The Nazis use direct action

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The political and social chaos in Germany immediately after World War One led to rise of many violent and extreme political groups. Hitler’s NSDAP was one of these.

Hitler’s time in the army and the military background of many of his supporters led to the NSDAP becoming like a military organisation. There was a section of the party called the ‘stormtroopers’ (Sturm Abteilung – SA – ‘Brownshirts’). NSDAP meetings looked like military parades, and Hitler addressed them with passionate speeches that roused strong emotions in his followers. This made it easy for them to take part in acts of violence, and party members attacked members of other political groups. In September 1921 Hitler was sent to prison for his part in a mob attack on a rival politician.

The SA aimed to protect Hitler from physical attack and to disrupt political meetings of other parties. The SA’s leaders were Hermann Goering, a former pilot, and Ernst Rohm, a former army captain.

Hitler would make speeches to the SA inciting acts of violence against Jews and left-wing political parties. This led to street violence against socialists and communists. In addition, Jews were harassed and subjected to humiliation and violence.