|When the stock market crashed on
October 29, 1929, the German economy was affected nearly as
strongly as the American economy beause of all of the foreign
investment from the United States. The United States was in such
dire need of money it asked Germany to pay back its loans at once,
which sent the German economy careening downward once again.
Hitler had broadened his appeal with the wealthy socialites during the quiet years and had increased the membership of the Nazi party to over 100,000 people but he needed to do much better to be elected to any kind of high position.
The Great Depression also split up the Reichstag, or German parliament. The congress was sharply divided on how to combat this economic peril and no one was willing to compromise. The result was a stagnant economy that went unchallenged. As a last resort, president Hindenburg dissolved the Reichstag in July of 1930 and called for new elecions to be held in September.
Hitler and the Nazis sprang into action, fiercely campaigning all over Germany. Goebbels launched a tremendous media campaign and held thousands of meetings and parades. During speeches, Hitler told his audience what they wanted to hear. He made outrageous promises without giving any details. He always arrived late to add to build tension. His halls were elaborately decorated with Nazi paraphenalia and military music exploding out of the speakers. Hitlers speeches would begin low and soft, but they would slowly rise to a high-pitched, over-the-top, righteous crescendo. This technique builded excitement so well that practically everyone was screaming in a quasi-religious ferver.
On September 14, 1930, the Nazis received 6,371,000 hard-won votes, eighteen percent of the total. By law, the Nazis now possessed 107 seats in the Reichstag. Hitler was something of a celebrity and his book was selling tens of thousands of copies. Money was steadily streaming in from wealthy German industrialists and the whole party was on its way up. The Germany General Staff were also supporting Hitler, mostly due to his promise to tear up the Treaty of Versailles.
Meanwhile, Hitler was having personal problems. Although Hitler's young girlfriend Geli adored all the attention and special treatment she got as the beloved of a powerful figure, she often flirted with men her own age. Geli's many romance's angered Hitler although he himself had been suiting after a seventeen year old named Eva Braun. Hitler responded to Geli's faithlessness by installing two Nazi SA chaperones to follow her at all times. She felt trapped. Finally, when Hitler forbade her to leave the apartment while he went away on a trip, she shot herself through the heart.
Hitler was extremely depressed. He couldn't eat or sleep. Herman Göring remarked later that Hitler was a changed man after the suicide of the only woman he ever loved. For some reason, when served ham some days after Geli's passing, Hitler was disgusted. He said eating it would be like eating a corpse, and he never ate meat again.
He arose from this sad state, though, to challenge President Hindenburg in the 1932 election. Goebbels created another tremendous campaign, this time incorporating film and phonographs. Hitler won over eleven million votes, 30% of the total. Hindenburg received over 18 million votes, 49% of the total. Since no one had a true majority, a run-off election was required. Hitler traveled cross-country making wild promises and positive messages. On April 10, 1932, the run-off took place. Hitler received 13,418,547 votes, or 36%. Hindenburg took in 19,359,983 votes, 53% of the total. Although they had lost, the Nazis showed tremendous popularity and the current government seemed unstable at best.
By 1932, Hitler's Nazi storm troopers numbered over 400,000 and the German government felt ill at ease. In April, Heinrich Bruening, the Chancellor of Germany, banned the SA and SS, the two divisions of Hitler's violent task force. After some shady dealings with a German officer striving for power, Hitler had the ban lifted. With their regained freedom, the SA and SS roamed the streets looking for fights. Fist fights and gun battles were commonplace.
On July 17, later known as "Bloody Sunday," the Nazis entered a Communist area of Germany and had an extended gun battle resulting in nineteen dead and 300 wounded. On July 31st, Germany voted again; this time the Nazis received 37% of the vote allowing them the majority of seats in the Reichstag. Hitler demanded the to become chancellor, but the president would only offer vice-chancellorship. Hitler was outraged. Before being ousted by the new Nazi goverment, the chancellor dissolved the reichstag and called for elections yet again.
This time, however, the Nazis were tiring of the constant campaigning and Hitler devoted much of his time to his girlfriend, Eva Braun. Eva had shot herself in the neck for wont of attention and Hitler stayed by her in the hospital from that point on. When the voting came on November 6, the Nazis lost two million votes or thirty four seats in the Reichstag. Even so, the government was more unstable than ever, the chancellor and a former chancellor were vying for power, and then a rumor circulated that the former chancellor (the officer Hitler worked with to gain strength) was back stabbing the president. President Hindengburg immediately appointed Hitler Chancellor.
On his first day in office, Hitler manipulated Hindenburg into dissolving the Reichstag and calling for new elections on March 5, 1933. Hitler and other high ranking Nazis hatched a plan to seize absolute power. They helped a Communist arsonist set the Reichstag on fire and then claimed it was a Communist plot. Hindenburg signed a state of emergency decree giving Hitler temporarily unlimited powers that normally violated the German constitution.
On the March 5 Election, Hitler won 44% of the vote; he needed a two thirds majority in the Reichstag to have a legal dictatorship. Hitler was able to win this majority thanks to the emergency decree. He used his new found powers to simply arrest any non-Nazi representative. On March 23, the Nazi Reichstag, with Hitler as President, passed a law giving Hitler complete dictatorial powers. From there Hitler would send German troops to occupy the Rhineland and conduct a systematic invasion of Europe starting World War II.