Wilhelm Groener’s Failure to Stop the Spread of Nazi Power
By Thomas White
In order to truly understand why Wilhelm Groener failed to stop the spread of Nazi power, it is first fundamental to understand where the real seat of power rested withinGermanyin 1932, the year that Groener failed in his attempt to oppose National Socialism and dissolve Hitler’s Storm Troops. The reason for understanding the German power base of 1932 is because much of the responsibility for creating that power base rests with Wilhelm Groener himself, and the policies which he himself implemented. Once an understanding of where the seat power rested in 1932 and how that power base came into fruition, one can then gain a much better understanding as to why Groener was unsuccessful in stopping the rise of Nazi power. The reason Wilhelm Groener failed to stop the spread of Nazi power was because of Groener’s miscalculations concerning his support within the military, a military that had gained considerable political clout as a result of Groener’s efforts, and a military that had fallen prey to an effective Nazi propaganda machine.
Following Germany’s defeat in WWI, Wilhelm Groener embarked upon a series of policies in 1918 and 1919 that were geared toward the building of a powerful military. Groener believed that the role of the military following WWI should be geared to preserving national unity. To accomplish this goal Groener believed “the military must stand above all parties and factions, restraining their excesses and protecting the national state” which would also include the Nazi party. Groener believed that the military could and should serve as a standard for educating the next generations of German youth, and serve as a moral compass that would ensure Germany of a future healthy state. Furthermore, the military would provide “an element of stability, firmly suppressing dissident groups in Germany”, of which the Hitler’s Nazi SA militia could be included. In order to help strengthen the military and realize his goal of an all powerful military which could stand above the fray of politics, Groener along with General Hans von Seeckt embarked upon a secret rearmament program aimed at strengthening the military. Both Groener and Von Seeckt knew that in order to build a powerful military they would need the cooperation of high ranking government officials. Following the Treaty of Versailles, the fledging Weimar government of the Social Democrats under Fredrich Ebert entered into a pact aimed at securing the survival of both the current Army and Social Democrat government, with “Ebert’s promise to cooperate fully with the Army and its policies in exchange for the Army’s protection…This marked the government’s dependence on the Army” It was also during the 1919 timeframe that Groener had begun to entertain the idea of a military dictatorship, believing, as did General Von Seeckt, that “the Social Democrats [were] inadequate to lead the German Government” Further instances of the chaos in Germany which led the Army to consider a military dictatorship include the Kapp Putsh of 1920 and the Hitler Putsh of 1923, both of which were stopped, but both gave added power to the military and had the effect of making the Reichswehr essentially a state power, or “the recognized guardian of the Reich” fully realizing Groener’s vision for the military. Unfortunately for Groener’s policies and vision for the military, the propaganda that the Nazis were able to muster within the military exploited the grievances which existed within the military’s officer corps which in actuality turned out to be “ the potentially most dangerous dissident group in Germany”.Groener’s vision and policies of 1918-19 in principle could have provided a foundation for opposing the Nazi party, but this policy did not receive the support from within the military which would have been needed in order to be effective. As a result of Groener miscalculating the support of the military and by not realizing the extent of the discontent of his own officer corps, Groener was not able implement meaningful legislation that would have resulted in the disbanding of Hitler’s SA.
Groener’s miscalculation of support from within the military, the unstoppable military machine of his ideals, and the propaganda might of the Nazi’s signaled the beginning of the end for him and his ideal of a military that could stand above the fray of politics. Consequently the very seat of power in Groener’s own ideals by which he saw the military as the glue and foundation which would hold Germany together, ultimately became the very vehicle which would unseat him from power and become the means by which the Nazi’s could seize power as the “Reichswehr demonstrated it’s unwillingness to block Hitler’s path to power”
Craig, Gordon A. “Reichswehr and National Socialism: The Policy of Wilhelm Groener, 1928-1932, Political Science Quarterly 63. 2 (1948), 197, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2144837. (accessed August 27, 2010).
Smith, Arthur L. “General Von Seeckt and the WeimarRepublicThe Review of Politics 20. 3 (1958), pp. 347-357, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1404982. (accessed September 1, 2010).
Wheeler-Bennett, John W. The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918-1945.London: Macmillan & Co., 1953.
 Gordon A Craig, “Reichswehr and National Socialism: The Policy of Wilhelm Groener, 1928-1932, Political Science Quarterly 63. 2 (1948), 197, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2144837. (accessed August 27, 2010).
 Ibid, 199
 John W. Wheeler-Bennett, The Nemesis of Power: The German Army in Politics 1918-1945.London: Macmillan & Co., 1953, pp. 31-36
 Wheeler-Bennet, The Nemesis of Power, 153
 Craig, “Reichswehr and National Socialism”, 199
 Ibid, 194