Why did Hitler join the German army

The basis for Hitler's path to power

German defeat in the First World War

The First World War was a major factor in Hitler's rise to power. It began on June 28, 1914. On that day, Serbian nationalists murdered the Austrian heir apparent. Exactly one month later, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.

Germany was a monarchy at the time and was ruled by Kaiser Wilhelm II. He wanted to turn the German Reich into a world power and therefore took part in the war. Support received from the Social Democrats, who were the strongest political force at the time. At the beginning of August 1914, Wilhelm II declared war on Russia and France with their consent.

For a long time the people in Germany believed in a victory for their emperor and their army. War propaganda and politicians left no doubt about it either. So it hit them like a blow when the German army suddenly surrendered. In September 1918, the Supreme Army Command officially offered an armistice. The US, UK, France and Italy won the war.

The "Shameful Peace" of Versailles

But a large part of the German people did not want to accept Germany's military defeat. People searched for a guilty party and invented various conspiracy theories.

One of the most famous came from Paul von Hindenburg, the head of the Supreme Army Command and from 1925 President of the Weimar Republic. Before the investigative committee of the Weimar National Assembly he claimed that the German army had remained "undefeated in the field" but had been "stabbed from behind".

The November revolutionaries, who had initiated the transformation of the German Empire from a monarchy into a republic, had agreed an armistice, although the war had not yet been lost. This theory, which went down in the history books as the "stab in the back", was well received by the population.

There were numerous riots and riots. A revolution broke out in Germany. The monarchy was over and the emperor had to abdicate. On November 9, 1918, the future head of government Philipp Scheidemann proclaimed the republic - the beginning of the Weimar Republic. At the same time as the national unrest, the young republic had to deal with international peace negotiations.

In the Treaty of Versailles, the victorious powers laid down the terms of peace. Germany had to accept the sole war debt and reparation payments in the billions. The victorious powers also stipulated that the left bank of the Rhine should be occupied for a period of 15 years. They restricted the Reichswehr to 100,000 professional soldiers and demanded a seventh of German territory.

The majority of the German population was appalled when they heard of the peace conditions. People spoke of a "shameful peace", of the "Versailles dictate". But there was no alternative. On June 28, 1919, German Foreign Minister Hermann Müller and Transport Minister Johannes Bell signed the peace treaty in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

Radical groups from left and right

People's displeasure stayed alive for years. This made it easy for radical parties such as the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) to establish themselves. Their extreme views were well received by the people. They corresponded to the people's desire for political and economic stability.

In addition, they fueled the idea of ​​revenge against the victorious powers of the First World War. The right saw the Treaty of Versailles as a violation of national honor. They attempted coups to overthrow the Weimar Republic. The left also organized uprisings.

In 1923 the struggle for the balance of power in Germany reached its preliminary climax: the high reparation payments had led to inflation. The population paid the bill for the First World War. With their savings, people also lost confidence in the state.

This was a good time for the NSDAP and its leader Adolf Hitler to propagate their idea of ​​a "legal" dictatorship. She started an attempted coup in which Hitler was also involved. The action was unsuccessful, however.

When a new currency reform came into force in November 1923, the political and economic conditions in Germany normalized. The situation also eased at the international level: The then Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann negotiated new agreements on reparation payments with the victorious powers of the First World War. In addition, Germany became a member of the League of Nations.

The Great Depression

The stabilization of the political and economic situation in Germany only lasted for a short time. In 1929/30 the New York Stock Exchange collapsed. There was a global economic crisis that also affected Germany. Important loans from abroad failed to materialize, industrial production fell by 40 percent and six million people became unemployed. There was mass impoverishment.

The renewed economic uncertainty also had an impact on the political situation. The Weimar Republic had its tenth head of government within eleven years. The radical left and right gained more and more popular support.

Above all, the NSDAP profited from the economic hardship of the people: In the Reichstag election on September 14, 1930, it recorded a vote increase of more than 15 percent. This made the NSDAP the second largest parliamentary group in the Reichstag after the SPD. Its chairman, Adolf Hitler, became the ruling President Hindenburg's greatest competitor.

Hitler's appointment as Reich Chancellor

In the years after the global economic crisis, the NSDAP was not only able to further strengthen its importance at government level. Their supporters also brought the political power struggle to the streets. They rekindled people's displeasure with the loss of the First World War and the Treaty of Versailles. In doing so, they created the basis for Adolf Hitler's seizure of power: They propagated Hitler as the avenger of the German people.

In 1932, Reich President Hindenburg and Reich Chancellor von Papen tried to involve Hitler in their goals - but without success. Hindenburg ultimately became Hitler's stirrup holder on the road to power. On January 30, 1933 he appointed him Chancellor of the Reich.

Without this official act, Hitler could not have become Chancellor. And the people had also pushed ahead with his appointment: In the previous Reichstag election of November 6, 1932, the NSDAP had received a majority of 33.1 percent of the votes.