Who or what was responsible for Hitler’s rise to power? Many believe that there was only one factor for his rise to power. Some state that Hitler could not have risen to power in any country other than Germany, implying that he was nothing more than a product of German culture. Others say that Hitler made himself dictator by means of his own political genius. Yet still others claim that it was the weak democratic government of the Weimar Republic or only Germany’s social and economic scene in the 1930’s that made the people restless and ready for a dictator to come to power.
The reality is there was no one individual cause for Hitler’s rise to power; there were two. The political and economic chaos of the 1920’s and the 1930’s joined forces with German culture that enabled Hitler to rise to power. These situations fit together like pieces in a puzzle to create a unique situation for Hitler’s emergence to dictatorship. Hitler was, in part, a product of German culture (though born in Braunau am Inn, Austria). At this point in history, German culture stood out as particularly aggressive and racist.
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The values and ideas found in this culture’s history inspired Hitler to do many things and can explain in part why he felt so strongly on certain issues (Stern). Hundreds of years before Hitler emerged, German philosophers and artists preached an almost religious worship of the state. They discussed the idea of a master race and created a mythology of German heroism that encouraged loyalty to the group and glorified death for the country.
Hitler and many Germans like him were enthusiastic students of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who argued that the state, “Has the supreme right against the individual, whose supreme duty is to be a member of the State. ” Hegel foresaw in the early 1800’s that “Germany’s hour” would come and that the country’s mission would be to “redevelop” the world. In his view, a German hero would complete this mission (Landry). Like Hegel, another German philosopher more directly portrayed the conventionality and obedience necessary for a secure State.
Heinrich von Treitschke expressed that it was of no consequence what individuals thought about anything, just as long as these individuals obeyed German law. Germany’s tradition also produced Friedrich Nietzsche, who preached the coming of a master race and the “superman” who would conquer, impose a glorified state, and purify this master race. German legends were full of heroes and heroines such as Hagen, Siegfried, and Brunhild, who were superbly depicted in Richard Wagner’s opera, the Nibelungenlied.
Heroes such as those inspired Germans including Hitler, to think of themselves as larger than life and capable of bringing great glory to Germany in both life and death (Douglas, Landry, vorn Bruch, Wagner). These points were all emphasized in Hitler’s repeated attempt to create something “larger than life” under his National Socialist regime. In addition to German philosophers and artists, Germany, more than any other state in Europe, had a history of militarism that ran deep. Great warriors like Frederick III inspired the creation of 18th and 19th century Prussia, laying the roots of 20th century Germany.
The Prussian state was put together on the design of conquest and was led by a cruelly-disciplined army and a narrow bureaucracy that strictly followed commands without question. The classic picture of the Nazi soldier following traditional values with his fellow soldiers was born in this Prussian past that was always highly militaristic, conventional, and hungry for conflict (vorn Bruch). With this aggressive past, it was inevitable that anti-Semitism – hatred towards the Jews – would be rooted deep in German culture for centuries.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Hitler was not the origin of this prejudice. Jews were looked down upon for many reasons; they were often bankers or held positions that dealt with money (in an era controlled by economic chaos). Their customs made them stand out from other Germans and many Germans believed that Jews had more devotion to their religion than they had to their state. The Jewish religion was alien to that of the Germans, which was predominantly Christian. German myths often glorified blonde, blue-eyed heroes – a stark contrast to the predominantly darker-colored Jew.
This violent hatred of the Jews was sung in German operas, written in German philosophy, and later embraced by its leaders (Levy, Hitler). German culture, from a historical standpoint, was by nature racist, militaristic and anti-Semitic. Germany was an opportune place for Hitler to come to power. This is one of the few cultures that could have produced such a hateful aggressor. Not only did Germany’s culture help Hitler come to power, but so did Germany’s social and economic scene of the1920’s and the 1930’s.
Germany was desperate and ready for a dictator to emerge. German people, feeling confused by the social and economic chaos of this era, could do nothing but gravitate toward someone like Hitler; he was a man who had all the answers, particularly of order and greatness. Almost anyone could have stepped into his place, spoken the same words, and achieved the same hold over the people as Hitler did (Stern). First and most importantly, Germany experienced severe economic distress in the wake of the Versailles Treaty.
Inflation brought the major crisis of this period because it caused the value of German money to fall dramatically, so much that German printing presses had difficulty providing enough paper currency to keep up with the daily rise in prices; money was literally not worth the paper on which was printed. Many people had to sell their most precious belongings to buy just a bit of food or absolutely necessary toiletry. Those people never forgot the hardships they endured and were the first to lend a willing ear to Hitler’s passionate preaching.
Bewildered and penniless, without jobs due to high prices, the Germans were open to anyone who promised to bring back social order and economic control. Hitler promised both of these things (von Jochen). Accordingly, people were left with no alternative but Hitler’s dictatorship. They blamed the democrats of the Weimar Republic who “betrayed” them at Versailles (by admitting fault in the war-guilt clause and imposing severe military spending) and brought about the social and economic disorder of the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Some political leaders preached communism; however, to be communist during this period meant that one had to identify with Russia and the radical working class, who were striking throughout Germany and in the eyes of most Germans, causing even greater chaos. Communists were a borderline group, just as the Jews. Neither of these groups ??? the democrats nor the communists – appealed to most Germans. Hitler’s tyranny filled the void (from the moderate to the right). He gave the German people a reason to be proud again. He lighted the nationalistic fire inside German citizens that was burnt out for so long.
German pride and confidence was shattered in the war-guilt clause at the Treaty of Versailles and the nation was seeking ways that would restore that lost pride. They wanted to feel good about themselves and about their country, so they opened their arms to a person who made them feel that way: Adolf Hitler (Levy). Another important ally of Hitler was big business. Fearful of the communist worker riots exploding all over Germany and anxious to rebuild from the economic disaster of the 1930’s, capitalists saw Hitler as one politician who would not hold up business. To ensure his success, they supported him financially (Turner).
Hitler was not entirely responsible for his rise to power. He was in the right place, Germany, at the right time. Dismayed by the economic chaos of the depression and the social chaos of the workers riots, the German citizens were desperate for anyone who would bring back order. It did not occur to the German people what the price might be for allowing such a man as Hitler to rise to power (Levy). German culture and the social and economic chaos of the 1920’s and 1930’s answer how Hitler rose to power in Germany, why he held firm to his ideologies and why the German people accepted such a man with open arms.
Hitler was essentially a product of the German culture into which he was raised, which now stands out as rather aggressive and blatantly racist. He seized power at a time when people were anxious for someone to take control over the chaos and madness of the economic and social scene and did not consider the consequences of letting someone like Hitler have that much power. The German culture molded Hitler into the man he was and the social and economic situation of the 20’s and 30’s enabled him to come to power.