The Untold Story of How Hitler Came to Power in Germany

The Untold Story of How Hitler Came to Power in Germany July 12, 2020

The Untold Story of How Hitler Came to Power in Germany

(Wikimedia Commons)

“Untold story” doesn’t mean what it sounds like. Of course the stories have been told. What “untold story” usually indicates is that the story is not widely known—and should be.

Personally, I don’t know of any one “place” (book, film) where this particular story has been fully told, but it probably exists. I have pieced the story together from various sources—including living in Germany where it all began (Munich) and talking to people there, reading German sources as well as English language sources, and delving deep into the details of how Adolf Hitler, the dangerous clown, came to power in Germany.

The big question that hovers over this story for us today is how this dangerous clown came to power in a nation like Germany—the very seat of much of modern, Enlightenment philosophy, science, and religion.

So that is the first part of the story that many people don’t know. When Hitler became “Führer” of Germany in 1934 the country was widely considered, throughout the world, the cultural center of modern philosophy, theology, and science. That in spite of World War 1 which went very badly for Germany. Still and nevertheless, the German people had great pride in their relatively new nation (1871) of which Prussia was the most important, influential Staat (state).

After Germany’s defeat (World War 1) in 1918 the country fell into tremendous confusion and conflict. The Kaiser abdicated and Germany became a republic led by a series of coalition governments known as the Weimar Republic. Communism rose in influence and prominence. The second most important German Staat, Bavaria, was taken over by communists in 1919 and there briefly existed the Bavarian Soviet Republic (1918-1919).

Germany’s head of state was war hero Paul von Hindenburg (beginning in 1925), but he was not the head of government. The office of head of government, the “chancellor,” like prime minister, changed hands many times. The Weimar Republic was ineffective, to say the least, and anarchy was a real threat to Germany—as was communism.

*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*

The average German citizen was a good person who was afraid and deeply resentful of Germany’s condition after World War 1. The average German had tremendous pride in Germany and believed that the nation had been betrayed by forces within the country and was being oppressed by other nations—especially France. The average German came to believe that the Weimar Republic could not rescue Germany from communism or total anarchy. Even most German Christians, including Pietists, deeply devout Protestants, looked for and came to expect a messiah who would rescue their nation from those threats.

Adolf Hitler was the leader of a relatively weak, marginal political party called the National Socialist Party or the Nazi Party. Throughout the 1920s the party gained very little traction. Most Germans considered Hitler a clown, unfit to lead the nation, even dangerous because of his use of thugs (the SA) to promote his agenda and even his personality. Then, in the early 1930s, when the Weimar Republic could not form a workable coalition of parties, the Nazi Party gained a plurality of seats in the national parliament, the Reichstag.

Two factors fed into Hitler’s becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933. He did not have the support of the majority of Germans. However, his party had more seats in parliament than any other single party. President Hindenburg, who was very old and ill, was persuaded finally to appoint Hitler Chancellor by the leaders of two other parties that could not manage to form a coalition. Those other leaders, including Franz von Papen, who had served as Chancellor for a while, expressed the opinion that they, the leading non-Nazi parties who were obsessed with anti-communism, could control Hitler. They knew he was a dangerous clown, unfit to be Chancellor of the German nation, but they also knew he was popular with the “men on the street” (including women) and that he was (allegedly) changing to become more normal as a politician and potential leader. (He was distancing himself from the SA and making the Nazi Party more mainstream.)

The second factor was the growing popular fear of communism and belief, with Hitler and others, that Germany had been “stabbed in the back” by someone. After all, when Germany surrendered to end World War 1 most Germans were shocked and surprised. They had no idea that Germany was losing the war and wanted Germany to fight on in France. There was widespread belief that some group (bankers, Jews, communists) had intentionally brought about Germany’s defeat and the Kaiser’s downfall. Hitler was only one vocal promoter of that belief.

Germany’s civilized leaders counted on Hindenburg to reign in Hitler and keep him, as Chancellor, from doing anything crazy. They had read Mein Kampf but brushed it aside as the ravings of an earlier Hitler who no longer thought those ways. He had allegedly changed. But even if he did attempt to carry out some of his grandiose plans expressed in Mein Kampf Hindenburg and his coalition partners in parliament would reign him in. But then Hindenburg died and the Reichstag building was burned allegedly by communists and Hitler declared himself both head of government (Chancellor) and head of state (President) and gave himself the new title of Führer. He declared a national emergency and began to arrest and imprison communists and others who he (but not only he) believed to be a threat to Germany’s return to greatness.

From 1934 to 1938 (Kristallnacht) the majority of Germans including devout evangelical Christians supported Hitler as he worked to restore Germany’s greatness and suppress anarchists and communists. They thought the suspension of civil liberties was temporary and necessary.

Only a very few really saw what was happening and what was going to happen. One of them was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, theologian, public intellectual. In 1933, two days after Hitler declared the “Führer Principle,” Bonhoeffer attempted to deliver a radio address to the German nation declaring that only Jesus Christ is true Führer. He was cut off by the Gestapo or by Goebbels’s propaganda ministry before he could finish the speech. (Bonhoeffer expressed to his student and friend Eberhard Bethge that he was sure he was intentionally silenced by agents of Hitler’s government.)

Was Bonhoeffer supernaturally prescient? He was one of very, very few German Christians who saw into Hitler’s mind and heart and plans. But I believe he was simply paying close attention, chose not to be blind, and believed that the dangerous clown Hitler ought not to be trusted and could not be controlled.

Many other German Christians gave their full and unqualified support to Hitler and the Nazi Party. Even the Confessing Church movement of which Bonhoeffer was a part did not stand against Hitler and for the persecuted Jews (and others) as they should have. Why?

There can only be a few reasons. One is that they were taken in my Hitler’s implicit claim to be a Christian—even though he clearly was attempting to take over and control the German churches and almost never attended church himself. Another reason is that they were blinded by their fear of communism. Many of them thought Hitler was bad but not as bad as his enemies, especially the communists. Another reason is their blind German nationalism that bordered on idolatry. Some leading German Christian theologians, biblical scholars and church leaders vocally supported Hitler. There are books and documentaries about this and the story is absolutely shocking.

But my point is that from 1933 until 1938 and even beyond many good Germans, good people, good Christians, supported Hitler in spite of the obvious fact that he was a dangerous clown, unfit to lead, a narcissist, a hater, a criminal, a violent man with violent intentions, and possibly even evil. They shut their eyes to it all out of fear. They were taken over by a mass delusion. Make Germany great again, exclude, even detain (imprison) enemies of the state (Hitler), suppress intellectualism (scientists, philosophers, etc.) insofar as the intellectuals would not compromise their integrity and blindly support his pseudo-science and philosophy, etc. These things were obvious even then. But really “good people,” civilized people, intellectuals, deeply religious people, bowed the knee to the barbarian leader who was obviously a dangerous clown unfit to be “Führer” of anything.

This is one of the greatest mysteries of history. But it happened. And because it happened then, it could happen again—anywhere. “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (philosopher George Santayana).

*Note to commenters: This blog is not a discussion board; please respond with a question or comment only to me. If you do not share my evangelical Christian perspective (very broadly defined), feel free to ask a question for clarification, but know that this is not a space for debating incommensurate perspectives/worldviews. In any case, know that there is no guarantee that your question or comment will be posted by the moderator or answered by the writer. If you hope for your question or comment to appear here and be answered or responded to, make sure it is civil, respectful, and “on topic.” Do not comment if you have not read the entire post and do not misrepresent what it says. Keep any comment (including questions) to minimal length; do not post essays, sermons or testimonies here. Do not post links to internet sites here. This is a space for expressions of the blogger’s (or guest writers’) opinions and constructive dialogue among evangelical Christians (very broadly defined).

“Untold story” doesn’t mean what it sounds like. Of course the stories have been told. What “untold story” usually indicates is that the story is not widely known—and should be.

Personally, I don’t know of any one “place” (book, film) where this particular story has been fully told, but it probably exists. I have pieced the story together from various sources—including living in Germany where it all began (Munich) and talking to people there, reading German sources as well as English language sources, and delving deep into the details of how Adolf Hitler, the dangerous clown, came to power in Germany.

The big question that hovers over this story for us today is how this dangerous clown came to power in a nation like Germany—the very seat of much of modern, Enlightenment philosophy, science, and religion.

So that is the first part of the story that many people don’t know. When Hitler became “Führer” of Germany in 1934 the country was widely considered, throughout the world, the cultural center of modern philosophy, theology, and science. That in spite of World War 1 which went very badly for Germany. Still and nevertheless, the German people had great pride in their relatively new nation (1871) of which Prussia was the most important, influential Staat (state).

After Germany’s defeat (World War 1) in 1918 the country fell into tremendous confusion and conflict. The Kaiser abdicated and Germany became a republic led by a series of coalition governments known as the Weimar Republic. Communism rose in influence and prominence. The second most important German Staat, Bavaria, was taken over by communists in 1919 and there briefly existed the Bavarian Soviet Republic (1918-1919).

Germany’s head of state was war hero Paul von Hindenburg (beginning in 1925), but he was not the head of government. The office of head of government, the “chancellor,” like prime minister, changed hands many times. The Weimar Republic was ineffective, to say the least, and anarchy was a real threat to Germany—as was communism.

*Sidebar: The opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest writer); I do not speak for any other person, group or organization; nor do I imply that the opinions expressed here reflect those of any other person, group or organization unless I say so specifically. Before commenting read the entire post and the “Note to commenters” at its end.*

The average German citizen was a good person who was afraid and deeply resentful of Germany’s condition after World War 1. The average German had tremendous pride in Germany and believed that the nation had been betrayed by forces within the country and was being oppressed by other nations—especially France. The average German came to believe that the Weimar Republic could not rescue Germany from communism or total anarchy. Even most German Christians, including Pietists, deeply devout Protestants, looked for and came to expect a messiah who would rescue their nation from those threats.

Adolf Hitler was the leader of a relatively weak, marginal political party called the National Socialist Party or the Nazi Party. Throughout the 1920s the party gained very little traction. Most Germans considered Hitler a clown, unfit to lead the nation, even dangerous because of his use of thugs (the SA) to promote his agenda and even his personality. Then, in the early 1930s, when the Weimar Republic could not form a workable coalition of parties, the Nazi Party gained a plurality of seats in the national parliament, the Reichstag.

Two factors fed into Hitler’s becoming Chancellor of Germany in 1933. He did not have the support of the majority of Germans. However, his party had more seats in parliament than any other single party. President Hindenburg, who was very old and ill, was persuaded finally to appoint Hitler Chancellor by the leaders of two other parties that could not manage to form a coalition. Those other leaders, including Franz von Papen, who had served as Chancellor for a while, expressed the opinion that they, the leading non-Nazi parties who were obsessed with anti-communism, could control Hitler. They knew he was a dangerous clown, unfit to be Chancellor of the German nation, but they also knew he was popular with the “men on the street” (including women) and that he was (allegedly) changing to become more normal as a politician and potential leader. (He was distancing himself from the SA and making the Nazi Party more mainstream.)

The second factor was the growing popular fear of communism and belief, with Hitler and others, that Germany had been “stabbed in the back” by someone. After all, when Germany surrendered to end World War 1 most Germans were shocked and surprised. They had no idea that Germany was losing the war and wanted Germany to fight on in France. There was widespread belief that some group (bankers, Jews, communists) had intentionally brought about Germany’s defeat and the Kaiser’s downfall. Hitler was only one vocal promoter of that belief.

Germany’s civilized leaders counted on Hindenburg to reign in Hitler and keep him, as Chancellor, from doing anything crazy. They had read Mein Kampf but brushed it aside as the ravings of an earlier Hitler who no longer thought those ways. He had allegedly changed. But even if he did attempt to carry out some of his grandiose plans expressed in Mein Kampf Hindenburg and his coalition partners in parliament would reign him in. But then Hindenburg died and the Reichstag building was burned allegedly by communists and Hitler declared himself both head of government (Chancellor) and head of state (President) and gave himself the new title of Führer. He declared a national emergency and began to arrest and imprison communists and others who he (but not only he) believed to be a threat to Germany’s return to greatness.

From 1934 to 1938 (Kristallnacht) the majority of Germans including devout evangelical Christians supported Hitler as he worked to restore Germany’s greatness and suppress anarchists and communists. They thought the suspension of civil liberties was temporary and necessary.

Only a very few really saw what was happening and what was going to happen. One of them was Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, theologian, public intellectual. In 1933, two days after Hitler declared the “Führer Principle,” Bonhoeffer attempted to deliver a radio address to the German nation declaring that only Jesus Christ is true Führer. He was cut off by the Gestapo or by Goebbels’s propaganda ministry before he could finish the speech. (Bonhoeffer expressed to his student and friend Eberhard Bethge that he was sure he was intentionally silenced by agents of Hitler’s government.)

Was Bonhoeffer supernaturally prescient? He was one of very, very few German Christians who saw into Hitler’s mind and heart and plans. But I believe he was simply paying close attention, chose not to be blind, and believed that the dangerous clown Hitler ought not to be trusted and could not be controlled.

Many other German Christians gave their full and unqualified support to Hitler and the Nazi Party. Even the Confessing Church movement of which Bonhoeffer was a part did not stand against Hitler and for the persecuted Jews (and others) as they should have. Why?

There can only be a few reasons. One is that they were taken in my Hitler’s implicit claim to be a Christian—even though he clearly was attempting to take over and control the German churches and almost never attended church himself. Another reason is that they were blinded by their fear of communism. Many of them thought Hitler was bad but not as bad as his enemies, especially the communists. Another reason is their blind German nationalism that bordered on idolatry. Some leading German Christian theologians, biblical scholars and church leaders vocally supported Hitler. There are books and documentaries about this and the story is absolutely shocking.

But my point is that from 1933 until 1938 and even beyond many good Germans, good people, good Christians, supported Hitler in spite of the obvious fact that he was a dangerous clown, unfit to lead, a narcissist, a hater, a criminal, a violent man with violent intentions, and possibly even evil. They shut their eyes to it all out of fear. They were taken over by a mass delusion. Make Germany great again, exclude, even detain (imprison) enemies of the state (Hitler), suppress intellectualism (scientists, philosophers, etc.) insofar as the intellectuals would not compromise their integrity and blindly support his pseudo-science and philosophy, etc. These things were obvious even then. But really “good people,” civilized people, intellectuals, deeply religious people, bowed the knee to the barbarian leader who was obviously a dangerous clown unfit to be “Führer” of anything.

This is one of the greatest mysteries of history. But it happened. And because it happened then, it could happen again—anywhere. “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it. (philosopher George Santayana).

*Note to commenters: This blog is not a discussion board; please respond with a question or comment only to me. If you do not share my evangelical Christian perspective (very broadly defined), feel free to ask a question for clarification, but know that this is not a space for debating incommensurate perspectives/worldviews. In any case, know that there is no guarantee that your question or comment will be posted by the moderator or answered by the writer. If you hope for your question or comment to appear here and be answered or responded to, make sure it is civil, respectful, and “on topic.” Do not comment if you have not read the entire post and do not misrepresent what it says. Keep any comment (including questions) to minimal length; do not post essays, sermons or testimonies here. Do not post links to internet sites here. This is a space for expressions of the blogger’s (or guest writers’) opinions and constructive dialogue among evangelical Christians (very broadly defined).

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