Terror and Violence in Nazi Germany from 1933-34
How far did the Nazi regime rely on terror and violence to consolidate its hold on power from 1933-34? Although most of the Nazi regime’s policies and actions were legal, the presence of terror and violence towards it opposition and citizens was most likely the key to the Nazi’s staying in power. With the aid of the SS and SA, the Nazis were able to stage coercive elections only allowing us to suggest unreliable results when it comes to answering this question.
Hitler was appointed as chancellor on January 30th 1933. On the 27th of February 1933, the Reichstag building broke out into flames, four weeks after Hitler had assumed office of chancellor and weeks before his government had urged President Hindenburg to dissolve the Reichstag. The Nazis were able to convince the general public that this was “acts of terrorism” by communists. This meant at long last the Nazis could get rid of the KPD and all other political parties, whether they posed a threat or not.
The Reichstag fire lead to the emergency decree which seized several rights of the German people such as freedom of opinion, personal freedom, freedom of the press and the freedom to organise and assemble. It also meant the German officials could detain whoever they wanted without a warrant. Three weeks after the emergency decree was announced, the Enabling Act (March 27th 1933) was passed. This gave Hitler the power to pass laws without the interference of the Reichstag or Reichsrat.
As Hindenburg was aging he took less interest in day-to-day government activities, hence why he signed the enabling act as it effectively removed Presidential oversight. With the enabling act and the emergency decree both active, Hitler’s government was transformed into a legal dictatorship, allowing the Nazis to do whatever they wanted, however they wanted. The Nazis also controlled the media through propaganda minister, Dr Joseph Goebbels. On the 13th of March 1933, he was appointed head of the Reich ministry which was in charge of all media and public entertainment.
On the night of book burning in Berlin, Goebbels condemned all books by Jews, liberals, leftists, pacifists, foreigners, and others as “un-German. ” This lead to Nazi supporters in the educational sector, both students and professors, to burn these “un-German” books in attempt to “cleanse” German spirits. With the Enabling Act still active Hitler was able to pass a series of laws called the Gleichstaltung laws. Gleichstaltung means “coordination” or “bringing into line”. These laws were laid down to ensure a totalitarian state without any possible
objection or opposition. They were also put into place to standardize Nazi-German lifestyle. All anti-Nazis were purged from civil service and schools. Gleichstaltung however also consisted of several organisations which were made compulsory. All these compulsory groups set up by the Nazis prepared the chosen gender or age group for life during the war. The Gleichstaltung laws allowed the Nazi’s to commence The Night of the Long Knives, within legal jurisdiction. The Night of the Long Knives was the termination or arrest of opposition to Nazis.
Majority of the victims were prominent members and leaders of the SA such as Ernst Rohm and Kurt von Schleicher. Due to unemployment of up to six million, the SA had grown massively and were looking a lot less controllable to Hitler. At one point, the SA were Hitler’s personal army, great tension grew between Hitler and Rohm as they both had a difference of opinion. Another reason the SA was eliminated was due to homosexuality that was rumoured to be present in the group. This clashed with core Nazi ideology and it simply could not be overlooked by the Nazis.
President Hindenburg died on the second of August 1934, this lead to Hitler combing the roles of both president and chancellor into one, known as the Fuhrer, giving him complete power over Germany. In evaluation, majority of Hitler’s rise to power was legal and even his acts of violence and terror were legal due to the Reichstag decree being active as well as the enabling act. Even with great election results, we cannot determine whether they were genuine or not due to coercive elections. Therefore it seems most of his rise to power relied on the acts of terror and violence.