Third Reich Day by Day: 1932

The failure of the Munich Putsch was the low point in the Nazi Party’s fortunes. However, Hitler’s lenient sentence meant he could rebuild the party relatively quickly. Though the party performed poorly at the elections in the 1920s, the world economic depression in 1929 gave Hitler and his followers a much-needed boost, as the German people saw their economy and standard of living nose-dive, and they began to listen to Hitler’s rantings about Jews, communists and international conspiracies against Germany.


Law and Order, SA banned

Chancellor Brüning, feeling confident enough to take measures against the Nazis, orders the disbandment of the SA and SS under a decree which prohibits uniformed political organizations (when Brüning’s decree came into effect, the SS had grown to 30,000 members or approximately 10 percent of the SA’s strength). This is followed by police swoops to ensure the ban is respected. In some SA quarters there is an inclination to stand and fight, but Hitler immediately overrules this sentiment. People other than the Nazis are involved, however, and many Rightist and Nationalist groups had their own uniforms seized, including some like the Stahlhelm which were ostensibly veterans’ organizations. Brüning may therefore have made a grave mistake, for the decree may be interpreted as an insult to those who have fought for Germany.

31 July

Politics, Reichstag Elections

SS headquarters in Munich. Though the SS was smaller than the SA, it had a ruthless and determined head in Himmler.
SS headquarters in Munich. Though the SS was smaller than the SA, it had a ruthless and determined head in Himmler.

The Nazi Party is very successful in the Reichstag elections of July 1932. Travelling by aeroplane, Hitler has appeared in the last two weeks of the campaign in almost 50 cities - “Hitler over Germany” - a ploy that has reaped dividends. In Berlin 120,000 people heard him in the Grünewald Stadium, while 100,000 more listened via loudspeakers outside. When the polls close, 13,732,779 Germans have voted for him, giving the NSDAP 230 Reichstag members. Hitler immediately demands the chancellorship and passage of an Enabling Act to run Germany by decree, in effect a dictatorship, but he is turned down on both counts by President Hindenburg.

The last of the year’s elections was held on November 6 and resulted in a setback. In it the party lost two million votes and was reduced to 196 seats, while the communists gained 750,000 votes and now had 100 seats. Even in alliance with the Nationalists, the Nazis could not command an overall majority.

17 November

Politics, Schleicher Intrigue

A Nazi Nuremberg rally in the early 1930s.
A Nazi Nuremberg rally in the early 1930s.

General von Schleicher, chief military intriguer of the Weimar period and Minister of Defence, succeeds in organizing the downfall of Chancellor Papen’s cabinet and thus his government. Informing Papen that the army and police would not defend his government, he stresses to Hindenburg that he should be chancellor. Hindenburg refuses, especially as he states he could obtain the support of Gregor Strasser and at least 60 Nazi Reichstag members to support his aims, and recalls Papen as chancellor. However, Hindenburg finally accepts that Schleicher has the support of the army and police forces, again dismisses Papen and now appoints Schleicher as chancellor.

He was to last as Chancellor for 57 days, and later stated that he was betrayed on each separate day.


Politics, Germany

The end of the year sees the political situation in Germany degenerate and take on the guise of near civil war. The socialists and the Communist Party field armed militia to battle the right-wing street fighters. The SA and SS reply with force and 10 SS men are killed with several hundred wounded during the violent street battles with the Rötfrontkämpferbund, or Red Front Fighters’ Association. It suits the NSDAP’s agenda to create the illusion that the country is on the slippery slope to all-out anarchy, especially with the crucial 1933 elections approaching, and that the party and its “valiant” street fighters hold the key to the political problems that grip Weimar Germany.