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1933 Germany: Brief Synopsis PDF Print E-mail
History - History 1933
1933key Reichstag Fire Poster Adolf Hitler, AKA 'Der Führer' (The Leader).
Crime Tally: Directly responsible for the deaths of over 60 million worldwide as a result of the Second World War.

Background: Following the First World War, the Treaty of Versailles penalizes the defeated Germany, annexing land, imposing large war reparations, limiting the size of the German Army and blaming Germany and Austria-Hungary for starting the conflict. The new German Government, a coalition of left-leaning and centrist parties, attempts to rebuild the country but faces opposition from the right and extreme left. The instability is exacerbated by the failure of the domestic and global economies.

1933 - The National Socialist (Nazi) Party reaches a position from which it can seize power on 30 January when Hitler is appointed chancellor. Following the Reichstag fire on 27 February basic civil rights are suspended and the Nazis are given the right to hunt and remove political opposition.

Germany's last election until after the Second World War is held on 5 March. Though the Nazis win only 44% of the vote Hitler persuades the Reichstag to pass the Enabling Law, allowing him to govern independently of the parliament for four years. The Nazis now take full control of the state apparatus.

All Nazis in prison are issued with full pardons; critics of the government and the Nazi Party are subject to arrest; special courts are established for the trial of political detainees. Regional governments are dissolved and then reconstituted with governors handpicked by Hitler. Leftist political parties are banned; Germany is declared a one-party state; Jews and leftists are purged from the bureaucracy; and trade unions are dissolved and replaced with Nazi organizations.

The Gestapo, or secret state police, is established in April. Concentration camps are set up for the interment of opponents. A program of public works, rearmament and forced labor helps bring the economy under control. Inflation comes down, the currency is stabilized and full employment achieved. Support for Hitler increases.

On 10 May Hitler stages the "burning of the books" in Berlin. Works by Jewish, Marxist and other "subversive" authors are publicly burned in huge bonfires. On 14 October Germany withdraws from the League of Nations.

Though rigorously oppressive, Hitler's regime is popular with average Germans, who benefit from tax relief and strategic social investments. Taxes on working people will never be raised during the Nazi reign. Soldiers and their families will receive more than double the income offered to their Western counterparts. The Nazis will commission large infrastructure projects, including the building of the autobahn road system running across Germany.

However the expenditure is unsustainable. It will be financed by growing debt and the spoils of conquest.



More Research

The History Place - Rise of Hitler : The Reichstag Burns

Germany - A Country Study (Library of Congress Country Studies Series)

Analysis of the Personality of Adolph Hitler by Henry A. Murray (The Cornell Law Library Archives)

The Nizkor Project - Adolf Hitler

BBC - History - Genocide Under the Nazis

Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State | PBS

Eurodocs: Germany: National Socialism and World War II

Guardian Unlimited | Special Reports | Second World War: Archived Articles

Guardian Unlimited | Special Reports | Focus: The Holocaust

Holocaust Educational Resource (The Nizkor Project)

The Holocaust History Project

Nazi and East German Propaganda Guide

Simon Wiesenthal Center - Online Multimedia Learning Center

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