Adolf Hitler's rise to power
Adolf Hitler's rise to power began in the newly established Weimar Republic in September 1919 when Hitler joined the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP; German Workers' Party). He rose to a place of prominence in the early years of the party. Being one of its best speakers, he was made the party leader after he threatened to otherwise leave.
In 1920, the DAP renamed itself to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – NSDAP (National Socialist German Workers' Party, commonly known as the Nazi Party). Hitler chose this name to win over German workers. Despite the NSDAP being a right-wing party, it had many anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois elements. Hitler later initiated a purge of these elements and reaffirmed the Nazi Party's pro-business stance. By 1922 Hitler's control over the party was unchallenged. In 1923, Hitler and his supporters attempted a coup in Bavaria. This seminal event was later called the Beer Hall Putsch. Upon its failure, Hitler escaped, only to be subsequently arrested and put on trial. The trial proved to be a blessing in disguise for Hitler, as it garnered him national fame. Hitler was sentenced to five years, but he only served eight months. During this time, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf, which became the vade mecum of National Socialism. Once released, Hitler switched tactics; he was going to seize power through legal and democratic means.
Hitler, armed with his newfound celebrity, began furiously campaigning. During the 1920s, Hitler and the Nazis ran on a platform consisting of anti-communism, antisemitism, and ultranationalism. Nazi party leaders vociferously criticized the ruling democratic government and the Treaty of Versailles, while proselytizing their desire to turn Germany into a world power. At this time, most Germans were indifferent to Hitler's rhetoric as the German economy was beginning to recover in large part due to loans from the United States under the Dawes Plan. The German political landscape was dramatically affected by the 1929 Wall Street Crash, which hampered economic aid to Germany. The Great Depression brought the German economy to a halt and further polarized German politics. Hitler and the Nazis began to exploit the crisis and loudly criticized the ruling government. During this tumultuous time, the German Communist Party also began campaigning and called for a revolution. Business leaders, fearful of a communist takeover, began supporting the Nazi party. In 1932 the Nazis held the largest number of seats in the Reichstag, albeit short of an absolute majority. Seeking to capture the rising Nazi electoral success, Hitler ran for the presidency in 1932 but was defeated by the incumbent Paul von Hindenburg.
1933 was a pivotal year for Hitler and the Nazi Party. Traditionally, the leader of the party who held the most seats in the Reichstag was appointed Chancellor. However, President Paul von Hindenburg was hesitant to appoint Hitler as chancellor. Following several backroom negotiations – which included industrialists, Hindenburg's son, the former chancellor Franz von Papen, and Hitler – Hindenburg acquiesced and on 30 January 1933, he formally appointed Adolf Hitler as Germany's new chancellor. Although he was chancellor, Hitler was not yet an absolute dictator.
The groundwork for the Nazi dictatorship was laid when the Reichstag was set on fire in February. Believing the communists were behind the arson, Hitler convinced Paul von Hindenburg to pass the Reichstag Fire Decree, which severely curtailed the liberties and rights of German citizens. Using the decree, Hitler began eliminating his political opponents. In Hitler's eyes the decree was insufficient and he proposed the Enabling Act of 1933. This law gave the German government the power to override individual rights prescribed by the constitution. The law also gave the Chancellor (Hitler) emergency powers to pass and enforce laws without parliamentary oversight. The Enabling Act was passed in March and by April, Hitler held de facto dictatorial powers and used them to order the construction of the first Nazi concentration camp at Dachau for communists and other political opponents. Hitler's rise to power was completed in August 1934 when President Paul von Hindenburg died. Hitler merged the Chancellorship with the Presidency and became the Führer of Germany.
In retrospect, Hitler's rise to power was aided in part by his willingness to use violence in advancing his political objectives and to recruit party members willing to do the same. Furthermore, Hitler went out of his way to seek financial support from wealthy businessmen, without whose support his assumption of power would have been impossible. Hitler framed their partnership as an essential factor in defeating the rising threat of communism. The party engaged in electoral battles in which Hitler participated as a speaker and organizer. Street battles and violence also erupted between the Communists' Rotfrontkämpferbund and the Nazis' Sturmabteilung (SA).
Once the Nazi dictatorship was firmly established, the Nazis themselves created a mythology surrounding their rise to power. German propaganda described this time period as either the Kampfzeit (the time of struggle) or the Kampfjahre (years of struggle).