Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
Volume One - A Reckoning
Chapter IX: The 'German Workers' Party'
ONE DAY I received orders from my headquarters to find out what was behind
an apparently political organization which was planning to hold a meeting
within th next few days under the name of 'German Workers' Party'-with Gottfried
Feder as one of the speakers. I was told to go and take a look at the organization
and then make a report.
The 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
It 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.
Or 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.
And so I decided to attend the above-mentioned meeting of this
party which up till then had been entirely unknown to me too.
In the evening when I entered the 'Leiber Room' of the former
Sterneckerbrau in Munich, I found some twenty to twenty-five people present,
chiefly from the lower classes of the population.
Feder's lecture was known to me from the courses, so I was able to devote
myself to an inspection of the organization itself.
My 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
I 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.
This 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
At 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
At 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.l 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.
I 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.
I 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.
Wednesday 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 to me.
I 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'
Really, 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 Sterneckerbrau on the occasion of Feder's
Meanwhile, 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.
The 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 ­p; 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 Dusseldorf, and one from Berlin, and everyone expressed approval.
Next a report was given on the incoming mail: a letter from Berlin, one
from Dusseldorf 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, terrible! This was club life of the worst manner and
sort. Was I to join this organization?
Next, new memberships were discussed; in other words, my capture
was taken up.
I 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.
I 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.
I 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 wold.
That evening when I returned to the barracks I had formed my
judgment of this association.
I was facing the hardest question of my life: should I join
or should I decline?
Reason 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.
I was restless in the days that followed.
I 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.
And 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
Fate 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 outset.
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 regime. For it was a new philosophy and not a
new election slogan that had to be proclaimed.
Truly a very grave decision-to begin transforming this intention
What prerequisites did I myself bring to this task?
That 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 of schooling.
The 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.
After two days of agonized pondering and reflection, I finally
came to the conviction that I had to take this step.
It was the most decisive resolve of my life. From here there
was and could be no turning back.
And so I registered as a member of the German Workers' Party
and received a provisional membership card with the number 7.
[Previous Chapter (The Beginning of my Political Activity)]
[Next Chapter (Causes of the Collapse)]