The question as to when and to what degree news media perceived Hitler as a threat is a common one.
How did JTA track the early years of Hitler and the Nazi Party?
Perhaps JTA’s earliest reference to the rise of the Nazi party was included in the October 11, 1921 “Daily Bulletins: Cable despatches from special correspondents in Europe and Palestine.”
NEW ANTISEMITIC PARTY IN GERMANY
Berlin (J.T.A.) The anti-Semitic feeling in Germany which has been on the increase since the end of the war brought the problem of East-European Jews into the foreground, has served to cement together a number of political factions into a party, now definitely organized, which calls itself the German Social Party. Its platform openly urges the expulsion of East-European Jews who entered the country since 1914 and the surveillance of all others as aliens. At the foundation meeting of the party, speeches were held against the Kaiser who was attacked for being “Judaized.”
Hitler was on JTA’s radar as early as January 1923, ten years before he was appointed Chancellor. including threats against Jews, Americans and Brits and this item describing Hitler-instigated attacks against Jews:
TERROR-STRICKEN JEWS FLEE MUNICH
BERLIN, Jan. 15 (JTA) –Terror-stricken Jews are withdrawing their deposits from the banks of Munich and leaving town, in consequence of the increasing agitation by Adolph Hitler and his followers among the Bavarian Fascisti against Jews and foreigners. Many of the fleeing Jews are settling with peasants in the Bavarian mountains, the peasants having promised them protection in the event of pogroms.
The agitation long in progress throughout Bavaria came to a head with the French occupation of the Ruhr district, Herr Hitler seizing upon it as an opportunity to foster chauvinism and anti-Semitism. On Friday many of Hitler’s adherents marched through the town of Munich, invaded hotels, cabarets, looking to attack foreigners and Jews.
On Nov. 8, 1923, writing on special assignment for JTA, Jerusalem-born Polish journalist Dr. Matatyahu Hindes was among a group of journalists detained by Hitler during the famous Munich Beer Hall Putsch.
Hitler then invited the newspapermen to the platform. When the second in command cried out his discovery that the "pressmen were all Jews," one of the Fascisti thrust a rifle at Dr. Hindes’ breast until approached by Hitler. Hindes was chosen by his two colleagues as the spokesmen and he demanded to be released. "We waited five years, surely the pressmen may also wait," was Hitler’s reply.
For his involvement in the Putsch, Hitler was sent to prison, but word of his release triggered speculation that he might pick up where he had left prior to his incarceration:
Hitler Coming out of Jail; New Anti-jewish Push?
Berlin, Sep. 8 (JTA) – Adolf Hitler, the anti-Semitic leader in Lavaria, who is now imprisoned in the fortress of Landsberg for his participation in the Bavarian rising last November, will be released on October 1st, when he will have completed his sentence of six months’ imprisonment.
Anti-Semitic circles are busy speculating on the possibility of Hitler leading a new anti-Jewish movement in Bavaria on his release. The press is wondering what attitude he will take in regard to the conflict between the two anti-Semitic Parties in Bavaria, the Pan-German Anti-Semitic Party and the Parliamentary Party led by General Ludendorff.
While it may be difficult to extrapolate past-editors’ perceptions of Hitler based on this reportage, the opinions of two Jewish thought leaders demonstrated that not everyone anticipated that Hitler’s threat would materialize.
On a visit to America in 1930, Albert Einstein, a close friend of JTA’s founding editor Jacob Landau, addressed a large group of journalists in the presence of his wife and personal assistant, Dr. Walter Mayer, and offered his impressions of Hitler:
Someone asked him what he thought of Hitler. "I’m no friend of his!" he said, and chuckled. Dr. Mayer amplified the Professor’s statement, saying it was his belief that the anti-Semitic utterances of the Hitlerites were not truly representative of German feeling.
Prof. Einstein said, "Hitler is living on the empty stomach of the German people. The instant that stomach is filled, Hitler’s party will find no more do."
Three months before Hitler’s appointment, Dr. Ernst Benedikt, publisher of the Neue Freie Presse of Vienna, was the subject of an interview with a JTA representative, where he spoke at length about several topics concerning Jews, including Zionism, the plight of Polish Jews, and the situation in Germany:
Discussing the situation in western Europe as it affects the Jews, especially in Germany and Austria, Dr. Benedikt said:
"The Hitlerite movement in Germany is of course unpleasant for the Jews, but I do not think it spells great danger for German Jewry." Hitlerite leaders recently have evinced a tendency to mitigate their anti-Semite agitation he said. He expressed doubt that Hitler would ever come into power in Germany but even in that eventuality, the conscience of the world would prevent the Hitlerites from depriving the Jews of their rights."
The political status of the Jews in Austria is not as bad as in Germany, although their economic position is far from good, the Vienna publisher stated.
Dr. Benedikt acknowledged that there is an anti-Semitic movement of proportion in Austria, but said that it has not attained the strength of the Nazi movement in Germany. Moreover, he said, public opinion is strongly opposed to the excesses as demonstrated by the criticism of the recent student excesses at the University of Vienna.
The middle class Jewish elements and the professional classes suffer greatly from the crisis. The situation is rendered more acute by the fact that unemployment deriving from professional classes are joining the ranks of the proletariat and there is not sufficient work to enable all to earn even a meagre livelihood.
On Jan. 30, 1933, in an effort to appease a Nazi Party who influence had grown rapidly, Hitler was appointed German chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg, a political move that paved the way for Nazi Party’s footing in German society.