How Hitler Became a Dictator

How many people know how Hitler actually became a dictator? My bet is, very few. I’ d also bet that more than a few people would be surprised at how he pulled it off, especially given that after World War I Germany had become a democratic republic.

  • Hitler and his fellow members of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party, who were determined to bring down the republic and establish dictatorial rule in Germany, did everything they could to create chaos in the streets, including initiating political violence and murder. The situation got so bad that martial law was proclaimed in Berlin.
  • On January 30, 1933, President Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany. Although the National Socialists never captured more than 37 percent of the national vote, and even though they still held a minority of cabinet posts and fewer than 50 percent of the seats in the Reichstag, Hitler and the Nazis set out to to consolidate their power. With Hitler as chancellor, that proved to be a fairly easy task.
  • On February 27, Hitler was enjoying supper at the Goebbels home when the telephone rang with an emergency message: The Reichstag is on fire!
  • “This is the beginning of the Communist revolution! We must not wait a minute. We will show no mercy. Every Communist official must be shot, where he is found. Every Communist deputy must this very day be strung up.”
  • Why would Hitler and his associates turn a blind eye to an impending terrorist attack on their national congressional building (Reichstag) or actually assist with such a horrific deed? Because they knew what government officials have known throughout history that during extreme national emergencies, people are most scared and thus much more willing to surrender their liberties in return for security. And that’s exactly what happened during the Reichstag terrorist crisis.
  • The day after the fire, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to issue a decree entitled, For the Protection of the People and the State. Justified as a defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state, the decree suspended the constitutional guarantees pertaining to civil liberties: Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.
  • Two weeks after the Reichstag fire, Hitler requested the Reichstag to temporarily delegate its powers to him so that he could adequately deal with the crisis. 
  • On March 23, 1933, what has gone down in German history as the Enabling Act made Hitler dictator of Germany, freed of all legislative and constitutional constraints.
  • On August 2, 1934, Hindenburg died, and the title of president was abolished. Hitlers title became Fuehrer and Reich Chancellor. Not surprisingly, he used the initial four-year temporary grant of emergency powers that had been given to him by the Enabling Act to consolidate his omnipotent control over the entire country.
  • Oddly enough, even though his dictatorship very quickly became complete, Hitler returned to the Reichstag every four years to renew the temporary delegation of emergency powers that it had given him to deal with the Reichstag-arson crisis. Needless to say, the Reichstag rubber-stamped each of his requests.
  • For their part, the German people quickly accepted the new order of things. Keep in mind that the average non-Jewish German was pretty much unaffected by the new laws and decrees. As long as a German citizen kept his head down, worked hard, took care of his family, sent his children to the public schools and the Hitler Youth organization, and, most important, didn’t involve himself in political dissent against the government, a visit by the Gestapo was very unlikely.
  • Keep in mind also that, while the Nazis established concentration camps in the 1930s, the number of inmates ranged in the thousands. It wouldn’t be until the 1940s that the death camps and the gas chambers that killed millions would be implemented. Describing how the average German adapted to the new order, Shirer writes,
  • The overwhelming majority of Germans did not seem to mind that their personal freedom had been taken away, that so much of culture had been destroyed and replaced with a mindless barbarism, or that their life and work had become regimented to a degree never before experienced even by a people accustomed for generations to a great deal of regimentation…. The Nazi terror in the early years affected the lives of relatively few Germans and a newly arrived observer was somewhat surprised to see that the people of this country did not seem to feel that they were being cowed…. On the contrary, they supported it with genuine enthusiasm. Somehow it imbued them with a new hope and a new confidence and an astonishing faith in the future of their country.

https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/hitler-dictator/

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