The last election to the Reichstag brought the unexpected and rather extraordinary rise of the National Socialist German Labor party from twelve to 107 seats. It is the party of the extreme right. In nationalistic radicalism, it compares with the German National People's party, led by Hugenberg, much as in social radicalism the Communist party compares with the Social Democrats. Until recently, the National Socialists could be passed over as a negligible group of fanatics. But the party's present importance as the second strongest in the Reichstag, and the contradictory and confused ideas that are current about it, make worth while some inquiry into its nature and the causes of its rapid advance.
To start with, the party differs from its rivals in that personal leadership and military discipline are at its foundations. Besides having contributed more than any other single man to the building up of the party, Adolf Hitler is also its leader in the strictest sense of the word. A few facts about his life may show how it was that he could become the exponent of so large a number of German people.
Hitler was born in Austria in 1889 and until his fifteenth year lived in modest bourgeois surroundings, his father being a lower state official. This explains why he always has been, and still is, at heart a man of the middle classes. After the death of his parents, he was forced to earn his living as an unskilled laborer, and for some five years he lived the life of a proletarian among proletarians, completely cut off from his former middle-class environment.
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