Hitlers Rise to Power Spark Notes

This essay has a total of 2946 words and 14 pages.

Hitlers Rise to Power

Ananth Pandian
Term Paper
Western Civ, 2

Hitler's Rise to Power


"Instead of working to achieve power by armed coup, we shall hold our noses and enter the
Reichstag against the opposition deputies. If outvoting them takes longer than out
shooting them, at least the results will be guaranteed by their own constitution. Sooner
or later we shall have a majority, and after that- Germany. (Heiden, 142)"


Adolf Hitler spoke these words in 1920, soon after becoming leader of the newly named
National Socialist German Workers' Party, commonly known as the Nazi Party. There are many
contributing factors, which lead to Hitler's gain in power over the next thirteen years.
The recent history of post-war Germany, and the events that would follow were of perfect
conditions for the rise of an extremist party such as the Nazis. World War One had left
Germany in defeat. Germany was put under immense pressure by the treaty of Versailles,
which contributed to the disastrous and politically unstable early twenties. Hitler was a
strong and manipulating character, with extraordinary leadership skills and his party was
very tactical. He was very much underestimated by opposing political parties. All of these
factors lead to Hitler and his Nazis' becoming the sole political party in the Reichstag
in 1933.


The German Empire was formed in 1871 and soon became one of Europe's most influential
countries. It dominated in industrial and military power, and the German people were proud
of their achievements. Up until the end of World War One, a Kaiser ruled Germany. From
1888 the Kaiser was Wilhelm II. He was very ambitious and militaristic and a threat to
other countries. The German people were very accustomed to success, and when Germany was
defeated in World War One, they were shocked and angry.


The Weimar Constitution was drawn up to help Germany bounce back. This constitution was
genuinely democratic but had some weaknesses. A president ruled with a chancellor and
proportional representation in the Reichstag. Proportional representation made the
Republic weak in that parties were very uncooperative. No party could get a majority, so
the government had to be run by coalitions. There could never be a strong government. The
president had too much power over the government and could turn himself into a dictator.
This was made possible by Article forty-eight in the constitution which stated that in an
emergency, the president could make laws without going first to the Reichstag.


The Social Democratic Party, or SPD, was the largest party in the Reichstag in the early
years of German democracy. It was the only party, which held strong support for the Weimar
Republic. Extremist groups like the German Communist Party, or KPD and the Nazi party
blamed a lot of the disasters that happened in the early stages of the republic on the
SPD. This was how the Nazi Party gained support from the German people. And there were
plenty of things to complain about.


The Versailles Treaty, drawn up by leaders of Allied parties after the first World War was
very hard on the Germans. They faced territorial losses; Allied countries took more than
thirteen percent of Germany. Also, allies occupied the most productive industrial
territory, the Rhineland. Overseas colonies were taken too. Germany was forced to pay
reparations for damage caused by the war. The term for peace that the Germans most
resented was article two hundred and thirty-one which blamed Germany for the war. The
German people were angry and bitter, looking for someone to blame.


The Nazis gave them the new government to blame. During this time there were attempted
uprisings from both the extreme left and right of the political spectrum. A society that
had been famous for their unity was now in conflict. The year 1923 brought with it
significant disasters. French and Belgian troops invaded the Ruhr, Germany's most
important industrial region. The Germans responded with a policy of passive resistance.
They refused to have anything to do with the French, especially work. This was a major
economical problem for Germany. They were already broke, with reparations to pay, and now
they had lost some of their most important income. The German government did not have
enough money to pay for the cost of the resistance in the Ruhr, so they printed more. They
did not have the money to do this, so their currency inflated.


By November of 1923, the Deutschemark had inflated to one hundred and thirty thousand
million marks to one American dollar, compared with just four hundred marks to an American
dollar in 1922. These huge economic problems, along with humiliation of the Versailles
treaty and war defeat brought much political conflict. In September 1923, when Chancellor
Stresemann called off passive resistance in the Ruhr, many people felt he was giving in to
France. To those who hated the republic and particularly right-wing extremist groups felt
that Stresemann's decision was a betrayal. This was when Hitler took action.


Hitler gained numerous followers throughout the hard times- his party had grown to more
than thirty-five thousand members. He said what the people wanted to hear; that he wanted
to tear up the Versailles treaty and get Germany back to the way it was before the war.
Hitler and his private army of three thousand, called the Sturmabteilung or SA, attempted
to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria. This was a failure as the national army
and police easily crushed them. However, this revolt launched the Nazis onto the national
scene.


Hitler was put on trial, and used his time in the spotlight to provoke public interest in
his party's policies. Hitler was convicted and sent to prison on a sentence for five
years. He served his sentence for less than nine months. After the revolt at Munich, the
Nazi party was banned. However, while Hitler was still in prison, it entered the Reichstag
elections for the first time, under another name. The afterglow of the trial showed
through, and the Nazis won 32 seats in the May election. Seven months later there was
another election, and the Nazis' seats were reduced to just fourteen. This shows that
Hitler had a huge impact on his party's success.

The Nazis thrived on hard times in Germany; they had policies that pleased the
conservative Germans, who made up the majority of Germany at this time. They used
disasters in the early twenties to better themselves. They gave the Germans someone to
blame and Hitler was outstanding in the spotlight.


During his stay in prison Hitler was always thinking of how to get more power. He was
determined not to repeat the mistakes of 1923; so using force was out of the question. He
would try to win power through contesting elections. The Nazi gained a reputation for
being thugs through their intimidation of other parties. They were still not the most
influential party of Bavaria, Germany, but they were the most violent. The Nazis worked
steadily through the late twenties. They kept rather quiet. The reason for this was that
the NSDAP relied on instability and disaster for its support. They needed to give the
people of Germany someone to blame for the problems, and express their readiness to fix
it.


The period 1924-29 is known among historians as the "golden years (Heiden, 242)" of the
Republic. Things were going quite well. This was on a large scale due to foreign minister
and ex-chancellor Stresemann. He introduced a new foreign policy, which involved treaties
with the allied countries and entry into the League of Nations as well as a review of the
treaty of Versailles. He brought in a new stable currency called the Rentenmark and he
introduced the Dawes Plan to Germany- huge money loans from America that would help
Germany in regaining its economic stability and paying off reparations. This was a period
of relative-stability. Hitler ran many public meetings and tried harder to win the support
of all classes. He took evening classes in public speaking skills. He learned to focus his
issues on those that people thought were most important, and developed an outstanding
system of propaganda.


In October 1929 the Wall Street crash was the beginning of the Great Depression. The
effects of the depression were felt all over the world, but Germany was hit particularly
badly. Germany was relying on the Dawes plan for stabilizing their economy and rebuilding
their industries. When the depression came, America was forced to recall the loans.
Businesses had to close, German exports slumped and millions of people lost their jobs.
Unemployment rose. The government cut unemployment benefits to save money. This was a time
of extreme poverty. The depression weakened the Weimar Government.


The Weimar Government seemed to have no idea what to do about the problems of rising
unemployment and poverty. They did try to get Germany out of the depression, but with
little success. One way to get out of the depression was to print more money and increase
government expenditure, but the leaders of the Weimar were scared of a relapse of the 1923
inflation. So instead the Chancellor raised taxes, cut wages and reduced unemployment
benefit. This made the Germans very angry. These economic policies also caused the
collapse of the government. The SPD withdrew from the coalition and the Chancellor fell
back on article forty-eight of the Weimar Constitution. Hindenburg, an eighty-four year
old war hero, now ruled Germany. He was very conservative and was well past his prime. To
many Germans it seemed that the Weimar government had made terrible choices in the
handling of the situation. People became more involved in politics as they felt something
had to change. Extremist uprisings from right and left came about.


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