In spite of the fact that Italy had been a victor state in World War I, the Italian political elite was dissatisfied that not all of their territorial pretensions had been fulfilled after the Treaty of Versailles. The accumulated frustrations led Italy on the path of revisionism and towards an alliance with another power which was contesting the status-quo: Nazi Germany.
After his unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the government of the province of Bavaria, Hitler was imprisoned. In detention, he wrote his autobiographical book Mein Kampf, ‘My Struggle’. Mein Kampf was the reference work for the entire Nazi ideology. It was the inspiration which ‘justified’ Germany’s expansion and its entire genocidal policy.
The creation of the Nazi party had highly significant consequences for the future of Germany and Europe. However, no one would have predicted that a relatively small group would come to hold absolute political power in just one decade. Even less that a then-anonymous person would be the personality that historians would write about most.
The fifth condition of the armistice signed by Germany, ending World War I, demanded the evacuation of the territory on the left-hand bank of the Rhine by German troops. The territory was to pass under the control of the Allies and the United States.
Germany after World War I was confronted with serious economic problems. In spite of this, the French decided to occupy the Ruhr area to guarantee the payment of war damages. This occupation worsened the socio-economic crisis in Germany and gave the extremist movements the opportunity to come to the fore. Furthermore, France did not manage to collect the sum established in the Treaty of Versailles.
The Locarno Pact was a deal between the great European powers to guarantee the western borders of Germany. In spite of positive intentions, this treaty had negative consequences on the peace in Europe. Guaranteeing only part of the borders and not the entire status-quo settled after World War I, it undermined the Versailles deal.
In many western European countries during the interwar period, public opinion, in a considerable majority, considered that a new world war was impossible. The Kellogg-Briand pact was signed by the foreign ministers of France and the United States. It was an act which condemned war as a way of solving political conflicts between nations.
The Great Depression generated social and economical problems which had never been encountered before. The Great Depression accentuated the internal chaos in Germany. On the other hand, the economic crisis increased electoral participation, which reached surprising levels. In 1932, 80% of the population participated in parliamentary elections. All of these conditions favored the rise of the Nazi party.
Violence became a generalized phenomenon during the election period. The Nazi Party claimed that 1,000 people were wounded and 84 killed in fights with the Communist Party. On their side, the communists reported 75 deaths from their ranks. The economic crisis was a gunpowder keg from a social point of view. After the chaos that was created, the Nazi Party became dominant in Germany.
Schleicher was the last chancellor before Hitler took hold of power. Schleicher could not govern because he did not have a majority in parliament. Under these conditions, he accepted Hitler’s requests. The Nazis would take power through a coalition government. Hitler would become the chancellor of Germany, and Wilhelm Frick was appointed as Minister of the Interior. Although they were in the minority in the executive body, the Nazis held two key positions.
The Reichstag, the German Parliament, was set on fire by a Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe. Hitler, a master of political metaphors, considered this to be a divine sign. Looking back, it was certainly a symbol of the fall of representative democracy. Hitler officially became the uncontested dictator of Germany.
The Night of the Long Knives was a historic event designed to be a symbol. The event was the assassination of the SA leaders, a political movement inside the Nazi Party. They were killed for several reasons. Hitler no longer trusted them, since they had become much too independent. Furthermore, their assassination won the appreciation of the army leaders, attracting many military commanders to the Nazi cause. Their assassination once again confirmed Hitler’s power. From that moment, Hitler was not only becoming the ruler of Germany, but also the absolute leader of the Nazis.