The Nazi Party was the political entity which rose to power in Germany in 1933, led by Adolf Hitler, and remained in office as the only legal and institutionalized political party until May 1945, at the end of World War II. The word "Nazi" was the German abbreviation for Nationalsozialistische, but the complete party name in German was Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or National Socialist German Workers’ Party in English.
The Nazi Party was founded by nationalist Anton Drexler, Dietrich Eckart, and Gottfried Feder on January 5, 1919, under the name of German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei). Although it sounded as if it were another extreme left socialist party, it was in fact a far right political party which attracted nationalist World War I veterans and army officers, many of whom had enlisted in the Freikorps to fight against the armed communist uprisings which took place in Germany at the end of the Great War. Drexler made clear that unlike Marxists, the party supported middle-class citizens, and that the party’s socialist policy was meant to give social welfare to German citizens deemed part of the Aryan race.
From the very beginning the Nazi Party’s members deeply apposed to the Versailles Treaty which they considered an act of treason that handed Germany over to the enemy. Adolf Hitler joined the party on September 12, 1919, becoming 55th member and receiving the number 555, as the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (German Worker’s Party) added "500" to every member’s number to exaggerate the party’s strength. On February 24, 1920, the German Worker’s Party also added "National Socialist" to its official name, in order to appeal to both nationalists and socialists, thus becoming the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei – NSDAP), or simply Nazi for short.
The Nazi Party had two paramilitary organizations which protected their leaders during political rallies and fought against extreme violent Marxist organizations; the SA (Sturmabteilung), and the SS (Stutzstaffel). The SA was founded as a party militia in 1921, and the SS was created in April 1925 as Hitler’s bodyguard, commanded by Himmler; the latter organization members were described as support groups, and all troups of these groups had first to become regular party members.
By 1929, the Nazi Party had 130,000 members. At the September 1930 Reichstag elections the Nazis won 18.3% of the vote, and became the second-largest party in the Reichstag after the SPD. Hitler proved to be a highly effective campaigner, pioneering the use of radio and aircraft for this purpose. At the July 1932 Reichstag election the Nazis made another leap forward, polling 37.4% and becoming the largest party in the Reichstag by a wide margin. the Nazis and the KPD between them won 52% of the vote and a majority of seats. Since both parties opposed the established political system, and neither would join or support any ministry, this made the formation of a majority government impossible. The result was weak ministries governing by decree.
Chancellor Franz von Papen called another Reichstag election in November, hoping to find a way out of this impasse. The electoral result was the same, with the Nazis and the KPD winning 50% of the vote between them and more than half the seats, rendering this Reichstag no more workable than its predecessor. Von Papen, his successor Kurt von Schleicher, and the nationalist press magnate Alfred Hugenberg spent December and January in political intrigues that eventually persuaded President Hindenburg it was safe to appoint Hitler Reich Chancellor at the head of a cabinet including only a minority of Nazi ministers — which he did on 30 January 1933.