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You'll find notes on Hitler taking power and The Night of the Long Knives

Hitler Gets Into Government.

In 1932, Hitler fought two parliamentary elections and one presidential election. The second parliamentary election in November, left the Nazis as the biggest group, but without a majority. Hindenburg still refused to make Hitler Chancellor (prime minister) but by January 1933, through a combination of von Papen’s mistaken belief and a lack of any other suitable candidate, Hitler and 2 other Nazis joined a coalition government. Hitler was Chancellor and von Papen was the deputy. Almost immediately Hitler decided to call a new election, only this time he could use state equipment and transport to help him win. The elections were for March 8th. However, on 27 February, the German parliament – the Reichstag was burnt down. A Dutch communist was caught and Hitler blamed the German Communist Party for the fire and banned them. He also claimed that the Communists were planning to take over Germany. He persuaded Hindenburg to give him emergency powers.

The election gave the Nazis 44% of the vote and made them the largest party. By gaining a right wing ally, Hitler could count on 52% of the MPs. In addition, the banned Communists could not sit in the parliament. Hitler used intimidation to get his opponents to either not vote or to support him. On March 24, he passed the Enabling Act, which gave him wide powers to do what he liked. Only Hindenburg, the Army or other Nazis would be able to stop him. Soon after the other parties either disbanded or were banned. By July, Germany was a one party state.

Hitler takes power.

In Jan. 1933, Hitler formed his 1st. Government. He quickly decided that he needed more power, so he soon called for elections in March. Before these elections took place the Reichstag (the German Parliament Building) burned down. Because this event proved so useful to Hitler, many people then and since have assumed the Nazis did it.

Why? Hitler was able to use the fire as a reason to ban the Communist Party (KPD), who were also enjoying a rise in support since 1928. By banning them, Hitler also appeared to be a strong politician and claimed that the KPD was trying to push Germany in revolution as it had tried before in 1918/19 – or so the Nazis said.

Hitler used this fear to get extra support and to justify violence before and during election day. In addition, he also blamed the SPD for much of the violence too.

The end result was a victory for the Nazis but they still didn’t get 50% of the vote. Hitler made an alliance with a smaller nationalist party and passed the Enabling Act. This gave him emergency powers. To ensure he got the votes he needed in Parliament, he used the SA to initimidate the other parties. Soon after he banned all the remaining who hadn’t already disbanded. The only possible opponents left were the Army, President Hindenberg, the Trade Unions and the various Churches. In addition, he faced some critics from inside the Nazi Party.

Why did banning the KPD help Hitler?
By banning the KPD Hitler stopped them from being able to fight the elections (although people still voted KPD.) Those Communists who did win seats couldn’t appear in the Reichstag. Also Hitler could use violence against the KPD openly. He also played on people’s fears and made the Communist threat look real.

Why did Hitler need 50% of the seats?
With 50% any Nazi law would pass automatically. With the Nationalists help, Hitler got this number and was then able to start setting up a dictatorship.

Was Hitler a democratically elected dictator?
No. The election of March 1933 saw much violence and intimidation. In addition, the Nazis still failed to get 50% of the vote. Only the stupidity of the Nationalists gave him the power to pass the Enabling Act. Once he got the act, all his opposition was now outside Parliament.

The Night of the Long Knives
After July 1933, Hitler faced only three possible groups who could threaten his position of Chancellor:

  1. Hindenburg (The President)
  2. The Army
  3. The Nazi Party

Surprisingly, it was the Nazi Party which turned out to be the real threat.
Hindenburg was getting too old to clearly decide what was right and wrong. He was more and more dependant on his son Oscar’s advice. Hitler was careful to keep both of them happy, especially as this in turn pleased the Army.
The Army itself was pleased due to Hitler starting a secret campaign to re-arm in spite of the limitations set by the Treaty of Versailles. This would mean more money and prestige for it and make Germany less vulnerable to foreign invasion.
However, it was the SA and its leadership that caused the most problems. Many in the SA and a few other Nazis felt that Hitler wasn’t radical enough. They thought he was compromising with big business and the Army. They wanted a true revolution with a pure Nazi state, not just a Germany ruled by the Nazis.
Hitler found himself caught between the two groups. Without the support of the SA, Hitler might lose power. But without the support of the Army and Business, Hitler might be dismissed by Hindenburg. Hitler realized that the SA was a danger but his long friendship with its leader Rohm made him reluctant to act. Himmiler and Goebbels wanted Hitler to act and were also in danger from the SA. Finally, the Army leadership suggested if Hitler didn’t bring the SA under control, they would block any attempt by him to become President if and when Hindenburg died.
In late June 1934, Goebbels and Himmiler claimed to have evidence that Rohm and the SA leaders were planning a coup. Hitler felt he had to act. He told Rohm to give the whole SA a holiday for the summer. Then after they had broken up, he moved against them using a mixture of SS and Army troops. As well as the SA leadership, Hitler also targeted other enemies including von Papen, dissident Nazis and two generals. On the night of June 30th Hitler struck. Over the next 36 hours almost all those targeted were killed. (Von Papen survived, but his secretary didn’t.) About 500 people died.
Europe was shocked, the German Army was delighted and Hindenburg sent a telegram to Hitler congratulating him on eliminating a dangerous threat to Germany. A few weeks later Hindenburg died of old age. Hitler took over as President and combined this post with Chancellor to become ‘Fuhrer’ (Leader). The Army took an oath (promise) of loyalty to Hitler personally. The SA was kept but without its leaders it was powerless. In eighteen months Hitler was in complete control of Germany.