History Today eBook: The Second World War

Adolf Hitler becomes German Chancellor

Germany's new Chancellor took power on 30 January 1933.

Hitler, at the window of the Reich Chancellery, receives an ovation on the evening of his inauguration as chancellor, 30 January 1933

Adolf Hitler was not elected to power in Germany by an overwhelming upsurge of popular demand. The Nazi Party certainly achieved substantial support, winning 37 per cent of the total vote in the 1932 election. This made it the largest party in the Reichstag, but it was Franz von Papen and other conservatives who persuaded the German president, Field Marshal von Hindenburg, to appoint Hitler as chancellor in a coalition government.

He was the most powerful political leader in the country, but was a demagogue with no experience of government and they believed they would be able to bring him under control, while an alliance with the Nazis would bring them the support they needed in the Reichstag.

It was a disastrous misjudgement. Von Papen became vice-chancellor, but Hitler used his position adroitly to achieve a dictatorship, partly by building on reports of a supposed Communist conspiracy against the state. In March the Reichstag conferred dictatorial powers on him for four years. In June of the following year, in what he called ‘the night of the long knives’, Hitler eliminated about a hundred rivals. Hindenburg died in August 1934 and Hitler was proclaimed Führer of the German Reich, head of state and commander of the armed forces, giving him dictatorial power over the country. The consequences are only too well known.

X

Get Miscellanies, our free weekly long read, in your inbox every week