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Year 10 History J.

Fearns Chien He Wong

Road to War: How Hitler established a dictatorship in


Germany by August 1934

On the 30th of January 1933, Adolf Hitler was inaugurated as


the Chancellor of Germany1. Within two years he had abolished the
democratic Weimar Republic and imposed upon Germany a
totalitarian dictatorship; rendering her a one-party state2. How did
Hitler accomplish the aforementioned and how did he— initially a
subordinate of Paul von Hindenburg’s— become Führer, a position
wielding carte blanche authority?

Prior to the Great Depression, the Nazi Party was an obscure political
entity; acquiring only 2.6% of the votes in the 1928 election3. It was
the Roaring Twenties era and despite the Treaty of Versailles, the
German economy was flourishing— few supported or wanted to hear
the doctrine and critique Hitler advocated. However, when Wall
Street crashed in 1929 and U.S.A. revoked the loans the German
economy was constructed upon, unemployment grew exponentially
and inflation was prominent. When the Weimar failed to alleviate the
economical crisis, the people turned to the extremists and radicals
for alternatives and comfort. The Nazis were one such party, and
Hitler one such preacher. He appealed to the leading businessmen
of Germany (notably Hjalmar Schacht and Fritz Thyssen) who
generally despised communist ideologies and wished to revert back
to the Kaiser era: one akin to the dictatorship the Nazi Party wished
to establish. These businessmen sent copious amounts of letters to
President von Hindenburg, requesting for Hitler to be appointed
Chancellor of Germany. Believing that Franz von Papen would
contain Hitler and restrain Nazi influence in the Reichstag,

1
Stokes, Phil. “A Biography of Adolf Hitler”. Phil’s World War Two Pages. Stokes, Phil. 22nd of February 2009
<http://www.secondworldwar.co.uk/ahitler.html>
2
Undisclosed author. “Hitler becomes Fuhrer”. World War Two in Europe. 1997. The History Place. 22nd of
February 2009 <http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/becomes.htm>
3
University of South Florida. “The Rise of the Nazi Party”. A teacher’s guide to the Holocaust. 2005. University
of South Florida. 22nd of February 2009 <http://fcit.usf.edu/HOLOCAUST/TIMELINE/nazirise.HTM>
Year 10 History J. Fearns Chien He Wong

Hindenburg succumbed (he was initially reluctant). It is thus evident


that through a combination of circumstance and strategic targeting
of audience, Adolf Hitler assumed the position of Chancellor on
January the 30th 19331.

The Reichstag fire was a pivotal event that occurred on the 27th of
February 1933 where a Dutch communist, Marinus van der Lubbe,
allegedly set fire to the Reichstag building4. The Nazi Party accused
the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) of attempting to execute a
coup d’état, and thereby obtained the Reichstag Fire Decree on the
28th of February due to ‘national security concerns’5. By utilizing
Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, Hindenburg essentially
granted the Nazi Party the plenary authority to ignore civil liberties
— most significantly the voiding of habeas corpus— without
ramifications or hindrance from any checks-and-balances system.
Subsequently, the Nazi Party arrested 4000 communists including
Ernst Thälmann, the leader of the KPD, and disallowed communist
participation in the March elections6. This mitigation of the KPD
resulted in an increase from 33% to 44% of votes in the Reichstag
for the Nazi Party (a majority of 52%, including their ally the DNVP)
and ultimately 92 seats were secured, thus totaling 288 Nazi seats
in the Reichstag7. Although 66% of the votes were not yet attained
(the required amount to pass an enabling act), Hitler’s astute
decisions were exceptional as he seized this auspicious ‘time of
crisis’ to virtually eliminate the Communist Party of Germany,
profusely advertise the Nazi Party via a campaign against a
“ruthless confrontation of the KPD” and to intimidate— legally!— the
4
Undisclosed author. “The Reichstag Burns”. The Rise of Adolf Hitler. 1997. The History Place. 22nd
of February 2009 <http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/burns.htm>
5
Rogers, Daniel E.. “The Reichstag Fire Decree”. Nazi Germany. 2005. University of South Alabama. 22nd
February 2009 <http://www.southalabama.edu/history/faculty/rogers/348/reichstagfiredecree.html>
6
Field, A.J.. “From Chancellor to Dictator”. Weimar and Nazi Government. UnitedHosting. 22nd of February 2009
<http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/lessons/germany/chancellor_dictator.shtml>
7
Felder, Raoul Lionel. “A United Germany Couldn’t be Trusted. A United Germany Couldn’t be Trusted.
Raoulfelder.com. 22nd of February 2009 <http://www.raoulfelder.com/raoulfelder/articles/germany.html>
Year 10 History J. Fearns Chien He Wong

Social Democratic Party members (rivals of the enabling act Hitler


wished to pass) using the SA/Stormtroopers8.

The Nazi Party achieved political independence and dominance on


the 23rd of March 1933 when the Enabling Act
(Ermächtigungsgesetz) was passed8. The meticulous series of
arrests— a euphemism for ‘extermination’— of communists and
social democrats conducted by the Nazis resulted in a greatly
diminished opposition to the constitutional amendment than that
predicted. Hitler also managed to secure the Center Party’s votes by
manipulating their chairman, Ludwig Kaas, into being a proponent of
the act on the grounds that the Nazi Party preserve the religious
liberties and schools of Catholicism; Hitler never fulfilled his side of
the bargain. In addition, Stormtroopers were patrolling the entire
vicinity when the Reichstag assembled to vote (Hitler, being the
guru of etiquette he is, assured the audience that it was for their
own security). Despite this, the entire SPD still voted against the act.
Their attempts were futile: 441 supported the Enabling Act and only
94 did not9. In July, three months later, all political parties had been
dissolved or banned, and the founding of new ones were prohibited
by law. By employing a combination of incentives, intimidation and
violence, the Nazi Party had procured a legal dictatorship and
established a one-party state.

The Night of the Long Knives (June 30th through July 2nd 1934) and
the consequences thereof secured Hitler’s position as the sole
authority in Germany10. The victims of this purge were Ernst Röhm,
high ranking SA members, critics of the Third Reich and basically
anyone who opposed the Nazi regime, be it marginally or
8
Undisclosed author. “Hitler’s Enabling Act”. World War Two in Europe. 1997. The History Place. 22nd
of February 2009 <http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/enabling.htm>
9
Undisclosed author. “Hitler’s Enabling Act”. World War Two in Europe. 1997. The History Place. 22nd
of February 2009 <http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/enabling.htm>
10
Simkin, John. “Night of the Long Knives”. Spartacus Educational. 1997-2003. Spartacus
Educational. 23rd of February 2009 <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERnight.htm>
Year 10 History J. Fearns Chien He Wong

abundantly. The remaining SA men were incorporated into the Army.


Hence, when von Hindenburg’s calculated death was finally realized,
Hitler had obtained control over all militia forces (Gestapo, Army and
SS) in Germany as the official German Army— which harbored a
reciprocal, hostile attitude towards the SA and thus approved of the
purge— swore the Hitler Oath. With vigilance at the brink of
paranoia and a ruthlessness to do what need be done, Hitler
proclaimed himself Führer; incumbent of both offices of
chancellorship and presidency, the absolute wielder of German
military power, the undisputed dictator.

Through eloquence, ruthlessness, manipulation, luck, strategy,


incentives and coercion, Hitler ripped the liberal democracy of the
Weimar asunder and succeeded in establishing a supremacist,
fascist, totalitarian state of which he was Führer. Both opportunist
and strategist, Adolf Hitler— moral compass and ethical issues aside
— is a historical entity to be revered.

“Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer”


Year 10 History J. Fearns Chien He Wong

Bibliography
Stokes, Phil. “A Biography of Adolf Hitler”. Phil’s World War Two
Pages. Stokes, Phil. 22nd of February 2009
<http://www.secondworldwar.co.uk/ahitler.html>

Undisclosed author. “Hitler becomes Fuhrer”. World War Two in


Europe. 1997. The History Place. 22nd of February 2009
<http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/becomes.htm>

University of South Florida. “The Rise of the Nazi Party”. A teacher’s


guide to the Holocaust. 2005. University of South Florida. 22nd of
February 2009
<http://fcit.usf.edu/HOLOCAUST/TIMELINE/nazirise.HTM>

Undisclosed author. “The Reichstag Burns”. The Rise of Adolf Hitler.


1997. The History Place. 22nd of February 2009
<http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/riseofhitler/burns.htm>

Rogers, Daniel E.. “The Reichstag Fire Decree”. Nazi Germany. 2005.
University of South Alabama. 22nd February 2009
<http://www.southalabama.edu/history/faculty/rogers/348/reichstagf
iredecree.html>

Field, A.J.. “From Chancellor to Dictator”. Weimar and Nazi


Government. UnitedHosting. 22nd of February 2009
<http://www.schoolhistory.co.uk/lessons/germany/chancellor_dictato
r.shtml>

Felder, Raoul Lionel. “A United Germany Couldn’t be Trusted. A


United Germany Couldn’t be Trusted. Raoulfelder.com. 22nd of
February 2009
<http://www.raoulfelder.com/raoulfelder/articles/germany.html>

Undisclosed author. “Hitler’s Enabling Act”. World War Two in


Europe. 1997. The History Place. 22nd of February 2009
<http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/enabling.htm>

Simkin, John. “Night of the Long Knives”. Spartacus Educational.


1997-2003. Spartacus Educational. 23rd of February 2009
<http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERnight.htm>