How did the Nazi's establish a dictatorship?
In January 1933-Hitler Chancellor of the Weimar republic-Power shared and incomplete. The nazi's did not have the majority in the Reichstag and Hitler only held office at the plesure of the president. The non-Nazi members of the government co-operated with Hitler, as did the senior civil service, the army and the leaders of banking and big business. Hitler was not checked at this point becuase -
- He lulled people he wished to use into a false sense of security,
- People imagined they could manipulate and control Hitler,
- Hitler had a lot of support,
Within next year-Hitler moved towards the establishment of a Nazi Dictatorship. The breakdown of Parliamentary democracy and the carrying out of work of government by presidential decree under Hindenburg made the trantion much easier.
The Election of 1933
To change the Weimar constitution a tho-thirds majority in the Reichstag was essential - To gain Reichstag support Hitler called a general election for March 1933. During the election campaign Hitler focussed on the very serious danger to the republic of a communist uprising. Despite early caution among the Nazi leadership the SA were stepping up the pace of its activities on the streets of towns and cities.
On the 27th Febuary- The Reichstag in Berlin was gutted by fire - A dutch communist-Marinus Van Der Lubbe, was caught in the burning and admitted responsibility. The Nazi's expolited the fire as evidence of a communist uprising, and to jusitify a clampdown. Hitler persuaded the President to declare a state of emergency. However, even with the help of the emergency laws the Nazi's failed to win 50% of the popular vote.
The day of Potsdam-Celebrated Hindenburg 21st March 1933.
The Consolidation of Nazi power
In his election campaign, Hitler made no reference to his anti-Semitism or his plans for foreign expansion. He stresses instead the very serious danger to the republic of a communist uprising. The communists were in fact rather quiet and the Nazi's were driven to fabricate proof of an impending Communist putsch by raiding the communist party HQ. During the middle of the election campaign the Reichstag building was set on fire-Hitler immediately seized upon the event as proof of an imminent communist uprising.
Most important than who caused the fire was how the Nazi's used it to their advantage. In the atmosphere of panic which followed an emergency 'Decree for the protection of the people and the State' was passed in Febuary 1933. This was an important decree provided the semi legal foundation for the rule of terror and intimidation, which was about to begin. The Chancellor (Hitler) was given the following powers by Decree:
- Communists & other alleged enemies of the regime could be arrested,
- Free speech and free association could be suspended,
- The press could be censored,
- The central government could, for the duration of the emergency take over the powers of the states,
The Consolidation of Nazi power x2
At March 1933 elections -Hitler did not secuse majority. The Nazi's only won 43.9% of the votes and only had a majority on the strength of their alliance with the Nationalist Party. Using powers under the Febuary Emergency Decree Hitler moved to arrest the 81 Communist deputies and some of the Socialist deputies. The removal of these deputies, the support of the Centre Party and the intimidating presence of the SA and the SS enabled Hitler on March 24 to secure the passing of the Enabling Act which virtually ended the Weimar Constitution.
Under Enabling Law the Chancellor was allowed to issue laws for 4 years without the consent of the Reichstag-Dictoral Rule.
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Using extended powers Hitler outlawed the Communist and Socialist Parties. Under the 'Law Against The New Formation Of Parties' in July 1933. By accepting the law well established organisations as well as the Catholic Centre Party effectively dissolved themselves and accepted Nazi dictatorship.
By Autumn 1933, with the exception of the Presidency, the Army and the Churches, every organisation was brought under Hitler's ultimate control by a process known as 'Gleichschaltung'.
Hitler's rallies, speeches and constant appeals for unity gave him the air of being the leader of an irresistible revolution, which despite its inevitable displays of brutality was basically the positive force bringing about the spiritual and economic renewal of Germany. The Nationalist Party, Big Business, The Reichswher, The Vatican and even the Trade Unions and SPD thought each in its own way that by appeasing Hitler they could ride out the storm and salvage the essentials necessary for their existence.
The Consolidation of Nazi power x4
Trade Unions-Could have been Hitlers most formidable opponents - numbers badly hit by the slump. The leaders of Socialist Trade Unions hoped to salvage the essentials of their organisation by assuring Hitler that they would not meddle in politics and would limit themselves to protecting to economic and social welfare of their members - Any compromise with Hitler -Impossible. Goebbels outmanoeuvred the Union Leadership by appealing over its head to the workers. He declared May 1st-A national holiday in honour of labour and invited workers to participate in the celebratory processions.
On 2nd May the SA and SS occupied Trade Union offices throughout Germany and both unionised and non unionised workers were enrolled in the new German Labour Front (DAF). Hitler ensured that the Labour Front did not become the genuine voice of the workers by handing over responsibility for fixing wages and preserving Industrial Peace to specially created Trustees Of Labour who were directly responsible to the ministry of Labour Strikes Were Banned.
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The Lander Assemblies-brought under Nazi control. In April 1933 1933 Reichsstatthalter or Reich Governors were appointed-Whose function was to ensure that the policies of the Chancellor were carried out in the states. The state police came under Nazi orders and Himmler became Cheif Of Oplice as well as head of the SS. in January 1934 The State Assemblies Were Abolished and the state governments were subordinated to the central government.
In April 1933 the Civil Service was 'coordinated' or brought under Nazi control by 'The Law for the Re-Establishment of the Professional Civil Service'. Jews and officers suspected of being disloyal were dismissed and the Nazi's took control of appointments, dismissals and promotions.
Nazi control of education, the media and cultural life was established with little difficulty. By the Spring 1933, Goebbels as Minister Of Propaganda controlled broadcasting and press releases. In September 1933 all 'intellectual workers'were forced to join the Reich Chamber Of Culture. In May the Ministry of the Interior compelled the German states to introduce new syllabuses into schools and universities. All teaching associations were affiliated to the National Socialist Teachers Organisation.
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Forces too powerful to coerce-Hitler won over with promises-Appealed to their self-intrests. Big business and industry was won over by anti-socialist policies, such as banning trade unions and strikes and by the increase in production through rearmament. Industry & big buisness did not entirely escape 'co-ordination'. Employers associations were welded into the Estate Of German Industry and early in 1934 the whole of German business was regrouped along functional and territorial lines under the Reich Economic Chamber. Unlike other victims of 'coordination', however, businessmen and industrialists were effectively able to manage their own affairs and keep more radical members of the Nazi Party out of key positions. The promise of Rearmament and Hitler's nationalist aims also won over the support of the army.
Hitler forstalled opposition from Catholic Church -Concordat with church leaders in july 1933 - contained guarantees of religious freedom. But began to be undermined once the Catholic Population in the saar had voted for their inclusion in the Reich in the Plebiscite of 1935. Hitler also tried to coordinate the Protestant Lutheran Church - setting up a Reichskirche (National Church) under Bishop Otto Muller -Committed Nazi - but immediately challenged by a strong dissident group, which broke away to form the Confessional Church. In 1935 Hitler removed Muller and created a new Department Of State Affairs, but the Confessional Church managed to survive despite considerable persecution.
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By end of 1933 - Hitler well on the way to establishing a dictatorship in Germany. -No legal way to replace him-Opponents divided and weakened by repression. Potential opponents were intimidated by both violence and terror. By end of 1933 over 100,000 potential opponents had been arrested. In addition, the elite politicians who had sought to use Hitler had been outmanoeuvred. The only potential threat came from the army-But it had commited itself to the new government.
Hitler's control of the Nazi Party
Once power appeared established-Radical elements within the party, particular in the SA began to assert themselves. SA established in 1921-under command of Ernst Rohm-professional soldier. The SA had grown quickly and was responsible for much of the political violence that existed in Weimar Germany. By 1933-3 million members and was a powerful political force. Some 'left' wing members among the SA urged Hitler to launch a 'Second Revolution'. -Hoped to be of a socialist nature. Rhom was a radical who disliked middle class society and wanted to reorder Germany. Particular hope was that the German army could be replaced by the SA. Rohm talked of merging the 3 million stong SA, the 'Brown Shirts' with the army to create a vast new people's militia.
Why did Hitler need to deal with internal Nazi Par
- The demands for a 2nd revolution of a socialist nature, however limited, were alarming the large business and landowning intrests who Hitler was trying to attract to the Nazi Party.
- One of most powerful groups in the state was the army-Hitler had been very careful to cultivate support among the Army by his promises to rearm and re-equip and expand the military. Rohm's calls to merge the army and the SA threatened to undermine this policy.
- If Hitler's ultimate goal was to establish his power without any rival to challenge his position, it was vital that he deal with any threat to his authority from within his own party, particulary a potential threat (Rohm) that led an organisation of over 3 million members.
- Hitler's own credibility as Fuhrer would be undermined if he did not act against the SA.
The Night Of The Long Knives
On the night of 29th June 1934, SS soldiers moved against the leading figures of the SA. Many of the leaders had gathered at a Lakeside Hotel in Bad Qiesse. They were dragged from their beds and taken to Nazi headquarters where they were shot. At the same time in Berlin and other cities the SS moved on others who Hitler disliked or feared. The scheming Schleicher, the potential rival Gregor Strasser, Hitler's old enemy of 1923 Gustav Von Kahr, as well as the 'arch traitor' SA Leader Rohm died in the bloodbath. Figures for the numbers of victims vary. Most historians now say about 90 were murdered including over 50 SA leaders. Hitler proudly defended his actions to the Reichstag and took full responsibility. He said he was defending Germany against a plot by Rohm.
- Consequences: SA power dramatically reduced-Army was very grateful for preventing this,
- Hitler's control over the army -firmer than ever, any possibility that the socialist parts of the party's programme would be implemented was now a very distant possibility,
- The SS along with army -involved in rounding up leadership of the SA. Hitler now came to rely increasingly on Himmler and the SS for all matters relating to security. After the events of June 1934 the SS emerged as one of the most powerful organisations in the Nazi State.
The Assumption of Total Power
Under terms of Enabling Act - right of the Reich President were left untouched. On 1st August 1934, - With Hindenburg very near to death, he had been ill for some time - hitler insisted that all ministers put their names to a law determining that on the death of Hindenburg the office of Reich President would be combined with that of the Reich Chancellor. Among the signatories to the 'Law On The Head Of State Of The German Reich' of 1st August, was the Reichswehr minister Blomberg. This law meant that, on Hindernurg's death, Hitler would automatically become Supreme Commander Of The Armed Forces. The possibility of the army appealing over the head of the government to the Reich President as Supreme Commander disappeared. Hindenburg died on the 2nd August 1934.
On 2nd August 1934, the officers and men of the army swore an oath of loyalty to Hitler.
On 19th August the proposed changes which combined the offices of President and Chancellor were put to the German people for approval in a plebiscite. - 45,500,000 people voted of which 89.9% voted yes to combining offices.
Hitler now had constitutionally unlimited powers as Head of State, Head of Government, Leader of the Party and Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.