How Did Hitler Happen?

Pre-Hitler Germany was a tenuous republic struggling with staggering debt, high inflation, and ideological and racial division. President Hindenburg was elderly and in cognitive decline.

Although Adolf Hitler’s 1923 violent coup should have permanently removed him from public life, he served only 9 months of a five-year sentence for treason, using that time to write Mein Kampf.

Upon his release, Germany was prospering, and the message of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis) was diminished. Nevertheless, Hitler was patient and diligent. He slowly and meticulously expanded his influence. His SA (also known as the Brown Shirts) used fear, intimidation, and violence to disrupt political opponents, clash with police, organize mass protests, shut down debate, and demand political change. The government failed to deal with them due to fear, political calculations, and the weakened state of law enforcement.

When the New York Stock Market crash of 1929 reversed Germany’s short-lived prosperity, Hitler was ready to take advantage of the crisis. Like a chess master, Hitler maneuvered like-minded party members into the legislature, helping them gain power. When he was given citizenship through a back-channel deal it qualified him to run for President- he did.

Although he lost by a wide margin, he siphoned enough votes to demonstrate the power of the Nazi Party and convinced Hindenburg to name him Chancellor. A short time later the legislature was burned and Hitler reigned supreme. What he had failed to accomplish with his violent coup, Hitler now accomplish through the constitutional process.

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