The early Nazi Party - beliefs and structure

Under Hitler’s leadership the Nazi party quickly developed a 25-Point Programme, a list of the policies it would introduce if it came to power.

Key Nazi party beliefs: Autarky/Self Sufficiency, A Strong Germany, Social and Ethnic Cleansing, Lebensraum, Social Darwinism and led by a single leader the Führer

Key Nazi beliefs contained in the 25-Point Programme:

  • A strong Germany - the Treaty of Versailles should be abolished and all German-speaking people united in one country.
  • Führer - the idea that there should be a single leader with complete power rather than a democracy.
  • Social Darwinism - the idea that the Aryan race was superior and Jews were 'subhuman'.
  • Autarky - the idea that Germany should be economically self-sufficient.
  • That Germany was in danger - from communists and Jews, who had to be destroyed.
  • Lebensraum - the need for 'living space' for the German nation to expand.

The appeal of the Nazis

In the 1920s, the Nazis tried to appeal to a lot of different members of society. The 25-Point Programme had policies that were:

Socialist:

  • farmers should be given their land
  • pensions should improve
  • public industries such as electricity and water should be owned by the state

Nationalist:

  • all German-speaking people should be united in one country
  • the Treaty of Versailles should be abolished
  • there should be special laws for foreigners

Racist:

  • Jews should not be German citizens.
  • Immigration should be stopped.

Fascist:

  • focused on creating a strong central government
  • government control of the newspapers
A graph showing the growth of Nazi Party Membership in 1920 and 1923

Membership and growth

When Hitler joined the German Workers’ Party he became its 55th member. By the end of 1920 the newly named Nazi Party recorded a membership of 2,000 and during the upheaval of the hyperinflation crisis its membership grew rapidly, to 20,000 by the time of the Munich Putsch in November 1923.

The role and impact of the SA

In 1921 Hitler assembled a large group of unemployed young men and former soldiers, known as the Storm Troopers (Sturmabteilung) or SA, as the Nazi Party’s private army:

  • They gained the nickname ‘Brownshirts’, after their brown shirted uniforms.
  • Their role was to protect party meetings, march in Nazi rallies and intimidate political opponents by breaking up their meetings.
  • Many of the SA men were former soldiers. Some were upset with the way they had been treated after World War One and saw the government as the ‘November Criminals’.
  • After the failure of the Munich Putsch, the SA was reorganised.
  • It began to be used to intimidate voters into voting for the Nazi Party.
  • However, the Nazi Party was not the only organisation to have a paramilitary group. The communists also had similar elements.

By 1932 the SA had 400,000 members. This number swelled to an estimated two million by the time Hitler came to power in 1933, largely due to unemployed men joining up during the Great Depression.

Photo of Hitler and other SA leaders at a rally in Germany, circa 1934.