Nazi Party Established


The evolution of organized National Socialism began with the formation of the German Workers' Party in Munich on January 5, 1919, out of a small right-wing group headed by Anton Drexler that was noted for fanatic antisemitism. On February 24, 1920, it was reconstituted as the National-Socialist Democratic Workers' Party -the NSDAP-or the Nazi Party for short. Nazi ideology was predicated from the outset on antisemitism, populism, racism, and pan-Germanism. The master-race idea, a virulent anti-Bolshevism and the vision of German conquest of Lebensraum ("living space") in the East were dominant from the very beginning. Adolf Hitler joined the party on September 12, 1919, and, after a brief career as the party propagandist, became its leader in 1921. The 1920 party platform, elaborated by Hitler and Drexler, included clauses concerning the army, the nation, society, the economy, and antisemitism. By 1923, the party was active in various places, foremost in Bavaria. A short time later, it earned a reputation as an aggressive ultra-national movement by stirring up political ferment by means of sensational tactics, such as confrontational provocations by the party's SA storm-trooper organization and various actions based on the fascist model (street parades, mass rallies, etc.). At that time, Nazi influence was especially strong among German-racialist and nationalist organizations in Bavaria. As an immediate result of this, Hitler headed a failed attempt to bring the Weimar government down by means of an armed putsch in Munich, on November 9, 1923. The party was outlawed for a short time; Hitler spent nine months in prison. Shortly after his release, the Nazi Party was re-established and spread from Bavaria to western and northern Germany. Under the influence of brothers Gregor and Otto Strasser and Joseph Goebbels, the NSDAP took on the character of a pronounced anti-bourgeois, national revolutionary, and social revolutionary party. In elections to the Reichstag in 1924, the Nazis won only 3 percent of the vote. Their dramatic ascent began in the 1930s, the party's parliamentary strength rising from 18.3 percent in 1930, to 37.3 percent in 1932, and 43.9 percent in elections held on March 5, 1933 (by then the Nazi's were already in power). Party membership climbed from 6,000 in 1922 to 8.5 million in 1945. Much of the party's popularity before the accession was based on mass mobilization (rallies, demonstrations) and other modern forms of political expression. In the Nazi regime of the 1930s, the annual party conferences and accompanying pageantry in Nuremberg became central public features in German political life. The Nazi Party was typified by a centralized, authoritarian structure based on the Fuehrerprinzip (the "leadership principle"). The party leader, Adolf Hitler, headed it; below him was the deputy Fuehrer. Organizationally, the party was run by eighteen party officials at the rank of regional leader (Reichsleiter); territorially, the party was managed by thirty-two Gauleiters. The party's institutions included the SA, the SS, and the Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend).