1921 January 1 Adolf Hitler, the NSDAP's Werbeobmann (propaganda chief), substantially increases the volume of his party propaganda activities in 1921. In December 1920, the NSDAP had purchased the Völkischer Beobachter and made it their own newspaper. Hitler soon becomes one of the paper's most frequent contributors. He starts off this year with a piece entitled "The Nationalist Idea and the Party," writing that the roots of Germany's ills are two-fold: class strife, and "the Jews." 1
Hitler will publish thirty-nine articles for the Völkischer Beobachter between January and June of this year, as well as essays for the Mitteilungsblaetter, a newsletter for party members only. He speaks at twenty-eight mass rallies inside Munich, twelve outside Munich, and countless smaller meetings. After the creation of the SA, he will also address them seven times in the latter part of the year. This is all in addition to countless meetings with opponents, backers, allies, police officials, Reichswehr liaison agents, voelkish leaders, reporters, prospective supporters, etc. And there are the endless hours spent at Munich cafes, consuming cakes, cream puffs, and tea, while in conspiratorial fellowship with his aides and cronies. Clandestinely sponsored by army intelligence, the young agitator from Austria is thus free to devote his efforts full-time toward promoting the party—and himself—without the distractions of more formal employment. 2
1921 January 3 This morning's Völkischer Beobachter carries yet another article by Hitler: the "Stupidity of Crime," attacking the Berlin government for its tolerance of Allied demands concerning the Versailles Treaty terms. Allied representatives are just then meeting in Paris to finalize the total liability for reparations, and a schedule of payments. 3
1921 January 4 Hitler speaks before two-thousand at the Kindlkeller. His lecture is based on the Völkischer Beobachter article of the previous day, the "Stupidity of Crime." This is an example of one of the ways Hitler uses the newspaper to promote the meetings and further his propaganda. Commenting on the effect intended by the newspaper stories, the flyers, and the mass meetings, Hitler explains: "Its aim was to enable us to take a position on current questions, in the form of mass meetings, within twenty-four hours." The Beobachter was invaluable in implementing this quick-response strategy. In this case, it enables Hitler to get out in front of a story that he knows is about to break. 4
1921 January 24 In Paris, the Conference of Ministers announces that, starting on May 1, 1921 and continuing until May 1, 1963, Germany is to make annual reparations payments of 226,000 million gold marks, plus what amounts to a large tax on exports. The estimated grand total is 216 billion gold marks. The German public explodes in rage. The enormity and persistence of the payments seems overwhelming to a country that is suffering under economic stagnation, as it is. A vast majority are of the opinion that this can only make everything much worse for a very long time. 5
1921 January 26 Heinrich Himmler attends a rifle-club meeting with Captain Ernst Roehm. Himmler tells his diary that Roehm is "very friendly" and "pessimistic about Bolshevism." 6
1921 February 3 Six thousand souls attend a mass meeting at the Circus Krone, perhaps the largest such venue in Munich, to listen to Adolf Hitler of the Nazi Party. It is the best-attended party-sponsored meeting to date, which is remarkable if one considers that it has been staged with no advance publicity. The only advertisement was limited to the very day of the meeting: two rented trucks loaded with storm troopers, driving for hours through the streets of Munich, throwing handfuls of flyers into the air. 7
The reparations issue is the topic of conversation everywhere, and all are anticipating Hitler's oration. His lecture, "Future or Ruin" (Zukunft oder Untergang), poses the question as a choice between the "slavery" that is being imposed on the Reich—with the assistance of a weak and insufficiently nationalist government in Berlin—and a true, strong, national, and socialist party of the people. He leaves the crowd with no ambiguity concerning just which nationalist party he has in mind for the mission. His message is very well received. 8
From Mein Kampf:
Our monitor troop was far from being adequate for this colossal hall. And I had no proper idea about the kind of procedure possible in case of an attempt to break the meeting up. At that time I thought this would be much harder for us in the Circus building than in a normal hall. Yet, as it later turned out, the truth was exactly the opposite. Actually, in this gigantic hall, it was easier to master a troop of disturbers than in small halls where you were penned in . . . .
I began to speak, and spoke about two and a half hours; and my feeling told me after the first half hour that the meeting would be a great success. Contact with all these thousands of individuals had been established. After the first hour, the applause began to interrupt me in greater and greater spontaneous outbursts, ebbing off after two hours into that solemn stillness, which I have later experienced so very often in this hall, and which will remain unforgettable to every single member of the audience. Then you could hardly hear more than the breathing of this gigantic multitude, and only when the last word had been spoken did the applause suddenly roar forth to find its release and conclusion in the Deutschland song, sung with the highest fervor.
I stayed to watch as the giant hall slowly began to empty, and for nearly twenty minutes an enormous sea of human beings forced its way through the mighty center exit. Only then did I myself, overjoyed, leave my place to go home. Photographs were made of this first meeting in the Circus Krone. They show, better than words, the magnitude of the demonstration. Bourgeois papers ran pictures and notices, but they only mentioned that there had been a 'national' demonstration, and with their usual modesty passed over the organizers in silence. 9
The president of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, Professor Max von Gruber, was an eye-witness to this meeting. He wrote:
I found it strange that those same groups who were completely enamored of democratic and socialist dreams a year or a year and a half ago, were now again enthusiastic about nationalism, and sang Deutschland ueber alles and Die Wacht am Rhein . . . . What Hitler said about the November Revolution, the war, enemies, the importance of the mother-country, were to the point . . . . What he said about shaking off the hostile yoke was quite illusory, and his economic program was childish . . . . [Hitler, if he were ever to gain power, would no doubt] create immense damage through senseless behavior. 10
1921 February 6 Hitler travels to Odeonsplatz to address a mass rally of "patriotic associations." His "party-political tendencies" fail to make an impact, according to one report. 11
1920 February 9 General Johannes Friedrich "Hans" von Seeckt, commander (Chef der Heeresleitung) of the Reichswehr, meets with the Truppenamt (Troop Office). The Truppenamt is, in reality, his General Staff, a body outlawed by the Versailles Treaty. Upset concerning demands by the Allies that the German government turn over some 900 German officers and civilians for war crimes trials, Seeckt tells his officers that, if the government should give in to this outrageous demand, which they are sworn by lawful Treaty to obey, the Reichswehr should openly resist with all possible means, including military action. If the Allies invade, Germany should invade Poland, establish contacts with the Soviet Union, and together declare war against France and Britain. 12
1921 February 30 Flyers distributed by trucks full of NSDAP members proclaim that "Herr Adolf Hitler will speak on 'Future or Doom!' " at the Circus Krone that evening. 6,500 fill a huge tent, listen with enthusiasm to Hitler's speech, and break into the national anthem before dispersing and heading home. 13
1921 March 4 Warren G. Harding replaces Woodrow Wilson as president of the United States. German Foreign Minister Simons will soon appeal to Harding to act as mediator in the reparations question, pledging to abide by whatever his decision should be. 14
1921 March 6 Hitler speaks before a mass rally at the Circus Krone on the subject "London and Us." 15
1921 March 15 Hitler speaks before yet another mass rally at the Circus Krone. 16
1921 March 18 The Polish-Soviet war of 1919-1920 ends with the signing of the Treaty of Riga.
1921 March 21 The Versailles Treaty had stipulated that a plebiscite be held to determine whether Poland or Germany would have sovereignty over Upper Silesia, a disputed border province between Germany and Poland. The population of Upper Silesia is ethnically mixed, with Poles making up 60%, and the remainder split between Germans and Silesians. With a population of 2,073,663 persons in Upper Silesia, 1,186,758 votes are cast. The final tally: 483,514 for Poland, 717,122 votes for Germany. A civil crisis immediately seizes Upper Silesia, as the various ethnic groups either celebrate, or rebel. 17
1921 April 14 Anton Drexler had always desired a merger between the DSP (Deutsche Staatspartei—German State Party), a party with a nearly identical platform as the Nazis, with the NSDAP. Hitler has always stood in opposition to the idea. On this day, at a meeting of voelkish groups in Zeitz, Thuringia, Drexler, on behalf of the NSDAP, agrees to a planned merger of the parties, followed by the opening of a new party headquarters in Berlin. Hitler explodes in anger when the word reaches him, and he demands that the deal be canceled. 18
Hitler is especially displeased because the leader of the DSP, Dr. Otto Dickel, is a rival as a nationalist leader and orator. Certain NSDAP members are delighted to have this alternative to Hitler available, an "outstanding speaker with a popular touch" (volkstruemlichen und ausgezeichneten). Hitler will have nothing to do with anything likely to strengthen the hand of this threat to his supremacy in the movement. Ultimately, Drexler swallows his pride and reneges on the deal, much to the displeasure of Hitler's party opponents. To Hitler's great annoyance, however, it is arranged that further talks between the two parties should take place at a later date. 19
1921 May 3 The United States formally replies to German Foreign Minister Simons' request that Harding act as mediator in the reparations question. They decline to assist Germany, saying that the US is in general agreement with the Allies on reparations. 20
1921 May 4 In response to the refusal of the US to mediate the reparations issue, the government of Chancellor Konstantin Fehrenbach resigns, and Joseph Wirth of the Center Party forms a new government. Wirth proposes that Germany accept the terms of the London Ultimatum, which would commit them to pay a scaled-down 132 billion gold marks in reparations, all told. 21
1921 May In an interview for the Pan-German paper Deutsche Zeitung, an unusually coy Hitler characterizes his role, not as the fellow who would "save the Fatherland that was sinking into chaos," but as "the agitator who understood how to rally (sammeln) the masses." He goes on to imply that he sees himself as a sort of John the Baptist, a mere forerunner of the dictator to come: "The architect who clearly pictured in his own eyes the plan and design of the new building, and with calm sureness and creativity was able to lay one stone on the other. He needed the greater one behind him, on whose command he could lean." 22
1921 May 14 A clear indication that Hitler is becoming a player occurs when Bavarian Minister President Gustav Ritter von Kahr, the virtual dictator of Bavaria, invites him and a group of his Nazis—including Drexler and Rudolf Hess—to meet with him privately. Kahr considers Hitler to be little more than a propaganda agitator, but meeting Hitler is consistent with his "cell of order" (Ordnungszelle) strategy, designed to reduce political strife in Bavaria. As well, he is hoping to use figures such as Hitler against the "fulfillment policy" of Chancellor Wirth in Berlin. Though Kahr is an old school aristocrat and monarchist, he and Hitler share common ground on one very important point: the Weimar Republic must go. 23
1921 May 17 Without Hitler's knowledge, Rudolf Hess, defending his FÃ¼hrer, writes a long, passionate letter to von Kahr:
I personally know Herr Hitler very well, since I speak to him almost every day, and since I'm close to him emotionally. He is an unusually decent, honest character, full of deep kindness of heart, religious, a good Catholic. He has only one aim: the well-being of his country. Therefore he is sacrificing himself unselfishly, without a penny of profit from the movement. He lives on the money he gets for speeches he sometimes makes to other groups . . . . Your Excellency can unconditionally trust Hitler. 24
1921 Early June Adolf Hitler, aged 31, has been leading the Munich-based NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party—Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) as would a dictator, which is how he fancies himself. Many Party members consider it a natural state of affairs that Hitler should take such a role. After all, he is their best, most charismatic speaker, their most able organizer, and has the material and spiritual backing of the Reichswehr as well. These fans of Hitler are those who believe in the "strong-man" theory of political organization, an early conceptualization of the Fuehrer Principle (Fuehrerprinzip). 25
Other Party members, including Anton Drexler (above), the founder of the Party, would have preferred a more democratic approach. Drexler wanted all issues to be brought to the Executive Committee for consideration, with really big issues being settled by a popular vote at Party membership meetings. While it would be a gross over-statement to equate this dynamic to that of the conflict between Stalin and Trotsky—Drexler lacks Trotsky's fanaticism, or his righteous energy—there is nonetheless a faint but noticeable parallel. 26
Hitler is well aware of the opposition lurking in the leadership, and sets in motion a power-play designed to remind the others of his indispensability. Whether the motivation behind the move is the emotional response of a prima donna, or the result of a Machiavellian calculation, is unclear. Perhaps it is a bit of both. What is known beyond doubt is that he disappears from Munich for a six-week trip to Berlin, confident that the Party will not be able to function in his absence. 27
Dietrich Eckart accompanies Hitler at the beginning of this stay in Berlin, making contacts with anti-Semitic and Nationalist figures and organizations, and raising money to keep the struggling Beobachter in the black. When Eckart returns to Munich, Hitler remains behind. While a guest at the Bechstein mansion, Hitler is introduced to Count Ernst zu Reventlow and his wife, the former Baroness d'Allemont, who then introduces the thirty-two-year-old party leader to the famous Freikorps leader, Walter Stennes. 28
His hostess is Helene Bechstein, the wife of Carl Bechstein, the founder of C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik. Helene refers to Hitler by the pet name of Wolfchen, and improbably dreams of the day when he will wed her young daughter, Lotte. In the afternoons, the young orator receives elocution lessons at the mansion, in an attempt to take the edge off his Austrian accent and improve his delivery. 29
Eckart, before he returned to Munich, had introduced Hitler to Emil Gansser, an executive officer of the immense electrical engineering and manufacturing firm, Siemens & Haske. Gansser's friends called him 'Pretzel', after his favorite snack. A contemporary described him:
He wore stiff white collars and starched shirts, always dressed in a black coat and stripped trousers and was a man of some substance . . . . [Visiting him at his home, I] found that behind his staid exterior he was a crackpot inventor. There were tubes and retorts and presses all over the place and the bathroom looked like a scene out of Faust. He was apparently making some new form of bomb no bigger than a tennis ball which would blow up a house. 30
Gansser took Hitler around to the various officers' clubs, introducing him to all the notables. Most of these traditional military fellows wanted little to do with the Austrian Gefreiter or his program: "They were terrified lest people should know that they had heard of it!" The only exception is Admiral Ludwig von Schroeder. Schroeder was a Prussian officer and Admiral during WW1 who was a recipient of a Pour le Mérite with Oak Leaves. Hitler described him as "a grand old bull of a man, charged with energy." 31
Hitler put great store in military awards, and was perhaps prouder of his own Iron Cross First Class than any of his other noteworthy—but temporary—accomplishments in life. When Hermann Goering had presented himself to him, it was Goering's Pour le Mérite that made Hitler so anxious to "grab him" for the movement. Hitler had specifically desired to have an aviator with a Pour le Mérite to lend prestige to his party, and Goering was a gift from the Aryan gods in that regard. Now Hitler had found a naval man with a Pour le Mérite, and was not about to let him get away.
I myself saw [Schroeder's] marines in the Battle of the Somme, and compared with them, we were the rawest of recruits," Hitler recalled. Schroeder, "the most energetic of men, that uncompromising fanatic, accepted the whole thing [the party program] without further ado . . . . When I discover a man like Schroeder, I grab him at once. 32
1921 When Gottfried Feder opines that Hitler's approach is flawed, and suggests that his program is insufficiently voelkish, Anton Drexler takes Hitler's side. Drexler replies to Feder in a letter: "Each revolutionary movement must have a dictatorial head, and therefore I think that our Hitler is the most suitable for our movement, without wanting to be pushed to the background myself." 33
1921 June The NSDAP hits the 3,000 dues-paying party members mark 34
1921 July After a year in America, Ernst Hanfstaengl, a Harvard-educated German businessman returns to Germany with his wife and son, aboard the SS America. Hanfstaengl—nicknamed Putzi—wrote of the Germany to which he returned in his memoirs:
I found a Germany riven by faction and near destitution . . . . Even the bracing malt-laden air of Munich could not compensate for the unpainted look of the houses and the peeling facade of the great Court Theatre . . . . Almost the first political event which greeted my return was the murder of Matthias Erzberger, who had signed the 1918 Armistice, by a couple of young right-wing radicals. Counter threats, reports of separatism, putschism and terrorism filled the columns of the newspapers. The tone of the press increased daily in violence and abuse. It became evident to me that Germany, politically speaking, was a madhouse, with a thousand opinions and no saving idea . . . . I had been spared the misery of the previous decade and wanted in a confused way to help, but could find no outlet. 35
1921 July 9 Hitler fails to show up at a scheduled meeting with representatives from the DSP for merger negotiations, a proposal that Hitler vehemently opposes. 36
1921 July 11 Hitler had become aware of an impending meeting in Augsburg between delegates of the NSDAP, and Dr. Otto Dickel and his DSP delegates. Showing up at the meeting this day, Hitler spends three hours shooting down all of Dickel's proposals, before eventually storming out of the meeting in a dramatic huff. 37
1921 July 11 Hitler announces that he is resigning from the NSDAP. 38
1921 July 14 Hitler writes a long letter to the Executive Committee, explaining that he had resigned because the NSDAP representatives at Augsburg had attempted to hand over the movement to Dickel, a man Hitler has no respect for. And things are just not going on along well enough in general, in Hitler's view. "I will and can not be any longer a member of such a movement." 39
1. The Party committee resigns its offices; in the election of a new committee I demand the position of First Chairman with dictatorial authority to immediately establish an action committee which will carry out the ruthless cleansing of the foreign elements that have forced their way into the Party. The action committee consists of three members.
1921 July 13-15 The Executive Committee empowers Dietrich Eckart to negotiate with Hitler. Hitler tells Eckart that "in order to organize an action committee empowered to proceed immediately with a large purge of party members in order to eliminate the foreign elements," he must be given "the post of chairman with dictatorial powers." Further, there is to be no more talk of mergers, there will be no more talk of changing the party 25-point program—it is to forever remain unaltered—and the party will continue to be headquartered in Munich. "Concessions on our part are totally out of the question," Hitler declared. 41
2. Inviolable affirmation of the principle that the seat of the movement is and forever remains Munich. . . .
3. Any additional change in the name or the program is to be avoided for a period of six years. Members who are nevertheless active in this direction and for this purpose are to be excluded from the movement . . . .
I do not make these demands because I am greedy for power, but because recent events have more than ever convinced me that without iron leadership the Party—even without an external name change—would internally cease in a short time to be what it should be. 40
The Executive Committee gives in to his demands. Drexler and six other Committee members sign what has been characterized as an "instrument of surrender." Many historians believe Hitler must have dictated it himself. It is just as likely that the Committee members knew Hitler well enough to use the sort of language that would appeal to the large-headed fellow: 42
In view of your immense knowledge, the services you have rendered in the most honorable fashion with rare self-sacrifice to the growth of the party, and your exceptional oratorical skills, the Committee is prepared to grant you dictatorial powers. If you should choose to return to the party, they will feel extremely honored if you will accept the post of First President, which Drexler himself has already offered you over a long period of time. Drexler will remain as your coadjutor in the executive committee. If you should consider it desirable to have him completely excluded from the Movement, the next annual meeting would have to be consulted on the matter. 43
1921 July Some of his opponents counter-attack, hitting Hitler with an anonymous pamphlet with a print run of 3,000 copies: Adolf Hitler: Is He A Traitor? The Muenchener Post publishes the pamphlet. Hitler soon sues for libel, and is eventually awarded 600 marks. 44
When asked by members what he lives on and what his former occupation was, he always became agitated and flew into a rage ... so his conscience cannot be clear, especially since his excess in relations with women, to whom he has often referred to himself as "King of Munich," takes a great deal of money . . . . 45
1921 July 20 The would-be party dictator speaks before a large party meeting to present his case. In order to ensure that any discussion of Hitler's points should get out of hand, the meeting is chaired by Hermann Esser. Esser had recently been temporarily expelled from the party by Hitler's opponents, and will again be expelled within the next twenty-four hours for chairing this meeting without party sanction.
A lust for power and personal ambition have caused Herr Hitler to return to his post after his six weeks' stay in Berlin, of which the purpose has not been disclosed. Hitler believes that the time has come to sow disunity and dissension in our ranks on behalf of obscure people working behind the scenes. In this way he performs the work of the Jews and their accomplices. It grows more and more clear that his purpose is simply to use the National Socialist party as a springboard for his own immoral purposes, and to seize the leadership in order to force the Party onto a different track at the psychological moment. This is most clearly shown by an ultimatum which he sent to the Party leaders a few days ago, in which he demands, among other things, that he shall have a sole and absolute dictatorship of the Party, and that the Committee, including the locksmith Anton Drexler, the founder and leader of the Party, should retire . . . . 46
And how does he fight? Like a Jew! He twists every fact . . . . National Socialists! Make up your minds about such characters! Make no mistake. Hitler is a demagogue and relies solely on his talents as a speaker. He believes himself capable of leading the German people astray, and especially of filling one up with all kinds of tales that are anything but the truth. 47
Hitler begins his pitch by claiming that he is but a poor frontline soldier, with no desire to hold important office. He had been asked "over a long period of time" by Drexler to become First President, but had not once accepted. But now, he had come to realize that a successful movement could not be led by any committee. Only a man of action, with the power to make things happen, can hope to have the desired impact. The Executive Committee is "lacking in energy, uncertain of its aims, and in danger of becoming a reunion of tea-drinkers." A Committee is unlikely to be up to the challenge of leading a dynamic movement. What the movement needs is a single, strong personality to cut through the vile democratic process of rule by committee. 48
After attacking the anonymous author of the anti-Hitler pamphlet, Hitler calls for a vote on his motion. Only one member votes against Hitler's take-over—librarian Rudolf Posch, party #612—who becomes the Jeannette Pickering Rankin of the Nazi Party. All the other 543 members who are present at the meeting vote to grant dictatorial powers to Adolf Hitler. 49
1921 July 26 Hitler rejoins the NSDAP and is issued party number 3680. 50
1921 July 29 Hitler speaks before a mass meeting at the Circus Krone. He unveils a new title for himself when Hermann Esser introduces him as Unser Fuehrer (Our Leader). 51
1921 July Inflation: 76.7 RM per dollar. 52
1921 August 3 Hitler's own private army had been referred to as simply Ordnertruppen when it was first formed. In November of 1920, it was renamed the "Gymnastic and Sports Division" of the party (Turn-und Sportabteilung). These first, primitive storm troopers had no official uniforms. Eventually, red armbands, ski caps, gray jackets or embroidered Bavarian coats, knee breeches, and heavy woolen socks will be the most common dress. 53
NSDAP member Ernst Roehm, the Maschinengewehrkoenig (machine-gun master) of the Reichswehr, and provider of arms for groups such as the Einwohnerwehr, has contacts with most of the voelkish and paramilitary groups in Bavaria. It is probably Roehm who arranges the addition of fighters from the disbanded Ehrhardt naval brigade to the Sportabteilung. Navy Lieutenant Johann Ulrich Klintzsch, aged 22, an Ehrhardt Brigade member during the Kapp Putsch, is made commander of the group. Being so young, Klintzsch will have some difficulty maintaining discipline among soldiers who are typically his senior. 54
While Hitler backs the program to turn this motley band of bouncers into a paramilitary organization, he is nonetheless concerned lest the political and military branches should ever become at odds. Thus, Hitler insists that this section receive sufficient political indoctrination to ensure its loyalty to the political leadership. To this end, he will address them in closed meetings seven times before the end of the year. 55
1921 August 4 The Völkischer Beobachter runs an article by Dietrich Eckart, "The Dishonest Trick Against Hitler." Defending Hitler as "a selfless, self-sacrificing, devoted and sincere" fellow who is both "purposeful and alert," he reveals that the author of the anonymous anti-Hitler pamphlet was Hitler's second-in-command in the propaganda section, Ernst Ehrensperger. Robert Payne was perhaps the first to observe that: "To Ehrensperger goes the honor of being the first to realize that Hitler was bent upon becoming dictator of Germany." 56
Around this time, Max Amann, a sergeant-major who had served as regimental clerk in Hitler's List Regiment during the Great War, is hired as the party's business manager. "In the summer of 1921, work in the business office had become impossible," Hitler explained. "So many people kept milling around in the narrow room that organized activity was out of the question. Everybody was in everybody else's way." Amann is just what the office needs—a strong character who commands respect—to bring order and efficiency. 57
1921 August 11 The pro-Hitler campaign in the Völkischer Beobachter continues with an article by Rudolf Hess, defending Hitler from internal party attacks: "Are you truly blind to the fact that this man is the leader personality who alone is able to carry through the struggle? Do you think that without him the masses would pile into the Circus Krone?" 58
1921 August 14 Stormtrooper leader Captain Hans Ulrich Klintzsch publishes an appeal to membership in the pages of the Völkischer Beobachter:
To Our German Youth!
Fellow Party members! . . . The NSDAP has formed a Gymnastics and Sports Section within its organization. It is intended that it should join together our young party members so that as an iron unit they can place their strength at the disposal of the entire movement as a battering ram. It is to be the symbol of defense of a free people. It should serve as the protective shield for the work of spreading the message that the leaders wish to accomplish. 59
1921 August 16-17 All party members in Munich are assembled in two large groups for the purpose of ideological indoctrination. These courses soon become regularly scheduled events. Hermann Esser leads one group, while Oskar Koerner, a toy-store owner and close associate of Hitler, instructs the other. Anton Drexler, so recently the loser in a power struggle with the young Austrian, assists Koerner in his lectures. Drexler does not want to be left out of the party he created, and has resigned himself to the reality that Hitler is better able to lead. Drexler hopes that, at the very least, he can serve some useful role as an instructor. 60
1921 August 26 The cycle of political violence in Bavaria gains further momentum, as the relentless press of events assists in providing ever-increasing energy to the process. On this day, Reich Finance Minister Matthias Erzberger is assassinated by agents of the ultra-nationalist "Organization Consul," recently founded by Captain Hermann Ehrhardt. 61
It was Matthias Erzberger who had been picked by Prince Max von Baden to negotiate with the Allies in the Forest of Compiègne, and to sign the armistice ending WWI. After the signing, he had made a few remarks, famously telling Foch that "The German people, who stood steadfast against a world of enemies for fifty months, will preserve their freedom and unity, no matter how great the external pressure. A nation of seventy millions can suffer, but it cannot die." It was Foch who had refused Erzberger's outstretched hand, and is supposed to have replied, "Très bien." The German Right has never forgiven Erzberger for negotiating the Armistice, and typically express their displeasure through violence this day. 62
Stormtrooper chief Captain Johann Klintzsch is arrested in connection with Erzberger's assassination. When the two actual assassins are located in Hungary after a few weeks, Klintzsch is released. Hitler remarks: "Even if Klintzsch has been in prison for suspicion in the Erzberger killing, we did not shake him off as certain other parties would have. On the contrary: when he came back we carried him through the hall on our shoulders." 63
1921 August 29 Chancellor Wirth, on the day of the funeral of his Foreign Minister and friend, Matthias Erzberger, issues a presidential proclamation: "The present plight of our country makes it doubly necessary to take severe steps against these actions of unscrupulous or misguided Germans." By emergency decree, authorities are granted the power to disband private groups, shut down newspapers, and limit freedom of speech. Kahr is opposed to these measures, and refuses to allow their implementation in Bavaria. 64
1921 September 1 Bavarian Minister President Gustav Ritter von Kahr loses his battle with Berlin, and resigns. His firm hand is replaced by the weak leadership of Hugo Graf Lerchenfeld-Koefering, a non-party Catholic. Lerchenfeld will be pushed around at will by Munich's various competing groups. 65
1921 Around this time, Erich Ludendorff publishes a book called Warfare and Politics, in which he blames all of Germany's ills on Judaism, Freemasonry, and Catholicism: "The Jewish people wanted to rule over the people who had admitted them . . . . to castrate us as men and people, so that others with a stronger national will can rule us." 66
1921 September 14 Otto Ballerstedt, the leader of the Bavarian League (Bayernbund), is perhaps Hitler's first arch-enemy. On August 9, 1920, Ballerstedt had been beaten and ejected from an NSDAP meeting. His offense? Espousing the idea of a Danubian Confederation: a state composed of Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. This night, it becomes obvious to all that Otto Ballerstedt is not the sort of fellow likely to be put off by a mere beating.
While reminiscing at his headquarters in East Prussia, in 1941, Hitler will recall his rivalry with Ballerstedt: "As an orator, Ballerstedt was my most dangerous opponent. What a feat it was to hold my own against him! His father was a Hessian, his mother was from Lorraine. He was a devilish dialectician!"
And how, exactly, does Hitler "hold his own" against this "dangerous opponent"? Ballerstedt is speaking this night at the Loewenbraukeller, and when he enters the hall he finds that five out of six seats in front are filled by National Socialists looking for trouble. When Ballerstedt takes the podium, Hitler, Hermann Esser, Oscar Koerner, and some "monitors" storm the stage. They knock him to the ground and beat the fellow silly with sticks and chairs. Hitler, Esser, and Koerner are hauled off to jail and charged with assault. Hitler assures the officers that he doesn't take the arrest personally, and is quite prepared for any consequences earned: "It's quite all right. We did what we had to do! Ballerstedt won't talk anymore." Ballerstedt presses charges. He and Hitler will end up in court in January of 1922. 67
1921 September 17 The first circular letter written by Hitler since he became Unser Fuehrer, deals mainly with the importance of propaganda. He instructs local groups "to energetically promote the wearing of the party badge. The members are to be continually reminded to go about everywhere and at all times with the party emblem. Jews who take offense at it are to be dealt with at once." 68
1921 September 17 Hitler propagates party Communiqué Number 1, which closes with these lines:
We must urge our people not to let their fate be bartered away by some ambitious scoundrels, but rather to show this parliamentary rabble, through street demonstrations if necessary, that the people . . . are not a herd of sheep. If it should be necessary, then these Berlin Asians and their depraved followers must be pitted against the German skull and the Bavarian fist. 69
1921 September 20 Hitler is arrested by the Munich police, and spends the night in jail. 70
1921 September 21 In the morning, Hitler is questioned about his Communiqué Number 1 by the police. Hitler claims innocence when they accuse him of fomenting demonstrations in the streets against the Bavarian government. Hitler professes to be pure as newly fallen snow, and he is released after some hours of interrogation. 71
1921 September 21 Hitler releases Communiqué Number 2 as soon as he reaches the party's business office. Accusing his enemies of "depraved agitation," he goes right back on the attack. In response, the police shut down the party's newspaper until October 1. 72
1921 September Inflation: 100 RM per dollar. 73
1921 October 1 The Bayerischer Kurier publishes a quote by the future Pope Pius XII, Eugenio Pacelli: "The Bavarian people are peace-loving. But, just as they were seduced during the revolution by alien elements—above all, Russians—into the extremes of bolshevism, so now other non-Bavarian elements of entirely opposite persuasion have likewise thought to make Bavaria their base of operation." 74
1921 October The Turn-und Sportabteilung is reorganized as the Sturmabteilung, variously translated as Storm Detachment, Storm Section, or Assault Division. Commonly referred to as the SA, it will even later gain the nickname "Brownshirts." By the end of November, the SA will number 300 regular members, all under the age of twenty-four. Later in the year, the former Rossbach Freikorps will join the SA as an independent unit under the command of Lieutenant Edmund Heines. 75
1921 October 1 The Völkischer Beobachter resumes publication. 76
1921 October 6 The Beobachter is shut down once again, this time for nine days, in reaction to two articles attacking the Berlin government. 77
1921 October 20 The League of Nations makes the final decision on Upper Silesia. They award Germany most of the land, but 80% of the region's most valuable factories and coal mines are given to Poland. Cities such as Katowice and Konigshutte find themselves part of Poland, even though most of the population is German. The League of Nations solution solves nothing, ultimately, and unrest in the region will continue. 78
1921 October 21 Hitler speaks on the Upper Silesian problem to a half-full house at the Circus Krone. Not surprisingly, Hitler is convinced that "the Jews" are to blame, and he succeeds in exciting the moderate-sized crowd to a frenzy. When Hitler finishes his well-received oration, the crowd surges into the streets and smashes the windows of the main offices of the Muenchener Post, among other acts of violence and vandalism. 79
1921 October 25 Obeying a legal summons, Hitler reports to Munich police headquarters and is interrogated concerning the events of the evening of October 21. 80
From the police report of the interrogation:
Hitler explained that he could not be made responsible for all these things; in the case of the smashing of the windows at the premises of the Muenchener Post, it was, as far as he had learned, an act of revenge on the part of former members of the Freikorps Oberland. He had not approved the last parade with the flag after the end of the gathering in the Krone, but had instead condemned it and taken it as an occasion to dismiss from the party some who had participated in it. He promised to do everything to stop such riots before they began. 81
1921 October 25 The night after his interrogation, Hitler speaks to a group of sixty SA in the Restaurant Adelmann. "My Young Friends," he said: "We must not get into trouble with the police . . . . Privately, they like us because they, too, hate the Jews. We mustn't, therefore, call them servants of the Jews . . . otherwise, it might come to the point that the Sturmabteilung will be banned by the police. Should this happen, all our work would be in vain . . . . I understand you, your blood runs faster . . . . but you must restrain yourselves." 82
1921 November 4 Hitler has an opportunity to see what his new SA can do at a meeting of around 2,000 at the Hofbrauhaus. He speaks on the subject "Who Are The Murderers?" Hitler tells us that about 700 of those in the crowd were "communists." After enduring the indignity of being heckled by them, he has his goons throw them physically from the hall.
Among the SA thugs in Hitler's employ this night are Emil Maurice, who is charged with forming flying columns to throw at the communists. Maurice is an original member of the earliest incarnation of the SA. Already a member of Hitler's entourage, he will one day become his Fuehrer's official chauffeur. 83
Another is Rudolf Hess, who leads one of these flying columns. Hess is a former veteran with a talent for brawling, who had joined the party in 1920. All told, Hitler would have us believe that Hess, Maurice, and only 40 other storm troopers had managed to out-fight and expel 700 communists "in about twenty minutes" of fighting. 84
From Mein Kampf:
I had the doors to the large hall closed and then ordered the forty-five or forty-six men to line up. I made it clear to the lads that today, probably for the first time, they would have to show themselves loyal to the movement through thick and thin, and that not a man of us must leave the hall unless we were carried out dead; I myself would remain in the hall, and I did not believe that a single one of them would desert me; but if I should see anyone playing the coward, I myself would personally tear off his arm-band and take away his insignia. Then I called upon them to advance immediately at the slightest attempt to break up the meeting, and to bear in mind that the best defense lies in your own offensive. The answer was a threefold "Heil!" that sounded rougher and hoarser than usual . . . .
A fruit and vegetable store is right across from Hitler's modest apartment, and he often stops in to purchase snacks. Frau Magdalena Schweyer, an elderly woman, runs the shop, and had become friendly enough with him to attend one of his meetings. She took to it, and became party member #90. Attending the meeting this evening, she later records what she heard and saw:
How many of them I only came really to know on that day; at the head: my good Maurice, my present private secretary Hess, and many others, who, even though gravely injured themselves, attacked again and again as long as their legs would hold them. For twenty minutes the hellish tumult lasted, but then our enemies, who must have numbered seven or eight hundred men, had for the most part been beaten out of the hall and chased down the stairs by my men, numbering not even fifty. Only in the left rear corner of the hall, a big group stood its ground and offered embittered resistance. Then suddenly two shots were fired from the hall entrance toward the platform, and wild shooting started. Your heart almost rejoiced at such a revival of old war experiences . . . .
About twenty-five minutes had passed; the hall looked almost as if a shell had struck it. Many of my supporters were being bandaged; others had to be driven away, but we had remained masters of the situation. Hermann Esser, who had assumed the chair this evening, declared: 'The meeting goes on. The speaker has the floor.' And then I spoke again. After we ourselves had closed the meeting, an excited police lieutenant came dashing in, and, wildly swinging his arms, he cackled into the hall: 'The meeting is dismissed.' Involuntarily I had to laugh at this late-comer, real police pompousness. The smaller they are, the bigger they have to try and look, at least. That night, we had really learned a good deal and our enemies never again forgot the lesson they for their part had received. 85
The place was pretty well full. We womenfolk were told to get well up in front: it would be safest there, far from the doors. I was too excited really to be frightened. It was plain that there'd be some trouble: half the people in the place belonged to the Reds. I found a table right in front.
1921 November 15 Inflation hits home for the NSDAP, when the price per issue of the Völkischer Beobachter is raised from 10 to 20 pfennigs. 87
Then they came and set another near it, and . . . Herr Esser got up on it to open the meeting. As soon as he jumped down again, Herr Hitler took his place. They greeted him with a few boos and yells, but after a bit he gripped even the enemy and was speaking without interruption . . . .
A beer pot went crash! That was the signal for things to begin. Three, four, five heavy stone pots flew by within an inch of the speaker's head and next instant his young guards sprang forward shouting to us women to "duck down!"
We ducked sharp enough! The row was ear splitting. Never heard anything like it in your life! Pandemonium had broken out . . . .
One heard nothing but yells, crashing beer mugs, stamping and struggling, the overturning of heavy oaken tables, and the smashing up of wooden chairs . . . .
Hitler stuck to his post. Never got off that table! He made no effort to shield himself at all. He was the target of it all, it's a sheer miracle how he never got hit. Them murderous heavy mugs was flying at his head all the time. I know because I got a sharp look round just between whiles: there he stuck, quiet as a statue, waiting for those boys of his to get the tumult under . . . .
The boys with the arm-bands saw their jackets torn half off their backs, and their faces all patched and dabbled with blood. Anyhow, they did get the Reds outside somehow . . . . The room was simply wrecked. There was over four hundred smashed beer mugs lying about everywhere, and piles of broken chairs. 86
1921 November 19 NSDAP Circular Letter Number 11 reports that jobless party members are turning to the party for help, and local groups "are requested to announce that the central office will inform party members of job opportunities free of charge. Anybody knowing of a job opportunity should report it to the office." 88
1921 November 29 At the prompting of Dietrich Eckart, Hitler writes a letter to an unknown "Doctor." Proof is lacking, but it seems probable that the doctor in question is Dr. Walter Riehl, the leader of the Austrian DNSAP (Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei), a forerunner (November 15, 1903) of the Nazis. After the German annexation of Austria in 1938, the DNSAP will be absorbed by the Nazi Party.
The letter to the mystery "Doctor" is an autobiographical sketch that plays hard and fast with the truth, and seems designed to keep Hitler's past a mystery. Here, in the third sentence of the letter, is a very good example:
"I was born in Braunau am Inn on April 20, 1889, the son of the post office official Alois Hitler."
What stands out immediately is that Alois Hitler was not a postal employee, but a customs officer and border guard. Why would Hitler lie that his father worked for the post office when he knew that it was not so? Robert Payne opined that, by this method, Hitler was able to make it difficult for anyone to dig up any information on his father. Anyone looking through old postal employee files would find the search to be a dead end, and Hitler's past would remain obscure that much longer. A search of the files at the customs office would be too likely to actually yield a fact or two, something that Hitler would not make it easy to do. 89
Another snippet from the Doctor Letter:
In 1912, following my profession [architect, he claims], I went to live permanently in Munich. In the course of 4 years, from the age of 20 to 24, I became more and more preoccupied with politics, not so much in the way of attending meetings as in the way of fundamental studies of political economy and of all the available anti-Semitic literature.
Here, Hitler, for the first time, implies that his anti-Semitism had its start in Vienna. He does not, however, go so far as to say that he had become an anti-Semite during this time, as he would in Mein Kampf.
And one more Doctor Letter excerpt:
"In June, 1919, I joined the German Workers' Party, which consisted at this time of seven members..."
For the first time, Hitler propagates the myth that he had been the 7th person to join the DAP. Hitler had, in fact, been given membership card #555. But the numbering had started at 500, making Hitler the 55th fellow to join, not the 7th. It has been suggested that perhaps Hitler changed the number because he was the 7th member of the Executive Committee, but this is not what he tells the unknown Doctor, is it? It seems odd that Hitler would have clouded this unimportant issue with this unnecessary inconsistency, and it is difficult to fully make sense of it.
[For the full text of The Doctor Letter, Click here.]
1921 November 30 Hitler calls them "Stormtroopers" for the first time in a meeting of 125 SA men. He encourages them to attend the meetings of their opponents and enemies and "harass the speaker, whoever it is, until he addresses the Jewish question and makes his views on the issue known." People have been calling them a "rough, brutal group that stops at nothing. This makes me uncommonly happy because I expect that my efforts and my party will become feared and at the same time known."
The NSDAP's Fuehrer then announces that "master boxer Haymann" has joined them, and will be giving the SA members free boxing lessons. A pool of sixty to eighty trained boxers will result. A recruitment goal of another 500 SA is set "so that dissenting political parties will tremble with fear as soon as they even hear of Hitler's Boxing and Storm Troops . . . . Today the Party numbers 4,500 in Munich alone . . . . I believe that, due to the work of the Storm Troop, through the breaking up of gatherings, many fellow Germans will in the future come to a view that will, I hope, result in an enormous growth in our membership." 90
1921 December 3 The Völkischer Beobachter becomes a victim of the inflation once again, as the cover price goes from 20 pfennigs to 50. 91
1921 December 19 Hitler issues Information Sheet Number 9: "The strength of a movement lies not in its external size, but in its inner substance." 92
1921 December Hitler had sued the Muenchener Post for libel when the paper had claimed that he was being paid exorbitant speaking fees for the nearly seventy Munich speeches. When the matter comes to court, Hitler denies this, conceding only that he was perhaps "supported in a modest way" by loyal followers and "occasionally" would be treated to a meal or two. In reality, the free meals, and other favors, are regular daily occurrences, and not in any way occasional. 93
1921 December It is around this time that the term "Nazi" begins to gain wide use, both for the Party as a whole, and the individual members [although the expression is mainly used by opponents—Ed.] 94
1921 Robert Murphy, a 27-year-old US Foreign Service Officer who heads the Berlin consulate, attended some of Hitler's speeches in 1921 in order to be able to make a complete report home about the political scene in Bavaria. He was usually accompanied by a German employee of the consulate, Paul Drey, who knew his way around Bavarian politics. Murphy asked Drey: "Do you think these agitators will ever get anywhere?" "Of course not," Drey replied. "The German people are too intelligent to be taken in by such camps." 95
End of Chapter.
Next: "The Enemy Stands on the Right!"
Written by Walther Johann von Löpp
Copyright © 2011-2016 All Rights Reserved
Edited by Levi Bookin — Copy Editor
European History and Jewish Studies