After Germany’s humiliating defeat in WWI, Adolf Hitler remained in the German army and was ordered to attend a political indoctrination course at Munich University in 1919. He successfully completed the class and was assigned to an “enlightenment squad” to teach soldiers the “correct” (politically conservative) perspective before they returned to civilian life. He did such a good job that he became a liaison officer between the army and the right-wing political groups in Bavaria.
In September he attended a meeting of the right-wing German Workers’ Party in order to monitor their activities on behalf of the army. But he couldn’t resist expressing his personal opinions during the meeting. The group’s leaders were so impressed with his ideas that they convinced him to join them as their propaganda and recruitment officer. By the beginning of 1920 Hitler had been discharged from the army and was successfully promoting the growth of the party. He renamed it the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), adding the words national and socialist to the party’s name to appeal to as many people as possible. (He was actually opposed to socialism.) He also designed the party’s attractive and iconic swastika flag.
In 1923 Hitler’s NSDAP, popularly known as the Nazi party, tried to overthrow the popularly elected German government. The attempt, called the Beer Hall Putsch, was put down by the police and resulted in the deaths of 16 Nazis and four policemen. Hitler was subsequently sent to prison where, among other things, he decided that he would need to use the election process in order to achieve his goal of ruling Germany. He began to rebuild the NSDAP after he was released from prison at the end of 1924.
The beginning of the Great Depression in 1929 created severe economic turmoil in Germany, which was exploited as a political opportunity by the Nazis. The right-wing media mogul Alfred Hugenberg lent Hitler his newspaper resources and the 1930 election campaign was first to be coordinated by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. The Nazis succeeded in winning 107 seats in the German parliament, making them the second largest party in that body.
Then in the 1933 elections the Nazis used skillful propaganda to sow fear among the voters about the Reichstag fire, an arson attack against Germany’s parliament building in Berlin. The Nazi candidates, with financial support from German industrialists, gained enough seats in the parliament to give Hitler the votes he needed to pass the Enabling Act, which legally made him the dictator of Germany.
“Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell.” – Adolf Hitler
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