When the stock market collapsed on Wall Street on Tuesday, October 29, 1929, it sent financial markets worldwide into a tailspin with disastrous effects. Fallout from the Great Depression - A young and hopelessly unemployed Berliner panhandles for spare change. Below: A run on a bank in Berlin. Below: May Day 1930 brings a huge turn-out of pro-communist Berliners expressing admiration of Soviet Russia. The German economy was especially vulnerable since it was built upon foreign capital, mostly loans from America and was very dependent on foreign trade. When those loans suddenly came due and when the world market for German exports dried up, the well oiled German industrial machine quickly ground to a halt. As production levels fell, German workers were laid off. Along with this, banks failed throughout Germany. Savings accounts, the result of years of hard work, were instantly wiped out. Inflation soon followed making it hard for families to purchase expensive necessities with devalued money. Overnight, the middle class standard of living so many German families enjoyed was ruined by events outside of Germany, beyond their control. The Great Depression began and they were cast into poverty and deep misery and began looking for a solution, any solution. Adolf Hitler knew his opportunity had arrived.
In the good times before the Great Depression the Nazi Party experienced slow growth, barely reaching 100,000 members in a country of over sixty million. But the Party, despite its tiny size, was a tightly controlled, highly disciplined organization of fanatics poised to spring into action. Since the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, Hitler had changed tactics and was for the most part playing by the rules of democracy. Hitler had gambled in 1923, attempting to overthrow the young German democracy by force, and lost. Now he was determined to overthrow it legally by getting elected while at the same time building a Nazi shadow government that would one day replace the...
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