Otto Strasser, the younger brother of Gregor, was a leading figure in the early days of the Nazi Party. Otto Strasser sided with his brother when it appeared that the Nazi Party might split into two different ideological groups in the immediate aftermath of Adolf Hitler’s imprisonment.
Otto Strasser was born in Windsheim on September 10th 1897.
He sided first with the Social Democrats but joined the Nazi Party in 1925. He joined the party when it was in a state of flux. Technically the party had been disbanded after the failed Beer Hall Putsch but the ban was barely enforced. However, the real problem faced by the party was that Hitler was serving 5 years in prison – though he only served nine months. While he was away, a dispute arose in the party between two men – Gregor Strasser and Gottfried Feder. Gregor wanted the party to embrace urbanisation and true socialism while Feder wanted the party to remain true to rural Germany and the belief that all true Germans ‘came from the soil’. It was the view put forward by Hitler. However, the party was leaderless while Hitler was in prison.
Feder and Gregor Strasser co-ran the party but the partnership was doomed. However, Strasser made a name for himself within the party because it soon became obvious that he was a very skilful organiser and had natural leadership skills. Not unnaturally, Otto supported his brother. Otto strongly believed that the Nazi Party should be true to the ‘socialist’ and ‘workers’ words that were in the official name of the party. Otto wanted the Nazi Party to adopt classic socialist principles such as the state ownership of land and industry. He publicly stated his strong support for trade unions right to strike and he expressed sympathy for the way of life in the USSR.
This was completely against what Hitler wanted. Once he was released from prison, Hitler had to reassert his authority over the party. Matters came to a head at the 1926 Bamberg party conference. Here the clash between Hitler and Gregor Strasser was resolved in Hitler’s favour. It soon became clear that far more Nazis at the conference supported Hitler as opposed to Gregor Strasser. Though he initially supported the stand of Gregor, the future Propaganda Minister, Joseph Goebbels crossed over to support Hitler. He realised that Hitler had far more support within the party than Gregor Strasser.
Otto’s association with Gregor did not bode well for his future within the party. Hitler called him a “parlour Bolshevik” and labelled anyone who followed the Strasser’s as “doctrinaire fools”. Hitler claimed that Otto was the victim of “democracy and liberalism”.
On May 21st 1930 Hitler demanded a showdown with the two brothers. As party members they had continued to support the whole idea of socialism including nationalisation and the right of workers to strike. At the same time Hitler was courting wealthy industrialists and landowners. The last thing he needed was two well-known Nazis promoting ideas that were the opposite to those held by these industrialists. He ordered that both Otto and Gregor should submit totally to party discipline. Otto refused to do so and Hitler ordered Goebbels to expel him from the party.
As a result of this expulsion in 1930, Otto, along with former senior SA man Walther Stennes, formed a new political party – the Union of Revolutionary National Socialists, which became known as the Black Front. At this moment in time Otto was relatively safe as Hitler was not chancellor. Otto called Hitler “the betrayer of the revolution” but the Black Front never won mass support and was never a threat to Hitler. However, the Nazi Party had a deserved reputation for violence and Otto and his small band of followers made their headquarters in Prague where the former Nazi Party émigrés believed they were safe.
As the power of the Nazi Party increased in the early 1930’s so did its use of violence. Otto Strasser began to fear for his own life. His brother had withdrawn from politics and started to work for a chemicals company. Even in Prague Otto did not feel safe and he decided to leave Czechoslovakia for his own safety. He moved to Canada. Gregor Strasser was murdered during the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ – it was said that Hitler never forgot what Gregor had done nor forgiven him. It is probable that Otto would have suffered the same fate if he had remained in Nazi Germany.
Otto Strasser returned to West Germany in 1955 after being granted his German citizenship once again. He tried to get involved in politics once again but with little success.
Otto Strasser died in Munich on August 27th 1974.