Hitler's Thirty Days to Power: January 1933

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Hitler's Thirty Days to Power: January 1933

By Henry Ashby Turner, Jr.
Addison-Wesley, 1996
255 pp. $25.00
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How did Hitler become Germany's chancellor on January 30, 1933, less than three months after the November 1932 elections in which Nazis lost 34 seats in the Reichstag and their popular vote fell to 33.1 percent from 37.3 percent the preceding July? There was nothing inevitable, Turner argues, about Hitler's rise to power. Kurt von Schleicher, the general turned politician who had advised President Hindenburg in June 1932 to appoint the right-wing Centrist Franz von Papen as successor to Chancellor Heinrich Bruning, had become von Papen's enemy and, on December 2, 1932, his successor. Hitler, who would not join any cabinet he did not head, then formed an alliance with von Papen in early January 1933. Schleicher entertained several illusions about "his ability to harness Hitler." He expected Hindenburg to grant him one more decree to dissolve the Reichstag, which was likely to deny him its confidence. When Hindenburg refused, he resigned, and, at von Papen's insistence, Hindenburg turned to Hitler. Turner recognizes that the key players in this intrigue owed their influence to militarism, the persistent prestige of the aristocracy, the lack of civilian control over the army, and the weakness of parliamentary democracy. Other historians might stress those factors more, remembering Montesquieu's warning: when states seem to collapse from one blow, there are deep reasons why that blow was sufficient.

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