From Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications VOL. 6 NO. 2
Unrecognized Potential: Media Framing of Hitler's Rise to Power, 1930-1933
IN THIS ARTICLE
In an effort to understand how Americans regarded Adolph Hitler's influence in Germany and beyond as he navigated the country's political landscape, and ultimately established the Third Reich, this research examines his portrayal in American media in the early 1930s. The research uses media framing theory to assess newspaper coverage of Hitler published in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Washington Post between 1930 and 1933. An analysis of more than 400 articles revealed "credible" frames that focused on his persuasive appeal, popular support, and political clout.
In 1930, Adolph Hitler had been absent from American media coverage for nearly five years. Following his release from prison in 1924, he received only brief and infrequent mentions in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Christian Science Monitor, papers that had carried hundreds of articles about him when he tried and failed to overthrow the Bavarian government the previous year. But in 1930, just three years before he would be appointed chancellor, Hitler once again attracted the attention of the American press as his popularity rose amid the most devastating economic downtown in history. This research examines Hitler's portrayal in American media in the early 1930s in an effort to understand how Americans regarded his influence in Germany and beyond as he navigated the country's shifting political landscape and ultimately established the Third Reich.
This research uses media framing theory to evaluate coverage of Hitler published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Christian Science Monitor between January 1930 and April 1933. Nearly 3,500 articles appearing in the three papers contained at least brief mentions of Hitler, but far less offered substantial information about the perceived scope of his political influence. An analysis of more than 400 articles revealed "credible" frames that focused on his persuasive appeal, popular support, and political clout. It also revealed "non-credible" frames that undermined his perceived influence by emphasizing his nonpolitical background, his Austrian heritage, and the idea that his party's relative popularity within Germany would fade before he could effect any lasting change. The majority of articles published prior to his appointment as chancellor in January 1933 contained non-credible frames, a trend that continued throughout his first month in office. But after the Nationalist bloc earned a slim majority in the Reichstag following the elections held in early March 1933, the number of articles containing credible frames increased, suggesting that he was consistently framed as a credible power only after it was suspected that Germany's system of parliamentary democracy would soon end.
Hitler entered politics at the end of 1918 after recovering from the injuries he incurred while serving in the Bavarian List Regiment during World War I. His success in the German army and, later, German politics, would have been somewhat unforeseeable during his childhood and early adolescence, which he spent in a small Austrian town across the Bavarian border. There, he was exposed to Georg Ritter von Schönerer's ideology of pan-German nationalism and embraced the idea that the two countries should unite and become one Reich.1 But his Austrian citizenship would prove a contentious issue as he rose to power in Germany, and many American journalists drew attention to the discrepancy between his background and his politics in ways that often framed him as a non-credible power.
At sixteen, his political inclinations began to take shape. He developed a love of Germany and a hatred of Austria-Hungary, where Germans were outnumbered four to one by other nationalities. He spent his time studying politics while pursuing his goal of becoming an artist, but the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts rejected him twice, and he failed to make a living by selling rather crude paintings and drawings upon moving to Vienna in 1908.2 Much like his non-German citizenship, his brief and unsuccessful career as an artist constituted a key component of the non-credible frame and continued to appear in news coverage through the beginning of 1933.
In Vienna, Hitler was poor and unsuccessful by most standards, but his time there was nonetheless of critical importance to his political success. While there, he studied closely the successes and failures of Austria's three major political parties and learned to inculcate the masses using propaganda and what he called "spiritual and physical terror," a tactic meant to coerce a populace into mental and physical submission by exploiting human weakness.3 In addition to the frenzy of Austrian politics, Vienna also exposed Hitler to extreme anti-Semitism, a sentiment he quickly internalized. In 1913, he packed his few belongings and took his ideas to Germany, and American journalists noted his nationalistic, anti-Semitic leanings when he entered politics five years later. Descriptions of his expert use of propaganda and immense oratorical skills, which he further developed after leaving Austria, often appeared in articles that framed him as a credible power.
Hitler's skill at rallying the masses with propaganda and oratory did not develop until after World War I and the revolution that followed it, two events that greatly influenced his political and racial ideas and rendered much of Germany fertile ground for extremism.4 The political climate in Bavaria proved especially contentious — the right and left, both vying for influence, competed for control over the state. Hitler began attending courses in "political insurrection" taught by the German army, and during one lecture, he spouted an anti-Semitic tirade that earned him a job as an educational officer with the army in 1919.5 It became his responsibility to generate support for the anti-Republican movement while honing his oratorical skills.6 In September of that year, he was ordered to assess the influence of the German Workers' Party, a small reactionary group that became the National Socialist German Workers' Party (later shortened to "Nazi") in summer 1920. There, Hitler verbally attacked a professor who suggested Bavaria should secede and form a South German nation with Austria, and the party leaders invited Hitler to join their movement and develop the party's propaganda and nationalist and anti-Semitic ideology. Within a few years of joining, he became well known in nationalist circles as the "German Mussolini," a catchphrase that often appeared, in various forms, in American news coverage of Hitler's political activity. Articles that contained frames that supported his credibility generally likened his political wherewithal with that of Mussolini, while those that contained noncredible frames often described him as a "would-be Mussolini" or a man who was attempting to imitate the Italian fascist leader.
The party grew in influence, and Hitler became its de facto leader in 1921 amid the political and economic turbulence that followed the German Revolution and the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles, with its war guilt clause and 132-billion-mark reparations bill. Party membership increased from about 1,100 in June 1920 to about 20,000 in early 1923, the year Hitler tried and failed to overthrow the Bavarian government.7 Though unsuccessful, his attempted coup and subsequent trial for treason earned him a considerable amount of coverage in The Times, The Post, and The Monitor in 1923 and 1924, when he was convicted of high treason and sentenced to five years in prison. Prior to his trial in 1924, the credible frame was slightly more prevalent than the non-credible frame, but after his conviction in the spring of that year, the non-credible frame dominated coverage, for reports often presented Hitler's failure to overthrow the Bavarian government as evidence of his lack of political skill and frequently emphasized his Austrian heritage and his artistic background as proof of his supposed incompetence.8 The amount of coverage he received dropped precipitously after he was released from prison at the end of 1924, and when he reemerged in the U.S. press at the end of the decade, many articles contained the same non-credible frame components that appeared frequently after his trial.
Hitler's reappearance in American media in 1930 coincided with the devolution of Germany's political and economic stability, which invigorated the Nazi party and heightened his popular support. The Great Depression left Germany reeling; the flight of foreign capital and rising unemployment rates undermined the consensus of Republican forces that had sustained the country's nascent parliamentary democracy during the golden years of the Weimar Republic.9 Hitler again attracted the attention of foreign correspondents as they scrambled to cover the resurgence of extremist groups in Germany and whether the polarization of the Reichstag would result in the repudiation of the Treaty of Versailles. Between 1930 and 1933, a succession of three conservative German chancellors — Heinrich Bruening, Franz von Papen, and Kurt von Schleicher — ceded certain government responsibilities to Hitler in an attempt to harness his appeal to the masses and control his radical impulses, thereby increasing his prominence on Germany's political stage.10
Such concessions, coupled with the Nazis' growing representation in the Reichstag, emboldened Hitler to demand his appointment as chancellor twice in 1932. Though President Paul von Hindenberg refused to acquiesce, he ultimately agreed to the appointment in January 1933 following Schleicher's resignation from the post. A new cabinet, deliberately formed to include only two Nazi members in addition to Hitler, was installed in an effort to check the new chancellor's dictatorial aspirations. But the plan, which Papen devised with the intention to keep governmental power in the hands of the conservatives, proved woefully shortsighted. Within days of his appointment, Hitler set in motion a plan to dissolve the Reichstag and hold new elections in which the Nazis could gain a majority. The elections, held March 5, 1933, didn't give the Nazi party a decisive majority in parliament, but a bill passed March 23 proved conducive to that aim. The Enabling Act drained the Reichstag of its legislative and diplomatic power and gave it instead to the Reich cabinet for four years.11 With this, Hitler legally gained absolute control over the government and began laying the groundwork for the establishment of his single-party totalitarian state, a shift the American press covered extensively.
Several scholars have examined media coverage of Hitler's rise and the formation of the Third Reich, particularly in relation to coming of the Holocaust. Andrew Henson, in his comparison of American and British news coverage of the Nazi Party between 1922 and 1933, concluded that the Western press failed to recognize its true strength and influence in the years preceding Hitler's appointment as chancellor.12 Gary Klein, who examined how the internal dynamics of The New York Times affected its coverage of Hitler's first two months in office, asserted that the paper failed, by the standards of the time, to provide an accurate picture of what was happening in Germany.13 Deborah Lipstadt, in her seminal study of the coming of the Holocaust in the American press, argued that the failure of the press to accurately assess and convey the plight of European Jews, combined with Americans' disbelief of the atrocities that did make the papers and the Allied governments' interest in downplaying such reports, ultimately fostered a widespread sentiment of indifference as the Nazi regime exterminated millions.14 Finally, Leff's analysis of The Times' coverage of the Holocaust between 1939 and 1945 concluded that the paper's internal dynamics, as well as the supposed incompetency of its European correspondents, resulted in inadequate coverage of one of the most significant tragedies of the twentieth century.15
These studies frequently attempted to gauge the accuracy of news coverage stemming from Germany, as well as the beliefs and motives of the journalists delivering the reports, in an effort to determine whether the American press could have done more to warn the public about the dangers of the Nazi regime. Each scholar took into account, to various degrees, the challenges of reporting from Germany as the Nazis gained power and the effects of widespread anti-Semitism on U.S. press coverage, and each provided useful context for this study. But the conditions in which foreign correspondents in Germany lived and worked render it enormously difficult to impute their motives, beliefs, and sympathies at the time of reporting, and the accuracy of a news article can be determined only in hindsight. This methodological analysis of Hitler's appearance in the American press seeks not to assess why the media made certain decisions while reporting on his rise and how they could have done better, but rather what they did report and how their coverage may have influenced public opinion. In order to situate this study in historical context, several factors must be understood, including the limited availability of information to American journalists in Germany in the 1930s, the pervasiveness of American anti-Semitism amid reports of atrocities against Jews, and how that sentiment might have affected The New York Times' editorial decisions. As Hitler rose to power, it became increasingly difficult
As Hitler rose to power, it became increasingly difficult for foreign correspondents to gauge and then convey the state of the country to their readers at home. In the early 1930s, the political landscape in Germany became harder to navigate, and some of the first reports of Hitler's intentions for Germany were met with skepticism from newspaper editors and readers alike.16 The situation grew more complicated as the Nazis tightened their control over the media, and the German authorities frequently denied the accuracy of foreign correspondents' reports. Reporters accused of publishing false or unapproved information faced the threat of imprisonment or expulsion from the country, a prospect that inevitably affected whether their articles conveyed the extent of their knowledge or suspicions.
Reporters who successfully avoided the wrath of the regime found the newsgathering process immensely difficult. Louis Lochner, who was appointed chief of the AP bureau in Berlin in 1928, wrote a number of letters to his children explaining the challenges and frustrations he faced while trying to deliver the facts. "I don't suppose anyone in America can realize what it means to go through a revolution — and that is what the present upheaval in Germany is," he wrote in April 1933. "One must establish entirely new connections, adopt new methods of treating the news, get acquainted with new laws — and cool one's heels for hours while the new men are getting organized."17 Two months later, Lochner found it increasingly challenging to circumvent the propaganda dispensed by the administration. "You have no idea how difficult it is to get news nowadays," he wrote in June 1933. "One must establish connections with all sorts of people, because the official news sources are so one-sided, and often there is something that the German papers simply aren't allowed to print."18 The restricted availability of information, coupled with the constant threat of expulsion for writing pieces unfavorable to the regime, undoubtedly affected the correspondents' ability channel the full extent of their observations into their dispatches.
News reports regarding Hitler himself generally stemmed from speeches he delivered publicly, information released by the administration, and reporters' observations of his behavior at rallies and other events. Foreign correspondents were often placed near him at mass meetings, and during the Nuremburg rallies, Hitler requested that the press cars be placed between his car and his advisors' car.19 Beyond that, access to Hitler was largely restricted. He didn't grant many private interviews, and when he did, he avoided answering the interviewers' questions by making speeches similar to those he made at public meetings and rallies.20 Hans Von Kaltenborn, a CBS Radio correspondent, secured his first extended interview with Hitler in August 1932 through Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstaengl, Hitler's foreign press chief and Kaltenborn's classmate at Harvard. Hanfstaengl relished his power to keep reporters waiting in the hope of gaining access to Hitler, who continually postponed personal interviews until he grew tired of resisting the requests of his foreign press chief.21 Kaltenborn estimated that only about twelve foreign reporters had been granted access to Hitler in the years prior his interview, which he and Lochner conducted together. The men asked Hitler a series of questions, including some regarding his perspective on Jews and whether his political aspirations aligned with those of Mussolini, a comparison that appeared in both credible and non-credible frames. Hitler responded as though delivering a speech and often failed to fully answer the questions at hand.22 Upon arriving in Paris several days later, Kaltenborn found a message from Lochner that read, "Hanfstaengl very anxious that you should cable nothing to America regarding Hitler's comment on Jews."23 Kaltenborn suspected that Hitler issued the request himself, for Hanfstaengl had been present throughout the interview and hadn't raised objections during that portion of the conversation.24 Such anecdotes demonstrate the difficulty of gleaning information from a man with a strong aversion to interviews and an inability to converse in a casual manner. They also reveal Hitler's desire to control information involving himself and his party.
Despite Hitler's supposed desire to retract his comments on German Jews, he made no secret of his anti-Semitism while delivering speeches to the public, and the violence the Nazi party inflicted upon Jews even before Hitler assumed power was the subject of numerous reports from Berlin. But how Americans would have regarded such reports was likely influenced by the degree to which anti-Semitism pervaded the United States during the first half of the twentieth century. American anti-Semitism remained less vitriolic than European anti-Semitism until the end of the 1800s, but during the first two decades of the twentieth century, the racial and socio-economic bases of anti-Jewish sentiment in the United States became much more pronounced. Government officials, scientists, the media, and the general public adopted the belief that Jews were a separate race with distinct mental and physical characteristics.25 America's Christian underpinnings, which had long played a role in fostering anti-Semitic sentiments, influenced the shift, as did the large influx of European Jewish immigrants who entered the country after 1890.26
The tide of American anti-Semitism rose dramatically during the Depression. As widespread instability called into question the efficacy of economic liberalism, the hatred associated with the Jewish stereotype intensified.27 The number of Jews who held federal government positions increased under Roosevelt, giving way to conspiracy theories that Jews were running the government and influenced the president to implement the New Deal, which then had many opponents.28 Such beliefs only fueled the rise of anti-Semitism in the 1930s, and by the end of the decade, a series of public opinion polls shed some light on the depth of antiJewish sentiment in America. In 1938, at least 50 percent of Americans had a low opinion of Jews, 45 percent thought they were less honest than Gentiles in business, 24 percent thought they held too many government jobs, and fully 35 percent believed European Jews were responsible for the violence and oppression they were facing.29 Though the three papers included in this analysis ran wire stories by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that delivered at least some information about the persecution of Jews in Germany, most of their coverage focused on whether the instability of the German government would affect its ability to repay its war debts or upset the stability of Western Europe. Even if these papers had given more space to the plight of Jews in Germany, it is unlikely these reports would have substantially altered the perspectives of the many Americans who thought little of Jews or professed indifference on the matter.
Such widespread animosity toward Jews somewhat influenced the nature of coverage published in The Times, which provided the most information on Hitler and his party since he emerged on the political scene in 1923. The Times, founded in 1851, became known as an objective, trustworthy news source only after Adolph Ochs, the son of Jewish-German immigrants, purchased it in 1896. Acutely aware of the pervasiveness of anti-Semitism in America, Ochs did not want The Times to be perceived as a Jewish newspaper and kept a close eye on the editorials and letters to the editor printed in the paper, especially those regarding Hitler's rise.30 Ochs remained The Times' publisher until his death in 1935, though he occupied the role only nominally during his last two years. He oversaw the appointment of reporters to the paper's Berlin bureau as Hitler began to mold his National Socialist party in the 1920s and ultimately made Guido Enderis, a Milwaukee-born journalist who covered World War I for the Associated Press, the bureau chief in 1930.31 In 1933, Ochs ceded the majority of his responsibilities to his son-in-law, Arthur Hayes Sulzberger, also a Jew. Sulzberger shared his father-in-law's desire to ensure the newspaper remained impartial to all social and ethnic groups, especially the Jews. He would not tolerate any suggestion that The Times' Jewish ownership affected its news coverage and struggled to provide coverage that satisfied the paper's Jewish and non-Jewish audiences.32 The fact that The Times' publishers worried that extensive coverage of issues facing Jewish communities in the United States and abroad would negatively affect the paper's reception underscores the prevalence of American anti-Semitism as Hitler rose to power.
Scholars have long recognized the power of media — from propaganda to news reports — to inform and shape public opinion. Grounded in cognitive psychology and sociology, media framing theory offers a way to determine how the content and organization of media texts and images affect cognitive processing of information. Goffman posited that individuals employ a multitude of frameworks, or "schemata of interpretation," to "locate, perceive, identify and label a seemingly infinite number of concrete occurrences defined in its terms."33 Though Goffman didn't focus exclusively on media effects, his work demonstrated that frames exist within language and communication texts. Gitlin and Tuchman used Goffman's conception of frames to determine how news media provide a sketch of reality for media audiences.34 Their work formed the basis of media framing theory, which acknowledges media's effect on public opinion while taking into account the factors that influence individual interpretation. Like other social constructivist theories, it attempted to strike the middle ground between the hypodermic and minimal effects models. Several subsequent studies determined the particular effectiveness of news frames related to sociopolitical issues,35 leading Gamson and de Vreese to argue that news media "dominate the issue culture for most people on most issues" and contribute to the shaping of public opinion and political socialization.36 Gamson and Modigliani clarified the role of frames in shaping public opinion by defining them as interpretive packages that give meaning to an issue while emphasizing the complexity of the process by which journalists and individuals construct and derive meaning.37 Entman further honed the meaning of media frames by defining them as aspects of a perceived reality that are made salient to the receiver in a communicating text.38
This study uses Pan and Kosicki's linguistic approach to determine the presence and prevalence of certain frames within the articles included in this analysis. The linguistic approach, which identifies and analyzes how the syntactical, scriptural, thematic, and rhetorical dimensions of a news text affect its message, offers an objective and comprehensive method of frame analysis. For example, syntactic elements, such as headlines and attributions of facts to sources, and rhetorical elements, such as lexical choices and depictions, could serve to support themes established by the organization and presentation of facts within a story. This approach identifies the various components of the credible and non-credible frames and examines how they shifted over time.
Although the selection of newspapers may seem somewhat narrow, it is possible to gain considerable insight into how Hitler was framed in American media using these sources. Of the three dailies included in this study, The Times offered the most coverage of Hitler and Europe in general. Its circulation numbers grew considerably throughout the 1920s, and on average, its weekly and Sunday circulation numbers topped 430,000 and 760,000, respectively, between 1930 and 1934.39 The Monitor had achieved a daily circulation of about 120,000 at the start of the 1920s, and the number grew throughout the decade.40 Though The Washington Post failed to achieve the same influence by the start of the 1930s,41 The Post, as well as The Times and The Monitor, carried stories provided by wire services including the Associated Press and United Press International. At the end of World War I, the Associated Press supplied news to about 1,200 newspapers, a number that grew in the years preceding World War II.42 At the same time, United Press International had 745 newspaper customers, and between 1923 and 1935, the number grew from 867 to 1,300 worldwide.43
Search criteria entered into the ProQuest historical newspaper database yielded every news article, news analysis, letter to the editor, and editorial regarding Hitler published in the Times, the Post, and the Monitor between 1930 and 1933. Because the search produced thousands of results, this analysis is limited to coverage of significant events and shifts that occurred during this period, including Reichstag and regional elections, widely-covered speeches and rallies, Hitler's entry into the presidential race in 1932, and his appointment as chancellor in 1933. The study also includes articles that carried headlines that supplied a substantial amount of information about Hitler and his party, for such detailed headlines indicated that Hitler's activities were among the most significant points of the articles. This analysis is limited in scope. Between 1930 and 1932, Hitler appeared in about 2,100 articles, the bulk of which appeared in 1932. Coverage of Hitler's activities skyrocketed following his appointment as chancellor; he appeared in approximately 1,000 articles during the first three months of 1933. In the interest of efficiency, the sample analyzed in this study is limited to articles published before and after significant events.
Like the fall of the Reichsmark less than ten years earlier, the Depression was just the opportunity Hitler needed to reinvigorate faith in his party and his promises to elevate Germany to its former glory by repudiating the punitive Treaty of Versailles and halting reparations payments. In March 1930, Hindenburg signed into effect the Young Plan, an economic agreement between Germany and its creditors that contained a 60-year reparations payment schedule and reduced foreign oversight of the country's economy. Despite the fact that the plan outlined relatively low payments, anti-Republican forces rallied the impoverished masses by claiming it would further impede Germany's economic recovery. During the first several months of the year, Hitler appeared in a small number of articles that explained his opposition to the plan, but provided little information about the scope of his influence following his near-absence from U.S. press coverage by the end of the 1920s.44
Hitler's appearance in the American press remained somewhat sporadic until July of that year, when it became clear the discontented masses were rallying behind the Nazis and other extremist parties. An article published in The Monitor at the beginning of the month noted that a party more radical that the National Socialists, headed by "Germany's would-be Mussolini," had formed in Germany and could erode Hitler's power by encroaching on some of his support base.45 Though the article's thematic elements and lexical choices — the "would-be Mussolini" could lose power — undermined Hitler's political wherewithal and the potency of his party's influence, other analyses published throughout the month promoted his credibility by acknowledging his growing popularity. An article published in The Times in mid-July predicted that the Nazis would more than quadruple their representation in the Reichstag in the September elections, for the party's "skillful tactics" had earned it success in state and local elections, as well as a steady flow of funding.46 The article noted that the party appealed not only to youth on the extreme right, but also "all bourgeois parties" that blamed their suffering on the parliamentary system. Quantification of the number of seats the party could gain in the election supported the proposition that Hitler's base of support was growing, as did the background information explaining the party's rise. An article published in The Times two days earlier contained similar rhetorical and thematic elements, as did one published the following month.47 The variations in theme and focus among the pieces that mentioned Hitler and his party at this time demonstrated that credible and noncredible frames often appeared simultaneously within a sample of articles, though the prevalence of each depended on the circumstances underlying the coverage.
On September 14, 1930, the Nazis earned six million votes and 107 seats in the Reichstag, more than twice the projected number.48 The fascists' massive gains resulted in a surge in coverage of Hitler and his growing popularity, some of which explained in detail his political comeback following his failed attempt to overthrow the Bavarian government in November 1923. A subhead of an article published in The Times the day after the election —"Hitler, Party Founder, ‘Man Without a Country,' Came Back after Year in Jail for Coup" — summarized the theme of the piece. It opened with an explanation of "the German Mussolini's" key political goals, including the unification of Germany and Austria, the repudiation of the Treaty of Versailles, the restoration of Germany to its former geopolitical status, and the expulsion of all Jews from the country.49 It then segued into a brief description of Hitler's rise to prominence, beginning with points that often served to undermine his credibility throughout the 1920s, including his non-German citizenship, his attempt to become an architect or artist, and his failed coup. But in the following description of his comeback, "one of the most remarkable in modern European politics," the writer compared Hitler's oratorical ability with that of Kerensky, Trotsky, Briand, and Mussolini, thereby heightening his credibility through use of a simile — a rhetorical structure — that likened Hitler to political leaders with a great deal of influence.
Lengthy analyses published in The Times near the end of the month used the same rhetorical, thematic, and lexical elements to explain his comeback, and a flurry of post-election articles highlighted the aforementioned aspects of Hitler's politics as reasons why the Fascists' massive gains posed a danger to the stability of both the German Republic and Western Europe.50 The syntactical elements of these articles, which contained detailed information about his political influence and policy goals, framed Hitler as a credible power by providing background, relaying episodes, and quoting sources that suggested his party's newfound strength could rival that of the Republican government. An article in the special features section of The Times, accompanied by a photo of Hitler titled "Il Duce," stated that the most important factor in Hitler's rise to prominence was Hitler himself, a leader of the "young generation" who "may or may not prove the author of a new war of revenge." To illustrate his persuasive appeal, the writer recounted an episode first recorded in early 1923 in which a communist and a German general walked "fraternally" to enroll in the Nazi party after hearing one of Hitler's speeches, an anecdote that clearly spoke to his popular support and oratorical skill and suggested that he had again achieved the same level of perceived influence as he had in 1923, at the height of Germany's hyperinflation crisis, prior to his attempted beer hall putsch.51 The "German Mussolini" catchphrase, iterated in both the article and the photo, conveyed more credibility that the "would-be Mussolini" catchphrase used earlier in the year, for many Americans held Mussolini's political accomplishments in high esteem in the 1920s and early 1930s.52 Though most articles containing the "German Mussolini" catchphrase did not portray Hitler as a man to be held in the same esteem, the comparison likened him a man who wielded great influence.
But most articles published during and after the September elections did not lend as much credibility to Hitler's influence. All three papers included in this analysis published editorials that framed Hitler's surge in influence as a temporary phenomenon indicative not of his political prowess, but rather the sorry state of German political and economic affairs. The Post wrote that Hitler had been able to recruit the votes of those turning to "radical doctrines and quack remedies" to solve the Republic's problems, but the gains the Nazis and Communists earned in the elections boosted their combined representation in the Reichstag to only 183 out of 575, rendering it a clear minority in the German parliament.53 It concluded that "the nature of the radicals' gains suggest they are temporary." The next day, The Monitor discounted the lasting significant of the Nazi gains, "heralded by a somewhat overanxious foreign press as a dire omen for the eleven-year-old republic."54 It acknowledged that that Nazis' gains gave Hitler more influence, but that his party's makeup of "youthful, impressionable voters" would not enable him to achieve great influence in a country governed by more seasoned, moderate elements. Following an inflammatory speech Hitler gave during the trial of three Reichswehr officers accused of high treason, The Times wrote that "if it be true that a watched pot never boils, the menace of Adolf Hitler has been grossly exaggerated."55 Editorials published in The Post and The Monitor at the end of the month contained similar descriptions, The Monitor going as far as to caution readers not to take Hitler seriously, for "the Fascist chieftain is not a Prussian possessed of a native German gravity, but rather an imaginative Austrian with a keen sense of the dramatic and instinct for knowing the type of trumpet call that will rally his largely youthful followers."56 The descriptors used in each of the articles and editorials, combined with the quantification of Nazi votes and political representation, served to frame Hitler as an alien agitator whose success in the recent elections would likely be short-lived.
Others subscribed to the idea that Hitler's influence would soon fade, and the temporary nature of his popularity proved the theme of many articles published in the weeks following the election. The Times carried a wire story by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in which Einstein averred that Hitler's success in the elections were no cause for despair, for the "Hitler vote is only a symptom, not necessarily of anti-Jewish hatred but of momentary resentment caused by economic misery and unemployment within the ranks of misguided German youth."57 Einstein, whose thoughts and opinions on political and scientific matters appeared frequently in the press throughout the 1930s, had by then established a reputation as a man of intellectual influence, making his insight more likely to be taken seriously.58 In a less intellectual analysis of Hitler's electoral gains published on the front page of The Times, the president of the Berlin Astrological Society predicted that Hitler would "experience his great hour within the next two or three years, but in that moment,
even as it happened to Napoleon I and Napoleon III, power will be wrested from his hands by others."59 The article was published at a time when interest in astrology and fortune telling skyrocketed amid the uncertainty and discontent of the Depression era, and such a prediction likely resonated in the minds of readers who believed clairvoyants could determine the future.60 The former head of the Reichsbank, in a widely printed interview given during a visit to the United States, asserted that the Nazi gains in the elections indicated economic, rather than political, instability and that Hitler should not be taken seriously.61 The consistency of the "temporary influence" theme supported the proposition that the Nazi party posed little threat to German stability, and the range of individuals it was attributed to illustrates a widespread belief in the final months of 1930, despite the his portrayal as a credible power during and immediately after the September elections.
Germany struggled under its reparations burden in the first months of 1931 as the winter season taxed its resources and unemployment continued to rise. In January, articles that offered insight into or speculation on Hitler's strength noted that the Nazis' ability to make further inroads into the government was likely contingent on Bruening's ability to check the growth of the unemployment rate and avoid a serious clash with the extremist elements in the Reichstag. Several analyses emphasized the growing threat of fascism in the wake of Hitler's electoral gains four months earlier and posited that extremist factions — particularly the Nazis — would gain more traction if Germany's situation didn't improve, mirroring themes found in earlier articles that framed Hitler's successes as a result of widespread unrest rather than his political skill.62 But come February, the Reichstag agreed to approve the national budget by a majority of nearly 100 votes, despite the Nazis' demands to dissolve the Reichstag because the budget allowed for reparations payments to continue.
The American press framed the passage of the budget as an indication of Bruening's strength and the Nazis' relative weakness by emphasizing the solidarity of the moderate elements and emphasizing that the Nazis were but a minority in parliament despite their gains in September.63 Following the institution of a rule to curb obstructionism in the Reichstag, the Nazi and Nationalist representatives walked out and refused to participate in a foreign policy debate. The dramatic exit resulted in several articles and editorials that framed the Nazis as "spoiled children of politics" unfit for parliamentary rule who, despite their numerical strength, likely stood little chance in the face of more powerful moderate elements.64 Similar to post-election coverage in September 1930, the lexical choices and rhetorical elements found within these articles lent credibility to the moderates at the expense of the radicals, demonstrating that Hitler's strength was often assessed in relation to that of the Republican governmental elements.Continued on Next Page »