Probably no regime in the 20th century or any other has been so closely identified with institutionalized terror and evil as that of the Third Reich under the control of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. Its rise and demise had worldwide consequences, and its legacy continued to shape the identity of Germans long afterward.
A failed artist and former army corporal in World War I, Adolf Hitler hated aristocrats, capitalists, Bolsheviks (Communists), and liberals, as well as Jews and other so-called non-Aryans. He had already tried to topple the government in the ill-fated “beer hall putsch” of 1923. This early abortive attempt at revolution occurred when Hitler (then chairman of the NSDAP), the right-wing general Ludendorff, and several Nazi supporters stormed a Munich beer hall and forced local political leaders to declare their support for the “national revolution.” Nazi attempts to take over the Bavarian War Ministry were quickly defeated, however, and Hitler was sentenced to five years in prison for treason.
Released after serving less than one year, Hitler immediately rejoined the NSDAP, and in 1926 again became its leader. Hitler used his public speaking gifts to win supporters for the Nazi cause, seizing every opportunity to denounce the unpopular Weimar government as weak and decadent. He also proposed giving the jobs of Jews—whom he painted as parasitical and villainous—to deserving Germans. In return for restoring Germany’s former glory and honor, he asked for the unconditional loyalty and obedience of all patriotic Germans.
To reinforce his message, his followers, brown-shirted storm troopers, sporadically harassed and attacked Communists, Jews, and other enemies of the National Socialists. In 1927 the entire Nazi membership was only 40,000. Yet by the depths of the depression of 1932, the Nazis were the most successful party in the country, although still garnering only 38 percent of the vote.
Many right-wing military and civilian leaders thought that Hitler could be effectively manipulated and so, with the backing of several prominent businessmen, they succeeded in having him named chancellor on January 30, 1933.
Their belief that Hitler would be a Nazi figurehead was soon shattered, however. To secure supreme power for himself as the nation’s Führer (leader), Hitler blamed a fire in the Reichstag building on the Communists, banned the Communist Party, and called new elections. Even in this highly coercive atmosphere, the Nazis still did not obtain an absolute majority in the new Reichstag. Nevertheless, together with their political allies, they succeeded in passing the revolutionary Enabling Act, which granted the government dictatorial powers over all aspects of German life. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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