Examine the reasons for, and the extent of, support for Hitler up to the end of January 1933.

 From the May 2016 DP History Paper 2 exam (Time Zone 2)

  Outstanding in-class essay taken under exam conditions by a students who ended up with a 7 in the course

Typed example:

Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany by the end of January 1933 has been a key topic of historical investigation since the conclusion of the Second World War. The fact that Hitler and the Nazi Party were able to ascend from fringe elements of political discourse to the helm of the German government invites multifaceted examination of the various elements that facilitated this rise. Thus, the reasons for, and the extent of, support for Hitler during this time frame will be the subject of this essay. Herein, we will examine socio-economic conditions, propaganda, and Hitler's charismatic appeal, as well as the role of political manoeuvring in this significant period of history.

Following the conclusion of the First World War, Germany faced tumultuous socio-economic conditions. The punitive terms of the Treaty of Versailles left Germany politically humiliated and economically bereft, paving the way for dissent and upheaval. According to historian Ian Kershaw, these conditions of socio-economic distress provided a fertile ground for radical political ideologies to take root. As Kershaw elucidates, the political unrest and economic instability caused by the worldwide Great Depression of 1929 further catalysed support for Hitler. By then, the Weimar Republic, established in Germany after World War I, was struggling to maintain stability and prosperity, leading to widespread disillusionment amongst the populace. Many Germans, particularly those within the middle class, felt betrayed by their government and turned to radical political ideologies such as those espoused by Hitler and the Nazi Party. 

Hitler's charismatic appeal and the effective use of propaganda by the Nazi Party were other contributing factors to the support he received up until January 1933. Hitler was an engaging public speaker who articulated the frustrations and fears of the populace effectively. Historian Laurence Rees argues that Hitler's charisma was a vital ingredient in his rise to power. Hitler was able to inspire confidence and present himself as the strong leader that Germany needed in a time of crisis. Furthermore, the Nazi propaganda machine, led by figures like Joseph Goebbels, effectively communicated the party's ideology to the masses. Historian David Welch asserts that the propaganda was designed to exploit existing beliefs, prejudices, and fears in German society. Hitler was adept at exploiting the German people's feelings of resentment towards the Treaty of Versailles, and the fear of communism was also used to rally support. The Nazi party presented itself as the only viable bulwark against the perceived threat of communism, attracting support from both the middle and upper classes of German society.

The third crucial aspect of Hitler's rise to power by January 1933 was political manoeuvring within the context of the Weimar Republic's political system. As historian Richard J. Evans explains, Hitler's appointment as Chancellor was not a direct result of mass popularity, but rather a product of backroom political deals. The fragmented political landscape of Germany during this period, with multiple parties often resulting in coalition governments, created opportunities for Hitler and the Nazi Party. Despite not having a majority, Hitler's Nazi Party was invited to form a coalition by conservative politicians led by Franz von Papen, who believed they could control Hitler once he was in office. This miscalculation proved to be a pivotal moment in Hitler's rise to power, enabling him to consolidate his position further once he became Chancellor.

The reasons for, and the extent of, support for Hitler up to the end of January 1933 were multifaceted and complex. The socio-economic conditions of the time, coupled with Hitler's charismatic appeal and the astute use of propaganda, contributed to his increasing popularity among the German populace. Simultaneously, political manoeuvring within the fragmented landscape of the Weimar Republic played a pivotal role in Hitler's appointment as Chancellor. However, it is important to remember that while Hitler did have substantial support, it was not absolute. Many in Germany opposed his rise, and his ascent to power was as much a result of political calculation as it was popular appeal. A detailed understanding of these factors is crucial in comprehending one of the most significant and tragic periods of the 20th century. To conclude, the rise of Hitler up to the end of January 1933 serves as a historical lesson in the power of charisma, propaganda, socio-economic distress, and political manoeuvring. These elements coalesced into a perfect storm, setting the stage for the horrors of the Nazi regime and the Second World War.