Elliot Fernandez

The Nazi Rise to Power

The rise to power of Adolf Hitler in Germany in 1933 opened a new era dominated in Europe by totalitarian political regimes.
Elliot Fernandez
Elliot Fernandez
He has a degree in History from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (2009) and a Master's in World History from Pompeu Fabra University (2011).
Post on 2022-11-29 | Updated on 2022-12-05

30th January 1933, the Nazi rise to power thanks to the collapse of the Weimar democracy. Adolf Hitler, leader of the National Socialist Party, became the new Chancellor of Germany.

The economic crisis of 1931 and the collapse of the Weimar Republic

In 1931 there were 6 million unemployed people in Weimar Republic Germany, which represented 30% of the industrial workforce. The consequences of the economic crisis of 1929 which originated in the United States had reached Germany with force. The crisis of 1929 ended the first democratic republic of Germany.

People line up outside the Postscheckamt in Berlin to withdraw their deposits in July 1931. The European banking crisis of 1931 contributed directly to the breakdown of democracy in Germany.
People line up outside the Postscheckamt in Berlin to withdraw their deposits in July 1931. The European banking crisis of 1931 contributed directly to the breakdown of democracy in Germany. Source: Spiegel.de

The crisis highlighted the evils of the German Republic:

Industrial production in Germany, 1930-34 (Source: World Economic Forum)
Industrial production in Germany, 1930-34 (Source: World Economic Forum)
Note: The shaded area indicates the period of the banking crisis of 1931, from the beginning of the problems at the Austrian Creditanstalt to the merger between Danatbank and Dresdner Bank. Blue vertical lines show: (A) the initial problems at Austrian Creditanstalt (May 1931), (B) Nordwolle's accounting irregularities uncovered and the Hoover moratorium established (June 1931), (C) the failure of Danatbank and the following holidays (July 1931), and (D) forced merger of Danatbank and Dresdner Bank.

The government of the social democrat Hermann Müller reacted like MacDonald's English government, thinking that it was a conjectural crisis and that the market itself would overcome it. According to Müller what had to be done was to let the economic system recover by itself. Position of positivity.

Internal government crisis

 A decision had to be made whether to cut funds to pay unemployment benefits to the unemployed or increase spending on rearmament. Confrontation between Müller and his partners. The crisis ended with the dissolution of the Reichstag and the calling of elections.

Herman Muller
Herman Müller, German chancellor of the SPD between 28 June 1928 and 27 March 1930.

Federal elections of 1930

In the federal elections of 1930 the Socialist Party, despite being the first party, lost 10 deputies. The real earthquake was the result of the National Socialist Party, which obtained 107 deputies and was placed as the 2nd party in the chamber. Goals of the Nazi Party:

Against this proposal of Hitler, Gregor Strasser (prominent member of the party, killed in 1934 during the Night of the Long Knives) proposed to maintain National Socialism as an insurrectionary movement with the struggle in the streets, radicalizing the anti-capitalist speech of the small owner. He did not want a hierarchical party with a single leader but to maintain the National Socialist Party with different leaders.

The battle for party leadership was won by Hitler. In 1929 Hitler did not campaign during the economic crisis, but instead told how to face it and proposed an interventionist solution. He took into account the experience of the rise of Mussolini and came into contact with sectors of big industry: Fritz Thyssen and Hjalmar Schacht, they acted as a bridge between Hitler and the bank. Thyssen also convinced the Association of German Industrialists to donate 3 million Reichsmarks to the Nazi Party.

Hitler made a great leap forward at the expense of the former voters of the DVP (People's Party), the classic right. In the elections of 1930, the extreme right advanced and the Socialist Party retreated.

The New Government, headed by Chancellor Heinrich Brüning, continued with Müller's economic policy: deflationary policy. Consequences: 30% unemployment, war in the streets, political crisis, derivation to the right of the Zentrum. Brüning resigned, the Chambers were dissolved, and new elections were called for June 1932.

Federal elections June 1932

The electoral results of the June 1932 elections were as follows:

Nazism, session of the Reichstag
Reichstag session of 12 September 1932: In his place, Reichschancellor Papen, who wants to announce the dissolution of the Reichstag, standing in the upper right corner, the president of the Reichstag, Hermann Göring, turns his head (blurred by movement) in the other direction.

The National Socialist Party doubled the number of seats and became the first party in the Reichtag. Hermann Göring assumed the presidency of the Parliament. The Zentrum party turned even further to the right. The new chancellor was Franz von Papen. His government did not have a solid parliamentary majority, because Hitler refused to participate in any government where he was not president.

This government was forced to call new elections. The National Socialist Party continued as the first party. The Socialist Party again lost 10 deputies. Advancement of the Communist Party.

The November 1932 election resulted in an undefined situation. Split between socialists and centrists. The DVP, the Zentrum and the National-Popular no longer had a majority. The last chancellor of the Weimar Republic before Hitler was Kurt von Schleicher.

1932 Presidential elections

In 1932, elections were also held to elect a new president of the Republic. The Center party and the SPD supported the candidacy of Paul von Hindenburg (president since 1925). The National Socialist party presented its leader, Adolf Hitler. The third candidate was from the Communist party, Ernst Thälmann. The results of the second round were:

Marshal Hindenburg consolidated the nationalist vote. He maintained a nationalist policy and agreed to govern Germany through Article 48 of the Constitution for emergency situations. (art. 48) Hindenburg despised Hitler.

Solution accepted by Hindenburg: government headed by the independent Kurt von Schleicher, before the failure of politics to form a coalition. Some wanted, in the face of the social emergency, a social-military government presided over by an Independence council, supported by the unions and Von Papen. It did not prosper.

Schleicher submitted his resignation on January 28, 1933. A new political crisis was opening. Solution:

January 1933: Adolf Hitler and Nazi party rise in power

The first thing that Hitler did once he reached the Chancellery was to call new elections for March 1933 in which the control of the electoral process and the campaign was in the hands of the new police, the Sturmabteilung (SA).

Parade of the SA on the evening of 30 January 1933 in front of the Reich Chancellor's Palace in Wilhelmstrasse.
Parade of the SA on the evening of 30 January 1933 in front of the Reich Chancellor's Palace in Wilhelmstrasse.

Dark incident: On February 27, the Reichstag was set on fire and a suspect who had been a member of the Dutch Communist Party was arrested. Hitler turned the election campaign into a plebiscite against the communists who allegedly set fire to the Reichstag. In the elections Hitler obtained 54% of the electorate. The socialists hold and the communists fall back. Strengthening of National Socialism.

Federal elections March 1933

Elections of March 1933 (the climate of repression against the Social Democratic Party means that they cannot be considered as free elections):

Hitler asked for full powers for four years. All the parties were in favour except the socialists and the communists. The road to dictatorship, one-party regime, police control, hierarchy, racial politics was beginning. Liquidation of political plurality. The Communist Party is banned. Trial of Dimitrov, delegate of the Socialist International in Germany.

Hitler managed to integrate the National People's Party, the State Party and the People's Party of Bavaria into the National Socialist Party. He did not get the Zentrum to do the same. Von Papen integrated into National Socialism.

Chancellor Hitler agreed with Pope Pius XII's nuncio to dissolve the Zentrum party in exchange for a Concordat between the German government and the Vatican that defended the civil rights of Catholics.

The regime of terror implemented by Hitler forced to liquidate the opposition. First, concentration camps were made to shut down the communists. The concentration camps were made because the prison system was overwhelmed. The prisoners had two options:

At the beginning of 1934 no political opposition formally existed to Hitler. Problem: internal dissolution. Strasser and Röhm reprimanded Hitler that he had moderated his policy through the pact with the industries and the military. They aspired to the dissolution of the army and its replacement by national socialist militias. Internal movement, second socialist revolution.

Between June 30 and July 2, 1934, Hitler with the support of the SS, led by Himmer, arrested Römh and executed him (Night of the Long Knives). They also settled scores with Kurt von Schleicher.

Full political consolidation of Hitler. He had liquidated the internal opposition, although he lacked one thing: the Weimar Republic still existed institutionally and Hindenburg was president with the support of the army. Hitler waited and in August 1934 Hindenburg died.

The death of Hindenburg paved the way for Hitler to become president of the Republic, as well as chancellor. It was submitted to a referendum, with the result of 88% in favour of yes.

With this result, Hitler became the Head of State, Government and Army. The Fuehrer The Weimar Republic disappeared, and the Third Reich was established.