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Book Review: Ryback's Takeover: Hitler's Final Rise To Power

Everybody knows everything about Hitler. Such is the general consensus, as this person has been examined from all sides and angles throughout the years. But the historian Timothy W. Ryback has broken the myth that Hitler just seized the power in Germany in 1933. In his recent study Takeover: Hitler's Final Rise to Power he reveals in great detail and clarity how the power was handed to him in a completely democratic way.

Ryback focuses mainly on the year of 1932 when Hitler and his National Socialist party wins the biggest pool of votes in the Weimar Republic’s parliamentary elections of July, 1932, and although it makes up to thirty-seven percent of votes and two hundred and thirty seats (out of 600) in the Reichstag, it isn't enough to form their own government and appoint Hitler Chancellor. Entering coalition is out of question for Hitler, he is against any compromise, as "he vowed to dismantle the multiparty political system that, he claimed, had fractured and polarized the German nation."

Many conventional German politicians saw Hitler as a clown, a fanatic with unhinged rhetoric or even a psychopath. But there were people who saw him as he really was - a dangerous liar and manipulator. According to a British aristocrat and diplomat Harry Kessler, behind Hitler's bluster lay "his intuition, lightning-fast ability to assess a situation, and ability to react with astonishing speed and effectiveness."

So in 1932 political games are being played, with the aging Germany's President Paul von Hindenburg, who had the constitutional authority to appoint and dismiss chancellors and who claimed he won't appoint Hitler as a chancellor under no conditions; with General Kurt von Schleicher, a former minister of defense and chancellor, a strong power seeker and a cunning manipulator who even had a mole in Hitler's headquarters but played the wrong card in these Games of Throne; with the media mogul Alfred Hugenberg, an ambitious financial sponsor and politician, driven by his own political agenda who provided Hitler with funds and publicity though only to his own beneficial extent; with Franz von Papen, the most unpopular chancellor fired under Schleicher's conspiracy who was always against Hitler till he went along with his worst adversary to propose him as a new chancellor thinking Hitler can be controlled, and with all others who in order to manipulate Hitler for the sake of their own political greed have been manipulated instead.

Ryback gives a very multi-faceted account on what's was going on on the German political arena of 1932 with all the intricacies of German politicians, the scandals that took place in the country, insights from foreign diplomats and journalists who had tight connections with Germany of that time, and even entries from the diary of Hitler's closest ally, Goebbels. 1932 wasn't a lucky year for Hitler who actually couldn't meet his own expectations in terms of Reichstag elections to ensure the majority for the National Socialists to become the ruling party with Hitler himself being Chancellor. Moreover, his party was on the brink of the bankruptcy after his grand election roadhow, or perhaps it should be better named a flightshow, as they hired a Lufthansa plane for Hitler to fly over to the regional meetings with his audience and then even made a fifty-minute documentary propaganda called Hitler über Deutchland. So, as Ryback states in his book, "By mid-November 1932, Hitler's movement was essentially bankrupt, not only financially but also politically." This was backed by Goebbels who wrote in despair: "Just waves of debt and responsibilities, and on top of that, with this defeat, the complete impossibility to find large sums of money anywhere."

However, we are well-aware of the history, and there's no happy ending in this book. In the beginning of 1933, following democratic rules within their political games on the way to power, Papen and Hugenberg invited Hitler into their plans and promised him the chancellor's post, and even persuaded the President Hinderburg to approve him, only forgetting that Hitler never keeps his own promises. The most cautious of them, Hugenberg has given in to Hitler's persuasions: a promise of exclusive powers have restrained him from the final "Nein." Only the next day, after Hitler was already sworn as a Chancellor, Hugenberg was too late to regret his decision - "I just made the biggest mistake of my life." We all know what happened next...


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