How Did Hitler Come to Power?
Adolf Hitler was able to seize power in Germany because the economic slump of 1929 gave him the opportunity to gain the support of the magnates of business and industry, and also of the lower middle class and of the unemployed. To the business men he promised a strong right-wing government; to the lower classes he gave faith and hope, proclaiming that Germany would triumph over her suffering and reassert her natural greatness.
Hitler was born at Braunau, Austria in 1889, but he resented the Austro-Hungarian government and fought for Germany in the First World War. In 1920 he joined and soon became leader of a new party the National Socialist German Workingmen’s Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) later to be abbreviated to “Nazi”.
Adolf Hitler rose to a place of prominence in the early years of the party. Being one of the best speakers of the party, he told the other party members to either make him leader of the party or he would never return. He was aided in part by his willingness to use violence in advancing his political objectives and to recruit party members who were willing to do the same.
In 1923 he was sent to prison as revolutionary and wrote Mein Kampf (usually translated as My Struggle). He believed that inequality between races was inevitable and that the Aryan race must dominate. He determined that Germany should rule the world and expressed his fanatical hatred of all Jews. On leaving prison in 1924 Hitler skillfully built up the Nazi strength.
The Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923 and the later release of his book Mein Kampf introduced Hitler to a wider audience. In the mid-1920s, the party engaged in electoral battles in which Hitler participated as a speaker and organizer, as well as in street battles and violence between the Rotfrontkämpferbund and the Nazis’ Sturmabteilung (SA).
At the 1930 election it became the second largest party in the country with more than 6,000,000 votes. By 1933 so many Nazis had been elected to Parliament that the President of the German Republic, Field Marshal Hindenburg, was persuaded that the country could no longer be governed without their leader’s help. Hitler was invited to join the government and soon became Chancellor.
Once in power he proceeded to establish an absolute dictatorship. In March 1933 a Bill giving him full powers was passed in the Reichstag by the combined votes of Nazi, nationalist and Centre Party deputies. Hitler took control of the police and established special Nazi forces, the SA and the SS. When Hindenburg died on August 2, 1934 the offices of Chancellor and President were merged, and Hitler became an undisputed dictator.
Once in power, the Nazis created a mythology surrounding the rise to power, and they described the period that roughly corresponds to the scope of this article as either the Kampfzeit (the time of struggle) or the Kampfjahre (years of struggle).