Why President Hindenburg Gave Hitler Chancellorship in 1933
Throughout this essay, I will be aiming to explain why President Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi party, as Chancellor in 1933. There were many factors that affected Hindenburg’s appointment however, from a behind-the-scenes power struggle between Germany’s leading politicians, the fear of Communism, and the fact that the Nazi’s were indeed the largest party represented in the Reichstag, having previously gained a large 37. 5% of the votes in 1932. Under normal circumstances, Hitler would have been made Chancellor as he came from the largest party represented.
However, backstage politics and a dislike towards him from Hindenburg stalled Hitler’s hopes of becoming Chancellor. But firstly, before going into detail into some of the factors, I will set the scene regarding the state of Germany and indeed the world, post WW1, leading up to 1933. Following defeat in WW2, and the abdication of the German Kaiser, Germany was in crisis, lacking leadership and support from its people. There was no support for the Provisional Government who had just signed the Armistice, despite the German people believing they were on the brink of winning the war, prompting the ‘stab in the back theory’.
The following year, the new Republic, the Weimar Government signed the Treaty of Versailles, something else that angered the German people as it made Germany pay astronomical reparation sums in compensation and have its army drastically reduced to 100,000 men. Hitler used both of these stories in building support for the Nazi’s in the early 30’s. What followed was a period of hyperinflation in 1923 as Germany couldn’t keep up with the reparation demands of the Allies; many German people suffered with poverty and lost life savings.
What followed however were years of prosperous fortune for the German people, known as the ‘Golden Twenties’. Gustav Stresemann led the recovery, restoring Germany’s international reputation, rebuilding a troubled economy, and seeking help from the US through the Dawes Plan in 1924, before his untimely death in 1929. 1929 saw Wall Street, the US stock exchange crash, kicking off the Great Depression. Germany was hit hard and faced mass unemployment, rising to 6 million people by 1932. It was around this time that people started taking Left Wing parties seriously, voting for the Communists and the Nazi’s.
The conditions gave Hitler ammunition to gain support from the people. Hitler was a renowned public speaker and would make up any lie to please the people of Germany at any time, in any place. Coupled with his Nazi propaganda and the fear of Communism in Germany, Hitler had the perfect platform to gain votes in the Reichstag, and would soon be on his way to becoming Chancellor. Now, having looked at the history behind the years leading up to 1933, I can now look deeper into the individual factors behind Adolf Hitler cementing his position as Chancellor.
In my opinion, the main reason as to why Hindenburg made Hitler Chancellor in 1923 was because the Nazi’s had indeed become the largest party in the Reichstag. As mentioned previously, the party had gained 37. 5% of the votes in the previous election, and although this wasn’t a majority politically, it had become a majority psychologically, in the fact that the Nazi’s could no longer be ignored as they had been in previous years. This was proven when Franz Von Papen, much to Hitler’s distress was given Chancellorship in late 1932.
He was the leader of the Catholic Centre Party but as the Nazi’s controlled over a third of the Reichstag, he failed to gain full support. General Von Schleicher was in the same boat, as he also failed to gain full support. Enter Adolf Hitler, the only man who could truly get anything done, as he was the only man who could unite the Reichstag, making him the obvious choice for Chancellor. Another factor leading to Hitler’s rise to Chancellorship was the popularity of himself, the party, and the policies they promoted.
The Nazi’s policies seemed to suit all of the German people, and he would even lie to the people in order to gain their full support. Policies such as rebuilding the army, abolishing mass unemployment, and his attitude towards ‘inferior’ races would not have gone un-noticed by Hindenburg, as he would have seen this drastic rise in support, as well as the rise in seats in the Reichstag. Coupled with the policies of the Nazi’s are Hitler’s inspiring, heart-felt speeches.
Widely-regarded as one of the greatest public speakers of all time, alongside people such as Martin Luther King, he had the ability to tug on the heartstrings of people who didn’t even support the Nazi’s, especially when he spoke of making Germany great again and restoring a broken country to its former stature. This was a quality that President Hindenburg certainly wanted in his Chancellor, someone who could connect with the nation and address them with such power and belief, provided it could be controlled. Other factors leading to Hitler becoming Chancellor was the fear of Communism throughout Germany.
In the years 1930-1932, the support for the German Communist party increased astronomically, due to support from the working class. It was also well documented that the German Communist Party was the largest in Europe (outside of the Soviet Union). However, not all people liked the Communists, and many large business owners and farmers chose to vote for the Nazi’s. In fact, many of the votes that the Nazi’s received were actually gained because people didn’t want to vote for the Communists and because of Hitler’s publicized hatred towards them.
If the Communists had ceased to exist, many would question if the Nazi’s would have received many votes at all? In summary, there was very weak opposition to the Nazi’s, with the Democrats and Communists refusing to work together and stop the Nazi’s, no one offered a stern resistance and seemed more content with arguing than resolving Germany’s political issues. This would have also been recognised by Hindenburg, and even though he disliked Hitler he couldn’t afford to appoint a Chancellor that didn’t offer strong, effective leadership.
Hitler seemed to be the perfect choice at that moment in time. Another considerable factor which helped Hitler in his rise to power was the Wall Street Crash of 1929, which eventually led to the Great Depression, something that rocked the entire world. Germany had been struck with its second economic crisis of the decade, and without Gustav Stresemann, the Weimar Government didn’t have the brain they needed to ‘steady the ship’. This led to mass unemployment, starvation, German Firms going bankrupt and people lost the confidence to invest.
Mass unemployment left the Government short on money, as workers were no longer paying taxes; therefore they were unable to do anything to help the poor, making them extremely unpopular. Enter the extremist parties, and as unemployment figures rose over the coming years, so did the votes for the Nazi’s and by January 1932, the Nazi party had received 13. 4 million votes. In this time of hardship, Hindenburg had to go with who the people wanted. The Weimar Government had run its cause, and Germany needed a new Chancellor, someone who they could look at with optimism and belief.
Hindenburg realised that this man was Adolf Hitler. My final reasons as to why I believe Hitler was made Chancellor in 1933, is due to the belief of Hindenburg and Von Papen that they could ultimately control Adolf Hitler, and act as puppet-master’s behind the scenes, having Hitler, the public idol, transfer their messages. They believed that if they conveyed their ideology through Hitler, the public would be more respectful of the decisions. At this point, only 3 of the 12 politicians who made up Hitler’s cabinet were actually Nazi’s, and with Von Papen as Vice-Chancellor, Hindenburg believed he could be controlled.
In the following months, Hitler blamed the Reichstag Fire on the Communists and with the Presidents help, banned them from future elections and threw major Communist leaders into jail. He then forced the Nationalist party to join the Nazi’s and create a Coalition, giving him the majority he needed to pass the Enabling Law, which meant he could now do as he wished, and after President Hindenburg’s untimely death in August 1933, he became dictator of Germany.
Although Von Papen and Hindenburg originally believed they could control him, Hitler had obtained way too much power over the course of 1933, in complete contrast to what they wanted him to achieve. Overall, I do not believe that there was one decisive factor that cemented Hitler’s position as Chancellor, instead, it was a mixture of a variety of circumstances that all seemed to fall in to place at the right time for the Nazi’s.
Hypothetically speaking it was like a giant row of dominoes, with each domino resembling a factor, all toppling in unison. However, remove a factor, such as the Wall Street crash or the fear of Communism, and you break the chain that Hitler needed to become Chancellor. Therefore I believe that along with parts of political genius, Hitler also received numerous strokes of fortune on the road to becoming one of the most powerful leaders the world had ever seen.