Part 2 of 2
Most potential recruits and financial supporters heard about Hitler and the NSDAP via word of mouth. Nothing was as effective as this. When men like Scheubner-Richter, Schacht, Borsig, Kirdorf, and Thyssen recommended the NSDAP and personally endorsed Hitler, wealthy and other upper- and middle-class Germans were willing to seriously consider Hitler and his party. Hitler was invited to speak to heavy industrialists in 1927 by word of mouth in fact. He even wrote a secret pamphlet intended only for this industrial-capitalist audience, which they then passed around to others.
Besides active word of mouth campaigning, the NSDAP also placed posters everywhere they could, promoted speaking engagements and other party activities and viewpoints in their VB, sold various odds and ends to raise small funds (e.g. various items like soap with NSDAP packaging), and sent wealthier members abroad to raise funds from German expats and foreign sympathizers. Kurt Lüdecke excelled at this form of campaigning.
In the very beginning, Hitler and the NSDAP targeted veterans, farmers, workers, young men, noblemen and women, small businessmen and women, and pensioners. These were the social classes who were initially the most receptive, due to the economy and prevailing anti-monarchism, but later on Hitler’s support base included wealthy elites, heavy industrialists, fascist and monarchist foreigners, landed Junkers, veterans’ organizations, the German Army and Navy, and even Montagu Norman.
Norman was a prominent English banker and personal friend of Hjalmar Schacht who, according to both his private secretary Ernest Skinner and Émile Moreau, despised Jews, the French, and Roman Catholics. He unabashedly refused to assist France’s treasury with anything and proved willing and able to arrange financing for the NSDAP by way of his connections to Bruno von Schröder (Schroder Bank), Kurt von Schröder (Stein Bank), and the Bank of England (F. C. Tiarks and M. Norman himself).
Norman had strong sympathy for the Germans which dated back to his days as a student in Dresden, and naturally offered to financially assist and thereby stabilize the new government that his friend Schacht had openly supported since 1931. Since Hitler was hostile to France (he saw the French as foreign enemy number one), friendly to Britain (which he did not feel was a threat), and discriminatory towards Jews, the three things that Norman found favorable, he recommended that Kurt von Schröder extend credit to Hitler’s party, which now controlled the government.
Schacht was Hitler’s de facto lifeline in this respect, a nationalist German banker who had his own designs for German recovery, but who was also personally impressed with Hitler’s speeches and mass appeal, which no other politician possessed.
As for Hitler’s initial support, many farmers were blighted by financial obligations to relentless moneylenders, and most, including landed Junkers, felt threatened by Communist expropriation and insufficient protective agricultural tariffs. The veterans were receptive because they felt betrayed by the ruling class, especially the liberal-democrats of the SPD, and because they had a difficult time finding work. Workers, who were mostly young men, were receptive because they felt they were being exploited by the business class, but primarily because they were the most negatively affected by the inflation and unemployment. Pensioners on fixed incomes were receptive to Hitler’s socialist stance. Noblemen and women were interested in Hitler because he opposed Freemasonry and expropriation of their landed estates, and because he hinted at restoration of the monarchy. Additionally, all of these groups generally opposed Marxist-Communism because they were not interested in a revolutionary bloodbath, but economic and social security as well as justice and prosperity for the German nation.
Hitler’s main opposition in the formative years came from the Communists, who denounced him as a tool of capitalism and the former nobility; the heavy industrialists, who distrusted his socialism and the SA (they feared the SA was nothing but a Communistic horde); and the left-wing faction within his own party, who questioned Hitler’s financial sources and pro-business stance.
When someone requested to join the NSDAP, one paid one’s initial annual dues and was then given a membership card and asked to perform some service or task for the party. This could be anything from putting up posters before speaking engagements to spreading the word by simply talking about the NSDAP or handing out flyers on street corners and at beer halls. After the Hitler-Strasser break, he or she was asked to swear allegiance to Adolf Hitler.
Vetting was likely performed by those members doing the actual talking and recruiting in the streets, as there was no known formal vetting procedure. As long as a person paid his annual dues and served the party loyally, he or she was trusted. Those who wished to break with the party were actually told to leave by Hitler himself at a rally that took place after the Strasser and Stennes affairs. We’ll revisit this topic later on.
Along these lines, Kurt Lüdecke, Otto Wagener and Ernst Röhm played leading roles in arming, training, and drilling SA men. Their personal fundraising; their secret dealings with the German Army (Reichswehr), which had many prominent sympathizers of the NSDAP and SA; and Lüdecke’s connections to black market Jewish arms dealers proved imperative to building a credible paramilitary threat to the status quo.
The government in Berlin tended to ignore SA violence against Communists because it opposed a Communist takeover. Also, Hitler’s party supported German national unity at all costs, so Hitler and his SA were worth tolerating to prevent Bavarian secession.
Hitler’s real bargaining base was his SA and the masses. Without both, he could afford to be ignored by the elites, government, and industry; however with both he was a true threat, like the Communists.
Lüdecke, Wagener, and Röhm all led, at one point or another, regular drilling and paramilitary basic training at a large hall funded by party members and various supporters. Marching in formation and drills also took place in the forests and countryside when possible, but mostly it occurred in the party’s own rented hall or on a wealthy sympathizer’s private estate. Fortunately for unemployed and poor members, the party paid for everyone’s uniforms.
When SA and SS ranks were introduced, the requirements were loyalty and leadership aptitude. The SS consisted of men handpicked by Hitler himself. Thus, he vetted them personally. As a matter of fact, Hitler usually personally appointed leaders to their positions even in the SA. He recalled Röhm from Bolivia, for instance, to reorganize and lead the SA.
Hitler tended to choose people who he felt would resist falling prey to groupthink. Historians have tended to characterize this as Hitler’s “divide and rule” tendency, but in-depth study of the party’s early development suggests instead that Hitler chose people who would (a) not challenge or question his leadership, and (b) not fall prey to the “yes man” problem. This appointment procedure did two things: it prevented serious intraparty division by subordinating all to Hitler himself, while at the same time supported intraparty challenges, which prevented groupthink. Leaders could disagree and even challenge one another’s authority without destroying the party.
Hitler based promotion solely on performance, not status. This tendency increased later on during the war especially after Hitler established the NSFO (National Socialist Commanding Officer Corps). This NS-high command likely would have replaced the OKW (Armed Forces High Command). Hitler wanted select NSFO officers to undergo a 4- to 18-hour course in political-ideological instruction. He himself appointed the head of the NSFO, Hermann Reinecke, in December 1944.
The NSDAP expanded into cities and states outside of Munich (Bavaria), where it had its Brown House headquarters, by appointing certain members to run party operations and perform party services in their own states, cities, towns, and villages.
The most well-known example of an NSDAP member-cum-leader who acquired almost enough personal power, financial backing and mass following to challenge Hitler himself was Gregor Strasser. Hitler was able to prevent a crisis from developing with his gifts for clever maneuvering and personal appeal, but such risks are inherent to any party that becomes as large as the NSDAP. And they are risks that must be taken if a party wishes to develop and grow.
Talented, committed and qualified speakers and leaders were appointed to run operations in every location possible. But Berlin NSDAP members also traveled around giving speeches and lectures and soliciting financial support. All speaking engagements required admittance fees. Hitler himself was constantly traveling and meeting with workers and elites alike to recruit new members and bolster his finances.
At the end of 1920, the NSDAP had about 3,000 members. Membership then grew from 27,000 in 1925 to 108,000 in 1928. In August 1931 the NSDAP created its own intelligence and security sector. Heinrich Himmler established the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) and Reinhard Heydrich was appointed head of the organization, which was kept separate from the SS (Schutzstaffel). By the time of the Strasser crisis, the SA was some 400,000 members strong and the party itself had grown to 2 million by 1933. In 1932, it was large enough to achieve control of 37% of the Reichstag.
Here are the election results from 1920 to 1933:
|Political Parties in the Reichstag||June
|Communist Party (KPD)||4||62||45||54||77||89||100||81|
|Social Democratic Party (SPD)||102||100||131||153||143||133||121||120|
|Catholic Center Party (BVP)||65||81||88||78||87||97||90||93|
|Nationalist Party (DNVP)||71||95||103||73||41||37||52||52|
|National Socialist Party (NSDAP)||-||-||-||12||107||230||196||288|
One can see that the NSDAP lost most of its former 230 seats in July 1932 to the even more radical-revolutionary Communist Party (KPD) in November 1932, not to conservative Catholics or social-democrats. The conservative nationalists (DNVP) only received a boost of 15 seats. These results, contrary to most historiography, do not reflect the demise of the NSDAP, but the masses’ disaffection with any party that was not willing to promise sweeping social and economic change for the majority, even if change meant bloodshed. Hitler and the NSDAP were not viewed as extreme enough, so they lost seats to the KPD!
This alarmed men like Hjalmar Schacht and Franz von Papen so much so that they were finally willing to give Hitler the opportunity to become chancellor. He actually should have received the chancellorship in July 1932 when his party had the most seats in the Reichstag, but industrialists and noblemen surrounding General Schleicher, Franz von Papen, and President Hindenburg opposed his appointment to the chancellorship. So much for James Warburg’s and the Rothschilds’ “magical funding.”
Hitler faced so much resistance at this stage that he, like everyone else, had to resort to blackmail to receive his due appointment. Hitler arranged a private meeting with President Hindenburg’s son Oskar, during which he is suspected to have threatened to expose his father’s role in the repeated taxpayer bailouts of the Junkers’ mismanaged, bankrupted estates. Since blackmail and intrigue had been used to cheat Hitler of his due appointment, he decided that he could also play such a game.
Hindenburg appointed him chancellor shortly thereafter, which most historians claim was at the behest of von Papen. We see that von Papen’s desire to prevent a Communist majority by giving Hitler the chancellorship was only partly why Hindenburg appointed him. Hitler won, but not because he received covert funding. Franz von Papen continued to intrigue against Hitler and urged industrialists to withdraw their financial support of the NSDAP! The goal of this so-called “cabinet of barons” was to give Hitler just enough power to satisfy him personally without actually allowing him to attain a majority strong enough to overthrow the status quo, but just strong enough to prevent a Communist majority.
Given this context of stalemate, the speed of the NSDAP’s growth in just 6 years and its subsequent attainment of absolute power were only possible with an authoritarian leader in a crooked political situation in which blackmail, corruption and political sleight-of-hand was the order of the day.What had started as a democratic-style workers’ party with a simple executive committee to which Hitler was appointed in the early 1900s became an authoritarian-style organization with its own uniforms, offices, training facilities, insurance company, sales items, newspaper, propaganda machine, army (the SA), and security service (SS and SD).
This was nothing short of impressive and most of the credit for its success goes to those leaders and members like Hitler, Hess, Gansser, Eckart, Funk, Schwarz, Feder, Keppler, Himmler, Rosenberg, Goebbels, the Strassers (before 1932), Scheubner-Richter, Hanfstaengl, Lüdecke, Göring, and Röhm, all of whom literally devoted their lives to the party.
NSDAP events took place as often as they could be afforded. The newspaper was of course always available—it was a daily—so the public and members always knew what was going on from day-to-day. Hitler gave speeches and met with important wealthy persons almost non-stop after his release from prison. He was keen enough to purchase vehicles, which were rare in those days. Speedy travel was vital to defeating rival parties like the Communists who still had to walk to their various speaking engagements and meetings.
The NSDAPs doors, so to speak, were always open to receive new recruits. Interested persons either signed up at simple on-site recruitment centers or they mailed their applications to the party’s headquarters in Munich.
The need for bodyguards arose when Hitler started regularly giving speeches. The Communists had caught on to this Adolf Hitler and his NSDAP and therefore sought to intimidate it or shut it down. The SA originally served as the party’s guards, but this role was quickly taken over by the SS (Saal-Schutz), which served as an assembly hall guard as well as Hitler’s personal bodyguard. Himmler started its transformation into an elite paramilitary force, renaming it the Schutzstaffel, in 1929.
This Allgemeine-SS later expanded into the National Socialist Armed Forces (Waffen-SS), which eventually grew so large and powerful that it rivaled the state’s official armed forces. Hitler’s intent was to ‘national socialize’ the state armed forces, which opposed him more and more as the war progressed. The intrastate schism between military and social elites on the one side and NS-populists on the other remained intact even under Hitler’s skillful leadership and absolute power. He only fully realized the extent of this social chasm in July 1944 when several of his generals attempted to murder him with a suitcase bomb. This in fact occurred shortly after Hitler ordered the creation of the NSFO, mentioned earlier.
Most early members of the NSDAP gave an incredible amount of their personal fortune and time to the party. Countless young men defied their conservative parents by joining the NSDAP as their only hope for future employment and social security. Young women were attracted to Hitler personally, but also to NS fanfare and its commitment to uphold family values.
The lifeblood of the party was its youth, and numerous parents had their children join either the Jugenbund der NSDAP or Jungsturm Adolf Hitler, both of which were formed in 1922—the creation of at least one of these youth divisions was announced in the VB. In 1923, the organization had some 1,000 members. The Jugenbund, originally based in Bavaria, expanded into a nationwide organization in 1924 and was subsequently renamed the Grossdeutsche Jugendbewegung.
In 1925, after the NSDAP was reorganized upon Hitler’s release from prison, membership grew to over 5,000. In July 1926, the Grossdeutsche Jugendbewegung was again reorganized by Kurt Gruber, a law student from Saxony, and officially renamed the Hitler Jugend Bund der deutschen Arbeiterjugend, (better known as the Hitler Youth). This organization promoted sports, political education and preparatory paramilitary training for later membership in the SA or SS once a child was old enough. Children were given performance booklets in which their HJ accomplishments were recorded. By 1930, the HJ had enlisted over 25,000 boys over age 14. The Deutsches Jungvolk, a junior branch for boys aged 10 to 14, was also formed. Girls between the ages of 10 and 18 joined a similar organization, the Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM), or League of German Girls. In 1930, HJ membership was about 25,000. By the end of 1932, shortly before Hitler came to power, membership was 107,956. By the end of 1933, the HJ had 2,300,000 members.
Uniforms were an integral part of the NSDAP from the beginning. This was the result of Hitler’s personal influence on the DAP, which did not have or require uniforms. NSDAP members often met in beer halls or at the party’s headquarters for daily or weekly drill and training, and were expected to put on their uniforms after the drill leader arrived. All drills and training took place in uniform, and all NSDAP members who attended either Hitler’s speeches or major party events were in uniform.
The SA performed considerable community and charitable work. This included organizing soup kitchens, toy and food drives, home handy work, combating crime, patrolling the streets against Communists and other violent groups, and any other form of service or assistance individual party members were willing and able to provide to community members. Patrolling the streets often led to violent conflict involving injury and death on both sides. As a result, Chancellor Brüning banned the SA, SS and HJ, which all went underground until the ban was lifted after Brüning was ousted. The new Chancellor, Kurt von Schleicher, lifted the ban in exchange for Hitler’s cooperation in forming an anti-Communist coalition government. The SA was then permitted to march under police protection in Communist neighborhoods, because no party in the government at that time was pro-Communist. Even the SPD was forced to back away from a Communist alliance. The Social Democrats realized they had to cooperate with nationalists since they were clearly on the wane and very unpopular with the masses and Junkers. Hitler seized the moment: he ordered his Reichstag members to vote with the Communists against the nationalists and conservatives while he ordered his SA to battle them in the streets.