German presidential election, 1932

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German presidential election, 1932
1925 ←
13 March and 10 April 1932

  Paul Von Hindenburg Face.jpg Adolf Hitler 1933 (foto carnet).jpg Bundesarchiv Bild 102-12940, Ernst Thälmann (scrap).jpg
Nominee Paul von Hindenburg Adolf Hitler Ernst Thälmann
Party Independent NSDAP KPD
Popular vote 19,359,983 13,418,517 3,706,759
Percentage 53.0% 36.8% 10.2%

President before election

Paul von Hindenburg


Paul von Hindenburg

The 1932 German presidential elections were held on 13 March (first round) and 10 April (second round run-off).[1] They were the second and final direct elections to the office of President of the Reich (Reichspräsident), Germany's head of state under the Weimar Republic. The incumbent President, Paul von Hindenburg, first elected in 1925, was re-elected to a second seven-year term of office. His major opponent in the election was Adolf Hitler of the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP).

Under the Weimar system, the presidency was a powerful office and, following his re-election, Hindenburg played an important role in the coming to power of the Nazis, reluctantly appointing Hitler as Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.


Incumbent President Paul von Hindenburg was 84 years old and in poor health. Never enthusiastic about the presidency (or public office in general), Hindenburg had planned to stand down after his first term. However, the prospect of Adolf Hitler being elected President of Germany persuaded the reluctant incumbent to seek a second term.

Despite becoming a German citizen (and thus eligible for public office) only on 25 February 1932, Hitler hoped to use the presidency to overturn the Weimar constitution and establish a dictatorship. In the 1925 election Hindenburg had been the candidate of the political right and had been strenuously opposed by much of the moderate left and political center. However, in 1932, this part of the political spectrum decided to unite with the moderate right in supporting Hindenburg to prevent Hitler's election. The support of the moderate Weimar coalition was also encouraged by the fact that, contrary to fears expressed at the time of his election in 1925, Hindenburg had not used his office to subvert the constitution, as Hitler now aimed to do.

Although Hitler lost the presidential election of 1932, he succeeded Hindenburg as head of state only two years later, when Hindenburg died in 1934. After the president's death Hitler abolished the office entirely, and replaced it with the new position of Führer und Reichskanzler ("Leader and Reich Chancellor"), cementing his dictatorship.

The 1932 election was the second of only two presidential elections of the Weimar period. When the modern office of German Federal President was established in 1949, following the restoration of democracy in West Germany, it was decided that the president would be chosen indirectly by means of a Federal Convention consisting of parliamentarians and state delegates. To date, therefore, the 1932 election was the last occasion on which a direct presidential election has occurred in Germany.


Under the electoral law, a candidate who received an absolute majority of votes (i.e. more than half) in the first round was elected. If no candidate received a majority, then a second round would be held. In the second round, the candidate receiving a plurality of votes would be elected. A party was permitted to nominate an alternative candidate in the second round, but in 1932 this did not occur (unlike 1925).

Candidate Party First round Second round
Votes % Votes %
Paul von Hindenburg Independent 18,651,497 49.6 19,359,983 53.0
Adolf Hitler Nazi Party 11,339,446 30.1 13,418,547 36.8
Ernst Thälmann Communist Party 4,938,341 13.2 3,706,759 10.2
Theodor Duesterberg Stahlhelm 2,557,729 6.8
Other candidates 116,304 0.3 5,474 0.0
Invalid/blank votes
Total 37,603,317 100 36,490,761 100
Registered voters/turnout 43,949,681 85.6 44,063,958 82.9
Source: Nohlen & Stöver

Further reading[edit]

  • Falter, Jürgen W. (1990), "The Two Hindenburg Elections of 1925 and 1932: A Total Reversal of Voter Coalitions", Central European History 23: 225–241, doi:10.1017/S0008938900021361 .
  • Jones, Larry Eugene (1997), "Hindenburg and the Conservative Dilemma in the 1932 Presidential Elections", German Studies Review 20 (2): 235–259, doi:10.2307/1431947 .


  1. ^ Nohlen, D & Stöver, P (2010) Elections in Europe: A data handbook, p762 ISBN 978-3-8329-5609-7