German Workers Party
In 1919 Anton Drexler, Gottfried Feder and Dietrich Eckart formed the German Workers's Party (GPW) in Munich. The German Army was worried that it was a left-wing revolutionary group and sent Adolf Hitler, one of its education officers, to spy on the organization. Hitler discovered that the party's political ideas were similar to his own. He approved of Drexler's German nationalism and anti-Semitism but was unimpressed with the way the party was organized. Although there as a spy, Hitler could not restrain himself when a member made a point he disagreed with, and he stood up and made a passionate speech on the subject.
Anton Drexler was impressed with Hitler's abilities as an orator and invited him to join the party. At first Hitler was reluctant, but urged on by his commanding officer, Captain Karl Mayr, he eventually agreed. He was only the fifty-fourth person to join the German Workers's Party. Hitler was immediately asked to join the executive committee and was later appointed the party's propaganda manager.
In the next few weeks Hitler brought several members of his army into the party, including one of his commanding officers, Captain Ernst Roehm. The arrival of Roehm was an important development as he had access to the army political fund and was able to transfer some of the money into the GWP.
The German Workers's Party used some of this money to advertise their meetings. Adolf Hitler was often the main speaker and it was during this period that he developed the techniques that made him into such a persuasive orator.
Hitler's reputation as an orator grew and it soon became clear that he was the main reason why people were joining the party. This gave Hitler tremendous power within the organization as they knew they could not afford to lose him.
Adolf Hitler advocated that the party should change its name to the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Hitler had always been hostile to socialist ideas, especially those that involved racial or sexual equality. However, socialism was a popular political philosophy in Germany after the First World War. This was reflected in the growth in the German Social Democrat Party (SDP), the largest political party in Germany.
Hitler, therefore redefined socialism by placing the word 'National' before it. He claimed he was only in favour of equality for those who had "German blood". Jews and other "aliens" would lose their rights of citizenship, and immigration of non-Germans should be brought to an end.
(1) Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz (1947)
Last spring the Germans had constructed huge tents in an open space in the Lager. For the whole of the good season each of them had catered for over 1,000 men: now the tents had been taken down, and an excess 2,000 guests crowded our huts. We old prisoners knew that the Germans did not like these irregularities and that something would soon happen to reduce our number.