We know a great deal about who supported the NAZI Party. Of course after the War, no one wanted to admit supporting the NAZIs. But even before the NAZIs seized power, they had become Germany's largest political pasrty with millions of fervent supportetrs. They never got a majority of vites, bjut they were the lkargest single party. Weimar Germany was functioning democracy with competitive free elections contested by a wide rang of political parties. And we know where those parties found support. After the failure of the Beer Hall Putch, Hitler concluded that the only way to seize power was to compete in the electoral process. Before Depression, support for the NAZI Party was minimal and limited to the country's right-wing fringe. Wall Street crashed (September 1929). Almost immediatedly the econnomic down turn affected Germany as American companies began canceling import orders. And the politucal impact can be seen in the German elections (1929-32). These were free elections and the results reported in great detail. Thus agood deal of statistical data is available to researchers. Tthe breakdown of the votes thus tells us just where the NAZIs drew their support. With Hitler's seizure if power (1933) there were still afew elections, actually referenhdum, but the mixture of NAZI control of the media and the expanding police state make these elections results less useful in examining NAZI voter appeal. Especially notable is the NAZI appeal to rural and small town as well as Protestant voters.
After the failure of the Beer Hall Putch, Hitler concluded that the only way to seize power was to compete in the electoral process. Before Depression, support for the NAZI Party was minimal and limited to the country's right-wing fringe. Wall Street crashed (September 1929). Almost immediatedly the econnomic down turn affected Germany as American companies began canceling import orders. And the politucal impact can be seen in the elections (1929-32). Germany was a parlimentary democracy. And the instability created by the success of the NAZIs as well as the Communists, means that there weew several parlimentary elections as well as a presidential election.
The NAZIs rose from less than 3 per cent of votes cast in the Reichstag election (1928) to an impressive 18 per cent of the popular vote (1930). And then the NAZIS emerged as the single most imprtant party, esplacing the Socialists (SPD) in the next Reichstag election (1932). Some 37 per cent of German voters voted for the NAZIs (July 1932).
Hitler had initially targeted urban workers in NAZI electoral propaganda. This in part reflkects the Party's significant socialist, anti-capitalist ethos. Hitler found, however, that urban voters were much less likely to vote for the NAZIs than rural voters. Here both the Socialists (SPD) and Communists (KPD) found most of their support. The NAZIs seem to have had less appear in the cities. In the best NAZI showing (July 1932), election results in the Grosstadte (cities of over 100,000 inhabitants), showed that the NAZIs polled 10 percent less than the national average. To be sure, the NAZI vote increased substantially among the working class which had been voting for the SPD, but much of the increase came from small villages (underr 5,000 inhabitants). Other sources report that proportionally few of the working-class SA storm-troopers came from the larfge urban centers. [Gerary] What we do not know is just why urban voters were less convinced by the NAZIs. One author weites, "Voters in large urban centres were less susceptible to Nazi electoral propaganda." [Gerary] This is certainly true, but really just restates the question. What we need to know is why they were 'less convinced'. We suspect that a factor here was education. Urban voters were better educated than rural voters, with more people that had secondary and university educations. This is not to say that education was the only factor. And of course there was vey string support for the NAZIs within Germany unjversities, especially aming the students. We see German studently gleefully throwing books into bonfirs on a few nonths after Hitler seized power. Another factor in the cities ws that that political parties there were very well organized. Thus taking votes away fro the SPD and other major parties was a very diffucult undertaking.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the first electoral breakthroughs achieved by the NAZIs were achieved enjoyed by the NAZIs came in Protestant rural areas like as Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony. Peasant voters 9meaning small land owners) there were already becoming discontented with the partities they had been supporting before the rise of the NAZIs. Some of these parties included the German National People's Party (DNVP) or Nationalists. Only after noting this trend in early elections, did Hitler develop a NAZI agrarian program (1928). Richard Walther Darré played a major role in popularizing the NAZI Party in rural areas. He used the slogan 'Blut und Boden' phrase as the NAZIs were rising to power. He wrote a book titled Neuadel aus Blut und Boden (A New Nobility Based On Blood And Soil) in 1930. He was a strong proponent of eugenics. He saw breeding as the solution to the problems of the German Volk. Darré was an influential NAZI and and played a major role in developing race theory. Darré helped popularize the NAZI Party in rural areas that played a key role in the NAZI rise to power. Hitler rewarded Darré by appointing him Minister of Food and Agriculture. Darré and the shifting NAZI propaganda. Ehe election result clearly show that the constituencies where the NAZIs did best were in Protestant farming communities. And in the critical 1932 election, one of the key developments were the huge number of rural voters who deserted their trditional partirs to bote NAZI. Here a factor apppears that rural workers were influenced by the estate managers, voted for the NAZIs. Here a factor appears to be rising support in the cities forvthe KPD. The 1932 election clearly shows that he the NAZIs were appealing to peasants, rural workers, and some large landowners. Once in power, however, Hitler showed virtually no interest in agriculyural issues and policies. Tragically, one of the most horific of NAZI crimes, the Hunger Plan, would come out of the Agriculture Ministry.
The electoral success of Hitler and the NAZIs explain why President Hindenburg's advisers advised appoinbting him chanvellor (January 1933). It should be noted that in the free Reichstag election in which the NAZIs did best (July 1932) that they only polled 37 percent of the voite, meaning that 63 percent of the electorte voted against them. And in the subsequebt presidenbtial election (November 1932) that 2 million fewer Germand voted NAZI. The NAZIs never approched a majority in either of these elections.
Geary, Dick. "Who Voted Nazi?: Electoral History of the National Socialist German Workers Party" History Today (October 1998).
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