The German Communist Party (KPD – Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands) was seen as a major rival by the Nazi Party during the years of Weimar Germany in terms of who might acquire national power. The German Communist Party grew out of the Spartacist Movement led by Rosa Luxemburgand Karl Liebknicht. Street battles between members of the Communist Party and the SA were common especially during the depression that followed the Wall Street Crash of October 1929. For the Nazis the Communists represented a real threat as the KPD appealed to the working class in Weimar. The KPD leadership hoped that the unemployed working class would blame business leaders and those who supported a capitalist society. Numerically there were far more people who could be categorised as working class as opposed to middle/upper class. Therefore a political party that had won over the working class would find itself in a very healthy position when compared to other parties that had not done so. Hitler was ideologically opposed to communism but realised that the KPD did represent a real threat to the Nazis prior to January 1933. The KPD was the largest communist movement outside of the USSR and during the mid to late 1920’s had sort to develop closer ties to the USSR. Probably the most famous leader the KPD had was Ernst Thälmann who was arrested by the Gestapo in 1933 and shot in 1944, after 11 years in solitary confinement, on the direct orders of Hitler.
Election of May 20th 1928: the KPD won 10.6% of the vote and 54 seats in the Reichstag.
Election of September 14th 1930: the KPD won 13.1% of the vote and 77 seats in the Reichstag.
Election of July 31st 1932: the KPD won 14.6% of the vote and 89 seats in the Reichstag.
Election of November 11th 1932: the KPD won 16.9% of the vote and 100 seats in the Reichstag.
Election of March 5th 1933: the KPD won 12.3% of the vote and 81 seats in the Reichstag.
Prior to the March 1933 election, the KPD had made steady gains in the national elections. However, the appointment of Hitler as Chancellor in January 1933 and the Reichstag Fire of February 1933 and the consequences surrounding the fire, spelt the end of any political influence that the KPD might have had. The Reichstag Fire was blamed on the KPD and in the immediate aftermath of the fire, KPD leaders were rounded up and were among the first people to be put into the newly created Dachau concentration camp, which was just outside of Munich. After the Enabling Act was passed in March 1933, it was very dangerous for anyone to openly espouse their support for the KPD and the influence of the party swiftly dwindled. Some KPD members fled to the USSR while others spent years in hiding.