Nazi Appeal And The Limitations Of Democracy

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Germany suffered severe financial and ideological crises in the aftermath of World War I. Even as it struggled to rebuild itself in the post-war period, the Allies saddled Germany with the Treaty of Versailles. This document assigned sole responsibility for the war to Germany and required staggering reparation payments.

The treaty also stipulated that Germany must tremendously scale down its military forces. Disillusioned, economically unstable, and humiliated on the global stage, Germany was ill-suited to adopt a democratic government yet it did exactly this.

The Weimar Republic, a parlimentary democracy, was thus born into a less than enthusiastic German nation in 1919 (Spielvogel 11-12).

        In 1923, the French moved in to occupy the industrial Ruhr region, further exacerbating the soaring inflation of Weimar Germany. The government responded by employing passive resistance to the French forces and began to print ever-increasing amounts of money. As a result, the German mark deteriorated rapidly, its value 4.2 trillion marks to a single dollar. Middle-class Germans were particularly hard hit by these circumstances. Many lost their entire life savings and found their retirement pensions virtually worthless. When the Great Depression struck in 1929, Germany's economic situation worsened dramatically. The foreign loans upon which Germany's economy depended were abruptly withdrawn, unemployment soared to six million, and the common opinion was that democracy wasn't working. This turn of events radicalized the middle-class and the Nazi party was to use this phenomena to its full advantage (Spielvogel 15).

                 The Nazi party offered Germans what they needed most: encouragement. Hitler promised to bring order out of chaos, unite the people, and reestablish Germany as a powerful nation on the global stage. He vowed to end the war reparation payments, tear up the Treaty of Versailles, and fend off the evil communist forces. In short, Hitler presented his party as the solution for each and every one of Germany's problems. Better yet, Hitler even offered Germany a face-saving explanation for the humiliating defeat it suffered in World War I. He promoted the idea that brave soldiers fighting in the field had not lost their battles but had instead been betrayed by the Weimar Republic. He labelled those involved in the signing of the Treaty of Versailles as "The November Criminals." Germans eagerly embraced Hitler's revision of history and became more bitter still towards their democratic government. Hitler also provided Germany with a target for all its frustrations, the Jewish people. Jews, he told them, were undermining the country and threatening pure Germans' way of life (Sax 66-74). Many Germans were only too glad to agree.

        Adolph Hitler possessed incredible charisma and uncanny insight into the psychology of ordinary individuals. He knew, almost without error, what to say, and when, where, and how to say it. His oratory gifts were unbounded and the Weimar Republic certainly had no one among its ranks who could speak to the masses so passionately, so convincingly. Under Hitler's leadership, the Nazis employed propoganda techniques with scientific precision. They exploited the media at every opportunity and plastered Germany with flyers, leaflets, and posters. They staged rallies and parades and marched in their militaristic Nazi uniforms. These events and the heil salute, the swatiska arm bands and flags, even the music played in the background, conveyed the image of a conquering army coming to rescue the populace from ruin. These demonstrations of strength and tight organization held a great deal of appeal for many Germans in the midst of their social and economical suffering (HIST 468 video lecture 3).

        Hitler's stormtroopers, the SA, were the paramilitary wing of the Nazis.

Obstentiously, their function was to keep oder at Nazi meetings and protect them from enemy...
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