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Hitler’s Rise to Power

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Essay title: Hitler’s Rise to Power

Ananth Pandian

Term Paper

Western Civ, 2

Hitler's Rise to Power

"Instead of working to achieve power by armed coup, we shall hold our noses and enter the Reichstag against the opposition deputies. If outvoting them takes longer than out shooting them, at least the results will be guaranteed by their own constitution. Sooner or later we shall have a majority, and after that- Germany. (Heiden, 142)"

Adolf Hitler spoke these words in 1920, soon after becoming leader of the newly named National Socialist German Workers' Party, commonly known as the Nazi Party. There are many contributing factors, which lead to Hitler's gain in power over the next thirteen years. The recent history of post-war Germany, and the events that would follow were of perfect conditions for the rise of an extremist party such as the Nazis. World War One had left Germany in defeat. Germany was put under immense pressure by the treaty of Versailles, which contributed to the disastrous and politically unstable early twenties. Hitler was a strong and manipulating character, with extraordinary leadership skills and his party was very tactical. He was very much underestimated by opposing political parties. All of these factors lead to Hitler and his Nazis' becoming the sole political party in the Reichstag in 1933.

The German Empire was formed in 1871 and soon became one of Europe's most influential countries. It dominated in industrial and military power, and the German people were proud of their achievements. Up until the end of World War One, a Kaiser ruled Germany. From 1888 the Kaiser was Wilhelm II. He was very ambitious and militaristic and a threat to other countries. The German people were very accustomed to success, and when Germany was defeated in World War One, they were shocked and angry.

The Weimar Constitution was drawn up to help Germany bounce back. This constitution was genuinely democratic but had some weaknesses. A president ruled with a chancellor and proportional representation in the Reichstag. Proportional representation made the Republic weak in that parties were very uncooperative. No party could get a majority, so the government had to be run by coalitions. There could never be a strong government. The president had too much power over the government and could turn himself into a dictator. This was made possible by Article forty-eight in the constitution which stated that in an emergency, the president could make laws without going first to the Reichstag.

The Social Democratic Party, or SPD, was the largest party in the Reichstag in the early years of German democracy. It was the only party, which held strong support for the Weimar Republic. Extremist groups like the German Communist Party, or KPD and the Nazi party blamed a lot of the disasters that happened in the early stages of the republic on the SPD. This was how the Nazi Party gained support from the German people. And there were plenty of things to complain about.

The Versailles Treaty, drawn up by leaders of Allied parties after the first World War was very hard on the Germans. They faced territorial losses; Allied countries took more than thirteen percent of Germany. Also, allies occupied the most productive industrial territory, the Rhineland. Overseas colonies were taken too. Germany was forced to pay reparations for damage caused by the war. The term for peace that the Germans most resented was article two hundred and thirty-one which blamed Germany for the war. The German people were angry and bitter, looking for someone to blame.

The Nazis gave them the new government to blame. During this time there were attempted uprisings from both the extreme left and right of the political spectrum. A society that had been famous for their unity was now in conflict. The year 1923 brought with it significant disasters. French and Belgian troops invaded the Ruhr, Germany's most important industrial region. The Germans responded with a policy of passive resistance. They refused to have anything to do with the French, especially work. This was a major economical problem for Germany. They were already broke, with reparations to pay, and now they had lost some of their most important income. The German government did not have enough money to pay for the cost of the resistance in the Ruhr, so they printed more. They did not have the money to do this, so their currency inflated.

By November of 1923, the Deutschemark had inflated to one hundred and thirty thousand million marks to one American dollar, compared with just four hundred marks to an American dollar in 1922. These huge economic problems, along with humiliation

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