National Socialist German Workers Party

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National Socialist German Workers Party

LEADER: Adolf Hitler

YEAR ESTABLISHED OR BECAME ACTIVE: 1920

USUAL AREA OF OPERATION: Primarily in Germany, but during World War II (1939–1945), in most of Europe and northern Africa

OVERVIEW

The National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP, best known as the Nazi Party) was a political party that Adolf Hitler led in Germany beginning in 1921. The NSDAP made anti-Semitism the basis of its policies and propaganda. Using the power of the NSDAP to build his own military regime in Germany, Hitler intended to control the world. Convinced that the German race was superior to all other races, Hitler felt that purification/extermination was essential to accomplish his plans of domination.

Hitler and his NSDAP members killed millions of Jews, gypsies, Poles and other Slavs, blacks, people with physical and mental disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Communists, Socialists, political and religious dissidents, and many other perceived dangerous and inferior persons. Hitler used NSDAP members to strengthen his dictatorial rule during World War II, gaining control of most of Europe and northern Africa. In the end, the Allied Forces (England, United States, and the Soviet Union) defeated Hitler and his Axis Forces (Germany, Italy, and Japan) in 1945. That same year, the NSDAP was declared illegal and its leaders arrested and later convicted of war crimes. Hitler committed suicide.

HISTORY

The German Workers' Party was formed in 1919. While a member of the German army, Adolf Hitler was ordered to observe the suspected left-wing revolutionary group. Hitler ended up joining the group, eventually becoming a member of its executive committee and its propaganda manager.

The group was renamed the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) on February 24, 1920. The NSDAP soon organized its Twenty-Five Points Plan—rejecting the Versailles Treaty, calling for reunification of all German people, and that equal rights were acceptable only to German citizens. At this time, NSDAP possessed about 2,000 members.

On July 29, 1921, after realizing that party growth was due primarily to his oratory/recruitment/fundraising skills, Hitler challenged and defeated the incumbent to become NSDAP chairman. Hitler quickly converted the NSDAP's already radical principles to ones that used violent means such as intimidation to achieve his goals.

Through the NSDAP, Hitler began forming many subgroups to carry out his agenda, such as the Storm Troopers, who expanded the new agenda of fear, protected Hitler from harm, and disrupted meetings held by opponents.

From 1923–1925, the NSDAP was dissolved when Hitler and several leaders were convicted of treason after trying to overthrow Bavaria in what came to be known as the Beer Hall Revolt (Putsch).

The NSDAP was reestablished in 1925 with Hitler again elected its leader. At this time, NSDAP leaders were determined to control the German government, among them Hermann Goring, Rudolf Hess, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Gottfried Feder, Rudolf Jung, and Max Amann. To accomplish this goal, the leaders formed the SS (or Schutzstaffel) to enforce their actions and developed another economic Twenty-Five Points Plan, a foreign policy, and a set of anti-Semitic opinions. The NSDAP began to expand throughout Germany, gaining power as it went.

In the 1925 and 1929 elections, the NSDAP performed poorly. However, the world depression that began in 1929 helped to increase its popularity. In 1932, Hitler and other NSDAP leaders campaigned throughout the country, declaring that the liberal democratic government in power was not effective and only the NSDAP could produce a strong government. By this time, many citizens were blaming the Weimar Republic for its defeat in World War I, the Versailles treaty that imposed punishments, the 1930s depression, and the spread of communism.

In spite of strong rival political parties, the Nazi Party proved popular as it promoted an authoritarian organization that emphasized stability for the struggling economy. Its promises of national resurgence, opposition toward France, Jews, and other non-German races, and defeat of the German Weimar Republic were popular with German citizens. The NADAP received 37% of the votes in the 1932 election.

On January 30, 1933, Hitler was appointed chancellor of the coalition government. A month later, on February 27, the Reichstag parliament caught fire. The Nazi Party accused the Communist Party of Germany of starting the blaze when the fire was "almost certainly due to the Nazis." Because of Hitler's power, he banned the Communist Party, eliminated most German civil liberties in order to stop perceived national threats, and placed loyal Nazis in important positions. Then, in March, the Nazi Party, with a membership of about 2.5 million, held a special election with the intent to gain total control. Victorious in the result, Hitler passed the Enabling Act—allowing him to enact legislation, change the constitution, control state and local governments, negotiate treaties, and perform other government duties—all without legislative approval.

In August 1934, Hitler's government merged the office of president and chancellor. In effect, Hitler became the head of government, head of state, and NSDAP chairman—all under the title of Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor. With virtual control of Germany, Hitler banned all political parties, except the NSDAP, and replaced all labor unions with the Nazi-dominated German Labor Front. Hitler forced all citizens to be dependent on the loyalty of his dictatorship. When perceived to be against Nazi authority, citizens were sent to concentration camps, subjected to harsh consequences, or simply killed.

In 1935, Hitler began to increase the size of the military in preparation for war and his plan of world domination. Three years later, on November 9, 1938, what is now called the Night of Broken Glass, over 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed, almost all synagogues were set on fire, many homes were damaged, thousands of Jews sent to concentration camps, and dozens of others killed.

By 1939, Hitler had converted Germany into an anti-Semitic, fully militarized regime, and the NSDAP into a mass movement. That same year, Hitler started World War II.

Germany had already gained control over Austria and Czechoslovakia. Its armies soon spread Nazi dominance over Europe by con-guering Poland, France, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Romania and other countries as Hitler expanded his dominance through fallen governments.

The defeat of Hitler came on May 8, 1945, when the Allied Powers defeated the Axis Powers to end World War II. The NSDAP was soon declared illegal and forced to disband. At this time, its membership rolls were listed at about 8.5 million members.

PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS

The NSDAP was converted into a violent radical organization and eventually a mass movement due to the actions of Adolf Hitler. Anti-Semitism was the basis of its propaganda philosophy. The NSDAP believed that Jews were responsible for the degradation of German society after its defeat in World War I. Hitler, in particular, stressed an ideology that emphasized destruction of inferior races. The NSDAP, which also despised Bolshevism (based on a Karl Marx doctrine), felt that the communists were conspiring with the Jews to destroy Germany. Hitler also saw liberal democracy, especially within the Weimar Republic, as a destructive force. Thus, the NSDAP based its theories on the belief that the world needed to be saved from communism, capitalism/democracy, and the Jewish race.

Starting in 1919, the NSDAP was led by its new spokesman, Adolf Hitler. He recruited new members by appealing to the many beleaguered soldiers and former soldiers who rejected the liberal democratic republic that was formed following World War I. Hitler also linked the people's hatred for communism with a hatred of Jews. The NSDAP was perceived to be the only political party that had viable yet simple answers to the German societal problems.

LEADERSHIP

ADOLF HITLER

After his mother died in 1908, Hitler (at the age of nineteen) lived on inherited money, refusing to find employment. When his money ran out, Hitler was forced into a homeless shelter. There, he was introduced to the writings of Lanz von Liebenfels, a radical who promoted the master German race and the inferiority of other races (especially Jewish).

Hitler lived in near-poverty until 1914 when he volunteered for a Bavarian unit in the German army during World War I. While recovering from injuries at war's end, Hitler decided that Jews had caused his country's defeat—vowing he would enter politics in order to return Germany to its former greatness.

While still in the military, German Army Intelligence gave Hitler the job of monitoring a racist group. Hitler found the political agenda of the German Workers' Party similar to his own: nationalism, anti-communist, anti-Semitism, and anti-Weimar Republic. He joined the party in 1919—finding that he possessed talents as a political agitator, public speaker, and party organizer/recruiter.

In the summer of 1920, Hitler was elevated to the party's spokesman, in a group with 100-200 members. Steadily gaining power, on July 29, 1921, Hitler was elected absolute leader. Hitler changed the group's name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

Both Hitler and NSDAP members despised the role that Jews played in the Weimar Republic and vowed to eliminate their power. Hitler's book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle), which was published in 1926, contained his basic ideas of ruling a racially pure Germany and eventually the world. Hitler steadily became more powerful, ultimately becoming the leader of Germany. He started World War II in 1939 in an attempt to control the world but lost the war in 1945.

Hitler is considered by many historians as one of the twentieth century's most powerful and ruthless dictators. Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945.

Hitler outlined his Twenty-Five Points political platform in a February 4, 1920 speech. Its many features included the union of all Germans around the world into an empire called the Third Reich; refutation of the Treaty of Versailles; acquisition of more German territories; adoption of various anti-capitalist measures; acceptance of citizenship based on race, with Jews not to be considered; confiscation of all income not earned by work; reorganization of the German educational system; freedom of religion, except those that threatened the German race; and execution of strong legislation through a dictatorial government. In the summer of 1920, Hitler adopted the swastika as the Nazi flag—what many historians consider one of the most infamous symbols ever conceived.

During the 1930s depression, Hitler and other Nazi leaders exploited grievances by German citizens by promising whatever would convince their particular audiences. They promised price controls and tax decreases to farmers in rural areas and spoke in favor of redistribution of wealth and against high corporate profits in working-class areas. They spoke of reducing union power and destroying communism to corporate leaders and said that Germany's economic problems were due to the Treaty of Versailles and the Weimar Republic.

NSDAP goals—in essence, Hitler's dictatorial goals—were to conquer the entire world so Hitler could enforce his idea of racial purity among German people. In order to accomplish its goals, the NSDAP used violent tactics such as sterilization and euthanasia upon people he considered inferior. By 1945, over 400,000 people had been sterilized to prevent the potential that they might produce physically or mentally defective children. Early on, Hitler forced schools to teach Nazi ideology, along with indoctrinating young boys into the Hitler Youth and young girls into the League of German Girls so that new generations were already controlled by adulthood.

Early on during Hitler's reign, Jews were denied government employment and restricted from attending universities. Later, they were denied citizenship, excluded from many jobs, forbidden to own automobiles, and denied the right to own property. In all, thousands of German Jews were sent to concentration camps by the Nazis and hundreds of thousands of others fled for their lives from Germany. About one-third of the estimated eighteen million Jews around the world were killed because of Hitler's actions—in what would later be called the Holocaust.

OTHER PERSPECTIVES

As stated in an article by Spartacus Education, the following three quotes, deemed as commonly held opinions in their day, were directed to Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party.

In August 1923, Morgan Philips Price of the Daily Herald said, "Herr Hitler has built up a force estimated at about 30,000 armed men, but he is keeping them in the background and is for the moment concentrating on trying to convert some of the less stable elements of the working classes in the Bavarian towns to his National Socialist programmes."

KEY EVENTS

1919:
German Workers' Party is formed.
1920:
German Workers' Party is renamed National Socialist German Workers Party.
1921:
Hitler becomes NSDAP chairman.
1923–1925:
NSDAP is dissolved when Hitler and leaders are convicted of treason.
1925:
NSDAP is reestablished with Hitler as leader.
1932:
NSDAP receives 37% of the vote in national elections.
1933:
Hitler is appointed chancellor of German coalition government.
1933:
NSDAP bans most German human rights.
1939:
Hitler starts World War II.
1945:
World War II ends with defeat of Hitler's Germany.
1945:
NSDAP is declared illegal and forced to disband.
1945:
Hitler commits suicide.

In August 19, 1934, Frederick T. Birchall of The New York Times wrote the following upon Hitler's takeover of Germany: "The endorsement gives Chancellor Hitler, who four years ago was not even a German citizen, dictatorial powers unequaled in any other country, and probably unequaled in history since the days of Genghis Khan."

Less than six years later, in a May 1940 speech before the British House of Commons, Clement Attlee said, "It is essential to remember that civilization takes long to build and is easily destroyed. Brutality is infectious. However, there is something more than these outward expressions of the return to barbarism in the Nazi regime. There is a denial of the value of the individual. Christianity affirms the value of each individual soul. Nazism denies it. The individual is sacrificed to the idol of the German Leader, German State or the German race. The ordinary citizen is allowed to hear and think only as the rulers decree."

SUMMARY

Over sixty million people are estimated by historians to have died worldwide due to World War II, and tens of millions of other people lost their health, livelihoods, and homes. Hitler was considered directly responsible for more than half of those deaths—over thirty million people, mostly between 1939 and 1945.

Since the NADAP was dissolved and made illegal in 1945, an extremist movement called neo-Nazism has evolved in Germany and around the world. Several groups have claimed to have succeeded the NSDAP, but only one—the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD)—was actually declared by German and Allied officials (at one point in time) to be NSDAP's successor. As of 2005, the NPD is still a presence in German politics.

The American Nazi Party, whose strength declined after the 1960s, was also noted as an extremely dangerous group by U.S. government officials. As stated by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), such groups still use the flag of the NSDAP: a swastika on a red background.

Since the end of World War II, according to the ADL, an anti-Semitic propaganda movement has developed to lessen or (even) contradict the historical significance of Nazi genocide against the Jewish people (the Holocaust).

As of the beginning of the twenty-first century, no organizations are considered successors to Hitler's NSDAP. According to the ADL, most Nazi-like groups are in reality hate groups that promote white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and other similar ideas. Members of such hate groups are primarily discontented young males who ridicule and sometimes violently target blacks, Jews, homosexuals, and members of other minority groups.

SOURCES

Books

Hitler's Apologists: The Anti-Semitic Propaganda of Holocaust Revisionism. New York: Anti-Defamation League, 1993.

McDonough, Frank. Hitler and the Rise of the NSDAP. London and New York: Pearson/Longman, 2003.

Spielvogel, Jackson J. Hitler and Nazi Germany. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2001.

Web sites

The Avalon Project, Yale University. "Program of the National Socialist German Workers' Party." 〈http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/nsdappro.htm〉 (assessed October 20, 2005).

BBC.co.uk. "Adolf Hitler (1889–1945)." 〈http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/hitler_adolf.shtml〉 (assessed October 20, 2005).

Florida Center for Instructional Technology, University of South Florida. "Victims." 〈http://www.spartacus.school-net.co.uk/GERnazi.htm〉 (assessed October 20, 2005).

Jewish Virtual Library, The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise. "Holocaust Denial." 〈http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/denial.html〉 (assessed October 20, 2005).

The Open University, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). "Adolf Hitler Timeline." 〈http://www.open2.net/oulecture2005/hitler_timeline.html〉 (assessed October 20, 2005).

Spartacus Educational. "Nazi Party (NSDAP)" 〈http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERnazi.htm〉 (assessed October 20, 2005).

The Time 100 (The Most Important People of the Century), Time, Inc. "Adolf Hitler." 〈http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/hitler.htm〉 (assessed October 20, 2005).

SEE ALSO

American Nazi Party

NEARBY TERMS

National Socialist German Workers Party