In early February a political earthquake struck Thuringia, a small East German state widely regarded as flyover territory. Parties of extreme left and right had won most seats at an election the previous October, inspiring talk of “Weimar conditions,” a throwback to the fractious pre-Nazi period in which radical parties ate away at the foundations of Germany’s post–W.W. I democratic settlement. The parliamentary scheming of Thuringia’s parties yielded a devastating, and apparently accidental, result: the head of a small pro-business party was elected minister-president (equivalent to a state governor) with support from the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Germans called it a “dam break”: no state premier had ever been elevated to power with AfD votes. The row disrupted the ambitions of a top politician, triggered anti-Fascist demonstrations, and inspired parts of the German press to draw parallels with the darkest periods of the country’s history.
It is not the only advantage of Hitler’s First Hundred Days, Peter Fritzsche’s account of the Nazis’ swift consolidation of power after January 1933, that it quickly renders such comparisons absurd.