World War II

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What political party did Hitler grow into a large movement?

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Under Hitler's leadership, the tiny, insignificant National Socialist German Workers' Party—or Nazi Party for short—became a mass movement, a major player in German politics. At first, the party was seen as nothing more than a joke, a bunch of fanatics lurking around the fringes of the extreme Right. But thanks to a combination of unique economic and political circumstances, the Nazis were able to go from being a joke to a party of government.

The biggest factor in the Nazis' rise to power was the disastrous state of the German economy. After the Wall Street Crash, American banks started calling in their loans to Germany. As the German economy was leveraged to the hilt, these demands for repayment had a catastrophic effect. Businesses went to the wall, causing mass unemployment, and hyper-inflation took hold, wiping out the hard-earned savings of millions.

In response to the growing crisis, the government of the Weimar Republic seemed to have no answers. The unstable political system provided an opportunity for extremist parties such as the Nazis to fill the vacuum, to put forward radical alternatives to capitalism and liberal democracy which they claimed would drag Germany out of the mire and restore the nation to its former glory.

Increasingly, large numbers of Germans came to see Hitler as their savior, as the only man who could solve all the country's problems. Even though Hitler's policies were deliberately vague, millions of voters, especially among the middle-classes, were still prepared to give him a chance, desperate as they were to end Germany's political and economic chaos.

Though no matter how bad things got, the Nazis never achieved a majority of votes. They were helped into power by established nationalist and conservative parties who naively believed that they could use Hitler's popular appeal and the Nazi's mass support for their own ends.

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