The World War II Multimedia Database

For the 72 Million

Paul von Hindenburg – Erklaerung zur erneuten Praesidentschaftskandidatur (“Declaration of Renewed Candidacy for President”)

March 10, 1932

  • Hindenburg’s seven-year presidential term was due to run out in the spring of 1932, and if he wanted another term, his legendary stature would ensure his reelection. But if he did not run again, Hitler would be the likely winner. With the steadily worsening Depression and the Nazis’ surging popularity, it was unlikely that anyone[...]

Reichpresident Paul von Hindenburg’s (October 2, 1847 – August 2, 1934) seven-year presidential term was due to run out in the spring of 1932, and if he wanted another term, his legendary stature would ensure his reelection. But if he did not run again, Hitler would be the likely winner. With the steadily worsening Depression and the Nazis’ surging popularity, it was unlikely that anyone but Hindenburg could beat Hitler.

Hindenburg himself was reluctant to run again. He would turn eighty-five in October. He worried about what use the Nationalist and Nazi opposition would make of “the events of 1918” —that is, his pushing the Kaiser into exile. “It will be worse this time,” he told Brüning.

To make things easier on the old field marshal, Brüning tried to get all the party leaders to agree to extend Hindenburg’s term without an election. As a constitutional change, this would require a two-thirds vote in the Reichstag, for which the support of the Nazis and the German Nationals would be necessary. Predictably, Hitler and Hugenberg refused, and Brüning had accomplished nothing more than handing Hitler the chance to pose as the guardian of the constitution. Hindenburg’s next objection was that he would not run as the candidate of the center-left.

He wanted right-wing support. He also wanted to win an outright majority in the first round and not have to go through a runoff. Yet even the Steel Helmet, of which Hindenburg was honorary leader, refused to endorse his reelection. It was only in mid-February, when the smaller, right-wing veterans’ group the Kyffhäuser League endorsed him, that Hindenburg grudgingly agreed to stand again.

Three main candidates ran against him. Theodor Duesterberg, one of the leaders of the Steel Helmet, became the joint candidate of the Steel Helmet and the German Nationals. The Communists put up their leader, Ernst Thälmann. The political center and center left predictably lined up behind Hindenburg. On February 22, Joseph Goebbels announced that Adolf Hitler would run on behalf of the Nazis. The one problem was that Hitler was still not a German citizen. Four days later, the government of the state of Braunschweig, where the Nazis governed in coalition with the German Nationals, named Hitler its Berlin representative. This automatically made him a Braunschweig civil servant and German citizen, and thus eligible for the presidency. After this, Hitler’s irreverent friend Ernst Hanfstaengl delightedly addressed Hitler as “Mr. Government Counselor,” teasing the Führer with his new formal title from the hated Weimar state.
Hindenburg barely campaigned. He limited himself to one speech over the radio on March 10, three days before the first-round vote. His dutiful chancellor did the work for him, appearing at rallies and giving speeches all over the country. On March 13, with 49.6 percent of the vote, Hindenburg missed a first-round victory by a hair. Hitler was well back with 30.1 percent, while Thälmann earned 13.2 percent and Duesterberg 6.8 percent.

An electoral truce over Easter meant that campaigning for the second round was packed into five short days, April 4-9. Duesterberg dropped out while Thälmann remained, but clearly the election was a duel between Hitler and Hindenburg. To accentuate his youthful, modern image, Hitler campaigned by plane with the slogan “Hitler over Germany.” His words were spread with films and phonograph records as well. It was, as the historian Heinrich August Winkler writes, the “most modern and technically perfect” election campaign Germany had yet seen.

To no avail-this time, Hindenburg won 53 percent of the vote to Hitler’s 36.8 percent, with Thälmann running a distant third. Brüning considered the election a referendum on his chancellorship, from which he had emerged vindicated. The nature of the campaign justified his view.

In campaigning against Hindenburg, the Nazis had been faced with a serious tactical problem: they had to overcome the veneration for the field marshal commonly felt among the middle-class conservatives the Nazis were trying to attract. Goebbels’s solution was rhetorically not to run against Hindenburg at all, but against the “bourgeois-social democratic system.” The “system,” here as always, was Nazi code for the democracy of Weimar. Yet here, even as late as the spring of 1932, the system had won.

For precisely this reason, however, the victory brought Hindenburg no satisfaction. The patterns of support in the 1925 election had been completely reversed. An analysis of voting data shows that the best statistical predictor of a vote for Hitler in 1932 was a vote for Hindenburg in 1925. Now Hindenburg had behind him the democratic center and left, but not the right, exactly the situation he had feared. When Prussian prime minister Otto Braun congratulated him on his victory, Hindenburg replied bluntly that he did not feel bound to his supporters. As a routine courtesy, Brüning offered Hindenburg his administration’s resignation, not expecting the offer to be accepted. Hindenburg growled that he might soon come back to the idea.

With childish ingratitude, Hindenburg blamed Brüning for the electoral outcome. He blamed Brüning, not Hitler or Hugenberg, for the fact that he had had to campaign at all, and that the election had gone through two rounds. His grievances piled up. One of Brüning’s ideas to combat the Depression had been to settle unemployed workers on bankrupt farming estates in the Prussian east. This was a very unpopular idea with the aristocratic landowners whom Hindenburg knew from the time he spent at his East Prussian estate of Neudeck. Hindenburg’s neighbors denounced his chancellor as an “agrarian Bolshevik.”And then there was the SA ban, perhaps the most fateful political development of the spring of 1932.

From The Death of Democracy: Hitler’s Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic
by Benjamin Carter Hett


Nach ernster Prüfung habe ich mich entschlossen, mich dem deutschen Volke für eine Wiederwahl zur Verfügung zu stellen.

Alte Soldatenpflicht verlangt von mir, in unserer schweren Zeit auf meinem Posten zu verharren, um das Vaterland vor Erschütterungen zu bewahren.

Der Umstand, dass die Aufforderung an mich aus allen Schichten des Volkes gekommen ist, macht mir den schweren Entschluss leichter.

Denn nur auf der Grundlage vollster Unverteiligkeit und Unabhängigkeit habe ich die Kandidatur übernommen.

Ich habe es abgelehnt, irgendwelche Bindungen nach der einen oder nach der anderen Seite einzugehen.

Ich will wie bisher auch im Falle meiner Wiederwahl der Treuhänder des ganzen deutschen Volkes sein und nicht der Beauftragte einer Partei oder einer Parteiengruppe.

Nur Gott, dem Vaterland und meinem Gewissen will ich verantwortlich sein.

So habe ich es bis jetzt gehalten und so werde ich auch weiter handeln.

Wie bisher in meinem Leben, so werde ich, falls ich wieder gewählt werde, auch in der Zukunft mit allen Kräften Deutschland dienen, um ihm nach außen zur Freiheit und Gleichberechtigung, nach innen zur Einigung und zum Aufstieg zu verhelfen.

Die deutsche Würde und Ehre zu wahren und gegen Angriffe zu schützen, wird stets meine vornehmste Aufgabe sein.

Für mich gibt es nur ein wahrhaft nationales Ziel, Zusammenschluss des Volkes in seinem Existenzkampf, volle Hingabe jedes Einzelnen in den harten Ringen um die Erhaltung der Nation.

After serious consideration, I have decided to make myself available to the German people for re-election. Old soldier duty requires me to remain at my post in our difficult times in order to protect the fatherland from shocks. The fact that the request to me came from all walks of life makes this difficult decision easier for me. Because I accepted the candidacy only on the basis of complete non-distribution and independence. I refused to make any commitments to one side or the other. As before, if I am re-elected, I want to be the trustee of the entire German people and not the representative of a party or a group of parties. I only want to be responsible to God, the fatherland and my conscience. That’s how I’ve done it so far and that’s how I’ll continue to act. As has been the case so far in my life, if I am elected again, I will continue to serve Germany with all my strength in the future in order to help it achieve freedom and equality abroad and unity and advancement internally. Protecting German dignity and honor and protecting it against attacks will always be my most important task. For me there is only one truly national goal, unity of the people in their struggle for existence, full dedication of each individual in the hard struggles to preserve the nation. Help us with that…

Next Post

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

© 2024 The World War II Multimedia Database

Theme by Anders Norén