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Home > History > Growth of German nationalism > Hitler's rise to Power


Hitler's rise to Power

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The Nazis

Adolf Hitler left WWI disillusioned and bitter. He felt the war had ended too soon and the Weimar Republic had sold Germany out by agreeing to the Treaty of Versailles. In 1919 he joined a small political party in Munich, known as the German Workers' Party. Before long he was its leader. He changed the party name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP). This became known as the Nazi party.

Nazi policies

The Nazi party policies were deliberately vague so they might appeal to as many people as possible. It was not unusual to find people of both right and moderate-left wing politics joining the Nazis because they agreed with one or more of their policies.

  • The Nazis were violently opposed to Communism. The Communists believed all private ownership of land and assets was theft. This led many landowners and businessmen to support the Nazis.
  • Their social policies, such as better pensions and reducing unemployment, appealed to the common man and also many traditional socialists.
  • The Nazis proclaimed that they would abolish the Treaty of Versailles, that they felt unfairly punished Germany. This was a popular policy for many Germans.
  • After losing territories at Versailles, the Nazis wanted Lebensraum (living space) for their surplus population. Bluntly, they wanted more land.

Nazi popularity

For several years the Nazis were only a small, marginal party, alongside hundreds of others. Over time, however, they became a force to be reckoned with.

  • They came to be seen as the only credible right-wing alternative to the left-wing parties.
  • Their belief in the supremacy of the German race appealed to nationalists.
  • The paramilitary groups reminded people of the comradeship they shared as soldiers.
  • Hitler was charismatic and he won people over by strength of personality.
  • Hitler's hatred of Jews struck a chord with many people - they were a convenient. scapegoat, to be blamed for all Germany's problems.
  • Throughout the 1920's good organisation, effective propaganda and rallies spread the popularity of the party all over Germany.

Making the most of opportunities

Despite the failure of the Munich Putsch in 1923, when Hitler tried to seize power by violent revolution, he was able to use his trial for treason to make himself a national figure. He used the publicity to get his ideas published in Mein Kampf, his autobiography.

When social unrest increased, after benefits were cut in 1930, Hitler used fear of Communism to get support from Hugenberg, an industrialist who owned a chain of newspapers, and Thyssen, a steel manufacturer. They, and other industrialists, formed the Harzburg Front which helped finance the Nazi election campaigns in 1932-3 to ensure the Communists were defeated.

  • At the July 1932 election, the Nazis won more votes than any other party. Hitler was offered political office in a coalition with two other politicians, von Papen and von Schleicher. He refused. He would not share power.
  • After the November 1932 elections, Hitler refused the chancellorship because President Hindenburg tried to limit his powers. When he accepted the chancellorship in January 1933, he was one of only three Nazis in a Cabinet of eleven. The Vice Chancellor, von Papen, thought he could keep Hitler under control.

The Reichstag fire

In February 1933, the German parliament, the Reichstag, was burned down. The Communists were blamed. Hitler expelled the Communists from parliament and enforced a state of emergency where all civic freedoms were suspended. The Nazi party now had complete control of Germany's army, its police force, its government and its economy. Hitler was in power.

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Detail from Class Clips video on the Treaty of Versailles.

Class Clips

Why the Treaty of Versailles was unpopular in Germany

Why the Treaty of Versailles failed


Detail from Class Clips video about the unpopularity of the Weimar Republic.

Class Clips

Why were the Germans unwilling to support the Weimar Republic?

Weimar Germany, 1919-29 - Problems and Solutions


Detail from Class Clips video about the Nazi rise to power.

Class Clips

How the Depression helped Hitler rise to power.


The role of Hitler's public appeal in the Nazi rise to power


GCSE: Hitler's rise to power (mp3 audio)

GCSE: Hitler's rise to power (pdf script)

Find out what factors helped Hitler come to power.

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