The roots of Nazism in Germany could be traced to her defeat in the First World War and with the imposition of the extremely harsh Treaty of Versailles. The treaty aggravated German nationalism to a great extent as it was a serious attempt by victors to brought Germany to its knees so that she could never start a war again.
The following factors led to the rise of Hitler or Dictatorship of the Nazi Party–
Political Instability in Germany:
Under the Weimar Republic, there existed political instability. Between 1919 and 1933, as many as twenty-one coalition governments rose and fell. Policies changed frequently. Democracy failed to give any relief to the people. Hitler promised a stable and strong government. He won the support of the people.
Humiliating Treaty of Versailles:
The treaty of Versailles was a very harsh and humiliating treaty for Germany. The German patriots did not want to sign it, but they had to do so due to the undue pressure of the Allies over them. The Germans were, therefore, discontented with this treaty. Hitler was the greatest opponent of the Treaty of Versailles. He made it known to the people of Germany that the republican government had committed a blunder by accepting the harsh conditions of the treaty of Versailles. He assured the Germans to rectify the mistakes of the republicans. He bitterly opposed that condition of the treaty, by which Germany had been held responsible for the war, therefore, a heavy amount had been imposed upon her as war indemnity. According to him, this condition was an attack on the national glory and prestige of Germany. Since the Republicans had accepted the responsibility of the war and of paying the war indemnity, it was to be treated, according to Hitler, as a crime of political treachery. Some historians are of the view that the Treaty of Versailles was not the main cause of the rise of Hitler and his party. They have argued that the terms and conditions of the Treaty had been modified considerably till the rise of Hitler. But their arguments have no solid base. It is fact that the people of Germany had not forgotten the national humiliation. They wanted to avenge the humiliation. When Hitler assured them that he would work against this treaty, they gave full support and cooperation to Hitler. It increased his power. Thus, the poisonous propaganda of Hitler against the Treaty of Versailles led to his rise and to the strengthening of the Nazi Party.
The most important cause of the success of the Nazi Party was the economic depression of 1929-30. Every class in Germany was discontented in this period and the Nazis succeeded in exploiting their discontent. In June 1931, debts on farmers had risen to three hundred million dollars. Hitler promised the farmers to condone this amount. Big capitalists out of the fear of communism were supporting Hitler. He won over some of the capitalists by promising that industries would not be nationalised. The small shopkeepers had to suffer heavy losses in competition with large stores. So they were promised that large stores would be immediately socialized. He also won over the people who had lost their income due to the devaluation of a mark by raising their hopes of prosperity. The most important class whose support he had won was that of the unemployed who numbered more than 5 million in 1930. The membership of the Nazi Part recorded an inordinate increase that year. It was fortunate for the Nazis that they came into power at a time when the Depression was coming to an end.
Fear of Communism:
The communists in Germany tried to stage a revolution on the pattern of the Soviet Revolution of 1917. Hitler feared that if the communists succeeded in their plans, then it would result in Germany acting as a satellite of Soviet Russia. So he exposed the communists before the people. As a result, they preferred to join the Nazi Part than the Communist Party.
From the time of German defeat in the First World War the feeling that the Jews were responsible for it had gained currency among the people of Germany. Though the Jews were not more than one per cent of the German population, they dominated politics, business, trade and the arts. They were the most prosperous clan in Germany. They owned large industries but the common people hated them as exploiters. The Jews enjoyed a prominent place in several fields of public life. Hitler took advantage of this anti-semitic feeling of the people and promised to expel the Jews from the country and to hand over their factories to the unemployed. So the unemployed began to support the Nazi Party.
The Personality of Hitler:
Hitler possessed an attractive personality. He was an effective orator. He believed in the principle of propagation. He repeated his principles and ideology before the people. He had established effective control over the means of advertisement and propaganda. The principles of the Nazi Party had been disseminated among the public through these means. His Propaganda Minister, Goebbels, was also an influential orator. He assisted Hitler considerably. Thus, the attractive personality of Hitler and his spellbinding oratory contributed a lot to the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany.