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Hitlers Rise To Power

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How Hitler got into Power

At the end of the war Germany underwent a rapid political restructuring. Following this transition from authoritarian monarchy to democratic republic, Weimar Germany immediately began to display weaknesses that it would ultimately never fix. Germany had to create a government that the Allies would be prepared to negotiate with, so Hindenburg ordered a government which had the support of the Reichstag. When Kaiser William II fled the country, Germany could still have remained a monarchy, as William's son was eligible for the throne. The Weimar Republic was not based on strong public convictions, which must, in part, explain its weakness. There were many flaws in thew Weimar Republic. Weimar had great problems gaining acceptance throughout Germany, too. The terribly harsh conditions of the Treaty of Versailles angered Germans, especially the military everywhere and many directed their resentment at the Weimar government who signed the Treaty. Defeat in a large-scale war always signals the beginning of a difficult period for a nation. Following World War I, Germany was virtually crushed by the harsh demands of the Treaty of Versailles. The German economy was weighed down heavily by the enormous reparations bill. Weimar governments struggled to meet the huge reparations payments and their failure to do so was the basis of further problems. One such event was the additional humiliation of the French and Belgian occupation of the Ruhr in 1923. The French took control of the coal mines and factories of the region, so the workers, following a policy of passive resistance, went on strike. The French employed their own men to work the area, whilst the German government committed to paying the wages of the striking workers. This was a very expensive exercise and, on top of that, Germany lost profits from industry in the Ruhr and actually had to spend money importing coal. These massive drains on the German economy caused inflation to soar to incredible levels, paralleling the dramatic drops in the value of the reichsmark. It is true that the Reichsbank printed more and more money to the point where over 44 trillion marks was in circulation. Some historians argue that the Weimar government did this deliberately, to devalue their currency, making it cheaper to pay reparations. The downside of this was that middle and working class Germans lost their savings and the value of their wages. For instance in November 1923, the cost of a loaf of bread in Berlin was about 201 billion marks!

In November 1923, the Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler, marched to a beer hall in Munich and announced that they were taking over government. The Bavarians denounced this, being confident of having control over the army. The Nazis realised their putsch had failed, but decided to march to the centre of Munich in a last ditch demonstration to gain support. There was a physical confrontation with the police there, which claimed eight lives. Charged with treason, Hitler and some of his supporters were sent to jail. Although Hitler was sentenced to five years imprisonment, he only served one. While Hitler was in prison, he wrote his semi-autobiography - Mein Kampf . These attacks on government, coupled with the poor state of the German economy, created doubt in the minds of many Germans about the validity of democracy and made them more receptive to alternative ideas. This change is clearly represented by the change in voting patterns of 1924. Votes moved away from the Social Democrats (SPD) and Democrats (DDP) and towards the far-left Communists (KPD) and the far-right Nazis (NSDAP). The effects of the Depression in Germany reached all corners of society. The political, social and economic instability that accompanied and grew from the Depression was a major factor contributing to Nazi success.

In March 1932 Hindenburg's term expired and he stood again. The Nazis campaigned

vigorously - Hitler travelled by plane all across Germany, around 300 political meetings were held each day, and Joseph Goebbels propagandised the nation. In the April elections Hindenburg was returned to power but Hitler was able to gain 37% of the

second-round vote. In the 1930s, paramilitary groups rose in prominence. These groups, made mainly of ex-army soldiers, were often used by political parties to gain control of the streets and 'put some muscle behind the words.' The Nazi paramilitary consisted of the SA and the SS, and Hindenburg banned these two groups in April 1932. The current chancellor at that time, Papen instigated a ten man 'Cabinet of Barons' but it received no support in the Reichstag. In meetings with Papen and presidential advisor Kurt von Schleicher, Hitler gave the impression that he would support a new government if the ban on the SA and SS was lifted. Papen and Schleicher played into Hitler's hands



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