Rise of the Nazi Party from 1923

Why did the Nazis come to power?

he German public viewed the Nazi's as the lesser of two evils.


Nazi movement thrived in condtions of chaos.
Hitler exploited the conditions caused by the Great Depression and exposed the weaknesses in the Weimar Government.
Often the perception of the NSDAP was that they were the last line of defence to communism and they railed against the humiliation caused by the Treaty of Versailles, therefore it became a movement that most groups in German society could find some element of appeal.

Division on the left side of the political spectrum paved the way for the right wing group in the NSDAP to take advantage of the tensions and vulnerability of the SPD.
  • SPD surpessing the Spartacist uprising in 1919-could never be forgiven.
  • SPD relying on the army and the right wing in the Frreikorps to surpress extreme left.

The Nazi Appeal

The party was highly successful in presenting particular (often contradictory) messages to various social and economic groups whilst maintaining the image of universal appeal.

It is important to remember that when considering voting patterns and public interest there was no “German people” in blanket terms. Germany consisted of a variety of different societal groups such as the conservative elite, working class, rural communities, industrialists, army and unemployed, each with individual ideals and desires. The Nazis were able to capitalise on this and hone their various policies to appeal to these individual societal groups.

E.g. Mittelstand (middle class) voted Nazi in crisis à afraid of losing status.

Richard Evans described it as “A rainbow party of the discontented”

50% vote = workers, 12% = students.

Offered dynamism where there was stagnation; a lofty sense of purpose where materialism was rife.

D Welch: What distinguished the Nazi party from other opposition was “its ability to combine themes of traditional German nationalism with Nazi ideological motifs”.

Furthermore, the NSDAP was seen as a party of ‘energy and imagination’. It was ‘unprecedentedly dynamic’ and as such, stood in direct contrast to the blandness of Weimar politics.

Hitler’s NSDAP soared from
  • 12 seats in May 1928, to
  • 107 seats in September 1930, and
  • 230 seats in July 1932.

One of the main reasons for the Nazi party's success was through the reintroduction of partially aristocratic beliefs (eg. A strong leader in Adolf Hitler), therefore winning the vote of the 'Conservative Elite'.

Organisation within the Party

In the years after 1924, the Party developed a highly organised structure:
  • Country was broken up into 34 districts, or Gaue
  • These districts were placed under the responsibility of a party official or Gauleiter
  • In 1926 the Schutzstaffel (SS) was set up, Hitler’s elite bodyguard.

Hitler and the Nazi Party’s association with the Harzburg Front – a front organised by Hugenberg, president of the DNVP and prominent industrialist and owner of giant media empire - 700 newspapers - joined with the Nazis, who organised a plebiscite to overturn the Young Plan because it would ‘undermine Germany’s will to destroy the Versailles Treaty.’
  • Gained 5.8 million votes.
  • Humiliated the Government – made them look weak for accepting the terms of the Young Plan.
  • Stresemann himself attacked as a traitor.
  • Hitler became a national political figure, Nazis gained respectability for joining with recognised Right Wing forces, Hitler, through Hugenberg came into contact with other wealthy, influential figures in German politics and business.

This, more than anything served to revolutionise Hitler’s image from an outspoken fanatical corporal to an important figure in German Politics.

6. Hitler’s accession to power.

“There was no inevitability about Hitler’s accession to power. His path ought to have been blocked before the final drama of January 1933” (Ian Kershaw)

Hitler gained power through the force of his popularity and the “backstairs intrigue” (Allan Bullock) amongst the individuals in power at the time.

Popularity – ‘all things to all people’ – Broad Based Appeal in German Society

Hitler’s NSDAP soared from
  • 12 seats in May 1928, to
  • 107 seats in September 1930, and
  • 230 seats in July 1932.

Hitler had immense popularity, which may be attributed to its successful appeal to various German interest groups and maintenance of a universal image.

  • Hitler’s appeal to the rural communities was evident in his promise of agrarian reform putting measures in place to tackle the rural bankruptcy and the regulate the prices of agricultural exports.
  • Another of the NSDAP’s appealing aspects, especially to the industrialists and the business interets (which encompassed the middle class) was the fact that the Nazis (through the violence and actions of the SA in the streets) were the only people who were really seen to be actively opposing the communists.
  • Middle class: Nazi party seen as a ‘reactionary’ force, seeking to restore former values of Old Germany – capitalism and the stable, pre war status quo.
  • Others (younger white collar workers): saw Nazis as ‘revolutionary’, overturning archaic values and creating a new social order à future for those who graduated with bleak futures.

In this way, The ‘duality’ of its appeal was key to its success.

Nationalist Appeal

Its nationalistic appeal was obvious in that it pledged to restore German honour and greatness. Creation of a Volksgemeinschaft.

Strongly opposed to the Versailles treaty. At his trial after the Munich Putsch, Hitler stated that he was not committing treason, but rather the ‘November Criminals’ (socialist politicians) were the ones guilty of treason for signing the treaty.
Link to Newspaper Editorial: “Vengeance German people! German honour is being carried to its grave. Do not forget it.”

Nazi Party tactics

Widely held that it was a ‘peaceful revolution’ in that the Nazis achieved votes and Hitler legally appointed to Chancellorship.

This was indeed an important aspect of Nazi party politics: Use of Gauleiters to peacefully transmit messages through mobilising civilian support at public rallies.

Role of Propoganda and Scare Tactics

Further consolidation the Fuhrer Myth:

  • Hitler visited 50 cities and talked about unemployment (which was at 5.4 million) and hardship of all classes.

  • Hitler used all the developments of modern technology at the time to assist his political rise; air transport, motor transport, radio, cinema and mass rallies to create the impression of a militant, unstoppable dynamism
  • Hitler’s speeches were well covered by Hugenberg’s media organisation and 700 newspapers, and Hitler spoke at joint rallies, rising to centre of politics as of the Great Depression

Violence and war were at the centre of Nazi ideology (A Struggle)
  • Violence was a key aspect of Nazi tactics with the SA, in the dying years of the Weimar Republic, being constantly involved in street fighting which left hundreds dead and thousands wounded.
    • This was important and beneficial to the Nazis appeal, as it sent the message to the German populace, particularly the German industrialists, business and the middle class that Hitler and the Nazis were the only party actively opposing Communism. à Support.

Therefore it is clear that through the mix of non-violent public propaganda measures and high profile violent anti-revolutionary struggles, the Nazi party was able to maximise its appeal.


“At the height of its popularity, the Nazi position as a people’s party was weak at best. If the party’s support was a mile wide, it was an inch deep..” Childers



The “backstairs intrigue” – a phrase from Allan Bullock

Hitler remained firm in his demands for the chancellorship.


From Brüning’s fall in May 1932 until Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor in January 1933, Germany’s destiny was increasingly decided by the intrigue of a few key personalities surrounding the President.

General Kurt von Schleicher was a close friend of Hindenburg and was impressed by the Nazi’s growing electoral success, their right-winged views, opposition to communism, and the fact they worked within the system (or appeared to).
* A barrier to Hitler’s ascension was President Hindenburg whom disliked Hitler and was immensely popular.

From Brüning’s fall in May 1932 until Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor in January 1933, Germany’s destiny was increasingly decided by the intrigue of a few key personalities surrounding the President.


  • The decision rested on Hindenburg and was helped by the support of the industrialists. Hindenburg who hated the republic became its final defender yet was swayed by the arrangements.
  • Papen would be vice chancellor; Nazis held 3/11 cabinet posts; the others were conservative supporters of Papen. Plan was that these parts of agreement would keep Hitler in check.
  • Jan. 28, 1933 ® Hindenburg dismissed Schleicher as chancellor.
  • Jan. 30 ® Hitler was made chancellor.
  • A small clique if right-wing politicians with support from the Reichswehr . The main conspirators were General Schleicher and Franz von Papen.
  • However, they could not control Hitler, He now had almost total power

Hitler had used the legal system to gain power -> now used it to consolidate his own power and bring down those around him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTeIu2mMeuA Youtube vid on Hitler's consolidation of his own power within the political system. It has some pretty funny voice overs.



7. Initial Consolidation of Nazi Power 1933-1934

Hitler’s inaugural address as chancellor focused on the theme of national revival and unity.

This was in stark contrast to the reality of force and intimidation.

“The first condition of power lies in the constant and uniform application of force.”

Adolf Hitler, Mein Kamf

Two pronged approach carried out within and without the existing legal framework.

Within 24 hours, the wave of repression began, with the communists being driven underground after the violent police and SS repression of their demonstration in Breslau.


After the Reichstag Fires (Blamed on the Left-Wing) of 27th February 1933, Hitler passed the Law for the Protection of the People and State. Restricted individual liberties.

The Enabling Act 25th March 1933 – gave Hitler’s Nazis the power to bypass the Reichstag. Needed a two-thirds majority. Gained through collusion and threats. Appearance of legality maintained. Constitution effectively altered then ignored.

22nd June – 5th July: all political parties (except Nazis) and trade unions disbanded.

Social Democrats (SPD) effectively paralysed. Nazis arrest leading members and suppress protest movements.

SS laid waste trade union headquarters. Beginning with Dresden, then Frankfurt, Hannover, resulting in the complete destruction of the socialist institutions and power, which had existed since the time of Bismark.

Political prisoners (100 000) placed in concentration camps in abandoned industrial estates and outside the city. 6 000 people murdered -- by the auxiliary police (SS and SA).

Gleichshaltung – co ordination of German society.
  • Independent organisations were replaced with Nazi organisations
  • Radio was produced and used. Mass listening encouraged.

Roman Ideals – “Bread and circuses.” à distract majority for repression.

Nazification of all German institutions à Right down to the lowest levels e.g. The National German Rabbit Breeder’s Organisation!

Robert Gellateley – study of the Gestapo records revealed that they kept minimal documents and were quite undermanned.
  • The vast majority of Gestapo investigations were initiated by citizens coming to them.
What actually counts in the appearance of repression, surveillance, etc. The perception à terror.

Nazis made no effort to hide terror activities.
  • Led to the “atomisation of German society” à whereby the trust between people was destroyed. This led to a lack of effective opposition.


Conflicts between facets of German Society and Policies of Regime
  • Were overcome by Nazis’ propaganda machine and success in projecting the image of having overcome class divisions and establishing mutual co-operation.
    The Night of the Long Knives

  • Rohm and the SA were demanding further revolution and wanted to replace the Army.
  • Hitler had to satisfy the demands of the Reichswehr, the only organisation that could still threaten his position.
  • He had to dispel the public’s fear of terrorism and violence.
  • He had to prevent the conservative elements unifying against him.

The Night of the Long Knives provided the simultaneous solution to all these problems.

Hitler intervened and on the night of the 30th of June 1933, and with the SS decisively put down the aspirations of the SA, using the opportunity to murder other political opposition.
  • 50 SA killed
  • 200 others murdered.
download.jpg

Result: Hitler won the support of the Army, eliminated other political opposition from within the conservatives factions and the adulation of the public and media
  • On 2nd August, after Hindenburg died, Hitler proclaimed himself Fuhrer, President and Commander of the Armed Forces
    • A special oath was taken by soldiers, swearing allegiance to Hitler himself. “I shall be loyal and obedient to Adolf Hitler” à binding agreement, placing the army inextricably under Hitler’s control.
  • Direct involvement won him public acclaim through media
  • “Any possible opposition within the party as well as in the national conservative camp” was “nipped in the bud” (K Bracher).