Why the Nazis and not the Communists?
Why, by 1934, had the Nazis benefited more than the Communists from the shortcomings of the Weimar Republic?
Adolf Hitler, head of the NSDAP, became Chancellor of Germany on the 30th January 1933. Following the ?legal revolution? of the following months and President Hindenburg?s death on the 2nd August 1934, Hitler made himself F?hrer and Reichskanzler. The Nazi revolution was complete and Germany was subject to a dictatorship of the extreme political right.
As Ian Kershaw explains, the Weimar Republic was failing: "the survival chances of Weimar democracy might be regarded as fairly poor by the end of 1929, very low by the end of 1930, remote by the middle of 1931 and as good as zero by Spring 1932." In a period of Depression and when unity and firm government was essential, M?ller?s Grand Coalition broke up in March 1930. Logically, there were several political alternatives other than Hitler and the Nazis.
There could have been a return to parliamentary Party politics. There were some signs to show that democracy may have been revived. During the continuous utilisation of Article 48 to govern, the Reichstag gave their vote of no confidence in challenging the executive use of it. Also, a section of the public appeared to still support the Republic; the Centre Party and SPD continued to have steady support until 1932. However, it seems that any chances of democracy were ruled out. The political Parties were still inclined to pursue their own political interests when a united, broad and moderate front was needed. Two moderate Parties even defected to Hitler after the offensive from the right and Hindenburg made little effort to restore the influence of the Reichstag.
Alternatively, Germany could have become a presidential dictatorship backed by the army as von Schleicher or von Papen would have preferred. In order to do this, the authoritarian regime would have had to adapt slightly from what it was in 1932. The long-term use of Article 48, the emergency decree, would have been impractical and impossible. Perhaps the conservative elites were looking to Hitler for a new identity as they couldn?t return to the days of the Second Reich as well as thinking they could control his power. A military regime would have meant that there was no dominance from the extreme right or left of politics. Judging by the situation of Germany at that time, it was quite possible that this may have resulted in civil war.
So why was it the Nazis who came to power when there were so many other right-wing political Parties? Obviously, other V?lkisch Parties did not have Hitler, who emerged as a great orator and charismatic leader. The NSDAP had also adopted the use of modern propaganda techniques, had effective communication methods and a well organised structure of Party apparatus. Their violent exploitation of scapegoats, such as the Jews, appealed to the disillusioned and discontented public who were looking for extreme policies to bring Germany out of economic Depression.
This adds another argument. The German Communists, representing the extreme left of politics, had a substantial increase of support in the polls but why did the vote lurch so strongly to the extreme right as opposed to the left? The electoral breakthrough of the Nazis acted a significant reason why Hitler gained the Chancellorship and eventually absolute power. There are many factors that need to be considered when attempting to identify why the Communists were not as successful as the Nazis.
Firstly, it is important to divide the Left and Right into two different forces. There were several v?lkisch Parties who worked for similar means, but major divisions in the Left. Where the NSDAP were given a ?helping hand? by the DVNP, the KPD were constantly in competition with Parties from their side of the spectrum! The Communists caused the decline of the SPD, even calling them "social fascists" in 1929. In contrast, the NSDAP practically dismantled the liberal Parties!
The KPD was a well established Parties who?s popularity peaked in the 1920s. This was well before the Nazis became a widely acknowledged Party, who only achieved weighty gains in the election of May 1928. This was the period of the Great Depression, and also when extreme