A sharply focused study of the many poor decisions that ended with Hitler's taking power.
German journalists Barth and Friedrichs deliver a day-to-day chronicle of events from Nov. 17, 1932, when the cabinet concluded that Germany needed a government of “national aggregation,” until Jan. 30, 1933, when Hitler became chancellor. Depression-era elections vaulted the Nazis from an obscure fringe into the largest party in the republic, but few paid attention when a journalist wrote, “fifty thousand Bolsheviks made the Russian revolution….Five hundred thousand Fascists put Mussolini in power in Italy. Adolf Hitler has a possible twelve million voters behind the National Socialist Party in Germany. How long can the life of the German republic last?” Worsening unemployment and violence between left and right stirred fears of a civil war, which would have overwhelmed Germany’s army, kept small by the Treaty of Versailles. President Paul von Hindenburg considered the Nazis vulgar riffraff, but not all fellow conservatives agreed. After an inconclusive early November election, Chancellor Franz von Papen wanted the Nazis to join a coalition government, but Hitler refused any office besides chancellor. Von Papen then resigned, and Hindenburg appointed the defense minister, Gen. Kurt von Schleicher. Still close to the president and yearning to regain power, von Papen worked hard to frustrate Schleicher while appealing for Nazi support. Hitler refused to budge, and in January, von Papen convinced himself that he could control Hitler. He agreed to serve under him as vice-chancellor and persuaded Hindenburg to make the appointments. It was a mistake. In this meticulously researched narrative, the authors emphasize that stupidity, not destiny, led to the Third Reich. Hitler’s party could never win a majority in free elections, and many high-ranking Nazis, yearning for power, were on the verge of rebellion due to Hitler’s refusal to join the government. A left-center coalition offered hope, but the Communists took orders from Stalin, who hated rival leftist parties and forbade it.
An expert and highly disheartening history of a dictator’s early rise.