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diary that the Reichstag was “an attempt of the slime to

govern. Church slime, bourgeois slime, military


slime.” But, as far as the Naziswere concerned, in 1928
the evidence was that the democratic “slime” were
winning. Indeed, the Naziswere so short of money in
1928 that they had trouble financing their party rally in
Nuremberg.31 However, there were stirrings in German
society that offeredsome hope to a Nazi party that so
clearly needed a crisis to be able to progress.
German agricultural workers were suffering as the price
of food on the world market began to drop. Sincethe
relative prosperity of the Weimar government had
been built on using loans from America to pay the British
and French their reparations, this was a fragile
economy, and it already showed signs of cracking.
Working hard to stabilise Germany’s position was Gustav
Stresemann, the German Foreign Secretary. He had
convinced the German government to sign the Kellogg-
Briand Pact in August 1928 that committed Germany to
a peaceful resolution of international problems.
Stresemann then built on the subsequent goodwill by
negotiating the Young Plan in February 1929,by whichthe
burden of German reparations would be reduced.
Stresemann was unusual at this point in the history
in that he was a senior political figurewho was
intensely concerned aboutHitler and the Nazis. As Theodor
Eschenburg recalls, “I was often together with
Stresemann, the foreign minister at the time. A
liberal, a Right-wing liberal. I remember very well.
It was Whitsun 1929.One evening Stresemann started
talking aboutHitler and said, ‘He is the most dangerous
man in Germany. He possesses a devilish rhetoric.
He has an instinct for mass psychology like no-one else.
When I retire,I will travel through Germany and
get rid of this man.’ There were also a few men
from the foreign office there.We didn’t understand Stresemann.
We said, ‘This little party? Let the guy shout.’ ”32
Gustav Stresemann suffered a stroke and died on
3 October 1929,just days before the Wall Street
Crash. And amidst this new economic crisis, millions
of Germans would be responsive to Hitler’s
charismaticoffer of leadership for the very first time. Now
when Hitler shouted, people would listen.
5 OFFERING HOPE IN A CRISIS
Between 1929 and 1933 millions of Germans turned their
back on their previous party allegiances and decided to
support Adolf Hitler and the Nazis—and they did this
knowing that Hitler intended to destroy the German
democratic system and supported acts of criminal
violence. Two events from 1932 illustrate the
extraordinary nature of what was now happening in
this cultured nation at the heart of Europe. In
an election speech1—one of the very first to be
filmed with synchronised sound—Hitler mocked German
multi-party democracy and the thirty or so parties that were
standing against the Nazis. He announced that he
had “one goal” whichwas to “drivethe thirty parties out of
Germany.” He proudly boasted that the Naziswere
“intolerant” and that “there is more at stake [in this
election] than just deciding on a new coalition.” He
could scarcely have been more explicit abouthis intention
to create a totalitarian state. Then,in August, Hitler
offered his “unbounded loyalty”2 and support to five
Nazi stormtroopers who had just been sentenced to death
for the murder of a Communistsupporter in
Potempa inSilesia. Hitler did not deny that the murder
had taken place, nor that these five Nazishad committed
it—he simply said that the verdict against them had
been “monstrous.” Hitler, who aspired to be
Chancellor of Germany, thus publicly allied himself with
extrajudicial killings. In the light of all that, how could so
many Germans possibly have decided that Hitler should
be voted into power, and what role did Hitler’s perceived
“charisma” play in the Nazis’ undoubted electoral
success?