Hitler, Adolf

The difficult years (1923 - 1929)

Slowly but surely, a Führer cult emerged within the N.S.D.A.P. The march on Rome in 1922, led by Benito Mussolini (Bio Mussolini) had left a deep impression on Hitler’s party comrades. They began to see their leader ever more as the Mussolini of Germany and attributed Messianic qualities to him. The Führer was the future saviour of the country. This Führer cult was still very immature and certainly not yet the pivotal point of party ideology or party organisation. Besides, Hitler did not yet consider himself the saviour of the country but an agitator who knew how to rally the masses.

The occupation of the Ruhr area by French and Belgian troops in January 1923 gave rise to an explosive mood that Hitler could turn to his advantage. He watched the number of members grow to 55.000. Soon large scale passive protests erupted against the Franco-Belgian occupation. The economic consequences were interminable, in particular as a result of an inflation hitherto unknown. From one day to the next, the middle class and the proletariat discovered they had been robbed of their savings while speculators took advantage of the situation to gain enormous wealth. A wave of demonstrations and strikes in the summer of 1923 had the country shake on its foundations. The disastrous situation of the economy and inherent political instability made that Adof Hitler became convinced that this was the moment. In the evening of November 8th 1923, Hitler, some prominent Nazis and the SA, in co-operation with General Erich Ludendorff of the Conservative Nationalists, attempted to seize power in Munich. (Bierkellerputsch).

The coup was a dismal failure. Hitler and his followers were arrested but sentenced to strikingly short imprisonments. He made use of his stay in prison to write Mein Kampf. In itself, he did not introduce any new ideas but 1923 - 1924 were important years in the sense that he expressed his world vision and ideology in a coherent and systematic way.

On December 20th, 1924, Hitler was released from Landsberg prison. The rightist people’s movement had completely fallen apart during his absence. The N.S.D.A.P. had been banned and Hitler was not allowed to make public speeches anymore. Yet, he did not lose faith, on the contrary, during his internment in Landsberg he had become convinced he was the man of choice to drag Germany out of the swamp. That however was not so clear cut: the social situation was changing drastically in the meantime. While Hitler had to watch his step, the Weimar Republic was developing into a stable stae: the economic crisis was contained and political stability increased, despite numerous changes of governemnt. Germany had joined the League of Nations and was once more accepted as a full fledged member of the international community.

Support for the populist parties dwindled in 1924 to hardly 3% of the population. In 1928, the N.S.D.A.P. hardly won 2.6% of the votes in the Reichstag elections. The conclusion is obvious: the fertile soil for extreme right wing parties had disappeared.

Yet this period was not unimportant for the development of the N.S.D.A.P. and Hitler’s role. He managed to set himself up as the undisputed leader of the right. The N.S.D.A.P. became a real Führer party. When in February 1925 the ban on the party was lifted, Hitler left no doubt whatsoever: "For nine long months, I have not said a word. Now I am leading the movement and I will not let anyone dictate terms." Hitler was the party and was increasingly put forward by its members as the Messia figure that would liberate Germany. The members were persoally bound to the Führer and had to submit themselves to his decisions unconditionally. There was no place in the party for those who did not want to do so. Ernst Röhm for instance withdrew completely from the movement out of discord with the role Hitler alloted to the SA.

The internal organisation was also set on the right footing. Whereas she knew hardly any structure in the years prior to the Putsch, in 1929 the N.S.D.A.P. stood on a much firmer base, despite the poor results of the elections. In 1928 the number of members rose to 100.000 and the party’s cadre was for more structured. Men like Gregor Strasser, Heinrich Himmler (Bio Himmler), Joseph Goebbels (Bio Goebbels) and Hermann Göring came forward and played an important role in the expansion of the party. They participated in the establishment of Nazi youth movements like the HJ (HitlerJugend or Hitler Youth), the BDM (Bund Deutscher Mädel or Union of German girls), unions of teachers and doctors, the propaganda department, the SA and the SS.

As regards content, nothing changed. The party programme remained the same: the anti-Semitic, anti-Marxist and anti-Democratic ideas and the rejection of the Treaty of Versailles remained unchanged without compromises. As far as Hitler was concerned, the notions Jewish and Marxism were interchangeable: "The Jew remains the global enemy and his weapon, Marxism is the curse of humanity." A idea that emerged more often was the problem of Lebensraum (space to live). In Hitler’s view, the economic problems could best be solved by an expansion of territory eastwards, at the cost of Russia. In order to achieve this, the German population had to become powerful enough, so Germany needed to become a strong military power once more.

Generally, the N.S.D.A.P. was considered a neglectable movement. Therefore, the Bavarian Minister of the Interior saw no reason to prohibit Hitler to speak in public any longer. The leader of the N.S.D.A.P. made his comeback on March 9th, 1927 with a speech in circus Krone in Hamburg. Yet, even meetings where Hitler was the main speaker drew less and less listeners. His retorics and the content of his speeches simply did not strike home any more. The message that Germany was slowly sinking was hardly credible in times of economic progress and relative political stability. Hitler himself though oozed confidence prior to the Reichstags elections in May 1928: "I know once more that Providence will take me to where I would have been four years ago." The elections turned into a farce though, the party won less than 2.6%, while their greatest opponents, the Socialdemocrats and Communications won the elections undisputably.

Yet, the importance of this period for the party cannot be underestimated. Outwardly, there may have been no successes but the internal growth of the party formed the base for its later expansion.

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Afbeeldingen


Benito Mussolini during the March on Rome (1922).
(Source: Geheugen van Nederland)


French troops in the Ruhr area.
(Source: United States Library of Congress))


Nazi-shock troops during the failed putsch of 1923.
(Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-2007-0003 / CC-BY-SA 3.0)


During his imprisonment, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf.


The Reichstag elections in 1928 ended in disaster for the N.S.D.A.P.: the party hardly won 2,6% of the votes.
(Source: Wikipedia)

Informatie

Translated by:
Arnold Palthe
Article by:
Gerd Van der Auwera
Published on:
24-05-2016
Last edit on:
25-07-2017
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