Hitler’s Leadership & Management Style (3)

IMG_0339It was also very helpful that in the world of Weimar politics where just about every politician was a cheat and a liar, Hitler and the Nazi party were brutally honest – they practiced what they believed in, walked what they talked and practiced what they preached. True, they did disseminate what now would be called “fake news” but for the most part because they sincerely (and erroneously) believed them to be the truth.

Adolf Hitler proved himself very adept at “turning shit into a fertilizer”. He turned his 24-day trial (after the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch he was arrested and predictably charged with treason) into a highly successful publicity stunt.

Using this trial as a highly visible platform, he communicated his national-socialist ideology to the whole nation, becoming almost on overnight nationwide (and worldwide) political celebrity and generating front-page headlines in all major newspapers around the world.

Given the fact that the putsch claimed 21 victims (seventeen Nazis and four policemen died in the shootout), his five-year prison sentence was a slap on the wrist. Apparently, he made the judges and even the prosecution sympathetic to his cause.

He expected to serve only a small portion of this sentence and was right – he was released after spending only nine months in Landsberg prison. Having used this time very productively – most of his “Nazi Bible” (Mein Kampf) was dictated there.

He also proved himself a dedicated (to the point of obsession) and extremely resilient political entrepreneur. When his Nazi Party was (predictable) banned on November 9th, 1923 after the miserable failure of the Beer Hall Putsch, he enlisted the support of the nationalist Völkisch-Social Bloc which made it possible for his party to continued its operations under the name “German Party” (Deutsche Partei or DP) during 1924 and the beginning of 1925.

On February 16th, 1925, Hitler convinced the Bavarian authorities to lift the ban on the NSDAP (no small feat given the circumstances of its ban and the fact that he had been just released from prison) and the party was formally re-founded on February 26th, 1925, with Hitler as its undisputed leader (obviously). In record time, Hitler made NSDAP even more political force than before the ban.

The key principle that made the “Nazi Wildfire” so successful was, obviously, the (in)famous Führerprinzip. Including its other, much lesser-known side. The Social Darwinism.

In practice, it meant that Adolf Hitler mostly allowed the lower levels of NSDAP (and subsequently the state) hierarchy to organize on their own. He almost never appointed anyone to head of organization (or a major department office) unless they proved themselves capable of it.

This (obviously) lead to frequent infighting within the structure in question, but guaranteed that the job will go to the strongest (i.e., the fittest) would get the job. Who was subsequently treated exceptionally well by The Führer.

In other words, Hitler usually refused to intervene in the promotion of officers and staff members, preferring instead to have them fight amongst themselves to force the stronger individual to prevail.

Acquiring a parliamentary majority is an expensive endeavor – especially for a political startup such as NSDAP. Hence, it needs not just a lot of money, but an extensive, powerful and efficient fundraising system. And, obviously, a sound financial strategy.

Adolf Hitler developed exactly such strategy (demonstrating uncanny and very unexpected skills of a financial manager). This strategy was not only sound but a well-balanced as it relied on four key sources: (1) membership dues; (2) small donations from a large number of individuals – both voluntary and mass meeting admission fees; (3) sales of newspapers, magazines; brochures, pamphlets and other printed material; and (4) donations from wealthy individuals, businesses and organizations.

Contrary to a very popular misconception, the latter was not the most important source of funds for the Nazi party which made if financially (and thus politically) independent from these powers.

Not completely politically independent, of course, because to come to power via simple (relative) majority, Nazis needed the support of at least some of these “powers that be” to convince the Reichspräsident (whoever he might be) to appoint Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany.

Adolf Hitler (who according to all witnesses was a reclusive and socially awkward introvert prior to summer of 1919) suddenly proved to be an excellent networker capable of establishing, developing, nurturing and using relationships with “all of the above” to achieve his political objectives. And even making them think they were using him while in reality he was using them.

Using contacts in influential German circles (political, financial, industrial, etc.) provided by Dietrich Eckart (a famous playwright and a key member of the Thule Society), Hitler built the necessary network of relationships that was ultimately instrumental in convincing Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg to appoint Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany on January 30th, 1933.

To maximize the efficiency of his financial system, Adolf Hitler appointed Max Amann the first business manager of the Nazi Party and later made him the head of Eher Verlag, the official Nazi Party publishing house. Amann proved to be an excellent choice in both positions.

Another highly competent financial manager recruited by Adolf Hitler was Franz Xaver Schwarz – a Great War veteran and an accountant at the Munich City Hall. On March 21st, 1925, less than a month after the re-founding of NSDAP, he quit his government job and became the full-time treasurer of the Nazi Party.

Schwarz rebuilt the financial and administrative functions of the party and in the process raised the necessary fuds for the publication of Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf. From 16 September 1931 forward, Schwarz had control of all financial matters of the Nazi Party thus effectively becoming its Chief Financial Officer. An able administrator, he generally kept out of party politics.

Though technically illegal, street violence was a generally accepted political tool in Weimar Germany. Consequently, just about every political party had (and used) a paramilitary wing. Especially strong and vicious was (not surprisingly) the 130,000 – strong Rotfrontkämpferbund (Red Front Fighters League) of the Communist Party of Germany.

Whose objectives were (not surprisingly) protection for party rallies, assemblies, meetings and other political events; disruption of the meetings of opposing parties; intimidation of political opponents; and (of course) fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties.

Recognizing this inescapable reality, Adolf Hitler created the Sturmabteilung (SA) – the paramilitary force of the NSDAP. By the time Hitler assumed power in January 1933, SA membership had increased to approximately two million – twenty times larger than the Reichswehr.  It was so efficient that most historians consider its activities a major factor in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s.

Establishment of SA came absolutely natural for Adolf Hitler – a misfit, outcast and overall loser in a civilian life he was a war hero and thus very comfortable in the Army. Consequently, it would be fair to say that (at least subconsciously) he considered NSDAP to be a part of the SA, not the other way around.

Which, however, did not prevent him from disempowering the SA (thus relegating to the fringes of a political life in Germany) when he decided (maybe correctly, maybe not) that it became a threat to his Führerstaat (or at least to his vision of it). And from ordering a murder (execution without trial is a murder, especially in time of peace) of its leaders on the (in)famous Night of the Long Knives.

One of the reasons for the decision to send SA to the political fringes was that after Adolf Hitler acquired dictatorial powers in Germany, functions performed by the SA were no longer needed.

The new ones were required which called for setting up a new – and very different – organization. This organization – the far more infamous Schutzstaffel (SS) – was formed in 1925, but essentially superseded the SA only after the Night of the Long Knives (June 30th, 1934).

Being far more comfortable in a military environment than in the civilian one (he wore civilian clothes only when he absolutely had to), Adolf Hitler viewed the Nazi Party as one (ultimately very large) army. And his battle for absolute political power in Germany as a military operation.

Which, to be successful, must establish and very efficiently use its own intelligence and counter-intelligence services.

So it is not surprise at all that in 1931 (when coming to power in Germany became a very real possibility for the Nazis) SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler (acting on oral orders from Adolf Hitler) established the Ic-Dienst (Intelligence Service) that reported directly to him.

And put in charge of this agency one Reinhard Heydrich – a former junior naval officer. A year later, the service got its now (in)famous name – Sicherheitsdienst (SD). Its objective was simple and straightforward – collect and structure information that can be used to (1) manipulate (blackmail, if necessary) influential individuals into doing what the Nazis wanted; (2) intimidate political opponents to make them harmless to the Nazi cause; and (3) generally protect NSDAP, its leaders and officers from harmful actions of its political opponents and the government (local, state and municipal).

It is generally believed that SD did its job – and did it very well. Information gathered and structured by Heydrich and his men did help the Nazis achieve their political objectives.

The proof of the pudding is in eating. NSDAP did get the majority of seats (although not the absolute majority – 230 out of 608 seats) in the 1932 Reichstag elections and Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg was persuaded to appoint Adolf Hitler the Reichskanzler of Germany.

Consequently, only one conclusion can be made. Hitler’s leadership and management style in 1919-33 (technically, in 1921-33 as he became The Führer of NSDAP) was a perfect fit for his strategic objectives for this period.

And his performance as a leader and manager of NSDAP (as well as the politician, orator, political analyst and a political entrepreneur in general) can be rated only as excellent.

 

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