Why did the Nazi Party become more popular by 1932?

Following the Depression in Germany caused by the Wall Street Crash in 1929, support for Hitler and his Nazi Party skyrocketed. How did this benefit the Nazi Party, and how did Hitler capitalise on this crisis to kick-start his rise to power?

The worksheet is available to download here. If you do not have access to Word, please complete the tasks as outlined in the yellow boxes on this page.

Look at the graph below that shows voting patterns in Germany from 1920-1933.
What important things do you notice in this graph? Focus on:
1) The Nazi Party
2) The Communist Party (KPD)
3) The moderate parties (Conservative Nationalists, Catholic Centre and Liberal Democrats)

TASK ONE: What were the main factors for Hitler’s rise to power?
Watch the video below. Make notes on your worksheet under the different headings to describe the factors and then explain why these factors helped them.

TASK TWO: How did Hitler appeal to a variety of people in Germany?
Read some more detailed information on the factors for increased Nazi support in the early 1930s.
As you go through this, complete a grid outlining how different events would have led different groups of people to vote for the Nazi Party. Look at the table below and consider creating something similar (but larger, as there is plenty of information to consider):

Group in societyWhy did the Nazis appeal to them?
The working class
The middle class
(Those with small businesses)
The upper class
(People with lots of money and inherited land)
(Those who owned factories)
Former soldiers

Why did voters start moving towards the Nazi party?

We do not recognise classes. The German people, with its millions of farmers, citizens and workers, will, together, overcome distress.

Adolf Hitler’s speech to the people of Germany on the day of his appointment as Chancellor of Germany on 31 January 1933
The economic situation in Germany

As the economic problems in Germany worsened, there was little agreement on how to tackle them. Brüning’s decision to cut wages and unemployment benefit led to him being nicknamed the “Hunger Chancellor”. By 1932, six million people were unemployed which meant that 4 out of 10 workers did not have a job. As a result many German people were starving and living on the streets – quite simply they were desperate.

This did not just impact the working class. As stocks and shares had plummeted following the Wall Street Crash, many families from the middle class found themselves struggling to keep themselves afloat after the crisis. Many also lost their businesses because of the economic difficulties. Because of this desperation, the simple solutions offered by the Nazis became more and more appealing. They promised to bring an end to unemployment and poverty in Germany, which many people believed.

Brüning’s efforts to deal with the economic crisis in Germany proved to be a complete failure. His increase of taxation hit middle class families hard, and his reduction of unemployment benefits hit the working class when they needed it the most.
The threat of communism

Due to a number of workers turning towards the Communist Party in Germany (KPD), there was genuine hysteria that factories, businesses and land could be taken from business owners and the landed class by force. This had occured in Russia recently in a bloody revolution. Blutmai (Bloody May), 1929, had seen a number of KPD workers bring violence directed at the Police in Berlin on May Day (workers day). It looked as if communism was gathering pace in Germany.

The Nazis were supported by many landowners and businessmen who were afraid of the rise of Communism and the power of the trade unions. They knew that Hitler also hated communism and would reduce the power of the trade unions.  Therefore, these groups financially supported the Nazis to help them to compete successfully in general elections.

This allowed the Nazi Party to have a greater reach in communicating with people in Germany. For example, in the 1933 general election campaign, the Nazis produced and distributed 600,000 copies of their Economic Programme, stating that more jobs would be created by supporting businesses. They would have been unable to do this without the support of powerful industrialists such as Thyssen, Krupp and Bosch.   

A policeman ensuring peace is kept on the streets following Blutmai in Berlin.
Nazi propaganda

Although Gregor Strasser had been put in charge of propaganda at the Bamberg conference, this changed in 1929 when Hitler appointed Joseph Goebbels to take charge of Nazi propaganda. Goebbels was highly efficient at spreading the Nazi message. Making use of the new financial backing by wealthy industrialists, Goebbels produced posters, leaflets, films and radio broadcasts; he organised rallies; he set up photo opportunities. He made sure that the Nazi message was simple and was repeated often. The Nazi message was heard everywhere, especially on the radio. The radio had just become a widely affordable household item – Goebbels’ understanding of how the radio could be used to sway public opinion was crucial in generating votes for the Nazis.

Goebbels also understood that Nazi propaganda must suggest to every group in society that the Nazi Party was the Party that could improve their lives. For the working classes the Nazis used an anti-Jewish message, blaming the Jews for Germany’s problems. The propaganda said that the Jews had helped to cause the high level of unemployment, had caused Germany’s defeat in WW1 and were willing to start a revolution in Germany. There was also a strong focus on ‘Work and Bread’ on Nazi propaganda posters, promising people stable work if they voted for the Nazi Party.

For the middle classes the Nazis played on their fear of communism and of a Bolshevik revolution like in Russia. The Russian bear was often portrayed in Nazi propaganda, warning against its viciousness. The Nazis promised to guard against this and stop Germany turning into a new Soviet Union.

A Nazi propaganda poster from 1932 produced for the 1933 General Election. The poster depicts a German worker that is fit and healthy under the Nazi State.
This wasn’t a poster from the early 1930s, but this was a typical piece of Nazi propaganda against the Soviet Union. It depicts the Red Army (The Soviet army) bringing death to the world with communism.
The appeal of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi message

Hitler developed the art of public speaking in the early days of the NSDAP. His speeches attracted many people and helped to increase the membership of the Nazi Party. Hitler was charismatic and he won people over by strength of personality. What he said was also vitally important. In his speeches Hitler appealed to all groups in society. His promises of better pensions and reducing unemployment, appealed to the common man and also many traditional socialists. He appealed to traditionalists like the upper classes by promising to reverse Germany back to ‘traditional values’ – he echoed their arguments for the Weimar government letting Germany slip into chaos by encouraging German women to go out drinking and being sexually liberal. Women should instead be proud to raise a strong Aryan family for Germany.

When he proclaimed that the Nazis would abolish the Treaty of Versailles, many people agreed because they felt that it unfairly punished Germany. Hitler’s comments showing his belief in the supremacy of the German race appealed many who felt as though their country had been unfairly treated.

Hitler’s rallies were often spectacular in their size and appearance. The Nuremberg Rally (above) was held every year by the Nazi Party to gain support from 1923 until 1938.
The SA

Hitler reappointed Ernst Röhm as the leader of the SA in January 1931 and within a year its membership had increased from 100,000 to 170,000. The Nazis used the SA not only to provide protection for their own meetings, but to disrupt the meetings of their opponents, especially the Communist Party.

Hitler wanted to show people that he could stamp out Bolshevik violence and the threat of a communist revolution. In addition the Nazis appealed to people through the SA as it reminded people of the comradeship they shared as soldiers. Many ex-soldiers from World War I who didn’t find a job in Germany found one with Hitler as an SA. Their allegiance to him was immense.

The support and efforts of the SA for Hitler were instrumental in his rise to power. Not only did they appeal to ex-soldiers, they carried out much of the dirty work that Hitler needed to distance himself from as a politician.

‘Hitler was the main reason for the rise in support for the Nazi Party from 1929-33’.
Write down a list of reasons for and against this statement.
How far do you agree with this statment? Briefly explain your answer using evidence from what you have learnt today.

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