The Nazi party before Hitler- who were the first members of the NSDAP, and what happened to them?
Updated: Apr 18
In the windowless basement of a small bar in downtown Munich, a dozen or so men gather around- drinking, smoking and talking. They are ex-Freikorps members, battle hardened veterans of the great war. Some of them have a stump on where their limbs are supposed to be. One has a long scar across his face.
They are the founding members of the Germans workers' Party (DAP), one of the dime-a-dozen far-right Völkisch parties that operated secretly in Germany at the time. This meeting, like many others, is centered around the discussion of German nationalism, and of course, the Jews.
Little did they know that through the guidance of their newest member, a short Austrian corporal by the name of Hitler, who had impressed them with his passion and oratorical skills, their party would rise into power, becoming the undisputed ruler of Germany.
Some of them would come to play vital roles in the vile Nazi regime. Others, like party founder Anton Drexler, would fade into obscurity.
The following is a list of the first Nazi party members sorted alphabetically (Note that membership numbers started with 501, in order to inflate membership count) :
Membership number 501: Josef Absinger
Membership number 502: Georg Allexe
Membership number 503: Franz Appel
Membership number 504: Karl Auer
Membership number 505: Wolfgang von Bartels
Membership number 506: Eleonore Baur
Membership number 507: Hans Baumann
Membership number 508: Wilhelm Bayer
Membership number 509: Karl Beggel
Membership number 510: Luise Beggel
Membership number 515: Ernst Boepple
Membership number 524: Eduard Dietl
Membership number 525: Wilhelm Laforce
Membership number 526: Anton Drexler (Party founder)
Membership number 527: Karl Staudhammer
Membership number 531: Gottfried Feder
Membership number 543: Alois Grillmeier
A more comprehensive list can be found here
Adolf Hitler had a membership number of 555, making him one of the first members but not part of the party at it's founding. I could find little to no information to many of the names on this list. A google search of ' Josef Absinger' for example, the first member of the list, brings no results. A census search however, reveals a Josef Absenger (born 1895) residing in Österreich. He also appears on a WW1 roster list as serving in Infantry reserve in the 18th Munich regiment.
Party member number 506, Eleonore Baur, was the first women in the Nazi party¹ . She was also the only women to participate in the Munich beer hall putsch. Throughout the rise of the Nazis and following their assumption of power in 1933, Baur remained close to the Nazi leadership, accompanying Hitler on picnic trips. She played a major role in the construction and administration of Dachau. For this she was sentenced to ten years of hard labor, but was released in 1950 for health reasons. She died in 1981, aged 95.
Ernst Boepple was member number 515 in the Nazi party². As head of a publishing firm, Boepple was instrumental in publishing early national socialist literature, including party founder Anton Drexler's manifesto, My political awakening, and the works of prominent Nazis Alfred Rosenberg, Dietrich Eckart and Adolf Bartels.
He later went on to serve key roles in the Nazi regime, including as Bavarian minister of Culture and State Secretary of the General Government in occupied Poland. Because of his implication in the final solution he was hanged on December 15, 1950.
Another founding member, Eduard Dietl went on to command the 20th Mountain army, one of the two armies who fought against the soviets in the northern regions of Finland and Norway³. Dubbed "the hero in the snow", as counterpart to Rommel's "hero in the sun", he was one of Hitler's favorite generals and a popular commander among his Finnish and German troops. He was the first recipient of the special Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords of Nazi Germany.
On the 23rd of June, 1944, on his way to visit Hitler at Berghof, Dietl's plane crashed, killing him and six others. A memorial stands in the area of the crash site.
Anton Drexler⁴ was the initial founder of the German Worker's party (DAP) and member number 526. He served a key role as Hitler's mentor during his early formative years. Drexler first met Hitler at a DAP meeting after hearing him debate against a professor on the question of unifying Bavaria with Austria. Impressed by his skills, Drexler invited Hitler to join the DAP.
He was instrumental in co-authoring with Hitler the '25-point Program', a document that would come to define the Nazi party's philosophy in it's early years. On the same day, Hitler and Drexler renamed the DAP into it's now known name- 'The National Socialist Workers Party (NSDAP)'. The name itself was actually borrowed from an already existing Austrian party. Initially, Hitler wanted to rename the party as the 'Social Revolutionary Party'. The reason for the name change was to attract working-class support by using populist terms such as socialism and nationalism.
Drexler opposed Hitler's unconventional methods of bolstering party members by violence and street fighting. He was also a much bigger believer in the 'socialist' aspect of the Nazi party than Hitler was.
As the party rose to power, Drexler became shadowed by his charismatic protégé. In 1926 a vote was held to choose the Nazi party chairman. Hitler beat Drexler by 553-1. He was later moved by Hitler to a symbolic position in the Nazi party and no longer held any real power. He died of natural causes in Munich, March 1942.