What led to the rise of the Nazi Party, and why did their leader gain support of the people?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is an uncomfortable reality that Hitler did in fact enjoy considerable support from the German people until the later years of the war. While historians have uncovered countless examples of dissatisfaction with the Nazi regime, and of course public displays of dissent were quickly suppressed, a consensus generally exists that Hitler rose to power, and maintained his power, with the general approbation of the German people.

Historians point to a number of causes, perhaps the most important being Hitler's ability to appeal to German anxieties in the wake of World War I, the humiliating terms of the Treaty of Versailles, and of course the Great Depression. He persistently hammered home the message that the German people were not to blame for their problems, and indeed that the solution to those problems was a resurgence in German national pride and spirit, concepts that he rooted in racial and cultural superiority.

Perhaps another important reason for Hitler's success was the early success of his programs in fighting unemployment. His push to remilitarize Germany in contravention of the stipulations of the  Treaty of Versailles spurred industrial growth, as did enormous subsidies and production quotas to major industries, which won him the support of industrial capitalists fearful of the rise of communism. By 1936, Hitler's Germany had achieved full employment, and the press in the United States was referring to his efforts as "the Munich miracle."

Yet another reason for Hitler's popularity was the skillful use of new and older forms of propaganda, which portrayed him as the robust leader of a new Germany and his enemies, especially Jews and socialists, as thieving, conniving villians bent on the destruction of Germany. He grasped the possibilities of propaganda early on, and openly touted its possibilities in a particularly cynical passage in Mein Kampf

Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.

john123987 | Student

I think we covered your question! Hitler was the main reason of the nazi rise to power. Other than that, the great depression and the other domestic problems in Germany (listed above), led to people turning to the nazi party, a nationalist far right party... 

johnmclain | Student

thanks everyone but can you pls tell me more as to why the nazis rose to power (excluding the doings of hitler).


narukami | Student

Indeed, in times of economic stress people will turn left or right in their search for answers and, more importantly, for a path back to what they consider "the good old days."

I'm not certain the "support for the extreme right wing party was inevitable" as the Communists were well organized as were other 'minor' parties and groups. (For example the Spartacists who staged an uprising in the 30's.)

You are correct to key on Hitler as one of the main reasons for why the Nazis were not only able to survive their own aborted putsch but rise to the top of the political struggle.

The Nazis appealed to National Pride, shrewdly allied themselves with right wing militias like the Freikorps and promised the restore the military to its former placed of pride and glory.


Intelligent?  Yes

Charismatic? Absolutely

Shrewd Manipulator? Quite so.

He was also driven by demons we can only begin to guess at.  The fact that he spent his final weeks pouring over lists of Germans who had Jewish ancestors and deciding if they could remain n the German Army or be awarded the Iron Cross for battlefield courage is a sign that he was obsessed with matters of no consequence to the war effort.

Yes, Hitler is an important component in the rise to power of the Nazis.  Perhaps he is even the most important component.  However, he could not and indeed did not do it by himself.  The German people bear responsibility for the rise of the Nazis.  

If, in June of 1934 when Hitler destroyed the SA in the Night Of The Long Knives as part of a deal with the military, the Army had instead told Hitler "No, we will not support you." that would have ended it.

Of course, that is but speculation.  We will never know for certain what would have happened if the Army or the people had said "No."   More is the pity they did not.


Hitler's Jewish Soldiers by Bryan Mark Rigg, c2002

john123987 | Student

Good answer. However, I believe that the main reason for Hitler's rise to power was simply the Great Depression. It has been observed throughout history, that during times of economic hardship people are more likely to turn to extreme parties which are either far-right or far-left in the political spectrum. This is a well-known fact and was  recognised by many presidents, such as President Truman who, for instance, came up with Marshall Aid in an attempt to stop the spread of Communism. Also, although acts of monstrosity were carried out in the war by the Nazis, I think that Hitler himself, as a persona, played a catalytic role in his election by the German public (1933). He was a man of great intelligence and who had a good grasp of human psychology and how he could influence people into supporting him. Therefore, I wouldnt exactly state that German support was an "uncomfortable reality". German support for an extremist right wing party was inevitable at that stage.

narukami | Student

Hitler was able to answer for the people their one question: Why are we suffering?

He articulated their fear, their want, their desire, and then answered those for them.  He blamed "the other" for their defeat in the First World War, for their financial collapse and for the anarchy & chaos that seemed to be the hallmarks of the Weimar Republic.

It was not, he told them, their fault, but rather the fault of "the other."  What's more, he had a solution, a way back to greatness, prosperity, and plenty: banish 'the other' from their midst. Return to the ancient German values and all would be right with Germany.

Finally Hitler named 'the other' and gave the people a concrete object upon which to take out their frustrations and exorcise their fears: Jews, Free Masons, Homosexuals, Communists, Trade Unionists, Gypsies and all other non-Germans.  

At the same time Hitler courted the traditional German power bases: the Armed Forces and the Industrialists.  Those groups thought they could use Hitler's popularity to regain their place in German society and once there, dispose of Hitler for the buffoon they thought he was.  However, like the woman who rode on the tiger, they underestimated their stead and ended up devoured by him instead. 

You could easily write 25,000 words on this topic and still have more to say. 


Adolf Hitler by John Toland, c1976

The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich by William L Shirer, c1959

Inside The Third Reich by Albert Speer, c1970

The Order Of The Death's Head by Heinz Hohne, c1969

Explaining Hitler by Ron Rosenbaum, c1977