Reasons for Nazi success (1 January 1935: letter from Ambassador William Edward Dodd to President Franklin D. Roosevelt)

Fire, Reichstag

27 February 1933: The Reichstag Fire

Include:

  • Role of terror and use of coercion
  • Legal powers
  • Hitler’s political skills
  • Weakness of opponents
  • Groups and individuals who helped

Hello my dear friend Franklin,

after being impressed by the NSDAP Party and its leader Adolf Hitler during the election campaign during the late 1920’s and early 30’s, I have now truly changed my mind and understood the reality behind this monsterous leader and his party. After Herr Hitler became Chancellor of Germany on the 30th of January 1933, he has imposed many changes in the political, social, cultural and economical lives of his newly created Third Reich. One month after becoming Chancellor, Hitler ordered his newly appointed Police Chief Göring to replace all police chiefs with SA or NSDAP officers. This gave Hitler control and right over security and justice in the country.

After the Reichstag Fire in February 27th, 1933 the leader pressed on with the Emergency Decree, which allowed the government to imprison political opponents, more specifically the Communists, who were blamed for the fire, to be arrested indefinitely.This gave Hitler the oppurtunity and right to increase the number of Nazis in the Reichstag and decrease the number of opposition party members.

The Reichstag elections could be seen as a mixture of violence and legality, as Göbbels and Hitler suppressed the Communists and Socialists by arresting many or forbidding them to vote. Although the elections in March brought the Nazis only 288 votes from the total of 647, they were able to bring changes into the minds of the Center Party members through threats and promises, which enabled them to pass the Enabling Law on March 23rd.

But this victory was not won only by the Nazi party, but with the help of the SA and SS. The SA was founded in 1921, and it served as the paramilitary force for the Nazi Party, in contrary to the SS, who grew to be the police force of the Party after their seizure of power. The SA was led by Röhm, an old friend of Hitler’s. The SA’s main purposes were to intimidate the opposition by any means available, which they naturally did. But after February 1st, 1934 after Röhm had proposed the scheme for merging the Army with the SS and SA, Hitler knew he had to act swiftly. The Night of the Long Knives, as it became to be know, was the purge of the SA, which significance was that the SS became the main police force of Germany and the Army lost its independence. Hitler’s personal popularity rose exponentially, as many Germans disliked the arrogant and corrupted SA officers.

Another aspect that Mr. President should be aware of is the conservatives and their naive attitude towards the Nazi Party. After putting Hitler in control in 1933, they misjudged the Nazis capacity for gaining control over themselves. Although the conservatives and Nazis shared the dislike of the  democratic constitution and were happy to see the left-wing parties and trade unions destroyed, they had forgotten how cruel and horrific Hitler’s aims really were.

The inability of the left-wing parties to co-operate against Hitler could also be seen as a possible reason for the merge of the Nazi Party. The communists and socialists regarded each other as an enemy as dangerous as the Nazis, which did not enable them to work together as a unit against the rising Nazis. Socialists respected the law more than they should’ve, due to their fear of Hitler’s ban against them, in case they would’ve done something illegal. In June 22nd, the socialists were officially outlawed.

Last but not least, the political skills of Herr Hitler were as important as the other reasons for the Nazis success. Hitler’s oratorical were highly improved duing his rallies during the 1920’s became his main tool to gain support during his speeches during the elections. He was also skilled at manipulating and deceiving his opponents from his real aims.

I hope see my concern about this Herr Hitler and his Nazi party. My main concern is that he will abolish everthing that will stand in his way to create the Great German Third Reich, which will launch an attack on every single state that will try to stop him. I also plea that you would shorten my duty in this Reich, as I see it to be dangerous for me and my family.

Yours truly,

your friend, Bill

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