D.7. The Breakdown of the Republic, 1930-1933
How did the breakdown of the Republic come about? Why did it happen? In the 1928 elections the SPD, the party most strongly committed to the Weimar Republic, had fared well. For the first time since 1920 a Social Democrat (Hermann Müller) was appointed chancellor. He formed a government with broad parliamentary support. It was a new grand coalition including the SPD, most of the middle parties, and the DVP on the moderate Right. The interests of the parties in this coalition contradicted each other, especially since worker and employer interests were both represented in government, but as long as the economic situation remained stable the parties managed to solve their conflicts by compromise.
With the beginning depression the preservation of unemployment insurance at a time when millions lost their jobs became a serious problem. Employers and the bourgeois parties wanted to cut state support for the jobless; the SPD and the trade unions felt this to be too hard a measure at a time when more and more workers became dependent upon state support. The conflict ended in the breakup of the grand coalition in March 1930. After this no government was ever supported by a Reichstag majority again until the Nazis passed enabling acts following manipulated elections in March 1933.
The breakup of the grand coalition in 1930 marked a decisive step on the road from democracy to dictatorship. It was not simply a matter of unbridgeable conflicts. There is evidence that on the side of the bourgeois parties and the entourage of President Hindenburg the will to compromise had diminished. The Center Party, in conjunction with the other non-socialist coalition members and Hindenburg’s advisors, exacerbated conflicts with the SPD in order to push the SPD out of government and to start a phase of presidential government. They felt that time was ripe for a more authoritarian political system that would reduce democratic and social rights. The Center Party politician Heinrich Brüning, one mastermind of this intrigue, hoped to restore a more authoritarian constitution limiting parliamentary rights and keeping the socialists and trade unions out of the state.
In many ways this vision aimed to recreate the political system of the Wilhelmine Empire: an alliance of iron and rye holding a monopoly on political power at the top, while excluding the workers. Brüning and many of his associates declared themselves monarchists and ultimately hoped for monarchic restoration.
Hindenburg agreed to appoint Brüning chancellor and to sign presidential emergency decrees (under Article 48) if the government faced opposition in the Reichstag. Under Brüning’s chancellorship the government thus no longer functioned democratically. Brüning usually relied on the president’s emergency powers to push through the legislation he wanted. Article 48 gave the president special rights to issue emergency legislation, but the Reichstag could disapprove the president’s measures later. The president, in turn, could dissolve the Reichstag and call new elections. Between the dissolution and the elections he and his chancellor could enact laws without parliamentary control.
This is what Brüning and his successor did. Hindenburg’s expanding role represented an abuse of the constitution’s emergency powers, which were meant to protect the democratic functioning of the constitution, not to disrupt it. Worse, Hindenburg’s failing energy (he was 85 when he got reelected in 1932) made him an easy prey to a group of narrow-minded rightists in his closest entourage. Hindenburg’s approval to dissolve the Reichstag in the summer of 1930 and again in the middle of 1932 proved disastrous. Both times the extremist parties, profiting from the economic crisis, made enormous gains, particularly the Nazis.
Brüning and Hindenburg were frightened by the rise of the extremist parties, but reducing the Reichstag’s power seemed more important to them than stemming the tide of political extremism. The growth of anti-democratic parties increased the disfunctionality of the Reichstag and thus made it easier to disregard it in politics – and this was precisely what Hindenburg’s rightist advisers wanted. Nazis and Communists dealt the Reichstag’s authority a final blow; they often deliberately obstructed parliamentary debates; sometimes they even beat each other up in the main hall. To those who wanted to limit parliamentary rights, such as Brüning and the people in Hindenburg’s entourage, the chaos in the Reichstag was a welcome “proof” for their conviction that parliamentary democracy could not work.
It is possible that I am exaggerating the cynicism of Brüning here, but many people in the government and the center-to-right parties were not unhappy at all about the paralysis and loss of authority of the Reichstag.
Brüning’s financial and economic policy has often been criticized for unnecessarily exacerbating the economic crisis. Recent research has shown that his latitude should not be overestimated. It was constrained by the regulations of the Young Plan, the most recent agreement about the payment of reparations (1930). The Young Plan made deficit spending and inflationary policies to fight the depression nearly impossible. It has often been ignored, moreover, that Germany to a large degree was obliged to follow policies of other states. Everybody fought the crisis in similar ways, and the nation that would have adopted different ones risked to slid into even greater chaos. Economists have also pointed out the short-sighted German usage of the American loans in the years preceding the crisis. Short-term loans were invested in long-term projects (such as swimming pools, town halls, and other public buildings). These investments created an artificial, unsound economic boom but did nothing to strengthen German productivity. When the American loans were recalled the towns often went bankrupt.
Whether Brüning could have done better in fighting the crisis or not, he certainly had specific priorities that may have further reduced his economic latitude. Brüning above all wanted to revise the Treaty of Versailles. His most urgent aim was not the solution of the economic crisis but the cancellation of reparations. He further wanted to abolish the rearmament clauses of the peace treaty and prepare the so-called Anschluss (integration) of Austria. Brüning did not exacerbate the economic crisis deliberately in order to get rid of reparations, but he did his utmost to use the crisis in order to wring concessions from the Allies. (Who would not have done so?) It remains unclear as to how much this priority on repudiating Versailles exacerbated the economic crisis. On one or two instances, it looks as if Brüning, following his foreign political priorities, made decisions that ruined the German economy even more. It has to be said, however, that Brüning, apart from his own nationalist convictions, hoped his course would win Nazi supporters over to the Center Party and the more moderate rightists.
In foreign politics, Brüning was not unsuccessful. He received far-reaching concessions from the Western powers. Reparations were stopped for the time being (the Hoover Moratorium), and a disarmament conference recognized Germany’s right to insist on the disarmament of its former enemies (as stated by the Treaty of Versailles). But Brüning did not keep Hindenburg’s confidence long enough. When the Allied concessions took effect he was out of office and could no longer benefit from them. His plans for a solution of the domestic crisis had alienated the most reactionary circles in German society, those intransigent Junkers who had the strongest influence on the increasingly senile Hindenburg.
Most of all, Hindenburg got tired of Brüning’s politics because Brüning failed to secure Hindenburg’s reappointment without an election in the spring of 1932. This was possible only through a two-thirds majority vote in favor of Hindenburg in the Reichstag. The Nazis, the DNVP, and the KPD, however, thwarted Brüning’s efforts to avoid presidential elections. When they actually took place in March and April 1932, Hindenburg gained almost 50% of the vote, whereas Hitler received 30% and Ernst Thälmann, the Communist leader, 13%. In the second ballot Hindenburg beat Hitler again, winning 53% as to almost 37% for Hitler and only 10% for Thälmann.
Therefore, even at the time of Hitler’s strongest parliamentary success in free elections, the clear majority of the German voters opposed him. Hindenburg, however, resented that he was elected not by the Right — which voted for Hitler — but by the moderate Left and the Center Party. At a time when a confidential contact between president and chancellor had become crucial, Brüning could not hold out in office for long and was dismissed in the end of May 1932.
Brüning had not had a parliamentary majority behind him, but he was the exponent of a relatively strong party, the Center Party, and temporarily tolerated by the SPD, which saw no better alternative. Franz von Papen and General Schleicher, Brüning’s successors, had hardly any parliamentary support at all. Even more than Brüning, they were willing to violate the constitution and to impose some form of dictatorship on Germany. But after Brüning, in conjunction with Hindenburg and his reactionary entourage, had done so much to disrupt the existing political system, few alternatives were open to his successors.
Schleicher, the mastermind behind many intrigues around the president, had always hoped to reduce Nazi influence by letting the Nazis share government responsibility. The enormous burden of political responsibility, Schleicher and many others believed, would tame the Nazis and split the party into a moderate and radical wing. Several times Schleicher tried to convince Hitler or somebody else to join the government under a non-Nazi as chancellor. Hitler always refused and insisted on being given the chancellorship himself. Papen planned for a coup d’état (dissolution of the Reichstag without setting a date for reelection; army rule), but Schleicher rejected this idea because he feared a Polish attack on Germany.
In December 1932 and January 1933 Schleicher, as the new chancellor, undertook some last efforts to split the NSDAP. He suddenly realized the danger of Hitler’s chancellorship, even though he had been working for so long to get the Nazis into the government. But whatever Schleicher did, he became a powerless person in January. Behind his back a large intrigue led by Papen and some prominent German industrialists undermined Hindenburg’s confidence in Schleicher. Without the president’s emergency decrees, Schleicher stood no chance of success in front of an overwhelmingly hostile Reichstag. Papen had his way. On 30 January 1933 Hindenburg appointed a new cabinet with Hitler as chancellor, another Nazi as Interior Minister, and a third Nazi, Hermann Göring, as minister without portfolio. The nine other ministers all did not belong to the NSDAP, and Papen as vice-chancellor was confident that it would be possible to push Hitler to the sidelines within a few weeks. (“We will push Hitler into the corner until he squeaks.”)
Papen’s reasoning was profoundly wrong. To let the Nazis share power in order to tame them and to split their movement was foolhardy. First, the Nazis’ electoral rise had been stopped at the Reichstag elections in November 1932. Shortly thereafter the SPD newspaper wrote with exaggerated but not unjustified pride: “It will be the everlasting merit of social democracy to have kept German fascism from power until it began to decline in popular favor. The decline will hardly be less rapid than its rise has been.” Disputes within the NSDAP and between the SA and the party showed that the Nazi movement might break up if it was held in opposition for much longer. Hitler grew increasingly desperate, since neither his bid for the presidency in early 1932 nor his repeated attempts to become chancellor had succeeded. Hindenburg for a long time was unimpressed with Hitler and refused to appoint him, a mere common soldier, chancellor. There was no need for Papen and Hindenburg to make Hitler chancellor in order to break the momentum of his movement.
Although it was true that voters in the Weimar Republic tended to desert parties which had the courage to participate in government in times of severe crisis, it was wrong for Papen to expect that the Nazis in government would act like the SPD or even the DNVP, which had both lost voters after participation in government. Having massive armies of violent street fighters without any respect for law and order, the Nazis were determined not to let power slip out of their hands once they had gotten access to the national government. Indeed, when the news spread that Hitler had become chancellor, the SA and huge crowds of Nazi supporters took to the streets. Tolerated and sometimes supported by the police, which was put under Nazi control, they started a which hunt against communists and opponents of all sorts. With their massive armed street gangs, the Nazis used terror and violence to stabilize their power.
The role of women in the Nazi success:
Radical feminists have tended to see Nazism as an entirely male phenomenon and, more basically, denied that women in patriarchal societies are fully liable for their actions. Yet historians have been astonished by the sudden success of the NSDAP among women in the three Reichstag elections of 1932 and 1933. The Nazi party was most reactionary on women’s issues; whereas all other parties, even the conservative DNVP, had sponsored female representatives in parliaments since the passage of female suffrage in 1918/19, the Nazis had declared that politics would debase women and draw them away from their “precious” work as mothers and housewives. No woman ever sat in a Nazi parliamentary group or an important party committee. It was clear that Hitler’s coming to power would mean the loss of achievements in women’s rights made during the Weimar Republic.
Initially the Nazis, like the communists, had received far more votes from men than from women. This changed dramatically in 1932. With its promise to restore law and order and to turn the economy around the Nazis seem to have appealed to many women voters earlier deterred by Nazi brutality. The Nazis now got even slightly more votes from women than men. This does not mean that women “brought Hitler to power,” and one cannot derive a blatant anti-feminism from this preference, but it indicates that women did not consider their own power in politics a priority. This had precedents: since the beginning of the Weimar Republic the most emancipatory parties, the KPD, USPD, and SPD had received fewer votes from women than men. Even the Democratic Party, with the elite of the BDF and the bourgeois women’s movement in its ranks, fared not well among the female electorate. The religiously oriented Center Party and the DNVP usually had the largest share of women among their voters. Women thus tended to vote more to the right (though until 1932 not for the extreme right) than men throughout the Weimar Republic.
Some historians have argued that the Republic’s promise to women, after the initial revolutionary achievement of female suffrage, faded away too soon to make the Republic attractive to women. But one may also have to conclude that the majority of German women set different priorities than the feminists in the liberal BDF. Self-assertive and uncompromising nationalism and the defense of the church appeared more important to them than complete legal equality and a more numerous presence of women in labor, administration, and politics. Even the BDF, dominated by women who joined the Democratic Party, became increasingly influenced by rightist members who argued that women should be emancipated only to work better in traditionally “female” roles. Women should be educated to pursue their traditional roles to greater service of the nation. This rhetoric sometimes abounded with racism, as when female politicians saw German women as responsible for preserving a “pure” race.
But to say that women brought Hitler to power is unjust and simplistic. Until well after its first electoral breakthrough in 1930 the NSDAP was a predominantly male party. It won massive numbers of women only at a time when it broke into all sectors of the electorate deserted by the middle-to-right parties. The appeal of Volksgemeinschaft (community of the people) — so successful despite its contradictions — did not pass by the women of Germany. The Nazis’ call for women to go back to home and hearth was not only popular among many men during the depression, it may also have sounded good to many women disappointed with how little their greater legal opportunities since 1918 had benefited them in a generally depressed period. In any case, the Nazis’ reactionary policy toward women soon floundered when the Third Reich needed every available work force for rapid rearmament.
Explanations for the failure of the Republic:
We encounter two separate though hardly inseparable questions: First: why did the Weimar Republic break down? Second: why did the Nazis, the most radical and violent group, succeed it? To answer the first question, we have to consider long-term, structural problems and short-term, immediate causes during the economic crisis of 1929-33.
First of all, people did not recognize that the Weimar Republic came out of a devastating war that Germany had lost. Given astronomic wartime spending and hidden inflation, Germany was a much poorer place after the war than before. As historian Richard Bessel has pointed out, the problem was that nobody acknowledged this in public and that most people remained unaware of these deep structural problems. Although the old elites had started the war and lost it, thus leaving behind a terrible mess, usually the revolution of 1918 and the Weimar Republic were blamed for Germany’s economic and social problems in the 1920s and early 1930s. To get rid of wartime debts, to pay reparations, and to fund a social welfare state, the Weimar governments would have had to treble the taxes of 1913 at a time when most people were much worse off. Only full awareness of the problem and a strong, united government with widespread support could have put Germany’s economy and finances on a healthy standing again. This would have implied many more years of suffering and poverty, a prospective unacceptable to the German masses, who had already sacrificed so much for the war and would neither believe nor accept that all had been in vain and that after all the suffering during the war they should be much worse off than before.
In one sentence: Germany was much poorer after the war than before not so much because it had lost the war but because it had fought it. Few people understood this at the time and those who did often preferred not to publicize their views. It was easier and seemingly more plausible to blame all hardship on Versailles and the Weimar politicians who had signed the peace treaty.
The second long-term point is that the revolution of 1918 was more of an accident and hardly expressed a majority feeling for the disappearance of the monarchy and the Bismarckian constitution. Most Germans were highly critical of Wilhelm II by the end of the war, but only the radical Left was determined to do away with the monarchy itself. Even the moderate Social Democrats tried to save it. When revolutionary unrest made this impossible, the SPD and later the democratic middle parties got power at a time when nobody else wanted it and when circumstances for the buildup of a social welfare state, the goal of the SPD, could hardly have been worse. Ludendorff’s shrewd plan worked: the SPD and the Democrats had to share the blame for the mess the old elites had left behind. Historians have criticized the moderate socialists for not having imposed more socialist control over the political system (for instance by upgrading the workers’ councils), but more socialism would probably not have stabilized democracy but rather led to civil war. As chaotic as Germany seemed in the winter of 1918-19, the countryside remained quite orderly and conservative. It would have risen against the socialists had they imposed more far-reaching reforms.
The third long-term problem of the Weimar Republic was the widespread anti-democratic feeling on the Left and, most of all, on the Right. To the radical Left the Weimar Republic appeared as a capitalist state based on a conservative and reactionary military, an aggressive industrialist group, and wrongheaded socialists who had betrayed their cause by allying with reactionary circles. The social achievements of the October Reforms in 1918, the eight-hour working day, for example, were withdrawn in the course of the Republic’s history. Young, unskilled workers did not consider their interests compatible with the institutions of Weimar democracy and usually voted for the Communists.
To rightists the Republic was unacceptable. They saw the revolution of 1918 as a cut through the sacred thread of German history and never forgave the republicans for having helped to overthrow the monarchies. The stab-in-the-back legend served conveniently to put the blame for military breakdown and for the following peace treaty on the democrats and socialists. To the Right, Weimar and Versailles formed a unity, with the Weimar governments being the willing executioners of foreign interest. Rightists further argued that parties and parliaments had far too much power. They believed that parties part and undermine the true interests of the state.
Apart from these long-term problems we have to consider short-term causes of the Republic’s breakdown and the rise to power of the Nazis. The first step toward this was the establishment of a presidential cabinet under Brüning in March 1930. Obviously the Right, the industrialists, and the conservative middle did no longer want to work within the democratic framework of the constitution. They conspired in late 1929 to overthrow the grand coalition, exclude the SPD from power, and start a gradual transformation of German democracy into an authoritarian system.
What exactly brought about this change is still not entirely clear. It seems as if big business circles reasoned that the beginning depression would make the removal of the SPD from power not only desirable but also possible. Trade unions and the parties associated with them often lose members at times of high unemployment and severe economic trouble. A crackdown against the SPD thus appeared possible, and it implied also an assault on democracy in general, since the SPD was the most outspokenly democratic party. Brüning and Hindenburg with his stubborn industrial and agrarian entourage became the gravediggers of the Republic. From March 1930 on the governments no longer worked fully within the framework of the constitution. Even though Hindenburg’s emergency powers conformed to the constitution, they were used in an unconstitutional way because they aimed to undermine democracy, not to protect it (as Ebert had used them). The destruction of democracy from 1930 to 1932 did not lead to a stable authoritarian system but gave the Nazis unprecedented opportunities for expanding their power and ultimately for taking over a weak state.
This is the next important point in explaining the failure of Weimar. Although Hitler did not come to power by election he would never have done so without the overwhelming electoral successes of his party from 1930 on. We thus have to try to explain the sudden and rapid rise of the Nazis. Some historians stress that it was sudden in appearance only. To some degree the anti-democratic and anti-socialist attitudes the Nazis drew from existed already before 1930. The breakdown of the traditional supporters of these views, the conservative middle and right-wing parties, thus played a crucial role in making room for strong Nazi inroads into the electorate. The NSDAP could capitalize on the older resentments against the Republic and the socialists and become the most credible alternative to the more moderate parties.
But the Nazi message went beyond traditional anti-republican feeling. The Nazi idea of Volksgemeinschaft, for example, gave a vision of social unity and coherence to a society that was about to be torn apart by political and social antagonisms. The Volksgemeinschaft idea was a powerful propagandistic motive mainly among the young. The Nazis also managed to gather splintered older groups and infuse them with a spirit of unity. The very vagueness of the Nazi ideology and message proved more of an advantage than a drawback. The Nazis could promise many things to everybody; contradictions did not bother them. The NSDAP’s appeal embraced simultaneously anti-elitist, anti-capitalist as well as fiercely anti-socialist and elitist notions. The party showed Janus faces on many sides: it appeared as reactionary and revolutionary, anti-modernist and dynamic-modern, agrarian-romantic and technologically-enthusiastic. The Nazis made promises to everybody and expected that all internal contradictions would be resolved in a “pure” Volksgemeinschaft.
But what was the specific content of the Nazi ticket in election campaigns, and what were its most successful elements? Abolition of Versailles came first, then law and order, restoration of a functioning economy, work, jobs, and anti-Semitism (in this priority). The Nazis received so many votes not primarily because of their anti-Semitism (and often in spite of it). And even voting for an anti-Semitic candidate did not automatically mean to condone the Holocaust and the Second World War. We must avoid the dangers of hindsight here.
The Nazis were elected first of all because they made the most convincing point about abolishing Versailles, reconstructing the country, restore jobs and national wealth, and lead Germany to new glory. Brüning still hoped to obtain Allied concessions by trying to fulfill the Treaty of Versailles in order to show that this was impossible; this was nothing else but Rathenau’s policy, only that Brüning could practice it more openly. Hitler, however, preached unconditional rejection of the treaty. And few people doubted that he was serious about what he was saying.
Whereas the reform programs of the presidential cabinets remained half-hearted and doomed because of lacking popular support, the Nazis’ revolutionary rhetoric and their impressive, nation-wide organization convinced many voters that they, the Nazis, would restore order and prosperity. Their violence was obvious, and it bothered even some supporters of the NSDAP, but it failed to deter many voters because Germans had gotten used to political violence since the revolution of 1918. Particularly in the cities, political violence had never ceased even in the Republic’s quiet years. Many voters believed that the Nazis would restore order once they gained power.
The responsibility for the Nazis’ rise to power lies with the Nazis themselves, with the millions of Germans who voted for them, with the industrialist and agrarian circles who did everything to undermine Weimar democracy (particularly from 1930 on), and with the opportunistic, anti-democratic, and anti-socialist attitudes of the center-to-right parties. The Communists must share the blame for having undermined the Weimar system. It has been argued that the Social Democrats were also responsible for the breakdown of Weimar because they did not rise energetically against the anti-democratic forces, but the problem is that the chances for resistance were slim. The SPD pursued a policy of responsibility when it tolerated Brüning as a lesser evil in order to keep the system from falling into Nazi hands already much earlier.
The Weimar Republic was first undermined by an aggressive group of industrialists, agrarians, and conservative party politicians. When they could not find much popular support for their authoritarian regime they thought about including the strongest right-wing party, the Nazis, in government, hoping to manipulate the Nazis so as to tame and split the party within a few weeks and to deal the socialist movement a decisive blow. This was a fatal miscalculation because it did not take into account the presence of several hundred thousand determined street fighters and the fact of Nazi control over the police (one Nazi became Interior Minister).
It is difficult to see what could have been done to avoid Hitler’s appointment. After all, Hitler was the leader of the strongest party in parliament. Although the German constitution did not force the president to appoint the chairman of the strongest party chancellor, this would not have been an unheard of procedure. In Britain, for example, the leader of the strongest party always gets the first opportunity to form a government. On the other hand, to give Hitler power meant to surrender the state to a band of radicals intending to revolutionize both society and the political system. In historical hindsight, everything should have been done to keep Hitler out of government. But options were scarce. To govern with the Reichstag had become impossible after Nazis and Communists had won a destructive majority in it. Had Schleicher tried to get approval from the Reichstag, he would have been defeated.
There was no other way than to dissolve the Reichstag again or to adjourn it indefinitely. Hindenburg, after having strained the constitution beyond its limits before, should maybe have gone further in early 1933. Schleicher and Hindenburg should have declared that a temporary dictatorship was necessary to overcome the economic crisis. They should have held new elections only after the situation had improved. Schleicher and Hindenburg would have had to use their influence on the army in order to get its support for their dictatorial government. Such a temporary presidential dictatorship would have turned the tables on the Nazis. If they had reacted with an uprising they would have split their movement, since even many SA hotheads would not have risked an encounter with the army. Open insurrection, moreover, would have alienated the Nazis from their supporters in industry and the administration.
On the other hand, if the Nazis remained passive, they would most likely have lost support. Hitler had an excellent instinct for these situations. He knew that it was urgent for him to gain power in January 1933. He had experienced a similar situation in early November 1923: He had felt that the tide of radicalism was waning and that his promises would start to work against him. So he started a desperate putsch in the last feasible moment and ran into disaster.
In late 1932 Hitler again became nervous and felt that things began to slip out of his hands. The full presidential dictatorship that might have defeated the Nazis did not come into being, and I admit that it would have been a very risky venture, though a risk that would have deserved to be taken given the disastrous consequences of the Nazi dictatorship. Schleicher had toyed with this option for a while but rejected it because of the threat of a Polish invasion, whose plausibility seems doubtful to me. I admit that it would have been difficult to convince the army leaders to repress the SA if necessary, since the army hoped to incorporate the SA troops at some point. To the army leaders, as to many others, the main dangers were not the Nazis but the foreign powers and the communists.
This is a decisive point: to the stubborn, reactionary agrarians and industrialists in Hindenburg’s entourage, to the leaders of the center-to-right parties, to the military, and to many officials, the Nazis were not such a terrible alternative after all. All these conservative circles in Germany shared much more with the Nazis than with the Communists or even the Social Democrats. The Nazis were intensely nationalist and wanted Germany to rise as a great power again; that was what the conservatives wanted, too. The Nazis were anti-democratic and anti-socialist. So were the conservatives. The Nazis seemed to have the means of power to repress communism. Well, wasn’t that what most conservatives had hoped for ever since 1919?
In a nutshell: the circles around Hindenburg had few options left in early 1933 because they had contributed to demolishing the democratic political system. But they could have done more to keep Hitler from coming to power. Just imagine the Communists had been as powerful as the Nazis were at the time: the old elites would have exhausted every single possibility to keep the Communists from power. The point is that the old elites and the center-to-right parties agreed with many Nazi goals even though they had misgivings about the NSDAP’s violence and radicalism or felt some snobbish disgust for its “plebeian” character.
That there were only few options to hold the Nazis off in 1933 was partly an effect of the destruction of the Weimar system but partly also a result of the electoral success of the Nazis. We have seen that the Nazis benefited from the extraordinarily severe depression and used propaganda successfully. And yet, the roots for the Nazi success remain debated. A psychological interpretation, focusing on the connection between the Germans’ unresolved trauma of 1918 and Hitler’s personal experiences, has been suggested by Rudolph Binion in Hitler Among the Germans.
Go on to E.1.