ON September 16th 1919, just as Hitler was becoming acquainted with the DAP, he wrote a letter to one of his officers regarding how to respond to the Jewish question.
Captain Mayr, director of an official army unit called the Education Squad asked Corporal Hitler for a clarification of the army’s position on “the Jewish question” in response to a query by Adolf Gemlich on September 4th 1919, a former V-man, whom asked Karl Mayr for his opinion on the matter.
Hitler’s reply is his first surviving writing on the subject of politics.
This letter was first uncovered and published by Werner Maser in his ‘Hitler’s Letters and Notes’ (Harper and Row, 1974) – PDF. Below is the text from this publication, including the letter and notes in full, from pages 211-317. Where numbered notes or asterisk’s are used I have inserted them into the main text with .
On 10 September, 1919, when Hitler was still in the army [* Hitler was demobilized in March 1920.] and stationed in Munich, one of his superiors, Staff-Captain Karl Meyer, asked him to state his views on the Socialists’ attitude to Jewry, [note 100: On 4 September, 1919, Adolf Gemlich, a former V-man, had asked Karl Mayr for his opinion on the matter. State Archives, Munich, Div. II, Group Command, Vol. 4, 50/8. Mayr’s letter to Hitler is in the same file] addressing him by the most unmilitary title of ‘Dear Herr Hitler’. Hitler gladly obliged, the more so as this ‘request’ was, in fact, an order from a superior officer. He replied on 16 September, l9l9:
If the threat with which Jewry faces our people has given rise to undeniable hostility on the part of a large section of our people, the cause of this hostility must not be sought in the clear recognition that Jewry as such is deliberately or unwittingly having a pernicious effect on our nation, but mostly in personal intercourse, in the poor impression the Jew makes as an individual. As a result antisemitism far too readily assumes a purely emotional character. But this is not the correct response. Antisemitism as a political movement may not and cannot be moulded by emotional factors but only by recognition of facts. Now the facts are:
To begin with, the Jews are unquestionably a race, not a religious community. And the Jew himself never describes himself as a Jewish German, a Jewish Pole or a Jewish American, but always as a German. Polish or American Jew. Never has the Jew absorbed more from the alien people in whose midst he lives than their language. And no more than a German who is forced to use the French language in France, the Italian language in Italy, and the Chinese language in China, thereby becomes a Frenchman, an Italian, let alone a Chinaman, no more can we call a Jew who happens to live amongst us and who is therefore forced to use the German language, a German. And even the Mosaic faith, however great its importance for the preservation of that race, cannot be the sole criterion for deciding who is a Jew and who is not. There is hardly a race in the world whose members all belong to a single religion.
Through inbreeding for thousands of years, often in very small circles, the Jew has been able to preserve his race and his racial characteristics much more successfully than most of the numerous people among whom he lives. As a result we have living in our midst a non-German, alien race, unwilling and indeed unable to shed its racial characteristics, its particular feelings, thoughts and ambitions and nevertheless enjoying the same political rights as we ourselves do. And since even the Jew’s feelings are limited to the material sphere, his thoughts and ambitions are bound to be so even more strongly. The dance round the golden calf becomes a ruthless struggle for all those goods that we feel deep down are not the highest and not the only ones worth striving for on this earth. The work of an individual is no longer determined by his character, by the importance of his achievement for the community, but solely by the size of his fortune, his wealth. The greatness of the nation is no longer measured by the sum of its moral and spiritual resources, but only by its material goods.
All this results in that mental attitude and that quest for money and the power to protect it which allow the Jew to become so unscrupulous in his choice of means, so merciless in their use for his own ends. ln autocratic states he cringes before the ‘majesty’ of the princes and misuses their favours to become a leech on their people.
In a democracy he vies for the favours of the masses, grovels before ‘the majesty of the people’, but only recognizes the majesty of money.
He saps the prince’s character by Byzantine flattery; national pride and the strength of the nation by ridicule and shameless seduction to vice. His chosen weapon is public opinion as falsified by the press. His power is the power of the money he accumulates so easily and endlessly in the form of interest and with which he imposes a yoke upon the nation that is the more pernicious in that its glitter disguises its dire consequences. Everything that makes the people strive for greater things, be it religion, socialism or democracy, merely serves the Jew as a means to the satisfaction of his greed and thirst for power.
The results of his works is racial tuberculosis of the nation.
And this has the following consequences: purely emotional antisemitism finds its final expression in the form of progroms [sic !]. Rational antisemitism, by contrast, must lead to a systematic and legal struggle against, and eradication of, what privileges the Jews enjoy over other foreigners living among us (Alien Laws). Its final objective, however, must be the total removal of all Jews from our midst. Both objectives can only be achieved by a government of national strength, never by a government of national impotence.
The German Republic owes its birth not to the united will of our people, but to the underhand exploitation of a series of circumstances that, taken together, express themselves in deep dissatisfaction. These circumstances, however, arose independently of the political structure and are at work even today. Indeed, more so than ever before. Hence a large part of our people have come to recognize that it is not by changing the structure of the state as such that our position can be improved, but only by the rebirth of the nation’s moral and spiritual forces.
And this rebirth cannot be prepared by the leadership of an irresponsible majority influenced by party dogmas or by the internationalist catchphrases and slogans of an irresponsible press, but only by determined acts on the part of nationally-minded leaders with an inner sense of responsibility.
This very fact serves to deprive the Republic of the inner support of the spiritual forces any nation needs very badly. Hence the present leaders of the nation are forced to seek the support of those who alone have benefited and continue to benefit from changing the form of the German state, and who for that very reason became the driving force of the Revolution – the Jews. Disregarding the Jewish threat, which is undoubtedly recognized even by the present-day leaders (as witness various statements by prominent personalities), these men are forced to accept Jewish favours to their private advantage and to repay these favours. And the repayment does not merely involve satisfying every possible Jewish demand, but above all preventing the struggle of the duped people against their deceivers, by sabotaging the antisemitic movement.
This ‘expert opinion’, Hitler’s first political manifesto, [note 101: The original of this ‘opinion’, which Hitler composed on the orders of Reichswehr Group Command 4I b/P and duly forwarded to Adolf Gemlich in Ulm, has been lost. The text we have reprinted is based on a carbon copy in the State Archives, Munich, Div. II, Group Command, Vol.4,50/8. ] shows clearly that though, by September 1919, when he joined the German Workers’ Party,[* The German Workers’ Party (DAP) became the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) in February 1920. † Hitler rarely spoke from notes, which he used chiefly to jog his memory, and often let himself go, particularly when it came to such emotionally charged subjects as the Jewish ‘problem’.] his antisemitism had already become an established part of his political stock-in-trade, it was not yet nearly as depraved and vicious as it was to become. Even when he was ‘appointed’ sole ‘Führer’ of the NSDAP, in July 1921, he still retained most of the traditional antisemitic ideas and formulations of the German and Austrian Pan-Germans,† with whose concepts he had been familiar even as a schoolboy. Thus when he drafted a speech shortly before 20 February, 1920, it was by no means fear of the Social-Democratic government led by Johannes Hoffman which prevented him from making more radical demands and from levelling more vicious accusations against the Jews, but simply the fact that he still drew exclusively on the traditional stock of antisemitic catchphrases.
Even after 16 March, 1920, when the Social Democrats were ousted by the Bavarian People’s Party, headed by Gustav von Kahr, who was favourably inclined to Hitler’s political ideas until the end of 1923, Hitler’s main arguments did not change appreciably – all he did was to repeat the old slogans and to blame every political setback on the Jews. From 13 March, 1919, to 24 November, 1920, he delivered the following speeches at DAP and NSDAP meetings: two on the peace of Brest-Litovsk, three on the peace of Versailles, two on the programme of his Party, three on the ‘political situation’, one each on ‘Germany before her deepest humiliation’, ‘Political happenings’, ‘Everyday life’, ‘Finances’, ‘Spa and Moscow’, ‘Germany as a free country’, ‘Germany’s old relationships’, ‘Might and Right’, ‘Reconciliation or Force’, ‘International solidarity or self-help’, ‘National welfare and the national idea’, and ‘1918’. The fact that Hitler, of whom the Social Democratic Münchner Post said on 14 August, 1920, that he was the sharpest of all the agitators ‘presently doing mischief in Munich’, delivered only two speeches that year whose very title betrayed his hatred of the Jews, shows how skilful a demagogue he had become even so early on in his career. [note 102: Cf. the documents in State Archives, Munich, Div. II, Group Command 4, Vols. 4616, 617, 4618, 46.19, and E. Deuerlein: ‘Hitlers Eintritt in die politik und die Reichswehr’ in the weekly Das Parlament, 8 July, 1959. ]
Right at the beginning of his notes, Hitler asserts categorically that ‘the Jew is to blame’, and raises the unhappy outcome of the First World War, the harsh conditions and repercussions of the Versailles treaty, into an effective propaganda platform. The claim that parliamentarianism enslaves the nation and threatens to turn Germany into a colony was bound to appeal to wounded German emotions and to fire the zeal of his adherents.