• Adolf Hitlers legal inauguration on January 30, 1933, marked the end of a political system, known today as the Weimar Republic
  • The burning of the German Reichstag building on February 27, 1933,  triggered a statute which suspended all constitutional rights
  • The Enabling Act of 1933 enabled Hitler to coordinate every aspect of German life
  • Hitler used his airplane, rallies and a perfected propaganda to achieve his goals

One Nation, One Leader, and One "Yes"


On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor by Paul von Hindenburg, President of the Reich. Hitler's party, the NSDAP, was the strongest in parliament but did not achieve the outright majority. Such a starting position was ill-starred. Instable parliaments stood to lose of getting dissolved by the President, which happened several times before.  To form a stable government after the chaotic years between 1930 and 1933, in which the Weimar Republic had been governed with emergency decrees, Hitler asked for new elections. They were arranged for March the 5th. For the National Socialist movement, the legal inauguration of January 30 was the key for a takeover celebrated on the same evening with a torchlight procession. Their main backers were Germany's heavy manufacturing.


A few days later, on February the 3rd, Hitler announced his long-term goals to a group of generals, namely "strict authoritarian rule that would rid Germany of the 'cancer' of democracy and 'exterminate' Marxism." (Kitchen, pp.234)

The German parties were once again conducting their election campaigns. Steelmakers, the coal industry, insurance companies, and the chemical industry agreed to set the course, which Hitler introduced on February the 20th to leading industry representatives. In his speech, he addressed that the upcoming election would be the last one and that he intended to transform Germany into a strong state, no matter the results. The industrialists wrote their checks without delay. (Kitchen)


On February 27, the Reichstag building was on fire. A Dutch guy named Marinus von der Lubbe admitted right away that he was the one who committed arson. Whereas some voices claim that the Nazis had organized the fire to implement stricter legislation, most historians agree on the fact that van der Lubbe acted alone. Perhaps it was the nationalistic climate which was used to trigger someone to commit such a crime. On the following day, a "Degree for the Protection of the People and the State". was passed. The new statute suspended all constitutional rights and provided restrictions on the press's freedom and the right to assembly.

The new election results of March the 5th could have been used to form a government but were not the outright majority that Hitler sought. The National Socialists only obtained 43.9 percent of the popular vote. The constitution of the Weimar Republic would have allowed forming a government with another party to reach a majority, but such a compromise seemed unacceptable. It was all or none. The supporters were disappointed:


"The ballots were hardly counted when the National Socialists set about the demolition of the republics federal structure. A two-pronged attack on local government was launched. SA thugs and party activists stormed town halls and local government offices, hoisted swastika flags, and chased terrified officials away." (Kitchen, pp.236)

Hitler reacted with the request for a law that would allow him to rule for the next four years without interference from other German organs. All he needed was a two-thirds majority in parliament and, therefore, the Center Party's goodwill. The conservative party members feared supporters and further religious restrictions concerning the Catholic Church. Most delegates voted in favor, and only the Social Democrats showed courage by speaking out against the bill. The people's house of Germany disabled itself and opened the door for the Enabling Act of 1933. It served as a fundamental pillar for the National Socialist movement.


On March 31, Hitler and his party used its powers to proclaim further actions, namely forcible coordination. All state parliaments were dissolved and replaced with a Reich Governor, many of them now holding a dual function as a Governor and as a Gauleiter (leader of a party district). Because the state boundaries were not the Gauleiters' party district boundaries, it was confusing to know whether a person was speaking as a Governor or as Gauleiter. The functions fused.   This step started the coordination of every aspect of German life:

German Labor Front

National Socialist Motor Corps

National Socialist Women's League

HJ group (1926)

National Socialist University Teachers' League

National Socialist German Students' League

National Socialist German Doctors' League

Other parties became illegal by law. On December 1, 1933, the unity between country and party was anchored by statute. The National Socialist revolution was completed. The German Empire once again changed its political system and became known as the Third Reich.


The whole process took only a few months and became a model for authoritarian takeovers.


"Hitler traveled tirelessly the length and breadth of Germany preaching his simple message

of national redemption to vast and enthusiastic crowds."

(Kitchen, pp. 235)


Most Germans toed the party line because of Hitler's successful economic policies. His rearmament measures offered new jobs. His restless commitment and his charisma secured the help of influential friends from bureaucracy and the military. (Thamer) The ordinary man found himself in an attractive atmosphere with new opportunities, regardless of his class. Furthermore, special leisure time activities were offered to reward the laborer and to strengthen the community. Hitler set much store on family values and Christian morality in his speeches:


"He made no concrete proposals, but he spoke with such utter conviction and passion that the crowds believed that he could be trusted." (Kitchen, pp.235)


The nation was everything!


"For those safely within the racial community life was indeed better than it had been under the Weimar Republic." (Kitchen, pp.272)


Democracy and the rule of law had no space in Nazi Germany. The leading principle (Führerprinzip) was implemented in place of a system of checks and balances. The leading principle means that only one person is in charge, and his will becomes law. This leading principle was also implemented in other groups. The leaders were not elected but went through a selection process characterized by Darwinism's survival of the fittest. This resulted in leadership, which was, frankly speaking, morally questionable. The last word had Adolf Hitler. Ernst Julius Röhm, leader of the Storm Troopers, was arrested and killed on Hitler's orders because he feared Röhm would try a putsch with his powerful troop, even though there was no evidence at all. He was a potential rival. The Storm Troopers became part of the Social Secret Service (SS). The rise of the SS in 1934 can be seen as National Socialism in the pure form. The special squad had its origins in the Weimar Republic, where they were responsible for the security during speeches and rallies.





Symbol of the National Socialist Movement
Symbol of the National Socialist Movement

Life underneath the Swastika had its national calendar. In winter, National Socialists celebrated the takeover each year on January 30 and a holiday named midwinter on December 21. Springtime held a few holidays that were celebrated to unify the community further. A special Memorial Day was held on March 16 (similar-looking to the American Memorial Day in May). Hitlers birthday on April 20 was a sacred day which was followed by the Day of National Labor on May 1. Summertime was welcomed on June 21, and fall was the time to turn on the radio to listen to the Nuernberg rallies in September and celebrate Reich's Thanksgiving on the first Sunday of November. (BIGE)


Life did not look so well for the so-called enemies of the Reich. Jews, "gypsies,"* people who were considered antisocial, homosexuals, and disabled people experienced exclusion, humiliation, and death. The National Socialist ideology damned, in addition to Jews, Romany people (*downgraded as gypsies) to be inferior and racially unacceptable. The Nuremberg Laws on September 15, 1935, set the course for an intensification of policies that were targeting non-Aryans. Not every white person was automatically an Aryan. People had to undergo unique measurements and had to provide a well-documented genealogy.

Some famous Germans resisted the ideology or were seen as enemies because of their heritage and left the country. Prominent Jews (Germans) were the Physicists Albert Einstein and Max Born. Both were able to continue their career abroad. Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann were two German writers who escaped National Socialism. Walter Gropius was a famous German architect and founder of the well-known Bauhaus movement. He became a professor at Harvard University.



Interestingly, also charity played a role in National Socialist ideology. Even though beggars were seen as vermin to a healthy environment, there were several initiatives. Organizations like the Winter Help Aid or the National Socialist public welfare fought against hunger for fellow citizens. They attracted millions of donors and served as a commitment to the national community values (Volksgemeinschaft), namely to inspire unity throughout society. It was an excellent way to build up a social network. Not the poor were in the focus but the donors, who could present themselves as those who participated in poor relief. (Rall,William)

Hitler articulated his goals on foreign policies to a group of generals on February 3, 1933, namely the revision of the Treaty of Versailles, Germany's remilitarization, and Germanizing the east to create "living space" (Lebensraum). In this context, the "blood and soil" ideology played an important role. The German farmers were seen as the pioneers in the targeted eastward expansion (comparable with American farmers role in the westward expansion. It would have been the German and more radical version of Manifest Destiny). An introduction of universal military service should make the country once again ready for war.

Hitler addressed his foreign policy on May 17, 1933, in the Reichstag and promised to respect all international agreements but called for a peaceful revision of the Treaty of Versailles. Most Germans agreed on his demands since all Germans rejected the unjust Treaty. His non-aggression pact with Poland in 1934 caused a positive surprise in Europe. The reconquest and enlargement of German soil was also something that benefited the public's perception of Hitler as a politician:


In January 1935, the Saar, a region placed under the League of Nations' control, voted to return to Germany.


Austria enthusiastically welcomed the German Army on March 12, 1938. Austria became part of Germany, which soon became the Greater German Reich.


Hitler's foreign policy strokes were possible because the Global depression had seriously weakened the European powers. Whereas the French wanted to prevent and block Hitler's foreign policy, the British concentrated on appeasement policy.


The occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938, however, was a turning point for other European powers.


An alliance with Italy was made in 1939. It became known as "The Pact of Steel."


One of the most important tool, if not the most important, was the German propaganda technique. Recurring catchwords and slogans played as much a role as rhetoric, posters and music. Different demographic groups were approached in a variety of ways. The young, the old, the rich, and the poor - They all received different forms of propaganda. The regime made sure that new technology devices such as the radio were affordable for everyone. Every German was able to listen to the speeches of Hitler and his minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. Hitler's election campaign was characterized by speeches that were held in different German cities on the same day. He was portrayed as a man who stood for modernity and technical progression. The airplane made it possible:  "Hitler above Germany" ("Hitler über Deutschland"),  was the title of one nationalistic newspaper depicting the leader of the Reich as an ever-present savior of a nation in crisis.

Sources/ Quellenangabe:

"Kalender symbolträchtiger rechtsextremistischer Daten" Bayerische Informationsstelle gegen Extremismus, BIGE.

Kitchen, Martin. A History of Modern Germany. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.

Rall, John William. Nazi Charity: Giving, Belonging, and Morality in the Third Reich. University of Tennessee, 2018, Phd. diss.

Scriba, Arnulf. "Die NS-Propaganda."LeMO, 14 Juli 2015.

Thamer, Hans-Ulrich. "Nationalsozialismus" Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung.