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The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s rise to power

The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s rise to power

Benjamin Carter Hett
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
The story of Hitler’s rise to power, his time in jail and the events such as Kristallnacht are very well documented and more than likely well known to you, the reader. This book however is not about Hitler! Indeed as far as this book is concerned he is but a bit player, mentioned as the story moves along. What this book does is to set out, very clearly, the path that was laid for Hitler to move into the position whereby he was able to shut down all opposition to the Nazis. It is about the men who thought they could use him then discard him when they were ready – a great mistake and poor reading of character by them.

The story begins before the First World War with a pen picture of Germany and its political and social life then. The characters who come to the fore are making their names, building their political powerhouses, much to be pulled down by the defeat in 1918. From that defeat we have the Great Old Man, Hindenburg leading a nation which did not really accept that they had been defeated. Yes the army had been fought to a standstill and were exhausted but it was the communists and other agitators at home who brought about the end of the war and especially the undermining of society by the Jews. I had not realised that the anti Semitism that so characterised Hitler’s regime had solid background in the populace of Germany long before he came to power. With the Soviet Revolution many displaced Russians were Jews and many settled in Germany. What came from the Russian Revolition was the Communist Party and from the very start of the Weimar Republic following the Great War they Communists filled a large section of the political world in Germany and the fight between right and left wings of politics grew. However, much of that is well known and documented and again is really just another item in the series of events and personalities that helped Hitler assume the mantle of Reich Chancellor. The book ends with the death of Hindenburg and Hitler getting his feet well and truly under the desk in the Reichstag.

The main part of the book though is about the death of democracy and not about the man who caused it. Indeed the people who backed Hitler thinking they could control him wanted the same as Hitler – absolute power with no parliament to check their policies. This lust for power in Germany is the reek that runs through the book leaving a stench of corruption, political (and actual) back stabbing, total lack of integrity by the main players and a complete sense that the old ruling classes knew what was best for the people of Germany therefore ruling them should be left to the old Prussian aristocracy. It needs to be noted here that the book is somewhat one sided and the author has concentrated on the Prussian aristocracy and allied factions that wanted to control Germany. The Communists, although a major party in this and a very distinct power in the country, are not really covered except where their path crosses with the ruling party.

Germany, following WW1, was awash with political parties, from all sides of the political spectrum and forming a government which had a chance of actually governing was very difficult. The feeling of Dolchstoss – being stabbed in the back, following WW1 permeated the whole of German society. Although the country had been beaten by the Allies it remained very much under the thrall of the military, who considered that they had not been beaten on the battlefield; much of the leadership of which came from the Prussian aristocracy. Germany became a very violent country with protest marches often dissolving into running street battles ending with people in hospital or the morgue. Reparations levied by the Allies were stripping Germany of all its assets and deflation of the German Mark led to yet more trouble. All in all, the country between 1918 and 1933 was one in turmoil with no visible sight to the end of this and a sense of stability being furthest from most peoples’ minds.

This was not a vacuum in the powerhouse of Germany for Hitler to step in to, quite the opposite, it was a maelstrom of political intrigue which Hitler read and used perfectly, beating his opponents who still thought of him as the Bavarian Corporal – totally underestimating the cunning and ruthlessness of the man.

This is a fascinating book and although I thought I knew quite a bit about the rise of the Third Reich, this book adds in the really detailed bits of characters, situations, manipulation by differing factions. If this period of European history, just prior to and the major cause of World War 2 interests you then I would highly recommend that you read this book.

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