How was Hitler able to become Chancellor in January 1933?


Hitler's rise to power was based upon long-term factors - resentment in the German people, the weakness of the Weimar system - which he exploited through propaganda (paid for by his rich, Communist-fearing backers), the terror of his stormtroopers, and the brilliance of his speeches.

       During the 'roaring twenties' Germans ignored this vicious little man with his programme of hatred.   But when the Great Depression ruined their lives, they voted for him in increasing numbers.   Needing support, and thinking he could control Hitler, President Hindenburg made the mistake in January 1933 of giving Hitler the post of Chancellor.   



Simple summary     

History learning - excellent

The History Place - good



- BBC debate-podcast on Hitler's Rise to Power

- Giles Hill's excellent podcast on The Rise of Adolf Hitler



Hitler establishes power - BBC video (watch the first part, to 1933).

- Laura Mancktelow's video on the Rise of Hitler



Why did Hitler come to power?


The story of why Hitler came to power is about the reasons why the German people lost their senses and allowed a vicious madman to come to power.   What could have brought this about?



All the following were present from the 1920s:

1.       Long-term bitterness

Deep anger about the First World War and the Treaty of Versailles created an underlying bitterness to which Hitler’s viciousness and expansionism appealed, so they gave him support.

2.       Ineffective Constitution

Weaknesses in the Constitution crippled the government.   In fact, there were many people in Germany who wanted a return to dictatorship.   When the crisis came in 1929–1933 – there was no one who was prepared or able to fight to stop Hitler.  

3.       Money

The financial support of wealthy businessmen gave Hitler the money to run his propaganda and election campaigns.

4.       Propaganda

Nazi propaganda persuaded the German masses to believe that the Jews were to blame and that Hitler was their last hope.

5.       Programme

Hitler promised everybody something, so they supported him.

6.       Attacks on other parties

The Stormtroopers attacked Jews and people who opposed Hitler.   Many opponents kept quiet simply because they were scared of being murdered – and, if they were, the judges simply let the Stormtroopers go free (see point 2).

7.       Personal Qualities

Hitler was a brilliant speaker, and his eyes had a peculiar power over people.   He was a good organiser and politician.   He was a driven, unstable man, who believed that he had been called by God to become dictator of Germany and rule the world.   This kept him going when other people might have given up.   His self-belief persuaded people to believe in him.


Source G

Hitler’s financiers

Many industrials bankrolled the Nazis, including allegedly:

·         Hjalmar Schacht, Head of the Reichsbank, organised fund-raising parties for Hitler.

·         Fritz von Thyssen, the German steel businessman

·         Alfred Krupp, the owner of Krupp steel firm

·         Emil Kirdorf, the coal businessman

·         IG Faben, the German chemicals firm, gave half the funds for the 1933 elections

·         The German car firm Opel (a subsidiary of General Motors)

·         Schroeder Bank – on Jan. 3, 1933, Reinhard Schroeder met Hitler and asked him to form a government.


And many foreign firms including:

·         Henry Ford of Ford Motors.   Hitler borrowed passages from Ford's book The International Jew to use in Mein Kampf and had a picture of Ford on the wall of his office.

·         Union Banking Corporation, New York (George Bush’s great-grandfather was president of the Corporation)

·         WA Harriman and Co., the American shipping and railway company (George Bush’s grandfather was vice-president)

·         Irenee du Pont, head of the American Du Pont explosives company, and on the Board of General Motors, advocated the creation of a super-race by spinal injections to enhance children of ‘pure’ blood.

Source A

This poster of 1932 says: ‘Hitler – our last hope’


Source B

[Hitler's policies] were half-baked, racist clap-trap... but among the jumble of hysterical ideas Hitler showed a sure sense of how to appeal to the lowest instincts of frightened masses.

Tony Howarth, a modern historian.


Source C

He was holding the masses, and me with them, under an hypnotic spell by the sheer force of his beliefs.   His words were like a whip.   When he spoke of the disgrace of Germany, I felt ready to attack any enemy.

Karl Ludecke, an early follower of Hitler (1924).


Source D

Of course, I was ripe for this experience.   I was a man of 32, weary with disgust and disillusionment, a wanderer seeking a cause, patriot seeking an outlet for his patriotism.

Karl Ludecke (1924).


Source E

There were simply not enough Germans who believed in democracy and individual freedom to save the Weimar republic.

Written by the modern historian S Williams.


Source F

SA men stop people going into a Jewish shop.


After 1929, however, two short-term factors brought Hitler to power:

8.       Economic Depression

After the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the US called in its loans to Germany, and the German economy collapsed.   The Number of unemployed grew; people starved on the streets.   In the crisis, people wanted someone to blame, and looked to extreme solutions – Hitler offered them both, and Nazi success in the elections grew.  

      Germans turned to Nazism because they were desperate.   The number of Nazi seats in the Reichstag rose from 12 in 1928 to 230 in July 1932.

9.       Recruited by Hindenburg

In November 1932 elections the Nazis again failed to get a majority of seats in the Reichstag.   Their share of the vote fell – from 230 seats to only 196.   Hitler contemplated suicide.   But then he was rescued by Hindenburg.  

      Franz von Papen (a friend of Hindenburg) was Chancellor, but he could not get enough support in the Reichstag.   Hindenburg and von Papen were having to govern by emergency decree under Article 48 of the Constitution.   They offered Hitler the post of vice-Chancellor if he promised to support them.  

      Hitler refused – he demanded to be made Chancellor.   So Von Papen and Hindenburg took a risk.   On 30 January 1933 Hindenburg made Hitler Chancellor.   He thought he could control Hitler – how wrong he was.  

       In the end, Hitler did not TAKE power at all – he was given it.




Source H

Number of Unemployed

1928     2 million

1929     2.5 million

1930     3 million

1931     5 million

1932     6 million

Draw a graph to show the number of unemployed AND the Nazis' electoral fortunes, 1928–1932.  

What connection do you notice?