After this encounter, Hitler centralized the party even more and asserted the F?hrerprinzip as the basic principle of party organization. Leaders were not elected by their group but were rather appointed by their superior and were answerable to them while demanding unquestioning obedience from their inferiors. Consistent with Hitler's disdain for democracy, all power and authority devolved from the top down.
A key element of Hitler's appeal was his ability to convey a sense of offended national pride caused by the Treaty of Versailles imposed on the defeated German Empire by the Entente. Germany had lost economically important territory in Europe along with its colonies and in admitting to sole responsibility for the war had agreed to pay a huge reparations bill totaling 32 billion mark. Most Germans bitterly resented these terms but early Nazi attempts to gain support by blaming these humiliations on "international Jewry" were not particularly successful with the electorate. The party learned quickly and soon a more subtle propaganda emerged, combining anti-Semitism with an attack on the failures of the "Weimar system" and the parties supporting it.
Having failed in overthrowing the Republic by a coup, Hitler now pursued the "strategy of legality": this meant formally adhering to the rules of the Weimar Republic until he had legally gained power and then to transform liberal democracy into an authoritarian dictatorship. Some party members, especially in the paramilitary SA, opposed this strategy and Ernst R?hm ridiculed Hitler as "Adolphe Legalit?".
The road to power
Main article: Hitler's rise to power
The Br?ning administration
The political turning point for Hitler came when the Great Depression hit Germany in 1930. The Weimar Republic had never been firmly rooted and was openly opposed by right-wing conservatives (including monarchists), Communists and the Nazis. As the parties loyal to the democratic, parliamentary republic found themselves unable to agree on counter-measures, their Grand Coalition broke up and was replaced by a minority cabinet. The new Chancellor Heinrich Br?ning of the Roman Catholic Centre Party, lacking a majority in parliament, had to implement his measures through the President's emergency decrees. Tolerated by the majority of parties, the exception soon became the rule and paved the way for authoritarian forms of government.
The Reichstag's initial opposition to Br?ning's measures led to premature elections in September 1930. The republican parties lost their majority and their ability to resume the Grand Coalition, while the Nazis suddenly rose from relative obscurity to win 18.3% of the vote along with 107 seats in the Reichstag, becoming the second largest party in Germany.
Hitler emerges from the Brown House in Munich (headquarters of the Nazi party during the last days of the Weimar Republic) after a post-election meeting in 1930.
Br?ning's measure of budget consolidation and financial austerity brought little economic improvement and was extremely unpopular. Under these circumstances, Hitler appealed to the bulk of German farmers, war veterans and the middle-class who had been hard-hit by both the inflation of the 1920s and the unemployment of the Depression. Hitler received little response from the urban working classes and traditionally Catholic regions.
Meanwhile on September 18, 1931 Hitler's niece Geli Raubal was found dead in her bedroom in his Munich apartment (his half-sister Angela and her daughter Geli had been with him in Munich since 1929), an apparent suicide. Geli was 19 years younger than he was and had used his gun, drawing rumours of a relationship between the two. The event is viewed as having caused lasting turmoil for him.
In 1932 Hitler intended to run against the aging President Paul von Hindenburg in the scheduled presidential elections. Though Hitler had left Austria in 1913, he still had not acquired German citizenship and hence could not run for public office. In February however, the state government of Brunswick, in which the Nazi Party participated, appointed Hitler to some minor administrative post and also gave him citizenship. The new German citizen ran against Hindenburg, who was supported by a broad range of reactionary nationalist, monarchist, Catholic, Republican and even social democratic parties, and against the Communist presidential candidate. His campaign was called "Hitler ?ber Deutschland" (Hitler over Germany). The name had a double meaning.
Hitler over Germany. Political campaign by airplane.
Besides an obvious reference to Hitler's dictatorial intentions, it also referred to the fact that Hitler was campaigning by airplane. This was a brand new political tactic that allowed Hitler to speak in two cities in one day, which was practically unheard of at the time. Hitler came in second on both rounds, attaining more than 35% of the vote during the second one in April. Although he lost to Hindenburg, the election established Hitler as a realistic and fresh alternative in German politics.
The cabinets of Papen and Schleicher
President Hindenburg, influenced by the Camarilla, became increasingly estranged from Br?ning and pushed his Chancellor to move the government in a decidedly authoritarian and right-wing direction. This culminated in May 1932 with the resignation of the Br?ning cabinet.
Hindenburg appointed the nobleman Franz von Papen as chancellor, heading a "cabinet of barons". Papen was bent on authoritarian rule and since in the Reichstag only the conservative DNVP supported his administration, he immediately called for new elections in July. In these elections, the Nazis achieved their biggest success yet and won 230 seats.
The Nazis had become the largest party in the Reichstag without which no stable government could be formed. Papen tried to convince Hitler to become Vice-Chancellor and enter a new government with a parliamentary basis. Hitler however rejected this offer and put further pressure on Papen by entertaining parallel negotiations with the Centre Party, Papen's former party, which was bent on bringing down the renegade Papen. In both negotiations Hitler demanded that he, as leader of the strongest party, must be Chancellor, but President Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint the "Bohemian private" to the Chancellorship.
After a vote of no-confidence in the Papen government, supported by 84% of the deputies, the new Reichstag was dissolved and new elections were called in November. This time, the Nazis lost some votes but still