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The Rise of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party
Transcript of The Rise of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party
& The Nazi Party
In this house in Braunau am Inn, Austria, Adolf Hitler was born on April 20th, 1889.
Historians still debate
Was this child destined for evil?
Was he predisposed genetically for cruelty
or was his nature twisted by events
that unfolded throughout his early life?
Adolf was born to middle-class parents. Unlike the majority of noteworthy leaders in history,
Hitler's bloodline came not from aristocratic roots, but from simple farmers and shopkeepers.
His Father, Alois, was a
low ranking state official.
He suffered from alcoholism.
He was stern and physically
abusive to both Adolf and
Adolf's mother. Adolf feared
and hated his father.
His mother, Klara,
was a quiet woman.
She was Alois' third
wife and 23 years
younger than him.
She gave birth to
five children from
Alois, but only Adolf
and his younger
sister, Paula, survived.
Adolf was adored and
cherished by Klara.
In school, Adolf received less than average grades and his teachers commented that he daydreamed.
They also commented that he had difficulty socializing with the other children.
When Adolf was 14 years old, his
father passed away. He spent the
rest of his teen years nursing his
mother through a painful struggle
with terminal breast cancer. Her death
left 18 year old Adolf, as he described,
completely alone in the world.
Young Adolf's only friend
was a classmate named
The friends' main shared interest was the
music of composer Richard Wagner. Wagner's
symphonies were written to accompany staged
dramas centering on old Germanic mythology.
Hitler was entranced by stories of Germanic
heroes defending their homeland from villains.
August would later recount in a book about his childhood friendship with Hitler that the
teenage Adolf, after attending a production of one of Wagner's musical dramas, would walk
home speaking eloquently without pause about
the beauty and power of the composer's works. These symphonic masterpieces, as Kubizek recalled, seemed to
form the background music for whatever ideas and visions were stirring in Adolf's mind.
Adolf and August moved together from their hometown to Vienna, a city renown for architecture, history, art and culture. Adolf planned to pursue painting while his friend continued honing his skill as a violinist and composer.
Adolf was a proficient
watercolor artist. He preferred to paint great examples of architecture.
Adolf applied multiple times
to a prestigious academy of arts
in Vienna but was rejected. Failing to advance in his life's passion and living in poverty, the young Adolf entered a dark period about which
there is little documented history. What is known is that he lived on the streets for some time and gave up on ever fulfilling his artistic ambitions.
In 1913, as a 24 year old with little in his past other than failure, loss and rejection, Adolf relocated from Vienna, Austria to Munich, a bustling city in the province of Bavaria in southern Germany.
Having always greatly admired German history, art and culture, Hitler felt proud to be living in "a real German city". It is here that historians speculate that his already forming resentment of Jews was solidified as he socialized with fellow anti-Semites and German nationalists.
Hitler was among a crowd
in Munich the day in 1914
that war was announced. The crowd cheered as it was proclaimed that Germany would go to the aid of her ally, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in teaching the Serbs and their Russian allies a lesson.
Historians believe that they have spotted the 25 year old Hitler in this photograph.
A few days later, Hitler, although an Austrian by birth, would request to serve in a German infantry regiment. His request was approved.
For the next four years, Hitler was one of the millions of young men from different nations
embroiled in the ferocity of trench warfare on the Western Front.
Serving in the 16th Bavarian Reserve Regiment, Hitler flourished in his role as a soldier. He later
remarked that on the battlefront he finally felt of use and worthwhile to those around him.
In the trenches Hitler forged a bond of brotherhood with his fellow soldiers, the likes of which he had never felt in his early life.
Fighting with distinction and bravery in France and Belgium, Hitler earned the coveted Iron Cross, First Class.
He would also be awarded the Wound Badge
for a shrapnel wound as well as temporary blindness sustained during a gas attack.
With defeat in 1918, Hitler, like many
of his comrades, felt that Germany's
surrender and acceptance of the Treaty
of Versailles had been a stab in the back.
He later wrote that his experiences during the war solidified two of his greatest passions: German Nationalism and a burning desire for revenge.
Back in Munich after the war, Hitler hoped to remain in the military for as long as possible. Although the Treaty of Versailles forced Germany to reduce the Reichswehr to 100,000 men, Hitler was able to keep his position.
His new assignment was to the intelligence wing of the Reichswehr and it involved spying on radical political movements to gain information on their leadership, structure and intentions.
Through the German Workers' Party,
Hitler became acquainted with Dietrich
Eckart. This is the man who would serve
as Hitler's mentor and influence his ideas
perhaps more than any other individual.
To increase their public appeal, the party changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. They also felt they needed a distinctive symbol that the public would link to their political ideology.
They turned to the artist within their ranks, Adolf Hitler, for the symbol.
Hitler, consulting with Eckart, decided upon a tilted black swastika upon a white circle on a red background. The swastika was believed by the Thule Society to be one of the sacred symbols of the ancient Aryan race.
Hitler rose through the ranks
to become the undisputed
leader of the National Socialist
German Workers' Party
With Hitler at the helm, the Nazi Party public rallies began attracting thousands of curious
Munich citizens. Some of those who joined the movement at this stage would become
important figures in the party's days ahead. Rudolph Hess would become one of Hitler's chief deputies and most loyal assistants. Herman Goering, an ace fighter pilot of notoriety from WWI, would become another of Hitler's close assistants and the chief of the future German air force, the Luftwaffe. Ernst Roehm was the leader of the Nazi Party's Sturmabteilung (Storm Battalion) "SA". The SA's job was to safeguard Nazi rallies from
political rivals and to violently break up the rallies of enemy parties, especially Communists.
Through the early 1920's the Nazi Party became more and more noticeable in Munich. Trucks full of Nazi supporters would ride through the streets chanting political slogans and tossing informational leaflets to onlookers. SA thugs wearing swastika armbands would roam the city looking for rivals to brawl with.
From the beginning, propaganda also played a key role in the Nazi movement. Propaganda is the use of any media to
influence or persuade public opinion.
Hitler, with an artist's eye and a natural gift for persuasive speaking, was a master of effective propaganda.
Having gained thousands of members, attracted the support of many war veterans and received substantial funding from local businessmen, Hitler began to believe that the time for action had arrived.
Rallying his most ardent party members, a revolution was
launched from one of the beer halls at which Nazis held meetings. The revolution, known as the Beer Hall Putsch, took place on November 8th, 1923.
Hitler based the plan for the revolution around the March on Rome, in which his hero, the Italian Fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, had forcefully seized power over the government of Italy. But unlike Mussolini's revolution, Hitler's was an utter failure. Sixteen Nazi Party members were killed and Hitler and several of his associates were arrested.
Hitler fled the scene of
the failed revolution and took
refuge in the home of a party
loyalist. By his friend's telling,
Hitler at that moment was
considering suicide but calmed
himself and allowed officials to
After a trial in which he was
found guilty of high treason, Hitler
was sentenced to serve a five year
sentence at Landsberg prison.
Because some of Lansberg Prison's guards were
sympathetic to Hitler's political cause, he was
given special treatment and relaxed regulations.
His room had comfortable furnishings, party officials and friends were allowed regular visits through which he coordinated continued political activities, and he received and responded to hundreds of letters of support from people across Germany who had read transcripts of the passionate speech he delivered at his public trial.
Hitler was pardoned by the state after only
serving just one year of his sentence. But
he had made sure to spend his year of incarceration productively.
Upon Hitler's release from prison he was
prepared to advance the Nazi Party through the electoral process rather than through revolution. However, during the years of the late-20's Germany enjoyed a period of economic upturn and stabilization. People grew more confident in the Weimar Republic leadership and looked less to radical parties like the Nazis and Communists.
But a new global crisis was soon to give the Nazis a second lease on life.
On October 24th, 1929, Wall Street was thrown into chaos as the US stock market crashed. Panicked citizens withdrew all of their savings from banks across the nation and economic stability was crushed. European economies, still recovering from the destruction of the previous war and heavily dependent on American financial support, toppled along with Wall Street. In Germany, years of slow economic progress were wiped out as America went into the Great Depression. As the German Deutschmark lost value, the Weimar government printed more and more. Eventually, entire wheelbarrow loads of Deutschmarks couldn't even buy a week's worth of groceries.
As hyperinflation set in, German businesses
laid off millions of workers in a desperate
attempt to stay afloat. In a matter of days
unemployment in Germany skyrocketed.
Money was so worthless that families used it to keep furnaces burning during the winter. Children built pyramids with blocks of worthless Weimar banknotes. Families across Germany were reduced to extreme poverty.
Hitler was too politically astute to waste
a useful crisis. He knew that this economic
collapse could be the perfect event to
propel his party to new heights of power.
In the bleak years of the early-30's the Nazi Party's propaganda addressing the situation in Germany tapped into the emotions of the common people. Hitler was adept at knowing how to target particular propaganda pieces at a specific audience to gain their support. There was propaganda for workers, for fathers, for mothers, for children and teens, for veterans, for farmers, for anti-Semites, and the list goes on and on.
The German people responded. In the federal elections of 1930 the Nazi Party won 107 seats in the Reichstag (German Parliament), becoming the 2nd largest party. The following year it more than doubled its number of seats.
In 1932, feeling confident in recent Nazi gains due largely to the economic depression, Hitler decided upon a run for the office of president. Running against him was the aging politician Paul von Hindenburg, now in his 80's. Because he had been in politics for so long, many Germans trusted Hindenburg's leadership, but Hitler believed he had some advantages of his own.
Part of Hitler's edge over Hindenburg was in the expert Nazi use of propaganda. A
rising star among Hitler's supporters was Dr. Joseph Goebbels, a man whose public speeches and essays lent an aura of academic
sophistication to the National Socialist movement.
Goebbels would eventually be appointed Minister of Propaganda and remain close by Hitler's side as one of his most unquestioning supporters until the very end.
Another key advantage was the Nazi's embrace of innovative campaigning strategies. Hitler and his top supporters relied heavily on radio and even motion picture propaganda.
One of Hitler's campaign slogans was "Hitler über Deutschland" (Hitler over Germany) -- a play on words tied in with his revolutionary use of campaign stops across Germany by passenger plane.
Hitler ended up coming in 2nd place as Hindenburg was victorious in the presidential election of 1932. Hindenburg won 53% of the vote, Hitler 37%, Ernst Thälmann the Communist candidate 10%.
Hitler knew that with defeat in his bid for presidency his next hope for continuing his meteoric climb to power was to be appointed chancellor by Hindenburg. There was only one small problem--Hindenburg found Hitler and his followers thuggish and repulsive.
Hindenburg appointed General Kurt von Schleicher as Chancellor. Von Schleicher would attempt to steal some of Hitler's political backing for himself by aligning with a dissident group of National Socialists who had grown disillusioned with Hitler's leadership.
The plan backfired.
In the next round of parliamentary
elections the Nazis lost some seats
to the Communists. Many in
Hindenburg's circle blamed this development on Von Schleicher's tactics and demanded that Hitler be made chancellor in his place. Even those who were not particularly fond of the Nazis favored them over the growing Communist Party.
On January 30th, 1933, Hitler was officially sworn in as Chancellor. This proved a crucial turning point in the history of the Nazi's ascension to power.
Hitler had no intention of remaining Chancellor for long, but saw this moment for what it was -- a golden opportunity which if seized upon could elevate him to the position he desired. He was one step closer to becoming dictator.
Hitler and his inner circle realized that they stood on the brink of the victory for which they had been pursuing for over a decade.
All that was needed was a nudge to further weaken the people's faith in the Weimar Republic and eliminate the threat posed by their Communist rivals.
The "nudge" that the Nazis needed
came expediently in the form of the
Reichstag fire of February 7th, 1933.
Several prominent historians believe
that the fire was purposefully set by
Nazi agents, which is plausible.
In any case, the aftermath played right
into the hands of Adolf Hitler.
Communist radicals were blamed for
the blaze that burned the German
parliament building. At Hitler's urging,
Hindenburg quickly passed the Reichstag
Fire Decree which, under the veil of
emergency "security" measures, did away
with freedom of speech, freedom of the press
freedom of assembly and allowed detentions
In a nationwide sweep to net all Communists
tied to the plot, the police tracked down and arrested thousands.
Acting rapidly to further consolidate his power in the wake of the Reichstag fire, the Nazi delegates in the parliament proposed a new measure known as the Enabling Act, which called for a four year suspension
of Germany's constitution in order to allow legislative
action to more rapidly address economic issues.
The reality was that it would remove almost all remaining
limits on Hitler's control over Germany. On the 23rd of March, the measure passed with a vote of 441-84.
The rapid domino effect continued and by July of 1933 the Nazi Party had banned all competing political parties, dissolved workers' trade unions across the nation and made their party the only legal one in Germany.
Hitler's vision of becoming the sole leader of Germany seemed very much within reach.
One problem weighing on Hitler's mind was the
growing power of his own party's paramilitary wing -- the SA. The SA, under Ernst Roehm's leadership, had begun demanding more and more political and military authority. Many in Hitler's inner circle warned him that they were growing out of control.
In what has become known as the Night of the Long Knives, Hitler unleashed a conspiracy which severed the leadership
of the SA. Ernst Roehm and other top SA officials were rounded up and shot in the street. Other political rivals from Hitler's past, such as Von Streicher, were also eliminated.
In a move that would have made Machiavelli proud, Hitler had made it abundantly clear that it was an unwise choice to defy his authority.
The SA was restructured into the SS
and placed firmly under Hitler's command.
He assigned Heinrich Himmler as the SS Deputy, a man upon whose loyalty and submission he could trust.
The SS, known for their black uniforms,
would remains Hitler's loyal personal bodyguard and secret police.
On August 2nd, 1934, President Hindenburg passed away. Hitler assumed all power and formally claimed the title of "Führer". All barrier or limitations to his power had been removed. He was formally dictator over Germany and its population of 65 million.
What had been a republican state
was now a Nazi state.
Hitler's unlikely climb
to the top had been a long
and arduous process.
From a hopelessly poor and
destitute teenager in Vienna
to the totalitarian leader
of Germany, the wayside
was strewn with any who
had stood in his path.
But for Hitler, this was only the beginning.
He had made a number of oaths, both to
himself and to his followers. He had made
threats to those who stood in his way and
those he viewed as adversaries.
Now he intended to make good on his word.
For so many years he had focused
on claiming power. Now, he would
shift his focus to retaining it.
As dictator, one of Hitler's first priorities was the rebuilding of Germany's economy and the reduction of unemployment.
Another of his top priorities, which
went hand in hand with economic
revitalization, was the rearmament of Germany's military.
However, there were much
darker forces at play in the Third
Reich than economic recovery
and military rearmament.
Even though Hitler's authority was supreme,
the Nazis worked diligently to ensure that
all areas of society, family life and culture fell
under Nazi regulations. With the policy named
Gleichsaltung (coordination) any and all organizations were brought under Nazi control or disbanded.
Thousands of books were deemed
"Anti-German" and burned. These
included the works of many famed
Jewish German authors and intellectuals.
Various forms of music were banned across Germany, including jazz and swing music, which had become massively popular with German teens during the Weimar years.
Because most famous jazz and big band musicians were African American, the Nazis saw them as unsuitable.
School curriculum for all subjects
was tightly controlled by the Nazis.
Teachers accused of using unapproved
sources could be fired or worse.
Youth scout groups, which had long
been a part of German society, were
restructured into the Hitler Youth,
organizations to further indoctrinate
young boys and girls with Nazi ideology
and prepare them for Hitler's future plans.
Worst of all was the Nazis' atrocious treatment
of minority groups it considered unworthy of
human rights. What historians now call the Holocaust, the genocide of the Jews and other
enemies of the Third Reich, was beginning.
For many average Germans, the vicious reality
of Hitler's intentions was beginning to set in.
Now, regardless of their various reasons for voting him into power, German people, as individuals and families, stood at a fork in the road.
Germany, he believed, had been betrayed by people within its own borders. The Communists and the Jews, he now felt confident, were working hand in hand to orchestrate the downfall of the Fatherland.
Hitler began attending meetings of the German Workers' Party and was immediately drawn to the political beliefs they were championing: a strong, active government, a non-Jewish form of Socialism, anti-Communist, anti-Capitalist, and solidarity and unity between all members of Europe's Germanic peoples.
One of the founders, Anton Drexler, immediately noticed the oratory skills of the young Adolf Hitler and invited him to become a formal member of the German Workers' Party. Hitler accepted, becoming the new party's 55th registered member.
Ekhart believed in the coming of a master who
was divinely inspired to lead the German race
to a glorious future. Upon meeting the young
Adolf Hitler he was fully convinced that he had
encountered the prophesied Aryan Messiah.
Eckart was a German occultist and member
of the secretive Thule Society. They believed
that their ancient Aryan ancestors once ruled
a vast empire and that the Aryan race of
Germanic people was destined to rise again.
The Weimar Republic, Hitler
claimed, was far too weak and
democratic to fix Germany's serious
social and economic problems.
What Germany needed was a strong
government to replace the Weimar
Republic, he insisted.
In fiery speeches Hitler delved
into attacks against all those
who he saw as enemies of
Germany: Communists, Jews,
and supporters of the Weimar
In over 700 pages Hitler detailed turning points in his early life and elaborated in great detail both his interpretation of Germany's history and his vision of its future. The book enumerated all of the core principles of National Socialism and ensured its readers that only one movement could save Germany from the weakness of the Weimar Republic and the looming threat of Communist takeover.
With his loyal assistant, Rudolf Hess, present,
Hitler dictated the book which would be published under the title Mein Kampf. "My Struggle"
"The whole art consists in doing this so skillfully that everyone will be convinced that the fact is real, the process necessary, the necessity correct, etc. But since propaganda is not and cannot be the necessity in itself, since its function. . . consists in attracting the attention of the crowd, and not in educating those who are already educated or who are striving after education and knowledge, its effect for the most part must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect. . . ."
"We National Socialists must hold unflinchingly to our aim in foreign policy, namely, to secure for the German people the land and soil to which they are entitled on this earth. And this action is the only one which, before God and our German posterity, would make any sacrifice of blood seem justified: before God, since we have been put on this earth with the mission of eternal struggle for our daily bread, beings who receive nothing as a gift, and who owe their position as lords of the earth only to the genius and the courage with which they can conquer and defend it; and before our German posterity in so far as we have shed no citizen's blood out of which a thousand others are not bequeathed to posterity. The soil on which some day German generations of peasants can beget powerful sons will sanction the investment of the sons of today, and will some day acquit the responsible statesmen of blood-guilt and sacrifice of the people, even if they are persecuted by their contemporaries."
"The lost purity of the blood alone destroys inner happiness forever, plunges man into the abyss for all time, and the consequences can never more be eliminated from body and spirit."
As German parents sold family heirlooms
to afford food for their children, Hitler
understood that it would only be a matter
of time before questions would be asked:
"Why has the Weimar government allowed
this situation to happen?"
"Who is responsible for our suffering?"
"Who will save us?"
The Nazis would be there to provide their
reply. "Give us your loyalty and Germany
will be restored."
"Two million dead. In vain? NEVER! Front-soldiers, Adolf Hitler is showing you the way!
"usury, Versailles, unemployment, war guilt lie, Marxism, Bolshevism, lies and betrayal, inflation"
"Enough now! Vote Hitler!
"We're voting for Hindenburg"
"We're voting for Hitler! Look at these faces
and you will know where YOU belong!"
"WORKERS: of the mind, of the hand
Vote for the front-soldier, Hitler!"
"We are for Adolf Hitler!"
"The workers have awakened"
"We create the new Germany"
"We Women Vote National Socialist"
Although not the outcome that Hitler was hoping for, it nonetheless was further proof that he and his Nazi Party had become major players in German politics. Hindenburg's longstanding political status and his coalition of support from various nationalist, monarchist, Catholic and republican groups was difficult to match.
Through massive state-funded works projects, such as the construction of new dams, railways and an interstate highway system (the Autobahn), Hitler was able to mend the nation's economic situation.
Blatantly breaking the terms of the
Treaty of Versailles, Hitler oversaw the rapid rebuilding of the armed forces on a grand scale and with new technologies at the forefront.
Most had turned a blind eye to Hitler's vitriolic language about the Jews and ignored acts of savagery by the SA.
Many had reluctantly voted him into power only
because they feared the Communists and had
lost faith in the Weimar Republic. Many others voted Nazi because of their promises to trash the Treaty of Versailles and restore the economy.
You could follow the Nazis, even if it went against your personal morals, because it would provide you security and stability.
Or, you could resist them. You could follow your conscience and actively resist the Nazis knowing that it would lead to almost certain death.
For most, the choice was simple.