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|National Socialist German Workers' Party|
Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei
|Preceded by||German Workers' Party (DAP)|
|Succeeded by||None (banned)|
Ideologies continued with neo-Nazism
|Youth wing||Hitler Youth|
|Paramilitary wing||Sturmabteilung (SA)|
|Membership||Fewer than 60 in 1920|
8.5 million by 1945
|Political position||Far right|
|Colors||Black, white, red (Imperial Germany's colors); brown|
|Politics of Germany|
|National Socialist German Workers' Party|
Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei
|Preceded by||German Workers' Party (DAP)|
|Succeeded by||None (banned)|
Ideologies continued with neo-Nazism
|Youth wing||Hitler Youth|
|Paramilitary wing||Sturmabteilung (SA)|
|Membership||Fewer than 60 in 1920|
8.5 million by 1945
|Political position||Far right|
|Colors||Black, white, red (Imperial Germany's colors); brown|
|Politics of Germany|
The National Socialist German Workers' Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (help·info), abbreviated NSDAP), commonly known in English as the Nazi Party, was a political party in Germany between 1920 and 1945. Its predecessor, the German Workers' Party (DAP), existed from 1919 to 1920. The term Nazi is German and stems from Nationalsozialist, due to the pronunciation of Latin -tion- as -tsion- in German (rather than -shon- as it is in English), with German Z being pronounced as 'ts'.
The party was founded out of the far-right racist völkisch German nationalist movement and the violent anti-communist Freikorps paramilitary culture that fought against the uprisings of communist revolutionaries in post-World War I Germany. Advocacy of a form of socialism by right-wing figures and movements in Germany became common during and after World War I, influencing Nazism. Arthur Moeller van den Bruck of the Conservative Revolutionary movement coined the term "Third Reich", and advocated an ideology combining the nationalism of the right and the socialism of the left. Prominent Conservative Revolutionary member Oswald Spengler's conception of a "Prussian Socialism" influenced the Nazis. The party was created as a means to draw workers away from communism and into völkisch nationalism. Initially, Nazi political strategy focused on anti-big business, anti-bourgeois, and anti-capitalist rhetoric, although such aspects were later downplayed in order to gain the support of industrial entities, and in 1930s the party's focus shifted to anti-Semitic and anti-Marxist themes.
To maintain the supposed purity and strength of a postulated 'Aryan race', the Nazis sought to exterminate or impose exclusionary segregation upon "degenerate" and "asocial" groups that included: Jews, homosexuals, Romani, blacks, the physically and mentally handicapped, Jehovah's Witnesses and political opponents. The persecution reached its climax when the party controlled German state organized the systematic murder of approximately six million Jews and five million people from the other targeted groups, in what has become known as the Holocaust.
The party's leader Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg in 1933. Hitler rapidly established a totalitarian regime known as the Third Reich. Following the defeat of the Third Reich at the conclusion of World War II in Europe, the party was "completely and finally abolished and declared to be illegal" by the Allied occupying powers.
The term Nazi derives from the first two syllables of Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP, Nazi Party). The German term Nazi parallels the term Sozi (pronounced /zoːtsi/), an abbreviation of Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Social Democratic Party of Germany).
The term Nazi was originally used by southern German opponents of the NSDAP, and may have been influenced by the Bavarian term Nazi, which was a familiar form of the name Ignatz, which was used colloquially to mean a "clumsy or awkward person". The earlier term Inter-Nazi, which was a German abbreviation of Internationale, may have also contributed to the adoption of the term.
Members of the NSDAP referred to themselves as Nationalsozialisten (National Socialists), rarely as Nazis. In 1933, when Adolf Hitler assumed power of the German government, usage of the term Nazi diminished in Germany, although Austrian anti-Nazis continued to use the term as an insult. Many Neo-Nazis still refer to themselves as National Socialists. According to Joseph Goebbels in an official explanation of Nazism, the synthesis of the words nationalism and socialism was to "counter the Internationalism of Marxism with the nationalism of a German Socialism".
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The party grew out of smaller political groups with a nationalist orientation that formed in the last years of World War I. In the early months of 1918, a party called the Freier Ausschuss für einen deutschen Arbeiterfrieden ("Free Committee for a German Workers' Peace") was created in Bremen, Germany. On 7 March 1918, Anton Drexler, an avid German nationalist, formed a branch of this league in Munich called the Committee of Independent Workmen. Drexler was a local locksmith in Munich who had been a member of the militarist Fatherland Party during World War I, and was bitterly opposed to the armistice of November 1918 and to the revolutionary upheavals that followed in its wake. Drexler followed the typical views of militant nationalists of the day, such as opposing the Treaty of Versailles, having antisemitic, anti-monarchist and anti-Marxist views, as well as believing in the superiority of Germans whom nationalists claimed to be part of the Aryan "master race" (Herrenvolk), but he also accused international capitalism of being a Jewish-dominated movement and denounced capitalists for war profiteering in World War I. Drexler saw the situation of political violence and instability in Germany as the result of the new Weimar Republic being out-of-touch with the masses, especially the lower classes. Drexler emphasized the need for a synthesis of völkisch nationalism, a strong central government movement, with economic socialism in order that a popular, centrist nationalist-oriented workers movement might be created that could challenge the rise of Communism, as well as the internationalist left and right in general.
Though very small, Drexler's movement beginning in 1918 did receive attention and support from some influential figures. Such as Drexler's supporter Dietrich Eckhart bringing military figure Count Felix Graf von Bothmer, a prominent supporter of the concept of "national socialism", to address the movement. Bothmer declared to the movement his conception of socialism as involving "the identification of the individual with his community, in devotion and service to an organic whole, the nation".
On 5 January 1919, Drexler created a new political party based on the political principles which he endorsed by combining his Committee of Independent Workmen with a similar group, The Political Worker's Circle, led by newspaper reporter Karl Harrer. Drexler proposed that the party be named the German Socialist Worker's Party, but Harrer objected to using the term "socialist" in the name; the issue was settled by removing the term from the name, and it was agreed that the party be named the German Workers' Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP). To ease concerns among potential middle-class nationalist supporters, Drexler made clear that unlike Marxists, the party supported middle-class citizens, and that the party's socialist policy was meant to give social welfare to German citizens deemed part of the Aryan race. They became one of many völkisch movements that existed in Germany at the time. Like other völkisch groups, the DAP advocated the belief that through profit-sharing instead of socialisation Germany should become a unified "national community" (Volksgemeinschaft) rather than a society divided along class and party lines. This ideology was explicitly antisemitic as it declared that the "national community" must be judenfrei ("free of Jews"). As early as 1920, the party was raising money by selling a tobacco called Anti-Semit.
From the outset, the DAP was opposed to non-nationalist political movements, especially on the left, including the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) and the newly formed Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Members of the DAP saw themselves as fighting against "Bolshevism" and anyone considered to be part of or aiding so-called "international Jewry". The DAP was also deeply opposed to the Versailles Treaty. The DAP did not attempt to make itself public, and meetings were kept in relative secrecy, with public speakers discussing what they thought of Germany's present state of affairs, or writing to like-minded societies in Northern Germany.
The DAP was a comparatively small group with fewer than 60 members. Nevertheless, it attracted the attention of the German authorities, who were suspicious of any organisation that appeared to have subversive tendencies. A young corporal, Adolf Hitler, stationed in Munich, was sent by Captain Mayr, head of press and propaganda in the Bavarian section of the army, to investigate the DAP. While attending a party meeting on 12 September 1919, where Gottfried Feder was speaking on 'How and by what means is capitalism to be eliminated?', Hitler got involved in a heated political argument with a visitor who questioned the soundness of Feder's arguments and who proposed that Bavaria should break away from Prussia and found a new South German nation with Austria. In vehemently attacking the man's arguments he made an impression on the other party members with his oratory skills and, according to Hitler, the "professor" left the hall acknowledging unequivocal defeat. According to August Kubizek, Drexler was so impressed that he whispered to a neighbour, "My he's got a gift of the gab. We could use him." He was invited to join, and after some deliberation, chose to accept. Among the party's earlier members were Ernst Röhm of the Army's District Command VII; well-to-do journalist Dietrich Eckart; student at the University of Munich and later deputy of the party Rudolf Hess; Freikorps soldier Hans Frank; and Alfred Rosenberg, often credited as the philosopher of the movement. All of the above were later prominent in the Nazi regime.
Hitler became the DAP's 55th member and received the number 555, as the DAP added '500' to every member's number to exaggerate the party's strength. He later claimed to be the seventh party member (he was in fact the seventh executive member of the party's central committee; he would later wear the Golden Party Badge number one). Hitler's first speech was held in the Hofbräukeller, where he spoke in front of 111 people as the second speaker of the evening. He later declared that this was when he realised he could really "make a good speech". At first Hitler only spoke to relatively small groups on behalf of the party, but in early 1920 he took over propaganda work and began to take a more prominent role in organisation; consequently, his public speaking began to attract larger audiences. Hitler began to make the party much more public, and he organised the party's biggest meeting yet of 2,000 people, for 24 February 1920 in the Staatliches Hofbräuhaus in München. Such was the significance of this particular move in publicity that Harrer resigned from the party in disagreement. It was in this speech that Hitler, for the first time, enunciated the twenty-five points of the German Worker's Party's manifesto that had been drawn up by Drexler, Feder, and Hitler. Through these points he gave the organisation a much bolder stratagem with a clear foreign policy (abrogation of Versailles, a Greater Germany, Eastern expansion, exclusion of Jews from citizenship), and among his specific points were: confiscation of war profits, abolition of unearned incomes, the State to share profits of land, and land for national needs to be taken away without compensation. In general, the manifesto was antisemitic, anti-capitalist, anti-democratic, anti-Marxist, and anti-liberal. On 24 February 1920[dubious ], the party also added "National Socialist" to its official name, in order to appeal to both nationalists and socialists, becoming the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP, or Nazis for short), although Hitler earlier suggested the party to be renamed the "Social Revolutionary Party"; it was Rudolf Jung who persuaded Hitler to follow the NSDAP naming.
Hitler quickly became the party's most active orator, and he appeared in public as a speaker thirty-one times within the first year after his self-discovery. Hitler always spoke about the same subjects: the Treaty of Versailles and the Jewish question. This deliberate technique and effective publicising of the party contributed significantly to his early success, about which a contemporary poster wrote 'Since Herr Hitler is a brilliant speaker, we can hold out the prospect of an extremely exciting evening'. Over the following months, the DAP continued to attract new members, while remaining too small to have any real significance in German politics. By the end of 1920, the party numbered 3,000, many of whom Hitler and Röhm had brought into the party personally, or for whom Hitler's oratory had been their reason for joining.
Hitler discovered that he had talent as an orator, and his ability to draw new members, combined with his characteristic ruthlessness, soon made him the dominant figure. Drexler recognized this, and Hitler became party chairman on 28 July 1921. When the party had been established, it consisted of a leadership board elected by the members, which in turn elected a chairman. Hitler scrapped this arrangement. He acquired the title Führer ("leader") and, after a series of sharp internal conflicts, it was accepted that the party would be governed by the Führerprinzip ("leader principle"): Hitler was the sole leader of the party, and he alone decided its policies and strategy. Hitler at this time saw the party as a revolutionary organization, whose aim was the violent overthrow of the Weimar Republic, which he saw as controlled by the socialists, Jews and the "November criminals" who had betrayed the German soldiers in 1918. The SA ("storm troopers", also known as "Brownshirts") were founded as a party militia in 1921, and began violent attacks on other parties.
For Hitler the twin goals of the party were always German nationalist expansionism and antisemitism. These two goals were fused in his mind by his belief that Germany's external enemies – Britain, France and the Soviet Union – were controlled by the Jews, and that Germany's future wars of national expansion would necessarily entail a war against the Jews. For Hitler and his principal lieutenants, national and racial issues were always dominant. This was symbolised by the adoption as the party emblem of the swastika or Hakenkreuz, at the time widely used in the western world. In German nationalist circles, the swastika was considered a symbol of an "Aryan race"; it symbolized the replacement of the Christian Cross with allegiance to a National Socialist State.
During 1921 and 1922, the Nazi Party grew significantly, partly through Hitler's oratorical skills, partly through the SA's appeal to unemployed young men, and partly because there was a backlash against socialist and liberal politics in Bavaria as Germany's economic problems deepened and the weakness of the Weimar regime became apparent. The party recruited former World War I soldiers, to whom Hitler as a decorated frontline veteran could particularly appeal, as well as small businessmen and disaffected former members of rival parties. Nazi rallies were often held in beer halls, where downtrodden men could get free beer. The Hitler Youth was formed for the children of party members, although it remained small until the late 1920s. The party also formed groups in other parts of Germany. Julius Streicher in Nuremberg was an early recruit, and became editor of the racist magazine Der Stürmer. Others to join the party around this time were WW I flying ace Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler. In December 1920 the party acquired a newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, of which NSDAP ideological chief Alfred Rosenberg became editor.
In 1922, a party with remarkably similar policies and objectives came into power in Italy, the National Fascist Party under the leadership of the charismatic Benito Mussolini. The Fascists, like the Nazis, promoted a national rebirth of their country; opposed communism and liberalism; appealed to the working-class; opposed the Treaty of Versailles; and advocated the territorial expansion of their country. The Italian Fascists used a straight-armed Roman salute and wore black-shirted uniforms. Hitler was inspired by Mussolini and the Fascists, borrowing their use of the straight-armed salute as a Nazi salute. When the Fascists came to power in 1922 in Italy through their coup attempt called the "March on Rome", Hitler began planning his own coup which would materialize one year later.
In January 1923 France occupied the Ruhr industrial region as a result of Germany's failure to meet its reparations payments. This led to economic chaos, the resignation of Wilhelm Cuno's government, and an attempt by the German Communist Party (KPD) to stage a revolution. The reaction to these events was an upsurge of nationalist sentiment. Nazi Party membership grew sharply, to about 20,000. By November, Hitler had decided that the time was right for an attempt to seize power in Munich, in the hope that the Reichswehr (the post-war German military) would mutiny against the Berlin government and join his revolt. In this he was influenced by former General Erich Ludendorff, who had become a supporter—though not a member—of the Nazis.
On the night of 8 November, the Nazis used a patriotic rally in a Munich beer hall to launch an attempted putsch (coup d'état). This so-called Beer Hall Putsch attempt failed almost at once when the local Reichswehr commanders refused to support it. On the morning of 9 November the Nazis staged a march of about 2,000 supporters through Munich in an attempt to rally support. Troops opened fire, and 16 Nazis were killed. Hitler, Ludendorff and a number of others were arrested, and were tried for treason in March 1924. Hitler and his associates were given very lenient prison sentences. While Hitler was in prison, he wrote his semi-autobiographical political manifesto Mein Kampf ("My Struggle").
The Nazi Party was banned, though with support of the nationalist Völkisch-Social Bloc (Völkisch-Sozialer Block), continued to operate under the name of the "German Party" (Deutsche Partei or DP) from 1924 to 1925. The Nazis failed to remain unified in the German Party, as in the north, the right-wing Volkish nationalist supporters of the Nazis moved to the new German Völkisch Freedom Party, leaving the north's left-wing Nazi members, such as Joseph Goebbels retaining support for the party.
Adolf Hitler was released in December 1924. In the following year he re-founded and reorganized the Nazi Party, with himself as its undisputed Leader. The new Nazi Party was no longer a paramilitary organization, and disavowed any intention of taking power by force. In any case, the economic and political situation had stabilized and the extremist upsurge of 1923 had faded, so there was no prospect of further revolutionary adventures. The Nazi Party of 1925 was divided into the "Leadership Corps" (Korps der politischen Leiter), appointed by Hitler, and the general membership (Parteimitglieder). The party and the SA were kept separate, and the legal aspect of the party's work was emphasized. In a sign of this, the party began to admit women. The SA and the SS (founded in April 1925 as Hitler's bodyguard, commanded by Himmler) were described as "support groups", and all members of these groups had first to become regular party members.
The party's nominal Deputy Leader was Rudolf Hess, but he had no real power in the party. By the early 1930s the senior leaders of the party after Hitler were Himmler, Goebbels and Göring. Beneath the Leadership Corps were the party's regional leaders, the Gauleiters, each of whom commanded the party in his Gau ("region"). There were 98 Gaue for Germany and an additional seven for Austria, the Sudetenland (in Czechoslovakia), Danzig and the Territory of the Saar Basin (then under French occupation). Joseph Goebbels began his ascent through the party hierarchy as Gauleiter of Berlin-Brandenburg in 1926. Streicher was Gauleiter of Franconia, where he published his antisemitic newspaper Der Stürmer. Beneath the Gauleiter were lower-level officials, the Kreisleiter ("county leaders"), Zellenleiter ("cell leaders") and Blockleiter ("block leaders"). This was a strictly hierarchical structure in which orders flowed from the top, and unquestioning loyalty was given to superiors. Only the SA retained some autonomy. Being composed largely of unemployed workers, many SA men took the Nazis' socialist rhetoric seriously. At this time, the Hitler salute (borrowed from the Italian fascists) and the greeting "Heil Hitler!" were adopted throughout the party.
The Nazis contested elections to the national parliament, the Reichstag, and to the state legislatures, the Landtags, from 1924, although at first with little success. The "National-Socialist Freedom Movement" polled 3% of the vote in the December 1924 Reichstag elections, and this fell to 2.6% in 1928. State elections produced similar results. Despite these poor results, and despite Germany's relative political stability and prosperity during the later 1920s, the Nazi Party continued to grow. This was partly because Hitler, who had no administrative ability, left the party organization to the head of the secretariat, Philipp Bouhler, the party treasurer Franz Xaver Schwarz and business manager Max Amann. The party had a capable propaganda head in Gregor Strasser, who was promoted to national organizational leader in January 1928. These men gave the party efficient recruitment and organizational structures. The party also owed its growth to the gradual fading away of competitor nationalist groups, such as the DNVP. As Hitler became the recognized head of the German nationalists, other groups declined, or were absorbed.
The party expanded in the 1920s beyond its Bavarian base. Catholic Bavaria maintained its right-wing nostalgia for a Catholic monarch; and Westphalia, along with working-class "Red Berlin", were always the Nazis' weakest areas electorally, and even during the Third Reich itself. The areas of strongest Nazi support were in rural Protestant areas such as Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg, Pomerania and East Prussia. Depressed working-class areas such as Thuringia also gave a strong Nazi vote, while the workers of the Ruhr and Hamburg largely remained loyal to the SPD, the KPD, or the Catholic Centre Party. Nuremberg remained a party stronghold, and the first Nuremberg Rally was held there in 1927. These rallies soon became massive displays of Nazi paramilitary power, and attracted many recruits. The Nazis' strongest appeal was to the lower middle-class – farmers, public servants, teachers, small businessmen – who had suffered most from the inflation of the 1920s, so who feared Bolshevism more than anything else. The small business class were receptive to Hitler's antisemitism, since they blamed Jewish big business for their economic problems. University students, disappointed at being too young to have served in World War I and attracted by the Nazis' radical rhetoric, also became a strong Nazi constituency. By 1929, the party had 130,000 members.
Despite these strengths, the Nazi Party might never have come to power had it not been for the Great Depression and its effects on Germany. By 1930 the German economy was beset with mass unemployment and widespread business failures. The SPD and KPD parties were bitterly divided and unable to formulate an effective solution: this gave the Nazis their opportunity, and Hitler's message, blaming the crisis on the Jewish financiers and the Bolsheviks, resonated with wide sections of the electorate. At the September 1930 Reichstag elections the Nazis won 18.3% of the vote, and became the second-largest party in the Reichstag after the SPD. Hitler proved to be a highly effective campaigner, pioneering the use of radio and aircraft for this purpose. His dismissal of Strasser and appointment of Goebbels as the party's propaganda chief was a major factor. While Strasser had used his position to promote his own leftish version of national socialism, Goebbels was totally loyal to Hitler, and worked only to burnish Hitler's image.
The 1930 elections changed the German political landscape by weakening the traditional nationalist parties, the DNVP and the DVP, leaving the Nazis as the chief alternative to the discredited SPD and the Zentrum, whose leader, Heinrich Brüning, headed a weak minority government. The inability of the democratic parties to form a united front, the self-imposed isolation of the KPD, and the continued decline of the economy, all played into Hitler's hands. He now came to be seen as de facto leader of the opposition, and donations poured into the Nazi Party's coffers. Some major business figures such as Fritz Thyssen were Nazi supporters and gave generously, and some Wall Street figures were allegedly involved, but many other businessmen were suspicious of the extreme nationalist tendencies of the Nazis, and preferred to support the traditional conservative parties instead.
During 1931 and into 1932, Germany's political crisis deepened. In March 1932 Hitler ran for President against the incumbent President Paul von Hindenburg, polling 30.1% in the first round and 36.8% in the second against Hindenburg's 49 and 53%. By now the SA had 400,000 members, and its running street battles with the SPD and KPD paramilitaries (who also fought each other) reduced some German cities to combat zones. Paradoxically, although the Nazis were among the main instigators of this disorder, part of Hitler's appeal to a frightened and demoralised middle class was his promise to restore law and order. Overt antisemitism was played down in official Nazi rhetoric, but was never far from the surface. Germans voted for Hitler primarily because of his promises to revive the economy (by unspecified means), to restore German greatness and overturn the Treaty of Versailles, and to save Germany from communism.
On 20 July 1932, the Prussian government was ousted by a coup—the Preussenschlag, and a few days later at the July 1932 Reichstag election the Nazis made another leap forward, polling 37.4% and becoming the largest party in the Reichstag by a wide margin. Furthermore, the Nazis and the KPD between them won 52% of the vote and a majority of seats. Since both parties opposed the established political system, and neither would join or support any ministry, this made the formation of a majority government impossible. The result was weak ministries governing by decree. Under Comintern directives, the KPD maintained its policy of treating the SPD as the main enemy, calling them "social fascists", thereby splintering opposition to the Nazis. Later, both the SPD and the KPD accused each other of having facilitated Hitler's rise to power by their unwillingness to compromise.
Chancellor Franz von Papen called another Reichstag election in November, hoping to find a way out of this impasse. The electoral result was the same, with the Nazis and the KPD winning 50% of the vote between them and more than half the seats, rendering this Reichstag no more workable than its predecessor. But support for the Nazis had fallen to 33.1%, suggesting that the Nazi surge had passed its peak – possibly because the worst of the Depression had passed, possibly because some middle-class voters had supported Hitler in July as a protest, but had now drawn back from the prospect of actually putting him into power. The Nazis interpreted the result as a warning that they must seize power before their moment passed. Had the other parties united, this could have been prevented, but their shortsightedness made a united front impossible. Papen, his successor Kurt von Schleicher, and the nationalist press magnate Alfred Hugenberg spent December and January in political intrigues that eventually persuaded President Hindenburg it was safe to appoint Hitler Reich Chancellor at the head of a cabinet including only a minority of Nazi ministers—which he did on 30 January 1933.
Hitler in Mein Kampf directly attacked both left-wing and right-wing politics in Germany. However, a majority of scholars identify Nazism in practice as being a far-right form of politics. When asked in an interview whether he and the Nazis were "bourgeois right-wing" as alleged by their opponents, Hitler responded that Nazism was not exclusively for any class, and indicated that it favoured neither the left nor the right, but preserved "pure" elements from both "camps", stating: "From the camp of bourgeois tradition, it takes national resolve, and from the materialism of the Marxist dogma, living, creative Socialism".
The votes that the Nazis received in the 1932 elections established the Nazi Party as the largest parliamentary faction of the Weimar Republic government. Adolf Hitler was appointed as Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933.
The Reichstag fire on 27 February 1933 was Adolf Hitler's raison d'état for suppressing his political opponents. The following day, 28 February, he persuaded Weimar Republic President Paul von Hindenburg to grant him, as German Chancellor, an emergency-powers decree suspending civil liberties and the governments of the German federal states. On 23 March, with an Enabling Act (four-year Presidential decree-law power circumventing the Reichstag), the Reichstag conferred dictatorial powers to Chancellor Adolf Hitler, who subsequently personally managed the political emergencies of the German State, by decree. Moreover, then possessing virtually absolute power, the Nazis established totalitarian control; they abolished labour unions and political parties, and imprisoned their political opponents, first at wilde Lager, improvised camps, then in concentration camps. Nazism had been established, yet the Reichswehr remained impartial: Nazi power over Germany remained virtual, not absolute.
|May 1, 1924May 1924||1,918,300||6.5||32||Hitler in prison|
|December 1, 1924December 1924||907,300||3.0||14||Hitler released from prison|
|May 1, 1928May 1928||810,100||2.6||12|
|September 1, 1930September 1930||6,409,600||18.3||107||After the financial crisis|
|July 1, 1932July 1932||13,745,000||37.3||230||After Hitler was candidate for presidency|
|November 1, 1932November 1932||11,737,000||33.1||196|
|March 1, 1933March 1933||17,277,180||43.9||288||During Hitler's term as Chancellor of Germany|
The National Socialist Program was a formulation of the policies of the party. It contained 25 points and is thus also known as the '25 point plan' or the '25 point program'. It was the official party program, with minor changes, from its proclamation as such by Hitler in 1920, when the party was still the German Workers' Party, until its dissolution.
At the top of the Nazi Party was the party chairman ("Der Führer"), who held absolute power and full command over the party. All other party offices were subordinate to his position and had to depend on his instructions. In 1934, Hitler founded a separate body for the chairman, Chancellery of the Führer, with its own sub-units.
Below the Führer's chancellery was first the "Staff of the Deputy Führer" (headed by Rudolf Hess from 21 April 1933 to 10 May 1941) and then the "Party Chancellery" (Parteikanzlei) headed by Martin Bormann.
Directly subjected to the Führer were the Reichsleiters ("Reich Leader"), whose number was gradually increased to eighteen. They held power and influence comparable to the Reich Ministers' in Hitler's Cabinet. The eighteen Reichsleiters formed the "Reich Leadership of the Nazi Party" (Reichsleitung der NSDAP), which was established at the so-called Brown House, in Munich. Unlike the Gauleiters, the Reichsleiters did not have individual geographic areas under their command, but were responsible for specific spheres of interest.
The political leadership corps of the Nazi Party were those persons who were most often associated as being "Nazis" in the stereotypical sense of the word, as it was these individuals who wore brown paramilitary Nazi uniforms, enforced Nazi doctrine, and ran local government affairs in accordance with instructions from the Nazi Party.
The political leadership corps encompassed a vast array of paramilitary titles at the top of which were the Gauleiters, who were Party leaders of large geographical areas. From the Gauleiters extended downwards through Nazi positions encompassing county, city, and town leaders, all of whom were unquestioned rulers in their particular areas and regions.
To the very end of its existence, the Nazi Party claimed to respect the traditional government of Germany and, to that end, local and state governments were allowed to exist side-by-side with regional Nazi leaders. However, by 1936, the local governments had lost nearly all power to their Nazi counterparts or were now controlled by persons who held both government and Nazi titles alike. This led to the continued existence of German titles such as Bürgermeister, as well as the existence of German state legislatures (Landesrat), but without any real power to speak of.
The general Nazi Party membership were known by the title of Parteimitglieder. This generic term applied to any member of the Party who did not otherwise hold a political leadership position. Translated simply as "Party Member", the Parteimitglieder could (and did) hold positions in other Nazi groups, such as the SS or Sturmabteilung. The only insignia for the Parteimitglieder was a Nazi Party lapel-pin; Nazi Party members who held no leadership posts had no specific designated uniform. Such persons, however, often wore uniforms of other Nazi groups, uniforms of German government agencies, and could also serve in the German armed forces.
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The Nazi Party had a number of party offices dealing with various political and other matters. These included:
In addition to the NSDAP proper, several paramilitary groups existed which "supported" Nazi aims. All members of these paramilitary organizations were required to become regular Nazi Party members first and could then enlist in the group of their choice. A vast system of Nazi party paramilitary ranks developed for each of the various paramilitary groups.
The major Nazi Party paramilitary groups were as follows:
The Hitler Youth was a paramilitary group divided into an adult leadership corps and a general membership open to boys aged fourteen to eighteen. The League of German Girls was the equivalent group for girls.
Certain nominally independent organizations had their own legal representation and own property, but were supported by the Nazi Party. Many of these associated organizations were labor unions of various professions. Some were older organizations that were nazified according to the Gleichschaltung policy after the 1933 takeover:
For the purpose of centralization in the Gleichschaltung process a rigidly hierarchal structure was established in the Nazi Party, which it later carried through in the whole of Germany in order consolidate total power under the person of Hitler (Führerstaat). It was regionally sub-divided into a number of Gaue (singular: Gau) headed by a Gauleiter, who received their orders directly from Hitler. The name (originally a term for sub-regions of the Holy Roman Empire headed by a Gaugraf) for these new provincial structures was deliberately chosen because of its mediaeval connotations. The term is approximately equivalent to the English shire.
After the Anschluss a new type of administrative unit was introduced called a Reichsgau. In these territories the Gauleiters also held the position of Reichsstatthalter, thereby formally combining the spheres of both party and state offices. The establishment of this type of district was subsequently carried out for any further territorial annexations of Germany both before and during World War II.
The Gaue and Reichsgaue (state or province) were further sub-divided into Kreise (counties) headed by a Kreisleiter, which were in turn sub-divided into Zellen (cells) and Blocken (blocks), headed by a Zellenleiter and Blockleiter respectively.
A reorganization of the Gaue was enacted on 1 October 1928. The given numbers were the official ordering numbers. The statistics are from 1941, for which the Gau organization of that moment in time forms the basis. Their size and populations are not exact; for instance according to the official party statistics the Gau Kurmark/Mark Brandenburg was the largest in the German Reich.
The table below uses the organizational structure that existed before its dissolution in 1945. More information on the older Gaue is in the second table.
|Nr.||Gau||Headquarters||Area (km²)||Inhabitants (1941)||Gauleiter (exl. deputies)|
|01||Baden-Elsaß||Karlsruhe, after 1940 Strasbourg||23,350||2,502,023||Robert Heinrich Wagner, from 1925 (later also Reichsstatthalter)|
|02||Bayreuth, renaming of Gau Bayerische Ostmark (Bavarian Eastern March)||Bayreuth||29,600||2,370,658||Fritz Wächtler from 2 June 1942 to 19 April 1945, then from 19 April 1945 Ludwig Ruckdeschel.|
|03||Groß-Berlin||Berlin||884||4,338,756||Ernst Schlange from 1925 to 1926, then from 1 November 1926 to 30 April 1945 Joseph Goebbels|
|04||Danzig-Westpreußen||Danzig||26,057||2,287,394||Hans Albert Hohnfeldt from 1926 to 1928, then from 1928 to 1930 Walter Maass, then from 15 October 1930 onwards Albert Forster|
|05||Düsseldorf||Düsseldorf||2,672||2,261,909||Friedrich Karl Florian from 1 January 1930|
|06||Essen||Essen||2,825||1,921,326||Josef Terboven (Oberpräsident) from 1928|
|07||Franken||Nuremberg||7,618||1,077,216||from 1929 to 1940 Julius Streicher ("Frankenführer"), then from 16 February 1940 to 1942 Hans Zimmermann, then from 19 March 1942 Karl Holz|
|08||Halle-Merseburg||Halle an der Saale||10,202||1,578,292||from 1925 to 30 July 1926 Walter Ernst 1 August 1926 to 1927, then from 1927 to 1930 Paul Hinkler, then from 1930 to 20 April 1937 Rudolf Jordan, then from 20 April 1937 Joachim Albrecht Eggeling|
|09||Hamburg||Hamburg||747||1,711,877||Joseph Klant from 1925 to 1926, then from 1927 to 1928 Albert Krebs, then from 1928 to 15 April 1929 Hinrich Lohse, then from 15 April 1929 Karl Kaufmann|
|10||Hessen-Nassau||Frankfurt||15,030||3,117,266||Jakob Sprenger from 1933|
|11||Kärnten||Klagenfurt||11,554||449,713||Hans vom Kothen from February 1933 to July 1934, then Peter Feistritzer from October 1936 to 20 February 1938, then from 1938 to 1939 Hubert Klausner, then from 1940 to 1941 Franz Kutschera, then from 1942 to 1944 Friedrich Rainer|
|12||Köln-Aachen||Köln||8,162||2,432,095||Joseph Grohé from 1931|
|13||Kurhessen||Kassel||9,200||971,887||Walter Schultz from 1926 to 1927, then from 1928 to 1943 Karl Weinrich, then from 1943 Karl Gerland|
|14||Magdeburg-Anhalt||Dessau||13,910||1,820,416||from 1927 onwards, with a short-lived replacement by Paul Hofmann in 1933, to 23 October 1935 Wilhelm Friedrich Loeper, then from 1935 to 1937 Joachim Albrecht Leo Eggeling, then from 1937 Rudolf Jordan|
|15||Mainfranken, renaming of Gau Unterfranken||Würzburg||8,432||840,663||Otto Hellmuth from 3 September 1928|
|16||Mark Brandenburg||Berlin||38,278||3,007,933||Wilhelm Kube from 6 March 1933 to 7 August 1936, then Emil Stürtz|
|17||Mecklenburg||Schwerin||15,722||900,427||Friedrich Hildebrandt from 1925 onwards with a short-lived replacement by Herbert Albrecht from July 1930 to 1931|
|18||Moselland, renaming of Gau Koblenz-Trier in 1942||Koblenz||11,876||1,367,354||Gustav Simon from 1 June 1931|
|19||München-Oberbayern,||Munich||16,411||1,938,447||Adolf Wagner von 1933 to 1944, then from April 1944 Paul Giesler|
|20||Niederdonau||Nominal capital: Krems, District Headquarters: Vienna||23,502||1,697,676||From 12 March 1938 to 24 May 1938 Roman Jäger, then from 24 May 1938 to 8 May 1945 Hugo Jury|
|21||Niederschlesien||Breslau||26,985||3,286,539||Karl Hanke from 1940|
|22||Oberdonau||Linz||14,216||1,034,871||Andreas Bolek from June 1927 to 1 August 1934, then from March 1935 August Eigruber|
|23||Oberschlesien||Kattowitz||20,636||4,341,084||Fritz Bracht from 27 January 1941]|
|24||Ost-Hannover (also known as Hannover-Ost)||Harburg, then Buchholz, after 1 April 1937 Lüneburg||18,006||1,060,509||from 1 October 1928 Otto Telschow|
|25||Ostpreußen||Königsberg||52,731||3,336,777||Bruno Gustav Scherwitz from 1925 to 1927, then from 1928 Erich Koch|
|26||Pommern||Stettin||38,409||2,393,844||Theodor Vahlen from 1925 to 1927, then from 1928 to 1931 Walter von Corswant, then from 1931 to 1934 Wilhelm Karpenstein, then from 1935 Franz Schwede-Coburg|
|27||Sachsen||Dresden||14,995||5,231,739||Albert Wierheim around 1925/1926, Martin Mutschmann from 1925|
|28||Salzburg||Salzburg||7,153||257,226||Leopold Malina from 1926 to ??, then Karl Scharizer from 1932 to 1934, then from 1939 to 1941 Friedrich Rainer, then from 1941 Gustav Adolf Scheel|
|29||Schleswig-Holstein||Kiel||15,687||1,589,267||Hinrich Lohse from 1925|
|30||Schwaben||Augsburg||10,231||946,212||Karl Wahl from 1928|
|31||Steiermark||Graz||17,384||1,116,407||Walther Oberhaidacher from 25 November 1928 to 1934, then Sepp Helfrich from 1934 to 1938, then from 22 May 1938 Siegfried Uiberreither|
|32||Sudetenland, until 1939 known as Gau Sudetengau||Reichenberg||22,608||2,943,187||Konrad Henlein from 1939|
|33||Südhannover-Braunschweig||Hannover||14,553||2,136,961||from 1 October 1928 to November 1940 Bernhard Rust, then from November 1940 Hartmann Lauterbacher|
|34||Thüringen||Weimar||15,763||2,446,182||Artur Dinter from 1925 to 1927, then from 1927 Fritz Sauckel|
|35||Tirol-Vorarlberg||Innsbruck||13,126||486,400||Franz Hofer from 1932|
|36||Wartheland, until 29 January 1940 known as Gau Warthegau)||Posen||43,905||4,693,722||Arthur Karl Greiser from 21 October 1939|
|37||Weser-Ems||Oldenburg||15,044||1,839,302||Carl Röver from 1929 to 1942, then from 1942 Paul Wegener|
|38||Westfalen-Nord||Münster||14,559||2,822,603||Alfred Meyer from 1932|
|39||Westfalen-Süd||Bochum||7,656||2,678,026||Josef Wagner from 1932 to 1941, Paul Giesler from 1941 to 1943/44, then from 1943/44 Albert Hoffmann|
|40||Westmark, renaming of Gau Saar-Pfalz (also known as Saarpfalz)||Neustadt an der Weinstraße, after 1940 Saarbrücken||14,713||1,892,240||Josef Bürckel from 1935 to 28 September 1944, then from 28 September 1944 Willi Stöhr|
|41||Wien||Vienna||1,216||1,929,976||Alfred Eduard Frauenfeld from 1932 to 1938, then from May 1938 to January 1939 Odilo Globocnik, then from 1939 to 1940 Josef Bürckel, and then from 1940 Baldur von Schirach|
|42||Württemberg-Hohenzollern||Stuttgart||20,657||2,974,373||Eugen Mander from 1925 to 1928, then from 1928 Wilhelm Murr|
|43||Auslandsorganisation (also known as NSDAP/AO)||Berlin||Hans Nieland from 1930 to 1933, then from 8 May 1933 Ernst Wilhelm Bohle|
Simple re-namings of existing Gaue without territorial changes is marked with the initials RN in the column "later became". The numbering is not based on any official former ranking, but merely listed alphabetically.
|Nr.||Gau||consisted of||later became||... together with||Gauleiter|
|01||Anhalt||Magdeburg-Anhalt (1927)||Elbe-Havel||Gustav Hermann Schmischke|
|02||Baden||Baden-Elsaß (22 March 1941) RN||see above|
|03||Bayerische Ostmark||Oberfranken & Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (II) (19 January 1933)||Bayreuth (2 Juni 1942) RN||Hans Schemm from 19 January 1933 to 5 March 1935, then from 5 March 1935 Fritz Wächtler|
|04||Berlin||Berlin-Brandenburg (1. Oktober 1928)||Groß-Berlin RN||Dr. Joseph Goebbels|
|05||Berlin-Brandenburg||Berlin & Brandenburg (1 October 1928)||Ernst Schlange from 1925 to 1926, then from 1 November 1926 Joseph Goebbels|
|06||Brandenburg||Berlin-Brandenburg (1 October 1928)||Kurmark (6 March 1933)||Ostmark||from 1 October 1928 to 1932 Emil Holtz and from 18 October 1932 to 16 March 1933 Dr. Ernst Schlange|
|07||Braunschweig||Süd-Hannover-Braunschweig (1 Oktober 1928)||Hannover-Süd||from 1925 to 30 September 1928 Ludolf Haase (perhaps also only for Hannover-Süd)|
|08||Danzig||Danzig-Westpreußen (1939) RN||see above|
|09||Elbe-Havel||Magdeburg-Anhalt (1927)||Anhalt||from 25 November 1925 to 1926 [?] Alois Bachschmidt|
|10||Groß-München ("Traditionsgau")||München-Oberbayern (1933)||Oberbayern||[?]|
|11||Hannover-Süd||Süd-Hannover-Braunschweig (1 October 1928)||Braunschweig||from 1925 to 30 September 1928 Ludolf Haase (perhaps also only Braunschweig)|
|12||Hessen-Darmstadt||Hessen-Nassau (1933)||Hessen-Nassau-Süd||from 1 March 1927 to 9 January 1931 Friedrich Ringshausen, then only in 1931 Peter Gemeinder, then from 1932 to 1933 Karl Lenz|
|14||Hessen-Nassau-Süd||Hessen-Nassau (1933)||Hessen-Darmstadt||from 1925 to 1926 Anton Haselmayer, then from 1926 to 1927 Dr. Walter Schultz, then from 1927 to 1933 Jakob Sprenger|
|15||Koblenz-Trier||Rheinland-Süd (1931)||Moselland (1942) merger||[?]|
|16||Kurmark||Ostmark & Brandenburg ([?])||Mark Brandenburg (1938) RN||see above|
|17||Lüneburg-Stade||Ost-Hannover (1928) RN||from 22 March 1925 to 30 September 1928 Bernhard Rust|
|18||Mittelfranken||Franken (1929)||Nuremberg-Forth-Erlangen||Julius Streicher ("Frankenführer")|
|19||Niederbayern||Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (I) (1 Oktober 1928)||Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (II) (1 April 1932)||Oberpfalz||from 1 October 1928 to 1929 Gregor Strasser, then from 1929 to 1 April 1932 Otto Erbersdobler|
|20||Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (I)||Oberpfalz & Niederbayern (1 Oktober 1928)||from 1925 to 30 September 1928 Gregor Strasser|
|21||Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (II)||Oberpfalz & Niederbayern (1 April 1932)||Bayerische Ostmark (19 January 1933)||Oberfranken||from 1 April 1932 to 19 January 1933 Franz Mayerhofer|
|22||Niederösterreich||Niederdonau ([?]) RN [??]||from 1927 to 1937 Josef Leopold [possibly Lücke from 1937 to 1939, since he is the first Gauleiter for Niederdonau who is actually known]|
|23||Nuremberg-Forth-Erlangen||Franken (1929)||Mittelfranken||from 3 September 1928 Wilhelm Grimm|
|25||Oberfranken||Bayerische Ostmark (19 January 1933)||Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (II)||from 1928 Hans Schemm|
|26||Oberösterreich||Oberdonau ([?]) RN||[precise moment of leader designation unknown, see also "Oberdonau"]|
|27||Oberpfalz||Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (I) (1 October 1928)||Niederbayern-Oberpfalz (II) (1 April 1932)||Niederbayern||from 1 October 1928 to 1 April 1932 Franz Mayerhofer|
|28||Ostmark||Kurmark (6 March 1933)||Brandenburg||from 2 January 1928 to 1933 Wilhelm Kube|
|29||Rheinland||Saar-Pfalz (1935)||Saar(land)||from 1926 Josef Bürckel (from 1 March 1933 also administrator of Saarland)|
|30||Rheinland-Nord||Ruhr (1926)||Westfalen||from 1925 to 1926 Karl Kaufmann|
|31||Rheinland-Süd||[?Koblenz-Trier also autonomous before 1931?]||Köln-Aachen & Koblenz-Trier (1931)||1925 Heinrich Haake (also known as "Heinz Haake"), then from 1925 to 1931 Robert Ley|
|32||Ruhr||Rheinland-Nord & Westfalen (1926)||Westfalen-Nord & Westfalen-Süd (1932)||Düsseldorf (1930) partially; creation of Düsseldorf nicht gesichert||from 1926 to 1929 Karl Kaufmann, then from 1929 to 1931 [?not 1932?] Josef Wagner|
|33||Saarland, also merely Saar||Saar-Pfalz (1935)||Rheinland||from August 1929 to 28 February 1933 Karl Brück, from 1 March 1933 Josef Bürckel (also administrator of Rheinland)|
|34||Saar-Pfalz, also Saarpfalz||Rheinland & Saar(land) (1935)||Westmark (1937) RN||see above|
|35||Schlesien||Niederschlesien & Oberschlesien (1940)||from 15 March 1925 to 25 December 1935 (possibly until only 12 December 1934) Helmuth Brückner, then to 1940 Josef Wagner|
|36||Sudetengau||Sudetenland (1939) RN||[?]|
|37||Unterfranken||Mainfranken (1935) RN||see above|
|38||Warthegau||Wartheland (29 January 1940) RN||see above|
|39||Westfalen||Ruhr (1926)||Rheinland-Nord||from 1925 to 1926 Franz Pfeffer von Salomon|
The illegal Swiss branch of the NSDAP also established a number of Party Gaue in that country, most of them named after their regional capitals. These included Gau Basel-Solothurn, Gau Schaffhausen, Gau Luzern, Gau Bern and Gau Zürich. The cantons of St. Gallen, Thurgau und Appenzell were administered under Gau Ostschweiz (East Switzerland).
Mimicking the regional administrative subdivision of the Nazi Party, the German American Bund divided the United States in the three Gaue: Gau Ost (East), Gau West, and Gau Midwest. Together the three Gaue had 69 Ortsgruppen, with 40 of them being in Gau Ost (17 in New York), 10 in Gau West and 19 in Gau Midwest. Each Gau had its own Gauleiter and staff to direct the Bund operations in the region in accordance with the Führerprinzip.
The general membership of the Nazi Party, known as the Parteimitglieder, mainly consisted of the urban and rural lower middle classes. 7% belonged to the upper class, another 7% were peasants, 35% were industrial workers and 51% were what can be described as middle class. In early 1933, just before Hitler's appointment to the chancellorship, the party showed an under-representation of "workers", who made up 29.7% of the membership but 46.3% of German society. Conversely, white-collar employees (18.6% of members and 12% of Germans), the self-employed (19.8% of members and 9.6% of Germans), and civil servants (15.2% of members and 4.8% of the German population) had joined in proportions greater than their share of the general population. These members were affiliated with local branches of the party, of which there were 1,378 throughout the country in 1928. In 1932, the number had risen to 11,845, reflecting the party's growth in this period.
When it came to power in 1933, the Nazi Party had over 2 million members. In 1939, the membership total rose to 5.3 million with 81% being male and 19% being female. It continued to attract many more and by 1945 the party reached its peak of 8 million with 63% being male and 37% being female.
Nazi members with military ambitions were encouraged to join the Waffen-SS, but a great number enlisted in the Wehrmacht and even more were drafted for service after World War II began. Early regulations required that all Wehrmacht members be non-political, and therefore any Nazi member joining in the 1930s was required to resign from the Nazi Party.
This regulation was soon waived, however, and there is ample evidence that full Nazi Party members served in the Wehrmacht in particular after the outbreak of World War II. The Wehrmacht Reserves also saw a high number of senior Nazis enlisting, with Reinhard Heydrich and Fritz Todt joining the Luftwaffe, and Major Ronald von Brysonstofen of the Waffen-SS, as well as Karl Hanke who served in the Army.
In 1926, the NSDAP formed a special division to engage the student population, known as the National Socialist German Students' League (NSDStB). A group for university lecturers, the National Socialist German University Lecturers' League, (NSDDB) existed until July 1944.
The National Socialist Women's League was the women's organization of the party. By 1938 it had approximately 2 million members.
Party members who lived outside of Germany were pooled into the Auslands-Organisation (NSDAP/AO, "Foreign Organization"). The organization was limited only to so-called "Imperial Germans"; "Ethnic Germans" (Volksdeutsche) who did not hold German citizenship were not permitted to join.
Deutsche Gemeinschaft was a branch of the Nazi Party founded in 1919, created for Germans with Volksdeutsche status. It is not to be confused with the post-war right-wing Deutsche Gemeinschaft (see de:Deutsche Gemeinschaft) party founded in 1949.
Notable members included:
5-Reichsmark coins before (1936) and after adding the Nazi swastika (1938)