Hitler lost the April 1932 Presidential election to Hindenburg, but the National Socialists won a large plurality of seats in the Reichstag in the July and November elections. After much political wrangling, Hitler was appointed Chancellor in January 1933. Once in power, the Nazis immediately arrested their political opponents and then transformed Germany’s legal code, economics, foreign policy, and even the K-12 school curriculum in the days that followed.
Some were still afraid that the Nazis would soon succumb to Jewish influence. Hitler and Goebbels are clearly visible on two of the chess pieces at right, saluting the Jews on the other side of the board.
In fact, the Nazis wasted no time in moving against the Jews. These flyers announce a boycott of Jewish shops and professionals beginning 1 April 1933, just two months after Hitler became Chancellor. It was the first official government act against German Jewry and marks the beginning of the end for the Jews of Europe.
The annexation of Austria five years later was immediately followed by a similar boycott:
On the night of 10 May 1933, books deemed ‘un-German’ in spirit, including all those written by Jews, were removed from university libraries and ceremoniously burned in great bonfires, accompanied by speeches and other festivities organized by the National Student Union. Jazz, atonal music, and all non-representational art were deemed entartete (degenerate), the results of Jewish perversion of European culture, and were banned. The presence of Jews throughout the movie industry was also anathema to the Nazis, and gaining control of German filmmaking was a top priority already by 1932:
Leni Riefenstahl’s groundbreaking documentaries of the Party’s Nuremberg rallies of 1933 & 1934 made clear the power of motion pictures as propaganda vehicles, and Goebbels soon directed the German movie industry to begin producing antisemitic films. In 1939 an antisemitic musical comedy, “Robert und Bertram”, was released, followed in 1940 by “The Rothschilds”, “Jud Süss”, and what must surely be the most despicable movie ever made, “The Eternal Jew”.
Much of American popular music was banned, including “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, Duke Ellington’s “Caravan”, and everything written by Irving Berlin:
Committees of artists combed German museums for offending paintings, drawings, and sculpture. They were then assembled for ridicule in a great public show (the first blockbuster art exhibition ever) and then sold at auction or destroyed.
An overview of National Socialist criticism of modern culture is given by Rosenberg in “Der Sumpf” (1939)
After Hindenburg’s death in 1934, a national plebiscite was held on whether Hitler should also assume the Presidency. In effect, it was a referendum on the first 18 months of National Socialism. It passed by a wide margin.