1933? Essay, Research Paper
Noakes and Pridham have called the August-December period of 1932 ?the crisis
months? in the ?Nazis struggle for power?. However, there are also many other
contributing factors prior to this which are very much concerned with Hitler?s
final seizure of power in January 1933. History has proved that dramatic change
comes only through both strong revolutionaries, and more importantly, weak or
unpopular existing rulers. So how far was Hitler and his party responsible for
their rise to power, and how much of the blame must be put on the leaders of
the Weimar Republic? This essay aims to identify the key factors in Hitler?s
rise to power, both in his own successes and in the government?s short-comings,
and why they were important to it.
The election of May 1928 had resulted in unexpected defeat for the NSDAP ?
100,000 fewer votes than in 1924 and only 12 seats. Now the strategy had to
change. Hitler called for ?a switch in priorities from the cities to the countryside?
(Bullock). In the autumn of 1928, the party assumed its first role in national
politics with its campaign against the Young Plan in alliance with Hugenburg
and the DNVP. The depression was beginning to add to the growing ?crisis of
the bourgeois parties? and Hitler saw that this was his chance. Nazi appeals
for unity and authority in the state proved successful in the unnecessary election
unwisely called by Bruning, the new chancellor, in September 1930. The Nazis
gained 18.6& of the popular vote, securing 107 seats and becoming the second
largest party in the Reichstag.
Hitler?s party had made its breakthrough into national politics; now he had
to find a way to convert popular support into a national Socialist government
led by himself. As Bullock suggests, he could use his popular support to press
for inclusion in the government and the threat of the SA violence if he was
excluded. Hitler acted shreudly, leaving all his options open (a Reichstag majority,
a coup, Authoritarian Rule by Article 48) while steadily pursuing his goal and
using his remarkable ability to retain the confidence of his often restive supporters
with the help of the growing ?Hitler myth?, which served as a substitute for
a detailed programme.
At this time, Hitler was supported by four significant factors. Firstly, there
was the intensification of the depression, and secondly, the result of this
was an increasing support for radical left and radical right parties from the
electorate. Thirdly, there was the Reichswehr?s dislike of the Republic, caused
primarily by Hindenburg?s pursuit of political stability in order to advance
rearmament. Finally, the people had a massive disapproval for the prominence
of presidential rather than parliamentary government. Whilst Hitler may have
failed to win the Presidency in April 1932, his vote in the second ballot was
as high as 13.4 million ? it would seem that a large percentage of the population
had realised that desperate times call for desperate measures, and with unemployment
consistently rising, perhaps Hitler?s eventual role was, by this stage, an inevitability.
Furthermore, the election in June made the NSDAP the largest party in the Reichstag
with 13, 745,00 votes and 230 seats ? in four ?depressing? years the party had
gained 13.5 million votes.
Where had this new support for national Socialism come from? Most historians
afree that it was largely from the middle class (the Mittelstand) which may
be subdivided into the old Mittelstand (artisans, small retailers, peasant farmers)
and the new (white-collar workers, teachers, civil servants(somewhat surprising
seeing as this group incorporated the best part of Germany?s academic body)).
Many of the former, who became the core of the Nazi support, had joined the
movement before 1929; the latter ?helped to boost the Nazi vote . . . to 13.5
million in 1932? (Lee). Blue-collar workers remained remarkably loyal to the
SDP and the KDP because of their membership of the trade unions; the upper classes
were sometimes attracted by Hitler?s anti-communist stance, but the chief support
from the wealthy came after Hitler was appointed Chancellor. ?To some extent
the appeal of Nazism transcended class barriers altogether? (Lee): Protestants,
women, the young were all attracted by 1932. But in spite of the vast increase
in their vote, the Nazis still lacked a majority which could give them the automatic
right to power.
During the ?crisis months? which followed, the refusal of Hindenburg and von
Papen to offer anything more than the Vice-Chancellorship on 13 August was to
put great strain on party loyalties. Somehow Hitler was able to preserve the
policy of legality, in the face of its apparent failure, even after the resignation
of Gregor Strasser which badly dented party morale. The fighting of yet another
election in November, when the NSDAP vote dropped by two million and the KPD
vote increased significantly, was a further blow. It is hardly surprising to
read Goebbels reflection at Christmas of ?this year has brought us everlasting
However, it would seem that the tide was turning. The new Chancellor, Schleicher,
had failed to gain the mass support which he had promised Hindenburg, with his
policy based on backing from the trade unions and the ?moderate? Nazis under
Strasser. Von Papen was determined to bring him down and was now ready to see
Hitler as Chancellor. They reached an agreement on 4 January, but it took almost
another month of tortuous negotiations before Hindenburg?s suspicion of the
?Bavarian corporal? could be overcome, Hugenburg?s economic conditions satisfied
and the Reichswehr?s support ensured by the appontment of the pro-Nazi von Blomberg
as the Minister of Defence.
Such a remarkable reversal of fortune as brought Hitler to the Chancellorship
on 30 January 1933 caused Goebbels to confide in his diary that ?it all seems
like a fairy story?. In conclusion though, it was in fact the result of ?ambitious
and misguided men [who] sought to make history? and were confident, like von
Papen, that Hitler would be ?no danger at all?. Nor must Hitler?s own contribution
be forgotten: the steadfast adherence to the policy of legality, the extraordinary
control over the unruly party, the insistence on the Chancellorship, and the
selling of the idea that – in the words of a nazi slogan ? ?National Socialism
is the opposite of what exists today.?