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PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 49 
Urging voters to break the shackles of the Treaty of Versailles, this poster trumpeted, "End it now! Elect Hitler."
Photo: Bilderdienst SYddeutscher Verlag
Hitler's Rise to Power

In its varied and interconnected forms, antisemitism was widespread in Europe--and in the United States as well--as 20th-century developments led to World War I and the subsequent emergence of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party. Germany was by no means the only place where antisemitism was entrenched, but the rising Nazi Party kept sounding its antisemitic drumbeat. It resonated with many Germans, who agreed with Heinrich von Treitschke. In 1879 and 1880, Treitschke, an influential, nationalistic historian, had published a series of articles that drew attention to a fateful phrase: "Die Juden sind unser Unglück" ("The Jews are our misfortune"). Before long, that slogan would be festooned at Nazi Party rallies.

Measured by 1925 census figures, it would have seemed unlikely that Jews were Germany's misfortune. They numbered 564,379, or only 0.9 percent of the total population. Two-thirds of the German Jews, however, were concentrated in six large cities; Berlin's Jewish population was 180,000 at the time. Such urbanization encouraged a vibrant cultural and religious life but also made the German Jews visible, despite their largely middle-class and frequently assimilated status.

At the time of the unsuccessful Nazi coup in November 1923, the NSDAP had about 55,000 members. Briefly banned from German politics, the Party fell into disarray. Vowing to pursue parliamentary means to power, Hitler relaunched it in February 1925. Membership had fallen to 27,000, but by 1926 the decline had been reversed, and 108,000 Germans belonged to the NSDAP. Those gains, however, did not translate immediately into ballot-box success. After the 1923 hyperinflation, the German economy stabilized considerably. The Nazis did not achieve major political gains until the world was plunged into the severe depression whose origins included the American stock-market crash in October 1929. Unemployment's misery scourged Germany.

Nazi Party Structure

The Nazi Party functioned on three levels, all theoretically based on the Führerprinzip (leadership principle) that defined organizational structure. The system emphasized discipline and a chain of command culminating in the charismatic position of the Führer. It also, however, fostered fierce competition, internal feuds, jurisdictional overlap, and incompetency that resulted in much inefficiency.

The Nazi Party's highest level was its leadership cadre. Adolf Hitler sat atop this hierarchical pyramid, dictating to the levels below. Immediately subordinate to Hitler were the heads of the Party Chancellery and Treasury. Next in importance were the Reichsleiter, in charge of departments such as propaganda and foreign policy. Below them were the heads of the Party's territorial administrative machinery. Germany was divided into Gaue (regions) administered by Gauleiter (regional Party leaders) responsible only to Hitler. Each Gau was subdivided into smaller districts, then towns, neighborhoods, and finally blocks. The block warden, or Blockleiter, was the lowest official above the ordinary member, or Parteigenosse.

The Party's second level consisted of the paramilitary and auxiliary division hierarchies, including the Hitler Youth, SA, SS, and NS Women's Organization. The third tier included the affiliated associations representing professional groups, such as the German Labor Front and the NS Teachers' League.

 December 14, 1931: In Holland, a collaborationist political organization, Nationaal Socialistische Beweging (National Socialist Movement), is established.
 1932: The Nazis establish the Faith Movement of German Christians, which is intended to encourage fierce German nationalism and to undercut the authority of the German Protestant Church with exhortations to antisemitism, anti-Catholicism, and anti-Marxism.
 1932: In Holland, a collaborationist combat arm, Weer Afdeeling(Storm Troops), is established.
 1932: I Saw Hitler!, an anti-Nazi book by American journalist Dorothy Thompson, is published; See 1934.
 January 26, 1932: Hitler charms German industrialists in a speech at Düsseldorf Industry Club.
 February 25, 1932: The Austrian Hitler is granted German citizenship.
PROLOGUE: Roots of the Holocaust
 pg. 49 
The Holocaust Chronicle
© 2009 Publications International, Ltd.