After the First World War, when the Depression had taken hold, much of Europe had turned to dictatorship. Hitler’s raise to power could be seen in the light of Fascism in Italy, or Stalin, in Russia. Nazism was a natural product of the Germans worship of power. The Germans failed to create democracy and preferred instead a strengthening state, led by a powerful individual. In January 1933, President Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor.
Hitler had tried to take over the government in 1923, known as the Munich Putsch. He did however, fail. He had misread the nations support for him. After he jail sentence, Hitler realised to become part of a democratic system he would have to go about it in a democratic way. Hitler therefore used propaganda to win mass support.
There was strong national hope that Hitler would be able to re-establish Germany’s power, after the treaty of Versaille. Foolishly those groups around Hindenburg saw Hitler merely as a stepping stone to secure their position then discard him. Many saw Hitler as Germany’s last hope, most however expected Hitler to last no more than a few months. Hitler was relatively weak at this point, as Hindenburg could replace and reappoint chancellors as he wished.
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It was 27 February 1933 that The Reichstag (the German Parliament) burned down.
Hitler blamed the communists and used it as an excuse to arrest many of his Communist opponents, and as a major platform in his election campaign of March. The fire was so convenient that many people at the time claimed that the Nazis had burned it down, and then just blamed the Communists. However if the communists were infact responsible for the fire, Hitler just took advantage of it.
On the 28th February the emergency decrees took form. This gave him the power to issue decrees and there was no legal way to replace him. Hindenburg using article 48 issued this decree. This allowed Hitler to suspend civil rights.
On 5th March, Hitler held a general election, appealing to the German people to give him a clear mandate. Only 44% of the people voted Nazi, which did not give him a majority in the Reichstag, so Hitler refused to allow the communists to take their seats, and made parliament pass an enabling act (which did give him a majority). This was essentially the core of the Nazi Regime as it set up Hitler as dictator of Germany. This gave emergency powers to Hitler and he could pass decrees without the president’s involvement. This gradually became the way in which laws were made, however this allowed for even Hitler’s wishes to become laws.
Opponents were intimidated by the SS who had on estimate murdered 500 people in 1933, and intimidated largely by Hitler who could use the powers of the state. By the end of 1933 100,000 potential opponents had been arrested.
Hitler used the terror factor to intimidate the German people, and especially his opposition. One way he introduced this was the addition of Gestapo. The Gestapo were a secret police force in Germany that were given the power to arrest people without reason and could send them to jail without trial. The Germans were so terrified they would only speak negatively about the Hitler or Nazism in the safety of their own home. Hitler had set up a concentration/death camp to send those people who opposed him, or in some case spoke out against him.
Hitler has just about managed to remove all opposition, however, he feared the SA (Germany’s army) were getting too strong, and could, if they liked, overthrow his power.
On the 29th June 1934, Hitler took his most dramatic and most significant single event yet. The SS storm troopers arrested the majority of SA leader, and the rest of his opposition. The SA were brutally pulled from their beds, taken away, and gunned down. The main leader of the SA Ernst Rohm also died.
Rohm held revolutionary views, and Hitler proudly defending the events claiming that Rohm had plotted to murder him, and was therefore saving Germany. The rest of the SA members either left the country, or joined the SS troops. It was thought by many that Hitler had actually prevented an even greater bloodbath.
The Night of the Long Knives had developed Hitler’s dictatorship. He had cast fear over the population of Germany.
The general feeling in Germany became known as the Hitler myth. This was a cultivated image of Hitler which was widely believed, whereby he was portrayed to understand the German peoples needs and wishes, who stood unselfishly defending Germany against its evil (e.g. Jews, communism.) and was generally responsible for the success of Germany.
Germany, under Hitler’s reign, had actually benefited. Major public work scheme had been passed in the employment law, education was on the rise, poverty was being tackled. Hitler was literally strengthening his country- perhaps though, more for himself then for the sake of the people.
The Hitler myth was conveyed through the powerful propaganda Hitler had required form Goebbels who enhanced the successes of Hitler. The myth, along side with the propaganda contributed to his great personal popularity, bringing together the people, who felt a strong lead was needed after years of chaos in the Weimar republic.
Hitler eventually came to believe that he was never wrong, beginning the end of the third Reich.
On the 2nd August 1934 Hitler became undisputed head of government. President Hindenburg died, and Hitler was appointed furher of Germany. The army swore an oath of loyal service to Hitler, and he had become an all-powerful dictator.
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