The political situation in Germany between the two world wars was unstable. Weakened economically after World War I, the country experienced difficulties and was forced to live under the threat of the communist camp. The world crisis of 1929 aggravated the situation and was one of the reasons for the political disorientation in the state. Germany needed a leader who could restore all the sectors of life in the country and centralize power. However, democratic principles of government proved to be ineffective, and the actions of Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi party coming to power in the early 1930s, became the impetus for ideological transformation. Socio-economic instability, tough ideology, and the active involvement of the media were the key drivers that allowed Hitler to convince people of the power that the Nazi idea carried.
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One of the key reasons for the rise to power of the Nazi party led by Adolf Hitler was the socio-political instability of Germany during the period after World War I. According to Satyanath et al., democratic forces were not ready to take responsibility for introducing reforms that could affect the situation in the country (507). The pressure from the communist camp was significant, and Germany needed to rebuild social areas that were weakened after the war. The fear of danger became the stimuli for the emergence of right-wing radical groups, and the National Democratic Party was formed as a cell designed to unite the country. In the early 1920s, Adolf Hitler became the leader of this party and reinforced the racist and anti-Semitic nature of its program. As Satyanath et al. state, according to the Nazis, Jews played a major role in the spread of defeatism during World War I (518). Hitler’s anti-Semitic policy was a set of legal actions aimed to expel Jews from society and deprive them of their rights and property. Therefore, the party made sure that its ideas were perceived as the key development course.
The ideas of the Nazi ideology were developed and formulated by the leader of the Nazi party, Adolf Hitler. As Steizinger argues, Hitler believed that the qualities, attitudes, abilities, and behavior of a person were determined by a particular racial type (144). In developing their racial ideology, Hitler and the Nazis turned to the ideas of social Darwinists of the late 19th century (Steizinger 144). They believed that each race had distinctive characteristics acquired at the genetic level. These inherited characteristics included not only the appearance and physical structure of the human body but also internal psychology, ways of thinking, creativity, organizational skills, and military prowess (Steizinger 141). The anti-Semitic nature of the Nazi party’s policy was one of the key factors that enabled Hitler to convince the Germans of their racial superiority. The narrowly focused ideas of domination over other peoples became the driver that gave impetus to the political advancement of the Nazi leader and his recognition by the country’s citizens. As a result, the mechanism for influencing the population, which involved rallying to achieve superiority, turned out to be successful and helped the Nazis gain political leadership.
Role of Mass Media
The rise of Hitler’s personality was largely due to the propaganda spread in the media of the 1920s-1930s. Adena et al. note that “the Nazis themselves strongly believed in media power” (1886). Hitler paid particular attention to this industry and engaged those interested in strengthening propaganda, one of whom was Joseph Goebbels. According to Selb and Munzert, the Nazis’ approach was to restrict access to different media channels and focus on specific resources that promoted the ideas of their ideology (11). Any dissent that contradicted Hitler’s right-wing ideas or threatened the regime itself was censored and destroyed. This method allowed the Nazis to win the trust of people and subjugate the citizens of Germany to their will. The freedom of speech, as an inalienable civil right, was eradicated, which, nevertheless, allowed Hitler to introduce the aspects of his ideology into various social institutions. Periodicals and radio broadcasts became the key means of interaction with the population, and, as Adena et al. argue, the main focus was on political news that replaced cultural and educational programs (1887). Thus, Hitler and his parties did their best to popularize the Nazi ideology successfully.
The rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1920s-1930s was the result of several factors. They included political and social instability in the country, the rigidity and unambiguousness of the ideology promoted, and the use of the media as a propaganda tool. The anti-Semitic program based on the domination of one race over others became the main course of the development of Germany. The economic weakness of the state led to the fact that Hitler’s ideas helped unite people. At the same time, the methods advocated by the Nazi leader did not imply democratic solutions and were concentrated on the tough program of dominance by one ruling party. Control over all social spheres centralized power in the hands of one person who was obsessed with the idea of world domination and was able to convince the people of Germany that he was right. This, in turn, led to the bloodiest war in human history.
Adena, Maja, et al. “Radio and the Rise of the Nazis in Prewar Germany.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. 130, no. 4, 2015, pp. 1885-1939.
Satyanath, Shanker, et al. “Bowling for Fascism: Social Capital and the Rise of the Nazi Party.” Journal of Political Economy, vol. 125, no. 2, 2017, pp. 478-526.
Selb, Peter, and Simon Munzert. “Examining a Most Likely Case for Strong Campaign Effects: Hitler’s Speeches and the Rise of the Nazi Party, 1927-1933.” American Political Science Review, vol. 112, no. 4, 2018, pp. 1050-1066.
Steizinger, Johannes. “The Significance of Dehumanization: Nazi Ideology and Its Psychological Consequences” Politics, Religion & Ideology, vol. 19, no. 2, 2018, pp. 139-157.