How did the Nazis come to power? “Fear and Hitler’s Instant Subversion of Freedom” (Fritz Stern lecture notes)

THE BASICS
-National Socialism was a “temptation.”
-Persistent distortion of history got into the mainstream of German thinking, particularly the “stab in the back lie” (Marxists and Jews subverted the old regime and were an internal enemy). Liquidate the enemy at home before the enemy abroad, this notion nestled in elite German thought.
-It only took the Nazis 3-4 months to obtain totalitarian rule.
-Hitler was not elected chancellor. He was leader of the largest party but did not even seize power, it was handed to him by “conservatives.”

WORLD WAR 1
-In August 1914 Germany was divided and experienced mass delirium (context: “the sanctity of a soldiers death”).
-The military got more powerful through WW1.
-Sending Lenin to Russia and unrestricted submarine warfare were major mistakes of the German leadership.
-The German people had been misled and defeat “came as a total shock to people in grief and hunger.” The upper classes were stunned.
-“The hatreds that the war had spawned.” Germans were near unanimous in their hatred of Versailles, it epitomized humiliation.

WEIMAR
-Weimar Germany suffered from Versailles and inflation but more importantly the German upper classes could not make peace with the new regime. The churches, the judiciary, academics etc. felt uprooted and had contempt for liberal practices.
-In 1930 foreign troops departed from German soil.
-“In Weimar, death itself was anti-democratic. The moderates dying young, the enemies living on past unrecognized senility.”
-The Great Depression.
-The Nazis made major inroads in local elections before the Great Depression, and in student elections.

THE APPEAL OF HITLER AND THE NAZIS
-Hitler portrayed himself as hero who would save Germany from enemies, gain “Lebensraum” and put community over class.
-The Nazis undertook “astounding manipulation of the new media” and promoted a return to non-capitalist ideals.
-Germans harboured the dream of a new authoritarianism.
-Judges left over from the imperial regime dealt out justice favouring the right and punishing the left.
-Street fighting took place between communists and the right-wing. The divided right looked for an authoritarian solution.
-Social democrats were the “true and sole defenders of Weimar.” Communists attacked social democrats saying “after Hitler, us.”
-The left underestimated the psychological appeal of Hitler and the Nazis.
-National Socialism was “the enduring appeal to the swine in man.”
-“Hapless intriguers” in the conservative establishment handed Hitler the chancellorship.
-Hitler never received more than 37% of the vote in a free election.

COMPLETE POWER
-At the time Hitler was handed power civil society was still in place.
-People were deluded that some decency or “rule of law” would remain.
-It took Mussolini two and half years to establish complete power, it took Hitler a few months.
-The civil service was subservient.
-The “spread of ideology” was “a brute spectacle” that “touched the depths of desperate people.”
-Hitler moved with dizzying speed.
-Fear was rampant in Germany and for many reasons. Hitler spread and exploited fear. Concentration camps were publicly announced for purposes of fear and intimidation. Fear has a dumbing effect and is contagious.
-The SA were made auxiliary police, a white arm band sufficed.
-“Our own decency limited our imagination to think of what could happen.”
-“The themes of death and resurrection” acted to limit the “loyal christian patriot,” displaying and downplaying his antisemitism, and played into the virtues of “violence, war” and the “cult of death.”
-“The Nazis managed to combine to the appearance of legality with the reality of terror and intimidation, the former was important to maintain the self-respect of civil servants and the upper classes.”
-The Catholic party surrendered.
-The self-submission and self-censorship of the Germans was preemptive, even the Nazis were surprised.