Why did democracy fall apart so quickly and completely in Germany in the 1930s? How did a democratic government allow Adolf Hitler to seize power? In The Death of Democracy, Benjamin Carter Hett answers these questions, and the story he tells has disturbing resonances for our own time.
To say that Hitler was elected is too simple. He would never have come to power if Germany’s leading politicians had not responded to a spate of populist insurgencies by trying to co-opt him, a strategy that backed them into a corner from which the only way out was to bring the Nazis in. Hett lays bare the misguided confidence of conservative politicians who believed that Hitler and his followers would willingly support them, not recognizing that their efforts to use the Nazis actually played into Hitler’s hands. They had willingly given him the tools to turn Germany into a vicious dictatorship.
Benjamin Carter Hett is a leading scholar of twentieth-century Germany and a gifted storyteller whose portraits of these feckless politicians show how fragile democracy can be when those in power do not respect it. He offers a powerful lesson for today, when democracy once again finds itself embattled and the siren song of strongmen sounds ever louder.
“[An] extremely fine study of the end of constitutional rule in Germany . . . With careful prose and fine scholarship, with fine thumbnail sketches of individuals and concise discussions of institutions and economics . . . [Benjamin Carter Hett] sensitively describes a moral crisis that preceded a moral catastrophe.”—Timothy Snyder, The New York Times Book Review (Editor's Choice)
"At a time of deep distress over the stability of democracy in America and elsewhere, Benjamin Carter Hett's chronicle of the collapse of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Adolf Hitler could not be more timely. 'The Death of Democracy' makes for chilling reading."—Roger Lowenstein, The Washington Post
"If this is an oft-told and tragic tale, Hett's brisk and lucid study offers compelling new perspectives inspired by current threats to free societies around the world . . . It is both eerie and enlightening how much of Hett's account rings true in our time."—E. J. Dionne Jr., The Washington Post
Reviews from Goodreads
The first signs of something happening come a few minutes past nine o’clock on an icy winter evening in Berlin. Hans Flöter, a theology student, is walking home from an evening of study at the State Library on...