Rise of Hitler

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Assess the role of each of the following in the rise to power of Hitler: ideological appeal; underestimation by opponents; propaganda.

The historical debate surrounding the causal factors of the rise of the Nazi state in Germany by 1933 is fierce. Marxist historians, emphasising the idea that Nazism was no more than capitalism's most extreme form, tend to view Hitler as a puppet of big business. Others, including renowned scholars such as AJP Taylor stress the idea that Hitler and the Nazi's were a product of unique German history and a 'German struggle for mastery over Europe'. Amongst all of this debate, one thing is agreed upon and that is the fact that without the great depression stemming from the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and the dire consequences that the withdrawal of American loans had on the German economy, Hitler would have remained on the sidelines of German politics. It was the circumstances of early 1930's Germany, as emphasised by historian Karl Bracher, that ultimately brought Hitler to power. Thus it is impossible to understand or assess the significance of the Nazi's ideological appeal, the fatal underestimation of the Nazi's by both the conservatives and the left and their use of propaganda whilst coming to power without understanding this context and it is thus the express intention of this essay to contextualise these factors in order to demonstrate the limitations of their significance. Further, this essay will also attempt to highlight the inextricable links between these above stated factors and select other factors which are given as having helped the Nazi's come to power, namely the brutality of the SA; Hitlers personality and the unique position of Germany in European history, with a view to unearthing the most significant amongst them.

Hitler's ideas and thus the ideology of the Nazi party, as described by historian Martin Blinkhorn, brought together 'pre-war Pan-Germanism, virulent anti-semitism, biological racism, crude social Darwinism, German-centered 'geopolitics and obsessive anti-marxism.' These nationalist ideas, such as the commitment of the party to 'blood and soil' were by no means original. They stemmed from the 19th century and earlier and were deep rooted in German society. Historians AJP Taylor and William Shirer argue that the Germans were familiar with and susceptible to these ideas of national righteousness. In the wake of the defeat during the first world war, these ideas has once again risen to the surface of German socio-politics. Outraged by the actions of the so called 'November criminals' for stabbing Germany in the back by ending a war and signing a treaty that subjected their nation to the imperial bondage of western capitalism, many Germans had their ears open to the simplistic nationalist slogans that Hitler was hammering home during the 1920's. Indeed, Ian Kershaw argues that the first world war 'made Hitler possible.' In the years immediately after the first world war and again in the wake of the economic crisis emanating from America in 1929, when German society seemed divided and ungovernable, Hitler's commitment to unity under a singular, dominant party and their ultimate leader, epitomized in his fuhrerprinzip after 1925, appealed to many different groups within German society, often for different reasons. The Nazi's were particularly skilled in the period from the late 1920's to 1933 in exploiting the 'bread and butter' issues facing different groups, such as falling grain prices for northern farmers and the fear of 'big business' capitalism amongst small business owners and also the fear of communism amongst big business. Their vision of a united, national socialist society had benefits for everyone.

However, it is clear to see from the poor Reich election results of 1928, where the Nazi party won a mere 12 seats in the Reichstag, that during good times, there was little room for Nazi extremism in German politics. It has been asserted by historian Ian...
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