Nazi Rise To Power

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Until 1929 the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or NSDAP), as the Nazi Party was officially called, was a small political party. Then, in the parliamentary elections of 1930, the party received more than 18 percent of the total votes cast, compared to about 2.5 percent in 1928. The bulk of the votes for the Nazis came from the middle classes and the well-to-do rather than from workers and unemployed people. The major factors in the Nazis' electoral success were lingering anger at Germany's military collapse toward the end of World War I; resentment toward the Versailles treaty, which had ended the war and imposed harsh conditions on Germany; the worldwide economic depression of the 1930s; fear of the spread of Communism; and Hitler's charismatic personality.

By 1930 German society was unable to forge a political consensus. The fact that no party was able to establish a majority government created a vacuum of power and a political stalemate in the Reichstag, Germany's parliament.

Most Germans wanted to replace the republic and its multitude of competing parties with an authoritarian system that promised stability and employment. Hence the Nazis gained in popularity in the 1930 elections. In the parliamentary elections of September 1932, the Nazis did even better, receiving about 38 percent of the votes. They did not win a majority of the seats in the Reichstag, but the support Hitler received from the Conservative Party provided the necessary basis for a coalition government. And so on January 30, 1933, President Paul von Hindenburg appointed Hitler chancellor (prime minister).

As soon as the Nazis assumed power, they made racism and anti-Semitism central components of their regime. During its first months in power the Nazi Party instigated anti-Semitic riots and campaigns of terror that climaxed on April 1, 1933,