Home Contact Us
Index Purchase Info
About Site About Us
Appendices Credits
Further Reading Links
Special Features
By Keyword:

Page Number:
Click on an image to see a larger, more detailed picture.
PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 35 
This letterhead of the antisemitic Thule Society states: "Remember, you are a German! Keep your blood pure!"
Photo: Bilderdienst SYddeutscher Verlag
To attract new members from the ranks of Nationalists and Socialists, the German Workers' Party changed its name to the National Socialist Workers' Party at a meeting in Munich on February 24, 1920.
Photo: Bilderdienst SYddeutscher Verlag
While World War I and its immediate aftermath gave Hitler's antisemitism its distinctively virulent form, what he had heard, seen, and observed in Vienna proved to be a formative influence nonetheless. For as Hitler sought an explanation for Germany's defeat, Europe saw an outbreak of Socialist- and Communist-inspired revolutions. This, plus the sanctions of the Versailles Treaty and the antisemitism he had encountered in Vienna, struck Hitler profoundly, with renewed clarity: The Jews, he believed, were to blame. Writing in retrospect about his immediate postwar experience, Hitler put the point this way: "There is no making pacts with Jews; there can only be the hard: either-or. I, for my part, decided to go into politics."

By the time Hitler wrote those words in 1924, he had been in politics for a relatively short time, but during those postwar years he took steps that proved to be especially important. First, discharged from the Pasewalk hospital but not yet demobilized from the Army, he traveled through a crisis-ridden Germany--250,000 Germans starved to death in 1918--and arrived in Munich. That city was a center of violent postwar unrest that produced, among other things, a short-lived, left-wing political takeover, which was crushed on May 1, 1919. To accomplish that task, regular army formations had to be augmented by so-called Freikorps (Free Corps) units. These right-wing paramilitary groups consisted largely of World War I veterans who blamed Germany's defeat on the Jews and the Social Democrats, the largest--and considerably Jewish--political party in the Weimar Republic, which had been proclaimed on November 9, 1918. Although still in the regular Army, Hitler played no major part in suppressing this revolutionary attempt, but his awareness that it included Jewish leadership reinforced his linking of antisemitism with anticommunism.

More decisive in Hitler's political development was the fact that in May 1919 he got a position in the Army's information department, whose Munich unit was under the command of Captain Karl Mayr. Mayr's tasks included inculcating German troops with the proper nationalist and anticommunist attitudes. Hitler was one of the men he selected for training as an instructor in this project. Soon given the opportunity to lecture German troops, Hitler found his element: He proved to be a brilliant and persuasive speaker. Significantly, Hitler's talks to German soldiers in the spring and summer of 1919 were the first occasions in which Hitler spoke publicly against the Jews.

Apparently regarding Hitler as something of an expert on Jewish issues, Mayr told Hitler to answer a letter, dated September 4, 1919, that had been sent by a man named Adolf Gemlich, who had participated in one of the troop instruction courses. Gemlich wanted clarification about the "Jewish question." The reply that Hitler sent to Gemlich, dated September 16, 1919, was his first explicit writing about the Jews. Hitler told Gemlich that "Jewry is unqualifiedly a racial association and not a religious association....Its influence will bring about the racial tuberculosis of the people." He then drew an important distinction. "Antisemitism on purely emotional grounds," said Hitler, "will find its ultimate expression in the form of pogroms. Rational antisemitism, however, must lead to a systematic legal opposition and elimination of the special privileges which Jews hold....Its final objective must unswervingly be the removal (Entfernung) of the Jews altogether. Only a government of national vitality is capable of doing both, and never a government of national impotence." Whether this statement meant that already in 1919 Hitler intended to exterminate the Jews is far from clear. But other parts of this early and carefully focused statement remained constant throughout his political life, notably antisemitism defined racially, and Hitler's call for a unified and systematic national policy to combat Jewish power.

 1918: The antisemitic group Schutz und Trutz Bund is established in Germany.
 1918: Sin Against the Blood, an antisemitic novel by Artur Dinter, is published.
 1918: The Thule-Gesellschaft (Thule Society), a radical right-wing group in Munich, Germany, is established. The group uses the swastika as a symbol of German nationalism.
 July 16-17, 1918: Russian Czar Nicholas II and his family are executed by Bolsheviks following a long period of captivity.
 1918-1920: The Russian civil war, pitting Bolsheviks against anti-Bolsheviks, is won by the Bolsheviks.
 1918-1920: About 100,000 Jews are murdered in western Ukraine.
 October 1918: Britain and Turkey agree to an armistice, taking Turkey out of the world war. Palestine falls under British control, freeing it from Turkish rule for the first time since 1516.
PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 35 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.