Everyone pretty much agrees that the Nazis were evil. So how in the world did they come to control the hearts and minds of a huge majority of Germans?
Strangely, the first step in Hitler’s ascension to total control of the German state began nearly by random chance. As a young corporal, Hitler was sent to monitor the activities of the somewhat suspect German Worker’s Party (DAP). Inspired by his oratory skills, members of the DAP instated him as chairman. The DAP primarily appealed to the working class, though Hitler himself had no sympathy for socialist goals. To many young working men and women, the DAP’s promise to solve Germany’s economic problems proved especially attractive.
The Nazi platform was direct and fed on the bitterness of harshly treated post-war Germany. All of Germany’s problems led back to its loss in World War One, which was entirely the fault of the Jews, of communists, and of Germans failing to participate in the war effort. In addition Jews were in control of all immoral big business, as well as the foreign aggressors like France and Britain. Events like the French occupation of the Ruhr industrial region (because of German failure to meet reparation payments) only served to strengthen the average German’s nationalist leanings.
The Nazis had their own paramilitary forces, the SA, along with thousands of supporters. The time to seize power had arrived and Hitler allied with the new German army to overthrow the established government in the famous but failed Beer hall putsch. The party was reformed a short while later, with Hitler as its supreme leader. The German depression of the 1930’s brought about immense support and the parties opposed to the Nazis seemed unable to create an effective solution. The Nazis eventually wrestled Hitler into position as the head of cabinet, and, with the burning of the Reichstag, they had an excuse to eliminate much of their political opposition through a well executed placing of blame.
Hitler quickly plunged the state into a form of martial law and eventually made himself a supreme leader of Germany after abolishing key provisions in the German Constitution. The Nazi rise to power had momentous affects on the course of history. Their policies most likely began or at least hastened the onset of the Second World War, and their extreme ideology led to one of the worst genocides in history. Strangely, their lack of a clear decision making process at times cost them battles and resources and their fanatical devotion to the extermination of the Jews at times outweighed even the most urgent wartime considerations. Nevertheless, they drew devotion and military might out of a tired, frustrated nation to an extent that has become infamous in the course of world events.