Q: Was Hitler democratically elected as Chancellor of Germany in 1933?
A: Yes. Of course he was.
However, because the office of Chancellor was not filled by popular election, it might be more accurate to say that Hitler was constitutionally chosen to be the Chancellor of Germany, a democratic nation. The point is, there was nothing about Hitler's appointment as Chancellor (30 Jan. 1933) which violated the Constitution of Germany. President Hindenburg legally selected the leader of the largest party in Parliament to head up a coalition government. It has happened hundreds of times throughout history without being considered undemocratic.
Only in light of later events does it become obvious that this was the beginning of the end of democratic rule in Germany. If Hitler had suddenly died in office before the Reichtag Fire (27 Feb. 1933) gave him the excuse to crush the opposition, history would record the uninterrupted flow of democracy in Germany in 1933. Granted, the window of opportunity for Hitler to leave a legacy as a proper democrat was only open for a single month, but that could have been enough.
The myth that Hitler slipped into power by way of an illegal backroom deal which bypassed the constitution is more comforting than considering that maybe laws and democratic constitutions are not foolproof safeguards against the emergence of tyrants. If a constitutionally valid plurality want tyranny, they'll get it.
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Last Updated May 1999
Copyright © 1999 Matthew White