On January 30th 1933 Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, this however was not the position of power, which it appeared to be as only four of the fourteen members of the cabinet were Nazis. Hitler realised he was weak in this situation and needed to rectify it. So he called new elections within his first twenty-four hours in power. The aim of this was to give the Nazi party a majority within the Reichstag. Hitler believed that new elections could only serve to increase the Nazi vote and increase his profile within Germany.
The elections took place on March 5th 1933 and the Nazis only increased their majority from 33. 1 % to 43. 9 %. This meant that they still did not have a majority in the Reichstag. This shows that Hitler did not have majority support in 1933 and yet by 1939 he was in an apparently unassailable position by 1939. I will go on to explain how this situation came about. The election in 1933 wasn’t as simple as it looks, as Hitler used dirty tricks to win seats. The SA used violence and terror to break up socialist and communist meetings.
Also the Nazi position was strengthened by a strange incident, which occurred on the night of 27th February 1933 five days before the election. Dutch communist named Der Lubbe set the Reichstag building on fire and Hitler whipped up opposition against the communists. He used this incident again to his advantage by persuading Hindenburg to sign the “Decree for the protection of people and state. ” This meant that the last week of the election campaign saw an increase in violence with hundreds of the Nazis’ political opponents arrested. This would increase support for Nazis, as people would vote for them and not the Communists.
Hitler’s next step towards full control of Germany was to control the media. A man named Joseph Goebbels was in charge of propaganda and controlled all public information. The Nazis controlled the radio, films and newspapers, and education. Hitler made sure all the teachers belonged to the National Socialist Teachers League and all schools were made to teach that Germans were a superior race to others. The methods were very effective as the people of Germany were only seeing and hearing the Nazi views and not other political groups therefore popularity was increasing.
Goebells had the support of the SS who were threatening people to vote for Nazis and were arresting anybody opposing them. Again this was very effective as people were scared to go against them. Hitler was developing his own ‘Nazi Culture’ by making people believe what he thought was right such as the superior race and the hatred of the Jews. Popularity for Hitler and the Nazis increased due to their economic policy, they wanted to improve the living and working conditions within the country. Hitler started a huge programme of public works, which gave jobs to thousands of people.
From 1935 huge motorways in German called ‘Autobahns’ were started, and the Nazis had big plans for many public buildings, including the stadium, which would hold the 1936 Olympic games. And as the country suffered in the 1920’s from the struggles and unemployment crisis’s popularity for the Nazis increased as they were offering the chance for people to earn money and improve their lives. The number of unemployed dropped dramatically from 6 million to about 500,000 in 1938. Other ways in which jobs were available was through the re-armament of the army, which they were doing secretly as it was banned at the Treaty of Versailles.
Also people were encouraged to work due to a reward scheme known as the ‘Strength Through Joy,’ through this output increased in Germany and people had an ambitious aim of owning the peoples car (Volkswagen). The enabling laws helped bring the Nazis to power as it allowed Hitler to govern for four years without parliament and made all other parties illegal. Hitler was almost in full control. Hitler was getting rid of all his opposition. But he did still have opposition, the biggest threat was Ernst Rohm, who controlled the SA (over 400,000 men).
Hitler wanted the army on his side and he disagreed with Rohm’s idea of joining the two together, it was either one or the other. The army was crucial for Hitler as they supported President Hindenburg and Hitler would need the army on his side if he wanted to take over. So he sent his SS to remove the main leaders of the SA, this was horrific and in all four hundred people were executed one of which was Rohm. This was known as the ‘Night Of The Long Knives’ the SA had been destroyed and Hitler on the day of the death of Hindenburg would take over from him.
The president did pass away and Hitler took the posts of chancellor and president and made himself commander in chief of the army and was also called Der Fuhrer. Democracy was dead. Hitler had created a state of terror and repression by scaring the people of Germany and making them believe in Nazi views. This was achieved due to the SS and formation of the Gestapo who everyone feared. Not only this but the formation of the concentration camps made the situation worse. These camps were for the persecution of the Jews, as Hitler hated them for many reasons.
Nazi propaganda made people believe that the Jews were bad for Germany, therefore they should be sent to special concentration camps, or humiliated and maltreated in public. It wasn’t just Jews who were persecuted but also gypsies, homosexuals and Slavic peoples. From doing this Nazis gained popularity, as people feared of opposing them and knew that if they did then they would be arrested or killed. The Night of The Long Knives bought about thousands of Jewish shops smashed and thousand of Jews were arrested. Everyone was in a state of shock and terror.
Hitler had also developed the ‘National Community’ where lives for the working class, middle class, women and the young changed dramatically for what Hitler saw as the better. He aimed to create a genuine Volksgemeinschaft. Hitler controlled young people’s beliefs, boys were made to join the Hitler Youth and girls to the League of Maidens. Here they were taught to support Hitler even informing on their parents if necessary! The job of the women and girls was to make families and to support their men in making Germany great.
The Nazi regime was in full swing with many people enjoying their new lifestyles the Nazis had taken over. It wasn’t all great popularity for the Nazis as it was limited by existence of opposition groups like the White rose and Confessional church. The Confessional Church was a breakaway church from the creation of the German Christian Church. In all 7,000 of the 17,000 pastors in Germany joined. It was insisted that the church be independent of the state. This was just one of the opponents to Hitler which caused great tension.
There was also resentment shown by members if the Hitler Youth. Many boys objected to the endless physical activities along with the military drill. Again this was another group who opposed the Nazis. Clearly there was opposition but I believe there was too little and also was too disunited. If any opposition did occur in my opinion it was always too late. In my opinion the account for the Nazi popularity is mainly due to Hitler their leader, who took control of the media, which he used to publish Nazi views and change the thoughts of the German people to that of what he wanted.
Another main aspect for the popularity is due to the terror he put the German people through because of the SA who threatened people who opposed or didn’t vote for the Nazis. And in my opinion the economic policy also helped increase popularity as it gave German people ambitions and goals to reach as they were given the opportunity to work and earn a living. The lack of opposition made it easier for the Nazis to gain control, main opponents like the communists had been eliminated.