How did Hitler Rise to Power?

From the Lecture Series: Secret Societies

By Richard B. Spence Ph.D., University of Idaho

After Adolf Hitler took over the Nazi Party, the Party was still a small regional one with a very small number of members compared to the German population. He even went to prison in 1923 for his failed attempt to seize power. He took advantage of the political and economic crisis in Germany at that time. His imprisonment due to the Beer Hall Putsch brought him national fame and recognition. But how did he actually attain power?

Rare vintage 1930s Italian stamp depicting the dictators, Hitler and Mussolini.
A rare vintage stamp depicting Hitler and Mussolini. (Image: Mark Yuill/Shutterstock)

In 1924, When the Nazis entered national politics, they gained a very small percentage of the vote (6.5%). The party continued to get disappointing results in 1928. These weak results raised questions about Adolf Hitler’s leadership and rivals emerged. One of these rivals was Gregor Strasser, the Nazi boss in Berlin. He criticized Hitler for being too close too the capitalists. Hitler’s reaction to these criticisms was establishing a personal guard, SS, and gaining absolute control over the party.

Hitler and Nazi’s Funders

Despite his party’s anti-capitalist views, Hitler had to keep close to the German capitalists. Their funds depended on the funds of the Weimar Republic. The economic conditions were adverse, with the unemployment rate going up steadily. The party’s need for money could only be fulfilled by big men in the business.

This is a transcript from the video series Secret Societies. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Mussolini, circa 1920
Benito Mussolini was the 27th Prime Minister of Italy. (Image: Unknown author / Public domain)

Major cartels like I.G. Farben had German industry and finance under their tight control to the point that they had turned into a secret society. Although they didn’t like Hitler, they preferred Nazism to communism. Fritz Thyssen, the steel tycoon, Emil Kirchdorf, the coal king, and even Benito Mussolini were among the people who helped Hitler fund his party. Others included Sir Henri Deterding, the oil tycoon, Henry Ford, the famous American automaker, and Moses Pinkeles, a rich Jew from Munich.

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Hitler’s Lucky Break–Rising to Power

These contributions were not enough for Hitler to spread the party’s propaganda on a national level. The wall street crash in 1929 brought a good opportunity for the Nazi Party. As unemployment rose over the next three years so did the party’s vote in the German parliament. By 1932, the votes that Hitler’s party polled reached 37% and 33% in two elections. This gave the Nazi party access to large amounts of money they needed for their propaganda. But where did this money come from? There are many guesses, rumors, and speculations about the sources of the Nazi Party’s funding.

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Speculations About the Nazi’s Funds

Hitler in 1934 as Germany's Head of State
Adolf Hitler in 1934. (Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A/CC-BY-SA 3.0/CC BY-SA 3.0 DE/Public domain)

A book that was published in the Netherlands in 1933, The Financial Origins of National Socialism, seems to answer this question. It is allegedly the memoir of a Sidney Warburg, an American banker. The book claims that Sidney Warburg acted as a middleman between Hitler and a group of Wall Street and London bankers to provide Hitler 32 million dollars. However, there are serious doubts raised regarding the truth of the accounts given in the book. The identity of the writer, for example, does not match anyone in real life. Also, the real events that are mentioned in the book are told out of sequence. What is more, the real Warburgs were Jewish.

It is assumed that the real writer of the book is its translator, Jean Gustave Shoup. He was a con-man and writer from Belgium. Supposedly, his source was Gregor Strasser, Hitler’s rival. The book was revoked by the publisher under pressure from unknown powerful sources. Another speculation is that the book was a ‘burn operation’: a mixture of truth and fiction to dismiss truth as fiction in the future.

Another allegation is mentioned in a book by Guido Preparata, the American historian. He purports that the great depression in 1929 was intentionally engineered by a secret fraternity of international bankers to help Hitler rise to power in the chaos. He thinks that Hitler was a tool in the hands of Anglo-Saxon elites who used German politics as a puppet to help them carry out their political conspiracies.

Other theories purport he was a tool in the hands of magicians. He has been viewed as being connected to dark forces. Even Jung, the German psychoanalyst, believed that the spirit of Wotan, the Germanic war-deity, can be sensed in Hitler. Joachim Fest, the German historian, depicts him as the ‘unperson’. He believes that Hitler does not exist apart from his historical character.

If anything, Hitler was an opportunist who took advantage of the chaos and rose to power. He also had the support of his army superiors who saw him as ‘a stray dog looking for a master’.

Common Questions about Hitler’s Rise to Power

Q: What factors enabled Hitler’s rise to power?

A variety of different factors enabled Hitler’s rise to power. The role of secret societies has always been a possibility. Also, he took advantage of the chaotic social and economic situation after the First World War.

Q: In what year did the Nazis become the largest party in the German Reichstag?

In 1932, the Nazi Party polled 37% votes in the German Reichstag. This was the first time that Hitler, as the leader of the party, had the chance to be the German Chancellor.

Q: How many votes did the Nazis get in 1930?

In 1930, the Nazis got 18% of the votes in the German Reichstag. This year, the Nazi Party became the second-largest party in Germany.

Q: How many seats did the Nazis win in 1928?

In May 1928, the Nazi Party got 2.6% of the votes. It saw a decrease compared to the 3% vote in 1924. However, in the coming years, the Nazi Party continued to grow until it had 37% of the votes in 1932.

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