CHIST 3315: Nazi Germany and the Holocaust
Professor Marjorie Wechsler
October 15 2012
Many factors contributed to the origins and rise of Nazism and the ability of the party to consolidate its power once it was in office. These span from the political happenings which were present in Germany at the time to the more psychological factors which affected the people of Germany. It is impossible to pinpoint exactly one factor which caused the rise of the Nazi party, instead a variety of different factors, which include Germany's state after the peace settlement of World War I, Weimar politics, as well as Hitler's political skill and personality, contributed to the successful rise and subsequent takeover that the Nazi party enacted.
After World War I, Germany was in a state of crisis and despair. With the Treaty of Versailles, Germany's economic situation quickly dived. Certain aspects of the Treaty effectively undermined the ability for the Weimar Republic to successfully govern the country after the war. These included the War Guilt Clause, the requirement to pay reparations as well as others. As the blame of the war was put on Germany's shoulder's, the citizens of the state felt a cumulative sense of humiliation and anger. These feelings allowed for a vulnerability in the German people, they did not support nor trust the current government and with right wing parties preaching drastically different views one can understand why many were drawn to the Nazi Party and other parties. Along with the citizens in general feeling a sense of betrayal by their government for signing the Treaty, the German Army had an even more intense reaction to the signing of the Treaty. They had felt as though they were being undermined by their own government. With the new constitution in place, many soldiers we're anti-Weimar and they showed this in their service. Notably, they would support the Weimar in relation to threats from left-wing Communist groups but did not do the same with right-wing parties such as the Nazis. In conjunction with this the conservative elite, including big business, civil service, and the judicial system, were never revolutionized with the new Weimar Republic. Therefore, these groups were trying to undermine the government. This allowed for the party to grow without any influence of the army to restrain them. The reparations which Germany had to pay to the Allies devalued it's economy immensely, with their accumulated wealth as well as produce going to the Allies. As Rees, states in his book, “Democracy was relatively new in Germany... in the early 1930s democracy appeared to many to be responsible both for continuing crippling reparation payments and for the massive unemployment” (Rees 42). As the government struggled to find an answer to Germany's financial problems the democratic process began to crumble. As the people became more desperate for an answer, increasing they began to look past the government in tact for support and blamed the problems of the country on the Weimar Government and this allowed for other political parties, such as the Nazi Party, to gain public support. As the situation progressed, it began to form an ideal opportunity in which other parties could effectively challenge the government in place and they did.
The origins of the Nazi party are found in its predecessor, the German Workers' Party, later changed to the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), which was established in 1919 under the Weimar Republic of Germany. While in service in World War I, Hitler came into contact with the Workers' Party when he was ordered to spy on the group. After an incident in which Hitler engaged in a heated argument with a guest of the group, the founder of the group, Anton Drexler, was so impressed by his oratory skill that he invited Hitler to join the group. Quickly Hitler rose to prominence as a leader within the party. During his time with the party he gave many speeches...