The Reichstag Fire
- On 27th February 1933 the Reichstag building was set on fire. A Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe, was found inside with matches in his pocket. He confessed and was later executed. The crime was so convenient for the Nazis that anti-Nazi groups claim that van der Lubbe was set up by the SA (this is far from proven).
- Hitler claimed that the fire was proof of a communist plot and persuaded President Hindenburg to sign an emergency decree, the Law for the Protection of People and the State. This ended all freedoms guaranteed in the constitution and gave the police total control.
- The police and the SA arrested communist leaders, broke up meetings and shut down communist newspapers. Other political opponents of the Nazi also suffered.
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- Nazi propaganda encouraged the German people to vote for the Nazis through mass rallies, torchlit parades and radio broadcasts.
- The election brought victory for the Nazis. 44% of voters voted for them and they won 288 seats (more than they had won ever before). With the support of 52 seats from the Nationalist Party, they won a slender majority of the 647 deputies in the Reichstag.
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The Enabling Law
- An Enabling Law was introduced by Hitler on the 23rd March 1933, which would allow him to make laws without consulting the Reichstag and without the approval of the president.
- Because this would change the Constitution of the Republic, it had to be approved by two-thirds of the Reichstag instead of a simple majority. Great pressure was put onto other parties; Hitler banned the 81 communist members from taking their seats using the emergency powers under the Law for the Protection of the People and the State. The next largest party were the Social Democrats, whose members were threatened by the SA. Other deputies gave in to Nazi pressure or didn't turn up.
- The Enabling Law was passed by 444 votes to 94.
- It destroyed the Weimar constitution because after March 1933 the Reichstag didn't meet very often, and then only to hear a speech from Hitler. In November 1933, new 'elections' were held for the Reichstag but the Nazis were the onlu party allowed to stand.
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Gestapo and Trade Unions
- 26th April 1933, Hitler sets up the Gestapo.
- 2nd May 1933, Trade unions were abolished and their offices destroyed (this is because they tended to be anti-Nazi). The leaders of political parties and trade unions were arrested and imprisoned- many of them later died in labour camps
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Banning Parties and people's courts
- By using the powers given to him by the enabling law, Hitler moved against his opponents.
- In June 1933, the Social Democrat Party was banned.
- In July, the Law against the Formation of New Parties ruled that the Nazi Party was the only party allowed in Germany. This is how Germany became a one-party state.
- Nazis took up important positions in the state and the government and soon all of the ministers were Nazis.
- 24th April 1934, People's Courts were set up; people who were Nazis or sympathised with the Nazis were judges or civil servants and those who weren't were removed from office. Judges have to swear an oath of loyalty to the Nazis. This is how Hitler took control of Germany's political, administrative and legal systems.
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The Night of the Long Knives
- Since Hitler now had full control of Germany, he didn't need the SA which had become a threat to his control
- It was undisciplined; many of its members were no more than thugs and their leader, Ernst Roehm, as well as others was homosexual which didn't agree with Hitler's ideas.
- Roehm views were more Socialist- he wanted to take over major industries.
- He wanted the SA to control the German army and this worried Hitler as it would make them more powerful than he was. Since Hitler had been trying to win the support of army leaders in 1933, he decided to choose the army.
- 30th June 1934, Hitler claimed that the SA were trying to seize power and ordered the SS to arrest its leaders. Many leaders were shot over the next few days, including Roehm. Hitler used this as an opportunity to take out other opponents e.g. von Schleicher was murdered. In July when he explained his actions to the Reichstag, they claimed that he had 'saved the nation'
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Death of Hindenburg
- On 2nd August 1934, he died at the age of 87
- Hitler declared himself president and chancellor (Fuhrer and Reich Chancellor).
- On the same day, the army swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler. The only people with the power to remove Hitler and promised to support him.
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