Did Adolf Hitler Become Chancellor of Germany in a Legal & Constitutional Way?
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Many believe that Adolf Hitler came to power through less-than-legal means and backroom deals. However, through situations occurring at the time and the way the Nazi party used propaganda, it was not necessary for Hitler to illegally take power. It was far easier for him to use his speeches, Nazi support, the laws already in place, and the psychological & economic mindset of the German people to become Chancellor of Germany and from there become the dictator that initiated and orcestrated the Second World War.
After World War I, Germany was falling apart at the seams; both unemployment and inflation were high. It was September 1923. President Ebert & Chancellor Stresemann were presented with the problem with how to confront the hyperinflation issue. Their conclusion was to work with the demands of the French and English rather than the passive resistance which was the status quo up until that time. The primary place for this resistance was in the Ruhr Valley. In the mind of the German leadership, the only way to resolve these huge economic and geopolitical issues was for Germany to pay the extortionist reparations required by the Treaty of Versailles. Reparations that were massive and further contributed to the economic crisis that Germany already was in. Furthermore, to German nationalists this was essentially admitting to Germany's guilt for starting the Great War, later to be called the First World War. These same German nationalists, Adolf Hitler among them, could not abide by this admittance. The Beer Hall Coup (which is Putsch in German) was Hitler’s answer to this betrayal of the Weimar (pronounced vai-mar) government. This took place in 1923. It was his attempt to overthrow the Weimar government and establish himself as a the leader of a government which is Fascist. Fascism is essentially an extreme nationalist government which has a very large amount of governmental control.
Hitler’s armed march into the city of Munich failed completely. He expected a larger number of people to show up than really had. He went into a beer hall, where a meeting was being held with the Bavarian prime minister (Bavaria being like a state in the union and the prime minister being similar to a state governor) who was speaking to local businessmen. Hitler took control of the meeting using a small pistol & his thugs from the young Nazi party. He then announced that "the revolution" was in full swing and that they had to surrender to him or face death. In the end, the meeting attendies only agreed to get Hitler to leave. It was obvious that Hitler didn't think about his approach or the potential consequences for his actions.
Then Hitler and his men march towards the local government buildings to take them over. This is when they encountered resistance in the form of the Munich city police. Shots were exchanged and 16 Nazis and 3 policemen were killed. In contrast, Hitler suffered a dislocated shoulder when he was pushed to the ground. He considered this event a "brush with death." He had a closer brush with death when he was exposed to mustard gas during his service in the First World War. It is interesting to note that the mustard gas gave him the harsh and deep voice that we relate to his voice today. In any case, Hitler was arrested couple days later and was imprisoned after a brief trial. I believe the shock of this event forced Hitler to come to the conclusion that it was to his benefit to take power legally by manipulating the system he hated so much. His prison sentence was a slap on the wrist. He was released within less than a year. At that point, he his sights on running for parliament and eventually to become Chancellor. It is important to note that the Nazi party existed before Hitler and that he essentially took the party over through a combination of brow beating and manipulating the members of the very small party.
Hitler gained popularity and achieved his aims through his political tactics and propaganda. The Nazi party propaganda made Hitler out as the only leader who could save Germany. The Nazis did all they could to discredit the existing government and blame everything on them. This wasn't particularly hard to do due to increasing hard times and constant political in fighting within the German government. In parliament they would disrupt political & government proceedings with catcalls and obstructionist tactics which slow the government process and added to the hardship of the German people. It was an unethical means to an end. To gain even more recognition, Hitler organized mass parades and rallies where he would deliver brilliant, brazzen and blood boiling speeches that stirred the hearts of the people. What is more, many Germans were impressed by the Nazi’s dedication and liked their anti-Communist views. The Nazis focus of on propaganda that made the average German citizen think if the Nazi party came to power there would be something for everyone (except for those peoples the Nazis demonized like Jews and Gypsies). The German public was not so concerned with the detailed aims of the Nazi party when in power, they just wanted a new government and leader who would be decisive and could help Germany recover from the Great Depression. The sad thing is that the Nazi party would not have gained power if other parties had not compromised in forming a coalition government. The Nazi's did not have enough of the population to make them the majority party even when Hitler took the Chancellorship.
In many ways the Great Depression was the most important reason why Hitler came to power in 1933. Millions left unemployed. The still very new Weimar government broke down and people were ready to listen to groups like the Nazis, who promised a strong government and a better way of life. It was a very similar approach that Franklin D. Roosevelt took when he ran against Herbet Hoover and won the American presidency. People who had never been interested in politics before found themselves listening to extremist groups because the government was failing them completely. The Great Depression was a tremendous piece of good luck for the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler because it enabled them to get a very large minority of the vote in Germany. This combine with an alliance through the forming of the coalition government resulting in Hitler being made Chancellor.
Hitler was appointed Chancellor in 1933 by Paul von Hindenburg, who was the president of Germany. Hindenburg only did this because the first two chancellors had dropped out for various political reasons and Hitler was demanding to be made chancellor. The before mentioned coalition government was strong armed through Hitler's rhetoric and confrontational manor. Hindenburg's hope with his concession in appointing Hitler would stabilize the German government. Sadly, it worked. With Hindenburg's death of natural causes (he was very old) on August 4th, 1934, Hitler exploited a loophole in the Weimar constitution which allowed him to take the power he wanted to make himself the Fuhrer. Adolf Hitler managed to accomplish his goal of taking control of the German government completely within the sphere of the law as outlined by the Weimar Republic's own constitution that was in place at the time. That specific loophole was "Article 48" of the constitution, which allowed that "in times of crisis," the president of the Republic had the right to rule temporarily without consent of the German parliament known as the Reichstag. Hitler made use of this article to eventually form his authoritarian rule. A government which was created from the very laws of the republic it destroyed. When Hitler became Chancellor, he immediately set out to put his plans in motion. The Enabling Act, which was passed on March 23 of 1933 (just 21 days after Hindenburg's death), allowing Hitler to abolish the German parliament and issue laws even if they went against the Weimar Constitution. Adolph Hitler and the Nazis party were able to establish a dictatorship that is one of the most infamous in the annals of known human history without breaking a single law.
While it is true that the Nazi party was rambunctious and disrupted many political and governmental gatherings both in the streets and in parliament, this did not mean what they did wasn’t legal. Their actions could be portrayed as unethical, but for the point of this article what they did was legal according to the existing Weimar government. The fact remains that Hitler did indeed come to office legally after much political upheaval. Upheaval that was the result of Treaty of Varsailles and the blame fling and repairations demanded by the allied nations that hoisted the treaty on the German people.
- The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer: Books
This link is to the listing of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer for sale through Amazon and many other reputable booksellers. This particular source is the primary source of this article
- Adolf Hitler: Biography
Cyber encyclopedia of Jewish history and culture that covers everything from anti-Semitism to Zionism. It includes a glossary, bibliography of web sites and books, biographies, articles, original documents and much more!
- Beer Hall Putsch Memorial | Photo
This is a link to a picture of a memorial dedicated to the policemen that lost their lives during the Beer Hall Putsch. I do not post this image because it is someone else's intellectual property, but the link will take you to the owners blog.
- Paul von Hindenburg Biography