A Primer for First-Time Students of Nazi Germany
It is essential for first-time students of Nazi Germany to understand that this article serves as a basic overview of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party between 1918 and 1933. The aim is to introduce the key events and transitions that the Nazi movement underwent during this crucial period. However, the complexities and nuances of this historical period extend far beyond the scope of this article. As you delve deeper into your studies, you will encounter a wealth of information on the political, social, and economic contexts that shaped the development of the Nazi Party, as well as the diverse perspectives and interpretations offered by historians. We encourage you to explore these complexities and engage critically with the material, using this article as a starting point to build a more comprehensive understanding of Nazi Germany.
This article follows on from Understanding Democracy and Nazism 1924-1929
The rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany is a complex and significant period in world history, encompassing Hitler’s personal journey, the broader political landscape, and the intricate power dynamics within the Nazi Party. The interwar years, marked by Germany’s political and economic turmoil, facilitated the ascent of Hitler and the Nazis, culminating in a regime that would reshape the 20th century.
- Hitler’s early life and war service
Born in Austria in 1889, Adolf Hitler aspired to become an artist but was twice rejected by the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts. As a young man, he struggled with poverty and experienced firsthand the political and social unrest in Vienna. During World War I, Hitler served in the German army, earning the Iron Cross for his bravery. His disillusionment with Germany’s defeat in 1918 contributed to his radicalization and growing hatred for Jews and Marxists.
- Munich, the Räterepublik, and the Stab in the Back Myth
After World War I, Munich became a hotbed of political unrest. In 1919, the city experienced a brief socialist government known as the Bavarian Soviet Republic (Räterepublik), which was brutally crushed by the right-wing Freikorps. The Stab in the Back Myth emerged in this context, blaming Germany’s defeat on internal enemies such as Jews and communists. This myth resonated with Hitler and many other Germans, providing fertile ground for the growth of the Nazi Party.
- The Beer Hall Putsch and Ludendorff
In 1923, Hitler and his supporters, including WWI hero General Erich Ludendorff, attempted a coup known as the Beer Hall Putsch. The coup failed, and Hitler was arrested. Ludendorff’s involvement in the Putsch elevated Hitler’s status and helped legitimize the Nazi movement. During Hitler’s imprisonment, he wrote “Mein Kampf,” outlining his political ambitions and the future of the Nazi Party.
- The lean years, Bamberg Conference, and internal politics
The mid-1920s were challenging for the Nazi Party, with low electoral support and internal strife. Hitler’s release from prison in 1924 coincided with a period of relative stability in Germany, which hindered the party’s growth. The 1926 Bamberg Conference allowed Hitler to reassert control and sideline his rivals, such as the Strasser brothers. Key figures like Rudolf Hess and Joseph Goebbels emerged as vital supporters, helping to consolidate Hitler’s leadership and strengthen the party’s organization.
- The Great Depression and the Nazis’ ascent
The onset of the Great Depression in 1929 provided a turning point for the Nazi Party. Widespread unemployment and economic despair fueled popular discontent with the Weimar Republic. Hitler capitalized on the crisis, presenting the Nazis as Germany’s saviors. By 1932, the party had become the largest in the Reichstag. President Paul von Hindenburg, under pressure from conservative politicians and business interests, appointed Hitler as Chancellor in January 1933, marking the beginning of the Third Reich.
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