The term Fuehrer is banned in Germany
National Socialism: Rise and Rule
Michael Wildt is a trained bookseller and worked for Rowohlt Verlag from 1976 to 1979. He then studied history, sociology, cultural studies and theology at the University of Hamburg from 1979 to 1985. In 1991 he completed his doctorate on the subject of "On the way to the 'consumer society". Studies on Consumption and Eating in West Germany 1949-1963 ”and then worked as a research assistant at the Research Center for the History of National Socialism in Hamburg. From 1997 to 2009 he worked as a research assistant at the Hamburg Institute for Social Research and completed his habilitation in 2001 with a study on the leadership corps of the Reich Security Main Office. Since 2009 he has been Professor of German History in the 20th Century with a focus on the Nazi era at the Humboldt University in Berlin.
His main research interests are National Socialism, the Holocaust, the history of violence in the 20th century and notions of social and political order in modern times.
Contact: mailto: [email protected] «
Peter Krumeich, Employee at the chair of Professor Wildt, contributed to the development of the content of the magazine and, in particular, in coordination with the editorial team, was responsible for the image research for this magazine.
introductionHitler becomes Chancellor
“It's almost a dream,” noted Joseph Goebbels in his diary on January 30, 1933. "Wilhelmstrasse [seat of the Reich Chancellery and various ministries in Berlin - editor's note. Red.] Is ours. The Führer is already working in the Reich Chancellery. ”After Hindenburg was won over to Papen's plan for a united right-wing cabinet under Hitler, the Reich President swore in the new government at noon on January 30th and appointed Hitler Chancellor.
Formally, Hitler's appointment was perfectly legal, but it was by no means in accordance with the constitution of the first German republic. In previous years, the constitution had been undermined and de facto suspended by the practice of the presidential cabinets, which only governed with the emergency decree authority of the Reich President. The elected parliament has since been excluded from political decisions; Even before Hitler came to power, the Weimar Republic had moved further and further away from a parliamentary democracy.
Indeed, at first glance it looked as if not much had changed from previous policy. The former Chancellor and confidante of Hindenburg, Franz von Papen, was Vice Chancellor; Reich Foreign Minister Konstantin von Neurath, Reich Finance Minister Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk and Reich Justice Minister Franz Gürtner remained in office. A strong man in the cabinet was Alfred Hugenberg, who took over both the economics and agriculture ministries. In addition, there was the leader of the "Stahlhelm", Franz Seldte, as Reich Labor Minister and Lieutenant General Werner von Blomberg as the new Reich Defense Minister. Only a few National Socialists belonged to the new cabinet. In addition to Hitler as Reich Chancellor, Wilhelm Frick became Reich Minister of the Interior and Hermann Göring provisional Prussian Minister of the Interior and Reich Minister without portfolio.
But the torchlight procession in Berlin and everywhere in the Reich on the evening of January 30th showed that the National Socialists wanted to get serious about the announced “national uprising”. The next few months were characterized not by the involvement of the Nazi leadership in the cabinet discipline, but by the repression of the German Nationals in the Reich government and the Nazi conquest of power. The German Nationalists and the National Socialists agreed that the upcoming elections should be the last. According to this, dictatorial rule should be governed independently of the constitution with the help of an enabling law. In this respect, January 30, 1933 actually marks the end of the Weimar Republic.
Reactions to Hitler's rise to power
Klaus Mann, Diaries 1931-1933. Edited by Joachim Heimannsberg, Peter Laemmle, Wilfried Schoeller, rororo, Reinbek bei Hamburg (German first edition Munich 1989) 1995, p. 113
Sebastian Haffner, Democratic publicist: “I'm not sure what the general initial reaction was. Mine was correct for about a minute: Icy shock. [...] Then I shook it off, tried to smile, tried to think, and in fact found much to be reassured. In the evening I discussed the prospects of the new government with my father, and we agreed that while it had a chance of causing quite a fair amount of mischief, it had little chance of ruling for long. "
Sebastian Haffner, story of a German. The memories 1914-1933, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt in the Random House group, Munich 2003, p. 104 f.
Luise Solmitz, German national teacher in Hamburg: “What a cabinet !!! As we dared not dream of in July. Hitler, Hugenberg, Seldte, Papen !!! A large part of my German hope hangs on each of them. National Socialist impetus, German national reason, the apolitical steel helmet and Papen, which we have never forgotten. [...] Huge torchlight procession in front of Hindenburg and Hitler by National Socialists and Stahlhelm, who finally, finally, go together again. It's a memorable January 30th! "
Diary Luise Solmitz, entry on January 30, 1933, printed in: Werner Jochmann, National Socialism and Revolution. Origin and history of the NSDAP in Hamburg 1922-1933. Documents, European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1963, p. 421
Victor Klemperer, Jewish university professor in Dresden, diary entry of February 21, 1933: "The depression of the reactionary regiment for about three weeks. I am not writing contemporary history here. But I want my bitterness, stronger than I thought I could still feel It is a shame that gets worse every day. And everything is quiet and crouches, most of all Jews and their democratic press. - One week after Hitler's appointment (on February 5) we were at the Blumenfelds with Raab. Raab, Gschaftlhuber, economist, chairman of the Humboldt Club, gave a big speech and declared that one had to vote for the German Nationals in order to strengthen the right wing of the coalition. I opposed him bitterly. His opinion that Hitler would end up in religious madness was more interesting. .. Most touched is how one is so completely blind to the events, as no one has any idea of the true distribution of power. Who will be the majori on March 5th have activity? Will the terror be accepted and for how long? Nobody can prophesy. "
Victor Klemperer, I want to bear witness to the last. Diaries 1933-1941. Edited by Walter Nowojski with the assistance of Hadwig Klemperer, Aufbau Verlag, Berlin 1995, vol. 1, p. 6 f.
André François-Ponçet, French ambassador in Berlin, in a report to Paris in April 1933: "When the Hitler / Papen cabinet came to power on January 30th, it was assured that the government of the German Nationalists [...] would stand up to Hitler and his fellow combatants, that the Nazis had to reckon with the hostility of the working class and that the Catholics of the Center Party would ultimately defend the legality. Six weeks later you have to realize that all these dams, which were supposed to hold back the flood of the Hitler government, were washed away by the first wave. "
Hitler's seizure of power. Documents from Hitler's rise to power January 30, 1933 to the sealing of the one-party state July 14, 1933, ed. by Josef and Ruth Becker, 3rd edition, dtv, Munich 1993, p. 217
Hitler before the commanders of the Wehrmacht on February 3, 1933
The sole aim of overall politics: regaining political power. The entire government must be prepared for this (all departments!).
1. Inside. Complete reversal of the current domestic political conditions in Germany. No toleration of any kind of attitude that is contrary to the goal (pacifism!). Those who cannot be converted must be bowed down. Extermination of Marxism stump and stick. Attitude of the youth and the whole people to the thought that only the struggle can save us and that everything has to step back from this thought. [...] Training of youth and strengthening the will to defend by all means. Death penalty for treason or national treason. The strictest authoritarian governance. Eliminate the cancer damage of democracy!
2. Outward. Fight against Versailles. Equality in Geneva; but useless if the people are not prepared to defend themselves. Care for allies.
3. Economy! The farmer must be saved! Settlement policy! There is no point in increasing exports in future. The world's capacity is limited and production is excessive everywhere. Settling is the only way to recruit some of the unemployed army. [...]
4. Building up the Wehrmacht is the most important prerequisite for achieving the goal: regaining political power. General conscription must come again. Before doing so, however, the government must ensure that the conscripts are not poisoned by pacifism, Marxism, Bolshevism before they join, or that they do not succumb to this poison after service.
How is political power to be used when it is won? Not yet to say. Perhaps fighting for new export opportunities, perhaps - and probably better - conquering new living space in the East and its ruthless Germanization. Certainly, only with political power and struggle can current economic conditions be changed. All that can be done now - settlement - backup tools.
Wehrmacht most important and most socialist institution in the state. It should remain apolitical and non-partisan. The internal struggle is not their cause, but that of the Nazi organizations. [...]
From: Wolfgang Michalka (ed.), The Third Reich. Documents on domestic and foreign policy, Volume 1, dtv, Munich 1985, p. 23 f.
What followed in the weeks after January 30th was a clear declaration of will never to give up the power that had been won and to radically reshape Germany. Three days after his appointment as Reich Chancellor, Hitler declared to the commanders of the army and navy: “The sole aim of overall politics: regaining political power. [...] Complete reversal of the current domestic political situation in Germany. No toleration of the activity of any attitude that is contrary to the goal (pacifism!). Those who cannot be converted must be bowed down. Extermination of Marxism stump and stick. [...] Elimination of the cancer damage to democracy! "
On February 1st, President Hindenburg dissolved the Reichstag and scheduled new elections for March 5th. They were supposed to end with a demonstrative victory for the National Socialists; all state power was used for this. Under the slogan “Fight against Marxism”, the NSDAP directed all its strength against the left-wing parties.
On February 2, communist demonstrations were banned in Prussia, Thuringia and other countries. Two days later, the Reich President issued an emergency decree restricting the freedom of assembly and the freedom of the press. Nevertheless, around 200,000 people gathered in Berlin on February 7th in the Lustgarten to demonstrate against the restrictions on civil rights. But there were also large rallies in other cities such as Frankfurt am Main. Due to the deadlocked hostility between the SPD and KPD, no alliance was achieved at the management level, but there were joint demonstrations and rallies on site and there were even local general strikes in Mössingen in Württemberg and Staßfurt in Saxony. Around a thousand artists, writers and scientists gathered on February 19 in the Kroll Opera in Berlin to protest against the gagging of art, science and the press; and on February 24th the KPD held one last big rally in Berlin.
But the forces were unevenly distributed. Immediately after taking office, the acting Prussian Minister of the Interior, Hermann Göring, dismissed top political officials as well as 14 police presidents and filled the posts with politically acceptable candidates. At the same time, he released the political police department from its previous anchoring in the Prussian interior and police administration and made it independent as the secret state police. In the other German states, too, the political police were developed as a terrorist instrument. In a speech on March 3, 1933, Goering said clearly: “My measures will not be offended by any legal concerns. My actions will not be offended by any bureaucracy. Here I have no justice to do, here I only have to destroy and exterminate, nothing more! [...] I do not fight such a fight with police means. A bourgeois state may have done that. Certainly, I will use the state and police power to the utmost, gentlemen communists, so that you do not draw the wrong conclusions here, but the agony in which I put my fist in the neck, I will lead with those down there, these are the brown shirts. In the future [...] only those who come from the national forces will be allowed into this state [...]. "
On February 17, the party headquarters of the KPD in Berlin was occupied by the police and searched for alleged plans for a coup. On the same day, Göring instructed the police to support the national propaganda with all their might, on the other hand "to counter the activities of anti-state organizations with the sharpest means" and "to make ruthless use of firearms if necessary". A few days earlier, several hundred SA men had attacked an event organized by the communist Red Aid in Eisleben, Saxony, and had caused a bloodbath. A total of 69 deaths and hundreds of injuries were officially counted in this election campaign.
Social democratic and communist newspapers that reported critically on these events were banned for several days. On February 23, Göring ordered the formation of 50,000 "auxiliary police officers", who were to be recruited exclusively from the SA, SS and steel helmets and armed with clubs and pistols, to allegedly combat "increasing excesses from the radical left, especially the communist side". Now tens of thousands of SA thugs were able to carry out their violent terror against the left as state police officers.
One event in particular came to the aid of the National Socialists: the fire in the Reichstag on the evening of February 27th. A young Dutchman, Marinus van der Lubbe, who started the fire in protest against National Socialism, was found in the burning building. Van der Lubbe's sole perpetrator was controversial both in contemporary evaluation and for a long time in historiography. Was it not more natural that the National Socialists, who were able to derive political benefits from the Reichstag fire, had set fire to the Reichstag themselves? More recent fire-fighting knowledge, however, confirms the assumption that van der Lubbe committed the arson alone. For the Nazi leadership it was clear from the start that the arson attack was the beacon of a communist attempt at insurrection. That night Hitler, Göring, Goebbels and von Papen decided in small groups to have an emergency ordinance drawn up, which the Reich Cabinet presented as a draft the next day.
In the late afternoon, Reich President Hindenburg signed the "Ordinance for the Protection of People and State" of February 28, 1933, with the essential basic rights of the constitution such as freedom of the person, the inviolability of the home, postal and telephone secrecy, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, the right to organize and the guarantee of property have been suspended.Instead of a life-long prison as before, high treason, arson, bomb attacks, assassinations and even damage to railway systems could now be punished with death.
In contrast to earlier emergency ordinances, which had transferred executive power to either a military commander or a civilian Reich Commissioner, the Reichstag Fire Ordinance left this question open and thus strengthened the authority of the Reich government, which could decide on the “necessary measures”. The Reichstag Fire Ordinance particularly strengthened the power of the police in the Nazi regime and showed how little the National Socialist leadership thought in the traditional categories of a temporary state of emergency or state of siege. Rather, she wanted to create an instrument for the permanent establishment of National Socialist rule by means of police and concentration camps. Until the end of the Nazi regime, the Reichstag Fire Ordinance represented the formal legitimation of the Secret State Police for their arrest and persecution of German citizens. At the same time, the anti-communist hysteria intensified the self-paralysis of the conservatives and German nationalists, who accepted the brutal and extra-legal suppression of the opposition without resistance.
Arrests according to prepared lists began as early as the morning of February 28; In the days that followed, around 5,000 people, primarily communists and social democrats, were arrested and interned in Prussia alone. For its part, the SA persecuted the “Reds” and abducted members of the workers' parties and unions to schools, barracks, cellars and party pubs, where they were beaten, tortured and murdered.
Despite the terror, the NSDAP did not achieve the expected success in the elections on March 5, 1933, but remained dependent on the votes of the German nationalists. The National Socialists increased their share again considerably and received 43.9 percent of the vote, but they did not achieve the absolute majority they had hoped for, whereas the Catholic Center and the Social Democrats were able to maintain their share of the vote despite the repression and even the KPD still held 12.3 percent of the vote Got votes.
Nevertheless, the electoral successes of the NSDAP in North and East Germany, where they won well over 50 percent of the vote, could not be overlooked. And in Catholic Bavaria, too, the NSDAP had succeeded in gaining strong votes, which meant that Catholic resistance to National Socialism had collapsed. The Nazi leadership celebrated the election result as a victory and now believed they had all the legitimacy to drive the "National Socialist Revolution" forward.
Suppression of democratic parties
Several congregations have been blown up and a significant number of those attending the congregation had to be taken away, seriously injured. With the consent of the party executive, I therefore ask that you refrain from the meetings with me as the speaker. As things stand, there is apparently no longer any police protection that would be sufficient to counter the aggressive actions of the SA and SS in my meetings.
In Hindenburg, Comrade Nölting narrowly escaped homicide. It was similar for me in Langenbielau. One of my companions was knocked down. In Breslau yesterday evening nameless disaster was prevented only by an accidental delay in the SA formations deployed. Nevertheless, there have been a large number of wounded in a city which up to now has always been able to prevent the breakup of gatherings of people of different minds as a preventive measure.
I myself regret most deeply that I have to tell you this and that I have to make this decision. It only happened after careful consideration with members of the party executive and after a similar decision had also been made with regard to other comrades.
From a letter from the former Prussian Interior Minister and Berlin Police President Albert Grzesinski (SPD) to the SPD party secretaries in Dortmund, Frankfurt / M., Altona and Kiel dated February 24, 1933
This government declaration has opened up a rift in Germany and has smashed everything that has been achieved in 14 years. We had reclaimed the streets for traffic, brought the party flags down from the official buildings, given the press back freedom in Germany, and restored security in the state. And today all of this is in danger again. Today we are experiencing the civil war on the streets again, the terror has torn down again in the assemblies, people like Stegerwald [Adam Stegerwald, 1874-1945, central politician, Reich Minister of Labor 1930-32 - editor's note. Red.] Are put down, fire attacks are carried out on the Bavarian and Palatinate Guard, the press is gagged again, free opinion enslaved, it rains daily bans on the press. The government press is allowed to write what it wants without being banned. The Hamburger Nachrichten was recently allowed to write: Throw the Catholic Bavarians out of the Reichsverband, we can deal with the others. The same newspaper was also allowed to urge Hindenburg to break the constitution. The newspaper was not banned, but the Catholic "Germania" was, which did nothing more than print an appeal from the Catholic associations, which were full of concern about the critical development of Germany. [...]
Speech by the chairman of the Bavarian People's Party, Fritz Schäffer, in Würzburg on February 23, 1933, in: Becker, p. 96
The NSDAP, whose leader you have appointed the highest official in the Reich, uses a system of illegalities to make it impossible for bourgeois politicians who think differently to express their political views, intimidates the quiet bourgeoisie and leads the election campaign into open civil war. The local police authorities do what is humanly possible. You can protect the speaker, but not the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly and speech. As a result of the December amnesty, any lasting respect for the law has disappeared. The prudent bourgeoisie in Württemberg looks to you, esteemed Mr. Reich President, as the last refuge for law and order in Germany. We will inform you of how a large ruling party tramples the law before the German people decide to vote, and ask you to ensure that the NSDAP no longer interferes with freedom of choice by means of violence.
Telegram of complaint from the Württemberg German Democratic Party (DDP) to President Hindenburg on February 22, 1933
All in: Josef and Ruth Becker (eds.), Hitler's seizure of power. Documents from Hitler's rise to power on January 30, 1933 until the one-party state was sealed on July 14, 1933, 3rd edition, dtv, Munich 1993, p. 91 ff.
On the debate about the Reichstag fire
Contrary to frequently repeated claims, no one has so far been able to provide evidence that the NSDAP was responsible for this arson. [...] New real evidence is no longer to be expected; there are no significant sources that are still missing. Also, no one is alive for a long time who could have experienced something hitherto unknown in any way in 1933 and would break his silence today. [...]
On the other hand, there is a coherent account of the arson by Marinus van der Lubbe: The Dutch anarcho-communist wanted to set an example with his act - against the Nazi takeover and against the paralysis of the radical workers' movement; for a revolution from below, actually for rebellion as an end in itself. In more than 30 interrogations over months, van der Lubbe always stuck to his portrayal; There are precisely no significant contradictions in the relevant files. [...] All objective evidence secured in the Reichstag at the end of February and beginning of March 1933 [supported] van der Lubbe's version [...] or at least not [contradicted] it [...]. On the other hand, there is no evidence in the preliminary investigation files of suppressed or falsified traces that would have spoken for several participants. That would have been strange, because the Nazis could not have had any interest in suppressing alleged evidence of other perpetrators; they always maintained that van der Lubbe had accomplices. Although the police were obviously under pressure to “find” evidence, no evidence of any other perpetrators was documented, neither any fire accelerators or ignition mechanisms that the “Strohmer” van der Lubbe could not have had. The list of "seized evidence" from the Reichstag was 99 items long - not a single one of them indicated anything other than the course of the crime described by the arsonist. [...]
In addition, if there had actually been a perfidious plan by the SA or the NSDAP behind the arson, then the obviously unscrupulous perpetrators would have been smart enough to lay enough “traces” to safely achieve their goal. An actual Nazi provocation six and a half years later, the bogus attack by SS men in Polish uniforms on the German station Gleiwitz on August 31, 1939, shows that Hitler's henchmen were by no means alien to the use of falsified evidence. [...]
[...] Why is there still a dispute about the perpetrator? The most important reason is that the Nazis, in view of their numerous other and by far worse crimes, would have been capable of setting fire to parliament. [...] Second, Hitler and Göring actually used the fire for their own purposes with virtuosity; the deliberately staged explosion of domestic political violence in March 1933 ushered in the conquest of total power over Germany. [...] A third reason is the finding in the judgment of the Reichsgericht that van der Lubbe must have had accomplices. But this was probably a concession by the judges to the Reich government, which they did not want to completely expose after they had already acquitted the four communists who were also accused for lack of evidence.
Everything speaks in favor of taking Marinus van der Lubbe's numerous confessions seriously. But why has the question of perpetrator been so contested for 75 years? [...] Where did the significance for contemporary German history come from? [...] The answer lies in the fundamental assessment of the Third Reich: Was the arson part of a plan of the NSDAP that had been prepared down to the last detail? Or did the “Führer” and his paladins react spontaneously to the fire in the Reichstag, so did they prevail against the hesitant political opponents, the Social Democrats and the center, because of their ruthlessness? Anyone who considers the Reichstag fire to be a staged villain by the Hitler party must inevitably explain the Nazi rule as a whole to precisely planned power politics - including Auschwitz. However, this assumption has an inevitable consequence: automatically, the responsibility of German society as a whole, hundreds of thousands, even millions of Germans, for all these crimes is greatly reduced. [...] The assumption of Nazi responsibility ultimately results in an exculpation of the German society of that time. [...]
One last question remains: How did the devastating fire in the plenary chamber come about when only Marinus van der Lubbe, with what at first glance appears to be inadequate resources such as charcoal lighters, items of clothing and tablecloths, is the culprit? [...]
[…] On February 27, 1933 at around 9:27 pm, a phenomenon known and feared today as "backdraft" should have occurred, which occurs in fires in closed rooms. Initially, an open fire consumes a large part of the available oxygen. When the flames go out, the sharply increased temperatures lead to the chemical phenomenon of pyrolysis: organic molecules split; unoxidized, i.e. flammable, gases rise and collect under the ceiling. At the same time, the temperature drops slightly due to the now only smoldering areas of fire. This creates a vacuum that draws in air as soon as possible. If, in this situation, oxygen enters the previously closed room, a catastrophe can hardly be averted: After opening a door, the accumulated heat initially seems to be forced out like a blow, but immediately afterwards a strong draft forms inside the now open fire room. The oxygen mixes with the hot smoke gases in a few seconds to more than a minute, depending on the size of the room. As soon as the mixture is ignitable, a flue gas explosion occurs, which can develop temperatures of up to 10,000 degrees and can no longer be brought under control.
Sven Felix Kellerhoff, The Reichstag Fire. The career of a criminal case, be.bra verlag, Berlin-Brandenburg, p. 131 ff.
Immediately after the elections on March 5, the federal states and municipalities were “brought into line”. Clause 2 of the Ordinance on the Protection of the People and the State, which empowered the Reich Interior Minister to intervene in the sovereignty of the states if they did not take appropriate protective measures themselves, provided a handle for this. Within just a few days, the Hitler government installed National Socialist Reich Commissioners in Hamburg, Bremen, Hesse, Baden, Württemberg, Saxony and Bavaria. The takeover of power always followed the same pattern. The local SA marched in front of town halls and government buildings, demanded that the swastika flag be hoisted and threatened to storm the buildings. This gave the National Socialist Reich Interior Minister Frick the pretext to intervene, invoking Article 2 of the Reichstag Fire Ordinance, and to dismiss the elected state governments. The new National Socialist rulers usually appointed new police presidents and massively expanded the police apparatus. The Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler and the head of the security service of the SS (SD) Reinhard Heydrich succeeded in placing the political police in particular under their control.
The fact that this takeover of power worked so smoothly without encountering significant resistance from the deposed state governments shows how resigned many Democrats have meanwhile been. In addition, the Nazi leadership had deliberately selected those countries in which the respective state governments no longer had parliamentary majorities and were only in office in an executive position.
With the conformity act of March 31st, the state parliaments (with the exception of Prussia), citizenships and communal parliaments were all dissolved and reassembled according to the regional or local voting ratios of the Reichstag election of March 5th. The communist votes were not allowed to be counted, the social democratic seats were withheld, so that soon only unit organs dominated by the National Socialists remained. These structures were elected for four years, there were no more elections for representative bodies of the citizens. At the beginning of April, Reich Governors were installed in all German states except Prussia, who were mostly identical to the respective Gauleiter of the NSDAP and who took over regional authority.
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