The Weakness of the Nazi Party in the 1920s

The Weakness of the Nazi Party in the 1920s
During the years 1924 to 1928 Germany enjoyed a period of relative economic prosperity and political and social stability. Stresemann and Schachts work at rebuilding the economy with the Rentenmark had had good effect, and the Dawes Plan allowed the annual repayments to be reduced. Prices were stable and relatively low which meant that German society was stable, because of this there seemed to be no room for extremist political views and people tended to vote more toward centre parties such as the spd. At this time the Nazi Party had been officially dissolved, and without Hitler (who was in prison for his part in the Munich Putsch) as head begun to break up into warring factions. Several former Nazis had made alliances with other right-wing Parties who contested the 1924 election, ten of whom got into the Reichstag, making Hitler fume at their betrayal. When Hitler was released from prison Germany was much more stable than it had been when he had been sentenced which meant that there was considerably less scope for extremist views to cause upheaval, even when presented by a gifted speaker like Hitler. The Party had disintegrated under Rosenberg?s leadership and the Party was no longer a credible force in Germany. In 1926 Hitler called the Bamberg Conference, this was something of a gamble, as he wanted to restore the Party?s unity and agree a future programme, yet he did not want to encourage those who wanted a more socialist regime. He stage-managed the proceedings. Bamberg was chosen to hold the meeting because it was the centre of nationalistic Germany, and the majority of local people attending would support his views.
Hitler dominated proceeding, turning a so-called ?debate? into a five-hour monologue. He pleaded with the delegates ?not to trample on the memory of the National Socialist dead?, and skilfully brought the right and left together. Despite this the deep differences between the nationalists and socialists remained. Hitler believed that the Republic?s stability would not last and wanted to be in a position to exploit the crisis he believed would come. He planned a new framework for the Nazi Party; each Gau (region) of Germany was assigned a Gauleiter (leader). The regions had no standardised size until 1926 when they were reorganised to correspond with the established electoral districts. Each Gau was subdivided into Kreise (districts) which were put under control of Kreisleiters. Each Kreis was divided again into Ortsgruppen (a city or town) supervised by an Ortsgruppenleiter. Later towns were divided into Zellen (districts) looked after by Zellenleiters, and groups of houses or blocks of flats, Blocks, placed under Blockleiters. All the units had limited control of matters relevant to themselves, but Hitler controlled the structure. Discipline was enforced by a system of courts called Uschla that had the power to replace leaders and expel members. The reorganisation of the entire Nazi Party by Hitler allowed him to re-emerge as the ?Fuhrer?, admired and aspired to by all other Nazis. When the restructuring of the SA is added to this the Nazi Party became a well-run political party based on a nation-wide structure. Members of the SA were given clearly defined responsibilities, primarily protecting Nazi speakers at meeting, but also spreading Nazi propaganda and organising demonstrations against the Communists and Jews, but their behaviour was more restrained than previously to limit the possibility of them causing the Party to be banned again. The Storm Troopers had a core of young men at their centre, most united in their hatred of Communism, commitment to Hitler, love of excitement and violence and desire for a purpose in life. Half the SA were working class, mostly unemployed, so the free soup, uniform and occasional hostel accommodation that the Nazis provided helped to encourage membership. In 1926 the Hitler Youth was formed to rival other longer established German youth organisations. Groups were also established for professionals such as doctors, lawyers and teachers. The Nazis spread their message to those in distress and the underprivileged by setting up soup kitchens and food donations. The Nazi Welfare Organisation?s chief, Gregor Strasser, who set up the soup kitchens and food donations built up such an efficient structure that it could easily exploit the post-Wall Street crash poverty. Party propaganda was centralised under Josef Goebbels, but attention was also paid to local propaganda. Voters and members were won over by personal contacts or through attending a meeting addressed by a local speaker. Key individuals in a local community were targeted as in a position of power useful to the Nazis if they became a member, the Party would try to convert them and it was hoped they would influence others. As Nazi membership grew concerted door-to-door campaigning and leafleting increased. Direct mailing was used to gain voters and pamphlets were publicised. During the July 1932 election 600 000 copies of their Immediate Economic Programme pamphlet were distributed. Posters were put up promoting simple messages in what was offered and how they portrayed their opponents. The Nazis were a powerful propaganda machine and using a set of rituals that distinguished them from other parties was a method that produced frenzy. The ?Hiel Hitler? salute was sure to encourage waves of shouting when a Nazi speaker showed it to a crowd. The mass rallies increased this also because the SA, Hitler Youth or other organisations marched with real devotion that caused onlookers to want to ?join in the spirit?. Any mass rally is likely to cause excitement simply due to the gathering of a large group of people, but with a good speaker to ?whip up the crowd?, mass hysteria often ensued. Effort was put into training speakers. They were licensed by the Nazis to ensure quality and were provided with booklets on propaganda techniques and policies. The latest technologies as well as traditional forms were used to excite the masses. Loudspeakers, slide shows, films, planes, mass rallies, marches in uniform and drill were all used. Music, lighting and the display of enthusiasm created hyped support for the Party. During the 1924 May and December elections the Nazi Party got no seats, although some Nazis were elected as part of the Volkisch-Nationaler Block. During these elections Hitler was in imprisoned, and the poor election results were probably because of Rosenberg?s poor leadership and the Party rifts. The 1928 election showed increased support for the Party, with the Nazis gaining 12 seats. Although the 12 seats of the May 1928 election was nothing compared to the Social Democrats majority of 153 seats it definitely showed that the Party?s new tactics and propaganda was working, that the foundations for future success had been laid. If the Wall Street crash had not occurred in October 1929 it is difficult to make judgement over whether the Nazis would still have gained power in a stable environment. However, it was fortuitous for Hitler that the crash did occur because society was ready for any answer to its problems. The extremist views, the answers to questions and blame the Nazis laid on the Weimar Republic was just the solution wanted by the Germans, and allowed Hitler to gain power.

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