The First Hundred Days of Hitler – How the National Socialists Won Germany
Presidents of the United States are considered to be made or broken in the first 100 days. Following that, the administration will focus on the midterm elections before planning its re-election campaign. Historian Peter Fritzsche has applied the concept to Hitler’s first 100 days in power in Germany.
In the 1920s, Germany was still reeling from its devastating (for them) defeat in World War I. The economy was not booming, and there were significant ideological divides between the left and right. On January 30, 1933, a number of senior German politicians gathered in a room in the Chancellery to discuss the country’s future course.
Among them were 84-year-old President of the Republic Paul von Hindenburg, 54-year-old former chancellor Franz von Papen, 67-year-old right-wing newspaper magnate Alfred Hugenberg, and Adolf Hitler, the 43-year-old head of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, the Reichstag’s largest party.
Other German political parties, such as the Communists and the Catholics, were notable by their absence.
Hitler was about to become chancellor, and he vowed that he would not use future elections to change the composition of the Cabinet, but as he spoke to the other men, he was already plotting how to win the upcoming vote to make Germany a one-party state.
There was no obvious change in sentiment among the German people when Hitler’s appointment was announced.
Thus it began: the National Socialists won the election, passed the Enabling Act, which allowed them to ignore the constitution, appointed their own men to lead the federal states, dismantled trade unions, took over local government, passed anti-Semitic laws, and established Dachau, the first concentration camp – ten miles northwest of Munich.
There was no turning back now.
Peter Fritzsche provides a detailed account of how the Nazis came to power in Germany.
I disagree with his assertion that blame for the Reichstag Fire has never been established.
Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist who was killed for his troubles, is widely believed to have set the fire.
The point is stated in Sven Felix Kellerhoff’s book Der Reichstagsbrand, published in 2008, and corroborated by Sir Ian Kershaw in the same year.