Essays and IB internal assessments relating to Hitler

A Plan of the investigation (2 marks)
To what extent did Hitler’s interest in Austria and the resulting anschluss impact Chamberlain’s role in the developments up to the Munich Agreement?
Hitler’s aggression in rebelling against the terms of the Treaty of Versailles is generally considered a major factor in leading to the start of World War II. Austria was the third breach of the treaty after the Germany’s massive rearmament campaign and the remilitarization of the Rhineland. This investigation will explore Hitler’s part in the anschluss and the Chamberlain’s in events leading up to the Munich Agreement in 1939. Different interpretations of the events will be examined, and analysis of Hitler’s own Mein Kampf, among other sources, will be evaluated.
B Summary of evidence (5 marks)
1. The situation in Europe after the First World War
After the First World War in 1914, the allied victors, the “Big Three” (Great Britain, France, and the United States), met at the Paris Peace Conference to decide upon measures dealing with the defeated countries Germany, Austria-Hungary, and their allies. After “the war to end all wars”, there was a general mood and hope for peace and the Treaty of Versailles was drawn up in 1919; it primarily dealt with the punishment of Germany and creation of the League of Nations, an international peace organization. As punishment for initiating the war, the Treaty outlined the following restrictions for Germany: the Rhineland area between Germany and France was to be demilitarized, and Germany was to disarm, pay reparations, reduce its armed forces, and not allowed to join the League of Nations or unite with Austria.
2. Hitler in Power
Adolf Hitler was sentenced to thirteen months in prison, where he dictated what was to become Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”). Its main points were to defeat communism, abolish the Treaty of Versailles, and expand German territory. Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933 and leader after Hindenburg died in 1934. Soon after, he initiated a rearmament program. In Mein Kampf, one of Hitler’s main aims was to abolish the Treaty of Versailles. Rearmament was the first action that defied the Treaty; then, in 1933 Hitler withdrew Germany from the Geneva Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations. The remilitarization of the Rhineland took place in March 1936, a breach of both the terms of the Versailles Treaty and the Locarno Pact.
3. Anschluss
In his book, Hitler talked of Austria and Germany’s reunification. The Treaty of Saint Germain in 1919 forbade Austria from uniting with Germany. Schuschnigg, the chancellor of Austria, wanted to avoid anschluss by staging a plebiscite, but was forced to resign by Hitler. In 1938, Germany annexed Austria.
4. Chamberlain and Appeasement
Because the isolationist United States wished to stay out of foreign affairs after World War I, they did not join the League of Nations. Britain and France, the strongest powers in the League, adopted the policy of appeasement toward Hitler, which only made Hitler bolder and increasingly fearless. When Nazi troops marched into the Rhineland, Britain and France, aside from moral condemnation, did little to counteract the aggressor. When Germany reunited with Austria, they also did nothing. The epitome of the appeasement policy was in the case of Hitler demanding the Sudentenland, then all of Czechoslovakia, and getting what he wanted in the “piece of paper”. The Munich Agreement of 1939 became a symbol of weakness and betrayal to the people of the free world. Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1949 marked the start of the Second World War. Since then, there has been much debate over the role of Hitler’s aggressive foreign policy in starting the war, and the role of Chamberlain in appeasing Hitler.
C Evaluation of sources (4 marks)
* critical evaluation of 2 important sources
* refer to origin, purpose, value, limitation
Churchill, Winston S. The Second World War – The Gathering Storm. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1948.
Written by Churchill himself, The Gathering Storm is divided into two sections: Book One recounts the interwar years (1919-1939) and Book Two the events of the Second World War up to 1940. Churchill is an authoritative source, but he is arguably biased in his views of Hitler and Chamberlain as he played an important role in World War II – the role of fighting the axis powers – in what he considers an “unnecessary war”. Following the Preface of his book is a page titled “Theme of the Volume” which explicitly states: “How the English-speaking peoples through their unwisdom, carelessness, and good nature allowed the wicked to rearm”. In addition, the book was published in 1948, only three years after World War II ended. [can’t make out if Churchill supports Chamberlain or not. Seems to imply there was no other alternative to appeasement, yet
Taylor, A.J.P. The Origins of the Second World War. Greenwich: Fawcett, 1961.
Taylor discusses the one explanation that there appeared to be consensus over: that Hitler caused World War II. He mentions how Churchill in his works cannot detach from his writing like a contemporary author can. Indeed, the book was published a good sixteen years after World War II. It maintains the view that Hitler was a gambler and critiques the consensus viewpoint, and refers to evidence and archives and their limitations. However, Taylor’s thesis that Hitler did not play a particularly unique role in World War II does not take into account the terms of the Treaty of Versailles and how it was a big blow to Germany.
D Analysis (5 marks)
* importance of investigation in its historical contest
* analysis of evidence
* different interpretations
Importance of investigation
- very different viewpoints, must determine which one is most reliable / conceivable
Analysis of evidence
- so far, Mein Kampf seems to have little limitations aside from the possibility that Hitler was a madman and that it was penned by others (after all, goes directly into mind of Hitler)
- other sources are all in retrospect
E Conclusion (2 marks)
* clearly stated, consistent with evidence presented
- the criticism of Chamberlain’s appeasing Hitler has been one-sided
- anschluss affected Chamberlain’s policy a great deal
F List of sources (2 marks)
Written sources:
1. Churchill, Winston S. The Second World War – The Gathering Storm. Cambridge: The Riverside Press, 1948.
2. Loewenheim, Francis L. Peace or Appeasement?. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965.
3. Taylor, A.J.P. The Origins of the Second World War. Greenwich: Fawcett, 1961.

How did Hitler Gain Support Up to 1923?

Adolf Hitler, the fascist dictator of Germany, has placed him among history’s most hated villains who led the deaths of millions in the Second World War. Simultaneously, he is viewed as the leader who led the Nazi party to victory and defeat, and brought the nationalist movement together. In today’s world, Hitler remains to be regarded as an enigmatic character. Indeed, Hitler’s rise of power after the First World War was a significant turning point of our history of mankind as a whole, and therefore, deserves to be questioned. After Germany’s defeat in the war (1914-18), a new constitution Weimar Republic was established in 1919, which was followed by three main periods. The first chaotic and anarchic period existed from 1919 to 1923, consisting of left/right wing rebellions and invasions and inflations. Those years encountered Hitler’s rise to power and his ability to be reflected as a strong leader to the German society. However, his support was not gained overnight. It was the result of his gift for mesmerizing the vast crowds with his frenzied speeches, his hatred towards the Treaty of Versailles and ‘inferior’ race who became Hitler’s scapegoat, thus providing an explanation to Germany’s problems.

Hitler was a gifted public speaker who could collect the hopes and longings of his audiences, then focus them with fascinating, vivid language. An eyewitness account which captures the emotional appeal of totalitarianism is as follows:“The speech is over. As it has proceeded the voice has become higher, more staccato—hypnotizing as the rapid beat of drumsticks on the tom-tom. The crowd is spellbound. As the speech concludes a storm of cheers and ‘heils’ break out…”Although this account comes from ten years after 1923, it does prove Hitler’s gift to manipulate people’s mind through his exciting speeches. Sources describe Hitler’s speech as slow and halting at the beginning, but which gradually warms up when the spiritual atmosphere of the vast crowd is engendered. Hitler waited for the feel of the audience, and as soon as he founded it, the tempo increased until he shouted at the climax. Through all this, the listener seemed to identify himself with Hitler’s voice which became the voice of Germany. In fact, the outdoor gatherings were held in huge sports stadiums, dramatically lit, and accompanied by singing, torchlight processions and other emotionally stirring features. They were often at night because as Goebbels, Hitler’s best propagandist emphasized: “The beast in man comes out at night.” There are no doubts in the view that Hitler possessed the superior ability to address huge crowds in ways that excited them and appealed to their emotions.

The right wing Germans wanted to believe in the strong leader who vowed to tear up the Versailles treaty and end Germany’s reparation. The financial struggle begot from the inflation during 1922-23 was devastating and families faced great hardships. Germany’s economies were in ruins, but they were expected to pay 132 million marks of reparations to the victorious Allies. The Weimar government had to borrow a huge amount of money from other nations and the government’s eventual decision to print out paper money exacerbated the situation. This incident completely shattered the confidence of the Germans. In result, people were willing to listen to a leader with extreme ideas who promised a better quality of life and rescue them from the suffering that started as the Treaty of Versailles was signed against their wills in June 1919. The Germans felt strong anger toward the treaty itself and to the leaders who agreed to the terms, referred as the “November criminals” by the non-communists. Through overturning the Treaty of Versailles, the Germans believed their lives would improve by subsequently retrieving the lost territories and rebuilding the army, getting self determination and being absolved from the responsibility of the huge amount of reparation, which was the primary cause of the economic down crash prior to the formation of Dawes Plan in 1924 that eased German reparation payments. Therefore, many supported Hitler for his hatred towards the Treaty of Versailles, and sure enough, they expressed fresh enthusiasm for a leader who was attempting to restore German honor.

Hitler’s gain of support until 1923 also resulted from the hatred towards the Jews and the Weimar Republic. He believed in the creation of a racially pure German state would benefit the nation and provide more Lebensraum for the Aryan race . Whether Hitler really wanted racial cleansing or used it as a mere tool of gaining support is controversial. However, it is to a large extent true that many of the Germans approved of such racism. Although Hitler used the Jews and other sections of society, such as the communists and the Weimar republic as scapegoats, blaming all the problems on them, to Germans at the time Hitler made sense, thus he united everyone by providing explanations for Germany’s problem. During such a chaotic period from 1919-1923, Hitler confidently pointed out all the factors that seemed to be contributing to the hardships of people’s lives which gave his supporters hope for recovery through eliminating the weaknesses of the nation.

However, from certain respects, it is doubtful whether Hitler even gained much support up to 1923. If he did, then why did Hitler not come to power in 1923 but succeeded in 1933? Reasons may vary. In 1923, Hitler’s Party was newly formed and his supporters were numbered relatively small. During this period his Party was not a major force in national politics, and the problems facing those who supported democratic government in 1923 were not nearly as great as those facing Germany in 1933. Finally, in 1923, the President did not invite Hitler to become Chancellor like in 1933. Nevertheless, as to the question on how Hitler gained support up to 1923, there may be a number of possible answers. Most importantly, he enthralled his audience through delivering his speeches, and people had common hatred with Hitler towards the Treaty of Versailles, the Weimar Republic and the Jews for they all wanted an explanation for Germany’s problems and had sought a solution to their own despairs.

Why Did Hitler and the Nazi Party Lose Support from 1924-1929?

Anton Drexler’s establishment of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party in 1920, brought about the rise of Adolf Hitler who led the most significant German political party of the twentieth century. By famous historians such as Alan Bullock, the Nazi Party is regarded as an organized conspiracy against the State which pursued power and position, for the sole object was to secure power by one means or another. Therefore, it may be misunderstood that Hitler and his Party gained considerable support, thereby controlled the Weimar Republic from its creation until the end of World War ||. There is a large degree of truth that Hitler gained support from 1919 to 1923, when the Weimar was surviving a series of severe crises consisted of inflation (1923), invasion of the Ruhr (1924) by the Allied powers, and left/right wing rebellions (1919-23) within the nation. Hitler promised people better lives and sought solutions to the German problems through targeting the scapegoats. Moreover, in 1933, Hitler eventually was given power by Hindenburg as the steep decline of the German economy renewed instability to democracy. However, 1924-1929 indeed have been the years of declining for the Nazi Party in which they lost power due to several varying reasons, such as the Golden Years led by the German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann, and the disorganized Nazi Party as a consequence of the leaders that were arrested after the failure of the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, including Hitler becoming banned from speaking publicly until 1928.

One major reason for the greatly weakening Nazi Party in the mid-20s was due to the prosperity of the Stresemann years, as he brought about the era of calm and serenity where economic recovery and political stability was achieved to a large extent. As the following examples prove, Weimar Germany 1924-9 was undergoing a renaissance. Under Stresemann’s policies, recovery was helped by the adoption of the Dawes Plan in 1924, which allowed Germany to extend the period over which reparations had to be paid, and stimulated a large loan from Wall Street that helped Germany to keep up with its payments. At the same time Stresemann took drastic measures to end inflation and restore German currency. This clearly affected the Nazi Party, for the hyperinflation of 1923 had been ruining the middle class and Hitler saw this crisis as an opportunity too good to miss as a tool for gaining power. Stresemann withdrew oldmarks from circulating and replaced by new rentenmarks, which gave people more confidence and enabled a temporary economic recovery. Furthermore, the French occupation of the Ruhr was ended in 1925 and the Locarno Treaty created a greater sense of security in Europe as it guaranteed the inviolability of the shared German, French, and Belgian borders. Even one of the most important steps in Germany’s return to full freedom was achieved, which was the admission to the League of Nations in September 1926. In result, the German industry had survived the galloping inflation reasonably and Germany was able to make its reparations payments to the powers of the Entente; they repaid their war debts to the US, and from there the money flowed back to Germany in the form of loans. This effective system revived the German economy with unusual speed from 1924 to 1929, and German production increased in volume by 50 percent, and many industries were able to regain their dominant position in world markets. Apparently, in the middle 1920s Germany regained her pre-war standard of living, although the real strength of the German recovery is, however, still controversial, for political and economic weaknesses continued. It has been stated in The Rise and Fall of Third Reich (1959) by William Shirer, an American journalist who lived in Germany from 1926 to 1941:“Support for the Nazi Party had grown due to the country’s problems of hyperinflation and the French invasion of the Ruhr. By 1928 Nazism appeared to be a dying cause. Now that Germany’s outlook was suddenly bright, the Nazi Party was rapidly withering away. One scarcely heard of Hitler or the Nazis except as a joke.”As this statement implies, the Gold Age of the Reichstag meant that the Nazi’s message became less appealing and the party lost support for the Nazi Party’s ideologies were too extreme and was mostly based on expressing German hatred toward the Treaty of Versailles, the current status of Germany and the ‘inferior’ race, to gain support. However, the happier the Germans felt toward the economic prosperity brought by Stresemann’s policies, the greater they became uninterested in extremists politics. In result, the extremist party did badly at the elections.

In three elections held between 1924-9 their representation in the Reichstag was very low compared to other parties and was politically very weak. Thus, it remained the smallest Party in the Reichstag up to 1928. As unemployment fell and Germany was changing radically for the better, people were less discontented, and this resulted on the decline in support for the extreme right and the extreme left, also due to people’s lack of interest in the views of those who desired to overthrow the prosperous Weimar regime. On the other hand, the relative stability coincided with the increase in support for the Social Democratic Party which gradually regrouped and played the leader of the opposition lending its support to Stresemann’s policies, which the Nazi Party detested.

The failure of the Munich Beer Hall Putsch weakened Hitler and withered his Party due to the many leaders being arrested and sentenced to jail, as well as Hitler being banned from speaking publicly until the end of 1920s. During Hitler’s years in prison turning the energies to writing his autobiography Mein Kampf, the Nazi Party had broken up almost completely. The end of 1923 and 1924 had been followed by the arrest or flight of the leaders from the Party. For example, the Nazi commander-in-chief Hermann Goring remained abroad until 1927, Hitler’s chief advisor Scheubner-Richter had been killed, and Dietrich Eckart, a journalist who was a key early member in the Nazi died at the end of 1923 due to illness. Furthermore, what disabled Hitler from gaining back support was the banning from speaking publicly until 1928, which was caused by the two new objectives set by Hitler in 1925 when he was released from prison. Hitler’s new policies alarmed the authorities especially on legality which they viewed as hostility towards the Republic with the purpose of overthrowing the government. Thereby, Hitler was immediately prohibited from speaking in public, first in Bavaria until May 1927, and soon this prohibition extended to other German states as well which lasted until 1928. Sure enough, this was a severe handicap for a leader whose greatest asset was his ability as a speaker. Some may argue that the ban on his public speaking allowed Hitler to turn more to writing between 1925 and 1928, and therefore cannot be counted as the major reason to why Hitler and his Party had lost power. However, although during these years Hitler wrote the first (1925) and second volume of his autobiography Mein Kampf, the book was filled with pages of turgid discussion of Hitler’s ideas, written in a verbose style which was both difficult and dull to read, to the extent that Max Amann, who was to publish the book, was deeply disappointed. According to one of Britain’s most distinguished scholars, Alan Bullock, Mein Kamf was an interesting book for anyone trying to understand Hitler’s mind, but as a party tract or a political best-seller it was a failure because only a few, even among the party members had the patience to read due to his thwarted intellectual ambition, the desire to make people to take him seriously as an original thinker and the use of long words and constant repetitions. In fact, the book sold 9,473 copies the year it was published, but sales went down from 6,913 in 1926 to 3,015 in 1928, which shows how the Germans were getting uninterested in his extreme policies. However, in the year that set an end to the Golden Age when the Germans needed answers to their problems encountered again, the sales more than doubled and shot up to 50,000 in 1930 and 1931. By 1940, six million copies had been sold. This proves how Hitler was ignored by people in the mid-20s due to his lack of communication and unstable Party, but gained support almost immediately as the Great Depression started as people were in need of solutions to their struggles.

For Hitler and his Nazi Party, 1924 to 1929 had been the years of decline and reorganizing for the rise of power. During this period of economic recovery and political stability, the extreme right wing Party had been losing support due to the bright vision of future Germany and the ineffectiveness of the Party itself. They were eventually saved by the Wall Street Crash of October 1929, the event which was crucial to the Nazis as higher levels of unemployment was gradually emerging as a problem and people were unhappy with their living standards. The world-wide slump and the decline of the German economy, though not a sufficient explanation, was certainly an essential precondition for the ‘Nazified’ Germany. In our world today, the rise of the Nazis is regarded inevitable; however, regardless of the fundamental flaws of the Reichstag, the period of Golden Age for the Weimar Republic suggested the possibility of preventing the world’s greatest tragedy from occurring to a certain extent.

How and why was Hitler able to become Chancellor of Germany?

"The [Nazi party] should not become a constable of public opinion, but must dominate it. It must not become a servant of the masses, but their master!"- Adolf Hitler. This was the view from a man who under other circumstances, would have made a brief appearance in the annals of history and then be forgotten forever. Instead, he became the dictator of an entire nation, and then became the sole reason for the deaths of at least 6 million innocents. As the head of the Nationalist Socialist German Worker's Party, Hitler was an ambitious man whose sole purpose was to become head of Germany. However, at the peak of his support, he only had 44% of support in the Reichstag--never even a majority. In fact, the year before he took chancellorship, the Nazi Party was experiencing a dramatic fall in the number of seats in the Reichstag. The eternal question remains; how did Hitler come to power if his party never even had majority support? Hitler's appointment to chancellorship on January 30th of 1933 was the culmination of a series of events that led Hindenburg to appoint him chancellor--the effects of the economic depression, his appeal to the people and to the Reichstag, the growing power he was wielding through terror, and the miscalculation and ineffective plotting of others.

The Great Depression because of the Wall Street Crash in October 1929 had a terrible effect on Weimar Germany--because of the horrible conditions, Hitler's support gained momentum, making him a viable contender in the eyes of those that mattered. The German economy collapsed after the US withdrew its loans from the banks of Weimar Germany, and soon, unemployment was rampant. In 1928, before the Depression, unemployment levels were at 2 million people, or 8 percent of the population. However, only 3 years after the advent of the Depression, 1932, unemployment was at 6 million people, or about 29.9 percent of the population. This shows the rapid decline of conditions in the Weimar Republic. Because of their situation, the people turned toward Hitler, who seemed to them to be a beacon of change and an end to the democracy the public hated so much. As two chancellors had been appointed by 1932, von Papen and Schleicher, and neither had done much to combat the growing numbers of unemployment, the public was more than ready for a change in leadership, and hoped it to be Hitler. He presented himself as the salvation for the German people, and the German people accepted that illusion. It is extremely significant to note that the people were not the ones that elected Hitler into chancellorship--rather it was the President at the time. However, Hitler's support from the people was nevertheless a factor in his rise to power, as President Hindenburg noted that Hitler's popularity with the public would spill over into support for him if Hindenburg displayed to the people that he was taking Hitler under his wing.

Hitler's personal decisions and powers also helped him gain the chancellorship--once Hindenburg saw the public's and the Reichstag's attraction to him, Hitler became a contender for Hindenburg. His speeches and oratorical powers of persuasion and convincing were legendary in the political circles, and Hindenburg and his aides took note of his influence in speech-making as well. He was aware of the people's problems and what they craved to hear, and how best to craft his policies and present them so as to have the maximum effect upon his audience. It must be taken into account that in 1928, the Nazis held a mere 2.6 percent of the vote in the Reichstag, but because of their merging with other parties in the following years, the Nazis were brought into a socially influential right-wing coalition, as a result making connections with wealthy financial backers. His propaganda was also a great factor in his growing influence in the political sphere. His Nazi propagandist Jospeh Goebbels began an intensive media campaign that continued to focus on the points that Hitler was pushing in his 25-point plan: eradication of the Jews because of their usurping of jobs and money, and Germans over all. Through their intense campaigning, the entire public spectrum was appealed to, and this made Hitler a strong presence in the political field, in terms of public support. This public support also helped him gain votes in the Reichstag, even though he never had a majority in it, he still had a substantial percentage--44% in 1932. He especially had the support of the right-wing conservative members in the Reichstag. All these factors made Hindenburg realize Hitler's influence with the Reichstag, specifically with the anti-democratic right-wingers, and contemplate his value. Hitler's personal decisions and powers such as his oratorical gifts, his use of propaganda, and his reformation of the party all served for Hindenburg to take note of Hitler's expanding political presence.

Hitler's path to chancellorship was also marked by his use of terror to achieve his aims, and the President's decision to fight that. At the creation of the Treaty of Versailles, one of the conditions placed upon Germany was the limitation of the Weimar Republic's army to that of 100,000 men, a miniscule military. As Hitler expanded his Party, he created sub-organizations such as the SA, SS, and the Gestapo. He called them his bodyguards, his stormtroopers, and his secret police, but in reality they served him as his own private army. Hitler used his army to strike terror into the hearts of his opponents--he sent them out to carry out ruthless killings of opponents. In total, his personal military numbered at around 2 million men, more than twenty times greater in numbers than the official governmental military. Furthermore, because of Hitler's financial support, arming his men was possible. In short, Hitler had a massive, fully-armed military at his disposal. If Hitler were to create trouble with his SS and SA, the official military did not have enough power to suppress it. Additionally, Hitler's army would be extremely effective in crushing Communist revolt, especially if in collaboration with the governmental army. President Hindenburg was able to see that if Hitler were to start a revolution with his men, there would be chaos and terror presiding over all. With this in mind, Hindenburg realized that if Hitler were in the chancellor position, his army would be under control and even more effective when crushing the Communists, who Hindenburg despised. Because of Hitler's use of terror and force to advocate his party, the President came to realize Hitler's use in the chancellorship position.

As Hindenburg closely watched Hitler's political movements and saw his usefulness if appropriately harnessed, he collaborated with his aides to plan a method to control Hitler, which was the reason for his final appointment to chancellorship. Von Papen was the chancellor in 1932, but the Reichstag gave him next to no support when he tried to pass legislation. He had the support of Hindenburg, however had no rapport with the parliament. Therefore, General Schleicher, a fervent anti-republican, convinced Hindenburg to dismiss Papen. In December of 1932, Schleicher formed a new government, but lost Hindenburg's support within a month. Finally, the decision came to offer the position of chancellorship to Hitler. This was the culmination of Hindenburg's tracking of Hitler, and his ulterior motives to giving Hitler the chancellorship were numerous. Firstly, he had noted Hitler's popularity with the people, and had noticed that this popularity had given him significant influence within the Reichstag. Even though Hitler did not have majority support in the parliament, the support he did have was much weightier than that of the two previous chancellors. Secondly, Hindenburg considered Hitler's power over his multitudinous army, the SS and the SA. If Hitler were to initiate a revolution with his military at the head, Hindenburg would be powerless to stop it. He then realized that if he brought Hitler on his side, he could "tame" him by providing him with governmental responsibility, and in doing so, Hitler's popularity in the Reichstag would transfer to him. Furthermore, if Hitler were harnessed, his army could be utilized to combat Communist uprisings, and there would be no danger of Hitler using the SA and SS against the government itself. Von Papen and Hindenburg listed these apparent benefits in giving the chancellorship to Hitler, and therein lies the truth to Hitler's ascent to power. Most importantly, Hitler did not take power per se, but was handed it by others in authority. Nevertheless, certain factors such as his popularity and his terrorizing helped him into power, but overall Von Papen and Hindenburg provided Hitler with the chancellorship--through their plotting and miscalculation.

A series of unfortunate events paved the way for Hitler's eventual takeover of the Weimar Republic, leading to genocide and war of the worst kind. Had Hitler never taken the chancellor's position, it is likely that he would have briefly made his mark in history and melted back into the shadows of time. However, due to the terrible effects of the Great Depression, his personal powers in attracting popularity with the public and in the Reichstag, his manipulation of the political world through terror, and scheming of others, Hitler was made chancellor of the Weimar Republic. Through the underestimation of him of unwise authorities, the entire course of history was changed forever. "Adolf Hitler was one of the most influential historical figures of the 20th century” [1]as written in John Toland’s biography of Adolf Hitler. He was an extremely nationalistic rightist who wanted Germany under his leadership to become a militaristic state. His craving for power was answered in January 1933 when he was invited by President Hindenburg to become the German Chancellor.[2]He later used his influence to achieve his aspirations of forming a dictatorial empire. But before becoming Chancellor, what made him and his Nazi Party appeal so strongly to the German population? Moreover, how and why was Hitler able to attain this position of greatness? This topic is still widely debated by many historians today.

As Hitler stated, “we have already set a target, and for this struggle we will fight, until the death!”[3] This goal was Hitler accomplished in 1933 when he became Chancellor. Hitler was released from Landsburg Prison on 20 December, 1924.[4] On the 16th of February 1925 the ban on the Nazi Party was lifted as he promised to achieve power without violence.[5] But he was not allowed to speak publicly until 1928. By 1928 the Nazi Party only had 12 seats in the Reichstag. However by November 1933 they were the dominant party in the Reichstag with 196 seats. Over the course of 5 years he was able to revive the Nazi Party and bring it into power. But above all, we should ask how this was possible.? Hitler had the ability to emotionally stimulate masses of population with his remarkable speeches and influence people into completely loving him.The best example would be his speech at Zirkus where people went completely mad.. As he wrote in Mein Kampf, Hitler raised the emotional level of people to the point that they cheered insanely. “…In ever greater spontaneous outbursts” as he put it[6], and when his speech was coming to the end. Someone in the audience started to sing the national anthem and everyone followed. Hitler wrote, “Did the audience find its relaxing conclusion…”[7] Another example would be Ernst Hanfstaengl’s wife and Goebbels complete admiration of him. As we can see in “Rise of Evil”,[8] both of these people fell in love with Hitler and as written in Goebbels diary, this is confirmed. “I Love him. The social question. A completely new insight…I bow to the greater man, to the political genius,”[9] from this extraction from one of his journal entries we can notice how much Goebbels worships Hitler. This not only tells us how persuasive Hitler was, but how emotionally moving, charismatic and manipulative his speeches must have been. This was but one of his personal attributes which allowed him to stand out among many German Party spokespersons. Apart from being a magnet to the many German people who attended his speeches, another character which made him stand aloof from other politicians would be his attitude and strong beliefs. As Hitler stated in the Rise of Evil after his return from Landsburg prison: “There are only two possible out comes, either we cross over the enemy’s body, or there cross over ours…But I will not fail….” From this extraction we see how audacious a person Hitler was to an extant he confirmed to his party that they will not fail. Better proof of this would be his turning down of Hindenburg’s offer of Vice-Chancellorship; he was determined. “The chess game for power begins,” Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary. “The chief thing is that we remain strong and make no compromises.”[10] This was the exact attitude Hitler had towards everything thrown against him. However, Hitler’s personal qualities were not the only factor which encouraged the German people to vote for him. We should also take into consideration the political background of Germany at the time. In fact we could start right from the creation of Weimar Germany. As A.J.P Taylor said: “Weimar Germany was doomed from the start.[11]” This was very true and in fact William Shirer shared a very similar approach as he wrote in “The Rise and fall of the Third Reich suggesting that Germany had no democratic tradition and many parties were against the creation of a Democracy. These people were generally old monarchists, the army, the industrialists, the nationalists and many other conservative parties. In fact there were many parties in the far left and rightwing that constantly tried to overthrow it. In addition, the constitution was corrupt as the Reichstag consisted of 600 representatives and by 1930 there were no less than 28 parties competing for election. With many parties existing, compromise was impracticable. This meant that there were always elections and that the political status of Germany was astoundingly unstable. This also made it very easy for Hitler to manipulate the Reichstag because his Nazi party held 196 seats in November, 1932 making them the biggest party. [12]As shown in Rise of Evil, his party was leaving the Reichstag building during assemblies. Because of this, nothing could get done and no votes could be cast. In the November 1932 election, for example, over 50 per cent of the votes were for the Nazi and Communist parties.[13] This shows that people wanted a strong leader as they were voting radically for the most leftist and rightist parties. This explains how Hitler was able to prosper and gain support from people such as Fritz Thyssen[14] and other leading industrialists who donated large sums of money as they wanted Hitler to fight communism which would in return benefit them as well. He also had the largest majority of Germans from all social classes voting for him. He had the power to control the fate of Germany. As Mao Zedong believed: “Only by motivating the majority of the people, you will only thereafter ensure the succession of the revolution.”[15] This is what Hitler had accomplished. Hitler also stated: “It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge.”[16] Since most of Germany already had faith in him, he was for sure to succeed in “his struggle.” Hitler’s rise to power was not a coincidence. He had gained the support of many of the German people through his speeches and use of Nazi propaganda. He also had the economical support of businessmen and since the German government was corrupt and dissolved, Hitler could easily manipulate it. This is how Hitler was able to take power and establish his own Government.

Hitler never had more than 37 percent of support from honest elections, whereby the opposition stood strongly with 63 percent support.[17] So if at the time, Germany was truly democratic, why was Hitler able to become Chancellor in 1933? First of all, Tthe German government had many fatal flaws which contributed to ineffective decision making or in fact, you could say complete failure in decision making. There were never less than 28 different parties competing for election which made it impossible to attain a majority vote on many issues. Apart from that, many German leaders had a weak devotion to democracy. Even the elected President, Hindenburg strongly detested democracy as he constantly used Article 48 as a way of maintaining power In contrast with Fredrick Ebert, Hindenburg used Article 48 as a means of dictatorially ruling Germany. But The Great Depression which hit Germany harder than any other nation was what truly simulated masses of people into voting radically for leftwing and rightwing parties and especially the Nazi’s. In 1928 there were 2 million unemployed in Germany and The Nazi Party had 12 seats in the Reichstag.[18] By 1932 when there were 6 million unemployed people, both the Nazi and Communist Party had significant increases in numbers but most outstanding would be the increase in numbers of the Nazi Party to 196 seats in the Parliament by November, 1932. [19] However, modern historians question the “true” reason behind why he became Chancellor in January, 1933. Many historians such as Lord Bullock argue that it was not really by great rise in his supporters but in fact:” “Hitler came to office in 1933 as the result, not of any irresistible revolutionary or national movement sweeping him into power, nor even of a popular victory at the polls, but as part of a shoddy political deal with the 'Old Gang' whom he had been attacking for months… Hitler did not seize power; he was jobbed into office by a backstairs intrigue.”[20] In other words what Bullock is arguing is that with the decrease in number of Nazi representatives in the Reichstag, President Hindenburg believed that since Hitler was losing support he could be manipulated. So Hindenburg by Presidential powers invited Hitler to become Chancellor. Hitler did not gain Chancellorship by election as he did not gain majority support of the Reichstag. However, he got Chancellorship because of “backroom deals.” In brief, the reason why Hitler was given the position of Chancellorship was a “mistake” made on behalf of Hindenburg, but not by democratic elections. Hitler was invited to become Chancellor of Germany.

In January 1933, Hitler was officially made Chancellor of Germany. This was a true turning point in German history as Hitler later began the creation of Nazi dictatorship. As Goebbels wrote in his Journal: “Now it will be easy to carry on the fight, for we can call on all the resources of the State. Radio and press are at our disposal. We shall stage a masterpiece of propaganda. And this time, naturally, there is no lack of money.”[21] Hitler’s rise to power was more than a coincidence of events and timing. Even though Hitler’s personal attributes did play a big part of his rise to power and influence over masses of people. But what truly allowed him to attain this position was in fact the social and political background of Germany and the Weimar Government.

[1] John Toland, “Adolf Hitler”, prologue.


[3] : Translation from Chinese.



[6] Mein Kampf , page 561-562.

[7] Ibid

[8] Rise of Evil directed by Christian Duguay

[9] The Devil’s Disciples, Anthony Read, page 150-151

[10] The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer, page 148

[11] The origin of the Second World War, A.J.P Taylor, page 149


[13] Cambridge, Perspectives in History, Conflict, Communism and Fascism, Europe 1890-1945, Frank McDonough, page 92

[14] The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer, page 137

[15] The Little Red Book, Mao Zedong





[20] Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Lord Bullock, page 137.

[21] The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, William Shirer, page179
“There must be no majority decisions, but only responsible persons... Surely every man will have advisers by his side, but the decision will be made by one man.[1]” As shown in this sentence from Mein Kampf, the book Hitler wrote while living in Landsberg Prison, Adolf Hitler had an adamant ambition of being a dictator. Despite his eagerness, the Nazi party did not seem (seem? It’s pretty clear it didn’t through the elections alone) to gain a lot of support in the 1920s. Hitler’s Munich Putsch in 1923[2] to overthrow the democratic government led by Ebert ended up as a failure that led him to the prison and the number of Nazis elected to the Reichstag in May 1924 even dropped from 32 to 19 in the election of November[3]. Then how could Hitler gain authority after this repetition of failures? Not only had his personal qualities and efforts were the factors that enabled him to rise to power but more significantly Hitler could be given his position due to environmental changes that were abysmal recessions of the nation at that time. Nonetheless, the triggering reason, which is the reason that made the President to invite Hitler for the designation of Chancellor on January 30, 1933,[4] was his aim to make Hitler become controllable and use his popularity to give more credibility to his government. Good assertion

Hitler took power due to his personal qualities such as strong and consolidated beliefs and charisma along with his speeches. He made his points very clear from the beginning in the Twenty-Five Point Program proclaimed in Munich in February 1920, the main points of which were: Führerprinzip, German term for “leadership principle” which gave ultimate authority to the leader; nationalism; self-determination of German people; racism involving anti-Semitism; and Lebensraum, meaning “living space.”[5] Although the majority of people did not agree with his idea at the beginning (I think they might have agreed, but either had no faith in him, distrusted his movement and use of terror, or had many many other parties saying the same thing they could follow), he gradually got credit for maintaining his obstinacy regardless of his chagrin (?) he had to suffer through failures such as Munich Putsch. Though he was sent into jail, Hitler still did not concede his beliefs but expressed his ambition in the book called Mein Kampf, “Thus my faith grew that my beautiful dream for the future would become reality after all, even though this might require long years.”[6] Try to question the strength of the sources you’re using. hitler contradicts himself many times in his book, and this was written for publication- is he actually being honest? Despite of his failure he was still having self-belief that he would achieve his aims and become a great dictator in the future. He also reemphasized his Twenty-Five Points, such as the principle of Lebensraum for example, in the book, “The acquisition of new soil for the settlement of the excess population possesses an infinite number of advantages... It must be said that such a territorial policy cannot be fulfilled in the Cameroons, but today almost exclusively in Europe.”[7] This sentence was not simply being an exposition of Hitler’s belief but also warned of invading European countries, which gave people strong impression. Besides his ideology, Hitler could rise to power due to the fact that he had the ability to make his ideas and himself intriguing to the citizens. In the election of 1930 in Munich, he said, “It is not for seats in parliament that we fight, but we win seats in parliament in order that one day we may be able to liberate the German people.”[8] How does this explain your vague claim about needing citizens to be “intrigued” by him specifically? His speech was making people to regard him as their hope which would enable them to gain freedom and get more united as a strong and confident nation, leading them to a conclusion that they should vote for him if they wanted better lives and better country because Hitler’s aim was not the growth of his party but improvement of Germany. He was turning people into adherents of the Nazis by making them to get excited and appealed to his strong and inspiring speeches. So far this essay you offer little authority to support your claims. Where did you hear he succeeded in doing such a thing? Eventually, the Nazi Party which seemed it an arduous task to gain further support with only 2.6 per cent of vote in 1928 became the largest party in 1932 with 27.3 per cent of electoral vote.[9] This huge change in the support for Nazis proved that Hitler was making his rise to power to be possible n reality with his consolidate beliefs and intriguing speeches that made his ideology sound reasonable and agreeable to the audience.

Even though Hitler possessed noteworthy qualities including his speeches and ideology I think his ideas were a mishmash of unclear and unworkable thoughts that embarrassed many Nazis- what provokes you to consider them “noteworthy qualities?”, there was a period of time, from 1924 to 1928[10], when the Nazi Party experienced a setback in electoral votes, which meant there were other reasons for Hitler being able come to power: economic changes and political agitation at that time. The following graph shows the increasing support for the Nazi Party from 1920 to 1924 and its decline from 1924 to 1928. From 1919 to 1923, Germany was full of chaos and political disturbance. There were 21 different coalition governments with no any dominant party[12] so there was no compromising and thus created difficult condition to make decisions. This led to numerous conflicts between parties and though the president, Fredrich Ebert, tried to sustain democracy at that time, the outbreaks of political revolts were unstoppable in this period. From left-wing, communists were trying to seize power through Spartacist revolt in January 1919[13] while Bavaria already had become a socialist republic in 1918[14], adopting its own political system. still waiting to see how this applies to Hitler… There also were revolts from right-wing, such as Kapp Putsch in March 1920[15] and even political assassinations.[16] In addition, economy was also problematic at that time. Germany had to economically suffer from paying reparations by the Treaty of Versailles[17] and it was made worse when Ebert paid Germans to go on a strike in order to stop Kapp Putsch and started printing money to cope with all the costs.[18] It finally led to an economic phenomenon, the so-called “hyper inflation,” and this is also shown in the Source 2, the number of unemployed was increasing.

While the Weimar Germany was politically and economically receding, the support for the Nazis was increasing. However, from 1925 to 1929, German economy had recovered as a result of the accomplishments done by Gustav Stresemann, the foreign minister who was German chancellor in 1923.[20] The Dawes Plan that postponed the time to pay reparations[21] and the Rentenmark[22], the new currency issued by Stresemann were made great contributions to economic stability of Germany but this economic recovery was an obstacle for the Nazi Party, who had to suffer decline in its votes. The year 1929, was the year of Stresemann’s death but also the year when the Wall Street Crash occurred, bringing Weimar Germany again into an economic chaos. The US loans were no more available and the unemployment rose from 2.2 million in 1929 to 6 million in 1932[23]. Similar to the first era of Weimar Germany (1919-1923), the support of the Nazi party was increasing but much more rapidly. Every time when Germany was in facing crises, the German citizens were looking for extreme solutions that could get rid of their troublesome environment. At the right moment, Hitler was placing all the blame on Jews, saying "The Jews are a people of robbers. He has never founded any civilisation, though he has destroyed civilisations by the hundred...everything he has stolen…it is foreigners who shed their blood for him."[24] when did he say this? Did he really say this around the time of the Depression? Your footnote doesn’t say this, and I was of the opinion that he toned down his rhetoric about the Jews to make him appeal to more people. The citizens thus were persuaded to think Jews were the causes of Germany’s deterioration and supporting to Hitler was their last hope and solution to the crises. How were they persuaded? Read your quote- does this sound logical and rational? Why would any intelligent German be “persuaded”? The rapid increase in the electoral votes for the Nazi Party was also for the same reason as it was at the initial period of the Weimar Germany. On the other hand, less people were supporting the Nazi Party in the elections in the Stresemann years (1924-1929) when Germany had economic recovery, and these changes altogether proved the point that people were only listening to Hitler when they were in trouble to be prominent. Therefore the decline in political and economic situation of Weimar Germany should also be regarded as significant factors that made Hitler to gain authority.

Although there were many party leaders besides Hitler, the reason why he was the chosen one for German chancellor was because of his popularity and power that made Hindenburg feel the need to control him by offering chancellorship. With massive support from all classes of German citizens, Hitler decided to stand against Hindenburg in the election, so he got German citizenship on February 25th, 1932.[25] In the presidential election of March 13th, Hitler (30.1%) lost to Hindenburg (49.6%)[26] who 2 months later appointed Franz von Papen as Chancellor.[27] Although Hitler lost the election, the Nazi party soon (that year) became the largest party[28] and he asked Hindenburg for the position of Chancellor, which led Hindenburg to wrath and astonishment. According to the movie “Hitler: The Rise of Evil,” Franz von Papen suggested Hindenburg to designate Hitler as Vice Chancellor, the job which is below Chancellor but still is a high position that probably might satisfy Hitler and simultaneously allow Hindenburg to “control” Hitler. As mentioned above about Hitler’s eagerness to get awarded with an extreme authority, Hitler refused the position of Vice Chancellor but insisted on Chancellorship. When General Schleicher fortuitously became Chancellor[29], von Papen, with irritation, went to privately talk with Hitler, promising to make him Chancellor and as Schleicher failed in making a coalition government that would make lessen other parties’ support for the Nazi Party[30], Hindenburg had no other choice but to award Hitler the German Chancellorship when von Papen persuaded him to make Hitler Chancellor and Papen to become Vice Chancellor. Even though Hindenburg hated Hitler, he still gave Chancellorship to him because he believed that it would make him to control Hitler and make use of Hitler’s popularity which would help Weimar government to gain more support. It seemed that von Papen was simply helping Hitler because he still wanted any high position in the Cabinet but on the other hand it is argued that he was also using Hitler to benefit himself. In Papen’s point of view, he could have positional parity with Hitler or even be more powerful because Vice-Chancellor had better position of Minister as President of Prussia and was allowed to be present any time when the Chancellor made reports to the President.[31] Also he even was making Hitler experience instability in his position by castigating the SA and some behaviour of the Nazis in his speech at the University of Marburg.[32] Both Hindenburg and Papen thought Hitler could be beneficial to their positions, Hindenburg seeing Hitler as a booster of Weimar government’s prosperity due to rapidly increasing fame and Papen using him to restore his high position, although not as Chancellor, in the Cabinet. Important point

Adolf Hitler, even as a distrustful figure to the President and a foreigner, could become German Chancellor. This came to reality mainly by his ability to attract people, especially with impressive speeches, and the social desperation of the citizens caused by economic and political deterioration which made Hitler’s speeches more appealing and praiseworthy. However, the reason why Hitler was chosen to be German Chancellor was due to Hindenburg’s intrigue to control him by awarding Chancellorship. Unfortunate for the President, this conferment of Chancellorship proved to be a big mistake of Hindenburg and Papen because it became an awarding of total power for Hitler soon when Hitler got dictatorial power by Enabling Act on March 23rd.[33]



[4] Alan Bullock, Hitler, A Study in Tyranny, Harper Torchbooks, 1962, Pg.258





[9] Frank McDonough, Conflict,Communism and Fascism, Europe 1890-1945 Cambridge University Press 2001 pg.91



[12] Frank McDonough, Conflict,Communism and Fascism, Europe 1890-1945 Cambridge University Press 2001 pg.83





[17] Stephane Audoin-Rouzeau & Annette Becker, 1914-1918 Understanding the Great War, pg.229














[31] Alan Bullock, Hitler, A Study in Tyranny, Harper Torchbooks, 1962, Pg. 256



[34] The origin of the Second World War, A.J.P Taylor, page 149

Hitler’s Challenge to the International System 1933-1936

Scope: We’ll do this unit by tracing his step-by-step revision of the Treaty of Versailles and the rhetorical style with which he presented his policies to his domestic audience in Germany and to the international community. Besides determining the origins of the Second World War, we can also then see how his domestic policies enabled him to maintain his hold on power.

Background- Revision of past Units

I.           Versailles created “present but manageable” problems during the 1920s.

A.          Knowing it would have to enforce the Versailles settlement virtually alone, France created military alliances and agreements with the new East European states.

B.          In 1924 Stresemann embarked on a “policy of fulfillment.” By making a good-faith effort to fulfill the Versailles terms, Germany would demonstrate to the Allies that those terms were unreasonable.

C.          In 1924 Germany began to reintegrate itself into the European collective security system.  1925 saw “Locarno Honeymoon”. 1926 joined League of Nations. The Kellogg-Briand Non-aggression Pact of 1928 signaled the high-water mark of postwar cooperation.

D.          The United States became somewhat more active in helping Europe economically. The Dawes Plan extended financial aid from private sources to Germany followed by Young Plan 1929.

II.         Great Depression- tremendous strains on Germany and on European international system.

A.          The Wall Street Crash of 1929 brought massive unemployment and business failures in Germany.

B.          Growing resentment and political polarization fueled the rise of Hitler’s Nazi Party (the NSDAP) between 1930 and 1933. The Nazis relentlessly attacked the Weimar government and the other political parties, promising to restore Germany to its rightful place in Europe and the world.

C.          Hitler demanded revision of Treaty of Versailles.

III. Hitler pursued an aggressive foreign policy.

A.          Hitler’s foreign policy operated on two levels: geopolitical and ideological. IB question: To what extent was Hitler tied to ideology.

1.           His geopolitical goals were to destroy Treaty of Versailles, attain Lebensraum in the east for the German Volk, ensure Germany’s autarchy, and create a Greater German Reich to dominate continent.

2.           His ideological goal was to unleash a crusade against “Judeo-Bolshevism” to ensure racial purity.

3.           Hitler knew that attainment of these goals would require war.

B.          Hitler moved next to destroy remnants of Versailles Treaty.

1.           In 1933 he withdrew Germany from Disarmament Conference and the League of Nations.

2.           In 1934 he signed a ten-year non-aggression pact with Poland, thereby screwing up France’s alliance system.

3.           In March 1935 Hitler announced that Germany was rebuilding its Luftwaffe, ostensibly as a defensive action. When the Western powers failed to react, he announced the following week that Germany would rebuild its army.

4.           The Anglo-German Naval Agreement of June 1935 horrified the French. This agreement demonstrated that the British had abandoned the Versailles settlement and reached their own accommodation with Hitler.

5.           In March 1936 German troops entered the Rhineland; its remilitarisation closed off France’s direct access to Germany.

6.           The 1936 Berlin Olympics strengthened Germany’s and Hitler’s prestige.

Recommended Historians:

A.J.P. Taylor, The Origins of the Second World War

Richard J Evans

Sir Ian Kershaw

Michael Burleigh

William Shirer

Questions to Consider:

1.           What were Hitler’s basic goals in foreign policy?

2.               To what extent were Hitler’s moves in foreign policy determined by ideology?