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A Fooled Nation: The Role Of German Morale In Hitler'S Rise To Power

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With a lock of hair falling over his forehead and a square little mustache on his often somber face, Adolf Hitler seemed a comical figure when he first entered into politics. He was a public speaker who ranted and raved until his voice was hoarse and sweat dripped from his brow. With the help of fanatic disciples and gullible masses, Hitler profoundly changed Germany and the political face of Europe. An evil genius, he unleashed the most terrible war in history and unprecedented genocide in which more than six million Jews died. In addition, he killed five million Poles, Slavs, Gypsies, Russians and believed political enemies.

Hitler is called mad but were the men around him also mad? They were cultivated, educated, learned men. Germany wasn't a backward country, preyed on by ignorance, but one of the most advanced nations in the world; renown for great scientific and cultural achievements. His program was one for evil and destruction and yet the majority of the people in Germany accepted it. How did Hitler come to power? The people of Germany were weakened in the aftermath of World War I and therefore were willing to listen to his ideas. Those ideas have lived on, unfortunately. Many around the world still find inspiration in his words. Also have lived on, the memories. Time has not dimmed these terms: storm troops, gas chambers, death camps, and holocaust. A new generation asks, why?

On the morning of September 15 1930, early editions of newspapers across Germany brought the first reports that Adolf Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) had scored a stunning electoral triumph. Only two years earlier, the party had languished in obscurity. The appeal of the Nationalist Socialists was so small that most commentators, those who recognized them at all, saw them as

a minor and declining party. Yet, when the polls closed on the evening of September 14 1930, the NSDAP had become the second largest party in the Weimar Republic (Hamilton 4-6).

The NSDAP was founded as "Deutschearbei Partei", (DAP) or the German Workers Party in

Munich, during January 1919 (71). It was one of a number of parties clustered along the outskirts of

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German politics in the immediate post-war period. Initially, it was hardly more than a debate society. It had less than thirty members, only three of which were active political speakers (Kertz 29). The organization would probably have remained this way had it not been for the extraordinary leadership and propagandistic talents of Adolf Hitler who joined the party in 1919 (Benz 93).

Adolf Hitler was born in Austria in 1889. He stood out in no way as a boy and didn't finish High School. He moved to Vienna in 1907 and applied to the Vienna Academy of Art, twice, but was rejected. The heads of the department felt he was not talented enough (92). They had no idea how this decision would affect history. When World War I broke out, Hitler enthusiastically enlisted in the German army. His life was going nowhere and the war provided him with something to fill the void. He was looking for an adventure. In the war he proved a dedicated and brave soldier. He was temporarily blinded by poisonous gas and was shot in the leg. He "learned a lot about violence and its uses" (93). But Hitler was never promoted to a leadership position. His supervisors claimed that he had no leadership qualities. They were quite wrong.

At the end of the war Hitler was disillusioned and angry as Germany had lost. Like many other disillusioned soldiers, he became very nationalistic and anti-Semitic. Suddenly he was sure that the purpose of his life was to lead Germany. Adolf the artist was the dead and Hitler the politician was soon to emerge. It was his remarkable energy and magnetism as a public speaker that first "shot the party into the local Munich limelight and later catapulted the movement into national recognition" (Phillippe 94).

From it's beginning, the DAP was distinguished from other German parties. Like the others, it was extremely nationalistic, anti-Semitic, anti-Marxist and anti-Weimar Republic. But the DAP was determined to win the support of the working class for its cause. The party emphasized its commitment to "ennobling the German worker" (Benz 120) and claimed the Jews were controlling Germany and taking over. In reality, there were only about six hundred thousand Jews living in Germany and they represented less than one percent of the population (120-123).

This racist view of Jews was an old grudge dating back thousands of years. This feeling had always been renewed and highlighted during difficult times. The Jews were forever a minority and since the beginning of Christianity, had been outsiders. Christian leaders in ancient Rome condemned forever the Jews for

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having killed one of their own, Jesus. Jews were different; they had different foods, dressed differently, they celebrated different holidays and their ordinary speech was different. Because of this and because they refused to accept Jesus as the son of God they were a natural target. At this time, Germany settled into this old and comfortable routine learning to hate those it had always disliked (Chaikin).

From the very moment of his early entry into the tiny NSDAP, Hitler was determined to transform the party into a prominent political organization. He had great plans, most of which came true. His tireless activity (he was unemployed) and his surprising success as public speaker soon made him indispensable (Benz 82). By the end of the year, Hitler had become both propaganda chief and a member of the executive committee. At the same time the party changed its name to the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP); or Nazis for short.

Hitler, ordinary as he seemed, turned out to be a mesmerizing speaker. During 1920, his reputation as a fiery and effective speaker continued to attract increasingly large audiences to his carefully orchestrated and powerful public appearances. His voice, his features, his words, the passion he displayed put a spell on his audiences. He was like a magician. But it wasn't just magic; the meetings were always held in the late afternoons after his audiences had left work (Hamilton 310). They were more susceptible to what he had to say. The mood in Germany was grim and his public was depressed. Hitler took advantage of all their weaknesses. Doctors, lawyers, teachers and other members of the upper class, as well as workers began to join the Nazi party.

Hitler dressed up his creed with symbols of power. He put his early Nazi followers into brown-shirted uniforms and called them storm troops



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