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Alternate History

Schleicher's Gamble

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POD
Bundesarchiv Bild 183-B0527-0001-020, Kurt von Schleicher

On January 20th 1933 Kurt von Schleicher missed his best chance to remain in office. Wilhelm Frick, the acting Nazi leader in the Reichstag, proposed that the Reichstag go into recess until the next budget could be presented (April - May 1933). Schleicher decided against the move, and made the Reichstag recess as short as possible, until January 31st. But what if Schleicher had accepted Frick's offer?





By mid-spring the public works schemes begun at the beginning of Schleicher's Chancellorship were coming to fruition, and the economic situation seemed to be easing. The Nazi party was suffering from internal divisions, with many members disappointed that Hitler had been unable to obtain the chancellorship the previous November.

In November 1933 Schleicher persuaded Hindenburg to call a new election, hoping to weaken the Nazis position in the Reichstag and make them more reliant upon influence in a Schleicher-led government. The gamble paid off, with Nazi support dropping to 26% but still remaining the single largest party in the Reichstag.

In the aftermath of another electoral failure, Nazi SA tactics became more and more violent, with those like Ernst Rohm - who called for a violent overthrow of the government - gaining more influence within the party. Public mood began to swing against the Nazis, and politicians like von Papen and Hugenberg  began to reconsider their earlier support for a coalition with them.

Over the coming months the SA became increasingly violent in its methods. Under this backdrop Schleicher was able to persuade Hindenburg to institute martial law on June 29th 1934. Over the following days a series of arrests were carried out throughout Germany, with leading Nazis, Communists and Social Democrats being arrested.

By the summer of 1934 it was clear that Hindenburg was not going to complete his second presidential term, and that his death would create a vacancy for the highest office in Germany, the Presidency. Schleicher was almost sure of succeeding to the office, and most other political leaders agreed. On August 2nd the expected occurred.

Schleicher assumed the office of acting head of state, and on September 3rd 1934 was elected President of Germany after the first round of voting, winning 78% of the vote. There were claims of vote rigging, and public anger that prominent potential candidates such as Social Democrat Otto Wells and Nazi Adolf Hitler were imprisoned.

Upon assuming office as President Schleicher initially continued a similar kind of "Presidential Government" as Hindenburg had, appointing Carl Friedrich Goerdeler Chancellor. In March 1935 the Communist Party was officially banned, and the Nazi party the following May. In June Schleicher dissolved the Reichstag ready for an election the following month. During the campaign Schleicher tried to undermine the Social Democrats further by forbidding state radio from broadcasting campaign messages.

The result was a clear parliamentary majority for a "Coalition of the Right" consisting of the Centre and DNVP. Goerdeler, secure in office, favoured a return of the Hohenzollern's and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, and was unenthusiastic of von Schleicher's regime. Goerdeler became little more of a figurehead fo von Schleicher's government that became increasingly authoritarian.  

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