Hitler becomes president, fuhrer of Germany on the 2nd of August 1934, and the Nazis have complete control. To get there Hitler had to effectively braps out his opposition, firstly while Hitler is chancellor, he catches (frames) the communists for the Reichstag Fire on the 27th Feb 1933, so he issued a decree for the ‘protection of the people and the state’ then he took over all state governments and put all his opponents in prison, including the communists.
Although in the election they only got 44% of the vote they gained 288 seats with Hitler now having only a majority of 16 seats, the Reichstag then pass the ‘enabling act’ which enabled him to ignore both the Reichstag and the President. The Nazis then seize the trade unions, and the Social Democrats decided to call it a day. Then Hitler orders the SS to take out the SA and his pal Rohm because of their dangerous revolutionary ideas, on the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ the SA got tonked so to speak. On the 2nd August Hindenburg dies, and Hitler then becomes Dictator, Fuhrer, Supreme Commander and what not.
So how did Hitler go from Chancellor with only two other Nazis in the 11 strong cabinet to an all powerful dictator? The conservatives in the cabinet, including Von Papen, thought that they would back Hitler into a corner, where he could “squeal to his hearts content.” However, they underestimated Hitler’s political skill.
The final democratic election campaign 1933
Hitler comes to power and the first thing he does is to call an election on the 5th of March. He expected the German population to vote for the Nazis on masse, but he was not going to take any chances. Big business gave min 3million marks and Communist meetings were banned. The SA broke up the Social Democratic and Catholic Centre Party rallies. 50 anti-Nazi and 18 Nazis died in street fights.
The Reichstag Fire
On the 27th of February 1933 the parliament building (the Reichstag) caught fire. The police were on the scene in minutes but it took them half an hour to call the fire brigade. They were perhaps a little busy catching a Dutch Communist called Van der Lubbe, who had matches and fire lighters on him (nice one). He had no connections to the German communist party but he was in contact with SA extremists in the days leading up to the fire. However, he is not really important; the political effects of the fire were much bigger than one, soon to be dead, communist.
The fire was an ideal opportunity to round up all of the leaders of the communist party and to introduce martial law. The day after the fire (rather quickly don’t you think) Hitler issued a decree for the ‘protection of the people and the state.’ This decree meant that he could suspend all civil and individual liberties. He took over all of the state governments and put any political opponents in ‘protective custody'(prison). This decree was in effect throughout the entire Nazi reign.
The Election Results
With the Nazis now in total control of the country, how do you think the election turned out? Landslide victory? Alas no. They only gained 43.9% of the vote but they did get 288 seats. The Catholic Centre party slightly increased its share, while the Social Democrats’ share slightly reduced. However, the most outstanding result was the communist party. Their share only went down by 1million, but considering all their leaders were in ‘protective custody’ (gaol) and the party was not allowed to hold meetings, it was a remarkable result. The German National People’s Party (Hitler’s chums) got 3.1million votes and a total of 52 seats, this combined with the Nazi’s 288 gave Hitler a majority of just 16.
The Enabling Act 1933
Hitler was totally over democracy; it had served its purpose and now it was time to get rid of it. He did this by passing the Law of the Alleviation and Distress of people and Reich (the Enabling Act). On March 23rd the members of the Reichstag (except the communist who weren’t allowed in) passed the Enabling Act by a majority of 441 to 84. Now Hitler did not have to answer to the Reichstag, the people or the President.
The Legal Revolution
The Legal Revolution, known by the Nazis as Gleichschaltung (coordination), was going to bring every aspect of German legal life under the control of the party.
Trade Unions – these were banned, the leaders were arrested and all of their money (funds and assets) were taken by the government.
1. The Communists – This lot were already banned
2. The Social Democrats – They knew they were on to a loser so they voluntarily disbanded. By the end of July all of the political parties had disbanded, leaving only the NSDAP. To make sure that the people only heard what the NSDAP had to say they swiftly brought the press under their domination.
The Problem of Nazi Radicals
After achieving all of the above in less than 6 months, the only problems the Nazis now faced came from within. Remember what the S in NSDAP stood for? Socialism. There were still those in the party who held very lefty views, the leading, and most vocal, figure was Ernst Rohm, who was a Nazi before Hitler. He was the leader of the SA and had 2 million fighters at his disposal. Rohm wanted, what he described as, a ‘Second Revolution.’ He wanted to merge the SA and the SS (Hitler’s personal bodyguards) into a ‘People’s Army.’ The radicals also wanted to nationalise land and share it out equally and stop monopolies. All of these things put the willies up those in big business, who were quite happy with their monopolies and the aristocracy, who were happy owning all of the land. However, the group with the most to fear was the officer class in the army, a ‘People’s Army’ would mean they would no longer be needed. Hitler told all of them not to worry and this worried those in the party.
The Knight of the Long Knives
Hitler has a problem, his old mate Rohm is making lots of enemies with this ‘Second Revolution’ idea and the army are getting nervous that he might actually carry it out. Goring and Himmler want to get rid of the problem by killing those who want the revolution (as does Hindenburg). So on June 21 1934 Hitler is called to meet the old and frail Hindenburg, who tells Adolph “either sort the SA out or the army will take control of the country.”
That made his mind up for him and on the 30th of June 1934 Hitler ordered the murders of Rohm, all of the leading figures in the SA and anyone else who might pose a threat to him. The list included Gregor Strasser (the dude who resigned when Hitler sucked up to big business) and General von Schleicher, (the guy who was chancellor before Adolph). So everyone was happy, Hindenburg congratulated Hitler on his ‘determined and gallant intervention,’ the army leadership was happy because the slaughter had been necessary for the ‘defence of the state.’ The SA was no longer a threat to the army, but the SS’s power had grown and they were now the leading threat to the officer class within the Nazi state.
The Death of Hindenburg
On the second of August 1934 Hindenburg died. Guess who now becomes president? Yep and he throws in the title of fuhrer (leader) and makes the army acknowledge him as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces for good measure. On the 19th of August 90% of German voters gave their approval to Hitler and he held a big party at Nuremburg for his supporters.