Adolf Hitler becomes the leader of the Nazi Party

Adolf Hitler becomes the leader of the Nazi Party

On July 29, 1921, Adolf Hitler becomes the leader of the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party. Under Hitler, the Nazi Party grew into a mass movement and ruled Germany as a totalitarian state from 1933 to 1945.

Hitler’s early years did not seem to predict his rise as a political leader. Born on April 20, 1889, in Braunau am Inn, Austria, he was a poor student and never graduated from high school. During World War I, he joined a Bavarian regiment of the German army and was considered a brave soldier; however, his commanders felt he lacked leadership potential and never promoted him beyond corporal.

Frustrated by Germany’s defeat in the war, which left the nation economically depressed and politically unstable, Hitler joined a fledgling organization called the German Workers’ Party in 1919. Founded earlier that same year by a small group of men including locksmith Anton Drexler and journalist Karl Harrer, the party promoted German pride and anti-Semitism, and expressed dissatisfaction with the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the peace settlement that ended the war and required Germany to make numerous concessions and reparations. Hitler soon emerged as the party’s most charismatic public speaker and attracted new members with speeches blaming Jews and Marxists for Germany’s problems and espousing extreme nationalism and the concept of an Aryan “master race.” On July 29, 1921, Hitler assumed leadership of the organization, which by then had been renamed the Nationalist Socialist German Workers’ Party.

In 1923, Hitler and his followers staged the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich, a failed takeover of the government in Bavaria, a state in southern Germany. In the aftermath of this event, Hitler was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years in prison, but spent less than a year behind bars (during which time he dictated the first volume of “Mein Kampf,” or “My Struggle,” his political autobiography.) The publicity surrounding the Beer Hall Putsch and Hitler’s subsequent trial turned him into a national figure. After his release from jail, he set about rebuilding the Nazi Party and attempting to gain power through the democratic election process.

In 1929, Germany entered a severe economic depression that left millions of people unemployed. The Nazis capitalized on this situation by criticizing the ruling government and began to win elections. In the July 1932 elections, they captured 230 out of 608 seats in the Reichstag, or German parliament. In January 1933, Hitler was appointed German chancellor and in March of that year his Nazi government assumed dictatorial powers. The Nazis soon came to control every aspect of German life and all other political parties were banned.

Following Germany’s defeat in World War II, during which some 6 million European Jews were murdered under Hitler’s state-sponsored extermination programs, the Nazi Party was outlawed and many of its top officials were convicted of war crimes. Hitler had committed suicide on April 30, 1945, shortly before Germany’s surrender.

READ MORE: How Did the Nazis Really Lose World War II?

1933: How did Hitler Win the Elections in Germany?

The last parliamentary elections before the end of World War II were held in Germany on this day. The goal of Hitler’s Nazi Party (NSDAP) was to achieve a majority, in order to consolidate their newly-won power. Namely, in January that year Hitler had become the German chancellor, despite the fact that he did not have an absolute majority in parliament (the social-democrats and communists together had more representatives).

Hitler used the Reichstag (German parliament building), done by a communist-pyromaniac, in order to blame all communists and put them outside the law. Despite their best efforts, the Nazis still didn’t manage to win the absolute majority at these elections. They received 43.91% of the votes. The SPD (the social-democrat party, which still exists today) came in second with 18.25%, while the communists were third with 12.32%.

It is interesting to observe the allocation of votes in Germany according to region. Namely, the Nazis generally did not achieve a majority in electoral units which were predominantly Catholic, and indeed many members of the Church actively opposed the Nazis.

Even so, Hitler’s electoral results were enough to pass the notorious Enabling Act of 1933 (German: Ermächtigungsgesetz), which allowed him and his government to enact laws without the consent of the parliament. This soon led to the abolishment of democracy and the introduction of the Nazi dictatorship.

Before Adolf Hitler became the leader of the Nazi Party, he wanted to become an artist

From 1905, Hitler lived a bohemian life in Vienna, financed by orphan’s benefits and support from his mother. He worked as a casual labourer and eventually as a painter, selling watercolours. The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna rejected him twice, in 1907 and 1908, because of his “unfitness for painting”. The director recommended that Hitler study architecture, but he lacked the academic credentials. On 21 December 1907, his mother died aged 47. After the Academy’s second rejection, Hitler ran out of money.

Few years later came World War I, afterwards Hitler entered politics and you probably know the rest of the story…

Adolf Hitler (20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the Nazi Party. He was chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945 and dictator of Nazi Germany (as Führer und Reichskanzler) from 1934 to 1945. He was at the centre of the founding of Nazism, World War II, and the Holocaust.

Painting by Adolf Hitler

A 100-year-old watercolour of Munich’s old city hall is being auctioned off this weekend, and is expected to sell for ten times more than its starting price


On 5 January 1919, the German Workers' Party (DAP) was founded in Munich in the hotel Fürstenfelder Hof by Anton Drexler, [2] along with Dietrich Eckart, Gottfried Feder and Karl Harrer. It developed out of the Freier Arbeiterausschuss für einen guten Frieden (Free Workers' Committee for a Good Peace) league, a branch of which Drexler had founded in 1918. [2] Thereafter in 1918, Harrer (a journalist and member of the Thule Society), convinced Drexler and several others to form the Politischer Arbeiterzirkel (Political Workers' Circle). [2] The members met periodically for discussions with themes of nationalism and antisemitism. [2] Drexler was encouraged to form the DAP in December 1918 by his mentor, Dr. Paul Tafel. Tafel was a leader of the Alldeutscher Verband (Pan-Germanist Union), a director of the Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg and a member of the Thule Society. Drexler's wish was for a political party which was both in touch with the masses and nationalist. With the DAP founding in January 1919, Drexler was elected chairman and Harrer was made Reich Chairman, an honorary title. [4] On 17 May, only ten members were present at the meeting, and a later meeting in August only noted 38 members attending. [5] The members were mainly Drexler's work colleagues from the Munich railway yards. [5]

Adolf Hitler's membership

After World War I ended, Adolf Hitler returned to Munich. Having no formal education or career prospects, he tried to remain in the army for as long as possible. [6] In July 1919, he was appointed Verbindungsmann (intelligence agent) of an Aufklärungskommando (reconnaissance commando) of the Reichswehr to influence other soldiers and to investigate the DAP. While monitoring the activities of the DAP, Hitler became attracted to founder Anton Drexler's anti-Semitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist, and anti-Marxist ideas. [2] While attending a party meeting at the Sterneckerbräu beer hall on 12 September 1919, Hitler became involved in a heated political argument with a visitor, Professor Baumann, who questioned the soundness of Gottfried Feder's arguments in support of Bavaria separatism and against capitalism. [7] In vehemently attacking the man's arguments, he made an impression on the other party members with his oratory skills and, according to Hitler, Baumann left the hall acknowledging unequivocal defeat. [7] Impressed with Hitler's oratory skills, Drexler encouraged him to join. On the orders of his army superiors, Hitler applied to join the party. [8] Although Hitler initially wanted to form his own party, he claimed to have been convinced to join the DAP because it was small and he could eventually become its leader. [9]

In less than a week, Hitler received a postcard stating he had officially been accepted as a member and he should come to a committee meeting to discuss it. Hitler attended the committee meeting held at the run-down Altes Rosenbad beer-house. [10] Normally, enlisted army personnel were not allowed to join political parties. In this case, Hitler had Captain Karl Mayr's permission to join the DAP. Further, Hitler was allowed to stay in the army and receive his weekly pay of 20 gold marks a week. [11] At the time when Hitler joined the party, there were no membership numbers or cards. It was in January 1920 when a numeration was issued for the first time and listed in alphabetical order Hitler received the number 555. In reality, he had been the 55th member, but the counting started at the number 501 in order to make the party appear larger. [12] In his work Mein Kampf, Hitler later claimed to be the seventh party member, and he was in fact the seventh executive member of the party's central committee. [13] After giving his first speech for the DAP on 16 October at the Hofbräukeller, Hitler quickly became the party's most active orator. Hitler's considerable oratory and propaganda skills were appreciated by the party leadership as crowds began to flock to hear his speeches during 1919–1920. With the support of Drexler, Hitler became chief of propaganda for the party in early 1920. Hitler preferred that role as he saw himself as the drummer for a national cause. He saw propaganda as the way to bring nationalism to the public. [14]


Beginning in the early years of the Nazi Party, Nazi propaganda depicted the Nazi leader Adolf Hitler as a iconic figure who was the only person capable of saving Germany. After the end of World War I, the German people suffered greatly during the early years of Weimar Republic and, according to the Nazis, only Hitler as a messiah could save them and restore Germany's greatness, which in turn gave rise to the myth of the "Führer-cult". [2] As early as a few days after Benito Mussolini's "March on Rome on 28 October 1922, a Nazi Party speaker announced to a beer-hall crowd that "Germany's Mussolini is called Adolf Hitler", thus giving a boost to the cult of personality which was only just getting started. [3] After Hitler's failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, he set out to construct an image of himself that would appeal to all sections of the German people. He developed over time a self-image with nationalistic and religious overtones which made him appealing to all Germans, and which prompted him to proclaim, "I have awakened the masses". [4]

Hitler's portrayal in Mein Kampf ("My Struggle") that during his time in Vienna he learnt about trade unionism and Marxism while working on a building site was a myth he created about himself. In point of fact, Hitler during this period of time was an idler who scratched out a living by selling his postcard-like paintings of Viennese buildings. He never did any physical labor of any kind. [5]

The Nazis deliberately chose their party's name, the "National Socialist German Workers Party", as a way to appeal to Germans who were both left-wing and right-wing. When he took over the party as its "Führer" ("leader") in 1921, he insisted on added "National Socialist" to the party's name, which to that time had been the "German Workers Party". However, despite Hitler and the Nazis claiming to be socialists, they were not, and it was used merely for propaganda purposes. and to attract new members. [note 1] Once the Nazis were in power, they suppressed trade unions and persecuted left-wing opponents such as communists and socialists.

Nazi propaganda chief's Joseph Goebbels' newspaper, Der Angriff ("The Attack"), played a large role in the creation of the Führer myth. From its early days of publication, photos and drawings of Hitler were common. [8] The myth made Hitler seem mystical to many Nazi Party members. [9] Hitler was regarded as a model in every aspect: he was regarded as one of the people, a worker and a soldier who put his life on the line to fight for Germany during World War I, [10] but at the same time, the image presented was a heroic one, with Hitler shown as a genius with almost superhuman qualities, close to a god to be venerated. [11] After the Nazis came to power, Hitler annually received over 12,000 letters of adoration and praise from Germans of all classes and vocations, from all over the country. [12]

In 1930, Hitler allegedly told Otto Strasser, “For us the Idea is the Führer, and each Party member has only to obey the Führer”. [13]

During five election campaigns in 1932, the Nazi newspaper Völkischer Beobachter ("People's Observer") portrayed Hitler as a man who had a mass movement united behind him, a man whose sole mission was to save Germany" who was the 'Leader of the coming Germany". [14] During the campaigns, Hitler took on a quasi-religious status within the party. The Völkischer Beobachter ran the headline "The National Socialist movement is the resurrection of the German nation", with the article quoting Hitler as saying, "I believe that I am God's instrument to liberate Germany". [15] Similarly, Goebbels wrote in Der Angriff that Hitler was "the Greater German, the Führer, the Prophet, the Fighter that last hope of the masses, the shining symbol of the German will to freedom". [16] During those campaigns, Hitler became the first politician to campaign by air, flying from one city to city under the slogan "Hitler über Deutschland" ("Hitler Over Germany"), sometimes visiting up to five cities in a day to make speeches before mass audiences. [17] Hitler's charismatic and mesmerizing speaking abilities played a major role in his attraction to the German people. [18] [19]

As Germany's economic crisis – caused by the onset of the Great Depression – continued and grew, and the Nazis gained political power by virtue of the number of seats they held in the Reichstag, Goebbels' propaganda machine created an image of Hitler that personified the people's anger at the Weimar Republic's inability to solve their problems. Hitler was, the propaganda said, the only man who could save Germany and create a new social order, the "people's community" (Volksgemeinschaft) Hitler was "the hope of millions", the flesh-and-blood instantiation of national salvation. [20] According to historian Ian Kershaw, "[The people] projected onto Hitler their own beliefs, wishes and desires. He incorporated them in a vision of complete national rebirth." [21] Goebbels cultivated an image of Hitler as a "heroic genius". [2] During the existence of Nazi Germany, every year on the eve of Hitler's birthday, Goebbels would deliver a speech titled "Our Hitler", in which he lauded all the many supposed virtues of Hitler's personality and ideas. [22]

The myth also gave rise to the concept behind the saying "If only the Führer knew": when the German people were dissatisfied with the way the country was being run, they blamed it on Nazi bigwigs but exempted Hitler from culpability. They believed that if Hitler knew what was happening, he would set things right. The Night of the Long Knives in 1934 – Hitler's purge of his opponents inside the Nazi Party and in its paramilitary arm, the Sturmabteilung (SA), as well as others – was presented to the public as Hitler preventing the chaos of an upcoming coup attempt. This helped to reinforce Hitler's image as the protector of the German people. [23]

The cult of leader was evidenced in Nazi propaganda films by Leni Riefenstahl, such as the 1935 Triumph of the Will, which Hitler ordered to be made. The film showed the 1934 Nuremberg Rally, which was attended by over 700,000 supporters, and is one of the first examples of the Hitler myth filmed and put into full effect during Nazi Germany. [24] The mysticism was evident from the start when Hitler began to descend from the clouds in an airplane, and when the rally finished with a climax uniting Hitler, the Nazi Party and the German people when Rudolf Hess said, "The Party is Hitler. But Hitler is Germany, just as Germany is Hitler. Hitler! Sieg Heil!" [24] Those Germans who watched the film were exposed to the full force of the Führer myth. [25]

In 1934, Hilter's chosen successor, Hermann Göring said, "There is something mystical, inexpressible, almost incomprehensible about this one man. . We love Adolf Hitler because we believe, deeply and steadfastly, that he was sent to us by God to save Germany. . There is no quality that he does not possess to the highest degree. . For us the fuhrer is simply infallible in all matters political and all other issues concerning the national and social interest of the people". [26]

Nazi propaganda relentlessly aimed to persuade Germans to have faith and confidence in the ideas of Hitler. [27] The extent of how images of Hitler were used in Nazi propaganda was summarized in 1941 when a Nazi newsreel stated that "a newsreel without pictures of the Führer was not regarded as up to standard". [28]

British historian Kershaw's book The "Hitler Myth": Image and Reality in the Third Reich was published in 1987. In it, he wrote:

Hitler stood for at least some things they [German people] admired, and for many had become the symbol and embodiment of the national revival which the Third Reich had in many respects been perceived to accomplish. [29]

Although the political ideology of Nazism mattered to Hitler himself, many Nazi Party members were indifferent to it, since to the majority of them he was the embodiment of Nazism. [30]

The Führerprinzip ("leader principle") was the fundamental basis of political authority in Nazi Germany. This principle can be most succinctly understood to mean that "the Führer's word is above all written law" and that governmental policies, decisions, and offices ought to work toward the realization of this end. The principle also extended to the leadership of other organizations, who were expected to have the last word in their purviews.

The Führerprinzip was given credence during the Night of Long Knives in 1934 when Hitler ordered a number of extrajudicial executions because of an alleged imminent coup by the SA under Ernst Röhm – the so-called "Röhm Putsch". Hitler gave a speech at the Reichstag and said, "The National Socialist State will wage a Hundred Years’ War, if necessary, to stamp out and destroy every last trace within its boundaries of this phenomenon which poisons and makes dupes of the Volk (Volksvernarrung)" [31] and argued that "in this hour, I was responsible for the fate of the German nation and was therefore the supreme judge of the German people!" [32] Nazi propaganda claimed that Hitler's actions had saved Germany. [31]

The "Führer Myth" utilized propaganda and the Führerprinzip to portray Hitler as an infallible genius who was above party politics, and was totally dedicated to protecting and saving the German people from both insidious outside forces, such as "Jewish Bolshevism", and from internal factors such as conservative, centrist and liberal politics and politicians who supported democracy and were the backbone of the Weimar Republic. To a lesser extent, religion was included in the Nazi's litany of destructive internal forces, but because the German people – both Protestants and Roman Catholics – were very attached to their religious beliefs, this aspect of Nazi ideology was soft-pedaled, and its presentation was inconsistent.

The power of the myth was so embedded into German society that the ballot cards for elections and plebiscites in the early 1930s did not refer to the "Nazi Party" but rather the "Hitler Movement". [16] Although "National Socialism" had been used by other political parties before the rise of the Nazis, Nazism was Hitlerism in simple terms. [33]

During the 1930s, Hitler's popularity was largely due to the Führer myth being accepted by a majority of Germans. Most Germans sought recovery, security and prosperity, and Hitler seemed to offer all of those things. [34] Most Germans approved of his socio-economic policies and the draconian measures against those regarded as "enemies" of the state because the Nazis appeared to have the solutions to all of Germany's problems. [34] The Führer myth enabled the Schutzstaffel (SS) to carry out terror among the German population, because it went largely unnoticed, due to the enthusiasm for Hitler and the Nazi regime. [34] The myth helped Germans to view Hitler as a statesman who was determined to "save" Germany from the scourge of "Jewish Bolshevism", which is how the Nazis and other ultra-nationalists referred to Marxism and communism. [35] To some extent, the myth contributed to Germans accepting or overlooking the Nazi's policies towards Jews. [36]

Hitler himself – along with Joseph Goebbels – was a significant contributor to the creation of the myth. Hitler understood the importance of propaganda and the need to create an aura about himself. [37] Reflecting on the claims he had made in 1933 to the German people, Hitler said in 1938:

The German people should once again examine what I and my comrades have done in the five years since the first Reichstag election in March 1933. They will have to agree that the results have been unique in all history. [38]

Joseph Goebbels told officials at the Propaganda Ministry in 1941 that his two greatest achievements were "the style and technique of the Party's public ceremonies the ceremonial of the mass demonstrations, the ritual of the great Party occasion" and the "creation of the myth, Hitler had been given the halo of infallibility, with the result that many people who looked askance at the Party after 1933 had now complete confidence in Hitler". [39] The most important theme of Nazi propaganda was the cult of the leader, portraying Hitler as a charismatic leader who had saved Germany. [40]

The Führer myth, along with the Führerprinzip, helped to curb internal crises within the Nazi Party, as Hitler himself said in 1935, "No, gentlemen. The Führer is the Party and the Party is the Führer". [41] The myth also lent to the legitimacy of Nazism as a political ideology abroad. [42] Although it was not the case, the myth gave credence to the idea that the Nazis had managed to integrate all Germans in society. [42] The extent that the myth had penetrated into German society meant that it was nearly impossible for any German who read a newspaper, listened to a radio or watched any films to avoid it, since the Nazis owned all of the media and they determined what Germans were able to read and watch. [43]

The Führer myth was a double-sided phenomenon. On the one hand, Nazi propaganda worked continuously to convey an image of Hitler as a heroic figure who made all of the right choices. On the other hand, it can be seen as observation of value-systems and ethics which subscribed to a "supreme" leadership. [44]

The cult of leadership surrounding Hitler also served to prevent the Nazi Party from fragmenting into warring factions, especially after Hitler had eliminated his rivals Ernst Röhm and Gregor Strasser in the purge of 1934. With the Führer as the embodiment of the Party's ideology and the people's hopes for national salvation, held blameless by the public when things went badly, it was virtually impossible for any of Hitler's paladins to attempt to replace him via a palace coup. [45]

Economic aspects Edit

After World War I, the Weimar Republic of Germany was hit hard by hyperinflation and the Great Depression which followed it. Many Germans had difficulty separating the German loss of the war from the unrelated effects of the economic collapse which followed, and, in a country with no history of democracy, tended to blame the conditions laid down by the Allies in the Treaty of Versailles and the novel governmental form of democracy in a republic for the their economic woes, instead of looking at the root cause, which was world-wide economic conditions. When Weimar was not able to offer them the relief they needed, they started to look for a champion who could fix things, one who also did not believe in democracy or republican government, and who offered what appeared to be solutions to Germany's economic problems.

Without the apparent economic successes of the early 1930s, it is highly unlikely that the Hitler myth would have been able to penetrate so far into German society. [46] The irony of this is that what economic successes occurred were not Hitler's doing. Relief from Germany's onerous war reparations – which had been lessened by the Dawes Plan in 1925, the Young Plan in 1929, and the Hoover Moratorium in 1931, and were cancelled by the Lausanne Conference of 1932 – was due to much careful negotiating and diplomacy by Germany's long-term Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann before his death in 1929, and afterwards by Chancellor Heinrich Brüning. [47] The massive public-works program, for instance, which brought down unemployment by two million in early 1933 was instituted by Brüning's successor, and Hitler's predecessor, Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher, 48 hours before he left office Hitler merely got to take credit for von Schleicher's program. [48] Then, of course, there was the fact that, globally, the Great Depression was slowly giving way by the mid-1930's, although some of its negative effects lasted until the beginning of World War II. [49] The one aspect of Germany's economic recovery after Hitler took office which he could legitimately take credit for, was the effect – both positive and negative – on the German economy of massive spending for rearmament, including the wholesale expansion of the army, the building of new battleships and U-boats, and the creation from whole cloth of the Luftwaffe, the German air force. [50]

The working class was the least susceptible to the Hitler myth since they still had low wages and longer working hours. [46] Nevertheless, the "socialist" appeal of Nazism ensured some amount of support from German workers, who benefited from the Winter Relief campaigns. [46] The middle class benefited the most from the apparent economic successes and despite their criticisms, at least until the middle of the war, they remained the most firm supporters of Hitler and the Nazi regime. [51]

Foreign policy and military aspects Edit

Hitler was regarded as the unique force behind the Nazi movement and someone who transcended party politics and aimed to unite all Germans into a people's community (Volksgemeinschaft). [16] Despite criticism of the Nazi regime being apparent during the 1930s, Hitler's early successful foreign policies, reversing the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles and uniting all ethnic Germans under one state led to Hitler's popularity soaring, which enhanced the myth. [52]

Although it remains unknown how many Germans genuinely believed in the Führer myth, even those Germans who were critical of Hitler and the Nazi regime believed in it by the late 1930s. Most Germans had been impressed by the apparent successes of the Nazi regime, which were all attributed to Hitler himself. [53] For example, in 1938 after the Anschluss one report by the Social Democratic Party of Germany concluded:

The Führer's foreign-policy statements strike a chord with many workers too especially with young people. The firm stand the Führer has taken over the occupation of the Rhineland has been universally impressive. Many people are convinced that Germany's foreign-policy demands are justified and cannot be passed over. The last few days have been marked by big fresh advanced in the Führer's personal reputation, including among workers. There is no mistaking the enormous personal gains in credibility and prestige that Hitler has made, mainly perhaps among workers. The fact that Austria was subjugated by force has had little or no effect so far on the way the event is being judged here. The crucial point is that Austria has been annexed not how. On the contrary, it is being taken for granted that the annexation was carried out with violence, since almost all the major successes of the system have been achieved with the use of violent methods. [54]

Up until 1938, the myth helped to convince most Germans that Hitler was a politician of conviction who was standing up for Germany's rights. [55] Before the start of World War II, the Führer myth was almost complete, but it was still missing an important trait: Hitler being a military genius. [56] Even before the start of the war, the Nazi propaganda machine was working towards portraying that image to the German people. [56] This was preceded by the myth of Hitler's diplomatic and foreign policy genius, which was spawned by his triumphs in the Remilitarization of the Rhineland, the Anschluss with Austria, being given the Sudetenland by the Western powers in Munich, and the bloodless invasion and partition of Czechoslovakia. By the lead-up to the Invasion of Poland, foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was threatening to execute anyone on his staff who doubted Hitler's prediction that Poland would collapse in days and that England would not intervene on its behalf. [57]

On Hitler's 50th birthday on April 20, 1939, the military parade was aimed to portray him as "the future military leader, taking muster of his armed forces". [56] After the war began on September 1, 1939, the image of Hitler being a supreme war leader and a military genius came to dominate the myth more than any other aspect of it. [56] Although many Germans were worried about the aspect of another war, once the war began, there was a development in the myth. [56]

The early successes brought about a deeper level of emotional attachment because he was said to have represented the national community and national greatness, and that he was going to turn Germany into a world power. [58] The euphoria only lasted while triumphs continued, but once they stopped then the emotional attachment was lost. [58]

Legal aspects Edit

Beginning in 1934-35, the Führer myth began to determine the constitutional law of Nazi Germany. Nazi lawyer Hans Frank stated, "Constitutional Law in the Third Reich is the legal formulation of the historic will of the Führer, but the historic will of the Führer is not the fulfilment of legal preconditions for his activity." [25]

As early as March 23, 1933, Hitler declared that the primary reason for the law was so that, "Our judiciary must, first and foremost, serve the preservation of the Volk community", that "the flexibility of judgements calculated to serve the preservation of society must be appropriate in light of the fixed tenure of the judges" and warned that, "in the future, state and national treason will be annihilated with barbaric ruthlessness". [59]

Shortly after Hitler had merged the two positions of Chancellor and President into one to create the position "Führer and chancellor", Frank gave a speech on September 10, 1934 and announced the implementation of Hitler's will as the law:

The Führer announced that National Socialism would greatly transform the German legal system in the party program of 1920. We formulated the first principles at that time, demanding the replacement of law that served a materialistic worldview foreign to us and its replacement with German law. Now that the Führer with his movement and party have taken power in the German Reich and its provinces, it is essential to implement National Socialist principles of justice. Today, just as National Socialism has taken over the political, economic, and cultural life of the nation and formed them according to its irrevocable program, it is also necessary to have a breakthrough in law to fill it with National Socialist thinking. [. ] As everywhere else in government, the party and its ideas must guide justice since it is only a means of the Führer for the realization of National Socialism. [. ] As leader of the German legal professionals I can say that the foundation of the National Socialist State is the National Socialist legal system, and that for us our supreme leader is also the supreme judge and that his will is now the foundation of our legal system. Since we know how holy the foundations of our legal system are to the Führer, we and our people’s comrades can be sure: Your life and your existence are secure in this National Socialist state of order, freedom, and justice.

The various racial definitions of "Aryan", "German blood" and so that were used during Nazi Germany were all said to be determined by Hitler himself which prompted Nazi author Andreas Veit to write that "All with a truly German sense know to thank the Führer". [61] Nazi experts on the law in Nazi Germany described it as a "Führer state" to convey the notion that the will of the German people was determined by Hitler's will. [25]

On April 26, 1942, Hitler gave a speech to the Reichstag in which he declared himself to be the supreme judge of the German people, the survival of the German people was not to be bound by any legal matters, he would intervene when sentences did not match the severity of the crimes and declared that, "I will take a hand in these cases from now on and direct the order to the judges that they recognize that as right what I order". [62] [63] The speech was met with a thunderous applause by those who were present. [62] Shortly afterwards, a decree was issued by the Reichstag which stated:

There can be no doubt that the Fuhrer must during the present time of war in which the German Volk is engaged in a battle for life or death, have the right which has been assumed by him, to do everything that serves the achievement of victory or contributes thereto. The Fuhrer, therefore, must—without being bound by existing rules of law—, in his capacity as Fuhrer of the Nation, as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, as Chief of the Government, and as supreme possessor of executive powers, as supreme lord of the judiciary, and as Fuhrer of the Party, at any time be in a position to order, if necessary, any German—be he a common soldier or officer, low-class or high-class officer or judge, executive or ministerial functionary of the Party, laborer or employer—with all means which he deems suitable, to fulfill his duties, and to visit him, in case of violation of these duties, after conscientious examination, with the punishment which is due to him, without regard to so-called vested rights, and to remove him from office, from his rank, and his position without the institution of prescribed procedures. [62]

On August 28, 1942, Hitler issued a decree which enabled Nazi jurist Otto Georg Thierack to do whatever was necessary to coerce judges to toe the line with Hitler's thinking and guidelines on matters. [64] Thus, legal procedures were made to match Hitler's will. [65]

Religious aspects Edit

Hitler often used religious terms in his speeches, such as the "resurrection" of the German people and finished his speeches with "Amen". The 24th point of the Nazi 25-point Program stated that the Nazi Party advocated "positive Christianity, and Hitler emphasized his commitment to Christianity to the Catholic Centre Party to persuade them to vote for the Enabling Act of 1933. In reality, many Nazis – such as Alfred Rosenberg and Martin Bormann – were deeply opposed to religion and were anti-Christian. After gaining complete power they pursued an attack on the church ("Kirchenkampf"), especially against the Catholic Church. [66] The primary reason that Hitler and the Nazis did not openly advocate anti-Christian views before gaining power was because they knew that it would have alienated so many Germans, since the vast majority of them were religious to some extent. [66] During Nazi Germany, German children were told that Hitler was "sent from God" and that he was their "faith" and "light", which portrayed him as a divine prophet from the rather than a normal politician. [66]

During the 1930s, Hitler began to speak in mystical terms when talking to German "national comrades". After the Nazi remilitarization of the Rhineland in March 1936, Hitler declared, "I go the way that Providence dictates with the assurance of a sleepwalker". [67] In May 1936 in Lustgarten, he said, "We are so fortunate to be able to live amongst these people, and I am proud to be your Fuhrer. So proud that I cannot imagine anything in this world capable of convincing me to trade it for something else. I would sooner, a thousand times sooner, be the last national comrade among you than a king anywhere else. And this pride fills me today above all". [68] Hitler identified himself with the German people in September 1936 when he said, "That you have found me. among so many millions is the miracle of our time! And that I have found you, that is Germany's fortune!" [69]

Different types of devotion were used to cement the cult of the leader and the German people in Nazi propaganda. [70]

I swear to God this holy oath
that I shall render unconditional obedience
to the Leader of the German Reich and people,
Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces,
and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared
to give my life for this oath.

I swear: I will be faithful and obedient
to the leader of the German Reich and people, Adolf Hitler,
to observe the law, and to conscientiously fulfill my official duties, so help me God!

One key aspect of the myth was personal obedience to Hitler himself. After the death of German President Paul von Hindenburg on August 2, 1934, Hitler decided to merge the offices of President and Chancellor, and declared himself to be "Führer und Reichskanzler" ("Leader and Reich Chancellor"). Shortly afterwards, War Minister Werner von Blomberg issued an order that all military personnel, who had previously sworn an oath to Germany, would instead swear a oath of allegiance and binding loyalty to Hitler personally. Civil servants were also required to swear such an oath.

The "Heil Hitler" salute, which was made compulsory for all Nazi Party members and, later, for civil servants and the military, was a symbol of total devotion to Hitler. [40]

Between 1933 and 1945, roughly 4,000 cities and towns made Hitler an honorary citizen as a way to show loyalty to him. Since the end of World War II, many of them have revoked the decision. [71]

Hitler deliberately kept his private life from the German public as a way to ensure his popularity, especially to German women. When questioned why he did not have a wife, he would reply, "I am married to Germany". [72] German women genuinely believed that he was celibate and was devoted to Germany. [73] Many German women idolized him and wrote to him, often in an erotic manner. [74] Thousands of German women would wait outside of his Berghof home at the Obersalzberg just to get a glimpse of him once they saw him, many would become hysterical and would shout to him things such as "Mein Führer, I would like to have a child by you!" [74] Many of the women also tried to get close enough to him to kiss him, but were stopped and dragged away by his bodyguards. [74] Hitler’s relationship with his mistress, Eva Braun, remained a closely guarded secret, because Hitler believed that if women knew he had a wife, he would lose his appeal to them. [74]

Nazi propaganda indoctrinated German youth, especially the members of the Hitler Youth. They were told that they all belonged to one classless people's community, and their group identity was reinforced through communal marching, singing and camping. [75] Hitler was depicted as their father figure who would always protect them. [75] The Nazis were able to convey the image that they were the protectors of the youth who would offer them prosperity and safety. [75] Due to the intense propaganda, the Nazis were able to control both public and private attitudes and behavior of the youth. [75] Young Germans were heavily indoctrinated with racial theories and the supposed supremacy of the German Volk. [75] The German youth were the most susceptible to the emotional appeal of the Hitler myth. [76] Eleven year olds entering the Deutsches Jungvolk were told on their first day of induction, "from today onwards your life belongs to the Führer". [76]

Heinrich Hoffmann, who was Hitler's personal photographer, published the book "Youth Around Hitler" ("Jugend um Hitler") in 1934, which was intended to show that Hitler cared about children. [77]

Hitler's charismatic oratory had a great appeal among German youth. A former member of the Hitler Youth, Alfons Heck, wrote in his book:

We erupted into a frenzy of nationalistic pride that bordered on hysteria. For minutes on end, we shouted at the top of our lungs, with tears streaming down our faces: Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil, Sieg Heil! From that moment on, I belonged to Adolf Hitler body and soul. [78]

As depicted in the Triumph of the Will, Hitler gave a speech to the Hitler Youth at Nuremberg and said, "We want to be a united nation, and you, my youth, are to become this nation. In the future, we do not wish to see classes and castes, and you must not allow them to develop among you. One day, we want to see one nation".

German boys and girls who wished to join the Hitler Youth had to declare, "I swear, in the Hitler Youth, always to do my duty with love and loyalty, for the Führer and our flag. So help me God." [79] Afterwards, they were made to declare that they would die for Hitler:

In the presence of this blood banner which represents our fuhrer, I swear to devote all my energies and my strength to the savior of our country, Adolf Hitler. I am willing and ready to give up my life for him, so help me God.

Nazi propaganda indoctrinated Hitler Youth members to denounce anyone who showed any form of criticism about the Nazi regime. [79] They were told that they were racially superior, and over time this engendered an open feeling of arrogance towards those whom they regarded as inferior. [79] They were indoctrinated in racial myths about Aryan superiority, that they belonged to a master race, and that the Jews were an inferior race who destroyed cultures. [80] The Nazis required all schools to teach a study about a supposed superior German culture which emphasiszd Teutonic superiority and encouraged the youth to become educated on German history, literature, things related to the Nordic race, preservation of their Aryan ancestry and devotion to Germany. [80]

Baldur von Schirach , the leader of the Hitler Youth, generally presented Hitler in a quasi-religious way. During a speech he said, "We do not need intellectual leaders who create new ideas because the superimposing leader of all the desires of youth is Adolf Hitler"." [81] Schirach exclaimed, "Your name, my Führer, is the happiness of youth, your name, my Führer, is for us everlasting life". [81] During the Anschluss with Austria in 1938, he told members of the Hitler Youth, "Yes, mein Führer, He who serves Adolf Hitler, the Führer, serves Germany, whoever serves Germany, serves God" and, "When we lead the youth to Germany, we lead it to God". [81]

Hitler believed that in time he could turn the youth into Nazis when they grew older, as he claimed in 1938, when he said:

These boys and girls enter our organizations with their ten years of age, and often for the first time get a little fresh air after four years of the Young Folk they go on to the Hitler Youth, where we have them for another four years . . . And even if they are still not complete National Socialists, they go to Labor Service and are smoothed out there for another six, seven months . . . And whatever class consciousness or social status might still be left . . . the Wehrmacht will take care of that. [82]

Hitler Youth members remained loyal to Hitler even when their parents were becoming critical of him during the war. [76] In 1943, when the Germans started to suffer military defeats, SS Security Service (SD) reports suggest that many Hitler Youth members were no longer showing faith in the Nazi Party, but distinguished the Party from Hitler one report noted that, "The Führer is not the representative of the Party, but in the first instance Führer of the State and above all Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht". [76] Nevertheless, the Führer myth began to wane even among German youth, where it had been the strongest, when Germany's defeat became palpable and inevitable. [76]

Even before the start of World War II, the myth was already beginning to be noticed, but it was not until nearer the end of the war that it became fully exposed to the German people. The Minister of Armaments and War Production Albert Speer wrote in his memoir Inside the Third Reich that in 1939 there was a sense that the myth was waning since the Nazis had to organize cheering crowds to turn up to speeches:

The shift in the mood of the population, the drooping morale which began to be felt throughout Germany in 1939, was evident in the necessity to organize cheering crowds where two years earlier Hitler had been able to count on spontaneity. What is more, he himself had meanwhile moved away from the admiring masses. He tended to be angry and impatient more often than in the past when, as still occasionally happened, a crowd on Wilhelmsplatz began clamoring for him to appear. Two years before he had often stepped out on the "historic balcony." Now he sometimes snapped at his adjutants when they came to him with the request that he show himself: "Stop bothering me with that!" [83]

The Führer myth began to become exposed after Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union, which he thought would last a little longer than six weeks. As time went on and Germany began to suffer consistent military defeats after the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, the Führer myth began to be exposed. The claim that Hitler was a military genius after his successful Blitzkrieg victories in the West was shown to be false, although Hitler himself blamed the defeats on his generals. [84] [85] For the first time, Hitler now became personally blamed for starting the war. [86] Hitler became more withdrawn and rarely spoke to the German people again. [86] Goebbels attempted to portray Hitler as the equivalent of Frederick the Great, who would eventually triumph despite all of the setbacks however, by this time, most Germans knew they were going to lose the war and Hitler's early appeal was almost entirely lost. [86] the appeal of the Hitler myth remained strong among the German youth more than any other Germans, since they had been indoctrinated for over a decade by Nazi propaganda. [58]

Nevertheless, hatred of the Allies for the terror caused by bombing campaigns, and promises of new wonder weapons which would ultimately win the war, prompted some Germans to remain faithful to Hitler for a short period of time. [86] The failed assassination attempt of Hitler on July 20, 1944 also prompted an upsurge of loyalty to Hitler, although this was short-lived. [86]

The Old Party fighters who had been keen supporters of Hitler during the 1920s were the last Germans to still strongly believe in the Führer myth, even when it was obvious that the war was lost. [87] The fighters mainly consisted of people who had personally benefited from the Nazi regime in one way or another. [87] The disillusionment towards Hitler remained flexible, depending on whether or not it seemed that a military victory appeared to be possible in the foreseeable or not. [87] Up until the end of Nazi Germany, there still remained some Nazis who had an "unshakeable belief" in the myth. [87]

Following multiple military defeats, and when it became obvious to ordinary Germans that Germany was going to lose the war, the myth began to become exposed and Hitler's popularity began to wain. An example of this can be seen in a report given in the Bavarian town of Markt Schellenberg on March 11, 1945:

When the leader of the Wehrmacht unit at the end of his speech called for a Sieg Heil for the Führer, it was returned neither by the Wehrmacht present, nor by the Volkssturm, nor by the spectators of the civilian population who had turned up. This silence of the masses . probably reflects better than anything else, the attitudes of the population. [88]

American journalist Howard K. Smith in his book Last Train from Berlin wrote:

I was convinced that of all the millions on whom the Hitler Myth had fastened itself, the most carried away was Adolf Hitler, himself. [89]

According to historian Lisa Pine, during the last phrase of World War II, the Führer myth "collapsed entirely". [34] Few German civilians mourned Hitler's suicide in 1945 since they were too busy dealing with the collapse of Germany or fleeing from the fighting. According to Hitler biographer John Toland Nazism "burst like a bubble" without its leader. [90] [91]

How a Speech Helped Hitler Take Power

I t was exactly 95 years ago &mdash on Feb. 24, 1920 &mdash that Adolf Hitler delivered the Nazi Party Platform to a large crowd in Munich, an event that is often regarded as the foundation of Naziism.

The German Workers’ Party (later the Nazi party) already existed before that date, though it was on that day that its exact goals were laid bare: the platform, set forth in 25 points, did not shy away from the central idea of strengthening German citizenship by excluding and controlling Jewish people and others deemed non-German. Still, those ideas weren’t new for the party. So what changed in 1920, and how did that help lead to Hitler’s ultimate rise to Nazi power?

His record of speech-making was what brought the audience to that hall in Munich in 1920. And, as Stefan Kanfer explained in TIME’s 1989 examination of the origins of World War II, Hitler’s power was closely linked to his abilities as an orator:

After the war, Hitler joined a new and violently anti-Semitic group, the forerunner of the National Socialist German Workers‘ Party — Nazi for short. There, for the first time since adolescence, he found a home and friends. Within a year, he became the chief Nazi propagandist. Judaism, he told his audiences, had produced the profiteers and Bolsheviks responsible for the defeat of the fatherland and the strangulation of the economy. Jews were bacilli infecting the arts, the press, the government. Pogroms would be insufficient. ”The final aim must unquestionably be the irrevocable Entfernung [removal] of the Jews.”

Early on, Hitler had a central insight: ”All epoch-making revolutionary events have been produced not by the written but by the spoken word.” He concentrated on an inflammatory speaking style flashing with dramatic gestures and catch phrases: ”Germany, awake!”

Read the full story, here in the TIME Vault:Architect of Evil

There Is a Reason Hitler Is Considered History's Most Despised Leader

Key point: Although the Nazis were initially successful in occupying much of Western Europe, Hitler was guilty of several strategic blunders, particularly at Dunkirk.

Born in Branau, Austria, on April 20, 1889, Adolf Hitler rose to lead the Nazi Party in Germany during the 1920s and was appointed the nation’s chancellor in 1933. As a boy, Hitler was abused by his father, a low level officer in the civil service, and adored his mother. He was a frustrated artist who failed to gain entry into the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna.

Adolf Hitler in World War I

An ardent nationalist, he joined the German Army during World War I. He was decorated for bravery, wounded, and temporarily blinded by poison gas. Disillusioned following Germany’s defeat, Hitler was introduced to the Nazi Party after being sent by military authorities as an intelligence agent to report on the organization’s activities. Instead, he became one of its leaders.

In 1934, Hitler effectively abolished the office of president upon the death of Paul von Hindenburg and concentrated political power and authority in himself. The following year, he repudiated the Versailles Treaty and revealed that Germany had embarked on a campaign of military rearmament. He subsequently formed the Axis, a military and political alliance with Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan.

Intimidation Abroad

While the Nazis persecuted Jews and minorities at home, Hitler intimidated the leaders of other European nations and reoccupied the Rhineland in 1936. He annexed Austria in 1938, and persuaded the prime ministers of Great Britain and France, Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier, to acquiesce to German occupation of the Czech Sudetenland later that year. Within months, German troops occupied the whole of Czechoslovakia. On September 1, 1939, German forces invaded Poland, triggering World War II in Europe.

Although the Nazis were initially successful in occupying much of Western Europe, Hitler was guilty of several strategic blunders, particularly at Dunkirk, allowing much of the British Expeditionary Force to escape capture in the summer of 1940, and in his decision to invade the Soviet Union in June 1941. Defeats during the Battle of Britain, at Stalingrad in the East and El Alamein in North Africa, and the Allied landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944, were turning points of the war in Europe.

Death by Suicide

On April 30, 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide with his mistress, Eva Braun, whom he had married hours earlier, in the Führerbunker beneath embattled Berlin as Soviet troops captured the city.

Adolf Hitler’s legacy is one of genocide, murder, and unspeakable cruelty. He remains one of the most infamous dictators in human history.


Origin of the title Edit

The first example of the political use of Führer was with the Austrian Georg von Schönerer, a major exponent of pan-Germanism and German nationalism in Austria, whose followers commonly referred to him as the Führer, and who also used the Roman salute – where the right arm and hand are held rigidly outstretched – which they called the "German greeting". [2] According to historian Richard J. Evans, this use of "Führer" by Schönerer's Pan-German Association, probably introduced the term to the German far right, but its specific adoption by the Nazis may also have been influenced by the use in Italy of "Duce", also meaning "leader", as an informal title for Benito Mussolini, the Fascist Prime Minister, and later (from 1922) dictator, of that country. [3]

Adolf Hitler took the title to denote his function as the head of the Nazi Party he received it in 1921 when, infuriated over party founder Anton Drexler's plan to merge with another antisemitic far-right nationalist party, he resigned from the party. Drexler and the party's Executive Committee then acquiesced to Hitler's demand to be made the chairman of the party with "dictatorial powers" as the condition for his return. [4]

Within the Party's paramilitary organizations, the Sturmabteilung (SA) and its later much more powerful offshoot, the Schutzstaffel (SS), "führer" was the root word used in the names of their officer rankings, such as in Sturmbannführer, meaning "assault unit leader", equivalent to major, or Oberführer, "senior leader", equivalent to colonel.

Regional Nazi Party leaders were called Gauleiter, "leiter" also meaning "leader".

As a political office Edit

After Hitler's appointment as Reichskanzler (Chancellor of the Reich), Hitler had Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg sign the Reichstag Fire Decree under the pretense of a purported Communist uprising. This decree suspended most of the civil liberties enshrined in the Weimar Constitution. A month later, the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which allowed the cabinet to promulgate laws by decree for four years. In practice, Hitler himself issued such decrees. The Enabling Act had the effect of giving Hitler dictatorial powers.

One day before Hindenburg's death, Hitler and his cabinet decreed the "Law Concerning the Highest State Office of the Reich," which stipulated that upon Hindenburg's death, the office of the president was to be merged with that of Chancellor. [5] [6] Thus, upon Hindenburg's death, Hitler became Führer und Reichskanzler – although eventually Reichskanzler was quietly dropped. [7] Hitler therefore assumed the President's powers without assuming the office itself – ostensibly out of respect for Hindenburg's achievements as a heroic figure in World War I. Though this law was in breach of the Enabling Act, which specifically precluded any laws concerning the Presidential office, it was approved by a referendum on 19 August. [8] [9] [10]

Hitler saw himself as the sole source of power in Germany, similar to the Roman emperors and German medieval leaders. [11] He used the title Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Chancellor), highlighting the positions he already held in party and government, though in popular reception, the element Führer was increasingly understood not just in reference to the Nazi Party, but also in reference to the German people and the German state. Soldiers had to swear allegiance to Hitler as "Führer des deutschen Reiches und Volkes" (Leader of the German Reich and People). The title was changed on 28 July 1942 to "Führer des Großdeutschen Reiches" (Leader of the Greater German Reich). In his political testament, Hitler also referred to himself as Führer der Nation (Leader of the Nation). [12]

Hitler took great care to give his dictatorship the appearance of legal sanction. He issued thousands of decrees that were based explicitly on the Reichstag Fire Decree. That decree itself was based on Article 48 of the constitution, which gave the president the power to take measures deemed necessary to protect public order. The Enabling Act was renewed twice, in 1937 and 1941, though this was merely a formality with all other parties having been banned.

Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer Edit

One of the Nazis' most-repeated political slogans was Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer – "One People, One Empire, One Leader". Bendersky says the slogan "left an indelible mark on the minds of most Germans who lived through the Nazi years. It appeared on countless posters and in publications it was heard constantly in radio broadcasts and speeches." The slogan emphasized the absolute control of the party over practically every sector of German society and culture – with the churches being the most notable exception. Hitler's word was absolute, but he had a narrow range of interest – mostly involving diplomacy and the military – and so his subordinates interpreted his will to fit their own interests. [13]

Military usage Edit

According to the Constitution of Weimar, the President was Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Unlike "President", Hitler did take this title (Oberbefehlshaber) for himself. When conscription was reintroduced in 1935, Hitler created the title of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, a post held by the Minister for War. He retained the title of Supreme Commander for himself. Field Marshal Werner von Blomberg, then the Minister of War and one of those who created the Hitler oath, or the personal oath of loyalty of the military to Hitler, became the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces while Hitler remained Supreme Commander. Following the Blomberg–Fritsch Affair in 1938, Hitler assumed the commander-in-chief's post as well and took personal command of the armed forces. However, he continued using the older formally higher title of Supreme Commander, which was thus filled with a somewhat new meaning. Combining it with "Führer", he used the style Führer und Oberster Befehlshaber der Wehrmacht (Leader and Supreme Commander of the Wehrmacht), yet a simple "Führer" since May 1942.

Germanic Führer Edit

An additional title was adopted by Hitler on 23 June 1941 when he declared himself the "Germanic Führer" (Germanischer Führer), in addition to his duties as Führer of the German state and people. [14] This was done to emphasize Hitler's professed leadership of what the Nazis described as the "Nordic-Germanic master race", which was considered to include peoples such as the Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, Dutch, and others in addition to the Germans, and the intent to annex these countries to the German Reich in 1933. Waffen-SS formations from these countries had to declare obedience to Hitler by addressing him in this fashion. [15] On 12 December 1941 the Dutch fascist Anton Mussert also addressed him as such when he proclaimed his allegiance to Hitler during a visit to the Reich Chancellery in Berlin. [16] He had wanted to address Hitler as Führer aller Germanen ("Führer of all Germanics"), but Hitler personally decreed the former style. [16] Historian Loe de Jong speculates on the difference between the two: Führer aller Germanen implied a position separate from Hitler's role as Führer und Reichskanzler des Grossdeutschen Reiches ("Führer and Reich Chancellor of the Greater German Empire"), while germanischer Führer served more as an attribute of that main function. [16] As late as 1944, however, occasional propaganda publications continued to refer to him by this unofficial title. [17]

Führer has been used as a military title (compare Latin Dux) in Germany since at least the 18th century. The usage of the term "Führer" in the context of a company-sized military subunit in the German Army referred to a commander lacking the qualifications for permanent command. For example, the commanding officer of a company was (and is) titled "Kompaniechef" (literally, Company Chief), but if he did not have the requisite rank or experience, or was only temporarily assigned to command, he was officially titled "Kompanieführer". Thus operational commands of various military echelons were typically referred to by their formation title followed by the title Führer, in connection with mission-type tactics used by the German military forces. The term Führer was also used at lower levels, regardless of experience or rank for example, a Gruppenführer was the leader of a squad of infantry (9 or 10 men).

Under the Nazis, the title Führer was also used in paramilitary titles (see Freikorps). Almost every Nazi paramilitary organization, in particular the SS and SA, had Nazi party paramilitary ranks incorporating the title of Führer. The SS including the Waffen-SS, like all paramilitary Nazi organisations, called all their members of any degree except the lowest Führer of something thus confusingly, Gruppenführer was also an official rank title for a specific grade of general. The word Truppenführer was also a generic word referring to any commander or leader of troops, and could be applied to NCOs or officers at many different levels of command.

In Germany, the isolated word "Führer" is usually avoided in political contexts, due to its intimate connection with Nazi institutions and with Hitler personally. However, the term -führer is used in many compound words. Examples include Bergführer (mountain guide), Fremdenführer (tourist guide), Geschäftsführer (CEO or EO), Führerschein (driver's license), Führerstand or Führerhaus (driver's cab), Lok(omotiv)führer (train driver), Reiseführer (travel guide book), and Spielführer (team captain — also referred to as Mannschaftskapitän). Since German is a language with grammatical gender, Führer refers to a male leader the feminine form is Führerin.

Nazi Germany

At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense, I tell you that the Nazi movement will go on for 1,000 years!

Adolf Hitler to a British Journalist

At the beginning of the 1930s, Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party exploited widespread and deep-seated discontent in Germany to attract popular and political support. There was resentment at the crippling territorial, military and economic terms of the Versailles Treaty, which Hitler blamed on treacherous politicians and promised to overturn. The democratic post-World War I Weimar Republic was marked by a weak coalition government and political crisis, in answer to which the Nazi party offered strong leadership and national rebirth. From 1929 onwards, the worldwide economic depression provoked hyperinflation, social unrest and mass unemployment, to which Hitler offered scapegoats such as the Jews.

Hitler pledged civil peace, radical economic policies, and the restoration of national pride and unity. Nazi rhetoric was virulently nationalist and anti-Semitic. The 'subversive' Jews were portrayed as responsible for all of Germany's ills.

In the federal elections of 1930 (which followed the Wall Street Crash), the Nazi Party won 107 seats in the Reichstag (the German Parliament), becoming the second-largest party. The following year, it more than doubled its seats. In January 1933, President von Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor, believing that the Nazis could be controlled from within the cabinet. Hitler set about consolidating his power, destroying Weimar democracy and establishing a dictatorship. On 27 February, the Reichstag burned Dutch communist Marianus van der Lubbe was found inside, arrested and charged with arson. With the Communist Party discredited and banned, the Nazis passed the Reichstag Fire Decree, which dramatically curtailed civil liberties.

Read more about: Hitler

10 things you didn't know about Hitler

In March 1933, the Nazis used intimidation and manipulation to pass the Enabling Act, which allowed them to pass laws which did not need to be voted on in the Reichstag. Over the next year, the Nazis eliminated all remaining political opposition, banning the Social Democrats, and forcing the other parties to disband. In July 1933, Germany was declared a one-party state. In the 'Night of the Long Knives' of June 1934, Hitler ordered the Gestapo and the SS to eliminate rivals within the Nazi Party. In 1935, the Nuremburg Laws marked the beginning of an institutionalised anti-Semitic persecution which would culminate in the barbarism of the 'Final Solution'.

Hitler's first moves to overturn the Versailles settlement began with the rearmament of Germany, and in 1936 he ordered the remilitarisation of the Rhineland. Hitler became bolder as he realised that Britain and France were unwilling and unable to challenge German expansionism. Between 1936 and 1939, he provided military aid to Franco's fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War, despite having signed the 'Non-Intervention Agreement'. In March 1938, German troops marched into Austria the Anschluss was forbidden under Versailles. Anglo-French commitment to appeasement and 'peace for our time' meant that when Hitler provoked the 'Sudeten Crisis', demanding that the Sudetenland be ceded to Germany, Britain and France agreed to his demands at September 1938's Munich conference. Germany's territorial expansion eastwards was motivated by Hitler's desire to unite German–speaking peoples, and also by the concept of Lebensraum: the idea of providing Aryan Germans with 'living space'.

At the end of the year, anti-Jewish pogroms erupted across Germany and Austria. Kristallnacht – a state-orchestrated attack on Jewish property – resulted in the murder of 91 Jews. Twenty thousand more were arrested and transported to concentration camps. In March 1939, Germany seized the remainder of Czechoslovakia in August Hitler signed the Nazi-Soviet Pact of non-aggression with the USSR. The next step would be the invasion of Poland and the coming of World War II.

Did you know?

When Adolf Hitler was a struggling, poverty stricken artist in Vienna, he did not show any signs of anti-Semitism. Many of his closest associates in the hostel where he lived were the Jewish men who helped him to sell his pictures.

During the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Hitler refused to shake the hand of African-American Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals. However, when questioned about this Owens said: Hitler didn't snub me - it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram.

The Political Maneuvers of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis

After the disastrous results of the November 1932 elections, Hitler and other senior Nazi leaders had realized that they were walking on thin ice. (Image: Bundesarchiv/CC-BY-SA/ 3.0/Public domain)

The Tenuous Popularity of the Nazis

The Nazis themselves saw their as very tenuous. They realized that they had a hardcore stable support among certain elements of the German mittelstand, or middle class. But the millions who had poured into the party to vote for it—not become members, which required dues and service to the party—probably gave their crisis-related vote of protest. It was not a commitment to the National Socialist ideology.

The outcome of the November 1932 elections revealed that Nazi popularity in free elections could not necessarily be maintained at the July 1932 levels. The Nazis and their leaders understood that one could only make contradictory promises to people for so long, or to ask them to vote against the liberals or the conservatives.

One might get a voter to do that once or twice, or maybe even three times. But unless one comes into power and is able to change something, then that constituency will have a tendency to decompose. And, that’s what it looked like had happened.

This is a transcript from the video series A History of Hitler’s Empire, 2nd Edition. Watch it now, Wondrium.

The Negative Campaigning of the Nazis

The NSDAP’s constituency was too diverse, its promises too contradictory, its appeal too negative. The Nazis emphasized on negative campaigning—what was wrong with the Weimar system. They repeatedly said that the republic was corrupt and it couldn’t solve the economic problems. It had failed Germany in every way.

The NSDAP held out a positive vision of a classless society, a volksgemeinschaft, but that positive view tended to move to the side. In an interview with an American journalist, Gregor Strasser, the second in command of the NSDAP, was asked, “We understand what the NSDAP is against, but what’s it for? Americans don’t understand this.” Strasser, without missing a beat, said, “We’re for the opposite of what exists today.” That was a credible response in the circumstances of 1932.

There were plenty of people out there who were enthusiastic Nazis and supported the ideas, or what they thought were the ideas of National Socialism. But these weren’t the people that transformed the NSDAP from a small splinter party on the lunatic fringes of German politics they’d been there all the time.

It was the others, the ordinary proverbial man and woman in the street who weren’t necessary evil or criminal, who thought, “Well, why not? Everything else has failed. What can these guys do that will be worse?”

The Fears and Hopes of the Nazis

Contrary to the image of an irresistible political movement being swept into power by grassroots support—the view that Nazis had tried to project—the NSDAP’s electoral support was highly unstable that could be maintained for only a limited period of time and under severe economic conditions.

This is what the people who were making the cold, hardheaded calculations in the propaganda department of the NSDAP thought. In a top-secret memorandum drawn up by Joseph Goebbels and his propaganda staff in December 1932, he said, “We’ve blown it.” It ends on a high note, as these things always had to:

Above all else, it must not come to a new election the results would be disastrous. But the reverses of the party can be turned around, and the NSDAP can bounce back, if Adolf Hitler succeeds in making himself the head of a political movement in power, head of the German government.

Favorable Circumstances for the Nazis

In December of 1932, nothing looked less likely than that. The party seemed to be coming apart in the regional elections. But even if the Nazi constituency was volatile and unstable, even if it was largely a protest vote, there were not many alternatives at that time.

After those elections, Franz von Papen, the chancellor of Germany, was unceremoniously booted out. He had no support, now that the Communists and the Nazis had a majority. President Paul von Hindenburg reluctantly turned power over to Papen’s Minister of Defense, General Kurt von Schleicher.

Schleicher’s Hopeless Strategies

General Kurt von Schleicher failed to form a new government in December 1932. (Image: Bundesarchiv/CC-BY-SA/ 3.0/Public domain)

Schleicher believed that he could woo the Nazis, he could bring them into the government somehow, or coax rebellious Nazis away—those who were becoming disillusioned with the party. He believed he could win support among labor unions. He also thought that he will be able to woo support away from Hitler. It wasn’t likely to happen.

Nonetheless, he pronounced an economic policy that was beyond liberalism and Marxism. Nobody could figure our exactly what it was, and Schleicher was unable to generate any sort of enthusiasm in the population at all. By January, it was clear that he had failed in his attempt to form a new government.

The Political Intrigue against Schleicher

Papen, who had remained on as an adviser to Hindenburg, had decided that the thing to do was to intrigue against Schleicher and get him out.

Papen then, working behind the scenes, engineered a meeting between Hitler and various conservative leaders. Hitler agreed, he was now more malleable he’d lost the election in November. Hitler agreed to go into a coalition government with Papen.

Hitler would supply the rank and file, the popular support, and Papen would supply Hindenburg. He could convince the old gentleman to go along with this.

On January 30, 1933, Schleicher was forced to resign. They hadn’t agreed about who was going to be chancellor. At the last second, in effect, Hitler was saying, “I’ll take my marbles and go home. I’m chancellor I’m not going to be vice-chancellor.” And Papen agreed.

So on January 30, the impossible seemed to have happened a party that had had less than 3 percent of the vote in the spring of 1928 had now managed to maneuver itself into power.

Common Questions about the political Maneuvers of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis

Adolf Hitler became the chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933.

The Nazis emphasized what was wrong with the Weimar system. They repeatedly said that the republic was corrupt and it couldn’t solve the economic problems. And that it had failed Germany in every way.

In December 1932, Adolf Hitler joined hands with Franz von Papen who wanted to get General Kurt von Schleicher out of the German political scene. When Schleicher was forced to resign, Papen agreed to let Hitler become the chancellor of Germany.