The Quiet Years

Adolf Hitler described the quiet years between 1926 and 1929 as one of the happiest times of his life. In the scenic mountains above the village of Berchtesgaden in the German state of Bavaria, he found an ideal home. He spent his days gazing at inspiring, majestic mountain views and dreaming of future glory for himself and his German Reich.

Those dreams centered around asserting the supremacy of the Germanic race, acquiring more living space (Lebensraum) for the German people, and dealing harshly with Jews and Marxists.

By May of 1926, Hitler had overcome any remaining rivals within the Nazi Party and assumed the title of supreme leader (Führer). Ideological differences and infighting between factions of the Nazi Party were resolved by Hitler through his considerable powers of personal persuasion during closed door meetings with embattled leaders.

Portrait of Joseph Goebbels a failed writer and virulent anti-Semite who found his calling in the Nazi Party.

The Party itself experienced slow growth, numbering only about 17,000 in early 1926. Hitler had been forbidden to speak in public until 1927 by the Bavarian government. He was still on parole, facing the possibility of being deported back to his Austrian homeland.

Much to his advantage, however, he enjoyed a following among upper class socialites who were strangely drawn to this charismatic but socially awkward man. Hitler delighted in their attention and their money. He wound up with a brand new red Mercedes in which he was chauffeured around the Bavarian countryside taking in the sights with his Nazi companions.

During these quiet years, Joseph Goebbels first came to Hitler's attention and experienced a quick rise in the Nazi hierarchy. Goebbels, a brilliant but somewhat neurotic would-be writer, displayed huge talents for speech making, organizing, and propaganda. He was a rarity among the Nazis, a highly educated man, with a Ph.D. in literature from Heidelberg.

Goebbels was a little man, about five feet tall, who walked with a limp as a result of infantile paralysis. He kept a diary which reveals how quickly he became infatuated with Hitler.

"Great joy. He greets me like an old friend. And looks after me. How I love him!" Goebbels wrote after his second meeting with Hitler.

But this 'love' was tempered by ideological differences. Goebbels belonged to the Nazi faction led by Gregor Strasser that actually believed in the 'socialism' of National Socialism and had sympathy for Marxism, a sentiment totally unacceptable to Hitler.

In his diary, Goebbels describes his reaction to a meeting in which Hitler attempted to straighten him out.

Berliners cheer Reich President Hindenburg (in car) upon his 80th birthday in October 1927. Below: The world-renowned Adlon Hotel, frequented by Berlin society and wealthy visitors in the 1920s.
Below: A gathering of Nazis in Weimar - waiting for their day to come.
Below: Ernst Thalmann (center) leads his Red Front (communist) troopers through the streets of Berlin - posing a sizable challenge to the struggling Nazi Party there.

"We ask. He gives brilliant replies. I love him. Social question. Quite new perspectives. He has thought it all out...He sets my mind at rest on all points. He is a man in every way, in every respect. Such a firebrand, he can be my leader. I bow to the greater man, the political genius!"

And later, after spending a few days with Hitler at Berchtesgaden...

"These days have signposted my road! A star shines leading me from deep misery! I am his to the end. My last doubts have vanished. Germany will live. Heil Hitler!"

Goebbels was sent by Hitler in October 1926 to the German capital, Berlin, to be its Gauleiter. Once there, he faced the huge task of reorganizing and publicizing the largely ignored Nazi Party.

Berlin proved to be a training ground for the future Propaganda Minister. He skillfully used good and even bad publicity to get the Party noticed. He organized meetings, gave speeches, published a newspaper, plastered posters all over neighborhoods, and provoked confrontations with Marxists. Party membership grew.

But problems arose after Nazi storm troopers badly beat up an old pastor who heckled Goebbels during a Nazi rally. The police declared the Party illegal in Berlin and eventually banned Nazi speech making throughout the entire German state of Prussia.

The ban was short-lived however. It was lifted in the spring of 1927. Hitler then came to Berlin and gave a speech before a crowd of about 5,000 supporters.

On May 20th, national elections were held in Germany. The Nazis had a poor showing, although Goebbels won a seat in the Reichstag. For the average German, the Nazis at this time had little appeal. Things seemed to be just fine without them. The economy was strong, inflation was under control, and people were working again.

Adolf Hitler was simply biding his time, knowing it would not last. At Berchtesgaden, Hitler finished dictating the second volume of Mein Kampf to Rudolf Hess. In the summer of 1928, Hitler rented a small country house with a magnificent view of the Bavarian mountains. Years later this would be the site of his sprawling villa.

Now, at age 39, Hitler had a place he could finally call home. He settled into the little country house and invited his step sister, Angela, to leave Vienna and come to take over the daily chores. Angela arrived along with her two daughters, Friedl and Geli.

Geli was a lively 20-year-old with dark blond hair and Viennese charm, qualities that were hugely appealing to a man nearly twice her age. Hitler quickly fell in love with her. He fawned over her like a teenager in love for the first time. He went shopping with her and patiently stood by as she tried on clothes. He took her to theaters, cafés, concerts and even to Party meetings.

This relationship between Hitler and his niece was for the most part socially acceptable according to local customs since she was the daughter of his half sister.

It was a relationship that would ultimately end in tragedy a few years later with her suicide. But for now, in late 1929, she existed as the object of Hitler's affection.

In another part of the world, Wall Street in New York, events were happening that would bring an end to this quiet time for Adolf Hitler and would ultimately help put the Nazis in power in Germany.

On October 29th, the Wall Street stock market crashed with disastrous worldwide effects. First in America, then the rest of the world, companies went bankrupt, banks failed and people instantly lost their life's savings.

Unemployment soon soared and poverty and starvation became real possibilities for everyone.

The people panicked. Governments seemed powerless against the worldwide economic collapse. Fear ruled. Governments stood on the brink. The Great Depression had begun.

Adolf Hitler knew his time had come.

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