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His political career began in 1919 when he became Member No. 7 of the midget German Labor Party. Discovering his powers of oratory, Hitler soon became the party's leader, changed its name to the National Socialist German Labor Party, wrote its antiSemitic, antidemocratic, authoritarian program. The party's first mass meeting took place in Munich in February 1920. The leader intended to participate in a monarchist attempt to seize power a month later; but for this abortive Putsch Führer Hitler arrived too late. An even less successful National Socialist attempt—the famed Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923—provided the party with dead martyrs, landed Herr Hitler in jail. His incarceration at Landsberg Fortress gave him time to write the first volume of Mein Kampf, now a "must" on every German bookshelf.*
Outlawed in many German districts, the National Socialist Party nevertheless climbed steadily in membership. Time-honored Tammany Hall methods of handing out many small favors were combined with rowdy terrorism and lurid, patriotic propaganda. The picture of a mystic, abstemious, charismatic Führer was assiduously cultivated.
Not until 1929 did National Socialism win its first absolute majority in a city election (at Coburg) and make its first significant showing in a provincial election (in Thuringia). But from 1928 on the party almost continually gained in electoral strength. In the Reichstag elections of 1928 it polled 809,000 votes. Two years later 6,401,016 Germans voted for National Socialist deputies, while in 1932 the vote was 13,732,779. While still short of a majority, the vote was nevertheless impressive proof of the power of the man and his movement.
The situation which gave rise to this demagogic, ignorant, desperate movement was inherent in the German Republic's birth and in the craving of large sections of the politically immature German people for strong, masterful leadership. Democracy in Germany was conceived in the womb of military defeat. It was the Republic which put its signature (unwillingly) to the humiliating Versailles Treaty, a brand of shame which it never lived down in German minds.
That the German people love uniforms, parades, military formations, and submit easily to authority is no secret. Führer Hitler's own hero is Frederick the Great. That admiration stems undoubtedly from Frederick's military prowess and autocratic rule rather than from Frederick's love of French culture and his hatred of Prussian boorishness. But unlike the polished Frederick, Führer Hitler, whose reading has always been very limited, invites few great minds to visit him, nor would Führer Hitler agree with Frederick's contention that he was "tired of ruling over slaves."*