The Early Years of Adolf Hitler 1889-1924 (cont.) [Again I must stress the efforts of Professor Watt, who wrote this introduction]
So war has broke out, and despite his previous attempt announcing he was ‘unfit’ to serve, Hitler enlisted as a volunteer in the ’16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment.’ I guess in a time of war, anyone would be accepted. His unit was sent to join others who were trying to get to the Channel coast. They then fought in the first battle of Ypres, on 29 October 1914, they encountered English troops, were they suffered severe casualties. Hitler was twice recommended the Iron Cross (second class) and was eventually awarded it on 2 December 1914. He worked as a runner, eventually becoming a corporal. He was wounded once and gassed once, and was awarded more decorations, including the Iron Cross (first class, which isn’t the highest btw) for ‘untiring activity’, ‘cold-blooded courage’ and ‘continuous readiness to sacrifice himself’ in ‘the most difficult situations and in the greatest peril of his life’. Strangely enough the man that recommended him for the award, was Jewish.
He was temporarily blinded by gas on 14 October 1918, and was evacuated, but did not recover until after Germany had signed the armistice and the war had ended. Interestingly there has been no mention of what many believe fact and has been said many times in popular media that a British soldier had the opportunity to shoot him, but saved his life, or some story to the same idea, I don’t know if this is true, but I just remember hearing this ‘myth’ many a time, but it probably is true in some respects. And after his time in the army, his attitude changed, especially considering he tried to run from service, he had found a purpose and a community.
After the war, Hitler served a month as a guard on a prisoner of war camp (mainly Russian prisoners), and then returning to Munich. He attempted to join both the independent Socialists and the Communists. Hitler was arrested when the Reichswehr moved in on Munich, but quickly released. Later he pretended that he had been arrested by communist troops. I always really just thought that Hitler was a communist, but he didn’t agree with them either, he of course found his calling with the Nazis, but I had always imagined him a communist, which I guess should have been quelled inThe Book Thief.
Hitler attended a course on the idea of ‘countering the activities of the propagandists of the Communist and Independent Socialist revolutionaries’. He then was involved in propaganda and found a calling for public speaking. And attended meetings of the beginnings of the Nazi Party in 1919. Which was led by Hans Harrer and Anton Drexler. Hitler joined the party as member number 555 (not 7 as some say, which is his membership of the executive committee). The party wanted to find a solution of the ‘social and economic problems of Germany on a non-Marxist, non-internationalist basis, without resort to class warfare’. He quickly became the parties main propaganda ‘machine’ and the best public speaker. He apparently gave over one half of the public lectures that were commissioned by the party all on topics like ‘Germany in her darkest hour’, ‘the Jewish question’, ‘Might and Right’, ‘Compromise and Force’ and ‘The welfare of the German people and the national idea’ and so on.
Also he used connections in the army and his own success to try and become the party leader. Hitler even bought the party weekly paper and turned it into a daily paper in three years. He began to stage his own rallies, and was able to ‘defeat’ an attempt to gain control back of the party away from him. He was then, when all opponents were out of the party altogether, he became president. But the party was one of many right-wing organisations in Munich. There is a lot more detail here and is quite complex and in depth so sometimes it may sound as if I am jumping around, but I am just trying to paraphrase and simplify.It is quite confusing with all the politics and history and different towns and governments, not simple at all.
But to further the party he need to gain support of two of the three ‘groups in Bavaria: the nationalist movements, the Bavarian government with the police and the Army Command in Bavaria. There was a large demonstration against the German central government and even schemes to overthrow the government. But there was increasing conflict with the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior who tried to ban meetings and even humiliated Hitler. A lot was going on after World War One in Germany!
In 1923 the chance at revolution Hitler desired arrived. It was after a minor default on the reparations that Germany had to pay in punishment for WW1. Plans were made to make the Bavarian government fall with Hitler taking over. He had gone into hiding after his humiliation, but now he re-emerged. I must admit that what seems to be going on is quite genius with a lot of political manipulation. The Bavarian government was order by Berlin to ban Hitler’s paper, but refused to take orders from Berlin, and then broke off communication with the central government, removing loyalty to them. But the Bavarian government were not doing what Hitler wanted, so Hitler stormed their meeting and made them agree to join him in a new National Government.
But the Bavarian Government took control of the armed forces and dissolved the Nazi Party and Hitler tried to march and take over but was stopped. He was later arrested, and was tried in a court, with a large audience. But Hitler used the trial to attack the ‘Weimar Republic’ (the main Government of Germany after WW1) and had most of the judges on his side, but was sentenced to five years imprisonment. But he only did 11 months, sounds like even back then ‘celebrities’ got off easy. The government attempted to deport him back to Austria, but they refused to take him.
But his failure only resolved his mission. And made him decide that he would not act with anyone, and he would be the boss and if an organisation wanted to join, they would have to join the ranks of the party. He would eventually take power in January 1933, but until then he bided his time and made connections.
Next is a section on Mein Kampf and where it all came from, its structure, etc, and that will be tomorrow!