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WWII & Australia: Hitler's Rise to Power

Investigate Australia's role in WWII with these resources

Adolf Hitler, Along with Mussolini's son-in-law, Count Gal… | FlickrSource: Flickr

The trauma of World War I, hardships of the Great Depression and the strict penalties imposed by the Treaty of Versailles left a growing sense of resentment and unrest in Germany. This unrest provided Hitler and Nazism with the opportunity to rise to power and ultimately lead the world to World War II and the deaths of millions of people. Read through the resources below to learn more about Hitler's rise to power.

How did the Nazi party rise to power in Germany in 1933? And what were Hitler’s motivations? (History Extra, 2020, July 28)

Richard J Evans, a leading historian on Nazi Germany, explains why Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party were able to cement control over Germany in 1933. An accompanying podcast is also included with the article.

The rise of Adolf Hitler (History Place, n.d.)

Noakes examines the transformation of Hitler from drifter and failed artist to political leader.

Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch (ThoughtCo, 2019, November 24)

Ten years before Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany, he tried to take power by force during the Beer Hall Putsch. On the night of November 8, 1923, Hitler and some of his Nazi confederates stormed into a Munich beer hall and attempted to force the triumvirate, the three men that governed Bavaria, to join him in a national revolution. The men of the triumvirate initially agreed since they were being held at gunpoint, but then denounced the coup as soon as they were allowed to leave. Hitler was arrested three days later and, after a short trial, was sentenced to five years in prison, where he wrote his infamous book, Mein Kampf. Read this article to learn more.

Program of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Yale Law School, n.d.)

Twenty-five points of the program of the German Workers' Party.

Who voted for the Nazis? (History Today, 1998, October 10)

Dick Geary on the voting patterns of the German people in the crucial years that brought Hitler to power.

Hitler in power (Facing History, n.d.)

Read this article to learn how Hitler managed to gain power in Germany through coalition government.

Adolf Hitler (1889 - 1945) (Jewish Virtual Library, n.d.)

A biography of Hitler's life, with a section dedicated to the rise of Nazism.

Mein Kampf

Full text of 'Mein Kampf', written by Hitler while in prison.

How did Hitler happen? (The National WWII Museum, n.d.)

Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany in 1933 following a series of electoral victories by the Nazi Party. He ruled absolutely until his death by suicide in April 1945.  Read through this article to learn how he came to power.

How Hitler conquered Germany (Slate, 2017, March 14)

The Nazi propaganda machine exploited ordinary Germans by encouraging them to be co-producers of a false reality. Read through this article to learn more about how Hitler rose to power.

The Nazi rise to power (Holocaust Explained, n.d.)

In the nine years between 1924 and 1933 the Nazi Party transformed from a small, violent, revolutionary party to the largest elected party in the Reichstag. This website explains how Hitler and the Nazi Party rose to power.

Why were the Nazis able to stay in power? (BBC, n.d.)

The Nazis crushed opposition through legal moves, fear and intimidation. Propaganda and social control kept the population in line. Popular economic and foreign policies encouraged widespread support. Read through this website to learn more.

The totalitarian regime of the Nazis (The Great Courses Daily, 2021, March 29)

The moment Hitler was appointed the chancellor of Germany, the Nazis got the chance to put an end to any kind of opposition. Hitler issued decrees which ended all civil rights that were guaranteed by the Weimar constitution.  Read through this website to learn more.

Anschluss (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d.)

On March 12, 1938, German troops entered Austria, and one day later, Austria was incorporated into Germany. This union, known as the Anschluss, received the enthusiastic support of most of the Austrian population and was retroactively approved via a plebiscite in April 1938.Read through this website to learn more.

Anschluss (The Holocaust Explained, n.d.)

Anschluss refers to the annexation of Austria in 1938. Read through this website to learn more.

Taking Austria (Facing History, n.d.)

This website takes an in-depth look at Germany's annexation of Austria prior to World War II.

Hitler comes to power (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, n.d.)

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany by German President Paul von Hindenburg. Hitler was the leader of the Nazi Party. The full name of the Nazi Party was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. Its members were often called Nazis. The Nazis were radically right-wing, antisemitic, anticommunist, and antidemocratic.  Read through this website to learn more about how Hitler rose to power.

Hitler's rise to power (Facing History, n.d.)

Scholars Wendy Lower, Peter Hayes, Michael Berenbaum, Jonathan Petropoulos, and Deborah Dwork describe how Adolf Hitler became a powerful political figure in Weimar Germany in the aftermath of World War I.

Hitler's leadership style (BBC, 2011, March 30)

The image of Hitler as a meddler in military operations is powerful and persistent. He was also stubborn, distrusted his generals and relied too much on his own instinct. Geoffrey Megargee examines the Führer's shortcomings as a military leader.

Interwar Period (1918-1939): Primary documents

This website links to primary documents relating to Interwar Germany, including documents about Nazi ideology and values, Nazi rise to power, Hitler, totalitarianism and political control, racial ideas, anti-Semitism and eugenics, social ideas, values and policies, work, economic policy and re-armament, and foreign policy.

A two-sided Nazi election flyer from the Prussian state elections of 1932. The poster appeals to Communists to leave their party and join Hitler. 'List 8' refers to the Nazi position on the ballot.

Translation, side 1: Communists! We are hungry and on the dole, we lack food and jobs. We have bitter wives at home, and children whose every wish we must deny, or discontented parents, brothers and sisters. It has been this way for months, years; how long can it go on this way! One week follows another. Everything stays the same, conditions get worse, never better. Things are the same for us as they are for you. Does it have to stay that way? No! It really is not necessary. A condition that people have caused can be changed by them too. You trust Russia. You have been fighting for your idea for years. What has happened? You have 3/4 of a million fewer votes than in September 1930. Despite the need, despite the misery! Do you really believe that your cause can lead us to better times, that your wavering, aimless leadership that has been wrong so often in the past can actually win? Do you believe that Russia will help? Would it not be better to help ourselves!? For the German proletariat to help itself? We Nazis help each other. He who has something to eat shares it with him who has nothing. He who has a spare bed gives it to him who has none. That is why we have become so strong. The election shows what we can do. Everyone helps! Everyone sacrifices! The unemployed give up their wedding rings. Everyone gives, even if it is but a penny. Many small gifts become a large one. Ten million 10 pfennig coins are a million Marks. We don't need any capitalists, the lie that you are always told. We do it ourselves, and are proud of it. We all help and sacrifice, because we believe in our idea and our Führer. Without our party program, we would not have become so large and strong. We believe in our program because it says that our leaders have pledged to carry it out, even if it requires the sacrifice of their own lives.

Translation, side 2: Adolf Hitler wrote the program, and we know that he will hold to it. Help build the people's state! It doesn't matter where you came from, we are interested only in what you can do, and in your character. We want to fight. We oppose current conditions! We want to escape this misery! That is why we fight today's system! That is why we want to rule Prussia! Help us! We can do it! Enough! Things have to change! Vote National Socialist (The Hitler Movement) List 8!

The Nazi poster on the left reads: "Workers: The Brain and the Fist! Vote for the front soldier Hitler!" The 1932 poster on the right reads: "Fight hunger and despair! Vote for Hitler!"

Protocols of the Elders of Zion (1927)

The Protocols of the Elders of Zion were circulated by the Czarist Russian secret police in the early years of the twentieth century. This forged document purported to be an account of a meeting of Jewish leaders from many nations who were planning to dominate and enslave all mankind and destroy Christianity. The Russian government used this document to try to focus the anger and hostility of Russians who were suffering under poverty, illiteracy, censorship, and lack of civil rights on the Jews.

At the end of World War I, Alfred Rosenberg, who came to Germany from the Russian Empire and was an early influential member of the Nazi Party, introduced Adolf Hitler to the document and made it a staple of Nazi propaganda. Popular in many parts of the world to the present day and adopted to meet local conditions this document in the hands of the Nazis became what Norman Cohn has called a “Warrant for Genocide.”

Austria declares union with Germany - archive, 1938

This article from The Guardian's archive was published the day Austria was annexed by Germany.

Hitler’s Speech at the Putsch Trial (February 1924)

fter the failed putsch of November 8/9, 1923, Hitler, Ludendorff and eight co-defendants were put on trial for high treason at the People’s Court in Munich. The proceedings were held from February 26 to April 1, 1924. The eight co-conspirators were Ernst Pöhner (judge at the State Supreme Court), Wilhelm Frick (senior officer in the Munich police department), Friedrich Weber (veterinarian), Ernst Röhm (retired captain), Wilhelm Brückner (retired first lieutenant in the reserves), Robert Wagner (lieutenant), Hermann Kriebel (retired first lieutenant) and Heinz Pernet (retired first lieutenant). Presiding judge Georg Neithardt did little to conceal his sympathies for the putsch’s instigators and gave them ample opportunity to present their political convictions and launch demagogic attacks against the Reich government at the largely public proceedings. Hitler, in particular, seized the opportunity: on the very first day, he discussed his defense in a speech that lasted about three-and-a-half hours. His address at the conclusion of the trial, which appears in excerpted form in this link, went on for about two hours. The strikingly lenient verdict, delivered on April 1, 1924, sentenced Hitler, Weber, Kriebel and Pöhner to five years’ imprisonment for high treason, less their time in pretrial detention, and payment of 200 gold Marks or an additional twenty days in prison. They were eligible for parole after just six months. Brückner, Röhm, Pernet, Wagner and Frick were found guilty of abetment and sentenced to fifteen months’ imprisonment, less their time in pretrial detention, as well as a fine of 100 gold marks or an additional ten days in prison. However, they were immediately released on parole. Ludendorff was acquitted.

Ernst Bloch, "Hitler’s Force" (April 1924)

Shortly after the sentencing in Adolf Hitler’s trial in Munich, Marxist philosopher and publisher Ernst Bloch attempted to explain Hitler’s popularity and appeal in the independent weekly Das Tage-Buch. He cautioned against underestimating Hitler and National Socialism on account of their low-brow rhetoric. Bloch recognized that National Socialism was particularly attractive to youth, and he regarded this situation as potentially dangerous.

Hitler Warns of a Bolshevist Germany in an Interview with The Times (October 15, 1930)

The Russian Revolution had loomed large in the minds of many Germans following the First World War. It provided a beacon of hope to the Spartacists and later German communists, but also posed a threat to both the more conservative parties of Weimar Germany and those who supported the democratic republic. It was indeed the fears of the latter which prompted the Ebert-Groener Pact in which Friedrich Ebert aligned the provisional Weimar government with the military to put down the revolutionary fervor of the immediate postwar period. The fear of a Bolshevik revolution also extended beyond Germany and across Western Europe. Germany had the strongest communist party outside of the Soviet Union; and as Weimar politics became increasingly polarized in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929, the threat of a communist Germany seemed ever more plausible. Manipulating these anxieties domestically and on the international stage, Hitler portrayed the Nazi Party and a National Socialist Germany as a bulwark against communism. In this October 1930 interview with the London Times, Hitler claimed that National Socialism would not only prevent the spread of communism, but would bring order to Germany and enable it to uphold its financial obligations to the Entente powers.

Hamburg Schoolteacher Louise Solmitz on Hitler’s Seizure of Power (January-February 1933)

Hamburg schoolteacher Louise Solmitz’s enthusiastic response to the news that a cabinet of “national” concentration had been formed with Hitler as chancellor was characteristic of the attitude of the nationalist conservative middle class. Like Hitler’s allies in the conservative elite, members of this segment of society believed that Hitler’s radicalism would be tamed in an alliance with conservative ministers. Besides Hitler, there were only two other National Socialists in the cabinet: Wilhelm Frick, Reich Interior Minister, and Hermann Göring, Reich Minister Without Portfolio and acting Prussian Interior Minister. The promise of a vague chance of national unity dispelled any reservations people may have had about the National Socialists. Louise Solmitz’s response also shows the extent to which anti-Semitism was underestimated – particularly in light of the fact that Solmitz herself was married to a baptized Jew.

Otto Meissner, State Secretary in the Office of the Reich President, on the Developments Leading to Hitler’s Appointment (Retrospective Account, November 28, 1945)

Over the course of January 1933, Reich Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher became – politically speaking – increasingly boxed in. Schleicher had previously pursued a Querfront strategy, attempting to bring together trade unions and the worker-oriented National Socialists led by Gregor Strasser into a cross-party alliance under his leadership. But Strasser’s resignation from all party offices on December 8, 1932, essentially put an end to this strategy. Additionally, Schleicher lost the backing of Reich President Paul von Hindenburg, not only because of complaints by the Nazi-infiltrated Reich Agrarian League about Schleicher’s agricultural policy, but also because of the Eastern Aid scandal over the misappropriation of subsidies by Junkers in East Elbia. In January 1933, Franz von Papen held several rounds of negotiations with the National Socialists about a possible coalition under his leadership; on January 9, 1933, he began informing the Reich president of his progress. In the end, Papen and the remaining coterie around Hindenburg – above all Hindenburg’s son Oskar and State Secretary Otto Meissner – along with a few wealthy bankers and industrialists, accepted Hitler as Reich chancellor in a cabinet dominated by conservatives.

Banker Kurt Baron von Schröder’s Report on a Meeting between Hitler and Franz von Papen at Schroeder’s House in Cologne on January 4, 1933 (Retrospective Account from the Postwar Period)

Franz von Papen had Reichswehr Minister Kurt von Schleicher to thank for his chancellorship. At first, Schleicher used his position as a gray eminence to operate in a background role. But when Papen was ready to risk civil war-like conditions in order to implement his program, and when he began overstepping boundaries in the pursuit of his own agenda, Schleicher refused to take what appeared to be the necessary step of imposing martial law. Schleicher then sought the chancellorship himself, and on November 17, 1932, Papen had to resign his position. Papen, until then a personal friend of Schleicher, regarded his successor with bitter animosity. In December 1932, banker and Nazi sympathizer Kurt von Schröder organized a meeting between Papen and Adolf Hitler on January 4, 1933, in Cologne. Papen, who got on exceedingly well with Reich President Paul von Hindenburg, wanted to displace Schleicher under all circumstances, and he aimed to regain the chancellorship himself with the help of the NSDAP as a coalition partner. Hitler, for his part, desperately needed to score a political victory, as there were signs that the Nazi Party and the SA were in danger of dissolving, and the party’s lack of participation in the government was a source of increasing frustration. The meeting between Papen and Hitler in Cologne didn’t yield any concrete results, but it did mark the beginning of a relationship that would lead to Hitler’s appointment as Reich Chancellor on January 30, 1933.