Adolf Hitler's Rise to Power

Though Austrian born, Hitler had served in the German army from 1914 to 1918, endured many difficulties in the war of the trenches, lost many comrades, was injured several times (including nerve gas injuries) and gained military experience and was decorated for bravery. He was stunned by the surrender of Germany who had won (with her allies) the Eastern Front against Russia and held a large portion of enemy terrain in 1918. He considered it treason by those in the “Home Front”, mainly the Bolsheviks and the Jews. He only gained German citizenship in 1932 but he considered himself one and dreamed of a Great Germany.

In 1919, Hitler, still in the Army as a police spy, joined the DAP (the Germans Workers Party) who’s founder appealed to a anti-Semitic, anti-Capitalist, anti-Marxist and nationalistic arguments for the German crisis.

The party, latter called the Nationalist and Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) became more active and adopted the swastika as a symbol. Hitler rose mostly because of his public speaking skills and became Fuhrer of the NSDAP. His speeches attracted many followers, including Rudolph Hess, Hermann Goering and Ernst Rohm, a former army captain that would form the infamous SA (Sturmabteilung or Storm Division) which protected the party meetings and harassed political opponents. Some things were copied from Mussolini’s fascist party such as uniforms and policies.

In 1923, as the support grew, the NSDAP attempt to cease the Bavarian government and march over Berlin as a way to take power. In the Beer Hall Putsch the NSDAP failed completely. Hitler was arrested but also gained national projection. In his trial he managed to turn tables, putting the Weimar Republic and the democracy as the traitors to Germany. Nevertheless he was convicted to 5 years in prison.

He spent this time writing “Mein Kampf”, the book were he explains his political views and the project for a Greater Germany. Though controversial and somehow unclear, this autobiography and description of his political ideology gave a big picture on what he thought, in 1924, should be the road for Germany.

One year later the NSDAP, banned from its hometown Munich, managed to elect representatives in the Reichstag and Hitler was released with the promise never to raise arms against government. He reorganized the party but as economic and political crisis eased and the NSDAP was unable to gain more than a small support in the following years.

In the general election of 1928 the NSDAP had 2,8% of the national votes (12 seats). The violence between the SA and other paramilitary groups (mainly the Rotfront from the German Communist Party) increased in scale and the number of victims jumped. As a consequence, the NSDAP became a target to regional and national government control.

This gave more visibility to the movement and more funds were given for the political movement. In September 1930, with the effects of the Great Depression already being felt in Germany, the NSDAP gained 107 seats in the Reichstag, becoming the second political force. As Chancellor’s Heinrich Brunning measures were unable to cope with the effects of economic crisis, Hitler makes a more broad speech appealing to farmers, war veterans and middle class.

This gave him more national projection and, after acquiring German citizenship, Hitler decided to run for President against Field Marshal Hindenburg in the 1932 election. Although coming in second, with 35% of the votes against 53% of the 84 years old Hindenburg, Hitler was now unavoidable in German politics. The winner imposed a weak Chancellor, Franz von Papen, who had no support in the parliament.

With two more general elections in 1932 that confirmed the representation of the NSDAP and getting the support of leading German businessmen (along with some military leaders), Hitler was appointed by Hindenburg as Chancellor in January 30, 1933.

General elections were again scheduled to take place in March. But in February, the Reichstag was set on fire, presumably by the communists. This was used by the Nazis to summarily approve the Reichstag Fire Decree that suspended basic rights. Shortly after the German Communist Party was suppressed and the leaders and officials persecuted.

NSDAP gained 43, 9 % of the votes on the March 6 election. Not enough to get a majority to form government, the Nazi party presented the Enabling Act. With the support of the Centre Party, third largest political force, Hitler’s government was transformed into a legal dictatorship. The remaining political organizations were banned until the Nazi party became the only legal one. Trade and Labor Unions were merged with employers in a Nazi controlled organization. Finally the autonomy of states and regions was abolished.

After using the SA to do his “dirty work” in the rise to power, Hitler was aware that this armed branch of the Nazi party was a menace to the reached balance between him, the military and the economic groups. So, in the Night of the Long Knives, the SA structure and leadership was eliminated.

Finally, when President Paul von Hindenburg died in August of 1934, Hitler did not scheduled an election and became himself Fuhrer of Germany, thus ending the rise to power that was his long lasting objective since the early 1920’s.


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