In January 1933 Hitler emerged as the German Chancellor, not as a revolutionary coup, but in accordance to the constitution. Germany had suffered defeat in its attempts of revolution, occupation of the Ruhr and disastrous inflation since 1918. Germany had little to none experience with democracy. The Republic, which was set up in 1919, was never liked by the Nationalists on the right or the Communists on the left. The parliament, or Reichstag, were split into disagreeing groups which left the public suspicious of feeble cabinets and semi-dictatorial rule by the President. Government was unpopular with the people but they still respected authority. In that climate Hitler realized that if he was to come to power it must be by apparently legal terms. In 1928 the Nazis had only 12 seats in the Reichstag. By 1930 they had 107 seats.
When the Depression hit Germany, more and more people listened to Hitler, who in turn blamed the Jews, Communists and the Treaty of Versailles for the Depression. The Nazis won 230 seats in the election of 1932 - which still was not a majority.
"However, to confound the Communist Party which had polled four and a half million votes, von Papen, leader of the Catholic Centre Party, proposed an alliance with the Nazis. Hitler would be Chancellor, von Papen vice-Chancellor. Privately, von Papen and President Hindenburg thought they could use Hitler as a puppet; they, the army and the powerful industrialists would keep him in order. Hitler had other ideas."
Upon becoming Chancellor, Adolf Hitler demanded the power to govern by emergency decrees (permitted in exceptional circumstances by the constitution). The Reichstag building (parliament) was burned in February; of 1933. The Nazis announced that the building had been set on fire by a young Dutchman upon orders from the Communists. Others believed that the S.A. had deliberately started the fire to provoke public alarm. This fire gave Hitler the excuse to suspend the constitution's guarantee of individual liberty. With Nazi Storm Troopers arresting their opponents, Hitler obtained the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution. Therefore, he had the power to draft laws without parliamentary approval. The Republic was closed down overnight. Adolf Hitler became ruler of Germany.
"Hitler had promised the rebirth of Germany. He would provide jobs, get rid of the Jews, tear up the Treaty of Versailles." Through intense propaganda, the people were made to feel that indeed their country had been reborn. "A master race of blond Nordic heroes had emerged, it was claimed, and no traitors must be allowed to interfere with their triumphant march." All political parties and unions - except for the Nazis - were closed down. Jews were not allowed to hold any official office - Jewish businesses were wrecked - and thousands of Jews fled, or were sent to concentration camps. Teachers were told what to teach, and the universities were made to promote the theories of racial superiority. A Man's duty was to fight, while a woman's duty was to bear children for the country. Housewives were demanded to give their gold rings to help the country's finances. All children over the age of six had to join the Hitler Youth. They were taught the Nazi faith and, when they were older, they served in labor battalions girls did household or farm service.
A college friend of mine, whose family had immigrated to the United States after WWII, told me that she was a member of the Hitler Youth. They would march in parades to the tune of a church hymn. When that same hymn was played and sung at our college devotional service, she would run from the room. I found her in the hall crying as she told me about what that hymn ended up meaning to her. She, as well as other Hitler youth, had adored and respected their leader only to find a few years later what a monster he really was.
"Hitler had to solve one problem. The S.A.'s violence disgusted generals and industrialists whose support was essential. Moreover, some S.A. leaders wanted to take over the Army and to institute an all-out revolution. So, on June 30, 1934, hundreds of S.A. members were massacred."
The "Battle for Work" actually reduced unemployment through public works and rearmament. Nazism then meant million of jobs and a feeling of nation pride. "In 1935, Germany regained the Saar (an area on the French frontier previously administered by the League of Nations) and Hitler defied the Treaty of Versailles by introducing conscription. A year later, he reoccupied the Rhineland. Germany was a Great Power again and 98.8 per cent of the people voted their approval of Hitler's policy."
In 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover by an overwhelming margin. He opened his Presidency with the words: 'I pledge myself to a new deal for the American peoplethe only thing we have to fear is fear itself.' Roosevelt convinced the Americans that he truly cared about the ordinary man and that he would tackle the problems of poverty, injustice and unemployment. He called Congress to a special session that lasted one hundred days, where laws were passed to reform banking, to improve unemployment relief, to aid industry and farming and to end Prohibition. They developed programs of public works, and the Tennessee Valley Authority and to restore large areas of farmland and generating cheap electrical power. "The rescue work succeeded. Unemployment came down by five million; business, industry and farming began to recover. Sweeping measures for social security relieved some of the misery of the poor.' Even though the New Deal was a success some regarded Roosevelt as a wicked Socialist. 'But he is perceived as the greatest President who restored much of the country's prosperity and gave the nation back its self-confidence.'"
(Continued next week.)