The Nazis knew that campaigning against Paul Von Hindenburg, the then President of Germany, won’t be an easy task. They had to think out of the box to get a breakthrough. So, they introduced different techniques. How successful were these techniques in attracting the public’s attention?
Nazi Campaign for Hitler
The Nazis executed a well-planned presidential campaign for Hitler in 1932. They paid attention to detail which they called kleinarbeit. During the campaign, the Nazis mulled over a number of details: What posters worked? What colors were best? Did the posters of Hitler with the profile-shot work best? What sort of images did farmers respond to or the civil servants respond to?
Each week, they would get their people out in the field to write a report about which poster worked best or which slogan really struck a chord. These reports were later shared with the propaganda leadership in Munich who would then send out directives accordingly.
This is a transcript from the video series A History of Hitler’s Empire, 2nd Edition. Watch it now, Wondrium.
Nazis: The Pioneers of Direct Mailing
Not every German had a telephone; most did. But every town, every neighborhood had an address book, which listed the head of the household and his occupation. The Nazis would go through these address books, and they would ask a civil servant to write a letter to all the civil servants in that town or in that neighborhood. This was the method of direct mailing that they introduced in 1932.
A different Nazi, a farmer, would write a letter that seemed to be a personal letter to all the farmers. They didn’t care so much about the content. There was no party line to be toed. The Nazis made lots of different appeals. They tried to offer something for everybody; an appeal to everybody.
The Runoff between Hitler and Hindenburg
In order to win the presidential election, you had to have 50 percent of the vote. At the end of that campaign, Hindenburg received 49.6 percent of the vote. What that meant was there had to be a runoff, which was basically between Hitler and Hindenburg; Hitler had received 30 percent of the votes.
In the runoff, Hitler confronted Hindenburg, and Joseph Goebbels and his staff geared up again. They tried to associate Hindenburg with Heinrich Brüning’s ill-fated policies, never attacking Hindenburg himself—a great field marshal who had served his country.
They also considered another factor. Most of the Nazi leaders were much younger than most German politicians—Hitler was 42—so they tried to emphasize that it was the time for a new generation to take the reins of the country.
Learn more about the late ’20s, economically harsh years for Germany.
Deutschlandflug: A Dramatic Stroke
The Nazis adopted a populist sort of approach to politics, which no one had witnessed earlier in Germany. It was called a Deutschlandflug. Hitler took to the skies, flying from city to city in an airplane. He was a manvonvolk, a man from the people. They created an image of a peripatetic, all-powerful man who could be at all places at all times.
All of his appearances were carefully orchestrated. One of the things the propaganda people always did was to rent a hall that was too small. They never rented a big space because it didn’t look good to have empty chairs in a big place.
On the day of an event, the Nazis would put loudspeakers on the outside for the standing-room-only crowd that gathered out front. During the course of the day, Nazis from all around would be bussed in to the city for Hitler’s appearance.
Hitler’s Grand Entry
Before Hitler’s actual appearance, there would be warm-up acts. The local Nazis would speak, or maybe one of the top Nazi speakers. Meanwhile, people would be hawking autographed photographs of Hitler, phonograph records, and little copies of Mein Kampf. Then someone would race into the auditorium and announce that the Führer’s plane had landed, and that he was making his way to the auditorium. This is how the crowd was whipped up into a frenzy.
And then 20 minutes, 30 minutes later—Hitler was always late—someone would race in and say the Führer’s motorcade has arrived out front. There would be more hysteria, and then finally Hitler would make his appearance.
Learn more about the rise of the Nazi party.
Final Results of the Runoff
Nonetheless, when the final results were in from this runoff, Hitler received 36 percent of the vote. He had not beaten Hindenburg; nobody expected him to. But what he had done was to separate himself from the pack of other anti-system candidates—people unhappy with Weimar.
This was a tremendous infusion of prestige for him and people who had not taken the Nazis or Hitler seriously till then began to notice him.
It was at this point, and only at this point, that the Nazis began receiving certain monies from big business, but not much, and not as much as some other parties.
The Triumph of the Nazis
The presidential elections of 1932 were just the beginning. There would be four national campaigns in 1932: the two rounds of the presidential election; there would be a Reichstag campaign in June–July; and then another one in November.
And in between, there were elections in every German state so that in April, the Nazis won 36 percent of the vote in Prussia, 32 percent of the vote in Bavaria, 36 percent of the vote in Wuerttemberg, 31 percent of the vote in Hamburg.
It looked very much like this picture that the Nazis were trying to create of a dynamic leader, a dynamic movement. The Nazis, indeed, seemed on the verge of something that had never happened in German political life—a majority vote for one party.
Common Questions about Hitler’s Presidential Campaign of 1932
The Nazis would go through address books, and ask a civil servant to write a letter to all the civil servants in that town or in that neighborhood. This was the method of direct mailing that they introduced in 1932.
No, the Nazis didn’t directly attack Hindenburg during the presidential campaign of 1932.
The Nazis adopted a populist approach to politics, which no one had witnessed earlier in Germany. Hitler took to the skies, flying from city to city in an airplane. He was a manvonvolk, a man from the people.