The Rise Of Nazism (Why It Happened) Essay, Research Paper
On 30th of January 1933 Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi Party) became Chancellor of Germany. Only five years previously his party received just more than 7% of the national vote. By 1932 the Nazi Party received 43% of the national votes. How did such a change in popularity come about for the party? To understand how the rise of Nazism came about, one must look at why the Weimar Republic fell, the German Constitution and Nazi propaganda.
The most important aspect in the rise of Nazism was the collapse of the Weimar Republic, and the reason for it. The Weimar Republic was born on the 9th of November 1918 in circumstances of defeat and national humiliation. When the Republic was forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles the following year it immediately came under criticism by right wing politicians for allegedly ?stabbing Germany in the back.’ The Treaty of Versailles left Germany to pay huge financial reparations to the victorious allies, stripped her of her colonies and some territory, and limited the size of the German military. The Treaty fuelled nationalist propaganda in Germany and in the rest of Europe where many felt that Germany had been too harshly treated. The Republic then had to survive two putsches from the right wing, Berlin in 1920 and Munich in 1923. The right wings however, were favoured by the civil service of which the government did not control. This is evident in the sentence which Hitler received for his part in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, where he only received ten months in prison for high treason. The Government also had to put up with attempts to seize power from Communists in 1919,1921 and 1923 in various parts of Germany.
A large part of the German economy in wartime was based on the production of war materials. So when the Weimar Republic came to power it was forced to deal with the running down of war industries which caused high unemployment. The economy was not in good shape after the war, and Germany was now being forced to pay reparations to the victorious allies. The result was inflation from 1919 to 1922. Then, when the French invaded the Ruhr in 1923, hyper inflation set in which made the Deutsche Mark virtually worthless. Nevertheless, the Government survived this. This was because inflation wrote off debts for many big businesses, prices were up for farmers, there was a demand for cheap German goods and the reparations were being paid in a worthless currency. 1924 to 1928 were referred to as the ?golden years’ of the Weimar Republic. Germany was admitted to the League of Nations and began to make a recovery based on foreign loans, primarily from the US. However, the foreign loans also meant that the German economy was dependent on international economies. Therefore, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 affected Germany substantially. The money which the US put into the German economy was withdrawn overnight. Depression set in which caused the collapse of the Government. The Government at the time was a coalition of the German Social Democratic Party and the German Peoples’ Party. Their inability to agree on the issue of funding unemployment relief caused the Grand Coalition to collapse in 1929-30 ushering in the period of presidential rule. The inability of the government to deal with the depression caused many people to swing to an extreme group, and the Nazis propaganda had made them seem more appealing than the Communists. The Nazis had been using propaganda to win popularity, and when the depression set in they thrived on it.
Joseph Goebbels, a natural speaker like Hitler headed Nazi propaganda. The most significant message portrayed by Nazi propaganda was nationalism, a denunciation of the Treaty of Versailles and anti-Marxism. It aimed at sending out a populist and anti-establishment message. Propaganda portrayed the Nazis as a party which had young leaders not associated with the traditional social elite. The Nazis were the party of the young, the strong and the pure, in opposition to an establishment populated by the elderly, the weak and the dissolute. The Nazis used propaganda to make promises to various social classes. They offered the small man protection from big businesses, while they promised the big businesses the demolition of the Weimar system and restoration of management’s right to manage. Women were promised a return to traditional and family values. Amid the depression, agriculture and industry were promised protection against foreign competition. The party aimed to address the immediate concerns of many Germans, which it did quite successfully. Their propaganda may have gained them popularity, but were it not for the Constitution the Nazi Party probably would not have been around in the 1930s.
During the mid 1920s the Nazi Party received less than 5% of the national votes. However, because of proportional representation this meant that they received 5% of the seats in parliament. This allowed the Nazi Party to get off the ground and survive in a way that would not have been possible in Britain. The Constitution also gave the Nazis the right for Hitler to make himself a dictator of Germany. Article 48 of the Constitution gave the President the power to rule by emergency decree, if the country was in some kind of danger. Hindenberg called Article 48 into use and left the door open for Hitler. When Hitler made himself a dictator, he proved that he was probably the greatest and most influential leader of all time. Hitlers problem though, was that he went about it in entirely the wrong way.
The Weimar Republic collapsed for many reasons: the Treaty of Versailles, several attempts of overthrowing the government, extreme criticism from other political parties (most notably the Nazi propaganda), constitutional difficulties and a series of economic problems, of which the depression explains the precise timing of the collapse of the Republic. In such circumstances, the rise of Hitler can be seen as inevitable. The German people were looking for a way out of the conditions they were living in and Nazism seemed a better alternative than Communism.