Did Hitler’s Image Change Work?
On the face of it “The Hitler Nobody Knows” did its job. In July 1932, fresh elections gave the Nazism’s 37.35% of the vote and made them the largest political party in Germany. Hitler had the bargaining chip he desired. He began to make overtures to the Hindenburg regime, offering to do a political deal that would bolster the government while making Hitler Chancellor. It was a bold and timely move. However, it did not work. For, despite the election result, Hindenburg refused to entertain the idea of allowing the Nazis’ into power.
Instead, the president appointed Franz Von Papen as Chancellor, despite the fact his choice of candidate did not have the support of the Reichstag. Things in government quickly began to follow the same depressing pattern. General Kurt Von Schleicher replaced Von Papen and finally in November 1932, yet more elections were held. However, it became apparent that Hitler’s image change had ceased to work its magic. In just four months, the Nazi’s popularity dropped drastically. The election only gave them a 33.1% share of the vote. Meanwhile, the Communist party had gained.
It was this communist gain that proved to be the deciding factor that elevated the Nazi’s, for Hindenburg’s circle was even more alarmed by the prospect of a communist take over than a Nazi one. After months of resisting Hitler, Hindenburg changed his mind. Hitler’s popularity was waning, the president’s aids told him. This decline meant that the Nazi’s needed the conservatives and so would be more malleable. So on January 30, 1933, Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany-not because Hitler had won over the electorate but because the Nazi’s were the lesser of two evils.
It was a decision Hindenburg would come to regret. Although, he limited the Nazi’s to only two government posts, besides Hitler’s, in two months, rather than being “pushed â¦into a corner so that he squeaks,” Hitler had outmaneuvered him. The new Chancellor called for fresh elections in March 1933. This time, he ran his campaign by smearing and terrorizing his opponents. Then on February 27, 1933, the Reichstag burnt down. A young Dutch communist was blamed, giving the Nazi’s the excuse to arrest over four thousand communists after Hindenburg signed emergency powers over to them.
Rivals safety eliminated, the Nazi’s increased their share of the March vote to 43.9%. Only one year after the elections of March 1932, the Nazis had all but achieved their aim, only requiring the support of other marginal far right parties to remain in power. In the end, Hitler had achieved his aim not because he had seduced the electorate with a gentler image, but because he had taken advantage of the political situation and reverting to the old Nazi of violence, smears and propaganda.
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