August 28, 2017

1930. The New York Times on the Demagogic "German Mussolini"

The Nazi Movement Festers in Germany
"Adolf Hitler at a Nazi rally in Weimar, Germany, October 1930" (source)
This article is part of a series of posts on how newspapers covered the rise of fascism.

From The New York Times, September 21, 1930:
His Fiery Oratory Has Won Men of All Classes to Support Doctrine of "National Bolshevism"
When on the night of Nov. 9, 1923, Adolph Hitler, assisted by General Erich Ludendorff, launched his abortive revolution against Berlin in the Rathskeller of the City Hall in Munich, a Gargantuan outburst of laughter resounded throughout Germany. The "revolution" collapsed before it could get under way. Adolf Hitler became the nation's political clown.

Deserted soon thereafter even by his own followers, at odds with his chief supporter Ludendorff, and facing trial and imprisonment for conspiracy against the State, there appeared to be nothing in store for Hitler but oblivion. He was tried and sentenced to five years' imprisonment. Of this he served only one year. The German Republic, in its feeling of security and with a magnanimity not often displayed by governments toward conspirators who seek its destruction, released him, making him a present of four years of life which otherwise he would have had to spend behind the bars.

Hitler took good advantage of these four years. Today, five years after his release from prison, he stands as the leader of the second strongest political party in Germany, challenging the very life of the republic. Acknowledged leader of German youth, he is hailed by millions as the German Mussolini, come to free Germany from domestic depression and the foreign yoke. When, some time in the middle of next month, the new Reichstag chosen on Sept. 14 assembles in the gray pile facing the Platz der Republic, no less than 107 Fascists, members of the National Socialist Workers' Party—Hitler's party—will occupy seats in the legislative assembly.

Spectacular Rise to Power

In November, 1923, Hitler counted only 200,000 followers. In the last Reichstag his Deputies numbered 12. On Sept. 14, nearly 6,500,000 Germans flocked to his support, lifting him in one day from the status of political nonentity to that of a national figure.

What is the meaning of this transformation? What are the causes behind it? One could make a long and detailed analysis of political, economic and social factors responsible for this phenomenal rise of German Fascism and with it of Adolph Hitler, but most important of all the force responsible is Hitler himself. Whatever else the German election has proved, it has demonstrated once again the truth so frequently challenged in this era of rapidly growing collectivism—the importance of the individual in politics and in history. For just as Italian Fascism would have been impossible without Mussolini and Russian Bolshevism without Lenin, so is the movement in Germany, which on Sept. 14 announced its presence with a thundering salvo of votes, inconceivable without Hitler. Hitler is its driving power and its inspiration.

Like many other leaders of important political and social movements, Hitler is a man of the people, a carpenter by trade. Politically he is an outcast, a man without a country. Born in Austria, he enlisted in the German army at the outbreak of the war. This lost him his Austrian citizenship. After the war he failed to avail himself of the opportunity to become a citizen of Germany. When later, after he had placed himself at the head of the Fascist movement, he sought German citizenship, it was denied to him. Perhaps he may have to wait for it until he is in a position to confer it upon himself.

He Has Energy and Reserve

Hitler is 41. He is of medium height, wiry, slender, with dark hair, bristling, toothbrush mustache, eye spurting fire, straight nose, finely chiseled face and a delicate complexion, quite unlike the Furor Teutonicus which he is represented to be. His entire being breathes dynamic energy combined with marked reserve. Four years in the trenches taught him to have no fear of death. He is an orator of apostolic fervor, and while the things he says are regarded by politically sensible people as pure ignorance and demagogy, he says them with a magnetism and a driving power irresistible to old and young, particularly the latter.

It is significant that most of Germany's 5,000,000 new voters in the recent election cast their votes for Hitler's party. It is to the young people, who know nothing of the war, whose hearts and minds burn with a desire to play a part in the life of their country and its future, that Hitler and his oratory make their greatest appeal.

It is very doubtful whether many can make much sense out of the inchoate mixture of ideas that constitute his program—a mixture of socialism, bolshevism, nationalism, militarism, anti-republicanism and anti-Semitism. Apparently it matters little to his followers what he says. Their chief concern seems to be how he says it. What he says may not appear true to those who know better, but to those who like it it is not without its logic.

Perhaps the best characterization of his doctrine yet given is "national bolshevism"—"national" in the sense that he stands for the repudiation of all Germany's obligations, the tearing up of the Treaty of Versailles and a war of liberation, if need be; bolshevist in the sense that he claims to be a foe of that big, industrialist capitalism of Germany, which he asserts is responsible for Germany's woes. By combining these two elements in his program he appeals to the youth of the land as well as to that large middle class which has suffered most from the social and economic perturbations following the war and from the present depression.

The effect of Hitler's eloquence and personality has been well described by a German who attended one of his early meetings in Munich.

"I look around at my neighbors. At my left sits an old aristocrat, a General in the World War. At my right, in the working clothes of the Eastern suburbs of Munich, a man whose honest eyes alone redeem his desperate face. Only after the meeting warms up does he tell me that up to a short time ago he was a convinced Communist, and that only through Hitler has he learned to feel himself a German.

"Suddenly, every one jumps up and a roar of applause sweeps through the big hall. Upon the speakers' platform steps a simple, modest looking, slender man of medium height who seems underfed and overworked. He is in the later thirties. His voice certainly is not unpleasant, but neither is it exactly fascinating.

"In astonishment I note that the condescending look of the old General on my left is gradually making way for an expression of wrapt attention. 'What a remarkable range of knowledge and technical learning!' he whispers in my ear. And later, as the accusation of complicity in Germany's want and misery is presented with almost crushing force, 'How fearfully excited the man must be, despite his external calm; he can't have a dry thread on his body!'

"My neighbor on the right, the Communist, no longer merely claps his hands in applause; in his eyes I think I see tears, and at every slight pause in the speaker's address he roars approval with all his might. In fact, in spite of the speaker's moderate tone, a very hurricane of elemental passion seems to be sweeping down upon the audience.

"So it is no wonder, then, that when Hitler, after having spoken two and a half hours, ends to a terrific storm of applause, the General and the Communist walk fraternally to a table to enroll as members of the National Socialist Party. Everywhere there are flashing eyes and exalted spirits. Youthful forms, although showing signs of semi-starvation, brace up proudly.

"'Yes, yes, there still lives in us, thank God, a little of the old Germanism, despite all the corruption,' a lady of my acquaintance calls to me as we go out. And a professor remarks, 'No college instructor can excel this man in the unshakable logic of his construction or in his powers of conviction.'

"We are met with howls of rage from Hitler's enemies when we reach the street, but they are soon silenced by one of his patrols."

Such is the man who has announced himself as the leader of the young generation of Germany and who may or may not prove the author of a new war of revenge.