Meanwhile the DAP (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) was formed on 5 January 1919 by Anton Drexler, together with Dietrich Eckart, Gottfried Feder and Karl Harrer. It was a small party only having a handful of members. In early September Hitler attended a DAP meeting in the Sterneckerbräu beer hall as part of his task to observe political parties. Hitler at the time was a Verbindungsmann (intelligence agent) in the Reichswehr. As Hitler tells it himself in Mein Kampf (page 218-219)
In the evening when I entered the ‘Leiber Room’ of the former Sterneckerbräu in Munich, I found some 20 to 25 people present, chiefly from the lower classes of the population. Feder’s lecture was known to me from the courses, so I was able to devote myself to an inspection of the organization itself. .... But here, too, everything seemed to run along insignificantly until suddenly a ‘professor’ took the floor. ….. With bold effrontery the man maintained that in this case German-Austria would at once join Bavaria, that the peace would then become much better. .…. At this point I could not help demanding the floor and giving the learned gentleman my opinion on this point.
After this speech Hitler met with Drexler, who was impressed with Hitler’s rhetorical talents and urged him to join the DAP. On 12 September, after a few days of thinking Hitler decided to indeed join the DAP.
On 24 February 1920 the DAP was dissolved and changed its name to the NSDAP (NationalSozialistische Deutsche ArbeiterPartei), where Adolf Hitler was elected party chairman on 29 July 1921 and later named Führer (leader). In the first few years it was small local party with only a handful of members.
We talked already about the Freikorps, and how they assisted the government during the Spartacists revolts in Berlin and Munich. The Freikorps were paramilitary units and many war veterans from WWI joined the various units after the war. Around January 1919 there were some 100 units having some 1.5 million men participating.
One of these units was called Marinebrigade Ehrhardt, which was formed and led by Captain Hermann Ehrhardt. They assisted in fighting the Spartacists in Bremen and Munich.
The demand of the allies to restrict the German army to 100,000 men only, would mean the disarmament of the Freikorps units. In March 1920 orders were given to dismantle the brigade. General Walther von Lüttwitz, commander of the Weimar Republic's Reichswehr, responded by calling on President Ebert and Defense Minister Noske to stop the disbandment. When Ebert refused, Lüttwitz ordered the Brigade to march on Berlin. They occupied the capital on 13 March. Lüttwitz was the driving force behind the putsch. Its nominal leader, though, was Wolfgang Kapp, an irresolute and indecisive East Prussian civil servant, though a fervent nationalist. What they probably didn't expect was the general strike that broke out, apparently called for by Ebert. The Rock Island Argus wrote on Tuesday 16 March:
No world capital has ever before experienced such a complete paralysis of all its living and commercial facilities as Berlin did today. The Hotel Adlon made heroic efforts today to provide food for the American, British and French missions and newspaper correspondents, but it gave up the task when the last of the kitchen force walked out, leaving foreigners to shift for themselves. This city this afternoon had the appearance of another Sunday holiday. Scattered crowds filled Unter den Linden. At intervals troops with bands accompanied by military and machine guns paraded through the streets.
The strike seriously crippled the occupiers and on 17 March they gave up. After the failed Kapp-putsch the brigade was dissolved on 31 May. However it would continue secretly as the Organisation Consul (O.C.).
Throughout the period 1919-1923 there was significant political unrest in Weimar society, be that in the form of assassination, judicial bias and the creation of private armies all caused political unrest in the Republic.
To counter the unrest that existed, political parties created private armies which would help defend their meetings and protect their leaders and members should they need help. These private armies were made up of former soldiers. These groups often caused as much violence as they prevented. This is because those groups who defended would also cause damage to those people who they saw as opponents. It would was not uncommon for right wing paramilitary men to beat up communists and vice versa.
In addition to this street violence, there was also a significant number of political assassinations of high profile Weimar politicians. One of them, Walther Rathenau, did also see the danger Bolshevism presented, but trusted more in Germany itself. He thought that if they could get going again, that is to have the factories up and running as before, there would be no danger of radicalism. Rathenau as foreign minister was assassinated on 24 June 1922 by the O.C., as well as members of the Council of People’s Representatives.
In total during the period there was 376 assassinations and murders of mainly moderate or centrist politicians. When it came to trying those guilty of carrying out the murders, left wing assassins were almost always convicted, whilst those on the right tended to get away with it. This judicial bias existed in the courts as many of the judge were right wing themselves.
In January 1923 French and Belgian troops invaded the German Ruhr area. Reason being that Germany could not fulfill their reparation payments. They took over the iron and steel factories, coal mines and railways. German workers were not supposed to aid, and general strikes were called. This had a disastrous effect on the German economy which wasn’t stable yet. The government started to print money to cover their costs and this in the end caused hyperinflation. At the peak of hyperinflation, November 1923, a loaf of bread cost 200,000,000,000 marks. Many people, especially from the middle class, turned to the Nazi party as they grew unhappy with the current state of affairs.
As we have seen, as part of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was forced to pay an enormous amount of money to the Allies. Germany struggled to make the necessary payments which resulted in the occupied Ruhr area, a growing number of unemployed workers and hyperinflation. Therefore, at the request of the US and British governments, Charles G. Dawes came up with the Dawes Plan. The idea behind this plan, created in 1924, was to ease the payment of the reparations. The main key points were to lower the total amount of the yearly payments. As well as to provide Germany with loans so it could rebuild its industrial capacity. Also, the Allies would supervise the Reichsbank and the occupying troops had to leave the Ruhr area.
On 7 June 1924 the Reichstag voted for the Dawes Plan, with 247 for and 183 votes against. And on 9 August 1924 the first protocol, between the Reparation Commission and the German government was signed.
Although the majority in the Reichstag did vote for the plan, there was also still resentment as it was still like an admission of guilt. Furthermore, some politicians noted that Germany also suffered damages, especially in East Prussia at the hand of the Russians. And besides that they were reluctant in giving certain power to the foreign powers for the restructuring of the Reichsbank and Reichsbahn.
The result in the end however, especially due to the large loans, was that unemployment dropped, the inflation being under control and the payments to the Allies were resumed.
Next Story: Beer Hall Putsch
Read Again: The Road to World War 2
Read Again: The Treaty of Versailles