18 Major Events During Adolf Hitler's Rise to Power
18 Major Events During Adolf Hitler’s Rise to Power

18 Major Events During Adolf Hitler’s Rise to Power

Larry Holzwarth - October 21, 2018

18 Major Events During Adolf Hitler’s Rise to Power
The German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer in Gibraltar in 1936. Construction began before the Nazis came to power, as all of Germany’s military forces rearmed secretly during the 1920s. US Navy

14. German rearmament preceded Hitler’s accession to power

Between 1918 and 1933, under the government of the Weimar Republic, the German military, supported by the federal government, began rearming in violation of the Versailles Treaty. The goal of the federal government was the creation of paramilitary organizations which could be rapidly absorbed into the army in case of national emergency. One of the reasons the government did not suppress the development of paramilitary organizations such as the SA, the SS, and the KPD, was the recognition that such forces could become part of a national army in the event of another war. After Hitler came to power in 1933 he made the rearming of Germany, already well underway, an open secret. Rearming became the government’s highest priority, both to enhance German prestige and to combat the Great Depression, then taking jobs from the German economy.

During the 1930s the rearmament of Germany led the German economy into near full employment. Jobs which were plentiful and which paid well enhanced the position of the Nazis in power, as well as helped create a revitalized Germany. By 1935, when the expanding German military strength was well known, Hitler revived conscription in Germany. That same year the British and Germans agreed to a new naval treaty which allowed the German fleet to expand to 35% of the tonnage of the British fleet, which exceeded the limitations imposed by the Versailles Treaty, and which was reached without the approval of England’s French ally. Germany had already begun construction of a new U-Boat fleet, which began to deploy in 1935, another violation of the Versailles Treaty. Britain chose to follow the path of accepting German rearmament under agreed limitations, rather than oppose it vigorously.

18 Major Events During Adolf Hitler’s Rise to Power
Senior Nazi officials on trial at Nuremburg during the War Crimes Tribunal. They all claimed to have been following orders from Hitler. US Army

15. The creation of the Gestapo and the crushing of the SA leadership

When Hitler became Chancellor Hermann Goering was named as the Interior Minister of Prussia, the largest German state and the one possessing the largest police force. Goering detached the intelligence and political sections of the Prussian police, purged them of non-Nazis, and replaced them with fervent Nazi loyalists, creating the Geheime Staatspolizei, which became known as the Gestapo. In April 1934, under the direction of Hitler, Goering transferred control of the Gestapo to Heinrich Himmler, who was named head of all German police outside of Prussia on April 20, 1934. By the spring of 1934 the power of the SA and its leadership was viewed as a potential threat by Himmler, Goering, and Hitler, and curbing its influence though infiltration became a Nazi priority. Their view was supported by senior German military leaders.

At the end of June 1934, Himmler’s SS and the Gestapo carried out a series of assassinations of senior SA officers who had been instrumental in the Nazi rise to power but were by then viewed as a threat by the Nazi leadership. The murders were sometimes simply acts of revenge for past slights, to settle old scores, or to remove rivals. At least 85 murders were carried out, mostly by the SS, and there are estimates that the killings may have numbered in the hundreds. Another thousand or more Germans who had once been opposed to the Nazis disappeared into concentration camps and prisons. The Night of the Long Knives, as it became known, was so named from a long-standing German phrase for vengeful retribution. Upon its completion Hitler addressed the Reichstag during which he established himself as the final arbiter of justice in Germany. The Gestapo became one of the most feared of the Nazi organizations.

18 Major Events During Adolf Hitler’s Rise to Power
Hitler’s dominance of the German political apparatus was admired by American supporters in the German American Bund. Wikimedia

16. Hitler controls nearly all aspects of German society

By 1935, the Nazi Party – and by extension its head, Adolf Hitler – controlled nearly all of Nazi society with the notable exception of the churches. Many of these also fell into compliance with Nazi philosophy, particularly in regards to policies concerning Germany’s Jews. Others continued to resist, though often covertly, concerned with the prevalence of the Gestapo and its many spies throughout German society. Throughout the remainder of the 1930s and in fact throughout the ensuing war in Europe, the Nazi regime sought to suppress dissent from the churches and religious schools through the issuance of decrees which eliminated Christian symbols and ceremonies, and which attempted to create a national religion by combining the Christian protestant churches under state control.

A special barracks was erected at the Dachau concentration camp for the imprisonment of clergy, eventually more than 2,700 members of the clergy were imprisoned there, more than 2,500 of them Catholics. Other clergymen of all faiths vanished into Gestapo cells and were never seen again. Hitler promised not to interfere with the practice of religion when he assumed power, a promise he immediately broke, and suppression continued throughout his regime. It was one area of German life which he could not completely bring under his control, though efforts to do so continued until the collapse of the Reich in 1945. Hitler decided not to implement plans for the complete destruction of Christianity in Germany until after the war, when he intended to restore the pagan rituals of Germanic history under a thirty point plan which included replacing the Christian cross with the swastika and the bible with Mein Kampf.

18 Major Events During Adolf Hitler’s Rise to Power
Rather than remain in occupation of the Rhineland France began work on its Maginot Line, here being inspected by American troops in 1944. US Army

17. Hitler’s territorial ambitions begin in the Rhineland

The Versailles Treaty had established that German military forces and fortifications would not be allowed in the area known as the Rhineland, and that Allied forces would not withdraw from the region until 1935. In fact the Allies withdrew their occupation troops in 1929 (British) and 1930 (French) as part of the negotiations over the German payment of war reparations. The year before the French withdrew they began construction of the series of forts along the French frontier which became known as the Maginot Line. For the first half of the 1930s French, Italian, British, and Soviet diplomats maneuvered over various means of containing Germany within its borders, and in 1935 France and the Soviet Union signed a treaty of alliance, which the Germans declared was a violation of the Versailles Treaty.

By 1935 the German economy was again faltering, with inflation and food shortages driving up prices and German support of the Nazi regime falling, especially in the larger cities. Hitler, desirous of a prestige building foreign policy victory, decided to remilitarize the Rhineland in January 1936. Although Goering counseled against the decision and even attempted to persuade Mussolini to dissuade the Fuhrer, the German army marched into the Rhineland beginning in March, 1936, supported by Luftwaffe aircraft. Hitler followed his coup by offering to return Germany to the League of Nations and offered a treaty of non-aggression to the French. France, which was most threatened by the German move, did nothing to oppose it militarily, and Hitler knew from that point that his other territorial desires in Europe were feasible.

18 Major Events During Adolf Hitler’s Rise to Power
A German postage stamp commemorating the Anschluss, which gave Germany access to badly needed raw materials for their ongoing military buildup. Wikimedia

18. The Anschluss unites Germany and Austria

When Hitler wrote Mein Kampf he stated within it his intention to unite Germany and Austria, despite several formerly Austrian territories being occupied by the Italians. As he moved towards annexing Austria Mussolini at first opposed him, until he was personally reassured by the German Chancellor that there would be no demands for the cession of territory by Italy. Hitler’s desire to annex Austria into the Reich has long been explained as being motivated by the desire to unite all of the Germanic people but in fact he had more mercenary reasons for absorbing the Austrian state. Austria was wealthy in many of the materials needed by the ever-increasing German military buildup, including iron and textiles, magnesium, and other products required of the German economy and growing war machine. The primary means by which Hitler convinced the Austrians to support him was through propaganda.

The slogan, Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuhrer was displayed prominently in Germany and Austria, and the Austrian Nazi Party used tactics similar to those it had used successfully in Germany to terrorize opponents and shape public opinion. The Austrian government responded by rounding up Nazis and imprisoning them, leading to a German boycott of Austria. In the mid-1930s Hermann Goering was the loudest voice in Germany calling for Austrian annexation. By 1937 both Austria and Czechoslovakia were targets for German military takeover, to be plundered for their raw materials and industrial bases. Hitler eventually seized Austria though the threat of military invasion and conquest, which was covered by a referendum which established the desire of the Austrian people to join the Reich. Opposition was rapidly suppressed by the SS. The plebiscite vote to ratify annexation was held throughout Germany and Austria and was claimed by the Nazis to represent over 99% approval.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Hitler: 1889-1936”. Ian Kershaw. 1999

“Hitler: A Study in Tyranny”. Alan Bullock. 1962

“Where Ghosts Walked: Munich’s Road to the Third Reich”. David Clay Large. 1997

“Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic”. Bernhard Fulda. 2009

“The Making of a Nazi Hero: The Murder and Myth of Horst Wessel”. Daniel Siemens. 2013

“The European Economy Between the Wars”. Charles H. Feinstein. 1997

“The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”. William L. Shirer. 2011

“Germany: Second Revolution?” Time Magazine staff reports. July 2, 1934

“The law that enabled Hitler’s dictatorship”. Marc von Lupke-Schwarz, Deutsche Welle. March 23, 2013. Online

“Hitler endorsed by 9-1 in poll on his dictatorship, but opposition is doubled”. Frederick T. Birchall, The New York Times. August 19, 1934

“The Nazi Conscience”. Claudia Koonz. 2003

“Hitler Youth: 1922-1945, An Illustrated History”. Jean-Denis Lepage. 2008

“Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of his Evil”. Ron Rosenbaum. 1999

“Germany Reborn”. Hermann Goering. 1934

“Franz von Papen Memoirs”. Franz von Papen, translated by Brian Connell and Andre Deutsch. 1952

“The Nazi Persecution of the Churches 1933-1945”. John S. Conway. 1968

“Hitler, Intelligence and the decision to remilitarize the Rhine”. Zach Shore, Journal of Contemporary History. January 1999

“Inside the Third Reich”. Albert Speer. 1997