Hitler’s Rise to Power 1933
Paul von Hindenburg (1847–1934), Adolf Hitler (1889–1945)
Hitler ascended to power in 1933 and established a dictatorship in Germany. How did Hitler’s Nazi party gain power, and how did he remove his opponents?
The weakness of the Weimar republic after WWI
In 1919, Germany became a republic. Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated after losing the First World War. The new arrangement displeased a large number of Germans. They yearned to be back in the Empire. Many individuals thought the ruling social democrats were to responsible for the war’s failure. Nonetheless, from the mid-1920s onwards, things began to improve. The global economic crisis struck in 1930. The war obligations stipulated in the Versailles Peace Treaty could no longer be paid by Germany. Millions of Germans have lost their employment as a result of the economic downturn. The country was also in the midst of a political crisis. Cabinets were falling apart, and fresh elections were being held on a regular basis. It appeared that forming a majority government would be impossible.
The rise of the German National Socialist Workers’ Party (NSDAP)
The growth of the German National Socialist Workers’ Party was set against this backdrop (NSDAP). It was a minor party when it was created in 1920. Hitler, on the other hand, exploited his oratory skills to recruit new recruits. Extreme nationalism and antisemitism were hallmarks of the party. Hitler even led a coup attempt in November 1923. It was a colossal flop. Hitler was imprisoned, and the NSDAP was outlawed by the courts. Hitler was freed at the end of 1924 after serving a comparatively brief sentence.
His political career, however, was far from over. He had written Mein Kampf in prison, outlining his plans for Germany. The Nazis were to follow the law from then on and aim to obtain power through elections. They benefited from the economic downturn that started in the late 1920s. The Nazis took advantage of the turmoil to attack the government and the Treaty of Versailles. Their strategy worked well. The NSDAP received 0.8 million votes in the 1928 elections; by 1930, that figure had risen to 6.4 million.
The appeal of the Nazis
The NSDAP’s appeal to many Germans was based on more than just their political platform. The gathering exuded power and vitality. Furthermore, unlike the greying politicians of the established parties, the Nazi leaders were young. Furthermore, they liked Hitler’s image as a strong leader. He was ready to bring the people together and put an end to political strife. Rather than focusing on a single group, such as laborers or Catholics, the Nazis targeted voters from all walks of life. They also drew in a large number of people who had never voted before. Even so, by November 1932, the party appeared to have passed its apogee. The economy was improving, and the NSDAP received 11% fewer votes in July than in July of the previous year.
Hitler appointed Chancellor
The conservative parties were unable to secure sufficient votes. They put pressure on President Paul von Hindenburg to elevate Hitler to the position of chancellor. With the NSDAP, they intended to create a majority cabinet. The fact that they anticipated to use Hitler to further their own goals would prove to be a disastrous miscalculation. On January 30, 1933, Von Hindenburg caved in and named Hitler chancellor. ‘It’s like though I’m in a dream.’ In his diary, Joseph Goebbels, the future Minister of Propaganda, wrote, “The Wilhelmstraße is ours.” So, despite the fact that Hitler was not elected by the German people, he came to power legally.
National Socialist government: the Nazis share the power
With a torchlight march through Berlin, the National Socialists celebrated their victory. Hitler smiled as he watched from the chancellery balcony. Despite his glory, he was still a long way from being all-powerful at the time. Although there were only two NSDAP members in the new cabinet, Hitler was able to get them appointed to crucial positions. Hermann Göring’s contribution was particularly significant. He was a minister without portfolio who was given command of Prussia’s police force, which covered the majority of Germany. This was cause for the Nazis to rejoice over their ‘national revolution,’ but many Germans were unconcerned. They’d seen a lot of governments come and go, and they didn’t think the current one would last long.
Fire in the Reichstag: a first step towards the dictatorship
Hitler quickly consolidated his power. The fire of the Reichstag, Germany’s parliament building, was a turning point in the story. Guards observed flames bursting through the roof on February 27, 1933. Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist, was overpowered as the suspected arsonist. In 1934, he was executed during a mock trial. No evidence of any co-conspirators was ever discovered.
The Nazi leadership arrived quickly on the spot. According to eyewitnesses, when Göring saw the fire, he said, ‘This is the beginning of the Communist rebellion; they will assault now!’ There must be no squandering of time!’ ‘There will be no mercy now,’ Hitler exclaimed before he could continue. Anyone who obstructs our progress will be killed.’
The Reichstag Fire Decree was signed by President Von Hindenburg the next morning. It was the foundation of the dictatorship. The German people’s civil liberties were reduced. The police could search homes and arrest people at will, and freedom of expression was no longer a given. The Nazis effectively prohibited their political opponents.
Oppression of all opponents
On March 5, 1933, new elections were held in this atmosphere of intimidation. Nazi posters and flags adorned the streets. Nonetheless, the Nazis’ hoped-for tremendous victory did not come to pass. The NSDAP did not win a majority with 43.9 percent of the vote. Together, the left-wing parties KPD and SPD received 30% of the vote.
Arrests and intimidation were on the rise in the meantime. The Communist Party was outlawed by the government. 10,000 communists had been detained by the 15th of March. The first concentration camps were established to imprison all of these political prisoners. The conditions in the camps were appalling. People were abused, tormented, and occasionally killed.
Jews, particularly well-known Germans, had a difficult time. For example, SS guards at the Dachau concentration camp outside Munich brought four Jewish detainees beyond the gates and shot them. After that, the guards stated that the victims attempted to flee.
Hitler gains more power
The Reichstag convened in Berlin on March 23, 1933. The main topic of discussion was a new law known as the ‘Enabling Act.’ For four years, it permitted Hitler to pass new laws without hindrance from the president or the Reichstag. Members of the SA and SS, NSDAP paramilitary organizations that had been promoted to auxiliary police forces, encircled the premises where the conference took place.
Hitler presented the audience the option of ‘war or peace’ in his speech. It was a subliminal threat to silence any dissenters. The procedure was far from democratic. The Enabling Act was passed by the Reichstag with 444 votes in favor and 94 votes against. It would serve as the foundation for the Nazi rule until 1945.
Gleichschaltung of society
It was time for the Nazis to bring society into line with the Nazi ideology now that Hitler had gained such power. Gleichschaltung was the name of the procedure. Many politically suspicious and Jewish government employees were fired. The Deutsche Arbeitsfront displaced trade unions forcibly. The Nazis were able to prohibit workers from organizing any sort of resistance as a result of this.
All political parties that existed at the time were outlawed. Germany was a one-party state from mid-July 1933 onwards. There were also cultural and scientific ‘cleansings.’
Everything ‘non-German’ had to go, according to the Nazis. Books by Jewish, left-wing, or pacifist authors were set ablaze.
Oppression of the Jews
When the Nazis acquired power, they focused their destructive fury on their political opponents. The exception was the German Jews. They did not oppose the Nazis’ aspirations as a group. Despite this, they were routinely subjected to violence, harassment, and tyranny. The government initiated official action against the Jews as early as April 1, 1933. It declared a broad boycott on Jewish goods. It was the beginning of a sequence of anti-Semitic policies that would culminate in the Holocaust.
Hitler the autocrat
After seizing power, Hitler and the Nazis established a dictatorship in Germany. They employed legal ways to give their activities a veneer of legality time and time again. Step by step, Hitler eroded democracy until it was nothing more than a sham. However, the story did not finish there. Throughout the Third Reich’s twelve years of existence, Hitler continued to cement his grip on the country.
The Nuremberg Laws (1935);
The Nuremberg Trials (1945).
The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)