iii. It restricted the Army to 100,000 long-term volunteers and prohibited it from having planes or tanks. The General Staff was also outlawed. The Navy was reduced to little more than a token force and forbidden to build submarines or vessels over 10,000 tons.

iv. The "Black Reichswehr" troops, numbering roughly twenty thousand, were stationed on the eastern frontier to help guard it against the Poles in the turbulent days of 1920-23. The illicit organization became notorious for its revival of the horrors of the medieval Femegerichte -- secret courts -- which dealt arbitrary death sentences against Germans who revealed the activities of the "Black Reichswehr" to the Allied Control Commission. Several of these brutal murders reached the courts. At one trial the German Defense Minister, Otto Gessler, who had succeeded Noske, denied any knowledge of the organization and insisted that it did not exist. But when one of his questioners protested against such innocence Gessler cried, "He who speaks of the 'Black Reichswehr' commits an act of high treason!"

v. Some years later, in approving Streicher's appointment as Nazi leader for Franconia over the opposition of many party comrades, Hitler declared, "Perhaps there are one or two who don't like the shape of Comrade Streicher's nose. But when he lay beside me that day on the pavement by the Feldherrnhalle, I vowed to myself never to forsake him so long as he did not forsake me." (Heiden, Hitler: A Biography, p. 157.)

vi. Before the arrival of Hess, Emil Maurice, an ex-convict, a watchmaker and the first commander of the Nazi "strong-arm" squads, took some preliminary dictation.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi

Postby admin » Sat Feb 03, 2018 7:50 pm

Part 1 of 2


HITLER WANTED TO CALL his book "Four and a Half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice," but Max Amann, the hardheaded manager of the Nazi publishing business, who was to bring it out, rebelled against such a ponderous -- and unsalable -- title and shortened it to My Struggle (Mein Kampf). Amann was sorely disappointed in the contents. He had hoped, first, for a racy personal story in which Hitler would recount his rise from an unknown "worker" in Vienna to world renown. As we have seen, there was little autobiography in the book. The Nazi business manager had also counted on an inside story of the Beer Hall Putsch, the drama and double-dealing of which, he was sure, would make good reading. But Hitler was too shrewd at this point, when the party fortunes were at their lowest ebb, to rake over old coals. [i] There is scarcely a word of the unsuccessful putsch in Mein Kampf.

The first volume was published in the autumn of 1925. A work of some four hundred pages, it was priced at twelve marks (three dollars), about twice the price of most books brought out in Germany at that time. It did not by any means become an immediate best seller. Amann boasted that it sold 23,000 copies the first year and that sales continued upward -- a claim that was received with skepticism in anti-Nazi circles.

Thanks to the Allied seizure in 1945 of the royalty statements of the Eher Verlag, the Nazi publishing firm, the facts about the actual sale of Mein Kampf can now be disclosed. In 1925 the book sold 9,473 copies, and thereafter for three years the sales decreased annually. They slumped to 6,913 in 1926, to 5,607 in 1927 and to a mere 3,015 in 1928, counting both volumes. They were up a little -- to 7,664 -- in 1929, rose with the fortunes of the Nazi Party in 1930, when an inexpensive one-volume edition at eight marks appeared, to 54,086, dropped slightly to 50,808 the following year and jumped to 90,351 in 1932.

Hitler's royalties -- his chief source of income from 1925 on -- were considerable when averaged over those first seven years. But they were nothing compared to those received in 1933, the year he became Chancellor. In his first year of office Mein Kampf sold a million copies, and Hitler's income from the royalties, which had been increased from 10 to 15 per cent after January 1, 1933, was over one million marks (some $300,- 000), making him the most prosperous author in Germany and for the first time a millionaire. [ii] Except for the Bible, no other book sold as well during the Nazi regime, when few family households felt secure without a copy on the table. It was almost obligatory -- and certainly politic -- to present a copy to a bride and groom at their wedding, and nearly every school child received one on graduation from whatever school. By 1940, the year after World War II broke out, six million copies of the Nazi bible had been sold in Germany. [1]

Not every German who bought a copy of Mein Kampf necessarily read it. I have heard many a Nazi stalwart complain that it was hard going and not a few admit -- in private -- that they were never able to get through to the end of its 782 turgid pages. But it might be argued that had more non-Nazi Germans read it before 1933 and had the foreign statesmen of the world perused it carefully while there still was time, both Germany and the world might have been saved from catastrophe. For whatever other accusations can be made against Adolf Hitler, no one can accuse him of not putting down in writing exactly the kind of Germany he intended to make if he ever came to power and the kind of world he meant to create by armed German conquest. The blueprint of the Third Reich and, what is more, of the barbaric New Order which Hitler inflicted on conquered Europe in the triumphant years between 1939 and 1945 is set down in all its appalling crudity at great length and in detail between the covers of this revealing book.


As we have seen, Hitler's basic ideas were formed in his early twenties in Vienna, and we have his own word for it that he learned little afterward and altered nothing in his thinking. [iii] When he left Austria for Germany in 1913 at the age of twenty-four, he was full of a burning passion for German nationalism, a hatred for democracy, Marxism and the Jews and a certainty that Providence had chosen the Aryans, especially the Germans, to be the master race.

In Mein Kampf he expanded his views and applied them specifically to the problem of not only restoring a defeated and chaotic Germany to a place in the sun greater than it had ever had before but making a new kind of state, one which would be based on race and would include all Germans then living outside the Reich's frontiers, and in which would be established the absolute dictatorship of the Leader -- himself -- with an array of smaller leaders taking orders from above and giving them to those below. Thus the book contains, first, an outline of the future German state and of the means by which it can one day become "lord of the earth," as the author puts it on the very last page; and, second, a point of view, a conception of life, or, to use Hitler's favorite German word, a Weltanschauung. That this view of life would strike a normal mind of the twentieth century as a grotesque hodgepodge concocted by a half-baked, uneducated neurotic goes without saying. What makes it important is that it was embraced so fanatically by so many millions of Germans and that if it led, as it did, to their ultimate ruin it also led to the ruin of so many millions of innocent, decent human beings inside and especially outside Germany.

Now, how was the new Reich to regain her position as a world power and then go on to world mastery? Hitler pondered the question in the first volume, written mostly when he was in prison in 1924, returning to it at greater length in Volume Two, which was finished in 1926.

In the first place, there must be a reckoning with France, "the inexorable mortal enemy of the German people." The French aim, he said, would always be to achieve a "dismembered and shattered Germany ... a hodgepodge of little states." This was so self-evident, Hitler added, that "... if I were a Frenchman ... I could not and would not act any differently from Clemenceau." Therefore, there must be "a final active reckoning with France ... a last decisive struggle ... only then will we be able to end the eternal and essentially so fruitless struggle between ourselves and France; presupposing, of course, that Germany actually regards the destruction of France as only a means which will afterward enable her finally to give our people the expansion made possible elsewhere." [2]

Expansion elsewhere? Where? In this manner Hitler leads to the core of his ideas on German foreign policy which he was to attempt so faithfully to carry out when he became ruler of the Reich. Germany, he said bluntly, must expand in the East -- largely at the expense of Russia.

In the first volume of Mein Kampf Hitler discoursed at length on this problem of Lebensraum -- living space -- a subject which obsessed him to his dying breath. The Hohenzollern Empire, he declared, had been mistaken in seeking colonies in Africa. "Territorial policy cannot be fulfilled in the Cameroons but today almost exclusively in Europe." But the soil of Europe was already occupied. True, Hitler recognized, "but nature has not reserved this soil for the future possession of any particular nation or race; on the contrary, this soil exists for the people which possesses the force to take it." What if the present possessors object? "Then the law of self-preservation goes into effect; and what is refused to amicable methods, it is up to the fist to take." [3]

Acquisition of new soil, Hitler continued, in explaining the blindness of German prewar foreign policy, "was possible only in the East ... If land was desired in Europe, it could be obtained by and large only at the expense of Russia, and this meant that the new Reich must again set itself on the march along the road of the Teutonic Knights of old, to obtain by the German sword sod for the German plow and daily bread for the nation." [4]

As if he had not made himself entirely clear in the initial volume, Hitler returned to the subject in the second one.

Only an adequate large space on this earth assures a nation of freedom of existence ... Without consideration of "traditions" and prejudices [the National Socialist movement] must find the courage to gather our people and their strength for an advance along the road that will lead this people from its present restricted living space to new land and soil ... The National Socialist movement must strive to eliminate the disproportion between our population and our area -- viewing this latter as a source of food as well as a basis for power politics ... We must hold unflinchingly to our aim to secure for the German people the land and soil to which they are entitled ... [5]

How much land are the German people entitled to? The bourgeoisie, says Hitler scornfully, "which does not possess a single creative political idea for the future," had been clamoring for the restoration of the 1914 German frontiers.

The demand for restoration of the frontiers of 1914 is a political absurdity of such proportions and consequences as to make it seem a crime. Quite aside from the fact that the Reich's frontiers in 1914 were anything but logical. For in reality they were neither complete in the sense of embracing the people of German nationality nor sensible with regard to geomilitary expediency. They were not the result of a considered political action, but momentary frontiers in a political struggle that was by no means concluded ... With equal right and in many cases with more right, some other sample year of German history could be picked out, and the restoration of the conditions at that time declared to be the aim in foreign affairs. [6]

Hitler's "sample year" would go back some six centuries, to when the Germans were driving the Slavs back in the East. The push eastward must be resumed. "Today we count eighty million Germans in Europe! This foreign policy will be acknowledged as correct only if, after scarcely a hundred years, there are two hundred and fifty million Germans on this continent." [7] And all of them within the borders of the new and expanded Reich.

Some other peoples, obviously, will have to make way for so many Germans. What other peoples?

And so we National Socialists ... take up where we broke off six hundred years ago. We stop the endless German movement to the south and west, and turn our gaze toward the land in the East.

If we speak of soil in Europe today, we can primarily have in mind only Russia and her vassal border states. [iv] [8]

Fate, Hitler remarks, was kind to Germany in this respect. It had handed over Russia to Bolshevism, which, he says, really meant handing over Russia to the Jews. "The giant empire in the East," he exults, "is ripe for collapse. And the end of Jewish rule in Russia will also be the end of Russia as a state." So the great steppes to the East, Hitler implies, could be taken over easily on Russia's collapse without much cost in blood to the Germans.

Can anyone contend that the blueprint here is not clear and precise? France will be destroyed, but that is secondary to the German drive eastward. First the immediate lands to the East inhabited predominantly by Germans will be taken. And what are these? Obviously Austria, the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia and the western part of Poland, including Danzig. After that, Russia herself. Why was the world so surprised, then, when Chancellor Hitler, a bare few years later, set out to achieve these very ends?


On the nature of the future Nazi State, Hitler's ideas in Mein Kampf are less concise. He made it clear enough that there would be no "democratic nonsense" and that the Third Reich would be ruled by the Fuehrerprinzip, the leadership principle -- that is, that it would be a dictatorship. There is almost nothing about economics in the book. The subject bored Hitler and he never bothered to try to learn something about it beyond toying with the crackpot ideas of Gottfried Feder, the crank who was against "interest slavery."

What interested Hitler was political power; economics could somehow take care of itself.

The state has nothing at all to do with any definite economic conception or development ... The state is a racial organism and not an economic organization ... The inner strength of a state coincides only in the rarest cases with so-called economic prosperity; the latter, in innumerable cases, seems to indicate the state's approaching decline ... Prussia demonstrates with marvelous sharpness that not material qualities but ideal virtues alone make possible the formation of a state. Only under their protection can economic life flourish. Always when in Germany there was an upsurge of political power the economic conditions began to improve; but always when economics became the sole content of our people's life, stifling the ideal virtues, the state collapsed and in a short time drew economic life with it ... Never yet has a state been founded by peaceful economic means ... [9]

Therefore, as Hitler said in a speech in Munich in 1923, "no economic policy is possible without a sword, no industrialization without power." Beyond that vague, crude philosophy and a passing reference in Mein Kampf to "economic chambers," "chambers of estates" and a "central economic parliament" which "would keep the national economy functioning," Hitler refrains from any expression of opinion on the economic foundation of the Third Reich.

And though the very name of the Nazi Party proclaimed it as "socialist," Hitler was even more vague on the kind of "socialism" he envisaged for the new Germany. This is not surprising in view of a definition of a "socialist" which he gave in a speech on July 28, 1922:

Whoever is prepared to make the national cause his own to such an extent that he knows no higher ideal than the welfare of his nation; whoever has understood our great national anthem, "Deutschland ueber Alles," to mean that nothing in the wide world surpasses in his eyes this Germany, people and land -- that man is a Socialist. [10]

Considerable editorial advice and even pruning on the part of at least three helpers could not prevent Hitler from meandering from one subject to another in Mein Kampf. Rudolf Hess, who took most of the dictation first at Landsberg prison and later at Haus Wachenfeld near Berchtesgaden, did his best to tidy up the manuscript, but he was no man to stand up to the Leader. More successful in this respect was Father Bernhard Stempfle, a former member of the Hieronymite order and an anti-Semitic journalist of some notoriety in Bavaria. This strange priest, of whom more will be heard in this history, corrected some of Hitler's bad grammar, straightened out what prose he could and crossed out a few passages which he convinced the author were politically objectionable. The third adviser was Josef Czerny, of Czech origin, who worked on the Nazi newspaper, Voelkischer Beobachter, and whose anti-Jewish poetry endeared him to Hitler. Czerny was instrumental in revising the first volume of Mein Kampf for its second printing, in which certain embarrassing words and sentences were eliminated or changed; and he went over carefully the proofs of Volume Two.

Nevertheless, most of the meanderings remained. Hitler insisted on airing his thoughts at random on almost every conceivable subject, including culture, education, the theater, the movies, the comics, art, literature, history, sex, marriage, prostitution and syphilis. Indeed, on the subject of syphilis, Hitler devotes ten turgid pages, declaring it is "the task of the nation -- not just one more task," [v] to eradicate it. To combat this dread disease Hitler demands that all the propaganda resources of the nation be mobilized. "Everything," he says, "depends on the solution of this question." The problem of syphilis and prostitution must also be attacked, he states, by facilitating earlier marriages, and he gives a foretaste of the eugenics of the Third Reich by insisting that "marriage cannot be an end in itself, but must serve the one higher goal: the increase and preservation of the species and the race. This alone is its meaning and its task." [11]

And so with this mention of the preservation of the species and of the race in Mein Kampf we come to the second principal consideration: Hitler's Weltanschauung, his view of life, which some historians, especially in England, have seen as a crude form of Darwinism but which in reality, as we shall see, has its roots deep in German history and thought. Like Darwin but also like a whole array of German philosophers, historians, kings, generals and statesmen, Hitler saw all life as an eternal struggle and the world as a jungle where the fittest survived and the strongest ruled -- a "world where one creature feeds on the other and where the death of the weaker implies the life of the stronger."

Mein Kampf is studded with such pronouncements: "In the end only the urge for self-preservation can conquer ... Mankind has grown great in eternal struggle, and only in eternal peace does it perish.... Nature ... puts living creatures on this globe and watches the free play of forces. She then confers the master's right on her favorite child, the strongest in courage and industry ... The stronger must dominate and not blend with the weaker, thus sacrificing his own greatness. Only the born weakling can view this as cruel ..." For Hitler the preservation of culture "is bound up with the rigid law of necessity and the right to victory of the best and strongest in the world. Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight, in this world of eternal struggle, do not deserve to live. Even if this were hard -- that is how it is!'' [12]

And who is "nature's favorite child, the strongest in courage and industry" on whom Providence has conferred "the master's right"? The Aryan. Here in Mein Kampf we come to the kernel of the Nazi idea of race superiority, of the conception of the master race, on which the Third Reich and Hitler's New Order in Europe were based.

All the human culture, all the results of art, science and technology that we see before us today, are almost exclusively the creative product of the Aryan. This very fact admits of the not unfounded inference that he alone was the founder of all higher humanity, therefore representing the prototype of all that we understand by the word "man." He is the Prometheus of mankind from whose shining brow the divine spark of genius has sprung at all times, forever kindling anew that fire of knowledge which illumined the night of silent mysteries and thus caused man to climb the path to mastery over the other beings of this earth ... It was he who laid the foundations and erected the walls of every great structure in human culture. [13]

And how did the Aryan accomplish so much and become so supreme? Hitler's answer is: By trampling over others. Like so many German thinkers of the nineteenth century, Hitler fairly revels in a sadism (and its opposite, masochism) which foreign students of the German spirit have always found so difficult to comprehend.

Thus, for the formation of higher cultures the existence of lower human types was one of the most essential preconditions ... It is certain that the first culture of humanity was based less on the tamed animal than on the use of lower human beings. Only after the enslavement of subject races did the same fate strike beasts. For first the conquered warrior drew the plow -- and only after him the horse. Hence it is no accident that the first cultures arose in places where the Aryan, in his encounters with lower peoples, subjugated them and bent them to his will ... As long as he ruthlessly upheld the master attitude, not only did he remain master, but also the preserver and increaser of culture. [14]

Then something happened which Hitler took as a warning to the Germans.

As soon as the subjected people began to raise themselves up and approach the level of their conqueror, a phase of which probably was the use of his language, the barriers between master and servant broke down.

But even worse than sharing the master's language was something else.

The Aryan gave up the purity of his blood and, therefore, lost his sojourn in the paradise which he had made for himself. He became submerged in a racial mixture and gradually lost his cultural creativeness.

To the young Nazi leader this was the cardinal error.

Blood mixture and the resultant drop in the racial level is the sole cause of the dying out of old cultures; for men do not perish as a result of lost wars, but by the loss of that force of resistance which is continued only in pure blood. All who are not of good race in this world are chaff. [15]

Chaff were the Jews and the Slavs, and in time, when he became dictator and conqueror, Hitler would forbid the marriage of a German with any member of these races, though a fourth-grade schoolmarm could have told him that there was a great deal of Slavic blood in the Germans, especially in those who dwelt in the eastern provinces. In carrying out his racial ideas, it must again be admitted, Hitler was as good as his word. In the New Order which he began to impose on the Slavs in the East during the war, the Czechs, the Poles, the Russians were -- and were to remain, if the grotesque New Order had endured -- the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for their German masters.

It was an easy step for a man as ignorant of history and anthropology as Hitler to make of the Germans the modern Aryans -- and thus the master race. To Hitler the Germans are "the highest species of humanity on this earth" and will remain so if they "occupy themselves not merely with the breeding of dogs, horses and cats but also with care for the purity of their own blood." [16]

Hitler's obsession with race leads to his advocacy of the "folkish" state. Exactly what kind of state that was -- or was intended to be -- I never clearly understood despite many rereadings of Mein Kampf and listening to dozens of addresses on the subject by the Fuehrer himself, though more than once I heard the dictator declare that it was the central point of his whole thinking. The German word Volk cannot be translated accurately into English. Usually it is rendered as "nation" or "people," but in German there is a deeper and somewhat different meaning that connotes a primitive, tribal community based on blood and soil. In Mein Kampf Hitler has a difficult time trying to define the folkish state, announcing, for example, on page 379 that he will clarify "the 'folkish' concept" only to shy away from any clarification and wander off on other subjects for several pages. Finally he has a go at it:

In opposition to [the bourgeois and the Marxist-Jewish worlds], the folkish philosophy finds the importance of mankind in its basic racial elements. In the state it sees only·a means to an end and construes its end as the preservation of the racial existence of man. Thus, it by no means believes in an equality of races, but along with their difference it recognizes their higher or lesser value and feels itself obligated to promote the victory of the better and stronger, and demand the subordination of the inferior and weaker in accordance with the eternal will that dominates this universe. Thus, in principle, it serves the basic aristocratic idea of nature and believes in the validity of this law down to the last individual. It sees not only the different value of the races, but also the different value of individuals. From the mass it extracts the importance of the individual personality and thus ... it has an organizing effect. It believes in the necessity of an idealization of humanity, in which alone it sees the premise for the existence of humanity. But it cannot grant the right to existence even to an ethical idea if this idea represents a danger for the racial life of the bearers of a higher ethics; for in a bastardized and niggerized world all the concepts of the humanly beautiful and sublime. as well as all ideas of an idealized future of our humanity. would be lost forever ...

And so the folkish philosophy of life corresponds to the innermost will of nature, since it restores that free play of forces which must lead to a continuous mutual higher breeding. until at last the best of humanity, having achieved possession of this earth, will have a free path for activity in domains which will lie partly above it and partly outside it.

We all sense that in the distant future humanity must be faced by problems which only a highest race, become master people and supported by the means and possibilities of an "entire globe, will be equipped to overcome. [17]

"Thus," Hitler declares a little farther on, "the highest purpose of a folkish state is concern for the preservation of those original racial elements which bestow culture and create the beauty and dignity of a higher mankind." [18] This again leads him to a matter of eugenics:

The folkish state ... must set race in the center of all life. It must take care to keep it pure ... It must see to it that only the healthy beget children; that there is only one disgrace: despite one's own sickness and deficiencies, to bring children into the world; and one highest honor: to renounce doing so. And conversely it must be considered reprehensible to withhold healthy children from the nation. Here the [folkish] state must act as guardian of a millennial future in the face of which the wishes and the selfishness of the individual must appear as nothing and submit ... A folkish state must therefore begin by raising marriage from the level of a continuous defilement of the race and give it the consecration of an institution which is called upon to produce images of the Lord and not monstrosities halfway between man and ape. [19]

Hitler's fantastic conception of the folkish state leads to a good many other wordy considerations which, if heeded, he says, will bring the Germans the mastery of the earth -- German domination has become an obsession with him. At one point he argues that the failure to keep the Germanic race simon-pure "has robbed us of world domination. If the German people had possessed that herd unity which other peoples enjoyed, the German Reich today would doubtless be mistress of the globe." [20] Since a folkish state must be based on race, "the German Reich must embrace all Germans" -- this is a key point in his argument, and one he did not forget nor fail to act upon when he came to power.

Since the folkish state is to be based "on the aristocratic idea of nature" it follows that democracy is out of the question and must be replaced by the Fuehrerprinzip. The authoritarianism of the Prussian Army is to be adopted by the Third Reich: "authority of every leader downward and responsibility upward."

There must be no majority decisions, but only responsible persons ... Surely every man will have advisers by his side, but the decision will be made by one man. [vi] ... only he alone may possess the authority and the right to command ... It will not be possible to dispense with Parliament. But their councilors will then actually give counsel ... In no chamber does a vote ever take place. They are working institutions and not voting machines. This principle -- absolute responsibility unconditionally combined with absolute authority -- will gradually breed an elite of leaders such as today, in this era of irresponsible parliamentarianism, is utterly inconceivable. [21]

Such were the ideas of Adolf Hitler, set down in all their appalling crudeness as he sat in Landsberg prison gazing out at a flowering orchard above the River Lech, [vii] or later, in 1925-26, as he reclined on the balcony of a comfortable inn at Berchtesgaden and looked out across the towering Alps toward his native Austria, dictating a torrent of words to his faithful Rudolf Hess and dreaming of the Third Reich which he would build on the shoddy foundations we have seen, and which he would rule with an iron hand. That one day he would build it and rule it he had no doubts whatsoever, for he was possessed of that burning sense of mission peculiar to so many geniuses who have sprouted, seemingly, from nowhere and from nothing throughout the ages. He would unify a chosen people who had never before been politically one. He would purify their race. He would make them strong. He would make them lords of the earth.

A crude Darwinism? A sadistic fancy? An irresponsible egoism? A megalomania? It was all of these in part. But it was something more. For the mind and the passion of Hitler-all the aberrations that possessed his feverish brain -- had roots that lay deep in German experience and thought. Nazism and the Third Reich, in fact, were but a logical continuation of German history.


In the delirious days of the annual rallies of the Nazi Party at Nuremberg at the beginning of September, I used to be accosted by a swarm of hawkers selling a picture postcard on which were shown the portraits of Frederick the Great, Bismarck, Hindenburg and Hitler. The inscription read: "What the King conquered, the Prince formed, the Field Marshal defended, the Soldier saved and unified." Thus Hitler, the soldier, was portrayed not only as the savior and unifier of Germany but as the successor of these celebrated figures who had made the country great. The implication of the continuity of German history, culminating in Hitler's rule, was not lost upon the multitude. The very expression "the Third Reich" also served to strengthen this concept. The First Reich had been the medieval Holy Roman Empire; the Second Reich had been that which was formed by Bismarck in 1871 after Prussia's defeat of France. Both had added glory to the German name. The Weimar Republic, as Nazi propaganda had it, had dragged that fair name in the mud. The Third Reich restored it, just as Hitler had promised. Hitler's Germany, then, was depicted as a logical development from all that had gone before -- or at least of all that had been glorious.

But the onetime Vienna vagabond, however littered his mind, knew enough history to realize that there had been German failures in the past, failures that must be set against the successes of France and Britain. He never forgot that by the end of the Middle Ages, which had seen Britain and France emerge as unified nations, Germany remained a crazy patchwork of some three hundred individual states. It was this lack of national development which largely determined the course of German history from the end of the Middle Ages to midway in the nineteenth century and made it so different from that of the other great nations of Western Europe.

To the lack of political and dynastic unity was added, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the disaster of religious differences which followed the Reformation. There is not space in this book to recount adequately the immense influence that Martin Luther, the Saxon peasant who became an Augustinian monk and launched the German Reformation, had on the Germans and their subsequent history. But it may be said, in passing, that this towering but erratic genius, this savage anti-Semite and hater of Rome, who combined in his tempestuous character so many of the best and the worst qualities of the German -- the coarseness, the boisterousness, the fanaticism, the intolerance, the violence, but also the honesty, the simplicity, the self-scrutiny, the passion for learning and for music and for poetry and for righteousness in the eyes of God -- left a mark on the life of the Germans, for both good and bad, more indelible, more fateful, than was wrought by any other single individual before or since. Through his sermons and his magnificent translation of the Bible, Luther created the modern German language, aroused in the people not only a new Protestant vision of Christianity but a fervent German nationalism and taught them, at least in religion, the supremacy of the individual conscience. But tragically for them, Luther's siding with the princes in the peasant risings, which he had largely inspired, and his passion for political autocracy ensured a mindless and provincial political absolutism which reduced the vast majority of the German people to poverty, to a horrible torpor and a demeaning subservience. Even worse perhaps, it helped to perpetuate and indeed to sharpen the hopeless divisions not only between classes but also between the various dynastic and political groupings of the German people. It doomed for centuries the possibility of the unification of Germany.

The Thirty Years' War and the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, which ended it, brought the final catastrophe to Germany, a blow so devastating that the country has never fully recovered from it. This was the last of Europe's great religious wars, but before it was over it had degenerated from a Protestant-Catholic conflict into a confused dynastic struggle between the Catholic Austrian Hapsburgs on the one side and the Catholic French Bourbons and the Swedish Protestant monarchy on the other. In the savage fighting, Germany itself was laid waste, the towns and countryside were devastated and ravished, the people decimated. It has been estimated that one third of the German people perished in this barbarous war.

The Peace of Westphalia was almost as disastrous to the future of Germany as the war had been. The German princes, who had sided with France and Sweden, were confirmed as absolute rulers of their little domains, some 350 of them, the Emperor remaining merely as a figurehead so far as the German lands were concerned. The surge of reform and enlightenment which had swept Germany at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries was smothered. In that period the great free cities had enjoyed virtual independence; feudalism was gone in them, the arts and commerce thrived. Even in the countryside the German peasant had secured liberties far greater than those enjoyed in England and France. Indeed, at the beginning of the sixteenth century Germany could be said to be one of the fountains of European civilization.

Now, after the Peace of Westphalia, it was reduced to the barbarism of Muscovy. Serfdom was reimposed, even introduced in areas where it had been unknown. The towns lost their self-government. The peasants, the laborers, even the middle-class burghers, were exploited to the limit by the princes, who held them down in a degrading state of servitude. The pursuit of learning and the arts all but ceased. The greedy rulers had no feeling for German nationalism and patriotism and stamped out any manifestations of them in their subjects. Civilization came to a standstill in Germany. The Reich, as one historian has put it, "was artificially stabilized at a medieval level of confusion and weakness." [22]

Germany never recovered from this setback. Acceptance of autocracy, of blind obedience to the petty tyrants who ruled as princes, became ingrained in the German mind. The idea of democracy, of rule by parliament, which made such rapid headway in England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and which exploded in France in 1789, did not sprout in Germany. This political backwardness of the Germans, divided as they were into so many petty states and isolated in them from the surging currents of European thought and development, set Germany apart from and behind the other countries of the West. There was no natural growth of a nation. This has to be borne in mind if one is to comprehend the disastrous road this people subsequently took and the warped state of mind which settled over it. In the end the German nation was forged by naked force and held together by naked aggression.


Beyond the Elbe to the east lay Prussia. As the nineteenth century waned, this century which had seen the sorry failure of the confused and timid liberals at Frankfurt in 1848-49 to create a somewhat democratic, unified Germany, Prussia took over the German destiny. For centuries this Germanic state had lain outside the main stream of German historical development and culture. It seemed almost as if it were a freak of history. Prussia had begun as the remote frontier state of Brandenburg on the sandy wastes east of the Elbe which, beginning with the eleventh century, had been slowly conquered from the Slavs. Under Brandenburg's ruling princes, the Hohenzollerns, who were little more than military adventurers, the Slavs, mostly Poles, were gradually pushed back along the Baltic. Those who resisted were either exterminated or made landless serfs. The imperial law of the German Empire forbade the princes from assuming royal titles, but in 1701 the Emperor acquiesced in the Elector Frederick Ill's being crowned King in Prussia at Koenigsberg.

By this time Prussia had pulled itself up by its own bootstraps to be one of the ranking military powers of Europe. It had none of the resources of the others. Its land was barren and bereft of minerals. The population was small. There were no large towns, no industry and little culture. Even the nobility was poor, and the landless peasants lived like cattle. Yet by a supreme act of will and a genius for organization the Hohenzollerns managed to create a Spartan military state whose well-drilled Army won one victory after another and whose Machiavellian diplomacy of temporary alliances with whatever power seemed the strongest brought constant additions to its territory.

There thus arose quite artificially a state born of no popular force nor even of an idea except that of conquest, and held together by the absolute power of the ruler, by a narrow-minded bureaucracy which did his bidding and by a ruthlessly disciplined army. Two thirds and sometimes as much as five sixths of the annual state revenue was expended on the Army, which became, under the King, the state itself. "Prussia," remarked Mirabeau, "is not a state with an army, but an army with a state." And the state, which was run with the efficiency and soullessness of a factory, became all; the people were little more than cogs in the machinery. Individuals were taught not only by the kings and the drill sergeants but by the philosophers that their role in life was one of obedience, work, sacrifice and duty. Even Kant preached that duty demands the suppression of human feeling, and the Prussian poet Willibald Alexis gloried in the enslavement of the people under the Hohenzollerns. To Lessing, who did not like it, "Prussia was the most slavish country of Europe."

The Junkers, who were to play such a vital role in modern Germany, were also a unique product of Prussia. They were, as they said, a master race. It was they who occupied the land conquered from the Slavs and who farmed it on large estates worked by these Slavs, who became landless serfs quite different from those in the West. There was an essential difference between the agrarian system in Prussia and that of western Germany and Western Europe. In the latter, the nobles, who owned most of the land, received rents or feudal dues from the peasants, who though often kept in a state of serfdom had certain rights and privileges and could, and did, gradually acquire their own land and civic freedom. In the West, the peasants formed a solid part of the community; the landlords, for all their drawbacks, developed in their leisure a cultivation which led to, among other things, a civilized quality of life that could be seen in the refinement of manners, of thought and of the arts.

The Prussian Junker was not a man of leisure. He worked hard at managing his large estate, much as a factory manager does today. His landless laborers were treated as virtual slaves. On his large properties he was the absolute lord. There were no large towns nor any substantial middle class, as there were in the West, whose civilizing influence might rub against him. In contrast to the cultivated grand seigneur in the West, the Junker developed into a rude, domineering, arrogant type of man, without cultivation or culture, aggressive, conceited, ruthless, narrow-minded and given to a petty profit-seeking that some German historians noted in the private life of Otto von Bismarck, the most successful of the Junkers.

It was this political genius, this apostle of "blood and iron," who between 1866 and 1871 brought an end to a divided Germany which had existed for nearly a thousand years and, by force, replaced it with Greater Prussia, or what might be called Prussian Germany. Bismarck's unique creation is the Germany we have known in our time, a problem child of Europe and the world for nearly a century, a nation of gifted, vigorous people in which first this remarkable man and then Kaiser Wilhelm II and finally Hitler, aided by a military caste and by many a strange intellectual, succeeded in inculcating a lust for power and domination, a passion for unbridled militarism, a contempt for democracy and individual freedom and a longing for authority, for authoritarianism. Under such a spell, this nation rose to great heights, fell and rose again, until it was seemingly destroyed with the end of Hitler in the spring of 1945 -- it is perhaps too early to speak of that with any certainty.

"The great questions of the day," Bismarck declared on becoming Prime Minister of Prussia in 1862, "will not be settled by resolutions and majority votes -- that was the mistake of the men of 1848 and 1849 -- but by blood and iron." That was exactly the way he proceeded to settle them, though it must be said that he added a touch of diplomatic finesse, often of the most deceitful kind. Bismarck's aim was to destroy liberalism, bolster the power of conservatism-that is, of the Junkers, the Army and the crown-and make Prussia, as against Austria, the dominant power not only among the Germans but, if possible, in Europe as well. "Germany looks not to Prussia's liberalism," he told the deputies in the Prussian parliament, "but to her force."

Bismarck first built up the Prussian Army and when the parliament refused to vote the additional credits he merely raised them on his own and finally dissolved the chamber. With a strengthened Army he then struck in three successive wars. The first, against Denmark in 1864, brought the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein under German rule. The second, against Austria in 1866, had far-reaching consequences. Austria, which for centuries had been first among the German states, was finally excluded from German affairs. It was not allowed to join the North German Confederation which Bismarck now proceeded to establish.

"In 1866," the eminent German political scientist Wilhelm Roepke once wrote, "Germany ceased to exist." Prussia annexed outright all the German states north of the Main which had fought against her, except Saxony; these included Hanover, Hesse, Nassau, Frankfurt and the Elbe duchies. All the other states north of the Main were forced into the North German Confederation. Prussia, which now stretched from the Rhine to Koenigsberg, completely dominated it, and within five years, with the defeat of Napoleon Ill's France, the southern German states, with the considerable kingdom of Bavaria in the lead, would be drawn into Prussian Germany. [23]

Bismarck's crowning achievement, the creation of the Second Reich, came on January 18, 1871, when King Wilhelm I of Prussia was proclaimed Emperor of Germany in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. Germany had been unified by Prussian armed force. It was now the greatest power on the Continent; its only rival in Europe was England.

Yet there was a fatal flaw. The German Empire, as Treitschke said, was in reality but an extension of Prussia. "Prussia," he emphasized, "is the dominant factor ... The will of the Empire can be nothing but the will of the Prussian state." This was true, and it was to have disastrous consequences for the Germans themselves. From 1871 to 1933 and indeed to Hitler's end in 1945, the course of German history as a consequence was to run, with the exception of the interim of the Weimar Republic, in a straight line and with utter logic.

Despite the democratic facade put up by the establishment of the Reichstag, whose members were elected by universal manhood suffrage, the German Empire was in reality a militarist autocracy ruled by the King of Prussia, who was also Emperor. The Reichstag possessed few powers; it was little more than a debating society where the representatives of the people let off steam or bargained for shoddy benefits for the classes they represented. The throne had the power -- by divine right. As late as 1910 Wilhelm II could proclaim that the royal crown had been "granted by God's Grace alone and not by parliaments, popular assemblies and popular decision ... Considering myself an instrument of the Lord," he added, "I go my way."

He was not impeded by Parliament. The Chancellor he appointed was responsible to him, not to the Reichstag. The assembly could not overthrow a Chancellor nor keep him in office. That was the prerogative of the monarch. Thus, in contrast to the development in other countries in the West, the idea of democracy, of the people sovereign, of the supremacy of parliament, never got a foothold in Germany, even after the twentieth century began. To be sure, the Social Democrats, after years of persecution by Bismarck and the Emperor, had become the largest single political party in the Reichstag by 1912. They loudly demanded the establishment of a parliamentary democracy. But they were ineffective. And, though the largest party, they were still a minority. The middle classes, grown prosperous by the belated but staggering development of the industrial revolution and dazzled by the success of Bismarck's policy of force and war, had traded for material gain any aspirations for political freedom they may have had. [viii] They accepted the Hohenzollern autocracy. They gladly knuckled under to the Junker bureaucracy and they fervently embraced Prussian militarism. Germany's star had risen and they -- almost all the people -- were eager to do what their masters asked to keep it high.

At the very end, Hitler, the Austrian, was one of them. To him Bismarck's Second Reich, despite its mistakes and its "terrifying forces of decay" was a work of splendor in which the Germans at last had come into their own.

Was not Germany above all other countries a marvelous example of an empire which had risen from foundations of a policy purely of power? Prussia, the germ cell of the Empire, came into being through resplendent heroism and not through financial operations or commercial deals, and the Reich itself in turn was only the glorious reward of aggressive political leadership and the death-defying courage of its soldiers ...

The very founding of the [Second] Reich seemed gilded by the magic of an event which uplifted the entire nation. After a series of incomparable victories, a Reich was born for the sons and grandsons -- a reward for immortal heroism ... This Reich, which did not owe its existence to the trickery of parliamentary fractions, towered above the measure of other states by the very exalted manner of its founding; for not in the cackling of a parliamentary battle of words but in the thunder and rumbling of the front surrounding Paris was the solemn act performed: a proclamation of our will, declaring that the Germans, princes and people, were resolved in the future to constitute a Reich and once again to raise the imperial crown to symbolic heights ... No deserters and slackers were the founders of the Bismarckian state, but the regiments at the front.

This unique birth and baptism of fire in themselves surrounded the Reich with a halo of historic glory such as only the oldest states -- and they but seldom -- could boast.

And what an ascent now began!

Freedom on the outside provided daily bread within. The nation became rich in numbers and earthly goods. The honor of the state, and with it that of the whole people, was protected and shielded by an army which could point most visibly to the difference from the former German Union. [24]

That was the Germany which Hitler resolved to restore. In Mein Kampf he discourses at great length on what he believes are the reasons for its fall: its tolerance of Jews and Marxists, the crass materialism and selfishness of the middle class, the nefarious influence of the "cringers and lickspittles" around the Hohenzollern throne, the "catastrophic German alliance policy" which linked Germany to the degenerate Hapsburgs and the untrustworthy Italians instead of with England, and the lack of a fundamental "social" and racial policy. These were failures which, he promised, National Socialism would correct.
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