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What happened to the Nazi Party whilst Hitler was in

prison?

Without Hitler at the helm, the Nazis went through a period


without a strong sense of direction.

Alfred Rosenberg was officially left in charge. He was a poor


leader and was really to blame for allowing the Party to lose its
credibility in German politics. The Nazis gradually split into
different factions, which were ever at loggerheads with each
other.
There were some positive outcomes for the Nazi party.
Although officially dissolved as a result of the Munich Putsch,
the Nazi party managed to benefit from all the publicity of
Hitler’s trial.

An alliance of extreme Right-wing parties, calling themselves


the Anti-Semitic League, decided to stand in the May 1924
elections, with Ludendorff, Rohm, and Rosenberg as
candidates. They managed to secure 2million votes, resulting in
32 seats in the Reichstag. Hitler was far from pleased with
this success – felt the Nazi party, as his creation, had been
betrayed. He was also worried that any success without him in
charge would undermine his position.

During the course of 1924, whilst Hitler was in prison, the


feeling of betrayal deepened. Julius Streicher formed a new
nationalist-racist party in Bavaria. Gregor Strasser led a new
National Socialist Freedom Party. Strasser was primarily
interested in furthering the more ‘socialist’ aspects of the
Nazis and thus gained the support of the urban working
classes. Strasser also had the support of Rohm (and the SA).
With affairs of the Party out of his control, Hitler had plenty
of time to reflect on what was to be the best course of action
for the Nazis on his release.
He decided that illegal methods of gaining control were no
longer an option, and that all he did on a political level would be
above board. If he wanted to sell the Nazi dream to the
German people then he had to be seen as being a legitimate
party leader and not one associated with violence and
corruption.

Also with plenty of time for reflection, Hitler started to


dictate (to Hess) the first volume of his autobiographical ‘Mein
Kampf’. He dedicated the book to the 16 men who died in the
Munich Putsch. In this book Hitler reiterated his views on
racial impurity and natural selection, on his hatred for the
Jews, and his desire to completely revoke the Treaty of
Versailles. He talks about the evils of both communism and
democracy, and how he believed Britain to be a valuable ally!

Obviously, when Hitler was released from prison in December


1924, he found the state of the Party very different to the
one he had left. On a personal level, Hitler had his own time of
wilderness as Austria had cancelled his citizenship and
Germany did not ‘naturalise’ him – he was stateless! He was
also banned from political activities (no speeches!).

More importantly, the state of Germany was equally as


different. The Weimar Government had established some
degree of authority and respect (this was largely due to the
stabilization of the economy).
This was not good news for extremist parties like the Nazis as
they had less of a platform/appeal to the masses.
A contented public meant less opportunities to attack Weimar
politicians.
Hitler’s plan!!

After a brief time where Hitler contemplated leaving the


political scene, and Germany, Hitler pulled himself together
and decided to regroup the Nazis after the ban on the party
was lifted, and organized a conference in Munich, on 27 th
Feruary 1925. Hitler presented a ‘new look’ to the members in
1925. The party maintained most of its 25 point manifesto,
but introduced new symbols and structure. The aim was to
restore party unity and agree on a future programme –
preferably dropping the more socialist aspects that were
proving popular. To succeed, Hitler would have to get Strasser
and his followers to follow his line.

The Bamberg Conference – February 1926


No random choice of venue! Held in a very nationalistic region
where Hitler knew people would be sympathetic to his views.
He turned the meeting into a monologue, challenging Strasser’s
views whilst managing to find common ground. Hitler managed
to reconcile the two sides for a brief period (although rift was
far from healed). Hitler was also successful in converting
Geobbels to his line of thinking. Which ultimately had
important repercussions for the Party! Hitler gradually
recovered his position and by mid-1926 was once again, in
control of the Party.

However, the policies of the Nazi party held little attraction


for most German voters at this time, despite being successful
within the extreme right. Elections held in 1929 saw the Nazi
party gaining momentum and popularity, but the subsequent
transformation in their success over the next few years was
largely down to the climate in which the Weimar government
had to work under, rather than just a result of Hitler’s
charisma and Nazi propaganda.