|Hitler Feigns Respect for President von Hindenburg,|
who dies later that day (August 2, 1934).
How Hitler Became Chancellor
Since Germany was a strong democracy in the 1920s and marginalized Hitler, it is worth dissecting the steps by which the democracy was given up:
- Hitler had already exploited the loss of German face under the Treaty of Versailles. Now he used the Crash of 1929 as a means for further attacking the Weimar Republic for failing to protect the German people from the Crash and subsequent Depression. Hitler won financial backing from business leaders, to whom Nazis leaders promised to break the German labor unions.
- The crisis of capitalism created an opportunity for Hitler to appeal to the public for a better deal. In 1930 Hitler's support jumped to 18 percent of the German vote, six million votes, making the Nazis Germany's second-largest party.
- In 1932, an anti-Nazi coalition tried to make sure that the Nazis lost votes in the election contest for President of Germany between Paul von Hindenburg (84) and Hitler. But the Nazi share grew to 37 percent. Although von Hindenburg was reelected, he was afraid of the growth of the Nazis.
- In January 1933, von Hindenburg–although he despised Adolf Hitler–sought to control Hitler by appointing him as Germany's Chancellor.
How Hitler Became President as Well, and Führer
Hitler was the now chief executive of Germany, but was subject to the President, to whom the Germany Army reported. This constraint on his actions irritated Hitler and he went about eliminating it:
- In February 1933, the burning of the Reichstag building, where the parliament met, gave Hitler the opportunity to call for another election. This time Nazi police under Hermann Göring intimidated Nazi opponents. But even so, the Nazis and their allies won only a bare majority.
- Later in 1933, Hitler consolidated his dictatorial power through the Enabling Acts. He started arresting and executing political opponents, and even purged the Nazis’ own SA paramilitary organization in a successful effort to win support from the German army.
- August 2, 1934. Hitler visited President von Hindenburg to pay his respects. A few hours later, von Hindenburg died.
- After von Hindenburg's death, Hitler purged the Nazi Brown Shirts, his own storm troopers.
- On August 9, 1934, a plebiscite vote was held on August 19. Intimidation, admiration of job growth under Hitler, and fear of Communists, brought Hitler a 90 percent majority. Hitler decided to unite the chancellorship and presidency under the new title of Führer. He now controlled the army. His dictatorship was solidly in place.