The news of the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh's 20-month-old son plunged Americans, already laid low by the Depression, into a state of national gloom. More than 100,000 officers and civilians mounted the largest man- hunt to date, along the entire Eastern seaboard. Al Capone backed up President Hoover's commitment to move heaven and earth in pursuit of the kidnapper by offering $10,000 towards the child's safe recovery. Following payment of the $50,000 ransom, however, the child's battered body was discovered in a wood five miles from the world-famous aviator's home.
The national mood lifted in July with the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In both the electoral college and the presidential election, the Democrat destroyed Herbert Hoover, a Republican president singularly unable to solve the country's economic problems. The exuberant Roosevelt sold himself on the promise of "a new deal for the American people". Perhaps just as important, Teddy had triumphed over the consequences of polio in a manner that appealed immensely to a country in need of a role model.
In Europe, the German people wavered over whether the future of their country lay with the equally charismatic Adolf Hitler. Having dismissed his primary opponent as "that Bavarian corporal", President von Hindenburg watched aghast as Hitler first won a 36.8 per cent share of the presidential vote, then, with his National Socialist Party, took more seats than any other party in the Reichstag elections. By November, however, rumours of a National Socialist pact with the Communists lost Hitler the industrialist funding that had underscored his recent success; the Nazis were pegged back 34 seats in the next round of Reichstag elections.
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