NEWS & ANALYSIS

What the British thought of Hitler in 1922

Diplomatic dispatch states that while NSDAP leader appears to be unbalanced, it would yet be unwise to treat him as a mere clown

Extract from a memorandum on Bavaria by Counsellor Joseph Addison, diplomat at the British Embassy in Berlin, November 13 1922:

Memorandum respecting Bavaria

November 13, 1922

Speculation as to what may or may not occur in the near future in Bavaria is again prominent in many press articles owing to the activities of the National Socialistic Workmen's Party, led by Herr Adolf Hitler. We know very little of Herr Hitler's past except that he is said originally to have been a designer of posters. The ' Acht-Uhr Abendblatt' published, in its edition of the 11th instant, an account of an interview with Herr Hitler by its special correspondent in Bavaria in which the latter was held up to ridicule.

He would certainly appear to merit ridicule if his remarks have been accurately quoted, for they are mere verbiage. Herr Hitler is made to declare that the whole evil from which the world suffers comes from the Jews, and that he is fighting for the purity of race ('Rassenreinheit') of the German people and of the whole world.

He went on to state that his adherents were not armed, but that if the Socialists were to attack them, they would reply with a terror such as the world had never seen. His followers were neither Monarchists nor Republicans; the particular form of government was merely a side issue, but they meant to get rid of all Jews and foreigners.

In a further conversation which this special correspondent had with a member of Herr Hitler's organisation, the latter is made to say that Jesus Christ was a German, but that the Pope Alexander VI, the Emperor Wilhelm II and King Edward VII were all Jews.

Although Herr Hitler would certainly appear to be an unbalanced person, it would yet be unwise to treat him as if he were a mere clown. In the first place, worthless demagogues have often caused trouble beyond what their attainments should have warranted. In the second place, Herr Hitler must have some sort of organising ability and some power for expressing the discontent of the time in a form accessible to the average intelligence, since he commands allegiance, funds and notoriety.

It would therefore be a great mistake to neglect him altogether. In this connection, I cannot do better than quote the following from Mr. Seeds's [Consul-General for Bavaria and the Bavarian Palatinate] despatch No. 172 of the 2nd instant:-

'During the last few months, however, Herr Hitler has developed into something much more than a scurrilous and rather comic agitator. Gifted with undoubted eloquence, he has never wearied in indiscriminate abuse. . . . But the middle-classes, who have seen his abuse apparently justified, now begin to look upon him as a very Mussolini, and he has more to offer them than mere words: he has succeeded in evolving out of his supporters an efficient and active organisation.'

Mr. Seeds points out that Herr Hitler would appear to be financed by the big industrials, that the money is efficiently spent and that-

'I have been greatly struck of late with the increasing reliance placed by Conservative circles here on Hitler's men as a safeguard against Communism, and, since recent events in Italy, on Hitler himself as the rising political star.'

Whatever may have been the reasons which induced the Italian people on the whole to assist Signor Mussolini to his present position, the success of the Italian President of the Council could not fail to produce a certain effect in this country where people are weary, despair of good government, and are seeking a saviour.

A German friend recently came here to tell me that he knew as a positive fact that emissaries from the Fascist organisation had come to Germany and placed themselves officially in communication with those who, for want of a better term, can be described as the leaders of reaction, but, as my informant is an excitable man who regularly predicts revolution and disaster for 10.30 on the next morning, I do not attach much importance to his unsupported statement....

Source: British Foreign Office, Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939 Series 1 - Volume 20

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