1918 November 21 Since October 15, Gefreiter Adolf Hitler had been recovering from the effects of a British gas attack. Two days after being released from the Prussian Reserve Hospital at Pasewalk, near Berlin, he arrives in Munich for temporary duty with the 7th Company of the First Reserve Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Regiment. Almost 30 years old, without prospects, career, or education, Hitler's only immediate plan is to try to remain in the army, his only real home since the death of his mother on 21 December 1907. 1
In Munich, Hitler is happily reunited with Ernst Schmidt, his closest front-line comrade to have survived the war. After arrival at the List Regiment barracks, they will soon become bored with barracks life, and apply for guard duty at a prisoner-of-war camp in Traunstein, a small town near the Austrian frontier. 2
1919 February 5 The first meeting of Anton Drexler's German Worker's Party (DAP) takes place in Munich's Fuerstenfelder Hof. The new 'party' will continue to hold small weekly meetings during the following months. 4
1919 February 12 Officially assigned to the 2nd Demobilization Company, to await discharge sometime in May, Hitler and Schmidt return from Traunstein to the List Regiment barracks in Munich. The two will spend most of the next few months earning three marks a day for examining gas masks that will never again be used. They unscrew the mouthpieces, look them over, decide whether or not they are in working order, and place an appropriate tag on them. After long days of such tedious make-work, Schmidt and Hitler often attend the Munich Opera in the evenings, to unwind. . 5
The Freikorps Epp is a paramilitary formation organized by Franz Ritter von Epp (above), a highly decorated regular officer in the Imperial German Army who will become Reichsstatthalter of Bavaria under the Nazis. Made up mostly of war veterans, the Freikorps Epp counts Ernst Roehm—who will go on to lead the Nazi SA—among its members.
1919 May 1 As the men of the Freikorps enter Munich and fight their way to the center of the city, they are met with rifle fire from the List Regiment barracks. The Red Guards are easily defeated. Hitler, together with everybody else in the barracks, is arrested and imprisoned in the cellars of the Max 11 High School . 16
1919 June 5-12 Gefreiter Adolf Hitler is ordered by Captain Mayr (above) to attend army-sponsored political indoctrination courses at the University of Munich. The purpose of the courses is to give returning soldiers a foundation of political philosophy favored by the Reichswehr, but the various instructors are a rather eclectic bunch, and one can hardly characterize the school as having an organized curriculum. Two instructors in particular influence Hitler:
From Mein Kampf:
When I heard Gottfried Feder's first lecture on 'The Abolition of the Interest-Servitude', I understood immediately that here was a truth of transcendental importance for the future of the German people. The absolute separation of stock-exchange capital from the economic life of the nation would make it possible to oppose the process of internationalization in German business without at the same time attacking capital as such, for to do this would jeopardize the foundations of our national independence. I clearly saw what was developing in Germany and I realized then that the stiffest fight we would have to wage would not be against the enemy nations but against international capital. In Feder's speech I found an effective rallying-cry for our coming struggle.The other instructor is Professor Karl Alexander von Mueller, a nationalist historian who taught that the Germans are a master race. At the end of one of the professor's lectures, a soldier rose and protested against his views on the Jews. Hitler takes it upon himself to defend the professor with an army of arguments, speaking with a rising passion and winning the crowd and the point. 22
Professor Karl Alexander von Mueller:
[After one of my lectures, I encountered a group of students that] stood fascinated around a man in their midst [Hitler] who was addressing them without pause and with growing passion in a strangely guttural voice. I had the strange feeling that the man was feeding on the excitement which he himself had whipped up. I saw a pale, thin face beneath a drooping, unsoldierly strand of hair, with close-cropped mustache, and strikingly large, light blue eyes coldly glistening with fanaticism. 271919 August 25 Hitler delivers a propaganda speech called "Capitalism" during his last morning at Lechfeld. Captain Lauterbach, who was in charge of troop indoctrination at Camp Lechfeld, wrote to Mayr that Hitler's speech, while "attractive, clear, and passionate," was also problematic:
Within this speech he [Hitler] came to the question of the Jews—while Hitler was giving his presentation, there arose problems of differences of opinion about how clearly one should utter one's opinion about the Jews. If the question of the Jews were presented in a very clear way, with respect to our Germanic standpoint, if it were done like that, it could give Jews reason to regard these speeches as Jew-baiting. This is why I find it necessary to treat this question as carefully as possible, and too clear hints about a strange race should be avoided. 281919 August 25 Hitler, now a Bildungsoffizier (Instruction Officer), returns to Munich and his work with Section I b/P, where he is gaining a reputation as an expert in "the Jewish problem". He also becomes a featured speaker at Lechfeld, for the Press and Propaganda Department of Group Command IV of the Reichswehr. One of the soldiers attending one of Hitler's lectures, Lorenz Frank, recorded: "Herr Hitler especially is, I might say, a born popular speaker who, through his fanaticism and his populist style in a meeting, absolutely compels his audience to take note and share his views." 29
I took up my work with the greatest delight and devotion. Here I was presented with an opportunity of speaking before quite a large audience. I was now able to confirm what I had hitherto merely felt, namely that I had a talent for public speaking. My voice had become so much better that I could be well understood, at least in all parts of the small hall where the soldiers assembled.
No task could have been more pleasing to me than this one; for now, before being demobilized, I was in a position to render useful service to an institution which had been infinitely dear to my heart: namely, the army.
I am able to state that my talks were successful. During the course of my lectures I have led back hundreds and even thousands of my fellow countrymen to their people and their fatherland. I 'nationalized' these troops and by so doing I helped to restore general discipline.
The Sterneckerbrau is one of the smallest of Munich's beer halls, but the DAP at this point in time is in practical need of no larger space. A mere forty men and one woman are present. The featured speaker on this evening was supposed to have been the hard-drinking morphine addict—and anti-Semite—Dietrich Eckart, but an illness had forced a substitution: Gottfried Feder. Since Hitler had heard Feder's views often enough, he grew quite bored and was glad when his speech was over. . 31
In his little book, he described how his mind had thrown off the shackles of the Marxist and trades-union phraseology, and [how] he had come back to the nationalist ideals. That was the reason why he had entitled his little book: "My Political Awakening". The pamphlet secured my attention the moment I began to read, and I read it with interest to the end. The process here described was similar to that which I had experienced in my own case, ten years previously. Unconsciously, my own experiences began to stir again in my mind.1919 September 16 Hitler receives a postcard saying that he has been accepted as a member of the DAP executive committee, and inviting him to attend a meeting of the committee on September 18. He is not particularly pleased, feeling that they were being presumptuous, but will ultimately accept the invitation. 35
1) "Jewry is absolutely a race and not a religious association . . . . There is scarcely a race whose members belong exclusively to just one definite religion."
2) The "irrevocable removal of the Jews in general," by way of legal legislation, is essential.
3) In order to battle the Jews, "a government of national strength" directed by "the ruthless installation of nationally minded leadership personalities with an inner sense of responsibility"—in other words, a dictatorship—is necessary. 37
I began to consider all the pros and cons. I had long ago decided to take an active part in politics. The fact that I could do so only through a new movement was quite clear to me; but I had hitherto lacked the impulse to take concrete action . . . . This ludicrous little formation, with its handful of members, seemed to have the unique advantage of not yet being fossilized into an 'organization,' and still offered a chance for real personal activity on the part of the individual. Here it might still be possible to do some effective work; and, as the movement was still small, one could all the easier give it the required shape. Here it was still possible to determine the character of the movement, the aims to be achieved, and the road to be taken, which would have been impossible in the case of the big parties already existing.
1919 Early October Hitler officially joins the DAP, by order of Captain Mayr, and is given membership card #555 (the numbering had started at 500). (Since Hitler is still in the army, this is all technically illegal.) Mayr will continue to support Hitler, to the tune of 20 gold marks a week, until his discharge on 31 March 1920. Hitler will also continue to live and eat in the List Regiment Barracks, and continue to receive speaking fees, all of which will greatly assist him in his next task; to build up the DAP into a respectable party. 41
1919 October 16 Hitler, who has spent much time and energy planning a public DAP rally to be held in front of a large crowd, delivers a 30-minute speech at the Hofbraukeller—a large drinking saloon in Munich—in front of 111 people. One of four speakers, he has never appeared before so large an audience. 42
Written by Walther Johann von Löpp
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European History and Jewish Studies
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