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Section: How did the Nazis rise to power?

The early years of the Nazi Party

From 1921 to 1925 the Nazi Party offices were based at 12 Corneliusstresse, Munich. This photo was taken in 1921.
From 1921 to 1925 the Nazi Party offices were based at 12 Corneliusstresse, Munich. This photo was taken in 1921.

Courtesy of The Wiener Library.

In January 1919, Anton Drexler founded the German Workers’ Party. This party was formed from a group who had previously met regularly to discuss political matters.

The party met weekly in a beer hall in Munich. After the pressures of war Munich was politically unstable. People were inclined to support new ideas that advocated extreme change.

The party advocated a range of ideas, including hostility to the Treaty of Versailles, nationalism, concern about the nations moral standards and changing culture, and extreme antisemitism.

On the 24 February 1920, the German Workers’ Party changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), more commonly referred to as the Nazi Party.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler was born on the 20 April 1889 in a small town called Braunau-am-Inn in Austria.

In 1913, Hitler moved to Munich, and after the First World War broke out in 1914 he enlisted to join the German Army. Hitler was placed in the 16 Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment and served as a runner, taking messages to and from the front line. Hitler was injured twice in the war and whilst he was in hospital recovering from his second injury, an armistice was declared and the war was over.

After the war, Hitler returned to Munich. He continued working for the army as an instruction officer in the information department. His job was to encourage nationalism and anti-communism amongst soldiers and infiltrate small political parties.

It was through this job that Hitler first attended a meeting of the German Worker’s Party on the 12 September 1919. Hitler entered into a discussion with the main speaker at the event, and Drexler, impressed with Hitler’s points and oratory skills, invited him to join the party.

Hitler joined the party and then the committee of the German Worker’s Party. He was unimpressed by its lack of organisation, and set about transforming the group. He became responsible for recruitment and propaganda, and organised larger party meetings and rallies, where he would give speeches. His oratory skills soon became indispensable to the party.

On the 24 February 1920, Hitler announced the Nazi Party’s 25-point programme.

Following this announcement, Hitler pushed for an overhaul of the party structure, replacing the democratic committee with a single leader who would have ultimate control. This proposal was rejected. On the 11 July 1920, over a disagreement about merging with another party, Hitler resigned.

Hitler stated he would only return if he was made party chairman, with dictatorial powers. Realising the loss of their main speaker could potentially ruin the party, Drexler and the committee agreed to Hitler’s demands. Hitler became the party chairman.

What were Hitler's and the Nazi Party's ideas?

Prior to Hitler joining, the Nazi Party held extremely nationalist, racist and antisemitic views. After Hitler had joined the party, he expanded upon and marketed these ideas.

Hitler had a racist world view. He believed that people could be separated into a hierarchy of different races, where some races were superior and others were inferior. Hitler believed the German race to be the superior race, and called the German race ‘Aryan’.

Hitler and the Nazis considered Jews to be an inferior race of people, who set out to weaken other races and take over the world. Hitler believed that Jews were particularly destructive to the German ‘Aryan’ race, and did not have any place in Nazi Germany.

Hitler also wanted to rid Germany of the disabled, homosexuals, Roma and Sinti, and other minorities that did not fit in to his idea of an Aryan race. The Nazis labelled these groups ‘a-social’.

Hitler was an extreme nationalist, believing the German ‘Aryan’ race should dominate. His expansionist policies sought ‘Lebensraum‘ for the German people. Hitler wanted to create a generation of young Aryans who were physically fit and totally obedient through programmes such as Hitler Youth. He believed these policies would unite Germany and ensure it was the strongest nation on earth.

Hitler developed and publicised all of these ideas in his books, Mein Kampf (1925) and Zweites Buch (1928), and speeches throughout his time in power.

The Munich Putsch

On the 8 November 1923, Hitler attempted to pull off a military coup and overthrow the Weimar Republic. This was called the Munich Putsch, although it is sometimes referred to as the Beer Hall Putsch.

Throughout 1923, the economic and political crisis struck. The Nazi Party and other nationalists believed that an armed takeover of Bavaria could overthrow the Republic.

Hitler and the Nazi Party collaborated with others such as General Ludendorff and Gustav von Kahr to put a plan together to attempt a military coup.

By August 1923, the plan was set and weapons and transport were gathered. Following a signal from the Bavarian parliament, all of those involved in the plan would march to Berlin to seize power.

In November 1923, the others involved in the plan began to have second thoughts after hearing that the army in Berlin would defend the government.

Hitler was determined that the plan would go ahead. On the 8 November 1923, he marched into a beer hall in Munich, where von Kahr was giving a speech. Hitler declared his intention to take over the government and start a national revolution.

Von Kahr gave his support to Hitler at gunpoint. However, as soon as Hitler left to sort out a disagreement between the SA and troops, he withdrew his support, moved the Bavarian government, and declared the Nazi Party a banned organisation.

On the following morning, the 9 November 1923, Hitler led a demonstration through the streets of Munich, aiming to take control of the war ministry building. Armed police blocked their route, and violence broke out on both sides. Fourteen Nazis and four policemen were killed.

Hitler fled the scene, and was arrested two days later on the 11 November 1923. He was sent to Landsberg Prison and put on trial for treason. Hitler’s trial took place from the 26 February to the 1 April 1924.

He was found guilty of treason, but, with a sympathetic judge, was sentenced to just five years in prison. Of this five years, Hitler only served nine months.

DID YOU KNOW...

 

Whilst in serving his prison sentence in Landsberg Prison, Hitler devoted his time to writing his autobiography, Mein Kampf (My Struggle). Mein Kampf set out Hitler’s political ideas and ideology.

 

The first volume of the book was published in 1925, and the second followed a year later in 1926. Initially, sales of the book were slow. However, following Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, the book went through several editions.

Copies of the book Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler held by The Wiener Library.

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