The Nazi Party Takeover of The German State – Political Science Essay
In his book, The Hitler State, author Martin Broszat discusses the phenomenon of the Nazi party takeover of the German state. Broszat attributes the Nazi rise to power
to two key components: Hitler’s polycratic governmental system run by Nazi leaders; and Hitler’s charismatic, yet, detached governing style as leader of both the Party and state. This paper will examine how these two factors resulted in the Nazi Party takeover of the German state.
The Nazi polycracy, lead by Hitler’s personal appointees, was initiated as a means of spreading Nazi influence throughout Germany’s state run organizations. Lacking in sound internal structure, Hitler’s polycracy was comprised of a horizontal network of Nazi Party institutions that appeared to mirror the organizations of the German state. The institution of these parallel state and party organizations blurred the lines of clear jurisdiction and authority. The lack of clarity surrounding the roles of these parallel organizations led quickly to conflict and intense competition between Nazi party leaders and the leaders of the German state.
In his role as Führer, Hitler was noticeably absent from these escalating conflicts. With no sovereign intervention, the competition amongst the leaders and organizations in the “organizational jungle” of the Nazi Party escalated in intensity and violence. Darwinist realities took hold as only the strongest organizations, and, in the Nazi case, more radical, were able to overcome the wills of their competitors. Author Ian Kershaw suggests that it was Hitler’s intention to let the “weak” factions be destroyed so that the most resilient and perhaps most powerful would prevail. In explaining Hitler’s absence from these conflicts, Kershaw notes that Hitler’s “instinctive Darwinism made him unwilling and unable to take sides in a dispute til the winner emerged.”
Considering the inner turmoil that existed amongst Nazi Party leaders, it is hard to imagine how this party was able to avoid complete internal breakdown. Much to the contrary, despite the escalation of internal Party conflicts, the Nazi’s succeeded at rapidly and forcefully rising to power. Many historians, including Martin Broszat, have been perplexed by the fact that the seemingly disorganized Nazi Party was able to launch such an all-encompassing takeover of the state. Broszat admittedly saw a serious “contradiction between the regime’s shapelessness and the extraordinary development of its power – all this defies any simple explanation.” The Nazi polycracy was notoriously unbureaucratic and without structure, however, it seems that the constant competition that was brought about by the blurred lines of hierarchy actually fueled the dynamic of aggression, radicalism and violence that would historically become synonymous with the Nazi Party.
Amidst the chaotic internal fighting one constant remained amongst Hitler’s appointed Nazi leaders: the desire for power and for praise from the Führer. As Hitler continued to travel the country and make speeches in which he broadly announced the goals and objectives of the Nazi Party, leaders interpreted these speeches as a call to action. Kershaw refers to Hitler’s role in this sense as “activator” whose “vision served as a stimulant to action in the different agencies of the Nazi movement itself, where pent up energies and unfulfilled social expectations could be met by activism carried out in Hitler’s name.”
As Nazi leaders scrambled to win Hitler’s favor, internal competition escalated to a dangerous level of intensity. The competitive dynamic created by this in-fighting led to increasingly radical and extreme acts of violence. It is here that one can truly witness the destructive phenomenon of the success of the Nazi polycracy. Kershaw suggests that the lack of structure within the Nazi Party contributed to the radicalization of violence and was actually a critical component of the “symbiotic relationship” that existed between the Nazi leaders and the successful pursuit of Hitler’s objectives.
While this paper has examined the role of the Nazi polycracy, it has yet to fully address the role of Hitler as the seemingly untouchable leader. As previously stated, historians have long debated Hitler’s effectiveness as leader of the Nazi Party. Martin Broszat is an example of one of the many historians that would not give Hitler sole credit as the driving force behind the successful accumulation of power of the Nazi Party. Broszat argues that the achievements of the Nazi polycracy, and not the effective leadership of Hitler, were ultimately responsible for the seizure of the German state.
Ian Kershaw also accepts a structuralist viewpoint, similar to Broszat, that the Nazi movement, with its polycratic structure, would have succeeded with or without Hitler. Kershaw frequently touches on Hitler’s lack of involvement with Nazi Party organization and he suggests that “a party leader and head of government less bureaucratically inclined, less a committee man or man of the machine, than Hitler is hard to imagine” . However, unlike Broszat, Kershaw is able to identify one important aspect of Hitler’s role as Führer that made him indispensable to the ultimate achievement of Nazi Party objectives: Hitler’s perception by the German public as the “classic charismatic leader.”
Kershaw refers to Max Weber’s theories on “charismatic leaders” to devise his thesis on the importance of Hitler’s leadership role in the achievement of Nazi Party objectives. Kershaw suggests that Hitler embodied many of Weber’s “charismatic” qualifications, such as adhering to “perceptions of a heroic ‘mission’ and presumed greatness in the leader by his ‘following’” . While Hitler was not visible in the day-to-day functional methods of the Nazi Party, he was careful to frequently step in to the limelight to deliver Party propaganda to the German public. This form of visibility created the illusion, for the German people, that Hitler, as Führer, had complete control over the direction of the Nazi Party and the future of the German state.
Kershaw attributes the mass appeal of Hitler’s charismatic leadership to his frequent and public promises of “national rebirth” . Hitler’s promises fell on the ears of those Germans still reeling from the losses sustained during WWI. The Fuhrer’s push to “unify” Germans instilled hope and became wildly popular. Hitler’s talent for conveying charisma and optimism for the future caused the German public to rally behind the Führer and his Nazi Party.
While Hitler’s propaganda was able to win mass appeal for the Nazis and for their objectives, his abilities as the leader of a nation left much to be desired. While he promised “rebirth” Hitler was undoubtedly unsure as to how the Nazi’s would ultimately achieve this goal. With the charge to establish “national rebirth through racial purity and racial empire,” Nazi Party leaders set out to fulfill the request of their charismatic leader on their own terms. The vague nature of Hitler’s announcements resulted in the outbreak of increasingly radical acts of violence – acts that would become historically synonymous with the Nazi Party.
The enthusiasm stimulated by Hitler’s public appearances had a similar effect on both Nazi Party leaders and the German public. The German public responded to Hitler’s “charisma” by attending his propaganda speeches, listening to radio broadcasts and living their day-to-day lives in conjunction with the ideals of the Nazi Party. To the Nazi leaders responsible for the function of the polycratic Nazi government, Hitler’s charisma served as the “enabling” force that acted as the “implicit backing and sanction to those whose actions, however inhumane, however radical, fell within the general and vague ideological remit of furthering the aims of the Führer.” The combination of the charisma of the Führer, with the conflicted, yet powerful Nazi polycracy, resulted in the Nazi’s violent and all encompassing takeover of the German state.