MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM

AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU

FORMER GERMAN NAZI
CONCENTRATION AND EXTERMINATION CAMP

Hitler takes power

In spite of Hitler’s hopes, the NSDAP never achieved a result in free elections that allowed it to govern on its own. There were parties and social groups in Germany that objected to both Nazi aims and the brutal methods that the Nazis used in the political struggle. These opponents, however, turned out to have too little influence, and the democratic elites were too divided and disoriented to block Hitler’s path to power. As a result, following the latest in a series of cabinet crises in January 1933, President Hindenburg designated Hitler as chancellor of Germany. This was a turning point, and the beginning of the end, in the history of the Weimar Republic. Having gained control over the state apparatus, and especially the police, the Nazis managed within a few months to suspend civil liberties, liquidate the independent press, remove opposition deputies from the Reichstag, and arrest their political opponents. 

German Jews watched these developments uneasily, but without falling into exaggerated pessimism. Like many foreign observers, they regarded the anti-Semitism of the NSDAP as mere populist electoral sloganeering intended to mobilize the far-right electorate. There was universal anticipation that, having gained power, Hitler would concentrate as a politician on the current problems of state administration, and distance himself from such nonsensical and counterproductive prejudices. Soon, however, it would turn out that the new chancellor took antisemitism all too seriously.