In the election of May 1928 the Nazi party won 2. 6% of the vote with 12 seats. By September 1930 this had risen to 18.
3% and 107 seats, this increased yet again to 37. 4% and 230 seats by July 1932. This made the Nazis the largest party in the Reichstag. However it is impossible to know exactly who voted for the Nazis, as it was a secret ballot.
So to work out who voted for the Nazis we have to look at in what areas they did well, this can show us which bits of society voted for them,if they did well in city centres then it would be fair to assume the working class voted Nazi.We can also look at which parties lost support as the Nazis gained it, if a party has a strong link with a certain class then if it looses support as the Nazis gain it, it is fair to assume the Nazis are stealing those votes and they appeal to the class who traditionally supported that party. We can also look at the areas of society the Nazis tried to appeal to. This is helpful as for example the communists only tried to appeal to the working class and so wouldn’t have gained votes outside of the working class (this is a bit simplistic but can still help)The Nazis were a strange party, when Hitler joined them in 1919 they were a true umbrella party with people from both the left and the right in the membership.
This remained the case even after Hitler became leader with many socialists in what had become a fascist party, with Roehm (leader of the S. A) being one of the most prominent. This seems to have lead the party to try and gain widespread support in its election campaigns.Hitler would tailor his message depending on the audience, when addressing the upper class he would promise to lead Germany to greatness again, crush the communists and unions and other such things that the upper class would wish to hear.
However when addressing the working class he would give a different message promising to end unemployment and to raise wages. In the modern day this would not work but communications were bad enough at the time for him to attempt to gain votes from all sections of society.By looking at what parties lost support over the period 1928-1932 we can find some interesting trends. The Nationalist vote fell from 14.
2% to only 8. 8% it would be reasonable to assume that the Nazis gained their votes from this party, as it was a right wing party and the only other party to increase its vote was the Communist KPD. The DNVP was the traditional party for the rich upper class and the farmers and peasants. So we can assume that the Nazi party gained either partial support from both the rich and the farmers or that they almost completely won over one or the other.
However the Nazis tried hard to gain the support of the farmers by promising to sort out their problems. In the depression the farmers had suffered badly as their prices fell with everything else this lead to a drop in their profits, which in turn meant that they would be unable to pay their mortgages and so would get evicted. The Nazis promised to raise their prices again to make farming profitable and they also promised that no farmer would ever be evicted under them. They also used flattery saying that the farmers were the “salt of the earth” and “the backbone of the nation”.
These promises lead to large support for the Nazis from the farmers, which will probably account for most of the loss of vote from the DNVP. However the Nazis did gain support from some rich industrialists and companies, this would have been more important for the financial support they provided than for any votes gained. For it is quite likely that while people like Fritr Thyssen (industrialist involved with steel), Emil Kirdorft (Coal) and Otto Wolfe would be willing to help fund a popular far right party simply in order to weaken the left, but they may not have voted Nazi preferring their traditional DNVP.Those who did vote would have been in far smaller numbers than the farmers simply because there are so few rich people compared to poor working class farmers.
Also people would only change parties in large numbers if they had good reason. While the farmers where facing ruin and so voted for the only party offering help, the rich while slightly worse off were still living in comfort and had little reason to change from one right wing party to another on the same scale as the farmers.This would explain that while the DNVP lost only half its vote between 1928 and 32. This is backed up by the fact that the Nazis enjoyed great success in the rural areas.
Both the liberal parties lost votes in huge amounts in 1928 the DVP had 8. 7% of the vote while the DDP had 4. 9% meaning that together the Liberal parties held 13. 6% of the vote by 1932 the combined liberal vote had fallen to 2.
9%. This would suggest rather strongly that either the middle and lower middle classes where voting Nazi or that they became communists.However it is highly unlikely that the middle classes would ever vote communist as there were so many horror stories coming from Russia and it was the main fear of the German middle class that a communist revolution would take place and that they would loose everything and be killed by the communists, this got to the extent where people kept weapons in the bedroom in case the communists came for them at night. So we can assume that the Nazis gained the votes lost by the Liberal parties because as I have already stated the only parties to gain a significant amount of votes over this period were the Nazis and the communists.
So the Nazis gained votes in large numbers from the middle class. We can assume that this was due to the way the Nazis used people’s fears to gain votes, the Nazis would use the S. A to attack the communists which the middle class feared. The middle classes would then have seen the Nazi party as the only one who was willing to take a strong stand against the communists, even though they may not have approved of the violence the Nazis employed to begin with.
As their fear grew however (with more Nazi lead violence on the streets) more and more people began to see it as the only way to stop a communist revolution. The Nazis also appealed to the lower middle class especially as they had a real fear of loosing their status, in the depression millions where unemployed and fear of becoming one of these was a large part of life for the lower middle class. If they lost their job they would cease to be middle class and become working class, this was a large reason why so many defected to the Nazi party.While the liberals did nothing to combat these fears the Nazis offered to protect them from the communist threat, end unemployment (the detail here was lacking but it was a strong statement which would attract votes), and to protect them from the large companies and department stores.
This was another fear for the lower middle class (in this case the shopkeepers) large department stores could put them out of business, again the Nazis promised to stop them saying they were run by Jews and that meant they could be demonised and attacked by them.The fact that the Nazis gained a large proportion of their vote from the middle and lower middle classes is also supported by the places in which they did well. They had success in small to medium sized towns and in the suburbs of the cities. These are the places that the middle classes were likely to live.
The mainly working class SPD also saw its share of the vote fall between 1928 and 32, but in quite a minor way compared to the liberal parties in that it had 29. 8% in 1928 and this fell to 20. 4% by 1932. The question is though where did these votes go?For the communist party gained support over this period as well as the Nazi party, and as I have explained above neither the upper or middle classes would ever vote for the communists.
So it must be the case that the working class had voted for them. But it would be overly simplistic to say that the SPD only lost votes to the communists and that the Nazis gained their support solely from the upper and middle classes. While this may be mainly true you have to take into account the fact that in the elections of 1930 and 1932 there was a record turnout.So it could be the case that the communists simply benefited from millions of new voters choosing them and that the SPD lost votes to the Nazis only.
This however is incredibly unlikely and it is probably far more complicated. By looking at places that the Nazis did well we find that they did not do well in the large city centres suggesting that among the working class factory workers they failed to win votes away from the SPD. While in smaller towns they managed to make a significant impression in the Socialist vote.It seems that in the big cities the SPD voters were also likely to be members of the party, also the SPD had a much larger infrastructure set up with leisure and social events being organised.
This meant that in the large cities the SPD manage to hold its vote well. While in other smaller towns this whole system was not in place allowing the communists and Nazis to gain votes. But it is unclear to what extent the Nazis managed to win over existing voters again due to the large turnout in the elections where they and the communists did well. This is because it is hard to know which party got which working class votes.
Did the Nazis get the new votes and the communist the old SPD vote? Or the other way round? It is certainly somewhere in between these two extremes and we have to look at the young new voters to get an idea. It seems that the Nazis did well with young people, they had success in Universities where the fear of unemployment yet again allowed them to gain votes, the students were worried that they would not be able to find a job when they left University and so the Nazi promise to end unemployment and make Germany strong again found a receptive audience.The nazis would also have appealed to the young because their ideas where new and exciting compared to the boring politics offered by the established parties. This led thousands of young men to join the S.
A (predominantly working class membership). So even though we cannot be sure how the Nazis did with the working class I would say that they gained most of their working class support from ideological young voters and other new voters only a small proportion from the SPD. I would say that most of the SPD’s losses went to the communist party.In this analysis I have taken the rural farmers to be separate from the urban working class as they traditionally support different parties and so considering them together only complicates matters.
The one party that had an unchanged share of the vote was the Centre party. This was traditionally the Catholics party and the fact that it had continued steady support throughout the period when the Nazi vote increased dramatically suggests that the Nazis were unable to win over the Catholic vote.I suppose this was because it was part of life for the Catholics, you believed in God, you went to church, you voted for the centre party. As this would have become a family thing the children would be indoctrinated to the centre party at the same time as they were to catholic ideas.
It probably wouldn’t have occurred to them to vote Nazi in the same way it wouldn’t occur to them to become protestant. The Nazi failure here was reflected geographically in the way they did less well in the predominantly catholic south and much better in the protestant north.This does not mean that no Catholics voted Nazi you would probably have found some among the lower middle class and the rural farmers (the Nazis core voters) who voted Nazi out of fear but these would have been in the minority. The fact that the record turnouts did not lead to a reduction in the centre party’s share of the vote suggests that part of this new turnout was Catholics who did not normally vote but now wanted to keep their share of power and influence.
So to conclude and answer the question who voted Nazi I have to say that it seems that the Nazis managed to gain votes from all classes, but in differing amounts.They probably only managed to gain a small amount of votes from the upper class while managing to get financial support from Big Business and the rich. They almost certainly gained a large amount of support from the middle and lower middle classes and from rural farmers who would have together formed their core vote. They also probably gained votes from parts of the working class (again the rural farmers are being excluded from the working class for ease of analysis) such as the young in particular.
Their only real failure was the Catholics. Why people voted Nazi tends to be easier to answer.People who voted Nazi were mostly scared of something, the Nazis managed to exploit people’s fears to great effect, the upper and middle classes were scared of the communists and the Nazis realised this and that they would approve of violent methods being used to stop the communists. The lower middle class was also scared of unemployment and therefore becoming working class, the Nazis said they would not allow this to happen.
The young working class probably voted Nazi again because they were scared of unemployment and also because of the new kind of dynamic and exciting politics that Hitler and the Nazis offered.