Chapter Thirteen:
Crises and Conspiracy

1923 January 1 General Otto von Lossow becomes the commander (Befehlshaber) of the Reichswehr in Bavaria.

1923 January 9 The Allied Reparations Commission, meeting in Paris, allows a representative of the German government to plead its case. This "last effort of an exhausted people" has no effect. France, Italy, and Belgium vote against Germany, Britain votes for, and the US, a non-voting observer, advises against the action. For having defaulted on the delivery of half of the 200, 000 telephone poles owed to France, Germany is found to have violated the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty stipulates that, in such a circumstance, the Allies have the right to occupy parts of Germany in order to exact payment. 1

1923 January 10 A joint Franco-Belgian note informs Germany that a "control commission" of engineers will be sent to the Ruhr valley. "Only such troops as are necessary to protect the commission and guarantee the execution of its duties are being sent into the Ruhr." As the note is being passed, 60,000 troops, most of them French, are massing on the German border. 2

1923 January 10 Germany's President, Friedrich Ebert, predictably comes out against the Allied move:

Compatriots! Based upon military power, a foreign nation is about to violate the right of self-determination of the German people. Again, one of Germany's adversaries invades German territory. The policy of might and force, which since the conclusion of peace has been violating the treaties and trampling on human rights, threatens the principal German economic district, the main source of Germany's labor, the bread of German industry and the entire working classes . . . . The French move is a continuation of wrong and violence and a violation of the treaty aimed at a disarmed and defenseless nation. 3

1923 January 11 The Ruhrkampf (Ruhr struggle) begins, as French and Belgian troops occupy the Ruhr valley. The French Chamber of Deputies votes 452 to 72 in favor of Poincaré's move. 4

American Major General Henry T. Allen is the commander of a small group of units known as the American Forces in Germany. He kept a diary during these times, and had this to say concerning the Ruhr action: "However pacifically expressed or however carefully the phrases of the Treaty may have been employed, such a move could not be other than a military seizure." 5

A consensus of historians maintain that the French occupation of the Ruhr is the event that begins the cycle of massive hyperinflation that is destined to do so much damage to the German economy—and psyche—in the coming years. 6

1923 January 11 Hitler speaks before a crowd of nine-thousand at the Circus Krone on the subject "Down with the November Criminals": "France thinks less of Germany than it does a nigger state! . . . The German rebirth is externally only possible when the criminals are faced with their responsibility and delivered to their just fate . . . . Not 'Down with France!' but rather, 'Down with the Betrayers of the Fatherland!' 'Down with the November Criminals!' must be our cry." 7

1923 January 13 The Berlin Government calls for a campaign of "Passive Resistance" to the Ruhr occupation. This policy will be supported by all of the Right parties, except Hitler's NSDAP. Hitler sees no reason to make common cause with his political rivals, insisting instead that the focus should remain on the internal enemies, the Jews and the November Criminals. He threatens to expel anyone from the party who takes any part in either active or passive resistance to the Ruhr occupation. 8

1923 January 19 The German government orders officials in the Ruhr to refuse to obey the orders of the Franco-Belgian commission regarding the take-over of German enterprises. The occupation authorities respond by declaring martial law, and German civilians who obstruct their aims are tried in military courts. Industrialists whose firms refuse to comply are arrested and jailed. 9

1923 January 26 The Bavarian Government declares a state of emergency in Munich. Part of the impetus for this move is that rumors of a putsch from the Right are everywhere, and something must be done to head off this danger. 11

Hitler is initially not to be found when word first reaches NSDAP headquarters of the declaration of a state of emergency. With massive amounts of time and money already invested in a huge, multi-day Party Day rally, due to commence in less than forty-eight hours, the accompanying ban on public meetings is nothing short of a catastrophe. NSDAP business manager, Max Amann, and another Nazi by the name of Dingeldy, immediately make their way to Munich Police Headquarters, and into the office of Police Commissioner Eduard Nortz. An "obviously extremely upset" Hitler arrives shortly, and launches into an impassioned tirade, defending the patriotism of himself and his movement, and making the claim that the NSDAP is Germany's destiny. Nortz suggests that Hitler meet with Schweyer, the Minister of the Interior. The Nazi leader will not have it.

[Nortz will write that Hitler] rejected this flatly and said, no, he would in no case do that . . . . He was going to do nothing more in the matter . . . . Up until now he had kept his people, especially the Storm Troops, under control. Now they could do whatever they wanted and then the government could just see what would develop . . . . The government could shoot; he'd place himself at the head of the group, and they could shoot him down; but he could tell them that the first shot would unleash a red flood; and what would come then, they would see; and two hours after the first shot, the government would be finished. 12

1923 January 26 From Major General Allen's Diary: "The mark has dropped two thousand points in twenty minutes—probably due to strike news. 10

1923 January 27 From Major General Allen's Diary:

A British staff official just returned from Dusseldorf reports that yesterday the French general commanding the line of communications ordered a locomotive and one car to be placed at this British official's service, to take him from Dusseldorf to Neuss, but that, while there were many locomotives and cars idle, no one was available competent to operate the complicated switch and signal system through the Dusseldorf yards; that after two hours of hard work French engineer troops had managed to get the locomotive past five switch points, but that, since there were eight more to pass before the train could get on to the main line, the effort was abandoned as futile. This illustrates how hopeless must be the effort to operate the complicated agencies of a highly organized industrial area against resistance even of the passive sort. It would appear that the effort cannot succeed until the Germans become worn down and hungry and succumb to siege tactics. 13

Novelist Lion Feuchtwanger wrote: "Germany was an industrial country, and the Ruhr the heart of its industry. Whoever held the Ruhr held the heart of Germany in the hollow of his hand. But to have possession of that heart was only profitable so long as it beat." 14

1923 January 27-28 Six-thousand uniformed storm troopers, and four-thousand party members, rally in Munich's Marsfeld [Field of Mars). Hitler addresses twelve mass meetings all told, to great effect. 15

This propaganda victory almost didn't happen. The state of emergency that had been declared on January 26 had banned all mass meetings in Munich. To get around this, Ernst Roehm takes Hitler on an "ask your father" tour. First, they meet with the highest ranking Reichswehr officer in Bavaria, Lossow. Lossow says it is OK with him, but you'd better ask Kahr, who also approves. Finally, Hitler reappears in the office of Munich Police Commissioner Eduard Nortz with a changed attitude, and the list of Bavarian personages that have signed off on the rally. Hitler promises good behavior on the part of his troops, and Nortz acquiesces. Finally, after gaining the approval of Minister of the Interior Schweyer, the rally is back on. 16

From one of Hitler's rally addresses:

We won't stage a Putsch, we won't bring along any weapons, we'll come unarmed—but we will come! (frenzied applause). And then you can shoot into our midst, if you can find German soldiers who will shoot German men who want nothing more than to confess to being Germans on German soil! (frenzied applause) . . . . We know that later generations will say: The National Socialists of 1919-1923, or perhaps 1924, established the basis for the re-strengthening of Germany, out of which the lightning emerged that annihilated France! (with an impassioned crescendo—raging applause). 17

Professor Karl Alexander von Mueller, as one of the instructors of an army political indoctrination course, had become acquainted with Adolf Hitler in 1919. He has followed with interest the political rise of his former student, but had never before been to an NSDAP meeting. Having attended one of the 12 meetings Hitler addressed during the rally, von Mueller will later write an account:

How many political meetings had I attended here in this hall! But neither during the war nor during the revolution had a scorching breath carried such a hypnotic mass excitement toward me, when entering. It was not only the special tension of these weeks, of this day. "Special battle songs, special flags, special symbols, a special greeting [Heil!] . . . . "

A forest of fiery red flags with a black swastika on white ground; the strangest mixture of military discipline and revolution, of nationalism and socialism—even in the audience: the majority are the sinking middle class, with all its layers—will it be fused together? . . . . suddenly, at the entrance at the back, movement. Shouts of command. The speaker at the podium stops in the middle of a sentence. Everybody jumps up shouting "Heil." And through the shouting crowd and through the screaming flags comes the expected Hitler to the platform with his followers, at a brisk pace, his right arm rigidly raised. He passed me very closely and I saw: that man was different from the person I had occasionally met in private homes: the sharp pale features as if contorted by an obsessed wrath, with cold flames leaping from his bulging eyes, which seemed to look to the right and left for enemies so as to overwhelm them. 18

An article will soon appear in The Nation magazine, by American journalist Ludwell Denny, who saw Hitler speak at this rally:

Hitler, going from meeting to meeting, is received with enthusiasm. He is an extraordinary person. An artist turned popular prophet and savior, is the way members of the audience described him to me, as we awaited for him to appear. A young man stepped on the platform and acknowledged the long applause. His speech was intense and brief; he constantly clenched and unclenched his hands. When I was alone with him for a few moments, he seemed hardly normal; queer eyes, nervous hands, and a strange movement of the head. He would not give an interview—said he had no use for Americans. 19

1923 January 29 Since the Coburg incident, Kurt Ludecke has been raising, with his own funds, a 100-man militia, with the intention of presenting it to Hitler to be incorporated into his SA.

Mere hours before the dedication, Ludecke is arrested, and his men are dispersed. He is initially charged with the possession of contraband weapons. After a search is made of his quarters, and French francs left over from a recent international trip are found, he is charged with the illegal possession of foreign currency, as well. All told, he will spend ten weeks incarcerated, during which he is questioned often concerning his disbanded unit and his relationship with Hitler. In his memoirs, he tells us about one of these interrogations:

Kriminal-Kommissar Rupprecht was a rather gentle old man whose good manners set him apart from the rest of the police so sharply that I mistrusted him all the more at first, though he gave every sign of friendly feeling toward me . . . . He was conveying to me clearly enough that denunciations against me had come from Nazis, as well as from our antagonists . . . . [Rupprecht told me] "I am not permitted to tell you what is in the record, but those whom you have so warmly defended in each of our interviews have not always done the same for you. If you will take an old-timer's advice, you will think twice before you decide what to do after you are out of here." 20

1923 January 29 At 11:00 a.m. on the morning of the second day of the rally, Hitler reviews two thousand party troops, and four thousand party members, on the Marsfeld. The centerpiece of the ceremony, which is held in a blinding snow storm, is the dedication of SA banners for newly created units. From a New York Tribune article on the rally:

Hitler, surrounded by his staff, addressed his army, calling upon them to hold themselves in readiness for the "final, decisive conflict . . . . Either the National Socialist German Workers' Party is the coming movement in Germany, in which case not even the Devil himself can stop it, or it is not, and deserves to be destroyed!"

[Hitler said] "No member of that race which is our foe and which has led us into this most abject misery, no Jew shall ever touch this flag. It shall wave before us throughout all of Germany in the march to victory, and pave the way for the flag of our new German Reich . . . . take a solemn oath to carry the flag to victory, both in Berlin and on the Rhine." 21

1923 January Inflation: 17,972 RM per dollar 22

Kurt Ludecke describes how the economy has managed to continue to function during the monster inflation:

The people, buying frantically in their flight from the mark, dared not retain currency for an hour. That explains the false prosperity which kept industry humming during the inflation years. There was little unemployed labor at a time when England already had millions out of work. Owners of buildings and homes, not knowing what to do with their marks, would order perhaps a new annex or general repairs—anything to get some value out of the tumbling currency. 23

1923 February 3 Hermann Goering weds Carin von Kantzow, in Munich. The couple purchases a villa in a suburb of Munich, near the Nymphenburg Castle. Hitler will be a frequent visitor. Carin's sister, Fanny, wrote that Hitler's "sense of humor showed itself in gay stories, observations and witticisms, and Carin's spontaneous and wholehearted reaction to them made her a delightful audience." A wine cellar with stools and an open fire becomes the favorite spot for "all those who had dedicated themselves to Hitler and his freedom movement." Though Goering will not officially become the commander of the SA until May 11, he immediately begins working with the troops, initially concentrating on instilling drill discipline. 24

Hermann Goering:

Within the Party, as small as it was, he [Hitler] had made a special selection of these people who were convinced followers, and who were ready at any moment to devote themselves completely and unreservedly to the dissemination of our idea [the SA]. He said that I knew, myself, how strong Marxism and communism were everywhere at the time, and that actually he had been able to make himself heard at meetings only after he had opposed one physical force disturbing the meeting with another physical force protecting the meeting; for this purpose he had created the SA. The leaders at that time were too young, and he had long been on the lookout for a leader who had distinguished himself in some way in the last war, which was only a few years ago, so that there would be the necessary authority.

He had always tried to find a Pour le Mérite aviator or a Pour le Mérite submarine man for this purpose, and now it seemed to him especially fortunate that I in particular, the last commander of the "Richthofen Squadron," should place myself at his disposal. [Note: The Pour le Mérite was the highest military order awarded to German soldiers from 1740 until the end of WWI.] I told him that, in itself, it would not be very pleasant for me to have a leading part from the very beginning, since it might appear that I had come merely because of this position. We finally reached an agreement that for 1 to 2 months I was to remain officially in the background, and take over leadership only after that; but actually I was to make my influence felt immediately. I agreed to this, and in that way I came together with Adolf Hitler. 25

1923 February 17 Thomas Mann, from a letter to his brother, Heinrich: "Our Frenchmen are behaving brilliantly. They seem determined to give the lie to everyone in Germany who urges moderation . . . . The anger is terrible—deeper and more united than that which brought on Napoleon's fall. There is no predicting the outcome." Later, he will write to Ernst Bertram: "It is as though everyone else sees Germany not at all as a republic like any other, but rather as a leaderless land, an unfeeling torso with which one may do as he pleases." 26

1923 Hermann Esser, one of Hitler's most effective colleagues, is, in all but name, the deputy leader of the Party. It is around this time that Hitler attends Esser's wedding breakfast. The breakfast is hosted by a friend of Esser's, Heinrich Hoffmann, a Munich photographer. In his memoirs, Hoffmann will admit that he staged the breakfast for the purpose of making acquaintance with the young party leader. Hitler was known to be camera shy, and had given standing orders to his body guards, instructing them to 'discourage' anyone from taking their Fuehrer's picture. What a coup for Hoffmann if he can convince this mysterious fellow to relent and to pose for a portrait.

The wedding cake is presented: "an effigy of Adolf Hitler, made of marzipan and surrounded by sugar roses!" Reluctant to mutilate Hitler's face, the Nazis cautiously slice themselves only "a small morsel, taking great pains to avoid defacing the effigy." When Hitler is requested to speak, he declines: "I must have a crowd when I speak," he admits. "In a small, intimate circle I never know what to say. I should only disappoint you all, and that is a thing I should hate to do. As a speaker either at a family gathering or a funeral, I'm no use at all." 27

1923 Between February and November, the NSDAP will gain 35,000 members, and the SA will grow to a total strength of 15,000. The party now has assets of 173,000 gold marks. 28

1923 February Hitler's NSDAP and Captain Ernst Roehm's Reich War Flag (Reichskriegsflagge) form an alliance. Plotting with the military commander of Bavaria, General Otto von Lossow, they discuss marching on Berlin in a putsch. Ultimately, Lossow informs them that a putsch is out of the question, and advises them to cease plans to foment one.

1923 February 26 Erich Friedrich Wilhelm Ludendorff, Hindenburg's Quartermaster-general, had been, effectively, the dictator of Germany during the last two years of the Great War. After a brief exile, following the armistice, he had returned to Germany, armed with the political myth that came to be known as "the stab in the back," and immediately assumed informal leadership of the Right. Ludendorff has been connected in some way with all the various "patriotic" groups, and was one of the players involved behind the scenes in the Kapp Putsch, and other uprisings as well. 29

On this day, Ludendorff meets with the leaders of Bavaria's right-wing paramilitary organizations, including Captain Adolf Heiss of the Reichskriegsflagge, Roehm, and Adolf Hitler. Ludendorff proposes that all the paramilitary groups place themselves under the Reichswehr for the purposes of training. Hitler agrees to all of Ludendorff's proposals, even to the stipulation that all of the SA's weapons should be handed over to the Reichswehr, in anticipation of a mobilization against the French. 30

March 3, 1923 TIME magazine refers to Erich Ludendorff as "a solitary phantom striding the earth with noiseless, slippery, dreadful steps." 31

1923 March 11 General Hans von Seeckt, the commander (Chef der Heeresleitung) of the Reichswehr—as well as the Black Reichswehr—tells First Lieutenant Hans-Harald von Selchow, his aide: "We must go again to the Military District Headquarters at twelve o'clock. There is a Bavarian prophet here named Hitler, whom General von Lossow wishes me to meet. He is supposed to be or to become an influential person." 32

Seeckt, Selchow, Lossow, and an aide sit through a one-and-a-half hour Hitler monologue. Seeckt says nothing, as Hitler launches into his usual material: the Treaty, November Criminals, Jews, Bolsheviks, the end is near, etc. Finally, he pitches a plan involving the installation of a right-wing government, supported by a reformed and expanded Reichswehr, and allowing for a gigantic militia under the SA. Once all this has occurred, Hitler pledges that the occupation troops will retreat back to France, with the Versailles Treaty tucked between their legs.

Finally, Hitler addressed Seeckt directly: "Herr General, I offer you the leadership of the whole German working-class movement."

After a very long pause, Seeckt asks: "Herr Hitler, what is your attitude to the soldier's oath of allegiance?"

"Herr General," Hitler replies excitedly, "my offer was not intended to conflict with your present duty of loyalty. It is self-evident that you cannot break your oath to the Weimar government. We National Socialists will see to it that the members of the present Marxist regime in Berlin will hang from the lampposts. We will send the Reichstag up in flames, and when all is in flux we will turn to you, Herr General, to assume the leadership of all German workers."

"In that case you and I, Herr Hitler, have nothing more to say to each other."

Seeckt and Selchow talk over their meeting with Hitler on their way back to Berlin. Both are very concerned about Hitler's threat to engineer a putsch. "Come what may," he tells Selchow, "General von Lossow has assured me that Hitler cannot make a putsch without the Reichswehr, and that suffices for the time being. I simply do not believe that the Reichswehr could be brought to fire on other Reichswehr units." 33

1923 March 25 Thirteen hundred SA men combine with seventeen hundred members of Roehm's Reichskriegsflagge, in combined military exercises outside Munich. When the Muenchener Post publicizes the fact that Roehm had named active Reichswehr officers as leaders of the excursion, it leads inevitably to a ban on Reichswehr members joining "patriotic" organizations. Roehm will subsequently be forced to resign from the leadership of the Reichsflagge. 34

1923 March 31 Thirteen die, and forty-one are wounded, when French occupation troops fire on a group of workers at a Krupp plant in Essen. Gustav Krupp (above), Germany's most powerful industrialist, is on hand. He could easily have defused the situation by ordering his workers back into the plant, but did not. He is arrested for "inciting a riot," put on trial, and will spend seven months in jail. 35

1923 April 7 The Task Force of the Patriotic Combat Groups is a collection of right-wing leaders that includes the Bund Oberland, the Reichskriegsflagge, the NSDAP, and various Freikorps remnants. The Task Force is under the overall command of Hermann Kriebel, a former lieutenant colonel. They decide on a plan, put forward by Hitler, that involves an illegal march on May 1, through an area in downtown Munich where street demonstrations are prohibited by statute. 36

1923 April 12 Among the most hated of the institutions created by the politicians in Berlin is the Supreme Court for the Defense of the Republic. Located in Leipzig, this special national tribunal is resented in Bavaria, and by the entire German Right. When a warrant for the arrest of Hermann Esser and Dietrich Eckart is issued—for libeling President Ebert in the Völkischer Beobachter—there is no question of the party turning them in.

Esser disappears, but the heavy-drinking Eckart is left to the Munich party to keep safe from the authorities. Putzi Hanfstaengl explained how they were able to keep ahead of the police: "There was a Special Branch man in the police headquarters who was a secret Nazi, and used to come along and tell him whether there were any warrants being issued in connection with his political activities or what cases were coming up that might affect him."

He is hidden away with Fritz Laubock's family. Hitler would tell the story to a group of cronies during WWII:

But he [Eckart] couldn't resist the temptation to telephone right and left. Already by the second day, he was clamouring that his girlfriend Anna should go and visit him. "I'm incapable of hiding," he used to say . . . .

One day, Roehm telephoned me, asking me to go and see him immediately at the office of our military administration. There was a "wanted persons" service there that functioned in parallel with the civil police. Roehm told me that an attempt would be made to arrest Eckart during the night, and he advised me to take him elsewhere. A little later in the day I learnt from Roehm that all the roads round Munich had been barred. "Take him to the English Garden," he told me. "There you'll find a Reichswehr vehicle that I'm putting at his disposal."

I commented to Roehm that Eckart would not consent to depart by himself. "So much the better," said Roehm. "It will be excellent if the vehicle is full." I went to see Drexler, and asked him if he would like to go off for a few weeks with Dietrich Eckart. He was enthusiastic at the proposal. Eckart began by jibbing at the idea, but in the evening he let himself be led off.

Eckart and Drexler end up staying in the mountains near Berchtesgaden, seventy-five miles southeast of Munich. 37

1923 April 13 Hitler expounds on war guilt:

The guilt of the German people lies in this: that when in 1912 a criminal Reichstag in its unfathomable baseness and folly had refused to allow the raising of three army corps the people did not create for itself those army corps in the Reichstag's despite. With these additional 120,000 men, the Battle of the Marne would have been won, and the issue of the war decided. Two million fewer German heroes would have sunk into their graves. Who was it who, in 1912 as in 1918, struck its weapons from the hands of the German people? Who was it that, in 1912 as in the last year of the war, infatuated the German people with his theory that if Germany throws down her arms, the whole world will follow her example—who?—the democratic-Marxist Jew, who, at the same hour incited, and still today incites the others to arm, and to subjugate 'barbarous' Germany.

But someone may perhaps yet raise the question whether it is expedient today to talk about the guilt for the war. Most assuredly we have the duty to talk about it! For the murderers of our Fatherland who all the years through have betrayed and sold Germany, they are the same men who, as the November criminals, have plunged us into the depths of misfortune. We have the duty to speak since, in the near future when we have gained power, we shall have the further duty of taking these creators of ruin, these clouts, these traitors to their State, and of hanging them on the gallows to which they belong. [For the full text, Click here.]

1923 April 15 Carin Goering writes to her son in Stockholm:

Today, the Beloved One [as she always described Hermann] paraded his army of true young Germans before his Fuehrer, and I saw his face light up as he watched them pass by. The Beloved One has worked so hard with them, has instilled so much of his own bravery and heroism into them, that what was once a rabble—and I must confess sometimes a rough and rather terrifying one—has been transformed into a veritable Army of Light, a band of eager crusaders ready to march at the Fuehrer's orders to render this unhappy country free once more . . . .

After it was over, the Fuehrer embraced the Beloved One and told me that if he said what he really thought of his achievement, the Beloved One would get a swollen head.

I said that my own head was already swollen with pride, and he kissed my hand and said, "No head so pretty as yours could ever be swollen." 38

Hitler is well satisfied with Goering's performance as SA chief. He later said: "I gave him a disheveled rabble. In a very short time he had organized a division of eleven thousand men . . . . He is the only one of the SA heads that ran the SA properly."

1923 April 20 Julius Streicher founds—and becomes editor of—the racist newspaper Der Stuermer (The Stormer), subtitled: A German Weekly in The Struggle for Truth. 39

Julius Streicher:

The speeches and articles which I wrote were meant to inform the public on a question which appeared to me one of the most important questions. I did not intend to agitate or inflame but to enlighten. Anti-Semitic publications have existed in Germany for centuries. A book I had, written by Dr. Martin Luther, was, for instance, confiscated. Dr. Martin Luther would very probably sit in my place in the defendants' dock today, if this book had been taken into consideration by the Prosecution. In the book The Jews and Their Lies, Dr. Martin Luther writes that the Jews are a serpent's brood and one should burn down their synagogues and destroy them . . . .

Even before the coming to power, there were, in every Gau, weekly journals that were anti-Semitic, and one daily paper called the Völkischer Beobachter in Munich. Apart from that, there were a number of periodicals which were not working directly for the Party. There was also anti-Semitic literature. 40

1923 April 20 In the evening of his thirty-fourth birthday, Hitler speaks on a well-worn theme, "Politics and Race: Why We Are Anti-Semites," before a crowd of 9,000 at the Circus Krone. It is around this time that the 'Hitler Greeting'—Heil Hitler—begins to be heard among the already common 'Heils'. 41

1923 April 24 Hitler speaks in Munich. 42

You must say farewell to the hope that you can expect any action from the parties of the Right on behalf of the freedom of the German people. The most elementary factor is lacking: the will, the courage, the energy. Where then can any strength still be found within the German people? It is to be found, as always, in the great masses: THERE ENERGY IS SLUMBERING AND IT ONLY AWAITS THE MAN WHO WILL SUMMON IT FROM ITS PRESENT SLUMBER AND WILL HURL IT INTO THE GREAT BATTLE FOR THE DESTINY OF THE GERMAN RACE. [For the full text, Click here.]

1923 April 26 A shoot-out in the streets of Munich, between groups of Communists and National Socialists, results in four wounded. 43

1923 April 27 During a speech at the Circus Krone, Hitler responds to rumors that "the Reds" will be celebrating the upcoming May Day, heavily armed: "I am announcing that we will ruthlessly protect every meeting with weapons." This declaration is met by "roaring applause" from the audience. In the body of the speech, Hitler comes out for compulsory military conscription: 44

THEREFORE WE NATIONAL SOCIALISTS STAND FOR COMPULSORY MILITARY SERVICE FOR EVERY MAN. If a State is not worth that—then away with it! Then you must not complain if you are enslaved. But if you believe that you must be free, then you must learn to recognize that no one gives you freedom save only your own sword. What our people needs is not leaders in Parliament, but those who are determined to carry through what they see to be right before God, before the world, and before their own consciences—and to carry that through, if need be, in the teeth of majorities. And if we succeed in raising such leaders from the body of our people, then around them once again, a nation will crystallize itself . . . . It is the pride of our Movement to be the force which shall awake the Germany of fighters which yet shall be. [For the full text, Click here.]

1923 April 31 One of Hitler's aims is to replace "Democratic-Jewish-Marxist" socialism with his own nationalist variety. Thus, the name "National Socialist" for his party. In an interview later in the year, Hitler will explain: "Socialism is the science of dealing with the common weal. Communism is not Socialism. Marxism is not Socialism. The Marxians have stolen the term and confused its meaning. I shall take Socialism away from the Socialists." 45

As an item in this agenda, Hitler and his Nazis had set out, from the beginning, to steal May Day—the International Workers' Holiday—from the Socialists, Communists, and labor unions, and claim it as their own. May Day has always been a day that has invited violence from both the Left and the Right in Munich, and the mood on this particular May Day is dark indeed. When Hitler announces that he intends to march his SA through the streets of Munich, the local police respond by revoking the previously-issued permit for the Communists to hold a street parade. Instead, the Communists are instructed to limit their demonstration to a rally on the Theresienwiese, near the city's center. 46

Having placed all of the SA's weapons in the care of General von Lossow, Hitler now demands that they be returned. There is every possibility that the Left is preparing for putsch, he insists. Hitler explodes in rage when Lossow refuses, but there is nothing he can do. Though the party does have access to a very small secret armory hidden in a residential area of Munich, it is glaringly insufficient. Without enough arms, he dare not confront the Communists. His units are heavily outnumbered. 47

1923 April 31 Among the units from Landshut preparing to participate in Munich's May Day events, are those led by Gregor Strasser (above) and Heinrich Himmler, respectively. Gregor, and his pharmacist brother, Otto, are former members of the Epp Freikorps. Heinrich Himmler had been his adjutant when Gregor founded the Storm Battalion Lower Bavaria (Sturmbataillon Niederbayern), and the unit had participated in the Kapp Putsch in March of 1920. Following the putsch, Otto founded the left-leaning paramilitary unit, Rote Hundertschaft. But Gregor had joined the NSDAP in 1921, had rose quickly in the ranks, and is now the head of the SA in all of Lower Bavaria. But Otto still desires to get in on the action. He has decided to go to Munich with his accommodative brother, and participate as if he were a member of the SA. The following is from Otto's later written account:

An almost electric tension held the members present. Cigarettes were smoked incessantly in a nervous, jerky fashion; tempers were short under the strain. It was unlike any other gathering here preparatory to a political rally—and it differed in another way, too. In addition to wearing their field-gray uniforms, the men tonight had their steel helmets and their rifles. They were in earnest.

When the telephone shrilled, every member gave a start and every eye became riveted on the instrument.

It was the order from Munich, telling them to come ahead, for whatever May Day might bring.

The tension was broken; only anticipation was present now and the ex-soldiers were like schoolboys in their horseplay, as they trooped through the darkness.

A number of old lorries had been offered for the use of the insurgents, and these we manned now to drive about the town of Landshut and pick up our cohorts . . . . Our ramshackle conveyances, lighted only by lanterns, rolled up and down the streets, pausing here and there to pick up a member. It was never necessary to send in a summons. No sooner had we come to a halt, than the door of the house would open and a dark figure would come running to climb aboard. 48

1923 May 1 Between 1200 and 2000 nationalist troops, including 1,300 SA, muster on the Oberwiesenfeld, mid-morning. Hitler is dressed in combat uniform, with a steel helmet on his head, and his Iron Cross pinned to his chest. Arms from one of Roehm's secret arsenals, to supplement those already issued, are handed out to the men, who go through the motions of military "maneuvers". Elsewhere, General Otto von Lossow, commander (Befehlshaber) of the Reichswehr in Bavaria, dresses Roehm down for arming the units, and demands that he ensure that violence does not commence. 49

Waiting with Hitler on the Oberwiesenfeld are the Strasser brothers, and Lieutenant Colonel Kriebel, the commander of the Task Force. Otto Strasser (above) tells us what happened next:

Then, shortly after eleven, a strong Reichswehr detachment swung into view, flanked right and left by the green-uniformed forces of the police. At sight of them, Hitler's face contorted with rage; his body crouched forward, as though he would spring at these men who interfered with his destiny, and whip them single-handed. For a moment I thought he was on the point of an hysterical fit, and then he saw Captain Ernst Roehm . . . .

A soft cry sounded behind Hitler's clenched teeth and he leaped toward Roehm like a maniac, seizing him by the tunic with trembling hands. "Have you betrayed us?" he screamed in a frenzy. "Explain! Why are you with these traitors? What has happened?"

By that time, the demonstrators of the Oberwiesenfeld had been surrounded by the military; the situation was already hopeless, and Roehm seemed unimpressed with Hitler's fury. He looked at him coldly, and took his time before he said in a superior manner:

"Control yourself. The time is not yet ripe."

The two men gazed into each other's eyes, and Hitler was the one to give way. Perhaps the ingrained military training of years, his subconscious acceptance of their corporal-and-captain relationship, had something to do with it. In a moment, his hands fell from Roehm's uniform, and Hitler dropped his eyes. He turned away . . . .

Gregor Strasser and Kriebel were all for defying the Reichswehr detachment, and making a fight of it: "They were all for firing upon the Reichswehr and starting a pitched battle, but Hitler was adamant in his surly refusal . . . . He sulked, taciturn and glowering, but he wouldn't listen to those of his leaders who favored a pitched battle."

A clearly defeated Hitler nonetheless attempts to spin the event as a victory. In a short, less than inspiring impromptu address, he tells the assembled men that: "No man should hang his head if the order is given that the weapons are to be surrendered. In the city, everything is calm; the weapons are not there for the purpose of provocation. Should there, however, be confrontations, then we will manage somehow . . . . Our day will probably come soon." 50

At about 2:00 o'clock in the afternoon, the troops return their borrowed weapons. Meanwhile, the May Day rally at the Theresienwiese, with an attendance of 25,000, had dispersed around noon without incident. It is apparent to most that Hitler has lost much prestige this day. 51

Otto Strasser: "He could have known no more bitter humiliation, and he drank his cup of defeat to its bitter dregs."

Freikorps commander Hermann Ehrhardt: "He [Hitler] failed miserably on the first day of May, and he will always fail." 52

1923 May 1 The temporary Task Force coalition falls to pieces. In the evening, Hitler speaks at the Circus Krone:

We have both the hope and the faith that the day will come, on which Germany shall stretch from Koenigsberg to Strasburg, and from Hamburg to Vienna. We have faith that, one day, Heaven will bring the Germans back into a Reich, over which there shall be no Soviet star, no Jewish star of David; but above that Reich, there shall be the symbol of German labor: the Swastika. And that will mean that the first of May has truly come. [For the full text, Click here.]

1923 May 3-4 General Lossow charges Captain Ernst Roehm (above) with being "responsible in part for the grave derelictions [and] misuse of the offices . . . contrary to discipline" in consequence of the May Day kerfuffle. Roehm is removed from his cushy, high-level staff position, and sent off to a rifle company as a regular line officer. 53

1923 May 4 Hitler speaks in Munich: 54

If a Frederick the Great were to appear again today, they would probably pass emergency legislation aimed at him! You would think that a "statesman" who was a failure would disappear for ever. But in a parliamentary state, he merely goes back to the end of the line and waits for another turn. And when he reaches the front of the line, he is back in power. Even the ancient republics, with their rigid conception of the state, were ruled by a dictator in times of national emergency. When the lives of nations are at risk, national and provincial parliaments are useless; only giants can save the nation.

In the course of history, German parliamentarians have incurred an enormous burden of guilt for failing the German People. Once before, they dug the nation's grave. When the German nation last set out to accomplish great deeds, who prepared Germany then? A national parliament (Reichstag)? God knows, in those days even the state legislatures did whatever they could to ruin Germany. It was one man alone who created the Reich: Bismarck . . . .

People ask: is there someone fit to be our leader? Our task is not to search for that person. Either God will give him to us, or he will not come. Our task is to shape the sword that he will need when he comes. Our task is to provide the leader with a nation that is ready for him when he comes! My fellow Germans, awaken! The new day is dawning! [For the full text, Click here.]

1923 May Martin Ludwig Bormann, and his friend Rudolf Hoess, murder Bormann's former elementary school teacher, Walther Kadow, in the forest near Parchim. Kadow is suspected of having betrayed German nationalist, and NSDAP member, Albert Leo Schlageter, to the French occupation authorities in the Ruhr.

1923 May 8 Albert Leo Schlageter, in a letter to his parents, writes that "from 1914 until today I have sacrificed my whole strength to work for my German homeland, from love and pure loyalty. Where it was suffering, it drew me, in order to help . . . . I was no gang leader; but in quiet labor, I sought to help my fatherland. I did not commit any common crime or murder."

1923 May 8 The Munich Police have been questioning Hitler about his part in the recent May Day fiasco. Hitler is his usual arrogant self. Finally, he demands: "I insist that I be interrogated by the public prosecutor himself, not by the police."

The authorities have threatened Hitler with jail, or worse. His sentence had been reduced, and he had been granted parole, after being convicted of the Ballerstedt assault. This parole violation is enough to enable the government to deport the Austrian national. This would no doubt destroy his political career. He goes on the attack.

Hitler suggests that the government really does not want to have him on the stand at a public trial. Those who want him deported do not have clean hands themselves. More than a few high-level Bavarian authorities have conspired with him, under certain circumstances. He has had conferences with Bavarian and Reichswehr officers, discussing how any possible Communist uprising would be put down by the state, with the assistance of Hitler's SA. A clever fellow, with good speaking skills and no compunctions about naming names, could well convince a jury—or the public—that the actions of his SA on May Day were coordinated with the state against a rumored Communist putsch. Do they really want to chance such a thing?

Hitler has yet another hole card. The Bavarian Minister of Justice, Franz Guertner, is a Nazi sympathizer. The Nazis are "the flesh of our flesh", according to Guertner. Perhaps it is Guertner who is responsible for eventually quashing any indictment of Hitler. For whatever reason, though most likely due to the stress of his endeavors, Hitler reduces his schedule of public appearances in the aftermath of the investigation. Perhaps a vacation is in order.

1923 May 11 Captain Klintzsch resigns as commander of the SA. Hermann Goering, who has been working with the SA all along, replaces him. On his first day as SA chief, Goering refers to Hitler as the "beloved leader of the German freedom movement." 55

Hermann Goering:

The tasks arose from my position, which at that time had the title "Commander of the SA." At first it was important to weld the SA into a stable organization, to discipline it, and to make of it a completely reliable unit, which had to carry out the orders that Adolf Hitler or I should give it. Up to that point, it had been just a club, which had been very active, but which still lacked the necessary construction and discipline. I strove from the beginning to bring into the SA those members of the Party who were young and idealistic enough to devote their free time and their entire energies to it.

For at that time, things were very difficult for these good men. We were very small in number, and our opponents were far more numerous. Even in those days, these men were exposed to very considerable annoyances, and had to suffer all sorts of things. In the second place, I tried to find recruits among workmen, for I knew that among workmen, particularly, I should enroll many members for the SA.

At the same time, we had naturally to see to it that the meetings of the Party, which generally were limited at that time to Munich, Upper Bavaria and Franconia, could actually be carried through in a satisfactory manner, and disturbances prevented. In most cases, we succeeded. But sometimes we had a strong party of our opponents present. One side or the other still had weapons from the war, and sometimes critical situations arose, and in some cases we had to send the SA as reinforcements to other localities. In the course of the year 1923, the contrast between Bavaria and the Reich became even stronger. One could see that the Bavarian Government of that time wanted to go a different way to that of the Reich Government. The Reich Government was influenced strongly by Marxism, but the Bavarian Government was free from that, it was bourgeois. 56

Kurt Ludecke asked Hitler about this new member: "Oh! Goering!" Hitler exclaimed, laughing and slapping his knee with satisfaction. "Splendid, a war ace with the Pour le Mérite—imagine it! Excellent propaganda! Moreover, he has money and doesn't cost me a cent." 57

Kurt Ludecke was not overly impressed by Goering, but Putzi Hanfstaengl took to him:

Goering was a complete condottiere, the pure soldier of fortune, who saw in the Nazi Party a possible outlet for his vitality and vanity. Nevertheless, he had a jovial, extrovert manner and I found myself very much at home with him . . . . Goering had a certain humorous contempt for the little squad of Bavarians around Hitler, whom he regarded as a bunch of beer-swillers and rucksackers with a limited, provincial horizon. 58

1923 May 11 With the May Day events fresh in mind, the Bavarian government institutes emergency legislation banning public demonstrations. In practice, the law is usually only enforced against leftist groups, while those on the right practically own the streets. 59

1923 May 26 NSDAP and German Freikorps member, Albert Leo Schlageter, is executed by French occupation troops, after being convicted of sabotage. He had blown up a railway bridge. Schlageter will become a right-wing icon of martyrdom, and a national hero during the Third Reich. 60

1923 Late May With the swift-moving events of May Day and the subsequent investigation of Hitler's role in them behind him, he leaves Munich for a rest stay in Berchtesgaden, in the German Bavarian Alps, southeast of Munich, near the border with Austria. It will become heavily associated with Hitler during the Third Reich, and he and many other Nazi big-wigs will keep residences there. Hitler is completely taken with the area, saying "every time I had a few free days, I used to return there . . . . I'd fallen in love with the landscape."

Hitler is a guest of Dietrich Eckart, who is still hiding out in a large boardinghouse, the Pension Moritz, in Berchtesgaden. The 55-year-old Eckart, using the alias 'Doctor Hoffman', is shacked up with Annerl Obster, his eighteen-year-old mistress. Hitler utilizes an alias as well, calling himself "Herr Wolf", a pseudonym he will use many times in the future. Remarkably, Hitler tells us that no one recognized him as the infamous NSDAP agitator. He would occasionally hear other guests make comments about "that Hitler fellow" at the dinner table, and claims he was quite amused by what people had to say, not knowing that the "fellow" was right there in front of them. 61

1923 Early June As a child, "Herr Wolf" had lived for two years in the small border town of Passau, Austria. Due to speak there in a matter of days, Hitler is amused when a fellow guest remarks: "I've come from Holstein as far as Berchtesgaden. I refuse to miss the opportunity of seeing this man Hitler. So I'm going to Passau."

Hitler tells him that he too is going to Passau to see this Hitler, and invites the unnamed dinner companion to travel there with him and his comrades. Accompanying Hitler are Hermann Goering and the two bodyguard-chauffeurs, Emil Maurice and Julius Schreck. "Telling him I'd join him in the hall," Hitler goes on ahead. Taking the podium:

I immediately recognised my man by his stupidly scarred face, lost in the confused uproar of the hall. When he saw me mount the platform and begin to speak, he fixed his eyes upon me, as if I were a ghost. The meeting ended in a terrible brawl, in the course of which Schreck was arrested. I took my companion back to Obersalzberg. He was dumbfounded. I begged him to keep my secret." [See: 1923 Mid-August, below] 62

1923 July 14 The Munich police, having discovered a backbone somewhere, confront Hitler concerning a meeting scheduled in the evening at the Circus Krone. They tell him that, pending the results of the ongoing investigation into the May Day incident, party banners are disallowed, both in the streets and indoor at meetings. Hitler is both furious and dismissive; according to the police report: "Hitler replied to me that he had rented the Circus Krone, and could do in the Circus whatever he wanted." In this case, Hitler is as good as his word.

The Circus Krone is not lacking in swastika banners, as Hitler launches into his speech: "The Curse of the November Revolution." A police report tells us that Hitler "released a tempest of uncontrolled passions with the cry: We want to have a symbol of a coming, growing, free Germany."

When the meeting is over, the open defiance of the Munich police continues. Two SA units march, with banners unfurled, through a downtown area, off-limits to political demonstrations. Forewarned, a large contingent of police officers is waiting for them. The Nazis charge the gendarmerie lines, and are rewarded with blows from their heavy batons. The Nazis disperse; the police have won the street. 63

1923 July 17-24 In reaction to the July 14 street battle between the Nazis and the Munich police, the Völkischer Beobachter is ordered to cease publication for one week. 64

1923 Summer A man who attended a party, at which Hitler was present, recorded his impressions:

Hitler had sent word to his hostess that he had to attend an important meeting, and would not arrive until late: I think it was about eleven o'clock. He came, nonetheless, in a very decent blue suit, and with an extravagantly large bouquet of roses, which he presented to his hostess as he kissed her hand. While he was being introduced, he wore the expression of a public prosecutor at an execution. I remember being struck by his voice when he thanked the lady of the house for tea or cakes, of which, incidentally, he ate an amazing quantity. It was a remarkably emotional voice, and yet it made no impression of conviviality or intimacy, but rather of harshness. However, he said hardly anything, but sat there in silence for about an hour; apparently he was tired.

Not until the hostess was so incautious as to let fall a remark about the Jews, whom she defended in a jesting tone, did he begin to speak, and then he spoke without ceasing. After a while, he thrust back his chair and stood up, still speaking, or rather yelling, in such a powerful penetrating voice as I have never heard from anyone else. In the next room, a child woke up and began to cry. After he had, for more than half an hour, delivered a quite witty but very one-sided oration on the Jews, he suddenly broke off, went up to his hostess, begged to be excused, and kissed her hand as he took his leave. The rest of the company, who apparently had not pleased him, were only vouchsafed a curt bow from the doorway. 65

1921 August Heinrich Himmler joins the NSDAP. His party number is 42,404. 66

1923 August 1 Hitler speaks before 8,400 at the Circus Krone:

There are two things which can unite men: common ideals and common criminality. We have inscribed upon our banner the great Germanic ideal and, for that ideal, we will fight to the last drop of our blood. We National Socialists have realized that, from the international cesspool of infamy, from the Berlin of today, nothing can come to save the Fatherland. We know that two things alone will save us: first, the end of internal corruption, the cleansing out of all those who owe their existence simply to the protection of their party comrades. Through the most brutal ruthlessness towards all party officials, we must restore our finances. It must be proved that the official is not a party man, but a specialist! The body of German officials must once more become what once it was. But the second and the most important point is that the day must come when a German government shall summon up the courage to declare to the Foreign Powers: 'The Treaty of Versailles is founded on a monstrous lie. We refuse to carry out its terms any longer. Do what you will! If you wish for war, go and get it! Then we shall see whether you can turn seventy million Germans into serfs and slaves!' [For the full text, Click here.]

1923 August 10 Gottfried Feder writes to Hitler, complaining that the Fuehrer's lifestyle is drawing criticism within the party. Feder admits that he shares their critique. In particular, he has had it with Hitler's "anarchy in the allocation of time" (translation: Feder is upset that Hitler keeps whatever hours he likes, and expects others to adjust to his erratic schedule). "We gladly yield first place to you. But we have no understanding of tyrannical tendencies." 67

1923 August 13 Gustav Stresemann becomes Chancellor and Foreign Minister of Germany. 68

1923 Mid-August Hitler attends the Inter-State Congress of National Socialists in Salzburg, accompanied by Hermann Goering, Hermann Esser, and Max Amann. He chairs the Leaders' Council, in which capacity he smothers all attempts to merge his party with the other groups. Dr. Walter Riehl, the leader and founder of the Austrian version of the National Socialists, pushes for just such a union, but his efforts, in the face of Hitler's opposition, prove to be futile.

Another of the contentious issues at this meeting is a call to declare that Austria is, and shall remain, an independent state. Austria, which had, before and during the Great War, been a part of the Austria-Hungarian Empire, had been legally declared an independent state by the Treaty of Versailles. The hated Treaty is not recognized as binding by the nationalist Right, and neither is Austria's independence. Pan-Germanists, such as Hitler, consider that any attempt to declare any German-speaking province or country independent—Austria, Bavaria, Prussia, Upper Silesia, etc.—is counter-productive to the goal of uniting all such collections of Germans into a Greater Germany, and he will have none of it. 69

Hitler has not been back to the Obersalzberg/Berchtesgaden area since early June, when he had vacationed incognito at the boarding house Pension Moritz. Now, "Herr Wolf" has returned, but as that infamous Munich firebrand everyone has been talking about. Hitler:

For a long time a meeting had been arranged at Berchtesgaden. The moment came when it was no longer possible to avoid it. "German Day at Berchtesgaden. Present: Comrade Adolf Hitler." Great sensation at Obersalzberg. The whole boarding-house, forty to fifty people in all, came down into the valley to see the phenomenon . . . . I came down by motor-cycle. At the Crown Inn, I was welcomed by a formidable ovation. All my boarding-house was gathered in front of the door—but the good people were in no way surprised, being convinced that every new arrival was greeted in this vociferous fashion. When I climbed on the platform, they stared at me as if I'd gone mad. When they became aware of the reality, I saw that it was driving them out of their minds. When Wolf returned to the boarding-house, the atmosphere there was poisoned. Those who had spoken ill of Adolf Hitler in my hearing were horribly embarrassed. What a pity! 70

1923 August Kurt Ludecke, who had been lying low since April, had caught up with Hitler in Obersalzberg. When the Inter-State Congress of National Socialists is over, Ludecke, Hitler, Esser, and Amann travel to Linz, Hitler's "Home Town".

Ludecke, an often reliable witness, spent many hours with Hitler. Linz agrees with Hitler, says Ludecke, and he is "in a gay mood." Before this small group of party comrades, Hitler dominated the conversation, going off on long monologues filled with impassioned rhetoric, his countenance "vividly expressive . . . . Each shade of thought or feeling was instantly reflected there, an entertaining study because his mind is kaleidoscopic. He loves nothing so much as to pour out his knowledge and opinions into a friendly ear."

On the second day, Hitler and I had long talks alone . . . . [Hitler holds forth on the opportunities now open to their Party] "The nation was poised for a drastic change; whoever pulled the first prop from under Berlin might very well succeed, because all Germany would spring up to topple the Government. It was chiefly a question of finding the right moment to jump and the right people to jump with us."

Ludecke agrees to become a sort of foreign ambassador at large for the NSDAP. It is decided to send him off to Italy. Ludecke:

That night we decided to celebrate the new venture in advance. Linz was only a little town, but it was German, which is to say that it boasted the usual quota of beer-gardens and restaurants. To the largest and gaudiest, we made our way . . . .

The big restaurant to which he led me enclosed what seemed like acres of Linz within its walls of abominably painted panels and gilt plaster. We had scarcely sat down before his architect's eye focused on the decorations of the room.

"Baroque," he explained needlessly, pointing at the bulbous cupids and fruity garlands. "Bad baroque. Has it ever occurred to you that there's no such thing as merely poor baroque? The style has no middle quality; when it is not perfect, it's impossible. And, of course, the very spirit of the style, its lush intimacy, makes it dangerous to splash baroque elements over a hall of such dimensions. One might as well gild a barn. But heavens, what a magnificent place this would be for a rally! Why, in this one room alone, I could swing all Linz!"

After some days enjoying the pleasures of Linz, Hitler sends Ludecke off to Italy with: "Rip out of Mussolini whatever you can!" (Fetzen Sie aus Mussolini heraus, was Sie koennen!). 71

1923 August 20 From an interview with Hitler published in the New York's World, an American newspaper: "Germany's hope lies in a Fascist dictatorship, and she is going to get it . . . . What Germany needs is a revolution—not reform. The printing presses must stop; officialdom must be reduced to a minimum. This can only be effected by a Government not bound by republican slogans. This Government must rule by force." 72

1923 August A noticeable aspect of Hitler's leadership, from the very first, is his tendency to create competing centers of power, all of which are responsible to him personally. In this manner, he makes certain that no single underling can amass a personal power base, strong enough to threaten his own position. By creating these overlapping authorities, Hitler himself becomes the indispensable arbiter of all important disputes. By forcing his various paladins to come to him for the settlement of turf disputes, he is thus able, not only to keep his hand on policy decisions, but to further ensure that his cronies will not conspire against him. Keeping them fighting amongst themselves is an effective means to achieve this aim, and it proves to be a successful strategy.

An early example of this phenomenon: Hitler empowers his bodyguard-chauffeur, Julius Schreck, to form a small, elite unit to act as a personal bodyguard for the Fuehrer. The Shock Troop Adolf Hitler (Stosstrupp Adolf Hitler), as it will be known, will become a one-hundred man group, commanded by Josef Berchtold, a former lieutenant. Only their swastika armbands distinguish their uniforms from that of a regular Reichswehr soldier. To compensate for their small numbers, they are more heavily armed than SA men. 73

1923 August The Völkischer Beobachter, after purchasing two used American rotary presses, goes from a bi-weekly to a daily publishing schedule. The new presses make the paper over into the larger, popular American newspaper format. The deal is financed by a $1,000 loan arranged by Ernst Hanfstaengl. 74

1923 August 30 From a report written by the ambassador to Munich from the German state of Wuerttemberg: "A party, so attuned to activism to which so many adventurers belong, must lose appeal if it does not come to action within a certain time." 75

1923 August Inflation: 4,620,455 RM per dollar. 76

1923 September 1–2 On the anniversary of the 1870 German defeat of France at Sedan, a massive Deutscher Tag (German Day) rally of 100,000 takes place in Nuremberg. Hitler's SA, the Reichskriegsflagge, and Dr. Friedrich Weber's Bund Oberland, unite to form the Deutscher Kampfbund (German Combat League). On the morning of September 2, Erich Ludendorff, Adolf Hitler, and Prinz Ludwig Ferdinand of Bavaria spend two hours reviewing the military formations that march by the podium. This occasion marks the first time that evidence of the Nazi right-hand greeting is found, in photographs taken this day. 77

A Munich police report described the scene:

Roaring cries of "Heil!" swirled around the guests of honor and their entourage. Countless arms with waving handkerchiefs reached out for them; flowers and bouquets rained on them from all sides. It was like the jubilant outcry of hundreds of thousands of despairing, beaten, downtrodden human beings suddenly glimpsing a ray of hope, a way out of their bondage and distress. Many, men and women both, stood and wept. 78

In the evening, Hitler takes the stage at Nuremberg's Festhalle. What Germany needs, he proclaims, is "a nationalist revolution today to restore Germany's might and greatness. We can save Germany from internal and foreign foes, only through blood and sword. We need a revolution, bloodshed, and a dictatorship . . . . We must have a new dictatorship. We need no parliament, no government like the present. We cannot expect Germany's salvation from the present condition, but only through a dictatorship brought through the sword." 79

1923 September 3 Chancellor Stresemann, in an article in The New York Times, vows that he will not be intimidated by the Right: "I am sick of this dog's life, with treason on every side. If the nationalists come marching into Berlin, I am not going to run off . . . . If they come, they can shoot me down right here, in the place where I have every right to sit." 80

1923 September Hitler is able to take a 60,000 Swiss franc loan for the Party, from a Berlin coffee trader. The loan is secured when Helene Bechstein, the wife of the famous piano builder, Carl Bechstein, lends the party some of her jewelry to use as surety. The Bechsteins maintain a country residence at Berchtesgaden, and often invite Hitler to visit. They will also introduce him to the Wagner circle at Bayreuth, which pleases him greatly.

Frau Bechstein is one of a group of unofficial "mothers" of Adolf Hitler. These early Hitler groupies are, typically, middle-aged or older. They are the wives and mothers of party supporters, who dote on the dynamic young party leader. Hitler will always seem to have an adequate supply of these female admirers on hand, anxious to please their "Austrian charmer", to help and assist him in his endeavors. By all accounts, while many of these relationships involve a certain amount of painfully gallant flirting, all are exclusively platonic. 81

1923 September 5 Hitler warns of Communists poised for a putsch in the North: "Either Berlin will march and end in Munich, or Munich will march and end up in Berlin. A Bolshevist North Germany cannot exist side by side with a nationalist Bavaria." 82

1923 September 12 Hitler speaks at the Circus Krone in Munich: "In a few weeks, the dice will roll . . . . What is in making today will be greater than the World War. It will be fought out on German soil for the whole world." 83

1923 September 24 Chancellor Minister Stresemann announces the end of the policy of passive resistance against the occupation of the Ruhr by French and Belgian troops. 84

BERLIN, Sept. 24 (Associated Press)

Chancellor Stresemann announced tonight that the Government had decided to abandon passive resistance immediately and unconditionally, and had ordered resumption at once in the Ruhr and Rhineland in all lines of industry.

This decision was reached after a conference at the Chancellor's palace attended by three hundred representative spokesmen from the Ruhr and Rhineland, at which it was unanimously agreed that further opposition to the Franco-Belgian occupation was futile, and that passive resistance must be abandoned.

1923 September 25 Hitler speaks for two hours at a meeting of the heads of some of Munich's private armies, and various right-wing formations. Among them: Goering, Roehm, Kriebel, Heiss, and Weber. He convinces them that, if they were all to join under his unified leadership, they would be able to accomplish something that none of them could do alone. They agree to do so, at the proper time. 85

1923 September 26 In reaction to the call for an end to passive resistance to the Ruhr occupation, Bavarian Prime Minister Eugen von Knilling proclaims a state of emergency. He installs Gustav Ritter von Kahr as State Commissar (Staatskomissar), and grants him dictatorial powers, but with a time limit: February, 1924. One of Kahr's first acts is to ban 14 planned NSDAP meetings, scheduled for September 27. Kahr suspects that Hitler is once again planning a putsch, and he is determined to head it off any way he can. Hitler is, indeed, heavily engaged in preparing such a putsch, and is incensed with Kahr for stepping in and ruining things. 86

Events are beginning to push Hitler further and faster than he would choose to go. He is well aware that the impatience in the ranks is growing. The leader of the Munich SA, William Brückner, a former Freikorps Epp member who had participated in the "liberation" of Munich from the so-called Red Republic, and who will later be Hitler's chief adjutant, will testify to the mood at this time: 87

I had the impression that the Reichswehr officers were dissatisfied too, because the march on Berlin was being held up. They were saying: Hitler is a fraud just like the rest of them. You are not attacking. It makes no difference to us who strikes first; we are going along. And I myself told Hitler: The day is coming when I can no longer hold my people. If nothing happens now, the men will sneak away. We had many unemployed in the ranks, fellows who had sacrificed their last pair of shoes, their last suit of clothing, their last penny for their training, and who thought: soon things will get under way and we'll be taken into the Reichswehr and be out of this mess. 88

Max Scheubner-Richter (Ludwig Maximilian Erwin von Scheubner-Richter), writes to Hitler: "In order to keep the men together, one must finally undertake something. Otherwise the people will become Left radicals." 89

Scheubner-Richter is a friend of Alfred Rosenberg, with much the same origins. Hitler once joked that the Völkischer Beobachter during this time should have been sub-headed "Baltic Edition". Hitler has a very high opinion of Scheubner-Richter, especially as he has been able to raise "enormous sums of money" for the party. 90

Hermann Goering:

Then, suddenly, the Bavarian Government was completely transformed, when a governor general—I believe he was called that—or something of the sort, was appointed for Bavaria. It was von Kahr, to whom the Bavarian Government was subordinate, and to whom the Bavarian Government delegated all authority. Shortly after that, the Reichswehr conflict developed. The 7th Reichswehr Division, which was stationed in Bavaria, was released from its oath to the Reich, which it had sworn to the Reich Constitution—I do not know its name any longer—that is to von Kahr. This led to the conflict of the Generals von Seeckt and Lossow. The same thing happened with the Bavarian police. The Bavarian Government, at the same time, curried favor with the so-called national associations, which were in part organized along military or semi-military lines and also possessed weapons. The whole thing was directed against Berlin and, as we expressed it, against the "November Republic." We could agree up to that point. [For the full text, Click here.]

1923 September 26 From a Chicago Tribune story—datelined September 26—which will appear in The New York Times on September 27:

Bavaria tonight proclaimed itself a dictatorship. Gustav von Kahr brushed Field Marshall von Ludendorff [sic], Herr Hittler [sic], Premier von Knilling and other candidates aside and became the first Dictator in Bavaria.

The Constitution has been suspended . . . . Among the laws definitely announced suspended are all those guaranteeing freedom of speech, press, assembly, telephone, telegram, secrecy of mail, secrecy and sanctity of person, dwelling and property. Habeas corpus is declared non-existent.

Herr von Kahr is vested with powers to call troops and use troops, arrest anyone he chooses, keep prisoners without trial and seize the property of any one he declares an enemy of the nation. 91

1923 September 27 The Völkischer Beobachter goes on the attack against Chancellor Stresemann and General Hans von Seeckt with the story "The Dictators Stresemann-Seeckt":

It is hardly necessary to say that for Herr Stresemann the 'internal' enemy is the Deutschvolkische group . . . . One cannot very well expect anything else from this man . . . except the mounting of an attack on patriots . . . . Seeckt's wife like Stresemann's is a Jewess, and influences Seeckt politically . . . .

In well-informed Reichstag circles, it is openly claimed that the government of the Reich, on the basis of agreements with the majority parties, has already firmly determined to establish a dictatorship, presumably under the firm of Ebert-Stresemann-Seeckt . . . . In Reichswehr circles, the really sly ones (the higher ranking officers! The Editor) assumed that Seeckt would sooner or later shove his partners aside and they are therefore making propaganda especially zealously for Seeckt's dictatorship, inside as well as outside the Reichswehr.

As a consequence, General Otto von Lossow orders that the Beobachter be forced to cease publication. Kahr intervenes, saying he will not see freedom of the press infringed, on his watch. 92

1923 September 30 Hitler reviews the local storm troopers on his first trip to Bayreuth. This is not the reason he is here. Bayreuth is where Villa Wahnfried is located, the estate where Richard Wagner's son, Siegfried, and his English-born wife, Winifred, reside. 93

Beside Richard Wagner's widow, 81 year-old Cosima Wagner, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Wagner's son-in-law, is also a resident of Villa Wahnfried. Chamberlain is a British-born racialist writer. His 2-volume work, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts), is one of those "the West is in decline" works that are textbooks for racialists such as Hitler. 94

Two of Cosima's grandchildren, Friedelind and Wolfgang Wagner, witness Hitler's arrival:

For a long time, we waited. Mother was talking to father eagerly, telling him how wonderful the young man was. Presently Wolfgang and I grew impatient and went to the front door to watch for a car coming up the drive, between the borders of the chestnut trees. At last, one turned in from Richard Wagner Street. We called father and mother, and all of us went to greet the visitor at the front door.

A young man jumped out of the car and came toward us . . . in Bavarian leather breeches, short, thick woolen socks, a red-blue-checked shirt and a short blue jacket that bagged about his unpadded skeleton. His sharp cheekbones stuck out over hollow, pasty checks, and above them was a pair of unnaturally-bright blue eyes. There was a half-starved look about him, but something else too, a sort of fanatical look . . . .

His voice took on tone and color and grew deeper and deeper, until we sat like a circle of little charmed birds, listening to the music, although we didn't pay any attention to a word he said. 95

We have seen (Chapters 3-6) how Hitler worshiped Wagner as if he were a deity, and was never happier on this earth, than when he was enjoying one of his hero's operas. Meeting the family of the Master on these sacred grounds is, for Hitler, a deeply spiritual experience. But he becomes ecstatic when he discovers that the sentiment is reciprocated. They are all avid Nazis, and fuss over their Fuehrer shamelessly. Cosima kisses the "Austrian charmer", Winifred holds his hand, and a splendid time is had by all. 96

Hitler is moved when Siegfried opines that he is "destined to be the savior of Germany". But when Chamberlain declares that Hitler is "god-given", he is genuinely touched. While he is accustomed to the adulation of the masses at party meetings, these are people whose opinions he actually respects. Hitler will return to Bayreuth many times. 97

1923 September 30 THE HAGUE, Sept. 30

— Great anxiety prevails in Holland regarding recent political developments in Germany and the possibility of a revolution. Detachments of Dutch troops, especially companies of cyclists, have been sent to the German frontier to be ready for emergencies, as the bands of armed and destitute Germans and desperadoes roving about the frontier increase daily, looting and robbing lonely farm houses and residences, often killing the inhabitants. All the Red Cross authorities have also received instructions to hold themselves in readiness. 98

1923 September Inflation: 98,860,000 RM per dollar. 99

1923 October 2 The cover price for a copy of the Völkischer Beobachter is 4 million marks. 100

1923 October 2 In an interview with the Daily Mail, Hitler opines: "If a German Mussolini is given to Germany . . . people would fall down on their knees and worship him more than Mussolini has ever been worshipped." 101

1923 October 3 Hitler is interviewed by George Sylvester Viereck for The Times (London). Viereck is struck by Hitler's enormous ego, and his vows to hang all his enemies. 102

1923 October 7 Hitler receives a letter from Houston Stewart Chamberlain (above):

Most respected and dear Hitler, . . . . Your giving me peace of mind has a lot to do with your eye and the gestures of your hands. Your eye is so to speak gifted with hands; it catches hold of a person and holds him tight . . . . As for your hands, they are so expressive in their movements that they can compete with your eyes—Such a man is well able to let a poor tormented mind find peace! . . . .

It is hardly surprising that a man like that can give peace to a poor suffering spirit! Especially when he is dedicated to the service of the fatherland. My faith in Germandom has not wavered for a moment, though my hopes were—I confess—at a low ebb. With one stroke you have transformed the state of my soul. That Germany, in the hour of her greatest need, brings forth a Hitler—that is proof of her vitality . . . that the magnificent Ludendorff openly supports you and your movement: What wonderful confirmation! I can now go untroubled to sleep . . . . May God protect you! 103

1923 October 13 Fourth German Military District commander, General Alfred Mueller, bans the Proletarian Hundreds militia in Saxony. All of the police forces in Saxony will soon be put under the authority of the Reichswehr. 104

1923 October 14 A proclamation, endorsed by Moscow, is announced by the German Communist Party's Zentral. It urges the workers to gather arms in preparation for "a battle to establish a government of all working people in the Reich and abroad. It will soon be withdrawn, but the word will fail to reach certain quarters. 105

1923 October 15 The cover price for a copy of the Völkischer Beobachter is 20 million marks. 106

1923 October 16 The cover price for a copy of the Völkischer Beobachter is 25 million marks. 107

1923 October 16 Hitler writes to Fritz Seidl, a boyhood friend in Linz: "As far as my family is concerned, it consists of one wonderful German Alsatian dog. I have not managed to get any further so far." 108

1923 Freikorps leader Gerhard Rossbach will later recall Hitler as "a pitiful civilian with his tie out of place, who had nothing in his head but art, and was always late", but was a "brilliant speaker with suggestive effect."

Weak but wanting to be hard, half-educated wishing to be an all-rounder (universall), a bohemian who had to be a soldier if he wanted to impress true soldiers. A man mistrustful toward himself and what he was capable of (seine Moeglichkeiten), and so full of inferiority complex toward all who were anything or were on the way to outflank him . . . . He was never a gentleman, even later in evening dress. 109

1923 October 16 Leo Negrelli interviews Hitler for the Italian newspaper Corriere Italiano. Carl Ludecke is responsible for gaining Mussolini's approval for the interview. 110

1923 October 20 President Ebert relieves von Lossow of his command. He is replaced by General Kress von Kressenstein as head of the Bavarian Reichswehr. 111

1923 October 20 Fourth German Military District commander, General Alfred Mueller, writes to Saxony's minister-president Erich Zeigner: "I have been instructed to restore constitutional and orderly conditions in the Free State of Saxony with those means of enforcement . . . at my disposal." 112

1923 October 23–26 Communists in Hamburg, having somehow missed orders not to stage a putsch, attempt a putsch. Their strategy is apparently limited to attacking police stations. Seventeen policemen and twenty-four Communists die before the Communists are defeated. 113

1923 October 23 Hermann Goering presents details for an "Offensive Against Berlin", with particular attention to the drawing up of lists of enemies slated to be liquidated during, and subsequent to, the putsch: The most vigorous form of terror must be employed; anyone who creates the slightest obstruction must be eliminated. As soon as the decree is issued at least one person must be shot immediately as an example." Gregor Strasser is enthusiastic: "[It] was for me perhaps the most beautiful [thing I had heard] since 1918 because from then I thought things would change. 114

1923 October 24 For four hours, Hitler meets with Colonel Hans Ritter von Seisser (above), the head of the Munich police, and General Otto von Lossow, the commander of the Reichswehr in Bavaria. He attempts to persuade them that they should back a planned putsch by the Deutscher Kampfbund, a paramilitary organization composed of Hitler's SA, the Reichskriegsflagge, and the Bund Oberland. The two make excuses, temporize, and put Hitler off, making no commitment. 115

1923 October 24 On the evening of his meeting with Hitler, General Lossow speaks before a meeting of paramilitary leaders on the subject "The March on Rome". Advocating a march on Berlin similar to Mussolini's march on Rome, Lossow is apparently in favor of putsch marches, but seems to prefer that Hitler not participate in any of them. 116

1923 October 30 Hitler withdraws his pledge to Kahr not to press forward unilaterally. 117

1923 October 30 Hitler speaks at the Circus Krone:

Formerly one little mistake was all it took, and a ministry, a chancellor, had to go." Suddenly raising his voice to a shout, he added, "Today, a Ruhr can disappear, but Stresemann remains! Germany can go to ruin and Stresemann does not go! . . . . [What is needed is] a dictatorship for Bavaria alone . . . . [If it were up to Kahr, he would] capitulate to Berlin in five weeks . . . . For me, Germany's problems will not be solved until the black-white-red swastika banner flies from the palace in Berlin . . . . There is no turning back now—we can only go forward! We all feel that the hour has come, and we will not shirk its demands, but, like the soldier in the field, we will follow the order: Ready yourselves, Germans, and forward march!" 118

1923 October Ludendorff has been meeting frequently with Hitler since the Deutscher Tag (German Day) rally in Nuremberg. Ludendorff had endorsed Hitler on that occasion.

Margarethe Ludendorff later wrote:

Our house had become the rallying-point, one could almost have called it the political centre of the National Socialists. It was like the continual coming and going in a pigeon loft. Not merely every day, but every hour, there were conferences.

In order to avoid all suspicion, Ludendorff, with masterly acuteness, made a point of busying himself in the garden before the eyes of everybody. He pruned the roses, watered the flowers, and sprayed the lawns, as though he were the most harmless fellow in the world, remote from any thought of political upheavals.

Steel manufacturer Fritz Thyssen met with Ludendorff:

I deplored the fact that there were not at that time men in Germany whom an energetic national spirit would inspire to improve the situation.

"There is but one hope," Ludendorff said to me, "and this hope is embodied in the national groups which desire our recovery. " He recommended to me in particular the Oberland League and, above all, the National Socialist party of Adolf Hitler. All these were leagues of young people and World War veterans who were resolved to fight Socialism as the cause of all disorder. Ludendorff greatly admired Hitler. "He is the only man," he said, "who has any political sense." 119

1923 October Inflation: 25,260,280,000 RM per dollar. 120

1923 November 4 From General Hans von Seeckt's Order of the Day:

As long as I remain at my post, I shall not cease to repeat that salvation for Germany cannot come from one extreme or the other, neither through help from abroad nor through revolution, whether of the Right or the Left. It is only by hard work, silently and persistently pursued, that we can survive. This can only be accomplished on the basis of the legal constitution. To abandon this principle is to unleash civil war. In such civil war, none of the parties would succeed in winning; it would only be a conflict which would end only in their mutual destruction, a conflict similar to that of which the Thirty Years War provides so terrible an example. 121

1923 November 6 Seisser, Lossow, and Kahr—the triumvirate of Bavaria—meet with heads of the "patriotic" associations, though Hitler is excluded. Hermann Kriebel, a retired lieutenant colonel, former Freikorps member, and now the military leader of the Kampfbund, is one of those present. Lossow proclaims that, if they thought that a putsch had a 51% chance of success, they would back it. Until then, they remain prepared to maintain Kahr in office, and avoid any putsch. 122

1923 November 6 Hitler, who had not attended the meeting with Kahr, meets with Friedrich Weber and Hermann Kriebel to discuss ways to convince Kahr to lift his sanction against the Kampfbund. Weber is chosen to approach Ludendorff and ask him to convince Kahr to meet privately with Hitler. 123

1923 November 6 In yet another meeting on this busy day, Hitler meets with Scheubner-Richter and with Theodor von der Pfordten, a member of the supreme court of Bavaria. They agree that the time has come to act, and that if they achieve initial success, they should then be able to convince the triumvirate to support them. 124

1923 November 6 Cardinal von Faulhaber, the archbishop of Munich, writes an open letter to Chancellor Stresemann:

How can we hope to master the economic crisis that already is so great, and the miseries of the coming winter that widespread unemployment will bring, unless all decent men work together, regardless of faith, position, or party? How else can we eradicate the blind, raging hatred for our fellow Jewish citizens and other ethnic groups, a hatred that flies through the land screaming "Guilty!" but never asking proof? And how else can we avoid a civil war, which would wreak new, untold desolation and seal the ruin of our poor nation in the blood of self-inflicted wounds? 125

1923 November 7 Kahr flat out refuses to meet privately with Hitler at any time in the near future. 126

1923 November 7 Hitler, Kriebel, Weber, Scheubner-Richter, and Hermann Goering meet to work out the details of a putsch. Kriebel opines that the best time to strike is November 10–11, and that they should concentrate on seizing all police stations, town halls, and communications facilities in Bavaria. All Communists, Socialists, trade unionists, and members of both the Bavarian and central governments should be arrested while still in their beds. Hitler is against this plan. 127

On the 5th anniversary of the November Revolution, Kahr is to deliver an address against Marxism, which is to take place the next day at the Bü rgerbräukeller. Hitler is honestly concerned that Kahr, who is at heart a monarchist, will take the opportunity to announce the restoration of the Bavarian monarchy. All of Munich's finest personages will be in attendance. Hitler proposes that they should take advantage of this by storming the meeting, and placing everyone there under arrest. This plan meets with general, if less than unanimous, agreement. 128

Discussing putsch details later that evening with SA leaders, he tells his personal bodyguard, butcher's apprentice Ulrich Graf, that "tomorrow at 8 o'clock it's happening." Hitler goes home to his apartment. He has a busy day planned, and must try to get some sleep. 129

End of Chapter.

Next: The Hitler Putsch.

Written by Walther Johann von Löpp
Copyright © 2011-2013 All Rights Reserved
Edited by Levi Bookin — Copy Editor
European History and Jewish Studies

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