What is a lifetime? Is it eighty years? Are we moving away from a point in time when the horror was there for us to see? Do we remember the events? Is it all just an insane story that happened in a far off land? How could this little man with the black toothbrush mustache hypnotize a nation? Even more incredible, how could a country with a 98 % literacy rate choose to follow this man with the ranting oratory?
When World War I ended, Hitler was in an army hospital recovering from the effects of a gas attack on the German lines. He had temporarily lost his sight, but was read the articles of cease-fire that were imposed by the Allies as terms for an Armistice. Germany was an economically exhausted country, but the fact that no armies ever set foot on German soil became the seeds for the “Stab in the Back” theory.
Hitler recovered and was asked by German military intelligence to spy on a small group of men that had formed a political party with a marked right wing (FreiKorps) ideology. Hitler attended a meeting, and rather than spy on them, he joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Most people would think that Hitler founded the party, based on his leadership later on, but actually Hitler was member number 7 in the NSDAP (Nazi) party.
Hitler tried to take power by brute force in the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, but this attempt was unsuccessful and only ended up putting the future Nazi leader behind bars in Landsberg Prison for less than a year. It was while in Landsberg that Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf”. If anyone has ever tried to read this book, it is the most disjointed semblance of unconnected political theorems known, but maybe it was more coherent in the original German language version.
Over the next 5 years, from 1925-1930, Germany began to rebound economically from the First World War. The Treaty of Versailles (Der Diktat) had made Germany accept massive reparations payments to the victorious Allies as well as responsibility for starting the war. During this period, the ranks of the NSDAP began to swell. Nazi candidates were put up for election, and began to win seats in the Reichstag. The party was only one of many fringe parties on the left and the right that were winning parliamentary seats, but they were not a huge player in the world of Weimar politics. Everything changed in October of 1929. The Stock Market Crash in the United States brought the world economy to a standstill, and thrust Europe into Depression.
As the early 1930s began, a war erupted in the streets of German cities as Communists of the left and Nazis from the right battled to pick up the pieces of a country languishing on the verge of financial ruin. The Nazis began to win more seats in the Reichstag, and became the second most powerful political party in Germany. Hitler unsuccessfully ran for the German Presidency against World War I hero and Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, but lost handily on both occasions. Fearing a Leftist coup and or revolution that could spell the end for traditional German society, Hindenburg was persuaded by Franz von Papen and the German industrialists, that the only way to keep Germany whole was to allow the Nazis to form a government. Von Papen, who would be the vice-Chancellor, made the statement that once Hitler was brought into the government, he could be controlled.
On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. When Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler became “Der Fuhrer”. Evil does not have to come to power at the end of a rifle; evil can be democratically placed into power.
Look into the face of evil. See it, listen to the words, but steel yourself to the resolve, “Never Again.”