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In 1919-20 and also in 1921 I attended some of the bourgeois meetings.Invariably I had the same feeling towards these as towards the compulsorydose of castor oil in my boyhood days. It just had to be taken because itwas good for one: but it certainly tasted unpleasant. If it were possibleto tie ropes round the German people and forcibly drag them to these bourgeoismeetings, keeping them there behind barred doors and allowing nobody to escapeuntil the meeting closed, then this procedure might prove successful in thecourse of a few hundred years. For my own part, I must frankly admit that,under such circumstances, I could not find life worth living; and indeedI should no longer wish to be a German. But, thank God, all this is impossible.And so it is not surprising that the sane and unspoilt masses shun these'bourgeois mass meetings' as the devil shuns holy water.
I came to know the prophets of the bourgeois philosophy,and I was not surprised at what I learned, as I knew that they attached littleimportance to the spoken word. At that time I attended meetings of the Democrats,the German Nationalists, the German People's party and the BavarianPeople's party (the Centre party of Bavaria). What struck me at once wasthe homogeneous uniformity of the audiences. Nearly always they were madeup exclusively of party members. The whole affair was more like a yawningcard party than an assembly of people who had just passed through a greatrevolution. The speakers did all they could to maintain this tranquil atmosphere.They declaimed, or rather read out, their speeches in the style of anintellectual newspaper article or a learned treatise, avoiding all strikingexpressions. Here and there a feeble professorial joke would be introduced,whereupon the people sitting at the speaker's table felt themselves obligedto laugh not loudly but encouragingly and with well-bred reserve.
And there were always those people at the speaker's table. I once attendeda meeting in the Wagner Hall in Munich. It was a demonstration to celebratethe anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig. The speech was deliveredor rather read out by a venerable old professor from one or other of theuniversities. The committee sat on the platform: one monocle on the right,another monocle on the left, and in the centre a gentleman with no monocle.All three of them were punctiliously attired in morning coats, and I hadthe impression of being present before a judge's bench just as the deathsentence was about to be pronounced or at a christening or some more solemnreligious ceremony. The so-called speech, which in printed form may haveread quite well, had a disastrous effect. After three quarters of an hourthe audience fell into a sort of hypnotic trance, which was interrupted onlywhen some man or woman left the hall, or by the clatter which the waitressesmade, or by the increasing yawns of slumbering individuals. I had postedmyself behind three workmen who were present either out of curiosity or becausethey were sent there by their parties. From time to time they glanced atone another with an ill-concealed grin, nudged one another with the elbow,and then silently left the hall. One could see that they had no intentionwhatsoever of interrupting the proceedings, nor indeed was it necessary tointerrupt them. At long last the celebration showed signs of drawing to aclose. After the professor, whose voice had meanwhile become more and moreinaudible, finally ended his speech, the gentleman without the monocle delivereda rousing peroration to the assembled 'German sisters and brothers.' On behalfof the audience and himself he expressed gratitude for the magnificent lecturewhich they had just heard from Professor X and emphasized how deeply theProfessor's words had moved them all. If a general discussion on the lecturewere to take place it would be tantamount to profanity, and he thought hewas voicing the opinion of all present in suggesting that such a discussionshould not be held. Therefore, he would ask the assembly to rise from theirseats and join in singing the patriotic song, Wir sind ein einig Volk vonBrüdern. The proceedings finally closed with the anthem, Deutschlandüber Alles.
And then they all sang. It appeared to me that when the second verse wasreached the voices were fewer and that only when the refrain came on theyswelled loudly. When we reached the third verse my belief was confirmed thata good many of those present were not very familiar with the text.
But what has all this to do with the matter when such a song is sungwholeheartedly and fervidly by an assembly of German nationals?
After this the meeting broke up and everyone hurried to get outside, oneto his glass of beer, one to a cafe, and others simply into the fresh air.
Out into the fresh air! That was also my feeling. And was this the way tohonour an heroic struggle in which hundreds of thousands of Prussians andGermans had fought? To the devil with it all!
That sort of thing might find favour with the Government, it being merelya 'peaceful' meeting. The Minister responsible for law and order need notfear that enthusiasm might suddenly get the better of public decorum andinduce these people to pour out of the room and, instead of dispersing tobeer halls and cafes, march in rows of four through the town singing Deutschlandhoch in Ehren and causing some unpleasantness to a police force in need ofrest.
No. That type of citizen is of no use to anyone.
On the other hand the National socialist meetings were by no means'peaceable' affairs. Two distinct outlooks enraged in bitteropposition to one another, and these meetings did not close with the mechanicalrendering of a dull patriotic song but rather with a passionate outbreakof popular national feeling.
It was imperative from the start to introduce rigid discipline into our meetingsand establish the authority of the chairman absolutely. Our purpose was notto pour out a mixture of soft-soap bourgeois talk; what we had to say wasmeant to arouse the opponents at our meetings! How often did they not turnup in masses with a few individual agitators among them and, judging by theexpression on all their faces, ready to finish us off there and then.
Yes, how often did they not turn up in huge numbers, those supporters ofthe Red Flag, all previously instructed to smash up everything once and forall and put an end to these meetings. More often than not everything hungon a mere thread, and only the chairman's ruthless determination and therough handling by our ushers baffled our adversaries' intentions. And indeedthey had every reason for being irritated.
The fact that we had chosen red as the colour for our posters sufficed toattract them to our meetings. The ordinary bourgeoisie were very shockedto see that, we had also chosen the symbolic red of Bolshevism and they regardedthis as something ambiguously significant. The suspicion was whispered inGerman Nationalist circles that we also were merely another variety of Marxism,perhaps even Marxists suitably disguised, or better still, socialist s. Theactual difference between socialism and Marxism still remains a mystery tothese people up to this day. The charge of Marxism was conclusively provedwhen it was discovered that at our meetings we deliberately substituted thewords 'Fellow-countrymen and Women' for 'Ladies and Gentlemen' and addressedeach other as 'Party Comrade'. We used to roar with laughter at these sillyfaint-hearted bourgeoisie and their efforts to puzzle out our origin, ourintentions and our aims.
We chose red for our posters after particular and careful deliberation, ourintention being to irritate the Left, so as to arouse their attention andtempt them to come to our meetings if only in order to break themup so that in this way we got a chance of talking to the people.
In those years' it was indeed a delightful experience to follow the constantlychanging tactics of our perplexed and helpless adversaries. First of allthey appealed to their followers to ignore us and keep away from our meetings.Generally speaking this appeal was heeded. But, as time went on, more andmore of their followers gradually found their way to us and accepted ourteaching. Then the leaders became nervous and uneasy. They clung to theirbelief that such a development should not be ignored for ever, and that terrormust be applied in order to put an end to it.
Appeals were then made to the 'class-conscious proletariat' to attend ourmeetings in masses and strike with the clenched hand of the proletarian atthe representatives of a 'monarchist and reactionary agitation'.
Our meetings suddenly became packed with work-people fully three-quartersof an hour before the proceedings were scheduled to begin. These gatheringsresembled a powder cask ready to explode at any moment; and the fuse wasconveniently at hand. But matters always turned out differently. People cameas enemies and left, not perhaps prepared to join us, yet in a reflectivemood and disposed critically to examine the correctness of their own doctrine.Gradually as time went on my three-hour lectures resulted in supporters andopponents becoming united in one single enthusiastic group of people. Everysignal for the breaking-up of the meeting failed. The result was that theopposition leaders became frightened and once again looked for help to thosequarters that had formerly discountenanced these tactics and, with some showof right, had been of the opinion that on principle the workers should beforbidden to attend our meetings.
Then they did not come any more, or only in small numbers. But after a shorttime the whole game started all over again. The instructions to keep awayfrom us were ignored; the comrades came in steadily increasing numbers, untilfinally the advocates of the radical tactics won the day. We were to be brokenup.
Yet when, after two, three and even eight meetings, it was realized thatto break up these gatherings was easier said than done and that every meetingresulted in a decisive weakening of the red fighting forces, then suddenlythe other password was introduced: 'Proletarians, comrades and comradesses,avoid meetings of the National socialist agitators'.
The same eternally alternating tactics were also to be observed in the RedPress. Soon they tried to silence us but discovered the uselessness of suchan attempt. After that they swung round to the opposite tactics. Daily'reference' was made to us solely for the purpose of absolutely ridiculingus in the eyes of the working-classes. After a time these gentlemen musthave felt that no harm was being done to us, but that, on the contrary, wewere reaping an advantage in that people were asking themselves why so muchspace was being devoted to a subject which was supposed to be so ludicrous.People became curious. Suddenly there was a change of tactics and for a timewe were treated as veritable criminals against mankind. One article followedthe other, in which our criminal intentions were explained and new proofsbrought forward to support what was said. Scandalous tales, all of themfabricated from start to finish, were published in order to help to poisonthe public mind. But in a short time even these attacks also proved futile;and in fact they assisted materially because they attracted public attentionto us.
In those days I took up the standpoint that it was immaterial whether theylaughed at us or reviled us, whether they depicted us as fools or criminals;the important point was that they took notice of us and that in the eyesof the working-classes we came to be regarded as the only force capable ofputting up a fight. I said to myself that the followers of the Jewish Presswould come to know all about us and our real aims.
One reason why they never got so far as breaking up our meetings was undoubtedlythe incredible cowardice displayed by the leaders of the opposition. On everycritical occasion they left the dirty work to the smaller fry whilst theywaited outside the halls for the results of the break up.
We were exceptionally well informed in regard to our opponents' intentions,not only because we allowed several of our party colleagues to remain membersof the Red organizations for reasons of expediency, but also because theRed wire-pullers, fortunately for us, were afflicted with a degree oftalkativeness that is still unfortunately very prevalent among Germans. Theycould not keep their own counsel, and more often than not they started cacklingbefore the proverbial egg was laid. Hence, time and again our precautionswere such that Red agitators had no inkling of how near they were to beingthrown out of the meetings.
This state of affairs compelled us to take the work of safeguarding our meetingsinto our own hands. No reliance could be placed on official protection. Onthe contrary; experience showed that such protection always favoured onlythe disturbers. The only real outcome of police intervention would be thatthe meeting would be dissolved, that is to say, closed. And that is preciselywhat our opponents granted.
Generally speaking, this led the police to adopt a procedure which, to saythe least, was a most infamous sample of official malpractice. The momentthey received information of a threat that the one or other meeting was tobe broken up, instead of arresting the would-be disturbers, they promptlyadvised the innocent parties that the meeting was forbidden. This step thepolice proclaimed as a 'precautionary measure in the interests of law andorder'.
The political work and activities of decent people could therefore alwaysbe hindered by desperate ruffians who had the means at their disposal. Inthe name of peace and order State authority bowed down to these ruffiansand demanded that others should not provoke them. When National Socialismdesired to hold meetings in certain parts and the labour unions declaredthat their members would resist, then it was not these blackmailers thatwere arrested and gaoled. No. Our meetings were forbidden by the police.Yes, this organ of the law had the unspeakable impudence to advise us inwriting to this effect in innumerable instances. To avoid such eventualities,it was necessary to see to it that every attempt to disturb a meeting wasnipped in the bud. Another feature to be taken into account in this respectis that all meetings which rely on police protection must necessarily bringdiscredit to their promoters in the eyes of the general public. Meetingsthat are only possible with the protective assistance of a strong force ofpolice convert nobody; because in order to win over the lower strata of thepeople there must be a visible show of strength on one's own side. In thesame way that a man of courage will win a woman's affection more easily thana coward, so a heroic movement will be more successful in winning over thehearts of a people than a weak movement which relies on police support forits very existence.
It is for this latter reason in particular that our young movement was tobe charged with the responsibility of assuring its own existence, defendingitself; and conducting its own work of smashing the Red opposition.
The work of organizing the protective measures for our meetings was basedon the following:
(1) An energetic and psychologically judicious way of conducting the meeting.
(2) An organized squad of troops to maintain order.
In those days we and no one else were masters of the situation at our meetingsand on no occasion did we fail to emphasize this. Our opponents fully realizedthat any provocation would be the occasion of throwing them out of the hallat once, whatever the odds against us. At meetings, particularly outsideMunich, we had in those days from five to eight hundred opponents againstfifteen to sixteen National socialist s; yet we brooked no interference, forwe were ready to be killed rather than capitulate. More than once a handfulof party colleagues offered a heroic resistance to a raging and violent mobof Reds. Those fifteen or twenty men would certainly have been overwhelmedin the end had not the opponents known that three or four times as many ofthemselves would first get their skulls cracked. Arid that risk they werenot willing to run. We had done our best to study Marxist and bourgeois methodsof conducting meetings, and we had certainly learnt something.
The Marxists had always exercised a most rigid discipline so that the questionof breaking up their meetings could never have originated in bourgeois quarters.This gave the Reds all the more reason for acting on this plan. In time theynot only became past-masters in this art but in certain large districts ofthe Reich they went so far as to declare that non-Marxist meetings were nothingless than a cause of' provocation against the proletariat. This was particularlythe case when the wire-pullers suspected that a meeting might call attentionto their own transgressions and thus expose their own treachery and chicanery.Therefore the moment such a meeting was announced to be held a howl of ragewent up from the Red Press. These detractors of the law nearly always turnedfirst to the authorities and requested in imperative and threatening languagethat this 'provocation of the proletariat' be stopped forthwith in the'interests of law and order'. Their language was chosen according to theimportance of the official blockhead they were dealing with and thus successwas assured. If by chance the official happened to be a true German and not a mere figurehead and he declined the impudent request, thenthe time-honoured appeal to stop 'provocation of the proletariat' was issuedtogether with instructions to attend such and such a meeting on a certaindate in full strength for the purpose of 'putting a stop to the disgracefulmachinations of the bourgeoisie by means of the proletarian fist'.
The pitiful and frightened manner in which these bourgeois meetings are conductedmust be seen in order to be believed. Very frequently these threats weresufficient to call off such a meeting at once. The feeling of fear was somarked that the meeting, instead of commencing at eight o'clock, very seldomwas opened before a quarter to nine or nine o'clock. The Chairman thereupondid his best, by showering compliments on the 'gentleman of the opposition'to prove how he and all others present were pleased (a palpable lie) to welcomea visit from men who as yet were not in sympathy with them for the reasonthat only by mutual discussion (immediately agreed to) could they be broughtcloser together in mutual understanding. Apart from this the Chairman alsoassured them that the meeting had no intention whatsoever of interferingwith the professed convictions of anybody. Indeed no. Everyone had the rightto form and hold his own political views, but others should be allowed todo likewise. He therefore requested that the speaker be allowed to deliverhis speech without interruption the speech in any case not being along affair. People abroad, he continued, would thus not come to regard thismeeting as another shameful example of the bitter fraternal strife that israging in Germany. And so on and so forth
The brothers of the Left had little if any appreciation for that sort oftalk; the speaker had hardly commenced when he was shouted down. One gatheredthe impression at times that these speakers were graceful for being peremptorilycut short in their martyr-like discourse. These bourgeois toreadors leftthe arena in the midst of a vast uproar, that is to say, provided that theywere not thrown down the stairs with cracked skulls, which was very oftenthe case.
Therefore, our methods of organization at National socialist meetings weresomething quite strange to the Marxists. They came to our meetings in thebelief that the little game which they had so often played could as a matterof course be also repeated on us. "To-day we shall finish them off." Howoften did they bawl this out to each other on entering the meeting hall,only to be thrown out with lightning speed before they had time to repeatit.
In the first place our method of conducting a meeting was entirely different.We did not beg and pray to be allowed to speak, and we did not straightwaygive everybody the right to hold endless discussions. We curtly gave everyoneto understand that we were masters of the meeting and that we would do asit pleased us and that everyone who dared to interrupt would be unceremoniouslythrown out. We stated clearly our refusal to accept responsibility for anyonetreated in this manner. If time permitted and if it suited us, a discussionwould be allowed to take place. Our party colleague would now make his speech....That kind of talk was sufficient in itself to astonish the Marxists.
Secondly, we had at our disposal a well-trained and organized body of menfor maintaining order at our meetings. On the other hand the bourgeois partiesprotected their meetings with a body of men better classified as ushers whoby virtue of their age thought they were entitled to-authority and respect.But as Marxism has little or no respect for these things, the question ofsuitable self-protection at these bourgeois meetings was, so to speak, inpractice non-existent.
When our political meetings first started I made it a special point to organizea suitable defensive squad a squad composed chiefly of young men.Some of them were comrades who had seen active service with me; others wereyoung party members who, right from the start, had been trained and broughtup to realize that only terror is capable of smashing terror thatonly courageous and determined people had made a success of things in thisworld and that, finally, we were fighting for an idea so lofty that it wasworth the last drop of our blood. These young men had been brought up torealize that where force replaced common sense in the solution of a problem,the best means of defence was attack and that the reputation of our hall-guardsquads should stamp us as a political fighting force and not as a debatingsociety.
And it was extraordinary how eagerly these boys of the War generation respondedto this order. They had indeed good reason for being bitterly disappointedand indignant at the miserable milksop methods employed by the bourgeoise.
Thus it became clear to everyone that the revolution had only been possiblethanks to the dastardly methods of a bourgeois government. At that time therewas certainly no lack of man-power to suppress the revolution, but unfortunatelythere was an entire lack of directive brain power. How often did the eyesof my young men light up with enthusiasm when I explained to them the vitalfunctions connected with their task and assured them time and again thatall earthly wisdom is useless unless it be supported by a measure of strength,that the gentle goddess of Peace can only walk in company with the God ofWar, and that every great act of peace must be protected and assisted byforce. In this way the idea of military service came to them in a far morerealistic form not in the fossilized sense of the souls of decrepitofficials serving the dead authority of a dead State, but in the livingrealization of the duty of each man to sacrifice his life at all times sothat his country might live.
How those young men did their job!
Like a swarm of hornets they tackled disturbers at our meetings, regardlessof superiority of numbers, however great, indifferent to wounds and bloodshed,inspired with the great idea of blazing a trail for the sacred mission ofour movement.
As early as the summer of 1920 the organization of squads of men as hallguards for maintaining order at our meetings was gradually assuming definiteshape. By the spring of 1921 this body of men were sectioned off into squadsof one hundred, which in turn were sub-divided into smaller groups.
The urgency for this was apparent, as meanwhile the number of our meetingshad steadily increased. We still frequently met in the Munich Hofbräuhausbut more frequently in the large meeting halls throughout the city itself.In the autumn and winter of 19201921 our meetings in theBürgerbräu and Munich Kindlbräu had assumed vast proportionsand it was always the same picture that presented itself; namely, meetingsof the NSDAP (The German National socialist Labour Party) were always crowdedout so that the police were compelled to close and bar the doors long beforeproceedings commenced.
The organization of defense guards for keeping order at our meetings clearedup a very difficult question. Up till then the movement had possessed noparty badge and no party flag. The lack of these tokens was not only adisadvantage at that time but would prove intolerable in the future. Thedisadvantages were chiefly that members of the party possessed no outwardbroken of membership which linked them together, and it was absolutelyunthinkable that for the future they should remain without some token whichwould be a symbol of the movement and could be set against that of theInternational.
More than once in my youth the psychological importance of such a symbolhad become clearly evident to me and from a sentimental point of view alsoit was advisable. In Berlin, after the War, I was present at a mass-demonstrationof Marxists in front of the Royal Palace and in the Lustgarten. A sea ofred flags, red armlets and red flowers was in itself sufficient to give thathuge assembly of about 120,000 persons an outward appearance of strength.I was now able to feel and understand how easily the man in the street succumbsto the hypnotic magic of such a grandiose piece of theatrical presentation.
The bourgeoisie, which as a party neither possesses or stands for anyoutlook at all, had therefore not a single banner. Their party wascomposed of 'patriots' who went about in the colours of the Reich. If thesecolors were the symbol of a definite philosophy then one couldunderstand the rulers of the State regarding this flag as expressive oftheir philosophy, seeing that through their efforts the officialReich flag was expressive of their philosophy.
But in reality the position was otherwise.
The Reich was morticed together without the aid of the German bourgeoisieand the flag itself was born of the War and therefore merely a State flagpossessing no importance in the sense of any particular ideological mission.
Only in one part of the German-speaking territory in German-Austria was there anything like a bourgeois party flag in evidence. Here asection of the national bourgeoisie selected the 1848 colours (black, redand gold) as their party flag and therewith created a symbol which, thoughof no importance from a weltanschauliche viewpoint, had, nevertheless, arevolutionary character from a national point of view. The most bitter opponentsof this flag at that time, and this should not be forgotten today, werethe Social Democrats and the Christian socialist s or clericals. They, inparticular, were the ones who degraded and besmirched these colours in thesame way as in 1918 they dragged black, white and red into the gutter. Ofcourse, the black, red and gold of the German parties in the old Austriawere the colours of the year 1848: that is to say, of a period likely tobe regarded as somewhat visionary, but it was a period that had honest Germansouls as its representatives, although the Jews were lurking unseen aswire-pullers in the background. It was high treason and the shameful enslavementof the German territory that first of all made these colours so attractiveto the Marxists of the Centre Party; so much so that today they revere themas their most cherished possession and use them as their own banners forthe protection of the flag they once foully besmirched.
It is a fact, therefore, that, up till 1920, in opposition to the Marxiststhere was no flag that would have stood for a consolidated resistance tothem. For even if the better political elements of the German bourgeoisiewere loath to accept the suddenly discovered black, red and gold coloursas their symbol after the year 1918, they nevertheless were incapable ofcounteracting this with a future programme of their own that would correspondto the new trend of affairs. At the most, they had a reconstruction of theold Reich in mind.
And it is to this way of thinking that the black, white and red colours ofthe old Reich are indebted for their resurrection as the flag of our so-callednational bourgeois parties.
It was obvious that the symbol of a régime which had been overthrownby the Marxists under inglorious circumstances was not now worthy to serveas a banner under which the same Marxism was to be crushed in its turn. Howevermuch any decent German may love and revere those old colours, glorious whenplaced side by side in their youthful freshness, when he had fought underthem and seen the sacrifice of so many lives, that flag had little valuefor the struggle of the future.
In our Movement I have always adopted the standpoint that it was a reallylucky thing for the German nation that it had lost its old flag.This standpoint of mine was in strong contrast to that ofthe bourgeois politicians. It may be immaterial to us what the Republic doesunder its flag. But let us be deeply grateful to fate for having so graciouslyspared the most glorious war flag for all time from becoming an ignominiousrag. The Reich of today, which sells itself and its people, must never beallowed to adopt the honourable and heroic black, white and red colours.
As long as the November outrage endures, that outrage may continue to bearits own external sign and not steal that of an honourable past. Our bourgeoispoliticians should awaken their consciences to the fact that whoever desiresthis State to have the black, white and red colours is pilfering from thepast. The old flag was suitable only for the old Reich and, thank Heaven,the Republic chose the colours best suited to itself.
This was also the reason why we National socialist s recognized that hoistingthe old colours would be no symbol of our special aims; for we had no wishto resurrect from the dead the old Reich which had been ruined through itsown blunders, but to build up a new State.
The Movement which is fighting Marxism today along these lines must displayon its banner the symbol of the new State.
The question of the new flag, that is to say the form and appearance it musttake, kept us very busy in those days. Suggestions poured in from all quarters,which although well meant were more or less impossible in practice. The newflag had not only to become a symbol expressing our own struggle but on theother hand it was necessary that it should prove effective as a large poster.All those who busy themselves with the tastes of the public will recognizeand appreciate the great importance of these apparently petty matters. Inhundreds of thousands of cases a really striking emblem may be the firstcause of awakening interest in a movement.
For this reason we declined all suggestions from various quarters for identifyingour movement by means of a white flag with the old State or rather with thosedecrepit parties whose sole political objective is the restoration of pastconditions. And, apart from this, white is not a colour capable of attractingand focusing public attention. It is a colour suitable only for youngwomen's associations and not for a movement that stands for reform in arevolutionary period.
Black was also suggested certainly well-suited to the times, but embodyingno significance to empress the will behind our movement. And, finally, blackis incapable of attracting attention.
White and blue was discarded, despite its admirable æsthetic appeal as being the colours of an individual German Federal State a State that, unfortunately, through its political attitude of particularistnarrow-mindedness did not enjoy a good reputation. And, generally speaking,with these colours it would have been difficult to attract attention to ourmovement. The same applies to black and white.
Black, red and gold did not enter the question at all.
And this also applies to black, white and red for reasons already stated.At least, not in the form hitherto in use. But the effectiveness of thesethree colours is far superior to all the others and they are certainly themost strikingly harmonious combination to be found.
I myself was always for keeping the old colours, not only because I, as asoldier, regarded them as my most sacred possession, but because in theiraesthetic effect, they conformed more than anything else to my personal taste.Accordingly I had to discard all the innumerable suggestions and designswhich had been proposed for the new movement, among which were many thathad incorporated the swastika into the old colours. I, as leader, was unwillingto make public my own design, as it was possible that someone else couldcome forward with a design just as good, if not better, than my own. As amatter of fact, a dental surgeon from Starnberg submitted a good design verysimilar to mine, with only one mistake, in that his swastika with curvedcorners was set upon a white background.
After innumerable trials I decided upon a final form a flag of redmaterial with a white disc bearing in its centre a black swastika. Aftermany trials I obtained the correct proportions between the dimensions ofthe flag and of the white central disc, as well as that of the swastika.And this is how it has remained ever since.
At the same time we immediately ordered the corresponding armlets for oursquad of men who kept order at meetings, armlets of red material, a centralwhite disc with the black swastika upon it. Herr Füss, a Munich goldsmith,supplied the first practical and permanent design.
The new flag appeared in public in the midsummer of 1920. It suited our movementadmirably, both being new and young. Not a soul had seen this flag before;its effect at that time was something akin to that of a blazing torch. Weourselves experienced almost a boyish delight when one of the ladies of theparty who had been entrusted with the making of the flag finally handed itover to us. And a few months later those of us in Munich were in possessionof six of these flags. The steadily increasing strength of our hall guardswas a main factor in popularizing the symbol.
And indeed a symbol it proved to be.
Not only because it incorporated those revered colours expressive of ourhomage to the glorious past and which once brought so much honour to theGerman nation, but this symbol was also an eloquent expression of the willbehind the movement. We National socialist s regarded our flag as being theembodiment of our party programme. The red expressed the social thoughtunderlying the movement. White the national thought. And the swastika signifiedthe mission allotted to us the struggle for the victory of Aryan mankindand at the same time the triumph of the ideal of creative work which is initself and always will be anti-Semitic.
Two years later, when our squad of hall guards had long since grown intostorm detachments (Sturm-Abteilung), it seemed necessary to give this defensive organizationof a young philosophy a particular symbol of victory, namelya Standard. I also designed this and entrusted the execution of it to anold party comrade, Herr Gahr, who was a goldsmith. Ever since that time thisStandard has been the distinctive token of the National socialist struggle.
The increasing interest taken in our meetings, particularly during 1920,compelled us at times to hold two meetings a week. Crowds gathered roundour posters; the large meeting halls in the town were always filled and tensof thousands of people, who had been led astray by the teachings of Marxism,found their way to us and assisted in the work of fighting for the liberationof the Reich. The public in Munich had got to know us. We were being spokenabout. The words 'National socialist ' had become common property to manyand signified for them a definite party programme. Our circle of supportersand even of members was constantly increasing, so that in the winter of192021 we were able to appear as a strong party in Munich.
At that time there was no party in Munich with the exception of the Marxistparties certainly no nationalist party which was able to holdsuch mass demonstrations as ours. The Munich Kindl Hall, which held 5,000people, was more than once overcrowded and up till then there was only oneother hall, the Krone Circus Hall, into which we had not ventured.
At the end of January 1921 there was again great cause for anxiety in Germany.The Paris Agreement, by which Germany pledged herself to pay the crazy sumof a hundred milliards of gold marks, was to be confirmed by the LondonUltimatum.
Thereupon an old-established Munich working committee, representative ofso-called völkisch groups, deemed it advisable to call for a publicmeeting of protest. I became nervous and restless when I saw that a lot oftime was being wasted and nothing undertaken. At first a meeting was suggestedin the König Platz; on second thoughts this was turned down, as someonefeared the proceedings might be wrecked by Red elements. Another suggestionwas a demonstration in front of the Feldherrn Hall, but this also came tonothing. Finally a combined meeting in the Munich Kindl Hall was suggested.Meanwhile, day after day had gone by; the big parties had entirely ignoredthe terrible event, and the working committee could not decide on a definitedate for holding the demonstration.
On Tuesday, February 1st, I put forward an urgent demand for a final decision.I was put off until Wednesday. On that day I demanded to be told clearlyif and when the meeting was to take place. The reply was again uncertainand evasive, it being stated that it was 'intended' to arrange a demonstrationthat day week.
At that I lost all patience and decided to conduct a demonstration of proteston my own. At noon on Wednesday I dictated in ten minutes the text of theposter and at the same time hired the Krone Circus Hall for the next day,February 3rd.
In those days this was a tremendous venture. Not only because of the uncertaintyof filling that vast hall, but also because of the risk of the meeting beingwrecked.
Numerically our squad of hall guards was not strong enough for this vasthall. I was also uncertain about what to do in case the meeting was brokenup a huge circus building being a different proposition from an ordinarymeeting hall. But events showed that my fears were misplaced, the oppositebeing the case. In that vast building a squad of wreckers could be tackledand subdued more easily than in a cramped hall.
One thing was certain: A failure would throw us back for a long time to come.If one meeting was wrecked our prestige would be seriously injured and ouropponents would be encouraged to repeat their success. That would lead tosabotage of our work in connection with further meetings and months of difficultstruggle would be necessary to overcome this.
We had only one day in which to post our bills, Thursday. Unfortunately itrained on the morning of that day and there was reason to fear that manypeople would prefer to remain at home rather than hurry to a meeting throughrain and snow, especially when there was likely to be violence and bloodshed.
And indeed on that Thursday morning I was suddenly struck with fear thatthe hall might never be filled to capacity, which would have made me ridiculousin the eyes of the working committee. I therefore immediately dictated variousleaflets, had them printed and distributed in the afternoon. Of course theycontained an invitation to attend the meeting.
Two lorries which I hired were draped as much as possible in red, each hadour new flag hoisted on it and was then filled with fifteen or twenty membersof our party. Orders were given the members to canvas the streets thoroughly,distribute leaflets and conduct propaganda for the mass meeting to be heldthat evening. It was the first time that lorries had driven through the streetsbearing flags and not manned by Marxists. The public stared open-mouthedat these red-draped cars, and in the outlying districts clenched fists wereangrily raised at this new evidence of 'provocation of the proletariat'.Were not the Marxists the only ones entitled to hold meetings and drive aboutin motor lorries?
At seven o'clock in the evening only a few had gathered in the circus hall.I was being kept informed by telephone every ten minutes and was becominguneasy. Usually at seven or a quarter past our meeting halls were alreadyhalf filled; sometimes even packed. But I soon found out the reason why Iwas uneasy. I had entirely forgotten to take into account the huge dimensionsof this new meeting place. A thousand people in the Hofbräuhaus wasquite an impressive sight, but the same number in the Circus building wasswallowed up in its dimensions and was hardly noticeable. Shortly afterwardsI received more hopeful reports and at a quarter to eight I was informedthat the hall was three-quarters filled, with huge crowds still lined upat the pay boxes. I then left for the meeting.
I arrived at the Circus building at two minutes past eight. There was stilla crowd of people outside, partly inquisitive people and many opponents whopreferred to wait outside for developments.
When I entered the great hall I felt the same joy I had felt a year previouslyat the first meeting in the Munich Hofbräu Banquet Hall; but it wasnot until I had forced my way through the solid wall of people and reachedthe platform that I perceived the full measure of our success. The hall wasbefore me, like a huge shell, packed with thousands and thousands of people.Even the arena was densely crowded. More than 5,600 tickets had been soldand, allowing for the unemployed, poor students and our own detachments ofmen for keeping order, a crowd of about 6,500 must have been present.
My theme was 'Future or Downfall' and I was filled with joy at the convictionthat the future was represented by the crowds that I was addressing.
I began, and spoke for about two and a half hours. I had the feeling afterthe first half-hour that the meeting was going to be a big success. Contacthad been at once established with all those thousands of individuals. Afterthe first hour the speech was already being received by spontaneous outbreaksof applause, but after the second hour this died down to a solemn stillnesswhich I was to experience so often later on in this same hall, and whichwill for ever be remembered by all those present. Nothing broke this impressivesilence and only when the last word had been spoken did the meeting givevent to its feelings by singing the national anthem.
I watched the scene during the next twenty minutes, as the vast hall slowlyemptied itself, and only then did I leave the platform, a happy man, andmade my way home.
Photographs were taken of this first meeting in the Krone Circus Hall inMunich. They are more eloquent than words to demonstrate the success of thisdemonstration. The bourgeois papers reproduced photographs and reported themeeting as having been merely 'nationalist' in character; in their usualmodest fashion they omitted all mention of its promoters.
Thus for the first time we had developed far beyond the dimensions of anordinary party. We could no longer be ignored. And to dispel all doubt thatthe meeting was merely an isolated success, I immediately arranged for anotherat the Circus Hall in the following week, and again we had the same success.Once more the vast hall was overflowing with people; so much so that I decidedto hold a third meeting during the following week, which also proved a similarsuccess.
After these initial successes early in 1921 I increased our activity in Munichstill further. I not only held meetings once a week, but during some weekseven two were regularly held and very often during midsummer and autumn thisincreased to three. We met regularly at the Circus Hall and it gave us greatsatisfaction to see that every meeting brought us the same measure of success.
The result was shown in an ever-increasing number of supporters and membersinto our party.
Naturally, such success did not allow our opponents to sleep soundly. Atfirst their tactics fluctuated between the use of terror and silence in ourregard. Then they recognized that neither terror nor silence could hinderthe progress of our movement. So they had recourse to a supreme act of terrorwhich was intended to put a definite end to our activities in the holdingof meetings.
As a pretext for action along this line they availed themselves of a verymysterious attack on one of the Landtag deputies, named Erhard Auer. It wasdeclared that someone had fired several shots at this man one evening. Thismeant that he was not shot but that an attempt had been made to shoot him.A fabulous presence of mind and heroic courage on the part of Social Democraticleaders not only prevented the sacrilegious intention from taking effectbut also put the crazy would-be assassins to flight, like the cowards thatthey were. They were so quick and fled so far that subsequently the policecould not find even the slightest traces of them. This mysterious episodewas used by the organ of the Social Democratic party to arouse public feelingagainst the movement, and while doing this it delivered its old rigmaroleabout the tactics that were to be employed the next time. Their purpose wasto see to it that our movement should not grow but should be immediatelyhewn down root and branch by the hefty arm of the proletariat.
A few days later the real attack came. It was decided finally to interruptone of our meetings which was billed to take place in the MunichHofbräuhaus, and at which I myself was to speak.
On November 4th, 1921, in the evening between six and seven o'clock I receivedthe first precise news that the meeting would positively be broken up andthat to carry out this action our adversaries had decided to send to themeeting great masses of workmen employed in certain 'Red' factories.
It was due to an unfortunate accident that we did not receive this news sooner.On that day we had given up our old business office in the Sternecker Gassein Munich and moved into other quarters; or rather we had given up the oldoffices and our new quarters were not yet in functioning order. The telephonearrangements had been cut off by the former tenants and had not yet beenreinstalled. Hence it happened that several attempts made that day to informus by telephone of the break-up which had been planned for the evening didnot reach us.
Consequently our order troops were not present in strong force at that meeting.There was only one squad present, which did not consist of the usual onehundred men, but only of about forty-six. And our telephone connections werenot yet sufficiently organized to be able to give the alarm in the courseof an hour or so, so that a sufficiently powerful number of order troopsto deal with the situation could be called. It must also be added that onseveral previous occasions we had been forewarned, but nothing special happened.The old proverb, 'Revolutions which were announced have scarcely ever comeoff', had hitherto been proved true in our regard.
Possibly for this reason also sufficiently strong precautions had not beentaken on that day to cope with the brutal determination of our opponentsto break up our meeting.
Finally, we did not believe that the Hofbräuhaus in Munich was suitablefor the interruptive tactics of our adversaries. We had feared such a thingfar more in the bigger halls, especially that of the Krone Circus. But onthis point we learned a very serviceable lesson that evening. Later, we studiedthis whole question according to a scientific system and arrived at results,both interesting and incredible, and which subsequently were an essentialfactor in the direction of our organization and in the tactics of our StormTroops.
When I arrived in the entrance halt of the Hofbräuhaus at 7.45 thatevening I realizcd that there could be no doubt as to what the 'Reds' intended.The hall was filled, and for that reason the police had barred the entrances.Our adversaries, who had arrived very early, were in the hall, and our followerswere for the most part outside. The small bodyguard awaited me at the entrance.I had the doors leading to the principal hall closed and then asked the bodyguardof forty-five or forty-six men to come forward. I made it clear to the boysthat perhaps on that evening for the first time they would have to show theirunbending and unbreakable loyalty to the movement and that not one of usshould leave the hall unless carried out dead. I added that I would remainin the hall and that I did not believe that one of them would abandon me,and that if I saw any one of them act the coward I myself would personallytear off his armlet and his badge. I demanded of them that they should comeforward if the slightest attempt to sabotage the meeting were made and thatthey must remember that the best defence is always attack.
I was greeted with a triple 'Heil' which sounded more hoarse and violentthan usual.
Then I advanced through the hall and could take in the situation with myown eyes. Our opponents sat closely huddled together and tried to pierceme through with their looks. Innumerable faces glowing with hatred and ragewere fixed on me, while others with sneering grimaces shouted at me together.Now they would 'Finish with us. We must look out for our entrails. To-daythey would smash in our faces once and for all.' And there were other expressionsof an equally elegant character. They knew that they were there in superiornumbers and they acted accordingly.
Yet we were able to open the meeting; and I began to speak. In the Hall ofthe Hofbräuhaus I stood always at the side, away from the entry andon top of a beer table. Therefore I was always right in the midst of theaudience. Perhaps this circumstance was responsible for creating a certainfeeling and a sense of agreement which I never found elsewhere.
Before me, and especially towards my left, there were only opponents, seatedor standing. They were mostly robust youths and men from the Maffei Factory,from Kustermann's, and from the factories on the Isar, etc. Along the right-handwall of the hall they were thickly massed quite close to my table. They nowbegan to order litre mugs of beer, one after the other, and to throw theempty mugs under the table. In this way whole batteries were collected. Ishould have been surprised had this meeting ended peacefully.
In spite of all the interruptions, I was able to speak for about an hourand a half and I felt as if I were master of the situation. Even the ringleadersof the disturbers appeared to be convinced of this; for they steadily becamemore uneasy, often left the hall, returned and spoke to their men in an obviouslynervous way.
A small psychological error which I committed in replying to an interruption,and the mistake of which I myself was conscious the moment the words hadleft my mouth, gave the sign for the outbreak.
There were a few furious outbursts and all in a moment a man jumped on aseat and shouted "Liberty". At that signal the champions of liberty begantheir work.
In a few moments the hall was filled with a yelling and shrieking mob. Numerousbeer-mugs flew like howitzers above their heads. Amid this uproar one heardthe crash of chair legs, the crashing of mugs, groans and yells and screams.
It was a mad spectacle. I stood where I was and could observe my boys doingtheir duty, every one of them.
There I had the chance of seeing what a bourgeois meeting could be.
The dance had hardly begun when my Storm Troops, as they were called fromthat day onwards, launched their attack. Like wolves they threw themselveson the enemy again and again in parties of eight or ten and began steadilyto thrash them out of the hall. After five minutes I could see hardly oneof them that was not streaming with blood. Then I realized what kind of menmany of them were, above all my brave Maurice Hess, who is my private secretarytoday, and many others who, even though seriously wounded, attacked againand again as long as they could stand on their feet. Twenty minutes longthe pandemonium continued. Then the opponents, who had numbered seven oreight hundred, had been driven from the hall or hurled out headlong by mymen, who had not numbered fifty. Only in the left corner a big crowd stillstood out against our men and put up a bitter fight. Then two pistol shotsrang out from the entrance to the hall in the direction of the platform andnow a wild din of shooting broke out from all sides. One's heart almost rejoicedat this spectacle which recalled memories of the War.
At that moment it was not possible to identify the person who had fired theshots. But at any rate I could see that my boys renewed the attack with increasedfury until finally the last disturbers were overcome and flung out of thehall.
About twenty-five minutes had passed since it all began. The hall lookedas if a bomb had exploded there. Many of my comrades had to be bandaged andothers taken away. But we remained masters of the situation. Hermann Essen,who was chairman of the meeting, announced: "The meeting will continue. The speaker shall proceed." So I went on with my speech.
When we ourselves declared the meeting at an end an excited police officer rushed in, waved his hands and declared: "The meeting is dissolved."
Without wishing to do so I had to laugh at this example of the law's delay. It was real police pompousness.The smaller they are the greater they must always try to appear.
That evening we learned a real lesson.And our adversaries never forgot the lesson they had received.
Up to the autumn of 1923 theMünchener post did not again mention the clenched fists of theProletariat.
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