Progressive Politics Research and Commentary by Janette Rainwater
 
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Two Months in Germany
(excerpts from From the New Deal to the Raw Deal)


1-30-1933

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.]

2-27-1933

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.

3-5-1933

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.]

3-23-1933

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.]

 

This site was last changed November 28, 2001. It was created on March 20, 1997.

© Janette Rainwater 1997-2001

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