chapter  4
15 Pages

Support and opposition

The main reason for positive support was the personal popularity of Hitler. To many he was a direct successor to the populist vision of the Kaiser during the Second Reich. There had been no equivalent during the Weimar Republic, with the possible exception of Hindenburg. Hitler therefore filled a gap and greatly extended the leadership cult. His appeal also had a chameleon nature: he offered something different to each class and yet pulled them all together with the uniqueness of his own vision for the future. He struck a chord with the widespread disillusionment with the institutions, parties and leaders of the Weimar Republic. He had, of course, the considerable advantage of a monopoly of the media which was used for the processes of indoctrination and propaganda examined in Chapter 3. But in a sense Hitler transcended the image created by Goebbels. The main reason for his popularity-and this may seem surprisingwas that he was seen as a moderate. After all, he made sure that his political changes were technically constitutional; he emphasised that he was upholding traditional virtues; and, at least until the late 1930s, he professed to be deeply religious. There was considerable unease about the Nazi movement, especially about the thuggish tendencies of some of its members like Röhm and Streicher. But Hitler was perceived as the moderate who would tame the radicals. For this reason, he was seen ‘practically as a hero’ after the Night of the Long Knives in 1934.1 In addition to controlling extremism, Hitler also appeared to guarantee peace, using it as a constant theme in his speeches until 1939.