Europe was in chaos after the First World War. Some 20 million were dead. Large parts of France and Germany were completely destroyed, including France’s major source of coal and much of their farmland. The Total War that consumed so many lives had also consumed the combatants’ thirst for war.
Strict censorship in Germany prevented any real appreciation for the situation Germany was in at the end of the war. She had simply run out resources to continue the struggle. She still fielded an army, and they still had a will to fight. The civilian populace, who had not been told of the defeats or the stagnation on the Western Front, was stunned by the armistice.
As the armistice took hold, communists formed soviets in the German Imperial Fleet. Disaffected, demoralized veterans of the army began to form right-wing paramilitary groups called Freikorps (free army). Over the next few years, Germany would plunge into instability as socialists, communists, nationalists and imperialists all fought each other. This would lead to the death of Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht during the Sparaticist Uprising of 1919. After that, both the Communists and the Nationalists would fight in the street on many occasions.
A decorated hero, cited by his Jewish Lieutenant for the Iron Cross, lay recovering in hospital from a gas attack at the time of the armistice. An unsuccessful artist, he resolved right then in November 1918 to restore Germany to her rightful glory, and avenge her honor. Or at least that’s what he claimed years later; in 1919, he was an operative for the secret police. Posing as just another disgruntled veteran at right-wing Freikorps meetings, he appeared to be just what he was. Hitler wandered into a meeting of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, known by its acronym, NASDAP. Hitler was enthralled. He saw an opportunity for himself with like-minded men. He quit the military and joined the NASDAP.