Economic catastrophe played a major role in the Nazi rise to power. Just when Germany seemed to be getting back on its feet, it was hit hard by the Great Depression. All of a sudden, thousands of businesses went to the wall, creating mass unemployment; inflation soared, with people needing millions of marks to pay for basic food items. To many, it seemed that the Weimar system of liberal democracy had failed and that a new, radical alternative must be found.
People were so desperate for change that they were prepared to listen to political parties previously dismissed as cranks and extremists. The Nazis were one such party. The dire economic situation engulfing Germany created an ideal opportunity for the Nazis to exploit, which they did. Hitler successfully played upon Germans' economic and social insecurities, especially the lower-middle classes, who suddenly found themselves dragged down to the level of the proletariat. To the unemployed, Hitler offered work; to the farmers, land; and to business, an opportunity to make profits without the threat of industrial action by labor unions.
In their economic policies the Nazis cynically promised something for everyone—everyone who wasn't Jewish, of course—as a means of gaining power. Hitler had absolutely no intention of fulfilling many of these promises, but the prospect of national prosperity appealed to many, and in the seeming absence of a viable alternative, millions of Germans were prepared to give the Nazis a chance.