Saturday, January 30, 2016

"a memorable 30 January": the Nazis come to power, 1933

Although the Nazis, whose fascist ideology stressed militant action, presented their entry into the government as a “seizure of power” (Machtergreifung), it was in fact the result of stalemated domestic politics and cynical maneuvering on the part of other right-wing elements who assumed they could best their rivals by coopting the more radical movement. On 30 January 1933, German President Paul von Hindenburg, as head of state, appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor as head of a government comprising a broad coalition of the right.

A middle-class woman and supporter of the Nazis recorded in her diary:

  And what did Dr. H. bring us? The news that his double, Hitler, is Chancellor of the Reich! And what a Cabinet!!! One we didn't dare dream of in July. Hitler, Hugenberg, Seldte, Papen!!!

  On each of them depends part of Germany's hopes. National Socialist drive, German National reason, the non-political Stahlhelm, not to forget Papen. It is so incredibly marvellous that I am writing it down quickly before the first discordant note comes, for when has Germany ever experienced a blessed summer after a wonderful spring? Probably only under Bismarck. What a great thing Hindenburg has achieved! [....]

  Huge torchlight procession in the presence of Hindenburg and Hitler by National Socialists and Stahlhelm, who at long last are collaborating again. This is a memorable 30 January!

     --Jeremy Noakes and Jeffrey Pridham, eds., Documents on Nazism 1919-1945
         (NY: Viking, 1974), 160-61
This postcard, issued on 29 January 1934 to celebrate the first anniversary, depicts the victory procession through the Brandenburg Gate, over the opening verse of the national anthem.

At upper right, the image flanked by the postage denomination depicts Chancellor Hitler and President von Hindenburg. Although Hindenburg had spoken dismissively of the “Austrian corporal,” even days before appointing him, the Nazis turned the unequal (and uneasy) relationship to their advantage, coining the slogan,“The Field Marshal and the Corporal.” The victor of Tannenberg together with the ordinary frontline soldier of the Great War symbolized the alliance of old elites and everyman, the transition between generations.

In the process, the Nazis shrewdly presented Hindenburg first and foremost as the World War I hero rather than as a political authority: President of the discredited Weimar Republic and now "new Reich." Hindenburg's death later that year allowed Hitler to combine in his person the offices of President and Chancellor, a step generally seen as the cementing of the dictatorship. Henceforth members of the armed forces swore personal allegiance to Hitler as Chancellor and Führer.

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