The Rise of Hitler to Dictator of Germany

I. 1919-1923

A. Formation of the Nazi Party

1. Hitler volunteered for the German army, fought in WWI, but was only a corporal. After the war ended, remained on active duty and was transferred to Munich.
2. Bavaria, in 1919, was a principal focus of the Communist offensive in central Europe
3. Communist threat made Bavaria a center for anticommunist, antisocialist, and antidemocratic agitations of all kinds. It swarmed with secret societies and paramilitary organizations led by discontented army officers or others who fitted with difficulty into the Weimar democracy.
4. Hitler, working with the army’s instruction program created to combat socialist and democratic propaganda among the demobilized veterans and workers and keep alive a military spirit, joined a tiny party called the German Worker’s party, and soon became its leader.
5. In early 1920 he proclaimed its 25-point program, the party now calling itself the National Socialist German Workers’ party. Thus were born the Nazis. Now demobilized, Hitler was fully launched on a career of radical politics.

B. Obstacles to the Weimar Government

1. Versailles treaty
2. Reparations
3. Catastrophic inflation of 1923
4. Failure of the republicans to inaugurate the kind of deep social changes that might have democratized the political and social structure of German society and thereby strengthened the republican forces.
5. Communist agitations, but more dangerous because they attracted more sympathy among the Germans were the maneuvers of monarchist and antirepublican organizations, which threatened uprising such as the Kapp Putsch in 1920; a good example of these “armies” would be the Brownshirts or the Stormtroopers of the Nazi Party.
6. 1923, when reparations were not forthcoming, the French army occupied the Ruhr; a national indignation swept over Germany.
7. Hitler and the National Socialists denounced the Weimar government for shameful submission to the French; judged the moment to seize power—at the end of 1923, the Brownshirts staged the “beer hall Putsch” in Munich. The police suppressed the disturbance and Hitler was sentenced to 5 years in prison. He wrote Mein Kampf (My Struggle) during this time. The book and the publicity that accompanied his 5-week trial converted Hitler into a political figure of national prominence.

II. 1924-1929

A. Prosperity for the Weimar Republic

1. Beginning in 1924, Germany enjoying an amazing economic revival;
a. French were out of the Ruhr
b. Reparations were adjusted
c. A new and stable currency was adopted
d. Loans from foreign countries, mainly the United States
e. National Socialism lost its appeal, the party lost members
f. Hitler was regarded as a charlatan and his followers as a lunatic fringe

B. The Great Depression

1. 1929, the United States was hit by the Great Depression
2. Adolph Hitler was made by the circumstances attending the depression in Germany into a figure of Napoleonic proportions
3. Germany’s Economic Collapse
a. foreign loans abruptly ceased or were recalled
b. factories ground to a halt
c. there were 6 million unemployed
d. the middle class had not yet recovered from the great inflation of 1923; when hit again, they lost faith in the economic system and its future
4. The Communist vote mounted, those who saw Communism as a death warranted looked around for someone to save them from Bolshevism.
5. The Great Depression also stirred up feelings of resentment for the Treaty of Versailles; Germans blamed the ruin of Germany by the postwar treatment from the Allies
6. Democracy is hard to maintain in any country in a true crisis. In Germany, democracy itself was an innovation, which had yet to prove its value, which could easily be called un-German
7. Hitler inflamed all such feelings by his propaganda;
a. denounced the Treaty of Versailles as a national humiliation
b. denounced the Weimar Democracy for producing class struggle, division, weakness and futility.
c. Called for a “true” democracy in a vast stirring of the people, behind a Leader who was a man of action.
d. Declared that Germans, pure Germans, must rely only on themselves
e. Spoke against Marxists, Bolsheviks, communists, and socialists, throwing them all together in a deliberate beclouding of the issues; but claimed to favor the right kind of socialism for the little man, i.e. the doctrine of the National Socialist German Workers’ party.
f. Above all he denounced the Jews. In anti-Semitism, Hitler found the lowest common denominator upon which to appeal to all parties and classes. At the same time Jews were a minority (only 600,00 in all Germany) so that it was safe