How did the Great Depression help Hitler rise to power? 

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before the Great Depression struck, Hitler was a minor figure in German politics. In 1924, for example, the Nazi party won only 3% of the German parliamentary elections. By 1932, support for the Nazis had grown substantially, increasing their vote share to 33%. (See the reference link provided).

Although the stock market crashed in America, the Great Depression had major consequences for the German economy. Unemployment rose so high that six million Germans found themselves out of work, mainly as a result of the decline in productivity.  Moreover, inflation rose significantly and drove up prices, making it difficult for German families to make ends meet.

As an attempt to alleviate the situation, Chancellor Bruning proposed measures to alleviate the situation. These included a cut to government spending and a drop in unemployment pay. Nobody would agree to such measures, so President Hindenburg invoked Article 48 to force them through without parliamentary approval. This caused a national outcry, prompting many Germans to flock to other, less mainstream political parties. For some, the answer lay in Communism, prompting many of Germany's businessmen to donate money to Hitler's political campaign. This boost in finances enabled Hitler to raise his profile.

In addition, the economic chaos of the Great Depression caused many Germans to blame the Treaty of Versailles, particularly the reparations, for Germany's economic woes. Hitler publicly shared this view and gave many persuasive speeches in which he blamed the treaty for Germany's problems and outlined his vision of a new future for Germany, one in which the Treaty of Versailles, and its reparations, did not feature.

davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As well as increased poverty and unemployment, the Great Depression undermined the confidence of large numbers of Germans in the Weimar Republic. Though it had never enjoyed much in the way of enthusiastic support, the Weimar Republic had, with the assistance of American loans, been getting back on its feet economically after the disasters of hyperinflation in the early 1920s. But once the Great Depression hit, many began to question the whole basis of the Weimar Republic, especially after the government implemented a brutal program of austerity that made matters worse.

People started to look for a political alternative, any alternative to a system that appeared to be failing miserably. Political life in Germany became increasingly polarized, with growing numbers flocking to the extremes of Left and Right. Violent confrontations between Nazis and Communists became an all-too-common sight on the streets of the big cities. In electoral terms, both Nazis and Communists greatly increased their support among a population tired of the political gridlock and economic chaos with which the Weimar Republic was now synonymous. The Great Depression, and the cumbersome way in which it was handled by the German government, had now put violence and extremism at the heart of German public life. Ominously, this development created the ideal conditions for the Nazis' eventual seizure of power in 1933.

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Great Depression played a role in Hitler’s rise to power. When Germany experienced the Great Depression, Hitler made many promises to the German people, including some that dealt with reviving Germany’s economy. For example, he promised to employ people if he was elected. Since unemployment was an issue in Germany, this sounded attractive to many Germans. The German people lost confidence in their democratically elected government to solve Germany’s problems. 

The Great Depression also diverted the world’s attention away from foreign affairs. The United States, France, and Great Britain were all dealing with the impact of the worst depression they had ever faced.  The leaders of these countries were more preoccupied with dealing with the Great Depression in their own countries than they were with statements Hitler was making and actions he was taking. When Hitler came to power, the leaders of these countries also didn’t focus on his rebuilding of Germany’s military and his movement of it into the Rhineland. Dealing with the Great Depression was a huge distraction for the Allied leaders, and Hitler took advantage of this distraction.

The Great Depression played a role in Hitler’s rise to power.