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The Rise and Rule of Hitler (1929-39)
1. How did Hitler become Chancellor? (1929-33)
For Paper
Why did German people vote for Hitler? Two
The first reason was the Great Depression, which spread to Germany after the Wall Street
Crash in the USA in October 1929. Before the Depression, in 1928, the Nazis got just 2% of
votes, with unemployment low at 1.5 million. During the Depression, the Nazi vote peaked at
37% in July 1932, with unemployment up at 5.6 million. The Nazis thus attracted votes from
unemployed and poor people with their radical messages.
The second reason was Nazi tactics such as propaganda, masterminded by Josef Goebbels.
The Nazis latched on to the Depression with posters promising `Arbeit und Brot' (work and
bread). They also used new technologies, such as the planes used to help Hitler campaign in
his `Hitler over Germany' tour in April 1932.
A third reason was the use of SA, Hitler's brown-shirted private army. In part, this was
propaganda, as orderly SA marches attracted people by being different to the disorder of
current Weimar Governments. The SA also disrupted meetings of political opponents and
even assassinated them, reducing anti-Nazi votes, e.g. in Prussia alone in June-July 1932
there were 72 deaths from SA violence. The Army told Hindenburg in 1932 that it could not
keep Germany secure in the face of a simultaneous SA and Communist uprising. Fear of the
SA helped Hindenburg decide to make Hitler Chancellor, to get the SA on his side.
A fourth reason was the weakness of opposition to Hitler. The only really strong and
successful politician of the Weimar period was Gustav Stresemann, who had taken Germany
into the League of Nations in 1926 and solved Hyperinflation in 1923. He could perhaps have
challenged Hitler if he had not died prematurely in 1929. Germany was also so hard to
govern by 1932 that Governments were constantly collapsing, with 3 Chancellors in 8 months.
This made Hitler, who was never part of these Governments, look like a stable alternative.
Hindenburg increasingly ruled by emergency decree (60 decrees in 1932, compared with just
5 in 1930), making Germany look like a dictatorship, which made Hitler look less extreme and
more attractive.
Why was this not enough for Hitler to come to power?
By the end of November 1932, the Nazis' vote was falling, down to 33% from 37% and the
party was nearly bankrupt after three elections in one year. However, Hitler was made
Chancellor shortly afterwards. This happened because of a political deal. President
Hindenburg hated Hitler (`the Bohemian Corporal') and needed persuasion to make him
Chancellor. The person who did this was Franz von Papen, who had been Chancellor in 1932
but then fired. He wanted to be in power again, and offered to be Hitler's Vice Chancellor
and to `tame' him by having only 3 Nazis in Hitler's Cabinet. Hindenburg reluctantly agreed
and appointed Hitler Chancellor on 30 January 1933.…read more

Slide 2

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The Rise and Rule of Hitler (1929-39)
1. How did Hitler become Chancellor? (1929-33)
Which was the most important of these reasons?
You can make a case for any of these factors, but three possible conclusions are given
The Depression was the most important factor. Without it, nobody would have been
voting for Hitler (only 2% of Germans did while times were good in 1928), and his
propaganda would have been ineffective ­ Germans wouldn't listen to his promises of
`work and bread' if they already had them. Hitler's vote went up every time
unemployment went up (to 18% in 1930 when unemployment was 3.1 million, and to 37% in
1932 when it was 5.5 million). Without this Nazi support in the Reichstag, Hindenburg
would have had no interest in making Hitler Chancellor, as he could not have helped him
make laws in the Reichstag if he had no support there.
The SA and propaganda were more important. The Depression created lots of unhappy
voters, but they were by no means guaranteed to support Hitler. Jobless people would
more naturally support the Communists, the natural party of the poor, whose vote grew
in the Depression but not nearly to the same extent (it peaked at 16.8% in November
1932). The SA helped to silence the Communists at this time, and the propaganda of the
Nazis put across a better case than the Communists, meaning that bitter voters turned
to them rather than the Communists
Political deals. It is simply not true to say Hitler was voted into power, no matter how
many votes he gained via the Depression. His vote peaked at 37%, well short of the 51%
needed for a majority, and was falling by the time he was appointed Chancellor. It would
normally be expected that if he didn't become Chancellor by July 1932, when his vote
peaked, he would not do so. Instead, he became Chancellor because a jealous ex-
Chancellor (Von Papen) managed to persuade an elderly President (Hindenburg) that
Hitler could be `tamed' by a coalition Government.
Don't forget:
·The Nazi vote went from 2% to 37% (1928-32) as unemployment rose from 1.5 to 5.5m.
·Nazi propaganda offered `arbeit und brot' (work and bread) to the unemployed.
·The SA killed 72 people in Prussia alone in June-July 1932.
·Hindenburg ruled by decree in 1932, issuing 60 emergency decrees, up from 5 in 1930.
·Von Papen made a deal where he would `tame Hitler' by being his Vice Chancellor.…read more

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The Rise and Rule of Hitler (1929-39)
2. How did Hitler become a Dictator? (1933-34)
Why was Hitler's position weak in January 1933?
Hitler had become Chancellor in January 1933, but his position was still weak and he was not
yet the all-powerful dictator that he was soon to become:
·He could be removed from power by President Hindenburg, which would be made more
likely if the Nazis lost votes in a future Reichstag election. Institutions like the Army or the
Church were also a threat. Even his own SA could rise against him;
·Hitler could not make the laws he wanted without the support of the Reichstag (German
Parliament), where he only had 33% of seats, or Hindenburg, who could issue emergency
decrees (laws) but distrusted Hitler.
Table 1: What were the key events used by Hitler to change this?
Event / date Details Significance
Feb 1933, Hitler called a new election to the The Nazis only had 33% of the
election Reichstag as one of his first acts Reichstag. A new election could
called in power. raise this, helping them make laws.
Reichstag The Parliament (Reichstag) was Hitler used this to persuade
Fire, Feb burned down, apparently by a Hindenburg to sign an emergency
27th 1933 Communist, Van Der Lubbe. decree suspending people's rights.
Emergency The day after the fire, this This prevented anyone but the
Decree, Feb restricted freedom of the press Nazis from campaigning in the
28th and of meetings, and other rights. forthcoming Reichstag election.
Reichstag The Nazis won 44% of the vote, With help from the Nationalists,
Election, 5th helped by the Decree and SA the Nazis could make laws. They
March intimidation of voters. were also closer to the 66% they
needed to change the constitution.
Enabling Act, This changed Germany's constitution Hitler could make whatever laws he
23rd March so Hitler could now make laws without liked. He used this to ban opponents,
consulting Reichstag or President. e.g. other parties (July).
Night of the Hitler tricked SA leaders into This removed the threats either of
Long Knives, assembling at a Munich hotel, and had an SA rising against Hitler or of the
30th June 90 of them assassinated, e.g. Roehm. Army opposing Hitler because of its
fear of being overtaken by the SA.
Hindenburg's The President died on August 2nd. Hindenburg could no longer fire Hitler
death / Army Hitler appointed himself President as Chancellor, and the Army swore a
Loyalty Oath, too (Fuhrer), and made the Army grateful oath in gratitude for the
August, 1934 swear loyalty to him personally. destruction of the SA threat.…read more

Slide 4

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The Rise and Rule of Hitler (1929-39)
2. How did Hitler become a Dictator? (1933-34)
How did he manage to achieve all of this?
First, he took opportunities when they came up (i.e. he was lucky!). For example, he
used the Reichstag Fire, which may have been a coincidence, to persuade Hindenburg to
pass the Emergency Decree. Hindenburg's death meant Hitler could become Fuhrer.
Second, he made deals. First, he teamed up with a similar party called the Nationalists
(8% of the Reichstag) to get the 50% he needed to make everyday laws. Second, he
passed an Enabling Act, changing the constitution, in part by making a deal with the
Catholic Centre Party to safeguard Catholic schools. Third, he got army support by
making a deal with the Army in April 1934 to get rid of the SA's troublesome leadership
Third, he used violence. Intimidation of voters was common in the March 1933
Reichstag election (e.g. SA men in polling booths), as was intimidation of Deputies (MPs)
during their crucial vote on the March 1933 Enabling Act. His most violent act was to kill
90 SA leaders on the Night of the Long Knives, thus removing internal opposition to him
in the Nazis and winning over the Army to the Nazi cause.
Fourth, he used the law, to some extent. For example, it was legal for Hindenburg to
pass an Emergency Decree in February 1933 in response to the Reichstag Fire. Similarly,
Hitler did actually get the 66% of the Reichstag necessary to change the constitution in
the Enabling Act (he actually got 81%).
Which was the most important of these reasons?
You can make a case for any of these. Two options are:
1. Violence. The threat of violence pushed up the Nazi vote to 44% in 1933, making it a lot
easier to pull together the 66% needed to change the constitution. Indeed, in the vote on this
(`the Enabling Act') SA and SS intimidation were used to bully Deputies (MPs) into not turning up
or voting for the Act. Violence was also used to eliminate the SA in Night of the Long Knives.
2. Deals. Two deals were necessary to get the Enabling Act through, which was the basis for
the Nazi dictatorship of Germany. The deals with the Nationalists and Centre Party gave Hitler
8% and 11% of the vote respectively, which took Hitler to 63%, close to the 66% he needed.
Don't forget:
·Reichstag Fire was used to pass Emergency Decree helping Nazis get 44% in election
·Nazis got the 66% of Reichstag needed for Enabling Act (e.g. by banning Communists)
·Enabling Act was used to ban State Governments, other parties, Trade Unions, 1933
·Night of Long Knives (Jun `34) killed 90 SA leaders, removed SA threat and calmed Army.
·Hitler became Fuhrer (Chancellor and President) on Hindenburg's death in 1934.…read more

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The Rise and Rule of Hitler (1929-39)
3. How did Hitler use Terror to control Germany?
What were the main parts of the `Terror State'?
The `Terror State' was the set of institutions used by the Nazis to control Germany
through creating fear. The main parts of this were:
First, the SS. Originally Hitler's elite bodyguard, they developed under Heinrich
Himmler into the main security force (50,000 strong in the 1930s) in Nazi Germany,
especially after their role in destroying the SA leadership in the 1934 `Night of the
Long Knives'. They wore black uniforms and were divided into three parts:
·The main part of the SS, who were used to attack, arrest and intimidate;
·The `Death's Head Units' used to staff concentration camps (e.g. Dachau); and
·The `Waffen SS' which were armed units similar to the Army, which fought in WW2.
There was also part of the SS called the SD, which was in charge of intelligence.
Second, the Gestapo. These were the secret police, set up by Herman Goering in
Prussia, but expanded into a nationwide force under the control of the SS. Their role
was to spy on potential opponents of the Nazi regime and hunt them down. They relied
on German people denouncing neighbours or even family. There were too few Gestapo to
operate without support or information from ordinary people. For example, in Wurzburg,
there were only 28 Gestapo officers for 1 million people.
Third, the police, the courts and the law. Germany's ordinary police had to answer to
Heydrich (the head of the Gestapo) and the SS. Judges, like the Army, had to take an
oath of loyalty to Hitler. The law was changed to suit the Nazis, for example the
number of crimes punishable by death went up from 3 in 1933 to 46 in 1933, including
telling an anti-Nazi joke. Concentration camps were for political opponents who had done
nothing wrong, were arrested on false charges or had signed orders for protective
custody (Form D-11) which were essentially forced confessions. But the extermination
camps used in the holocaust were not created until 1941 (after our course finishes).…read more

Slide 6

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The Rise and Rule of Hitler (1929-39)
3. How did Hitler use Terror to control Germany?
How did the Nazis use these?
First, the Terror State was used to silence and remove political opponents. One
example was the concentration camps like Dachau, near Munich, which were set up soon
after Hitler came to power in 1933. Opponents like Communists and Social Democrats
were sent there without trial, often after signing a D-11 forced confession.
Second, it was also used to draw the German people into collaboration with the
authorities. For a variety of motives (e.g. revenge and fear), German people were active
in denouncing each other to the Gestapo. This can be seen in the fact that the Gestapo
had very few staff (e.g. 23 officers for 1 million people in Wurzburg) and so relied on
German people's denunciations of each other for information on opposition to the Nazis.
Third, it took over the normal means of law and order, such as the police, which now
reported to Heydrich's Gestapo and Himmler's SS, and the courts, where judges had to
sign an oath of loyalty, so they could not protect people from the SS or SA. More
criminal offences (43 punishable by death) made it easier to arrest people.
Finally, there were plenty of incidents of actual violence from these organisations.
Perhaps the most dramatic were the execution of 90 regime opponents (including SA
leaders) on the Night of the Long Knives in June-July 1934 by the SS. However, the SA
itself was used for the last time in Kristallnacht, November 1938, in killing 91 Jews.
Which was most important?
There are several ways that this can be argued. Two options are:
1.Concentration camps provided the final threat which made all the various security
forces so frightening. Camp regime was brutal, with beatings and starvation, and people
knew the SS and Gestapo had the power to send them there. OR
2.Corruption of law and order. The Nazis ought to have been stopped from sending
people to concentration camps by the courts, who should have ensured a fair trial, but
the police reported to the SS and the judges swore loyalty to the Nazis.
Don't forget:
·Wurzburg had only 23 Gestapo officers for 1m people (so denunciations important)
·The police force had to report to the SS and judges swore oaths of allegiance to Nazis
·Form D-11 (self-incrimination / forced confession) sent you to a concentration camp
·Concentration camps like Dachau were used to imprison opponents without trial.
·Each service had its own role e.g. SS Death's Head (camps), Gestapo (secret police)…read more

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