Nazism and the Rise of Hitler

How far will you take a fight with your neighbor?

  • Suppose there is a fight (quarrel) with your family and your neighbor’s family.
  • Your neighbor drove his car over your cat! How far will it go? Will it go up to your murdering your neighbor’s dog to take revenge?
  • Can you ever think of your father shooting the neighbor or your neighbor attacking your father with a knife or axe?
  • A cat’s life is important, no doubt, but humanity is much more valuable. Isn’t it?
  • If you are a supporter of violence in this case, your name is Adolf Hitler, a man who killed 6,636,235 people – men, women and children!
  • This chapter is about Adolf Hitler, his Nazy Party, the Second World War and a lot of incidents.
  • You will never forget the people and incidents in this chapter.

How did it Begin?

  • Let’s start from the First World War which was fought from 1914-1918.
  • A World War is a war in which many countries take opposite sides involving massive (large) destruction and deaths. So far, the world has seen 2 World Wars.
  • Germany was a powerful empire (many countries under a ruler) in the early years of the twentieth century (1900 – 1920).
  • German Empire + Austrian Empire (Central Powers) on one side Vs England, France and Russia (Allies)
  • Everybody thought that the war would end soon but the World War 1 lasted 4 years.
  • And, what happens when war continues for years? Can you guess?

Score – Germany

  • Won France and Belgium but lost the war.
  • Emperor (ruler) was abdicated
  • Lost its overseas colonies
  • A tenth of its population
  • 13 per cent of its territories
  • 75 per cent of its iron and 26 per cent of its coal to France, Poland, Denmark and Lithuania
  • £6 billion as war compensation.

Score – Allies (with the US support from 1917):

  • Won the war in November 1918.
  • The defeat of Imperial Germany and the abdication of the emperor gave an opportunity to parliamentary parties to recast German polity.
  • A National Assembly met at Weimar and established a democratic constitution with a federal structure.
  • Deputies were now elected to the German Parliament or Reichstag, on the basis of equal and universal votes cast by all adults including women.
  • This republic, however, was not received well by its own people largely because of the terms it was forced to accept after Germany’s defeat at the end of the First World War.
  • The peace treaty at Versailles with the Allies was a harsh and humiliating peace.
  • The Allied Powers demilitarised Germany to weaken its power.
  • The War Guilt Clause held Germany responsible for the war and damages the Allied countries suffered.
  • Occupied the resource-rich Rhineland for much of the 1920s.
  • Many Germans held the new Weimar Republic responsible for not only the defeat in the war but the disgrace at Versailles.

1.1 The Effects of the War

  • The war had a devastating impact on the entire continent both psychologically and financially.
  • From a continent of creditors, Europe turned into one of debtors.
  • Unfortunately, the infant Weimar Republic was being made to pay for the sins of the old empire.
  • The republic carried the burden of war guilt and national humiliation and was financially crippled by being forced to pay compensation.
  • Those who supported the Weimar Republic, mainly Socialists, Catholics and Democrats, became easy targets of attack in the conservative nationalist circles.
  • They were mockingly called the ‘November criminals’.
  • This mindset had a major impact on the political developments of the early 1930s, as we will soon see.
  • The First World War left a deep imprint on European society and polity.
  • Soldiers came to be placed above civilians.
  • Politicians and publicists laid great stress on the need for men to be aggressive, strong and masculine.
  • The media glorified trench life.
  • The truth, however, was that soldiers lived miserable lives in these trenches, trapped with rats feeding on corpses.
  • They faced poisonous gas and enemy shelling, and witnessed their ranks reduce rapidly.
  • Aggressive war propaganda and national honour occupied centre stage in the public sphere, while popular support grew for conservative dictatorships that had recently come into being.
  • Democracy was indeed a young and fragile idea, which could not survive the instabilities of interwar Europe.

1.2 Political Radicalism and Economic Crises

  • The birth of the Weimar Republic coincided with the revolutionary uprising of the Spartacist League on the pattern of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.
  • Soviets of workers and sailors were established in many cities. The political atmosphere in Berlin was charged with demands for Soviet-style governance.
  • Those opposed to this – such as the socialists, Democrats and Catholics – met in Weimar to give shape to the democratic republic.
  • The Weimar Republic crushed the uprising with the help of a war veterans organisation called Free Corps.
  • The anguished Spartacists later founded the Communist Party of Germany.
  • Communists and Socialists henceforth became irreconcilable enemies and could not make common cause against Hitler.
  • Both revolutionaries and militant nationalists craved for radical solutions.
  • Political radicalisation was only heightened by the economic crisis of 1923.
  • Germany had fought the war largely on loans and had to pay war reparations in gold.
  • This depleted gold reserves at a time resources were scarce.
  • In 1923 Germany refused to pay, and the French occupied its leading industrial area, Ruhr, to claim their coal.
  • Germany retaliated with passive resistance and printed paper currency recklessly.
  • With too much printed money in circulation, the value of the German mark fell.
  • In April the US dollar was equal to 24,000 marks, in July 353,000 marks, in August 4,621,000 marks and at 98,860,000 marks by December, the figure had run into trillions.
  • As the value of the mark collapsed, prices of goods soared.
  • The image of Germans carrying cartloads of currency notes to buy a loaf of bread was widely publicised evoking worldwide sympathy.
  • This crisis came to be known as hyperinflation, a situation when prices rise phenomenally high.
  • Eventually, the Americans intervened and bailed Germany out of the crisis by introducing the Dawes Plan, which reworked the terms of reparation to ease the financial burden on Germans.

1.3 The Years of Depression

  • The years between 1924 and 1928 saw some stability.
  • Yet this was built on sand.
  • German investments and industrial recovery were totally dependent on short-term loans, largely from the USA.
  • This support was withdrawn when the Wall Street Exchange crashed in 1929.
  • Fearing a fall in prices, people made frantic efforts to sell their shares.
  • On one single day, 24 October, 13 million shares were sold.
  • This was the start of the Great Economic Depression.
  • Over the next three years, between 1929 and 1932, the national income of the USA fell by half.
  • Factories shut down, exports fell, farmers were badly hit and speculators withdrew their money from the market.
  • The effects of this recession in the US economy were felt worldwide.
  • The German economy was the worst hit by the economic crisis.
  • By 1932, industrial production was reduced to 40 per cent of the 1929 level.
  • Workers lost their jobs or were paid reduced wages.
  • The number of unemployed touched an unprecedented 6 million.
  • On the streets of Germany you could see men with placards around their necks saying, ‘Willing to do any work’.
  • Unemployed youths played cards or simply sat at street corners, or desperately queued up at the local employment exchange.
  • As jobs disappeared, the youth took to criminal activities and total despair became commonplace.
  • The economic crisis created deep anxieties and fears in people.
  • The middle classes, especially salaried employees and pensioners, saw their savings diminish when the currency lost its value.
  • Small businessmen, the self-employed and retailers suffered as their businesses got ruined.
  • These sections of society were filled with the fear of proletarianisation, an anxiety of being reduced to the ranks of the working class, or worse still, the unemployed.
  • Only organised workers could manage to keep their heads above water, but unemployment weakened their bargaining power.
  • Big business was in crisis. The large mass of peasantry was affected by a sharp fall in agricultural prices and women, unable to fill their children’s stomachs, were filled with a sense of deep despair.
  • Politically too the Weimar Republic was fragile.
  • The Weimar constitution had some inherent defects, which made it unstable and vulnerable to dictatorship.
  • One was proportional representation.
  • This made achieving a majority by any one party a near impossible task, leading to a rule by coalitions.
  • Another defect was Article 48, which gave the President the powers to impose emergency, suspend civil rights and rule by decree.
  • Within its short life, the Weimar Republic saw twenty different cabinets lasting on an average 239 days, and a liberal use of Article 48.
  • Yet the crisis could not be managed.
  • People lost confidence in the democratic parliamentary system, which seemed to offer no solutions.

2 Hitler’s Rise to Power

  • This crisis in the economy, polity and society formed the background to Hitler’s rise to power.
  • Born in 1889 in Austria, Hitler spent his youth in poverty.
  • When the First World War broke out, he enrolled for the army, acted as a messenger in the front, became a corporal, and earned medals for bravery.
  • The German defeat horrified him and the Versailles Treaty made him furious.
  • In 1919, he joined a small group called the German Workers’ Party.
  • He subsequently took over the organisation and renamed it the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.
  • This party came to be known as the Nazi Party.
  • In 1923, Hitler planned to seize control of Bavaria, march to Berlin and capture power.
  • He failed, was arrested, tried for treason, and later released.
  • The Nazis could not effectively mobilise popular support till the early 1930s.
  • It was during the Great Depression that Nazism became a mass movement.
  • As we have seen, after 1929, banks collapsed and businesses shut down, workers lost their jobs and the middle classes were threatened with destitution.
  • In such a situation Nazi propaganda stirred hopes of a better future.
  • In 1928, the Nazi Party got no more than 2. 6 per cent votes in the Reichstag – the German parliament.
  • By 1932, it had become the largest party with 37 per cent votes.

Words

  • Wall Street Exchange – The name of the world’s biggest stock exchange located in the USA.
  • Proletarianisation – To become impoverished to the level of working classes.
  • Propaganda: Specific type of message directly aimed at influencing the opinion of people (through the use of posters, films,
    speeches, etc.)

How did it end?

  • In May 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allies.
  • Seeing that they will be caught, Hitler, his supporters and his entire family committed suicide collectively in his Berlin bunker in April.
  • At the end of the war, an International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg was set up to prosecute Nazi war criminals for Crimes against Peace, for War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity.
  • Germany’s conduct during the war, especially those actions which

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