Hitler’s Rise to Power: Personal or Political
To what extent was Hitler’s rise to power due to personal appeal and ability? Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, at a time when the Weimar Republic was crumbling in on its self. The Republic was collapsing as a result of the economic conditions that were forced upon Germany by the Great Depression , beginning in 1929, and the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles, as a result of Germany’s involvement in the First World War. Combined these two factors had the result of delivering a crippling blow to Germany’s economy which had relied so much on its industry for its wealth and power.
The German people, in this predicament had little hope of a better future, until the rise of Adolf Hitler who led the Nazi party to power in the new Third Reich. Hitler was, through his tremendous ability and appeal able to rouse the people of Germany to get behind what he stood for, as far as taking Germany to war. Hitler was born into a complicated, working class family in the Austrian village of Braunau am Inn, just across the border from the German state of Bavaria.
His family relocated several times to find work. It is in these early beginnings that a young Hitler would learn the plight and struggles of the common worker. At the outbreak of WWI in 1914, Hitler enlisted to fight for the German Forces (not his native Austrian military). During conflict in the war, Hitler was seriously injured by a mustard attack, receiving two iron crosses, the other being for his bravery during the heat of battle. This was where he gained his understanding of German nationalism and and pride.
The defeat of Germany in 1918, was taken bitterly “There followed terrible days and even worse nights – I knew that all was lost… in these nights hatred grew in me, hatred for those responsible for this deed”1 . His understanding of the average Germans peoples plight, coupled with his enthusiasm for nationalism prompted him to join the NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers Party) in 1912, where no less then two years later, in 1921, Hitler had risen to lead the NSDAP.
Whilst in his position as Chairman of the NSDAP he was able to imbed his anti-semite ideology as a firm pillar of the groups core values. As the NSDAPs membership grew so did its power and clout. Hitlers arrival as Chairman of the NSDAP allowed it to become an actual political party rather than just a discussion group, so much so that the name was changed to the Nazi Party and it entered into elections for seats in the Reichstag in the 1924 elections. Whilst Hitler was able to relate to other Germans very well through common deology and adversity, his own personal appeal by the German people also led to him being elected firstly to Chancellor, to where he became Fuhrer. Hitler was able to reach all parts of society, from the young right through to the old, and equally to males as well as to females. People stood in awe at Hitler, especially the young. He targeted the young because they were more naive, and thus more easily persuaded and could be indoctrinated with his anti-Semitic rhetoric without asking questions.
Hitler went to great lengths to target the young because he believed “He alone, who own the youth, gains the future”†. Hitler’s overall ability to get his audience was overpowering, this could be because he absolutely meant and trusted what he was saying was right, this spilled over to the crowd through the words that he used (which he altered depending on his target audience) which carried the weight of his meaning. Hitler’s charisma, and 1 † Quote taken from “Mein Kampf” (1925), Adolf Hitler – On the loss of Germany in WWI
Quotes from Adolf Hitler (unknown dates), accessed from: http://brainyquote. com/quotes. authors/a/ adolf_hitler. html his ability to reach out to every single German also made him almost god-like where he demanded complete devotion and obedience to him and his agenda, and where the German people, whether out of admiration or fear of punishment, gave to Hitler entirely. Hitler’s rise to power cannot only be attributed to his own doings and workings, but also the work of the powerful upper echelon within the NSDAP and Nazi parties, who Hitler surrounded himself with.
This upper echelon mainly consisted of the likes of Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, Adolf Eichmann, however most importantly, image wise, Hitler relied on most for his consul and work was Joseph Goebbels, who held the position of Minister for Propaganda and Enlightenment. It was Goebbels who played the most important part in the creation of Hitler’s own image, designed to hold the German people in reverence of their much esteemed leader.
Hitler said on propaganda “ By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise. ”† and although Hitler was saw the great potential for propaganda, it was in fact Goebbels who was the man that Hitler trusted with carrying out the task of being able to explain to the German people, firstly what the Nazi party were doing, and secondly to explain why they were doing what they were doing, to essentially make Germany a better, stronger, more powerful and unified place for pure blooded Germans.
Hitler, by surrounding himself by men of this calibre, who were the brightest in their respective fields, whilst still sympathetic to the Nazi cause was a brilliantly orchestrated move. This was because Hitler, whilst evidently having ‘street smarts’ and credibility suffered from a major downfall, his academic record, dropping out in his senior years of higher education, whilst only ascertaining mediocre to satisfactory marks in his junior years of schooling3 .
These early developments would not be considered the most firm of building blocks for the man who would one day lead Germany. The time when Hitler came to significance (around the 1920’s and 30’s) was during a less favorable time for Germany in history. Germany was suffering from external effects of firstly the Treaty of Versailles and later on the effects of the Great Depression, which both wreaked havoc on the German economy.
Firstly it was the Treaty of Versailles that delivered the first blow to the economy of Germany and in the process the already weakening Weimar Republic. The treaty, a list of concessions that needed to be made by Germany to the allied forces as a part of the peace process in 1918, such as 15% loss of land, 10% of coal reserves surrendered, 15% of agricultural land lost, 12% loss of population, 45% of iron reserves lost and most importantly the ‘War Guilt’ clause which also attracted an ongoing repatriation payment from Germany to other nations.
The Nazi view was “We demand that Germany be treated in the same way as other countries and we demand the annulling of the Treaty of Versailles”4. Secondly the aftermath of the Wall Street Collapse in 1929, sent shock waves right throughout the world, and Germany was not spared. This resulted in extreme hyperinflation and by 1932 6 million Germans were out of work, representing 30% of the available population.
This created a scene where people were up against the wall, and so when it came time to vote in elections people faltered form their traditional right-left wing parties, overwhelmingly to the extreme right, alar the Nazi Party, because it stood for Germany and was dedicated to returning the nation to its former glory. Although the Nazi party did not gain a majority in the Reichstag it built up enough of a capacity to wield influence and was invited by Paul von Hindenburg to form a coalition with him, making Hitler the second in command of Germany as 3 4 See above footnote Hitler? s school marks gathered from: http://www. historylearningsite. co. uk/adolf-hitler. htm Extract from Nazi Party Programme, 1920 Chancellor. Hitler was then able to manipulate the situation, and less then a year later had become President of Germany, a title he later changed to Fuhrer. The change of title to Fuhrer meant that Hitler’s autocratic rule was final, and he was the undisputed leader of Germany and it’s military.
Hitler’s rise to power was not completely due to his own abilities and personal appeal, looking back in time it becomes apparent that Hitler’s accent to leadership can be attributed to more good fortune and timing, where Germany was in a desperate situation, and then arose Adolf Hitler, the man who told Germany what is wanted it to hear “By the skillful and sustained use of propaganda, one can make a people see even heaven as hell or an extremely wretched life as paradise”† . These people trusted that Hitler would lift them from their disappear and deliver a more powerful and prosperous Germany. † See above footnote