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The Depression and the Rise
of the Nazis
The Story…
Hitler’s rise to power was based upon long-term factors
– resentment in the German people, the weakness of
the Weimar system – which he exploited through
propaganda, the terror his storm troopers, and the
brilliance of his speeches.
During the “roaring twenties” Germans ignored his
program of hatred. But when the Great Depression
ruined their lives, they voted for him in increasing
numbers. Needing support, and thinking he could
control Hitler, President Hindenburg made the
mistake in January 1933 of giving Hitler the post of
Please take out paper for notes.
American Stock Market
Sent USA into depression
Americans (bankers + businessmen) lost
LOTS of $. Asked German banks to repay.
Economic collapse
Had been dependent upon US loans
Bankruptcy + unemployment skyrocketed
“Balance of power” made decisive action by
gov. difficult
Enter the Nazis!
Ideas now relevant
Is the Weimar government indecisive? Then
Germany needs a strong leader!
Are reparations adding to Germany’s problems?
Then kick out the Treaty of Versailles!
Is unemployment a problem? Let the unemployed
join the army, build Germany’s armaments and be
used for public works!
Now, 25 points = attractive to most vulnerable
Offered “scapegoats” to blame
Nazi Campaigning
Film, radio, records, plane trips, rallies, posters, pamphlets
Promised a lot, but said little
NO detailed plans or policies
Generalized slogans
uniting behind one leader, strong government
Traditional values (never clear about what this meant)
Get rid of Treaty of Versailles
If criticized, dropped the policy
Nazi appeal
Appealed to all classes:
Rich (aristocrats) – feared Communism & wanted rearmament
Middle class – wanted law & order & feared communism
Working class – wanted jobs. Hitler promised to end
Church – supported Hitler because Communists were
generally atheist
Unemployed – organized soup kitchens & provided
Nazi appeal
SA & SS gave an impression of discipline and
Became more violent (breaking up Communist
& other party meetings)
“My mother saw a storm
trooper parade in the
streets…The sight of
discipline in a time of chaos,
the impression of energy in an
atmosphere of universal
hopelessness seems to have
won her over.” –Albert Speer,
1931. Later he became a Nazi
Negative Cohesion: Shared
dislike of Democracy
If you hate what I hate, then we’d get along!
Shared hate: for democracy & Weimar government
politicians “squabbling” and unable to tackle problems of
Unemployment = 6 million
Negative Cohesion: Shared
dislike of Communism
Middle-class business owners, industrialists, and
farmers feared Communism
SA met Communist violence with their own violence
Promised to protect farmers (in USSR millions had
been killed or imprisoned during gov. takeover of all
Nazi appeal
“He was holding the masses, and me with
them, under a hypnotic spell by the sheer
force of his beliefs. His words were like a
whip. When he spoke of the disgrace of
Germany, I felt ready to attack any
enemy.” – Karl Ludecke, an early follower of
Hitler (1924)
Greatest asset = Hitler
Powerful speaker
Tour of rallies
leader of a modern party with
“modern ideas”
“Man of the people” –
someone who
knew/understood the peoples
Believed he had been called
by God to become dictator of
Germany & rule the world
(this self-belief persuaded
people to believe in him).
Nazi Propaganda
The headlines say "Jews are our misfortune" and "How the Jew cheats."
Germany, 1936
September 1930 Reichstag election.
The caption: “Freedom and Bread.”
Nazi Reactions
Nazi Critics
The storm troopers attacked Jews and people who opposed.
Many kept quiet simply because they were scared of being
Were there Critics?
“He began to speak and I immediately disliked him. I
didn’t know then what he would later become. I found
him rather comical, with his funny moustache. He had
a scratchy voice and a rather strange appearance, and he
shouted so much. He was shouting in this small room,
and what he was saying was very simplistic. I thought
he wasn’t quite normal. I found him spooky.” –
eyewitness to one of Hitler’s meetings
“His policies were half-baked, racist clap-trap… but among
the jumble of hysterical ideas Hitler showed a sure sense
of how to appeal to the lowest instincts of frightened
masses.” Tony Howarth, Historian
Nazi appeal - reactions
“Of course, I was ripe for this experience. I was a man
of 32, weary with disgust and disillusionment, a
wanderer seeking a cause, patriot seeking an outlet
for his patriotism.” – an early follower of Hitler (1924)
Triumph of the Will
Rise of the Nazis
“At one of the early congresses I was sitting surrounded by
thousands of SA men. As Hitler spoke, I was most interested in
the shouts and more often the muttered exclamations of the men
around me, who were mainly workmen or lower-middle-class
types. “He speaks for me… Ah Gott he knows how I feel.” One
man in particular struck me as he leaned forward with his head
in his hands and with a sort of convulsive sob said: “Gott sei
Dank [God be thanked], he understands.”
- German Teacher in 1943
“The majority of Germans never voted for the Nazis.
The Nazis made it clear they would destroy
democracy and all who stood in their way. Why
then didn’t their enemies join together to stop Hitler?
Had the Communists and Socialists joined forces
they would probably have been strong enough both
in the Reichstag and on the streets to have blocked
the Nazis. There were simply not enough Germans
who believed in democracy and individual freedom
to save the Weimar Republic.” S. Williams, Historian
How did Hitler become
Chancellor in 1933?
July 1932: Hitler challenged Hindenburg for presidency
Current Chancellor Franz von Papen was allowed to carry on as Chancellor,
but had no support of Reichstag
November 1932: Another election was called. Nazi vote fell. Hitler
threatened suicide.
December 1932: Kurt von Schleicher appointed as Chancellor. Within a
month resigned (lacked support of Reichstag).
Hindenburg needs Chancellor with support of Reichstag (they control
Chancellor, Chancellor controls from Reichstag)
Confident they could limit Hitler’s influence and resist his extremist
demands. Wanted him to get support of Reichstag and control Communists.
Thought policies would continue you to be made by Cabinet.
Thinking Hitler could be controlled was a serious error.
Hitler ended up as Chancellor not because of the will of the people,
but through behind-the-scenes deal by some German politicians.
How much do you agree with each
of the statements?
Give each statement a score 1 (don’t agree) – 5 (very much agree).
Write a short paragraph explaining your score for each statement.
Very few people fully supported the Nazis.
The key factor was the economic depression. Without it, the Nazis would
have remained a minority fringe party.
The politicians of the Weimar Republic were mainly responsible for the rise of
the Nazis.
Why did the Nazis succeed
in elections? Two views:
Propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels:
Hitler’s destiny to become Germany’s leader and the
German people came to recognize this.
Historian Gordon Craig:
People supported Hitler and the Nazis not because they
shared the Nazi views, but because they shared the
dislikes (negative cohesion).
Who do you agree with?
Goebbels or Craig?
Was it Hitler’s destiny to become leader and the
German people finally realized this, supporting him
through positive cohesion?
Was it simply “negative cohesion” and people fear
that led them to support the Nazis?
Summary Diagram
Next section with reading:
Let’s Review: Nazi ideology
Let’s review: 1919-1923
At first, Weimar Republic had great difficulties:
 Left wing rebellions
 All people were angry with it
 Right wing rebellions and terrorism
 Invasion and inflation
 Munich Putsch
Let’s review: 1924-1929
The Republic survived and (after Gustav Stresemann
became Chancellor in 1923) did well:
Economic prosperity
Foreign policy successes
Cultural flowering
Today: 1929-1933
After Wall Street Crash of 1929 the Republic
Nazi party grew more powerful
1933: Adolf Hitler became Chancellor
"Men are not born with hatred in their blood. The
infection is usually acquired by contact; it may be
injected deliberately or even unconsciously by the
parents, or by the teachers... The disease may be
spread throughout the land like the plague, so that a
class, a religion, or a nation will become the victim
of popular hatred without anyone knowing exactly
how it all began; and people will disagree, and even
quarrel among themselves, about the real reason for
its existence; and no one foresees the inevitable
consequences.” Malcolm Hay