- After the elections of March 5, 1933, the Nazis began
a systematic takeover of the state governments throughout Germany, ending
a centuries old tradition of local political independence. Armed SA and
SS thugs barged into local government offices using the state of emergency
decree as a pretext to throw out legitimate office holders and replace
them with Nazi Reich commissioners.
- Political enemies were arrested by the thousands and
put in hastily constructed holding pens. Old army barracks and abandoned
factories were used as prisons. Once inside, prisoners were subjected to
military style drills and harsh discipline. They were often beaten and
sometimes even tortured to death. This was the very beginning of the Nazi
concentration camp system. At this time, these early concentration camps
were loosely organized under the control of the SA and the rival SS. Many
were little more than barbed wire stockades know as 'wild' concentration
camps, set up by local Gauleiters and SA leaders.
- For Adolf Hitler, the goal of a legally established dictatorship
was now within reach. On March 15, 1933, a cabinet meeting was held during
which Hitler and Göring discussed how to obstruct what was left of
the democratic process to get an Enabling Act passed by the Reichstag.
This law would hand over the constitutional functions of the Reichstag
to Hitler, including the power to make laws, control the budget and approve
treaties with foreign governments. The emergency decree signed by Hindenburg
on February 28, after the Reichstag fire, made it easy for them to interfere
with non-Nazi elected representatives of the people by simply arresting
- As Hitler plotted to bring democracy to an end in Germany,
Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels put together a brilliant public relations
display at the official opening of the newly elected Reichstag. On March
21, in the Garrison Church at Potsdam, the burial place of Frederick the
Great, an elaborate ceremony took place designed to ease public concern
over Hitler and his gangster-like new regime.
- It was attended by President Hindenburg, foreign diplomats,
the General Staff and all the old guard going back to the days of the Kaiser.
Dressed in their handsome uniforms sprinkled with medals, they watched
a most reverent Adolf Hitler give a speech paying respect to Hindenburg
and celebrating the union of old Prussian military traditions and the new
Nazi Reich. As a symbol of this, the old Imperial flags would soon add
- Finishing his speech, Hitler walked over to Hindenburg
and respectfully bowed before him while taking hold of the old man's hand.
The scene was recorded on film and by press photographers from around the
world. This was precisely the impression Hitler and Goebbels wanted to
give to the world, all the while plotting to toss aside Hindenburg and
the elected Reichstag.
- Later that same day, Hindenburg signed two decrees put
before him by Hitler. The first offered full pardons to all Nazis currently
in prison. The prison doors sprang open and out came an assortment of Nazi
thugs and murderers.
- The second decree signed by the befuddled old man allowed
for the arrest of anyone suspected of maliciously criticizing the government
and the Nazi party. (Sound familiar?!)
- A third decree signed only by Hitler and Papen allowed
for the establishment of special courts to try political offenders. These
courts were conducted in the military style of a court-martial without
a jury and usually with no counsel for the defense.
- On March 23, the newly elected Reichstag met in the Kroll
Opera House in Berlin to consider passing Hitler's Enabling Act. It was
officially called the "Law for Removing the Distress of the People
and the Reich." If passed, it would in effect vote democracy out of
existence in Germany and establish the legal dictatorship of Adolf Hitler.
Brown-shirted Nazi storm troopers swarmed over the fancy old building
in a show of force and as a visible threat. They stood outside, in the
hallways and even lined the aisles inside, glaring ominously at anyone
who might oppose Hitler's will.
- Before the vote, Hitler made a speech in which he pledged
to use restraint. "The government will make use of these powers only
insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures.
The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse
to such a law is in itself a limited one," Hitler told the Reichstag.
- He also promised an end to unemployment and pledged to
promote peace with France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. But in order
to do all this, Hitler said, he first needed the Enabling Act. A two-thirds
majority was needed, since the law would actually alter the constitution.
Hitler needed 31 non-Nazi votes to pass it. He got those votes from the
Catholic Center Party after making a false promise to restore some basic
rights already taken away by decree.
- Meanwhile, Nazi storm troopers chanted outside: "Full
powers or else! We want the bill or fire and murder!!" But one man
arose amid the overwhelming might. Otto Wells, leader of the Social Democrats
stood up and spoke quietly to Hitler.
- "We German Social Democrats pledge ourselves solemnly
in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom
and socialism. No enabling act can give you power to destroy ideas which
are eternal and indestructible."
- Hitler was enraged and jumped up to respond.
- "You are no longer needed! The star of Germany
will rise and yours will sink! Your death knell has sounded!"
- The vote was taken: 441 for, and only 84, the Social
Democrats, against. The Nazis leapt to their feet clapping, stamping and
shouting, then broke into the Nazi anthem, the Hörst Wessel song.
Democracy was ended. They had brought down the German Democratic Republic
legally. From this day onward, the Reichstag would be just a sounding board,
a cheering section for Hitler's pronouncements.
- Interestingly, the Nazi party was now flooded with applications
for membership. These latecomers were cynically labeled by old time Nazis
as 'March Violets.' In May, the Nazi Party froze membership. Many of those
kept out applied to the SA and the SS which were still accepting. However,
in early 1934, Heinrich Himmler would throw out 50,000 of those 'March
Violets' from the SS. The Nazi Gleichschaltung now began, a massive coordination
of all aspects of life under the swastika and the absolute leadership of
Adolf Hitler. Under Hitler, the State, not the individual, was supreme.
From the moment of birth one existed to serve the State and obey the dictates
of the Führer. Those who disagreed were disposed of. Many agreed.
Bureaucrats, industrialists, even intellectual and literary figures, including
Gerhart Hauptmann, world renowned dramatist, were coming out in open support
- Many disagreed and left the country. A flood of the finest
minds, including over two thousand writers, scientists, and people in the
arts poured out of Germany and enriched other lands, mostly the United
States. Among them writer Thomas Mann, director Fritz Lang, actress Marlene
Dietrich, architect Walter Gropius, musicians Otto Klemperer, Kurt Weill,
Richard Tauber, psychologist Sigmund Freud, and Albert Einstein, who was
visiting California when Hitler came to power and never returned to Germany.
- In Germany, there were now constant Nazi rallies, parades,
marches and meetings amid the relentless propaganda of Goebbels and the
omnipresent swastika. For those who remained there was an odd mixture of
fear and optimism in the air.
- Now, for the first time as dictator, Adolf Hitler turned
his attention to the driving force which had propelled him into politics
in the first place, his hatred of the Jews. It began with a simple boycott
on April 1, 1933, and would end years later in the greatest tragedy in
all of human history.
- Maybe there is a connection?
- At half past six on the evening of April 20th, 1889 an
innocent child was born in the small town of Braunau Am Inn, Austria. The
name of the child was Adolf Hitler. He was the son a Customs official Alois
Hitler, and his third wife Klara. Initially Alois had taken his mother's
name, Schicklgruber, but changed it in 1876 and became Hiedler, or Hitler.
Quite important it is hard to imagine tens of thousands of Germans shouting
"Heil Schicklgruber!" instead of "Heil Hitler!"
- Source: http://www.auschwitz.dk/hitler.htm
- © Copyright 1998-2002, Corruption on the Border,
By John Carman:
- E-mail John Carman at: email@example.com