How Hitler was made : Germany and the rise of the perfect Nazi
- Cory Taylor.
- Taylor, Cory, author
- Amherst, New York : Prometheus Books, 2018.
Where to find it
How did an obscure agitator on the political fringes of early-20th-century Germany rise to become the supreme leader of the "Third Reich"? Unlike many other books that track Adolf Hitler's career after 1933, this book focuses on his formative period--immediately following World War I (1918-1924). The author, a veteran producer of historical documentaries, brings to life this era of political unrest and violent conflict, when forces on both the left and right were engaged in a desperate power struggle. Among the competing groups was a highly sophisticated network of ethnic chauvinists that discovered Hitler and groomed him into the leader he became.
The book also underscores the importance of a post-war socialist revolution in Bavaria, led by earnest reformers, some of whom were Jewish. Right wing extremists skewed this brief experiment in democracy followed by Soviet-style communism as evidence of a Jewish-Bolshevik plot. Along with the pernicious "stab-in-the-back" myth, which misdirected blame for Germany's defeat onto civilian politicians, public opinion was primed for Hitler to use his political cunning and oratorical powers to effectively blame Jews and Communists for all of Germany's problems.
Based on archival research in Germany, England, and the US, and interviews with experts, this striking narrative reveals how the manipulation of facts and the use of propaganda helped an obscure, embittered malcontent to gain political legitimacy, which led to dictatorial power over a nation.
- Introduction p. 9
- Chapter 1 The Horror of War p. 13
- Chapter 2 The Great Deception p. 25
- Chapter 3 A Revolution Led by German Jews p. 35
- Chapter 4 The Opposition Stirs p. 47
- Chapter 5 The Death of Idealism p. 61
- Chapter 6 The Soviet Republic p. 77
- Chapter 7 The Counterrevolution p. 89
- Chapter 8 Hitler in Austria p. 101
- Chapter 9 The Right-Wing Talent Search p. 111
- Chapter 10 Launch of the NSDAP p. 123
- Chapter 11 The Shift to the Right p. 135
- Chapter 12 A State of Emergency p. 147
- Chapter 13 Hitler's Expanding Circle p. 159
- Chapter 14 Delusions of Grandeur p. 175
- Chapter 15 Hitlers Competitors p. 189
- Chapter 16 The Beer Hall Putsch p. 199
- Chapter 17 The Trial p. 211
- Chapter 18 Man of Providence p. 223
- Epilogue p. 229
- Acknowledgments p. 235
- Notes p. 237
- Index p. 271
Introduction One of Germany's most popular tourist destinations is Munich's Hofbräuhaus. Founded in 1589, the massive beer hall attracts tens of thousands of thirsty customers nearly every day. Upstairs in a large banquet hall called the Festsaal, groups are seated at long wooden tables under a vaulted ceiling with enormous chandeliers. As an oompah band plays traditional music, servers dressed in Bavarian costume bring customers beer, sausages, and other local dishes. Sounds of cheerful conversation, toasting, and clinking steins reverberate through the chamber. The festive atmosphere reflects the warm, fun-loving, and down-to-earth spirit of the Bavarian people. But most visitors are unaware that the Festsaal also has a sinister legacy. There are no signs posted to inform them otherwise. On February 24, 1920, thirteen years before he became German chancellor, Adolf Hitler led the inaugural meeting of the Nazi Party in the Festsaal before two thousand guests. Outlining the party's anti-Semitic agenda in twenty-five points, the future Nazi dictator informed his audience that only people of "German blood" would be considered citizens if the Nazis ever came to power. No one in the hall outwardly opposed Hitler's idea of institutionalized anti-Semitism, and history's most reviled political movement was underway. In the ensuing years, the Nazis would rent the Festsaal for mass meetings, until it was no longer large enough to accommodate Hitler's followers. "During that period the hall of the Hofbräuhaus in Munich acquired for us, National Socialists, a sort of mystic significance," Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf . "Every week there was a meeting . . . and each time the hall was better filled than on the former occasion." Why did so many people gather to hear Hitler speak? Germany was severely traumatized by the First World War. Not only had millions of young men died in the trenches of Europe, but defeat had wrought great injury to national pride. Founded in 1871, the German Reich (Empire) came to prominence considerably later than the great powers of Europe. Longing for respect and acceptance in the international arena, Germany was suspicious of its European neighbors, including France, Russia, and Great Britain. Though they had defeated the French in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the Germans still felt denied the "high esteem, which is due to them." Anticipating conflict in Europe, the German war historian Friedrich von Bernhardi predicted in 1911, "Our next war will be fought for the highest interests of our country. . . . World power or downfall! will be our rallying cry." Three years later in the summer of 1914, Germany resolved to make a stand. That June, when Serbian nationalists assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, Germany's leadership took a bold step. Pledging unconditional support to Austro-Hungary, the Germans encouraged a war with Serbia, which was backed by Russia. Consequently, when the Russians mobilized their forces and refused an ultimatum to stop, Germany declared war. That same day, August 1, France began mobilizing its forces against Germany. To gain a strategic advantage, Germany invaded Luxemburg and Belgium while declaring war on France. This brought Great Britain into the war on the side of the French and the Russians. Desperate to avert bloodshed, US President Woodrow Wilson sent an urgent plea for peace, but nobody was listening. Europe was prepared to see the conflict through. Looking back with our modern sensibilities and rapid-cycling news media, we sometimes forget that this war was arguably the most complicated and multipartied that Europe had ever experienced. Add to that the common person's limited access to objective news, and it wasn't difficult for Germans to be misled and to believe that their enemies had started it all. The First World War, which lasted from 1914 to 1918, was in many ways the most brutal conflict in human history. New and terrifying weapons of the industrial age eviscerated and maimed millions of young men on the battlefield. When it ended, the victorious French, British, and American armies returned home to peace and security. But in defeated Germany, soldiers came home to a postwar revolution. In 1914, the German people had been led to believe that the war would be over by Christmas. Promised peace through victory by military leaders, including First Quartermaster General Erich Ludendorff, they endured four and a half years of famine, suffering, and heartache before strikes and protests erupted in towns and cities across the country. Then, antiwar sentiment coalesced into Communist and Socialist revolutionary movements that threat-ened to turn Germany into a Soviet state. The inaugural meeting of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) in the Hofbräuhaus Festsaal in February 1920 was as much a reaction to defeat and revolution as it was Hitler's first opportunity to introduce his party's platform. Like other far-right nationalists who opposed leftist revolution, Hitler wanted to restore Germany's national pride. Unlike Munich's stuffy politicians, who bored their audiences by reading their speeches and spoke condescendingly with status-conscious attitudes, the Austrian immigrant sounded as if he were speaking extemporaneously in a way that "responds to the vibration of the human heart with the delicacy of a seismograph . . . enabling him . . . to act as a loudspeaker proclaiming the most secret desires, the least admissible instincts, the sufferings and personal revolts of a whole nation." In the Festsaal, the thirty-year-old Austrian immigrant appealed to people's sense of pride by demanding equal status for the German people among all other nations and a repeal of the humiliating Treaty of Versailles. Playing on their emotions, he invoked long-entrenched anti-Semitic attitudes and suggested a restructuring of society without the Jews. Hitler would eventually blame Jews and Bolsheviks for all of Germany's problems, including defeat in war, the postwar revolution, the armistice, and the devastating terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Though it hinged on the absurd premise that the Jews created Bolshevism to subvert the German race, the assertion captured the mood of the times. In fact, the simplicity and repetition of his message began to resonate with a growing number of Germans eager for a scapegoat. But in February 1920, Hitler and his anti-Semitic ideology were in no way fully formed. It would take several more years and a confluence of fateful events, including a putsch, a trial, and imprisonment, for the Nazi leader to discover the full power of his megalomania, and his path to dictatorship. Yet, according to Hitler, the inaugural meeting in the Festsaal, was an important turning point: "When I finally closed the meeting, we were not alone in feeling that a wolf had been born which was destined to break into the herd of swindlers and misleaders of the people." Unlike the many books that focus on the Nazi leader after he took power in 1933, this one examines the early years of 1918-1924 to reveal how Hitler the future Führer was made, and how his devastating movement coalesced. Contrary to Nazi propaganda, which characterized Hitler as a savior, this work tracks the fateful convergence of those intimate associates that surrounded him in the early years and prepared him for leadership. Further, it reveals how they began to doubt him when the hour was already too late and they could no longer control him. The book also depicts the idealistic postwar revolution, its leadership of Jewish descent, and the role of propaganda and fake news in shaping the political attitudes that propelled Hitler into the mainstream. The horrors of Nazi genocide and the Second World War would prompt several generations in the international community to suspect that the Germans had a special proclivity for evil. But the story of Hitler's early rise tells us that the problem of evil is universal and can occur anywhere and at any time, given the confluence of the right conditions. When tested by adversity, people and nations are often compelled to choose between self-interest and the greater good. In the case of Hitler and the Nazis, the stakes couldn't have been higher. Excerpted from How Hitler Was Made: Germany and the Rise of the Perfect Nazi by Cory Taylor All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
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- Amherst, New York : Prometheus Books, 2018.
- 295 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
- OCLC Number