The rise to power of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party is one of the defining moments of the history of twentieth century. It was in the year 1933 that Adolf Hitler led his National Socialist Party to power in what was then a united German nation, by winning the largest number of seats in the Reichstag. In the years leading up to this crucial election his party leadership unleashed an effective propaganda campaign spreading the message of German nationalism and Aryan superiority over other races. These were to continue during the years in power as well, when the party message would get increasingly more vitriolic, especially against Jews. The 1930s were the time when motion picture and radio technologies were getting more sophisticated. The Nazi leadership took advantage of these technologies in carrying out propaganda efforts that would garner public support for their domestic and international policies. Joseph Goebbels was appointed by Hitler to head the Propaganda Ministry in 1930. This was a crucial moment in the ascent of the Nazi Party, as Goebbels was instrumental in creating a cult-like following for Hitler among the German population.
Along with effective propaganda techniques, the onset of Great Depression in the United States in the year 1929 had an indirect impact on Germany as well. The Nazi leadership placed the blame on Jewish financiers, some of whom had a stake in American businesses. Although the Jewish role was deliberately exaggerated, a section of the German middle classes that was adversely affected by the economic depression, bought into this theory. Events such as these helped consolidate the support base for Nazi Party and its authoritarian leader. After the crucial electoral victory in 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler as the Chancellor of Germany. Hitler would seize this opportunity to make radical changes to the government and legislatures. Within a few years of Nazi rule, the parliamentary processes were made superficial and irrelevant through the enforcement of Enabling Act, which handed Hitler unprecedented executive powers. Soon, the Reichstag became a rubberstamp parliament, rendered powerless by the provisions of the Enabling Act. During the year 1932, when the Nazi Party made rapid inroads to capture power, the decisions taken by President Hindenburg would play a major role. Hindenburg, now nearly 90 years of age and battling senility, eventually had to give in to the persistent demands made by Hitler, handing the latter authoritarian powers. Hindenburg died in 1934, the year following the establishment of Nazi control over the nation.
In the six years between 1933 and 1939, Nazi Germany would undergo several changes in terms of domestic policies and building its military. While the German population was not fully aware of Hitler’s expansionist plans, he went ahead with preparations toward that end. These preparations included bolstering the domestic economy, rounding up the Jews, gypsies and the disabled, building the a technologically advanced military force. Through astute propaganda techniques that essentially brainwashed the German population into accepting Hitler’s agenda without critical questioning, the first six years of Hitler’s regime would prime Nazi Germany for the impending war. But eventually, the greed of territorial expansion and world domination did not match the limited resources at Hitler’s disposal. It is a sad fact nevertheless, that the failed Nazi experiment had resulted in the death of nearly 12 million people, 6 million of whom were Jews. This mass extermination of people, which would retrospectively be termed the Holocaust, remains the biggest catastrophe in twentieth century history.
Jablonsky, David. 1989. The Nazi Party in Dissolution: Hitler and the Verbotzeit, 1923-1925. Routledge.
Arendt, Hannah., The Origins of Totalitarianism. London; New York; San Diego:Harvest Book
Kershaw, Sir Ian, Hitler. 1889-1936: Hubris New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998; German edition, Munich, 1998.