After the First World War ended, many Germans were in shock at the defeat of Germany. Some even felt betrayed by their leadership for surrendering to the Allied forces. A German politician, Hitler, provided them with hope for a stronger future. He rose to power via the Nazi Party and became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933, before finally becoming a dictator only a year later. Below is a view of Hitler’s rise to power.
Hitler joined DAP or the German Workers’ Party in 1919. An anti-Marxist party, it changed its name a year later to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazi party, for short). It advocated extreme nationalism, anti-Semitism and racial discrimination. It virulently opposed the post-war government of the Weimar Republic and despised the Treaty of Versailles as deliberately weakening the German nation.
In the 1920s, the Nazi party took part in electoral battles in which Hitler participated as a speaker. He rose to prominence among the public for his abilities as an orator. By the early 1930s, the party had gained enough of a following and support to become the largest political party in the Reichstag.
It was Hitler who set the violent tone of the Nazi party early on. He formed the Sturmabteilung (S.A) paramilitary wing and tried to start a revolution in Bavaria as a means of power. The attempt failed and Hitler was imprisoned after the 1923 Munich Beerhall Putsch (the failed coup orchestrated by Hitler). He was sentenced to prison for five years, but only served nine months. He used this time to write his political autobiography ‘Mein Kampf’.
In 1919, Hitler was elected as the military liaison of his battalion during the war. During this time, he urged his unit to stay out of the battle and not pick a side. He was recruited as an undercover agent and tasked with the dual assignment of influencing other soldiers and to infiltrate the German Worker’s Party (DAP).
During a September 1919 meeting of the party, an audience member verbally attacked Gottfried Feder, the event speaker. Hitler passionately defended him against the attacks, and greatly impressed Drexler (founder of the DAP) with his oratory skills.
When Hitler later applied to join the party, he was officially accepted within a week. Normally, enlisted people were not allowed to join political parties, but an exception was made in Hitler’s case. He continued to be a part of the army and receive his weekly pay of 20 gold marks.
Hitler’s impeccable oratory skills continued to impress party leadership and the German public. After he was discharged by the army in 1920, he began to work for the Nazi Party full time. In line with his propaganda and public image, he organized the largest gathering of some 2000 political supporters on February 24, 1920.
Public speaking became his signature tool and he soon began to lecture in Munich beer halls. His speeches were emotional and aggravating, with topics such as Jews and the Treaty of Versailles. The police began to monitor his speeches.
In June of 1921, when Hitler was on a fundraising trip to Berlin, a mutiny broke out within the Nazi Party in Munich. Its members wanted to merge the party with the opposition (German Social Party). When he returned a month later, Hitler angrily handed in his resignation.
The committee members, realizing that the resignation of their most dynamic political figure would mean the end of the Party, tried to negotiate. Hitler announced that he would only rejoin under one condition: if he were to replace Drexler as Party Chairman. The condition was accepted and Hitler was (almost) unanimously granted absolute powers as Party Chairman in a Nazi Party general assembly session, with only one vote against him.
The beginning of the Depression in 1929 caused economic and political instability, laying the ground for Hitler’s rise to power. In 1930, he made a political alliance with Alfred Hugenberg against the Young Plan, which was a second negotiation of Germany’s war reparations. Through Hugenberg’s newspapers, he reached a nationwide audience. He was able to gain the support of multiple business tycoons and industrial giants who controlled political funding.
This placed his party on a stronger financial footing, allowing him to churn out continuous propaganda against the government. Well over one million pamphlets were printed and distributed, and sixty trucks were commandeered for use in Berlin alone. In the Federal Elections of September 1930, Hitler’s party had a decisive victory, obtaining 107 seats.
The Weimar political parties failed to stop the rise of the Nazi party. Violence broke out between the S.A. and the Rotfront. In 1931, Prussia finally re-enacted its ban on the Brownshirts and, finally, threatened Hitler with criminal deportation back to Austria.
Afraid, he renounced his Austrian citizenship and managed to acquire a German citizenship nearly seven years later. During the presidential election in 1933, Hitler won over 11 million votes. He lost to Paul von Hinderberg by a difference of only ten percent.
Three days after the election, the new German government banned the Nazi paramilitary wings. However, the attacks between both parties’ armed wings continued until tension reached a fever pitch when S.A. leader Schaffeld was assassinated.
Two years later the Nazi party was the largest party in the Reichstag and won the general elections. On January 30, 1933, when a new cabinet was sworn in, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany.
Four weeks after Hitler was sworn in, an arson attack on the Reichstag building took place. The Nazi party blamed communist agitators and used the fire as a pretext to claim that the communists were plotting against the German government.
When members of the Reichstag voted for the Enabling Act, Hitler was granted plenary powers. He could now act independently, without parliamentary consent and constitutional limitations.
He ruled by emergency decree for nearly four years, though Hindenberg remained President of the Nazi Party. It was only after Hindenberg’s death in 1934 that Hitler was fully able to achieve dictatorial powers. He combined the two positions of the President and Chancellor into one office via the 1934 German Referendum. All soldiers took the Hitler Oath on the day of Hindenburg’s death, swearing ‘unconditional obedience’ to the Fuhrer.