Alfred Hugenberg - Nationalist Leader

Nationalist Leader

Hugenberg was one of a number of Pan Germans to become involved in the National Liberal Party in the run up to the First World War. During the war he switched his allegiance to the Fatherland Party and became one of its leading members, emphasising territorial expansion and anti-Semitism as his two main political issues. In 1919 Hugenberg joined the Deutschnationale Volkspartei or DNVP (German National People's Party), which he represented in the National Assembly (that produced the 1919 constitution of the Weimar Republic). He was elected to the Reichstag in the 1920 elections to the new body. The DNVP suffered heavy losses in the 1928 election, leading to the appointment of Hugenberg as sole chairman on the 21 October that same year.

Hugenberg moved the party in a far more radical direction than it had taken under its previous leader, Kuno Graf von Westarp. He hoped to use radical nationalism to restore the party's fortunes, and eventually, to overthrow the Weimar constitution and install an authoritarian form of government. Up to this point right-wing politics outside of the far right was going through a process of reconciliation to the Weimar Republic but this ended under Hugenberg, who renewed earlier DNVP calls for its immediate destruction. Under his direction a new DNVP manifesto appeared in 1931, demonstrating the shift to the right. Amongst its demands were immediate restoration of the Hohenzollern monarchy, a reversal of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, compulsory military conscription, repossession of the German colonial empire, a concerted effort to build up closer links with German people outside Germany (especially in Austria), a dilution of the role of the Reichstag to that of supervisory body to a newly established professional house of appointees reminiscent of Benito Mussolini's corporative state and reduction in the perceived over-representation of Jews in German public life.

Hugenberg also sought to eliminate internal party democracy and instill a führerprinzip within the DNVP, leading to some members breaking away to establish the Conservative People's Party (KVP) in late 1929. More were to follow in June 1930, appaled by Hugenberg's extreme opposition to the cabinet of Heinrich Brüning, a moderate whom some within the DNVP wanted to support.

Under Hugenberg's leadership, the DNVP toned down and later abandoned the monarchism which had characterized the party in its earlier years. Despite Hugenberg's background in industry that constituency gradually deserted the DNVP under his leadership, largely due to a general feeling amongst industrialists that Hugenberg was too inflexible, and soon the party became the main voice of agrarian interest in the Reichstag.

Read more about this topic:  Alfred Hugenberg

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