Nazi Party is Formed

Adolf Hitler never held a regular job and aside from his time in World War I, led a lazy lifestyle, from his brooding teenage days in Linz through years spent in idleness and poverty in Vienna. But after joining the German Workers' Party in 1919 at age thirty, Hitler immediately began a frenzied effort to make it succeed.

The German Workers' Party consisted mainly of an executive committee which had seven members, including Hitler. To bring in new members Hitler prepared invitations which each committee member gave to friends asking them to attend the party's monthly public meeting, but few came.

Next they tried having invitations printed at a stationary store. A few people came.


Then they placed an advertisement in an anti-Semitic newspaper in Munich and at Hitler's insistence, moved the public meeting to a beer cellar that would hold about a hundred. The other committee members were concerned they might have trouble filling the place, but just over a hundred showed up at the meeting held on October 16, 1919.

Hitler was scheduled to be the second speaker at this meeting. It was to be his first time as a featured speaker, despite the misgivings of some committee members who doubted Hitler's ability at this time.

But when Hitler got up to speak, he astounded everyone with a highly emotional, at times near hysterical manner of speech making. For Hitler, it was an important moment in his young political career. He described the scene in Mein Kampf:

"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! After thirty minutes the people in the small room were electrified and the enthusiasm was first expressed by the fact that my appeal to the self-sacrifice of those present led to the donation of three hundred marks."

The money was used to buy more advertising and print leaflets. The German Workers' Party now featured Hitler as the main attraction at its meetings. In his speeches Hitler railed against the Treaty of Versailles and delivered anti-Semitic tirades, blaming the Jews for Germany's problems. Attendance slowly increased, numbering in the hundreds.

Hitler took charge of party propaganda in early 1920, and also recruited young men he had known in the Army. He was aided in his recruiting efforts by Army Captain Ernst Röhm, a new party member, who would play a vital role in Hitler's eventual rise to power.

In Munich, there were many alienated, maladjusted soldiers and ex-soldiers with a thirst for adventure and a distaste for the peace brought on by the Treaty of Versailles and the resulting democratic republic. They joined the German Workers' Party in growing numbers.

There were many other political groups looking for members, but none more successful than the Marxists. Genuine fear existed there might be a widespread Communist revolution in Germany like the Russian revolution. Hitler associated Marxism with the Jews and thus reviled it.

He also understood how a political party directly opposed to a possible Communist revolution could play on the fears of so many Germans and gain support.

In February of 1920, Hitler urged the German Workers' Party to holds its first mass meeting. He met strong opposition from leading party members who thought it was premature and feared it might be disrupted by Marxists. Hitler had no fear of disruption. In fact he welcomed it, knowing it would bring his party anti-Marxist notoriety. He even had the hall decorated in red to aggravate the Marxists.

On February 24, 1920, Hitler was thrilled when he entered the large meeting hall in Munich and saw two thousand people waiting, including a large number of Communists.

A few minutes into his speech, he was drowned out by shouting followed by open brawling between German Workers' Party associates and disruptive Communists. Eventually, Hitler resumed speaking and claims in Mein Kampf the shouting was gradually drowned out by applause.

He proceeded to outline the Twenty Five Points of the German Workers' Party, its political platform, which included: the union of all Germans in a greater German Reich; rejection of the Treaty of Versailles; the demand for additional territories for the German people (Lebensraum); citizenship determined by race with no Jew to be considered a German; all income not earned by work to be confiscated; a thorough reconstruction of the national education system; religious freedom except for religions which endanger the German race; and a strong central government for the execution of effective legislation.

One by one Hitler went through the Twenty Five Points, asking the rowdy crowd for its approval on each point, which he got. For Hitler, the meeting was now a huge success.

"When after nearly four hours the hall began to empty and the crowd, shoulder to shoulder, began to move, shove, press toward the exit like a slow stream, I knew that now the principles of a movement which could no longer be forgotten were moving out among the German people."

"A fire was kindled from whose flame one day the sword must come which would regain freedom for the Germanic Siegfried and life for the German nation."

Hitler realized one thing the movement lacked was a recognizable symbol or flag. In the summer of 1920, Hitler chose the symbol which to this day remains perhaps the most infamous in history, the swastika.

It was not something Hitler invented, but is found even in the ruins of ancient times. Hitler had seen it each day as a boy when he attended the Benedictine monastery school in Lambach, Austria. The ancient monastery was decorated with carved stones and woodwork that included several swastikas. They had also been seen around Germany among the Freikorps (soldiers for hire), and appeared before as an emblem used by anti-Semitic political parties.

But when it was placed inside a white circle on a red background, it provided a powerful, instantly recognizable symbol that immediately helped Hitler's party gain popularity.

Hitler described the symbolism involved: "In the red we see the social idea of the movement, in the white the national idea, in the swastika the mission to struggle for the victory of Aryan man and at the same time the victory of the idea of creative work, which is eternally anti-Semitic and will always be anti-Semitic."

The German Workers' Party name was changed by Hitler to include the term National Socialist. Thus the full name was the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei or NSDAP) called for short, Nazi.

By the end of 1920 it had about three thousand members.

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