furnitureforthepeople.com - On March 23, 1933, the newly elected members of the Reichstag met in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin to consider passing Hitler's "Ermächtigungsgesetzquot;. The "Enabling Act" was officially called the 'Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich.'
Opponents to the bill argued that if it was passed, it would end democracy in Germany and establish a legal dictatorship of Adolf Hitler. To soften resistance to the passing of the Enabling Act, the Nazis secretly caused confusion in order to create an atmosphere in which the law seem necessary to restore order.
On February 27, 1933, Nazis burned the Reichstag building, and a seat of the German government, causing frenzy and outrage. They successfully blamed the fire on the Communists, and claimed it marked the beginning of a widespread terrorism and unrest threatening the safety of the German "Homeland." On the day of the vote, Nazi storm troopers gathered around the opera house chanting, "Full powers - or else! We want the bill - or fire and murder!"
The Nazis used the opportunity to arrest 4,000 communists. Not only did the Nazis use the incident as a propaganda against communists but they also arrested additional 40,000 members of the opposition. Consequently, the Nazis had achieved their objective of eliminating democracy and ensuring their majority in the parliament.
After the fire on February 28, 1933, president Hindenburg and Hitler invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, which permitted the suspension of civil liberties during national emergencies. Some examples of this Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and State abrogated the following constitutional protections: Freedom of the press, free expression of opinion, individual property rights, right of assembly and association, right to privacy of postal and electronic communications, states´ rights of self-government, and protection against unlawful searches and seizures.
Before the vote, Hitler made a speech to the Reichstag in which he pledged to use restraint. He also promised to end unemployment and promote multilateral peace with France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union.
In order to accomplish all this, Hitler said, he first needed the Enabling Act. Since this act would alter the German constitution, a two-thirds majority was necessary. Hitler needed 31 non-Nazi votes to pass it. The Center Party provided these votes after Hitler made a false promise to them. Four hundred and forty votes were registered for the Enabling Act, while a mere 84 votes were opposed -- the social Democrats. In glory the Nazi Party stood to their feet and sang the Nazi anthem, the Hörst Wessel song. The German Democratic party had finally been eliminated, and Hitler’s dream for Nazi command became closer to reality.
The Enabling Act granted Hitler the power he craved and could use without objection from the Reichstag. Shortly after the passing of The Enabling Act all other political parties were dissolved. Trade unions were liquidated and opposition clergy were arrested. The Nazi party had, as Hitler said, become the state. By August 1934, Hitler became commander-in-chief of the armed forces. This was in addition to being President and Führer of the German Reich, to whom every individual in the armed forces pledged unconditional obedience. The Reichstag was no longer a place for debate, but rather a cheering squad in favor of whatever Hitler might say.