National Socialist German Workers Party

Template:Politics of Germany

The Nazi  symbol
The Nazi swastika symbol

The National Socialist German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), better known as the NSDAP or the Nazi Party was a political party that was led to power in Germany by Adolf Hitler in 1933. The term Nazi is a short form of the German word (NA)tionalso(ZI)alist (National Socialist), reflecting the ideology of the NSDAP. The NSDAP set up the Third Reich after being democratically elected to lead the German government in 1933.

The NSDAP was the main political force in Nazi Germany from the fall of the Weimar Republic in 1933 until the end of World War II in 1945, when it was declared illegal and its leaders were arrested and convicted of crimes against humanity at the Nuremberg Trials. The ideology and practices of the Nazi Party gave rise to an entire new branch of political science, commonly known as "Nazism".


Party history


Nazi Hoheitsadler: Eagle on  symbol
Nazi Hoheitsadler: Eagle on Hakenkreuz symbol

In the beginning of 1918, a party called the Freier Ausschuss fr einen deutschen Arbeiterfrieden (Free Committee for a German Workers' Peace) was created in Bremen, Germany. (6) Anton Drexler, locksmith and self-styled poet, formed a branch of this league on March 7, 1918, in Munich. In 1919, Drexler, with Gottfried Feder, Dietrich Eckart and Karl Harrer, changed its name to the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (German Workers' Party, abbreviated DAP). This party was the formal forerunner of the NSDAP, and became one of many vlkisch movements that existed in Germany after its defeat in World War I. In order to investigate the DAP, German army intelligence sent a young corporal, Adolf Hitler, to monitor party activities. However, he was impressed by what he saw, and he joined as Member Number 555 (although Hitler later claimed to be "Party Member number 7" to make it look like he was a founder). He was in fact the 7th member of the DAP's central committee. At this early stage, Hitler brought up the idea of renaming the party, and he proposed the name "Social Revolutionary Party" (4). However, Rudolf Jung insisted that the party should follow the pattern of Austria's Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei. As a consequence, the DAP was shortly renamed the NSDAP on February 24, 1920.

Other early members of the Nazi Party include Rudolf Buttmann, director general of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), and Hermann Esser, editor of the Vlkischer Beobachter.

Struggle for power

Adolf Hitler became Nazi Party chairman on July 29, 1921, and at once began a program where the Nazi Party became a radical and revolutionary organization. The Sturmabteilung (storm troopers) was founded that same year and began a policy of expanding the Nazi Party by way of fear, intimidation, and violent attacks on other political parties.

In these early years, the Nazi Party was confined mainly to Bavaria in the city of Munich. Splinter Nazi groups did exist elsewhere in Germany; however, the programs and agendas were such that, even among the Nazis, such extra-Bavarian Nazi groups were considered separate from the main Nazi Party as a whole.

Disaster presented itself in 1923 when the Nazi Party attempted to seize control of the Bavarian government in the so-called "Beer Hall Putsch". The two-day revolution was crushed by Munich authorities, and several Nazis were killed in the process. Hitler and his top Nazi advisors were tried and convicted of treason. Sentences ranged from 12 to 18 months, with Hitler serving his term at Landsberg prison. During this period, from 1923 to 1925, the Nazi Party ceased to exist. However, Hitler would spend the time writing Mein Kampf, detailing how he would accomplish a political comeback once he was released from prison.

Reborn Nazi Party

Missing image
Early leaders of the Nazi Party (left to right): Heinz Pernet, Friedrich Weber, Wilhelm Frick, Hermann Kriebel, Erich Ludendorff, Adolf Hitler, Wilhelm Brckner, Ernst Rhm, Robert Wagner

Upon Adolf Hitler's release from prison in 1925, the NSDAP was refounded, with Hitler taking Party membership number 1. That same year, the Schutzstaffel (SS) was founded. The evolution of the party, during this era, is an integral part of the decline of the Weimar State.

The second Nazi Party saw Gottfried Feder as economic theoretician. Rudolf Jung supplied the reborn Nazi Party with a ready-made ideology that he carried with him from Czechoslovakia. It was a 25-point program. Hitler added his ideas about foreign policy, and Julius Streicher added his more virulent anti-Semitic views.

Between 1925 and 1929, the Nazis competed poorly in elections. In the election of 1930, however, the Nazis (propelled by Germany's economic problems in the incipient Great Depression) increased their vote dramatically, becoming the second-largest party in the Reichstag. The NSDAP continued to improve its position in the years thereafter, despite a brief ban in 1932 of the SA (the party's private army). In the elections of 1932 the party reached a total of 13.75 million votes and so became the largest voting bloc in the Reichstag.

Seizure of Power

The Nazis never won an electoral majority on their own, but Hitler was appointed Chancellor of a coalition government by President Paul von Hindenburg in January 1933. His coalition partners were the right-wing Nationalists led by Alfred Hugenberg, the press baron, and his Vice-Chancellor was the ex-Centre Party politician and former Chancellor Franz von Papen.

On February 27, 1933, the Reichstag parliament was set on fire. This Reichstag fire was promptly blamed on a Communist conspiracy, and used as an excuse by the Nazis to close the Communist Party of Germany's offices, ban its press and arrest its leaders. Furthermore, Hitler convinced the ageing and senile President von Hindenburg to sign the Reichstag Fire Decree, suspending most of the human rights provided for by the 1919 constitution of the Weimar Republic. A further decree enabled for preventative detention of all the Communist deputies, amongst many thousands of others.

Nazi leader  at a parade.
Nazi leader Adolf Hitler at a parade.

Since the new government lacked a majority in parliament, Hitler held a Reichtstag election in March of 1933. The Nazis obtained 43.9%; with their right-wing Nationalist DNVP allies included, they controlled a simple parliamentary 51.8% majority coalition.

A decisive step on Hitler's way to becoming dictator was the so called "Enabling Act", which granted the cabinet - and in fact Hitler - legislative powers. However, since the Enabling Act allowed for deviations from the constitution, a two thirds majority was required. Hitler needed the votes of the Centre Party and after promising certain guarantees to the Centre's chairman Ludwig Kaas, the party voted in favour of the Enabling Act. The Centre Party's thirty-one votes added to the fragmented middle-class parties and the right-wing Nationalists (DNVP) and gave Hitler the right to rule by his own decree and to further suspend many civil liberties.

In five clauses the Enabling Act gave the government power to change the Constitution, the cabinet to enact laws without legislative approval, the Chancellor to draft legislation, the Cabinet to enact foreign treaties abroad, and a renewal every four years dependent on the continuation of the government. The only left-wing party remaining in the Reichstag, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, valiantly protested the Act from being passed. As the Reichstag met in the Kroll Opera House, patrolled and harangued by brown-shirted SA men, the Enabling Act passed and, as punishment for their dissent, the Social Democrats became the second party banned by the Nazis (on 22 June) following the move of their leadership to Prague.

After all parties were either banned or pressed into dissolving themselves, the Nazi government banned the formation of new parties on July 14, 1933, turning Germany into a one-party state. This was part of the Gleichschaltung. Hitler kept the Reichstag as a pulpit with the Reichsrat (upper house of the German parliment) controlled by Nazi appointees who quickly voted the Enabling Act and then dissolved the Reichsrat as a legislative body. The legislative bodies of the German states soon followed in the same manner, with the German federal government taking over most state and local legislative powers.

Hitler also tried to incorpprate the Churches into his new regime. On March 23, 1933 he had called them "most important factors" for the maintenance of German well-being. In regard to the Roman Catholic Church, he proposed a concordat between Germany and the Holy See, that was signed in July. In regard to the Protestant Church, he used church elections to push the Nazi-inspired "German Christians" to power. This however provoked the internal opposition of the "Confessing Church".

The Nazi party's 1936  was its largest.
The Nazi party's 1936 Nuremberg Rally was its largest.

Consolidation of power

Between 1934 and 1939, the Nazi Party began a series of measures to merge the Nazi Party and the German government into one entity. It was also during this time that Nazi racial views were transferred to legal practice with Germany becoming an anti-Semitic and racialist state after the passing of the Nuremberg Laws in 1935.

Hitlers first act to merge the Nazi party and German government was upon the death of President Paul von Hindenburg in August of 1934. Three hours before Hindenburg died, Hitler's government passed a law to take effect on Hindenburg's death which proscribed that the office of President would be merged with that of the Chancellor and that Hitler would henceforth be the Fhrer und Reichkanzler of Germany. By this action, Hitler made himself Head of State, Head of Government and Chairman of the Nazi party combined into one single office.

In the mid 1930s, the Nazi Party appointed and staffed nearly the entire German government with Nazi Party officials. In addition, the SS had by 1936 become the state police service controlling all aspects of law enforcement and political enforcement. By the time World War II began in 1939, there was virtually no distinction between the Nazi Party and the Government of Germany with the latter two being considered one and the same.

The original act which made Hitler dictator of Germany, the Enabling Act, was renewed in 1937 and then in 1941 for an indefinite term. Even as late as 1944, however, there were those in Germany who believed that the Nazis were simply a political party who were currently in power but could be voted out of office when and if the German people so chose. On paper, at least, Hitlers dictatorship was not to last forever and some Germans saw the Enabling Act as temporary only until World War II was over at which time Germany would again become a democratic country with a Presidency and Chancellorship split into two separate offices once again. Most likely, however, had Germany triumphed in World War II Hitler would have become dictator for life.

Post World War II Nazi Party

The Nazi Party ceased to exist in May 1945 when Law Number 2 of the Allied Control Council declared the Nazi party disbanded and the Nazi party, itself, illegal. Since that time, several successor groups have claimed to be continuations of the Nazi party but only one was actually ever declared to be so by German and Allied authorities.

The National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) was founded November 28, 1964 as a political party of West Germany. The NPD advocated a program nearly identical to old Nazi ideals and began combining various Neo-Nazi groups under its authority. This, in combination with a leadership of former Nazis from the Hitler era, became very alarming to the West German government and the allied occupation forces still technically in charge of Germany. Efforts were made in the 1960s to have the NPD declared a direct successor to the Nazi Party and disbanded under West German law, however the Party survived to a large enough extent that it still maintains a presence in German politics to this day.

The only other successor Nazi group, noticed as extremely dangerous by government officials, was the American Nazi Party under the leadership of George Lincoln Rockwell. The American Nazi Party reached its height in the 1960s with many U.S. law enforcement leaders stating that the party was becoming as dangerous, if not more so, than the original Nazi Party had in the 1920s and early 30s. As American free speech did not allow for the disbanding of political parties, the American Nazi party was allowed to continue its existence but lost most of its membership and finances after the death of George Rockwell.

In the 21st century there are no organizations which are seriously recognized as continuations of Hitlers Nazi party. Most such groups are scattered, disorganized, and so full of Anti-Semitism and white supremacist rhetoric that average citizens look upon such organizations as little more than hate groups.

Nazi Party Structure

1921 1923

When the Nazi party was first established in February 1920, it consisted of a leadership board based in Munich, Bavaria with a general membership of just under 2000. The NSDAP Leadership Board was democratically elected who, in turn, elected a Board Chairman. On July 29, 1921, Adolf Hitler was elected Chairman of the Nazi Party after previously having served as Party Speaker in the summer of 1920. The exact circumstances of Hitler having been elected as Chairman have been lost in history, but it is certainly one of the pivotal events in German politics. Hitlers charisma no doubt played a part in his assumption of the Chairmanship as did promises to the leadership board that the Nazi Party would grow in numbers and achieve great power and prosperity.

Almost immediately, Hitler abandoned all democratic notions in the Nazi party. He declared himself the Fhrer of the Party and the leadership board became a permanent inner circle. Many top Nazis of the Second World War can trace their political beginnings to this point.

By the end of 1921, the Nazi Party had become more or less a paramilitary radical organization. All Nazi Party members wore paramilitary uniforms and the Sturmabteilung (SA) had been founded that same year based on the model of the old Freikorps. By 1923, the Nazi party and the SA stormtroopers were considered almost one and the same with the first Nazi paramilitary ranks, those being the ranks and insignia of the Sturmabteilung, in use.

1925 1933

Following the abortive Beer Hall Putsch, and a two year period of the Nazi Party having been disbanded, the NSDAP was refounded under a more benign platform that the Party would only seek power through legal means and by use of the Weimar Republic democratic system. To accomplish this, it was necessary for the Nazi party to expand outside of Bavaria and in this way a new Nazi organizational system developed which would last until the Partys collapse in 1945.

The NSDAP of 1925 was divided into two classes, those being the leadership corps of the Nazi Party, known as the Korps der politischen Leiter, and the general membership known as the Partei Mitgleider. Gone were the days where all Nazis wore paramilitary uniforms with the average Nazi Party member indistinguishable from the general citizenry. For the first time, the Nazi Party also began to admit women.

The SA stormtroopers were refounded in 1925 as was another Nazi paramilitary group, the Schutzstaffel (SS). These organizations, and the many Nazi paramilitary groups that would follow, were considered support groups to the Nazi Party as a whole and all members of these groups had first to become regular Nazi Party members. It was also possible for a Nazi Party member to not join a paramilitary group but simple serve as a regular Nazi Mitglied. The Hitler Youth, with origins in 1921 was a Nazi youth corps group whose members were not actually Nazi party members, but were in training to be so.

The leadership of the NSDAP in the late 1920s began at the top with Adolf Hitler and extended to his inner circle from the early days of the Party. As the Nazis were now operating on a national level, the NSDAP maintained a position known as Gauleiter who was a Nazi headman in a particular region of Germany. An even higher position, that of Reichsleiter, was intended for the most senior of Nazis who were part of the inner circle.

Beneath the Gauleiters were several junior Nazi political leaders with a variety of titles such as Kreisleiter, Zellenleiter and Blockleiter. Such Nazi political officers wore paramilitary brown uniforms, the same as Hitler and his senior Nazi inner circle. In this way, the first Nazi Party ranks came into being.

1933 1938

Missing image
NSDAP Organizational Chart published in 1934

When Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, the Nazi Party suddenly found itself in control of a modern state government. Hitler and top Nazis saw immediately that for Germany to become a dictatorship, the Nazi Party and the German government had to become one and the same. To accomplish this, measures were enacted to merge the German government with the Nazi Party. On the federal level, all German Ministries were staffed with Nazi officials who, in turn, appointed other Nazis to civil service positions within the government. A vast and complex Nazi party civil service system then developed which had, by 1935, completely taken over the German government. Such Nazi Party government officials held regular government postings, but also held ranks in the Nazi Party, wore paramilitary uniforms (a wide variety of which existed by this time) and reported to Adolf Hitler both as the Chancellor of Germany and the Fhrer of the Nazi Party.

On the state and local level, German town and city governments were allowed to continue as before but the Nazi Party political chain, extending upwards to the Gauleiters, existed side by side with the local government establishments.

Thus, a town could possibly have a non-Nazi Brgermeister and town council, but such persons were merely rubber stamps for the local head Nazi leader.

In 1933, the paramilitary groups of the Nazi Party began merging with the German state, as well, the most notable of which was the SS which would eventually take over all law enforcement functions of Germany and also serve as a political police force. The German Labor Front was another state run Nazi Party organization along with several less known Nazi paramilitary groups.

1938 1939

By 1938, there was virtually no distinction between the Nazi Party and the German government. Hitler, by this time, had merged the office of Chancellor and President into the new office of Fhrer und Reichkanzler of Germany and remained Fhrer of the Nazi Party. The swastika flag was now the official Flag of Germany and the German armed forces now wore Nazi insignia and swore personal allegiance to Hitler. In addition, nearly all Nazi Party paramilitary groups were sponsored and in some way connected to the German government.

When Austria was annexed by Germany in the Anschluss of 1938, the existing Austrian Nazi Party was quickly installed to replace the old Austrian government. By 1939, Austria had been completely incorporated into Germany with the leadership of Austria little more than a local Nazi administration taking orders from Berlin. When Czechoslovakia was added to German gains, the newly formed Reich Protectorate was a strict dictatorship which would eventually come under the control of the SS in the person of Reinhard Heydrich.

1939 1945

During World War II, the Nazi Party continued as usual in the homeland of the Greater German Reich with the federal government staffed by Nazis and the local and state governments under the control of Nazi political leaders.

As Germany expanded its territory and began conquering other countries, the Nazi Party began establishing dictatorial regimes to replace the fallen governments, all of which were controlled by Nazi appointed puppet leaders with the exception of France which was run by a military government under the control of the Wehrmacht.

The General Government of Poland was the most ruthless of all the installed Nazi Party regimes with the Reichkommisariats, established in Russia, coming in a close second. Rule in these regions was based on ruthless terror with civilian reprisals and instant executions a common occurrence.

Party composition

General membership

The general membership of the Nazi Party, known as the Partei Mitglieder, consisted mainly of the lower middle classes both rural and urban. Seven percent belonged to the upper class, seven percent were peasants, thirty five percent were industrial workers and fifty one percent were what can be described as middle class. The largest single occupational group was elementary school teachers.

When the Nazi Party began in the 1920s, it averaged 2000 members. When the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, party membership had risen to 2.5 million. In 1945, when the Nazi Party was disbanded, official membership rolls listed a total of 8.5 million.

Military membership

Nazi members with military ambitions were encouraged to join the Waffen SS, but a great number enlisted in the Wehrmacht and even more were drafted for service after World War II began. Early regulations required that all Wehrmacht members be non-political, and therefore any National Socialist member joining in the 1930s was required to resign from the Nazi Party.

This regulation was soon waived, however, and there is ample evidence that full Nazi Party members served in the Wehrmacht in particular after the outbreak of World War II. The Wehrmacht Reserves also saw a high number of senior Nazis enlisting, with such figures as Reinhard Heydrich and Fritz Todt joining the Luftwaffe, as well as Karl Hanke who served in the Army.

Paramilitary groups

In addition to the NSDAP proper, several paramilitary groups existed which "supported" Nazi aims. All such members of these paramilitary organizations were required to become regular Nazi Party members first, and could then enlist in the group of their choice. A vast system of Nazi party paramilitary ranks developed for each of the various paramilitary groups.

The major Nazi Party paramilitary groups were as follows:

The Hitler Youth was a paramilitary group divided into an adult leadership corps and a general membership open to boys aged fourteen to eighteen.

Party symbols

  • Nazi Flags: The Nazi party used a right-facing swastika as their symbol and the red and black colors were said to represent Blut und Boden (blood and soil). Black, white, and red were in fact the colors of the old North German Confederation flag (invented by Otto von Bismarck, based on the Prussian colors black and white). In 1871, with the foundation of the German Reich, the flag of the North German Confederation became the German Reichsflagge (Reich's flag). Black, white, and red became the colors of the nationalists through the following history (for example World War I and the Weimar Republic).
  • Swastika
  • The Roman Eagle
  • Nazi anthem: Horst Wessel Lied.

Sayings, mottos and slogans

  • "Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!"
    • "Hail Victory" (common Nazi chant at rallies)
  • "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fhrer!"
    • "One people, one nation, one leader!".
  • "Deutschland, erwache!"
    • "Germany, Awake!" (Coined by Dietrich Eckart, this was the title to a popular Nazi song and put on many propoganda banners.) (5)
  • "Die Juden sind unser Unglck!"
    • "The Jews are Our Misfortune!"
  • "Lang lebe unser ruhmvoller Fhrer!"
    • "Long Live Our Glorious leader!"
  • "Heute Deutschland, morgen die Welt!"
    • "Today Germany, Tomorrow the World!"
  • "Die Deutschen immer vor dem Auslnder und den Juden!"
    • "The German Always Before the Foreigner and Jew!"
  • "Sicher ist der Jude auch ein Mann, aber der Floh ist auch ein Tier"
    • "Certainly the Jew is Also a Man, But the Flea is Also an Animal".

Election statistics

datevotes in millionssharenumber of deputies
May 20, 1928 0.81 2.6%12
September 14, 1930 6.4118.3%107
July 31, 193213.7537.3%230
November 6, 193211.7433.1%196
March 5, 193317.2843.9%288

Related topics


  1. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William L. Shirer (1960). Gramercy. (ISBN 0517102943)
  2. The Encyclopedia of the Third Reich by Christian Zenter and Friedemann Bedurftig. (1985 by Sudwest Verlag GmbH & co. KG, Munich)
  3. Reappraisals of Fascism, ed. by Henry A. Turner, New Viewpoints, NY, 1975. pg 99 and Leftism Revisited, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Regenery Gateway, Washington, D.C., 1990, pg 163.
  4. Hitler and Nazism, Louis Leo Snyder, pg 21. Leftism Revisited, Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, pg 162.
  5. Hitler and Nazism, Louis L. Snyder, Franklin Watts, Inc., NY, 1961. pp 23, 69, 80-81. (The author was in Germany and witnessed the mass meetings.)
  6. Liberty or Equality, von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, pg 259. Ref. Konrad Heiden, "Les dbuts du national-socialisme", Revue d'Allemagne, VII, No. 71 (Sept. 15, 1933), p 821. Also confirmed by Dr. Hans Fabricius, Geschichte der Nationalsozialistischen Bewegung (2nd ed.; Berlin; Spaeth, 1937), p 15.
  7. Where Ghosts Walked, Munich's Road to the Third Reich, David C. Large, W.W. Norton & Co., NY, 1997. pg 165.
  8. Konrad Heiden Geschichte des Nationalsozialismus; die Karriere einer Idee, pg 19 as quoted in Liberty or Equality, pg 258; Nazism and the Third Reich, Henry A. Turner, Quadrangle Books, NY, 1972, pg 8.
  9. German Resistance Against Hitler, Klemens von Klemperer, Clarendon Press, 1992, p.38 ( Prelate Ludwig Kaas' importance) .

External links

da:Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei de:Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei et:Natsionaalsotsialistlik Saksa Tlispartei el:Εθνικοσοσιαλιστικό Κόμμα των Γερμανών Εργατών es:Partido Nacional Socialista Alemn de los Trabajadores eo:NSDAP fa:حزب نازی#.D9.85.D8.B1.D8.AC.D8.B9 fr:Parti nazi ko:국가사회주의 독일 노동자당 it:NSDAP he:המפלגה הנאצית lv:NSDAP ms:Nazi nl:Nationaal-Socialistische Duitse Arbeiderspartij ja:国家社会主義ドイツ労働者党 pl:NSDAP pt:NSDAP sl:Nacionalsocialistična nemška delavska stranka fi:NSDAP sv:NSDAP zh:纳粹党


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