curiosity of the army toward political parties in those days
was more than understandable. The revolution had given the soldiers
the right of political activity, and it was just the most inexperienced
among them who made the most ample use of it. Not until the
moment when the Center and the Social Democracy were forced
to recognize, to their own grief, that the sympathies of the
soldiers were beginning to turn away from the revolutionary
parties toward the national movement and reawakening, did they
see fit to deprive the troops of suffrage again and prohibit
their political activity.
was illuminating that the Center and the Marxists should have
taken this measure, for if they had not undertaken this curtailment
of ' civil rights ' - as the political equality of the soldiers
after the revolution was called - within a few years there would
have been no revolution, and hence no more national dishonor
and disgrace. The troops were then well on their way toward
ridding the nation of its leeches and the stooges of the Entente
within our walls. The fact that the so-called 'national' parties
voted enthusiastically for the correction of the previous views
of the November criminals, and thus helped to blunt the instrument
of a national rising, again showed what the eternally doctrinaire
ideas of these innocents among innocents can lead to. This bourgeoisie
was really suffering from mental senility; in all seriousness
they harbored the opinion that the army would again become what
it had been, to wit, a stronghold of German military power;
while the Center and Marxism planned only to tear out its dangerous
national poison fang, without which, however, an army remains
forever a police force, but is not a troop capable of fighting
an enemy - as has been amply proved in the time that followed.
did our 'national politicians' believe that the development
of the army could have been other than national? That would
have been confoundedly like the gentlemen and is what comes
of not being a soldier in war but a big-mouth; in other words,
a parliamentarian with no notion of what goes on in the hearts
of men who are reminded by the most colossal past that they
were once the best soldiers in the world.
so I decided to attend the above-mentioned meeting of this party
which up till then had been entirely unknown to me too.
the evening when I entered the 'Leiber Room' of the former Sterneckerbräu
in Munich, I found some twenty to twenty-five people present,
chiefly from the lower classes of the population.
lecture was known to me from the courses, so I was able to devote
myself to an inspection of the organization itself.
impression was neither good nor bad; a new organization like
so many others. This was a time in which anyone who was not
satisfied with developments and no longer had any confidence
in the existing parties felt called upon to found a new party.
Everywhere these organizations sprang out of the ground, only
to vanish silently after a time. The founders for the most part
had no idea what it means to make a party - let alone a movement
out of a club. And so these organizations nearly always stifle
automatically in their absurd philistinism.
judged the 'German Workers' Party' no differently. When Feder
finally stopped talking, I was happy. I had seen enough and
wanted to leave when the free discussion period, which was now
announced, moved me to remain, after all. But here, too everything
seemed to run along insignificantly until suddenly a 'professor'
took the floor; he first questioned the soundness of Feder's
arguments and then - after Feder replied very well - suddenly appealed
to 'the facts,' but not without recommending most urgently that
the young party take up the 'separation' of Bavaria from 'Prussia'
as a particularly important programmatic point. With bold effrontery
the man maintained that in this case German-Austria would at
once join Bavaria, that the peace would then become much better,
and more similar nonsense. At this point I could not help demanding
the floor and giving the learned gentleman my opinion on this
point - with the result that the previous speaker, even before
I was finished, left the hall like a wet poodle. As I spoke,
the audience had listened with astonished faces, and only as
I was beginning to say good night to the assemblage and go away
did a man come leaping after me, introduce himself (I had not
quite understood his name), and press a little booklet into
my hand, apparently a political pamphlet, with the urgent request
that I read it.
was very agreeable to me, for now I had reason to hope that
I might become acquainted with this dull organization in a simpler
way, without having to attend any more such interesting meetings.
Incidentally this apparent worker had made a good impression
on me. And with this I left the hall.
that time I was still living in the barracks of the Second Infantry regiment in a little room that still very distinctly bore the
traces of the revolution. During the day I was out, mostly with
the Forty-First Rifle regiment , or at meetings, or lectures
in some other army unit, etc. Only at night did I sleep in my
quarters. Since I regularly woke up before five o'clock in the
morning, I had gotten in the habit of putting a few left-overs
or crusts of bread on the floor for the mice which amused themselves
in my little room, and watching the droll little beasts chasing
around after these choice morsels. I had known so much poverty
in my life that I was well able to imagine the hunger, and hence
also the pleasure, of the little creatures.
about five o'clock in the morning after this meeting, I thus
lay awake in my cot, watching the chase and bustle. Since I
could no longer fall asleep, I suddenly remembered the past
evening and my mind fell on the booklet which the worker had
given me. I began to read. It was a little pamphlet in which
the author, this same worker, described how he had returned
to national thinking out of the Babel of Marxist and trade-unionist
phrases; hence also the title: My Political Awakening.
Once I had begun, I read the little book through with interest;
for it reflected a process similar to the one which I myself
had gone through twelve years before. Involuntarily I saw my
own development come to life before my eyes. In the course of
the day I reflected a few times on the matter and was finally
about to put it aside when, less than a week later, much to
my surprise, I received a postcard saying that I had been accepted
in the German Workers' Party; I was requested to express myself
on the subject and for this purpose to attend a committee meeting
of this party on the following Wednesday.
must admit that I was astonished at this way of 'winning' members
and I didn't know whether to be angry or to laugh. I had no
intention of joining a ready-made party, but wanted to found
one of my own. What they asked of me was presumptuous and out
of the question.
was about to send the gentlemen my answer in writing when curiosity
won out and I decided to appear on the appointed day to explain
my reasons by word of mouth.
came. The tavern in which the said meeting was to take place
was the 'Aites Rosenbad' in the Herrenstrasse, a very run-down
place that no one seemed to stray into more than once in a blue
moon. No wonder, in the year 1919 when the menu of even the
larger restaurants could offer only the scantiest and most modest
allurements. Up to this time this tavern had been totally unknown
went through the ill-lit dining room in which not a soul was
sitting, opened the door to the back room, and the 'session'
was before me. In the dim light of a broken-down gas lamp four
young people sat at a table, among them the author of the little
pamphlet, who at once greeted me most joyfully and bade me welcome
as a new member of the German Workers' Party
I was somewhat taken aback. As I was now informed that the actual
'national chairman' had not yet arrived, I decided to wait with
my declaration. This gentleman finally appeared. It was the
same who had presided at the meeting in the Sterneckerbräu
on the occasion of Feder's lecture
I had again become very curious, and waited expectantly for
what was to come. Now at least I came to know the names of the
individual gentlemen. The chairman of the 'national organization'
was a Herr Harrer, that of the Munich District, Anton Drexler.
minutes of the last meeting were read and the secretary was
given a vote of confidence. Next came the treasury report -
all in all the association possessed seven marks and fifty pfennigs
- for which the treasurer received a vote of general confidence.
This, too, was entered in the minutes. Then the first chairman
read the answers to a letter from Kiel, one from Düsseldorf,
and one from Berlin, and everyone expressed approval. Next a
report was given on the incoming mail: a letter from Berlin,
one from Düsseldorf and one from Kiel, whose arrival seemed
to be received with great satisfaction. This growing correspondence
was interpreted as the best and most visible sign of the spreading
importance of the German Workers' Party, and then - then there
was a long deliberation with regard to the answers to be made.
terrible! This was club life of the worst manner and sort. Was
I to join this organization?
new memberships were discussed; in other words, my capture was
now began to ask questions - but, aside from a few directives,
there was nothing, no program, no leaflet, no printed matter
at all, no membership cards, not even a miserable rubber stamp,
only obvious good faith and good intentions.
had stopped smiling, for what was this if not a typical sign
of the complete helplessness and total despair of all existing
parties, their programs, their purposes, and their activity?
The thing that drove these few young people to activity that
was outwardly so absurd was only the emanation of their inner
voice, which more instinctively than consciously showed them
that all parties up till then were suited neither for raising
up the German nation nor for curing its inner wounds. I quickly
read the typed 'directives' and in them I saw more seeking than
knowledge. Much was vague or unclear, much was missing, but
nothing was present which could not have passed as a sign of
a struggling realization.
knew what these men felt: it was the longing for a new movement
which should be more than a party in the previous sense of the
evening when I returned to the barracks I had formed my judgment
of this association.
was facing the hardest question of my life: should I join or
should I decline?
could advise me only to decline, but my feeling left me no rest,
and as often as I tried to remember the absurdity of this whole
club, my feeling argued for it.
was restless in the days that followed.
began to ponder back and forth. I had long been resolved to
engage in political activity; that this could be done only in
a new movement was likewise clear to me, only the impetus to
act had hitherto been lacking. I am not one of those people
who begin something today and lay it down tomorrow, if possible
taking up something else again. This very conviction among others
was the main reason why it was so hard for me to make up my
mind to join such a new organization. I knew that for me a decision
would be for good, with no turning back. For me it was no passing
game but grim earnest. Even then I had an instinctive revulsion
toward men who start everything and never carry anything out
These jacks-of-all-trades were loathsome to me. I regarded the
activity of such people as worse than doing nothing.
this way of thinking constituted one of the main reasons why
I could not make up my mind as easily as some others do to found
a cause which either had to become everything or else would
do better not to exist at all.
itself now seemed to give me a hint. I should never have gone
into one of the existing large parties, and later on I shall
go into the reasons for this more closely. This absurd little
organization with its few members seemed to me to possess the
one advantage that it had not frozen into an 'organization,'
but left the individual an opportunity for real personal activity.
Here it was still possible to work, and the smaller the movement,
the more readily it could be put into the proper form. Here
the content, the goal, and the road could still be determined,
which in the existing great parties was impossible from the
longer I tried to think it over, the more the conviction grew
in me that through just such a little movement the rise of the
nation could some day be organized, but never through the political
parliamentary parties which clung far too greatly to the old
conceptions or even shared in the profits of the new régime.
For it was a new philosophy and not a new election slogan that
had to be proclaimed.
a very grave decision - to begin transforming this intention into
prerequisites did I myself bring to this task?
I was poor and without means seemed to me the most bearable
part of it, but it was harder that I was numbered among the
nameless, that I was one of the millions whom chance permits
to live or summons out of existence without even their closest
neighbors condescending to take any notice of it. In addition,
there was the difficulty which inevitably arose from my lack
so called 'intelligentsia' always looks down with a really limitless
condescension on anyone who has not been dragged through the
obligatory schools and had the necessary knowledge pumped into
him. The question has never been: What are the man's abilities?
but: What has he learned? To these 'educated' people the biggest
empty-head, if he is wrapped in enough diplomas, is worth more
than the brightest boy who happens to lack these costly envelopes.
And so it was easy for me to imagine how this 'educated' world
would confront me, and in this I erred only in so far as even
then I still regarded people as better than in cold reality
they for the most part unfortunately are. As they are, to be
sure, the exceptions, as everywhere else, shine all the more
brightly. Thereby, however, I learned always to distinguish
between the eternal students and the men of real ability.
two days of agonized pondering and reflection, I finally came
to the conviction that I had to take this step.
was the most decisive resolve of my life. From here there was
and could be no turning back.
so I registered as a member of the German Workers' Party and
received a provisional membership card with the number 7.