Takeover: Hitler’s Final Rise to Power

“THEY will have to drag us out as corpses,” Joseph Goebbels scribbled this diary entry one evening punctuated by shooting stars in mid-August of 1932 whilst stargazing beside Adolf Hitler on the veranda of Haus Wachenfeld – the latter’s Alpine retreat on the Obersalzberg located just above the Bavarian town of Berchtesgaden.

In the aftermath of the duo’s National Socialists’ attainment of 37 percent of the electorate in the July 31, 1932 Reichstag elections – which positioned it as a majority party with 230 seats in the 600- member Reichstag – and their strategizing on their imminent seizure of power – Goebbels was already vowing never to surrender power. Those words he added into his diary were to prove prophetic as by April 1945, the two’s remains would be discovered inside a bunker beneath the Reich’s Chancellery – having committed suicide!

Goebbels may have alluded to such a scenario as an outcome of the fate which would likely befall most of the Nazi’s top brass since another two of Hitler’s lieutenants also committed suicide, viz, Herman Goring (shortly before his scheduled execution) and Heinrich Himmler (whilst in British custody.)

Such endings by their own hands of the Fuhrer (leader) and some of his closest acolytes were more than a decade ahead of the stargazing moment which precipitated the chain of events which would culminate in Hitler’s seizure of power in Germany and ultimately throwing the wide world into the cataclysm of World War II!

It had taken thirteen years after Hitler’s initial encounter with a handful of men in the backroom of a Munchen beer hall in September 1919 marked his foray as a political player, including the attempted 1923 beer hall putsch which resulted in his incarceration for high treason – for his party to now, in July 1932, garner the most votes of any party in the Reichstag, thus putting it in the driving seat of forming a coalition government.

Paradoxically an Austrian who could had been extradited or executed, Hitler had started out as an insignificant figure on the radical fringe of Bavarian beer hall politics with a meagre two thousand followers, whom by 1931 commanded more than six million voters.

The detested terms of the Treaty of Versailles imposed upon Germany served as motivation for Hitler and Co.’s revolt against a multiparty system they deemed to polarize the German nation – spurred by Goebbels’ alles oder nichts (all or nothing) strategy of seizure of power!

It would take the Nazis a mere six months – from July 1932 to January 1933 – of patient jostling and power brokering before Hitler could assume power!

His path to power was paved by capable lieutenants such as Gregor Strasser (a pharmacist by training who – up until he became at loggerheads with him and was murdered in a jail cell pending the June 1934 weekend bloodbath known as the Night of the Long Knives – was the National Socialists’ chief party administrator); Hermann Goring (the World War 1 flying ace who went on to command one of the largest air armadas in the world); Ernst Rohm (the SA commander who admitted to having “same-sex inclinations” and rumoured to having been Hitler’s lover); Joseph Goebbels (the chief propagandist for the Nazi Party described by Hans Frank – a high-ranking official – as a clubfooted devil, who despite being initially recruited by Strasser, later went on to revel in denigrating him, upon Hitler casting him into the political cold!) and another of Strasser’s recruits, Heinrich Himmler (the Reichsfuhrer-SS and future overseer of the Gestapo and, ominously, Nazi Germany’s genocidal programs.)

Goring, Rohm, Goebbels and Himmler were referred to as “the Fuhrer’s guards”, with the demagogic “Bohemian Corporal” (Hitler, id est) additionally able to count upon a Himmler subordinate named Reinhard Heydrich (who was in charge of the Nazis’ Security Service – whose network of operatives assumed the role upon society intended to ferret out spies and traitors through the application of brutal methods such as murder!)

In the Nazi hierarchy, if Himmler was attributed with condemning Jews to the Holocaust – then the young Reichsprotektor described by Hitler as “the man with the iron heart” was considered one of the darkest figures within the party!

It boggles the mind that the Reichswehr (Germany’s army) mandated to defend the sovereignty of the then Weimar Republic numbered a mere 100 000 men as opposed to the National Socialists’ SA paramilitary which consisted of 400 000 storm troopers – which would explain Rohm’s eagerness to unleash it, once during 1932, for a “March on Berlin” to launch a violent revolution when Hitler encountered resistance in his bid for the country’s chancellorship!

If Hitler was, in the words of Hindenburg, “demanding control of the entire government”, he was patiently implementing dynamics towards that realization which included the alleviation of one of his own, Goring, as Reich Speaker– a development scoffed at by Goebbels through his observation that “the big joke on democracy is that it gives its mortal enemies the tools to its own destruction.”

Why, the Fuhrer himself wrote of his disdain for democracy in his book, Mein Kampf in which he dismissed parliaments as “an assembly of idiots!” With the irony of this being that Hitler’s intention was to dismantle democracy through the democratic process as a means of realizing the grandiose objective of a dictatorship!

The movie-esque read relates, inter alia, of the Nazis parliamentary brawls with much maligned Communist nemesis; a party encumbered with tens of millions of Reich marks in debts; Hitler’s protracted ego-fuelled tussles with Germany’s wealthiest man and kingmaker, Alfred Hugenberg; pre-emptive assassinations of opponents deemed obstacles in Hitler’s march to power and in espionage-style, the Nazis’ failure to detect a ‘mole’ entrenched at its Brown House headquarters, who supplied a stream of crucial intelligence to then Chancellor Kurt von Schleicher – a figure they were inexorably striving to depose, et cetera!

Featured on the tome’s front jacket cover is a monochromatic image of the octogenarian Reich president, Paul von Hindenburg, a war hero who held the rank of Field Marshall, limned shaking hands, tete-a-tete with then chancellorship-aspirant Adolf Hitler – whose credentials extended to that of a Corporal.

Within six months incorporating the military veterans’ rendezvous, events unfolded which were to culminate in Hindenburg – after a lengthy period of wrangling with his conscience caused by his instinctive unease with Hitler – acceding to appointing him as Germany’s chancellor.

Eventually, amidst a then prevailing governing crisis, the 84-year-old statesman, whose niece, Helene Nostitz, recalled as possessing such dislike of Hitler that the name wouldn’t even be mentioned in his presence, was left with no alternative but to appoint “diesen Hitler” (this Hitler) as the next chancellor – with the Nazi figurehead setting off from his Kaiserhof Hotel suite in Berlin on the last Monday of January 1933 pending what Time magazine referred to as “the biggest morning of his life”, en-route to the Reichstag complex, there – despite yet another heated battle of wits with Hugenberg which resulted in the punctual President Hindenburg being kept waiting for a considerable period of time – to finally take his oath as “Reich Chancellor Hitler.”

Away from political aspirations, Hitler is also portrayed as once being suspected of possessing Jewish blood in his family lineage – even as he was obsessed with demanding proof of pure Aryan lineage from his followers, and susceptible to occurrences fellow mortals were exposed to such as the suicides which inadvertently surrounded him: his 23-year-old niece, Geli Raubal reportedly committed suicide sometime in September 1931 – with lurid rumours of incest between her and Hitler proliferating amidst a claim of her discovery of a letter from his then lover Eva Braun precipitating her shooting herself, deducing that she might had deemed Braun as competition vying for her uncle’s affections!

Less than a year later after Raubal’s suicide, 20-year-old Braun shot herself in a suicide attempt attributed to her having felt desperately neglected.

Before his ultimate suicide, he himself was in the habit of repeatedly threatening it, particularly when overwhelmed with frustration – such as pending a moment once witnessed by the filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl.

Author and Director of the Institute of Historical Justice and Reconciliation, Timothy W. Ryback’s account – to borrow a description applied by a critic appertaining to another book, spills like “jetpropelled history!”

Takeover: Hitler’s Final Rise to Power is a trade paperback published by Headline and distributed across South Africa by Jonathan Ball Publishers.

Available at leading bookstores nationwide, it retails for R470.

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