The Rise of Hitler
Stage 1: World War I
- Hitler had built up a status of “war hero” with an “Iron Cross” from his
achievements in World War I. His rank was low, but his relative achievements were
- Thus, he reaped benefits from the war, unlike the higher level officers who got
the blame for losing the war. Hitler got himself into a sweet spot and viewed
favorably by the public.
Stage 2: Beer Hall speeches
- Following the War, Hitler went on speaking in beer halls. The drunk were his first
audience. This is where he built his experience as a speaker. Put yourself in
German shoes. You are hurt and ashamed by the first major defeat to your nation in
over a century. You are hurt economically and psychologically. You are looking for
answers. There is this young lad, who did “heroic” things in the war and who has the
answers. He talks of German pride and honor. He talks about whom to blame. And
you are drunk. Would you believe in Hitler? Not unsurprisingly, Hitler got standing
Stage 3: Mentoring and connections of Dietrich Eckart
- Eckart was a famous German playwright who built up a German workers’ party
(later became the Nazi party). He was quite influential and connected. Eckart was
also a member of an occult society that believed in the oncoming of a “German
messiah” who will deliver.
- When he heard a beer hall speech by Hitler, Eckart was so mesmerized that he
believed Hitler was “the one”. Sort of like the Matrix movie. Since then, he offered
all the connections, mentoring and organizational support Hitler wanted. Hitler got
further coached in public speaking and received money from wealthy donors.
Stage 4: Beer Hall Putsch – the failed coup and national publicity
- With his strong reputation of public speaking, Hitler attracted a mass of people.
And he attempted a coup in 1923. It was just a stupid thing where Hitler just
marched into the Munich city hall and captured it. German police quickly hit back
expectedly. The coup failed badly and he got thrown in the prison.
The publicity of the long trial, gave Hitler a nationwide recognition.
- During his time in jail, Hitler got the time to build his Nazi ideas and built a strong following. People started to believe in him and he got the reputation of a person who could make great sacrifice for Germany. This is where he wrote his influential
autobiography – Mein Kampf. Although it was not that well read, it “inspired” the
few Germans who read.
Stage 5: German referendum, 1929
- In 1929, the German nationalists pushed for a referendum (vote by the public) on
whether Germany should continue to pay the penalties for the first World War.
Although the referendum failed, Nazis got even more publicity by whipping up
people’s emotions (why pay money to France, when Germany herself is suffering).
Stage 6: The rise to Chancellor
- Germany system has a President with strong powers and a Reichstag with weak
powers. The head of the Reichstag is the Chancellor.
- Hitler first tried to become the President. In the Presidential elections of 1932,
Hitler offered a viable alternative to the existing confusion. He fought strongly
against the Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg. Hitler won the strong support of
German industrialists who thought the existing politicians were clueless about the
economy. Hitler lost against Hindenberg, but came quite close (winning about 35%
of the votes).
- After the defeat, Hitler started eyeing the chancellor. There were a number of
contenders to the Chancellor of the Parliament, but none were quite strong.
Hindenburg dissolved the Parliament twice in 1932.
- In the meanwhile, Hitler’s supporters in the industry pressurized Hindenburg into
appointing Hitler as a Chancellor citing the anarchy. After much reluctance and
with no alternative, Hindenburg asked Hitler (a person who he despised greatly) to
take up the role of a Chancellor (second in power to the President).
- Hitler is now close to getting an opportunity of a lifetime.
Stage 7: Destroying the opposition
- Although Hitler was a Chancellor, he didn’t have as much power. The Communist
party was still a threat. Then a key event happened. The Reichstag – German
Parliament – was burned a few months after Hitler came to the power and the
blame was assigned to the Communists.
Stage 8: Death of the President
- In 1934 (within 2 years of Hitler’s rise as Chancellor), President Hindenburg was
dead (possibly due to natural reasons). Hitler took this opportunity to completely
take over all powers of Germany.
Hitler’s rise was a calculated thing with a lot of steps to cross. At each
point, he destroyed his opponents and got public to view him favorably.
Leaders don’t get selected for the diplomas and work experiences during the tough
times. It is actually a disadvantage to have high pedigree and conventional
backgrounds in those periods. In tough times, people go for unconventional leaders
as they believe that the conventional leaders failed to deliver. Thus, his lack of
degrees and strong professional career was not an impediment. (Balaji Vishvanathan)