In the early 1930s, with Hitler on the rise, Germany’s hardline Communist Party, the KPD, was faced with a dilemma. It was happy to dismiss most of its political rivals, especially the Social Democrats, as “Fascist,” but had a grudging respect for the Nazis, who, after all, had a mass following and described themselves as National Socialists.

Under the slogan “Class against Class,” the view of the KPD leadership was that they should form a front with the Nazis to get rid of the centre-right and centre-left parties, thus clearing the stage either for a final conclave or for a joining of forces. Party chairman Ernst Thälmann went so far as to argue that the arrival of Hitler as Chancellor would bring about the necessary conditions for the establishment of a Soviet-style people’s republic.