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Who Voted for the Nazis?

Dick Geary on the voting patterns of the German people in the crucial years that brought Hitler to power.

Campaigners at a polling station in BerlinBetween 1928 and 1932, the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) became the most popular of Germany's many political organisations. It had won no more than 2.6 per cent of votes cast in the Reichstag election of 1928 but just two years later registered massive gains, winning 18.3 per cent of the popular vote. The Reichstag election of July 1932 saw even more spectacular success: 13.7 million German electors, some 37.3 per cent of all votes cast, opted for the NSDAP, making it the largest party in the Reich.

This story of electoral success certainly forms the background to Hitler's appointment as Chancellor in 1933. However, even at the peak of the NSDAP's popularity before this moment, almost 63 per cent of the German electorate did not vote for the Nazis. What is more, in November 1932, the Nazi Party actually lost 2 million votes. This means that Hitler was not directly voted in to power; for in the Weimar system of absolute proportional representation, 37 per cent of the vote in July 1932 gave the Nazis nothing like a majority in the Reichstag.

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