ABSTRACT

In 1918 at age 29 Adolph Hitler returned to Munich after serving four years in the German army, virtually all in combat on the Western Front. Hitler served well enough to be awarded the Iron Cross, but he was only a corporal when blinded in a gas attack, just before (October, 1918) the end of World War I. That injury ended his combat duty (largely in the dangerous messenger role), though he was still in the army on returning to Munich. Shortly after returning, Hitler engaged in minor political activities under army command, and in September 1919, he was ordered to report on the nature of the German Workers’ Party (in 1920 renamed the National Socialist German Workers’ Party; henceforth designated as the Nazi Party). Hitler quickly took an interest in and joined the Nazi Party, being designated as member number 555 (actually, the 55th member [Evans, 2004:170]). Why did he join? Surely he appreciated the Party’s nationalistic and racist orientation (Fischer, 1995:116,126); but perhaps more important he must have recognized the Party’s ineffectual character-little more than a debating club, with few active participants or resources-and the potential for becoming the Party’s leader. In any event, by 1930 Hitler had transformed the Nazi Party into Germany’s major political force, largely by eventually adopting an uncompromising policy of exclusive leadership and imposing an ideology on the Party that escalated membership.