The latter was an important member of this party, and also a staunch anti-Semite. The association with Eckart therefore further solidified Hitler's prejudice against Jews and other non-Aryan races (Fuchs 12)
Like many Germans, Hitler was deeply shocked by Germany's surrender. At the time, he was lying in a military hospital, recovering from a mustard gas attack. Recalling the anti-Semitic and political pamphlets he read as a teenager, Hitler came to believe that Jewish politicians had signed the armistice, thereby surrendering Germany at the point of victory (Schwaab 46).
The German surrender thus served as a catalyst for Hitler's entry into politics
Hitler believed that these Jewish politicians were preparing the way for a communist takeover of the German nation.
Shortly after meeting Eckart, Hitler produced his first anti-Semitic writing, advocating for a solution to the growing German problem. Hitler's solution involved "rational anti-Semitism." He vowed not to use traditional tactics previously employed against Jews, such as pogroms and forced relocation. Rather, he vowed to "legally fight and remove the privileges enjoyed by the Jews as opposed to other foreigners living among us. Its final goal, however, must be the irrevocable removal of the Jews themselves" (Toland 91).
The German Workers' Party, later renamed the National Socialist German Workers' Party or Nazi party. For Hitler, the Nazi platform echoed the teachings of von Liebenfels regarding racial nationalism and anti-Semitism. It was during his early stint as the Nazi Party's spokesman that Hitler discovered his talent for public speaking and generating publicity. Under Hitler's guidance, audiences at Nazi sponsored events grew from 100 members to almost 2,000 in 1920 (Stalcup 58).
Because of his oratorical skills, Hitler proved to be the party's most effective recruiter and fundraiser. His popularity placed him in a position to expel Nazi members who stood in his way. By 1921, Hitler had amassed enough party support to secure the position of Fuhrer or absolute leader (Haffner 112).
As head of the Nazi Party, Hitler rode the wave of German dissatisfaction over the war to national prominence. The 1920s were a difficult period for Germany, as the terms of the Treaty of Versailles cause widespread economic hardship. Hitler took advantage of this dissatisfaction and bad economy, lashing out in speeches against France, the Weimar Republic and Jews as well as other non-German races. He couched this hatred in language promoting the revival of Germany and pride in the Aryan race and Germanic values (Haffner 119).
The content of these speeches could be traced to the pamphlets and brochures of Hitler's youth.
Hitler proved to be a charismatic speaker and though the general content of his speeches did not change, he continued to attract larger audiences. By 1929, Germans voted the Nazi Party into power by electing 107 Nazi members into the Reichstag. Their membership only increased until, in 1932, the Nazis were the dominant party in the German Congress (Fuchs 103).
In conclusion, Hitler's political beliefs could be traced to events and factors from his youth. First, though he was born in Austria-Hungary, Hitler developed a strong identification with the German people. Second, during his poverty-stricken youth, Hitler was exposed to anti-semitic philosophies, such as that of von Liebenfels. Third, the German surrender of World War I instilled deep resentment in Hitler and much of the German people. This resentment and dissatisfaction allowed Hitler to harness his formidable oratorical skills, to ride a popular resentment and belief in "Jewish conspiracies" to political office.
This paper will trace how Hitler's experiences as a youth affected his political beliefs.
Though born in Austria-Hungary, he identified strongly with Germany.
Hitler spoke only German.
Hitler developed a dislike for the Austria-Hungarian royal family.
During his youth, Hitler was exposed to a steady diet of anti-semitic philosophy.
Hitler's poverty made him receptive to anti-Semitic writings
Hitler was exposed to influential extremist writers like Lanz von Liebenfels
The German defeat of World War I paved the way for Hitler's rise to power
Hitler felt dissatisfied and betrayed by Germany's surrender
Many Germans felt similar sentiments
Hitler preyed on these feelings, drawing from his youthful diet of Jewish conspiracies to explain.
Fuchs, Thomas. A Concise Biography of Adolf Hitler. Boston: Berkly, 2000
Haffner, Sebastian. The Meaning of Hitler.
Boston: Harvard University Press, 2004
Housden, Martyn. Hitler: Biography of a Revolutionary? New York: Routledge, 2000.