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Adolf Hitler rose to power as the chancellor of Germany in 1933 through a legal election and formed a coalition government of the NSDAO-DNVP Party. Many issues in Hitler’s life and manipulations behind the curtains preceded this event.
Hitler and the Nazi party rose to power propelled by various factors that were in play in Germany since the end of World War I. The weak Weimar Republic and Hitler’s anti-Semitism campaigns and obsession were some of the factors that favored Hitler’s rise to power and generally the Nazi beliefs (Bloxham and Kushner 2005: 54).
Every public endorsement that Hitler received was an approval for his hidden Nazi ideals of dictatorship and Semitism regardless of whether the Germans were aware or not.
Hitler’s pathway to power was rather long and coupled with challenges but he was not ready to let go; he held on to accomplish his deeply rooted obsessions and beliefs; actually, vote for Hitler was a vote for the Holocaust.
Hitler joined the German Worker’s Party in the year 1919 as its fifth member. His oratory talent and anti-Semitism values quickly popularized him and by 1920, he was already the head of propaganda.
The party later changed its name to Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartel (NSDPA) and formed paramilitary groups in the name of security men or gymnastics and sports division.
It was this paramilitary formed by Hitler that would cause unrest later to tarnish the name of the communists leading to distrust of communism by the Germans and on the other hand rise of popularity of the Nazi (Burleigh 1997: 78).
A turning point of Hitler took place when he led the Beer Hall Putsch, in a failed coup de tat and the government later imprisoned him on accusations of treason. The resulting trial earned him a lot of publicity, he used the occasion to attack the Weimar republic, and later while in prison, he rethought his approach to get into power.
The Weimar Republic
The military defeat and German revolution in November 1918 after the First World War saw the formation of Weimar republic.The military government handed over power to the civilian government and later on revolutions in form of mutinies, violent uprisings and declaration of independence occurred until early 1919.
Then there was formation of constituent assembly and promulgated of new constitution, which included the infamous article 48. None of the many political parties could gain a majority vote to form government and therefore many small parties formed a coalition government.
What followed were a short period of political stability mainly because of the coalition government in place and the later the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in June 1919. Many factors caused the rise of the Nazi party to power.
The most notable factor was his ability to take advantage of Germany’s poor leadership, economical and political instability.
The Weimar’s Republic collapse under pressure due to hyperinflation and civil unrest was the result of Hitler’s ability to manipulate the German media and public while at the same time taking advantage of the country’s poor leadership (Schleunes 1990: 295).
The period between 1921 and 1922, Germany was struggling with economic instability due to high inflation and hyperinflation rates prior to the absolute collapse of the German currency. The German mark became almost useless resulting into instability-fuelled unrest in many sectors of the economy. To counter the effects, the government printed huge amounts of paper money.
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Germany had to sign the unforgiving treaty of Versailles, which the Weimar Republic was responsible for and was later to become the ‘noose around Germany’s neck’, a situation that caused “feelings of distrust, fear, resentment, and insecurity towards the Weimar Republic” (Bartov 2000: 54).
Hitler built on these volatile emotions and offered the option of a secure and promising leadership of the extremist Nazi party as opposed to the weak and unstable coalition government of the Weimar republic. Dippel notes, “Hitler’s ability to build upon people’s disappointed view of the hatred of the treaty of Versailles was one of the major reason for the Nazi party’s and Hitler’s rise to power” (1996: 220).
The Treaty of Versailles introduced the German population to a period of economic insatiability and caused an escalation of hard economic standards. The opportunistic appearance of an extremist group that promised better options than the prevailing situation presented a temptation to the vulnerable Germans to accept it (Dippel 1996: 219).
During the period of hyperinflation, unemployment rose sharply and children were largely malnourished. The value of people’s savings spiraled downwards leading to low living standards and reduction in people buying power.
People became desperate and started a frantic search for a better alternative to the Weimar Government. Germany in a state of disillusionment became a prey to the convincing promises of Hitler. Hitler promised full employment and security in form of a strong central government.
The Weimar republic also faced political challenges from both left-wingers and right-wingers. The communists wanted radical changes like those one implemented in Russia while the conservatives thought that the Weimar government was too weak and liberal.
The Germans longed for a leader with the leadership qualities of Bismark especially with the disillusionment of the Weimar republic. They blamed the government for the hated Versailles treaty and they all came out to look for a scapegoat to their overwhelming challenges (Thalmann and Feinermann 1990: 133).
In their bid to look for scapegoats, many Germans led by Hitler and Nazi party blamed the German Jews for their economic and political problems.
Hitler made a failed attempt to seize power through a coup de tat that led to his arrest and imprisonment. In prison, he wrote a book that was later to become the guide to Nazism known as Mein Kampf (My Struggle).
The book reflected Hitler’s obsessions to nationalism, racism, and anti-Semitism and he insisted that Germans belonged to a superior race of Aryans meaning light-skinned Europeans. According to Hitler, the greatest enemies of the Aryans were the Jews and therefore the Germans should eliminate them at all costs since they were the genesis of all their misfortunes.
These views on Semitism could trace its genesis in history from which it Historians suspect that Hitler’s ideas were rooted. In this view, Christians persecuted Jews mainly because of their difference in beliefs.
Nationalism in the 19th century caused the society to view Jews as ethnic outsiders while Hitler viewed Jews not as members of a religion but as a unique race (Longerich 2006: 105). Consequently, he blamed the German’s defeat on a conspiracy of Marxists, Jews, corruption of politicians and businesspersons.
Hitler urged the Germans on the need to unite into a great nation so that the slaves and other inferior races could bow to their needs (Bergen 2003: 30). He further advocated for removal and elimination of the Jews from the face of the earth to create enough space for ‘great nation’.
He spread propaganda that for Germany to unite into one great nation it required a strong leader one he believed to be destined to become.
These Semitism views contributed to the sudden change of fortunes for the Nazi party and Hitler because the conditions were appropriate. The Germans were desperate for some hope in the midst of frustrating times due to the failure of the Weimar republic and rising communism (Stone 2004: 17).
They involuntarily yielded to the more appealing Nazism values especially with the promises of destroying communism and improved living standards.
However, in accepting the Nazi party and Hitler, the Germans were giving in to Semitism, which was deeply rooted in the core values of Nazism, and Hitler had clearly outlined them in the Mein Kampf, which laid out his ideas and future policies.
Hitler’s well timed and precise way of “introducing the secure option of Nazism at an appropriate time and taking advantage of a disjointed Weimar republic that faced unprecedented challenges” (Cohn-Sherbok 1999: 12) was one of the many reasons that underscored Hitler’s fame.
He promised a strong and united German nation very timely when the German nation had suffered a dent to their pride and union due to the defeat in the First World War. Hitler’s promise of a strong and powerful nation began to look very appealing causing a large proportion of Germans, who were in disillusionment, to divert their support the Nazi Party (Gordon 1987: 67).
Hitler’s opportunistic approach and perfectly timed cunning speeches as well as his manipulation of certain circumstance were significant reasons for the rise of Nazism and Hitler in Germany.
During the Great depression and release from prison, Hitler introduced large-scale propaganda and at the same time manipulated the media with his ideas. This led to the Nazi supporter’s increase of detests against their opposition and many Germans believed in the cunning lies of Hitler (Kaplan 1999: 45).
He managed to spread lies against the communist society and a case in point is when a communist supporter set the Reichstag building ablaze in one of the civil unrests in Germany, supposedly.
This event caused the communism society to loose popularity and allowed Hitler to activate the enabling act when he came to power. The act marked a turning point in the success of Hitler’s dictatorship and Historians accredit it as the foundation of the Nazi rule.
The communists later realized that the Nazis were responsible for the act at Reichstag building and the act meant to provoke hatred between the communists and Nazi supporters.
Hitler had a very charming personality that made him very easy to get along with people. His likable character and oratory skills enabled him to put forward the strong sense of authority that the Weimar Republic lacked.
This, in combination with other factors, made him very appealing to the desperate Germans, making them believe in the Nazi ideals like Semitism and supporting the Nazi party while concurrently fueling hatred of the ruling Weimar Republic.
Hitler’s ability to manipulate circumstances and situation in the favor of himself and his Nazi Party was reason for their success to rise to power. Hitler waited patiently to take hold of the realms of power before unleashing his full force of dictatorship and hatred for the Jews, which led to the holocaust. It is therefore just to state that every Hitler’s vote was a vote for the holocaust.
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Bergen, D. L., War & Genocide: a concise history of the Holocaust, 2nd ed., Rowman & Littlefield, 2003.
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Burleigh, M., Ethics and Extermination. Reflections on Nazi Genocide, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997.
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