Part A: Plan of Investigation
This investigation will address the research question, to what extent was Germany’s post-World War I economic depression a causal factor in Hitler’s rise to power from 1919 to 1934? With the Treaty of Versailles, the German government was required to pay 132 billion gold marks of war reparations, drastically worsened with the US Wall Street crash. This effectively crippled the German economy and created a desperate people. For this investigation, Hitler’s private life history and pre-military career will not be analyzed. His political rise will be examined from the perspective of economic and social factors. Several primary sources will be explored, including the Hitler’s Mein Kampf and Hitler’s 25-Point Program. In addition, tertiary sources covering Hitler’s non-personal life and rise to power will be studied.
Part B: Summary of Evidence
The Treaty of Versailles, representing the formal end of World War I, was signed on June 28, 1919. This treaty calculated the liabilities for the German government at 132 billion gold marks, to be funded over the course of 37 years. The German mark suffered massive inflation; in 1913 it cost 4 marks to buy a US dollar. By 1922, it cost 7,000 marks.
Adolf Hitler, a veteran of World War I, joined the ranks of the newly named National Socialist German Workers, or Nazi, party (NSDAP) in 1919. On February 24, 1920, he published a document outlining the goals and beliefs of the Nazi Party called the 25 Points. These included the abrogation of the Treaty of Versailles, the exclusion of Jews from the German “race,” the prevention of Jews from living in Germany, and the formation of a national army. Hitler outlined the economic benefits of these proposals in a Munich speech, boosting his public support. With the publicity from the speech, Hitler became chairman of the NSDAP in 1921.
On November 8, 1923, Hitler and his followers attempted to stage a coup against the Weimar government in Bavaria. This revolt, known as the Beer Hall Putsch, was defeated by authorities and Hitler served nine months in prison. In Hitler’s Mein Kampf, published in 1925, Hitler attributed Germany’s economic woes to the Jews, claiming that they were seeking to destroy national economies in order to establish central organizations throughout the globe. Hitler also blamed the Treaty of Versailles, calling it “an act of highway robbery against our people.” In 1929, global economic depression brought the German banking crisis to the nation, wreaking economic havoc. ¬ When Wall Street crashed in the United States, American banks withdrew the loans on which the German government was dependent. German unemployment rates skyrocketed, with 30.1 percent of the workforce jobless. This collapse forced the German government into political disarray, and parties were divided on every issue. Over the next three years, the NSDAP became the most popular political party in Germany. In the 1928 Reichstag election,...