Adolf Hitler on How He Joined the DAP

MK_Dalton

THE ‘EDUCATIONAL OFFICER’

In another direction too, this course of lectures had important consequences for me.

One day I asked to speak. Another participant felt obligated to break a lance for the Jews and entered into a lengthy defense of them. This aroused my opposition. An overwhelming majority supported my views. The consequence of it all was that, a few days later, I was assigned to a regiment then stationed at Munich, and given a position there as a so-called ‘educational officer.’

At that time, the discipline of the troops […] was still suffering from the after-effects of the period when the soldiers’ councils were in control. Only gradually and carefully was it possible to replace ‘voluntary obedience’—a cute name given by Kurt Eisner’s pig-sty of a regime—with a spirit of military discipline and subordination. The soldiers had to be taught to think and feel in a national and patriotic way. In these two directions lay my future line of action.

I began my work with the greatest enthusiasm and love. Here I was presented with an opportunity to speak before quite a large audience. I was now able to confirm what I had previously merely felt: I could ‘speak.’ My voice had become so much better that I could be clearly understood in all parts of the small squadron hall.

No task could have been more pleasing to me than this. Now, before being discharged, I was in a position to render useful service to an institution that was infinitely dear to my heart: the army.

I can now say that my talks were successful. During the course of my lectures, I led hundreds and even thousands of my fellow countrymen back to their people and Fatherland. I ‘nationalized’ these troops, and in doing so I helped to restore general discipline. Here again I made the acquaintance of several like-minded comrades, who later came to form the core of the new movement.

THE GERMAN WORKERS’ PARTY

One day I received an order from my superiors to investigate the nature of an apparently political association. It called itself “The German Workers’ Party” and was soon to hold a meeting at which Gottfried Feder would speak. I was ordered to attend this meeting and report on the situation.

The curiosity of the army authorities toward political parties can be very well understood. The revolution gave the soldiers the right to take an active part in politics, and it was particularly those with the least experience who made the most of this right. But when the Center and the Social Democratic parties were forced to recognize that the soldiers’ sympathies had turned away from the revolutionary parties and towards the national movement and reawakening, they felt obligated to withdraw the right to vote from the army and to forbid it all political activity.

[…]

 

When I arrived that evening in the “guest room” of the former Sternecker Brewery in Munich, I found approximately 20 to 25 people present, most of them belonging to the lower classes. The theme of Feder’s lecture was already familiar to me, so I could therefore focus my attention on the organization itself.

The impression was neither good nor bad—a new organization, just like any other. In those days, everyone felt called upon to form a new party whenever he was unhappy with the course of events and lost confidence in the existing parties. Thus it was that new associations sprang up all around, only to disappear just as quickly. […] because of their utter lack of anything like an adequate grasp of the necessities of the situation.

My opinion of the “German Workers’ Party” was no different. I was glad when Feder finally came to a close. I had observed enough and was just about to leave when an open discussion period was announced; I decided to stay. At first this was just more of the same, when suddenly a ‘professor’ began to speak. He opened by throwing doubt on the accuracy of what Feder had said, and then—after Feder’s able reply—the professor suddenly began arguing on what he called ‘the basis of facts’. He argued that the young party take up ‘secession’ from ‘Prussia.’ In a most self-assured way, this man kept insisting that German-Austria should join Bavaria and then the peace would function much better … and other nonsense. At this point, I felt bound to ask for permission to speak and to tell the learned gentleman what I thought. As a result, and even before I finished he slipped out of the hall like a wet poodle. While I spoke, the audience listened with an astonished expression on their faces. When I was just about to say good night to the assembly and leave, a man came after me quickly and placed a booklet in my hand, which was obviously a political pamphlet, and asked me very urgently to read it.

[…]

The next morning, around 5:00 AM, I was fully awake in bed, watching the mice playing and vying with each other [for the few pieces of bread crust he had placed on the floor.] I had suffered so much poverty in my own life that I well knew what hunger was and I could thus imagine the pleasure of these little creatures. Since I couldn’t sleep, I suddenly remembered the booklet that the worker had given me. I began to read. It was a small pamphlet, of which this worker was the author. He described how his mind had thrown off the shackles of Marxist and trade-union phraseology, and that he came back to nationalist ideals. That was the reason why he had entitled his little book, My Political Awakening. The pamphlet grabbed my attention the moment I began to read, and I read it with interest to the end. The process described was similar to that which I had experienced in my own case 12 years earlier. Unconsciously, my own development came again to mind. During that day, my thoughts returned several times to what I had read, but eventually I forgot about it. A week or so later, however, I received a postcard that informed me, to my astonishment, that I had been admitted to the DAP. I was asked to reply to this communication and to attend a meeting of the Party Committee the next Wednesday.

This method of ‘winning’ members amazed me, and I didn’t know whether to be angry or laugh. I had no intention of joining any existing party, but wanted to found one of my own. It was presumptuous of them to ask and, for me, completely out of the question.

I was about to send a written reply when curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to attend the gathering on the assigned date, so that I might explain my principles to these gentlemen in person.

THE ‘COMMITTEE MEETING’

Wednesday came. The tavern in which the meeting was to take place was the Alte Rosenbad in the Herrnstrasse—a run-down place with very few guests. This wasn’t very surprising in 1919, when the menus of even the larger restaurants were only very modest and scanty. But I had never before heard of this business.

I went through the badly-lighted guest room, where not a single guest was to be seen, and opened the door to the back room; there I found the ‘session.’ In the dim light of a grimy gas lamp, I could see four young people sitting around a table, one of them the author of the pamphlet. He greeted me cordially and welcomed me as a new member of the DAP.

[…]

My curiosity was growing and I sat waiting for what was to come. Now at least I learned the names of the gentlemen. The chairman of the ‘national organization’ was a certain Herr Harrer; and the leader of the Munich district was Anton Drexler. The minutes of the previous meeting were read out, and a vote of confidence in the secretary was passed, Then came the treasurer’s report. The association possessed a total of seven marks and 50 pfennigs, whereupon the treasurer was assured that he had the confidence of the members. Then the chairman’s replies to a number of letters were read; […] then the incoming letters were read […] there followed a long discussion of the replies to be given.

Terrible, terrible! This was tedious bureaucracy of the worst sort. And was I to join such a club?

Next came the question of new members—that is to say, the question of my capture. I now began to ask questions. But I found that, apart from a few general principles, there was nothing; no program, no pamphlet, nothing at all in print, no membership cards, not even a party stamp; only clear good faith and good intentions.

I no longer felt like laughing—for what else was all this but a typical sign of the most complete helplessness and total despair of all political parties, their programs, and their activities? The feeling that induced those few young men to join in what seemed such a ridiculous enterprise was nothing but the call of an inner voice. It told them, more intuitively than consciously, that the whole party system as it existed was incapable of raising up the German nation or repairing the inner wounds. I quickly read through the list of principles that formed the party platform These were stated on typewritten sheets. Here again I found evidence of a spirit of longing and searching, but no sign whatsoever of a knowledge of the conflict that had to be fought.

When I returned to the barracks that evening, I had formed a definite opinion of that association. I was facing the hardest question of my life: Should I join this party, or should I decline?

A FINAL DECISION

Rationally, every consideration urged me to decline; but my feelings troubled me. The more I tried to prove to myself how senseless this club was, on the whole, the more my feelings inclined me to favor it.

In the days to follow, I was restless.

I began to consider all the pros and cons. I had long ago decided to take an active part in politics. It was clear that I could do so only through a new movement; but I had previously lacked the impulse to take concrete action. I’m not one of those people who will begin something one day and give it up the next, just for the sake of something new. That was the main reason why it was so difficult for me to decide to join such an organization. This would have to be the fulfillment of my goals, or else I shouldn’t do it at all. I knew such a decision would bind me forever, and that there would be no turning back. This was no idle game, but rather a serious and ardent cause. Even then I had an instinctive revulsion against people who took up everything, but never carried anything through to the end. I loathed these jacks-of-all-trades, and considered the activities of such people to be worse than doing nothing at all.

Fate itself now seemed to point the way. I would never have entered one of the big existing parties; I’ll explain my reasons for this later on. This absurd little group, with its handful of members, seemed to have the unique advantage of not yet being frozen into an ‘organization.’ It still offered a chance for real personal activity on the part of the individual. Here, it might still be possible to do some effective work; and, as the movement was still small, one could all the easier give it the proper shape. Here it was still possible to determine the character of the movement, the aims to be achieved, and the road to be taken; all of this would have been impossible in the big parties.

The longer I reflected on the situation, the more my opinion developed that just such a small movement could best serve to prepare the way for a national resurgence. […] What had to be proclaimed here was a new worldview, and not a new election slogan.

It was, however, infinitely more difficult to turn this intention into reality. What qualifications did I bring to this task? The fact that I was poor and without resources could, in my opinion, be the easiest to bear. But the fact that I was utterly unknown raised a more difficult problem. I was only one of millions that Chance allowed to exist, whom even their next door neighbors will not consent to know. And another difficulty arose from my lack of schooling.

[…]

After two days of careful brooding and reflection, I became convinced that I must take the step. It was the most fateful decision of my life. There was and could be no turning back.

Thus I registered as a member of the German Worker’s Party, and received a provisional membership card, with the number seven.

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Published in: on July 11, 2018 at 2:16 am  Leave a Comment  

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