Hitler's consolidation of power, March 1933 to August 1934

Hitler's consolidation of power, March 1933-August

  • By the end of March 1933, the Enabling Act had been passed which granted the Nazi government wih exceptional powers. 
  • But, there were still some consitutional and political limitations that Hitler would have to overcome in order to be able to exercise dictatorial power:
    • Hindenburg still had the final say in consititutional matters and the army was loyal to him.
    • Some political parties were independent to the regime e.g. the SPD who openly voiced their opposition.
    • The Nazis controlled the state government of Prussia but the governments in other states were controlled by other parties.
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Government and administrative changes

For Hitler, the coming to power in January 1933 was the beginning of the national socialist revolution and he believed that this revolution started through acquiring dictatorial power, the elimination of non-Nazi political parties and then the controlling of institutions of the state at both central and local government level. 

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Government and administrative changes

The creation of a one-party state

  • Hitler viewed conventional political parties with contempt - they represented narrow, sectional interests rather than the interests of the whole nation and he claimed that the Nazi party was the ‘racial core’ of the entire German people. 
  • Its members were a minority of the population but Hitler thought this was made up of superior Germans. 
  • In the Volksgemeinschaft, there could be no parties apart from the Nazi party. 
  • After the Reichstag fire (February 1933) the KPD was banned. Many communists had been arrested, imprisoned and others had fled into exile. 
  • The SPD continued to oppose the regime until they were banned on 22nd July 1933. 
  • Realizing their days were numbered, the DNVP and Centre Party dissolved themselves – the DNVP on 27th June and the Centre Party on 5th July. 
  • 14th July 1933 – The Law Against the Formation of New Parties banned all non-Nazi parties.
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Government and administrative changes

Centralisation of power and control over local government

  • The Weimar Republic was a federal state (a state in which there was several small states) in which many powers were delegated to state governments e.g. each state controlled its police force. 
  • Prussia, the largest state, was made up of 60% of the territory and 50% of the population and could operate mainly independently of the central government.  
    • July 1932 – Papen had dismissed the Prussian state government and a Reich Commissioner was appointed to the state. 
    • January 1933 – Goering took this position. 
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Government and administrative changes

  • 31st March 1933 – First Law for the Coordination of the Federal States dissolved existing state assemblies and replaced them with Nazi-dominated assemblies. 
  • 7th April 1933 – The Second Law for the Coordination of the Federal States created the new position of Reich Governor to oversee the government of each state. These were accountable to the Minister of the Interior and responsible for ensuring the state governments followed the policies of central government. 
  • 30th January 1934 – The Law for the Reconstruction of the Reich abolished state assemblies and state governments were formally subordinated to the Reich government. So, the positions of RGs were now redundant but Hitler didn’t abolish the posts.  
  • 14th February 1934 – The Reichsrat was abolished (the assembly to which state assemblies sent delegates). 
  • Nazi leaders (Gauleiters) in state government wanted to control local government and many took the positions of RGs in their areas. There were violent campaigns to remove non-Nazis from local positions e.g. town mayors.
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Government and administrative changes

Control over the Civil Service

  • Under the Kaiser, civil servants were on an equal status to soldiers and many high-ranking civil servants were made up of the aristocracy. Most were against the Weimar Republic. So, in 1933, many welcomed Hitler's appointment and supported his conservative ministers. They believed that these conservative ministers in Hitler's cabinet would be able to restrain the Nazis and they would allow the Civil Service to run as it had done under the Kaiser.
  • But, Hitler and the Nazis saw the Civil Service as an obstacle to exercising dictatorial power.
  • Many local offcials had to resign and were replaced by Nazi members. Also, the SA put Nazi Party officials in government offices to make sure civil servants were following the orders of the regime. This meant that the Nazi Party were completely in control of the Civil Service.
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The Night of the Long Knives, June 1934

The SA's position before June 1934

  • When Hitler came to power, the SA was expanded – between January 1933 and January 1934, membership grew from 500,000 to 3 million – and the work of the SA was made legal. 
  • Hitler benefitted from the SA’s violence but was not always in control; much of their violence against political opponents and Jews was unplanned and uncoordinated. 
  • July 1933 – once the Law against Formation of New Parties was passed, Hitler could announce that the Nazi revolution was over; he had gained dictatorial powers and Gleichschaltung had been completed. 
  • Ernst Röhm and the SA wanted the Second Revolution – Röhm wanted the SA to become the centre of a new national militia that would replace the army. 
  • Since the summer of 1933, the role of the SA had declined – in August 1933, they had lost their ‘auxiliary police’ status and had stricter rules over their powers of arrest. There was now only one party so there was no need for SA violence.  
  • SA members became disillusioned and they took part in drunken brawls in which the police became targets when they intervened. 
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The Night of the Long Knives, June 1934

  • The army could remove Hitler from power and was loyal to Hindenburg; army leaders saw the SA and Röhm as a serious threat. 
  • 17th June 1934 – Papen made a speech in which he called for an end to terror and for Hitler to clamp down on the SA’s calls for a Second Revolution; this speech had the support of Hindenburg and put pressure on Hitler. 
  • Matters came to a head when Blomberg, the Defence Minister, threatened to give the army the power to deal with the SA. In June, Hitler knew he could take no longer to take decisive action.  
  • The **, acting on the Hitler’s orders, carried out a purge of the SA and other political opponents, including General Schleicher, Strasser and Gustav von Kahr. 84 were executed; 1000 or more were arrested. 
  • 13th July – Hitler addressed the Reichstag and took full responsibility and said he had acted to save the country from a SA coup. 
  • Gained army support and public support. 
  • By October 1935, the SA’s membership had declined to 1.6 million and its political power had been destroyed. 
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The impact of President Hindenburg's death, August

  • In the summer of 1934, President HIndenburg was bedridden and dying.
  • The issue of the President's succession became a matter of urgency for Hitler, especially as Hindenburg had written a political will stating that he would like the monarchy to be restored. 
  • Hitler wanted to merge to offices of Chancellor and President after Hindenburg died.
  • Hindenburg had become so concerned about the SA that he had thought about handing power to the army and dismissing Hitler. The army commanders and Papen agreed with this, so Hitler felt he had to bring the SA under control as he couldn't count on the support of the army. This caused Hitler to purge the SA and with the SA removed, the army no longer objected to Hitler succeeding Hindenburg as President.
  • On the 2nd August 1923, Hindenburg died. An hour after his death, the announcement was made that the positions of Chancellor and President would be merged. On the same day, officers and soldiers took an oath of allegiance to Hitler as the new Commander-in-Chief.
  • On the 19th August, a plebiscite was held in which the people voted to approve this; 89.9% of voters approved this.
  • This was the final act of Hitler's consolidation of power.
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