Whether they admitted it or not (many didn’t), Germans in 1933 were overwhelmingly nationalist. Hence they both wanted and needed a government (and a leader) who would liberate Germany and Germans from humiliating shackles imposed on them by the “Versailles criminals”, return German lands taken away (by the same criminals) at gunpoint, unite all Germans into Ein Reich and restore Germany to its rightful power and glory by making it again a European – and even global – economic, political and military superpower.
Adolf Hitler promised “all of the above” and knew, just knew that he would deliver on these promises. But it will take years – and he did not have years. Germans were still highly skeptical of his promises (as they were of any promises by any politician) – hence the disappointing results of the March elections for the Nazis.
And they would definitely not wait years – a few months at the most. After that, if Hitler does not deliver something of crucial importance to Germans, all bets would be off – Enabling Act or not, Gestapo or not, SA or not.
So he had to act quickly and deliver that “something”. Which was obvious – he had to begin radically reducing unemployment – by far the biggest (and seemingly insurmountable) economic and social problem in Weimar Republic.
The Republic was dead, but the unemployment was not – so Adolf Hitler had to prove beyond the reasonable doubt that (a) achieving full employment was his #1 priority and (2) that he will deliver on his promises – and fast.
Actually, he had to deliver even more than that – he had to provide guaranteed employment. In other words, to create an economic system that will guarantee that every able-bodied man will be able to earn enough to provide for a comfortable lifestyle for himself, his homemaking wife and four children (Nazis considered that number to be ideal for a German family).
Employment supported (obviously) by generous and efficient pension, insurance (health, disability and unemployment), vacation and other welfare systems. In other words, provide a comprehensive economic and financial security.
Another important need and want of the Germans that had to (and fortunately could) be satisfied was political stability. The population of Germany was sick and tired of the state of permanent elections and kaleidoscopic changes of governments.
Germans wanted politicians and statesmen to focus not on getting more seats in Reichstag and more lucrative positions in the government, but on solving dire political, economic and social problems in Germany.
And if it required sacrificing some basic freedoms – habeas corpus, freedom of expression and of the press, the freedom to organize and assemble, the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications, etc. – so be it. These freedoms failed to solve any vital economic or social problem anyway and thus were all but worthless.
Obviously, the Germans wanted economic stability as well. In other words, they wanted to make sure that none of the horrors of the past – hunger of 1917-19, hyperinflation of 1920-21 and the Great Depression that started in 1929 and was still not over by a long shot – never ever happen again.
One of the biggest social problems of Weimar Germany (inherited from the Second Reich, to be completely honest) was a deeply ingrained caste system. Unofficial, of course, but omnipresent nevertheless.
In practice, it meant that professional, social and economic perspectives of an individual were determined (constrained, mostly) by the social group he was born into. There was essentially no “upward mobility”; in other words, very few lucky folks were ever able to rise above the “lower castes”.
The overwhelming majority of Germans were obviously not very happy (to put it mildly) with that situation. And wanted their new government (and their) to replace aristocracy (power of the mobility) with meritocracy (power of the most qualified for the positions in question).
The Germans wanted the government (and the leader) who would genuinely love them, care about them and work for them. Not for the elites (like just about any politician in Weimar Germany – or in any Western “democracy” for that matter); not for himself (like Stalin) but for them. For “average Hans, Otto, Anna and Bertha”.
Germans are (and always were) very pragmatic and practical people. So they wanted a very pragmatic and practical love from their leader and his government. Not one-time deal, but a permanent, stable and highly efficient system.
The system that will identify their wants and needs and then motivate the government officials at all levels to satisfy their needs to the maximum extent possible and in the most efficient way.
And not only financial and functional needs, but emotional and spiritual needs as well (ultimately, it is all about the latter two – the former two are only as good as the emotional and spiritual value that they generate).
In 1933, Germany could be rightfully labeled a “PTSD nation”. A long sequence of severe psychological and emotional traumas – hunger of 1917-19; humiliating defeat in the Great War; even more humiliating (crushing even) terms of the Treaty of Versailles; collapse of the Imperial Germany and its replacement with Weimar Republic (a totally unknown form of government); Communist and right-wing coups in Berlin, Bavaria and other places; hyperinflation of 1921-23; still very much ongoing Great Depression; chronic political instability, etc., etc. – predictably plunged just about all Germans (even those who appeared to be quite successful on the surface) into the depth of very genuine depression.
And a no less genuine post-traumatic stress disorder. With all its consequences (in addition to depression) – anxiety disorders, mood disorders, disturbing thoughts, feelings and dreams, highly negative expectations, hopelessness, etc. And, of course, a feeling of deep shame – after all these humiliations it was only natural for Germans to be ashamed of being German.
Germans desperately needed someone who would get them out of the depth of depression, heal their PTSD and fill their hearts, minds and souls with joy, serenity, enthusiasm, cheerfulness, confidence, positive expectations and ultimately happiness. Someone who would make them inspired, motivated, driven and justifiably proud and happy to be German.
From a more scientific perspective, they (like every nation, in fact) wanted their leader and his government to satisfy their whole comprehensive system of human needs.
IMHO, the best model (paradigm) of human needs was developed by American psychologist Abraham Maslow (Hitler’s contemporary, believe it or not), although whether it is a hierarchy (“pyramid”) or some other geometrical object is still a very much open question.
According to this model, Germans needed Adolf Hitler to satisfy their following key needs:
- Physiological – food, drink, shelter, clothing, etc. (and thus a guaranteed income required to satisfy these needs in a market economy). Guaranteed wages for those who are able to work and a decent pension for retirees
- Safety. First and foremost, protection from being enslaved, incarcerated and murdered by the Bolshevist conquerors. But also from street and organized crime and natural, health and financial disasters. Hence it requires unemployment, health and other insurance and an extensive welfare system
- Love and belongingness. Need to love your stakeholders – your family, friends, your country, your government and be loved in return. And the need to belong – to a family, a social group, a nation, etc. – that is valuable and prestigious enough to desire belonging to. These needs include the need to trust your peers, superiors, subordinates, your government and your leader and acceptance by them (although the latter could be viewed as belonging to the next category of needs)
- Esteem needs. Esteem for oneself – personal dignity, professional and personal accomplishments (i.e. mastery of one’s profession or trade, creating objects of financial, functional, emotional or spiritual value), self-worth and recognition from others – professional and personal reputation, prestige, status in the social group, in society in general and in the world at large
- Self-actualization – “being the best one could be”. Living one’s professional and personal lives to the fullest, operating at maximum possible performance (in terms of creating aggregate value for one’s stakeholders) and achieving maximum possible results in one’s profession, hobbies and personal life
- Self-transcendence. Serving a higher entity than oneself (people, nation, country, race, civilization, Church) and the idea higher than one’s personal success – e.g. victory in the existential war, salvation of mankind, etc. Often includes mystical and/or religious (and sometimes even supernatural) experiences