Why did a dictatorship emerge in Germany in 1933 and not before?


The Weimar Republic was bound to fail sooner or later given its weakness at birth and the values it was associated with however as to why Hitler was able to take power in 1933 and not before is an interesting question that requires much thought and attention. It has being proven throughout history that for extreme parties such as the NSDAP or the Communist party to gain mass support there has to be an economic crisis. The Nazi party was the one which eventually turned out ahead of the others, partly because of their leader, Adolf Hitler and partly because of their wider appeal and superior organisation. After it was proven that to rise to power through revolutions and coups (Spartacist revolt, Munich Beer Cellar putsch) was not practicable, economic crises offered these groups their only means to rise to power. There were economic crises in 1923 and during the 1929 - 1933 period, the earlier period was simply too early in the extreme parties histories for them to gain any serious support however the later one provided these parties with real opportunities to gain popularity. Statiscally, Hitler was most popular in 1932, yet it was in 1933 that he became chancellor, to explain this one must look at the political context of the time which suggests that Hitler rose to power not because he was destined to as the Nazi propaganda suggest but because he was greatly aided by circumstances and other people’s errors.

The only secure way to power is legal and for a normal political party to rise to power it must either get a majority in the Reishtag thus establishing it’s own government and leader or set up an alliance with other parties so that between them they have a majority; extreme groups failed to do this in the years preceding 1933 and that is why no dictatorship emerged in those years. It is a fact that extreme parties need an economic recession to do well during an election, in 1928, the NSDAP get 12 seats and the KPD 54 while in 1930, the NSDAP get 107 seats and the KPD 77. The first years of the Weimar Republic, up until 1923, were very unstable and could have profited the communists if they had chosen the legal path to power, the NSDAP were still relatively small but also tried to seize power with the Munich Beer Cellar putsch which failed miserably. A dictatorship did not emerge from this period because of the difficulty involved in seizing power through a coup or putsch; this was soon recognised by both Hitler after his period in prison and the communists. During the 1923 - 1929 period these extreme groups did poorly in elections as Germany under the influence of foreign loans and strong leadership from Stressmann started to recover economically, however in 1929 with the Wall Street crash Germany entered a period much worse than the 1923 recession where the main grievance had been inflation. As 5 million Germans went to the streets in search of a job and nobody thought it could get any worse the major banks closed down in 1931 and the Germans were even worse off thus supplying the extreme groups with newly-found mass support so that during the elections called by Brüning in 1930 the Nazis get 107 seats, more than any other party.

When, in 1933, Hitler finally becomes chancellor, it is not because he finally has a majority in the Reichtag, in fact he had less seats than in 1932, it is because of Von Papen thirst for revenge and other lucky circumstances without which the Third Reich may have never existed. The affair which was to bring Hitler the chancellorship began in 1930 when General Von Scleicher put Brüning in power, he did this by convincing the president, Hidenberg to appoint him and allow him to rule by presidential decree. Brüning made the situation worse by intensifying the economic crisis for particular political ends of which one of them was to persuade the Allies that Germany could no longer pay reparations. He also called for new elections in 1930 which was foolish considering it was in the middle of an economic crisis and as he seemed to forget extremes become dangerously popular during economic recessions. Hidenberg removed him in 1932. Von Scleicher’s next puppet was Von Papen, again Schleicher convinced Hidenberg to allow Papen to rule by presidential decree, however Von Papen proved to have opinions of his own and refused to obey Von Schleicher who just a few months after Von Papen’s appointment decided to persuade Hidenberg to stop using his emergency powers to support Von Papen, the result was that Von Papen could no longer pass any laws or policies and was forced to step down, the next chancellor was of course Von Schleicher himself. He recognised the danger the Nazi’s presented but did nothing to counter it, after a while he started to lose support among the industrialists and the army and finally Hidenberg who blamed him for undermining the previous chancellor Von Papen who meanwhile, infuriated by Von Scleicher’s tricks started to plot what would eventually bring down the Weimar Republic. He asked Hitler if he would like to ally himself with the DVP (Papen’s party) and become chancellor while he would be the vice – chancellor however as part of the deal only 3 nazis would be in the cabinet. He along with Hidenberg thought that Hitler was boxed in and would become their puppet, how wrong they were! Thus Hitler was able to get the chancellorship in 1933 and not before not because of his political genius but because of other characters such as Von Papen and Von Scleicher.

« Nazism came to power as a result of as a result of miscalculation by conservative politicians and the military after a large number, but by no means a majority of the electorate, had put it in a position to contend for power » (Salmon). The Nazis might have had a wide appeal, a brilliant leader and an efficient and organised party but for the actual victory it was down to lucky circumstances and greedy and vengeful men. Of course one could have argued that the fall of the Weimar Republic was inevitable yet it didn’t fall before 1933 and that was because of people and not social trends which would have dictated that Hitler be chancellor before then so that this might go on to prove that nothing is ever inevitable in history.



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