a) The Sturm Ableitung was founded in 1921 when the Nazi party was led by Ernst Rohm. It was originally a voluntary, part time organisation, basically made up of thugs. Their purpose was to protect the then small party who felt vulnerable because of their extremist beliefs, so they would have to guard the meetings, and throw out anyone who may be causing trouble. The SA was made up mostly of unemployed ex-soldiers, such as the Friecorps, a group of right wing soldiers who had tried to stage a coup, called the Kapp putsch, in 1920. They were given brown shirts, jackboots, and swastikas to wear. This uniform gave the impression that they were well organised, and disciplined, and many people liked this idea of order among the chaos that was the Weimar Republic.
Soon their job grew to disrupting other parties meetings, and attacking the communists, and also to raise funds for the party, but perhaps most importantly, they added and impressive military air to the Nazi rallies, and showed the order and good organisation that the Nazis were capable of. It was beneficial to the party when they disrupted opponents meetings, and had street battles with opponents, because this showed people that the Weimar government was losing control. This was what Hitler wanted everyone to think.
In 1929, membership of the SA was a quarter of a million, and had grown to three million by 1933. This meant that they took control of the streets.
b) The Wall street crash of 1929 meant that eight billion dollars was wiped of the value of the stock market. Much of this money had belonged to the bankers and the people who propped up the economy. This meant that they had to withdraw the loans they had given to Americans, and more importantly to the Germans under the Dawes plan of 1924. The Dawes plan had one important problem, which was that the American bankers could withdraw the loans at very short notice, and this they did, when they lost all their money from the stock market.
Therefore, the fragile German economy, that had only been pulled out of the 1923 depression by some clever trickery by the then Chancellor, Gustav Stresemann, and the loans given under the Dawes plan, collapsed. Now Stresemann was dead, and the Chancellor was the economically incompetent Brening. Therefore, when the depression hit, there was little that could have been done, and far less that was done, to stop Germany suffering terribly. They were still paying reparations from the treaty of Versailles, which all Germans, and most other people agreed was very unfair.
The Depression that followed the Wall Street Crash also led to a collapse in world trade because of tariff barriers originally started by the Americans, that were soon adopted by other countries. This meant that there was no market for the goods that were being produced, so many factories closed, or cut the number of jobs and so unemployment spiralled out of control, and wages were almost universally reduced. The Government cut benefits, so for example, the old had their pensions decreased, and this infuriated everyone. Dissatisfaction with the government was everywhere. The Middle Classes suffered badly when they lost all their savings.
This played right into the Nazis hands. They had always said that the government was bad, and that democracy was weak, and not to the benefit of the people. They had also been blaming the Jews, the Allies, the Government, the Communists, and the treaty of Versailles for everyone’s problems. The trouble was that before the Wall Street Crash, no one really had that many (political) problems. However, now everyone was dissatisfied, and could see that the American, Jewish bankers could be the source of their problems, because they had been the ones who had withdrawn the loans. Therefore, people were attracted to the Nazis because of negative cohesion. This means that they came together, and supported the nazis not because they liked the same things or had the same ideals, but because they now hated the same things. The Nazis had never had any share of the power, so were always able to say they could do a better job.
The Depression meant that everyone turned to more radical ways to sort out the country; they saw that the current government was not working, so turned to more extremist parties. This meant that number of votes for both the Communists, and the Nazis shot up. The Nazis had always been totally opposed to the Communists, and they promised to stamp out Communism if they came to power, so many moderate, middle-class people who would not normally vote for such an extremist party, but were terrified of Communism, now voted for the Nazis.
The Nazis also appealed to the unemployed with slogans such as ‘Work and Bread’. They promised to create new jobs, and kick out all the foreigners so that there would be more jobs for the German people. Other people were attracted by the Nazis because of their memories of the depression of 1923.
Another, less direct, result of the depression was that the government was seriously weakened, and disunited. Therefore, whenever Hindenburg and his chancellor wanted to pass a law, through the Reichstag, it was nearly always voted out, so they had to use Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which said that in an emergency the President could take autocratic rule. Between late 1929, and 1933, Germany was almost exclusively ruled by Article 48. This was good for Hitler, who always said he would abolish democracy, and so they had taken Germany some of the way down the path to a dictatorship. This also showed the people how weak the Reichstag was.
Therefore, the Wall Street Crash and the Depression helped Hitler enormously, because it attracted people to the politics that he had been preaching for six years. Now everyone had something to blame on the government, the Allies and the Jews, and voted for him if they didn’t want to lose all their possessions to the Communists. He appealed to those who had issues with the government, and before 1929, there were not many of these people.
c) In 1933 Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, as a result of a thirteen-year campaign of gathering support and deciding on policy. He had led the Nazi party since 1921, and his talent as a public speaker, and as a propagandist had been attracting a lot of attention. He first came to the public attention in any big way when he tried to seize power by force in 1923, in the Munich Putsch.
In his trial after this, he delivered a brilliant speech in which he convinced the judge that it was no crime to try to take power from the ‘November Criminals’, and so was given a minimum sentence, of which he served only nine months out of the intended five years. He also could stir up the feelings of a crowd and was always able to adjust his policies so that he couldn’t be criticised. It is true that not all this was purely Hitler’s work, however, he did control the party very firmly, and had an influence over all the decisions.
This clearly cannot be the only factor, because then he would have come to power almost as soon as he came to everyone’s attention, but the fact is that the Nazis didn’t really have that much support until 1929. The Nazis were unpopular because they were so extremist in their views, so as long as everything was running smoothly, they had very little support. However, when the Depression hit in 1929, and unemployment spiralled out of control, and wages were cut, but prices rose, many people began to associate with what the Nazis had been saying, and so voted them into the largest party in Germany by 1932.
I have described above how the depression helped Hitler to come to power, and this was clearly a huge factor that he used to his advantage. Ever since the Nazis began, they had been trying to undermine the government, and make it look weaker. They almost succeeded in taking power in a coup, during the depression of 1923. But after Hitler went to jail, he decided it was best to try to take power by political means. Therefore, when the Depression hit in 1929, the Nazis benefited hugely, and the government became much weaker.
The Weimar government was weak because of the democratic system of proportional representation. There were hundreds of parties, so no government was ever a single party, but instead was a coalition of many small parties. This led to disputes within the government, and so the government was always weak. When the depression hit, the government did very little to deal with the crisis. In addition, the run of Chancellors that came and went from 1929 to 1933 all could do very little to stop the economy crashing. This Nazis capitalised on this by always criticising the government, and undermining it with by creating disorder with the SA, and with propaganda.
This was one of the major methods used by the Nazis as they tried to win power by gathering support, and this too contributed in a big way to the Nazi success of 1933. Joseph Goebbels was head of propaganda in the Nazi party, and was produced some posters and literature which criticised their opponents, and promoted their ideas. They also were very careful about their image; they prided themselves on being a very orderly party, and organised mass rallies with brilliant organisation. This was a form of propaganda, and showed people a pillar of order in the mess that Germany was in. The idea of propaganda in this form was way ahead of their time, and really worked to win the voters onto their side, and bring fame to the Nazis. However, this factor can be traced back to Hitler’s genius as a politician, because it was him that appointed Goebbels.
Hitler also managed to win the support of big businesses because of their anti- Trade Union policies. This meant that they were financially able to fund all these propaganda campaigns. This is another example of how his genius as a politician led the Nazis to success in 1933.
The Nazi’s opposition was weak, and disorganised, and this meant that they were less able to stop the Nazis from coming to power. They often refused to cooperate with each other, and even when it was clear that the Nazis were so popular that they were going to get power unless the other parties did something, they still didn’t do enough. However, by the end of 1932, the Nazis were the biggest party, with a huge amount of power through the SA, whose membership was up to almost three million, but they had no political power, because the other parties had formed coalitions that excluded them, and they did not have a majority of the vote.
The only people who did cooperate together, were Hindenburg and his chancellor von Papen in 1933. They had been ruling by Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which said that the president could take autocratic rule in an emergency, and realised that they could not continue to do this without the support of the people or anyone in the Reichstag. Therefore, they realised that they needed the support of the biggest party in Germany, the Nazis, and they thought that with so few Nazis in the cabinet, they would be able to control Hitler. Therefore, they invited him to become Chancellor in January 1933. This shows how it was not just Hitler’s genius that led to him coming to power in 1933, but it was also the scheming of these leading politicians.
Therefore, I think that Hitler’s genius as a politician was an extremely important factor in explaining the Nazi success of 1933, but it was not the only one. The Depression played a huge part, because it gave a reason for dissatisfaction with the government and with life in general, and Hitler was best able to appeal to those who were not happy with the way things were going. The scheming of von Papen and Hindenburg was how Hitler finally came to power, but by then it seemed inevitable.
Within the Nazi party, the SA was crucial to the image of the party, and to undermining the government, but this was slightly influenced by Hitler. The same goes for the propaganda campaign, and the policies of the Nazis. Therefore, I think that Hitler’s genius as a politician was not the factor in why he came to power, because without the Depression, or a similar economic or political collapse he would have never won the support of the masses that he did. However, I think that Hitler’s genius as a politician was more important than the Depression, purely because of the fact that so much stemmed from him, and without Hitler, by 1933, the Nazi party would still have been a small, extremist party, with very little following.