This essay analyses aspects of the scenario which enabled Adolf Hitler to become dictator of the German Reich to transform the basically democratic Weimar Republic into an authoritarian dictatorship. It is the aim to argue in how far Franz of Papen, former chancellor and Vice chancellor in Hitler's cabinet, is responsible for Hitler's rise to power. Because of its complexity Hitler's rise to power it is "a phenomenon which seems scarcely capable of subjection to rational analysis" as Ian Kershaw stated 1.
This essay tries to find explanations from one point of view by putting Franz von Papen's famous quotation "In two months we will have pushed Hitler so far into a corner that he'll squeak" into the historical context. After an introduction of the framing theory that Papen relied on (1) his measures and motives to make Hitler become chancellor are discussed in the main body (2). Then Hitler's most important tactics to dissolve the "frame of limiting factors" are analysed in detail (3) in order to come to the conclusion (4) that Papen's underestimation did favour Hitler's rise to power.
Thereby my research question, "Did Franz von Papen's wrong estimation of the situation of 1933 favour Adolf Hitler's rise to power? " will be answered. A special focus will be put on Hitler's tactics to overcome the constitution of the Weimar Republic. This aspect seems so vitally important to me because the basically democratic constitution lasted until the end of the Nazi dictatorship. This phenomenon that a democratic constitution could be the basis for a dictatorship was one of the reasons why I chose this topic. 1. ) Introduction
By stating "In two months we will have pushed Hitler so far into a corner that he'll squeak" 2 Franz von Papen demonstrated that he believed in the failure of Adolf Hitler as chancellor of the German Reich. Papen and the political opposition did not to take him seriously. Hitler and the National Socialists Worker's Party (NSDAP) were supposed to fail as the predecessors and seen as a "temporary intermediate development" 3 that would not be able to solve Germany's major political issues and could easily be controlled. Papen was confirmed in this estimation, the so-called "framing theory" 4, by the national German press, too.
5 Because of his resignation as chancellor in 1932 it seemed impossible for him to become chancellor again. This was President Hindenburg's unfulfilled wish according to the evidence which Otto Meisner gave at the Nuremberg Trail and underlines that Hitler was not Hindenburg's favourite candidate. 6 Nevertheless, Papen wanted to keep political power in his hands. So it was an alternative that Hitler could be used as a "drummer" for his own political ideas. But what made Papen believe that Hitler could be pushed into a corner so easily? 2. ) Papen's motives and measures in favour of Hitler's chancellor ship
President Hindenburg and Papen had a close relation which was the reason for Papen's enormous influence in the president's circle of power. He came to the conclusion that under his influence as Vice Chancellor having Hindenburg's support, Hitler was the only one who could establish a stable government. With 33. 1%7 the NSDAP, Hitler's party, was the strongest party in the Reichstag and had the masses behind itself. Because of his enormous influence on Hindenburg in the process of Hitler's rise to power Papen became known as the "broker of power" 8. Even the Reichstag had become a victim of his "deals" before.
In August 1932 Papen had been able to make Hindenburg agree to an unconstitutional delay of upcoming elections in order to strengthen the position of his cabinet. Hindenburg was so vitally important because he could arbitrarily appoint a chancellor according to the constitution. The Reichstag could be set out of power by Emergency Decrees. Papen tried to make use of his relation to the President in order to achieve his goal to make Hindenburg appoint Adolf Hitler. With his stiff-necking tactics Papen finally succeeded in convincing President Hindenburg to appoint Hitler Chancellor.
Papen's main argument was that Hitler would not be a potential danger to his authority as vice chancellor. He argued that there were only three rather inexperienced NSDAP ministers in the proposed cabinet: Dr. Frick as Minister of the Interior, Gi?? ring as Minister without a special resort and Hitler himself as chancellor. The other ministers were right-leaning conservatives. Hitler should be controlled ("framed" 9) as it was also intended by industrial leaders. When Papen was asked by a conservative critic about Hitler as a potential danger he answered "What do you want?
I have Hindenburg's confidence" 10 . Hitler's claims seemed in fact modest and he showed himself willing to cooperate with the conservative members of government. But one important demand of Hitler, the re-election of the Reichstag, was belittled by Papen because he knew that Hindenburg had serious doubts about it. It was obvious that the conservative partner would have lost many votes and could have become a junior partner of the NSDAP which would have put an end to the framing theory Papen believed. On January 30th, 1933 Hitler was officially appointed chancellor of the German Reich by Hindenburg.
Not because of being voted by a parliamentary majority but through the "authoritarian points of incursion" 11 of the Weimar Republic. President Hindenburg made use of his right to dissolve the Reichstag until the re-election on March 5th. With the help of Papen's intrigue Hitler had successfully manipulated Hindenburg into calling for the new elections he had wanted. The dissolution of the Reichstag which accompanied Hitler's first two months of chancellor ship was made possible with article 48 of the Weimar Republic's constitution – the "article of dictatorship" 12.
In addition to his personal influence and the political minority of the NSDAP in the cabinet, Papen also saw the social circumstances as a limiting factor which were not promising for Adolf Hitler. In order to be accepted as a qualified chancellor Hitler had to arrange work for more than 6 million unemployed workers. Papen did not believe that Hitler could create new jobs and could strengthen the collapsed economy which was a point of which especially the middle class measured his success.
Inflation, a society being radicalised to the extreme left which was the Communist Party called KPD or right which actually was the NSDAP, an industrial production reduced by 50 percent and a reduction of state investments were other grievances. It was not Hitler's primary intention to solve these problems – he wanted to become an uncontrolled totalitarian leader. This meant that he had to gain support from the main branches of the society. He learnt from the past that power was not to be achieved by a coup like the Hitler Putsch in 1923 – being imprisoned in Landsberg Hitler decided to achieve his goals by legal means.
The army, another important branch of society, was under control of the President who was its commander-in-chief and had supreme command. Hitler was not able to make military decisions without Hindenburg's acknowledgement. The army would have been able to put an end to Hitler's government. (? 3. 5) But despite all the mentioned fragments of the frame Papen believed in, the constitution of the Weimar Republic was the most important obstacle to be overcome. The frame of limiting factors is illustrated in appendix II – what Hitler made of it will be described in the following paragraph and is illustrated in appendix.
III. 3.) Hitler's tactics to overcome Papen's framing theory Within a few months it became obvious that the obstacles in Hitler's way to absolute power which Papen saw as limiting factors could quickly be overcome by him. The "frame" Papen believed in was dissolved step-by-step. The thesis of a "legal revolution" (13), itself a contradictory expression according to Theodor Schieder's theory of revolution, could describe how Hitler effectively undermined the Weimar Republic and transformed a basically democratic state into a dictatorship. In order to achieve this goal the constitution was the first aim which was to be undermined by legal means.
Hitler's rise was accomplished through the collapse of democracy within the Republic. This can be shown by considering the Nazi's attack on the constitution. The constitution itself and in particular article 48 enabled Hitler to carry out his "revolution" under the plea of constitutionality and legality. 3. 1 Attack on the Weimar constitution The constitution of the Weimar Republic had certain advanced democratic features and was based on the one hand on checks and balances and on the other hand on the uncontrollable power of the President ("presidial democracy") who was directly elected by the electorate for 7 years.
The constitution thus had a very strong presidential14 and a very strong plebeian15 element. Therefore the later overcoming of Hindenburg was so vitally important (see 3. 3) for Hitler. Representatives were elected into the Reichsrat and the Country Parliaments by a universal, direct and secret franchise. The government needed a majority in the Reichstag in order to introduce or modify laws and a two thirds-majority to modify the constitution. Additionally a federal element underlined the balance of power.