Baylor College Medical School

120 2.Hitler and The Rise of Nazi Germany

120 2. After World War I, German leaders set up a democratic government known as the Weimar Republic. The Weimar constitution established a parliamentary system led by a chancellor. It gave women the right to vote and included a bill of rights. However, the new republic faced severe problems. When Germany could not make its war reparations France seized the coal-rich Ruhr Valley. Government actions led to inflation and skyrocketing prices. The German mark was almost worthless. Many middle-class families lost their savings.

Many Germans believed that energetic leader Adolf Hitler would solve Germany's problems. As head of the Nazi party, Hitler promised to end reparations, create jobs, and rearm Germany. He was elected chancellor in 1933, and within a year he was dictator over the new fascist state in Germany.

To appeal to nationalism and recall Germany's glorious past, Hilter called his government the Third Reich. To combat the Depression, Hitler launched public works programs. In violation of the Versailles treaty, he rearmed Germany. Hitler relied on his secret police, the Gestapo, to root out opposition. He organized a brutal system of terror, repression, and totalitarian rule. A fanatical anti-Semite, Hitler set out to drive the Jews from Germany. In 1935, the Nazis passed the Nuremberg Laws, which deprived Jews of German citizenship and placed severe restrictions on them. The Nazis indoctrinated German youth and rewrote textbooks to reflect Nazi racial views.

Hilter also limited women's roles and encouraged "pure-blooded Aryan" women to bear many children. He sought to purge German culture of what he believed were corrupt influences. Nazis denounced modern art and jazz, but glorified German artists and myths. Hilter despised Christianity as "weak." He combined all Protestant sects into a single state church. ALTHOUGH MANY CLERGY EITHER SUPPORTED THE NEW REGIME OR REMAINED SILENT, SOME COURAGEOUSLY SPOKE OUT AGAINST HITLER'S GOVERNMENT.

Like Germany, most new nations in Eastern Europe slid from systems of democratic to authoritarian rule. Economic problems and ethnic tensions contributed to instability and helped fascist rulers to gain power. The new dictators promised to keep order, and won the backing of the military and the wealthy. They also supported the growth of anti-Semitism.


2. Why did many Germans support Hitler?

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They had suffered along with much of the world during the weakened economic times and essentially lost their former standard of living. Because the conditions they needed to fulfill after World War I were somewhat stringent, they were called to task to pay war reparations and often could not meet that debt. Hitler seemed energetic and offered them ways (or so they thought) to bring Germany back to its former glory. They wanted what he offered - he said what they wanted to hear and they elected him hoping that he would fulfill his "promises."