The Beerhall Putsch of 1923, Hitler’s first attempt to take power, had failed, and Hitler was sentenced to 5 years in prison. While in prison he wrote ”Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) which was to become the Bible of the Nazi movement.
It is symptomatic that Hitler had been allowed to make a grand speed at the trial. This shows the sympathetic attitude of the court system towards his ideas. The personnel of the courts were no strong supporters of the new Weimar Republic.
The speech was published all over Germany and made Hitler known as a strong nationalist leader. He only served nine months at the Landsberg prison whereafter he was released on probation.
When released, Hitler found a Nazi party (NSDAP) in disarray. The groups of Berlin, lead by the Strasser brothers, were pulling in one direction whilst the Munich Nazis were more anti-semitic and nationalistic in their ideas. Furthermore, Streseman had solved the crisis of 1923 and Germany had experienced progress. Therefore, the Nazi had very little support in the Reichstag.
The NSDAP after Hitler’s freeing
Hitler did not mind that the Nazi party was weak and split when he was release. Now he could take control and shape the party. At the 1926 Party Congress in Bamberg, Hitler did just this.
The Strasser group had on its side a strong PR expert, Dr. Joseph Göbbels, who intended to ”defeat” Hitler at the said meeting. Instead however, Göbbels was impressed by Hitler and actually joined his camp.
Furthermore, Hitler managed to introduce some key principles into the party ground rules; the ”FÃ¼hrer Prinzip” (i.e. Hitler would from now on be the leader and he alone would make important decisions to be obeyed) and he also decided that power was now to be reached not through violent coup d’Ã©tat but rather by working within the democratic system and winning elections for the Reichstag.
After Bamberg in 1926 the main problem for Hitler remained the lack of Nazi support in the Reichstag. During the booming German economy a party of the discontented like the NSDAP had hard times winning popular support.
The NSDAP gains votes (1929->)
By 1927 the situation of German farmers was deteriorating. The Nazis reacted on this and started to go out in the countryside offering help and support to the peasants. In the elections from 1930 and onwards it became apparent that a large majority of Germany’s farmers voted Nazi.
In 1930, the last SPD Chancellor, MÃ¼ller, resigned. The economic crisis was causing a massive growth of unemployment and the government couldn’t find majority support in the Reichstag for its policies.
In May 1930, Heinrich BrÃ¼ning (Catholic Centre Party) was appointed Chancellor by President Hindenburg. BrÃ¼ning was reluctant to increase government spending on subsidies for companies and support for the unemployed – as he had the 1923 hyperinflation in fresh memory.
At no cost did he want to risk the occurrence of a new inflation. For this, BrÃ¼ning earned the nickname ”The Hunger Chancellor”. He was Chancellor until 1932, running a minority coalition.
Therefore, the government was completely dependent upon the presidential emergency decree (Article 48), which was used at an increasing rate.
The Backstairs Intrigue
BrÃ¼ning tried to create support for his government in 1930 by asking for new elections. However, the situation in the Reichstag just deteriorated.
The extremist parties won more seats (the NSDAP won 107 seats, the KPD 77 seats) which was quite the opposite of what he had hoped. Now he became even more dependent on the presidential decree.
The Nazi paramilitary organization, Sturmabteilung (SA), became very active, creating violence in the streets and picking fights with the communist bands.
The SA had by the early 1930’s grown into an organization of 2.5 million men, lead by Ernst Röhm. In order to try to restore calm in the cities, BrÃ¼ning imposed a ban on the SA in 1930.
They were no longer allowed to parade the streets in uniform. With the dysfunctional situation in the Reichstag, influence over President Hindenburg instead became the key factor for political power.
He was during 1930-1933 very much listening to the advice of General Kurt von Schleicher.
The Intrigue evolves
von Schleicher had suggested the choice of BrÃ¼ning as Chancellor. By 1932 however, von Schleicher had begun to disagree with BruÂ¨ning’s anti-Nazi attitude.
In May 1932, at von Schleicher’s advice, Hindenburg withdrew his support for BrÃ¼ning and dismissed him. Franz von Paper was appointed and formed a government which was named the ”Government of Barons” due to all of it’s ministers being noble.
Hoping for support in the Reichstag, von Papen asked for new elections. The result was more than 50% of the seats in favor of the extremists, and the Nazis had now the biggest party with 37% of the seats.
In order to please Hitler, von Papen lifted the ban on the SA. Furthermore, Hitler is offered a port in Papen’s new government, but he refuses to accept anything but the Chancellorship.
Thus, von Papen’s new government is left completely dependent upon Article 48. By November, the economic depression and political violence had plunged German society even deeper into chaos.
Now, von Schleicher asked the President to dismiss Papen. He had a plan.