How Hitler Gained Power

What follows is the reason that I wrote this:

There are two paths to communism, one of revolution and forced conversion and one of electoral and voluntary acceptance. We all know and recognize the first one. Think the Bolshevik Revolution of Russia in 1917. These tend to be violent and messy.

America is experiencing the second one. These tend to be quiet, gradual and voted in by the majority.

Each are equally as deadly.

We need a constant reminder that evil and tyranny can be elected, even without a majority vote:

Whenever U.S. officials wish to demonize someone, they inevitably compare him to Adolf Hitler. The message immediately resonates with people because everyone knows that Hitler was a brutal dictator.

But how many people know how Hitler actually became a dictator? My bet is, very few. I’d also bet that more than a few people would be surprised at how he pulled it off, especially given that after World War I Germany had become a democratic republic.

The story of how Hitler became a dictator is set forth in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer, on which this article is based.

In the presidential election held on March 13, 1932, there were four candidates: the incumbent, Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg, Hitler, and two minor candidates, Ernst Thaelmann and Theodore Duesterberg. The results were:

Hindenburg 49.6 percent
Hitler 30.1 percent
Thaelmann 13.2 percent
Duesterberg 6.8 percent

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, almost 70 percent of the German people voted against Hitler, causing his supporter Joseph Goebbels, who would later become Hitler’s minister of propaganda, to lament in his journal, “We’re beaten; terrible outlook. Party circles badly depressed and dejected.”

Since Hindenberg had not received a majority of the vote, however, a runoff election had to be held among the top three vote-getters. On April 19, 1932, the runoff results were:

Hindenburg 53.0 percent
Hitler 36.8 percent
Thaelmann 10.2 percent

Thus, even though Hitler’s vote total had risen, he still had been decisively rejected by the German people.

On June 1, 1932, Hindenberg appointed Franz von Papen as chancellor of Germany, whom Shirer described as an “unexpected and ludicrous figure.” Papen immediately dissolved the Reichstag (the national congress) and called for new elections, the third legislative election in five months.

Hitler and his fellow members of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party, who were determined to bring down the republic and establish dictatorial rule in Germany, did everything they could to create chaos in the streets, including initiating political violence and murder. The situation got so bad that martial law was proclaimed in Berlin.

Even though Hitler had badly lost the presidential election, he was drawing ever-larger crowds during the congressional election. As Shirer points out,

In one day, July 27, he spoke to 60,000 persons in Brandenburg, to nearly as many in Potsdam, and that evening to 120,000 massed in the giant Grunewald Stadium in Berlin while outside an additional 100,000 heard his voice by loudspeaker.
Hitler’s rise to power

The July 31, 1932, election produced a major victory for Hitler’s National Socialist Party. The party won 230 seats in the Reichstag, making it Germany’s largest political party, but it still fell short of a majority in the 608-member body.

On the basis of that victory, Hitler demanded that President Hindenburg appoint him chancellor and place him in complete control of the state. Otto von Meissner, who worked for Hindenburg, later testified at Nuremberg,

Hindenburg replied that because of the tense situation he could not in good conscience risk transferring the power of government to a new party such as the National Socialists, which did not command a majority and which was intolerant, noisy and undisciplined.

Political deadlocks in the Reichstag soon brought a new election, this one in November 6, 1932. In that election, the Nazis lost two million votes and 34 seats. Thus, even though the National Socialist Party was still the largest political party, it had clearly lost ground among the voters.

Attempting to remedy the chaos and the deadlocks, Hindenburg fired Papen and appointed an army general named Kurt von Schleicher as the new German chancellor. Unable to secure a majority coalition in the Reichstag, however, Schleicher finally tendered his resignation to Hindenburg, 57 days after he had been appointed.

On January 30, 1933, President Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany. Although the National Socialists never captured more than 37 percent of the national vote, and even though they still held a minority of cabinet posts and fewer than 50 percent of the seats in the Reichstag, Hitler and the Nazis set out to to consolidate their power. With Hitler as chancellor, that proved to be a fairly easy task.

It was a short trip from there to the Reichstag fire and the ovens at Auschwitz.

It is also forgotten that there were basically two armies, the German Army and the Wehrmacht. The German Army fought for the country and the Wehrmacht fought for Hitler.

As they say, the rest is history.

30 thoughts on “How Hitler Gained Power

    • It is always so helpful when a damn “progressive” presumes to tell a conservative “what we must do” when that really means “be like us”.

      Never happen with a true modern conservative – maybe some RINOs but there are “progs” in each party.

      Your less than enlightened submittal to the NH is typical “progressive” excrement. What I flushed down the loo this morning had more intelligence than your letter there, Rezzyboy.

      Slightly over 400,000 votes in key counties in swing states were the true difference in the electoral college count – that’s 400K out of 121 million votes or 0.33% – hard to justify turning into Liberal Lite for that.

      To quote our French friend, Frogman:

      Try and tell that to those Americans who found themselves outnumbered and outgunned by far more disadvantageous enemy ratios, whether in a forest in the Ardennes, a hill in Korea, a valley in Vietnam or a mountain in Afghanistan. Try and tell them you’re considering giving up and burning the flag in despair.

      Even though I am just a French, I am quite certain I can predict their reaction.

      Once again, you don’t need a lecture from this Frenchman, but it seems to me that some of you, in the emotion of that unexpected electoral defeat, forgot this simple fact: America is always outnumbered.

      This unique nation, founded not on feudal or religious fault lines but on a radical philosophy of individual freedom isn’t the norm in this world: it is an anomaly. If you needed a quick and simple reminder on the basis for American exceptionalism, there you go.

      America is always outnumbered and, until the rest of the world sees the guiding light and builds shining cities on America’s model—if that day ever comes—America will always be outnumbered.

      Yet it doesn’t matter: America’s strength isn’t in numbers, it’s in her soul.

      Hear this final prophecy America: only one man can kill the Republic, and it isn’t Barack Obama. The one man who will kill your Republic is the one man who will last give up and renounce it.

      Don’t you dare be that man.

      We won’t make the mistakes we made this time in 2014 or 2016.

    • Let’s talk about FACTS. Fact: Obama received 100% and more votes in several precincts. Fact: Anthropogenic Global Warming has not been proven to be “real”. Fact: Abortion is murder. Fact: Black men have never been 3/5 of a man. Fact: Obama is indeed cutting $716 billion from Medicare. Fact: Lowering taxes, cutting spending and cutting red-tape regulations leads to prosperity which in turn balances the U.S. budget. Fact: Military spending is in our Constitution; PBS is not.

      I found this statement to be very telling: “The first step is to simply tune out the local talk radio hosts. They spout opinions, not facts.” Unfortunately, I believe that too many people have tuned out. If you believe that we at the RNL rely only on conservative views; fact: We do not. Our eyes and ears are very tuned in.

    • The Germans executed 15,000 men for deserting the Wehrmact, so I would say that there were quite a few that didn’t agree with ole Adolph.

    • saneromeo,

      I believe the majority of Germans A — knew what Hitler was doing but they were B — too cowardly to oppose him.

      “The ordinary man is passive. Within a narrow circle, home life, and perhaps the trade unions or local politics, he feels himself master of his fate. But otherwise he simply lies down and lets things happen to him.”

      –George Orwell

      • Respectfully Joe, we have to look at the psyche of the average German at that time. Their govt. had failed them at the end of “The Great War”.

        Their righteous govt. attempted to take honorable actions in the face of impossible odds.

        It took a “CRIMINAL” to cut loose the from fraudulent and unjust claims of the treaty.

        Meanwhile, the average German was consumed with surviving and feeding his family.

        By the time the majority of Germans realized what was occurring: it was too late. Political opponents were being taken from their homes and sent to the concentration camps. “Only half of the victims in the ovens were JEWS ! ! ! ! ”

        Soooo, the average German shut up, hunkered down, and prayed some part of their family would survive. Better for “ONLY” a child, or a spouse to survive than for the entire family to be murdered.

        • Texas,

          I understand your points, but it is more than that. First, it was (and still is) part of the nature of German people to follow orders. They have a very militant heritage. They are also very nationalistic (the two are probably connected). This led — as you say — to a national sense of injustice over the Peace Treaty (And Woodrow Wilson had a hand in that because he wanted to punish the Germans). So, I believe the German people were very receptive to Hitler and his promises. But Guess what? WE had a hand in it — both in the treaty AND in what the Progressive movement and Wilson’s propaganda minister, Edward Bernays, taught the Germans.

          Goebbels and Hitler learned to use scape goats and to focus the nation’s hatred on that scapegoat from American Progressives. This is not my opinion, Goebbels said so in his diary. This played into Hitler’s hands because then — as now — Jews were connected to who? The bankers! And the Germans were suffering from financial turmoil. So they readily accepted the vilainization of the Jews — much the way we are accepting the vilainization of our 1%.

          Hence, the German people knew — they were just so self-consumed with their own self-interest that they did nothing. Again, just like what we are doing now.

          • A long time friend of mine shares this simple story: his uncle was a successful Austrian. The Nazis came to his home and ordered him to leave.
            He simply said no, this is my home.
            A nazi shot and killed him on his front porch.
            All the neighbors, and their friends, and their friends friends,

  1. And what lead to these events?


    Caused by “merely PRINTING paper currency” to pay the MASSIVE DEBT (that could never be paid) forced upon Germany by the treaty of Versailles.

    Are YOU beginning to see any parallels here?

    Side note: who is in a bubble, no, which side has imprisoned themselves in a fantasy world of lies claiming the “lessons of history no longer apply?”

  2. New here, Utah. Excellent comparison of the period of Hitler and the Nazi regime, to our current situation. I enjoyed it. If you want to know how I got here, your site was recommended by Tea Party Patriots, of which I am a member. Keep up the good work.

    • Thanks, Gene. We have had a rush of new readers thanks to Tea Party Patriots and we are very grateful for the opportunity to have a wider readership. I’m an expat in Scotland and am not a member either but as you can see, we are interested in promoting the cause of classical liberalism via the blog and hope that we are making even a small difference.

      Thanks again and please come back – I don’t believe that we are in the minority but it is clear that there is a minority willing to act. We have to have some citizen actions to stop the slow roll to a Marxist state and hopefully we can build that into a majority for 2014 and 2016.

      • You are in a bubble, Utah. Your guys lost the election, the popular vote, And the electoral vote. Todd Akin of the ‘Real rape” meme was defeated in Missouri, Allen West is losing his challenge, Not only did VP candidate Paul Ryan not win in his home state, he lost in his own county! Richard “your rape was mandated by The Lord” Mourdock lost his bid for senator.

        The voters recognized themselves as the targets of romney ‘47%’ speech; vets, widows, working poor, and retirees all heard themselves described as as an unthinking bloc of takers,

        You need a bigger tent, Utah. Unfortunately, the philosophy you espouse makes for a piece of tarp that barely covers you and B. Remain forever losers.

        • Well, first of all, I’ll never be a loser.

          I’ll never be a loser because I will never presuppose to have a claim on anything that someone else earns through hard work or inherits through luck or just pure good fortune. I’ll never be angry or envious that someone has more than I do and I will never try to vote myself a share of another’s wealth. I’ll never ask you or government to take care of me.

          I swear by my life and the love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine. – John Galt (Ayn Rand)

          Why? Because that is my responsibility and mine alone. My life and the production of my efforts belong to me – John Locke, remember?

          I’ll also never compromise my faith for political gain and I’ll never agree that abortion is a medical procedure no matter the size of the tent.

          I’ve worked my way from a dirt poor beginning to be one of those people who Obama thinks won’t miss a little more taxation. I actually would expect a thank you note from you because I’ll be the kind of person who will be expected to pay for all the “free stuff” you, lefties want.

          What happens when there are no “rich” left to tax? What will you do then?

          My resentment is due to the fact that what it took me not 10, not 20, but 30 years of toil to earn, Obama now wants to take from me with the stroke of a pen and, therefore, take it from my kids – all to give to those who weren’t willing to do the things that I have done or to sacrifice, save and plan as I have.

          Neither he nor you are entitled to my “little bit more”, my children are.

          You claim that we can’t judge your ideology by Al Sharpton, OWS or people like Professor McProgressive, yet you want to hang Akin around our necks. Is it possible that you are a little concerned?

          Yes, we lost an election but in reality, your side gained nothing – control of the government remained pretty much the same. So tell me again what big lesson are we supposed to glean from that – and the fact that West ran in a new Democrat heavy district and still is close to winning? What are we to make of fewer people voting for both candidates?

          That Republicans need a bigger tent?


          No Greg, I’m not a loser, but I think we know who is.

          • “I’ll never be a loser because I will never presuppose to have a claim on anything that someone else earns through hard work or inherits through luck or just pure good fortune. I’ll never be angry or envious that someone has more than I do and I will never try to vote myself a share of another’s wealth. I’ll never ask you or government to take care of me.”

            Holy Sh*t! I could not have summarized nearly as well. Well done Utah. Well done.

            • Thanks, augs. It was kind of a “10 Commandment” rant with a little Locke and Rand thrown in for flavor.

              Shouldn’t be too strange that Lockeian philosophy, Rand’s individualism/objectivism and the Bible sort of tie out.

              • The only thing I wish … is that we could be a fly on the wall watching while Greg reads this. I bet his poor little cranium will explode.

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