Removal of Opposition
- Hitler had no intention of being controlled by von Papen. He called for a general election on 5 March to try to gain the overall majority that he needed to make himself dictator legally.
- A week before the elections the Reichstag building was set on fire. It was blamed on the communists because a Dutch member of the Communist Party was arrested inside the Reichstag building. 4,000 Communists were arrested.
- The probable culprits, however, were members of the Berlin SA, led by Karl Ernst, who were acting on the orders of Hermann Goering.
- The Storm-troopers later shot by ** to avoid truth coming out. In March 1933, before the election, Goering enrolled SA members as special constables. Other parties attacked, arrested, beaten up.
- In the election the Nazis won 17.3 million votes, 233 seats, the biggest party, but still not a majority in Reichstag. 22 million vote for other parties.
- With support of Hugenberg’s National Party the Nazis now controlled the Reichstag. When Reichstag met 17 March, Socialists and Communists stayed away.
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The Enabling Act
- On 23 March the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, 1933. This gave Hitler the power to by-pass the Reichstag and make laws without its consent for four years.
- It was passed by 441 votes to 83 with the help of the Nationalists, and with the Reichstag building surrounded by armed SA members.
- April, 1933: Local government was taken over by the Nazis; each of the 18 territories was given a Nazi governor. Local parliaments were abolished.
- Only Nazis could become civil servants, judges.
- May 1933: Trade unions were abolished.
- July 1933: The Law against the Establishment of Parties banned all other political parties. Their leaders were arrested, or fled abroad.
- The first concentration camp, at Dachau, was set up for political opponents in 1933.
- 1934 Hindenburg died. Hitler became President and Chancellor combined, calling himself Der Fuhrer (The Leader). The army swore its oath of loyalty to Hitler, personally.
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The Night of the Long Knives
- Once Hitler became chancellor, Hitler’s only rival was Ernst Rohm, head of the SA.
- Roehm wanted socialist revolution and the SA to be merged with the German army, with himself at the head. This would make him more powerful than Hitler.
- Hitler knew generals would never accept Roehm as commander-in-chief. Hitler would need their support if he was to start war.
- He had to act before President Hindenburg died. It would be very difficult to deny Roehm power when Hitler became Fuhrer.
- Roehm claimed that the SA was growing rapidly. He put the membership at 3 million, although it was probably nearer 5 million.
- Roehm ordered all members of SA to go on holiday for July 1934 and summoned leaders to Munich for a conference.
- On the night of 30th June 1934, 400 SA leaders, including Rohm, were assassinated by the ** on Hitler’s orders. Also murdered were General Kurt von Schleicher and his wife.
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The Police State
- Gestapo or secret police, was set up in 1933 and was run by Himmler after 1936.
- Responsible for investigating cases of spying, treason and sabotage. Exempt from the jurisdiction of courts so complaints could not be made and cases could not be brought against its actions. Gestapo could take any action without fear of protest or restraint.
- Evidence from informers used. People encouraged to inform on neighbours, colleagues ect
- Every block/ street had informer who reported on behaviour that might suggest non-Nazi views e.g. not giving the Hitler salute.
- People could be arrested and sent away for ‘re-education’, which usually meant ‘protective custody'(someone arrested and made to sign a document stating that they had requested being given protection against personal harm).
- Nazi 'People’s Courts' tried people, often in secret. Judges were Nazis. By 1939 there were more than 160,000 political prisoners in Germany.
- First concentration camps opened in 1933. They were made hard to act as a deterrent.
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- 1933: Hitler signed a Concordat with the Pope to protect the Roman Catholic Church in Germany. Agreed to safeguard the rights of Catholics if the Church kept out of politics.
- 1935: Criticisms of brutality and changes in education. Priests arrested.
- March 1937: Pope Pius IX attacked Nazis in encyclical (open letter). Nazis arrested hundreds of priests; many sent to concentration camps and even shot.
- Protestants belonged various Churches so Nazis thought they could deal with them.
- Nazis supported by ‘German Christians’, an organisation which believed that National Socialism and Christianity shared common values.
- Martin Niemoller set up Confessional Church (75% support amongst church ministers) to oppose Nazis. Nazis declared it illegal and arrested ministers; 800 alone in 1937.
- Some Protestants formed ‘Reich Church’. Mein Kampf was placed next to the bible on the altar and swastika given equal prominence with the cross. Many Protestants refused to join and were arrested. Many other religious groups persecuted.
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Censorship and Propaganda
- In 1933 Josef Goebbels became Minister for People's Enlightenment and Propaganda. He controlled all forms of communication.
- Hundreds of films glorifed Nazis/Germany. Thousands of extras used to create battle scenes which Germans always won. Emphasised superiority of German people and showed progress.
- No non-Nazi views were ever heard in newspapers and books.
- 1934: Jewish/anti-Nazi books taken from libraries and burnt in the ‘Burning of the books’.
- H G Wells ‘Things to Come’ about a future war which destroyed humanity was banned.
- Cheap radios were produced and Hitler’s portrait was in every public place.
- Rallies were held regularly at which Nazi flags were carried and speeches made praising Hitler. The 1936 Olympic Games were a propaganda coup for Hitler.
- Photographers, writers, musicians ect had to join Nazi organisations or have work banned.
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