Peasants and Jews: Anti-Semitism and Rural Politics in Northwest Germany

Chapter 6:  Racists Triumphant (1932-1933)

In this concluding chapter, I focus on the Nazi triumph in the county of Hadeln, since 1893 the center of prosperous peasant support for Agrarianism and conservative, nationalist politics. Through my village study, I can show why traditional politics lasted longer in the county than elsewhere and why it in the end succumbed to Nazism. I also focus on the conversion of rural communities in the county of Leer from völkisch racism to National Socialism through the person of Jaques Groeneveld, a veteran activist who sampled the whole spectrum of nationalist anti-republicanism before he settled on the Hitler movement.

My spatial and statistical analysis is on the two 1932 elections and 1933.

After a brief analysis of the March election of 1933, I reflect on the course of anti-Semitic politics from the beginnings of the Agrarian movement to the Nazi Machtergreifung. I argue that an alliance of Agrarians, German Conservatives, Imperialists, anti-Semites, and National Liberals and it dominated rural politics on the North Sea coast in the two and a half decades before the Great War. To be successful, this coalition had to win votes from all of its constituent parts, a fact which served to promote coalition cohesion and diminish the role and influence of autonomous party/political anti-Semitism. As a consequence, anti-Semitism existed in the shadow-world of social, cultural and economic prejudice and political anti-Semites were forced into a deeply subservient role. Freed by the republican electoral regime, savvy local Nazi activists converted majorities in scattered villages and were able to spread their message throughout the region despite the restrictions placed upon them by the republican regime. Even with the collapse of the region’s rural economy, the Nazis were not the first to benefit. Only after all the other parties and movements had failed, were the Nazis still standing. Taking full advantage of Fritz von Papen’s coup against the Prussian state in June 1932, the Brown Shirts were able to stifle almost all dissident voices during the last three elections of the Weimar era.