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Investigating Primary Reasons for Nazis' Rise to Power

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Investigating Primary Reasons for Nazis' Rise to Power Works Cited Not Included After the defeat of Germany in 1918 and with the creation of the
Weimar Republic, Germany entered a new era that would be a time of
uncertainty, doubt, question and struggle. It was during this time
that an entirely new movement would arise and eventually take hold of
power in Germany. This new movement was called Nazism. In the town of
Northeim there were several reasons for the ability of this political
party to gain the needed support to seize complete control. They are
not numerous but are wholly inter-related and after Nazism had secured
itself, life in Northeim completely changed.

The primary reason for Nazi’s rise to power was the economic situation
in Northeim during the years of 1929-1933. With the collapse of the
stock market in America in 1929, economies around the world, including
that in Northeim were affected. From that year on, depression
continued to affect the town of Northeim. During these years, 17
bankruptcies occurred and unemployment rates rose steadily. In 1930,
there were under 300 people receiving unemployment aid. That number
rose to approximately 700 by 1932 and levelled off to around 550 in
1933. These numbers may not seem extraordinarily high for a town of
10,000, but nonetheless, the pessimistic fear of an “ultimate economic
catastrophe” (Allen, p, 39) occurring affected everyone. “It was the
depression, or more accurately, the fear of its continued effects,
that contributed most heavily to the radicalization of Northeim’s
people” (24). Because of the depression, people became restless and
worried and out of that spirit came the want for change and clear
direction. “In this situation, the voice of the Nazi began to be
heard” (25).

The atmosphere created from the tension of the economic situation in
Northeim allowed for the radicalization of politics and the
politicalization of Northeim. Opposing political groups, most
predominately, the SPD and NSDAP increased the viciousness in their
attacks of each other, both verbally and physically. Mudslinging
became more frequent and ruthless and political fights more the norm.
Both groups had political newspapers and their militant groups which
were used not only for fighting but also as intimidation. This
radicalization in everyday politics increased the susceptibility of
radicalism to gain popularity. This was a key component of the Nazi’s
success, for not only did radicalization help them, but they also
utilized it better. “In matching radicalism, the SPD could not hope to
win, for they lacked the brutality and irrationality of their
opponents. Furthermore, every move in the game simply added to the
troubled spirit of Northeim’s middle classes, making them more
vulnerable to extremist appeals” (54).

With a bleak economic outlook, a major reason why Northeimers were
attracted to the NSDAP was because it was “first and foremost an
anti-Marxist party” (34). The people perceived the current government
to be in the hands of the left and associated the current economic
problems with the ruling government. The Nazis exploited this fully.
Much of Nazi propaganda had a “primary content of anti-Marxism [and
also] attacked…the economic policies of the Weimar republic” (29). In
truth, the current government had little to do with the bleak economy
but the people did not see it as such. The SPD did little to counter
this notion. They offered no new vision of change to alleviate the
economic hardship. They “defended the Republic but could not promise a
better future” (145). Northeimers were tired of this and “most joined
the Nazis because they wanted a radical answer to the economic
situation. Disgusted with parliamentary politics, they wanted a hard,
sharp, clear leadership” (85). Thus a resentment of the status quo,
the democratic Republic and the SPD led many to embrace the Nazi
movement.

The politics at the time also helped contribute to Nazi’s ability to
gain power. There was little effective opposition to the Nazis. The
foremost opposition was the SPD but, as explained, they weren’t
effective in stopping the surging popularity of the NSDAP. It seemed
evident that Northeim wanted change and this change would not appear
to be coming from the left. Thus it was up to an alternative right
wing group to rise up. But the various right wing splinter groups did
not offer any clear distinction or choice from the NSDAP. Rather, they
helped Nazi’s rise to power by promoting similar attitudes. These
groups promoted nationalism and anti-socialism and their essential
contribution “was that they served as the repository of potential
Nazis”. Thus Nazism was able to dip into that well of potential Nazis
for their support.

Lastly, it was the Nazi’s ability to hold effective meetings and their
ability to use propaganda that also contributed to their success. Nazi
meetings became increasingly more frequent and grander. From 1930 to
1933, they were 162 political meetings or approximately 3 and a half
per month. In these meetings there would be a great outpouring of
energy and manipulation that proved to be very effective. The Nazis
adapted mass meetings with “appropriate speakers to local interests
and concerns” (82).

This was key to their success. “In these meetings, they drew the
tortured masses into the mammoth meetings where one could submerge
oneself in the sense of participating in a dynamic and
all-encompassing movement geared toward radical action in fulfillment
of every need…In short, the NSDAP succeeded in being all things to all
men” (142). It was from these meetings that a great number of new
Nazis were recruited and joined the party.

Because of these reasons, the Nazi popularity grew and the NDSAP
gained a clear majority in Northeim by 1933. Upon gaining a majority,
the party immediately moved to seize dictatorship control over the
town. Its first move was a purge of the local administrations. By
using its power to manipulate the City Council, the four SPD members
were forced to quit and a Nazi dictatorship was established. “By the
summer of 1933…the Nazis gained absolute control of Northeim’s
Council, Senate, and Executive…they had also conducted a thorough
purge of city’s administration” (181).

With complete Nazi control of the town, life completely changed for
the average Northeimer. For the intial six months, the Nazis
implemented a system of terror to prove their power. “The initial
investment of terror would multiply itself through rumour and social
reinforcement until opposition would be looked upon as wholly futile”
(184). The Nazis frequently raided suspected opposition’s houses and
persecuted all those they thought were a potential threat to their
power. The Nazis justified this by claiming there was a local threat
and pointed out the fact that there were citizens who were caught with
weapons. This persecution occurred frequently and without warning to
the point that it became clear “that even to express oneself against
the new system was to invite persecution” (189).

Thus it eventually became unnecessary for the Nazis to continue their
level of terrorism. Their terror system soon became a self enacting
system. There was a general sense of fear among all citizens and this
was enough to keep people in line. “More than anything else, rumour
and social reinforcement maintained the system of terror” (256). A
sense of hopelessness overtook the people with the feeling that
opposition was completely futile. To oppose the system was only to
invite harm. “Under these circumstances, the Nazis had very little to
do to intimidate people” (190). It became so severe that it was
thought that “one who failed to give the Nazi salute, who left a
meeting early, or who ventured a cold look at Ernst Girmann (the Nazi
leader), was thought to be displaying almost foolhardy recklessness”
(190).

Along with Nazi’s grip on political power and social control was their
dissolution of society. This entire process had the general term
“Gleichschaltung” or “coordination”.

“The total reorganization of society was the most important result of
the Nazi revolution. Eventually no independent social groups were to
exist. Wherever two or more were gathered, the Fuehrer would also be
present. Ultimately all society, in terms of formal human
relationships, would cease to exist, or rather, exist in a new
framework whereby each individual related not to his fellow men but
only to the state and to the Nazi leader” (221). All independent clubs
and groups came under the control of the state and was reinvented as
to be a tool of the state. Clubs of similar goals and activities were
fused together to form one and changed to include the Nazi doctrine in
some shape or form. All organizations had to have a majority of NSDAP
members on the councils as to maintain constant control of the group.
In short, social life was completely strangled. People no longer
wanted to go to social events for it was no longer fun but rather just
another extension of state control. As one man put it, “There was no
more social life; you couldn’t even have a bowling club” (222). Thus
clubs no longer existed or the attractiveness of going was no longer
there. “What was the value of getting together with others to talk if
you had to be careful about what you said? Thus to a great extent the
individual was atomized” (232).

The years of 1929-1933 were a time of great change for the people of
Northeim. A time of turbulence and change and complete radicalization
polarized the people and transformed society. By exploiting the
economic and political conditions of early 1930, and through great use
of propaganda and mass meetings, the Nazis were able to win over the
support of the people of Northeim needed to gain a majority
government. It was pretty evident after the Nazis had established
their dictatorship that the people were the victims of a party whose
main goal was the acquisition of power and who subordinated everything
to the realization of that goal. Life under the new regime completely
changed. It was as free as it was enjoyable. No longer could one truly
express themselves. All one could do was express the party, for that
was what they were-not an individual, but rather, a German Nazi. But
this realization was too late for “no matter what Northeimers felt
about the Nazis, there was very little that they could do about it”
(279).

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