Hitler's Appointment as Chancellor

On the 30th January 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor by President Hindenburg. The Weimar Government was struggling at this time, with the two previous Chancellors; von Papen and von Schleicher both holding the position of Chancellor for very short stints. Leading up to this, since the collapse of Muller’s Social Democratic Party led Coalition, Chancellors were unable to sustain their rule for significant periods of time. This is because proportional representation meant that there were many parties with divergent interests in the Reichstag, so it was impossible to gain a majority and support for new laws. This highlighted the failure of Weimar democracy, with Hindenburg having to use Article 48 to pass almost every new law.

Key events leading up to Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor:

  • In April 1932, the Weimar Presidential election was held. The result was Hindenburg re-elected, winning 53% of the vote, whilst Hitler came second to Hindenburg with 36.8%.

  • In May, Chancellor Brüning resigned, and the non-party conservative, Franz Von Papen was appointed by Hindenburg.

  • The July Reichstag elections resulted in the Nazis becoming the largest party as they obtained a total of 230 seats. With this in mind, Hitler demanded to be made Chancellor, but Papen continued to remain with Hindenburg’s support.

  • Again, von Papen called another round of Reichstag elections in November as he wished to win a majority in parliament. Although the Nazis lost 34 seats, they still remained the largest party as they had 196 seats at this time.

  • In December, Von Papen resigned, but Hindenburg was still unwilling to appoint the Nazi extremist as Chancellor, so he appointed the army general, Kurt Von Schleicher, as Chancellor. Von Schleicher tried to split the Nazi Party by asking one of the leaders, Gregor Strasser, to be his Vice-Chancellor. Hitler forced Strasser to decline.

  • In the end, von Schleicher proved to be even less successful than his predecessors. Less than two months later, Hitler succeeded him as Chancellor.

Graph showing votes from 1928 to 1933 for the four largest parties

Why did Hindenburg appoint Hitler as Chancellor?

Firstly, Hitler’s personal strengths made him a prime candidate for the Chancellorship.

  • He had a charismatic and persuasive speaking ability, especially as he was able to appeal to all social classes.

  • Furthermore, he had a long and established political career as he had been a party leader since 1921.

  • He was able to successfully convince the German public to support the Nazi party, portraying himself as the saviour for all German people with his proposals appealing to those who suffered from the Great Depression, those who were angered by the Treaty of Versailles, and those who saw and criticised the failures of the Weimar Government.

  • His previous military experience and aims enabled him to gain greater support from the military.

    • Hitler wished to abolish the Treaty and gain the land lost under the Treaty of Versailles, whilst also restoring the national pride of the large, powerful army.

      • This was popular among the army and Freikorps who had lost their positions as a result of the disarmament.

Secondly, the image, proposals of Nazism and propaganda contributed to the success of Hitler and the party.

  • Joseph Goebbels, who was in charge of propaganda, was able to amass large numbers of supporters for the Nazi Party.

  • Hitler also had many supporters in rural towns all across Germany, which other parties didn’t reach. The Nazi Party began to provide rural towns with communal loudspeakers, on which Hitler’s messages and speeches were broadcast.

  • Hitler also received a massive amount of support from farmers, students and lower & middle-class people.

Thirdly, the detrimental effects of the Great Depression also contributed to Hitler’s eventual appointment as Chancellor.

  • In 1933, 6 million people of the working population (equivalent to one-third) were now unemployed. The economy had collapsed as the US loans which were supporting the economy had been recalled.

  • As a result of this, Hitler’s extremist policies were much more appealing, whilst the Nazis themselves presented solutions to the economic problems and promised to restore the strength of not just the German economy, but also their military.

Fourthly, the failure and weaknesses of the Weimar politicians themselves allowed Hitler to rise in popularity.

  • The Weimar Government did little to solve the financial crisis, believing that it would solve itself, as it had done in the slump of 1926. However, this idea never solidified.

  • The policies that the Weimar Government did eventually implement actually degraded the support for the government.

    • Chancellor Brüning’s tax increases, wage cuts and reduced government spending in the early 1930s exacerbated the problem and struggles of the German people and caused further resentment towards the Government among the German people who were already struggling to feed themselves.

    • Furthermore, German industries were severely losing business and the government was unable to obtain investments from German investors or international loans.

  • Hitler, on the other hand, was an industrialist, and his policy of investment in German industry, with the goal of achieving autarky, was popular to struggling industries.

  • He also promised to improve the lives of peasants and workers, who made up a large part of the German population.

In the end, the elites contributed to Hitler’s rise to power.

  • Von Papen and Von Schleicher were both unpopular as Chancellors. Therefore, Von Papen convinced President Hindenburg to appoint Hitler as Chancellor, with von Papen as Vice-Chancellor, believing that Hitler could then be controlled (this failed).

  • Meanwhile, Hitler gained the support of rich industrialists Thyssen and Kirdorff, promising to control the leftist Nazis, whilst his anti-communism was also appealing.

  • In the end, Hindenburg did decide to appoint Hitler as Chancellor (with Von Papen as Vice-Chancellor) and this was backed by Hitler’s significant rich industrial supporters.