Back in the 1920s, Germany had to struggle with multiple political and economic issues. The Treaty of Versailles signed on June 28, 1919, placed the country at the brink of ruin due to immense taxes being imposed on the state. The Weimar Government proved to be incapable of stabilizing the occurring economic situation, which allowed both left and right parties to gain strength and general support. It was the time when the Nazis and Hitler, in particular, started their rise to power. Believing that Germany had ended World War One too soon, Adolf Hitler managed to convince people that the Nazi regime was the only way to abolish the punishment they were all forced to suffer.
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The Effect of the Treaty of Versailles
In 1919, the victorious parties advanced their strict requirements to Germany: either to sign the Treaty of Versailles or to be invaded. While the choice was obvious, German leaders agreed to sign the document and pay the victorious sides for the damages caused by the war (Spielvogel 35). When the terms of the treaty came into force the German Empire became split up and immense reparations were demanded by the winning countries.
The turmoil caused by the occurring situation left the Weimar Government without support, which allowed Adolf Hitler to recapture the initiative and form his political front called the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Spielvogel 35). In the 1930s, when Hitler’s figure became known worldwide, a higher number of sociologists expressed the idea that the Treaty of Versailles formed a background for the new war to breach (Litvin 18). As historical experience shows, their concerns were confirmed on September 1, 1939.
The Economic Collapse and the Popularity of Hitler’s Persona
A massive economic depression created by the treaty had served as a nudge for the Nazis to call to action. Today, some scholars express the opinion that should the economic situation have turned different no one would ever support a radically-minded political force emerging within the state (Litvin 17). Yet, Hitler used the collapse to manipulate people’s minds by promising them a suitable way out and general wellbeing to everyone nationwide.
Considering the number of reparations that Germany had to pay (the initial $63 billion that were later reduced to $28 billion), many German citizens viewed him as the only savior of the nation (Spielvogel 112). Also, the fact that the country’s economy was heavily dependent on loans that could no longer be provided by the USA (due to the Great Depression) contributed to changing the public’s opinion regarding radical movements.
To emphasize the impact of the economic situation on the lives of regular citizens, one needs to deliver the argument that middle-class savings were all wiped out during the years of crisis. Severe inflation that followed the Treaty of Versailles made the inner currency worthless. As Litvin points out, it was so devaluated that some people even burnt it for fuel (19). The banking system collapsed making unemployment grow exponentially: by 1930 its rate reached 22% (Spielvogel 123).
In a country that could find no sustainable solution to fight the economic collapse, violent demonstrations appeared to be a norm. Right-wing propaganda was accompanied by playing on fears of the Communist revolution and its spread all over Europe (Spielvogel 123). German citizens were so concerned about their future that supported Hitler’s party without the slightest doubt.
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The Role of Mass Media
The Nazi party widely used mass media (radio, newspapers, and posters) to criticize the Treaty of Versailles in the masses and develop a required public attitude. They created their own newspaper to spread the message and thus, gain more supporters on their side (Spielvogel 147). One of the fundamental constituents of their success was the use of simple slogans and promoting effective solutions to fight the occurring situation.
One could not deny that Hitler possessed enough charisma to pose himself as a talented campaigner: many viewed him as a leader people had long anticipated. Owing to the practical use of media sources, the Nazis received broad support not only from the working class but from students, intellectuals, and business owners as well (Litvin 20). Several parties even sent them an offer to join forces in Parliament in order to form the majority, which the Nazis willingly accepted. It was obvious that the country demanded a strong leader. Everyone waited for the changes to come, and Hitler was the one to bring those.
The Treaty of Versailles of 1919 made a severe impact on the economy of Germany, while also serving as a nudge for radically-minded parties to come forth and play on the minds of regular citizens. With the rapid increase of both unemployment and inflation rates German society was driven to the point of utmost despair and entire disbelief in the strength of democracy. People were ready to give support to anyone who promised to stabilize the economy and bring wellbeing to the state. Many saw Adolf Hitler as the only candidate capable of fulfilling this task.
Litvin, Elisa. “Peace and Future Cannon Fodder: The Armistice and the Treaty of Versailles.” Agora, vol. 53, no. 2, 2018, pp. 16-21.
Spielvogel, Jackson J. Hitler and Nazi Germany: A History. Routledge, 2016.