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Adolf Hitler and the DAP


The German Workers' Union was conceived by Anton Drexler on 
the seventh of March, 1918. Drexler's union consisted of about forty 
members, most of whom were railwaymen, that were banded together by 
shared sentiments of fierce nationalism, anti-Semitism, and support 
for the war effort. Previous to the end of World War I, this small 
union carried the rather verbose title of the "Free Labor Committee 
for a Good Peace." At this time the organization adhered to a rather 
straightforward program-"Strikers, Bolsheviks, Jews, malingerers, and 
war profiteers were the enemy, and it was the duty of the workers to
unite behind the war effort." (Payne, 135) However, after the 
disastrous conclusion to the war, Drexler's union, having changed
its name to the "German Worker's Party," lacked any coherent program 
and was on the brink of collapse when Hitler inadvertently stepped 
into the picture.

 When this happened the party ceased to be Drexler's partly; it 
became Hitler's. The German Workers' Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) 
became the foundation of the Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche 
Arbeiterpartei, commonly abbreviated as the NAZI party. Hitler's 
ability to transform this forty-member union into the dominant 
political force that it became gives us clear indication that he was 
an inherent leader and a master of propaganda. In fact, I believe, 
that without his introduction to the DAP, the Nazi party would 
probably never have been formed.

 Hitler was assigned to attend his first DAP meeting on the 
twelfth of September, 1919 in order to investigate the party and its
activities for the military. In the course of the meeting, Hitler 
became actively involved in one of the arguments. He refuted one
person with such force that the man left "like a wet noodle" before 
Hitler was even finished speaking. However, Hitler's only purpose for 
that meeting was to attend and then write a report. For this reason he 
took one of Drexler's pamphlets which detailed much of the group's 
political philosophy. Here he found "in Drexler a prophet after his 
own heart." (Payne, 137) In one chapter, "The Jew and His Activity 
Before and During the World War," Drexler wrote:

 There is a race-or perhaps we should call it a nation-which 
for over two thousand years has not possessed a state of its own,
but has nevertheless spread over the entire earth. They are the 
Jews...They quickly conquered the money market, although they began in 
poverty, and were thereby made all the richer in vice, vermin and 
pestilence... Only one per cent of the total population is Jewish but 
for thousands of years the Jews, form the highest to the lowest, have 
grimly pursued the thought that this tiny people should never serve 
rulers but always govern them. Yet they are unable to form a state of 
their own. (Drexler, 29)

 Drexler was equally impressed with Hitler, and immediately saw 
his potential. Thus, Drexler invited him to attend one of the 
executive committee meetings. Hitler did attend the meeting; however, 
he was not too impressed with the organization. "This was all 
frightful, frightful. This was the life of a little club at the lowest 
possible level. Was I to join an organization like this ?" (quot. by 
Payne, 138) Although he did eventually become the fifty-fifth member 
and the seventh committee member, "in a sense he [never did] really 
join the party, for when he became a card carrying member it was with 
the intention of destroying it and re-creating it in his own image." 
(Payne, 138)

 Hitler's first step in developing the party was to take over 
the propaganda work. He had to advance the party's small gatherings
from small to large scale. To begin, he arranged that their meetings 
take place in larger halls. Presently, they were held in obscure 
taverns like the Hofbrauhauskeller with an attendance of only about 
one hundred and fifty people. After his decision, they were moved to a 
much larger tavern named Zum Deutschen Reich. There, within four 
subsequent meetings, the attendance increased to over four hundred. 
Through these meetings Hitler established himself as a political 
figure and as a powerful voice of the people.

 In his own words, Hitler said, "To be a leader means to be 
able to move masses." (Hitler, 474) Thus he took it upon himself "to
not only move the masses, but to create a mass movement." (Jarman, 91) 
At the DAP meetings, he spoke so that one would feel like he was part 
of some vast and powerful movement. He was able to stir the crowds 
into such a fervor that they would agree to whatever he said, thereby 
making the gatherings an exercise of mass suggestion. He welcomed the 
occurrence of violence at the meetings, as when his bouncers (later to 
become the 'Brownshirts') crushed an adversary, the power of the
party and the influence of the message were seemingly enhanced.

 Hitler also put himself in control of making the posters and 
fliers that advertised the meetings. These showed a mastery of
propaganda that was probably unsurpassed at that time. He used red 
paper as red catches a person's attention better than any other color. 
(Nor did he mind that the communists used the same color.) On it he 
wrote the information in various sizes of lettering, so that the 
largest letters shouted to the observer much like he might shout 
during a speech. As one historian wrote, "the art of propaganda was 
being studied by a master."

 When he first became involved with the workings of the party 
it was still in need of a program. He quickly remedied this problem. 
He, Drexler, and another committee member Dietrich Eckart developed 
twenty-five points which detailed the party's new program. I say that 
all three cooperated on their development simply because there is much 
dispute as to all of their roles in drafting the program. Drexler 
consistently claimed that only he and Hitler wrote it, while later 
drafts can be seen to be grossly rewritten by Hitler with the help of 
Eckart. However, much of the program was largely influenced by Hitler 
which can be seen by the inclusion of the categorical imperative "We 
demand." (This was a characteristic of his speeches since his first. 
The other speakers would only say "we declare" or "we ask," etc.) 
Nevertheless, regardless of who wrote it, it was largely a work of
Hitler's influence and philosophy. The program included such points 

1) We demand the union of all Germans in a Great Germany on the basis 
of the principle of self-determination of all peoples.

4) Only those who are our fellow countrymen can become citizens. Only 
those who have German blood, regardless of creed, can be our 
countrymen. Hence no Jew can be a countryman.

9) All citizens must possess equal rights and duties.

11) We demand that all unearned income, and all income that does not 
arise from work, be abolished.

14) We demand profit-sharing in large industries.

15) We demand a generous increase in old-age pensions.

18) We demand that ruthless war be waged against those who work to the 
injury of the common welfare. Traitors, usurers, profiteers, etc., are 
to be punished with death, regardless of creed or race.

25) In order to carry out this program we demand: the creation of a 
strong central authority in the State, the unconditional authority by 
the political central parliament of the whole State and all its 

(Feder, 19-22)

 Despite this grand program, in which many people's questions 
were answered, and which gave many a direction to work toward, "it 
never possessed the importance which it might have had in a party 
founded on reason and argument. The real driving force in the Party's 
development was... the personality of Hitler." (Jarmen, 90). The 
speech in which he delivered the program provides a good example. At 
this particular meeting there were about two thousand people 
present-the hall was filled to capacity. In these numbers, Hitler was 
pleased to see that there were a good number of communists, as that 
would mean that the gathering would be exciting. Even before he read 
the points, he had the audience in a frenzy. "The screaming and
shouting were slowly drowned out by the applause." (Hitler, 405) He 
then began to read the program to a "people united by a new 
conviction, a new faith, a new will." During his speech he 
deliberately attacked the Berlin government, the Jews, and other
parties, so that one police reporter present wrote, "Ungeheuer 
Tumult," translated, "Fearful Uproar." Two years later Hitler
wrote in one article that he had felt as if "a wolf had been born, 
destined to hurl itself on the herds of seducers and deceivers of
the people." (quot. by Payne, 148)

 It was during the development of the party's twenty-five 
points that Hitler decided to change the name of the party to the
Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, abbreviated NSDAP or 
Nazi. To symbolize the new party and the new program, Hitler himself 
designed a flag as an insignia of the movement. "Whipping in the wind, 
the swastika flag suggested streaming blood, black pistons in violent 
motion, sudden flares of energy." (Payne, 153) He discussed its 
development with some detail in his Mein Kampf.

 As National Socialists we see our program in our flag. In the 
red we see the social idea of the movement, in the white the national 
idea, in the swastika the mission to struggle for the victory of Aryan 
man and at the same time the victory of the idea of creative work, 
which is eternally anti-Semitic and always will be anti-Semitic.
(Hitler, 557)

 Hitler saw to it that this party development was also solely 
his own. "Even the measurements of the armbands and the exact
proportions of the flag were dictated by him." (Payne, 153)

 By this time, only a little more than one short year after his 
first meeting, the NSDAP had grown rapidly. By November of 1921, the 
meetings were normally held at the Krone Circus where crowds of more 
than six thousand were commonly in attendance. The number of card 
holding, or due paying, members had increased to three thousand, and 
the party published its own newspaper. Through all of this, Hitler 
could not have been called anything less than the party's dictator. 
This fact caused the older members of the party to feel increasingly 
isolated and without any significant role to play. (Jarmen, 92) Anton 
Drexler once approached Hitler to remind him to heed the advice of the 
executive committee. However, Hitler "totally disregarded him." 

 In response to the growing opposition of the older members, 
Hitler decided to demonstrate his power the simplest way-he simply 
left the area for a short while. The others found that no one else was 
capable of carrying on the workings of the party. When they begged him 
to return, Hitler made them sign "an instrument of surrender." 

 In view of your immense knowledge, the services you have 
rendered in the most honorable fashion and 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 has 
already offered you over a long period of time. (Maser, 188)

 In addition to this document which assured the committee's 
subservience to Hitler, he decided to arrange for a meeting in which
the whole party would decide on the matter. The result was obvious. 
For another meeting shortly thereafter, Hitler invented a new term by 
which to describe himself. Presently he was called Unser Fuehrer-our 
leader; his new term dropped the Unser and in its place added Der, an 
article that removed the human ties represented by the former. "The 
invention of this word, like the invention of the swastika flag the 
previous year, must be included among Hitler's daemonic 
accomplishments." (Payne, 160)

 Hitler had now secured all of the resources necessary to 
institute a major political institution. He had a party, a program, a
symbol of the party, and Der Fuehrer to lead the party. All of these 
he achieved by his own accord. Since his first meeting, he was the 
force behind the party. He made all of the decisions and had confirmed 
that he did indeed have all of the power. Previous to his introduction 
to the party, the DAP was nothing more than a small club of 
beer-drinking fellows. After his admission and throughout his rise to 
power, he never had a serious rival to challenge his power. Anton 
Drexler, the party's founder, was only able to stand on the side, 
impotently watching his organization go under the control of another. 
The same was true for the other five members of the original 
committee. And although they (and some others) made some attempts to
damage Hitler's influence, all proved to be feeble against his power. 
Thus, Adolf Hitler was almost solely responsible for creating the Nazi 
party, and in fact, was the only person capable of creating it. It was 
through his uniquely powerful charisma and his mastery of propaganda 
that he was capable of such a feat.

Works Cited

Drexler, Anton. Mein Politisches Erwachen. Munich: Hoheneichen Verlag, 

Feder, Gottfried. Das Program der NSDAP und seine weltanschaulichen 
Grundgedanken. Munich: Verlag Frz. Eher, 1932.

Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. trans. by Ralph Mannheim. Boston: Houghton 
Mifflin, 1942.

Jarman, T.L. The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany. New York: New York UP, 

Mason, Werner. Naissance du parti national-socialiste. Paris: Fayard, 

Payne, Robert. The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. New York: Praeger, 



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