'The most important reason for Nazi success in 1933 was Hitler's genius as a politician'. How far do you agree with this statement?

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H. W. D. Smith                28/04/2007

Coursework – Key Question 1, Exercise 1 [i]

c. ‘The most important reason for Nazi success in 1933 was Hitler’s genius as a politician’.  How far do you agree with this statement?

It is undoubtedly true that Hitler was a political genius; he was a brilliant orator, ruthlessly efficient, used force as necessary, had a gift for timing, and, perhaps most importantly, exploited the diverse interests of all to whom he appealed.  However, there were other factors in the NSDAP’s rise to power, notably the Wall Street Crash and the discredit of the Weimar republic; pure luck also played an important role (for example, the death of Stresemann in late 1929).  Whether Hitler’s political genius was the main reason for the Nazi party’s rise to power remains to be seen.

The Wall Street crash, perhaps more than any of the alternative reasons for the Nazi party’s success, was of great importance to the NSDAP on its road to power.  It led to American loans, offered under the Dawes and Young plans, being recalled, and thus to a financial collapse in the fledgling democracy.  Under this strain, the Weimar system, having been deserted by its principally middle-class supporters, who had been hit the hardest by the financial collapse, lost almost all of its popular backing.  The political instability and high unemployment caused by the Wall Street Crash led to the polarization of German politics, and thus led more people to support the right-wing Nazi party, while at the same time depriving its democratic rivals of votes (although it should be remembered that extreme left-wing parties were also beneficiaries of the Crash).  

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The discredit of the Weimar republic was partially due to the Wall Street Crash; as people suffered from the economic depression, they blamed the political system.  Under the Kaiser, Germans had enjoyed prosperity (despite a humiliating defeat in the First World War), and many were unsatisfied with the new democratic system of government.  At the same time as the Wall Street Crash, which led to the removal of middle class support for the system, the government was hit by an extraordinary stroke of bad luck – the death of von Stresemann, the Chancellor, in October 1929.  Stresemann was an ...

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