There’s no doubt that the Nazi party gained popular support in the beginning of the 1930’s. The Nazis had become a sort of “catch all” kind of party, and many people were swept up in the dynamism and promise of National Socialism. They quickly gained seats in the Reichstag and made allies in powerful institutions such as the army or the universities. Adolf Hitler was a rising leader with fervent rhetoric and radical notions. However, was it inevitable that the Nazi’s would seize power and dismantle the Weimar Republic? Not really.
The Nazis came across a few fortunate circumstances that were able to push them over the top. The Nazis never technically won a majority in any of the truly democratic elections. In fact, Hindenburg, the last president of the republic and a staunch right-wing war hero, couldn’t stand Hitler and thought he was nothing but a fanatical thug. However, after the US market crash in 1929, Germany sunk into a deep economic crisis. The Nazis used this economic turmoil to convince the German people that the current government wasn’t going to take away their troubles, but the Nazis would under National Socialism. Unemployment was at a record high with almost six million people out of work. Not all those who voted for the Nazis were as enthusiastically anti-semitic as Hitler, but the promise of work and bread pushed them to vote for the Nazis anyway.
After Hindenburg granted Hitler emergency powers to calm the political turmoil, the republic was in deep danger, but all was not lost. Votes of no confidence, protests, and many other measures could have saved the republic or perhaps prolonged its existence. However, the Nazis got another stroke of good luck. A fire broke out in the Reichstag. In actuality, the perpetrator was a young Dutch communist named Marinus van der Lubbe who took sole responsibility for the fire. Nonetheless, the Nazis used this crisis as justification to blame the entire political left and suspend all civil liberties.
The Third Reich had begun.