On 30th January, 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Hindenburg, but why did he get this prestigious honour – why did Hitler become Chancellor? There are four main reasons as to why this happened, and they are as follows: the Weimar government’s weaknesses; his own leadership skills and the Nazis tactics; the Great Depression; and political manoeuvring between von Schleicher and von Papen. It is to be shown, however, that it really down to the involvement of von Schleicher and von Papen that Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany, when he did.
Firstly, Hitler was only able to come to power due to the failure of the previous government, the Weimar Republic. From the start, the Republic had weaknesses, such as its unstable economic situation and its bad image, mainly down to the Versailles Treaty. Hitler was able to use these weaknesses to his advantage by telling the people of Germany that he knew how to solve the economic unrest, and banish the Versailles Treaty, and that only he could do it. The weakness of the Weimar also encouraged the public to vote for extremists parties, like the Nazis, in the hope that they would be the lesser of evils.
Next, Hitler was able to use his leadership skills, and the Nazi Party’s tactics to win over the voters. He had a natural gift for propaganda and an extremely aggressive speech style to whip the crowd into a Nazi fuelled frenzy. He also believed that it was his destiny to become the German Fuhrer, which he called the Inevitable Truth, and was based on a social adaptation of Darwin’s Evolution Theory. While this may seem like a ridiculous claim, he did in fact become the Fuhrer, so it is not as far-fetched as it sounds. Hitler was very clever, and while he was remembered for his failure in the Munich Putsch of 1923, it seemed to most of the public that he was now intent on achieving his power legally.
Thirdly, a reason that Hitler became Chancellor in 1933 was because of the Great Depression. Having just recovered from one major economic crisis by borrowing huge sums of money from the Americans, Weimar Germany was hit very hard by the world depression, as the loans from the USA were called in. The Great Depression was a huge blessing for Hitler, as it meant that he could “show-up” the failing Weimar government once and for all, by lying to the public and blaming the Depression on the government. All of Germany’s social classes were hit by the Depression, as it caused huge unemployment, and the largest five banks in the country to close.
In 1928, a year before the Crash, a government report was published stating that the Nazi Party had “no notable influence” on the German public, but after the Wall Street Crash, 1929, suddenly Hitler’s demands started to be accepted, and by the elections of 1930, the Nazis seats in the Reichstag had risen from 12 to 107. During these years, Hitler made many promises to the German people, including a free Volkswagen Beetle to every member of the working class, which led him to a landslide victory in the Reichstag in 1932, with 230 seats.
Finally, it could be argued that Hitler came to power due to other events, particularly political manoeuvring between von Schleicher and von Papen. However, the unstable situation was pushed even closer to the edge when Stresemann died of a sudden heart attack in the same month as the Wall Street Crash. Not only this, but in a government report at roughly the same time, it was announced that the Army was not strong enough to fight off both the Communists, a growing threat, and the Nazis, at the same time. This was a particular threat, as a fear of Communism began to develop throughout Germany, but luckily for the Nazis, Hitler was viewed as the lesser of the two evils. The political manoeuvring by von Schleicher started when he was appointed Chancellor by Hindenburg on 3rd December 1932.
Von Papen saw that by early January 1933, von Schleicher was having trouble keeping a majority in the Reichstag, and seeing his chance to win back power, secretly agrees to help Hitler become Chancellor, as long as he gets a place in the Cabinet. By mid-January, von Papen’s requests to Hindenburg for Hitler to become Chancellor are refused, and within a few days, von Schleicher had to resign, due to lack of support from the Reichstag. On 30th January, 1933, persuaded by von Papen, Hindenburg finally concedes to Hitler’s demands, and he and von Papen agree to limit the amount of seats that the Nazis can get in the Reichstag, and use Hitler as a “puppet” Chancellor, hoping that some of the most extreme Nazi policies would be easily rejected, and that by instating Hitler, a civil war could be avoided. Von Papen is appointed as Hitler’s vice-Chancellor, and without knowing it, collectively, the leading German politicians started the road to World War II.
The meddling with the unstable political situation by von Schleicher and von Papen is the most important reason as top why Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, as they actually instated him, giving him the power to effectively do what he wanted with a country that were willing to do anything he wanted, taken in by all of his lies and propaganda.
Weimar and Nazi Germany – Stephen Lee