(excerpts from From the New Deal
to the Raw Deal)
As the result of a series
of back-room deals instigated by old reactionaries such as Franz
von Papen, Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany. This is the
end of the Weimar Republic and the beginning of the Third Reich.
[Schleicher had not been able to form a government and resigned
the chancellorship. Germany was falling apart, politically and economically.
Hitler promised economic renewal and full employment. Shirer,
Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,(1960) pp. 175-187.
Indeed, in his first year in office industrial production would
increase 30%; unemployment would be cut nearly in half. Kilzer,
Churchill's Deception (1994), p. 115. The Weimar Republic
had been de-stabilized by a series of unsolved political murders
of at least 400 labor leaders, journalists, professors, artists
and musicians who were attempting to warn the German people about
the National Socialist party and the right-wing veterans' groups.
Judge, Judge for Yourself, (1990) pp. 134-136.]
Just days before the
crucial election of March 5th, a fire destroys the main chamber
of the Reichstag in Berlin; the Nazis immediately declare that this
is the work of the Communists. Minister without Portfolio Hermann
Göring shouts to the new Gestapo chief: "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 night be strung
up." [The following day Hitler persuaded President von Hindenburg
to sign an emergency decree that suspended seven crucial articles
of the Constitution: freedom of the person, freedom of expression,
freedom to assemble, secrecy of mail and other forms of communication,
sanctity of property and of the home as a place of refuge. Trucks
of brown-shirted SA (Sturm Absteilung) thugs swarmed over
Berlin and the provinces, breaking into homes, and carting victims
off to be beaten and tortured. Over four thousand Communist leaders
and Social Democrats were arrested, including many members of the
Reichstag. The opposition press was closed down, and ten-year prison
sentences were given to any person providing news to foreign governments
that was "not in the best interests of Germany". Opposition
rallies were banned or broken up by bullies; only the Nazis and
their Nationalist Party allies were able to campaign unmolested.
It was widely believed, in Germany and abroad, that the fire had
been set by the Nazis themselves.]
The fire was ostensibly
set by Marinus van der Lubbe, a dim-witted Dutch communist who liked
to play with matches. He was picked up by the SA after he had been
heard boasting in a bar that he would set fire to the Reichstag.
They encouraged him with his plans, but first a group of SA men
(later eliminated by Hitler in the Night of the Long Knives, 6-30-34)
carried quantities of gasoline and self-igniting chemicals through
an underground passage from Göring's headquarters to the Reichstag
which they scattered in strategic places. At van der Lubbe's trial
in Leipzig it was clear that he could not have set such fierce fires
and in so many places simultaneously with the meager materials he
had brought. He was, nevertheless, convicted and decapitated. Shirer,
Rise and Fall, pp. 192-195; Sherwin and Markmann, One Week in March,
(1961) pp. 81-83.
All parties except the
Communists gain seats in the Reichstag. The Nazi party receives
only 44% of the total vote despite the suppression of the opposition
press and the monopoly the NSDAP enjoyed on the state radio during
the election campaign. Its 288 seats combined with 52 Nationalist
seats gives Hitler's government a bare 16-seat majority. Shirer,
Rise and Fall, pp. 195-196. [The Nazi plurality
in the 7/31/32 election had been 37%, making it the largest party
for the first time. However, they lost two million voters in the
11/5/32 election and had to partner with the Nationalist party to
get a bare 16-seat majority. Following the March election, considered
by Hitler to be a "mandate," his storm troopers swarmed
into the provinces. The provincial authorities were replaced by
Hitler's people; Nazi komissars (or party observers) were assigned
to all major newspapers and companies. In the major cities the swastika
was raised over Jewish shops as their owners "voluntarily"
closed. In other places windows were shattered and customers escorted
out of Jewish shops as the stench bombs were rolled in. There was
random street violence by the Brownshirts against Jews.
Black, Transfer Agreement, (1999), p. 9.]
The German Reichstag
passes an Enabling Act which essentially gives dictatorial powers
to Adolf Hitler. His cabinet (whom he appoints) and not Parliament
will be responsible for the budget, foreign treaties, and laws drafted
by the Chancellor. It passes 441-84. All 84 "nays" are
Social Democrats. Hitler achieves his dictatorship "legally".
[One of his first steps was the dissolution of the federal structure
of Germany and the abolition of the "popular assemblies"
of the states. All other political parties were forbidden, including
NSDAP's erstwhile partner, the German National Party. The Brownshirts
celebrate the victory with an escalation of the violence against
Jews. Shirer, Rise and Fall, pp. 198-201.]