FACT CHECK: Did Germany Elect Hitler As Chancellor?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

While comparing the election of President Donald Trump to the rise of Adolf Hitler, Democratic Rep. James Clyburn claimed Wednesday on CNN that Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany.

Verdict: False

Hitler was appointed, not elected, chancellor.

Fact Check:

In a CNN interview, Clyburn said he feared the election of Trump would be a “replay of what happened in Nazi Germany.”

“We remember from our studies what happened in the 1930s in Germany,” Clyburn said. “The fact of the matter is Hitler was elected as chancellor of Germany.”

In fact, the German president appointed Hitler to the position of chancellor. According to the German constitution of that day, the president appointed a chancellor to conduct the government’s affairs. While the chancellor was accountable to a democratically elected parliament, it was not an elected position.

Clyburn tried to use Hitler’s rise to power as an example of how an elected official like Trump could, with time, could become an authoritarian tyrant.

“He did not become a dictator until later when people began to be influenced by his foolishness,” Clyburn said of Hitler. “We just elected a president, and he’s got a lot of foolishness going on.”

As leader of the Nazi Party, Hitler unsuccessfully ran for president against German President Paul von Hindenburg in 1932. The Nazis fared better in parliament that year, quickly becoming the largest political party in Germany.

It was a time of political instability as the Nazis competed with the Communists and other factions to gain control of the government. Realizing the influence of the Nazi Party and fearing a communist uprising, Hindenburg appointed Hitler as chancellor in 1933.

Clyburn claimed Hitler would not become a dictator until later, but Hitler had immense influence over the government as chancellor and quickly worked to consolidate his power.

Within one month of his appointment, Hitler convinced Hindenburg to suspend civil liberties and due process rights, which Hitler exploited to suppress his political enemies. One month later, he intimidated and persecuted members of parliament into granting the president the authority to pass laws, effectively ending the constitutional government.

In 1934, Hitler ordered a violent purge of the Nazi Party to eliminate any perceived threats. When Hindenburg passed away later that year, Hitler became absolute dictator of Germany, the military pledged its allegiance and 90 percent of Germans voted to recognize Hitler as fuhrer.

Hitler rose to power during a time of economic and political tumult by exploiting a weak government and ruthlessly silencing his enemies. Contrary to Clyburn’s claim, Germany did not elect him chancellor.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
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