Struggle of the Early Period -- The Significance of the Spoken Word
The echoes of our first great meeting, in the banquet hall of the Hofbräuhaus on February 24th, 1920, had not yet died away when we began preparations for our next meeting. Up to that time we had to consider carefully the venture of holding a small meeting every month or at most every fortnight in a city like Munich; but now it was decided that we should hold a mass meeting every week. I need not say that we anxiously asked ourselves on each occasion again and again: Will the people come and will they listen? Personally I was firmly convinced that if once they came they would remain and listen.
During that period the hall of the Hofbrau Haus in Munich acquired for us, National Socialists, a sort of mystic significance. Every week there was a meeting, almost always in that hall, and each time the hall was better filled than on the former occasion, and our public more attentive.
Starting with the theme, 'Responsibility for the War,' which nobody at that time cared about, and passing on to the discussion of the peace treaties, we dealt with almost everything that served to stimulate the minds of our audience and make them interested in our ideas. We drew attention to the peace treaties. What the new movement prophesied again and again before those great masses of people has been fulfilled almost in every detail. To-day it is easy to talk and write about these things. But in those days a public mass meeting which was attended not by the small bourgeoisie but by proletarians who had been aroused by agitators, to criticize the Peace Treaty of Versailles meant an attack on the Republic and an evidence of reaction, if not of monarchist tendencies. The moment one uttered the first criticism of the Versailles Treaty one could expect an immediate reply, which became almost stereotyped: 'And Brest-Litowsk?' 'Brest-Litowsk!' And then the crowd would murmur and the murmur would gradually swell into a roar, until the speaker would have to give up his attempt to persuade them. It would be like knocking one's head against a wall, so desperate were these people. They would not listen nor understand that Versailles was a scandal and a disgrace and that the dictate signified an act of highway robbery against our people. The disruptive work done by the Marxists and the poisonous propaganda of the external enemy had robbed these people of their reason. And one had no right to complain. For the guilt on this side was enormous. What had the German bourgeoisie done to call a halt to this terrible campaign of disintegration, to oppose it and open a way to a recognition of the truth by giving a better and more thorough explanation of the situation than that of the Marxists? Nothing, nothing. At that time I never saw those who are now the great apostles of the people. Perhaps they spoke to select groups, at tea parties of their own little coteries; but there where they should have been, where the wolves were at work, they never risked their appearance, unless it gave them the opportunity of yelling in concert with the wolves.
As for myself, I then saw clearly that for the small group which first composed our movement the question of war guilt had to be cleared up, and cleared up in the light of historical truth. A preliminary condition for the future success of our movement was that it should bring knowledge of the meaning of the peace treaties to the minds of the popular masses. In the opinion of the masses, the peace treaties then signified a democratic success. Therefore, it was necessary to take the opposite side and dig ourselves into the minds of the people as the enemies of the peace treaties; so that later on, when the naked truth of this despicable swindle would be disclosed in all its hideousness, the people would recall the position which we then took and would give us their confidence.
Already at that time I took up my stand on those important fundamental questions where public opinion had gone wrong as a whole. I opposed these wrong notions without regard either for popularity or for hatred, and I was ready to face the fight. The National Socialist German Labour Party ought not to be the beadle but rather the master of public opinion. It must not serve the masses but rather dominate them.
In the case of every movement, especially during its struggling stages, there is naturally a temptation to conform to the tactics of an opponent and use the same battle-cries, when his tactics have succeeded in leading the people to crazy conclusions or to adopt mistaken attitudes towards the questions at issue. This temptation is particularly strong when motives can be found, though they are entirely illusory, that seem to point towards the same ends which the young movement is aiming at. Human poltroonery will then all the more readily adopt those arguments which give it a semblance of justification, 'from its own point of view,' in participating in the criminal policy which the adversary is following.
On several occasions I have experienced such cases, in which the greatest energy had to be employed to prevent the ship of our movement from being drawn into a general current which had been started artificially, and indeed from sailing with it. The last occasion was when our German Press, the Hecuba of the existence of the German nation, succeeded in bringing the question of South Tyrol into a position of importance which was seriously damaging to the interests of the German people. Without considering what interests they were serving, several so-called 'national' men, parties and leagues, joined in the general cry, simply for fear of public opinion which had been excited by the Jews, and foolishly contributed to help in the struggle against a system which we Germans ought, particularly in those days, to consider as the one ray of light in this distracted world. While the international World-Jew is slowly but surely strangling us, our so-called patriots vociferate against a man and his system which have had the courage to liberate themselves from the shackles of Jewish Freemasonry at least in one quarter of the globe and to set the forces of national resistance against the international world-poison. But weak characters were tempted to set their sails according to the direction of the wind and capitulate before the shout of public opinion. For it was veritably a capitulation. They are so much in the habit of lying and so morally base that men may not admit this even to themselves, but the truth remains that only cowardice and fear of the public feeling aroused by the Jews induced certain people to join in the hue and cry. All the other reasons put forward were only miserable excuses of paltry culprits who were conscious of their own crime.
There it was necessary to grasp the rudder with an iron hand and turn the movement about, so as to save it from a course that would have led it on the rocks. Certainly to attempt such a change of course was not a popular manoeuvre at that time, because all the leading forces of public opinion had been active and a great flame of public feeling illuminated only one direction. Such a decision almost always brings disfavour on those who dare to take it. In the course of history not a few men have been stoned for an act for which posterity has afterwards thanked them on its knees.
But a movement must count on posterity and not on the plaudits of the movement. It may well be that at such moments certain individuals have to endure hours of anguish; but they should not forget that the moment of liberation will come and that a movement which purposes to reshape the world must serve the future and not the passing hour.
On this point it may be asserted that the greatest and most enduring successes in history are mostly those which were least understood at the beginning, because they were in strong contrast to public opinion and the views and wishes of the time.
We had experience of this when we made our own first public appearance. In all truth it can be said that we did not court public favour but made an onslaught on the follies of our people. In those days the following happened almost always: I presented myself before an assembly of men who believed the opposite of what I wished to say and who wanted the opposite of what I believed in. Then I had to spend a couple of hours in persuading two or three thousand people to give up the opinions they had first held, in destroying the foundations of their views with one blow after another and finally in leading them over to take their stand on the grounds of our own convictions and our philosophy of life.
I learned something that was important at that time, namely, to snatch from the hands of the enemy the weapons which he was using in his reply. I soon noticed that our adversaries, especially in the persons of those who led the discussion against us, were furnished with a definite repertoire of arguments out of which they took points against our claims which were being constantly repeated. The uniform character of this mode of procedure pointed to a systematic and unified training. And so we were able to recognize the incredible way in which the enemy's propagandists had been disciplined, and I am proud today that I discovered a means not only of making this propaganda ineffective but of beating the artificers of it at their own work. Two years later I was master of that art.
In every speech which I made it was important to get a clear idea beforehand of the probable form and matter of the counter-arguments we had to expect in the discussion, so that in the course of my own speech these could be dealt with and refuted. To this end it was necessary to mention all the possible objections and show their inconsistency; it was all the easier to win over an honest listener by expunging from his memory the arguments which had been impressed upon it, so that we anticipated our replies. What he had learned was refuted without having been mentioned by him and that made him all the more attentive to what I had to say.
That was the reason why, after my first lecture on the 'Peace Treaty of Versailles,' which I delivered to the troops while I was still a political instructor in my regiment, I made an alteration in the title and subject and henceforth spoke on 'The Treaties of Brest-Litowsk and Versailles.' For after the discussion which followed my first lecture I quickly ascertained that in reality people knew nothing about the Treaty of Brest-Litowsk and that able party propaganda had succeeded in presenting that Treaty as one of the most scandalous acts of violence in the history of the world.
As a result of the persistency with which this falsehood was repeated again and again before the masses of the people, millions of Germans saw in the Treaty of Versailles a just castigation for the crime we had committed at Brest-Litowsk. Thus they considered all opposition to Versailles as unjust and in many cases there was an honest moral dislike to such a proceeding. And this was also the reason why the shameless and monstrous word 'Reparations' came into common use in Germany. This hypocritical falsehood appeared to millions of our exasperated fellow countrymen as the fulfilment of a higher justice. It is a terrible thought, but the fact was so. The best proof of this was the propaganda which I initiated against Versailles by explaining the Treaty of Brest-Litowsk. I compared the two treaties with one another, point by point, and showed how in truth the one treaty was immensely humane, in contradistinction to the inhuman barbarity of the other. The effect was very striking. Then I spoke on this theme before an assembly of two thousand persons, during which I often saw three thousand six hundred hostile eyes fixed on me. And three hours later I had in front of me a swaying mass of righteous indignation and fury. A great lie had been uprooted from the hearts and brains of a crowd composed of thousands of individuals and a truth had been implanted in its place.
The two lectures – that 'On the Causes of the World War' and 'On the Peace Treaties of Brest-Litowsk and Versailles' respectively – I then considered as the most important of all. Therefore I repeated them dozens of times, always giving them a new intonation; until at least on those points a definitely clear and unanimous opinion reigned among those from whom our movement recruited its first members.
Furthermore, these gatherings brought me the advantage that I slowly became a platform orator at mass meetings, and gave me practice in the pathos and gesture required in large halls that held thousands of people.
Outside of the small circles which I have mentioned, at that time I found no party engaged in explaining things to the people in this way. Not one of these parties was then active which talk today as if it was they who had brought about the change in public opinion. If a political leader, calling himself a nationalist, pronounced a discourse somewhere or other on this theme it was only before circles which for the most part were already of his own conviction and among whom the most that was done was to confirm them in their opinions. But that was not what was needed then. What was needed was to win over through propaganda and explanation those whose opinions and mental attitudes held them bound to the enemy's camp.
The one-page circular was also adopted by us to help in this propaganda. While still a soldier I had written a circular in which I contrasted the Treaty of Brest-Litowsk with that of Versailles. That circular was printed and distributed in large numbers. Later on I used it for the party, and also with good success. Our first meetings were distinguished by the fact that there were tables covered with leaflets, papers, and pamphlets of every kind. But we relied principally on the spoken word. And, in fact, this is the only means capable of producing really great revolutions, which can be explained on general psychological grounds.
In the first volume I have already stated that all the formidable events which have changed the aspect of the world were carried through, not by the written but by the spoken word. On that point there was a long discussion in a certain section of the Press during the course of which our shrewd bourgeois people strongly opposed my thesis. But the reason for this attitude confounded the sceptics. The bourgeois intellectuals protested against my attitude simply because they themselves did not have the force or ability to influence the masses through the spoken word; for they always relied exclusively on the help of writers and did not enter the arena themselves as orators for the purpose of arousing the people. The development of events necessarily led to that condition of affairs which is characteristic of the bourgeoisie today, namely, the loss of the psychological instinct to act upon and influence the masses.
An orator receives continuous guidance from the people before whom he speaks. This helps him to correct the direction of his speech; for he can always gauge, by the faces of his hearers, how far they follow and understand him, and whether his words are producing the desired effect. But the writer does not know his reader at all. Therefore, from the outset he does not address himself to a definite human group of persons which he has before his eyes but must write in a general way. Hence, up to a certain extent he must fail in psychological finesse and flexibility. Therefore, in general it may be said that a brilliant orator writes better than a brilliant writer can speak, unless the latter has continual practice in public speaking. One must also remember that of itself the multitude is mentally inert, that it remains attached to its old habits and that it is not naturally prone to read something which does not conform with its own pre-established beliefs when such writing does not contain what the multitude hopes to find there. Therefore, some piece of writing which has a particular tendency is for the most part read only by those who are in sympathy with it. Only a leaflet or a placard, on account of its brevity, can hope to arouse a momentary interest in those whose opinions differ from it. The picture, in all its forms, including the film, has better prospects. Here there is less need of elaborating the appeal to the intelligence. It is sufficient if one be careful to have quite short texts, because many people are more ready to accept a pictorial presentation than to read a long written description. In a much shorter time, at one stroke I might say, people will understand a pictorial presentation of something which it would take them a long and laborious effort of reading to understand.
The most important consideration, however, is that one never knows into what hands a piece of written material comes and yet the form in which its subject is presented must remain the same. In general the effect is greater when the form of treatment corresponds to the mental level of the reader and suits his nature. Therefore, a book which is meant for the broad masses of the people must try from the very start to gain its effects through a style and level of ideas which would be quite different from a book intended to be read by the higher intellectual classes.
Only through his capacity for adaptability does the force of the written word approach that of oral speech. The orator may deal with the same subject as a book deals with; but if he has the genius of a great and popular orator he will scarcely ever repeat the same argument or the same material in the same form on two consecutive occasions. He will always follow the lead of the great mass in such a way that from the living emotion of his hearers the apt word which he needs will be suggested to him and in its turn this will go straight to the hearts of his hearers. Should he make even a slight mistake he has the living correction before him. As I have already said, he can read the play of expression on the faces of his hearers, first to see if they understand what he says, secondly to see if they take in the whole of his argument, and, thirdly, in how far they are convinced of the justice of what has been placed before them. Should he observe, first, that his hearers do not understand him he will make his explanation so elementary and clear that they will be able to grasp it, even to the last individual. Secondly, if he feels that they are not capable of following him he will make one idea follow another carefully and slowly until the most slow-witted hearer no longer lags behind. Thirdly, as soon as he has the feeling that they do not seem convinced that he is right in the way he has put things to them he will repeat his argument over and over again, always giving fresh illustrations, and he himself will state their unspoken objection. He will repeat these objections, dissecting them and refuting them, until the last group of the opposition show him by their behaviour and play of expression that they have capitulated before his exposition of the case.
Not infrequently it is a case of overcoming ingrained prejudices which are mostly unconscious and are supported by sentiment rather than reason. It is a thousand times more difficult to overcome this barrier of instinctive aversion, emotional hatred and preventive dissent than to correct opinions which are founded on defective or erroneous knowledge. False ideas and ignorance may be set aside by means of instruction, but emotional resistance never can. Nothing but an appeal to these hidden forces will be effective here. And that appeal can be made by scarcely any writer. Only the orator can hope to make it.
A very striking proof of this is found in the fact that, though we had a bourgeois Press which in many cases was well written and produced and had a circulation of millions among the people, it could not prevent the broad masses from becoming the implacable enemies of the bourgeois class. The deluge of papers and books published by the intellectual circles year after year passed over the millions of the lower social strata like water over glazed leather. This proves that one of two things must be true: either that the matter offered in the bourgeois Press was worthless or that it is impossible to reach the hearts of the broad masses by means of the written word alone. Of course, the latter would be specially true where the written material shows such little psychological insight as has hitherto been the case.
It is useless to object here, as certain big Berlin papers of German-National tendencies have attempted to do, that this statement is refuted by the fact that the Marxists have exercised their greatest influence through their writings, and especially through their principal book, published by Karl Marx. Seldom has a more superficial argument been based on a false assumption. What gave Marxism its amazing influence over the broad masses was not that formal printed work which sets forth the Jewish system of ideas, but the tremendous oral propaganda carried on for years among the masses. Out of one hundred thousand German workers scarcely one hundred know of Marx's book. It has been studied much more in intellectual circles and especially by the Jews than by the genuine followers of the movement who come from the lower classes. That work was not written for the masses, but exclusively for the intellectual leaders of the Jewish machine for conquering the world. The engine was heated with quite different stuff: namely, the journalistic Press. What differentiates the bourgeois Press from the Marxist Press is that the latter is written by agitators, whereas the bourgeois Press would like to carry on agitation by means of professional writers. The Social-Democrat sub-editor, who almost always came directly from the meeting to the editorial offices of his paper, felt his job on his finger-tips. But the bourgeois writer who left his desk to appear before the masses already felt ill when he smelled the very odour of the crowd and found that what he had written was useless to him.
What won over millions of workpeople to the Marxist cause was not the ex cathedra style of the Marxist writers but the formidable propagandist work done by tens of thousands of indefatigable agitators, commencing with the leading fiery agitator down to the smallest official in the syndicate, the trusted delegate and the platform orator. Furthermore, there were the hundreds of thousands of meetings where these orators, standing on tables in smoky taverns, hammered their ideas into the heads of the masses, thus acquiring an admirable psychological knowledge of the human material they had to deal with. And in this way they were enabled to select the best weapons for their assault on the citadel of public opinion. In addition to all this there were the gigantic mass-demonstrations with processions in which a hundred thousand men took part. All this was calculated to impress on the petty-hearted individual the proud conviction that, though a small worm, he was at the same time a cell of the great dragon before whose devastating breath the hated bourgeois world would one day be consumed in fire and flame, and the dictatorship of the proletariat would celebrate its conclusive victory.
This kind of propaganda influenced men in such a way as to give them a taste for reading the Social Democratic Press and prepare their minds for its teaching. That Press, in its turn, was a vehicle of the spoken word rather than of the written word. Whereas in the bourgeois camp professors and learned writers, theorists and authors of all kinds, made attempts at talking, in the Marxist camp real speakers often made attempts at writing. And it was precisely the Jew who was most prominent here. In general and because of his shrewd dialectical skill and his knack of twisting the truth to suit his own purposes, he was an effective writer but in reality his métier was that of a revolutionary orator rather than a writer.
For this reason the journalistic bourgeois world, setting aside the fact that here also the Jew held the whip hand and that therefore this press did not really interest itself in the instructtion of the broad masses, was not able to exercise even the least influence over the opinions held by the great masses of our people.
It is difficult to remove emotional prejudices, psychological bias, feelings, etc., and to put others in their place. Success depends here on imponderable conditions and influences. Only the orator who is gifted with the most sensitive insight can estimate all this. Even the time of day at which the speech is delivered has a decisive influence on its results. The same speech, made by the same orator and on the same theme, will have very different results according as it is delivered at ten o'clock in the forenoon, at three in the afternoon, or in the evening. When I first engaged in public speaking I arranged for meetings to take place in the forenoon and I remember particularly a demonstration that we held in the Munich Kindl Keller 'Against the Oppression of German Districts.' That was the biggest hall then in Munich and the audacity of our undertaking was great. In order to make the hour of the meeting attractive for all the members of our movement and the other people who might come, I fixed it for ten o'clock on a Sunday morning. The result was depressing. But it was very instructive. The hall was filled. The impression was profound, but the general feeling was cold as ice. Nobody got warmed up, and I myself, as the speaker of the occasion, felt profoundly unhappy at the thought that I could not establish the slightest contact with my audience. I do not think I spoke worse than before, but the effect seemed absolutely negative. I left the hall very discontented, but also feeling that I had gained a new experience. Later on I tried the same kind of experiment, but always with the same results.
That was nothing to be wondered at. If one goes to a theatre to see a matinée performance and then attends an evening performance of the same play one is astounded at the difference in the impressions created. A sensitive person recognizes for himself the fact that these two states of mind caused by the matinee and the evening performance respectively are quite different in themselves. The same is true of cinema productions. This latter point is important; for one may say of the theatre that perhaps in the afternoon the actor does not make the same effort as in the evening. But surely it cannot be said that the cinema is different in the afternoon from what it is at nine o'clock in the evening. No, here the time exercises a distinct influence, just as a room exercises a distinct influence on a person. There are rooms which leave one cold, for reasons which are difficult to explain. There are rooms which refuse steadfastly to allow any favourable atmosphere to be created in them. Moreover, certain memories and traditions which are present as pictures in the human mind may have a determining influence on the impression produced. Thus, a representation of Parsifal at Bayreuth will have an effect quite different from that which the same opera produces in any other part of the world. The mysterious charm of the House on the 'Festival Heights' in the old city of The Margrave cannot be equalled or substituted anywhere else.
In all these cases one deals with the problem of influencing the freedom of the human will. And that is true especially of meetings where there are men whose wills are opposed to the speaker and who must be brought around to a new way of thinking. In the morning and during the day it seems that the power of the human will rebels with its strongest energy against any attempt to impose upon it the will or opinion of another. On the other hand, in the evening it easily succumbs to the domination of a stronger will. Because really in such assemblies there is a contest between two opposite forces. The superior oratorical art of a man who has the compelling character of an apostle will succeed better in bringing around to a new way of thinking those who have naturally been subjected to a weakening of their forces of resistance rather than in converting those who are in full possession of their volitional and intellectual energies.
The mysterious artificial dimness of the Catholic churches also serves this purpose, the burning candles, the incense, the thurible, etc.
In this struggle between the orator and the opponent whom he must convert to his cause this marvellous sensibility towards the psychological influences of propaganda can hardly ever be availed of by an author. Generally speaking, the effect of the writer's work helps rather to conserve, reinforce and deepen the foundations of a mentality already existing. All really great historical revolutions were not produced by the written word. At most, they were accompanied by it.
It is out of the question to think that the French Revolution could have been carried into effect by philosophizing theories if they had not found an army of agitators led by demagogues of the grand style. These demagogues inflamed popular passion that had been already aroused, until that volcanic eruption finally broke out and convulsed the whole of Europe. And the same happened in the case of the gigantic Bolshevik revolution which recently took place in Russia. It was not due to the writers on Lenin's side but to the oratorical activities of those who preached the doctrine of hatred and that of the innumerable small and great orators who took part in the agitation.
The masses of illiterate Russians were not fired to Communist revolutionary enthusiasm by reading the theories of Karl Marx but by the promises of paradise made to the people by thousands of agitators in the service of an idea.
It was always so, and it will always be so.
It is just typical of our pig-headed intellectuals, who live apart from the practical world, to think that a writer must of necessity be superior to an orator in intelligence. This point of view was once exquisitely illustrated by a critique, published in a certain National paper which I have already mentioned, where it was stated that one is often disillusioned by reading the speech of an acknowledged great orator in print. That reminded me of another article which came into my hands during the War. It dealt with the speeches of Lloyd George, who was then Minister of Munitions, and examined them in a painstaking way under the microscope of criticism. The writer made the brilliant statement that these speeches showed inferior intelligence and learning and that, moreover, they were banal and commonplace productions. I myself procured some of these speeches, published in pamphlet form, and had to laugh at the fact that a normal German quill-driver did not in the least understand these psychological masterpieces in the art of influencing the masses. This man criticized these speeches exclusively according to the impression they made on his own blasé mind, whereas the great British Demagogue had produced an immense effect on his audience through them, and in the widest sense on the whole of the British populace. Looked at from this point of view, that Englishman's speeches were most wonderful achievements, precisely because they showed an astounding knowledge of the soul of the broad masses of the people. For that reason their effect was really penetrating. Compare with them the futile stammerings of a Bethmann-Hollweg. On the surface his speeches were undoubtedly more intellectual, but they just proved this man's inability to speak to the people, which he really could not do. Nevertheless, to the average stupid brain of the German writer, who is, of course, endowed with a lot of scientific learning, it came quite natural to judge the speeches of the English Minister – which were made for the purpose of influencing the masses – by the impression which they made on his own mind, fossilized in its abstract learning. And it was more natural for him to compare them in the light of that impression with the brilliant but futile talk of the German statesman, which of course appealed to the writer's mind much more favourably. That the genius of Lloyd George was not only equal but a thousandfold superior to that of a Bethmann-Hollweg is proved by the fact that he found for his speeches that form and expression which opened the hearts of his people to him and made these people carry out his will absolutely. The primitive quality itself of those speeches, the originality of his expressions, his choice of clear and simple illustration, are examples which prove the superior political capacity of this Englishman. For one must never judge the speech of a statesman to his people by the impression which it leaves on the mind of a university professor but by the effect it produces on the people. And this is the sole criterion of the orator's genius.
The astonishing development of our movement, which was created from nothing a few years ago and is today singled out for persecution by all the internal and external enemies of our nation, must be attributed to the constant recognition and practical application of those principles.
Written matter also played an important part in our movement; but at the stage of which I am writing it served to give an equal and uniform education to the directors of the movement, in the upper as well as in the lower grades, rather than to convert the masses of our adversaries. It was only in very rare cases that a convinced and devoted Social Democrat or Communist was induced to acquire an understanding of our conception of life or to study a criticism of his own by procuring and reading one of our pamphlets or even one of our books. Even a newspaper is rarely read if it does not bear the stamp of a party affiliation. Moreover, the reading of newspapers helps little; because the general picture given by a single number of a newspaper is so confused and produces such a fragmentary impression that it really does not influence the occasional reader. And where a man has to count his pennies it cannot be assumed that, exclusively for the purpose of being objectively informed, he will become a regular reader or subscriber to a paper which opposes his views. Only one who has already joined a movement will regularly read the party organ of that movement, and especially for the purpose of keeping himself informed of what is happening in the movement.
It is quite different with the 'spoken' leaflet. Especially if it be distributed gratis it will be taken up by one person or another, all the more willingly if its display title refers to a question about which everybody is talking at the moment. Perhaps the reader, after having read through such a leaflet more or less thoughtfully, will have new viewpoints and mental attitudes and may give his attention to a new movement. But with these, even in the best of cases, only a small impulse will be given, but no definite conviction will be created; because the leaflet can do nothing more than draw attention to something and can become effective only by bringing the reader subsequently into a situation where he is more fundamentally informed and instructed. Such instruction must always be given at the mass assembly.
Mass assemblies are also necessary for the reason that, in attending them, the individual who felt himself formerly only on the point of joining the new movement, now begins to feel isolated and in fear of being left alone as he acquires for the first time the picture of a great community which has a strengthening and encouraging effect on most people. Brigaded in a company or battalion, surrounded by his companions, he will march with a lighter heart to the attack than if he had to march alone. In the crowd he feels himself in some way thus sheltered, though in reality there are a thousand arguments against such a feeling.
Mass demonstrations on the grand scale not only reinforce the will of the individual but they draw him still closer to the movement and help to create an esprit de corps. The man who appears first as the representative of a new doctrine in his place of business or in his factory is bound to feel himself embarrassed and has need of that reinforcement which comes from the consciousness that he is a member of a great community. And only a mass demonstration can impress upon him the greatness of this community. If, on leaving the shop or mammoth factory, in which he feels very small indeed, he should enter a vast assembly for the first time and see around him thousands and thousands of men who hold the same opinions; if, while still seeking his way, he is gripped by the force of mass-suggestion which comes from the excitement and enthusiasm of three or four thousand other men in whose midst he finds himself; if the manifest success and the concensus of thousands confirm the truth and justice of the new teaching and for the first time raise doubt in his mind as to the truth of the opinions held by himself up to now – then he submits himself to the fascination of what we call mass-suggestion. The will, the yearning and indeed the strength of thousands of people are in each individual. A man who enters such a meeting in doubt and hesitation leaves it inwardly fortified; he has become a member of a community.
The National Socialist Movement should never forget this, and it should never allow itself to be influenced by these bourgeois duffers who think they know everything but who have foolishly gambled away a great State, together with their own existence and the supremacy of their own class. They are overflowing with ability; they can do everything, and they know everything. But there is one thing they have not known how to do, and that is how to save the German people from falling into the arms of Marxism. In that they have shown themselves most pitiably and miserably impotent. So that the present opinion they have of themselves is only equal to their conceit. Their pride and stupidity are fruits of the same tree.
If these people try to disparage the importance of the spoken word today, they do it only because they realize – God be praised and thanked – how futile all their own speechifying has been.
The Struggle with the Red Front
In 1919-20 and also in 1921 I attended some of the bourgeois meetings. Invariably I had the same feeling towards these as towards the compulsory dose of castor oil in my boyhood days. It just had to be taken because it was good for one: but it certainly tasted unpleasant. If it were possible to tie ropes round the German people and forcibly drag them to these bourgeois meetings, keeping them there behind barred doors and allowing nobody to escape until the meeting closed, then this procedure might prove successful in the course of a few hundred years. For my own part, I must frankly admit that, under such circumstances, I could not find life worth living; and indeed I should no longer wish to be a German. But, thank God, all this is impossible. And so it is not surprising that the sane and unspoilt masses shun these 'bourgeois mass meetings' as the devil shuns holy water.
I came to know the prophets of the bourgeois philosophy, and I was not surprised at what I learned, as I knew that they attached little importance to the spoken word. At that time I attended meetings of the Democrats, the German Nationalists, the German People's Party and the Bavarian People's Party (the Centre Party of Bavaria). What struck me at once was the homogeneous uniformity of the audiences. Nearly always they were made up exclusively of party members. The whole affair was more like a yawning card party than an assembly of people who had just passed through a great revolution. The speakers did all they could to maintain this tranquil atmosphere. They declaimed, or rather read out, their speeches in the style of an intellectual newspaper article or a learned treatise, avoiding all striking expressions. Here and there a feeble professorial joke would be introduced, whereupon the people sitting at the speaker's table felt themselves obliged to laugh – not loudly but encouragingly and with well-bred reserve.
And there were always those people at the speaker's table. I once attended a meeting in the Wagner Hall in Munich. It was a demonstration to celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig. The speech was delivered or rather read out by a venerable old professor from one or other of the universities. The committee sat on the platform: one monocle on the right, another monocle on the left, and in the centre a gentleman with no monocle. All three of them were punctiliously attired in morning coats, and I had the impression of being present before a judge's bench just as the death sentence was about to be pronounced or at a christening or some more solemn religious ceremony. The so-called speech, which in printed form may have read quite well, had a disastrous effect. After three quarters of an hour the audience fell into a sort of hypnotic trance, which was interrupted only when some man or woman left the hall, or by the clatter which the waitresses made, or by the increasing yawns of slumbering individuals. I had posted myself behind three workmen who were present either out of curiosity or because they were sent there by their parties. From time to time they glanced at one another with an ill-concealed grin, nudged one another with the elbow, and then silently left the hall. One could see that they had no intention whatsoever of interrupting the proceedings, nor indeed was it necessary to interrupt them. At long last the celebration showed signs of drawing to a close. After the professor, whose voice had meanwhile become more and more inaudible, finally ended his speech, the gentleman without the monocle delivered a rousing peroration to the assembled 'German sisters and brothers.' On behalf of the audience and himself he expressed gratitude for the magnificent lecture which they had just heard from Professor X and emphasized how deeply the Professor's words had moved them all. If a general discussion on the lecture were to take place it would be tantamount to profanity, and he thought he was voicing the opinion of all present in suggesting that such a discussion should not be held. Therefore, he would ask the assembly to rise from their seats and join in singing the patriotic song, Wir sind ein einig Volk von Brüdern. The proceedings finally closed with the anthem, Deutschland über Alles.
And then they all sang. It appeared to me that when the second verse was reached the voices were fewer and that only when the refrain came on they swelled loudly. When we reached the third verse my belief was confirmed that a good many of those present were not very familiar with the text.
But what has all this to do with the matter when such a song is sung wholeheartedly and fervidly by an assembly of German nationals?
After this the meeting broke up and everyone hurried to get outside, one to his glass of beer, one to a cafe, and others simply into the fresh air.
Out into the fresh air! That was also my feeling. And was this the way to honour an heroic struggle in which hundreds of thousands of Prussians and Germans had fought? To the devil with it all!
That sort of thing might find favour with the Government, it being merely a 'peaceful' meeting. The Minister responsible for law and order need not fear that enthusiasm might suddenly get the better of public decorum and induce these people to pour out of the room and, instead of dispersing to beer halls and cafes, march in rows of four through the town singing Deutschland hoch in Ehren and causing some unpleasantness to a police force in need of rest.
No. That type of citizen is of no use to anyone.
On the other hand the National Socialist meetings were by no means 'peaceable' affairs. Two distinct outlooks enraged in bitter opposition to one another, and these meetings did not close with the mechanical rendering of a dull patriotic song but rather with a passionate outbreak of popular national feeling.
It was imperative from the start to introduce rigid discipline into our meetings and establish the authority of the chairman absolutely. Our purpose was not to pour out a mixture of soft-soap bourgeois talk; what we had to say was meant to arouse the opponents at our meetings! How often did they not turn up in masses with a few individual agitators among them and, judging by the expression on all their faces, ready to finish us off there and then.
Yes, how often did they not turn up in huge numbers, those supporters of the Red Flag, all previously instructed to smash up everything once and for all and put an end to these meetings. More often than not everything hung on a mere thread, and only the chairman's ruthless determination and the rough handling by our ushers baffled our adversaries' intentions. And indeed they had every reason for being irritated.
The fact that we had chosen red as the colour for our posters sufficed to attract them to our meetings. The ordinary bourgeoisie were very shocked to see that, we had also chosen the symbolic red of Bolshevism and they regarded this as something ambiguously significant. The suspicion was whispered in German Nationalist circles that we also were merely another variety of Marxism, perhaps even Marxists suitably disguised, or better still, Socialists. The actual difference between Socialism and Marxism still remains a mystery to these people up to this day. The charge of Marxism was conclusively proved when it was discovered that at our meetings we deliberately substituted the words 'Fellow-countrymen and Women' for 'Ladies and Gentlemen' and addressed each other as 'Party Comrade'. We used to roar with laughter at these silly faint-hearted bourgeoisie and their efforts to puzzle out our origin, our intentions and our aims.
We chose red for our posters after particular and careful deliberation, our intention being to irritate the Left, so as to arouse their attention and tempt them to come to our meetings – if only in order to break them up – so that in this way we got a chance of talking to the people.
In those years' it was indeed a delightful experience to follow the constantly changing tactics of our perplexed and helpless adversaries. First of all they appealed to their followers to ignore us and keep away from our meetings. Generally speaking this appeal was heeded. But, as time went on, more and more of their followers gradually found their way to us and accepted our teaching. Then the leaders became nervous and uneasy. They clung to their belief that such a development should not be ignored for ever, and that terror must be applied in order to put an end to it.
Appeals were then made to the 'class-conscious proletariat' to attend our meetings in masses and strike with the clenched hand of the proletarian at the representatives of a 'monarchist and reactionary agitation'.
Our meetings suddenly became packed with work-people fully three-quarters of an hour before the proceedings were scheduled to begin. These gatherings resembled a powder cask ready to explode at any moment; and the fuse was conveniently at hand. But matters always turned out differently. People came as enemies and left, not perhaps prepared to join us, yet in a reflective mood and disposed critically to examine the correctness of their own doctrine. Gradually as time went on my three-hour lectures resulted in supporters and opponents becoming united in one single enthusiastic group of people. Every signal for the breaking-up of the meeting failed. The result was that the opposition leaders became frightened and once again looked for help to those quarters that had formerly discountenanced these tactics and, with some show of right, had been of the opinion that on principle the workers should be forbidden to attend our meetings.
Then they did not come any more, or only in small numbers. But after a short time the whole game started all over again. The instructions to keep away from us were ignored; the comrades came in steadily increasing numbers, until finally the advocates of the radical tactics won the day. We were to be broken up.
Yet when, after two, three and even eight meetings, it was realized that to break up these gatherings was easier said than done and that every meeting resulted in a decisive weakening of the red fighting forces, then suddenly the other password was introduced: 'Proletarians, comrades and comradesses, avoid meetings of the National Socialist agitators'.
The same eternally alternating tactics were also to be observed in the Red Press. Soon they tried to silence us but discovered the uselessness of such an attempt. After that they swung round to the opposite tactics. Daily 'reference' was made to us solely for the purpose of absolutely ridiculing us in the eyes of the working-classes. After a time these gentlemen must have felt that no harm was being done to us, but that, on the contrary, we were reaping an advantage in that people were asking themselves why so much space was being devoted to a subject which was supposed to be so ludicrous. People became curious. Suddenly there was a change of tactics and for a time we were treated as veritable criminals against mankind. One article followed the other, in which our criminal intentions were explained and new proofs brought forward to support what was said. Scandalous tales, all of them fabricated from start to finish, were published in order to help to poison the public mind. But in a short time even these attacks also proved futile; and in fact they assisted materially because they attracted public attention to us.
In those days I took up the standpoint that it was immaterial whether they laughed at us or reviled us, whether they depicted us as fools or criminals; the important point was that they took notice of us and that in the eyes of the working-classes we came to be regarded as the only force capable of putting up a fight. I said to myself that the followers of the Jewish Press would come to know all about us and our real aims.
One reason why they never got so far as breaking up our meetings was undoubtedly the incredible cowardice displayed by the leaders of the opposition. On every critical occasion they left the dirty work to the smaller fry whilst they waited outside the halls for the results of the break up.
We were exceptionally well informed in regard to our opponents' intentions, not only because we allowed several of our party colleagues to remain members of the Red organizations for reasons of expediency, but also because the Red wire-pullers, fortunately for us, were afflicted with a degree of talkativeness that is still unfortunately very prevalent among Germans. They could not keep their own counsel, and more often than not they started cackling before the proverbial egg was laid. Hence, time and again our precautions were such that Red agitators had no inkling of how near they were to being thrown out of the meetings.
This state of affairs compelled us to take the work of safeguarding our meetings into our own hands. No reliance could be placed on official protection. On the contrary; experience showed that such protection always favoured only the disturbers. The only real outcome of police intervention would be that the meeting would be dissolved, that is to say, closed. And that is precisely what our opponents granted.
Generally speaking, this led the police to adopt a procedure which, to say the least, was a most infamous sample of official malpractice. The moment they received information of a threat that the one or other meeting was to be broken up, instead of arresting the would-be disturbers, they promptly advised the innocent parties that the meeting was forbidden. This step the police proclaimed as a 'precautionary measure in the interests of law and order'.
The political work and activities of decent people could therefore always be hindered by desperate ruffians who had the means at their disposal. In the name of peace and order State authority bowed down to these ruffians and demanded that others should not provoke them. When National Socialism desired to hold meetings in certain parts and the labour unions declared that their members would resist, then it was not these blackmailers that were arrested and gaoled. No. Our meetings were forbidden by the police. Yes, this organ of the law had the unspeakable impudence to advise us in writing to this effect in innumerable instances. To avoid such eventualities, it was necessary to see to it that every attempt to disturb a meeting was nipped in the bud. Another feature to be taken into account in this respect is that all meetings which rely on police protection must necessarily bring discredit to their promoters in the eyes of the general public. Meetings that are only possible with the protective assistance of a strong force of police convert nobody; because in order to win over the lower strata of the people there must be a visible show of strength on one's own side. In the same way that a man of courage will win a woman's affection more easily than a coward, so a heroic movement will be more successful in winning over the hearts of a people than a weak movement which relies on police support for its very existence.
It is for this latter reason in particular that our young movement was to be charged with the responsibility of assuring its own existence, defending itself; and conducting its own work of smashing the Red opposition.
The work of organizing the protective measures for our meetings was based on the following:
(1) An energetic and psychologically judicious way of conducting the meeting.
(2) An organized squad of troops to maintain order.
In those days we and no one else were masters of the situation at our meetings and on no occasion did we fail to emphasize this. Our opponents fully realized that any provocation would be the occasion of throwing them out of the hall at once, whatever the odds against us. At meetings, particularly outside Munich, we had in those days from five to eight hundred opponents against fifteen to sixteen National Socialists; yet we brooked no interference, for we were ready to be killed rather than capitulate. More than once a handful of party colleagues offered a heroic resistance to a raging and violent mob of Reds. Those fifteen or twenty men would certainly have been overwhelmed in the end had not the opponents known that three or four times as many of themselves would first get their skulls cracked. Arid that risk they were not willing to run. We had done our best to study Marxist and bourgeois methods of conducting meetings, and we had certainly learnt something.
The Marxists had always exercised a most rigid discipline so that the question of breaking up their meetings could never have originated in bourgeois quarters. This gave the Reds all the more reason for acting on this plan. In time they not only became past-masters in this art but in certain large districts of the Reich they went so far as to declare that non-Marxist meetings were nothing less than a cause of' provocation against the proletariat. This was particularly the case when the wire-pullers suspected that a meeting might call attention to their own transgressions and thus expose their own treachery and chicanery. Therefore the moment such a meeting was announced to be held a howl of rage went up from the Red Press. These detractors of the law nearly always turned first to the authorities and requested in imperative and threatening language that this 'provocation of the proletariat' be stopped forthwith in the 'interests of law and order'. Their language was chosen according to the importance of the official blockhead they were dealing with and thus success was assured. If by chance the official happened to be a true German – and not a mere figurehead – and he declined the impudent request, then the time-honoured appeal to stop 'provocation of the proletariat' was issued together with instructions to attend such and such a meeting on a certain date in full strength for the purpose of 'putting a stop to the disgraceful machinations of the bourgeoisie by means of the proletarian fist'.
The pitiful and frightened manner in which these bourgeois meetings are conducted must be seen in order to be believed. Very frequently these threats were sufficient to call off such a meeting at once. The feeling of fear was so marked that the meeting, instead of commencing at eight o'clock, very seldom was opened before a quarter to nine or nine o'clock. The Chairman thereupon did his best, by showering compliments on the 'gentleman of the opposition' to prove how he and all others present were pleased (a palpable lie) to welcome a visit from men who as yet were not in sympathy with them for the reason that only by mutual discussion (immediately agreed to) could they be brought closer together in mutual understanding. Apart from this the Chairman also assured them that the meeting had no intention whatsoever of interfering with the professed convictions of anybody. Indeed no. Everyone had the right to form and hold his own political views, but others should be allowed to do likewise. He therefore requested that the speaker be allowed to deliver his speech without interruption – the speech in any case not being a long affair. People abroad, he continued, would thus not come to regard this meeting as another shameful example of the bitter fraternal strife that is raging in Germany. And so on and so forth
The brothers of the Left had little if any appreciation for that sort of talk; the speaker had hardly commenced when he was shouted down. One gathered the impression at times that these speakers were graceful for being peremptorily cut short in their martyr-like discourse. These bourgeois toreadors left the arena in the midst of a vast uproar, that is to say, provided that they were not thrown down the stairs with cracked skulls, which was very often the case.
Therefore, our methods of organization at National Socialist meetings were something quite strange to the Marxists. They came to our meetings in the belief that the little game which they had so often played could as a matter of course be also repeated on us. "To-day we shall finish them off." How often did they bawl this out to each other on entering the meeting hall, only to be thrown out with lightning speed before they had time to repeat it.
In the first place our method of conducting a meeting was entirely different. We did not beg and pray to be allowed to speak, and we did not straightway give everybody the right to hold endless discussions. We curtly gave everyone to understand that we were masters of the meeting and that we would do as it pleased us and that everyone who dared to interrupt would be unceremoniously thrown out. We stated clearly our refusal to accept responsibility for anyone treated in this manner. If time permitted and if it suited us, a discussion would be allowed to take place. Our party colleague would now make his speech.... That kind of talk was sufficient in itself to astonish the Marxists.
Secondly, we had at our disposal a well-trained and organized body of men for maintaining order at our meetings. On the other hand the bourgeois parties protected their meetings with a body of men better classified as ushers who by virtue of their age thought they were entitled to-authority and respect. But as Marxism has little or no respect for these things, the question of suitable self-protection at these bourgeois meetings was, so to speak, in practice non-existent.
When our political meetings first started I made it a special point to organize a suitable defensive squad – a squad composed chiefly of young men. Some of them were comrades who had seen active service with me; others were young party members who, right from the start, had been trained and brought up to realize that only terror is capable of smashing terror – that only courageous and determined people had made a success of things in this world and that, finally, we were fighting for an idea so lofty that it was worth the last drop of our blood. These young men had been brought up to realize that where force replaced common sense in the solution of a problem, the best means of defence was attack and that the reputation of our hall-guard squads should stamp us as a political fighting force and not as a debating society.
And it was extraordinary how eagerly these boys of the War generation responded to this order. They had indeed good reason for being bitterly disappointed and indignant at the miserable milksop methods employed by the bourgeoise.
Thus it became clear to everyone that the Revolution had only been possible thanks to the dastardly methods of a bourgeois government. At that time there was certainly no lack of man-power to suppress the revolution, but unfortunately there was an entire lack of directive brain power. How often did the eyes of my young men light up with enthusiasm when I explained to them the vital functions connected with their task and assured them time and again that all earthly wisdom is useless unless it be supported by a measure of strength, that the gentle goddess of Peace can only walk in company with the god of War, and that every great act of peace must be protected and assisted by force. In this way the idea of military service came to them in a far more realistic form – not in the fossilized sense of the souls of decrepit officials serving the dead authority of a dead State, but in the living realization of the duty of each man to sacrifice his life at all times so that his country might live.
How those young men did their job!
Like a swarm of hornets they tackled disturbers at our meetings, regardless of superiority of numbers, however great, indifferent to wounds and bloodshed, inspired with the great idea of blazing a trail for the sacred mission of our movement.
As early as the summer of 1920 the organization of squads of men as hall guards for maintaining order at our meetings was gradually assuming definite shape. By the spring of 1921 this body of men were sectioned off into squads of one hundred, which in turn were sub-divided into smaller groups.
The urgency for this was apparent, as meanwhile the number of our meetings had steadily increased. We still frequently met in the Munich Hofbräuhaus but more frequently in the large meeting halls throughout the city itself. In the autumn and winter of 1920–1921 our meetings in the Bürgerbräu and Munich Kindlbräu had assumed vast proportions and it was always the same picture that presented itself; namely, meetings of the NSDAP (The German National Socialist Labour Party) were always crowded out so that the police were compelled to close and bar the doors long before proceedings commenced.
The organization of defense guards for keeping order at our meetings cleared up a very difficult question. Up till then the movement had possessed no party badge and no party flag. The lack of these tokens was not only a disadvantage at that time but would prove intolerable in the future. The disadvantages were chiefly that members of the party possessed no outward broken of membership which linked them together, and it was absolutely unthinkable that for the future they should remain without some token which would be a symbol of the movement and could be set against that of the International.
More than once in my youth the psychological importance of such a symbol had become clearly evident to me and from a sentimental point of view also it was advisable. In Berlin, after the War, I was present at a mass-demonstration of Marxists in front of the Royal Palace and in the Lustgarten. A sea of red flags, red armlets and red flowers was in itself sufficient to give that huge assembly of about 120,000 persons an outward appearance of strength. I was now able to feel and understand how easily the man in the street succumbs to the hypnotic magic of such a grandiose piece of theatrical presentation.
The bourgeoisie, which as a party neither possesses or stands for any outlook at all, had therefore not a single banner. Their party was composed of 'patriots' who went about in the colours of the Reich. If these colors were the symbol of a definite philosophy then one could understand the rulers of the State regarding this flag as expressive of their philosophy, seeing that through their efforts the official Reich flag was expressive of their philosophy.
But in reality the position was otherwise.
The Reich was morticed together without the aid of the German bourgeoisie and the flag itself was born of the War and therefore merely a State flag possessing no importance in the sense of any particular ideological mission.
Only in one part of the German-speaking territory – in German-Austria – was there anything like a bourgeois party flag in evidence. Here a section of the national bourgeoisie selected the 1848 colours (black, red and gold) as their party flag and therewith created a symbol which, though of no importance from a weltanschauliche viewpoint, had, nevertheless, a revolutionary character from a national point of view. The most bitter opponents of this flag at that time, and this should not be forgotten today, were the Social Democrats and the Christian Socialists or clericals. They, in particular, were the ones who degraded and besmirched these colours in the same way as in 1918 they dragged black, white and red into the gutter. Of course, the black, red and gold of the German parties in the old Austria were the colours of the year 1848: that is to say, of a period likely to be regarded as somewhat visionary, but it was a period that had honest German souls as its representatives, although the Jews were lurking unseen as wire-pullers in the background. It was high treason and the shameful enslavement of the German territory that first of all made these colours so attractive to the Marxists of the Centre Party; so much so that today they revere them as their most cherished possession and use them as their own banners for the protection of the flag they once foully besmirched.
It is a fact, therefore, that, up till 1920, in opposition to the Marxists there was no flag that would have stood for a consolidated resistance to them. For even if the better political elements of the German bourgeoisie were loath to accept the suddenly discovered black, red and gold colours as their symbol after the year 1918, they nevertheless were incapable of counteracting this with a future programme of their own that would correspond to the new trend of affairs. At the most, they had a reconstruction of the old Reich in mind.
And it is to this way of thinking that the black, white and red colours of the old Reich are indebted for their resurrection as the flag of our so-called national bourgeois parties.
It was obvious that the symbol of a régime which had been overthrown by the Marxists under inglorious circumstances was not now worthy to serve as a banner under which the same Marxism was to be crushed in its turn. However much any decent German may love and revere those old colours, glorious when placed side by side in their youthful freshness, when he had fought under them and seen the sacrifice of so many lives, that flag had little value for the struggle of the future.
In our Movement I have always adopted the standpoint that it was a really lucky thing for the German nation that it had lost its old flag. This standpoint of mine was in strong contrast to that of the bourgeois politicians. It may be immaterial to us what the Republic does under its flag. But let us be deeply grateful to fate for having so graciously spared the most glorious war flag for all time from becoming an ignominious rag. The Reich of today, which sells itself and its people, must never be allowed to adopt the honourable and heroic black, white and red colours.
As long as the November outrage endures, that outrage may continue to bear its own external sign and not steal that of an honourable past. Our bourgeois politicians should awaken their consciences to the fact that whoever desires this State to have the black, white and red colours is pilfering from the past. The old flag was suitable only for the old Reich and, thank Heaven, the Republic chose the colours best suited to itself.
This was also the reason why we National Socialists recognized that hoisting the old colours would be no symbol of our special aims; for we had no wish to resurrect from the dead the old Reich which had been ruined through its own blunders, but to build up a new State.
The Movement which is fighting Marxism today along these lines must display on its banner the symbol of the new State.
The question of the new flag, that is to say the form and appearance it must take, kept us very busy in those days. Suggestions poured in from all quarters, which although well meant were more or less impossible in practice. The new flag had not only to become a symbol expressing our own struggle but on the other hand it was necessary that it should prove effective as a large poster. All those who busy themselves with the tastes of the public will recognize and appreciate the great importance of these apparently petty matters. In hundreds of thousands of cases a really striking emblem may be the first cause of awakening interest in a movement.
For this reason we declined all suggestions from various quarters for identifying our movement by means of a white flag with the old State or rather with those decrepit parties whose sole political objective is the restoration of past conditions. And, apart from this, white is not a colour capable of attracting and focusing public attention. It is a colour suitable only for young women's associations and not for a movement that stands for reform in a revolutionary period.
Black was also suggested – certainly well-suited to the times, but embodying no significance to empress the will behind our movement. And, finally, black is incapable of attracting attention.
White and blue was discarded, despite its admirable æsthetic appeal – as being the colours of an individual German Federal State – a State that, unfortunately, through its political attitude of particularist narrow-mindedness did not enjoy a good reputation. And, generally speaking, with these colours it would have been difficult to attract attention to our movement. The same applies to black and white.
Black, red and gold did not enter the question at all.
And this also applies to black, white and red for reasons already stated. At least, not in the form hitherto in use. But the effectiveness of these three colours is far superior to all the others and they are certainly the most strikingly harmonious combination to be found.
I myself was always for keeping the old colours, not only because I, as a soldier, regarded them as my most sacred possession, but because in their aesthetic effect, they conformed more than anything else to my personal taste. Accordingly I had to discard all the innumerable suggestions and designs which had been proposed for the new movement, among which were many that had incorporated the swastika into the old colours. I, as leader, was unwilling to make public my own design, as it was possible that someone else could come forward with a design just as good, if not better, than my own. As a matter of fact, a dental surgeon from Starnberg submitted a good design very similar to mine, with only one mistake, in that his swastika with curved corners was set upon a white background.
After innumerable trials I decided upon a final form – a flag of red material with a white disc bearing in its centre a black swastika. After many trials I obtained the correct proportions between the dimensions of the flag and of the white central disc, as well as that of the swastika. And this is how it has remained ever since.
At the same time we immediately ordered the corresponding armlets for our squad of men who kept order at meetings, armlets of red material, a central white disc with the black swastika upon it. Herr Füss, a Munich goldsmith, supplied the first practical and permanent design.
The new flag appeared in public in the midsummer of 1920. It suited our movement admirably, both being new and young. Not a soul had seen this flag before; its effect at that time was something akin to that of a blazing torch. We ourselves experienced almost a boyish delight when one of the ladies of the party who had been entrusted with the making of the flag finally handed it over to us. And a few months later those of us in Munich were in possession of six of these flags. The steadily increasing strength of our hall guards was a main factor in popularizing the symbol.
And indeed a symbol it proved to be.
Not only because it incorporated those revered colours expressive of our homage to the glorious past and which once brought so much honour to the German nation, but this symbol was also an eloquent expression of the will behind the movement. We National Socialists regarded our flag as being the embodiment of our party programme. The red expressed the social thought underlying the movement. White the national thought. And the swastika signified the mission allotted to us – the struggle for the victory of Aryan mankind and at the same time the triumph of the ideal of creative work which is in itself and always will be anti-Semitic.
Two years later, when our squad of hall guards had long since grown into storm detachments (Sturm-Abteilung), it seemed necessary to give this defensive organization of a young philosophy a particular symbol of victory, namely a Standard. I also designed this and entrusted the execution of it to an old party comrade, Herr Gahr, who was a goldsmith. Ever since that time this Standard has been the distinctive token of the National Socialist struggle.
The increasing interest taken in our meetings, particularly during 1920, compelled us at times to hold two meetings a week. Crowds gathered round our posters; the large meeting halls in the town were always filled and tens of thousands of people, who had been led astray by the teachings of Marxism, found their way to us and assisted in the work of fighting for the liberation of the Reich. The public in Munich had got to know us. We were being spoken about. The words 'National Socialist' had become common property to many and signified for them a definite party programme. Our circle of supporters and even of members was constantly increasing, so that in the winter of 1920–21 we were able to appear as a strong party in Munich.
At that time there was no party in Munich with the exception of the Marxist parties – certainly no nationalist party – which was able to hold such mass demonstrations as ours. The Munich Kindl Hall, which held 5,000 people, was more than once overcrowded and up till then there was only one other hall, the Krone Circus Hall, into which we had not ventured.
At the end of January 1921 there was again great cause for anxiety in Germany. The Paris Agreement, by which Germany pledged herself to pay the crazy sum of a hundred milliards of gold marks, was to be confirmed by the London Ultimatum.
Thereupon an old-established Munich working committee, representative of so-called völkisch groups, deemed it advisable to call for a public meeting of protest. I became nervous and restless when I saw that a lot of time was being wasted and nothing undertaken. At first a meeting was suggested in the König Platz; on second thoughts this was turned down, as someone feared the proceedings might be wrecked by Red elements. Another suggestion was a demonstration in front of the Feldherrn Hall, but this also came to nothing. Finally a combined meeting in the Munich Kindl Hall was suggested. Meanwhile, day after day had gone by; the big parties had entirely ignored the terrible event, and the working committee could not decide on a definite date for holding the demonstration.
On Tuesday, February 1st, I put forward an urgent demand for a final decision. I was put off until Wednesday. On that day I demanded to be told clearly if and when the meeting was to take place. The reply was again uncertain and evasive, it being stated that it was 'intended' to arrange a demonstration that day week.
At that I lost all patience and decided to conduct a demonstration of protest on my own. At noon on Wednesday I dictated in ten minutes the text of the poster and at the same time hired the Krone Circus Hall for the next day, February 3rd.
In those days this was a tremendous venture. Not only because of the uncertainty of filling that vast hall, but also because of the risk of the meeting being wrecked.
Numerically our squad of hall guards was not strong enough for this vast hall. I was also uncertain about what to do in case the meeting was broken up – a huge circus building being a different proposition from an ordinary meeting hall. But events showed that my fears were misplaced, the opposite being the case. In that vast building a squad of wreckers could be tackled and subdued more easily than in a cramped hall.
One thing was certain: A failure would throw us back for a long time to come. If one meeting was wrecked our prestige would be seriously injured and our opponents would be encouraged to repeat their success. That would lead to sabotage of our work in connection with further meetings and months of difficult struggle would be necessary to overcome this.
We had only one day in which to post our bills, Thursday. Unfortunately it rained on the morning of that day and there was reason to fear that many people would prefer to remain at home rather than hurry to a meeting through rain and snow, especially when there was likely to be violence and bloodshed.
And indeed on that Thursday morning I was suddenly struck with fear that the hall might never be filled to capacity, which would have made me ridiculous in the eyes of the working committee. I therefore immediately dictated various leaflets, had them printed and distributed in the afternoon. Of course they contained an invitation to attend the meeting.
Two lorries which I hired were draped as much as possible in red, each had our new flag hoisted on it and was then filled with fifteen or twenty members of our party. Orders were given the members to canvas the streets thoroughly, distribute leaflets and conduct propaganda for the mass meeting to be held that evening. It was the first time that lorries had driven through the streets bearing flags and not manned by Marxists. The public stared open-mouthed at these red-draped cars, and in the outlying districts clenched fists were angrily raised at this new evidence of 'provocation of the proletariat'. Were not the Marxists the only ones entitled to hold meetings and drive about in motor lorries?
At seven o'clock in the evening only a few had gathered in the circus hall. I was being kept informed by telephone every ten minutes and was becoming uneasy. Usually at seven or a quarter past our meeting halls were already half filled; sometimes even packed. But I soon found out the reason why I was uneasy. I had entirely forgotten to take into account the huge dimensions of this new meeting place. A thousand people in the Hofbräuhaus was quite an impressive sight, but the same number in the Circus building was swallowed up in its dimensions and was hardly noticeable. Shortly afterwards I received more hopeful reports and at a quarter to eight I was informed that the hall was three-quarters filled, with huge crowds still lined up at the pay boxes. I then left for the meeting.
I arrived at the Circus building at two minutes past eight. There was still a crowd of people outside, partly inquisitive people and many opponents who preferred to wait outside for developments.
When I entered the great hall I felt the same joy I had felt a year previously at the first meeting in the Munich Hofbräu Banquet Hall; but it was not until I had forced my way through the solid wall of people and reached the platform that I perceived the full measure of our success. The hall was before me, like a huge shell, packed with thousands and thousands of people. Even the arena was densely crowded. More than 5,600 tickets had been sold and, allowing for the unemployed, poor students and our own detachments of men for keeping order, a crowd of about 6,500 must have been present.
My theme was 'Future or Downfall' and I was filled with joy at the conviction that the future was represented by the crowds that I was addressing.
I began, and spoke for about two and a half hours. I had the feeling after the first half-hour that the meeting was going to be a big success. Contact had been at once established with all those thousands of individuals. After the first hour the speech was already being received by spontaneous outbreaks of applause, but after the second hour this died down to a solemn stillness which I was to experience so often later on in this same hall, and which will for ever be remembered by all those present. Nothing broke this impressive silence and only when the last word had been spoken did the meeting give vent to its feelings by singing the national anthem.
I watched the scene during the next twenty minutes, as the vast hall slowly emptied itself, and only then did I leave the platform, a happy man, and made my way home.
Photographs were taken of this first meeting in the Krone Circus Hall in Munich. They are more eloquent than words to demonstrate the success of this demonstration. The bourgeois papers reproduced photographs and reported the meeting as having been merely 'nationalist' in character; in their usual modest fashion they omitted all mention of its promoters.
Thus for the first time we had developed far beyond the dimensions of an ordinary party. We could no longer be ignored. And to dispel all doubt that the meeting was merely an isolated success, I immediately arranged for another at the Circus Hall in the following week, and again we had the same success. Once more the vast hall was overflowing with people; so much so that I decided to hold a third meeting during the following week, which also proved a similar success.
After these initial successes early in 1921 I increased our activity in Munich still further. I not only held meetings once a week, but during some weeks even two were regularly held and very often during midsummer and autumn this increased to three. We met regularly at the Circus Hall and it gave us great satisfaction to see that every meeting brought us the same measure of success.
The result was shown in an ever-increasing number of supporters and members into our party.
Naturally, such success did not allow our opponents to sleep soundly. At first their tactics fluctuated between the use of terror and silence in our regard. Then they recognized that neither terror nor silence could hinder the progress of our movement. So they had recourse to a supreme act of terror which was intended to put a definite end to our activities in the holding of meetings.
As a pretext for action along this line they availed themselves of a very mysterious attack on one of the Landtag deputies, named Erhard Auer. It was declared that someone had fired several shots at this man one evening. This meant that he was not shot but that an attempt had been made to shoot him. A fabulous presence of mind and heroic courage on the part of Social Democratic leaders not only prevented the sacrilegious intention from taking effect but also put the crazy would-be assassins to flight, like the cowards that they were. They were so quick and fled so far that subsequently the police could not find even the slightest traces of them. This mysterious episode was used by the organ of the Social Democratic Party to arouse public feeling against the movement, and while doing this it delivered its old rigmarole about the tactics that were to be employed the next time. Their purpose was to see to it that our movement should not grow but should be immediately hewn down root and branch by the hefty arm of the proletariat.
A few days later the real attack came. It was decided finally to interrupt one of our meetings which was billed to take place in the Munich Hofbräuhaus, and at which I myself was to speak.
On November 4th, 1921, in the evening between six and seven o'clock I received the first precise news that the meeting would positively be broken up and that to carry out this action our adversaries had decided to send to the meeting great masses of workmen employed in certain 'Red' factories.
It was due to an unfortunate accident that we did not receive this news sooner. On that day we had given up our old business office in the Sternecker Gasse in Munich and moved into other quarters; or rather we had given up the old offices and our new quarters were not yet in functioning order. The telephone arrangements had been cut off by the former tenants and had not yet been reinstalled. Hence it happened that several attempts made that day to inform us by telephone of the break-up which had been planned for the evening did not reach us.
Consequently our order troops were not present in strong force at that meeting. There was only one squad present, which did not consist of the usual one hundred men, but only of about forty-six. And our telephone connections were not yet sufficiently organized to be able to give the alarm in the course of an hour or so, so that a sufficiently powerful number of order troops to deal with the situation could be called. It must also be added that on several previous occasions we had been forewarned, but nothing special happened. The old proverb, 'Revolutions which were announced have scarcely ever come off', had hitherto been proved true in our regard.
Possibly for this reason also sufficiently strong precautions had not been taken on that day to cope with the brutal determination of our opponents to break up our meeting.
Finally, we did not believe that the Hofbräuhaus in Munich was suitable for the interruptive tactics of our adversaries. We had feared such a thing far more in the bigger halls, especially that of the Krone Circus. But on this point we learned a very serviceable lesson that evening. Later, we studied this whole question according to a scientific system and arrived at results, both interesting and incredible, and which subsequently were an essential factor in the direction of our organization and in the tactics of our Storm Troops.
When I arrived in the entrance halt of the Hofbräuhaus at 7.45 that evening I realizcd that there could be no doubt as to what the 'Reds' intended. The hall was filled, and for that reason the police had barred the entrances. Our adversaries, who had arrived very early, were in the hall, and our followers were for the most part outside. The small bodyguard awaited me at the entrance. I had the doors leading to the principal hall closed and then asked the bodyguard of forty-five or forty-six men to come forward. I made it clear to the boys that perhaps on that evening for the first time they would have to show their unbending and unbreakable loyalty to the movement and that not one of us should leave the hall unless carried out dead. I added that I would remain in the hall and that I did not believe that one of them would abandon me, and that if I saw any one of them act the coward I myself would personally tear off his armlet and his badge. I demanded of them that they should come forward if the slightest attempt to sabotage the meeting were made and that they must remember that the best defence is always attack.
I was greeted with a triple 'Heil' which sounded more hoarse and violent than usual.
Then I advanced through the hall and could take in the situation with my own eyes. Our opponents sat closely huddled together and tried to pierce me through with their looks. Innumerable faces glowing with hatred and rage were fixed on me, while others with sneering grimaces shouted at me together. Now they would 'Finish with us. We must look out for our entrails. To-day they would smash in our faces once and for all.' And there were other expressions of an equally elegant character. They knew that they were there in superior numbers and they acted accordingly.
Yet we were able to open the meeting; and I began to speak. In the Hall of the Hofbräuhaus I stood always at the side, away from the entry and on top of a beer table. Therefore I was always right in the midst of the audience. Perhaps this circumstance was responsible for creating a certain feeling and a sense of agreement which I never found elsewhere.
Before me, and especially towards my left, there were only opponents, seated or standing. They were mostly robust youths and men from the Maffei Factory, from Kustermann's, and from the factories on the Isar, etc. Along the right-hand wall of the hall they were thickly massed quite close to my table. They now began to order litre mugs of beer, one after the other, and to throw the empty mugs under the table. In this way whole batteries were collected. I should have been surprised had this meeting ended peacefully.
In spite of all the interruptions, I was able to speak for about an hour and a half and I felt as if I were master of the situation. Even the ringleaders of the disturbers appeared to be convinced of this; for they steadily became more uneasy, often left the hall, returned and spoke to their men in an obviously nervous way.
A small psychological error which I committed in replying to an interruption, and the mistake of which I myself was conscious the moment the words had left my mouth, gave the sign for the outbreak.
There were a few furious outbursts and all in a moment a man jumped on a seat and shouted "Liberty". At that signal the champions of liberty began their work.
In a few moments the hall was filled with a yelling and shrieking mob. Numerous beer-mugs flew like howitzers above their heads. Amid this uproar one heard the crash of chair legs, the crashing of mugs, groans and yells and screams.
It was a mad spectacle. I stood where I was and could observe my boys doing their duty, every one of them.
There I had the chance of seeing what a bourgeois meeting could be.
The dance had hardly begun when my Storm Troops, as they were called from that day onwards, launched their attack. Like wolves they threw themselves on the enemy again and again in parties of eight or ten and began steadily to thrash them out of the hall. After five minutes I could see hardly one of them that was not streaming with blood. Then I realized what kind of men many of them were, above all my brave Maurice Hess, who is my private secretary today, and many others who, even though seriously wounded, attacked again and again as long as they could stand on their feet. Twenty minutes long the pandemonium continued. Then the opponents, who had numbered seven or eight hundred, had been driven from the hall or hurled out headlong by my men, who had not numbered fifty. Only in the left corner a big crowd still stood out against our men and put up a bitter fight. Then two pistol shots rang out from the entrance to the hall in the direction of the platform and now a wild din of shooting broke out from all sides. One's heart almost rejoiced at this spectacle which recalled memories of the War.
At that moment it was not possible to identify the person who had fired the shots. But at any rate I could see that my boys renewed the attack with increased fury until finally the last disturbers were overcome and flung out of the hall.
About twenty-five minutes had passed since it all began. The hall looked as if a bomb had exploded there. Many of my comrades had to be bandaged and others taken away. But we remained masters of the situation. Hermann Essen, who was chairman of the meeting, announced: "The meeting will continue. The speaker shall proceed." So I went on with my speech.
When we ourselves declared the meeting at an end an excited police officer rushed in, waved his hands and declared: "The meeting is dissolved."
Without wishing to do so I had to laugh at this example of the law's delay. It was real police pompousness. The smaller they are the greater they must always try to appear.
That evening we learned a real lesson. And our adversaries never forgot the lesson they had received.
Up to the autumn of 1923 the Münchener post did not again mention the clenched fists of the Proletariat.
The Strong Man is Mightiest Alone
In the preceding chapter I mentioned the existence of a co-operative union between the German patriotic associations. Here I shall deal briefly with this question.
In speaking of a co-operative union we generally mean a group of associations which, for the purpose of facilitating their work, establish mutual relations for collaborating with one another along certain lines, appointing a common directorate with varying powers and thenceforth carrying out a common line of action. The average citizen is pleased and reassured when he hears that these associations, by establishing a co-operative union among one another, have at long last discovered a common platform on which they can stand united and have eliminated all grounds of mutual difference. Therewith a general conviction arises, to the effect that such a union is an immense gain in strength and that small groups which were weak as long as they stood alone have now suddenly become strong. Yet this conviction is for the most part a mistaken one.
It will be interesting and, in my opinion, important for the better understanding of this question if we try to get a clear notion of how it comes about that these associations, unions, etc., are established, when all of them declare that they have the same ends in view. In itself it would be logical to expect that one aim should be fought for by a single association and it would be more reasonable if there were not a number of associations fighting for the same aim. In the beginning there was undoubtedly only one association which had this one fixed aim in view. One man proclaimed a truth somewhere and, calling for the solution of a definite question, fixed his aim and founded a movement for the purpose of carrying his views into effect.
That is how an association or a party is founded, the scope of whose programme is either the abolition of existing evils or the positive establishment of a certain order of things in the future.
Once such a movement has come into existence it may lay practical claim to certain priority rights. The natural course of things would now be that all those who wish to fight for the same objective as this movement is striving for should identify themselves with it and thus increase its strength, so that the common purpose in view may be all the better served. Especially men of superior intelligence must feel, one and all, that by joining the movement they are establishing precisely those conditions which are necessary for practical success in the common struggle. Accordingly it is reasonable and, in a certain sense, honest – which honesty, as I shall show later, is an element of very great importance – that only one movement should be founded for the purpose of attaining the one aim.
The fact that this does not happen must be attributed to two causes. The first may almost be described as tragic. The second is a matter for pity, because it has its foundation in the weaknesses of human nature. But, on going to the bottom of things, I see in both causes only facts which give still another ground for strengthening our will, our energy and intensity of purpose; so that finally, through the higher development of the human faculties, the solution of the problem in question may be rendered possible.
The tragic reason why it so often happens that the pursuit of one definite task is not left to one association alone is as follows: Generally speaking, every action carried out on the grand style in this world is the expression of a desire that has already existed for a long time in millions of human hearts, a longing which may have been nourished in silence. Yes, it may happen that throughout centuries men may have been yearning for the solution of a definite problem, because they have been suffering under an unendurable order of affairs, without seeing on the far horizon the coming fulfilment of the universal longing. Nations which are no longer capable of finding an heroic deliverance from such a sorrowful fate may be looked upon as effete. But, on the other hand, nothing gives better proof of the vital forces of a people and the consequent guarantee of its right to exist than that one day, through a happy decree of Destiny, a man arises who is capable of liberating his people from some great oppression, or of wiping out some bitter distress, or of calming the national soul which had been tormented through its sense of insecurity, and thus fulfilling what had long been the universal yearning of the people.
An essential characteristic of what are called the great questions of the time is that thousands undertake the task of solving them and that many feel themselves called to this task: yea, even that Destiny itself has proposed many for the choice, so that through the free play of forces the stronger and bolder shall finally be victorious and to him shall be entrusted the task of solving the problem.
Thus it may happen that for centuries many are discontented with the form in which their religious life expresses itself and yearn for a renovation of it; and so it may happen that through this impulse of the soul some dozens of men may arise who believe that, by virtue of their understanding and their knowledge, they are called to solve the religious difficulties of the time and accordingly present themselves as the prophets of a new teaching or at least as declared adversaries of the standing beliefs.
Here also it is certain that the natural law will take its course, inasmuch as the strongest will be destined to fulfil the great mission. But usually the others are slow to acknowledge that only one man is called. On the contrary, they all believe that they have an equal right to engage in the solution of the diffculties in question and that they are equally called to that task. Their contemporary world is generally quite unable to decide which of all these possesses the highest gifts and accordingly merits the support of all.
So in the course of centuries, or indeed often within the same epoch, different men establish different movements to struggle towards the same end. At least the end is declared by the founders of the movements to be the same, or may be looked upon as such by the masses of the people. The populace nourishes vague desires and has only general opinions, without having any precise notion of their own ideals and desires or of the question whether and how it is impossible for these ideals and desires to be fulfilled.
The tragedy lies in the fact that many men struggle to reach the same objective by different roads, each one genuinely believing in his own mission and holding himself in duty bound to follow his own road without any regard for the others.
These movements, parties, religious groups, etc., originate entirely independently of one another out of the general urge of the time, and all with a view to working towards the same goal. It may seem a tragic thing, at least at first sight, that this should be so, because people are too often inclined to think that forces which are dispersed in different directions would attain their ends far more quickly and more surely if they were united in one common effort. But that is not so. For Nature herself decides according to the rules of her inexorable logic. She leaves these diverse groups to compete with one another and dispute the palm of victory and thus she chooses the clearest, shortest and surest way along which she leads the movement to its final goal.
How could one decide from outside which is the best way, if the forces at hand were not allowed free play, if the final decision were to rest with the doctrinaire judgment of men who are so infatuated with their own superior knowledge that their minds are not open to accept the indisputable proof presented by manifest success, which in the last analysis always gives the final confirmation of the justice of a course of action.
Hence, though diverse groups march along different routes towards the same objective, as soon as they come to know that analogous efforts are being made around them, they will have to study all the more carefully whether they have chosen the best way and whether a shorter way may not be found and how their efforts can best be employed to reach the objective more quickly.
Through this rivalry each individual protagonist develops his faculties to a still higher pitch of perfection and the human race has frequently owed its progress to the lessons learned from the misfortunes of former attempts which have come to grief. Therefore we may conclude that we come to know the better ways of reaching final results through a state of things which at first sight appeared tragic; namely, the initial dispersion of individual efforts, wherein each group was unconsciously responsible for such dispersion.
In studying the lessons of history with a view to finding a way for the solution of the German problem, the prevailing opinion at one time was that there were two possible paths along which that problem might be solved and that these two paths should have united from the very beginning. The chief representatives and champions of these two paths were Austria and Prussia respectively, Habsburg and Hohenzollern. All the rest, according to this prevalent opinion, ought to have entrusted their united forces to the one or the other party. But at that time the path of the most prominent representative, the Habsburg, would have been taken, though the Austrian policy would never have led to the foundation of a united German Reich.
Finally, a strong and united German Reich arose out of that which many millions of Germans deplored in their hearts as the last and most terrible manifestation of our fratricidal strife. The truth is that the German Imperial Crown was retrieved on the battle field of Königgrätz and not in the fights that were waged before Paris, as was commonly asserted afterwards.
Thus the foundation of the German Reich was not the consequence of any common will working along common lines, but it was much more the outcome of a deliberate struggle for hegemony, though the protagonists were often hardly conscious of this. And from this struggle Prussia finally came out victorious. Anybody who is not so blinded by partisan politics as to deny this truth will have to agree that the so-called wisdom of men would never have come to the same wise decision as the wisdom of Life itself, that is to say, the free play of forces, finally brought to realization. For in the German lands of two hundred years before who would seriously have believed that Hohenzollern Prussia, and not Habsburg, would become the germ cell, the founder and the tutor of the new Reich? And, on the other hand, who would deny today that Destiny thus acted wiser than human wisdom. Who could now imagine a German Reich based on the foundations of an effete and degenerate dynasty?
No. The general evolution of things, even though it took a century of struggle, placed the best in the position that it had merited.
And that will always be so. Therefore it is not to be regretted if different men set out to attain the same objective. In this way the strongest and swiftest becomes recognized and turns out to be the victor.
Now there is a second cause for the fact that often in the lives of nations several movements which show the same characteristics strive along different ways to reach what appears to be the same goal. This second cause is not at all tragic, but just something that rightly calls forth pity. It arises from a sad mixture of envy, jealousy, ambition, and the itch for taking what belongs to others. Unfortunately these failings are often found united in single specimens of the human species.
The moment a man arises who profoundly understands the distress of his people and, having diagnosed the evil with perfect accuracy, takes measures to cure it; the moment he fixes his aim and chooses the means to reach it – then paltry and pettifogging people become all attention and eagerly follow the doings of this man who has thus come before the public gaze. Just like sparrows who are apparently indifferent, but in reality are firmly intent on the movements of the fortunate companion with the morsel of bread so that they may snatch it from him if he should momentarily relax his hold on it, so it is also with the human species. All that is needed is that one man should strike out on a new road and then a crowd of poltroons will prick up their ears and begin to sniff for whatever little booty may possibly lie at the end of that road. The moment they think they have discovered where the booty is to be gathered they hurry to find another way which may prove to be quicker in reaching that goal.
As soon as a new movement is founded and has formulated a definite programme, people of that kind come forward and proclaim that they are fighting for the same cause. This does not imply that they are ready honestly to join the ranks of such a movement and thus recognize its right of priority. It implies rather that they intend to steal the programme and found a new party on it. In doing this they are shameless enough to assure the unthinking public that for a long time they had intended to take the same line of action as the other has now taken, and frequently they succeed in thus placing themselves in a favourable light, instead of arousing the general disapprobation which they justly deserve. For it is a piece of gross impudence to take what has already been inscribed on another's flag and display it on one's own, to steal the programme of another, and then to form a separate group as if all had been created by the new founder of this group. The impudence of such conduct is particularly demonstrated when the individuals who first caused dispersion and disruption by their new foundation are those who – as experience has shown – are most emphatic in proclaiming the necessity of union and unity the moment they find they cannot catch up with their adversary's advance.
It is to that kind of conduct that the so-called 'patriotic disintegration' is to be attributed.
Certainly in the years 1918 – 1919 the founding of a multitude of new groups, parties, etc., calling themselves 'Patriotic,' was a natural phenomenon of the time, for which the founders were not at all responsible. By 1920 the National Socialist German Labour Party had slowly crystallized from all these parties and had become supreme. There could be no better proof of the sterling honesty of certain individual founders than the fact that many of them decided, in a really admirable manner, to sacrifice their manifestly less successful movements to the stronger movement, by joining it unconditionally and dissolving their own.
This is specially true in regard to Julius Streicher, who was at that time the protagonist of the German Socialist party in Nürnberg. The National Socialist German Labour Party had been founded with similar aims in view, but quite independently of the other. I have already said that Streicher, then a teacher in Nürnberg, was the chief protagonist of the German Socialist Party. He had a sacred conviction of the mission and future of his own movement. As soon, however, as the superior strength and stronger growth of the National Socialist Party became clear and unquestionable to his mind, he gave up his work in the German Socialist Party and called upon his followers to fall into line with the National Socialist German Labour Party, which had come out victorious from the mutual contest, and carry on the fight within its ranks for the common cause. The decision was personally a difficult one for him, but it showed a profound sense of honesty.
When that first period of the movement was over there remained no further dispersion of forces: for their honest intentions had led the men of that time to the same honourable, straightforward and just conclusion. What we now call the 'patriotic disintegration' owes its existence exclusively to the second of the two causes which I have mentioned. Ambitious men who at first had no ideas of their own, and still less any concept of aims to be pursued, felt themselves 'called' exactly at that moment in which the success of the National Socialist German Labour Party became unquestionable.
Suddenly programmes appeared which were mere transcripts of ours. Ideas were proclaimed which had been taken from us. Aims were set up on behalf of which we had been fighting for several years, and ways were mapped out which the National Socialists had for a long time trodden. All kinds of means were resorted to for the purpose of trying to convince the public that, although the National Socialist German Labour Party had now been for a long time in existence, it was found necessary to establish these new parties. But all these phrases were just as insincere as the motives behind them were ignoble.
In reality all this was grounded only on one dominant motive. That motive was the personal ambition of the founders, who wished to play a part in which their own pigmy talents could contribute nothing original except the gross effrontery which they displayed in appropriating the ideas of others, a mode of conduct which in ordinary life is looked upon as thieving.
At that time there was not an idea or concept launched by other people which these political kleptomaniacs did not seize upon at once for the purpose of applying to their own base uses. Those who did all this were the same people who subsequently, with tears in their eyes, profoundly deplored the 'patriotic disintegration' and spoke unceasingly about the 'necessity of unity'. In doing this they nurtured the secret hope that they might be able to cry down the others, who would tire of hearing these loud-mouthed accusations and would end up by abandoning all claim to the ideas that had been stolen from them and would abandon to the thieves not only the task of carrying these ideas into effect but also the task of carrying on the movements of which they themselves were the original founders.
When that did not succeed, and the new enterprises, thanks to the paltry mentality of their promoters, did not show the favourable results which had been promised beforehand, then they became more modest in their pretences and were happy if they could land themselves in one of the so-called 'co-operative unions'.
At that period everything which could not stand on its own feet joined one of those co-operative unions, believing that eight lame people hanging on to one another could force a gladiator to surrender to them.
But if among all these cripples there was one who was sound of limb he had to use all his strength to sustain the others and thus he himself was practically paralysed.
We ought to look upon the question of joining these working coalitions as a tactical problem, but, in coming to a decision, we must never forget the following fundamental principle:
Through the formation of a working coalition associations which are weak in themselves can never be made strong, whereas it can and does happen not infrequently that a strong association loses its strength by joining in a coalition with weaker ones. It is a mistake to believe that a factor of strength will result from the coalition of weak groups; because experience shows that under all forms and all conditions the majority represents the duffers and poltroons. Hence a multiplicity of associations, under a directorate of many heads, elected by these same associations, is abandoned to the control of poltroons and weaklings. Through such a coalition the free play of forces is paralysed, the struggle for the selection of the best is abolished and therewith the necessary and final victory of the healthier and stronger is impeded. Coalitions of that kind are inimical to the process of natural development, because for the most part they hinder rather than advance the solution of the problem which is being fought for.
It may happen that, from considerations of a purely tactical kind, the supreme command of a movement whose goal is set in the future will enter into a coalition with such associations for the treatment of special questions and may also stand on a common platform with them, but this can be only for a short and limited period. Such a coalition must not be permanent, if the movement does not wish to renounce its liberating mission. Because if it should become indissolubly tied up in such a combination it would lose the capacity and the right to allow its own forces to work freely in following out a natural development, so as to overcome rivals and attain its own objective triumphantly.
It must never be forgotten that nothing really great in this world has ever been achieved through coalitions, but that such achievements have always been due to the triumph of the individual. Successes achieved through coalitions, owing to the very nature of their source, carry the germs of future disintegration in them from the very start; so much so that they have already forfeited what has been achieved. The great revolutions which have taken place in human thought and have veritably transformed the aspect of the world would have been inconceivable and impossible to carry out except through titanic struggles waged between individual natures, but never as the enterprises of coalitions.
And, above all things, the People's State will never be created by the desire for compromise inherent in a patriotic coalition, but only by the iron will of a single movement which has successfully come through in the struggle with all the others.
Basic Ideas Regarding the Meaning and Organization of the SA
The strength of the old state rested on three pillars: the monarchical form of government, the civil service, and the army. The Revolution of 1918 abolished the form of government, dissolved the army and abandoned the civil service to the corruption of party politics. Thus the essential supports of what is called the Authority of the State were shattered. This authority nearly always depends on three elements, which are the essential foundations of all authority.
Popular support is the first element which is necessary for the creation of authority. But an authority resting on that foundation alone is still quite frail, uncertain and vacillating. Hence everyone who finds himself vested with an authority that is based only on popular support must take measures to improve and consolidate the foundations of that authority by the creation of force. Accordingly we must look upon power, that is to say, the capacity to use force, as the second foundation on which all authority is based. This foundation is more stable and secure, but not always stronger, than the first. If popular support and power are united together and can endure for a certain time, then an authority may arise which is based on a still stronger foundation, namely, the authority of tradition. And, finally, if popular support, power, and tradition are united together, then the authority based on them may be looked upon as invincible.
In Germany the Revolution abolished this last foundation. There was no longer even a traditional authority. With the collapse of the old Reich, the suppression of the monarchical form of government, the destruction of all the old insignia of greatness and the imperial symbols, tradition was shattered at a blow. The result was that the authority of the State was shaken to its foundations.
The second pillar of statal authority, namely power, also ceased to exist. In order to carry through the Revolution it was necessary to dissolve that body which had hitherto incorporated the organized force and power of the State, namely, the Army. Indeed, some detached fragments of the Army itself had to be employed as fighting elements in the Revolution. The Armies at the front were not subjected in the same measure to this process of disruption; but as they gradually left farther behind them the fields of glory on which they had fought heroically for four-and-half years, they were attacked by the solvent acid that had permeated the Fatherland; and when they arrived at the demobilizing centres they fell into that state of confusion which was styled voluntary obedience in the time of the Soldiers' Councils.
Of course it was out of the question to think of founding any kind of authority on this crowd of mutineering soldiers, who looked upon military service as a work of eight hours per day. Therefore the second element, that which guarantees the stability of authority, was also abolished and the Revolution had only the original element, popular support, on which to build up its authority. But this basis was extraordinarily insecure. By means of a few violent thrusts the Revolution had shattered the old statal edifice to its deepest foundations, but only because the normal equilibrium within the social structure of the nation had already been destroyed by the war.
Every national body is made up of three main classes. At one extreme we have the best of the people, taking the word 'best' here to indicate those who are highly endowed with the civic virtues and are noted for their courage and their readiness to sacrifice their private interests. At the other extreme are the worst dregs of humanity, in whom vice and egotistic interests prevail. Between these two extremes stands the third class, which is made up of the broad middle stratum, who do not represent radiant heroism or vulgar vice.
The stages of a nation's rise are accomplished exclusively under the leadership of the best extreme.
Times of normal and symmetrical development, or of stable conditions, owe their existence and outwardly visible characteristics to the preponderating influence of the middle stratum. In this stage the two extreme classes are balanced against one another; in other words, they are relatively cancelled out.
Times of national collapse are determined by the preponderating influence of the worst elements.
It must be noted here, however, that the broad masses, which constitute what I have called the middle section, come forward and make their influence felt only when the two extreme sections are engaged in mutual strife. In case one of the extreme sections comes out victorious the middle section will readily submit to its domination. If the best dominate, the broad masses will follow it. Should the worst extreme turn out triumphant, then the middle section will at least offer no opposition to it; for the masses that constitute the middle class never fight their own battles.
The outpouring of blood for four-and-a-half years during the war destroyed the inner equilibrium between these three sections in so far as it can be said – though admitting the sacrifices made by the middle section – that the class which consisted of the best human elements almost completely disappeared through the loss of so much of its blood in the war, because it was impossible to replace the truly enormous quantity of heroic German blood which had been shed during those four-and-a-half years. In hundreds of thousands of cases it was always a matter of 'volunteers to the front', volunteers for patrol and duty, volunteer dispatch carriers, volunteers for establishing and working telephonic communications, volunteers for bridge-building, volunteers for the submarines, volunteers for the air service, volunteers for the storm battalions, and so on, and so on. During four-and-a-half years, and on thousands of occasions, there was always the call for volunteers and again for volunteers. And the result was always the same. Beardless young fellows or fully developed men, all filled with an ardent love for their country, urged on by their own courageous spirit or by a lofty sense of their duty – it was always such men who answered the call for volunteers. Tens of thousands, indeed hundreds of thousands, of such men came forward, so that that kind of human material steadily grew scarcer and scarcer. What did not actually fall was maimed in the fight or gradually had to join the ranks of the crippled because of the wounds they were constantly receiving, and thus they had to carry on interminably owing to the steady decrease in the supply of such men. In 1914 whole armies were composed of volunteers who, owing to a criminal lack of conscience on the part of our feckless parliamentarians, had not received any proper training in times of peace, and so were thrown as defenceless cannon-fodder to the enemy. The four hundred thousand who thus fell or were permanently maimed on the battlefields of Flanders could not be replaced any more. Their loss was something far more than merely numerical. With their death the scales, which were already too lightly weighed at that end of the social structure which represented our best human quality, now moved upwards rapidly, becoming heavier on the other end with those vulgar elements of infamy and cowardice – in short, there was an increase in the elements that constituted the worst extreme of our population.
And there was something more: While for four-and-a-half years our best human material was being thinned to an exceptional degree on the battlefields, our worst people wonderfully succeeded in saving themselves. For each hero who made the supreme sacrifice and ascended the steps of Valhalla, there was a shirker who cunningly dodged death on the plea of being engaged in business that was more or less useful at home.
And so the picture which presented itself at the end of the war was this: The great middle stratum of the nation had fulfilled its duty and paid its toll of blood. One extreme of the population, which was constituted of the best elements, had given a typical example of its heroism and had sacrificed itself almost to a man. The other extreme, which was constituted of the worst elements of the population, had preserved itself almost intact, through taking advantage of absurd laws and also because the authorities failed to enforce certain articles of the military code.
This carefully preserved scum of our nation then made the Revolution. And the reason why it could do so was that the extreme section composed of the best elements was no longer there to oppose it. It no longer existed.
Hence the German Revolution, from the very beginning, depended on only one section of the population. This act of Cain was not committed by the German people as such, but by an obscure canaille of deserters, hooligans, etc.
The man at the front gladly welcomed the end of the strife in which so much blood had been shed. He was happy to be able to return home and see his wife and children once again. But he had no moral connection with the Revolution. He did not like it, nor did he like those who had provoked and organized it. During the four-and-a-half years of that bitter struggle at the front he had come to forget the party hyenas at home and all their wrangling had become foreign to him.
The Revolution was really popular only with a small section of the German people: namely, that class and their accomplices who had selected the rucksack as the hall-mark of all honourable citizens in this new State. They did not like the Revolution for its own sake, though many people still erroneously believe the contrary, but for the consequences which followed in its train.
But it was very difficult to establish any abiding authority on the popular support given to these Marxist freebooters. And yet the young Republic stood in need of authority at any cost, unless it was ready to agree to be overthrown after a short period of chaos by an elementary force assembled from those last elements that still remained among the best extreme of the population.
The danger which those who were responsible for the Revolution feared most at that time was that, in the turmoil of the confusion which they themselves had created, the ground would suddenly be taken from under their feet, that they might be suddenly seized and transported to another terrain by an iron grip, such as has often appeared at these junctures in the history of nations. The Republic must be consolidated at all costs.
Hence it was forced almost immediately after its foundation to erect another pillar beside that wavering pillar of popularity. They found that power must be organized once again in order to procure a firmer foundation for their authority.
When those who had been the matadors of the Revolution in December 1918, and January and February 1919, felt the ground trembling beneath their feet they looked around them for men who would be ready to reinforce them with military support; for their feeble position was dependent only on whatever popular favour they enjoyed. The 'anti-militarist' Republic had need of soldiers. But the first and only pillar on which the authority of the State rested, namely, its popularity, was grounded only on a conglomeration of rowdies and thieves, burglars, deserters, shirkers, etc. Therefore in that section of the nation which we have called the evil extreme it was useless to look for men who would be willing to sacrifice their lives on behalf of a new ideal. The section which had nourished the revolutionary idea and carried out the Revolution was neither able nor willing to call on the soldiers to protect it. For that section had no wish whatsoever to organize a republican State, but to disorganize what already existed and thus satisfy its own instincts all the better. Their password was not the organization and construction of the German Republic, but rather the plundering of it.
Hence the cry for help sent out by the public representatives, who were beset by a thousand anxieties, did not find any response among this class of people, but rather provoked a feeling of bitterness and repudiation. For they looked upon this step as the beginning of a breach of faith and trust, and in the building up of an authority which was no longer based on popular support but also on force they saw the beginning of a hostile move against what the Revolution meant essentially for those elements. They feared that measures might be taken against the right to robbery and absolute domination on the part of a horde of thieves and plunderers – in short, the worst rabble – who had broken out of the convict prisons and left their chains behind.
The representatives of the people might cry out as much as they liked, but they could get no help from that rabble. The cries for help were met with the counter-cry 'traitors' by those very people on whose support the popularity of the regime was founded.
Then for the first time large numbers of young Germans were found who were ready to button on the military uniform once again in the service of 'Peace and Order', as they believed, shouldering the carbine and rifle and donning the steel helmet to defend the wreckers of the Fatherland. Volunteer corps were assembled and, although hating the Revolution, they began to defend it. The practical effect of their action was to render the Revolution firm and stable. In doing this they acted in perfect good faith.
The real organizer of the Revolution and the actual wire-puller behind it, the international Jew, had sized up the situation correctly. The German people were not yet ripe to be drawn into the blood swamp of Bolshevism, as the Russian people had been drawn. And that was because there was a closer racial union between the intellectual classes in Germany and the manual workers, and also because broad social strata were permeated with cultured people, such as was the case also in the other States of Western Europe; but this state of affairs was completely lacking in Russia. In that country the intellectual classes were mostly not of Russian nationality, or at least they did not have the racial characteristics of the Slav. The thin upper layer of intellectuals which then existed in Russia might be abolished at any time, because there was no intermediate stratum connecting it organically with the great mass of the people. There the mental and moral level of the great mass of the people was frightfully low.
In Russia the moment the agitators were successful in inciting broad masses of the people, who could not read or write, against the upper layer of intellectuals who were not in contact with the masses or permanently linked with them in any way – at that moment the destiny of Russia was decided, the success of the Revolution was assured. Thereupon the analphabetic Russian became the slave of his Jewish dictators who, on their side, were shrewd enough to name their dictatorship 'The Dictatorship of the People'.
In the case of Germany an additional factor must be taken into account. Here the Revolution could be carried into effect only if the Army could first be gradually dismembered. But the real author of the Revolution and of the process of disintegration in the Army was not the soldier who had fought at the front but the canaille which more or less shunned the light and which were either quartered in the home garrisons or were officiating as 'indispensables' somewhere in the business world at home. This army was reinforced by ten thousand deserters who, without running any particular risk, could turn their backs on the Front. At all times the real poltroon fears nothing so much as death. But at the Front he had death before his eyes every day in a thousand different shapes. There has always been one possible way, and one only, of making weak or wavering men, or even downright poltroons, face their duty steadfastly. This means that the deserter must be given to understand that his desertion will bring upon him just the very thing he is flying from. At the Front a man may die, but the deserter must die. Only this draconian threat against every attempt to desert the flag can have a terrifying effect, not merely on the individual but also on the mass. Therein lay the meaning and purpose of the military penal code.
It was a fine belief to think that the great struggle for the life of a nation could be carried through if it were based solely on voluntary fidelity arising from and sustained by the knowledge that such a struggle was necessary. The voluntary fulfilment of one's duty is a motive that determines the actions of only the best men, but not of the average type of men. Hence special laws are necessary; just as, for instance, the law against stealing, which was not made for men who are honest on principle but for the weak and unstable elements. Such laws are meant to hinder the evil-doer through their deterrent effect and thus prevent a state of affairs from arising in which the honest man is considered the more stupid, and which would end in the belief that it is better to have a share in the robbery than to stand by with empty hands or allow oneself to be robbed.
It was a mistake to believe that in a struggle which, according to all human foresight, might last for several years it would be possible to dispense with those expedients which the experience of hundreds and even of thousands of years had proved to be effective in making weak and unstable men face and fulfil their duty in difficult times and at moments of great nervous stress.
For the voluntary war hero it is, of course, not necessary to have the death penalty in the military code, but it is necessary for the cowardly egoists who value their own lives more than the existence of the community in the hour of national need. Such weak and characterless people can be held back from surrendering to their cowardice only by the application of the heaviest penalties. When men have to struggle with death every day and remain for weeks in trenches of mire, often very badly supplied with food, the man who is unsure of himself and begins to waver cannot be made to stick to his post by threats of imprisonment or even penal servitude. Only by a ruthless enforcement of the death penalty can this be effected. For experience shows that at such a time the recruit considers prison a thousand times more preferable than the battlefield. In prison at least his precious life is not in danger. The practical abolition of the death penalty during the war was a mistake for which we had to pay dearly. Such omission really meant that the military penal code was no longer recognized as valid. An army of deserters poured into the stations at the rear or returned home, especially in 1918, and there began to form that huge criminal organization with which we were suddenly faced, after November 7th, 1918, and which perpetrated the Revolution.
The Front had nothing to do with all this. Naturally, the soldiers at the Front were yearning for peace. But it was precisely that fact which represented a special danger for the Revolution. For when the German soldiers began to draw near home, after the Armistice, the revolutionaries were in trepidation and asked the same question again and again: What will the troops from the Front do? Will the field-greys stand for it?
During those weeks the Revolution was forced to give itself at least an external appearance of moderation, if it were not to run the risk of being wrecked in a moment by a few German divisions. For at that time, even if the commander of one division alone had made up his mind to rally the soldiers of his division, who had always remained faithful to him, in an onslaught to tear down the red flag and put the 'councils' up against the wall, or, if there was any resistance, to break it with trench-mortars and hand grenades, that division would have grown into an army of sixty divisions in less than four weeks. The Jew wire-pullers were terrified by this prospect more than by anything else; and to forestall this particular danger they found it necessary to give the Revolution a certain aspect of moderation. They dared not allow it to degenerate into Bolshevism, so they had to face the existing conditions by putting up the hypocritical picture of 'order and tranquillity'. Hence many important concessions, the appeal to the old civil service and to the heads of the old Army. They would be needed at least for a certain time, and only when they had served the purpose of Turks' Heads could the deserved kick-out be administered with impunity. Then the Republic would be taken entirely out of the hands of the old servants of the State and delivered into the claws of the revolutionaries.
They thought that this was the only plan which would succeed in duping the old generals and civil servants and disarm any eventual opposition beforehand through the apparently harmless and mild character of the new regime.
Practical experience has shown to what extent the plan succeeded.
The Revolution, however, was not made by the peaceful and orderly elements of the nation but rather by rioters, thieves and robbers. And the way in which the Revolution was developing did not accord with the intentions of these latter elements; still, on tactical grounds, it was not possible to explain to them the reasons for the course things were taking and make that course acceptable.
As Social Democracy gradually gained power it lost more and more the character of a crude revolutionary party. Of course in their inner hearts the Social Democrats wanted a revolution; and their leaders had no other end in view. Certainly not. But what finally resulted was only a revolutionary programme; but not a body of men who would be able to carry it out. A revolution cannot be carried through by a party of ten million members. If such a movement were attempted the leaders would find that it was not an extreme section of the population on which they had to depend butrather the broad masses of the middle stratum; hence the inert masses.
Recognizing all this, already during the war, the Jews caused the famous split in the Social Democratic Party. While the Social Democratic Party, conforming to the inertia of its mass following, clung like a leaden weight on the neck of the national defence, the actively radical elements were extracted from it and formed into new aggressive columns for purposes of attack. The Independent Socialist Party and the Spartacist League were the storm battalions of revolutionary Marxism. The objective assigned to them was to create a fait accompli, on the grounds of which the masses of the Social Democratic Party could take their stand, having been prepared for this event long beforehand. The feckless bourgeoisie had been estimated at its just value by the Marxists and treated en canaille. Nobody bothered about it, knowing well that in their canine servility the representatives of an old and worn-out generation would not be able to offer any serious resistance.
When the Revolution had succeeded and its artificers believed that the main pillars of the old State had been broken down, the Army returning from the Front began to appear in the light of a sinister sphinx and thus made it necessary to slow down the national course of the Revolution. The main body of the Social Democratic horde occupied the conquered positions, and the Independent Socialist and Spartacist storm battalions were side-tracked.
But that did not happen without a struggle.
The activist assault formations that had started the Revolution were dissatisfied and felt that they had been betrayed. They now wanted to continue the fight on their own account. But their illimitable racketeering became odious even to the wire-pullers of the Revolution. For the Revolution itself had scarcely been accomplished when two camps appeared. In the one camp were the elements of peace and order; in the other were those of blood and terror. Was it not perfectly natural that our bourgeoisie should rush with flying colours to the camp of peace and order? For once in their lives their piteous political organizations found it possible to act, inasmuch as the ground had been prepared for them on which they were glad to get a new footing; and thus to a certain extent they found themselves in coalition with that power which they hated but feared. The German political bourgeoisie achieved the high honour of being able to associate itself with the accursed Marxist leaders for the purpose of combating Bolshevism.
Thus the following state of affairs took shape as early as December 1918 and January 1919:
A minority constituted of the worst elements had made the Revolution. And behind this minority all the Marxist parties immediately fell into step. The Revolution itself had an outward appearance of moderation, which aroused against it the enmity of the fanatical extremists. These began to launch hand-grenades and fire machine-guns, occupying public buildings, thus threatening to destroy the moderate appearance of the Revolution. To prevent this terror from developing further a truce was concluded between the representatives of the new regime and the adherents of the old order, so as to be able to wage a common fight against the extremists. The result was that the enemies of the Republic ceased to oppose the Republic as such and helped to subjugate those who were also enemies of the Republic, though for quite different reasons. But a further result was that all danger of the adherents of the old State putting up a fight against the new was now definitely averted.
This fact must always be clearly kept in mind. Only by remembering it can we understand how it was possible that a nation in which nine-tenths of the people had not joined in a revolution, where seven-tenths repudiated it and six-tenths detested it – how this nation allowed the Revolution to be imposed upon it by the remaining one-tenth of the population.
Gradually the barricade heroes in the Spartacist camp petered out, and so did the nationalist patriots and idealists on the other side. As these two groups steadily dwindled, the masses of the middle stratum, as always happens, triumphed. The Bourgeoisie and the Marxists met together on the grounds of accomplished facts, and the Republic began to be consolidated. At first, however, that did not prevent the bourgeois parties from propounding their monarchist ideas for some time further, especially at the elections, whereby they endeavoured to conjure up the spirits of the dead past to encourage their own feeble-hearted followers. It was not an honest proceeding. In their hearts they had broken with the monarchy long ago; but the foulness of the new regime had begun to extend its corruptive action and make itself felt in the camp of the bourgeois parties. The common bourgeois politician now felt better in the slime of republican corruption than in the severe decency of the defunct State, which still lived in his memory.
As I have already pointed out, after the destruction of the old Army the revolutionary leaders were forced to strengthen statal authority by creating a new factor of power. In the conditions that existed they could do this only by winning over to their side the adherents of an outlook which was a direct contradiction of their own. From those elements alone it was possible slowly to create a new army which, limited numerically by the peace treaties, had to be subsequently transformed in spirit so as to become an instrument of the new regime.
Setting aside the defects of the old State, which really became the cause of the Revolution, if we ask how it was possible to carry the Revolution to a successful issue as a political act, we arrive at the following conclusions:
1. It was due to a process of dry rot in our conceptions of duty and obedience.
2. It was due also to the passive timidity of the Parties who were supposed to uphold the State.
To this the following must be added: The dry rot which attacked our concepts of duty and obedience was fundamentally due to our wholly non-national and purely State education. From this came the habit of confusing means and ends. Consciousness of duty, fulfilment of duty, and obedience, are not ends in themselves no more than the State is an end in itself; but they all ought to be employed as means to facilitate and assure the existence of a community of people who are kindred both physically and spiritually. At a moment when a nation is manifestly collapsing and when all outward signs show that it is on the point of becoming the victim of ruthless oppression, thanks to the conduct of a few miscreants, to obey these people and fulfil one's duty towards them is merely doctrinaire formalism, and indeed pure folly; whereas, on the other hand, the refusal of obedience and fulfilment of duty in such a case might save the nation from collapse. According to our current bourgeois idea of the State, if a divisional general received from above the order not to shoot he fulfilled his duty and therefore acted rightly in not shooting, because to the bourgeois mind blind formal obedience is a more valuable thing than the life of a nation. But according to the National Socialist concept it is not obedience to weak superiors that should prevail at such moments, in such an hour the duty of assuming personal responsibility towards the whole nation makes its appearance.
The Revolution succeeded because that concept had ceased to be a vital force with our people, or rather with our governments, and died down to something that was merely formal and doctrinaire.
As regards the second point, it may be said that the more profound cause of the fecklessness of the bourgeois parties must be attributed to the fact that the most active and upright section of our people had lost their lives in the war. Apart from that, the bourgeois parties, which may be considered as the only political formations that stood by the old State, were convinced that they ought to defend their principles only by intellectual ways and means, since the use of physical force was permitted only to the State. That outlook was a sign of the weakness and decadence which had been gradually developing. And it was also senseless at a period when there was a political adversary who had long ago abandoned that standpoint and, instead of this, had openly declared that he meant to attain his political ends by force whenever that became possible. When Marxism emerged in the world of bourgeois democracy, as a consequence of that democracy itself, the appeal sent out by the bourgeois democracy to fight Marxism with intellectual weapons was a piece of folly for which a terrible expiation had to be made later on. For Marxism always professed the doctrine that the use of arms was a matter which had to be judged from the standpoint of expediency and that success justified the use of arms.
This idea was proved correct during the days from November 7 to 10, 1918. The Marxists did not then bother themselves in the least about parliament or democracy, but they gave the death blow to both by turning loose their horde of criminals to shoot and raise hell.
When the Revolution was over the bourgeois parties changed the title of their firm and suddenly reappeared, the heroic leaders emerging from dark cellars or more lightsome storehouses where they had sought refuge. But, just as happens in the case of all representatives of antiquated institutions, they had not forgotten their errors or learned anything new. Their political programme was grounded in the past, even though they themselves had become reconciled to the new regime. Their aim was to secure a share in the new establishment, and so they continued the use of words as their sole weapon.
Therefore after the Revolution the bourgeois parties also capitulated to the street in a miserable fashion.
When the law for the Protection of the Republic was introduced the majority was not at first in favour of it. But, confronted with two hundred thousand Marxists demonstrating in the streets, the bourgeois 'statesmen' were so terror-stricken that they voted for the Law against their wills, for the edifying reason that otherwise they feared they might get their heads smashed by the enraged masses on leaving the Reichstag.
And so the new State developed along its own course, as if there had been no national opposition at all.
The only organizations which at that time had the strength and courage to face Marxism and its enraged masses were first of all the volunteer corps, and subsequently the organizations for self-defence, the civic guards and finally the associations formed by the demobilized soldiers of the old Army.
But the existence of these bodies did not appreciably change the course of German history; and that for the following causes:
As the so-called national parties were without influence, because they had no force which could effectively demonstrate in the street, the Leagues of Defence could not exercise any influence because they had no political idea and especially because they had no definite political aim in view.
The success which Marxism once attained was due to perfect co-operation between political purposes and ruthless force. What deprived nationalist Germany of all practical hopes of shaping German development was the lack of a determined co-operation between brute force and political aims wisely chosen.
Whatever may have been the aspirations of the 'national' parties, they had no force whatsoever to fight for these aspirations, least of all in the streets.
The Defense Leagues had force at their disposal. They were masters of the street and of the State, but they lacked political ideas and aims on behalf of which their forces might have been or could have been employed in the interests of the German nation. The cunning Jew was able in both cases, by his astute powers of persuasion, in reinforcing an already existing tendency to make this unfortunate state of affairs permanent and at the same time to drive the roots of it still deeper.
The Jew succeeded brilliantly in using his Press for the purpose of spreading abroad the idea that the defence associations were of a 'non-political' character just as in politics he was always astute enough to praise the purely intellectual character of the struggle and demand that it must always be kept on that plane
Millions of German imbeciles then repeated this folly without having the slightest suspicion that by so doing they were, for all practical purposes, disarming themselves and delivering themselves defenceless into the hands of the Jew.
But there is a natural explanation of this also. The lack of a great idea which would re-shape things anew has always meant a limitation in fighting power. The conviction of the right to employ even the most brutal weapons is always associated with an ardent faith in the necessity for a new and revolutionary transformation of the world.
A movement which does not fight for such high aims and ideals will never have recourse to extreme means.
The appearance of a new and great idea was the secret of success in the French Revolution. The Russian Revolution owes its triumph to an idea. And it was only the idea that enabled Fascism triumphantly to subject a whole nation to a process of complete renovation.
Bourgeois parties are not capable of such an achievement. And it was not the bourgeois parties alone that fixed their aim in a restoration of the past. The defence associations also did so, in so far as they concerned themselves with political aims at all. The spirit of the old war legions and Kyffauser tendencies lived in them and therewith helped politically to blunt the sharpest weapons which the German nation then possessed and allow them to rust in the hands of republican serfs. The fact that these associations were inspired by the best of intentions in so doing, and certainly acted in good faith, does not alter in the slightest degree the foolishness of the course they adopted.
In the consolidated Reichswehr Marxism gradually acquired the support of force, which it needed for its authority. As a logical consequence it proceeded to abolish those defence associations which it considered dangerous, declaring that they were now no longer necessary. Some rash leaders who defied the Marxist orders were summoned to court and sent to prison. But they all got what they had deserved.
The founding of the National Socialist German Labour Party incited a movement which was the first to fix its aim, not in a mechanical restoration of the past - as the bourgeois parties did - but in the substitution of an organic People's State for the present absurd statal mechanism.
From the first day of its foundation the new movement took its stand on the principle that its ideas had to be propagated by intellectual means but that, wherever necessary, muscular force must be employed to support this propaganda. In accordance with their conviction of the paramount importance of the new doctrine, the leaders of the new movement naturally believe that no sacrifice can be considered too great when it is a question of carrying through the purpose of the movement.
I have emphasized that in certain circumstances a movement which is meant to win over the hearts of the people must be ready to defend itself with its own forces against terrorist attempts on the part of its adversaries. It has invariably happened in the history of the world that formal State authority has failed to break a reign of terror which was inspired by a philosophy of life. It can only be conquered by a new and different philosophy of life whose representatives are quite as audacious and determined. The acknowledgment of this fact has always been very unpleasant for the bureaucrats who are the protectors of the State, but the fact remains nevertheless. The rulers of the State can guarantee tranquillity and order only in case the State embodies a philosophy which is shared in by the people as a whole; so that elements of disturbance can be treated as isolated criminals, instead of being considered as the champions of an idea which is diametrically opposed to official opinions. If such should be the case the State may employ the most violent measures for centuries long against the terror that threatens it; but in the end all these measures will prove futile, and the State will have to succumb.
The German State is intensely overrun by Marxism. In a struggle that went on for seventy years the State was not able to prevent the triumph of the Marxist idea. Even though the sentences to penal servitude and imprisonment amounted in all to thousands of years, and even though the most sanguinary methods of repression were in innumerable instances threatened against the champions of the Marxist philosophy, in the end the State was forced to capitulate almost completely. The ordinary bourgeois political leaders will deny all this, but their protests are futile.
Seeing that the State capitulated unconditionally to Marxism on November 9th, 1918, it will not suddenly rise up tomorrow as the conqueror of Marxism. On the contrary. Bourgeois simpletons sitting on office stools in the various ministries babble about the necessity of not governing against the wishes of the workers, and by the word 'workers' they mean the Marxists. By identifying the German worker with Marxism not only are they guilty of a vile falsification of the truth, but they thus try to hide their own collapse before the Marxist idea and the Marxist organization.
In view of the complete subordination of the present State to Marxism, the National Socialist Movement feels all the more bound not only to prepare the way for the triumph of its idea by appealing to the reason and understanding of the public but also to take upon itself the responsibility of organizing its own defence against the terror of the International, which is intoxicated with its own victory.
I have already described how practical experience in our young movement led us slowly to organize a system of defence for our meetings. This gradually assumed the character of a military body specially trained for the maintenance of order, and tended to develop into a service which would have its properly organized cadres.
This new formation might resemble the defence associations externally, but in reality there were no grounds of comparison between the one and the other.
As I have already said, the German defence organizations did not have any definite political ideas of their own. They really were only associations for mutual protection, and they were trained and organized accordingly, so that they were an illegal complement or auxiliary to the legal forces of the State. Their character as free corps arose only from the way in which they were constructed and the situation in which the State found itself at that time. But they certainly could not claim to be free corps on the grounds that they were associations formed freely and privately for the purpose of fighting for their own freely formed political convictions. Such they were not, despite the fact that some of their leaders and some associations as such were definitely opposed to the Republic. For before we can speak of political convictions in the higher sense we must be something more than merely convinced that the existing regime is defective. Political convictions in the higher sense mean that one has the picture of a new regime clearly before one's mind, feels that the establishment of this regime is an absolute necessity and sets himself to carry out that purpose as the highest task to which his life can be devoted.
The troops for the preservation of order, which were then formed under the National Socialist Movement, were fundamentally different from all the other defence associations by reason of the fact that our formations were not meant in any way to defend the state of things created by the Revolution, but rather that they were meant exclusively to support our struggle for the creation of a new Germany.
In the beginning this body was merely a guard to maintain order at our meetings. Its first task was limited to making it possible for us to hold our meetings, which otherwise would have been completely prevented by our opponents. These men were at that time trained merely for purposes of attack, but they were not taught to adore the big stick exclusively, as was then pretended in stupid German patriotic circles. They used the cudgel because they knew that it can be made impossible for high ideals to be put forward if the man who endeavours to propagate them can be struck down with the cudgel. As a matter of fact, it has happened in history not infrequently that some of the greatest minds have perished under the blows of the most insignificant helots. Our bodyguards did not look upon violence as an end in itself, but they protected the expositors of ideal aims and purposes against hostile coercion by violence. They also understood that there was no obligation to undertake the defence of a State which did not guarantee the defence of the nation, but that, on the contrary, they had to defend the nation against those who were threatening to destroy nation and State.
After the fight which took place at the meeting in the Munich Hofbräuhaus, where the small number of our guards who were present won everlasting fame for themselves by the heroic manner in which they stormed the adversaries; these guards were called The Storm Detachment. As the name itself indicates, they represent only a detachment of the Movement. They are one constituent element of it, just as is the Press, the propaganda, educational institutes, and other sections of the Party.
We learned how necessary was the formation of such a body, not only from our experience on the occasion of that memorable meeting but also when we sought gradually to carry the Movement beyond Munich and extend it to the other parts of Germany. Once we had begun to appear as a danger to Marxism the Marxists lost no opportunity of trying to crush beforehand all preparations for the holding of National Socialist meetings. When they did not succeed in this they tried to break up the meeting itself. It goes without saying that all the Marxist organizations, no matter of what grade or view, blindly supported the policy and activities of their representations in every case. But what is to be said of the bourgeois parties who, when they were reduced to silence by these same Marxists and in many places did not dare to send their speakers to appear before the public, yet showed themselves pleased, in a stupid and incomprehensible manner, every time we received any kind of set-back in our fight against Marxism. The bourgeois parties were happy to think that those whom they themselves could not stand up against, but had to knuckle down to, could not be broken by us. What must be said of those State officials, chiefs of police, and even cabinet ministers, who showed a scandalous lack of principle in presenting themselves externally to the public as 'national' and yet shamelessly acted as the henchmen of the Marxists in the disputes which we, National Socialists, had with the latter. What can be said of persons who debased themselves so far, for the sake of a little abject praise in the Jewish Press, that they persecuted those men to whose heroic courage and intervention, regardless of risk, they were partly indebted for not having been torn to pieces by the Red mob a few years previously and strung up to the lamp-posts?
One day these lamentable phenomena fired the late but unforgotten Prefect Pöhner – a man whose unbending straightforwardness forced him to hate all twisters and to hate them as only a man with an honest heart can hate – to say: "In all my life I wished to be first a German and then an official, and I never wanted to mix up with these creatures who, as if they were kept officials, prostituted themselves before anybody who could play lord and master for the time being."
It was a specially sad thing that gradually tens of thousands of honest and loyal servants of the State did not only come under the power of such people but were also slowly contaminated by their unprincipled morals. Moreover, these kind of men pursued honest officials with a furious hatred, degrading them and driving them from their positions, and yet passed themselves off as 'national' by the aid of their lying hypocrisy.
From officials of that kind we could expect no support, and only in very rare instances was it given. Only by building up its own defence could our movement become secure and attract that amount of public attention and general respect which is given to those who can defend themselves when attacked.
As an underlying principle in the internal development of the Storm Detachment, we came to the decision that not only should it be perfectly trained in bodily efficiency but that the men should be so instructed as to make them indomitably convinced champions of the National Socialist ideas and, finally, that they should be schooled to observe the strictest discipline. This body was to have nothing to do with the defence organizations of the bourgeois type and especially not with any secret organization.
My reasons at that time for guarding strictly against letting the Storm Detachment of the German National Socialist Labour Party appear as a defence association were as follows:
On purely practical grounds it is impossible to build up a national defence organization by means of private associations, unless the State makes an enormous contribution to it. Whoever thinks otherwise overestimates his own powers. Now it is entirely out of the question to form organizations of any military value for a definite purpose on the principle of so-called 'voluntary discipline'. Here the chief support for enforcing orders, namely, the power of inflicting punishment, is lacking. In the autumn, or rather in the spring, of 1919 it was still possible to raise 'volunteer corps', not only because most of the men who came forward at that time had been through the school of the old Army, but also because the kind of duty imposed there constrained the individual to absolute obedience at least for a definite period of time.
That spirit is entirely lacking in the volunteer defence organizations of today. The more the defence association grows, the weaker its discipline becomes and so much the less can one demand from the individual members. Thus the whole organization will more and more assume the character of the old non-political associations of war comrades and veterans.
It is impossible to carry through a voluntary training in military service for larger masses unless one is assured absolute power of command. There will always be few men who will voluntarily and spontaneously submit to that kind of obedience which is considered natural and necessary in the Army.
Moreover, a proper system of military training cannot be developed where there are such ridiculously scanty means as those at the disposal of the defence associations. The principal task of such an institution must be to impart the best and most reliable kind of instruction. Eight years have passed since the end of the War, and during that time none of our German youth, at an age when formerly they would have had to do military service, have received any systematic training at all. The aim of a defence association cannot be to enlist here and now all those who have already received a military training; for in that case it could be reckoned with mathematical accuracy when the last member would leave the association. Even the younger soldier from 1918 will no longer be fit for front-line service twenty years later, and we are approaching that state of things with a rapidity that gives cause for anxiety. Thus the defence associations must assume more and more the aspect of the old ex-service men's societies. But that cannot be the meaning and purpose of an institution which calls itself, not an association of ex-service men but a defence association, indicating by this title that it considers its task to be, not only to preserve the tradition of the old soldiers and hold them together but also to propagate the idea of national defence and be able to carry this idea into practical effect, which means the creation of a body of men who are fit and trained for military defence.
But this implies that those elements will receive a military training which up to now have received none. This is something that in practice is impossible for the defence associations. Real soldiers cannot be made by a training of one or two hours per week. In view of the enormously increasing demands which modern warfare imposes on each individual soldier today, a military service of two years is barely sufficient to transform a raw recruit into a trained soldier. At the Front during the War we all saw the fearful consequences which our young recruits had to suffer from their lack of a thorough military training. Volunteer formations which had been drilled for fifteen or twenty weeks under an iron discipline and shown unlimited self-denial proved nevertheless to be no better than cannon fodder at the Front. Only when distributed among the ranks of the old and experienced soldiers could the young recruits, who had been trained for four or six months, become useful members of a regiment. Guided by the 'old men', they adapted themselves gradually to their task.
In the light of all this, how hopeless must the attempt be to create a body of fighting troops by a so-called training of one or two hours in the week, without any definite power of command and without any considerable means. In that way perhaps one could refresh military training in old soldiers, but raw recruits cannot thus be transformed into expert soldiers.
How such a proceeding produces utterly worthless results may also be demonstrated by the fact that at the same time as these so-called volunteer defence associations, with great effort and outcry and under difficulties and lack of necessities, try to educate and train a few thousand men of goodwill (the others need not be taken into account) for purposes of national defence, the State teaches our young men democratic and pacifist ideas and thus deprives millions and millions of their national instincts, poisons their logical sense of patriotism and gradually turns them into a herd of sheep who will patiently follow any arbitrary command. Thus they render ridiculous all those attempts made by the defence associations to inculcate their ideas in the minds of the German youth.
Almost more important is the following consideration, which has always made me take up a stand against all attempts at a so-called military training on the basis of the volunteer associations.
Assuming that, in spite of all the difficulties just mentioned, a defence association were successful in training a certain number of Germans every year to be efficient soldiers, not only as regards their mental outlook but also as regards bodily efficiency and the expert handling of arms, the result must necessarily be null and void in a State whose whole tendency makes it not only look upon such a defensive formation as undesirable but even positively hate it, because such an association would completely contradict the intimate aims of the political leaders, who are the corrupters of this State.
But anyhow, such a result would be worthless under governments which have demonstrated by their own acts that they do not lay the slightest importance on the military power of the nation and are not disposed to permit an appeal to that power only in case that it were necessary for the protection of their own malignant existence.
And that is the state of affairs today. It is not ridiculous to think of training some ten thousand men in the use of arms, and carry on that training surreptitiously, when a few years previously the State, having shamefully sacrificed eight-and-a-half million highly trained soldiers, not merely did not require their services any more, but, as a mark of gratitude for their sacrifices, held them up to public contumely. Shall we train soldiers for a regime which besmirched and spat upon our most glorious soldiers, tore the medals and badges from their breasts, trampled on their flags and derided their achievements? Has the present regime taken one step towards restoring the honour of the old army and bringing those who destroyed and outraged it to answer for their deeds? Not in the least. On the contrary, the people I have just referred to may be seen enthroned in the highest positions under the State today. And yet it was said at Leipzig: "Right goes with might." Since, however, in our Republic today might is in the hands of the very men who arranged for the Revolution, and since that Revolution represents a most despicable act of high treason against the nation – yea, the vilest act in German history – there can surely be no grounds for saying that might of this character should be enhanced by the formation of a new young army. It is against all sound reason.
The importance which this State attached, after the Revolution of 1918, to the reinforcement of its position from the military point of view is clearly and unmistakably demonstrated by its attitude towards the large self-defence organizations which existed in that period. They were not unwelcome as long as they were of use for the personal protection of the miserable creatures cast up by the Revolution.
But the danger to these creatures seemed to disappear as the debasement of our people gradually increased. As the existence of the defence associations no longer implied a reinforcement of the national policy they became superfluous. Hence every effort was made to disarm them and suppress them wherever that was possible.
History records only a few examples of gratitude on the part of princes. But there is not one patriot among the new bourgeoisie who can count on the gratitude of revolutionary incendiaries and assassins, persons who have enriched themselves from the public spoil and betrayed the nation. In examining the problem as to the wisdom of forming these defence associations I have never ceased to ask: 'For whom shall I train these young men? For what purpose will they be employed when they will have to be called out?' The answer to these questions lays down at the same time the best rule for us to follow.
If the present State should one day have to call upon trained troops of this kind it would never be for the purpose of defending the interests of the nation vis-à-vis those of the stranger but rather to protect the oppressors of the nation inside the country against the danger of a general outbreak of wrath on the part of a nation which has been deceived and betrayed and whose interests have been bartered away.
For this reason it was decided that the Storm Detachment of the German National Socialist Labour Party ought not to be in the nature of a military organization. It had to be an instrument of protection and education for the National Socialist Movement and its duties should be in quite a different sphere from that of the military defence association.
And, of course, the Storm Detachment should not be in the nature of a secret organization. Secret organizations are established only for purposes that are against the law. Therewith the purpose of such an organization is limited by its very nature. Considering the loquacious propensities of the German people, it is not possible to build up any vast organization, keeping it secret at the same time and cloaking its purpose. Every attempt of that kind is destined to turn out absolutely futile. It is not merely that our police officials today have at their disposal a staff of eavesdroppers and other such rabble who are ready to play traitor, like Judas, for thirty pieces of silver and will betray whatever secrets they can discover and will invent what they would like to reveal. In order to forestall such eventualities, it is never possible to bind one's own followers to the silence that is necessary. Only small groups can become really secret societies, and that only after long years of filtration. But the very smallness of such groups would deprive them of all value for the National Socialist Movement. What we needed then and need now is not one or two hundred dare-devil conspirators but a hundred thousand devoted champions of our philosophy of life. The work must not be done through secret conventicles but through formidable mass demonstrations in public. Dagger and pistol and poison-vial cannot clear the way for the progress of the movement. That can be done only by winning over the man in the street. We must overthrow Marxism, so that for the future National Socialism will be master of the street, just as it will one day become master of the State.
There is another danger connected with secret societies. It lies in the fact that their members often completely misunderstand the greatness of the task in hand and are apt to believe that a favourable destiny can be assured for the nation all at once by means of a single murder. Such a belief may find historical justification by appealing to cases where a nation had been suffering under the tyranny of some oppressor who at the same time was a man of genius and whose extraordinary personality guaranteed the internal solidity of his position and enabled him to maintain his fearful oppression. In such cases a man may suddenly arise from the ranks of the people who is ready to sacrifice himself and plunge the deadly steel into the heart of the hated individual. In order to look upon such a deed as abhorrent one must have the republican mentality of that petty canaille who are conscious of their own crime. But the greatest champion of liberty that the German people have ever had has glorified such a deed in William Tell.
During 1919 and 1920 there was danger that the members of secret organizations, under the influence of great historical examples and overcome by the immensity of the nation's misfortunes, might attempt to wreak vengeance on the destroyers of their country, under the belief that this would end the miseries of the people. All such attempts were sheer folly, for the reason that the Marxist triumph was not due to the superior genius of one remarkable person but rather to immeasurable incompetence and cowardly shirking on the part of the bourgeoisie. The hardest criticism that can be uttered against our bourgeoisie is simply to state the fact that it submitted to the Revolution, even though the Revolution did not produce one single man of eminent worth. One can always understand how it was possible to capitulate before a Robespierre, a Danton, or a Marat; but it was utterly scandalous to go down on all fours before the withered Scheidemann, the obese Herr Erzberger, Frederick Ebert, and the innumerable other political pigmies of the Revolution. There was not a single man of parts in whom one could see the revolutionary man of genius. Therein lay the country's misfortune; for they were only revolutionary bugs, Spartacists wholesale and retail. To suppress one of them would be an act of no consequence. The only result would be that another pair of bloodsuckers, equally fat and thirsty, would be ready to take his place.
During those years we had to take up a determined stand against an idea which owed its origin and foundation to historical episodes that were really great, but to which our own despicable epoch did not bear the slightest similarity.
The same reply may be given when there is question of putting somebody 'on the spot' who has acted as a traitor to his country. It would be ridiculous and illogical to shoot a poor wretch who had betrayed the position of a howitzer to the enemy while the highest positions of the government are occupied by a rabble who bartered away a whole empire, who have on their consciences the deaths of two million men who were sacrificed in vain, fellows who were responsible for the millions maimed in the war and who make a thriving business out of the republican regime without allowing their souls to be disturbed in any way. It would be absurd to do away with small traitors in a State whose government has absolved the great traitors from all punishment. For it might easily happen that one day an honest idealist, who, out of love for his country, had removed from circulation some miserable informer that had given information about secret stores of arms might now be called to answer for his act before the chief traitors of the country. And there is still an important question: Shall some small traitorous creature be suppressed by another small traitor, or by an idealist? In the former case the result would be doubtful and the deed would almost surely be revealed later on. In the second case a petty rascal is put out of the way and the life of an idealist who may be irreplaceable is in jeopardy.
For myself, I believe that small thieves should not be hanged while big thieves are allowed to go free. One day a national tribunal will have to judge and sentence some tens of thousands of organizers who were responsible for the criminal November betrayal and all the consequences that followed on it. Such an example will teach the necessary lesson, once and for ever, to those paltry traitors who revealed to the enemy the places where arms were hidden.
On the grounds of these considerations I steadfastly forbade all participation in secret societies, and I took care that the Storm Detachment should not assume such a character. During those years I kept the National Socialist Movement away from those experiments which were being undertaken by young Germans who for the most part were inspired with a sublime idealism but who became the victims of their own deeds, because they could not ameliorate the lot of their fatherland to the slightest degree.
If then the Storm Detachment must not be either a military defence organization or a secret society, the following conclusions must result:
1. Its training must not be organized from the military standpoint but from the standpoint of what is most practical for party purposes. Seeing that its members must undergo a good physical training, the place of chief importance must not be given to military drill but rather to the practice of sports. I have always considered boxing and ju-jitsu more important than some kind of bad, because mediocre, training in rifle-shooting. If the German nation were presented with a body of young men who had been perfectly trained in athletic sports, who were imbued with an ardent love for their country and a readiness to take the initiative in a fight, then the national State could make an army out of that body within less than two years if it were necessary, provided the cadres already existed. In the actual state of affairs only the Reichswehr could furnish the cadres and not a defence organization that was neither one thing nor the other. Bodily efficiency would develop in the individual a conviction of his superiority and would give him that confidence which is always based only on the consciousness of one's own powers. They must also develop that athletic agility which can be employed as a defensive weapon in the service of the Movement.
2. In order to safeguard the Storm Detachment against any tendency towards secrecy, not only must the uniform be such that it can immediately be recognized by everybody, but the large number of its effectives show the direction in which the Movement is going and which must be known to the whole public. The members of the Storm Detachment must not hold secret gatherings but must march in the open and thus, by their actions, put an end to all legends about a secret organization. In order to keep them away from all temptations towards finding an outlet for their activities in small conspiracies, from the very beginning we had to inculcate in their minds the great idea of the Movement and educate them so thoroughly to the task of defending this idea that their horizon became enlarged and that the individual no longer considered it his mission to remove from circulation some rascal or other, whether big or small, but to devote himself entirely to the task of bringing about the establishment of a new National Socialist People's State. In this way the struggle against the present State was placed on a higher plane than that of petty revenge and small conspiracies. It was elevated to the level of a spiritual struggle on behalf of a philosophical war, for the destruction of Marxism in all its shapes and forms.
3. The form of organization adopted for the Storm Detachment, as well as its uniform and equipment, had to follow different models from those of the old Army. They had to be specially suited to the requirements of the task that was assigned to the Storm Detachment.
These were the ideas I followed in 1920 and 1921. I endeavoured to instil them gradually into the members of the young organization. And the result was that by the midsummer of 1922 we had a goodly number of formations which consisted of a hundred men each. By the late autumn of that year these formations received their distinctive uniforms. There were three events which turned out to be of supreme importance for the subsequent development of the Storm Detachment.
1. The great mass demonstration against the Law for the Protection of the Republic. This demonstration was held in the late summer of 1922 on the Königs-platz in Munich, by all the patriotic societies. The National Socialist Movement also participated in it. The march-past of our party, in serried ranks, was led by six Munich companies of a hundred men each, followed by the political sections of the Party. Two bands marched with us and about fifteen flags were carried. When the National Socialists arrived at the great square it was already half full, but no flag was flying. Our entry aroused unbounded enthusiasm. I myself had the honour of being one of the speakers who addressed that mass of about sixty thousand people.
The demonstration was an overwhelming success; especially because it was proved for the first time that nationalist Munich could march on the streets, in spite of all threats from the Reds. Members of the organization for the defence of the Red Republic endeavoured to hinder the marching columns by their terrorist activities, but they were scattered by the companies of the Storm Detachment within a few minutes and sent off with bleeding skulls. The National Socialist Movement had then shown for the first time that in future it was determined to exercise the right to march on the streets and thus take this monopoly away from the international traitors and enemies of the country.
The result of that day was an incontestable proof that our ideas for the creation of the Storm Detachment were right, both from the psychological viewpoint and as to the manner in which this body was organized.
On the basis of this success the enlistment progressed so rapidly that within a few weeks the number of Munich companies of a hundred men each became doubled.
2. The expedition to Coburg in October 1922.
Certain People's Societies had decided to hold a German Day at Coburg. I was invited to take part, with the intimation that they wished me to bring a following along. This invitation, which I received at eleven o'clock in the morning, arrived just in time. Within an hour the arrangements for our participation in the German Congress were ready. I picked eight hundred men of the Storm Detachment to accompany me. These were divided into about fourteen companies and had to be brought by special train from Munich to Coburg, which had just voted by plebiscite to be annexed to Bavaria. Corresponding orders were given to other groups of the National Socialist Storm Detachment which had meanwhile been formed in various other localities.
This was the first time that such a special train ran in Germany. At all the places where the new members of the Storm Detachment joined us our train caused a sensation. Many of the people had never seen our flag. And it made a very great impression.
As we arrived at the station in Coburg we were received by a deputation of the organizing committee of the German Day. They announced that it had been 'arranged' at the orders of local trades unions – that is to say, the Independent and Communist Parties – that we should not enter the town with our flags unfurled and our band playing (we had a band consisting of forty-two musicians with us) and that we should not march with closed ranks.
I immediately rejected these unmilitary conditions and did not fail to declare before the gentlemen who had arranged this 'day' how astonished I was at the idea of their negotiating with such people and coming to an agreement with them. Then I announced that the Storm Troops would immediately march into the town in company formation, with our flags flying and the band playing.
And that is what happened.
As we came out into the station yard we were met by a growling and yelling mob of several thousand, that shouted at us: 'Assassins', 'Bandits', 'Robbers', 'Criminals'. These were the choice names which these exemplary founders of the German Republic showered on us. The young Storm Detachment gave a model example of order. The companies fell into formation on the square in front of the station and at first took no notice of the insults hurled at them by the mob. The police were anxious. They did not pilot us to the quarters assigned to us on the outskirts of Coburg, a city quite unknown to us, but to the Hofbräuhaus Keller in the centre of the town. Right and left of our march the tumult raised by the accompanying mob steadily increased. Scarcely had the last company entered the courtyard of the Hofbräuhaus when the huge mass made a rush to get in after them, shouting madly. In order to prevent this, the police closed the gates. Seeing the position was untenable I called the Storm Detachment to attention and then asked the police to open the gates immediately. After a good deal of hesitation, they consented.
We now marched back along the same route as we had come, in the direction of our quarters, and there we had to make a stand against the crowd. As their cries and yells all along the route had failed to disturb the equanimity of our companies, the champions of true Socialism, Equality, and Fraternity now took to throwing stones. That brought our patience to an end. For ten minutes long, blows fell right and left, like a devastating shower of hail. Fifteen minutes later there were no more Reds to be seen in the street.
The collisions which took place when the night came on were more serious. Patrols of the Storm Detachment had discovered National Socialists who had been attacked singly and were in an atrocious state. Thereupon we made short work of the opponents. By the following morning the Red terror, under which Coburg had been suffering for years, was definitely smashed.
Adopting the typically Marxist and Jewish method of spreading falsehoods, leaflets were distributed by hand on the streets, bearing the caption: "Comrades and Comradesses of the International Proletariat." These leaflets were meant to arouse the wrath of the populace. Twisting the facts completely around, they declared that our 'bands of assasins' had commenced 'a war of extermination against the peaceful workers of Coburg'. At half-past one that day there was to be a 'great popular demonstration', at which it was hoped that the workers of the whole district would turn up. I was determined finally to crush this Red terror and so I summoned the Storm Detachment to meet at midday. Their number had now increased to 1,500. I decided to march with these men to the Coburg Festival and to cross the big square where the Red demonstration was to take place. I wanted to see if they would attempt to assault us again. When we entered the square we found that instead of the ten thousand that had been advertised, there were only a few hundred people present. As we approached they remained silent for the most part, and some ran away. Only at certain points along the route some bodies of Reds, who had arrived from outside the city and had not yet come to know us, attempted to start a row. But a few fisticuffs put them to flight. And now one could see how the population, which had for such a long time been so wretchedly intimidated, slowly woke up and recovered their courage. They welcomed us openly, and in the evening, on our return march, spontaneous shouts of jubilation broke out at several points along the route.
At the station the railway employees informed us all of a sudden that our train would not move. Thereupon I had some of the ringleaders told that if this were the case I would have all the Red Party heroes arrested that fell into our hands, that we would drive the train ourselves, but that we would take away with us, in the locomotive and tender and in some of the carriages, a few dozen members of this brotherhood of international solidarity. I did not omit to let those gentry know that if we had to conduct the train the journey would undoubtedly be a very risky adventure and that we might all break our necks. It would be a consolation, however, to know that we should not go to Eternity alone, but in equality and fraternity with the Red gentry.
Thereupon the train departed punctually and we arrived next morning in Munich safe and sound.
Thus at Coburg, for the first time since 1914, the equality of all citizens before the law was re-established. For even if some coxcomb of a higher official should assert today that the State protects the lives of its citizens, at least in those days it was not so. For at that time the citizens had to defend themselves against the representatives of the present State.
At first it was not possible fully to estimate the importance of the consequences which resulted from that day. The victorious Storm Troops had their confidence in themselves considerably reinforced and also their faith in the sagacity of their leaders. Our contemporaries began to pay us special attention and for the first time many recognized the National Socialist Movement as an organization that in all probability was destined to bring the Marxist folly to a deserving end.
Only the democrats lamented the fact that we had not the complaisance to allow our skulls to be cracked and that we had dared, in a democratic Republic, to hit back with fists and sticks at a brutal assault, rather than with pacifist chants.
Generally speaking, the bourgeois Press was partly distressed and partly vulgar, as always. Only a few decent newspapers expressed their satisfaction that at least in one locality the Marxist street bullies had been effectively dealt with.
And in Coburg itself at least a part of the Marxist workers who must be looked upon as misled, learned from the blows of National Socialist fists that these workers were also fighting for ideals, because experience teaches that the human being fights only for something in which he believes and which he loves.
The Storm Detachment itself benefited most from the Coburg events. It grew so quickly in numbers that at the Party Congress in January 1923 six thousand men participated in the ceremony of consecrating the flags and the first companies were fully clad in their new uniform.
Our experience in Coburg proved how essential it is to introduce one distinctive uniform for the Storm Detachment, not only for the purpose of strengthening theesprit de corps but also to avoid confusion and the danger of not recognizing the opponent in a squabble. Up to that time they had merely worn the armlet, but now the tunic and the well-known cap were added.
But the Coburg experience had also another important result. We now determined to break the Red Terror in all those localities where for many years it had prevented men of other views from holding their meetings. We were determined to restore the right of free assembly. From that time onwards we brought our battalions together in such places and little by little the red citadels of Bavaria, one after another, fell before the National Socialist propaganda. The Storm Troops became more and more adept at their job. They increasingly lost all semblance of an aimless and lifeless defence movement and came out into the light as an active militant organization, fighting for the establishment of a new German State.
This logical development continued until March 1923. Then an event occurred which made me divert the Movement from the course hitherto followed and introduce some changes in its outer formation.
In the first months of 1923 the French occupied the Ruhr district. The consequence of this was of great importance in the development of the Storm Detachment.
It is not yet possible, nor would it be in the interest of the nation, to write or speak openly and freely on the subject. I shall speak of it only as far as the matter has been dealt with in public discussions and thus brought to the knowledge of everybody.
The occupation of the Ruhr district, which did not come as a surprise to us, gave grounds for hoping that Germany would at last abandon its cowardly policy of submission and therewith give the defensive associations a definite task to fulfil. The Storm Detachment also, which now numbered several thousand of robust and vigorous young men, should not be excluded from this national service. During the spring and summer of 1923 it was transformed into a fighting military organization. It is to this reorganization that we must in great part attribute the later developments that took place during 1923, in so far as it affected our Movement.
Elsewhere I shall deal in broad outline with the development of events in 1923. Here I wish only to state that the transformation of the Storm Detachment at that time must have been detrimental to the interests of the Movement if the conditions that had motivated the change were not to be carried into effect, namely, the adoption of a policy of active resistance against France.
The events which took place at the close of 1923, terrible as they may appear at first sight, were almost a necessity if looked at from a higher standpoint; because, in view of the attitude taken by the Government of the German Reich, conversion of the Storm Troops into a military force would be meaningless and thus a transformation which would also be harmful to the Movement was ended at one stroke. At the same time it was made possible for us to reconstruct at the point where we had been diverted from the proper course.
In the year 1925 the German National Socialist Labour Party was re-founded and had to organize and train its Storm Detachment once again according to the principles I have laid down. It must return to the original idea and once more it must consider its most essential task to function as the instrument of defence and reinforcement in the spiritual struggle to establish the ideals of the Movement.
The Storm Detachment must not be allowed to sink to the level of something in the nature of a defence organization or a secret society. Steps must be taken rather to make it a vanguard of 100,000 men in the struggle for the National Socialist ideal which is based on the profound principle of a People's State.