Because Hitler was capable of taking most of the party members with him, the Committee lost its negotiating strength and the talks with the German Socialists stalled. Worried that they might lose everything, the Committee quickly lost their new found self-assurance and sent an emissary to find out what Hitler's conditions were for returning to the party.
Three days later, in a lengthy written statement, Hitler accused the Committee of a lack of leadership and summarized his conditions. He demanded the immediate resignation of the Committee from their "offices" and the expulsion of all "foreign elements," especially the Augsburg group from the Party.* He insisted that any talk of altering the party program be stopped, and any one supporting such a measure in the future be purged from the party. "Concessions on our part," Hitler wrote, "are totally out of the question."* He demanded that there be no more talk of mergers in the future but only "annexations" of other groups.
The main point of Hitler's letter however, was a "demand" for complete power. He insisted on the sole right to make all future decisions and appointments within the party and without mincing words wrote: "I demand the position of First Chairman with dictatorial authority."*
"I make these demands," Hitler wrote, "not because I am power hungry, but because recent events have more than convinced me that without an iron leadership, the party...will within a short time cease to be what it was supposed to be: a national socialist German Workers Party and not a western association."* He therefore called for a special meeting of all party members where a majority vote would give him the powers he wanted.
The Committee, fearful of being ousted and replaced by Hitler's inner circle, refused to call a special meeting. Instead, the very next day they wrote Hitler an intentionally submissive letter which was leaked to the general membership. Their hope was to turn the general membership against Hitler by making themselves look rational and giving. In part the letter read: "The committee is prepared--in acknowledgment of your tremendous knowledge, your singular dedication and selfless service to the Movement, and your rare oratorical gift--to concede to you dictatorial powers, and will be most delighted if after your reentry you will take over the position of First Chairman, which Drexler long ago and repeatedly offered you."* The letter then goes on to make it appear that Hitler wanted to purge Drexler, the founder of the party, from the movement and continues: "If you should consider it desirable to have him [Drexler] completely excluded from the Movement, the next annual meeting would have to be consulted on that matter."*
The committee's answer to Hitler was little more than an attempt to make him appear unreasonable, power hungry, and irrational. About the only thing the Committee was really sincere about was not calling up a special meeting. The "annual meeting" was not to be held for six months. The Committee's only goal was an attempt to silence Hitler so they could conclude the stalled merger.
The Committee persuaded Dietrich Eckart, Hitler's closest friend, to act as moderator* but Hitler would not compromise. He had made up his mind to take the party in a direction that the Committee and the fine people in the movement would never understand, yet alone approve. Hitler knew that men like Drexler and his circle lacked the temperament and courage to embark on a new course. Hitler accurately saw that millions of Germans, from the Right and the Left, were becoming disillusioned with the "bourgeois-romantic sectarian groups" with their western styled "pseudo-democratic" organizations.* He was determined to "cash in on the trend of the times toward a 'strong man''' who could reshape the "shattered postwar world by a 'dictatorship of order.'"*
Hitler's thinking (which would later be exposed in Mein Kanpf) was dominated by the class theme again. He believed that most "ordinary people" could be productive and law abiding citizens. But, the intellectuals and other malcontents, for their own gains, were leading the people into "decadence, idleness and selfishness." He also knew that the interest of the working class was not that of the upper class and he sought to curb "upper class government." To achieve that goal he was determine to unite the working masses and the lower middle class (which together could check the power of "quality people").
The common thread that drew the masses and the lower middle class together was their service in the trenches. Hitler knew these men were looking for a leader to point them in the right direction. He knew that Drexler and his circle were unable to understand the passions of the ex-soldier and even looked on him as a "stranger."* Drexler, Hitler felt, had never been a soldier, "even during the war," and like the other founders of the party lacked the necessary qualities, as he wrote, "to stir up an ardent and indomitable faith in the ultimate triumph of the movement and to brush aside, with obstinate force and if necessary with brutal ruthlessness, all obstacles that stood in the path of the new idea. Such a task could be carried out only by men who had been trained, body and soul, in those military virtues which make a man, so to speak, agile as a greyhound, tough as leather, and hard as Krupp steel." On the other hand, Hitler wrote of himself: "Physically and mentally I had the polish of six years of service....I had forgotten such phrases as: 'That will not go', or 'That is not possible', or 'We ought not to take such a risk; it is too dangerous.'"*
By the 16th of July, Hitler was pressing hard for the special meeting of the membership but the Committee kept stalling. It soon became apparent why. Thousand of leaflets were circulated about Munich attacking Hitler.* A leaflet, titled "Adolf Hitler. Traitor," a concoction of fact and fancy,* was clearly an attempt to turn the membership against him.
The leaflet defended the Committee and accused Hitler of using the party "as a springboard for his own immoral purposes."* It stated that when questioned about his background Hitler "became agitated and flew into a rage."* It accused him of being a secret supporter of the monarchy. It claimed that he associated with "criminal elements"-- namely Hermann Esser.* It implied that he was embezzling party funds to spend on his "excessive relations with ladies." It claimed that when it came to women, Hitler referred to himself as the "King of Munich."*
The leaflet also accused Hitler of "personal ambition and a lust for power" who was "relying only on his gift as a speaker."* Hitler, the leaflet charged, "believes the time has come to introduce disunity and dissension into our ranks at the behest of his shady backers...and thus to promote the interest of Jewry and its henchmen....And how is he conducting this struggle? Like a real Jew."*
The insinuation that Hitler might be working for the Jews, or even be Jewish, was the standard practice of moderate and rightist elements, including the fine ones, for casting doubt on their rivals. It would be the first time, of many, that Hitler's political enemies would use the big lie in an attempt to discredit him. That Hitler's enemies could make such statements was because Hitler's attacks against the Jews, at the time, were not extraordinary. He held most of the traditional anti-Semitic ideas and conceptions of the German and Austrian Pan-Germans,* and other European nationalists. Hitler, however, knew that a movement could not be built on racial issues alone and his anti-Jewish rhetoric ebbed and flowed in relation to current events. As an example, when anti-Jewish sentiment reached a peak after the publication of the Protocols, Hitler hopped on the bandwagon; but, once the Protocols were exposed as a hoax (even though he refused to believe it), he concentrated for the most part, on attacks against "the Jewish millionaire"* and "Jewish international stock exchange capital."* Such a theme found a ready audience throughout Europe and was used by a wide range of political thinkers--Even Jewish Marxists (Socialists and Communists) sought the destruction of "Jewish Millionaires" and "Capital." Attacks against rich Jews did not automatically eliminate one from being accused of being a tool of the Jews, or a Jew. (So called "anti-Semitic Jews," labeled even by Jews, had been around for decades.) That Hitler was pursuing a revolutionary course and beginning to go after the masses added validity to the charge. The leaflet was the first in a series of rumors (that persisted throughout the 1920s and into the 30s) that Hitler was a Jew and/or Communist working for the Jews.
The rumor of "Hitler's Jewish descent" quickly spread though Munich that July.* Hitler was outraged and took a bold and unauthorized move. Without party sanction, posters appeared announcing a meeting of "NATIONAL SOCIALISTS, MANUAL AND WHITE COLLAR WORKERS" at the Crown Circus.*
Though Hitler continued to use the typical "stock of antisemitic catchphrases,"* never before had a Hitler poster struck out so hard against the Jews. "Like a giant spider," read the first line of text, "the Jewish international world stock exchange capital creeps over the peoples of this earth, gradually sucking their marrow and blood."* The poster then suggests that 300 Jews, "who know one another, dominate the world." Hitler then warns that a "inexorable war of destruction against our people has already set in,"* and uses the fighting in Upper Silesia between Germans and Poles to prove his point. He then scolds the German people for their lack of concern. He charges that they are being misled by "thousands and thousands" of Jewish agents who "are untiringly active in the press and in political parties."* To exemplify his charges he points to a recent happening in Hungary where the new government (sensitized by what occurred under Bela Kun and his "Jewish Mafia") was taking harsh measures:
Hitler proclaims that while the German people's attention is directed toward such events, "Germany's merciless oppressors" were tearing the country apart. He denounces the present republic form of government and the men behind it for the deteriorating state of the nation. He then states that the National Socialist Party is the "only" true anti-republican movement and the nation needs to follow its "iron-like" principles.
After giving a hint of the infighting within the movement, he calls on those who are opposed to republican principles to attend the meeting as a show of support for his ideas--"To harden the principles of the movement from which alone we hope for the resurrection of the German people."*
Angered over the charges against him, Hitler used his poster to show that he was not a Jew or working for the Jews. In addition, by attacking democratic principles he hoped to show the anti-Hitler faction that many people supported his philosophy. Hitler knew that if his poster attracted a large enough audience his position would be greatly enhanced. On the other hand, if he failed to attract a large crowd he would look like a fool and his chances of ousting Drexler and his circle from their leading positions would never succeed. Calling such a meeting was a great gamble.
Hitler however, possessed the gambler's instinct to know when to play his hand. He had not given a speech in Munich for nearly two months and undoubtedly knew that thousands of admirers, and opponents, wished to know what he had to say. By the time the meeting got under way on Wednesday, July 20, 1921, at 9 p.m., over 6000 people had paid a mark to hear him speak.
Many of the people who attended Hitler meetings had served in the army or had loved ones who did. They were resentful of the contempt shown the men who fought in the war and also the path the Berlin government had embarked on. Under democracy they had seen the values they believed in as well as their economic condition deteriorate. They had seen their country reduced from one of the greatest powers in the world to one where hunger and chaos reigned. They attended Hitler's meetings because he addressed issues they believed in. Other people attended out of curiosity, concern, or because they saw the beginning of a new political force. Whatever their reasons, most people came under the spell of Hitler's oratorical gifts and encouraged others to attend. One man, who was encouraged to attend a Hitler speech, would later give an analogy of a friend's impression of Hitler:
Much of Hitler's appeal as a speaker lay in his choice of words. Every generation develops is own phrases and catchwords and since most of his audience served or had loved ones in the war, Hitler adapted the casual camaraderie of the trenches. He never talked down to his audience and never used words they were unfamiliar with. He seldom used slang, except for effect, but his speeches continued to be peppered with trench jargon and vulgarity. He could express his audiences feelings and thoughts in the same words they would have used if they were capable of formulating such views.*
Hitler's greatest appeal however, was that he had no need for a prepared speech because, unlike most politicians, he seldom said anything that he did not absolutely believe in. As one historian noted: "He meant what he said, he lived up to his ideals, he practiced what he preached."* He did use notes to jog his memory and keep the continuity of his speeches flowing, but he was always able to engage his listeners. A good speaker, Hitler wrote:
Hitler was often amused by "bourgeois intellectuals" who attended his meetings and later criticized the contents of his speeches for their crudeness, simplicity, or lack of rationale. Hitler accurately saw that when dealing with the masses one had to overcome their preconceived or instilled prejudices ("subconscious feeling") which could not be overcome by "reason." He scorned the uselessness and stupidity of "those bourgeois simpletons"* who, once out of their class, had no idea of the way other people thought.
There were also quality people in the party who opposed Hitler's style and thought he should speak on a higher level, but Hitler knew that most people would be bored to death by such "shit"--as he referred to it. He understood that the objective of a political speech at a mass meeting was not for the "amusement of people who are already disposed towards" ones ideas but the "winning of the enemies."* Hitler saw, like a religious preacher, that there are basically only two methods of "proselytizing." One is to evangelize the general masses and then work upward. The other is to aim at the elite, or even powerful individuals at the top, and then work down with authority or force. Since the intellectual and privileged classes of any nation make up a very small part of the population, Hitler's speeches were never directed toward them in the hope that the "other classes" would be dragged along. Hitler spoke to the crowd knowing that sooner or later the privileged class would be dragged along. (And in the end, they were.)
To attract more of the crowd, the atmosphere at Hitler's meetings had evolved and taken on a natural and easy style. There were very few formalities and the halls began to be decked out with swastika flags and banners. Small amateur bands were formed which livened up the place and lead the audience in singing folk and patriotic songs before and after a Hitler speech. Congenial as the atmosphere was however, everyone knew it was a serious affair.
Hitler, like the communists he studied, placed great emphasis on the mass meeting. He knew that the average person is normally fearful of voicing their own opinion in the company of "higher-ups," or they believed the propaganda of higher-ups (which is normally fed to them in the form of "news"). At a mass meeting, Hitler noted, the audience could see "thousands and thousands of people with the same conviction" they held. At that point he wrote, they began to doubt the "truth" of their previous convictions and each "succumbs to the magic influence of what we call mass suggestion....the force of thousands accumulates in every individual."*
During these early years, Hitler normally stood off to the side of the speaking platform with friends until the preliminaries were over. After an initial introduction he would straighten up, and with a swift controlled step, walk over and quickly mount the platform. With the poise of the unmistakable soldier* he appeared to stand at attention* until the last remnant of applause had died away. He would stand momentarily gazing out over the audience, studying its makeup, demeanor, and temper. He knew that many of the people present did not share his opinions and that he had only "two hours to lift [them]," as he saw it, "out of their previous convictions, to smash blow by blow the foundations of their previous opinions and finally lead them over to the soil of our convictions and of our view of life."*
He would start his speech hesitantly, quietly, making everyone strain to listen. To quickly silence the scattering of opponents who had come to interrupt or heckle, Hitler had found a way to "snatch away," as he put it, their cries of opposition. He had learned to open with themes that nearly no German could disagree with. He would sometimes begin his speech by softly describing the difficulties of the average housewife in procuring food or pointing out other domestic problems that affected her home.* Since distinguished politicians seldom address such unsophisticated issues, Hitler would often find his first body of support among the wives, sweethearts and sisters of opponents. He would sometimes break the ice with the men by depicting the poverty that honest artisans and workers found themselves in, or he would refer to the rising inflation that was crippling them all. Since even Communist opponents could find little to criticize, many who had come to disrupt the meeting began to listen.*
Hitler's opening remarks were not only meant to get his audience on his side but to show them how much they had in common. Nothing troubled Hitler more then the class divisions that existed. He knew that even the small businessman and shop owner considered themselves a "better class" than the general worker. Through his speeches, Hitler attempted to break down the class consciousness of his audience and make them think as "brothers and sisters." Nearly all of his opening themes achieved their purpose but his favorite, and most effective opening was Germany history.*
With the overthrow of the monarchy, the new middle-class order had installed their own "historians in residence." Old German history was being altered or discarded. Hitler understood that a people without a common history are little more than a mob. In his "brilliantly formulated" speeches,* he used the old history to instill a feeling of longing in his audience. One observer would later refer to the beginning of a Hitler speech as a "kind of historical lecture."* One sentence that usually occurred in the early part of all his speeches was: "When we ask ourselves today what is happening in the world, we are obliged to cast our minds back to..."* Although nearly all history reflects the concepts of the upper-classes (which can loom very weary to the average person), Hitler would portray it in a manner that appealed to the average man. Whatever period of the past he used, he described it in glowing and nostalgic terms which inevitably lead up to the war and the gloom of Germany's "lost honor." Because most of his audience still harbored the feelings that led them off to war eight years before, and still felt the pain of defeat and what they saw as "Allied betrayal," Hitler was able to connect with them.
With the audience under his control and feeling out their mood, he would find the right tone, the right note. He knew that a two hour continuous speech by one person could become boring so he had learned to interject anecdotes and humor into his speeches. He used irony people never hear matched. Using his abilities of mimicking, he would also impersonate imaginary opponents, interrupting himself with counter-arguments or questions which his opponents held. After completely annihilating his supposed adversaries he would return to his original line of thought.* The questions not only added richness to Hitler's performance but normally cut off the last hope of his adversaries to heckle or interrupt. After two years of speaking, Hitler would later write, "I was master of this craft."*
The gestures Hitler employed were as varied and flexible as his speaking. They were not, as with most politicians, stereotyped uncoordinated movements of body and hands to make the speaker seem potent.* Hitler's hand and body movements were a reflection of his true feelings. On the stage he radiated passion, strength, and especially sincerity. One observer, who had lived in the United States, compared him to former president Theodore Roosevelt who also had "vigor and courage, a vitality and familiarity with all manner of men, with a direct style of action and utterance, which had endeared him to plain folk."* (T. Roosevelt, president of the U.S. (1901-9) was mistrusted by liberals and feared by conservatives; yet, he won the biggest election landslide ever.)
After a while Hitler's voice would rise and his hands would move. As his intensity increased his body would stiffen as his arm swept the area before him. The speech would gather pace, assurance, momentum. His words came faster and faster. Cocking his head, with eyes ablaze, he would stare into the audience while hammering home his beliefs. When he felt his audience was ready, which Hitler acknowledged was the hardest part to determine,* he would strike out against Germany's enemies in a sharp and fierce denunciation. Using a combination of envy, rage and hate, delivered with eloquence and vulgarity,* he gave expression and direction to primal passions.* He would then work the audience up to fever pitch. His body would be "fuming and flailing."* His hand would clutch his heart, move upward with widespread fingers, pierce the air, tremble, and then the whole arm would come thrusting down before him. He would depict a downtrodden Germany with enemies all around her and Communists, Socialists and Liberals tearing the country apart from within. His words would come thundering down upon the audience, overwhelming, subduing, and overcoming all resistance.* Words, sentences, emotions, tumbled over one another leaving spectators awed. He would attack the ruling classes for giving in to the Allies, their class prejudices and their economic system, to the applause of the Left.* He would then attack those who were prepared to destroy Germany's old morals and traditions, to applause from the Right.* He stormed against anyone for desiring the disruption of German tradition. "All these enemies of the people," he declared, "would one day be beseitigt--literally 'removed' or 'done away with.'"* His speeches were filled with words like "smash," "fight," "crush," and "hate."
"The day will soon come when the people, the Volk, rises up against the despoilers of Germany," Hitler would cry, "When sixty million people have the one single will to act together in a fanatically nationalist way [they will not need weapons]--the weapons will well up out of their fists...!"*
One listener stated: "His words were like a scourge. When he spoke of the disgrace of Germany, I was ready to spring on any enemy....The intense will of the man, the passion of his sincerity, seemed to flow from him to me....he was the man of destiny....I had given him my soul."*
Another witness stated that Hitler made him see "Germany trodden in the mud, Its weak government, the nation surrounded by foes bristling with weapons and ready to hurl themselves on us afresh, the people led astray by maundering about peace and the criminal policy of... [Allied demands]."*
Suddenly Hitler would stop. Sometimes, when the emotional level was high, he would just stand there, sometimes for minutes, and stare into the audience. The chatter of voices and human movement would have long since ceased under his spell. People sat transfixed, expectant, hypnotized. They stared at Hitler, one man noted, "with wide-open distorted mouths....others, pale desperate, hollow-eyed....others...quivered with emotion."* One observer noticed others who appeared in a state of "devotional ecstasy."*
By now perspiration would be running down Hitler's face and his hair would be plastered to his forehead. His collar (normally fastened with an imitation gold pin)* was visibly soaked. "Whenever I have to make a speech of great importance I am always soaking wet at the end," Hitler would later say. "The only thing that always worried me was the fact that my only [suit] was a blue one, and it invariably stained my underclothes!"* (Hitler dressed-down to get the lower class, then dressed-up to get the middle class.) Sometimes a large mug of beer would be passed up to him and after wiping the perspiration from his face he would take a deep gulp. "Local custom," Hitler stated, "'insists' on it."* It supplied a touch that all "malt-minded Munichers" could relate to.*
Hitler would resume again and reach levels of passion never before witnessed by spectators. He created grand visions of the future and offered assurances of "Germany's future greatness." His sincerity was unmistakable and he would carry the people with him. He fed their emotions, their desires* and he fused the people into a single mass.* Finally he would reach a pitch of almost uncontrollable emotion. "The last eight to ten minutes of a speech resembled an orgasm of words."* He made people believe in themselves and their heritage. He appeared the personification of a mythical hero leader.* For the sake of national survival he would destroy "Jewish-Marxism" and "democratic liberalism." He would then unify "all breeds of Germans"* and restore order and prosperity. All they had to do was follow him and he would lead them to the promised land.
By the time Hitler left the platform he had everyone agreeing with everything he said.* Police reports from the time are riddled with, "long raging cheers" and "thunderous applause." Onlookers reported "enthusiastic applause," and "frenzied cheering, hand clapping." Ernst Hanfstaengl, educated at Harvard, aristocratic, and from a rich family of art dealers came away, "really impressed beyond measure."* Otto Strasser noted that Hitler liberates "the mass unconscious, expressing its innermost aspirations, telling it what it most wants to hear."*
Critics also fell under Hitler's spell and described his speeches as "intoxicating" and "overwhelming." Even those who hated him were captivated. William Shirer wrote in his diary: "Hitler's voice 'sounds' tremendously sincere and convincing." Konrad Heiden (whose mother was Jewish) stated: "In this unlikely looking creature...there dwelt a miracle: his voice."* Heiden heard Hitler speak many times and wrote:
Many times a Hitler speech still had its affect long after Hitler had left the platform. The audience would file out of the meeting halls and carry the emotion with them into the streets. Columns would form and march through Munich singing patriotic songs.
Before the meeting ended on the 20th of July in the Circus, Hitler viciously attacked the Berlin government. He accused the politicians, "those swindlers and time-servers,"* of allowing Germany to be exploited by "Jewish-Allied interest." He also lashed out against the anti-Hitler faction which wrote the pamphlet condemning him. What disturbed him most was the charge that he was a Jew working secretly for the Jews.* He had little trouble convincing the audience of his "honor." Although the rumors of Hitler's "Jewish descent" refused to go away,* the meeting was a brilliant success. He had shown Drexler and the Committee where the only strength of the party lay.
Over the next few days Hitler pressed the Committee hard to call a special meeting where his demands would be met. Because of the rumors started by the pamphlet, he also demanded a public apology from the anti-Hitler faction. When the Committee balked, Hitler himself called for a meeting of the membership.
Drexler, sensing that his days were numbered, went to the Munich police to complain that Hitler had no right to call such a meeting. In attempting to gain sympathy he pointed out that he and his circle were attempting to carry out party aims by "legal, parliamentary procedures," while Hitler and his circle were "aiming at revolution and violence."* The police refused to get involved since it was an inner party matter. Knowing that Hitler's request for "papal" powers would probably be accepted by the rank and file, Drexler began to weaken. Over the next few days negotiations were carried out and little by little Drexler and the rest of the anti-Hitler faction caved in.*
During the afternoon of Friday, July 29, 1921 the special meeting finally took place in the hall at the Sterneckerbrau above the party office.* Since Friday was a working day, only 544 party members were present but Hitler was greeted with applause that would not stop.* Hitler's version of the party infighting was so masterful he swung nearly everyone over to his side. He then stated his goals which included the annexation of other parties and not their destruction. His most poignant statement left little doubt as to what he intended to accomplish:
When the vote was taken 543 members voted to give Hitler dictatorial powers. Only one person (a librarian) voted against him. Few parties ever gave its leader the powers that the Nazi Party gave Adolf Hitler, and they would continue to elect him every year (as original party statutes specified) till he became ruler of all Germany.* Drexler was kicked upstairs to become "honorary chairman for life" and Hitler's inner circle took over all major posts. As in the Church, Hitler had attended as a boy, a "party papacy" began to take shape.*
On the evening of the same day, another mass meeting was held at the Circus Krone. For the first time ever, Hitler was introduced as the Fuhrer.* The next day Hitler wrote a letter to one of his acquaintances and for the first time confidently signed it: "der Fuhrer..."