Franklin D. Roosevelt In 1929, President Herbert Hoover declared, with confidence, that, “We in America today is nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.”1 The decade of the 1920s was one of unbounded prosperity and optimism. The stock market was up, credit buying was at an all-time high; cars, radio, television and jazz were popular. All this brought major changes to the American way of life. Then, without warning, the stock market crashes.
The 29th day of October marked the end of the Jazz Age and the beginning of the Great Depression. Industrial and farm production dropped rapidly and unemployment rose from 4 million to 8 million to 12 million between 1930 and 1932! The jobless lived as drifters in small cities of tin huts known as “Hoovervilles.” Banks closed down as everyone withdrew all of their money out of fear of losing it. People were in bread lines that spanned many blocks while once successful businessmen sold fruit on street corners. The systems had failed and the people lost trust in their government. A cold March day brought on the close of every bank at noon.
All the president had to say was, “We are at the end of our string.”2 In March of 1933, the people decided to elect a 51-year old man named Franklin Delanor Roosevelt. He had assured the people he had a way to fight the depression that had engulfed the country, he brought them “The New Deal.” Making good on his pledge for action, FDR enacted the first phase of his plan which included getting the banks back on their feet and fixing the economic and social disaster created by the crash. He gave jobs to the unemployed through the Public Works and Works Progress Administrations. And the National Recovery and Agricultural Adjustment Administrations were used to reopen businesses and put farmers back into production. To the American people, he truly gave them “a New Deal.” On the other hand, when the German economy collapsed in the beginning of the 1930s, people began to see Hitler’s propositions with a more open mind. The depression spread through the country as inflation, which was created by wiping out savings, had thrown many of the middle classes down into the poverty level. Many civil servants and small shopkeepers were swindled out of their life’s savings by clever, fast-talking salesmen. These people were the ones looking to Hitler for salvation from their problems.
Hitler ascribed all of the present suffering to the Jews. He propagated that the Russian Jews were responsible for the corruption in the government, Western Jews were responsible for the inflation and the German Jews were profiting from all of the suffering. ‘The Jews are our misfortune,’ was a common cry in the German National Socialist Workers’ Party. In January of 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed to the position of Chancellor by President von Hindenberg in hopes of recreating their crippled economy. By July he had reconstructed the government to his liking, sending any opponents to concentration camps. He created the Enabling Act, which gave him unlimited dictatorial power, in March.
In August of 1934, von Hindenberg passed away and Hitler announced his own presidency for life. In the early days of Hitler’s regime, he relied on the industrialists and on their political representatives, the German National Party. Soon enough, though, Hitler began to ignore what the German National Party had to say and then finally expelled them completely from the government. There was on room for Hitler in Hitler’s new state. With the new government came a strong need for military rearmament, which, in turn, eliminated nearly all unemployment as the industry exploded. The liquidating of Jewish businesses allowed non-Jewish companies to prosper greatly. He eventually eliminated all of his enemies, sent all Jews to concentration camps and then led Germany into World War II.
In the 1930s, these two political leaders, Adolf Hitler and Franklin D. Roosevelt, were each facing the same economic crises at the same time. Although both of the leaders spoke to their people about saving the country from economic disaster, we can see the contrast in their actions and the prosperity of their countries. If the two leaders’ roles were reversed, the world would have been very different not only for America and Germany, but for the rest of the world as well. In America, Hitler would be telling his people of a “New Deal,” but his promises would be, more than likely, empty and just used as a way to get the peoples’ votes and attention. Meanwhile, FDR would be working hard at getting Germany’s economy out of its depression with a plan similar to what he designed for America.
If Hitler were in power in America, he would have taken many privileges away from the Americans at that time. Perhaps Hitler would not have created some, if any, of the relief programs that FDR had introduced to the American people. For example, without the Agricultural Adjustment or the National Recovery Administrations, the farmers would not have gotten back into production and businesses would not have been able to reopen. I think that the unemployment situation would have turned out the same, because Hitler would have wanted to create a military superpower. America would still be a powerful country, but with a much different point of view. Some countries would see America not as a peaceful leader but an enemy, an evil place. Hitler might have even found a particular race to persecute and scapegoat as he did the Jews in Germany.
On the contrary, Roosevelt in Germany would have probably gotten over the economic crisis and helped his country’s people. Unemployment would have been taken care of as well, but not in the same war-machine fashion as Hitler. He would have created jobs among all people and not sent the Jews to concentration camps. Germany, of course, could not have grown any larger because of the size of its territory, but it would have grown internally to a great country. 1 Jeffrey H.
Hacker, Franklin D. Roosevelt, p. 1 2 Hacker, p. 2.