Turner (History/Yale; cd., Hitler: Memoirs of a Confidant, 1985, etc.) presents a compelling day-by-day account of the final month of unlikely parliamentary maneuvers that led to Adolf Hitler's appointment as Germany's chancellor in January 1933. By the autumn of 1932, Hitler's Nazi movement seemed in decline. Riven by internal disputes and hurt by competing right-wing movements, the Nazis had polled poorly in the November 1932 Reichstag elections. Also, although the Nazis retained a powerful presence in the chamber because of a July 1932 electoral triumph, their parliamentary clout was diminished by the Reichstag's impotence: The chamber was hamstrung by large factions of right- and left-wing extremists, and Germany's president, Paul von Hindenburg, and the cabinets appointed by him ruled largely by fiat. Hitler's key to power lay in the hands of Hindenburg and in the two former army officers who held the chancellorship immediately before Hitler, Franz von Papen and Kurt von Schleicher. Turner makes clear that without Hindenburg's obtuseness, Schleicher's ineptitude, and Papen's overweening ambition, Hitler would not have been appointed chancellor. Schleicher, formerly a friend of Papen's, made it possible for him to become chancellor. Papen, tremendously unpopular as chancellor, exploited his close relationship with Hindenburg to have Hitler appointed because he felt he could control the Nazis. Based on Hitler's false assurances, Papen overcame Hindenburg's revulsion to Hitler. After his appointment, Hitler immediately took steps to consolidate his own power and achieve access to the president's emergency powers, which he used to destroy the Weimar Republic and create his dictatorship. In assessing responsibility for Hitler's rise, Turner makes the interesting argument that a military dictatorship by the likes of Schleicher or Papen, although abhorrent, would have been preferable to the establishment of Hitler as dictator. Turner gives a chilling account of how the failure of democratic processes can give rise to dictatorship.
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996
Page Count: 272
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996
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