Hitler and the DAP
The German Workers' Union was conceived by Anton Drexler on
the seventh of March, 1918. Drexler's union consisted of
about forty members, most of whom were railwaymen, that
were banded together by shared sentiments of fierce
nationalism, anti-Semitism, and support for the war effort.
Previous to the end of World War I, this small union
carried the rather verbose title of the "Free Labor
Committee for a Good Peace." At this time the organization
adhered to a rather straightforward program-"Strikers,
Bolsheviks, Jews, malingerers, and war profiteers were the
enemy, and it was the duty of the workers to unite behind
the war effort." (Payne, 135) However, after the disastrous
conclusion to the war, Drexler's union, having changed its
name to the "German Worker's Party," lacked any coherent
program and was on the brink of collapse when Hitler
inadvertently stepped into the picture.
When this happened the party ceased to be Drexler's partly;
it became Hitler's. The German Workers' Party (Deutsche
Arbeiterpartei) became the foundation of the
Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, commonly
abbreviated as the NAZI party. Hitler's ability to
transform this forty-member union into the dominant
political force that it became gives us clear indication
that he was an inherent leader and a master of propaganda.
In fact, I believe, that without his introduction to the
DAP, the Nazi party would probably never have been formed.
Hitler was assigned to attend his first DAP meeting on the
twelfth of September, 1919 in order to investigate the
party and its activities for the military. In the course of
the meeting, Hitler became actively involved in one of the
arguments. He refuted one person with such force that the
man left "like a wet noodle" before Hitler was even
finished speaking. However, Hitler's only purpose for that
meeting was to attend and then write a report. For this
reason he took one of Drexler's pamphlets which detailed
much of the group's political philosophy. Here he found "in
Drexler a prophet after his own heart." (Payne, 137) In one
chapter, "The Jew and His Activity Before and During the
World War," Drexler wrote:
There is a race-or perhaps we should call it a nation-which
for over two thousand years has not possessed a state of
its own, but has nevertheless spread over the entire earth.
They are the Jews...They quickly conquered the money
market, although they began in poverty, and were thereby
made all the richer in vice, vermin and pestilence... Only
one per cent of the total population is Jewish but for
thousands of years the Jews, form the highest to the
lowest, have grimly pursued the thought that this tiny
people should never serve rulers but always govern them.
Yet they are unable to form a state of their own. (Drexler,
Drexler was equally impressed with Hitler, and immediately
saw his potential. Thus, Drexler invited him to attend one
of the executive committee meetings. Hitler did attend the
meeting; however, he was not too impressed with the
organization. "This was all frightful, frightful. This was
the life of a little club at the lowest possible level. Was
I to join an organization like this ?" (quot. by Payne,
138) Although he did eventually become the fifty-fifth
member and the seventh committee member, "in a sense he
[never did] really join the party, for when he became a
card carrying member it was with the intention of
destroying it and re-creating it in his own image." (Payne,
Hitler's first step in developing the party was to take
over the propaganda work. He had to advance the party's
small gatherings from small to large scale. To begin, he
arranged that their meetings take place in larger halls.
Presently, they were held in obscure taverns like the
Hofbrauhauskeller with an attendance of only about one
hundred and fifty people. After his decision, they were
moved to a much larger tavern named Zum Deutschen Reich.
There, within four subsequent meetings, the attendance
increased to over four hundred. Through these meetings
Hitler established himself as a political figure and as a
powerful voice of the people.
In his own words, Hitler said, "To be a leader means to be
able to move masses." (Hitler, 474) Thus he took it upon
himself "to not only move the masses, but to create a mass
movement." (Jarman, 91) At the DAP meetings, he spoke so
that one would feel like he was part of some vast and
powerful movement. He was able to stir the crowds into such
a fervor that they would agree to whatever he said, thereby
making the gatherings an exercise of mass suggestion. He
welcomed the occurrence of violence at the meetings, as
when his bouncers (later to become the 'Brownshirts')
crushed an adversary, the power of the party and the
influence of the message were seemingly enhanced.
Hitler also put himself in control of making the posters
and fliers that advertised the meetings. These showed a
mastery of propaganda that was probably unsurpassed at that
time. He used red paper as red catches a person's attention
better than any other color. (Nor did he mind that the
communists used the same color.) On it he wrote the
information in various sizes of lettering, so that the
largest letters shouted to the observer much like he might
shout during a speech. As one historian wrote, "the art of
propaganda was being studied by a master."
When he first became involved with the workings of the
party it was still in need of a program. He quickly
remedied this problem. He, Drexler, and another committee
member Dietrich Eckart developed twenty-five points which
detailed the party's new program. I say that all three
cooperated on their development simply because there is
much dispute as to all of their roles in drafting the
program. Drexler consistently claimed that only he and
Hitler wrote it, while later drafts can be seen to be
grossly rewritten by Hitler with the help of Eckart.
However, much of the program was largely influenced by
Hitler which can be seen by the inclusion of the
categorical imperative "We demand." (This was a
characteristic of his speeches since his first. The other
speakers would only say "we declare" or "we ask," etc.)
Nevertheless, regardless of who wrote it, it was largely a
work of Hitler's influence and philosophy. The program
included such points as:
1) We demand the union of all Germans in a Great Germany on
the basis of the principle of self-determination of all
4) Only those who are our fellow countrymen can become
citizens. Only those who have German blood, regardless of
creed, can be our countrymen. Hence no Jew can be a
9) All citizens must possess equal rights and duties.
11) We demand that all unearned income, and all income that
does not arise from work, be abolished.
14) We demand profit-sharing in large industries.
15) We demand a generous increase in old-age pensions.
18) We demand that ruthless war be waged against those who
work to the injury of the common welfare. Traitors,
usurers, profiteers, etc., are to be punished with death,
regardless of creed or race.
25) In order to carry out this program we demand: the
creation of a strong central authority in the State, the
unconditional authority by the political central parliament
of the whole State and all its organizations.
Despite this grand program, in which many people's
questions were answered, and which gave many a direction to
work toward, "it never possessed the importance which it
might have had in a party founded on reason and argument.
The real driving force in the Party's development was...
the personality of Hitler." (Jarmen, 90). The speech in
which he delivered the program provides a good example. At
this particular meeting there were about two thousand
people present-the hall was filled to capacity. In these
numbers, Hitler was pleased to see that there were a good
number of communists, as that would mean that the gathering
would be exciting. Even before he read the points, he had
the audience in a frenzy. "The screaming and shouting were
slowly drowned out by the applause." (Hitler, 405) He then
began to read the program to a "people united by a new
conviction, a new faith, a new will." During his speech he
deliberately attacked the Berlin government, the Jews, and
other parties, so that one police reporter present wrote,
"Ungeheuer Tumult," translated, "Fearful Uproar." Two years
later Hitler wrote in one article that he had felt as if "a
wolf had been born, destined to hurl itself on the herds of
seducers and deceivers of the people." (quot. by Payne, 148)
It was during the development of the party's twenty-five
points that Hitler decided to change the name of the party
to the Nationalsozialistiche Deutsche Arbeiterpartei,
abbreviated NSDAP or Nazi. To symbolize the new party and
the new program, Hitler himself designed a flag as an
insignia of the movement. "Whipping in the wind, the
swastika flag suggested streaming blood, black pistons in
violent motion, sudden flares of energy." (Payne, 153) He
discussed its development with some detail in his Mein
As National Socialists we see our program in our flag. In
the red we see the social idea of the movement, in the
white the national idea, in the swastika the mission to
struggle for the victory of Aryan man and at the same time
the victory of the idea of creative work, which is
eternally anti-Semitic and always will be anti-Semitic.
Hitler saw to it that this party development was also
solely his own. "Even the measurements of the armbands and
the exact proportions of the flag were dictated by him."
By this time, only a little more than one short year after
his first meeting, the NSDAP had grown rapidly. By November
of 1921, the meetings were normally held at the Krone
Circus where crowds of more than six thousand were commonly
in attendance. The number of card holding, or due paying,
members had increased to three thousand, and the party
published its own newspaper. Through all of this, Hitler
could not have been called anything less than the party's
dictator. This fact caused the older members of the party
to feel increasingly isolated and without any significant
role to play. (Jarmen, 92) Anton Drexler once approached
Hitler to remind him to heed the advice of the executive
committee. However, Hitler "totally disregarded him."
In response to the growing opposition of the older members,
Hitler decided to demonstrate his power the simplest way-he
simply left the area for a short while. The others found
that no one else was capable of carrying on the workings of
the party. When they begged him to return, Hitler made them
sign "an instrument of surrender."
In view of your immense knowledge, the services you have
rendered in the most honorable fashion and with rare
self-sacrifice to the growth of the party, and your
exceptional oratorical skills, the Committee is prepared to
grant you dictatorial powers. If you should choose to
return to the party, they will feel extremely honored if
you will accept the post of First President, which Drexler
has already offered you over a long period of time.
In addition to this document which assured the committee's
subservience to Hitler, he decided to arrange for a meeting
in which the whole party would decide on the matter. The
result was obvious.
For another meeting shortly thereafter, Hitler invented a
new term by which to describe himself. Presently he was
called Unser Fuehrer-our leader; his new term dropped the
Unser and in its place added Der, an article that removed
the human ties represented by the former. "The invention of
this word, like the invention of the swastika flag the
previous year, must be included among Hitler's daemonic
accomplishments." (Payne, 160)
Hitler had now secured all of the resources necessary to
institute a major political institution. He had a party, a
program, a symbol of the party, and Der Fuehrer to lead the
party. All of these he achieved by his own accord. Since
his first meeting, he was the force behind the party. He
made all of the decisions and had confirmed that he did
indeed have all of the power. Previous to his introduction
to the party, the DAP was nothing more than a small club of
beer-drinking fellows. After his admission and throughout
his rise to power, he never had a serious rival to
challenge his power. Anton Drexler, the party's founder,
was only able to stand on the side, impotently watching his
organization go under the control of another. The same was
true for the other five members of the original committee.
And although they (and some others) made some attempts to
damage Hitler's influence, all proved to be feeble against
his power. Thus, Adolf Hitler was almost solely responsible
for creating the Nazi party, and in fact, was the only
person capable of creating it. It was through his uniquely
powerful charisma and his mastery of propaganda that he was
capable of such a feat.
Drexler, Anton. Mein Politisches Erwachen. Munich:
Hoheneichen Verlag, 1924.
Feder, Gottfried. Das Program der NSDAP und seine
weltanschaulichen Grundgedanken. Munich: Verlag Frz. Eher,
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. trans. by Ralph Mannheim.
Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1942.
Jarman, T.L. The Rise and Fall of Nazi Germany. New York:
New York UP, 1956
Mason, Werner. Naissance du parti national-socialiste.
Paris: Fayard, 1967.
Payne, Robert. The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler. New
York: Praeger, 1973.