ⓘ German Workers' Party

German Workers' Party

ⓘ German Workers Party

The German Workers Party was a short-lived political party established in Weimar Germany after World War I. It was the precursor of the Nazi Party, which was officially known as the National Socialist German Workers Party. The DAP only lasted from 5 January 1919 until 24 February 1920.


1. Origins

On 5 January 1919, the German Workers Party DAP was founded in Munich in the hotel Furstenfelder Hof by Anton Drexler, along with Dietrich Eckart, Gottfried Feder and Karl Harrer. It developed out of the Freier Arbeiterausschuss fur einen guten Frieden Free Workers Committee for a Good Peace league, a branch of which Drexler had founded in 1918. Thereafter in 1918, Harrer a journalist and member of the Thule Society, convinced Drexler and several others to form the Politischer Arbeiterzirkel Political Workers Circle. The members met periodically for discussions with themes of nationalism and antisemitism. Drexler was encouraged to form the DAP in December 1918 by his mentor, Dr. Paul Tafel. Tafel was a leader of the Alldeutscher Verband Pan-Germanist Union, a director of the Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nurnberg and a member of the Thule Society. Drexlers wish was for a political party which was both in touch with the masses and nationalist. With the DAP founding in January 1919, Drexler was elected chairman and Harrer was made Reich Chairman, an honorary title. On 17 May, only ten members were present at the meeting, and a later meeting in August only noted 38 members attending.


1.1. Origins Adolf Hitlers membership

After World War I ended, Adolf Hitler returned to Munich. Having no formal education or career prospects, he tried to remain in the army for as long as possible. In July 1919, he was appointed Verbindungsmann intelligence agent of an Aufklarungskommando reconnaissance commando of the Reichswehr to influence other soldiers and to investigate the DAP. While monitoring the activities of the DAP, Hitler became attracted to founder Anton Drexlers anti-Semitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist, and anti-Marxist ideas. While attending a party meeting at the Sterneckerbrau beer hall on 12 September 1919, Hitler became involved in a heated political argument with a visitor, Professor Baumann, who questioned the soundness of Gottfried Feders arguments against capitalism and proposed that Bavaria should break away from Prussia and become part of a new South German nation with Austria. In vehemently attacking the mans arguments, he made an impression on the other party members with his oratory skills and, according to Hitler, Baumann left the hall acknowledging unequivocal defeat. Impressed with Hitlers oratory skills, Drexler encouraged him to join. On the orders of his army superiors, Hitler applied to join the party. Although Hitler initially wanted to form his own party, he claimed to have been convinced to join the DAP because it was small and he could eventually become its leader.

In less than a week, Hitler received a postcard stating he had officially been accepted as a member and he should come to a committee meeting to discuss it. Hitler attended the committee meeting held at the run-down Altes Rosenbad beer-house. Normally, enlisted army personnel were not allowed to join political parties. In this case, Hitler had Captain Karl Mayrs permission to join the DAP. Further, Hitler was allowed to stay in the army and receive his weekly pay of 20 gold marks a week. At the time when Hitler joined the party, there were no membership numbers or cards. It was in January 1920 when a numeration was issued for the first time and listed in alphabetical order Hitler received the number 555. In reality, he had been the 55th member, but the counting started at the number 501 in order to make the party appear larger. In his work Mein Kampf, Hitler later claimed to be the seventh party member, and he was in fact the seventh executive member of the partys central committee. After giving his first speech for the DAP on 16 October at the Hofbraukeller, Hitler quickly became the partys most active orator. Hitlers considerable oratory and propaganda skills were appreciated by the party leadership as crowds began to flock to hear his speeches during 1919–1920. With the support of Drexler, Hitler became chief of propaganda for the party in early 1920. Hitler preferred that role as he saw himself as the drummer for a national cause. He saw propaganda as the way to bring nationalism to the public.


1.2. Origins From DAP to NSDAP

The small number of party members were quickly won over to Hitlers political beliefs. He organized their biggest meeting yet of 2.000 people for 24 February 1920 in the Staatliches Hofbrauhaus in Munchen. Further in an attempt to make the party more broadly appealing to larger segments of the population, the DAP was renamed the National Socialist German Workers Party NSDAP on 24 February. Such was the significance of Hitlers particular move in publicity that Harrer resigned from the party in disagreement. The new name was borrowed from a different Austrian party active at the time the Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei, i.e. the German National Socialist Workers Party, although Hitler earlier suggested the party to be renamed the Social Revolutionary Party. It was Rudolf Jung who persuaded Hitler to adopt the NSDAP name.


2. Membership

Early members of the party included:

  • Anton Drexler
  • Ernst Rohm
  • Gottfried Feder
  • Alfred Rosenberg
  • Dietrich Eckart
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Karl Harrer
  • Hermann Esser
  • Rudolf Jung
  • Ernst Boepple
  • Hans Frank
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