Who Voted For Hitler?

David Welch attributes the Nazi leader's electoral success to much more than slick propaganda.

In January 1933, von Schleicher's government, which had attempted to conciliate both Centre and Left interests within the Weimar system, was unable to secure a majority in the Reichstag and resigned. On 30 January the President, Field Marshal Hindenburg, accepted a cabinet with Hitler as Chancellor, von Papen as Vice-Chancellor and nationalists including Nazis in other posts. There is little mystery about the electoral success in 1933 of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP). Hitler became Chancellor constitutionally. The suggestion that Hitler and his party somehow 'seized' power is rather misleading. The Nazis themselves are largely responsible for perpetuating this myth by continuing to refer to a Kampfzeit (period of struggle) and to their Machtergreifung (seizure of power). Admittedly having gained power the Nazis used the Reichstag fire of 27 February 1933 as a pretext for suspending civil liberties and holding elections in circumstances highly favourable to themselves. In the elections of 5 March the NSDAP made further gains, winning 288 seats but failed to secure an overall majority (43.9 per cent).

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