Without the effects of the Great Depression on the nation of Germany, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party would not have been able to seize control of the nation. When the stock market collapsed on Wall Street on Tuesday, October 29, 1929, it sent financial markets worldwide into a tailspin with disastrous effects. The German economy was especially vulnerable since it was built out of foreign capital, mostly loans from America and was very dependent on foreign trade. When those loans were suddenly discontinued and the world market for German exports dried up, the German industry quickly ground to a halt. As production levels fell, German workers were laid off. Along with this, banks failed throughout Germany.
Savings accounts, the result of years of hard work, were instantly wiped out. Inflation soon followed making it hard for families to purchase expensive necessities with devalued money. Overnight, the middle class standard of living so many German families enjoyed was ruined by events outside of Germany, beyond their control. The Great Depression began and they were cast into poverty and deep misery and began looking for a solution, any solution.
Adolf Hitler saw his opportunity. Before the depression, the Nazi party was never much of a factor in the politics of Germany, having little success in winning the government over the new Weimar Republic. In the times before the Depression the party had experienced a rather slow growth, barely reaching 100,000 members in a country of well over 60 million. In 1923 Hitler made an attempt to overthrow the government by force. This gamble did not pay off however, landing him a 5 year jail sentence for treason. Though he would later broaden his appeal, at this time Hitler's supporters were few, as his theories appealed only to disgruntled World War One veterans who were unhappy with the new government.
Like many mass movements, Nazism only thrived in times of great national distress. After World War I, Germany lay defeated, humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles, its industrial regions occupied by foreign powers, saddled with enormous war reparations, and with no military to defend itself. Yet throughout the 1920's, Hitler could not exploit these setbacks to achieve political power. As late as May 1928, the Nazis had obtained only 12 seats in the Reichstag. It was not until the Depression that Nazism began to gain real support in the public and in the Reichstag. After the Depression hit, Hitler expertly began exploiting it, overnight going from the 9th largest political party in Germany, to the 2nd.
Hitler used his amazing skills as an orator to exploit the ravages of the Depression in order to gain public support in the general elections. The people of Germany were at an all time low in their morale. They began grasping for someone or something that could make their lives better, if only slightly. Hitler made it known that this person was him. Through his speeches and his actions he rose in popularity. He gave bread to the hungry, and lifted peoples spirits with his speeches of German superiority.
With unemployment stretching to over 6,000,000 by the end of 1932, Hitler set himself up as the "last hope" of the German people, a desperate people, who because of the ravages of a depression, were willing to listen to anyone. Hitler had become a guiding light away from what the German population saw as a failed democratic system. The Great Depression was directly responsible for the loss of faith in the Weimar Republic. By mid 1930, amid the economic pressures of the Great Depression, the German democratic government was beginning to unravel. The crisis of the Great Depression brought disunity to the political parties in the Reichstag. Instead of forging an alliance to enact desperately need legislation, they broke up into squabbling, uncompromising groups.
This inability to make crucial decisions further enraged the German population. They were tired of the political haggling that was going on in the capital. They were tired of the misery, tired of suffering, and tired of a weak government. They needed someone strong, someone who could take control and deliver them from this depression, and they were willing to listen to anyone; even Adolf Hitler. Before the onset of the Depression, the Nazi party was unable to win any large number of seats in the German parliament, proving to be a non factor in German government. The party could only thrive in times of great national distress, and the Depression came along at just the right time.
Hitler then used his uncanny skills as an orator to exploit the Depression, setting himself up as the "last hope" of the German people, the guiding light out of depression. Hitler also used the depression to further hinder the general populations faith in the democratic Weimer Republic. The economic pressures of the Depression pulled apart the government, leaving no strong front to make any crucial decisions, only many squabbling groups who could agree on nothing. The people grew tired of this, calling out for a strong party and leader, that leader was to be Adolf Hitler. Without that situation, the German people could have possibly been more judgmental and not have accepted, as their leader, the first person to help them. The Depression gave these people mindsets that ultimately allowed their complete and total control by one man, Hitler.