How hitler and mussolini rose to power

Fascism and Democracy


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Hitler essentially seized power in Germany. The National Socialist Party was losing support among the people, and the German political system in general was in shambles. There were frequent elections, with no party able to establish a majority. Hitler made a deal with the 85-year-old President von Hindenburg to form a coalition. Hitler would be the Chancellor under this arrangement. The coalition was formed on January 30, 1933. One of the key characteristics of this coalition was that von Hindenburg was among many in Germany who were distrustful of democracy — the people were unused to it at the time (Hawley, 2008). There was an election later that year in Germany, with the Nazis taking 43.9% of the vote. By the time the parliament was called to session following that election, however, the Nazi Party had jailed, exiled or otherwise intimidated 107 representatives of the other major parties, the Social Democrats and the Communists (Hawley, 2008). The Nazis opted not to recognize the 81 Communist seats, and by this point they had control of the parliamentary session. The Nazis promptly stripped the parliament of its power, concentrating power in the Hitler’s hands (Hawley, 2008), this on March 23, 1933. Hitler made the concentration of his power official in the summer of 1934 when he abolished the presidency and created the position of Fuhrer (Hawley, 2008).


Mussolini’s approach was somewhat different. When he returned after World War One, he called for a dictator to rule over Italy, which was politically-fractured. Mussolini felt that a dictatorship would allow for a more unified form of governance. He began immediately with a campaign of terror, in 1919, putting physical beatings on socialists and communists in Milan in 1919. He declared his intention to rule Italy personally in public speeches, something Hitler was hesitant to do in Germany. In 1924, Mussolini called an election, and intimidated his way to a majority mandate. He openly embraced his fascist doctrine and even adopted the critical term totalitarian that had been used by his opponents to describe his rule (CRF, 2010).


For the most part, there were significant differences between how these men arose to power. Mussolini was relatively transparent about his desire to absolute power over Italy, and repeatedly and publicly made his case for a dictatorship. In the end he worked hard to consolidate power, manifesting the mandate he had always spoken about. Hitler was more deceptive, not revealing his intentions for dictatorship until he had already concentrated power. Hawley (2008) argues that a vote for the Nazi Party in the early 1930s was basically a protest vote against establishment parties, rather than a firm vote in Hitler’s favor. There were frequent elections, and no real evidence that Hitler campaigned as Mussolini did on a policy of dictatorship.


One similarity between Hitler and Mussolini is the way that they both began as revolutionaries within their nations, hoping to capitalize on the instability that those nations were facing after World War One. Mussolini talked about marching on Rome; Hitler had planned a similar march on Berlin (Hawley, 2008). Both men undertook several steps to concentrate power, and both men were motivated by the chaotic states of their respective nations following the war. However, their paths to dictator status were quite different in most key respects.


Both leaders stood against the peace treaties that were signed at the end of the Great War, and both sought to turn public sentiment against those treaties, arguing that the treaties were harmful to their countries. The peace treaties were a political tool for Hitler. They were less important for Mussolini given that he had established his control over the country early.


The Great Depression was similarly meaningless to Mussolini’s rise, which occurred in 1924, several years before the Depression. But it mattered to Hitler’s rise. When the U.S. economy tanked, America began calling in its debts, including monies owed by Germany. Moreover, German industry lost a major export market, and this put hundreds of thousands of Germans out of work. The Great Depression therefore added to the backdrop of instability, and increased the desire among a substantial population of Germans to reject democracy, which was failing the country (Hawley, 2008). Hitler was able to use the Great Depression and its impacts on Germany to help him gain power; Mussolini was well-established by the time the Great Depression began.




CRF (2010) Mussolini and the rise of fascism. Constitutional Rights Foundation. Retrieved October 20, 2015 from


Hawley, C. (2008). The story behind Hitler’s rise to power. Der Spiegel. Retrieved October 20, 2015 from

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