Hitler Comes to Power
This account of Hitler's rise to power was published on the web in 1999 by USHMM. It was unavailable after 2009.
In the early 1930s, the mood in Germany was grim. The worldwide economic depression had hit the country especially hard, and millions of people were out of work. Still fresh in the minds of many was Germany's humiliating defeat fifteen years earlier during World War I, and Germans lacked confidence in their weak government, known as the Weimar Republic. These conditions provided the chance for the rise of a new leader, Adolf Hitler, and his party, the National Socialist German Workers' Party, or Nazi party for short.
Hitler was a powerful and spellbinding speaker who attracted a wide following of Germans desperate for change. He promised the disenchanted a better life and a new and glorious Germany. The Nazis appealed especially to the unemployed, young people, and members of the lower middle class (small store owners, office employees, craftsmen, and farmers).
The party's rise to power was rapid. Before the economic depression struck, the Nazis were practically unknown, winning only 3 percent of the vote to the Reichstag (German parliament) in elections in 1924. In the 1932 elections, the Nazis won 33 percent of the votes, more than any other party. In January 1933 Hitler was appointed chancellor, the head of the German government, and many Germans believed that they had found a savior for their nation.