Rise of Hitler and the Nazis
Initial rise of Hitler and the Nazis
Adolf Hitler got his start in the military during World War I. He was a dispatch runner on the Western Front. He actually gets fairly decorated. And by most accounts, this is where he finds meaning. He finds meaning in being part of the military. He finds meaning in frankly, the war itself. But then in 1918, we, of course, have the end of the war. Well, first you have the abdication of the Kaiser. You have the Republican government, people who want to form a republic, take control. And then they sign an armistice with the Allies in November. And this is not well received by Hitler. And frankly, it's not well received by many in the military. From their point of view, they somewhat delusionally believed that Germany would have won World War I if they weren't stabbed in the back by these November Criminals, by the folks who had taken over after the Kaiser. So you have this whole stab in the back theory by those who had taken over and signed the armistice. And this wasn't just believed by folks like Hitler. This was believed even by very senior people in the military. This right over here is General Ludendorff, one of two people-- the other gentleman, Hindenburg-- who were in charge of the entire German military. He believed in the stab in the back theory. He thought that they would have won if they didn't sign the armistice, if these November Criminals, these people who had taken control of the government, did not sign this with the Allies. And then you go to 1919. From the point of view of people of like Hitler, things only got worse. You have the Treaty of Versailles that applied all the war guilt to the Germans. You have these huge reparations that would even be paid in resources. You have the former German Empire, a significant amount of its territory is given over to the Allies, or to form new states. Then, you also have the formal establishment of the Weimar Republic. It's called the Weimar Republic because the new German constitution is drafted in the town of Weimar. And it sets it up as a parliamentary democracy. That's why it's called a republic. But it's a little bit of a bizarre parliamentary democracy. It actually gave a good bit of power, a directly elected president that had a reasonable amount of power, especially in emergencies. And that would become relevant later on when Hitler actually comes to power over a decade later. But then in 1919, Hitler was still looking-- he was very upset about the war ending. He stays part of the military. And part of the military he's assigned to start infiltrating or spying on the German Workers' Party. And the acronym in German is the DAP. But the English translation would be the German Workers' Party. But he actually gets quite impressed by the German Workers' Party, which is really ultra-nationalist. And when we talk about ultra-nationalist it's all about German race superiority. It's in line with this whole idea that they would have won the war if they weren't stabbed in the back. And it's also anti-communist. It's anti-capitalist. And it's anti ethnic minorities, in particular anti-Jewish. And all of these ideas Hitler found very impressive. And just to be clear, a lot of times when people talk about ultra-nationalist groups they often will call them as ultra-right wing. And this bears some clarification because the right wing is also often viewed as very capitalist. But ultra-nationalists really put the nation, and the race that they view as indicative of the nation, above all other concerns. So yes, they were anti-communist. They were anti-distribution of wealth. Communists believe in no classes, as little private property as possible. The German Workers' party didn't believe in that. They were anti that. But they were also anti unfettered capitalism, especially capitalism that might get in the way of the nation's interests. But he becomes very impressed with them. And he actually joins as the 55th member. So you can imagine, this, at this point, is a very, very small party. But then we fast forward to 1920. By 1920, the party leadership has taken note of Hitler. They actually notice him when he's arguing with people and that other people are listening. He's actually a really great orator. And so they allow him to give more and more talks. He has more and more authority. And in order for the party to have more of an appeal, especially to nationalists in general, they change their name. To German Workers' Party they add the Nationalist Socialist German Workers' Party, DAP, German Workers' Party, or the NSDAP. And if you pronounce nationalist in German, it sounds something like-- and I'm going to butcher it right now-- Nazionalist. And so, if you were to shorten it, they called themselves the Nazis. And Hitler actually designed the logo for the Nazis, which included this symbol right over here, the swastika. And the swastika is worth talking about because it was really this bizarre corruption of a very ancient symbol. Hitler and the Nazis created this entire mythology around the Germans being the descendants of the Aryans, or being the purest example of the Aryans. And the Aryans are the superior race that's responsible for all of civilization's advancement. It was a delusion because frankly, there was an ancient Aryan race. But the most indicative descendants of them are frankly, the Persians or the Indians. And actually, the swastika symbol here, you might actually even see it at a Hindu temple. It does not mean all of what we associate with Nazism now. It actually is an ancient Hindu symbol of auspiciousness, of good luck. But the Nazis usurped it. But for them, this was a very important idea to create this mythology around race superiority and to even have a symbol like this as opposed to say something like a cross that's a religious symbol. Anyone could believe in Christianity and say, hey, I'm a Christian. But the swastika, at least in Hitler's mind and the Nazi's mind, was a racial symbol. So it represented their superior race. And obviously, if their race was superior, a lot of what they consider the ills of Germany were caused by being infiltrated with what they considered less pure races, like Jews, and also infiltrated with less pure ideas, like the ideas of communism. But Hitler gets more and more recognition with the party. The party membership continues to grow. And by 1921, you have some disagreements in the party. Some people threatened to splinter off. And when Hitler says, hey look, if this is going to happen, I'm going to leave the party, they realize that he has so much value to the party that the party would just dissolve if Hitler leaves. And so they make him the chairman. Hitler takes control. Hitler is the chairman of the Nazi party. And by this point, he's becoming more and more well known on the speaking circuit. And we now have several thousand members of the Nazi party. Although, it's still a fairly small group. But then, things start to get a lot worse in Weimar, Germany. You start having hyperinflation. The government keeps printing more and more currency. The economy is weak. It's trying to pay reparations. And so what you have here-- and this is actually one of the most famous cases of hyperinflation in world history-- you see the value of their currency, it devalues from 1919 to 1923 not by a factor of 1,000 or a million or a billion, but nearly a trillion. So the currency becomes, frankly, worthless. The hyperinflation is happening this entire time. And you see, it accelerates through 1922 and then 1923. But then in 1922, you have Mussolini comes to power in Italy. And he comes to power through his March on Rome. And Mussolini is a fascist. That's where the word comes from. He's a member of the Fascist Party. And the Fascists' ideas were very similar to the Nazis. It was all about extreme nationalism, all about racial superiority, a very strong government. And this Hitler finds quite inspiring. The Weimar Republic is having economic difficulty. You have many other groups, including the communists, attempt their own coup d'etats. They fail. But things are getting less and less stable. And then you fast forward to 1923. The inflation is getting super bad, about as bad as inflation can get. The currency is worthless. The economy is going into a tailspin. And on top of that, because Germany can't pay the reparations to France anymore, France occupies the Ruhr. So the Ruhr region is occupied by France. And you might remember from the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the Saar region was already being occupied. And all that coal was being shipped out to France. The Ruhr region was another significant region of coal and steel production. And now the French are fully occupying this. They're forcing a lot of the civilians out of the region. They're forcing a lot of the workers to work in the mines and the factories. And then they're shipping all of that supply out to France. So this further debilitates the economy, but it's a huge humiliation. The Treaty of Versailles, in the minds of Germans, especially in the minds of nationalists, was bad enough. But now you have this huge humiliation by the French. And this isn't just amongst the nationalists. The general German population is getting very, very, very, very upset about this. And so this gives a lot of fuel to extreme nationalist groups, like the Nazis. So this fuels the Nazis. And based on the estimates I've seen, entering into the year they're starting to have in excess of 10,000 members, starting to be several tens of thousands. And as we get into the later part of the year, we're approaching, I've seen estimates of 40,000 to 55,000 members of the Nazi party. And that's just formal members. And then on top of that, you might have non-members who are growing increasingly sympathetic. And so what we'll see in the next video, at the end of 1923, Hitler sees this as his chance. He's inspired by Mussolini, the economy is in a tailspin, the Germans have been further humiliated by the French, and the Nazis, in particular, are starting to get quite popular.