On Nov. 18, Tim Meyer’s Peace Train column described “How Adolf Hitler rose to power.” His list of five things seriously destabilizing German society indeed contributed to Hitler’s rise, and Meyer’s account of the 1920s seems accurate except that the renaming of the fledgling party was to National Socialist German Workers, not the English Nazi. The events of the 1930s, however, I think are often misinterpreted.
Whether a coalition of other minority parties was impossible is forever unknown, as the Weimar parliamentary process was obstructed by violence and coercion. Hitler never received a verifiable majority vote, variously estimated 34 to 38 percent in 1932. His appointment by re-elected President (ex-opponent) Paul von Hindenburg as chancellor was probably the result of death threats against the ailing Hindenburg and his defenseless family. The “mysterious” Reichstag fire was fraudulently blamed on a hapless Jew and was probably ordered by Hitler, who illegally seized emergency powers by means of goons who dissuaded objectors with violent intimidation.
Before the Reichstag vote on the Enabling Act, the “paramilitary” goons had arrested many elected members and made clear with armed threats that the vote was to be a sham. Any resemblance of the truly rigged 1934 plebiscite to an honest election of Hitler as permanent dictator is purely illusional, as is that a majority of German people voted with full knowledge that the Nazi regime would be disastrous for minorities.
Hitler also learned a great deal from early fascist idol Mussolini, who preferred the term corporatist and had corporations directly represented in his parliament. Il Duce had teamed with a corrupted Vatican and established it as an independent state to justify extremist religionist zealotry.
Similarly, Hitler established the German Evangelical Church, claiming to subsume all accepted religions within the broadly defined Lebensraum. His propaganda blatantly proclaimed “The Fuehrer is the Herald of a New Revelation” (William L. Shirer, 1960) promising the religiously gullible and extreme rightists to restore Germanic peoples to an exalted level, not just as a superior race but as a higher but primitive, moral, “positivist”-religionist following. Those faith leaders who objected were killed or thrown into concentration camps.
The Nazi regime indeed might as well have had the motto “make Germany great again,” but the voting people of 1932 and their few surviving representatives in 1934 did not give Hitler a mandate — most voted against him and suffered a violent takeover of their country.