Adolf Hitler did not exactly single-handedly fund his own rise to power. Indeed, during his years of building Nazism, he had powerful backers and financial backers who were willing to pocket the bills. During Weimar Germany, the maturation of a fascistic movement gave birth to a German political culture catering to Hitler’s ideals. Big businesses, industrialists, aristocrats, and donors all played their part in giving money to support These included industrialists such as Karl Bosch, the Rhodes family, Henry Ford, and key figures such as the Thyssen family.
The most important contributors during the Weimar Era came not from the German side but from abroad. British, American, and French bankers and companies such as J. P. Morgan, and British banker and financier, Sir Ernest Tenant, as well as Florence Kahn, a French banker and investor, who worked as a fascist supporter of Hitler, were some of the key figures who provided financial support to Hitler. Even Howard Carter, a legendary Egyptologist, did not deny his active sympathy and contribution to Nazi Germany, although the exact amounts of his contribution are still unknown.
Apart from the support granted by powerful individuals, the Hitler’s rise to power was also enabled by the unpopular Weimar Republic, which was facing economic crises. Through his propagandist techniques, Hitler was able to influence the public opinion and give people a way to be heard. Through speeches, rallies, and propaganda, he managed to convey his message of savage nationalistic ideology and, more importantly, get people to fund him in substitute of the government.
Besides the foreign backers, the political funding of Hitler originates mainly from big businesses and major political parties. Notably, Adolf’s National Socialist German Workers Party was funded mainly by industrialist and banker Fritz Thyssen. The 1936 publication of Thyssen’s book, I Paid Hitler, offered details on his involvement and money funding Hitler’s rise to power. Thyssen was not the only one who gave money to Hitler, instead the political funding was mainly supported by the German General War Economy, which looked after a series of taxes, subsidies, and donations that was mobilized to Hitler’s cause of national and racial renewal.
This economic model was conceived by industrial plutocrats in a bid to provide additional resources for the war effort. Significant companies such as I.G farben, Krupp, and Herman Goering fell under the umbrellas of such funding models. This need for additional resources had a great impact on the political funding of Hitler, making it possible for him to obtain large sums of money.
Domestic funding for Hitler also played a major role in the latter’s rise to power. At the individual level, many citizens also donated money to Hitler out of a sense of moral responsibility. Germany also held a series of national government-run lotteries, which were used to mobilize resources for the Nazi cause.
The strongest form of domestic funding was provided by the educational authorities such as the German Political Education League, which was the network devoted to the education of the youth. This enabled Hitler to gather considerable amounts of money in tuition fees, membership dues, and donations, as well as other similar resources. Moreover, financial aid was provided by utility companies and firms operating in the field of electrical engineering.
It should however be noted that despite the financial aid contributed by the various groups mentioned above, Hitler was never able to acquire full control of the country’s economy. This was mainly due to the fact that in order to have complete economic control, one needs political power — a feat Hitler was unable to achieve at the time.
The Great Depression
The Great Depression of 1929 increased the financial instability of the Weimar republic and figured in the economic consequences of World War I, thus creating a framework that allowed Hitler to capitalize on the economic discontentment of the German people. The Great Depression highlighted the deep-seated grievances, with two-thirds of the urban workers being unemployed by 1933, leaving Germany “in dire straits”.
This difficulty created a situation wherein the nation was desperate for radical solutions to its economic crisis. With few easily available solutions, the slump provided Hitler with an opportunity to present his program as a better alternative to the current situation.
The considerable rearmament of Germany in the early 1930s also provided Hitler an opportunity to attain money. Due to the high expenditure in the military, the Gross National Product of Germany shot up in the early 30s, allowing Hitler to invest more of the money generated from taxes and governmental income into funding his political party, as well as forforming his elite cadre of SS troops.
From a military point of view, the rearmament of the German military directly led to an increase in recruitment and training of soldiers, radicalizing the youth in the pro-Hitler camp. This shift in the public opinion combined with Hitler’s use of propaganda to manipulate the public’s perception of the political situation, further enabled Hitler to obtain the necessary resources for his cause.
The Nazi propaganda was a crucial tool in the mobilizing of funds for Hitler’s cause. It was used to shape public opinion and eventually convince the people to contribute with money to Hitler’s cause. Nazi propaganda was aimed at emphasizing themes such as national pride, racial superiority and anti-Semitism, with the ultimate aims of tapping into idealistic notions and goals of Aryan superiority.
In order to make money, mass mobilization was conducted through festivals, rallies, and elections. One of the most notorious rallies was the Nuremberg rally. Apart from their central role in making money for Hitler, these events also served as public moralizing sources that could drastically alter public opinion in a positive manner for Hitler.
Hitler’s Personal Wealth
Considering its controversial nature, it is worth mentioning Hitler’s personal wealth as another source of funding for the NSDAP. When Hitler became the chancellor of Germany, he allegedly had assets of 5.2 million Marks as stated in a 1933 report. This wealth included his Munich apartment, royalties, and his many travel ventures.
Moreover, some of Hitler’s assets came from his royalties as an author. He was the author of Mein Kampf, a book that was first published in 1925 and is said to have generated more than 10 million Marks in royalties from from 1925 to 1936.
The Donation of Tax Pay Money
In 1933, the German people enacted a tribute called the Reichsmarke, a donation of tax pay money intended for the financial provisions of the Third Reich. This “Fatherland Donation” a.k.a. the “Germany Fund” allowed for the people to provide tens of millions of marks for Nazi use. This served as a key tool for the ideological mobilization of the masses, as well as moving funds towards the National Socialist cause.
The Gleichschaltung — the process of coordinating political, economic, and social activities to the orientations of the Nazi leadership — enabled the Nazi party to take advantage of numerous organizations. This process allowed the Nazi party to get a grip on and institutionalize the country hegemony.
The Gleichschaltung had an immediate effect on the financial funds targeted to the Nazi cause, as it enabled the Nazi to implement subsidies in the form of government grants, charitable donations from business and economic establishments, and income from taxation. This allowed the Nazi party to attain substantial resources to be directed towards their cause.
Finally, international connections helped Hitler solidify his grip on power and ensured a healthy independent political base, aside from the support provided by the industry, folk and martial groups, and local establishments. Most notably, foreign financiers such as the Bank of England, Banca Commerciale Italiana, Warburg and Lazard in France, Swiss banks, and J.P. Morgan and Co. in the United States all assisted Hitler’s rise to power.
Nevertheless, despite these resources, Hitler was able to make substantial progress in his political cause. He was able to use the resources he had to develop a powerful, independent political base and eventually obtain power. The key players who funded Hitler, such as Fritz Thyssen or Henry Ford, played a major role in Hitler’s success, making it possible for him to reach his political aims.