After World War One, Germany had undergone a very brutal and outrageous war which led to long-lasting consequences. The war triggered a period of serious economic and political instability which led to the discontent of the German population as many of them were being homeless, unemployed and hungry. The population was devastated by what was happening and needed a powerful leader who listened to their thoughts, views and opinions – someone who could stop the crisis and develop Germany into a powerful nation once again. In 1922, the infamous dictator Adolf Hitler, who led the NSDAP, engaged in electoral battles. His battle was a success as he managed to rise to power in 1933, becoming chancellor of Germany. Arguably, his rise to power was affected by many different factors which are essential to consider – these can be divided into the methods that Hitler used, and the conditions in which Germany was undergoing in this period of time. This essay has sought to explore Hitler’s strong leadership and his political skills, and the political, economic and social difficulties in Germany.
The German economic difficulties were important to Hitler’s rise to power as they enhanced the population’s desire to change to a strong leader that would lead them out of the crisis. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1919, was a major shock to the Germans. The terms included 6.6 billion pounds of reparations, which strangled the German economy and led to hyperinflation and the Ruhr Crisis, which indirectly led to huge consequences for the Nazi Party, negatively affecting the middle class in particular. The majority of the population was against signing the treaty, growing hatred among the people. The treaty was a military defeat and international humiliation for Germany – which led to a significant decrease in loyalty towards the government. The treaty had also deprived of Germany’s resources and wealth: it had lost 75% of its iron resources and the Belgian and French troops had occupied the Rhineland, which was the main source of industry for Germany.
Prices start at $12
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As a result of this and the reparations to pay, the German money system had broken down and had only reached 47% of pre-war production levels. Germany was relying on foreign loans, especially from America, known as the ‘Dawes Plan’, to help Germany recover from its financial losses. However, Germany’s reliability on foreign aid increased the widespread resentment of the public. In addition to this, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 left Germany in a worse state, with 6 million people unemployed 2 years later. The historian, Shirer, describes how Hitler used the emotional turmoil of the people and the memory of their devastation in his favour; going against the republic and democracy. This can be agreed on as the continual disappointment of the people from the republic, increased the population’s desire for a better and stronger leader.
Although Hitler exploited the political instabilities in the 1920s and 1930s with varying success, his unceasing conviction and offer of strong leadership had a long-lasting appeal to many Germans. The political weaknesses of the Weimar government gave Hitler the foundation to build up upon, as he was able to call on these and use them to his advantage. The Proportional representation system of the constitution leads to weak coalition governments, which undermines the liability of the Weimar republic. During the years of 1924-29, there was a great level of instability within the Constitution as there were six coalition governments, all of which could not agree on anything due to having different intentions. For the German people, this meant that their government was unstable, and therefore wanted a stronger party to lead their country, and for some, this meant the Nazis. In addition, right-wing and nationalists resented the Weimar republic for accepting the Treaty of Versailles – they also tried to overthrow the government.
The murdering of Rathenau in 1922, the man who signed the treaty, demonstrated how the German people felt about the situation; many felt as if they had been ‘stabbed in the back ‘. Hitler exploited this and used the ‘stab in the back myth’ in his election campaigns. Therefore, he gained support from the left and right-wing voters, and as a result, increasing the fame of the Nazi party. Hitler’s recognition of the psychology of the people played a significant role in the formation of promises and policies of the Nazi Party, and consequently to their rise to power. The people, in shock with the deterioration of their country, we’re in need of someone to blame. Hitler provided emotional relief for the people by blaming the Jews and communists for the ‘betrayal’, the defeat of Germany in the war and the suffering of the people; including the post-war turmoil of the provisional government and the Treaty of Versailles.
This could be argued that it makes the German people feel good about themselves by shifting the blame on other races. It also plants the dislike of communism and encourages the growth of unity and nationalist views that Hitler wanted for his fascist regime – Germany strong as a nation, with individualism discouraged. Hitler’s perception (crucial to his rise), of the wants of the Germans, was clearly displayed by his promises. He assured the stability that the German people long waited for, however, no real evidence was shown to discuss how Hitler was going to achieve this. He just simply deflected blame to others without making specific promises to enforce economical reform or better social structure – it did although meet the needs of the population.
Hitler’s individual strength of leadership and personality was pivotal to the Nazi Party’s appeal, recalling for many Germans a golden age of strong rule which had been missing since the Kaiser and offered hope for the future. Hitler was a brilliant speaker, a good organizer and a politician. He was a driven, unstable man, who believed he had been called by God to become dictator of Germany and rule the world. Most Germans might have given up on Germany’s future, on the other hand, Hitler’s determination, pride and self-belief, persuaded others to believe in him. An account of a thirty-two-year-old man supports this view: “His words were like scourge […] I forgot everything but the man, then, glancing around I saw that his magnetism was holding these thousand ones.” This is to show how the German population was drawn by Hitler’s charisma, remarkable willpower and tremendous energy.
Hitler’s use of propaganda, intimidation and political skills, vastly contributed to his rise to power. Propaganda strengthened the Nazi policies and promises and promoted the image that Hitler had designed for Germany. In 1920, the Nazi party managed to buy a local newspaper which they renamed “People’s Observer” and through this, they were able to spread their messages and policies about the party. Goebbels, minister of propaganda, also helped Hitler rise to power by his use of ‘saturation’ propaganda. The use of rallies, speeches, lectures and ‘airplane campaigns’ in certain areas was highly effective in raising the profile of the party. It also increased their votes in the elections, especially during the years between 1928-30, where the vote increased from 800,000 to 6.3 million. In addition to the increase in votes, their representation in the Reichstag increased from 12 seats in 1928 to 107 in 1930. Although in the end Hitler finally took power through the ailing democratic processes of the Weimar Republic, it should be remembered that it was the Nazis’ use of violence and intimidation which preceded his rise to power.
The creation of the SA and the SS was a way of intimidating opponents and the German public into voting for them. Many of the Socialist party fled Germany due to the violence caused by the SA members. Hitler also used the SA to intimidate the Church and attack the members of the Catholic Centre Party, and as a result of this, the Church of Germany agreed to give up all political activity by the end of July 1933. In addition to this, Hitler’s political skills also influenced his rise to power. During the elections, he was seen to be the only leader to go around Germany and give speeches to the public. Almost all the Nazi party campaign funds were spent on flying Hitler around Germany, however, this resulted in a successful increase in the Reichstag seats.
In November 1932, the party had 230 seats compared to some of its opposing parties such as the Communists with only 89. The individual methods that Hitler used, and the conditions that Germany was in at that period of time greatly influenced Hitler’s rise to power. The political and economic difficulties of Germany due to the Weimar Republic, and the defeat of WW1 created the foundations for Hitler’s rise. Although, the success of Hitler’s rise to power also has to consider the fact that the Nazi party’s ideology and aims were appealing to the German public. Hitler also effectively took advantage of the use of propaganda and also his own potential as an influential leader.