It was the knock-on effect of America’s Great Depression that changed the political landscape in Germany. Following the Wall Street Crash of October 1929 America called in its worldwide loans on which Germany, especially, was overly reliant. The stable years had come to an abrupt halt.
Unemployment soared – in one month alone, January 1930, unemployment rose from 1.5 million to 2.5 million; by 1931, 4 million were unemployed; and by 1933, 6 million. The Weimar government, in an attempt to keep things under control, adopted a policy of deflation, causing severe wage cuts and further unemployment. Businesses went bankrupt, banks collapsed.
The Weimar government had failed its people. The country was in economic ruin, people’s livelihoods were shattered, and the nation, still burdened with the humiliation of Versailles, was fearful of the communists and the Jews. They looked for an alternative and that alternative lay in Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
As unemployment rocketed so did the number of Nazi Party members, rising from about 120,000 members in mid-1929 to over a million within a year. This was reflected in the elections – from 2.5 per cent of the vote in May 1928 to over 18 per cent in September 1930.