Hitler’s 30 Days to Power: January, 1933, by Henry Ashby Turner, Jr., Addison-Wesley, MA, 1996, $25.
“On the evening of the 30th, Chancellor Adolf Hitler stood for hours at an open window of his new office, acknowledging the jubilant salutes of tens of thousands of Nazi stormtroopers…as they marched down the Wilhelmstrasse, bearing torches and singing nationalistic songs. A few yards away, President von Hindenburg viewed the demonstration from a window in the older part of the chancellery.
“It was a triumphant conclusion to a remarkable political comeback. A mere month earlier, Hitler had appeared finished. His party had suffered a staggering setback in the last national election, as two of three voters rejected it, and even heavier losses had followed in state and local elections. Dissension and rebellion had broken out among his disappointed followers. Signs of improvement in the economy threatened to deprive him of one of the issues he had so successfully exploited since the onset of the Depression.
“Yet now, only 30 days later, the President who had repeatedly rebuffed him had duly appointed him head of the government. Upon attaining his goal, Hitler himself reportedly marveled at how, as so often before, he had been rescued just as all seemed lost.”
How this stunning turnabout of Hitler’s fortunes occurred is the thrust of this excellent, engaging new book by the author of German Big Business and the Rise of Hitler and Germany from Partition to Reunification. Basically, the story centers around the chancellor who served just before Hitler–army General Kurt von Schleicher–and the trio of men who advised the aging President and World War I Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg. These advisers included Hindenburg’s son and military adjutant, Oskar (whom Hitler called “the personification of stupidity”), former Chancellor Franz von Papen and longtime presidential secretary Otto Meissner.
Brought to power and then dumped by his friend Schleicher, Papen vowed to get even. He cut a deal with Hitler in which the latter would become chancellor, and Papen would serve as vice chancellor. In 1934, Hitler had Schleicher shot during the famous Nazi blood purge, but Papen survived to become ambassador to Austria and then to Turkey. Tried at Nuremberg as a war criminal, he was acquitted. Oskar von Hindenburg and Meissner also survived the Third Reich and de-Nazification trials by the West German government.
The cardinal error of all these men in bringing Hitler to power was that they thought they could tame the radical Nazis by saddling them with the minutiae of actual government power. Boasted Papen: “I have the confidence of Hindenburg. In two months we’ll have pushed Hitler so far into a corner that he’ll squeal….We’ve hired him!” Events turned out otherwise, however. In two months the Nazis had outlawed all other political parties in the Reich, secretly told the army generals of their plans to re-arm Germany for war, muzzled the media, established Hitler’s dictatorship through the Enabling Bill and begun their first anti-Jewish actions.
Hitler’s 30 Days to Power: January, 1933, is a fascinating tale–never told better–well-written and illustrated.