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The Abyss: Democracy without Democrats 1929-1933

Rise and Fall of the Nazis (3/10)

At the end of the 1920s, the “Rural People’s Movement” began demonstrating against social decline. From the protests a radical movement was born, whose anger and bitterness was harnessed by the Nazi-Party and Hitler.

52 min
52 min
Video verfügbar bis 29.04.2031, in Deutschland

They set up street barricades and beat municipal officials carrying out evictions. The social protest turns into a populist and anti-Jewish movement, and Hitler and his NSDAP use their anger for their own benefit. Soon the NSDAP begins to train speakers. Franz Buchner was one of the first to be trained as an orator. From his memoirs, we learn about their formula for success in "selling" a radical ideology. Such strategies make the NSDAP appeal more and more to voters.

Emotions instead of knowledge

The impact of the world economic crisis, which began in the USA, lead to poverty and vast unemployment in Germany. But how can a party vehemently opposing democracy gain such popularity? Questionnaires rediscovered at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research from over 500 employees all over Germany have revealed the mystery. Materials collected between 1929 and 1932 reveal that workers close to left-wing parties are also susceptible to authoritarian slogans. The NSDAP deliberately used simple and emotional slogans to win people's support. The Nazi Party was thus able to appeal to a large audience. As political scientist Jürgen Falter points out: "Strictly speaking the NSDAP was a popular party with a slight bias towards the middle classes."

The seeds of discontent were already sown in 1932, with the economic crisis reaching its apex and six million Germans unemployed. The NSDAP became the strongest party in the parliament and President Hindenburg, alongside conservative parties, undermined the last vestiges of democracy. "Democracy in Germany didn't fail because it had died - it was killed," says USA historian Benjamin Carter Hett. "Powerful groups and people in German society actively tried to destroy democracy."

What facilitated the rise of the Nazis?

With this 10-part documentary series "The Abyss - Rise and Fall of the Nazis" ZDFinfo is using the power of film to take a stand against ignorance towards the past. The project tells the story of the rise and fall of National Socialism from an international perspective, examining the causes of the rupture in civilization at the hands of Germans, which led from a crisis-ridden democracy to war and genocide.

Rare, and newly discovered film and photo footage, as well as 40 field-leading experts such as Richard J. Evans, Mary Fulbrook, Peter Longerich, Moshe Zimmermann, Alexandra Richie, and Götz Aly, offer new perspectives on the history between 1918 and 1948.

Based on the latest research, the series focuses on both the motives of the perpetrators, but also on the responsibility of a significant portion of the German people What facilitated the rise of the Nazis. What paved the way for the genocide of the Jews? This is the story of how humanity's darkest hour took place. The Abyss.

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