Hitler’s Rise to Power
How did Hitler rise to power (1933) and consolidate his power (1934)?
When the First World War ended on November 11th 1918; many Germans were put into poverty due to the massive costs of the war. Millions of dying and hungry Germans caused the public to turn to radical political views. A crucial point on the agenda of many Germans was to find a culprit, someone to blame for all the problems that hit Germany after the war. One of these post-war radical parties was the DAP, the German Workers Party, they felt that the post-war ills of Germany were to blame on the Jews and Marxist.
The now-renowned Adolf Hitler was a member of the German Workers Party in 1919 and he experi-enced an increase in popularity over the next few years because of his way of holding speech-es. In this period after the war many Germans were very angry, and so was Hitler, in his speeches he would shout and get angry to the pleasure of many angry onlookers.
Hitler was a very charismatic speaker and watching his speeches was a very good outlet of anger and ha-tred for his audience. In his speeches Hitler told the people what they wanted to hear his speeches seemed to ensure the Germans of a better future, and hence his popularity skyrock-eted. Leading up to Hitler’s chancellorship in 1933 there was a series of events that helped Hitler gain the support of the German public.
One of which was the hyperinflation in 1923 caused by the French invasion of the Ruhr turned Germany into a crisis state. The German population were very displeased with the Republic because they felt that the democracy were taking no effective action to better the economical situation in Germany. The Germans were in desperate need of a leader, a so-called “strong man” to make solid decisions. In 1924 the Treaty ‘spirit’ of Locarno was signed, Germany took massive loans from the USA, this was viewed by many Germans as ‘Weimar decadence’. The German Wandervogel protested against this modern world longing for old-fashioned values, Hitler saw this as an opportunity to form the Hitler Jügend, another way to spread his ideology. In 1929 another crisis struck, the Wall Street Crash; five major banks crashed in the USA causing them to call back all their loans. This had a major effect on Germany, leaving them in great deficit and not least enor-mous unemployment; around 5.5 million Germans were unemployed. As a result the Germans were even more desperate and even more likely to fall back on a radical solution.
The Great Depression 1929, turned the Nazi movement into a massive movement in Germany, within just four years the party had gone from a smaller party with a small follow-ing to being by far the most popular party in a multi-party state. The main reason that the Na-zi popularity exploded during the period of depression was because they exploited the discon-tent of the German population by telling the German population exactly what they wanted to hear. It was a pretty easy task to tell the people what they wanted because Hitler’s racist, na-tionalist and anti-democratic ideology reached a very wide spectrum of German people, espe-cially the very large, angry and disappointed German middle class. Post-war, the Weimar Republic experienced a massive decrease in popularity amongst the German public due to signing of the ‘Diktat’ of Versailles. The Weimar repub-lic’s chances of surviving after the First World War were very slim but the final hope of dem-ocratic survival died when the Nazi-party gained the largest amount of votes in the Reichstag election mid-July 1932. During the election period Hitler’s campaigning was by far the most effective during the election. The German population were very impressed by his use of mod-ern propaganda technique: ie, use of radio as a tool to reach a wider demographic. During the election in 1932, Hitler visited 20 cities in 7 days, this new and fresh way of spreading ideol-ogy was very well received amongst the public and although Hitler lost the election he estab-lished himself as a credible leader in the eyes of the public. In January 1933, an agreement between Hitler and Franz Von Papen stated that Hitler should lead a Nazi-Nationalist coalition government with Papen as vice-chancellor. This was only possible if Papen could gain the support from President Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as chancellor.
Von Papen believed that appointing Hitler in a chancellor position would allow Hitler to prove himself insufficient as a government leader and thus let the problem solve it-self. On January 30th 1933 President Hindenburg agreed to sanction the creation of a Nazi-Nationalist coalition government. Thus making Hitler chancellor of Germany but Hindenburg had secured that Hitler’s influence, as chancellor would remain limited and that any decision Hitler made would be dependent on his final say. President Hindenburg never tried to hide his obvious resentment for Hitler and took joy in the fact that he could just as easily take away Hitler’s chancellor position as easily as he had granted it to him; or so he though. With the instalment of Hitler as chancellor, the conservatives were so confident that he would break; “In two months we’ll have pushed Hitler into a corner so hard that he’ll be squeaking.” Their confidence in their plan was completely justifiable as there were only two other Nazis in the cabinet out of 12 members. This would cause hardship for Hitler and the Nazi party to intro-duce and pass any dramatic decree. Within two months of Hitler becoming chancellor it was already visible that the restraints put on Hitler’s position were clearly not limiting enough.
Two factors that were greatly underestimated by Von Papen and President Hindenburg and have a great importance in telling why their plan failed were; firstly, the popularity of the Na-zi party amongst the public forced the conservatives to work with Hitler and secondly, grant-ing Hitler German chancellorship gave Hitler, and the Nazi party free access to state re-sources, resources such as the responsibility for the police and almost completely free access to the administration and bureaucracy of the state. Hitler did not wait to take advantage of his new power over the police; he used this responsibility to harass his political opponents and told the police to ignore Nazi crimes. Hitler also used his new power to spread Nazi propa-ganda more efficiently, and legally. It soon became very clear that the plan of ‘Papen’s politi-cal puppet’ had failed, Hitler had proved to be much more clever and politically strategic than they’d originally thought.
Already within 24 of Hitler being chancellor of Germany, Hitler had called for a new Reichstag election, as there was an increase of chance that more members of the Nazi party could be instated in the cabinet, granting the Nazi’s more influence in government decisions. During this election the Nazis greatly exploited the atmosphere of hate and fear, which proved extremely effective in their election propaganda. During his campaign Hitler blamed the current bad economical situation on the democratic government, he was determined to restore Germany to it’s former pride and unity, by saying this he appealed to the political wishes of many Germans. Throughout his entire campaign not once did he present a detailed plan or a concrete policy as to how he was going to achieve this, this did not seem to throw off the Germans as long as they were hearing what they wanted or needed to hear. The finan-cial situation of the Nazi party had also improved since the last Reichstag election in 1932 because the party had been promised three million Reichsmarks. With this financial insur-ance, and the Nazi’s vast exploitation of the media to spread propaganda, the Nazis were pret-ty confident that they would achieve parliamentary majority.
On the 27th of February 1933 a young communist set the Reichstag building on fire. This all worked out to the favour of Hitler and his exploitation of scapegoats; blaming the communists. To the Nazis advantage Hitler was able to install the ‘Decree for the Protection of the People and the State’, signed and approved by President Hindenburg. This decree meant that most civil and political liberties were suspended and a strengthening of central power. Hitler justified this decree by saying that the communists proved a threat, this resulted in hundreds of anti-Nazis getting arrested and the violence peaked during the last week of the election. After the election, Hitler secured the Nazis 288 seats and was able to declare parlia-mentary majority. The election was highly corrupted as the Nazis had manipulated the Ger-man public by taking advantage of the atmosphere of fear, caused by the SA to the public in the weeks leading up to the election. One of the most game changing moments in Hitler’s rise to power was the passing of the Enabling Act of 1933. In March of 1933, Hitler decided to propose an Enabling Bill to the Reichstag despite the necessity of a two-thirds majority to change anything in the existing Weimar Constitution. This Enabling bill would effectively rid of all parliamentary procedures and transfer full power to the chancellor.
This was a legal way for Hitler to establishing dicta-torship in Germany however; he needed the support from more of the major political parties to achieve that two-thirds majority necessary to legislate this bill. All the while, the lower ranks of the Nazi party were getting impatient and violent. This gave the impression that Hit-ler was losing control of his party and a great display of reassurance was needed in order to maintain his credibility as a leader. At the opening ceremony of the Reichstag, in the presence of Hindenburg and many army officials, Hitler symbolically aligned National Socialism with the forces of the old Germany. Two days later, the new Reichstag met up to consider the Ena-bling Bill. Communists were denied access to the event and the politicians that attended were in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation by the SA surrounding the building. To achieve the two-thirds majority, Hitler put his faith in gaining the support of the Centre party, as there wasn’t much hope to gaining the support of the Social Democratic Party. To gain the support from the Centre party Hitler (falsely) promised in his speech, that he would respect the rights and uphold the values of the Catholic Church.
In the end the bill was passed. This kind of take over is called a ‘legal revolution’ as Hitler didn’t break any laws, granted he’d made those laws himself which secured his dictatorship. With the death of President Hindenburg, Hitler merged the office of chancellor and the office of the President becoming absolute dictator of Germany and granted himself the title of “The Führer”. The Nazi regime had been completely stabilised. Hitler consolidated his dictatorship through a number of methods. The Nazis used violence ie, Night of the Long Knives and the multiple arrests of communists, to stay in power. Violence was also a tool to create an atmosphere amongst the public, of constant fear as to minimise risk of opposition to the regime. The violent actions taken by the Nazis were all legal, as the regime had the law on their side justifying all their actions, again a ‘Legal Revolution’. Another way of consolidat-ing your power is to destroy your enemy or exploit it’s weaknesses; Hitler in many cases lied and deceived powerful German groups just to destroy them ie, the trade unions and the SA. In conclusion, many historians say that there were a number of factors, which were necessary for Hitler to have rose to power of the extent that he did. Many still argue that Hit-ler could not have done what he did, gained the support that he did, had Germany not hit rock bottom socially, structurally and economically after the First World War. Hitler lured how to take advantage of the ‘critical state’ of the state; he was very cunning in his ways of leading a ‘Legal Revolution’.
Another factor was the help and support he got from Franz Von Papen and President Hindenburg who both, greatly miscalculated the situation when installing Hitler as chancellor. When considering Hitler’s rise to power it’s very important not to forget four key things: Hitler’s charismatic character in itself, the Nazi party’s modern use of propagan-da, the well organised structure of the party, their exploitation of scapegoats and use of vio-lence to stay in power.
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