Following the Great War and abdication of the Kaiser, The Weimar Republic was set up in the city of that name, close to the Thuringen Forest. It was democratic by constitution and largely blamed for the hyperinflation which ensued. Among the most vociferous in this was Adolf Hitler, a disaffected former corporal who first joined the Freikorps, an organisation resentful of the armistice terms. Hitler quickly took over its leadership and rebranded it as the NSDAP (Nazi) party.
His platform was that Germany had never been defeated and that the cause of the dire economic condition was the avarice and scheming of Jews, who quickly became targets for brutal and destructive attacks by Hitler’s recruited thugs, the SA or Brownshirts. Whilst incarcerated in prison for his part in the Bierkeller Putsch he wrote ‘Mein Kampf’ (my struggle), which was a turgid assessment of Germany’s problems and his thoughts on the need for radical changes to solve them. He advocated the use of the same terrorising attacks against Jews and other dissenters and subsequently began his political ascent, quickly gaining support across the country.
In the election of 1933 Hitler gained such support that President Hindenburg had to offer him the chancellorship of Germany. He took it and within a month Weimar was disbanded as Hitler proclaimed himself Führer with the power of absolute rule. He lost no time in assembling the elements of a repressive regime. Josef Göbbels was appointed Gauleiter of Berlin and Minister of Propaganda and Hermann Gõring, Hitler’s deputy, appointed Heinrich Himmler as head of the Gestapo (secret police). The SS (Schutstaffel) was established under Reinhardt Heydrich reporting to Himmler as a personal guard organisation. Its activities, however, branched into virtually all aspects of terror and control. The Führer also gained or bought the allegiance of two national newspapers.
Though there were many doubters of the new regime, it gained in popularity across the country which Hitler would harness for his greater purposes. They would start with the annihilation of the SA by the SS (The Night of the Long Knives), and a concerted programme of violent oppression against Jews (eg Kristallnacht) and any dissenters who were considered well below the standards attributed to the Aryan race. The first concentration camp, Dachau, was built and occupied in the same year as Hitler’s accession to the seat of absolute authority. Built for incarceration and extreme repression, it soon became the first site for systematic murder.
By clicking on the link therewasatimebook you will be able to see a number of earlier blogs introducing my book ‘There Was A Time’. Recommendations and places to buy it are also detailed on the site.