The Historical Background of Secret Hitler (I. The Setup 2. The Parties)

In Secret Hitler, there are two teams: the Liberal Party and the Fascist Party. The Fascists are working in secret, trying to sabotage the liberal government and accomplish their objective. This is an over-simplified version of the political conflict in the last years of the Weimar Republic.

“The Liberal Party”

In the Weimar Republic, the opposition to the Fascist Party was neither really liberal nor a single united party. The political parties in the Republic were extremely diverse on the entire political spectrum, from extreme right to extreme left. To name a few:

On the far right, there was the German National People’s Party (Deutsch-Nationale Volkspartei, DNVP), the monarchist conservative party survived from the old Empire that grew anti-republican and nationalistic, representing the interests of the economic elites. It is worth noting that the DNVP joined in an alliance with the Nazi Party on several occasions in the 1930s. After the March 1933 election, the DNVP formed a coalition government with the Nazi Party, granting them the majority in the parliament and Hitler the chancellorship.

More to the center, there was the German People’s Party (Deutsche Volkspartei, DVP), a conservative-liberal party formed from the right-wing of the National Liberal Party from the Empire representing the interests of the business owners. The DVP was led by Gustav Stresemann, one of the most influential statesmen in the Weimar Republic.

In the center, there was the easy-to-remember Centre Party (Zentrumspartei or Zentrum), a broad coalition of political ideologies representing the interests of the Catholic population. The Centre Party had the most regular presence in the Weimar administration, participating in every government from 1919 to 1932.

Then there was the German Democratic Party (Deutsche Demokratische Partei, DDP), a social-liberal party formed from the left-wing of the National Liberals representing the interests of the middle class. The DDP had often collaborated with the Centre Party or the SPD in numerous administrations.

To the left, there was the Social Democratic Party of Germany (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands, SPD), the socialist party representing the interests of the working class. SPD was the largest party in the Weimar Republic from 1919 to 1932, the stable force that had always supported and upheld the Republic whether in office or as the opposition. SPD together with the Centre Party and DDP formed the backbone of the Weimar government from its formation.

Finally, on the far left, there was the Communist Party of Germany (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD), the Stalinist group under the control of the Comintern in Moscow that strongly opposed the SPD and the Weimar Republic. KPD’s hostility toward SPD was not only because of Stalin’s “class against class” strategy in the Third Period of the Communist International but also due to their bitter history in the German Revolution. In the January Uprising in 1919, a group of communists known as the Spartacists launched a strike in Berlin in an attempt to stir up the Bolsheviks Revolution. SPD’s leader Friedrich Ebert as the chairman of the interregnum government ordered the ring-wing paramilitary force Freikorps to suppress the uprising, and the two founders of KPD were executed. Several subsequent attempts to set up Soviet republics were also violently put down. The KPD, therefore, viewed the SPD as class enemies and social fascists (huh, just like what players in Secret Hitler would accuse of each other).

Composition of the Reichstag after the Election of 1928. Created by Wikipedia user Liambaker98
Dark red: KPD. Red: SPD. Gold: DDP. Yellow: Zentrum. Blue: DVP. Black: DNVP. Brown: NSDAP

In general, there were around thirty parties competing in each election, and a dozen of them being represented in the Reichstag, Weimar Republic’s parliament (which we will discuss later). Coalitions between parties were very common. Due to the complexity in the Weimar political landscape, it was extremely difficult to obtain an absolute majority in the Reichstag in order to form a functional legislature. Therefore, parties often formed coalitions to reach the majority needed in the Reichstag. The Weimar Coalition of SPD, DDP, and the Centre Party formed the first elected government of the new-born Republic under Chancellor Scheidemann (SPD) at the National Assembly in Weimar in 1919. The Grand Coalition which included the addition of the more conservative DVP was united under Chancellor Stresemann (DVP) in 1923. It was formed once again after the federal election in 1928 under Chancellor Müller (SPD).

However, with the looming economic disaster from the Great Depression beginning in the winter of 1929, the Grand Coalition collapsed from partisan conflict over government spending. The Weimar Coalition would not be formed again in the remaining years of the Republic. With the democratic coalition dissolved and the more extreme groups of DNVP and KPD refused to work with the Weimar government, the stage was left wide open for the entrance of the Nazi Party in 1930.

The Fascist Party

Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, 1930. From German Federal Archives

The National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP), commonly referred to as the Nazi Party, was a far-right ultra-nationalist party founded in 1919 by Anton Drexler originally known as the German Workers’ Party (DAP). An Austrian-born German soldier named Adolf Hitler joined the party later that year, and with his charismatic personality and exceptional oratorical skill he soon took over as the party leader (der Führer) in 1921. Nazism itself is a variation of fascism in Italy, with the incorporation of antisemitism, anti-communism, and Social Darwinism elements. The Nazi Party viewed the signing of the Treaty of Versailles by the Weimar government in 1919—loss of territories, forced disarmament, acceptance of war guilt, payment of heavy war reparations—as a betrayal to the German people. Thus they detested the weak Weimar Republic and was fueled by revanchism (French: Revanchisme, the policy of endeavouring to regain lost territory). The Nazi Party sought to create the Volksgemeinschaft, “the people’s community,” uniting the “superior” Aryan race of the German people. 

Beer Hall Putsch, November 9, 1923. From German Federal Archives

The Nazi Party wasn’t really secret in any way. It was notorious for their extreme public demonstrations, especially the violent acts committed by their paramilitary group SA (Sturmabteilung, “Storm Detachment”) and SS (Schutzstaffel, “Protection Squadron”). In the event known as the Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923, Hitler attempted to seize power by force through a coup d’état leading a Nazi rally of around 2,000 people in Munich. The local soldiers refused to support the coup and confronted the crowd. A violent clash occurred, which resulted in Hitler and his associates arrested and later imprisoned with the Nazi Party banned. After Hitler was released in December 1924, the Nazi Party adapted to a pseudo-legal approach of gaining control of Germany through the electoral process of the Weimar Republic, known as Machtergreifung (“seizure of power”). In this way, the Nazi Pary did appear to operate under the legal framework of the Republic with the “secret” aim to seize power.

It is worth noting that before 1930, the Nazi Party was more or less irrelevant. In the federal election of 1928, NSDAP received only 2.6% of the vote, obtaining 12 out of 491 seats in Reichstag. This changed drastically in 1930. Under the Great Depression beginning in 1929, the German economy collapsed and the unemployment rate skyrocketed. Impoverished and disappointed by the failing government, the German population turned to the extreme parties for help. Benefiting from the radicalization of politics, the NSDAP and the KPD rose to become the second and the third largest party in the Reichstag, respectively, in the federal election of 1930. We will talk about this election in greater detail later.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Parties
  3. The Government
  4. The Elections
  5. Conclusion

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