Anton Drexler

Anton Drexler
Monochrome photograph of the upper body of a bespectacled Anton Drexler
Chairman of the Nazi Party
In office
24 February 1920 – 29 June 1921
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Adolf Hitler (as Führer)
Chairman of the German Workers' Party
In office
5 January 1919 – 24 February 1920
Deputy Karl Harrer
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Position abolished
Personal details
Born (1884-06-13)13 June 1884
Munich, German Empire
Died 24 February 1942(1942-02-24) (aged 57)
Munich, Nazi Germany
Nationality German
Political party German Fatherland Party (1917–18)
German Workers' Party (1919–20)
Nazi Party (1920–23, 1933–42)
Occupation Politician
Awards Blood Order
Golden Party Badge

Anton Drexler (13 June 1884 – 24 February 1942) was a German far-right political leader of the 1920s who founded the pan-German and anti-Semitic German Workers' Party (DAP), the antecedent of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). Drexler mentored his successor in the NSDAP, Adolf Hitler, during his early years in politics.

Early life

Born in Munich, Drexler was a machine-fitter before becoming a railway toolmaker and locksmith in Berlin.[1] He is believed to have been disappointed with his income, and to have played the zither in restaurants to supplement his earnings.[2] Drexler did not serve in the armed forces during World War I due to being deemed unfit.[3]

Politics

Involvement in politics

During World War I, Drexler joined the German Fatherland Party,[4] a short-lived far-right party active during the last phase of the war, that played a vital role in the emergence of the stab-in-the-back myth and the defamation of certain politicians as the November Criminals.

In March 1918, Drexler founded a branch of Free Workers' Committee for a Good Peace (Der Freie Arbeiterausschuss für einen guten Frieden) league.[1] Karl Harrer, a journalist and member of the Thule Society, convinced Drexler and several others to form the Political Workers' Circle (Politischer Arbeiter-Zirkel) in 1918.[1] The members met periodically for discussions with themes of nationalism and antisemitism.[1] Drexler was a poet and a member of the völkisch agitators.

Founding of the German Workers' Party

Together with Harrer, Gottfried Feder and Dietrich Eckart, Drexler founded the German Workers' Party (DAP) in Munich on 5 January 1919.[1]

At a DAP meeting in Munich in September 1919, the main speaker was Gottfried Feder. When Feder's talk concluded, Adolf Hitler got involved in a heated political argument with a visitor, Professor Baumann, who questioned the soundness of Feder's arguments against capitalism and proposed that Bavaria should break away from Prussia and found a new South German nation with Austria. In vehemently attacking the man's arguments, Hitler made an impression on the other party members with his oratory skills, and according to him, the professor left the hall acknowledging defeat.[5] Drexler approached Hitler and gave him a copy of his pamphlet My Political Awakening, which contained anti-Semitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist, and anti-Marxist ideas.[1] Hitler claims the literature reflected the ideals he already believed in.[6] Impressed with Hitler, Drexler encouraged him to join the DAP. On the orders of his army superiors, Hitler applied to join the party.[7]

Once accepted, Hitler began to make the party more public, and he organized their biggest meeting yet of 2,000 people, for 24 February 1920 in the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. It was in this speech that Hitler, for the first time, enunciated the twenty-five points of the German Worker's Party's manifesto that he had authored with Drexler and Feder.[8] Through these points he gave the organisation a much bolder stratagem[9] with a clear foreign policy, including the abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles, a Greater Germany, Eastern expansion, exclusion of Jews from citizenship. On the same day the party was renamed the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei; NSDAP).[10] The significance of this particular move in publicity moved Karl Harrer to resign from the party in disagreement.[11]

Following an intraparty dispute, Hitler angrily tendered his resignation on 11 July 1921. The committee members realised that the resignation of their leading public figure and speaker would mean the end of the party.[12] Hitler announced he would rejoin on the condition that he would replace Drexler as party chairman, and that the party headquarters would remain in Munich.[13] The committee agreed; he rejoined the party as member 3,680. Drexler was thereafter moved to the purely symbolic position of honorary president and left the party in 1923.[14]

Drexler was also a member of a völkisch political club for affluent members of Munich society known as the Thule Society. His membership in the Nazi Party ended when it was temporarily outlawed in 1923 following the Beer Hall Putsch despite Drexler not actually having taken part in the coup attempt. In 1924 he was elected to the Bavarian state parliament for another party, in which he served as vice president until 1928. He played no role in the Nazi Party's re-founding in 1925 and rejoined only after Hitler ascended to national power in 1933.[15] He founded a splinter group, the Nationalsozialer Volksbund, but this dissolved in 1928.[16] He received the party's Blood Order in 1934 and was still occasionally used as a propaganda tool until about 1937, but he was never allowed any legitimate power in the party.

Death

Drexler died of natural causes after a lengthy illness in Munich in February 1942.[15]

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