Nazism and World War II

The National Socialist German Workers? Party almost died one

morning in 1919. It numbered only a few dozen grumblers? it had no

organization and no political ideas. But many among the middle class

admired the Nazis? muscular opposition to the Social Democrats. And

the Nazis themes of patriotism and militarism drew highly emotional

responses from people who could not forget Germany?s prewar imperial


In the national elections of September 1930, the Nazis garnered

nearly 6.5 million votes and became second only to the Social

Democrats as the most popular party in Germany. In Northeim, where in

1928 Nazi candidates had received 123 votes, they now polled 1,742, a

respectable 28 percent of the total. The nationwide success drew even

faster... in just three years, party membership would rise from about

100,000 to almost a million, and the number of local branches would

increase tenfold. The new members included working-class people,

farmers, and middle-class professionals. They were both better

educated and younger then the Old Fighters, who had been the backbone

of the party during its first decade. The Nazis now presented

themselves as the party of the young, the strong, and the pure, in

opposition to an establishment populated by the elderly, the weak, and

the dissolute. Hitler was born in a small town in Austria in 1889. As

a young boy, he showed little ambition. After dropping out of high

school, he moved to Vienna to study art, but he was denied the chance

to join Vienna academy of fine arts.

When WWI broke out, Hitler joined Kaiser Wilhelmer?s army as a

Corporal. He was not a person of great importance. He was a creature

of a Germany created by WWI, and his behavior was shaped by that war

and its consequences. He had emerged from Austria with many

prejudices, including a powerful prejudice against Jews. Again, he was

a product of his times... for many Austrians and Germans were

prejudiced against the Jews.

In Hitler's case the prejudice had become maniacal it was a

dominant force in his private and political personalities.

Anti-Semitism was not a policy for Adolf Hitler--it was religion. And

in the Germany of the 1920s, stunned by defeat, and the ravages of the

Versailles treaty, it was not hard for a leader to convince millions

that one element of the nation?s society was responsible for most of

the evils heaped upon it. The fact is that Hitler?s anti-Semitism was

self-inflicted obstacle to his political success. The Jews, like other

Germans, were shocked by the discovery that the war had not been

fought to a ezdstill, as they were led to believe in November 1918,

but that Germany had , in fact, been defeated and was to be treated as

a vanquished country. Had Hitler not embarked on his policy of

disestablishing the Jews as Germans, and later of exterminating them

in Europe, he could have counted on their loyalty. There is no reason

to believe anything else. On the evening of November 8, 1923, Wyuke

Vavaruab State Cinnussuiber Gustav Rutter von Kahr was making a

political speech in Munich?s sprawling B?rgerbr?ukeller, some 600

Nazis and right-wing sympathizers surrounded the beer hall. Hitler

burst into the building and leaped onto a table, brandishing a

revolver and firing a shot into the ceiling. ?The National

Revolution,? he cried, ?has begun!? At that point, informed that

fighting had broken out in another part of the city, Hitler rushed to

that scene. His prisoners were allowed to leave, and they talked about

organizing defenses against the Nazi coup. Hitler was of course

furious. And he was far from finished. At about 11 o?clock on the

morning of November 9--the anniversary of the founding of the German

Republic in 1919--3,000 Hitler partisans again gathered outside the


To this day, no one knows who fired the first shot. But a shot

rang out, and it was followed by fusillades from both sides. Hermann

G?ring fell wounded in the thigh and both legs. Hitler flattened

himself against the pavement; he was unhurt. General Ludenorff

continued to march stolidly toward the police line, which parted to

let him pass through (he was later arrested, tried and acquitted).

Behind him, 16 Nazis and three policemen lay sprawled dead among the

many wounded. The next year, R?hm and his band joined forces with the

fledgling National Socialist Party in Adolf Hitler?s Munich