Hitler comes to power



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HITLER COMES TO POWER

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In the early 1930s, the mood in Germany was grim. The worldwide economic depression had hit the country especially hard, and millions of people were out of work. Still fresh in the minds of many was Germany's humiliating defeat fifteen years earlier during World War I, and Germans lacked confidence in their weak government, known as the Weimar Republic. These conditions provided the chance for the rise of a new leader, Adolf Hitler, and his party, the National Socialist German Workers' Party, or Nazi party for short.

Hitler was a powerful and spellbinding speaker who attracted a wide following of Germans desperate for change. He promised the disenchanted a better life and a new and glorious Germany. The Nazis appealed especially to the unemployed, young people, and members of the lower middle class (small store owners, office employees, craftsmen, and farmers).

The party's rise to power was rapid. Before the economic depression struck, the Nazis were practically unknown, winning only 3 percent of the vote to the Reichstag (German parliament) in elections in 1924. In the 1932 elections, the Nazis won 33 percent of the votes, more than any other party. In January 1933 Hitler was appointed chancellor, the head of the German government, and many Germans believed that they had found a savior for their nation



KEY DATES

JUNE 28, 1919
TREATY OF VERSAILLES ENDS WORLD WAR I

In the Treaty of Versailles, which followed German defeat in World War I, the victorious powers (the United States, Great Britain, France, and other allied states) impose severe terms on Germany. Germany, under threat of invasion, is forced to sign the treaty. Among other provisions, Germany accepts responsibility for the war and agrees to make huge payments (known as reparations), limit its military to 100,000 troops, and transfer territory to its neighbors. The terms of the treaty lead to widespread political discontent in Germany. Adolf Hitler gains support by promising to overturn them.

OCTOBER 24, 1929
STOCK MARKET CRASH IN NEW YORK

The plummet in the value of stocks that is associated with the New York stock market crash brings a rash of business bankruptcies. Widespread unemployment occurs in the United States. The "Great Depression," as it is called, sparks a worldwide economic crisis. In Germany, six million are unemployed by June 1932. Economic distress contributes to a meteoric rise in the support for the Nazi party. As a result, the Nazi party wins the votes of almost 40 of the electorate in the Reichstag (German parliament) elections of July 1932. The Nazi party becomes at this point the largest party in the German parliament.

NOVEMBER 6, 1932
NAZIS LOSE SUPPORT IN PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS

In the Reichstag (German parliament) elections of November 1932, the Nazis lose almost two million votes from the previous elections of July. They win only 33 percent of the vote. It seems clear that the Nazis will not gain a majority in democratic elections, and Adolf Hitler agrees to a coalition with conservatives. After months of negotiations, the president of Germany, Paul von Hindenburg, will appoint Hitler chancellor of Germany in a government seemingly dominated by conservatives on January 30, 1933.


NAZI RULE

Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, bringing an end to German democracy. Guided by racist and authoritarian ideas, the Nazis abolished basic freedoms and sought to create a "Volk" community. In theory, a "Volk" community united all social classes and regions of Germany behind Hitler. In reality, the Third Reich quickly became a police state, where individuals were subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment.

In the first months of his chancellorship, Hitler began a concerted policy of "synchronization," forcing organizations, political parties, and state governments into line with Nazi goals and placing them under Nazi leadership. Culture, the economy, education, and law came under greater Nazi control. Trade unions were abolished and workers, employees, and employers were forced into Nazi organizations. By mid-July 1933, the Nazi party was the only political party permitted in Germany. The Reichstag (German parliament) became a rubber stamp for Hitler's dictatorship. The Fuehrer's will became the foundation for government policy.

The appointment of Nazi party members to government positions increased Hitler's authority over state officials. According to the Nazi party's leadership principle, authority flowed down from above and absolute obedience towards one's superior was expected at each level of the Nazi hierarchy. Hitler was master of the Third Reich.



KEY DATES

FEBRUARY 27, 1933 - REICHSTAG (GERMAN PARLIAMENT) BUILDING DESTROYED BY FIRE 
After claiming that the Communists committed an arson that destroyed the Reichstag (German parliament) building in Berlin, Adolf Hitler uses the incident to assume extraordinary powers in Germany. Hitler convinces the German president, Paul von Hindenburg, to declare a state of emergency. Constitutionally protected personal freedoms are thus suspended.

MARCH 5, 1933 - NAZIS FAIL TO WIN MAJORITY IN REICHSTAG (GERMAN PARLIAMENT) ELECTIONS 
Despite the state of emergency declared in February 1933 and the extraordinary powers assumed by Adolf Hitler, the Nazis fail to win a governing majority in parliamentary elections. The Nazis win only about 45 percent of the vote. Later in March 1933, Hitler introduces a bill that would give his government the power to decree laws without submitting them to a vote in the German parliament. The bill will pass, in part because of the arrest of many Communist and Socialist opponents before the vote on the bill.

MARCH 23, 1933 - THE REICHSTAG (GERMAN PARLIAMENT) VOTES LEGISLATIVE POWER TO HITLER 
After the failure of the Nazi party to win a majority in parliament, Adolf Hitler introduces a bill that would give his government legislative authority. The Nazis, the Conservatives, and the Catholic Center Party support this so-called "Enabling Act," which would grant Hitler's government the power to decree laws without a vote in parliament for a four-year period. Communist and many Socialist opponents were arrested before the vote. In the end, only the remaining Socialists oppose the measure. The bill passes. Hitler soon outlaws all political parties in Germany--except the Nazi party.

JUNE 30, 1934 - NIGHT OF THE LONG KNIVES 
A purge of the Storm Trooper (SA) leadership and other supposed opponents of Adolf Hitler's regime takes place. This purge comes to be known as the "Night of the Long Knives." More than 80 SA leaders are arrested and shot without trial. Hitler claims that the purge is a response to a plot by the SA to overthrow the government. The SA, under the leadership of Ernst Roehm, had sought to take the place of the German army. The removal of Roehm wins Hitler greater support from the army.

AUGUST 2, 1934 - PRESIDENT VON HINDENBURG DIES AT THE AGE OF 87 
German president Paul von Hindenburg dies at the age of 87. Upon Hindenburg's death, Adolf Hitler takes over the powers of the presidency. The army swears an oath of personal loyalty to Hitler. Hitler's dictatorship thus rests on his position as Reich President (head of state), Reich Chancellor (head of government), and Fuehrer (leader of the Nazi party). Hitler's official title is now "Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor."

Citation:



"Hitler Comes to Power." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial

Council, n.d. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.


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