Hitler’s rise to power was rapid. From electoral obscurity to being the dominant force in German politics in 4 years. The rise of the Nazi party was the result of a number of things. The collapse of the world economy hit Germany hard. This caused unemployment and led to further resentment of the Treaty of Versailles. The Nazi’s played on this bitterness. Clever use of the media, a show of strength, fierce criticism of the hated Treaty and brute force combined. They led to rapid growth. Then, as the party had to be taken seriously by others and Hitler was appointed Chancellor. Dominance was ensured following the Enabling Act and Hitler’s installation as Fuhrer following the death of president Hindenburg.
Origins of the Nazi Party
The Nazi Party started out as a small party in Bavaria called the German workers party. They were opposed to the Treaty of Versailles and Communism. The party was borne out of the dismay at the defeat in the First World War and a horror at the severity of the terms imposed upon Germany by the Allies. It was this party that Hitler joined, initially as a spy! Hitler soon became one of the leading lights of the party, his inspiring rhetoric and enthusiasm for the cause propelling him to the leadership of the small party very quickly.
The party, soon renamed to the National and Socialist German Workers Party, adopted a 25 point program of points that formed the basis of their political manifesto. It was on the strength of their belief in these points that the Nazi’s as they were now known, chose to take force in a coup d’etat in Munich. The coup was unsuccessful, despite an initial success in reaching it’s objectives of seizing power. Hitler was thrown into prison and the party was, it seemed, destroyed. It had however allowed Hitler to hone the Nazi ideology.
In prison Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, which later became a bestseller. Upon his release from prison the party was radically restructured, yet it’s support remained localised and insignificant in terms of national politics. Throughout the ‘Golden Years’ of the Weimar Republic Hitler had little to offer the majority of Germans. The treaty of Versailles was gradually being amended and the economy was picking up. Extreme views, such as those held by the Nazi party, were not popular within this period.
The Depression and the Rise of the Nazi Party
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 provided the spark that allowed the Nazi’s to gain support. All of a sudden the support of the American’s and the aid pans were withdrawn, Germany was again isolated and the economy was in crisis. The rise in Unemployment and a renewed fear of a Communist uprising gave Hitler’s messages a new importance. people were again interested in the views of this extremist party. In a land where the government was struggling to control the economy, the people and the communists any alternative that appears to be willing, and able, to combat the problems, through whatever means, is seen in a very positive light.
This resurgence in nazi fortunes is clearly visible from election results. From having little or no say in the national picture in the ‘Golden years’ the nazi’s rose rapidly to become the dominant force in the elections of 1932: although they won no overall majority in these elections. By 1933, Hitler was viewed by many as the only man who could halt the rapid slide towards an economic and political shambles. Other senior politicians within Germany, despite their worries about Hitler’s methods and political leanings, turned to him and his party, partly through desperation. The end of the Weimar republic was nigh, the nazi’s, in the space of 5 years had turned from obscurity to masterdom of the German Republic.
There are a number of reasons why the Nazi’s rose to prominence in such a short period of time:
Hitler’s speeches were inspiring, he was a great public speaker who could enthuse the masses and ignite a sense of belief. his policies made sense and were aimed at the areas of politics that the German masses were resentful of i.e. the treaty of Versailles and reparations. his party were highly organised, flexible in their views (in the eyes of the electorate) and made promises that would benefit all sectors of the population. Further to this was the Nazi’s open, and forceful opposition to communism and the impressive use of force and discipline to engineer success for themselves. these characteristics were highly valued in a Germany where law and order were being constantly threatened.
Add to this the weaknesses of the Weimar government itself. Proportional representation had led to a series of weak and ineffectual governments, it allowed the nazi’s to become serious players without having a mass of public support. The government was perceived as being at fault for signing the treaty of Versailles and had lost support on several occasions for mismanaging the economic crisis. Hitler offered a feasible solution to each of these faults and so gained support and ultimately power.
Thus the rise of the Nazi party was achieved as a result of circumstance, such as the Great Depression; Context, such as the myth of the Stab in the back; Policy, such as the promise of economic stability; Strength, such as the way in which they were portrayed at the Nuremberg Rallies and; Fear, such as people worrying about the spread of socialism and the Nazi’s clear opposition to this.
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