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The Nazi Party


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
grandeur.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 standstill,
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 Bürgerbräukeller, 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 Bürgerbräukeller. 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 Göring 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, Röhm and his band
joined forces with the fledgling National Socialist Party
in Adolf Hitler's Munich Beer Hall Putsch. Himmler took
part in that uprising, but he played such a minor role that
he escaped arrest. The Röhm-Hitler alliance survived the
Putsch, and Öhm's 1,500-man band grew into the
Sturmabteilung, the SA, Hitler's brown-shirted private
army, that bullied the Communists and Democrats. Hitler
recruited a handful of men to act as his bodyguards and
protect him from Communist toughs, other rivals, and even
the S.A. if it got out of hand. This tiny group was the
embryonic SS. In 1933, after the Nazi Party had taken
power in Germany, increasing trouble with the SA made a
showdown inevitable. As German Chancellor, the Führer could
no longer afford to tolerate the disruptive Brownshirts;
under the ambitious Röhm, the SA had grown to be an
organization of three million men, and its unpredictable
activities prevented Hitler from consolidating his shaky
control of the Reich. He had to dispose of the SA to hold
the support of his industrial backers, to satisfy party
leaders jealous of the SA's power, and most important, to
win the allegiance of the conservative Army generals. Under
pressure from all sides, and enraged by an SA plot against
him that Heydrich had conveniently uncovered, Hitler turned
the SS loose to purge its parent organization. They were
too uncontrollable even for Hitler. They went about their
business of terrorizing Jews with no mercy. But that is not
what bothered Hitler, since the SA was so big, (3 million
in 1933) and so out of control, Hitler sent his trusty
comrade Josef Dietrich, commander of a SS bodyguard
regiment to murder the leaders of the SA. The killings
went on for two days and nights and took a tool of perhaps
200 "enemies o the state." It was quite enough to reduce
the SA to impotence, and it brought the Führer immediate
returns. The dying President of the Reich, Field Marshal
Paul von Hindenburg, congratulated Hitler on crushing the
troublesome SA, and the Army generals concluding that
Hitler was now their pawn--swore personal loyalty to him.
 In April 1933, scarcely three months after Adolf Hitler
took power in Germany, the Nazis issued a degree, ordering
the compulsory retirement of "non-Aryans" from the civil
service. This edict, petty in itself, was the first spark
in what was to become the Holocaust, one of the most
ghastly episodes in the modern history of mankind. Before
he campaign against the Jews was halted by the defeat of
Germany, something like 11 million people had been
slaughtered in the name of Nazi racial purity. The Jews
were not the only victims of the Holocaust. Millions of
Russians, Poles, gypsies and other "subhumans" were also
murdered. But Jews were the favored targets--first and
foremost. It took the Nazis some time to work up to the
full fury of their endeavor. In the years following 1933,
the Jews were systematically deprived by law of their civil
rights, of their jobs and property. Violence and brutality
became a part of their everyday lives. Their places of
worship were defiled, their windows smashed, their stores
ransacked. Old men and young were pummeled and clubbed and
stomped to death by Nazi jack boots. Jewish women were
accosted and ravaged, in broad daylight, on main
thoroughfares. Some Jews fled Germany. But most, with a
kind of stubborn belief in God and Fatherland, sought to
weather the Nazi terror. It was forlorn hope. In 1939,
after Hitler's conquest of Poland, the Nazis cast aside all
restraint. Jews in their millions were now herded into
concentration camps, there to starve and perish as slave
laborers. Other millions were driven into dismal ghettos,
which served as holding pens until the Nazis got around to
disposing of them. The mass killings began in 1941, with
the German invasion of the Soviet Union. Nazi murder squads
followed behind the Wehrmacht enthusiastically slaying Jews
and other conquered peoples. Month by month the horrors
escalated. First tens of thousands, then hundreds of
thousands of people were led off to remote fields and
forest to be slaughtered by SS guns. Assembly-line death
camps were established in Poland and train loads of Jews
were collected from all over occupied Europe and sent to
their doom. At some of the camps, the Nazis took pains to
disguise their intentions until the last moment. At others,
the arriving Jews saw scenes beyond comprehension. "Corpses
were strewn all over the road," recalled one survivor.
"Starving human skeletons stumbled toward us. They fell
right down in front of our eyes and lay there gasping out
their last breath." What had begun as a mean little edict
against Jewish civil servants was now ending the death six
million Jews, Poles, gypsies, Russians, and other
"sub-humans" Uncounted thousands of Jews and other hapless
concentration-camp inmates were used as guinea pigs in a
wide range of medical and scientific experiments, most of
them of little value. Victims were infected with typhus to
see how different geographical groups reacted; to no one's
surprise, all groups perished swiftly. Fluids from diseased
animals were injected into humans to observe the effect.
Prisoners were forced to exist on sea water to see how long
castaways might survive. Gynecology was an area of
interest. Various methods of sterilization were
practiced--by massive X-ray, by irritants and drugs, by
surgery without benefit of anesthetic. As techniques were
perfected, it was determined that a doctor with 10
assistants could sterilize 1,000 women per day. The
"experimental people" were also used by Nazi doctors who
needed practice performing various operations. One doctor
at Auschwitz perfected his amputation technique on live
prisoners. After he had finished, his maimed patients were
sent off to the gas chamber. A few Jews who had studied
medicine were allowed to live if they assisted the SS
doctors. "I cut the flesh of healthy young girls," recalled
a Jewish physician who survived at terrible cost. "I
immersed the bodies of dwarfs and cripples in calcium
chloride (to preserve them), or had them boiled so the
carefully prepared skeletons might safely reach the Third
Reich's museums to justify, for future generations, the
destruction of an entire race. I could never erase these
memories from my mind." But the best killing machine were
the "shower baths" of death. After their arrival at a death
camp, the Jews who had been chosen to die at once were told
that they were to have a shower. Filthy by their long,
miserable journey, they sometimes applauded the
announcement. Countless Jews and other victims went
peacefully to the shower rooms--which were gas chambers in
disguise. In the anterooms to the gas chambers, many of the
doomed people found nothing amiss. At Auschwitz, signs in
several languages said, "Bath and Disinfectant," and inside
the chambers other signs admonished, "Don't forget your
soap and towel." Unsuspecting victims cooperated willingly.
"They got out of their clothes so routinely," Said a
Sobibor survivor. "What could be more natural?" In time,
rumors about the death camps spread, and underground
newspapers in the Warsaw ghetto even ran reports that told
of the gas chambers and the crematoriums. But many people
did not believe the storied, and those who did were
helpless in any case. Facing the guns of the SS guards,
they could only hope and pray to survive. As one Jewish
leader put it, "We must be patient and a miracle will
occur." There were no miracles. The victims, naked and
bewildered, were shoved into a line. Their guards ordered
them forward, and flogged those who hung back. The doors to
the gas chambers were locked behind them. It was all over
quickly. The war came home to Germany. Scarcely had Hitler
recovered from the shock of the July 20 bombing when he was
faced with the loss of France and Belgium and of great
conquests in the East. Enemy troops in overwhelming numbers
were converging on the Reich. By the middle of August 1944,
the Russian summer offensives, beginning June 10 and
unrolling one after another, had brought the Red Army to
the border of East Prussia, bottled up fifty German
divisions in the Baltic region, penetrated to Vyborg in
Finland, destroyed Army Group Center and brought an advance
on this front of four hundred miles in six weeks to the
Vistula opposite Warsaw, while in the south a new attack
which began on August 20 resulted in the conquest of
Rumania by the end of the month and with it the Ploesti oil
fields, the only major source of natural oil for the German
armies. On August 26 Bulgaria formally withdrew from the
war and the Germans began to hastily clear out of that
country. In September Finland gave up and turned on the
German troops which refused to evacuate its territory. In
the West, France was liberated quickly. In General Patton,
the commander of the newly formed U.S. Third Army, the
Americans had found a tank general with the dash and flair
of Rommel in Africa. After the capture of Avranches on July
30, he had left Brittany to wither on the vine and begun a
great sweep around the German armies in Normandy, moving
southeast to Orleans on the Loire and then due east toward
the Seine south of Paris. By August 23 the Seine was
reached southeast and northwest of the capital, and two
days later the great city, the glory of France, was
liberated after four years of German occupation when
General Jacques Leclerc's French 2nd Armored Division and
the U.S. 4th Infantry Division broke into it and found that
French resistance units were largely in control. 


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