30 January 1933: Adolf Hitler takes power

Adolf Hitler came to power on this day in 1933 following a political gamble that went disastrously wrong.

The Great Depression hit Germany hard, with one in three German workers unemployed by early 1933. Political support drained away from the main parties, benefiting Adolf Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party (better known as the Nazi Party). In the July 1932 national election they came first, with 37% of the vote. They were unable to form a government and Hitler was defeated in the presidential election, but they had become a major political force.

Other parties were also unable to form a majority government and Germany was in political limbo. So in January 1933 former chancellor Franz von Papen persuaded president Paul von Hindenburg to form a national government with Hitler as chancellor. The idea was that von Papen would retain real power, while using Nazi support to get legislation through parliament. This proved a miscalculation that had tragic consequences for Germany and the rest of the world.

Hitler immediately insisted on calling fresh elections. In the weeks leading up to the vote on March 1933, the new government tried every means at its disposal to intimidate the other parties. It also used the burning down of the Reichstag to pass laws curtailing freedom of speech and assembly. Despite this, and the fact that many election observers were Nazis, it had to rely on the support of another far-right party to gain a majority.

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But immediately after the election, Hitler set about dismantling the remaining elements of democracy. He used a mixture of diplomacy and coercion to force parliament to pass the Enabling Act, which allowed him to bypass parliament. This effectively ended the Weimar Republic.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

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