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WHY DID HITLER COME TO POWER IN 1933?

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A further step was needed—a means of forcing a way in through the Republic’s fissures. This was greatly assisted by the drift to authoritarian rule after 1929 in which the democracy of the Republic was systematically undermined by the conservative right. The first stage was the recruitment of Brüning to form a government based on the Centre Party; lacking a majority in the Reichstag he came increasingly to depend on the use of Article 48 of the Constitution which made possible legislation by presidential decree.

In 1932 Papen and Schleicher abandoned any remaining pretence of relating the chancellorship to a party base in the Reichstag and made executive decrees the normal legislative process. Hence by 1933 the ground had been well prepared for the emergence of dictatorship. But why were the conservative right willing to allow Hitler and the radical right to benefit from this? The explanation seems to be that the conservative right (which included the DNVP, some of the army command, President Hindenburg and Chancellors Papen and Schleicher) intended to use Nazism for their own purpose.

They believed that the Republic had outlived its usefulness and that any return to the party politics of the 1920s was impossible. Instead, conservative constitutional theorists argued in Unsere Partei that the party system would eventually fracture and be replaced by a broad front. For this reason, the DNVP therefore aimed to create a broad ‘movement’ of the right which would also include the NSDAP.

The latter could, in fact, be used for its radical impetus. It had the capacity to destroy the Republic, but once that was achieved it would be brought into line with the more conservative objectives of the DNVP. The collaboration between the Nazis and the DNVP was crucial; Hiden goes so far as to say that it ‘played handmaiden to Adolf Hitler and his movement at the close of the 1920s’.14 This strategy, which eventually proved to be fatally flawed, provided Hitler with access power.His appointment as Chancellor was due to a fortuitous circumstance—the personal rivalry between the last two Chancellors, Papen and Schleicher.

The latter faced a political crisis when, in January 1933, the Reichstag challenged his use of Article 48. The Constitution provided a loophole in that the President could dissolve the Reichstag and call an election. But, having already done this twice in 1932, Hindenburg preferred to find an alternative Chancellor. This explains his receptiveness to Papen’s recommendation that Hitler should be appointed, with himself given a watching bri.....[read full text]

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