"Is Hitler Racist Enough?" Völkisch Competition in Northwest Germany

Paper presented in November 2012 at the Social Science  History Association conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Most scholars agree on a model whereby the Nazi electoral progression to power proceeded in stages, first absorbing the shattered, small parties of the bourgeois middle, then displacing the German National Peoples’ Party as the majority party on the Right, and finally mobilizing millions of youth and non-voters (mainly women) to their cause. What is frequently forgotten in this progression is that Hitler and his followers had to first assert their hegemony over a disparate landscape of competing anti-Semitic groups.

The most important of the anti-Semitic competitor parties was the German Racist Freedom Party (Deutsch-völkische Freiheitspartie), which campaigned in successive elections under the names Völkisch-Sozial Bloc (VSB), the Nationalsozialistische Freiheitspartei (NSFP), and the Völkisch-National Bloc (VNB).  The DVFP was founded in December 1922 when the three most radical anti-Semitic parliamentarians were ejected from the German Nationalist People’s Party's Reichstag caucus. The party was formally banned, its offices seized, and its leaders detained in November 1923 after Hitler’s unsuccessful putsch attempt in Munich. The party’s three members of parliament used their immunity to continue their political activities and in February 1924, in the run-up to the May national elections formed an electoral alliance with the banned NSDAP - the Völkisch-Sozial Bloc.

After the May 1924 election, cooperation between the German Racists and the Nazis broke down, with the DVFP attempting to assert its dominance over the racist movement, while Hitler’s followers struggled to maintain their independence and viability.  Conflict between the two groups was most intense in Bremen, where they disrupted each other’s rallies and competed against each other in municipal elections.  In the run-up to the May 1928 national parliamentary election, the German Racists tried to maximize their clout through an alliance with the 35 smaller anti-Semitic groups (the largest of which being the Landvolk- und Mittlestandspartei) that they called the Völkisch-National Bloc or VNB.

In this paper, I use GIS to explore German Racist electoral competition with the NSDAP at the village level in the election of 1928, test the standard hypothesis concerning the electoral appeal of the two groups, and suggest how the Nazis were able to emerge as the leading anti-Semitic party in the region.